The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
The WWE tag team champions and their top contenders kicked off the in-ring portion of Monday's show with another outstanding match in a long line of them.
Harper and Rowan took turns isolating the champions, while both Jimmy and Jey made energetic comebacks at different points in the bout. The twin sons of former Superstar Rikishi appeared to have control late in the bout, but a well-timed trip up from Rowan led to a discus clothesline from Harper and a win for the brutes from the Wyatt Family.
The match was not without controversy, however, as the champions argued with the official after the bout. As it turns out, Jey was the Uso pinned by Harper, but he was not the legal man. That distinction belongs to Jimmy, who had been pulled outside the squared circle by Rowan.
How that plays into the feud in the days and weeks to come remains a mystery, but it does appear as though WWE is headed for another pay-per-view clash between the top two tag teams in the sport over the top prize they can attain in the company.
The Usos continue to stake their claim for recognition as MVPs of WWE in 2014, while Harper and Rowan have become a smashmouth team in the same vein as Demolition. Rowan, in particular, has improved by leaps and bounds over what he was a year ago. His development has been fun and enjoyable to watch.
Harper, as most knew prior to his call-up to the main roster, is one of the best big men the sport has produced over the last five years.
Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton
Dean Ambrose continued to prove his worth to those who were worried about the kind of success he will attain as a singles competitor when he squared off with Randy Orton in a Match of the Night contender. Utilizing his old-school brawling style, Ambrose raked at the face of Orton, clubbed away with forearms, threw stiff punches and caught him with straight dropkicks to the chest.
While his unorthodox offense can be a killer to those unable or unwilling to work with it, Ambrose was in there with the right opponent in Orton, who is a master psychologist. Both men are so great at working the crowd and eliciting a reaction that they can make the simplest things look that much more meaningful.
Their sequencing and the back-and-forth nature of the match kept the crowd invested, and their ability to win the people over helped them recover from what was a nasty botch on Orton's part. The finish, which saw Orton deliver a rare big boot to the face of his opponent and then catch him on the rebound with the RKO, was outstanding.
While some (including this writer) will question the intelligence of having Ambrose drop a match to Orton this early in his singles run, he loses nothing in defeat. He went toe-to-toe with one of the best wrestlers in the company and nearly beat him. That he regained his heat later in the night by attacking Seth Rollins; drawing a big pop from the Montreal fans immediately made up for the defeat.
Ambrose has the talent to make up for any loss. Do not be surprised if, by the time his career winds down, he is one of the most popular stars in wrestling despite a win-loss record that is less than flattering. He is that good at getting over and remaining over.
The Reigns-Cena Teases
Monday night on Raw, Roman Reigns kicked off the broadcast with a brief promo aimed at putting over the Battleground main event, a Fatal 4-Way match pitting him against Kane, Randy Orton and WWE world heavyweight champion John Cena. Midway through the segment, he stopped and listened as the fans in Montreal chanted "Cena sucks." Reigns acknowledged the chants, responding, "When Roman Reigns is in this ring, you're damn right Cena sucks!"
It was a moment that others Superstars would not have been comfortable with. Reigns diverted from his scripted promo and, rather than pretending that the people were voiceless, reacted to what they were saying. That sort of thing is what sets main event guys apart from those in the midcard who are too afraid to be bold.
The reaction also made later interactions with Cena that much more interesting. For weeks, booking seemed to indicate that Reigns would tangle with Randy Orton or Triple H at SummerSlam. On Monday night, however, it looked like there may have been some second thoughts.
On two separate occasions, Reigns and Cena came face-to-face. They stared each other down and built anticipation for a match between them at some point in the future. With Reigns being hotter than any other star on the roster right now, perhaps that future is nearer than anyone could have thought.
There is no denying that John Cena is the top star in wrestling. To ascend to that level, Reigns will have to knock him off his throne. Why wait until WrestleMania to crown Reigns the next big thing and risk him losing momentum?
Why not strike while the iron is hot, pop a big buyrate for SummerSlam and entice more new subscriptions for the WWE Network with a match between Reigns and Cena that, if audience reaction is any indicator, fans want to see right now?
It worked for Brock Lesnar when he wrestled The Rock 12 years ago. It will work for Reigns too.