John Cena and Paul Heyman Promos
Say what you will about the current WWE world heavyweight champion, but John Cena was feeling it Monday night as he kicked off the evening's broadcast with one of his best promos in recent memory.
He started off somewhat lethargic, leaning heavily on the same old "I won't give up" shtick that has turned so many fans against him over the last decade. Then Paul Heyman appeared on the stage and taunted Cena, delivering a superb promo in which he warned the champion that he would not just be defeated by Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, but be victimized.
The threat sparked something within Cena, who responded passionately.
He made it clear how much wrestling means to him. "This is it for me! This is my frickin' life!" It was an emotional promo that really did a tremendous job of selling the importance of the upcoming match with Lesnar and demonstrated how far Cena is willing to go—not just to win the match against the No. 1 contender but to survive.
"I'm headed to SummerSlam, and I'm walking out with this son-of-a-b****!" he exclaimed, ending the segment and putting an exclamation on one of this best performances in months.
Cena vs. Cesaro
The opening match of Monday's show continued Cena's hot streak as he and Cesaro worked together to deliver another stellar televised match. Their first, an instant classic in February, remains the superior bout, but Monday's effort was a suitable and worthy sequel.
While Cesaro is likely to get the majority of the credit thanks to his sparkling reputation across the Internet, Cena's performance was exceptional. Determined to prove Cesaro's pre-match assessment regarding his abilities wrong, he stood toe-to-toe with one of the best workers in the industry and delivered a match that showcased just how good he actually is.
He will need to continue doing so as he gears up for SummerSlam. Brock Lesnar is hardly a Superstar who can carry anyone to a good match at this point in his career, as evidenced by his attempt to do so with an injured Undertaker at WrestleMania.
The success of the SummerSlam main event will depend on Cena's contributions to the bout. Luckily, history indicates the two will deliver a brutal, epic bout to conclude the second biggest event of the year.
Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon
If the feud between Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon has taught us anything, it is that WWE Creative can craft a compelling rivalry centered on two strong female characters when motivated to do so. Monday night on Raw, Bella and McMahon took center stage, enjoying the spotlight that comes with the main event slot on WWE's flagship program.
For the majority of the segment, the principal owner of WWE's acting was so dreadfully bad that it appeared as though the promo was destined for failure. Then she slapped Bella off the apron and revealed that it was an act.
"At SummerSlam, I'm going to make you my b****!" she exclaimed before mocking the crowd's "Yes!" chants.
The catfight that ensued from there, as well as the attempts by agents Jamie Noble, Finlay and Joey Mercury to pull them apart, helped make for a molten-hot conclusion to Raw and the perfect way to further the intense rivalry between the women.
If the crowd reaction is any indication, WWE Creative has succeeded in giving fans a rivalry between two female performers that the WWE Universe cares about as much as the top rivalries between their male counterparts.
The Viper Strikes
Monday's broadcast was responsible for a segment of television that was absolutely necessary as WWE Creative builds the rivalry between Roman Reigns and Randy Orton leading into SummerSlam.
After months of being portrayed and perceived as The Authority's lapdog, The Viper struck back against his primary foe Reigns, who suffered a brutal and violent beatdown. Enraged by the idea that Reigns was responsible for him missing out on an opportunity to regain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Orton unleashed every bit of rage and frustration he had built up since WrestleMania, capping off a violent assault with an RKO through the announce table.
"That's what happens when you steal something from me," he said repeatedly, usually before inflicting further pain and suffering on his rival.
It was a great segment that reintroduced the dangerous, deadly Viper character to an audience that had sorely missed it over the last year.
More importantly, Reigns needed to look human. After so many weeks of overcoming numbers disadvantages, he was developing a reputation that mirrored John Cena's.
After being left lying in a heap, the victim of a beating at the hands of a man as dangerous as any he has ever faced, Reigns will have to dig deep within himself and pull out anger and aggression rarely seen if he hopes to knock off the 14-time champion at the summertime spectacular.