The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 7/28/14
The July 28 episode of Raw was the setting for the intensification of the rivalry between Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon, which will culminate on August 17 at SummerSlam, where the principal owner of WWE steps foot inside a squared circle for the first time in a decade.
The rivalry getting the main event slot on Monday's show indicates that it is not only catching on with the fans but that management believes strongly in a rivalry centered around two female performers, something that was inconceivable a year ago.
WWE world heavyweight champion John Cena returned, showing more passion during a promo with Paul Heyman than he has in quite some time, which helped with the overall promotion of his upcoming title defense against Brock Lesnar.
Speaking of Cena, he followed up his tremendous performance on the microphone with a great showing in a victory over Cesaro.
Randy Orton reintroduced the world to The Viper as he struck out against Roman Reigns, proving that he is still as dangerous as he has ever been.
With so many developments on the road to SummerSlam, this week's episode of WWE's flagship show was chocked full of good, great and awesome segments.
What were they? Find out for yourself.
Dolph Ziggler and The Usos vs. The Miz and RybAxel
The six-man tag team match on Monday's Raw may not have lived up to the talent of all involved, but it did accomplish two things that could, and should, have a direct impact on the SummerSlam pay-per-view.
The first was Dolph Ziggler's pinfall win, which seemingly puts him in line for an Intercontinental Championship match against The Miz.
From the moment the self-proclaimed Hollywood star slid into the ring and dumped Ziggler over the top rope, it was clear that they would become embroiled in a rivalry over the coveted title. The Show Off's recent winning ways have only cemented his status as the top contender to that championship.
The arrival of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E at ringside and the attention they paid to Jimmy and Jey Uso was incredibly interesting. While the newly formed trio has yet to be established as heels or babyfaces, the fact that they are keeping such a close eye on the most over tag team the business has seen in years indicates that they may be taking a turn toward the villainous side.
Kingston has never portrayed a heel in his entire WWE career, and thus it would be an excellent way to help rejuvenate a character desperately in need of it.
The potential matches between The Usos, Big E and Kingston could be dynamic displays of athleticism and could lead to another quality feud over the titles.
"Dirty, Disgusting, Bottom-Feeding Trash Bag..."
Stephanie McMahon's return to Raw one week after being arrested for assault and battery was interrupted by Chris Jericho, whose past with the Billion Dollar Princess is well-documented. Unable to resist the urge to address her humiliation a week earlier, he took to the stage to torment her, much to the delight of the WWE Universe.
He broke out all of the hits, including his references to McMahon's oversexed personal life, before incurring the wrath of Triple H, who booked him against Seth Rollins. Left lying following a brutal shot to the back of the head by the Money in the Bank briefcase holder, Jericho hardly got the last laugh, but it was nice to see the history between him and his rival revisited, even if it was for only one night.
Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins
There was a much better match to be had between Chris Jericho and Seth Rollins hidden somewhere in the contest they presented Monday night. With that said, they still delivered a highly entertaining, highly competitive bout that kept the fans on the edge of their seats.
The interference by the Wyatt Family could have been seen coming from a mile away, and the post-match beatdown was somewhat competitive in relation to the rest of the feud to this point. Still, it managed to put the spotlight on one of the biggest matches on the SummerSlam card—a match that will hopefully eclipse the somewhat mediocre bout from Battleground.
Rollins came out of the match losing nothing. He proved himself capable of hanging in there with a legendary performer like Jericho. He did not have his shoulders pinned to the mat, and he didn't tap out.
The lack of involvement from Dean Ambrose was somewhat surprising, but the excuse could always be made that he was selling his injuries from Friday night, when he endured a grueling no-disqualification match against Cesaro and suffered a brutal Curb Stomp from his former partner Rollins.
"If You Don't Believe Me, Then I Guess You're Crazy"
Very poor choice of words, Paige, as the young Diva found out Monday night when she was confronted by Divas champion AJ Lee.
Paige did everything in her power to convince her rival that they were still friends, to which AJ channeled her inner CM Punk and made it clear that if she has a problem with someone, she has no problem telling them to their face rather than hiding or pretending to be something she is not.
To this, Paige responded with the above quote, awakening the inner psycho in AJ and sparking an assault by the champion.
The segment gave the young Brit a new piece of knowledge as she embarks on what is sure to be a quality program with her foe. Now she knows that she can press the champion's buttons by evoking the word "crazy." It causes AJ to lose control, opening her up for a defeat if played correctly. Whether Paige can capitalize on that opening remains to be seen, but the potential is certainly there for her to do so.
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.