Brie Bella-Stephanie McMahon Contract Signing
While it was not greeted with the heat of their previous segments, the show-closing contract signing between Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon was an awesome way to further the build for their match at SummerSlam.
Brie was far better on the microphone than she has been at any point in her career, but she still needs to work on her delivery. That will come with increased mic time. She was articulate and got her point across without reverting to the overdone yelling that she has been guilty of in the past, which improved the overall quality of her promo.
Stephanie was outstanding, showing what years of mic work and developing a heel character can do for one's performance. The way she condescendingly talked down to Brie, as if she was nothing but a commoner with the gall to even look at her let alone challenge her to a fight, was extraordinary and will only help enhance the emotion of the match.
The most interesting part of the entire verbal war was the fact that Brie evoked the names of the Rhodes family, Big Show, Daniel Bryan and Nikki and promised to beat and embarrass Stephanie for them.
After WrestleMania, it seemed like Bryan had set everything right, repaying The Authority for months of torment, but Stephanie never really got what was coming to her in response to her actions. Brie has a chance to change that. It was a nice touch by WWE Creative to remember that far back and tie it into this story.
Stephanie's Pedigrees to Brie and Nikki prove that she has been working with, and learning from, her husband Triple H, who will undoubtedly have some influence in Stephanie's ring work come August 17.
Like or hate the women involved, the story is easy to follow, and fans care about it. More importantly, the booking is so strong that there is reason to believe the match will exceed expectations if it continues this way. Think Stephanie vs. Trish from No Way Out 2001, if you will.
Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio
The best match of Monday's broadcast was the Beat the Clock Challenge bout between Dean Ambrose and Alberto Del Rio.
While the contest failed to put over the urgency on the part of Ambrose until late, it did feature two skilled Superstars who worked their tails off to deliver a great match for the passionate Texas fans.
Del Rio targeting the arm may be a regular part of his game plan, but it made sense Monday night, especially considering the previously established injury to that part of the Lunatic Fringe's anatomy. That Ambrose was able to fight through the tremendous pain, counter the Cross Arm Breaker and deliver Dirty Deeds for the win only continued the push to put over his grittiness and toughness.
Big props to Ambrose too, for switching arms to the uninjured one when delivering his finisher. It is a little thing that most would not have thought of far enough in advance. JBL called it out on commentary, meaning he, as a veteran performer, appreciated the subtlety of doing so. Those little things are what separate a good worker from a great one, and Ambrose is proving to be the latter.
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar Hype Video
To say excitement surrounding John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam was not high entering Monday's Raw would be an understatement. It was a match fans had seen before and one that guarantees an outcome no one really wants. Either Cena retains the title and continues his tiresome reign, or part-time worker Lesnar wins the title and disappears after September's Night of Champions show. Either way, the outcome is not exactly appealing.
But then the hype video aired Monday night, and everything changed.
Lesnar cut the promo of a lifetime, realistically and honestly laying out his opinions on his victory over The Undertaker at WrestleMania, the reason he came back to WWE, his feelings on his co-workers and what he plans to do to Cena come August 17. It was real and believable and sold more subscriptions to WWE Network than constant hounding by JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler ever could.
Cena offered his typically solid stuff, staying calm but expressing himself in a way that left fans knowing he was being honest with them. Would it have been nice to see him up the intensity a bit? Sure. But that's not Cena or true to his character and would have looked hokey next to Lesnar's outstanding work.
What fans got were two polar opposites cutting two polar opposite promos, and thanks to the extraordinary work of the production team, it worked tremendously. This outstanding video should be held up as a benchmark on how to promote a major pay-per-view main event in any sport.