The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 8/11/14
The final Monday Night Raw on the road to SummerSlam is in the books, and WWE can now turn its attention to this Sunday's summertime extravaganza.
Brock Lesnar and John Cena managed not to unleash on each other, despite continued threats from Paul Heyman. Hulk Hogan celebrated his 61st birthday. Brie Bella got arrested, and Dean Ambrose was a gift that Seth Rollins did not ask for.
The spotlight was on SummerSlam's top feuds Monday night, and the overall quality of the show benefited exponentially. Nothing felt meaningless, as everything had to do with furthering an ongoing program. WWE Creative did a fine job of staying on task.
Heyman and Stephanie McMahon, in particular, sold more pay-per-views and WWE Network subscriptions with their tremendous work on the microphone, while Randy Orton, Sheamus, Jack Swagger and Cesaro carried the show from an in-ring perspective.
With only six days until SummerSlam, WWE rolled with a strong show and compelling stories.
Relive all of them with the very best from WWE's flagship show, courtesy of this week's The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw!
Happy Birthday, Hulk!
While the show-closing segment of Raw may have appeared to be unnecessary ego stroking of The Hulkster, the man is an industry icon for a reason. He helped take the business to heights it had never been before and transcended professional wrestling, becoming a pop culture phenomenon. He earned the right to celebrate his birthday in the middle of the ring, joined by the likes of Ric Flair, Paul Orndorff, Roddy Piper, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.
John Cena and Brock Lesnar still managed to benefit from the spotlight by interrupting the festivities and engaging in a tense staredown to send Raw off the air and put added heat and attention on their SummerSlam title bout.
WWE Creative killed two birds with one stone and did so effectively. Kudos to the production team that knocked it out of the park with another exceptional video dedicated to the career of the all-time great Hogan.
Intercontinental Title Hype and Slater Wins Again
With SummerSlam opponent and intercontinental champion The Miz lurking around ringside, Dolph Ziggler squared off against the suddenly red-hot Heath Slater Monday night. Unfortunately for the Showoff, he focused too much on his opponent Sunday night and took his eye off the ball. He lost track of the official's count as he fought Miz on the entrance ramp and got counted out as a result.
Slater celebrated a fifth straight victory, while Ziggler was left speechless. It was great booking in the sense that Ziggler was not beaten by pinfall or submission this close to his big title match against Miz, while Slater was allowed to continue his winning ways. Again, WWE Creative accomplished two things at once and deserves recognition for its quality and effective booking.
Paige Gets One Over on AJ; Eva Wins...and Pays for It
Monday night, Paige distracted AJ Lee long enough for the current Divas champion to be rolled up and defeated by Eva Marie in a non-title match. The loss, an embarrassing one for AJ, who once tore down everyone involved in the cast of Total Divas, adds fuel to the fire that is the rivalry between her and the young Brit.
The post-match poem by Paige, including the line about AJ having a face she wants to punch, was great, and AJ's attack on Eva Marie helped get some of her heat back.
While the program has taken a backseat heading into SummerSlam, AJ and Paige are strong enough workers that, if given the time, they can deliver a match that blows the other women's contest on the card out of the water.
As for Eva winning, it really is no big deal. Considering the fact that she is improving with each passing week and is still only in her first full year of training, it was a nice confidence boost for someone who is harshly and, at times, unfairly criticized for her involvement on a reality show.
Remember, WWE management put her on TV and in matches before she had enough experience. Send some of the heat that way.
Seth Rollins Beats RVD, and Ambrose Attacks!
Just six days away from his showdown with Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam, Seth Rollins defeated former WWE and ECW champion Rob Van Dam and proved that he was more than capable of defeating his one-time Shield partner and friend.
After the match, he made his way to the top of the ramp, where he investigated a large gift box supposedly meant for Hulk Hogan. The idea that Ambrose would be inside, ready to pounce on his former partner, was too ludicrous even for Rollins to believe, and he began walking away. Suddenly, the Lunatic Fringe exploded out of the box and attacked Mr. Money in the Bank, forcing him to run away like a coward.
Ambrose cut a brief promo to end the segment, vowing that he would get all $9.99 worth, and more, when he beat Rollins Sunday night on the WWE Network.
The entire segment was straight out of an old-school booking room. The giant box and the wrestler bursting out of it to attack his foe has been done before, and the fact that WWE went back to it in 2014 is an indicator of just how effective it is every time.
Stephanie and Brie's Story Takes a Few Twists and Turns
Just days away from the most hotly anticipated women's match in years, Stephanie McMahon threw two major curveballs at Brie Bella that must have the Total Divas star wondering if she really can compete against the manipulative, cunning businesswoman come Sunday night.
First, Stephanie produced Daniel Bryan's physical therapist Megan, who claimed to have had an affair with the former WWE world heavyweight champion. This brought out Brie, who confronted the young woman and slapped her across the face. Moments later she attacked a celebrating Stephanie and locked her in the Yes Lock until backstage producers Finlay, Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury hit the ring and rescued their boss from any further punishment.
Later in the night, with Stephanie having vowed that the two hellcats would finish things on Raw instead of at SummerSlam, Brie made her way to the ring for the huge match. Stephanie emerged, however, and revealed that Megan was pressing charges and watched as two police officers handcuffed and led Brie out of the arena.
Monday's segments were executed very well, especially the catfight that broke out following Megan's revelation, but one has to wonder if throwing all of these new developments at fans just days before the big match can be construed as overkill.
In one night, Brie found out that her husband was allegedly cheating on her, and she was arrested and thrown in jail. On one hand, it seems like WWE Creative went over the top rather than staying grounded and booking a smarter segment to sell Sunday's match. On the other hand, Brie suddenly has much to overcome if she is to beat Stephanie, leading to that possibility and a more triumphant victory at SummerSlam.
Make of it what you will, but again on Monday night, Stephanie and Brie took center stage ahead of their huge match this weekend.
Roman Reigns Supreme
Despite being booked in a handicap match against RybAxel and appearing to have bitten off more than he could chew while being assaulted outside the ring and drawing the disqualification win, Roman Reigns rebounded nicely. He took both of his opponents out and established his dominance six days before his monumental clash with Randy Orton at SummerSlam.
Reigns has been unstoppable, and Ryback and Curtis Axel found that out the hard way Monday night. An explosive young star with a great move set and understated charisma, Reigns has won over the crowd and will look to continue his upward trek toward the WWE World Heavyweight Championship when he enters Staples Center Sunday night.
The big question here was the booking of RybAxel. A few weeks back, they upset The Usos and appeared to be next in line for a title shot at the tag champions. Then last week, they were soundly defeated by Goldust and Stardust, only to turn around and be protected from a handicap match loss to Roman Reigns via DQ finish.
Why protect them against the next big thing, thus hurting Reigns' heat, while having them drop a match clean to Dusty's boys a week earlier? It seems completely backward and ineffective in terms of preserving the duo's heat.
Or what's left of it, at least.
Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt One-on-One
The promo work from Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt was exceptional Monday night, at least from a delivery standpoint. Both men were intense as they stared into each other's eyes and made threats and promises ahead of their match this weekend. They did their job extremely well, helping to mask what were more disappointing results from WWE Creative.
Nothing that was said Monday was anything new or fresh, leaving Jericho and Wyatt to have to deliver an extraordinary match come Sunday night if they want to save what has been an otherwise sorry program.
The setting was great, and the visual of the two rivals sitting across from each other was fine. While the work of those involved was outstanding, the impact was lessened by repetitive content, which kept the segment from achieving "awesome" status.
Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar's Promo
Paul Heyman rapped Monday night, and it was awesome!
Let that sentence sink in for a moment.
Heyman and Lesnar took to the ring Monday night to kick off Raw, and the "godfather of gab" Heyman got to work doing what he does better than anyone else: hyping and selling Sunday night's main event between WWE world heavyweight champion John Cena and his client, Brock Lesnar. He did so magnificently, surely convincing those on the fence to either order the pay-per-view or subscribe to the WWE Network to see the biggest match of the summer.
The way he channeled Cena's old Doctor of Thuganomics character by rapping his threats toward the champion was outstanding. It was made even more impressive by the fact that he remembered every line without the assistance of a script or lines written on his forearm.
Heyman's greatness was put on display Monday, and how Lesnar managed not to crack a smile as his friend and associate just rolled on eludes this writer. He was in the presence of a genius, and when Lesnar captures the top prize in wrestling Sunday night, he will have Heyman to thank for helping him get over with the audience and stay that way after a rough start to his return to the company two years ago.
Sheamus vs. Randy Orton
While fans may have become bored with Sheamus and Randy Orton quite some time ago, thanks to what they perceive as overexposure, there is no denying their considerable skill when they perform between the ropes.
Monday, they delivered a PPV-quality match that was capped off with a huge RKO in midair by The Viper.
Sheamus is not booked on Sunday's card, thus his loss to Orton means nothing to his heat or his title reign in the long run. Orton, on the other hand, got a clean win over someone who does not lose often and looks to be at the top of his game entering SummerSlam and his match with Roman Reigns.
It was a great match to cap off the in-ring portion of Monday's show.
Jack Swagger vs. Cesaro
Speaking of great matches, former tag team partners Jack Swagger and Cesaro had one early in Monday's broadcast as WWE Creative continued its strong booking of Swagger ahead of his Flag match against Rusev at SummerSlam.
The Real American defeated the ice-cold Cesaro, whose push has evaporated and left him wandering aimlessly in the midcard.
The post-match celebration being interrupted by Rusev was perfect and put heat on the program without reverting to repetitive promos.