With only less than two weeks remaining until WWE's TLC pay-per-view, Monday Night Raw once again provided an enjoyable edition that not only built towards the event, but included even more controversy regarding John Cena as well.
Here, I will analyze each significant segment presented on the show. I will also provide a combination of aftermath and wishful thinking about what we hope to see in coming weeks.
John Laurinaitis Clears up the WWE Championship picture
Entertaining opening with John Cena being interrupted by Alberto Del Rio, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and finally John Laurinaitis. Cena didn't deliver enough aftermath from last week's Piper's Pit, but both Ziggler and Miz made valid points here with improving mic work.
Del Rio continues to retread the same material he's had since he debuted last year. This segment was certainly successful in setting up the rest of the show.
The Miz Def. Randy Orton by Count-out to Qualify for the WWE Title Match at TLC
OK match for what it was between The Miz and Randy Orton. I would have liked to hear the commentators acknowledge the fact that it was Orton who Miz faced last year at TLC, but no such luck.
Orton came off as a complete dope for purposely losing the match by count-out to attack an interfering Wade Barrett, who wasn't even touched by Orton whatsoever. Meanwhile, any edge that Miz gained in the past few weeks is now gone with this weak finish to a contest.
Alberto Del Rio Def. Daniel Bryan via Submission to Qualify for the WWE Title Match at TLC
Quick match between Alberto Del Rio and Daniel Bryan, but I'd prefer a much longer bout given the clash between their two similar submission styles. Bryan deserved to look a bit stronger in defeat after last week's World Heavyweight Championship match, but given the fact that his sustained injury was played up during the contest, he didn't lose much.
Kelly Kelly and Eve Def. Diva's Champion Beth Phoenix and Natalya
Forgettable Diva's tag-team match with the team of Kelly Kelly and Eve yet again defeating the Divas of Doom. They've beaten the rivalry between these four Divas to death by this point, and I'd much rather see Alicia Fox get a shot at the belt than Kelly for the hundredth time.
It's not really considered an "upset," as Cole said for Kelly, given how she's beaten Phoenix numerous times in the past using the same exact move, but we're apparently supposed to be oblivious to that. On a side note, it was a smart move in airing the newest "It Begins" video on television rather than just YouTube in order to further hype and build up even more anticipation for the fans not familiar with the vignettes.
John Cena Def. Zack Ryder to Qualify for the WWE Title Match at TLC
Good match between Zack Ryder and John Cena, but with both competitors being faces, the already dead crowd wasn't sure on who to cheer for. Although Ryder looked great in defeat, Cena's victory was extremely predictable, as he lays down for absolutely no one.
If nothing else, a cool finish with Cena reversing Ryder's finisher into an Attitude Adjustment for the victory.
Zack Ryder Def. World Heavyweight Champion Champion Mark Henry in a No Holds Barred Match to Earn a U.S. Championship Match at TLC (non-title)
Honestly, I was expecting either Brodus Clay, Skip Sheffield or even Curt Hawkins to be picked as Zack Ryder's opponent. Ryder's match with Mark Henry had potential to be better than it was, but with the bout only lasting a few minutes, Ryder's upset victory over the World Heavyweight Champion with the help of Cena was logical, didn't feel special and, most importantly, made Henry look weaker than usual.
This on-going storyline with Cena and Ryder could have been stretched over a few weeks time, but with TLC being next Sunday, I can't say I blame them for their rushed efforts.
Kevin Nash Def. Santino Marella
Typical squash match, with Kevin Nash dominating Santino Marella after what transpired between the two a few weeks ago. Nash looked better in the ring than I originally thought he would, but I don't believe he still has what it takes to put on a classic match that I'd hoped for.
His pending feud with the returning Triple H does by no means excite me, with this entire feud being treated like an afterthought on Raw in recent weeks. I'm not at all looking forward to their scheduled Ladder Match at TLC, as that could quite possibly turn into a train wreck of a contest, with neither participant being in their prime.
Sheamus Def. United States Champion Dolph Ziggler (w/Vickie Guerrero; non-title)
Decent match from United States Champion Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus that didn't quite live up to my expectations, but that was mostly due to the time constraints they were allowed. It's nice to not see Ziggler defeated clean here by the Celtic Warrior, as it also helped further Ryder's feud with Ziggler going into TLC despite the fact that Ryder was vastly overexposed over the course of the show.
By the way, any chance that CM Punk was reciting the Straightedge Pledge to Evan Bourne when they were shown talking backstage?
WWE Championship Contract Signing
Solid contract signing to close the show involving CM Punk, The Miz and Alberto Del Rio. As Punk said, the contract signings in WWE have become so repetitive this year that it was no use in attempting recreate it.
Punk got the better of both Miz and Del Rio on the mic, as both heels weren't given much to work with. Giving The Miz the edge on Del Rio and Punk and gaining momentum would have been a better choice, in my opinion, but the Second City Savior closing the show with his promised "Pier 6 Brawl" was nicely done and portrays him as a strong WWE Champion.
Overall, a good show that certainly had its shares of misses throughout the night, but it successfully provided the hype for TLC that the pay-per-view desperately needed. With seven matches on the program's card, the action was of course condensed, but most of them served a purpose in one way or another.
Additionally, it's not surprising at all that WWE once again failed to deliver Brodus Clay as promised, but I've grown immune to Creative's hot-shot booking in recent weeks, and it no longer bothers me as much as it once did. There was also mass confusion for this viewer regarding John Cena's status at TLC, as the illogical booking of having him earn a chance to compete at the event only to forfeit the opportunity was baffling and wasted time that could have been easily utilized for something else.
As of now, TLC does not look all that intriguing, but hopefully they can counteract that with next week's three-hour Slammy special.