Powell's WWE Raw Hitlist: Ryback named C.M. Punk's opponent for Hell in a Cell, Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett, The Miz and Kofi Kingston, Kane and Daniel Bryan, 3MB, Alberto Del Rio vs. Brodus Clay
By Jason Powell
Dot Net Members are listening to my 53-minute audio review of WWE Raw, the 80-minute TNA Bound For Glory audio review, and the 70-minute interview with Court Bauer regarding WWE's creative shakeup. Join us on the ad-free version of the website by signing up for membership now via Prowrestling.net/amember/signup.php.
WWE Raw Hits
Ryback, C.M. Punk, and John Cena: The strategy of saving Cena's first appearance in front of the live crowd paid off. The crowd was hot for his entrance and were totally engaged as he delivered his endorsement of Ryback facing Punk at the pay-per-view. Punk's focus will be on Ryback on the go-home show next week, but I hope he has some fun pointing out that while everyone accused him of ducking Cena, it was actually Cena who bowed out of the match. Most importantly, Ryback's popularity is growing and it's nice to see WWE with a big main event that involves a fresh face. I am concerned that they are rushing into Punk vs. Ryback rather than building it up to be even bigger at a later date, but there's also something to be said for striking while the iron is hot.
Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett: Another good, physical match. I was concerned that they were giving away these matches before Barrett was positioned in a meaningful manner, but they're not giving away clean finishes and Barrett is definitely gaining something by having long, competitive matches with the World Heavyweight Champion. I realize Show is out there because he's challenging Sheamus at the pay-per-view, but I also wonder if they are setting up a Barrett and Big Show alliance.
The Miz and Kofi Kingston: Most of the Hit goes to The Miz for his scathing comments on Kingston. Everything Miz said was true and he really sunk his teeth in that promo. This was the best mic work we've heard from Miz in a long time and this is the type of approach that could make Miz TV worth watching. Kingston's facials were good as Miz was tearing into him, but his verbal responses were nothing special and Miz rolling his eyes as Kingston's moments line was justifiable. The match was also entertaining and set the stage nicely for their title match on Main Event. Of course, this assumes that Miz is able to work the match as advertised after taking that nasty Trouble in Paradise kick at the end of this match.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Brodus Clay: Minor Hit. Another decisive win for Del Rio, and Jim Ross did a good job of putting over his newfound intensity on commentary. Can we get tot he part where Clay gets so frustrated that he abandons his funky act and becomes a serious performer?
The Prime Time Players vs. Santino Marella and Zack Ryder: Minor Hit. The Players have really grown on me in the ring and I enjoyed the closing seconds with the rapid fire finishing moves that ultimately led to Titus O'Neil pinning Ryder. The key for the Players is finding the right personas. Titus works as a badass, but I'm not sure what they are going for with Darren Young's character. This could be a strong tag act if Young finds something that connects with fans. The Millions of Dollars dance and the hair pick won't cut it.
Ryback vs. Dolph Ziggler and David Otunga: Minor HIt. I'm happy they didn't bury Ziggler, though I was left wondering whether this walkout will lead to a singles match between the two next week. If so, there's no way Ryback is losing before the pay-per-view. Ryback's growing popularity was on full display here. The live crowd popped huge for everything he did in this segment.
Antonio Cesaro: Minor Hit. A good match while it lasted. I'd like to see a real program between the two once both men are better established. Okay, that assumes WWE will actually do something with Gabriel. There was a scary moment with Cesaro rolling on his side to take the 450. It was hard to tell whether Gabriel was injured or just selling the move like he always does.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: They pulled back on the lengthy Punk promo segments and delivered a bunch of filler matches. As much as I enjoy the Punk promos, it's wise not to overexpose him. The filler matches are a product of the three-hour Raw shows. I know it's repetitive to bitch about the three-hour shows, but it's too big of an issue to accept or ignore. Raw no longer feels like a weekly event. The key issue remains that WWE hasn't done anything innovative to fill the third hour. Rather, they've just stretched out their usual two-hour formula over three hours. The only thing about the show that really stuck with me by Tuesday morning was the setup for Punk vs. Ryback. There are a lot of Minor Hits listed above, but most felt like filler more than anything meaningful.
Vince McMahon: Vince was great last week on the mic and during his fight with Punk, but he didn't bring any energy to the show last night. Meanwhile, his decision making is also making A.J.'s role as the general manager seem rather pointless. I'd rather see Vince positioned as the authority figure on Raw, but I assume he won't be sticking around as a weekly character. By the way, whatever happened to the teased fight involving Vince and Paul Heyman? I didn't want to see it, but I know I wasn't the only person who thought it was going to happen based on their verbal exchange.
Big Show promo: They must be building up Big Show for another brief title reign and a Dolph Ziggler cash in. Why else would they have the heel monster they've worked hard to rebuild continuously point out his embarrassing 45-second title reign? I like Show in his current role, but this was not a hot way to open the show.
3MB: Dot Net Member Hater Dave said it best in the form of this message: "I tuned into Raw right when the Three Man Band was out. Turned it off and never came back."
Kane and Daniel Bryan: I'm the tag team champion. Yes! No! We're hearing too much of this on television every week. WWE is running the act into the ground. I fear this is going the route of the Brodus Clay entrance in that it's a lot of fun to experience live, but the act is getting stale for viewers who watch the show every week. Bryan still creates a hell of a buzz when he comes out and he's usually among my favorite characters on WWE television, so here's hoping will pull back before they ruin a good thing. I also didn't care for the way Bryan cowered at the thought of facing Big Show. I like Bryan as a fearless buzz saw who seems too crazy to fear anything, not as a cowering comedy figure.
Kane vs. Matt Striker: Was there a point to this other than to tell the world that Striker's backstage interview questions are repetitive?
Eve vs. Layla: The live crowd said it all with their mocking "This is awesome" chant. The division is stale and WWE doesn't seem to be in any hurry to address the problem. I must add that I was genuinely touched by Layla's commentary about her mother's battle with breast cancer and I applaud WWE for not playing it up for sympathy during her match. Her words were so heartfelt and it was nice to see WWE didn't cheapen her video in any way.
Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow vs. Primo and Epico: I like both teams, but I wasn't even sure who they expected fans to cheer for. This was nearly seven minutes of filler content. They also made the tag tournament seem worthless by waiting until this point in the show to say that the finals had been pushed back a week because Rey Mysterio has "a touch of the flu."
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