Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - Ryback explains his actions, Brock Lesnar challenges Triple H to a Cage Match, C.M. Punk walks away, John Cena gets Shield-ed, and more!
By Will Pruett
Before I begin my regular analysis of Raw, I want to say my heart aches for the city of Boston today and my prayers are with them. Stay strong, Boston.
Reactions are tricky. The gauging of them and actually gaining them. Sometimes, when you're in an arena, you believe the sound is deafening, but at home, it's fairly quiet. Sometimes, you sit at home and wish you were a part of the rowdy crowd you see having a great time on television. Then, there are those times when it's silent in the arena, silent at home, and the product in the ring actually deserves silence.
Week two of the Fandango phenomenon hit hard and rather obviously. WWE didn't underplay the attention 18,000 people singing the Fandango theme song received last week. Their reaction was to overplay the situation, call him a pop culture phenom, and allow him to cut a long, laborious promo. This was probably the wrong reaction.
The reaction to Kofi Kingston ending Antonio Cesaro's eight month United States Championship reign was subdued applause. Kofi's own reaction was an acknowledgement of a story WWE was not telling. Kofi may have brought the title back to the U.S., but was it ever actually gone? Kofi is firmly on top of one half of the mid card again. Is this where he belongs?
There was a palpable reaction in both the talent and the crowd during C.M. Punk's promo segment. His story will revolved around where he can go next and what he can do. While I haven't loved every "I'm going home" story lately (TNA's A.J. Styles and James Storm), this one can really help Punk's character (over a year on top is a long time for a character to hang around) and his physical well being.
The reaction of John Cena to Ryback's attack and subsequent backstage promo was not fear or trepidation. John Cena didn't back away. He greeted Ryback with the same mix of humor and intensity he has greeted opponents with for years. With Ryback, it actually works. John Cena often says to much, but with a man who cannot be trusted to say anything with a live mic, Cena says just enough.
The most important reaction of the show? It was the crowd booing Ryback as he willingly walked away from a fight he would have once charged into. Ryback's reaction to the world around him was to change. He refused to be the hero this week. This is the exact reaction he needs right now.
- While I like the idea of opening the show with a match right away, I strongly dislike opening the show with a rematch from Smackdown. I want to feel like the 40 minutes I spent fast-forwarding through Smackdown was time well spent and giving us this handicap match again did not give me that feeling.
- How is a handicap match ever fair? Randy Orton and Sheamus have both proven to be exceptional challenges for Big Show on their own in the past. How is it fair for Show to have to fight both of them? Shouldn't Orton and Sheamus, as fine, upstanding citizens and role models, speak up about this unfair advantage?
- WWE has an odd way of making their babyfaces seem like jerks and their heels seem like fully realized relatable characters. This is the opposite of what it should be.
- I would watch a pay-per-view of nothing but Brock Lesnar throwing around members of 3MB. Heath Slater took some big bumps and was the MVP of the beatdown.
- Brock Lesnar was a nice surprise. More surprising to me was his challenge to Triple H for a Steel Cage Match (delivered through Paul Heyman, of course). I didn't expect Triple H and Lesnar to continue their feud at all and I definitely didn't expect it so soon after WrestleMania.
- A cage can actually hurt matches like Triple H vs. Lesnar. The match needs bells and whistles to be compelling (steel steps, tables breaking, Heyman interfering) and the cage is supposed to keep them out. While the spectacle of the cage is nice, I worry about the actual entertainment value of the match.
- Paul Heyman cannot cut a bad promo.
- Antonio Cesaro yodeling is truly puzzling. It seemed like his act was getting over as a serious wrestling and then this comedy element was added. We see this a lot with WWE (Sheamus was WWE Champion and a monster heel, then crowned king and given a silly crown) and performers that take their lumps usually come out better for it. Stay strong, Antonio.
- Kofi Kingston vs. Antonio Cesaro was a very fun, high energy Raw match. It was another Smackdown rematch, which I was not very excited about, but it raised the stakes.
- This is Kofi's seventh reign as a mid-card champion. How do I even get excited about this?
- As much as I like seeing Dolph Ziggler wrestle multiple times per week, I wish the World Heavyweight Championship was a Smackdown exclusive kind of thing. It would make a show that is now an afterthought feel a little more important.
- The Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio confrontation entertained me, but I can't figure out why I am supposed to cheer for Del Rio over Ziggler. This is part of an ongoing issue of WWE attempting to convince us to judge people as they tell us instead of by their actions.
- Ziggler vs. Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger has the potential to be a great triple threat match at Extreme Rules. What I'm not looking forward to is the discussion of how Ziggler only has 1/3 of a chance to win. This is a flawed concept.
- Kane and Daniel Bryan vs. The Primetime Players was a repeat from Smackdown, which was a repeat from Main Event, which was a repeat from Raw, which was a repeat from Smackdown. I could go on like this all day. They've wrestled a lot.
- Undertaker returning to action and being involved with Daniel Bryan and The Shield is a pretty spectacular thing for those talents. I am very excited to the see the six man tag match next week. It should be very fun.
- Ryabck's backstage promo about his attack on John Cena was really well put together. The logic behind it was sound. The conviction was there for Ryback. Everything seemed to work well here. Ryback also didn't come off as a crazy Ultimate Warrior knockoff, which happens sometimes.
- Wade Barrett won the Intercontinental Championship last week, then lost a match this week. Is anyone surprised? The mid-card titles are cursed.
- WWE is hyping a number one contenders match for the Intercontinental Championship on Main Event. Will this match actually happen, or will it be like the series they were going to begin on that show before scrapping it, along with Bo Dallas. Remember Bo Dallas?
- There is a little too much authority figure drama happening with Vickie Guerrero, Brad Maddox, Booker T, and Teddy Long all seemingly running the same shows. This is unnecessary.
- Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow are great. That is all.
- Fandango's segment fell flat, but I'm not sure how WWE could change it. If they didn't mention the chants and risked them not happening organically, they could be walking away from a major concept taking off. If they mention them, they make them look corporate and, thus, unpopular. Either way, WWE had their backs against the wall here.
- The actual promo from Fandango was disappointing. His delivery left a lot to be desired.
- Dolph Ziggler vs. Jack Swagger was an odd heel vs. heel matchup. I assumed WWE would strongly push Ziggler as a heel (as they did on Smackdown) instead of putting him out there in a segment where the fans choose who they dislike less. It was a decent match with an odd story to it.
- This was the "champions lose" edition of Raw with Cesaro losing his title and Kaitlyn, Ziggler, and Barrett all losing their non-title matches. This kind of storytelling does WWE no favors.
- Last week, Mark Henry wanted a shot at the WWE Championship and laid out John Cena for it. This week, he tackled Sheamus through a set. Why wouldn't he keep pursuing the title?
- C.M. Punk seems to have lost his smile, or is pulling an A.J. Styles. Does he join Aces and Eights next week? Stay tuned to Impact to find out!
- In all seriousness, I like what WWE did with Punk. His character has done so much over the last two years. He definitely deserves a break and this was a fine way to get him one. I'm looking forward to a creatively refreshed Punk when WWE decides to bring him back.
- The Bella Twins still do the twin magic switch, even though they now look distinctly different. Jerry Lawler made sure to point this out to us, which was also kind of odd. The announcers stopped caring during the Kaitlyn vs. Nikki Bella match.
- John Cena and Ryback had a pretty nice segment together. It drove home the new motivation of Ryback and brought forth a more serious version of John Cena.
- The Shield standing tall as Raw came to a close worked really well for me. They're in a major match against Undertaker, Kane, and Daniel Bryan next week and this allows them to stand out as this week's show came to a close.
This episode of Raw told some very necessary stories heading into Extreme Rules. It kicked off the hype for that show and gave us a taste of (what will likely be) our three main events. WWE has allowed themselves a lot of time to build into Extreme Rules, so it's interesting to see them begin building it.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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