Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - Daniel Bryan's rise continues with a match against Seth Rollins, John Cena and Ryback get Lumberjacked, Triple H almost has an Iron Man match with Curtis Axel, and more!
By Will Pruett
For about a year, I have marveled at the WWE's roster. It is young, fairly healthy (concussions notwithstanding), and has some exciting acts. It has been fun to watch it develop from developmental all the way to the main event of pay-per-views and Raw. WWE has been doing a lot right. Looking at Raw last night, the final portion of the "new boom period" requirement may be falling into place. This is Daniel Bryan.
Bryan has been fired by WWE for choking a ring announcer. Bryan has been maligned backstage for being too small and too indie. Bryan has taken every challenge with gritted teeth. When he was fired, he didn't complain, he went to the indie scene and raised his profile. When he was not pushed and was losing to Sin Cara, he did so as the best possible jobber. Bryan has taken an odd path to the top.
With a rich roster of talent, only one star has to catch fire for the others to follow. While I would love to give all the credit to Bryan, it actually partially belongs to The Shield and Kane. Without a quality partner in this last tag team run, Daniel Bryan wouldn't have had the opportunity to receive hot tags. Kane has sold masterfully and has flipped the standard big man/little man tag team formula. The Shield were the original acts to get over as heels, which allowed Bryan to get over as a babyface against them. One over act begets another. It's a fun cycle to watch pick up.
Am I proclaiming this a new boom period? No. It's probably a year too early for it. What I am saying is Bryan could be the star to get hot enough to lead us there. Look at the crowd reactions Bryan received on Raw. It was hard to look away. This is what will catch new fans. Bryan is young, tough, and relatable. He isn't distant. He doesn't come off like a disingenuous jerkface in half of his promos. Along with the youth movement overtaking the WWE roster, Bryan is bringing something new and fun. Boom periods (or periods of high creative quality) don't come from old acts. They come from something new. Bryan is new.
- I can't be the only person wishing Triple H and Curtis Axel had somehow gone through with their 60 minute Iron Man Match. Something about it seemed ridiculous and fun. Alas, I'll just have to wait and see recent WWE signee Sami Calihan and Adam Cole in a 60 minute Iron Man Match this Saturday night at PWG.
- The opening was meant to forward the McMahon family drama and it accomplished this task. I'm not sure who I should cheer for in this drama though. Ultimately, Vince and Stephanie are right and Triple H should be careful. Sadly, Triple H is being presented as the relatable character. This is an odd story. I'm not quite sure where it's going.
- In three years, Curtis Axel can brag about beating Triple H twice in one night and no one will remember how it happened.
- Kane and Dean Ambrose has a decent match, but it didn't top their effort on Smackdown last month. The ending was predictable, but this is how Shield singles matches work. They're entertaining and then there are run ins. It works for the group.
- Seriously, go back and watch the crowd after Daniel Bryan runs into the ring. Dang Gina. They love him.
- I like the "kickoff" name more than just calling the preshow a preshow.
- I want to thank East Coast Raw viewers for being smart enough to vote for Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins. You're all smart people.
- Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton challenging for the Tag Team Championships should be entertaining. It's funny to see Bryan in another "odd couple" tag team, but it fits his current story. This is obviously not as long term as his team with Kane, so it's fine.
- The switch from Fandango to Curtis Axel in the Intercontinental Championship match on Sunday works for me. Axel can use some time dominating the mid-card and competing with the main eventers before being propelled straight into the main event. This would elevated the Intercontinental Championship and put it on a guy WWE has big plans for. This is positive.
- The Miz is still insufferable.
- I'm all for video packages introducing already established talent. It'll be nice to see Mark Henry induct someone into the Hall of Pain and split some wigs.
- I didn't enjoy Chris Jericho discussing how C.M. Punk always elevates him to the highest level. I also didn't love the mention of their previous matches. I would rather just have Jericho mention how much he wants to shove this return in Heyman's face and beat Punk. Jericho's promo was underwhelming.
- Dolph Ziggler had a decent return to Raw and some fun mic work. I actually appreciated not seeing him in the ring. I don't know if he isn't medically cleared or if WWE is just being careful, but the extended absence has given me faith in WWE's commitment to talent health.
- Big E Langston is still finding himself in this heel enforcer role. Jericho was a good opponent to allow this. There were parts of their match I really enjoyed.
- Zeb Colter praising Antonio Cesaro was interesting. Many speculated about this pairing months ago. It wouldn't quite fit Colter's character, but he made it work on commentary for this match. Cesaro being paired with Colter could make for some fun moments and keep Cesaro in the limelight.
- These Wyatt Family vignettes have me crazy excited to see them debut. I already watch them weekly on NXT, but I am still anticipating seeing them. This is great.
- Randy Orton had the basic Randy Orton match with Roman Reigns. Reigns proved he is still the greenest member of The Shield. He's exciting in tag situations, but on his own, still needs protecting. The match wasn't bad, it was just a little boring. Reigns lost nothing. It was more of a progress report.
- This was the first WWE singles match between Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan and it didn't disappoint. They tore it up at the end of Bryan's ROH run and this was a great opportunity to do so again.
- Daniel Bryan is still stealing the show pretty often. I approve.
- Maybe this is the Bryan-mania running a little too wild, but I would have preferred Bryan's music played to close the segment instead of Orton's.
- Big E Langston throwing Kaitlyn down was weird. A.J. Lee's promo was great. I'm happy to see A.J. taking the Diva's Championship seriously. This promo segment has me more excited for a Diva's match than I have been in a long time. WWE's Diva's division can't match the depth of wrestling quality and character TNA's has, but this could be a start.
- The build for Damien Sandow vs. Sheamus has been good enough to earn their match a slot on the actual pay-per-view. I'm surprised to see it on the preshow.
- Triple H, Stephanie, and Vince McMahon could take a hugging lesson from Kane and Daniel Bryan. This was kind of an odd backstage exchange. Getting Curtis Axel vs. Triple H teased for another week is interesting. It'll be more interesting if the match actually happens.
- John Cena and Ryback had a surprisingly decent exchange. Cena was low key. Ryback wasn't a space invader. The Lumberjack gimmick for the segment actually allowed for a compelling story. This was nice hype for kind of an odd match. I'm not sold on Three Stages of Hell, but I understand what WWE is going for. It was alright for an evening. The real test is Sunday and producing an entertaining long match.
This was a nice go-home edition of Raw with one bright spot shining above others. Sunday has me excited, not to see conclusions, but to see a meaningful chapter in the story of many characters. WWE has done a nice job with Payback. It'll be fun to see what they do with the actual card.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at email@example.com or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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