Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - Brock Lesnar F-5's C.M. Punk after Punk and Heyman break up, Mark Henry attacks John Cena, Alberto Del Rio gets his heel on, Christian returns and more!
By Will Pruett
On Sunday night, I wondered if WWE had packed too much into their Payback pay-per-view. It was delightfully action packed. It pleased viewers at home and the live crowd. It was good; really good. Now, looking back over it and Raw, Payback was just the tip of the iceberg. Monday night's Raw episode was one of the most newsworthy and action-packed efforts we've seen from WWE in months.
One of the central focuses of the show is the rebuilding of the babyface roster in WWE with wrestlers fans tend to like and can rally behind. Dolph Ziggler, C.M. Punk, and Daniel Bryan seem well on their way to being the number two through four babyfaces in WWE. Even if a fan doesn't like John Cena, they can easily rally behind one (or all) of these three guys. Each one of them is uniquely suited to be a popular and dynamic babyface. After months of building up strong heels (The Shield, Fandango, Curtis Axel, and more), WWE is building up their counterparts.
Dolph Ziggler's attack on Alberto Del Rio, after Del Rio delivered a great heel promo and regained the arrogance he previously lost, was fantastic. Ziggler is a wronged man. He came out like a house of fire and destroyed Del Rio, showing passion and intensity fans can buy into. Going all the way back to Sunday night, Ziggler is the best in the business at selling big offense, and he sold sympathetically for Del Rio. Ziggler is now chasing Del Rio to reclaim his dream. How can anyone not get behind him?
Daniel Bryan is the most confusing of these pushes after Raw. He was on a major roll going into this week, but after a medical stoppage in his match and a random off camera confrontation with Triple H, I'm worried. I'm not a Triple H conspiracy theorist, but it's hard not to be suspicious of him glomming onto a hot act. This may be a one week aberration, but it is cause for concern. If Bryan has shown us one thing in his WWE tenure, it is that nothing can really hold him back.
C.M. Punk, who seems to have returned as a babyface, has dissolved his professional relationship with Paul Heyman (while they may remain best friends) and is openly encouraging the crowd to cheer him. Punk not only has a new energy about him, but he also seems to be motivated creatively. Wherever Punk is going, I have faith in it. As this show closed, Punk was dropped with the F-5 by Brock Lesnar (WWE's most dangerous monster and a noted Paul Heyman guy). This is a strong direction and quite the inspiring choice.
Another strong babyface choice was the promo from John Cena on this show. Cena is at his best when rallying his fans in a very serious manner. I know most hardcore wrestling fans would rather not hear "The champ is here," but it worked on this show. John Cena is brave in the face of challenges. John Cena seemed like a great example here. Mark Henry is a great foil for Cena. This feud should be very fun.
Strong heels (which WWE has plenty of) often lead to strong babyfaces. We are seeing a resurgence of the WWE roster. This show demonstrated just how exciting this can be.
- Alberto Del Rio seemed rather refreshed to be in a heel role. He never clicked strongly as a babyface and he just seems to be a natural heel. The babyface experiment showed him how to not be a genuine or likable human being, so this works.
- It was interesting to see two recently turned wrestlers in a confrontation. Punk and Del Rio were playing against the roles fans would like to see them in for so long, it was fun to see them play to type. There is a nice natural chemistry between the two of them as well.
- Paul Heyman and C.M. Punk's breakup segment was well constructed. It was easy to see how Heyman was hurt. It was also easy to see Punk's side of it. I can't say enough how fun this story should be. If both men are motivated, the Punk and Heyman feud should be even better than their partnership.
- The Christian return was a little random, but it did add to the newsworthiness of this show. Christian is a nice talent to have in the upper-mid-card mix and will deliver when called upon. I don't see him as a main eventer anymore, but he can definitely add to the Intercontinental Championship mix.
- Why did Sheamus end up in a handicap match with Team Rhodes Scholars? I understand the match, but the booking made no sense. Shouldn't the babyface demand the match where the odds aren't in his favor? Just throwing it out there implied a heel slant to the authority figure (which is true, but shouldn't be direct). Logic is probably important.
- Triple H criticizing the booking of Raw made me laugh a little. I think people were a little too riled up about a silly segment, but given Triple H was involved, it is to be expected.
- Daniel Bryan chasing the WWE Championship excites me quite a bit. This was a bright spot in an odd show for Bryan. Knowing WWE, he wouldn't mention the title if he wasn't going to challenge for it. Since Money in the Bank is set, a showdown with Cena at SummerSlam could be quite possible.
- Why are there always Kendo Sticks under the ring? I don't understand the need for them in setting up the ring or the surrounding area.
- Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan was a good match with a bizarre stipulation and a bizarre finish. Orton gained nothing and Bryan did the same. Why did this match happen with a stipulation? It was their first encounter. It made little sense.
- I'm all about WWE establishing a medical stoppage if, for no other reason, the idea is to actually have medical stoppages when matches truly call for them. Working a few into storylines would help excuse them when they are actually necessary. I didn't love the stoppage as a part of this feud, but I like the concept in general.
- I am not Sean Diddy Combs' boy. I wish he wouldn't call me his boy.
- A.J. Lee had a really nice performance on this show.
- Stephanie McMahon's segment was kind of awkward. At first, I found myself enjoying the idea of Stephanie vs. A.J. at a later date. The stuff with Kaitlyn and the rest of the Diva's was just weird though. I'm interested in where this is all going (and hoping it leads to more of a spotlight on the Divas), but Stephanie didn't do herself many favors.
- I have actually had people emailing me and tweeting me asking for pictures of Kaitlyn's nipple. Why would I have that? Why would I care? This is just silly. Get a life, everyone.
- When I see a wrestler selling an injury, I know my first thought is nerve damage.
- Kane and Dean Ambrose don't have great chemistry in the ring. I'm not sure why we needed to see this match three times in one week.
- Vince McMahon apparently believes in The Shield. The segment with him and Vickie was awkward. The entire power struggle between Triple H and Vince is actually pretty awkward.
- Zeb Colter and Antonio Cesaro could make a fun pair. I didn't feel like Colter was really helping Swagger, so maybe he'll help Cesaro. It isn't a natural pairing, but I could be fun.
- I like seeing William Regal on Raw.
- John Cena's promo riling up the crowd and speaking to his faithful fans (they do exist) was great. John Cena is at his best when he is in preacher man mode. This was the preacher version of Cena coming out in full force. Cena seemed like a nice and likable babyface. Why can't we get more of this?
- Mark Henry's almost-retirement angle was brilliant. Henry's acting was top notch. His speech was compelling. He made people feel for him, then he laughed the, for doing so. This was a great heel moment. It made fans feel a little dumber, which worked really well. Henry is a beast.
- Mark Henry vs. John Cena might be a classic at Money in the Bank.
- Chris Jericho is good at beating up 3MB, but he's no Brock Lesnar.
- If Sheamus wasn't unlikable enough, these 1-800-Fella segments will make sure he gets there. I have no idea who this character is supposed to appeal to. Kids are even smart enough to see the silliness for what it is. Adults will hate him more and more every week if they see these. Sheamus is a great wrestler and can be a great character, but he is ridiculously weak right now.
- Why is Sin Cara's lighting being used for a Curtis Axel squash match? Why does the Sin Cara lighting still get used at all?
- Curtis Axel works really well for me as the Intercontinental Champion. I'm a fan of the choice.
- The end of this show accomplished so many things. Punk is an established babyface going into a major feud with Lesnar. Ziggler is a wronged babyface out for revenge against the very evil Del Rio. This all just worked.
Not only was this a great episode of Raw, it left me looking forward to next week. There is so much more story to tell in every major feud. There are new and changing characters breaking out. WWE is putting together a solid creative effort and new talent placed in the right ways. The mixing in of veterans (Christian, RVD) works with this roster, because it is so young.
Compelling characters create compelling stories. I can't wait to see where most of these stories go.
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.b
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