Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - Daniel Bryan makes Randy Orton tap, C.M. Punk and Paul Heyman tell their story, Mark Henry and John Cena address the faux-retirement, and more!
By Will Pruett
There are four extreme important segments on each episode of Raw. They are consistently the highest rated and are exactly where viewers always know they will find main eventers. In WrestleMania season, when the roster is more loaded than usual, these segments feature the very top talent. In them we have seen The Rock, C.M. Punk, John Cena, The Undertaker, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, and Shawn Michaels in the past few months. The star of two of these four segments on Monday's Raw was Daniel Bryan.
Bryan wasn't just the star of two of these segments, but he was the star of the opening and closing moments of Raw. It's rare to see the same star in both of these segments when they are not the caliber of Punk or Cena. Whole-show builds like this are usually reserved for the more established main event talent. Even Randy Orton (Bryan's dance partner in these segments, who worked to maximum effectiveness) has not been featured in them lately.
Raw began with the advertised match of Orton vs. Bryan (after a Bryan promo about being mistaken for a Hobbit and other short jokes), but said match quickly ended via double disqualification. It was decided Orton and Bryan would meet later in the night and the fans would decide the stipulations. The show closed with Orton and Bryan putting on a superior display of technical wrestling mixed with weapon spots and street fight fare (much like Orton's 2011 feud with Christian), which Bryan came out on top of via submission.
What does it mean for another top babyface to tap out to Bryan? It means WWE's convoluted creative and management structure believes in him. They see him as a talent with a story worth telling. Randy Orton does not lose often, nor does he tap out easily. Orton put over Bryan in the clearest way possible. Bryan was given a major run at the end of this show.
Why does this matter? It feels like there is a star in the making in front of us in Bryan. His path has been wild. He is something completely different from anything else in WWE. His work is amazing and he has become one of the most delightful characters in WWE. More than anything, when I watch Bryan, I want to believe in him. When he struggles, I want to cheer more. When he succeeds, I am proud of him. He is producing exactly the reaction a lead babyface should.
This was another big step in the career of Daniel Bryan.
Elsewhere on Raw:>
- Vince McMahon gives the most awkward endorsements of talent sometimes. This was another week of awkward Vince, Stephanie, and Triple H power struggling. I'm intrigued, mostly because I have no idea where it is going. I'm fearful, because I partially doubt the creative forces in WWE know where it is going.
- Weren't Christian and Sheamus feuding when we last saw Christian? What happened?
- I enjoyed Rhodes Scholars vs. Christian and Sheamus, even though it is hard for me to let go of the great run I wanted Rhodes and Sandow to have with the tag titles last year.
- C.M. Punk seemed kind of petulant when yelling at Vickie Guerrero backstage. I'm guessing this is because she made him work during the Stanley Cup Finals.
- A.J. Lee dressed up as Kaitlyn was funny for a moment. The promo A.J. cut wasn't great and Kaitlyn's reactions continue to paint her as anything but sympathetic. I want to feel sorry for the protagonists in WWE stories, but it's a major challenge to do so sometimes.
- Every time I see a WWE "Don't try this at home" video, I am reminded of seeing the same thing before every WWE DVD I own and not being able to skip it. It brings up a special sort of rage in my heart.
- I was caught off guard by Chris Jericho vs. Alberto Del Rio suddenly getting super good around the middle of the match and staying good throughout. This was a good night for in-ring work.
- Chris Jericho is tasked with getting other wrestlers over. It's why he comes to WWE and it appears to be what keeps him motivated in the business. Alberto Del Rio benefitted from a strong babyface on this show. Punk benefitted from a strong opponent at Payback. Ryback will benefit at Money in the Bank. Jericho is a helpful guy.
- It's weird how much better heel Del Rio is than face Del Rio.
- Dolph Ziggler is finding his footing nicely as a babyface. What he is doing now is rooted in intensity, which is nice to see from a company that allows babyfaces to be too nonchalant far too often.
- What exactly is the point of 1-800-Fella? Am I supposed to like Sheamus more after watching these?
- I don't care much about the cover of WWE 2K14. The gameplay footage available in the short preview online looks terrible, however. This depresses me. This might be a good year to skip the annual WWE game until the new developer really gets a chance to make it their own.
- Ryback should have Shellshocked Hornswoggle too, not because I don't like Hornswoggle, but just because it would have been an impressive visual. I like Hornswoggle. He's my second favorite DX member.
- John Cena cut a promo very similar to the one he gave us last week. This is a good thing. Cena is at his best when hyping up a crowd and rocking the preaching promo. His response to Mark Henry fit into the classic WWE top star character trait of defending "the history of the business" while coming off like a good guy. Cena was great here.
- WWE kept Cena and Henry separate on this show and I applaud the move. Their interaction last week was so good, we can all spend some time anticipating another one.
- I like The Uso's winning a Tag Title shot, even though they seem like a big step down from Ziggler and Langston, Bryan and Kane, and The Shield. Hopefully they can show why they deserve this opportunity in the coming weeks.
- I wonder if WWE is frightened of overexposing The Shield right now. They haven't been as much of a presence on Raw as Bryan has overcome them (kind of). The Uso's will give Rollins and Reigns solid rivals. Hopefully a rival for Dean Ambrose is in the works as well. The Shield is too over to not be used.
- The C.M. Punk and Paul Heyman story got off to a nice start on this show. Like the beginning of most long stories, there was an extended period of exposition. This was necessary, but it made their segment feel a little long. This is the only criticism I have of what was otherwise a very well put together and engaging segment.
- Heyman has been at another level on the mic for almost a year now. Punk is often on this level as well. They worked great in tandem, but seeing them beginning a program with each other is crazy exciting to me.
- Every top star seems to have a unique story with unique setback. Steve Austin was fired via FedEx. Punk almost got stuck in OVW forever (where he would now be getting Boomsticked by Jay Bradley, which I don't think is a euphemism). This is what makes their stories interesting. It's the struggle to overcome.
- It was awkward seeing The Primetime Players suddenly appear. A better choice would have been having them enter in the commercial break.
- Punk vs. Darren Young was a fun little match and ended up being a nice showcase for Young.
- Watching Punk and Curtis Axel interact next week should be interesting. Punk and Heyman could easily be feud of the year if handled well.
- How wonderfully awkward was Stephanie McMahon's announcement of the WWE Championship Money in the Bank participants? I loved this moment just for the sheer oddness of it. Thanks Stephanie!
- Punk's attitude about having to team with Axel and taking a fight was interesting. Punk works really well as the fighting babyface. I don't feel like he got to show enough of this as champion.
- Mark Henry's followup to last week was decent. Last week was so good, the replays of it were likely more effective than Henry's actual promo, but both were important.
- For those wondering, that is what Mark Henry does. He isn't lying.
- The Wyatt Family vignettes are still awesome. I'm excited for them to debut, but the vignettes are so unique and creepy, I'm not tired of them yet.
- As I mentioned before, Bryan vs. Orton in the main event was great.
- While it turned out to work rather well with the finish of the match, I still don't like the kendo stick. Is there always one under a WWE ring?
This show was another good edition of Raw. The hot stories got better. The over acts seemed to get more over. It was built around making new stars (one main one in particular). WWE is producing some great stuff right now and the new talent makes it feel even fresher. This roster is young and dynamic. It's amazing what a few months of solid build can bring.
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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