Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - John Cena proves to be an actual good guy, Daniel Bryan says Yes, C.M. Punk and Paul Heyman craft the Raw segment of the year (with help from Brock Lesnar), Fandango stands out, and more!
By Will Pruett
I've constantly focussed on how much I'd like to see too wrestlers do good things in this space. After all, aren't good people defined (more often than not) based on their actions, not how they want to be perceived (politicians don't count)? Any character in any storytelling form should be defined by their actions. In wrestling, where characters are painted in broad strokes, good should act good and bad should act bad.
John Cena, who most often runs into conflicts with this principle, actually did something very good on this show. When faced with the chance to choose his opponent for SummerSlam, John Cena picked a character who has been on a hot streak. He picked a wrestler fans have been rallying behind. He didn't pick someone he was be more popular than. He didn't shirk away from a challenge.
John Cena chose Daniel Bryan. Bryan has been on a big television winning streak (Money in the Bank notwithstanding) and an even bigger hot streak as a part of tag team matches and singles matches. Bryan's performances and connection with the crowd have been the highlight of wrestling in the last two months. He is ready for a chance to main event one of the biggest shows of the year.
Why does this matter? John Cena did not mock Bryan, but he made him seem like a deserving equal. Bryan responded with the enthusiasm that originally made crowds fall in love with him. It might have been the most serendipitous scheduling in WWE history as well. Cena's choice of Bryan took place in front of one of the most pro-Bryan crowds possible in Brooklyn, where the combination of "smart fans" and beard loving hipsters may have caused the entire world to explode were Bryan not picked.
Elsewhere on the show, C.M. Punk stood up to Paul Heyman and stood up to Brock Lesnar. Punk not only stood up to Lesnar, but continued standing up to him. Punk was torn apart by Lesnar, but he never backed down. Even when he could barely stand, he found a way to do so. Punk stood up to a monster. Good people do good things, even when it's the dumb choice.
WWE has improved vastly over the last few months and this show seemed to be the culmination of it. SummerSlam is shaping up to have C.M. Punk vs. Brock Lesnar and John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan co-headlining. In these matches, we will (hopefully) continue to see good people doing good things.
- After spending as much time and energy as I did hating Nickelback, I must tell you I still really enjoy the now one year old Raw theme. Tonight is the night.
- Brad Maddox doesn't need theme music. A simple drum roll and light reveal every week would be more than enough.
- John Cena was in his semi-silly mode in the opening segment, allowing the boo's he was sure to receive from the Brooklyn crowd to roll off of his back. This worked for me in a better way than Silly Cena usually does.
- Speaking of silly, how great was Fandango in Raw's opening?
- Also great, the match between Fandango and Randy Orton. This was kind of a breakout performance for Fandango. Orton also had his working boots on. Orton seems to be returning to his 2011 form, which means he is becoming great again.
- The live crowd risked ruining this show in the middle of the opening match. They began chanting for everything but the match in a way reminiscent of Orton vs. Sheamus the night after WrestleMania. The big difference here was this match wasn't phoned in and was actually pretty great. They ended up getting wrapped up in the action, but I was worried.
- Dolph Ziggler's breakup with A.J. Lee was done in the best way possible. It was short and sweet. I was worried we would see a Chris Jericho/Stephanie McMahon out of 2000 exchange between them. A.J. played her role well.
- Mark Henry is quickly becoming unflappable on the mic. Seriously, he cannot be flapped.
- It surprised me to hear The Shield's music during the Henry promo, but it worked for me. The Shield have needed a new opponent on the upper echelon of WWE and Henry just lost his dance partner. Henry leading anyone against The Shield is going to lead to some fun segments.
- Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler have all the chemistry in the ring they will ever need. What they have to develop now is the story to back it up. This is what I want to see before they cross paths again.
- Big E Langston's attack on Ziggler was obvious, but also very good. Big E and Ziggler both need to firmly establish themselves, which will be hard in a feud together, but it's the story WWE needs to tell right now.
- I loved the graphic calling Cena's choice "The Decision." I wanted someone on Raw to make a bunch of LeBron jokes.
- At first, I groaned when I heard the familiar tones of "What's Up" and R-Truth raspy 40+ rap.
- Of course, when I heard the dissonant, troubling sounds of The Wyatt Family's entrance, I stood up and took notice. The Wyatt's assault on Truth was great. Bray Wyatt's subsequent promo was even better. This was a great way to catapult this group into week two. We saw something a little different and a little more was revealed. The Wyatt Family is an amazing act.
- I would be totally into a Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro vs. The Uso's feud. It's been a while since we've seen tag teams feuding for reasons other than the tag titles.
- Someone should really bully Sean "Diddy" Combs. That guy has it coming.
- Damien Sandow losing to Christian really surprised me. Usually, the night after Money in the Bank is a time to enhance the briefcase carrying wrestlers. Alas, this was just one match and Sandow will likely have his briefcase for a little while.
- Cody Rhodes showed some really great babyface fire attacking Sandow. I'm not sure he'll work as a babyface, but this moment gave me hope.
- 1-800-Fella makes me want to weep with sadness.
- Naomi is always surprising in her athleticism. Her match against Brie Bella was not super special, but it didn't put me to sleep. I'm worried about the matches we're going to see accompanying Total Divas. Really, I'm just worried that I'll be forced to watch Total Divas.
- C.M. Punk, Paul Heyman, and Brock Lesnar had the television segment of the year. It was on a completely different level than anything we've seen. Heyman and Punk brought something extremely personal and wonderful to this segment. It's one of those moments where I am super proud to be a wrestling fan.
- Heyman and Punk may have brought the emotional gravitas to this segment, but the physicality of Brock Lesnar also enhanced it. Lesnar was every bit the monster he is meant to be. The beating he laid on Punk was brutal and frightening.
- This segment sold SummerSlam. I cannot wait to be at this show.
- Punk bringing the fight to Lesnar, even knowing he would be killed by him was amazing. This is how a babyface acts. He was reckless and inspiring. Everyone wants to think they could be that guy.
- I don't even know what else to say about Heyman, Punk, and Lesnar's exchange. It deserves so much more in writing than I can give it. Watch the segment. It was amazing.
- Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are still playing games with their authority figures. Why is WWE constantly reminding all of us about the plight of middle management? Is this interesting to anyone?
- Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho had some great matches in 2002. It's funny to think that 11 years later (and neither man was young in 2002) they are still wrestling on Raw.
- RVD once again came into this match motivated, as did Jericho. The first couple segments of the match were clunky at times. It didn't quite get into a nice rhythm. The final segment of the match found the rhythm and was pretty engaging. It was fun to see a singles match get this much time on Raw.
- Did RVD work this stiff in TNA? I don't remember seeing him bring the actual pain to his opponents this much. Also, did RVD ever have a match as good as this one in TNA? I'm not sure he did.
- While I complimented Cena's ultimate choice in the final segment, I am not sure having so many of the wrestlers shown receiving reactions completely opposite what WWE wants was smart. Sheamus was basically booed out of the building, to the point that Cena even reacted to it. Was this a good idea?
- The end of the show would seem pretty absurd to a lot of people, and justifiably so. It was also great fun. Bryan will eventually have to cut a promo towards John Cena and about the WWE Championship. On this show, "Yes" was enough, especially considering the fan reactions.
This show was amazing. It has to be considered one of the top Raw episodes this year. The highlight of the show (and the year) was the Heyman, Punk, and Lesnar exchange. The Bryan selection was great fun. RVD vs. Jericho was engaging, even if it was a little clunky. WWE is crafting stories in an interesting and engaging ways right now. Raw is quickly becoming a must-watch show.
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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