Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - Daniel Bryan and John Cena bring the thunder-awesomeness, Triple H jumps in on the Summer(Slam) fun, Paul Heyman and C.M. Punk never touch, and more!
By Will Pruett
In the last few years, WWE has had a problem: they tend to get to the good stuff in feuds too quickly. The Rock and John Cena had their best exchanges in 2011. C.M. Punk and Cena's landmark promo moment was three weeks before their Money in the Bank 2011 match. Last year, we saw it often. Even now, it happens constantly. The best promos and the best moments happen, then WWE creative has more to do. TV shows have to be filled. Three hours isn't going to write itself and it definitely isn't going to fill itself with midcard wrestlers in order to keep main eventers away until the pay-per-view.
This show somehow found the perfect balance between capitalizing on the past great moments in feuds, while giving a nice final push for SummerSlam.
On the midcard, we saw small continued developments in the Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow match, the explanation of the Ring of Fire match, a Total Divas-based effort, and more. WWE did a nice job of putting the right pieces in place. As far as The Shield went, Rob Van Dam winning a (surprisingly exciting for the live crowd) Battle Royal to face Dean Ambrose works for me. The challenge of Big Show and Mark Henry for the tag titles also works. WWE has a really nice, fully formed card here.
Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena had the most development on this show. The biggest addition to the match was Triple H, who intends to special referee it. I know many will be upset about Triple H getting in on the action and I understand why. Look at SummerSlam 2011, where Triple H stepped in to referee the John Cena vs. C.M. Punk rematch. Triple H added nothing and the story following it was so bad, it created the first Ladder Hammer match (thanks Kevin Nash). There are a few similarities between Punk in 2011 and Bryan in 2013. The confrontations with Vince McMahon have been similar, as has the clash of ideals with John Cena.
I'm not excited about Triple H refereeing this match. It seems gimmicky and pointless. It's a way to cram a little more star power into the match, but it could also make the referee the biggest star in the match. The trade off isn't worth it. Maybe I'm wrong and Triple H actually sold people on this match, but I doubt it.
The next development was the great promo exchange from John Cena and Daniel Bryan. In this segment, John Cena showed one of the many reasons he is the man in WWE. Cena was passionate, serious, and well-spoken. His line about the Make A Wish kid gave me chills. He was excellent. Daniel Bryan was good here, but he had better nights. Bryan did well to establish what he believes and why he believes it, but his delivery came off as faux-passionate, especially after what Cena did.
This show did more for the WWE Championship match than any show before it.
Now, there is also the Brock Lesnar vs. C.M. Punk match. Lesnar and Punk didn't need to give a final hard sell for their match. They have masterfully and simply built this up. Paul Heyman and Punk have done the heavy lifting on the mic and Lesnar has been amazing as "The Beast Incarnate." This match didn't need more, but it needed something (and WWE needed these people on the show). The main event segment with Punk getting the best of Lesnar in order to get to Heyman worked. Heyman was not touched by Punk and we saw Punk stand tall.
The big two matches are the biggest reason to watch SummerSlam. Nothing else is a true selling point. WWE did a very nice job giving those matches just what they needed, whether it was a little or a big moment.
And now for some random thoughts...
- The Raw opening theme song is so much better than the Nickelback theme was. Tonight is the night and it always will be.
- Daniel Bryan losing to Wade Barrett didn't hurt a thing. It didn't help Barrett either. Brad Maddox's involvement seemed to be a silly device to get to Triple H announcing his intention to special referee the WWE Championship match.
- The most Barrett can really hope for is another TV match against Daniel Bryan, which he will likely lose.
- Cody Rhodes was really bad on commentary here. He gave a weak explanation for Damien Sandow's turn. He wasn't likable. He really shouldn't have been out there.
- Randy Orton vs. Damien Sandow's purpose was to fill time on the show until Sunday. Sandow vs. Randy Orton didn't need to happen again, but it did.
- The Shield's backstage promo was fantastic. Dean Ambrose's line about Andre the Giant's ghost made me chuckle. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins also seemed very tough. These guys are doing so well and have been established nicely. Some people believe they're stumbling at the moment, but I don't see it.
- Brock Lesnar is at his best in pre-taped segments in a sit down format.
- There was a serious lack of hype for Big E. Langston and A.J. Lee vs. Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn. The match doesn't exactly excite me, but WWE seemed to ignore its existence tonight as well.
- What happened in the finish of the mixed tag? Why did the referee pretend to be distracted as A.J. tapped? This was really awkward.
- Vince McMahon coming out to punish Brad Maddox for bad refereeing after an obvious example of bad refereeing in the mixed tag was fun. I was kind of hoping McMahon would make it a two-for-one and yell at the mixed tag ref too.
- Vince's line about Triple H not being the same since he cut his hair was terrific.
- The Pedigree to Brad Maddox was a fine moment. I'm not saying Triple H can't add something to SummerSlam, but I'm worried he won't. I guess we will see on Sunday.
- The idea of the Ring of Fire match being an Inferno Match where no one gets set on fire actually works for me. Setting a guy on fire wasn't the bet thing. The spectacle of the match will be fun.
- While I really enjoy Total Divas as a mindless reality show, I hate the segments featuring its stars on Raw.
- Kofi Kingston and Alberto Del Rio had a nice match, but Kingston has been losing to Del Rio since 2011. Has he ever bet him?
- Christian is a fine challenger for the World Heavyweight Championship on a show not in need of a big match.
- I'd rather California didn't fall into the ocean. I like not living on an island.
- The series between The Uso's and The Real Americans could use some actual motivation. We know they want to beat each other, why not make it personal now?
- The Miz did a nice job of staying out of the way and letting the big kids talk. Obviously, I loved this segment.
- Reminding the audience of Randy Orton's briefcase possession at the end of the WWE Championship promo segment was great. I wonder if this is too heavy-handed to actually show the cash-in happening on Sunday.
- Fandango and Summer Rae danced. I fast forwarded. I win.
- The crowd was crazy at the end of the Battle Royal, which was odd and surprising. Rob Van Dam's win worked for me. WWE did some really nice work here.
- Big Show's mom jeans were the secondary star of this show for me. Those jeans were doing some serious work. Can we put the European Championship on them?
- This show closed well with Punk and Lesnar. The focus on SummerSlam was great.
This was a nice effort from WWE made to sell SummerSlam on Sunday. I'm more excited about SummerSlam than I was before Raw. This should be an excellent show (which I'll be at live). Yay for good wrestling!
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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