After the typical last week recap, tonight’s Raw opens up with CM Punk and Jerry Lawler fighting backstage, in plain clothes. I should say, it opens up with Jerry Lawler attacking Punk, and Punk then knocking him to the ground and being carried away by referees, and faded away into the credits on a sprawled, unconscious Lawler.
Immediately after this, Sheamus enters the arena, ostensibly to get cheap Face heat by mentioning how great Chicago is, to a Chicago audience, and to talk about how baaaaaddd he’s gonna beat up Alberto Del Rio at the next PPV. Then of course, CM Punk interrupts him, to a pretty damn loud cheer from the crowd, who are clearly psyched to see CM Punk, and a very clear, very LOUD CM Punk chant starts. It was refreshing to actually see Punk get some damn respect for once. What proceeds is CM Punk utterly destroying Sheamus on the mic, with every single one of Sheamus’ very obviously rehearsed pop-inducing face comments, being utterly ignored or booed by the Punk loving audience. In a situation where the script obviously called for Sheamus to be the guy the crowd rallied behind, the whole thing failed miserably for him, simply because the writers forgot to factor in the fact that Chicago frigging LOVES Punk, and were hanging on his every word. A highlight was seeing Punk toss back the word “Fella” at Sheamus derisively. Another was Sheamus desperately trying to remind an audience that clearly hates him, that he’s the World Heavyweight Champion. It was glorious watching him go all, “Hey Punk fella, I’m the WHC, that sure does matter doesn’t it? Right guys? Hey… is this thing on? Oh god…”
Love me? Please?
Punk makes a solid, long promo, defying anyone to say he’s turned their back on the WWE Universe, to uproarious applause from the audience, and continues his “disrespect” rhetoric, until AJ comes out to make a match between the two, saying it’s a Champion VS Champion match, and just leaves.
After the break, we get a quickly set up match between Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler. The thing as a whole was more or less pretty good, despite the fact that I just can’t stand Randy Orton. I love Ziggler but the fact that I found this match forgettable, is a testament to just how boring I find Randy Orton. The man is the King Midas of boring matches. In fact, I’m having a really hard time remembering ANY Randy Orton match I’ve ever found interesting, or at the very least, not forgettable. This is the case of a stellar performer like Ziggler, being dragged down by a mediocre worker, who for reasons I’ll never understand is popular. I can’t help but think if the match was Ziggler and anyone else, this would have been a highlight for me, but it’s just not the case. Regardless of what I think, the match had a few interesting bits, because seeing a superplex will always be cool, and the fact that Ziggler managed to pin and beat Orton clean, was a goddamned saving grace. If Orton had won, it would have been possibly the most forgettable match of the night, and another amongst the plethora of reasons to hate Orton.
At the end of the match, The Miz walks out, and joins Michael Cole at the commentary table, to replace Jerry Lawler, who they previously announced is all hurt and injured, for realsies. FOR REALSIES GUYS. I presume Lawler wanted his Labor Day off, probably to go hit on 16-year-old girls, so having him replaced was pretty great. Unfortunately, The Miz wasn’t nearly as awesome on the commentators mic as I hoped he’d be, which was really disappointing. I had high hopes for him, and he really kinda let me down the whole night.
Next, we cut to Daniel Bryan and Kane in Anger Management Therapy again, and this time, they’re presenting their anger collages. Bryan presents his, which is a paper with the words YES and NO scrawled over and over, and he expresses the fact that he feels everyone is mocking him by continuing to say YES at him, which is at least consistent with his character, since months ago he DID say he felt the people were mocking him. It was a cheap way to deflect how over he was with everyone after hie Wrestlemania debacle, but they ultimately made the right choice by deciding to keep him Heel rather than use that heat to quickly turn him Face again. In the long run, it’s only benefitted him more anyway. So next we see Kane’s anger collage, which is a blank piece of paper. The counselor asks him if that blank piece of paper represents what Kane feels inside, and Kane stands up, throws the paper into the trash can, and then summons a burst of flame from the can, presumably incinerating the paper. He sits back down, and Daniel Bryan calls him a teacher’s pet.
I love the idea of Kane using his pyrokinetic abilities in real life situations. He’d be great guy to call to help set up bonfires, or if you needed to get your BBQ lit, because those coals were being extra stubborn. I think they even did that once, at the Great American Bash. So in fact, there is someone out there like me, writing ridiculous, retarded ways for Kane to be relevant outside of the wrestling ring. I’m glad there is, because I see the only way to make his character new and exciting again, is to just go full meta like they seem to be doing, and just have him become the Deadpool of the WWE. Having him apologize to Josh Matthews while choke slamming him because HE CAN’T HELP IT AUUURGHHH, is great. Having him reference his insane litany of history that’s canon in WWE is another way, and following it up by having him continue to be willfully absurd is a pretty great thing. It works, in an insane way, and is the kind of comedy wrestler I actually can enjoy.
Ugh. Man. Tensai. I honestly had half a mind to just write “TENSAI IS STUPID.” a couple dozen times instead of this paragraph, but I’ve probably said that enough times in this column. The match itself wasn’t actually half bad, and seeing Cody Rhodes against Rey Mysterio, made both of their move sets work better, since they’re lighter performers, and their whole dynamic worked well, since it made all of their moves make more sense. I can buy the fact that the 619 is a damaging move for a guy like Rhodes, because it makes sense.
When you do what amounts to a running spin-around drop kick through the ropes, I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that you running and kicking someone like, oh let’s say Big Show, Cena, Kane, or even Randy Orton, is at all damaging. It doesn’t look good no matter how well they try to sell it. When someone like Rhodes does his Crossroads finisher, which is just a spinning face plant neck breaker thing, when it’s one someone bigger than him, it looks lousy. When it’s on someone his size or smaller, he effin’ slams their whole body into the mat by rapidly twisting their neck, and it looks painful as hell. I guess what I’m saying is, they need to create some kind of cruiserweight division again, where guys their size can fight other guys whose moves will complement each other, and we can get more faster paced, athletic matches from them, while still keeping the heavy hitting, methodical, grapple-fests from the bigger guys. You don’t even have to call it a cruiserweight division, just have those guys wrestle each other.
What? Right. The match. Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara win. Shocker, I know.
Back to Anger Management, we see the group Daniel Bryan and Kane are in, demonstrating trust falls. Daniel Bryan is hesitant, but lets Kane catch him, executing a successful trust fall. Kane catches him, and everyone applauds. The Counselor asks Bryan and Kane to work together, to catch their peer Harold. They extend their arms out ready to catch him, and both let Harold fall to the ground. Bryan asks Kane if he knew that he was not going to catch him, and Kane asks him back the same. Bryan says he feels like they are finally beginning to understand each other. Then we find out Harold may need medical attention, as he apparently took a pretty nasty fall.
Sheamus enters the arena again, ready to begin his match with CM Punk. Initially, this pissed me off, a lot. The fact that this CHAMPION VS CHAMPION match was what, the first of the second hour? It just seemed SO insanely disrespectful to BOTH of them (eff Sheamus), and the titles they hold. I got so upset I even TOUTED it to WWE, and in my mind’s eye, Michael Cole saw that Tout later that night, and thought, “This is true. Something must be done about this. Thank you Adam Popovich, your insight is invaluable. By the way, AJ says she totally wants to go out with you. Here’s her number.”
So when Punk comes out, he’s still dressed in plain clothes, and has a mic. He makes the perfectly reasonable point that a CHAMPION VS CHAMPION match is a Wrestlemania worthy main event, and uses the goodwill of the crowd to take the day off of work. He then leaves the arena, to mixed cheers and some boos from the crowd. On one hand, good on him. It’s Labor Day. If Lawler gets the day off, why shouldn’t he? On the other hand, I’m positive Chicago really did wanna see their Second City Saint wrestle that night. Sheamus tries to make some half-baked point about him “turning his back” on the fans, as well do Michael Cole and The Miz. Really though, the dude’s just taking a day off. I guess in the WWE Universe taking a day off might as well be up there with kicking puppies or loving Hitler, because they continually try to sell it as cowardly, or treacherous to his fan base.
Every single moment Punk was on stage/screen, that crowd loved him, and the only reason they booed him was because they wanted to see more of him. To try to spin that as anything else, makes you no better than Lawler. Besides, this whole angle is counterintuitive, because the goddamned WWE belt is SUPPOSED to mean you’re the best, and for them to try to say he somehow isn’t, doesn’t undermine Punk, it undermines the value of the BELT. Punk may not be the TRUE Best In The World, but goddamnit, right now, by definition, HE IS. Respect him for that. Let him, I dunno, compete in the MAIN EVENT of your PPV’s. Let’s see someone beat Punk clean, and then you can start trashing him about how he’s not the best, he never was, etc, etc.
On his way out, AJ tries to stop Punk from leaving. Punk reminds her of his contract (Is it Ironclad!?), that guarantees personal days. Not Josh Matthews comes to ask AJ what she’s gonna do for the match, and AJ says she’ll find Sheamus an opponent.
Back from a commercial break, Alberto Del Rio enters, and holy god, I was about to shit bricks with how uncreative a choice that was, but instead he takes seat ringside and starts giving commentary. Then Jack Swagger walks in, the sacrificial lamb in Punk’s place, because c’mon, there’s no way Sheamus is gonna lose to Swagger, and thus, no stakes in this match, or meaning. This is when you pull someone out like Tensai, or Big Show, and have it seem like some semblance of a challenge to Sheamus, who is riding so high on his Invincible White Guy gimmick right now they literally call him The Great White. A couple of times during the match, the crowd even begins to chant “BORING”, right up until Sheamus puts Swagger in a texas cloverleaf, which causes Michael Cole to freak out with excitement at seeing Sheamus use a submission for the first time ever. To give Sheamus credit, a man of his size, twisting your legs that way and place pressure on your back does seem pretty painful, so I can’t fault Swagger for tapping out, thus not making the whole ordeal look like a TOTAL cheap win.
Of course, then Del Rio jumps in to attack Sheamus, because screw it, it’s what Sheamus would do anyway right? Isn’t ADR supposed to be the Heel anyway? So it’s consistent with his character? Right. Anyhow, Sheamus gets the upper hand, because reasons, and Ricardo Rodriguez, who is an announcer, and Alberto Del Rio’s friend, jumps in to break up the fight, or at least hold back Sheamus from continuing his beating on ADR, gets brutally Brogue kicked. I mean, sure, you could argue that Sheamus was “aiming” for Del Rio, but Ricardo very clearly jumps in to push him out-of-the-way, and Sheamus had plenty of time to stop his kick, but does it anyway. He then continues to taunt in front of Ricardo’s broken body, while Alberto Del Rio screams in worry and shock for his friends health, who now appears to be in a minor coma. I’m having a hard time trying to rationalize more and more how Sheamus is the good guy in this feud at all, and at this point, his entire reason for disliking ADR is that ADR is kind of a cocky jerk who flaunts his wealth, and is mexican. Everything ADR has done has been in retaliation for the scores of terrible things Sheamus has done to him. So despite the fact that these two guys have literally been fighting each other for the last 5 PPV’s in a row, I’m really rooting for ADR to just break his damn arm, and slap him with a restraining order, because it’s ridiculous how terrible Sheamus’ character is at being a good guy.
So after all of that noise, we get a divas match. Layla enters, and sits at ringside, giving commentary. Why they’re using this exact same trope again, beats me, and I’m guessing they’re hoping we won’t notice. Layla starts up some petty argument with The Miz about Eve’s character, who lately has attempted to try to turn Face again by acting, guess what? Honorable, Kind, and showing Good Sportsmanship! She insists that Eve is “phony”, and doing all of it as a ruse, and while she may end up being right, and I’d have to end up eating my words, the way things are in the WWE at this point I literally do expect the Heels to act far more honorable, kind and sportsmanly than any of the Faces.
As for the match itself, despite Kaitlyn’s weird man arms, they actually wrestled pretty well together. Eve even manages to win cleanly, and pins Kaitlyn, but still somehow, Layla manages to try to spin it as deceitful. Eve then checks on Kaitlyn to make sure she’s ok, congratulates her, and then exits the ring to shake Layla’s hand, in a show of good sportsmanship all around. I don’t understand how she’s supposed to be a bad guy anymore, but screw it. I mean, AM I IN GODDAMNED BIZARRO WORLD? Is there some universe where the WWE has its moral properties straight, and guys like Sheamus are vilified for being the goddamn hooligan assholes they are, and perfectly reasonable guys who are just kind of douchey aren’t seen as inherently bad?
The downside of that alternate universe would be that in real life, stealing, insulting, and beating people would be considered virtues, and sure Sheamus-2 would be a Heel, but Adam-2 would be complaining about why he isn’t a Face, when he’s clearly a good guy, based on all the lying, cheating, stealing and unprovoked attacks he does. Basically, no matter what universe I’m in, Sheamus pisses me off.
After that, we see Jack Swagger leaving the arena, with AJ following him. She asks him what he’s doing, and he says he’s leaving because he’s better than this. She acts like this is a big surprise, which is confusing for a multitude of reasons. Isn’t his match over? Why shouldn’t he leave? But really, he states that’s he’s LEAVING leaving, for a few months, probably because he’s goddamn sick of being buried so hard. AJ begs him not to leave, because Brock Lesnar, Jericho, and Punk have left, and now he is too. He tells her to get bent, and leaves back to his home planet. A planet called TNA Wrestling. Maybe. Hopefully.
And Jesus. AJ. You’re killing me. YOU were the one who made Jericho leave. You can’t have a “Loser Leaves WWE” match, and act like the guy abandoned you when he loses that match. I know, in real life Jericho left to focus on his band, but c’mon girl, kayfabe. Sometimes, I’d just rather attribute character inconsistencies or illogical choices due to breaking kayfabe, rather than just shitty memory/writing. Sometimes, I give the WWE too much credit. Ugh. Ok, sexy AJ pic time.
Back to Anger Management, we see Daniel Bryan expressing how his anger problem is cured, and is happy to give Kane a rematch for their match at Summerslam. Kane accepts it, while politely threatening him. They start to get in each other’s faces, with Bryan saying he’d make Kane tap out, and Kane threatening to destroy him in this very room. Harold pipes up, apparently recovering from his cranial trauma, and is quickly and angrily silenced by Daniel Bryan and Kane, who both yell at him to shut up. They continue taunting each other, and The Counselor tries to break up their fight, until he totally snaps, screams at them both, and storms off in a huff.
“Don’t let him hurt me Kane!”
Back to Michael Cole, who announces the WWE Interactive feature of the night, where he gives the WWE Universe the choice to choose what kind of match they’ll see. Tonight’s choices were:
You’re not misreading that. In a brilliant creative decision, someone decided to finally let the Raw Active thing do something useful, by putting up a hilarious “joke” choice as one of the selections, and you better believe I tweeted that #WWEhug like a mofo. In fact, ALL of twitter was lighting up with #WWEhug, singlehandedly justifying the use of Twitter, and Raw Active in one fell swoop. Some people complained about the overwhelming choice of @WWEhug, but goddamnit, why would you not want to see that? Why?
Backstage, Not Josh Matthews is asking a tearful Alberto Del Rio about Ricardo Rodriguez’s condition, and David Otunga shows up, saying that his “client”, will not be answering any questions at this time. I love Lawyer/Wrestler David Otunga, and think this kind of role is the perfect choice for him. I’m looking forward to the fake lawsuit ADR and Otunga will file against Sheamus.
So this was a match that happened. The Ryback Ryback’s Jinder Mahal. Is this supposed to be a feud? Are we supposed to suspend our disbelief to think that Jinder Mahal has a chance against The Ryback? The most interesting thing was The Miz saying he would go the distance in a match against The Ryback, which I’d actually like to see. This match was exactly like every The Ryback match ever, right down to the obligatory GOLDBERG chants. The Ryback wins. Also, the sky is blue.
Backstage again, we see Not Josh Matthews asking AJ what her plans are for tonight, since things are somehow falling apart, in his words. She tells him to tell Alberto Del Rio and John Cena, that their match will be a Falls Count Anywhere match.
Daniel Bryan makes his entrance into the ring, trying to calmly no… no… no… his way into the ring, followed by Kane. They stand in the ring, awaiting the results of the WWE Universe’s Raw Active choice. It’s announced that the winning match type is #WWEhug, meaning they have to “Hug it out”. What transpires, is probably one of the funniest damn things I’ve seen in WWE history. The two of them, both awkwardly trying to accept hugging each other, Daniel Bryan complaining that Kane didn’t hug him back, and the both of them finally, tenderly embracing, was priceless.
And EVERYONE cheered.
They then start to do the uncomfortable Bro-slap on each other, which escalates into them fighting each other, but holy hell, #WWEhug was a goddamn success. The whole thing as a de facto “match” being refereed, and The Miz spouting the “rules” of the match, was amazing. Of course, once they started fighting, Kane gets the upper hand and tries to put Daniel Bryan’s head inside a chair, and jump on it from the top rope, but he’s distracted by a group of Ref’s, and Daniel Bryan hits him with the chair and gets away.
I take it back. The official most forgettable match of tonight was between these two. Listen, I love Claudio Castignole. I do. But give him someone real to wrestle against. He’s goddamn great. Let him give the title some meaning. On the most part, this whole match consisted of Cesaro destroying Santino, and retaining his title pretty definitively. The best part of the match was Cesaro stomping on the stupid Cobra sock angrily. I honestly think the entire match was about two minutes long at best, so really, have Cesaro show his skills against someone real already.
This was probably the most underrated match of the night. The fact is, Zack Ryder, gimmicks and stuff aside, is a competent worker, who should be utilized more. So is Heath Slater. They’re both pretty much on the same caliber right now. Heath Slater may be playing resident jobber right now, but dammit if he’s not innately watchable. Zack Ryder’s enthusiasm is also very infectious, so really, the both of them ought keep doing what they’re doing, and we can get totally decent mid card matches like this. The only thing that would make them better is if they were longer. Zack Ryder gets the pin on Slater, and celebrates his official second win on Raw. I think. He’s never won more than twice? Damn. I didn’t notice. Anyhow, as harsh as that is, hopefully it’s changing.
Right after the match ends, Vickie Guererro walks into the arena, demanding a chair, to have a sit in, saying she needs to be heard. We cut to a commercial, and all I can imagine is that for 4 whole minutes, that poor Chicago crowd had to deal with Vickie just sitting there, boringly, while the live show they’re taping waits for the break to end, so they can continue the show. Perhaps something in timing was screwed up, because I’m feeling like the match should have gone on longer, and her coming out, and asking for a chair should have happened during the break, and we just come back to her in the ring with the chair.
And the whole thing is a setup for Vickie to reiterate her point last week, that AJ is abusing her power and “making things personal”, (GOSH A GM HAS NEVER DONE THAT BEFORE), but also, she demands a personal apology from AJ. She then starts to make the most retarded, already dated, shitty parody of the stupid Clint Eastwood/Chair thing that happened this last weekend. Thankfully it’s cut short, and never discussed again, as AJ comes out, and admits that the WWE Board of Directors have said she cannot place her hands on any of the WWE Talent, Staff, or Referees.
Vickie then embarrasses and humiliates AJ by demanding she apologize again after she already had. Then uses the whole “Board of Directors Mandate” thing, to insult AJ to her face, condescend to her, and then ends up actually slapping her in the face TWICE, knowing AJ can’t do anything about it in retaliation. It actually was pretty goddamned horrible, and made me feel for AJ again. I kept expecting AJ to announce her sudden resigning, and to kick the crap out of her, but instead she just takes it, accepting defeat.The crowd went insane the entire time, chanting SLAP HER, and USE THE CHAIR, right up until Vickie does her insane witch laugh out of the arena. AJ then grabs the chair, and smashes it against the ring floor in frustration. Really, I can’t blame her, and this segment went a long way towards endearing her to me again, whilst simultaneously making her appear somehow even more unhinged.
The main problem though, is that AJ has GM powers. Can’t she just fire Vickie? Or reprimand her for some reason? Or write her up for you know, assaulting the GM? C’mon girl, that Board of Directors thing goes both ways right? Right?
Despite Cena, this whole match was actually fairly long, and pretty damn decent. They opened up in ring like usual, and things proceed to spill to the outside of the ring, where surprisingly, Alberto Del Rio started to really dominate Cena, which was actually pretty surprising. At one point a LETS GO CENA/CENA SUCKS chant started up, and the interesting thing to note, is literally every single time that chant starts up, the LETS GO part is very high-pitched, and the CENA SUCKS part is significantly lower pitched. This is because only stupid kids are John Cena fans. Everyone else hates him. Eventually, Cena tries to slam Del Rio through the announcer’s table, and tries dragging the steel steps over the table for a platform to suplex off of, but Del Rio counters it, and suplexes him through it instead. After a while, they end up heading backstage, and right as it looks like Cena is about to win, CM Punk shows up. Punk kicks Cena in the head, and rolls ADR on top of him, and surprise, surprise, Alberto Del Rio wins!
Punk then lifts up Cena, and slams his face into the hood of his a car. Punk kneels next to Cena, says the word “Respect”, hoists his belt in to the air, and Raw ends as we see that Paul Heyman is driving the car.
Which was supposed to be surprising, but it shouldn’t be SHOCKING to anyone who actually knows anything about wrestling, or pays attention to continuity, or you know, remembers anything that happened longer than a week ago. Last year, when Punk made his infamous “pipe bomb” shoot speech, he flat-out said he was Paul Heyman guy. In fact, that’s probably what got Paul Heyman back into the WWE scene. That and Brock Lesnar’s inability to talk on the mic, at all. Anyone who is surprised to see Mr. Paul E. Dangerously, and CM Punk, a wwECW alum, working together, is clearly just not paying attention, or is ignorant. I’m totally psyched for the whole damn thing, and even if WWE will keep straddling the line of Punk being a kinda sorta heel/tweener, if you have smark crowds like Chicago, you’re gonna have to change your storyline to reflect that. Period.
One funny side note, is that a fan had a sign saying “We Want Ambrose”, which made me laugh pretty hard. Keep waiting buddy.