Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Four 23/09/2013
This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw began with the ten superstars who helped Daniel Bryan last week stood on the stage. They are then joined by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon who address them from the ring, thanking them for standing up for themselves last week on Raw. The COO then stressed that it was indeed themselves they stood up for not Daniel Bryan. This brought a response out of Rob Van Dam, who stood at a microphone that had been set up on the stage, telling the Game that they were in fact fighting for Daniel Bryan; prompting the Chicago crowd to loudly chant his name in support. Triple H responded by telling RVD that he never thought WWE superstars fought for the WWE Champion but instead to be the WWE Champion. He then asked Dolph Ziggler if he felt the same way as Van Dam, which excited this writer as I thought Ziggler was finally going to be given some extended mic time to shine, however my hopes were dashed when he and Stephanie went on to instead question R-Truth and Zack Ryder. The focus is then shifted to their lackeys, The Shield, who Triple H claims were more the target of last week’s show of unity from the ten men on the stage rather than being in support of Daniel Bryan. For this reason he says that they (along with Daniel Bryan) will get their opportunity to take their frustrations out on The Shield in tonight’s main event, the first ever eleven versus three elimination handicap match. The WWE’s reigning power couple then revealed the night’s other major match in which Randy Orton would go one on one with either Dolph Ziggler, Rob Van Dam or R-Truth, depending on who the WWE Universe votes for on the WWE App; cue horrendous intelligence insulting app plugging. They then signed off with what could possibly be a new catchphrase for the duo, with Stephanie stating that “We believe in doing what’s best for you…” before Triple H added “Because after all what’s best for you is best for business.” This was a decent enough opening segment without having any real standout moments, however it did set the scene for the episode successfully, just with it entirely consisting of mic work from Triple H left it feeling a little less exciting than it perhaps could have been.
The second Monday Night Four focus for this week’s episode of the WWE’s flagship television show, comes in the form of a clash between two former WWE Champions, Randy Orton and Rob Van Dam, who was chosen by the WWE Universe voting on the the WWE App. As usual, the crowd were behind RVD as the match began, chanting his name, although the match took a while to really get going with Orton using delaying tactics and telling the crowd to “Shut up!”. However, the Apex Predator then stamped his authority on the match up, quite literally as he brought his foot down on Van Dam after flooring him with a snap suplex. However, Orton wasn’t going to have it all his own way as his opponent fought back with trademark kicks and the Rolling Thunder. Orton managed to get back into the matchup, avoiding a split legged moonsault from Van Dam, before delivering his vintage rope hung DDT and stalking for the RKO. However, Rob Van Dam countered Orton’s finishing maneuver with a unique high kick, showcasing his flexibility. Van Dam, with a bleeding mouth, then went to the top rope and hit a diving senton on Orton, but he wasn’t as successful when he next went up top (presumably to deliver the Five Star Frog Splash), as Orton hit a devastating big boot to RVD knocking him to the outside. Orton followed, leading to an Orton match ending in a double count out for a second week running. Moreover, much like last week Orton wasn’t finished when the referee signalled for the bell to be rang. He tore the padding off the barricade and back dropped Rob Van Dam spine first onto it, before throwing him into the steps and repeatedly punching him. The Viper then flung RVD over the announce table before throwing him back in the ring and setting him up on the top rope. Orton then delivered his usual rope hung DDT but from the top rope preceded by a maniacal laugh. This segment worked to keep Orton’s character evolving (or devolving depending how you look at it) into this psychopath with no regard for the welfare of his fellow wrestlers. However, for me this segment had one major flaw, since Rob Van Dam came to the rescue of Daniel Bryan and once again spoke up for him on this week’s episode of RAW, how come Bryan didn’t return the favour and save the former ECW Champion from Randy Orton’s vicious beatdown? Michael Cole even said on commentary that Orton sent a message to Daniel Bryan with that attack on RVD, so why didn’t Bryan respond to that message? It just seems to make Bryan look bad and doesn’t seem to fit with his current character. If they really didn’t want Orton and Bryan to go to blows this week, they could have at least filmed a little scene backstage where Daniel Bryan arrived in the arena later in the night, showing that he wasn’t present during the beatdown and therefore giving him an alibi for his uncharacteristic absence when Van Dam was receiving a beatdown from his archenemy earlier in the night.
This week’s third focus of Monday Night Four is the moment the Chicago crowd had been waiting for all night, the appearance of CM Punk, who entered to by far the biggest pop of the night. The longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era came out decked in a red Chicago Blackhawks jersey, which in fact a lot of his promo was centred around. It’s a testament to CM Punk’s ability on the microphone that he managed to entertain this writer, whose closest connection to the Second City is popping a frozen Chicago Town pizza in the oven every now and then when I can’t be arsed to knock up a proper meal. Punk began by thanking the Chicago faithful for ruining a perfectly good bad mood (Oxymoron? Nah not for a moody sod like Punk), telling the crowd “I haven’t smiled in a week and a day but I came out here and I can’t help myself,” with a rather large grin spread across his face. While this promo didn’t include anything groundbreaking or even particularly important, it was fun to watch him engage his hometown crowd. However, the next part of this segment led me to literally laugh out loud, as the dulcet tones of Paul Heyman came booming across the arena sound system; singing his own unique version of the crooner hit “New York, New York” in which he once again claimed to be the new Best in the World after his victory over CM Punk in Detroit (every mention of that city brought derision from the Chicago crowd whose beloved Blackhawk’s overcame Detroit’s own Hockey team in this year’s Stanley Cup). Heyman shows his mastery of physical comedy as he slowly nudges his mobility scooter into view at the top of the entrance ramp. The two have some amusing back and forth before things come to a head and Punk is ready to once again get his hands on his former best friend while Heyman seems to have lost control of his scooter. Business then picks up as Heyman’s clients Curtis Axel and Ryback hit punk from left and right before he can lay a finger on Heyman. However, CM Punk fights back, throwing Axel into the titantron set and throwing himself off the stage to Ryback below, levelling the Human Wrecking Ball. Nevertheless, the numbers game once again catches up with Punk as Axel recovers and attacks the hometown hero from behind before Ryback pulls of his Blackhawks jersey much to the displeasure of the Chicago natives in attendance. The Big Guy then delivered a devastating looking military press slam from an elevated position through a table. After returning from a commercial break this segment ended in a rather surreal way, with Punk still down being seen to by the medical team while the theme tune of Tons of Funk and the Funkadactyls. This less than smooth progression from one segment to the next seemingly suggested one of two things, either CM Punk picked up a legitimate injury from the table spot with Ryback that took a while for the medics to examine him and clear him to be moved, or in typical CM Punk style they were trying to work us using this disjointed transition into thinking the the prior suggestion had in fact happened. Either way it presumably adds another dimension to the feud. It also leads me to hold back on making a terrible joke, but rest assured it had “CM Funk” in there somewhere.
This week’s final focus for Monday Night Four unsurprisingly consisted of the main event’s first ever (perhaps for good reason?) eleven on three handicap elimination match. The main event was preceded by a Daniel Bryan promo. The Chicago crowd were very high on the former WWE Champion, chanting his name and “YES!” throughout, as well as very loud boos at the mention of him being stripped of the title. Bryan explained the events of Night of Champions and his subsequent by ridiculing the possibility of asking a ref to perform a fast count if it looked like he might win, pointing out that “You don’t need to fast count a man when he’s already knocked out.” In general it was a decent promo, a slightly shaky start was soon outshadowed by Bryan passionately coming into his own on the mic before the inevitable “YES!” chant, which might finally be getting slightly old. If Bryan merely suggested the chant rather than having to shout it along with the fans, then that could give the chant some legs, but presumably it can’t go on for too much longer. Nonetheless, the “YES!” chants were cut short by the appearance of The Shield, but before they could get their hands on Bryan they were attacked by two other men dressed in black. However, these two men were far from lackeys of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, they were in fact two men whose lives had been assaulted by the COO and his wife, Cody and Dustin Rhodes. This was an exciting moment and really seemed like something different for WWE. However, this great moment seemed to end almost as soon as it had begun, with the two Rhodes brothers being held back by security before going to commercial break with little mention of them on return before the main event. Hopefully, this was just a snippet from WWE to keep us excited for this angle, meaning Goldust and Cody featuring in attacks like this on the Triple H regime finally leading to a big payoff down the road which in theory should catapult Cody to the next level. Nevertheless, next up was our main event and my Match of the Night, pitting Daniel Bryan and the ten men who came to his aid last week, versus The Shield in a handicap elimination match. Jimmy (Thanks Michael Cole) Uso and Seth Rollins started the match off before Ziggler was tagged in for the face team, producing a pretty loud chant from the fans in attendance. Ambrose then tagged in for The Shield getting the upperhand over Ziggler until he managed to hit a nice dropkick and tag in Rob Van Dam, who was nursing injuries from beat downs from both Orton and Alberto Del Rio earlier in the night. Perhaps due to these injuries, Ambrose was able to make short work of the No.1 Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship with his Headlock Driver finish for the three count. Next up to take on Ambrose was another injured superstar, Kofi Kingston, whose shoulder and arm were heavily worked over by Alberto Del Rio in the first matchup of this week’s episode of Raw (Both RVD and Kofi pulled double duty and were sporting bandaged body parts). However, it wasn’t Kofi the crowd wanted and a big “We want Ziggler!” chant echoed throughout the Chicago Allstate Arena. And while the crowd didn’t get their wish of seeing Ziggler in the ring quite yet, it was soon the end of Kofi’s night as Ambrose delivered another Headlock Driver. The 6 foot 6 inches 270 lb Titus O’Neil was next to take on Ambrose who decided to tag in his own team’s behemoth, Roman Reigns, who while not quite as tall as the Prime Time Player made his impressive presence felt in the ring; staring down O’Neil in a moment of intensity which really added to the match and kept the crowd involved. The two exchanged powerful offence until a powerful looking Spear eliminated O’Neil from the match. Justin Gabriel jumps into the ring to offer his agile brand of wrestling but is soon eliminated himself by and even bigger Spear from Reigns. Zack Ryder was next to take up the cudgels against the Shield’s most physically imposing member. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly Ryder was able to get the upper hand on Reigns, setting up his signature Broski Boot manoeuvre, however Reigns exploded out of the corner unleashing yet another Spear. This reduced the overwhelming odd slightly against The Shield, albeit still being outnumbered 2:1. However, Reigns now faces his biggest challenge of the match so far, taking on the Daniel Bryan. The fresh former WWE Champion quickly gets the upperhand against the dominating Reigns, upping the tempo and taking the WWE Tag Team Champion down a peg or two, before tagging in The Usos who hit their finish on Reigns: a superkick from one (I apologise, I’m not even going to try and guess which one) before the other Uso was tagged in hitting a Superfly Splash to finally eliminate the big man. Darren Young then tags in to go up against Dean Ambrose, who rains a ten punch down on Young in the corner. Seth Rollins and Ambrose tag in and out to contain Young, but he manages to fight back and scored a very near fall on Ambrose from a Northern Lights suplex; great work from Ambrose there, really had me thinking for a second that was going to eliminate him. However, The Shield once again make use of frequent tags and Rollins hits a springboard knee to the side of Young’s head eliminating the second Prime Time Player from the matchup. Ziggler re-enters the match at a frenetic pace but gets cut off by Rollins signature STO to the bottom turnbuckle, downing him for a two count. Ambrose then tags in to face his United States Championship rival, dominating him until Ziggler managed to slip out of Oklahoma clutch and hit the Zig Zag to take the match up down to five on one. Therefore, Seth Rollins enters the ring as the only remaining member of his team, hitting a suplex on Ziggler for a near fall. However, Ziggler manages to fight back hitting his beautiful jumping falling DDT on Rollins, who delivers the best sell I’ve seen of this move yet in the WWE, allowing Ziggler to get the tag from R-Truth. The veteran delivers a sit out gourdbuster to Rollins for another near fall, while Jerry “The King” Lawler bafflingly buries Rollins on commentary. Thankfully, Lawler’s words come back to bite him on the behind as Rollins gets the three count on Truth with the Blackout, reducing the handicap to four on one. However, this sees the end of Rollins’ brief fightback as Daniel Bryan rallies his troops and takes a page out of The Shield’s playbook, sending The Usos and Dolph Ziggler around the other sides of the ring to surround Rollins. The Shield clearly don’t take kindly to this and the two eliminated members return to ringside. Dean Ambrose takes a Cactus clothesline from Ziggler, sending both men tumbling to the arena floor. Whereas, Roman Reigns eats twin superkicks from Jimmy and Jay Uso sending him back out to ringside. The twins then hit two beautiful simultaneous planchas on the backtracking, eliminated Shield members. Meanwhile, in the ring Daniel Bryan hits his signature Flying Goat diving headbutt, before connecting with his Busaiku knee kick on Rollins, securing victory for his team. This was a thoroughly entertaining match, further cementing Daniel Bryan and The Shield as two of the hottest properties in professional wrestling today. Significantly, before Raw went off the air the Voice of the WWE (and therefore Vince McMahon), Michael Cole, declared that he thinks that we’ve seen the birth of a new locker room leader tonight; a very big endorsement there shows the WWE really do seem to be giving Bryan the ball to run with, as Raw goes off the air once more with the former WWE Champion standing tall and leading the sold out crowd in another rendition of his “YES!” chant.
So who was our Raw Superstar of the Week? Several men laid claim to the title this week with several wrestlers impressing in the main event and CM Punk impressing being well CM Punk in Chicago… However, I feel this week’s Superstar of the Week deserves to be handed to a man who really cemented himself as looking like a Superstar this week in our Match of the Night, Roman Reigns. Zack Ryder, Justin Gabriel and Titus O’Neil must be commended in helping Reigns look like a legitimate badass and a real potential star for the future. However, Reigns is the man who should be commended most of all, despite his elimination by the Usos brothers, tonight really felt like quite a coming out party for this man. Otherwise on Raw, barring the main event, Punk’s segment and the reappearance of Cody Rhodes and Goldust, not much seemed to happen this week, although this is a sign that the show didn’t drag which is always a positive. However, those three moments helped Raw to be a decent show, and I’m excited to tune in next week to see what happens next for the Rhodes brothers. The rest of this week’s episode of Raw consisted of Alberto Del Rio defeating Kofi Kingston, the Wyatt Family defeating the Prime Time Players, an episode of Miz TV where Stephanie McMahon ordered the Big Show to knockout the host, Fandango defeating Santino Marella and Brie Bella getting a pinfall victory over AJ Lee in a 10 woman divas match.
Until next week Raw fans, I hope you enjoyed this week’s column. Make sure you come back to this blog and tell me what you think by commenting below or tweeting me @HelloHegarty, I would love to hear you opinions on the column and Raw in general.