Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Raw: 30/09/13
The first focus of this week’s Monday Night Four addresses a segment that the WWE has seemingly been building up to for months, the debut (re-debut?) of Primo and Epico Colon as the new tag team Los Matadores. Each episode of Raw recently has featured a vignette promoting the debut of this team featuring footage of bullfighters narrated by an elderly Latin American sounding voice. Perennial jobbers Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal waited inside the ring for the first appearance of the WWE’s newest tag team, who are introduced by ring announcer Justin Roberts as Fernando and Diego as their music played across the arena in Biloxi, Mississippi. The two matadors perform some kind of ritualistic dance with their dark red capes, before white smoke engulfed them. As the smoke cleared the duo pulled aside their capes revealing the peculiar sight of a bull, or more specifically a dwarf dressed up in an outfit depicting a bull; looking oddly like a miniature version of the Minotaur gimmick that Steve DiSalvo wrestled under during his time in WCW. Initially, as the bull appeared I presumed it was WWE’s resident midget wrestler Hornswoggle, but this man, who the commentators referred to as El Torito, seemed much more agile than the man who was once revealed as the mystery general manager of Monday night Raw. El Torito accompanied Los Matadores to the ring, jumping and flipping off the ropes as he got there, until the bell rang to signal the start of Los Matadores’ debut matchup. As the match begun the crowd seemed unsure how to react, they politely applauded El Torito’s impressive athleticism, but otherwise seemed quite perplexed by the peculiarity of this segment. As the match went on, a small Primo chant broke out but slowly petered out, later in the contest John Bradshaw Layfield on commentary admitted that there seemed to be something somewhat familiar about Los Matadores; so at least they might not be completely avoiding the tag team’s past. Perhaps if this team are going to be the comedy child friendly tag team that it seems they are going to be, why not add to their gimmick making them a parody of imperfections in wrestling storytelling like the fact that we all know that they’re Epico and Primo. 3MB began to dominate one of the matadors in the ring as a reasonably loud “Boring!” chant broke out amongst the crowd, however Primo (or Fernando? or Diego? I’m really not sure which is which yet I’m not trying to be smart by calling out his past gimmick) fought back with multiple running flying headbutts followed up by a diving headbutt off the top rope; butting him like a bull, because he’s a bullfighter, geddit? The match came to an end as Los Matadores hit a pretty neat looking double team maneuver on Slater, transitioning from wrist locks on either side into a modified double Samoan drop while shouting “Uno, dos, tres!” I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from the Los Matadores after their long wait, but after that peculiar debut I’ll try to let my feelings settle for a while before condemning them just yet, they could be a fun addition to the card, regardless imagine how far Antonio Cesaro could hurl El Torito…
After the commercial break we return to Raw for this week’s second focus: the continuing story of the struggles of the Rhodes family. Justin Roberts introduced the owner of the WWE (isn’t that still Vince?) Stephanie McMahon and her husband the Chief Operating Officer Triple H; the commentators seem to be trying to put over “The Authority” as a new label to call these two. Triple H invites the Rhodes family out to the ring, Dusty Rhodes’ American Dream theme music hits bringing out himself and his sons, Cody and Dustin, appearing on the stage at the top of the entrance ramp before joining this “Authority” in the ring. The crowd chant for dusty and Stephanie is all smiles saying everyone is obviously very happy to see them, while the COO asks the Rhodes family why they are looking so hostile, considering all the chances they’ve been given by himself and Stephanie. He then ran down Dusty and Dustin, accusing the latter of perpetual failure and the former of being selfish, before asking the American Dream if he’s still bitter about not being able to make it outside Florida and the NWA. Triple H finished his verbal attack on the Rhodes family by getting all up in Cody’s grill. Continuing the good cop/bad cop routine, Stephanie praises Dusty for having the most important job in the WWE, nurturing the young talent down in the NXT developmental territory. However, turning bad cop herself, she claims how ironic it is that while he has the future of the WWE in his hands, she has the future of his family in hers. She then explains that future, offering both Cody and Dustin their jobs back but only if they can defeat Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins in a tag team match Sunday. However, there’s another but, if they lose that match then they and their father will never work for the WWE ever again. Dusty grabs the microphone and gets in Triple H’s face, who warns him “Don’t cross the line old man!” (clearly HHH telling him not to sign for TNA once WWE fires him on Sunday…), but the Hall of Famer isn’t scared by the COO, telling him that they accept and he’ll be in his son’s corner on Sunday where he’ll be Triple H’s Huckleberry all night; whatever that means… It seems the Authority’s job is done here as they leave with Stephanie warning Dusty not to go looking for a fight or might just find one, speaking of which Goldberg turns round right into a spear from last week’s LockUP Raw Superstar of the week, Roman Reigns. Meanwhile, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose take out Cody Rhodes, while his dad tries to enter the ring with a steel chair but is knocked down to the mat and stomped on by Rollins. Cody attempts to save his father, fighting back but the Shield’s numerical advantage is too much and they take out the youngest Rhodes with their triple powerbomb maneuver. This beat down generated an impressive amount of heat for The Shield as the Biloxi faithful chanted “You suck!” as the segment ended with the Hounds of Justice in their signature pose over the bodies of the decimated Rhodes family.
It could be argued, and it’s certainly how I felt at least at the beginning of this segment, that they are potentially ruining this angle by having the Rhodes family appear on Raw this week in such a relatively cordial manner, especially after how exciting their surprise ambush last week was making them look cool and edgy (something reasonably rare in modern WWE). I would suggest that instead the Rhodes brothers repeatedly returned attacking The Shield from the crowd giving them a taste of their own medicine for a few more weeks, forcing the McMahon’s to acknowledge them with a match on pay-per-view, most probably at Hell in a Cell perhaps even in the roofed cage itself. However, it seems that the WWE are in need of another marquee match at their next pay-per-view, Battleground, and this match could well be the best match on the card; pitting the Shield, who have perhaps been the most consistent wrestlers in the WWE in the past year since their debut, versus a very talented veteran and one of the best prospects in the WWE.
If you were to argue that this week’s episode of Raw revolved around one man, then that man would be the Big Show, who featured in several backstage segments throughout the night continuing to build the story arc between himself and Triple H. Show’s first involvement in the night was an interview by Renee Young backstage, which was preceded by a recap of Triple H ridiculing Big show’s crying on Smackdown this past Friday. Big Show explains to Renee that he’s being forced to choose the lesser of two evils by doing Triple H and Stephanie’s bidding to look after his own family. Paul Wight shows some good acting ability in this promo although he did ham it up a bit too much at the end when he decided that he’s not going to take it anymore and he’s going to knock the COO “the hell out!” Despite the ham, I enjoyed Show here, this is wrestling not a movie gunning for an Oscar, and he was entertaining. After the break, Big Show confronted general manager Brad Maddox, lifting him up above his head against the wall demanding to see Triple H. The crowd loved this segment. Later in the episode, Show was seen waiting in Triple H’s office. We kept cutting back to the Giant throughout the rest of the night as he waited to see Triple H, he took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves preparing for a fight. However, it was not Triple H who would come to meet him but a squad of police responding to a disturbance. However, Stephanie McMahon would interrupt this scene insisting that she’ll vouch for him, causing the Police to leave. The segment then takes an odd turn as Stephanie makes a weird statement about Show not sufficiently satisfying his wife. After Stephanie leaves, Big Show takes his anger out by punching a hole through a poster for Triple H’s new career review DVD, with his first following through deep into the wall. But where is this going to lead? Big Show will at some point knock out Triple H, that much is very likely, but will it be at this Sunday’s Battleground pay-per-view? If so how will it happen? Will it stop Triple H interfering in either the Rhodes brothers vs. the Shield or the main event WWE Championship match between Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton and therefore allow one of the baby face teams to not get screwed over by the Chief Operating Officer?
Tonight’s final segment (and final Monday Night Four focus), in the main event slot of the evening featured the two challengers for the vacant WWE Championship, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan meeting in the ring. The segment began with Michael Cole confirming Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella’s engagement. We then cut to Jerry “The King” Lawler standing in the ring introducing the two superstars who stare each other down in the ring before Lawler declares that this is only intended to be a verbal confrontation. Orton begins this verbal confrontation by getting on the microphone himself and explaining that while at first he was angry with Triple H for not restoring the WWE Championship to him after stripping Daniel Bryan of the title, but he is thankful now because the Game’s snub has motivated him to no longer be the watered down Viper who cared what the idiots in the WWE Universe thought about him; drawing some good heat from the crowd. Daniel Bryan responded by asking Orton why he had to be motivated, stating that was the difference between the two of them, Bryan passionately claimed that he never needed anyone else’s motivation to reach his full potential. Cue “YES!” chants from the Biloxi crowd, leading to a nice moment where the they muted the Viper with their chants, causing Orton to shout “NO!” at them. He then asked Bryan if he believes that just because they chant “YES!” he can be the champion? Orton then follows up with a second question that causes Bryan to snap, asking what could be so wrong with Brie Bella that she settles for him. Bryan then delivers a beat down on Orton sending him flailing out of the ring with a clothesline. However, when Bryan continues his attack on the outside, Orton reverses Bryan’s Irish whip sending him crashing into the steel steps. Orton then takes his onslaught to another level, hitting Bryan’s skull off the steel ring post four times, before delivering a gourdbuster to Bryan hanging him up on the barricade. Before the Apex Predator continued his assault with his signature DDT off the apron, Brie Bella appeared at ringside to beg him to stop, but her pleas are ignored as he delivers the move crushing Bryan’s skull into the arena floor. The crowd boos Orton but this doesn’t stop him as he begins to dismantle the announce table, sending the commentators fleeing, while Brie continues to shout at him to stop. Orton rhetorically asks “You want me to stop?” before pulling one of his crazy faces and sending Bryan crashing down through the table with a devastating RKO. Raw goes off the air with Orton staring at the destruction he has delivered while Brie Bella cradles her fallen fiancé.
This leaves us to award the Match of the Week and Raw Superstar of the week. Raw’s best match this week once again featured the Shield as they took on Dolph Ziggler and the Usos in an exciting match featuring the Shield’s usual teamwork based offence trying to ground the frenetic pace of the Uso brothers and the former World Heavyweight Champion. The Shield finally overcame their opponents, with a Spear on Dolph Ziggler from Roman Reigns, giving them some momentum going into their big match with the Rhodes brothers this Sunday. Whereas, this week’s Match of the Week was more or less easier to decide, this week’s Monday Night Four Raw Superstar of the week is a trickier accolade to award, as no one superstar really stood out. All three members of the Shield, the Usos and Dolph Ziggler all performed well in this week’s match of the night, however none of the six men emerged as outperforming any of the others, like Roman Reigns did in last week’s main event. Big Show could also be considered for his role in tonight’s episode, showing some decent acting chops before hamming it up a little too much. Therefore this week’s Superstar of the Week award goes to Paul Heyman, who performed a clever and amusing promo centering on his apparent marriage proposal to Ryback, which turned out to be a proposal to him to be the next “Heyman Guy” replacing CM Punk who he is now heavily feuding with. While this segment didn’t feel like it needed me to write about it as one of the four focuses of Monday Night Four, I found it very enjoyable and would recommend it to be tracked down on YouTube, and although I’m sure WWE will most likely recap it a million times as they tend to do with anything remotely good.
The rest of this week’s episode of Monday night Raw featured CM Punk defeating Big E Langston with the Go To Sleep, putting over the fact that he can hit this move on a big man since he faces Ryback this Sunday, Kofi Kingston defeating Fandango and subsequently Wyatt cutting a promo that seemed like it was going to lead to an attack on Kingston but didn’t, R-Truth defeating Curtis Axel, seemingly setting Truth up for an IC title shot, Brie Bella defeating Alicia Fox ahead of her Divas title match this Sunday, Alberto Del Rio defeating Zack Ryder and a comedy match between Santino Marella and Antonio Cesaro featuring another great Giant Swing.
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.