Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Raw 07/10/13
This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw featured the fallout from the controversial Battleground pay-per-view the previous night that left many fans loudly complaining over social media platforms, which leads us to the first focus point of this week iteration of Monday Night four. Raw began this week by a video recapping the conclusion of the previous night’s pay-per-view main event that was the main grievance for criticism from many professional wrestling. The action saw a fine twenty-five minute main event contest between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan to crown a new WWE Champion, be cut interrupted by the Big Show. The World’s Largest athlete stormed the ring, being cut off by the contest’s referee who he knocked out, before seemingly turning heel and doing the same to Daniel Bryan who leaned out through the ring ropes to question the Giant. General Manager Brad Maddox (Who was in sole control of the show due to the absence of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H) appeared on the stage performing the universal sign for “Get another referee out here!”, surprising the official who answered the call was Scott Armstrong who had been fired after his fast count at the previous pay-per-view, Night of Champions. Armstrong marched down the aisle, sliding into the ring to once again make the decisive count in a WWE Championship, until Show pulled him out of the ring and subsequently knocking out his second referee of the night, to the cheers of the live crowd in Buffalo, New York.
Big Show then made his way into the ring, where he was confronted by a scowling Randy Orton, who once again used his “Stupid! Stupid!” line that he usually reserves for when he feels his opponent has botched. However, here it was pure kayfabe as he warned Show, like a spurned sibling awaiting the return of their parents, how much trouble he’ll be in tomorrow when Triple H and Stephanie deal with him on Raw. Orton then made the mistake of taking his frustration out on the Giant with a petulant shove, leading the Big Show to add Orton to the list of men he had knocked out that night with one fell swoop. He then celebrated as if he himself had won the vacant WWE title, seemingly feeling the weight lift off his large shoulders after he had finally hit back at the new McMahon regime. This was an odd end to the match, which almost felt like an inside joke regarding the frequency of Big Show’s face and heel turns.
However, back to Monday Night Raw, which after the above recap began with the appearance of Stephanie McMahon who demanded that the Big show , who she characterized as selfish, join her in the ring. McMahon prefaces her argument against the Big Show by telling him she understands that’s he’s been under a lot of pressure recently, before laying into him and ordering him to beg for forgiveness from the live Pittsburgh crowd. Sorry doesn’t seem to be enough for Stephanie, who reminds Show that herself and her husband not only own his home (after paying off his mortgage on Smackdown), but also Big Show himself, too. The World’s Largest Athlete seems unphased or perhaps fired up by her threatening tone, as he reveals to the audience that while he knocked out Randy Orton at Battleground because he just couldn’t take it anymore, he knocked out Daniel Bryan because Stephanie McMahon herself had told him to. She refutes his claims but he’s hit a nerve as she slaps him multiple times and tells him he’s fired, in one of a few moments from tonight where she heavily channeled her father’s performing influence.
This week’s second Monday Night Four focus point concerns an event that was spread throughout the night by the WWE rather than a particular segment. It began as Stephanie McMahon, seemingly infuriated by the Big Show, berated General Manager Brad Maddox backstage. She told him that she trusted him, before listing everything she believes he did wrong at Battleground; mostly concerning the Rhodes family victory and the no contest ruling of the WWE Championship main event. She ordered him to do something about it, which he subsequently did, as he head out to address the WWE fans in attendance at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He apologised to both the fans in attendance and those at home (many of whom most likely didn’t find this apology enough for the hard-earned cash they shelled out for the widely poorly received pay-per-view), before announcing a rematch between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan where a conclusive finish will be possible, in a Hell in a Cell match at the next pay-per-view, which is coincidentally titled WWE Hell in a Cell, these things write themselves, eh? Maddox does however add another dimension to the WWE Championship rematch, the presence of a special guest Hall of Fame referee for the matchup, whom the WWE Universe will choose tonight from three candidates by voting on the WWE App, oh god they’re going to patronise us and plug it to death again aren’t they?
Maddox introduced the first candidate as six-time World Heavyweight Champion and former General Manager of Smackdown, Booker T, who cut a short promo detailing why the fans should vote for him to fill the officiating role. He concluded by reinforcing that he knew what the people wanted, before showing perhaps a glimpse of a future heel turn by uttering the dirtiest words in the WWE right now, as he also knows what “Best for Business”, this is beginning to draw some boos from the audience. Later in the night, after a tag match pitting CM Punk and R-Truth versus Ryback and Curtis Axel, the second candidate for the post of special guest referee was revealed as the second longest reigning WWE Champion Bob Backlund. The 2013 Hall of Famer cut one of his trademark rambling promos with a crazed edge, stumbling on his words (whether intentionally or not) in a manner perhaps more recognisable to younger fans as similar to the work of Scott Steiner. The crowd got more into him the more crazed he appeared but were mainly quiet during this segment, whether this was because they were legitimately interested in hearing what he had to say or just because he didn’t connect with them is arguable.
The third and final candidate to hold the position of special guest referee for the WWE Championship match at Hell in a Cell was revealed as the familiar drum beat hit and a woman’s voice screamed “Oh, Oh, Shawn!” over the arena speakers. The Heartbreak Kid made his way down the entrance ramp, pausing to deliver his signature pose on his knees while fireworks sparked behind him; for me this remains one of the enduring iconic images in professional wrestling. Before getting back to his feet (although not as nimbly as he once could) and returning to the stage to cut his own promo explaining why it is him who the WWE should vote for rather than Backlund or Booker T. Although there was really no need to, he could have just stood there speechless and he still would’ve won the vote by a landslide, he spoke about Triple H being his closest friend and his training of Daniel Bryan. On a related note, I would be happy for Bryan’s other mentor, William Regal, to return in the coming weeks during the build to Hell in a Cell. As a very talented storyteller, Regal could really add to this feud especially with the presence of Michaels, he could turn heel leading to a dream match with Daniel Bryan (I realise they fought on Superstars a couple of years back). Heck, with Regal’s presence on WWE Television, they could even finally put Jerry “The King” Lawler out of his misery and replace him on the announce team, judging from his impressive commentary work on NXT. Oh by the way, as if I really need to tell you, Shawn Michaels won the WWE App vote to referee the Hell in a Cell match. To conclude, this was a good move by WWE, the added presence of Shawn Michaels in this feud should really add to the story being told here, as long as his presence doesn’t out shadow Orton and Bryan by putting the focus too much on his and Triple H’s relationship. HBK’s fit to this role is so apparent that as soon as the creation of a special guest referee role was announced by Maddox it was hard to believe anyone else would be chosen other than Michaels before he had even been revealed as one of the candidates. Although, as I often claim regarding the wrestling industry, just because something isn’t a surprise doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do (Are you reading, Russo?). In fact, with all the speculation on the part of wrestling fans, I’d go as far as to say if it’s not a surprise then it’s usually the right thing to do. Of course, I enjoy a surprise in wrestling as much as the next guy, but they are becoming harder and harder to execute well, so booking the right way rather than the surprising way is my favoured storytelling technique. Generally, it should be the little things that surprise us, not the big things.
On the subject of surprises, the third focus for this week’s Monday Night Four addresses by far the biggest surprise of the night, and indeed for many fans it wasn’t a well-received surprise… The segment began innocuously enough, with World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio attempting to charm Smackdown General Manager Vickie Guerrero backstage. He makes a valid point regarding how he should be considered the face of the WWE since he is currently the only world champion on the roster, before trying to get onto Guerrero’s good side by describing her as sexy, beautiful and intelligent. This backstage segment ends with Del Rio kissing the General Manager on the cheek before gifting her his black scarf and leaving. Back out at ringside in the Civic Arena, Del Rio’s music hits and he makes his way to the ring. Once in the ring, we are once again joined by Vickie Guerrero who declares that tonight the champion’s opponent will be his former personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez. However, Vickie’s matchmaking duties are not finished for tonight as after Ricardo has made his way into the ring and bell has rung, she announces that at Hell in a Cell, Alberto Del Rio will defend his title against none other than a returning John Cena. This announcement distracts Del Rio, leaving him susceptible to a rollup pinning combination from Rodriguez who earns a David and Goliath-esque victory over the World Heavyweight Champion. Ricardo celebrates this landmark victory, clambering up onto the announce table high fiving Lawler and Cole. However, his celebrations are cut short by an embarrassed Del Rio looking for revenge as he takes Ricardo’s legs out from under him with Rodriguez taking a great looking bump onto the table below. The champion then brings a steel chair into the action, folding it onto his former friend’s arm before repeatedly stamping on it and applying the same chair assisted Cross Armbreaker that put Rob Van Dam on the shelf the previous night. This was a decent segment but it left us wondering one question: is John Cena really returning so soon, or did Vickie Guerrero just use his name value to distract and embarrass Del Rio? However, this question is soon answered by the man himself who tweeted the following:
Cena’s return is certainly surprising, however I am in (at least) two minds over it. Initially I was disappointed to hear he was returning so soon, after previously understanding he wouldn’t be back until early 2014, I’ve been enjoying Raw without the focus continually being on one man, allowing CM Punk, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Triple H and even Cody Rhodes to more or less share the spotlight. However, the specifics of his return give me a little bit of hope regarding how much he will hog the limelight on his return since he is challenging for the WWE’s secondary belt. It’s somewhat refreshing that he is not being directly thrown into the WWE Championship mix on his return and even more positive that he seemingly isn’t going to singlehandedly save Daniel Bryan and the rest of the WWE from Triple H and his evil dictatorship. Additionally, the star power of John Cena can only be a good thing for a World Heavyweight Championship scene, which has been pretty stale since Dolph Ziggler lost his rematch for the title at Money in the Bank.
This week’s fourth and final Monday Night Four focus details this week’s LockUP Raw Match of the night, the main event six man tag team match pitting The Shield against Cody Rhodes, Goldust and Daniel Bryan. Before the match begun, Triple H made his way to ringside to personally ensure that what happens tonight is best for business. In the ring, Goldust and Seth Rollins start things off, with the veteran soon getting the upper hand with his signature uppercut to counter Rollins’ back body drop attempt. He then tagged in his brother who hit a magnificent springboard dropkick on Rollins, who manages to tag in Dean Ambrose. However, Cody soon hits a Gourdbuster on the United States Champion, allowing himself to set up a top rope moonsault that is unfortunately countered by Ambrose, pushing Rhodes to the outside after a distraction from Roman Reigns. However, as we come back from a commercial break Cody is successful with a second attempt from the top rope, beautifully soaring through the air with what for my money is the best moonsault in the WWE has seen since Kurt Angle. This success leads to Cody getting Daniel Bryan into the matchup with a hot tag. The former WWE Champion releases his trademark fired up offence flipping off the turnbuckle and hitting a crooked arm lariat, before executing an Avalanche Frankensteiner. Bryan covers Rollins, but the pin is broken up after a two count by Roman Reigns, who runs straight into a springboard Disaster kick from Cody Rhodes and the match breaks down with all six men in the ring. Seth Rollins manages to recover to hit a release German suplex on Daniel Bryan, but Bryan is somehow able to land on his feet and surprises Rollins with the YES! Lock. However, before Rollins could tap out Dean Ambrose brought a steel chair crashing into the gut of Cody Rhodes, ending the match in disqualification.
Triple H gets on the microphone at ringside, taking the moral high ground, stating that he will not let the match finish indecisively and restarts the match under no disqualification rules. The action returns with chaotic brawling as Daniel Bryan comes to the Rhodes brothers’ aid throwing himself in between the ropes hitting Reigns and Ambrose with a thunderous suicide dive. Bryan is all fired up and leads the crowd in a chant of “YES!”, until suddenly out of nowhere Randy Orton jumps the barricade and delivers an RKO to his WWE Championship rival, before throwing him back in the ring for Rollins to pin for a three count. Triple H then gives The Shield a nod, who then beat down the Rhodes brothers until the Big Show’s music hits. The World’s Largest Giant slowly makes his way down to the ring staring down Triple H, who quickly hides behind the Shield. Living up to their name, it seems like they are going to be able to shield their boss from Big Show, but he manages to summon the strength to floor all three men, just long enough to deliver a knockout punch to Triple H. Big Show leaves the ring as a smiling Daniel Bryan makes his way into it. Raw goes off the air as Bryan stands over the fallen Chief Operating Office once again leading the crowd in a “YES!” chant.
The rest of Raw consisted of a decent rematch between Damien Sandow and Dolph Ziggler, with Ziggler once more coming out on top, a quick six diva tag match featuring Natalya and the debuting JoJo and Eva Marie defeating Aksana, Rosa Mendes and Alicia Fox, Los Matadores once again defeating 3MB, CM Punk and R-Truth defeating Ryback and Curtis Axel, Randy Orton defeating Kofi Kingston in a surprisingly flat affair, Fandango defeating Zack Ryder, Antonio Cesaro again performing the giant swing on The Great Khali and The Miz being interrupted by Bray Wyatt cutting a promo.
This just leaves the task of awarding the Superstar of the Night accolade. Raw was a decent but not outstanding show once again and no one really stood out. Therefore, I am going to somewhat reluctantly grade Big Show as the Superstar of the night. He was the main focus of the show with his obvious role in the opening and closing segments and he performed well, although not spectacularly. This episode (as well as the Battleground pay-per-view) did leave me wondering, do we really want to see Big Show in this position in 2013? However, he’s being booked this way and performing to a reasonable level so any complaint I have is with the creative team rather than the talent.
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.