Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Raw 14/10/13

JosephHegarty

Monday Night Raw began this week with Justin Roberts introducing the special guest referee for the WWE Championship match at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, WWE Hall of Famer, the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. His music hit and he made his way down to the ring performing his iconic entrance, pyrotechnics included. Once in the ring, Michaels thanked the fans for their reception, before cutting a promo on his role at Hell in a Cell: mentioning his part in training Daniel Bryan, as well as the fact that he’s never liked Randy Orton, and then finally reminding us all that he is still best of friends with WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H. However, he then conceded that the match at Hell in a Cell isn’t about him and how he feels about those involved in it. Stating instead that the only thing that matters is that a new WWE Champion will be crowned and promised an end to the dusty finishes we’ve seen at the most recent WWE pay-per-views. Before this promo, the announcers had been putting over on commentary Michael’s experience inside the Hell in a Cell structure, and during the promo he in fact name checked the very arena Raw was being broadcast from live in St. Louis, Missouri. He pointed out it was the home of the very first Hell in a Cell match in WWE history, in which he was pitted against the Undertaker.

However, the mention of St. Louis brought out one of the challengers for the WWE Championship and St. Louis native, Randy Orton. The hometown boy received a mixed reaction, with some of the fans loudly chanting his name, while also receiving boos from other portions of the audience due this position as the number one heel in the company. Nevertheless, the reaction translated more noticeably to a negative one as the former WWE Champion ran down his hometown, labelling them as not that bright. The wrath of the Viper’s venom then turned from his fellow Missourians to Shawn Michaels instead, accusing him of resenting Orton because he knows that even including everything he achieved in his Hall of Fame career, he’ll never compare to Orton himself. This drew some more heat from the crowd. Michaels responded by telling Orton to worry less about him and more about Daniel Bryan, his opponent at Hell in a Cell. However, Orton declared he didn’t need to worry about Bryan as he won’t struggle to destroy him inside the cell, sparking a loud “NO!” chant from the St. Louis crowd, getting inside Orton’s head leading him to shout “Shut up!” at them.

The two of them continued exchanging barbs until Orton snapped and attempted to RKO the Hall of Famer, who managed to push off Orton and hit back with an attack of his own. The Heartbreak Kid’s Sweet Chin Music superkick came a whisker away from connecting with Orton but the Viper slithered out of the ring avoiding contact. However, he did not remain unscathed for long as former WWE Champion the Miz stormed ringside, taking Orton out from behind to gain a measure of revenge on Orton for the various vicious attacks he had put Miz through in the past month. Especially considering Orton’s first (and perhaps most vicious) attack on Miz came in front of Miz’s own hometown fans, including his parents, this attack felt very much like an eye for an eye. On return from the commercial break, a match between Orton and Miz (who appeared to me to be looking slightly more buff than before) had begun. The match was decent, although doesn’t receive this week’s LockUP Raw Match of the Night accolade, with its main positives coming from an action packed final act. Orton had Miz set up once again to deliver his signature elevated DDT from the barricade to the arena floor, but the Cleveland native managed to struggle out and drive Orton spine-first into the ring post. Miz then tossed Orton into the ring and delivered some of his trademark offence, highlighted by his signature corner clothesline and diving double axe handle, which led to him stalking Orton for his Skull Crushing Finale finish. Orton, himself managed to struggle out of the Miz’s full nelson hold but he soon found himself being put in Miz’s Figure-Four Leglock. However, the match took another turn as the lights dimmed and Miz’s newest arch-rival, Bray Wyatt, appeared on the stage at the top of the entrance ramp. This caused a distraction, which allowed Randy Orton to hit the RKO to claim the victory. The Eater of World’s then cut a promo accusing The Miz’s obsession with fame to be the epitome of everything he most hates in the world. This ended Raw’s first segment and this week’s first Monday Night Four focus point.

The second feature of this week’s Monday Night Four began with Paul Heyman and General Manager Brad Maddox discussing CM Punk and Ryback’s match at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. Heyman argued that at Battleground, CM Punk made the General Manager look ridiculous by winning a match with an illegal low blow and for this reason should be punished by facing both Ryback and Intercontinental Champion, Curtis Axel in a handicap match at the next pay-per-view. Maddox had a proposal of his own, suggesting a beat the clock challenge, telling Heyman if Ryback can defeat R-Truth in less time than it takes CM Punk to defeat Curtis Axel, then Heyman would get his handicap wish. However, if Punk won, Maddox ruled the Straight Edge Superstar would instead choose the stipulation for the match at Hell in a Cell.

Neither of the beat the clock matches were anything to write home about, although I would say the quality of Punk versus Axel made it more watchable than Truth versus Ryback, which the Big Guy won in 5 minutes and forty-four seconds via his Shellshock finishing maneuver. The most notable moment of the match saw Jerry “The King” Lawler mention the Goldberg chants that Ryback receives, in what I think was the first time instance that the WWE acknowledged the chants on air. In classic WWE style however, the chants were mentioned in order to plug a new DVD they are releasing detailing the career of the former WCW World Heavyweight Champion; the match was followed by a commercial for said DVD/Blu Ray. CM Punk defeated Curtis Axel later in the night in a reasonably enjoyable bout, which ended eleven seconds short of Ryback’s time after Punk delivered the Go To Sleep to Axel. After the match, Punk declared that he liked Paul Heyman’s idea of a handicap but it wouldn’t be the Intercontinental Champion joining Ryback but instead Heyman himself. The segment finished as Punk wildly added that the match would be taking place inside the Hell in a Cell structure itself.

The third focus of this week’s Monday Night Four column featured a match between World Heavyweight Champion, Alberto Del Rio, and former WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, who came out of the gates fighting delivering strikes to the Del Rio who fought back with strike based offence of his own. Unsurprisingly considering the combatants, this match was somewhat of a kickfest and in fact the World Heavyweight Champion could later be seen to be bleeding from the mouth. Del Rio then delivered the first meaningful maneuver of the contest hitting a vertical suplex on Bryan, before locking him in a rear chin lock. The match continued as an engaging contest, featuring stiff looking kicks and high flying action. However, much like the first match of this episode of Raw, the match drew to a close when a distraction came from the stage. This time, Bryan’s rival for the WWE Championship appeared on the Titantron screen, threateningly declaring that he was going to go check on Bryan’s fiancee, Brie Bella, who was earlier injured in a losing effort to Tamina Snuka. Bryan laid out Del Rio with a roundhouse kick before departing the ring to come to the aid of his lover. However, as Bryan entered the trainer’s room he was unsurprisingly attacked from behind by Orton. This segment worked well, featuring the second best match of the night and an intriguing furthering of the WWE Championship narrative going into Hell in a Cell in two week’s time.

The fourth and final feature of this week’s Monday Night Four focuses upon his week’s main event and LockUP Raw match of the night. The match saw the WWE Tag Team Championship be defended in the main event slot of Raw for the first time in recent memory. The match saw Goldust, who entered in his signature silver screen widescreen letterbox aspect ratio, and his brother Cody Rhodes, take on the reigning WWE Champions Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, under No Disqualification ruling. The match enjoyed proper main event title fight introductions with both teams standing in the ring and being introduced by ring announcer Justin Roberts. Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins began the match in the ring, with Rhodes initially getting the upperhand before tagging in his brother, holding Rollins in place allowing Goldust to deliver a second rope diving fist drop. Goldust then hit Rollins with a jumping hip attack taking his opponent down unconventionally with his posterior, although perhaps not as impressively as Naomi does with her Rear View maneuver.

Once Cody tagged back in, Rollins managed to fight back regaining a hold on the contest, hitting a heavy looking backdrop on his opponent. Rollins then attempted to slingshot himself over Rhodes only to be caught by the son of a son of a plumber, who attempted to deliver an Alabama Slam until Rollins rolled through with a sunset flip, but the action wasn’t over yet as Cody himself rolled through that pinning combination attempt jumping over the floored Rollins gaining the hot tag from his brother, Goldust. This was a very smooth spot that very easy on the eyes and really highlighted the in ring prowess of Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins, two men I expect to see in the WWE main event picture for a long time to come. Goldust hit the classic babyface hot tag big back body drop on Rollins before throwing the younger man in the corner and hitting his trademark bulldog, driving his opponents head into the mat. However, Goldust’s offence is perhaps indeed a little too hot and he goes sailing out of the ring after Rollins ducks a crossbody attempt from the veteran.

Returning from commercial break, the Shield were back in control of the matchup exchanging tags and wearing down Goldust. However, after a prolonged period of this domination the veteran managed to fight back, uniquely countering a strong Irish whip to the turnbuckle from Roman Reigns by springboarding back out of the corner and hitting his opponent with a reverse elbow. With Rollins once again taking Reigns place in the ring for The Shield, he climb the top rope and brilliantly mocked Goldust by imitating the Bizarre one’s signature breathing before diving down on the veteran only to be countered in mid-air by Goldust with a beautiful snap scoop powerslam. After some more offence, both teams tagged in their fresh members and Cody Rhodes delivered a tremendous moonsault from the top ropes to Roman Reigns, forcing the powerhouse of The Shield to kick out for a near fall. Rhodes was on an offensive flurry here and followed the moonsault up with a springboard Disaster kick to Dean Ambrose on the apron, who was attempting to interfere in the tag team matchup. The younger Rhodes brother then jumped into the ring from the apron hitting a springboard dropkick on Roman Reigns, who had only just recovered from the moonsault. It seemed as if Reigns could not kick out of this maneuver however, as his teammate Seth Rollins had to break up the cover to keep the matchup going.

Seth Rollins and Goldust brawled to the outside, leaving Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes to continue their battle inside the ring. Rhodes continues to hold the upper hand and is ready to deliver Cross Rhodes (the move that won him and his brother their WWE contracts) on Reigns, but the third Shield member, Dean Ambrose, is back in the fold and clobbers him from behind. The ring is filling up now as Rollins and Goldust rejoin the in ring action and the action becomes even more chaotic, with Goldust being thrown to ringside leaving his brother at the mercy of the Hounds of Justice, who ready themselves to deliver their triple powerbomb routine. However, Goldust comes soldiering back into the fold with a steel chair, delivering a completely legal cracking blow to the back of Roman Reigns, before laying out Rollins and Ambrose as well. The ring clears as the combatants try to recover their strength, but Reigns manages fightback and takedown Goldust, taking the chair and swinging it at the veteran, who dodges and comes back off the ropes with a wicked jumping crossbody driving the steel chair into his opponent’s abdomen.

Meanwhile, outside the ring Cody Rhodes attempts to hit a modified version of his Disaster kick off the steel steps but is caught in midair by Rollins who powerbombs him into the barricade. This was another brilliant spot from the two young cruiserweights, who really caught the eye in this match. Rollins then took his offence into the ring, diving from the top rope onto Goldust, only to be caught by the veteran with a Manhattan Drop, which he followed up with one of his signature uppercuts. He then clotheslined Rollins to the outside before hitting a huge Cactus clothesline on Roman Reigns, leaving the ring empty. A loud “This is awesome!” chant rang out around the arena in St. Louis, as Ambrose ambushed Goldust at ringside. This distraction from Ambrose allowed Reigns to recover and delivering a brutally brilliant Spear on Goldust through the barricade, as the crowd got yet more emotionally and vocally involved in the matchup.

All men except Dean Ambrose lay exhausted on the ground. Ambrose tries to rally his fellow Shield members, throwing Cody Rhodes into the ring and urging Reigns to follow him and pin the son of a son of a plumber. However, yet more noise came from the crowd, and for a moment it was unclear for why. This was until the WWE cameras focused on a seven foot man in the crowd, the Big Show who had been fired the previous week by Stephanie McMahon. The World’s Largest Athlete made his way to ringside and knocked out Ambrose, before catching a flying Rollins by the throat and delivering a knockout punch to him also. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns stares at Show from the ring, where Cody Rhodes appears behind him to hit a springboard Disaster kick. Reigns dodged this attack but before he could deliver a counterattack of his own he was knocked out by Big Show leaning through the ring ropes. Michael Cole sold this punch well, putting it over as an act of redemption from the Big Show, paying back the Rhodes brothers for knocking out their father Dusty Rhodes, some weeks ago. This was a great match, I would’ve perhaps preferred a cleaner more decisive victory for the rising Cody Rhodes, but this finish keeps Roman Reigns looking strong and leaves room for the narrative to develop for Hell in a Cell. Raw goes off air as the Big Show stands in the crowd performing Daniel Bryan’s “YES!” chant with the fans while Triple H appears in the ring looking irate, possibly setting up a match between the two veterans at the next pay-per-view? We’ll see next week.

The one flaw in this match was the problems that the No Disqualification stipulation brought to the match from a ring psychology point of view, which was especially noticeable during the earlier parts of the match where the crescendo of the match was still building. If there are no disqualification why aren’t the teams performing under tornado rules (meaning both team members stay in the ring at the same time and do not tag in and out)? As surely they cannot be disqualified for overstaying the referee’s five-count. For that matter why doesn’t Dean Ambrose permanently join them in the ring to make it three on two. However, this match was an example of professional wrestling at its best. Sport Entertainment, in my opinion, works best when you forget that it’s (scripted) entertainment and believe it as spontaneous and competitive action that makes you forget details such as rules. This match, particularly in its second half delivered this in bucket loads and was even almost as good as their brilliantly emotional matchup at the Battleground pay-per-view in which the Rhodes brothers won back their jobs with the WWE.

The rest of Raw consisted of Fandango defeating Santino Marella, Los Matadores defeating 3MB again, Triple H and Stephanie delivering a heel authoritative promo, The Real Americans defeating Tonnes of Funk and numerous vignettes hyping the return of John Cena.

That just leaves us to crown the LockUP Raw Superstar of the Week. This week I award the accolade to Seth Rollins, who had an impressive showing with both great in-ring and character work. He shouldered most of the work for The Shield in the match of the night, as well as being involved in most of the match’s best spots. I’d even argue that on this form he could stake a claim to being the best in ring worker in the company. Watch this space.

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.

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