Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Raw 28/10/13
The final October 2013 episode of Monday Night Raw was an action-packed affair dealing with the fallout from the previous night’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. Our first Monday Night Four focus point features the episode’s opening segment which began with Justin Roberts announcing the arrival of the new World Heavyweight Champion John Cena. His appearance was greeted with the usual cocktail of frustrated boos and excited screams, as Cena delivered his trademark corny line to camera on entrance, this time telling us he’s gained a few pounds while pointing at his World Heavyweight Championship belt (Wait, no a belt holds up pants right, Vince?). Whilst Cena makes his way down the entrance ramp and poses for the fans in the ring, the commentators put him over, comparing him to Superman. Yes, you read that right, the WWE is actually using the very quality that many fans bemoan him for, to make him appealing to the fans. I was amused. Cena then gets on the microphone, with the opening gambit “I’m used to that sound,” referring to the mixed reaction he receives from the crowd. Cena was noticeably using his Southern American accent he likes to try on every now and then, with a generous helping of “Y’all!” I’ll give it to Cena, he does have fun with us, asking whether we missed him drawing an audible “NO!” chant from the live crowd in Orlando, Florida. Amusingly, Cena then tries on another Southern accent, but this time in jest as he imitates the Texan drawl of colour commentator John Bradshaw Layfield, who he thanks for giving him the motivation to prove him wrong in his claim that he made his in-ring comeback too early. The rest of the promo featured Cena’s usual characterisation, thanking his fans, the Cenation, for sticking by him with hustle, loyalty and respect. As Cena’s return speech drew to a close, his music hit and the segment seemed to be at an end, that is until the Hallelujah Chorus echoed throughout the Amway Centre, and Damien Sandow appeared to address Cena and the “unwashed masses,”.
“The uncrowned champ is here!” Sandow claimed, parodying John Cena’s catchphrase. He then teased Cena and the crowd regarding the cashing in of his World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank briefcase, hinting at an immediate cash in before dismissing the possibility. However, in a double swerve of sorts Sandow then took down Cena with a heavy attack with his customized briefcase and did indeed cash in, as members of the crowd chanted “YES!” with each briefcased strike. The personal highlight of Sandow’s beat down was the the Intellectual Savior of the Unwashed Masses telling John Cena to “Rise above this!”, before launching him injured arm-first into the ringside barricade. He then proceeded to ram the champion into the steel steps and crush Cena’s bad arm with a chair into said steps. Sandow then entered the ring and made the cash in official, calling a referee down to the ring before Raw went to its first commercial break. As Raw returns, the bell rings and the matchup begins; Cena comes out fighting with punches until Sandow floors him with an arm breaker. Sandow’s offense unsurprisingly continues to focus on the injured arm of Cena, tossing him into the ring post and rolling him up for a two count. He then gained a second two count by hitting a heavy leg drop to the arm.
Damien Sandow placed John Cena in a modified keylock, setting up the babyface comeback for Cena to power out of the submission, hitting a side belly-to-belly suplex. However, Cena couldn’t maintain the offence in the match, being cut off by an armdrag followed by repeated knee strikes to the injured arm and a vertical suplex for a near fall. On the return from another commercial break, the two wrestlers were exchanging blows, laying on punches to their opponents whilst the Orlando crowd cheered their favourite and booed the other man. Cena then began to take the bull (No not El Torito, it’s a metaphor…)by the horns coming at Sandow with his trademark comeback routine, however his injured arm left him unable to continue after hitting his signature jumping shoulder tackle. Nevertheless, when both men stood, Cena was able to hit his patented spin-out powerbomb to set up the Five Knuckle Shuffle spot. Cena sold the arm injury, taking time to recover before he could hit the manoeuvre, leaving Sandow enough time to counter before hitting a corkscrew neckbreaker on the reeling Cena. The camera shows WWE’s Dr. Sampson at ringside, taking special notice of Cena’s injury. However, Cena manages to perform an Attitude Adjustment out of nowhere on his opponent, but Sandow landed near the ropes and found himself able to roll from the ring. The narrative of the match told us that Cena overexerted himself hitting that last move and Sampson comes to the ring to check on his patient. Cena ushers the doctor away and attempts his other finishing maneuver, the STF, as Sandow returns to the ring. However, Cena was unable to apply the submission hold due to the pain in his injured arm, which was probably a good thing since he nearly always butchers that move whenever he applies it.
After struggling out from the attempt STF, Damien Sandow was able to hit his Terminus straight jacket neckbreaker for a near fall. He then attempted to hit his new full nelson slam finishing maneuver but John Cena was able to wriggle out and hit a slightly botched looking neckbreaker on Sandow for a very very near fall, causing men the world over to shout at their televisions, “That was two and seven eighths!” and remark that if the referee hadn’t trimmed his fingernails that day it would’ve been a three count (No, that was just me?). As both men make it to their feet, Cena comes running at Sandow who catches him in an arm-trap (Yep, the bad one.) crossface to a big pop from the crowd, many of them urging Cena to tap. Eventually the World Heavyweight Champion counters the hold but is sent back down to the mat as Damien Sandow this time successfully hits You’re Welcome. Alas, John Cena kicks out at two, relentlessly Sandow continues his offence, hauling his opponent to the top rope as the Orlando crowd chanted “This is awesome!” only for Cena to fight out headbutting Sandow from the turnbuckle. The defending champ then came diving down from the tope rope with a crossbody that Sandow managed to dodge, leading to Cena briefly selling a blown out knee, allowing the challenger to attempt a rarely seen piledriver. However, Cena’s knees weren’t too hurt as he swung his legs down, shifting his weight and planting Sandow with a second Attitude Adjustment for the 1-2-3, meaning Sandow joins John Cena as the only men to unsuccessfully cash-in their Money in the Bank contracts.
Did I like Cena winning? No, but surely this has to go somewhere. The WWE creative team wouldn’t just waste Damien Sandow’s cash in to give us a good match on Raw and rub John Cena’s ego, would they? I’d like to hope not and presume that Sandow will be inherently linked with Cena at least until the turn of the year and Wrestlemania season. I realise that WWE’s track record of pushing young up and coming guys against Cena isn’t great; Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and numerous others can surely attest to that. However, Damien Sandow losing in his cash-in attempt must lead to being a positive thing for him as a performer, right? While you could argue that Sandow winning the Money in the Bank briefcase in the first place was a declaration of intent by the powers that be for a sizable push for the upcoming wrestler. Nevertheless, maybe I have my positive hat on, but to me Sandow’s loss to Cena must mean he’s going to enjoy a decent programme with the WWE top superstar. A successful cash in could have meant a nothing reign similar to that of Jack Swagger’s in 2010, whereas it seems even beyond the folly of the WWE creative team to just send Sandow back to the midcard, anything other than a continued feud with Cena would surely be just too much of an idiotic waste of time and talent. Regardless of the booking of this match, it was no doubt the most absorbing contest of the night and rightfully deserves the accolade of this week’s LockUP Raw Match of the Night. As for the booking, I think we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes, it could potentially be Sandow’s 18 second moment (See Daniel Bryan) or scarily it could just possibly be another tool to make Cena look good.
The second focus point of this week’s Monday Night Four began as Shawn Michaels’ “Sexy Boy” played over the Amway Center’s speakers, and the Heartbreak Kid made his way to the ring, high-fiving fans as he walked, although not performing his usual signature pose. As the music faded there were audible boos from the audience, as well as a smattering of “You sold out!” chants due to the Superkick he delivered to Daniel Bryan last night, costing his former protege the WWE Championship. Michaels was handed a microphone, on which he declared that he owed Daniel Bryan an explanation, proceeding to call the former WWE Champion out. There was then a mix of “YES!” and “NO!” chants, presumably due to fans wanting to see Cena but disapproving of Shawn Michaels’ attack on Bryan. Nevertheless, we hear the sound of strings and Daniel Bryan enters angrily. Once Bryan meets him in the ring, Michaels toes the babyface line, explaining that he didn’t intend to cost Bryan the title last night. However, the “You sold out!” chants grew louder, seemingly coming from the whole arena. Michaels continued to attempt to justify his actions by explaining that he couldn’t stand by after he saw Bryan delivering the Busaiku Knee Kick to Triple H (well obviously not in those words…). He then stressed how Triple still is and will always be his best friend due to him sticking by him in his darkest times when he needed him most, before explaining that he did what he did last night because this time it was Triple H who needed him. Comparing suffering with addiction to the WWE title picture might seem somewhat excessive, but hey this is pro-wrestling and I for one am enjoying it.
Shawn Michaels then asked Daniel Bryan to shake his hand and accept his apology, to which the fans chant “NO!” Michaels then plants some somewhat heelish seeds, telling Bryan that he was in fact merely giving his former student his final lesson: the WWE is a snakepit, so don’t trust anybody. We then get some great “You Screwed Bryan!” chants from the Orlando crowd (obviously referring to Bret Hart and the Montreal Screwjob), to which the Heartbreak Kid responds to by fully turning heel, berating Daniel Bryan, spewing insults, and demanding that he showed him the respect he deserved. Michaels’ exposes his ego (no not like that) snapping, “I’m Shawn Michaels! I’m giving you the chance to shake my hand!” while the crowd still urged Bryan not to give into the Heartbreak Kid’s demands, loudly chanting “NO!”. To the crowd’s distress, Daniel Bryan extended his hand to shake his former mentor’s hand, before locking Michaels in the YES! Lock, much to the delight of the live crowd. The Hall of Famer taps out and puts over Daniel Bryan as a babyface much more in one Raw segment than Triple H has in all the WWE television since Summerslam, as a loud “You tapped out!” chant echoed around the Amway Center. Although, to be fair I did mark out like a little boy when Bryan hit the Busaiku Knee Kick on Triple H on Sunday night, so the build wasn’t all bad.
I think we have to look back at this segment to evaluate Daniel Bryan as a successful WWE babyface. The support for Daniel Bryan here was so great that it turned the fans on one of the most respected professional wrestlers of all time, who hasn’t even been a heel since 2005. Think about that for a second, the fans were so invested in Daniel Bryan as a wrestling personality (even with the guff that WWE have marred his main event push with at times) that they booed Shawn Michaels, Shawn bloody Michaels! I think that’s incredible and therefore award the accolade of LockUP Raw Superstar of the Week. As for the future of this angle, I would love it if it lead to a Daniel Bryan vs Shawn Michaels dream match at Survivor Series with a build perhaps similar to The Rock vs Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania X-8, with Hart playing a heel role but putting over Bryan and returning to a respectful babyface role in the process; cementing Bryan as the in-ring successor to Michaels. However, unfortunately I don’t see this happening, and not even most of all because WWE creative wouldn’t book it but rather because of what happened next on Raw. Once backstage Daniel Bryan was on the receiving end of a brutal surprise attack from the Wyatt Family, after which Bray Wyatt justified his attack by maniacally claiming “The devil made me do it!” It was later revealed that Bryan had been taken to hospital due to this attack. Later in the night, after defeating Ryback in a Street Fight, CM Punk was also the victim of an attack from the Wyatt family. This suggests that Punk and Daniel Bryan will team up at Survivor Series to take on the Wyatt Family, most likely as part of a larger match featuring other heels and babyfaces joining each team. Perhaps the biggest question stemming from these attacks is who is the devil that made Bray Wyatt attack CM Punk and Daniel Bryan? Obviously, it could just be part of Wyatt’s crazy rhetoric, seeing as most of what he has said so far in his promos hasn’t come to fruition in any actuality. Clearly it could also be Triple H since he is the WWE’s number one heel right now, or for that matter the man who has been referred to with devilish descriptions over the years, the WWE chairman, Vince McMahon. Perhaps a more interesting candidate for this mysterious devil would be none other than Paul Heyman, who noticeably described himself as Satan in a recent promo targeted at CM Punk.
Thirdly on the Monday Night Four, we focus on a matchup pitting Kane, who made his return at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, versus the Miz, the very man he chokeslammed on Sunday night. The Miz limped to the ring to take on the Big Red Machine, while I wondered if this feud was perhaps a process to restore the Miz as a heel since his yearlong babyface run has so far been a pretty much unanimous failure. The former “Most must see WWE Champion” could easily cut a promo complaining at how the fans at Hell in a Cell cheered Kane chokeslamming him for no reason. Nonetheless, this match was a brief affairs, ending in Kane countering a diving axe handle from Miz into another chokeslam for the win. After the match, Kane grabbed a microphone and issued a surprising demand, requesting that Stephanie McMahon come out to the ring as he something to say to her. Once she appeared at the top of the entrance ramp, Kane teasingly accused her of abusing her power and ruining people’s lives, before performing our second heel turn of the night and claiming that Stephanie’s way is what is best for business. The Devil’s Favourite Demon then declared that “The monster is her’s to unleash,” before marching up the entrance ramp to where she stood on the stage, taking off his mask and handing it to his new master. He then left, without showing his face to camera, while McMahon held his mask aloft to end the segment. Kane will likely be then joining the Wyatt family to take on Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and presumably The Miz. Which begs the question, why didn’t they turn Kane heel using his feud with the Wyatt family after they defeated him at Summerslam and carried him out of the arena? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but I suppose using Kane to link the Wyatts to The Authority of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, maintains some of the Wyatts’ anarchic character, sparing Bray from dealing with the McMahons on screen personally.
Our final focus for this week’s Monday Night Four features the WWE Championship celebration of Randy Orton. The segment began with a shot of the (nearly) the whole WWE roster stood on the stage beneath the Titantron, as The Shield stood guard at the bottom of the rank in their now familiar enforcer role. The Shield were then joined by their authority figures Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who parted the crowd of wrestlers on the stage and marched down the ramp to the ring, greeting Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns as they went by. Once in the ring the Chief Operating Officer of the WWE cuts a promo describing Randy Orton’s ascension to being the “Face of the WWE”. The Game then introduced the new WWE Champion who in shook his boss’s hand and embraced him before Stephanie joined them to make it a group hug. She then took the microphone herself and also highlighted Orton’s position as the “Face of the WWE” by claiming that he represents all the superstars on the stage so they should respect him. She then hands the mic to Orton who echoes these thoughts, claiming being the WWE Champion makes him better than all of them. This Orton love-in unsurprisingly brings the arrival of the Big Show who is cut off on the entrance ramp by The Shield, only for the brothers Rhodes and Uso coming to the World’s Largest Athlete’s aid taking care of the Hounds of Justice. With no one between himself and the ring, the Big Show chases down Triple H and Orton who flee from the ring. The Giant goes for Triple H but is taken out from behind with a shot from Randy Orton with his WWE Championship belt. The Viper goes for a second strike but is met with a knockout blow from the World’s Largest Athlete, which is greeted by a loud “Let’s go Big Show!” chant from the Orlando crowd. Raw then goes off the air as Stephanie holds back Triple H and Big Show joins the superstars on the stage.
I personally don’t understand why Big Show has the current role that he has rather than a younger star. Especially after seeing him speak a lot of sense in an interview with Peter Rosenberg about putting over young stars. However, he doesn’t seem to be practising what he preaches judging by the spotlight he has stolen from CM Punk, Cody Rhodes and now Daniel Bryan in recent times. Nevertheless, the fans in the arenas seem to be lapping it up, chanting and cheering for the 7 foot veteran, so perhaps he deserves this last big run on top even if I think there must be better choices.
The rest of this week’s Raw consisted of The Shield defeating The Usos and Big E Langston via a Roman Reigns double Spear on the Usos, Los Matadores defeating 3MB in a two on three handicap match, AJ Lee & Tamina Snuka defeating The Bella Twins, The Real Americans catapulting themselves into the WWE Tag Team Title scene with a win over champions Goldust & Cody Rhodes and Natalya defeating Summer Rae in the night’s final match before The Big Show gatecrashed Randy Orton’s WWE Championship celebration that closed out Raw. 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.