Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Raw 4/11/13
The first November 2013 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw began as “Cult of Personality” blared over the speakers in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, and the live crowd cheered the arrival of the longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era. As CM Punk made his way to the ring, footage was shown of last week’s attacks by the Wyatt Family on both Punk and Daniel Bryan. The Wyatt Family then entered, as Luke Harper was to have his first one on one match in the WWE, taking on CM Punk who came out fighting with a wild roundhouse kick but soon found himself being dominated by Harper who drove his opponent into the corner applying strikes and chokes. After further domination from the Wyatt Family member, there is a glimmer of hope for Punk who counters and oncoming Luke Harper sending him to the outside before going for his signature suicide dive through the ropes, only to be hit with a heavy forearm from his opponent. The narrative of the match continues to flow with CM Punk selling for Luke Harper’s bigman offence punctuated with some down and dirty old school tactics, as well as involving the crowd with his creepy “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…” growl. He then grounds Punk and locks him in a submission, which Michael Cole referred to as the ‘Gator Roll.
Luke Harper goes for a momentous big boot in the corner but CM Punk dodges, with the tremendous force of Harper’s missed attack sending himself to the floor, this led to Punk this time successfully hitting the suicide dive through the ropes. However, with Harper looking vulnerable, his partner Erick Rowan approached CM Punk threateningly as Raw went to commercial break. Presumably, this distracted Punk long enough for Luke Harper to recover, as on the return from the break the action was back in the ring and Harper was back in control of the contest; grounding Punk and catapulting him throat-first into the bottom rope. Harper maintained his superiority in the contest until he lifted his opponent to the top rope, only for the former WWE Champion to level him with a rare tornado DDT, earning CM Punk some much needed respite. Both men made their way to their feet before exchanging blows as the crowd cheered for Punk and booed the Wyatt Family member. This support seemed to spur the fan favourite on as he won this striking duel, allowing him to hit his signature swinging neckbreaker. He continued this offence by throwing Luke Harper to the corner and hitting him with a high knee followed by a short-arm clothesline and proceeding to climb to the top rope to perform his Randy “Macho Man” Savage tribute diving elbow. However, he turned while perched on the top rope and instead dived outside to crossbody on Erick Rowan below.
On a roll, the self-professed Best in the World once again ascended the top rope to land a diving attack next on his in-ring opponent, Luke Harper, but he had been left long enough to recover and hit Punk out of thin air with a brutal looking big boot. Harper, back in control, measured CM Punk as he made his way back to his feet and attempted to hit him with his discus clothesline finish, only for Punk to avoid contact, rolling him up for a successful pinfall victory. However, Punk had little time to celebrate as Erick Rowan and Bray Wyatt himself quickly entered the ring to attack him. While Punk was outnumbered he wouldn’t be for long, as no other than Daniel Bryan came running down the entrance ramp, steel chair in hand. With the help of Bryan (and his steel chair), CM Punk was able to fight off his assailants, as the crowd repeatedly chanted “YES!” at the top of their voices as the Wyatt Family was sent packing. It was a great moment to see Punk and Bryan standing victorious together as the crowd cheered loudly for them. However, I would have to admit this moment still could have been handled better. It all seems a little premature, sure the Wyatt Family attacked both Punk and Bryan last week, leading to this moment, but it seems to me that at least another week’s build could’ve helped. Last week’s attacks began to build heat for the heels in this narrative but they could still have benefitted from the heat that another week’s dominance over the babyfaces could have gained them, especially considering CM Punk was victorious tonight. It makes you slightly question why the two wrestlers need to team up, if CM Punk can be victorious on his own. With over two weeks’ worth of television to fill on the build up to the Survivor Series pay-per-view, it surely couldn’t have hurt to use another week to put some heat on the rookie heel team. Nevertheless, it was indeed a mark out moment to see these two fan favourite Ring of Honor graduates standing tall together on Monday Night Raw.
Our second focus point in this week’s Monday Night Four column began as Michael Cole informed the audience at home (and presumably those in attendance) that via use of the WWE App on iOS and Android devices, they could choose he would compete tonight against the WWE Champion Randy Orton. Fans could pick between three wrestlers: former WWE Champion The Miz, former two-time World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler and former NXT Champion Big E Langston. Jerry “The King” Lawler stood up from his seat at the announce table to announce to the live crowd who has won the vote to decide the WWE Champion’s opponent, but before he could reveal the winner he was interrupted by Orton himself. The “Face of the WWE” then cut a promo disempowering the audience, telling them that the only power they had was to choose who his next “victim” would be. He then harked back slightly to his cockier Legend Killer days, claiming that every woman in the audience are fantasizing about waking up next to him, which amusingly brought loud creams of agreement from many of the women in attendance. Orton didn’t leave out the male side of the audience, guaranteeing that no man in the crowd is even half the man that he is, unsurprisingly drawing boos. Overall, it was arguably a pretty by the numbers heel promo, but it was in the performance that this really shined, with Orton showing some nice touches to his delivery that it made it a very entertaining watch.
Lawler then finally revealed that he fans, or WWE top brass depending on who you believe, voted for Big E Langston to face Orton in the fourth match of the night, by a landslide 75%. Whether the poll was fixed or not, it says a lot that the uber talented Dolph Ziggler’s star has fallen so far since his classic Money in the Bank cash in the night after Wrestlemania this year, either garnering such a low amount of votes from the fans or merely that the powers that be in WWE deem that it would be believable that he drew that many votes. Nevertheless, Ziggler was not in this match and the man who beat him on the poll came storming out of the gates in his matchup with Randy Orton, flooring the WWE Champion with a heavy shoulder tackle. Orton retreated to the outside to regroup after his opponent’s strong opening strike. The Viper returned to the ring but Big E Langston continued to dominate him, although the rookie’s spot calling was very noticeable, audibly shouting “Tackle!” and “Elbow!”, which detracted slightly from the suspension of disbelief that professional wrestling needs from its audience.
Big E Langston continued to dominate Randy Orton throughout the opening of this in-ring encounter, impressively powering out of Orton’s rope hung DDT sending him sprawling to the apron, from which he tackled the WWE Champion to the outside. After the commercial break, Langston tried to repeat this tactic only for Orton to this time dodge the oncoming Langston, sending his opponent diving to the outside himself. Orton did fight back, slowing the pace with strikes and submission holds, but the narrative of the match really saw Langston dominate, who came back with two huge clotheslines and a side belly-to-belly suplex for a nearfall. After some back and forth where both men scored 2 count pins on each other, Orton looked to finish the match with an RKO, but Langston countered with a clothesline. The former NXT Champion then went to finish the match with his own Big Ending, only for the Viper to slither out and finally hit the RKO for the win. This was an enjoyable match that really put over Big E Langston as a serious threat in the WWE and the announcers were sure to put this point over.
The Third Monday Night Four focus of this week’s episode of Raw saw the World Heavyweight Champion, John Cena, and the WWE Tag Team Champions, Goldust and Cody Rhodes, teaming up to take on Jack Swagger & Antonio Cesaro of the Real Americans and Damien Sandow. The no.1 contender to John Cena’s World Heavyweight Championship, Alberto Del Rio, joined the commentary team, along with the manager of the Real Americans Zeb Coulter. John Cena began the match for his team facing the man who unsuccessfully cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on him last week. Cena got the upperhand on Damien Sandow, delivering a bulldog before tagging in Cody Rhodes, who earned a two count on the Intellectual Saviour of the Unwashed Masses with a slick sunset flip pinning combination out of the corner. A few tag ins and outs happen before Cena is back in the ring, this time facing up against Antonio Cesaro. They lock up with a test of strength, as the crowd chant “Let’s go Cena! Cena Sucks!” it’s an imposing image seeing these two specimens go at it; this could be the foundation of an enjoyable World Heavyweight Championship feud between the two. Cena hits a fisherman’s suplex for a two count before locking in a rear chin lock. Cena then tags in Goldust, who helps him double-suplex Cesaro, before Cody Rhodes tags in to deliver a gourdbuster on the now vulnerable Cesaro.
The World Heavyweight Champion tags back in and once again locks up in a titanic battle with Antonio Cesaro, but this time Cesaro comes out the stronger competitor irish whipping John Cena and hitting him with a devastating Swiss Death push-up flapjack European uppercut (catch that one on YouTube, you won’t be disappointed). This move turned the matchup with the narrative flow from then on in mostly characterised by John Cena selling for the heels building up the heat for the hot tag from Goldust. The action then chaotically ramped up a level, with bodies everywhere; Cena hit Swagger with an Attitude Adjustment before himself receiving Damien Sandow’s You’re Welcome Full Nelson Slam. Goldust ultimately won the match for his team, hitting the Final Cut swinging vertical suplex on Antonio Cesaro. This match was very enjoyable especially in its final action packed moments (which can be viewed on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr-Eo8hYp1o) and earns this week’s LockUP Raw Match of the Night award.
This episode of Monday Night Raw saw a final segment in which Triple H and Stephanie invited the Big Show to join them in the ring to discuss his ongoing legal action against the WWE following his dismissal last month. Throughout the night a promo vignette featuring contents of Big Show’s lawsuit was shown while the announce team rammed the storyline down the audience’s throats throughout the show; even by the WWE’s standard’s this belligerent recapping was on a whole new level. However, the narrative did grow throughout the episode as it was revealed that Big Show was in the arena, and was so under the request of Stephanie McMahon, much to the chagrin of WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H. Nevertheless, Stephanie explained to her husband that Big Show was here because the WWE board of directors had demanded that the company settled the legal dispute out of court. Consequently, the Big Show joined Triple H in the ring with Stephanie McMahon, who informed the Big Show that they were willing to settle and asked him what he desired.
Never one for subtlety, Triple H bluntly asks how many zeros Big Show needs on his cheque, but the World’s Largest Athlete claims that his lawsuit is not about money, he just wants his job back. Stephanie McMahon has heard enough and rehires the Big Show on the spot. The Big Show celebrates, apparently not happy enough stealing Daniel Bryan’s main event spot he now takes his trademark “YES!” shtick. However, apparently that’s not enough either as Big Show grins while telling The Authority that he wants to be the “Face of the WWE,” which sparks the arrival of Triple H and Stephanie’s lackies The Shield, who enter as we head to our final commercial break. As Raw returns, Big Show clarifies that wants a WWE Championship match at Survivor Series against Randy Orton. Triple H doesn’t respond particularly well, informing The Giant that if he doesn’t leave the ring he’ll leave him in a puddle of his own blood instead (not very PG, eh?). In return Big Show drives the hard bargain, leaving and saying they’ll just have to go to court to settle their dispute, forcing Triple H to cave in and give him what he desires. The Big Show then plays around with The Game, gleefully pretending he hadn’t heard what Triple H had said. The COO once again gets angry and makes a final match for the evening, pitting the Big Show in a handicap match versus Randy Orton and The Shield. The Big Show does his best to fight of the four on one attack but takes a heavy Spear from Roman Reigns.
An intense Orton orders the Shield to drive Big Show through the matt, but the World’s Largest Athlete fights back delivering a truly giant chokeslam on Reigns before suplexing both other Shield members. However, Big Show’s former tag team partner then arrives in the arena, unmasked and wearing a suit, Show was understandably distracted by this sight and ate an RKO from Randy Orton. Kane then marched down to the ring and supplied Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins with steel chairs which they proceed to bend around the giant downed body of the Big Show. They then take Show to the outside where Roman Reigns takes him down with the steel ring steps. The Shield then put an exclamation point on this beatdown with a triple powerbomb through the announce table, while Randy Orton passionately ordered the destruction. Perhaps the most telling comment on this angle comes from a sidenote I made during watching Raw: “This Big Show stuff is getting boring.” While this actually referred to the constant hyping of the narrative from the announce team as well as the repeated showings of the promo breaking down Show’s legal action, it could arguably detail the angle in general all the same. However, this beatdown on the World’s Largest Athlete was very well done and the development of this new corporate Kane is interesting.
This wasn’t the most thrilling episode of Monday Night Raw, dragging noticeably in several portions. However, the combination of Daniel Bryan & CM Punk coming together, as well as the six-man tag match pitting the World Heavyweight and Tag Team champions against their current rivals were definitely worth watching. Otherwise the umpteenth matchup between Kofi Kingston and Alberto Del Rio was as entertaining as you’d expect from two talented in ring workers, however limited they may be in other spheres of sports entertainment. It was also enjoyable to see the return of Tyson Kidd to Monday Night Raw after recovering from the torn meniscus injury that he suffered in January of this year. He teamed with his wife Natalya, in a combination I’ve been pleading to see again on WWE television ever since the daughter of tag team legend Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart began teaming with the perennial waste of a roster spot, The Great Khali, almost a year ago. Kidd looked impressive, hopefully they can find a place for him on the roster to put on exciting matches on in the midcard, especially with the prominence of the stars of Total Divas on Raw over the past few months. The other highlight of the episode was the presence of Randy Orton who really seemed to ramp up his performance, having a decent match against the rookie, Big E Langston, as well as cutting a very good promo and offering a very impressive presence in the final segment of Raw. For these reasons, he is this week’s LockUP Raw Superstar of the Week. The rest of Raw consisted of a tearful phone interview with Paul Heyman who is seeking treatment for his injuries in Europe, Ryback defeating a thankfully Natalya-less Great Khali, Dolph Ziggler defeating Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel, The Uso Brothers defeating 3MB, and the Bella Twins & Eva Marie defeating Tamina, Aksana and WWE Divas’ Champion AJ Lee.
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.