Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Raw 11/11/11
The WWE’s Veteran’s Day edition of Monday Night Raw began with a tribute video, voice-overed by John Cena honouring American armed forces, although the WWE was broadcast from the United Kingdom, surely you could’ve worded that slightly different John? Do I want this?
Randy Orton enters and makes his way down to the ring as the announce team explains to the viewers at home that The Authority are not in attendance tonight in Manchester, England. Once Orton is in the ring his music cuts and the crowd heavily boos him before he cuts a promo on the man he defends his WWE Championship against at Survivor Series. After he’s finished talking about the Big Show, Orton declares that due to Stephanie McMahon and Triple H’s absence, he as the “Face of the WWE” is in charge of Monday Night Raw. This declaration brings out the Raw General Manager, Brad Maddox, who emerges at the top of the ramp to some somewhat surprising appreciation from the British crowd. Maddox makes his way down to the ring, disagreeing with Randy Orton and asserting himself as the one to control Raw in The Authority’s absence. However, Maddox is not the only one to challenge Orton’s authority as Kane’s music echoes around the Phones 4 U Arena. While the fans chant “You sold out!” the new WWE Director of Operations claims that his current role in the organisation means he is in charge. Maddox dismisses Kane’s (or Mr. Kane as Maddox addresses him) claim, asking him instead to follow his lead as General Manager, before booking Randy Orton in a match with his former protégé Cody Rhodes. Kane disagrees with Maddox, complaining “No, no, no,” producing a “YES!” chant from the crowd, and argues that it should be Orton vs. Goldust instead. This pantomime heel conflict comes to a head as perhaps WWE’s best histrionic baddie, Vickie Guerrero, joins the fray welcomed by a chorus of boos. She plays with the crowd with her “Excuse me?” catchphrase to which they seem to appreciate her with some cheers, before delivering their own catchphrase, “Who are ya?” to which of course she reacts to with suitable indignation. Guerrero then combines both Kane and Maddox’s ideas, booking a handicap match pitting Randy Orton against both Rhodes brothers. Why she has the final say (other than as she says she is the General Manager of Smackdown and formerly Raw) isn’t quite clear, but nevertheless this was a fun opening segment, which was seemingly designed to play into the British pantomime style of humour as well as the British fans’ nature to particularly appreciate professional wrestling’s heels.
As Raw returns from its first commercial break, the bell rings and Goldust begins the match with Randy Orton with some classic chain wrestling. The Bizarre One gets the better of this exchange delivering two arm drags before hitting a dropkick for a two count on his opponent. Cody Rhodes tags in and performs a gourdbuster on his former mentor, but doesn’t stay in the ring for long as Goldust tags back in behind Orton’s back and rolls him up for another two count. When Orton himself takes control of the contest and slows the pace he receives a vicious “Randy’s boring!” chant, which John Bradshaw Layfield no sells with the kind of ineptitude Jerry “The King” Lawler would be proud of. After this period of domination from Randy Orton, Goldust manages to hit a DDT on his opponent and gets the hot tag from his partner. Cody enters the action with a springboard dropkick that floors the WWE Champion. Rhodes then pops right back to his feet, pumping up the crowd, before climbing to the top rope and performing a moonsault to Orton producing a near fall.
The charm of a British crowd is in evidence as the fans in attendance sing Cody Rhodes’ name to the tune of the football chant “Here we go!” which Wikipedia tells me is sung to the tune of Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever”; enjoyable to hear something you wouldn’t usually hear on an American professional wrestling television programme. The Rhodes brothers sent Randy Orton sailing out of the ring with a double clothesline. The WWE Champion reacted bitterly and refused to re-enter the ring and therefore lost via countout. However, this wasn’t the end of Orton’s physical involvement on the night as the Big Show’s music hit and the World’s Largest Athlete appeared to cut off Orton’s exit route. The Big Show dominates his opponent at Survivor Series, roughing Orton around at ringside, before setting up the steel ring steps next to the announce table and chokeslamming Orton from this elevated position through the table below. While the prospect of Randy Orton feuding with the Big Show doesn’t get my heart racing this was an enjoyable moment and got the Manchester crowd excited. Speaking of the Manchester crowd, the WWE cameras cut to a shot of Old Trafford to amusingly loud boos from the audience; when will they learn?
The second focus in this week’s Monday Night Four column sees Dolph Ziggler challenging Curtis Axel for his Intercontinental Championship. As the two wrestlers lockup, the British crowd chant “Let’s Go Ziggler!”, but it is Axel who transitions to a headlock and delivers a dropkick to his opponent, following it up with some trash talk. However, Ziggler then matches his opponent hitting a dropkick of his own and firing back with his trash talk of his own. The challenger then performed a vertical suplex forcing a two count out of the defending champion, before delivering ten consecutive elbow drops for another two count pin on Curtis Axel. However, Axel comes back fighting, throwing Dolph Ziggler from the ring. The intercontinental Champion then dominated the match until Dolph Ziggler managed to counter his offence with a huge DDT, which left both men on the mat only rising at a count of nine. Once again the Manchester crowd are fully behind Ziggler cheering him on as he hit a Stinger Splash in the corner, followed up with a 10 punch and a neckbreaker. The tempo of the match increased as the two wrestlers exchanged signature moves and near falls, Ziggler with a Famasser and Axel with a Saito suplex. The match’s best spot then sees Ziggler leaping to meet Axel on the top rope before driving him back down to the mat with a sitout facebuster, scoring a very near fall on the defending champion. It was disappointing then that the match would finish with Axel’s pathetic looking hangman’s facebuster finish. In all honesty, it was quite disappointing that Axel won at all after it seemed that Ziggler would finally end Axel’s rather uninspiring Intercontinental title run, in front of a smarky crowd echoing his triumph cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase at Raw the night after Wrestlemania earlier this year. Nonetheless, this was indeed an enjoyable match from two talented workers.
Our third focus this week, much like our first, sees a World Champion taking on a tag team in a handicap match, with World Heavyweight Champion John Cena facing the team of Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro. As usual Zeb Coulter accompanies The Real Americans and cut an amusing promo disrespecting British culture, including digs at evil monarchs and Mr Bean. Once the match began, Swagger and Cena locked up in the ring as the crowd chanted “Let’s go Cena!” and “Cena Sucks!” The World Heavyweight Champion’s opponent at Survivor Series, Alberto Del Rio, then entered distracting Cena allowing the Real Americans to gain the upperhand for the time being until the Champ fought back with a full nelson neckbreaker. John Cena began his signature comeback routine hitting a shoulder tackle on Swagger before attempting the same on Antonio Cesaro only to eat a European uppercut. Cesaro then went for a diving crossbody from the top rope, which Cena rolled through setting his opponent up for the Attitude Adjustment. However, Jack Swagger thwarted the maneuver with a chop block to Cena’s left leg. As the legal man, Antonio Cesaro then attempted to hit his own finishing maneuver, the Neutralizer, however Cena powered out with a back body drop.
Jack Swagger tagged himself into the match up but received a Five-Knuckle Shuffle and the Attitude Adjustment from John Cena. The World Heavyweight Champion had the match won here but Cesaro was able to extend the contest by cutting the pin off at a nearfall. The Swiss then tags himself back into the match up, exchanging blows with Cena as the crowd cheered him on and bood Cena, who hit a powerbomb for a nearfall after an impressive sequence of wrestling. Cesaro then scored a nearfall of his own with his Swiss Death flapjack European uppercut. However, Swagger tagged back in and found himself locked in the STF to which he submitted. Despite the predictable Cena victory, this was a very entertaining match with some fine wrestling from all three men, with Cena and Cesaro in particularly impressing, once again suggesting that a programme over the World Heavyweight Championship between the two in the future could be a very enjoyable affair. After the match, Alberto Del Rio attacked John Cena prompting a surprise save from a recently babyface turned Big E Langston. This set up a match later in the evening between Langston and Del Rio. I hoped this might lead to the World Heavyweight Championship match developing perhaps into a Fatal Four Way adding Langston and Cena’s rival of late, Damien Sandow, to the mix. However, Langston lost to Del Rio via submission and is presumably unlikely to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at the next pay-per-view, if he can’t knock off the current No.1 contender.
Before this week’s main event and final focus point for Monday Night Four, Paul Heyman made his return to Raw as he is in Europe kayfabe seeking treatment to the injuries suffered at the hands of CM Punk at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. Heyman cut a promo insulting the British fans, CM Punk and surprisingly Ryback who he turned his back on accusing him of letting him down at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. Unsurprisingly though at the mention of CM Punk, the man himself made his way to the ring, although he was cut off by Heyman’s only remaining lackey, Curtis Axel. The two brawled until Punk delivered a GTS to the Intercontinental Champion. Punk then once again got his hands on the man who betrayed him this summer, striking him with a kendo stick with the crowd chanting “YES!” on each successful hit. Speaking of which, enter Daniel Bryan to an even further affirmative chorus from the Manchester crowd.
On the return from a commercial break, Raw’s main event, which pitted Daniel Bryan & CM Punk in tonight’s third handicap match as they took on the three man team of The Shield, consisting of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. Ambrose and Punk began the match, the former WWE Champion soon got the upperhand with a jumping calf kick, and tagged in his partner. Duelling Daniel Bryan and CM Punk chants fill the arena as the former locks Seth Rollins in a surfboard stretch submission hold. After Rollins escaped both competitors tagged out, setting up a fresh matchup between CM Punk and the powerhouse of The Shield, Roman Reigns, who postured and trashed talked to the Straight Edge Superstar. Reigns uses his power to grapple his opponent into the corner, but Punk slides through his legs and tags Daniel Bryan. He and Punk then perform Bryan’s signature “Yes!” kicks in stereo on Reigns. However, Reigns fights back with a humongous double clothesline on the two of them. Seth Rollins then tags in and the tempo of the match increases, with himself and Bryan putting on a show, with Bryan delivering a release German suplex, followed up with a dropkick in the corner and a top rope hurricanrana. Rollins cuts of Daniel Bryan’s “YES!” kicks with a wicked enzuigiri, before fiercely throwing Bryan into the corner where he performed a beautiful rendition of the Shawn Michaels inside out turnbuckle sell.
The three members of The Shield tagged in and out to isolate Daniel Bryan from his partner, but eventually Bryan managed to eject Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins from the ring allowing him to reach CM Punk for the big babyface comeback. Punk came in off the springboard clothesline before performing his signature offence on Dean Ambrose, hitting the high knee in the corner, followed by a short-arm clothesline and a diving elbow drop from the top rope. However, as the team of Punk and Bryan begin to dominate the shield, the lights go out at ringside and when they return, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper of the Wyatt Family stand in the ring. With the odds 5 on two against Bryan and Punk they retreat from the ring. This is where it gets good ladies and gentlemen, (I’d watch this on YouTube if I was you because this was a MOMENT!), Seth Rollins doesn’t take kindly to the Wyatt Family interrupting their match and he goes nose to nose with Luke Harper in animosity, while Dean Ambrose does the same to Erick Rowan. It was great to see this rare tension between some of the WWE’s very best young heels, and then it got even more exciting as a fracas broke out between the four men in the ring while the Manchester crowd repeatedly chanted “FIGHT!” Meanwhile, outside the ring Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt are going at it themselves, with Wyatt striking Reigns with a heavy open hand. However, Bray Wyatt comes to his senses and convinces the other five men that they all have a common enemy in the team of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. However, as they turn to attack, the babyfaces are joined by both the Usos and Rhodes brothers, who help Punk and Bryan run off the Shield and the Wyatt Family. Raw then goes off air as Daniel Bryan’s music plays and the crowd chants “YES!”
This was a brilliant end to a mostly solid Raw, in a quite wrestling heavy episode of Monday Night Raw, this match stood out as our LockUP Match of the Night because while it was definitely an enjoyable in ring contest, it also furthered an overall narrative. Plus, let’s face it, that Shield/Wyatt face off was blooming brilliant. On which note, I will name this week’s Raw Superstar of the Week as Seth Rollins, as not only did he perform exceptionally in the main event but as he faced off against the imposing figure of the Wyatt Family’s Luke Harper he managed (as a smaller man) to stand toe to toe and look a legitimate threat. I’m excited for a long slow build that for me should culminate in a huge six-man tag match between The Shield and The Wyatts at Wrestlemania next year. But for now… 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.