Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Raw (Country) 18/11/13
Howdy partner, you best get ready because this here be Raw Country, which apparently means clips of soft-rock music videos in Southern accents between segments, a live performance from a duo of said southern tinged soft-rock music, one of the most useless Raw segments of all time and a peculiar hardcore match. Nevertheless we’ll get to that later, Raw Country began with the return of the The Authority, after their absence from last week’s Raw taping in England. Triple H and Stephanie making their way to the ring to boos and jeers from the live crowd in Nashville, Tennessee. Once in the ring, the WWE’s Chief Operating Officer declared how good it is to be back before cutting a promo about his and Stephanie’s disappointment at last week’s Raw; you best not watch this week’s episode back then eh, Hunter? He then pointed out that the pandemonium of last week’s Raw was a perfect example of how vital he and Stephanie are to the WWE, as without authority chaos rules. Interestingly, as Triple H was telling the audience how Raw and Smackdown General Managers Brad Maddox and Vickie Guerrero would be punished, he was cut off by the arrival of the WWE Champion, Randy Orton, who was so incensed that he’d never before made his way to the ring so fast in his life.
Randy Orton entered the ring, asking the Game “So you want to blame everybody else?”, before blaming him and Stephanie for himself being chokeslammed through the announce table last week, to which the fans in attendance cheer the mention. The WWE champion then demanded that they protect their “Most valuable asset,” tempers then flare between him and The Authority until a little voice speaks over the arena speakers, asking “Excuse me.” That voice, of course, could only belong to one Vickie Guerrero, who appeared at the top of the entrance ramp followed by Brad Maddox. The Raw General Manager then made his own voice heard, humorously blaming all of last week’s chaos on Vickie. However, Triple H has has enough and declares it does not matter whose fault it is because they will both pay tonight, his wife Stephanie then books the Raw and Smackdown General Managers against Randy Orton and Divas Champion AJ Lee, respectively; claiming they have lost sight of the physical demands of the in ring talent.
As Raw returned from its first commercial break, Randy Orton stood in the ring opposite his opponent Brad Maddox, who quickly bolted to ringside, while some fans jokingly chanted “Let’s go Maddox!” The Raw General Manager then grabbed a microphone to plead with Orton to stop the match, before trying to escape into the crowd. However, the WWE Champion was too quick for Maddox, and grabbed him only to be hit square on the head with the microphone which Maddox was pleading into seconds before. Managing to get Orton back into the ring, Maddox almost pulled off a huge upset, planting the Apex Predator with a slick DDT (remember, he was a wrestler before debuting on WWE television…) for a nearfall. However, it was all downhill for Maddox her on in as Orton went berserk, dragging his opponent around, launching him over the announce table and into the steel ring steps. The WWE Champion then hit his signature elevated DDT hung from the barricade, while the fans chanted “We want tables!” they didn’t get them. Back in the ring, Orton repeatedly hits Maddox in the face with the microphone over and over again in what was quite a brutal image to behold. The referee calls for the bell, awarding the victory to Randy Orton after deeming that Brad Maddox was no longer fit to compete.
Later in the night Vickie Guerrero put on a decent comedy performance trying to avoid competing in ring with the WWE Divas’ Champion, AJ Lee, by repeatedly feigning fainting. In itself Guerrero’s performance was amusing until you remember that AJ suffered a real scare on the European tour last week fainting herself, reportedly from exhaustion and dehydration (which Stephanie even referenced saying Vickie looked dehydrated). This isn’t the first time The Authority have mirrored the real life emergencies of WWE talent in recent memory, with Triple H suffering a kayfabe concussion in a storyline earlier in the year mere days after Dolph Ziggler endured a serious real life concussion after a mistimed kick from Jack Swagger, which led him dropping the World Heavyweight Championship. Either Triple H and Stephanie (and presumably their writing team) have a real problem coming if with their creative ideas of their own to book their product with or have a particularly cruel and immature sense of humour. Either way it doesn’t exactly feel best for business…
The second pick for this week’s Monday Night Four sees a match rescheduled (due to injury) from last month’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, seeing Curtis Axel defend his Intercontinental Championship against Big E Langston. Time was allowed for proper big fight feel in-ring introductions, which in itself hints at a title change here. The first notable moment of the match came from from Langston stamping his authority on the match with a backbreaker followed up by a belly-to-back suplex. Axel seeks sanctuary in the ropes as part of the crowd chant “We want Ziggler!”, but Langston yanks him back into the ring and hits an interesting modified big back body drop. The champion fights back hotshotting Langston off the ropes before clubbing him from behind round the head. Axel then held Big E in a chinlock until the former NXT champion powered out and hit a big body tackle in the corner, before going for the same move again only to eat a dropkick from Axel which scored a two count. Axel locks on another submission hold, a front facelock this time, which Big E once again demonstrates his power in escape. Langston then came with his big babyface comeback, hitting clotheslines, a side belly-to-belly suplex and his big splash for a two count. This sets the challenger up for his Big Ending finish, but Axel slithers out only for Langston to quickly regain control, pull the straps on his singlet down and successfully deliver the Big Ending. The commentary team sell it as a huge moment as Langston’s first title win on the main WWE roster, but for me it felt slightly flat, nonetheless it was enjoyable. The segment ended with the new champion celebrating with the fans.
Here we go wrestling fans, it’s what you’ve been waiting for: the third Monday Night Four pick of the week, which deals with all the rubbish that the Country label brought to Raw this week. Don’t worry, I’ll quickly moan about it here and then we can get onto the decent enough main event. Firstly, the divas locker room piled out into the ring to play a game of musical chairs, which in itself wasn’t guaranteeing a failed segment but it didn’t exactly fill me with high hopes. The unforgivable thing about this segment wasn’t that it was a game of musical chairs, but that it did not development any single narrative in the WWE in anyway at all. Call me old fashioned, but to me every segment on a professional wrestling card should mean something in at least some small way, at the very least it should either entertain or move a narrative forward. This did neither.
Next up, in a backstage segment Triple H didn’t even pretend to apologise for shoehorning the Country theme into a match between Damien Sandow and Dolph Ziggler, where they were tasked with creating an entertaining spectacle from having a wrestling match in a ring full of musical instruments. They almost succeeded in parts but overall the match dragged unsurprisingly. In the end the match amusingly ended with Ziggler trapping Sandow in a bass drum before walloping him over the head with a guitar, of course with an obligatory Jeff Jarrett impression. As I described earlier the rest of the Country aspect of Raw involved music being played, both in between segments and live in its own segment with a performance from Florida Georgia Line, where I suppose at least the drummer wore a CM Punk vest, it’s a small victory but I’ll take it. I suppose these segments may have been enjoyable to fans of what passes for Country music in the USA these days, but sadly for me they were a waste of time on a show that was supposedly selling a pay-per-view later this week.
Our fourth Monday Night Four focus brings us this week’s main event and LockUP Raw Match of the Night, a twelve man tag match that pitted CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, the Usos and the Rhodes brothers versus the combined forces of the Shield and the Wyatt Family. Obviously as a television twelve-man it was overbooked and a bit messy at times, it still told a decent story building reasonably well towards Survivor Series and once it got going at the end it really got going. Before the bell rang to begin the match, loud CM Punk and YES! chants rang around the arena, but the match began with Dean Ambrose going one on one with Jimmy Uso, who gets the upperhand with a clothesline and a powerslam before tagging in his brother. The match continues with wrestlers tagging in and out without much of note happening, until the Shield and the Wyatt Family teaming begins to grow somewhat fractious as Raw goes to break. However, this was just a tease and when we return from commercial, the action is back in the ring with Goldust dominating Seth Rollins. Soon enough Cody Rhodes gets the tag from his brother and earns a nearfall on Rollins with his smooth sunset flip pinning combination out of the corner. The middle third of the match then began as the Shield cut the ring in two and segregated Rhodes from his team.
Seth Rollins does some great heel work mockingly taunting Goldust on the apron and trash talking Cody Rhodes in the ring. The narrative of the match then gets more interesting as Luke Harper tags himself into the match angering the Shield. In the preceding chaos between the Wyatt Family and the Shield, Cody Rhodes hit Luke Harper with his springboard Disaster kick before finally getting the hot tag and bringing Daniel Bryan into the match for the first time. The former WWE Champion hit a front missile dropkick on Harper before delivering his signature YES! kicks. Seth Rollins ran in to try and cut off Bryan’s momentum but ate a huge release german suplex for his troubles. Then Roman Reigns tries to achieve what Rollins couldn’t but Bryan dodges and sends him flying over the top rope. Finally Bryan turns back to Rowan to hit him with a dropkick but he catches him and hits an absolutely brutal running powerbomb in perhaps the moment of the match. Bryan just about manages to kick out and then Bray Wyatt makes his first appearance in the match; he still holds that mystique due to how little he has wrestled on television, which is rare in modern professional wrestling. Bray beats down on Bryan as the fans chant for CM Punk, meanwhile he asks the Shield why they don’t trust him. He then extends an olive branch (as Michael Cole put it) to the Shield by tagging in Roman Reigns, holding Bryan so Reigns could hit him. With the Shields and the Wyatts being on the same page, the narrative of the midcard becomes instantly more exciting, especially (as always) with the thought of them finally ripping that page in two and feuding eventually. But of course the tension is still underlying between the two teams, which is evident through either some great selling from Dean Ambrose or a legitimate hard tag from Erick Rowan. Then the two heel teams continue to show their burgeoning alliance by storming the ring and stopping Daniel Bryan tagging in.
Returning from Raw’s final commercial break Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan are in the ring and the latter hits a great DDT counter, which allowed him to get the hot tag that saw CM Punk come into the match for the first time. Punk takes out both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose with a unique double neckbreaker and DDT maneuver, following that by hitting them both with high knees in the corner and his Macho Man tribute diving elbow drop. Business then picks up to an even higher level, with the Usos hitting dives to the outside and Cody Rhodes delivering CrossRhodes. CM Punk then hits the GTS for the win. However, the action isn’t over as the Real Americans hit the ring to take down their rivals the Rhodes brothers, until the words “Booyaka, Booyaka…” ring out on the arena speakers and we see the return of wrestling legend Rey Mysterio who hits a 619 on both Jack Swagger and Luke Harper. The babyfaces then celebrate in the ring as Daniel Bryan’s music hits and the crowd chants “YES!”
I guess in a certain way you have to give WWE props for realising that Orton/Show and Cena/ADR is not what’s going to draw buys for Survivor Series, so ending the show with the midcard feuds made the most sense, but it most of all it really shows how poor a job the WWE has done of booking Survivor Series. If both the two men who are champion of your company and your biggest full time draw (arguably perhaps behind Brock Lesnar, although his long term drawing power isn’t clear but that’s another story) aren’t the main selling points of your pay-per-view then either you have a very unique selling point (they don’t) or something has surely gone drastically wrong in the booking of your pay-per-view. As a fan, it was refreshing to see CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and the rest of the other main midcard attractions for Survivor Series end the show, especially when you consider how Punk was booked underneath the titleless John Cena when he was WWE Champion himself.
So this was a rather mediocre episode of Monday Night Raw in general, especially considering this show was supposed to sell the audience on buying the Survivor Series pay-per-view this Sunday. The rest of the show featured the Big Show kicking out of an impressive Shellshock and defeating Ryback, The Miz turned back to his more natural heel character as The Real Americans defeated him and Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods made his debut tagging with R-Truth to defeat 3MB and Alberto Del Rio and John Cena went back and forth on the mic building up their match at Survivor Series, with Del Rio showing some improvement in his promo work. However, 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.