Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Four 10/02/2014
The February 10th 2014 episode of Monday Night Raw began with the Big Show entering the arena arm in arm with an elderly lady, Betty White who actually seems to be rather over with the crowd as far as celebrity guests go, she told the WWE Universe that she was thrilled to be here tonight and that she was going to kick some ass, interesting to see she gets to use a word that most WWE wrestlers don’t get to use, to achieve a comedy pop. The Authority, made up of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, then enter hugging the former Golden Girl before the Big Show led her away backstage. Once they’ve made their way to the ring, Triple H cut a promo clarifying that Daniel Bryan’s win last week only meant they would reconsider his possibility as a future face of WWE and not that any decision had been made. During this promo, Randy Orton interrupted his former mentor, creating a noisy yet disjointed atmosphere. Orton then apologised to The Authority for being childish recently and declares that he’s realised that to continue to be the face of the WWE he needs to “Bring the Viper”. A Daniel Bryan chant breaks out around the arena, and Randy Orton looks legitimately sad, Stephanie spontaneously asks Orton if he’s feeling the pressure from Daniel Bryan? Orton denies this and begins to speak of Summerslam six months ago in this very arena, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where he won the WWE Championship by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase against Daniel Bryan. Speak of the devil, the familiar sound of strings signals the appearance of the fan favourite, greeted with loud chants of “YES!” he questions Orton’s last comment of being the “Heart and soul of the WWE,” quipping that he’s a different body part entirely. Stephanie tries to interject as asks the chaos to desist by in future everyone making appointments with Director of Operations, Kane, to which Bryan replies “I don’t want an appointment with Kane, I want a match with him tonight!” The Authority inform Bryan that Kane has been suspended following his attack on Bryan this week, this seems to rile Bryan leading him to amusingly label The Authority as a combination of arrogance and stupidity. Randy Orton leaps to their defence while Triple H tells Bryan that he will also have the night off, que a rousing “NO!” Chant from the live crowd in the Staple Center. The Raw theme then plays to end the night’s first segment.
Later in the night, despite his apparent suspension, Kane made his way to the ring and cut a promo, only to be interrupted by Daniel Bryan and 1500 “YES!” chanting fans. Bryan, like last week, was met with a chokeslam but unlike last week the fan favourite countered and ousted Kane from the ring. The former WWE Champion then dived out of the ring with a tope suicida flooring Kane, before dropkicking him over the barricade to end the segment with the fans continuing to chant “YES!” in approval. This was all pretty entertaining but felt like filler on the road to Elimination Chamber than anything with any real significance other than presumably building to Kane and/or Triple H screwing Bryan at the pay-per-view to keep him away from the WWE World Heavyweight Title, while Batista is seemingly booked to win it as a babyface.
Our second point of analysis for this week’s episode of Raw sees a terrific encounter that bags this week’s LockUP Raw Match of the Night award. The match was led into earlier in the night by a backstage interview with the recently returned Sheamus by the debuting Byron Saxton, in which the Irishman discussed his tag partner for tonight, the also recently returned Christian, and promised that he would regain the WWE Championship at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. Christian and Sheamus entered to nice pops from the live crowd before they were joined by their opponents, the Real Americans, managed by Zeb Colter who cut a promo about the two non-Americans in the ring and their recent injuries. Antonio Cesaro, one of Sheamus and Christian’s opponents in the Elimination Chamber then got on the mic himself to cut a short promo drawing cheers from the live crowd. The slight tension between Cesaro and the underperforming Jack Swagger was highlighted when Zeb declared “Antonio, you start!” before the match, which indeed he did against Christian. Nevertheless, all four men tag in quite promptly, with Swagger scoring a kitchen sink knee on Sheamus before tagging Cesaro back in. Cesaro and Sheamus then went at it, exchanging stiff looking European uppercuts with cheers for Cesaro’s and boos for Sheamus. This was some great brawling action that took a high-flying turn as Sheamus ascended the top rope and delivered his Battering Ram diving shoulder block. However, Sheamus soon lost the upper hand in this competitive bout as Swagger distracted the Irishman and Cesaro delivered a big boot sending Sheamus flying off the apron. A loud “Ce-sa-ro!” chant then echoed around the Staple Center as Raw went to a commercial break.
On the other side of the break, Sheamus was back in control of this dingdong battle, hitting Antonio Cesaro with his Irish Curse backbreaker before tagging in Christian, who attempted his Killswitch finish only to eat a massive dose of Swiss Death from Cesaro forcing a nearfall. The Real Americans then isolated Christian, with Jack performing his Swagger Bomb and Antonio tagging in and hitting Christian with what I like to call the “Don’t Tread On Me!” double foot stomp leapfrogging over Swagger to gain another nearfall on his Elimination Chamber opponent. The further isolation of Christian then led to a lovely spot where Christian tried to amble across the ring to tag his partner only to be caught by Cesaro and denied with his popular Cesaro Swing maneuver that launched Christian out under the bottom rope. The match then almost as ended in countout, adding another dimension to the entertaining contest, as Christian only managed to make it back in the ring at a nine count from the referee. Once back in the ring, Christian finally managed to grab the hot tag from Sheamus, who delivered a rolling fireman’s carry slam to Swagger followed up by his signature clubbing of his opponent’s chest while on the ring apron. The Irishman’s domination over the All-American American continued with an impressive running powerslam before calling for the Brogue Kick. However, Sheamus was interrupted as Cesaro came flying across the ring with another wild European uppercut, this allowed Swagger to take advantage with an ankle lock, only for Christian to break it up with a diving crossbody from the top rope. Sheamus then finally delivered the Brogue Kick to Swagger to end an exhilarating finish to an extremely entertaining match that really felt like a coming out party of sorts for Antonio Cesaro, despite him being on the losing team, due to some very enjoyable offence that the crowd lapped up leading them to lend their support to the Swiss. For this reason, not only have I named this the match of the week, but Cesaro is earning his very first LockUP Raw Superstar of the Week award.
LockUP’s third Monday Night Four focus point of the week begins with a backstage segment where Renee Young interviews The Shield after a video recap of Roman Reigns’ record breaking Royal Rumble. Reigns addresses Renee as “Baby girl” while Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins seem in more serious mood, accusing the Wyatt Family of speaking in riddles, while they, The Shield, deal only in absolutes. Some tension then appears as Renee asks Dean Ambrose about JBL’s comments last week regarding the infrequency of his United States Championship title defenses, leading to ridicule from his fellow Shield members, particularly from Reigns, whose scorn pressures Ambrose into declaring he will issue an open challenge for his title. Later that night, Ambrose stood in the ring for his very own Ambrose invitational, but who would answer his challenge? The familiar sound of the returning Mark Henry’s music was heard around the arena and the man himself made his way to the ring. Justin Roberts introduced the United States Championship bout and its two competitors in the ring to give it the big fight feel.
The match began with a lockup that Mark Henry unsurprisingly came out the better of, sending Ambrose down to the mat, rolling out of the ring to regroup with his Shield brethren. When Ambrose made his way back into the ring he managed to get the upper hand by working on Henry’s injured arm, which last month had been the victim of Brock Lesnar’s Kimura lock. There was then a reminder of Henry’s strength once more as he shrugged Ambrose off, launching him shoulder first into the ring post. However, the United States Champion soon recovered and took his focus on Henry’s arm to another level by removing the arm brace that protected his opponent’s limb before Raw went to a commercial break. On the return to action, Ambrose was found posing on the turnbuckle, reminiscent of a young Chris Jericho, after he’d continued his successful offence during the break. He then applied a strong looking Fujiwara armbar that Henry had to power out of. Next, Ambrose was once more atop the turnbuckle, although this time not to pose, nevertheless this time Henry was able to recover quickly and throw his opponent from the elevated position. The World’s Strongest Man then displayed his powerhouse offence while still selling his injured arm, delivering a one-armed powerslam to Ambrose. The Champion then saw an opening to put his title defense to rest, going for his Headlock Driver finish, but his veteran opponent had the guile to counter and hit his own finish in the form of the World’s Strongest Slam. Henry went for the cover but before the referee could count to three, the nimble Seth Rollins broke up the pin, saving his stable mate’s championship reign. Henry, understandably unhappy, goes after both involved Shield members leaving Roman Reigns free to execute a devastating Spear to the veteran.
The Shield then begin to leave the arena, climbing over the barricade at ringside. However, then the lights cut in the arena, Bray Wyatt appears on the titantron and declares “We’re here,” and once the lights return The Shield somewhat timidly make their way back to ringside. Both trios make their way to the ring, stood either side of it like cowboys at a standoff, with the Los Angeles crowd buoying them on. Each side silent dare each other to enter the ring in this brilliantly tense segment, and all six men climbed onto the apron almost in direct response to each other. Once again, the two powerful trios seemed at an impasse, until Roman Reigns summoned the bravery or perhaps the arrogance (or yeah that he’s pretty much the babyface…) and entered the ring. Wyatt, being the more obvious leader of his group, teased to do the same and lead his group to attack, but instead he left and led his followers away. This was by far the best non-wrestling segment of the episode, bringing some great masculine tension, which the live crowd really responded to. These men have a bright future and this felt like another special moment in their development. Their match at Elimination Chamber is by far the most intriguing on the card. Top marks, WWE.
While our second and third focus points from this week’s episode of Raw were almost entirely positive affairs, the final point of analysis this week is a somewhat more mixed affair. The segment saw a brief matchup between Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio, which the latter won via a Superkick, just as the crowd had begun to belt out a “Let’s go Ziggler!” chant. After the match, Del Rio refused to relent, locking his defeated opponent in his Cross-Armbar submission maneuver, to which Ziggler flailed about in pain. This was to set up the rescue from Batista, who had begun to fully engage with a feud with Del Rio on last week’s episode of Raw. While it is of course important for Del Rio to look strong against the returning Batista to lend some balance to their feud, especially as Batista has not himself been on the end of any real damage from Del Rio yet, for me it didn’t feel entirely necessary for Ziggler suffer this fate rather than a body further down the card or an aging veteran without the potential to grow.
Of course, a wrestler cannot be on top all of the time and will from time to time find himself being used to further angles involving other wrestlers rather than those directly involving themself, this is not how this segment felt to me. Primarily, it’s not hard to argue that Ziggler has never really been given the opportunity to be on top for more than a moment, never mind anywhere approaching all of the time, and the beginning of this segment really felt like an exclamation point in the underutilization of the talent Ziggler possesses. The choice of Ziggler as Del Rio’s opponent almost seemed poetic as a fall from grace (of course Ziggler sell that to perfection too) considering the brief and unfulfilled feud the two men engaged in over the WWE’s second most important belt last summer; a fall that looks even further when you considering Ziggler was booked as a sole survivor at Survivor Series in 2012 and beat John Cena in a ladder match at the last pay-per-view that year. Nevertheless, the show goes on, and that it did with Batista spearing Alberto Del Rio before powerbombing him through the announce table at ringside, in a spot that delivered a decent pop from the live crowd. The segment did extend Batista and Del Rio’s rivalry, but it was far from perfect in it’s way of doing so, making both Ziggler and Del Rio look weak at the expense of the Royal Rumble winning Batista.
The rest of the Monday Night Raw card featured the Rhodes brothers & Rey Mysterio being defeated by the Wyatt Family in an unsurprisingly entertaining six man tag that saw a thrilling ending involving Rey Mysterio taking a swift Sister Abigail from Bray Wyatt, John Cena cut a decent interview with Renee Young in which he seemed to want to put his rivalry with Randy Orton behind him and push the up and coming talent of the WWE (believe it when we see it John, but I’d love you to prove me wrong), Lita was announced as the latest inductee to this year WWE Hall of Fame class, The Usos defeated Ryback & Curtis Axel, while AJ Lee, Alicia Fox & Aksana fell to the Bella Twins and Cameron, with the latter picking up the pinfall victory, and the show was closed out with a pretty entertaining (albeit not fresh) contest between John Cena and Randy Orton, which the former won with a second Attitude Adjustment. I hope you enjoyed this week’s Monday Night Four column. Make sure you come back to this blog and tell me exactly what you think by commenting below or tweeting me @HelloHegarty, I would love to hear you opinions on the column, Raw and the build to Elimination Chamber. I’d really like to turn this blog into more of a dialogue, rather than me just telling the internet what I think about wrestling each week, so please get in touch! Cheerio.