I will fully admit that I was completely distracted both before and during WWE Raw last night, having just brought home a new puppy on Saturday. His name is Boh and he is a goldendoodle, and at only 10 weeks old, all of my spare time since Saturday has been spent playing with him, cleaning up after him and watching him like a hawk to make sure he doesn’t find a corner to go to the bathroom in when we’re not watching. Yesterday was also his first visit to the vet, and by the time we got home from that and then walked, fed and walked him again, the show had already started. So between starting the show behind and having to pause it quite often in order to tend to the puppy, the show was going to have to be pretty epic to not only keep my attention but have me interested in it in general. While the show was by no means epic – and unfortunately featured a gimmick match, one squash match and even tug-of war dance contests – between two wrestling matches that were among the longest in the recent history of the show (and well worth the time given) and good storyline advancement heading into the Extreme Rules pay-per-view next month, the show definitely kept my attention and had me interested for almost the entire time.
WWE Raw kicked off with a match between Ricardo Rodriguez, Zeb Coulter and Big E Langston. No, you didn’t read that wrong, the managers/sidekicks of the three Superstars who will compete in the World Heavyweight Championship match at Extreme Rules did face each other in a triple threat match with the winning sidekick giving his boss the right to pick the stipulation for the world title match. The match was exactly what you would expect when one of the participants (Zeb Coulter) probably hasn’t wrestled a match in 20 years (although in his younger days, under the name Dutch Mantel, he was one of the best), another (Ricardo Rodriguez) typically wrestles on Saturday Morning Slam under a mask with the name El Local and the third (Big E Langston) was so much bigger and stronger than the others that you knew he would not win. Plus, it was fairly obvious going in that the only face in the triple threat world title match (Alberto Del Rio) was going to get to pick the stipulation.
Sure enough, after Del Rio, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler all got involved, AJ Lee stopped the referee from counting a pin by Coulter on Rodriguez but then Rodriguez rolled up Coulter to secure the win himself while Langston was incapacitated outside the ring. At that point, I tweeted that since Del Rio, Swagger and Ziggler all won their respective world titles after cashing in Money In The Bank briefcases, the match at Extreme Rules should be a ladder match. Sure enough, later in the night, Del Rio came out to face Antonio Cesaro and announced beforehand that the match would be a ladder match. As for his match with Cesaro, the match was as close to a squash match as you can get without it actually being a squash, which is a real shame because it is nearly impossibly to fall as far from grace as Cesaro has since holding onto the United States Championship for over 200 days.
Say what you want about John Cena – and I have plenty to say about him, the way he dresses, his character, the way the WWE shoves him down our throats, the way he is always in the main event even when he is not the world champion, the way he gets world title shots as often as some people change their socks – but last night he had a non-wrestling, non-storyline segment that had to warm the hearts of even the biggest John Cena detractors. I have always said that while I hate John Cena in the ring, in storylines and as the WWE Champion, I have the utmost respect for the work he does in real life and last night was a prime example. Yesterday was World Wish Day, sponsored by the Make A Wish Foundation, and John Cena first surprised a young fan who was born with only half a heart on The Today Show with tickets to WWE Raw and then went a step further and had that kid, plus two others, appear on the top of the ramp, announce that they were the newest WWE Superstars and let them tell the crowd their new ring names while the live audience roared in approval. Anyone who didn’t get choked up just a little watching that segment has no soul.
But as much as I respect John Cena for what he does outside the ring, I can still vehemently boo him when he is in the ring and I got my chance last night in the main event. The story going into last night’s show was that Cena had legitimately injured his Achilles Heel on the European tour, throwing his participation both on Raw and at Extreme Rules (when he is scheduled to defend the WWE Title against Ryback) into question. When last night’s show kicked off he was scheduled to team with Ryback to take on The Shield in a handicap match, but Ryback told Vickie Guerrero that he refused to team with Cena since he was a liability. Vickie agreed to change the match and booked Ryback to team with Kane and Daniel Bryan instead, but Ryback refused that match as well and seemingly left the building. Then John Cena said that he was going to wrestle in the main event no matter what and so the match ended up being a six-man tag team match between Cena, Kane and Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. The match itself was fine, with the story being that Kane and Bryan were tentative in tagging in Cena because of his injury but when Cena finally did get in the ring, he dominated until his ankle gave out while attempting an Attitude Adjustment and he crumpled to the ring. With Kane and Bryan busy outside the ring with Ambrose and Rollins, Reigns hits Cena with a massive spear and pins him cleanly for the win. So after winning their match at Wrestlemania, defeating the team of Kane, The Undertaker and Daniel Bryan two weeks later and then putting Undertaker through a table on Smackdown last week, a member of the team cleanly pinned the WWE Champion last night. I definitely see good things for The Shield and I hope the momentum continues.
The two best matches of the night by far were Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes and World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler vs. United States Champion Kofi Kingston, in that order. The first match, Orton vs. Rhodes, was the second match of the night and I assumed that it would last five minutes, Rhodes would lose and I could check on the puppy to make sure he wasn’t chewing on any wires. But, to my absolute surprise, the match lasted nearly 20 minutes and featured Rhodes not only holding his own but almost winning the match on numerous occasions. For a match that seemed to be booked completely out of nowhere (neither Superstar has had anything to do with the other in recent months and both are involved in storylines with other people), it easily stole show. Frankly, if WWE wants to put on more 20-minute match each and every week, I know I won’t complain and neither would a majority of the fans who watch the show. In the end, Orton did win, but it was only after Rhodes countered an RKO into Cross Rhodes, Orton kicked out and then hit Rhodes with a successful RKO in mid-air as Orton came flying off the top rope. As for the second match, Kingston needs more matches like the one he had against Ziggler last night if I am to believe in him as a legitimate US Champion since he won the title after nearly a year of being a glorified jobber. Thankfully, Ziggler got the victory with the Zig Zag, although it was after interference from both AJ Lee and Langston. After the match, Langston grabbed Kingston and hit him with his finisher twice. With Ziggler as the world champion and AJ with a future Divas Championship match, I would love to see Langston challenge Kingston for the US title and that stable hold three titles all at once.
The biggest squash match of the night saw Jack Swagger quickly and easily defeat Zack Ryder, which makes sense since Swagger has a world title match in a month and Ryder is barely featured on TV. However, Ryder is letting his hair grow out and posted a curious YouTube video and tweeted a photo where he seemingly threw away all of his gimmicky gear, so maybe a character change (perhaps to a heel?) is in the works.
With the new E! reality show featuring the WWE Divas, you can expect to see them featured on WWE programming more, which is totally find with me if they are used and booked correctly and the right Divas are featured. Last night was a good first step in that direction as the Divas were featured in two different segments. First, Brie Bella defeated Naomi after Nikki Bella switched with her when the referee was distracted, but when Naomi complained to the referee what had happened, he reversed the decision and disqualified the Bella Twins. Irate, Brie and Nikki ran back to the ring and completely decimated both Cameron and Naomi. Later in the night, AJ and Divas Champion Kaitlyn had a brief confrontation about their future title match when they were interrupted by a delivery man delivering a present to Kaitlyn (a spiked hat that resembled her wrist guards) from a secret admirer.
Two segments last night were a complete waste of time and makes me wonder why both were not scrapped in favor of another actual wrestling match. Not only that, but if WWE is having trouble filling a three-hour show and needs to do so with what took place last night, how are they going to fill another 30-minutes with this new Internet pre-show? Anyway, the first segment was a tug-of-war contest where Mark Henry first defeated Tensai and then Brodus Clay and was about to defeat Sheamus third when Sheamus let go of the rope and Henry fell down. When Henry got up and turned around, Sheamus hit him with a Brogue Kick. The second segment was a dance-off between Fandango & Summer Rae (a very talented and beautiful NXT Diva who has been called up to the main roster) and Great Khali & Natalya, and if you thought having Khali wrestle was a waste of time and space than having him dance was even worse. Of course, as a face, the crowd overwhelmingly voted for Khali and Natalya as the winner, so while they were celebrating Fandango took out Khali’s legs and then hit with him a DDT. As far as Fandango is concerned, I can’t express enough how much he has grown on me and how much I enjoy his character. I just hope he moves on from Khali soon and into a legitimate feud with a real Superstar.
Check back later this week for my thoughts on the announcement last night that WWE is launching a 30-minute online pre-show before Raw each week.