That’s right, you read that headline correctly – one of the major reasons that last night’s episode of WWE Raw was so memorable was because of a storyline not only involving the WWE Divas, but one of those Divas is actually the Divas Championship no less. And not only was the storyline furthered last night, but it turns out that another storyline, one that has been taking place for well over a month, was actually leading up to this one. That’s right – the WWE not only invested time and effort for well over a month into a Divas storyline, but one that is actually quite good and compelling! Not to mention the fact that last night’s show featured two matches between Curtis Axel and Triple H (sort of); interactions between Triple H, Vince McMahon & Stephanie McMahon; the return of World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler; an epic wrestling rematch featuring a rematch of sorts between two former Ring of Honor world champions; and much more all made for an extremely fun and memorable episode of WWE Raw.
WWE Raw kicked off with the match that was supposed to take place last week – Triple H vs. Curtis Axel. Last week, before Triple H could even arrive at the building, Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon got in the ring and announced that Triple H would not wrestle due to the injuries he sustained at Extreme Rules and on Raw the night after. An irate Triple H agreed not to face Curtis Axel that night but vowed to kick off Raw the following week with the match. Sure enough, Raw kicked off last night with the match, but less than five minutes in it was interrupted by Vince McMahon, who marched to the ring and announced that Curtis Axel was the winner by disqualification. Furious, Triple H forced the ring announcer to restart the match (well within his power as COO of the company) but Vince came back down and announced that Curtis Axel was the winner of that match by forfeit. Triple H restarted the match yet again, this time as an Iron Man match (which would have been awesome) but Vince was done playing games and this time took away the microphone and ring bell and told Axel and Paul Heyman to head backstage. After the commercial break, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H are arguing backstage, with Stephanie acknowledging that what her father had done was wrong but begging her husband to let it go for the sake of the family. Triple H refuses and so Stephanie promises to handle the situation herself.
Later in the night, Stephanie approaches her father and begs him to meet with Triple H to smooth things over. Vince refuses and so later in the night she tricks both her husband and father to meet in her office. Unfortunately, while up to this point the storyline and the dynamics between the McMahon extended family were extremely compelling, it ended kind of flatly in my opinion. Unless we see a continuation of it next week or in the weeks to come, the end to everything last night was uneventful given everything that had happened in the previous three hours (not just in the ring and backstage but the endless recaps throughout the night). With all three family members in the same room at the same time, Vince explained that the reason he ended the matches was because, while Curtis Axel was impressive thus far, he was beneath Triple H and that HHH should be having epic contests while at the same time wielding power as the COO. Triple H agreed with what Vince had to say and so Vince told HHH he could have the match with Axel next week, but now Triple H doesn’t want it. The two go back and forth about whether the match is going to take place or not until Stephanie comes in and forces all three of them to have a family hug.
The other highlight of the night for me was Divas Champion Kaitlyn (and for once it was not just because of the shirt she was wearing, which was simply amazing). For months, on and off, Kaitlyn had been receiving text messages and gifts from a secret admirer, and last week on Smackdown it was announced that this person would reveal himself live on Raw. As it turned out, this storyline which was probably almost forgotten by most fans until last night was actually a month long buildup to AJ Lee finally cashing in on the title match that she earned a while back. With Kaitlyn in the ring waiting for her secret admirer, Big E Langston came out dressed very nicely and with a bouquet of flowers. But when he took her in his arms and dipped her to kiss her, he dropped her to the ring. Suddenly, AJ’s music hit and she skipped to the ring, where she explained that it had all been a setup to get her revenge for Kaitlyn abandoning her when she needed her the most, when she was being taken advantage of by the men in the locker room. She says that the culmination of her revenge will be on Sunday when she takes the Divas Championship from Kaitlyn and send her back to the trailer park empty handed. The two Divas then brawl in the ring but AJ manages to escape up the ramp while a distraught Kaitlyn is left in the ring in tears.
Surprisingly, and this might be a problem since it is the main event at Sunday’s PPV, very little focus was given to WWE Champion John Cena, Ryback and their Three Stages of Hell match at Payback. It was advertised throughout the night that the two Superstars would be face-to-face in the ring, but when Mr. McMahon expressed concern that the confrontation would put the title match in jeopardy, Brad Maddox suggested that all the lumberjacks from the first stage of the title match should be around the ring. In the final segment of the night, Cena came out first but Ryback decided to stay on the ramp and he once again rattled off all the times that Cena had not come out to help him. Cena tells Ryback to stop complaining and to get ready for their match on Sunday because “payback is a bitch.” Cena then tries to rush up the stage but the lumberjacks throw him back in the ring, so Ryback runs to the ring where the lumberjacks do throw him in, and as Cena and Ryback brawl in the ring all of the lumberjacks get in and try to separate the two as Raw goes off the air.
Here are my quick thoughts on the rest of the show:
The first real match of the night featured a great contest between Kane and United States Champion Dean Ambrose. With Kane about to secure the victory, Shield members Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns get in the ring to attack Kane, followed by Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton coming to make the save. Later, the three Superstars are shown arguing backstage when Vickie Guerrero comes up and announces that Bryan and Orton will team up to face Rollins and Reigns for the Tag Team Championships while Kane will challenge Ambrose for the US Title. It is also announced that the WWE fans will get to choose Bryan’s opponent for later in that night, with the choice being Rollins or Reigns, with the other person facing Orton. Thankfully the fans smartly chose Seth Rollins and while the match between Orton and Reigns was forgettable (and ends in a no contest with Rollins tries to interfere and Bryan takes then both out) the match between Bryan and Rollins (which Bryan won after Orton took out Reigns) is awesome. As a lot of fans on Twitter noted, both Bryan (as Bryan Danielson) and Rollins (as Tyler Black) are former Ring of Honor world champions and had epic matches while both a part of that company (one of their best ROH matches can be seen here).
The Miz defeated Cody Rhodes in a forgettable match, which is a shame because Rhodes is one of the best wrestlers on the roster today. In fact, the commentary that Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett was doing during the match was more enjoyable than the match itself. Really, Rhodes and Sandow should be left as a permanent tag team and allowed to challenge for the titles instead of being glorified jobbers for other Superstars (and in Sandow’s case, being put in a worthless feud with Sheamus that will culminate in a pre-show Internet match before Payback). One thing to note from this match however is that after it is over, Paul Heyman came out to announce that Curtis Axel will be replacing Fandango (who suffered a concussion last week) in the triple threat match for the IC Title at Payback. As I noted on Twitter, as was the case with Dean Ambrose and the US Title, both Axel and the IC title itself would take giant leaps forward in terms of prestige and recognition should Axel win the title on Sunday.
Chris Jericho came out to the ring to cut a promo on CM Punk in advance of their match on Sunday, but he was interrupted by the returning Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler announced that he would be defending his title against Alberto Del Rio at Payback but Jericho challenged him a match right away. Ziggler refused and instead sent Big E Langston to the ring for a match that Jericho won when Ziggler’s attempts to interfere were thwarted by Del Rio. The funniest part of the match was when Michael Cole commented that no one had any idea where CM Punk was when Punk had, in fact, tweeted just five minutes before that he was driving through the streets of Chicago.
Antonio Cesaro defeated Sin Cara and Damien Sandow defeated R-Truth in throwaway matches that were only significant because both Cesaro and Sandow were not only on TV, but won their respective matches.