March 6, 2014 by Joey Keogh
This week, Monday Night Raw is in, of all places, Chicago, Illinois which aside from being quite a massive smark city is also the birthplace, and possibly the current hiding place, of the noticeably absent CM Punk. As expected, when the show opens, it’s him for whom the fans are cheering, something that will continue throughout tonight’s show, regardless of who’s wrestling or talking or wasting time (this is a very talky Raw, which went over its running time significantly because everyone was blabbing on about nothing instead of actually, you know, wrestling – so prepare yourself if you have yet to watch). As we open, none other than Punk’s music fills the arena, which turns the already rowdy crowd completely ecstatic. A few moments of dread-inducing tension pass before Paul Heyman strides out, looking as smug as ever in a stylishly crumpled suit.
“I believe he deserves louder than that” he quips, and the crowd dutifully obliges. Heyman proceeds to sit down in the ring and tell a story about a certain Paul Heyman guy, a man from Chicago who had too many tattoos for WWE, didn’t fit the bill of a what a Superstar is supposed to look like, who challenged authority and cause trouble, etc, etc. Heyman has a particular “pipe bomb” to deliver this evening, but he’s being drowned out by the cheers of the crowd for his ex-best friend – something that, again, will happen consistently throughout the night. Eventually, he manages to explain that, though he created Punk, the WWE fans took him away from him, and ultimately ruined his chances, something which the crowd are none too happy about. Ultimately, though he’s an expert troll, Heyman’s here to discuss current client Brock Lesnar and his upcoming match against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
On that note, and speaking of Punk, it was apparently his unplanned departure that ultimately gave Lesnar his chance against the Deadman, because the legend originally wanted to go up against Daniel Bryan, which would’ve been amazing. Anyway, finally Lesnar gets to speak, and he sounds NORMAL, which is very disconcerting. Then Mark Henry turns up, which makes one dude ringside to act very faux-surprised indeed, to hilarious effect. There is some property destruction and some ass-kicking before Lesnar picks Henry up and throws him through the announce table, to a chorus of deafening “Punk” chants. Hey, Did You Know that if you subscribe to the Network, you’ll get all the stuff we’ve been talking about for months? Well, there you go! Enjoy!
Tag Team Championship Match:
New Age Outlaws -v- The Usos
The Outlaws emerge in totally hideous, white WM 30 shirts that don’t fit them particularly well, before Road Dogg describes the crowd as “rambunctious”, a word we’re hearing more and more often on Raw lately. He doesn’t reckon they deserve to hear his infamous catchphrases though, but don’t worry, we’ll be shown them in a replay from last week in just a sec, because otherwise how will the kids know who these old dudes are!? The match begins with Jey kicking the shit out of RD, before Billy Gunn tackles Jimmy. Wait, are the crowd being muted? It seems oddly quiet during this match, especially given how loud they were just a moment ago. Cole refers to a Simoan Toe, but actually it’s a Simoan Drop, which Roman Reigns also does because he is also Simoan. And The Usos are his cousins, so perhaps they were practising moves in the garden for years, with Rikishi as the referee. Or at least that’s how I imagine their rambunctious childhood (ooh, there’s that word again). King reckons they’re fighting their hearts out, though, which I’m sure they are – King’s much less flashy shirt seems to have softened him this evening, how sweet! The Usos are on fire this evening, managing to tag each other in and out of the match as they leap out of the ring like loons. It’s no surprise when they snatch the championship from the Outlaws who, let’s face it, are getting a bit too old for this shit.
Winners: The Usos (new champions!)
As everyone probably remembers from last week (because it was really, really weird), Aaron Paul is the guest star tonight! But he hasn’t shown up yet so oh well, here’s a pic of him driving a car to sate your appetite! But seriously, though, if he doesn’t at some point say “I’m on Raw, bitch!” when he appears, it will all have been for nothing.
Big E Langston -v- Cesaro
Though this isn’t a hugely interesting feud, both Big E and Cesaro are more than competent fighters, both of whom deserve a proper chance to shine (Big E will be given two this evening, in fact). The main reason this pairing is great, though, is because we get to see Cesaro do crazy, seemingly impossible shit, like pick Big E up and crack him over his knee or, crucially, spin him around as many times as he can manage without getting a goddamn hernia. It’s clear this match isn’t going to end well when Cesaro throws his opponent out of the ring, hitting his teammate Jack Swagger (who oversells with a big, girly “nooooooo!” as he scuttles off) in the process. Swagger then intervenes, resulting in a disqualification. Again. However, Big E manages to fit in a Big Ending anyway, which sort of softens the blow of the same thing happening two weeks in a row. Sort of.
Winner: Big E Langston (as a result of a DQ)
6-Man Tag Team Match: The Shield -v- The Wyatt Family
As they gain more popularity, and are stuck in front of crazier crowds, The Shield’s entrance is becoming more and more troublesome. This time around, someone tries quite forcefully to remove Dean Ambrose’s jacket, while Reigns chooses to pose for quite a while before he enters the ring, resulting in more than a few camera-bombs from those desperate to be on TV (I’ve been there, but my moment to shine featured my running towards Ambrose, screaming like a hormone-laden teenager as everyone around me scattered in terror). The Wyatts, on the other hand, are masters of subtlety, owning their entrance as Bray overdoes blowing out a goddamn lantern. Nevertheless, the crowd are absolutely loving this, chanting the classic “This is awesome” throughout. There’s a nice, pose-centric build up before the action kicks off, which bodes well for a match that is characterised by surprises and strength on both sides. Luke Harper is sporting a new vest, but he doesn’t get much chance to show it off as he is almost immediately targeted by Seth Rollins, who is really coming into his own lately, at one point effortlessly launching himself out of the ring to tackle Erick Rowan. Ambrose leans over the ropes to heckle the Wyatts throughout, which is pretty funny, even though it means he and Reigns remain in the corner for most of the action. Further to this, Ambrose is too focused on Bray to tag Rollins out when he needs help, which is good for the Wyatts, who consistently try to keep Reigns on the other side of the ropes. When Ambrose is eventually brought in, they focus intently on beating the shit out of him – Harper even stands on his face at one point – until he finally crawls towards the corner to tag Rollins who, in the most graceful movement imaginable, steps back, before strolling away from the ring. Reigns follows him, but Rollins claims he “can’t be the glue that holds all this together” anymore, and that his two comrades have to sort it out themselves. Reigns reluctantly returns to the ring to kick some ass, delivering a one-handed Simoan Drop (not Toe), before dispensing with all of the Wyatts, including throwing Rowan over the announce table, before following him himself. “Cole, are you all right? I don’t really care” quips JBL, as Rollins watches sadly from a distance. Bray then delivers the Sister Abigail on an exhausted Ambrose and wins.
Winners: The Wyatt Family (some try-hard scary bollocks)
Renee is with Batista, whom the Chicago crowd seem to hate even more than John Cena, whom they literally boo constantly even though only his photo has shown up thus far tonight. Boo-tista reckons people watch too many movies (just not the two starring him) and that’s why they believe in Daniel Bryan so much. But what he’s saying doesn’t really matter because he’s booed out of it, and also he sucks at delivering lines.
A promo for Nashville quickly follows, and by that I mean Wrestlemania 30, which does not happen during Mardi Gras (because that is happening NOW) so this all makes zero sense. Another promo follows that one, selling something called Main Event, which is on the Network and won’t further any storylines at all, so really who cares about watching the Outlaws versus The Usos again? Are they going to lose that belt on this new show? Obviously not.
Mixed Tag Team Match: Fandango & Summer Rae -v- Santino Marella & Emma
This is an odd match, which is played mostly for laughs in spite of the fact that the two female participants are well-matched and also quite talented, but women are always going to get a raw deal (no pun intended) on a wrasslin’ show, so meh. The match begins with Santino versus Fandango, but when the former leans over to high-five his tag team partner, he unwittingly switches everyone around – this happens again and again for a while before any fighting actually occurs. Eventually, the two men are up against one another, during which time Fandango jumps from the top rope, misses and tumbles over gracefully, turning everything into a dance move like he’s wont to do. Then it’s the turn of the girls, but much like last week, they aren’t given much room to breathe. Emma performs an impressive upside down submission on Summer across the ropes, which is pretty cool, but the very next time she pins her, Summer taps out again, which renders the match pointless, once again. And yet, the Divas get a full match!?
Winners: Santino Marella & Emma (oh the dancing, oh god the dancing!)
Christian -v- Sheamus
We’re straight into another match, and another feud which is gaining traction – foreigner v foreigner! If only Wade Barrett was still allowed to actually wrestle, he and Sheamo could have a great laugh reinforcing stereotypes and whatnot! As the match begins, Christian is refusing to get in the ring, because he’s a pussy or something, but when he eventually does jump in, he hits Sheamo (who enjoys it a bit too much) then runs away, before being chased and dragged back in again. This is kind of the premise of the whole match. Cole then refers to a Knee Drop as a Big Knee, which would be funny if the match featured Big E, but since it doesn’t, it’s really just showcasing his stupidity and lack of knowledge – couldn’t he just Google this shit before saying it? Sheamo performs the brilliantly-titled Irish Curse, before his opponent runs off to hide behind the announce table, resulting in JBL quipping that they’re not “the Spanish announce table” Har de har, the Spanish dudes get no respect and that’s funny for some reason. This match is slightly repetitive, especially since there isn’t anything new they can really do here, but eventually the Brogue Kick is delivered outside the ropes, which is pretty cool, so maybe it’s worth it to see these two showcase their talents (sort of).
Winner: Sheamus (the luck of the Oirish)
Immediately following the match, Renee tries to interview Sheamo, who can barely breathe but is still being unfailingly polite as always. He is attacked by Christian mid-sentence, because I guess he isn’t such a pussy outside of the ring.
Divas Tag Team Match: The Bella Twins -v- Aksana & Alicia Fox
Oh lord, must be a slow night if we’re being subjected to this rubbish. Brie is, at least, getting slightly better, but she needs to be up against Summer Rae or even Emma to show what she can really do. Every time AJ isn’t here, all the other characters should be asking “Where’s AJ?” because she’s awesome. It’s shameful that the commentators are plugging the Network and Wrestlemania throughout but, really, there isn’t much to talk about here.
Winner: The Bella Twins (you can look but you can’t…you know how it goes, sing along!)
Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for (no, not him), Daniel Bryan is here! And he’s as welcome as ever, even when he’s spouting rubbish about the collective WWE Universe having a “voice” Apparently, tonight we’re all going to hijack Raw, which seems totally plausible because it’s clearly been written by some sleep-deprived loon in an airless office somewhere in the back end of Pennsylvania. Bryan wants to fight Triple H at WM, but he has yet to rise to the challenge. Before Bryan can sell any more, The Authority turn up to troll the hell out of everyone by referring to Bryan as a B+ yet again, even though the crowd chant “CM Punk” over them. At one point, they call Trips an asshole and the censor tries unsuccessfully to bleep it out, which is hilarious. Apparently, Bryan is an underdog who only exists because the WWE (specifically, the loony Mc Mahons) made him and, as a result, he now has a big head and needs to be taken down a peg. Steph is talking so much shit, that Bryan offers to fight her instead, thereby basically calling her husband a pussy.
Apparently, WM 30 is for immortals, of which Bryan is not one. “Get out of my ring” Steph demands. “It’s THEIR ring” Bryan counters. Kane turns up and the two scuffle for a bit before Bryan is banished and security throws him out, much to the displeasure of some poor, distraught child in the front row who’s screaming “nooooooo” at the top of his lungs, much like Swagger was earlier. So, is there no main event now or..? Oh, look, it’s the Raw Pre-Show again, and it’s during the show, instead of before it AGAIN.
This time around, recently-arisen-from-the-grave Josh is joined by Booker T, Hacksaw Jim Duggan (who must be on something because wow) and, er, Alex Reilly, who you may remember as some dude who briefly had a feud with The Miz before fading into obscurity – surely Steph must be counting down the seconds until his contract expires so she doesn’t have to feature him anymore!? Anyway, the crowd boo the shit out of this whole thing, but the good news is, it is called Backstage Pass after all and it will be following Raw, so if you’re bored/insane enough, maybe you’ll watch it.
Alberto Del Rio -v- Dolph Ziggler
As ADR awaits his opponent, looking typically smug as always, the rumbling of car engine echoes through the arena, and suddenly, Ziggles appears, in a fancy white Mustang driven by none other than Aaron Paul! The Need For Speed connection is obvious but it’s funny to think about how ADR used to drive into the ring in a fancy sports car and has now been relegated to standing around in the ring, waiting for a man who’s way better than he is, who then turns up in a fancy sports car. Anyway, Aaron Paul is totally milking his appearance on Raw, either because he secretly loves wrasslin’, or is just a smart marketer. He’s even doing commentary, and it isn’t bad! Apparently, he played a WWE game as the great JBL but couldn’t manage to win anything as him, which sucks for him (and JBL). At one point during the match, he even stands on the announce table to yell at ADR, which prompts a worried King to tell him “you can’t stand up there!” The act of doing so distracts ADR enough that Ziggles can win though, so yay!
Winner: Dolph Ziggler (Aaron Paul should accompany him more often)
The next inductee into the WWE Hall Of Fame is…the late, great Paul Bearer, otherwise known as the coolest, craziest manager in the history of wrestling, and the man responsible for scaring/delighting us all when we were teeny, tiny little tots, while simultaneously launching the career of The Undertaker. Though we really don’t need to hear from Vince or fucking Big E for this segment, it’s touching and inspiring nonetheless. More like this, please!
Big E Langston -v- Jack Swagger
Hey, remember earlier when Swagger intervened on Cesaro’s match and cost him it? Hopefully that won’t happen again now, right? Oh no, wait…
Winner: Big E Langston (by DQ, yet again)
As a result of this non-event, and the preceding, all-too-similar match, Zeb Coulter has decided that his two adopted sons need to sort out their differences and make up, which results in the most awkward man-hug imaginable, culminating in the two of them slapping each other on the back in full, yet slightly hidden, attack mode. Clearly, this is being built up as a major feud, which is great, because it means Cesaro can ditch these racist buffoons and go out on his own. Hooray! Next up, though, we have a far more polarising proposition, the one and only John Cena, who is booed to hell and back, but still manages to keep smiling. He also hobbles to the ring, selling an “injury” for which he refused medical attention. What a champ/idiot.
Say what you will about Cena (and many, many, many do) but he is a damn good speaker, even a decent troll, and tonight he knows exactly how to push the buttons of this incredibly pro-Punk crowd. They certainly like references to Cena being beaten up, anyway, especially by Punk. A cheap pop for the city doesn’t go down too terribly (then again, when does it ever?) before the big head of Bray Wyatt appears onscreen to spout some more bullshit about nothing. Luckily, the crowd are drowning him out. Elsewhere, Boo-tista and his shitty tattoos are en route to the ring as Randy Orton and his shitty tattoos stop him to wish him luck, which I’m sure isn’t a bad omen at all. Also, Alexander Rusev, the so-called Bulgarian Brute, finally makes his debut, alongside a far scarier woman. The crowd yawns. Next!
Main Event: Batista -v- Daniel Bryan
Finally, the moment we’ve all (sort of) been waiting for has arrived – and what’s this? Orton doing commentary? No, wait, never mind, he’s just standing at ringside, clutching his belts, like a weirdo. Okay then. There’s a “Bore-tista” sign in the crowd because someone thinks he/she is cleverer than “Boo-tista” (hint: you are not) but otherwise it’s a sea of pro-Punk, which is awesome/sad. Bryan enters to rapturous applause, while Boo-tista is, well, booed. Bryan looks teeny tiny in comparison to him though, especially when he’s kicking Boo’s butt. Bryan spends most of the match focusing on disabling his knee, then stands on his face like a pissed off little toddler trying to irritate his grumpy older brother. The crowd chant “You can’t wrestle” throughout, which I wholeheartedly agree with, but he can’t act either, so maybe incorporate that next time, too? Just a thought. Bryan dropkicks Boo from the top rope, before being thrown into Orton, who topples like a pouting, posing bowling pin (his head is round and shiny, you see). “Go home Batista!” screams an opportunistic child in the front row, before the crowd counters with the very succinct “Overrated” The crowd’s reactions are important because they’re really, really hating this and there’s nothing of interest to focus on in the ring, even though, as usual, Bryan is giving it his all. They hate it even more when Orton intervenes, attacking Bryan and getting him disqualified. The Authority appears, Kane tries to intervene in the match but Bryan throws him into Trips, who quips “I’m tired of your fantasy crap” before being kicked in the face by Bryan. Boo delivers his imaginatively-titled Batista Bomb, Trips removes his tie, the crowd wake up a little bit, Trips delivers a Pedigree on Bryan, and then he, Kane and Steph stand over a crumpled Bryan, watching as he writhes in pain. Steph chants “Yes” but a “CM Punk” chant echoes throughout the arena, closing the show just as it opened.
Winner: Er…is CM Punk an option here?
Let’s face it, we all knew this wasn’t going to be the easiest Raw to sell, but in spite of everything, it began quite strongly before dissolving into a disastrously dull load of rubbish. I have a lot of patience for Raw, I enjoy how stupid it is, how unhinged, even how much airtime is given to twats like Orton, because, more often than not, he’s used to showcase someone far better, like Bryan.
But this episode was shoddy, overlong and completely devoid of any memorable moments, aside from a couple of decent spots here and there. There are some good feuds brewing, but as long as Bryan v Trips is being pushed, the show is going to leave a bad taste in the mouth of most fans because it signifies not just that Punk is gone, but also that they’re really taking the piss with Bryan.
Rumour has it that Bad News Barrett was originally scheduled to appear, with his bad news being that Punk wasn’t going to show up. This idea was canned at the last minute, but in all seriousness, it’s difficult to see how it could possibly have made this week’s show even worse.