The Raw after WrestleMania is always the best Raw of the year (and sometimes better than WrestleMania) and last night was no exception. We got the return of Cesaro (in a tear away suit!) a new IC Champion in The Miz and a new #1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in AJ Styles. BESIDES that, we got the Raw debut of Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin and your new favorite tag team Enzo & Cass. My favorite part about all three of these debuts is how positive the crowds reacted to them and how for the most part the announcers put them over for the live broadcast. Minus infinity points for Michael Cole saying that Enzo is an ‘acquired taste’ while 20,000 people sing his entrance promo word for word. Besides that, all three debuts for flawless. Corbin got a match with a smaller guy who doesn’t mind selling his ass off in Ziggler, Crews got to look like a million bucks and Enzo & Cass turned the tag team division on it’s head with one amazing promo. With these debuts, plus the return of Cesaro and the eventual returns of Cena, Orton and Rollins, this roster is going to be so stacked it’s going to melt people’s brains.
Poor Tyson Kidd is out of action (and almost died) after a dark match with Samoa Joe. While his on screen and real life best friend Cesaro has been making the most out of his new opportunity the last few weeks, he’s also taking time out of his busy schedule to make sure his buddy Tyson Kidd is doing well. Kidd/Cesaro were a really fun tag team, and it’s cool to see that working together in the ring helped them become good friends in real life. Hopefully Cesaro continues to soar and Kidd comes back healthy and better than ever.
I think John Cena speaks for everyone in the world when he says that Cesaro deserves to be in the main event scene in WWE, and hopefully this impromptu promo rallies the powers that be to feel the same way. There isn’t a guy I can think of in the mid or upper card that Cesaro wouldn’t have a great feud with. Lesnar? Rollins? Reigns? Wyatt? Ambrose? Cena? Owens? Neville? Checks all the way around. He’s certainly on the right track, so let’s see what WWE does with him in the coming weeks.
The Raw before the go home Raw before Battleground took place last night from Chicago. The show started off a little slow, but picked it up and ended up having one of the most entertaining final hours of a WWE show in recent memory. Brock Lesnar found some fire axes, Paige still has no friends and Cesaro might be finally getting a consistent chance to shine. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Raw!
So the WWE decided to feud Dolph Ziggler and Rusev for Rusev’s post Cena angle, and on paper it’s perfect. Rusev needs a good feud where he comes out on top and he’s at his best when he can stomp and throw guys around. Dolph Ziggler is the king of losing feuds while still looking good and can get thrown around better than just about anybody. As luck would have it, Rusev broke his ankle and had to start off the first month or so of the feud on crutches, forcing us to sit through multiple weeks of Ziggler and Lana weirdly making out in the ring. Well Rusev ain’t hurt no more, and good God did he put a beating on Ziggler. The best part was that there haven’t been any health updates on Rusev, so the attack and Rusev’s ability to move around and fight came as a complete surprise to me. I like the added dimension of Summer Rae too, because now you have a legitimate women’s wrestler going after Lana. I can’t say I’m rooting for Ziggler here, but if Rusev and Summer Rae continue to be huge assholes, Lana’s revenge will only be that much sweeter. For now, I’m happy my sweet Bulgarian prince is back to kicking ass.
2. Brock Lesnar
The only thing scarier than Brock Lesnar is Brock Lesnar with a god damn fire axe in each hand, and that’s exactly what we got last night. Everyone complaining that J & J Security’s Cadillac didn’t get destroyed last week now know why it’s best to have a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to professional wrestling. This segment kicked off the final hour of Raw, which was one of the best hours of Raw in recent memory. The story here is that Brock is a beast, but that Rollins can outsmart him by provoking him into handicap situations like a few weeks ago. If you’re facing Brock Lesnar 1 on 1 you aren’t winning. Plain and simple. But if you can lure him into situations that are more advantageous to you than they are to him, then you might have a shot. The only problem with that logic is that Brock is managed by an evil mastermind, and Heyman only had to see his client get beat down once before he altered his game plan. That alteration came in the form of a human being literally ripping the door off a car and throwing it into the crowd. Brock threw the car door so far he actually hit a fan in the front row (who is thankfully ok) and then in probably the scariest part of the whole segment, jumped from the floor to the apron and then hopped over the TOP rope and chased Rollins into the crowd. The only advantage you can possibly have over a guy like Brock is your speed, except Brock is a fucking cyborg so he’s probably going to be faster than you too. I love the way this feud has been booked so far, and I hope Lesnar suplexes Rollins into the stratosphere at Battleground.
3. Titus O’Neil
The Lucha Dragons took on the New Day in a really fun tag match, but like so many other matches on Raw, the announce team tried their hardest to ruin it. JBL talked incessantly about Brock Lesnar destroying the Cadillac, which is fine, but maybe save it for some dead air time and not for a match where all four guys are busting their ass to gain some prominence in the tag team division. Thankfully Titus O’Neil was on commentary, and he shut down JBL so bad that JBL actually stopped talking. The best line was when JBL tried to question Titus’s intelligence, only to be informed by Titus himself that he actually has two college degrees. The announce team is generally horrible, and I’m glad that a team that was sent out there to get not only themselves but also the tag team division over did their job. Too many wrestlers or divas just let the announce team dictate the conversation and you end having something similar to what happens when the Bella Twins are on commentary. They disregard the match AND the feuds that the wrestlers spent so much time building to talk nonsense. Nonsense is ok once in awhile, but when it’s your only card to play, it’s detrimental to the product. Kudos to Titus for shutting up JBL and having some pride in the tag team division.
4. John Cena
There’s really not much that can be said about this match other than it doesn’t get much better than what Cesaro and Cena did in last night’s main event. The match went about 25 minutes, and it was magical. When you have a crowd like Chicago, known for being one of the most vocal crowds in wrestling, literally exhausted from the action, you know you’ve done a great job. Seriously, look at the crowd towards the end of that match. They’re mentally and physically drained. Cena is too, which says nothing about his physical condition and everything about how hard he was busting his ass. In just about every Cena match, it’s almost impossible to believe the other guy is going to win. Cena has been winning for over a decade now, so unless it’s a guy like Brock Lesnar coming in, Cena is going to come out on top. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think Cesaro had him beat a few times last night, and I literally jumped out of my seat when he started picking Cena up for the middle rope Neutralizer. You can praise Cesaro all you want (which I’m going to do) but wrestling is a dance, and you’re only as good as your dance partner. This is easily my favorite run in Cena’s career, and anyone who says he doesn’t do enough to elevate the rest of the roster, go back and watch every Raw since WrestleMania. He’s the real deal.
I want to be Cesaro. Not like him, I literally want to inhabit his body and mind. There’s a certain kind of magic when you’re watching someone who is just so good at what he does. When Cesaro comes out, he’s in great shape, but he doesn’t necessarily stand out. He’s bald with a beard, average height and weight. But when he starts moving around in the ring, or catching John Cena out of mid air, or flipping out of an AA and landing on his feet, you know you’re watching someone special. The knock on him has always been he doesn’t ‘connect’ with the audience. Well there were about 18,000 people in the Allstate Arena last night and Cesaro connected with every god damn one of them. Microphone skills are important, and so is the ability to relate to the fans, but when you’re as good inside that ring as Cesaro, those things really don’t matter as much. I was afraid that their match from last week would overshadow last night’s main event, but Cena and Cesaro went above and beyond and tore the house down. Cesaro has fought Cena before, and has been ‘pushed’ before, but main eventing Raw with John Cena is a step above all that. Hopefully he stays in this Owens/Cena feud, because that’s a triple threat match that needs to happen at Summerslam.
Raw was live from our nation’s capital last night. It was the final Raw before the big ol’ show in Tokyo Saturday morning and we’re heading towards the home stretch on the road to Battleground. Cesaro stole the show, Paige still doesn’t have any friends and Kane looked STRONG. Let’s get to the five stars from last night’s Raw.
So Paige still has no friends, but she wrestled a good match against Alicia Fox and actually won, so she’s on the list. I’m really hoping that this turns into an NXT/Divas feud, with Charlotte, Sasha, Becky Lynch and company coming to Paige’s aid. For now, the Paige/Bella Twins/Alicia Fox feud is ok, but at this point, every Bella Twins feud seems the same to me. The Bella Twins are the entitled reformed models who are handed everything on a silver platter in fake wrestling and who date/are married to the two most popular superstars outside of the ring. Paige is the polar opposite. She’s 22, has already wrestled all around the world and cares about the wrestling aspect of the business more than the show business/Total Divas aspect of it. It’s a good story to tell, but the WWE has been telling it forever, whether it be with AJ, Naomi or now Paige. It’s ok for the WWE to broaden your storyline horizons and come up with different storylines for these Divas. I think we’d all be pleasantly surprised if they did.
2. Cesaro (and John Cena)
The rest of this Raw could’ve been Mark Henry eating a meatball sub in his underwear and I’d still love it. After a bluff by Kevin Owens, Cesaro fought John Cena for the US title and it was one of the best TV matches of the year. I know we still have 5 months left, but there’s not much that’s going to top that. Cesaro is my favorite wrestler and now that Bryan is out, he’s probably the best wrestler on the roster. Maybe he’s not Dusty Rhodes on the microphone or The Rock in the charisma department, but he’s the most versatile guy on the roster, and he understands match pacing. The benefit of having a guy like Cesaro who has wrestled all over the world is that he can wrestle any style of match. When you see a John Cena match, unless it’s against a guy like Cesaro or Owens who knows different styles of wrestling, you know what you’re going to get. Cena came up through WWE and has stayed there, so he’s going to wrestle a WWE match. But with Cesaro, he understands that you can’t just light the world on fire for 20 minutes, especially on a Raw, so you start slow and build to the finish. He also happens to be in better shape than anybody, and can simultaneously snatch 250 pound John Cena out of the air and then drop kick him off the top rope from a standing position. I loved everything about this, and Cena deserves credit too, because he was every bit as good in this match. If this leads to a triple threat for the US title I might die of happiness.
3. Prime Time Players
Titus O’Neil hot tags continue to be one of my favorite things, and this is a perfect example of keeping the champs looking good while getting a bunch of guys some TV time. Darren and Titus have looked great since getting the belts, and the Lucha Dragons are always fun to watch. Bo Dallas and New Day are the most logical combination because they’re essentially all the same characters. I was kind of hoping for a quick Bo promo to address the Rock stealing his thunder at the Boston house show, but I’ll settle for the merry go round tag ins and stomps in the corner from Bo and the New Day. At this point, there really isn’t another bonafide tag team in the division outside of New Day and PTP, so hopefully this feud keeps going. Tyson Kidd is out for awhile, as is Erick Rowan. Maybe when the hurt Uso twin gets back the Uso’s can get back into the title picture, but for now I’m fine with the New Day and PTP duking it out over the tag belts.
Mr. MITB Sheamus hasn’t gotten off to the best start as the briefcase holder, but last night’s match with Neville was a good start. Booking the MITB winner is hard because you want him to be a big part of your show while also kind of blending into the background. If you keep featuring him in big spots and have him talk about cashing in, the actual cash in loses some of its luster. At the same time, you don’t want people to entirely forget about him either. WWE did it right with Rollins in that they put him in feuds that didn’t necessarily center around the briefcase, so they could feature him in big time matches without people focusing only on the case. Sheamus/Neville is definitely something I’d be interested in, as Sheamus is at his best when his opponent isn’t afraid to take a beating, and Neville is one of the best ‘sellers’ on the roster. Sheamus is still kind of boring, but at least he’s winning matches.
5. KANE (Just Kidding) Roman Reigns
So Kane main evented Raw. Let’s just let that soak in for a second. He and Seth Rollins took on Ambrose and Reigns in a no DQ match, which was basically a regular tag match with a kendo stick. The match itself was fine, but Reigns took the beating at the end so well, and he looked as good as he did at WM 30 when Brock Lesnar was beating the shit out of him. I don’t know what’s next for Reigns, but the crowd is back on his side again, so hopefully he’s able to be more of himself rather some rambling, fairy tale spewing promo machine. He’s not John Cena, and that is all sorts of a good thing. Let him be a Samoan SWAT team member who kicks everyone’s ass and looks cool doing it. Also, let Kane actually vacation in Hawaii and never book him a plane ticket home.
— TJ Wilson (@KiddWWE) June 25, 2015
Tyson Kidd had major neck surgery after his in ring injury with Samoa Joe a few weeks back, and while it’s not a life threatening injury, he will be out of action for at least 14 months. The injury comes at an especially tough time, since Kidd and his tag team partner Cesaro (Best Team Ever) were on a roll as of late. They won the tag team titles, which they eventually lost to New Day, but for the last few months they were the most exciting team on WWE TV. While the injury was definitely a downer, Kidd’s tag team partner and real life best friend Cesaro was there to cheer him up after surgery. I don’t know where the surgery took place, but I do know the schedule these wrestlers are on, so for Cesaro to take time to go and visit Tyson is pretty awesome. Hopefully Kidd has a successful recovery and we the BTE in action again one day.
The final Raw before Payback was last night, and for the second week in a row, it was a solid show. The opening talking segment ran a little too long, but Cesaro got to do Cesaro things, Dean Ambrose performed in front of his hometown crowd and Damien Sandow is now the Macho Man. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Raw!
1. Dean Ambrose
I’ve written about this before, but billing WWE Superstars and Divas from their actual hometowns is always a plus. It worked for Barrett and Paige in the UK, it worked for Ryback once upon a time in Vegas, and it worked last night for Ambrose. Throughout the entire opening talking segment, the crowd was consistently chanting ‘We Want Ambrose’, and thankfully HHH pulled a Donny Donowitz and obliged them. Ambrose got to toss around J and J Security and get a clean win in front of his hometown crowd, but the best moment for him came at the end of the show, as for the second week in a row on Raw, he was the lone man standing tall to close out the show. For a split second I really thought The Shield might reunite when Ambrose and Reigns were behind Rollins, but alas, it is not meant to be yet. I don’t know if Ambrose has any real chance of winning the title Sunday, but throwing him in the main event mix accomplishes two things. 1. Ambrose is now being viewed as a main eventer, which is something he was lacking after his Rollin’s feud ended and 2. Ambrose brings a little bit of unpredictably to the main event scene that has been dominated by Rollins, Orton and Reigns, who aren’t exactly Mr. Personality’s. With Lesnar out until close to Summerslam, the WWE title picture needed a bit of a shakeup, and that’s exactly what Ambrose has brought to the table.
2. Harper & Rowan
Two things I’ll never forgive WWE for is breaking up The Shield and breaking up The Wyatt Family. The Shield I understand more, because they were three guys with unlimited potential who needed to be on their own to truly flourish. The Wyatt Family I’ll never understand. From day one on the main roster Harper & Rowan should have been the tag team champs who dismantle every team in their path, and Bray Wyatt should have been their psychological leader who preys on whoever gets in their way. Instead, Harper & Rowan lost every tag team title match they were in and Bray Wyatt got fed to Superman wearing a John Cena shirt. Now Wyatt is in a feud with Ryback and Harper & Rowan are taking turns mauling Fandango. With that said, I’m glad Harper & Rowan are back together. While Harper could easily survive on his own, I like them better as a team. You have two guys who look and act like monsters, so why not make them a monster tag team? Throw them in the mix with New Day and Cesaro/Kidd and you automatically have three solid tag teams that can fight over the titles. I hope this is the plan, and if it’s not, I hope Fandango joins them but it is ultimately kicked out because he can’t grow a beard.
So I don’t hear anyone talking about how the WWE is burying Neville anymore. Weird. Neville has consistently been the best part of Raw since his debut, and last night was his best night by far. Neville challenged John Cena for the US title, and he had the match won before that mother f&*^er Rusev came in and kicked the shit out of him and Cena. I love Rusev, but I was FURIOUS when he caused this DQ. Thinking back on it, I’d rather he cause the DQ than Cena kick out of the Red Arrow, which is 1000% what I thought was going to happen, but still. The second rope corkscrew splash, the backflip/corkscrew moon sault and the general energy Neville brings to the ring is impossible not to love. Neville looked awesome here, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
4. John Cena
As great as Neville looked, you have to give credit to John Cena. For the second week in a row he’s faced an NXT superstar or alumni and made them look like a million bucks. Win, lose or draw, putting guys like Sami Zayn and Neville in a championship match with John Cena is such a great move, and the fact that Cena is giving these guys 10-15 minutes to beat his ass makes it that much better. I still don’t like everyone kicking out of the AA, but when you’ve been around as long as Cena has, I guess it’s going to happen eventually. I really think he should find a new finishing move outside of the AA and STFU and start beating guys with that, as it will add an element of surprise to his matches that you usually don’t get. Other than that, it was a great match, and John Cena has as good a chance of losing to Rusev as I have with becoming best friends with George Clooney.
Cesaro got a couple minutes to wrestle in a singles match last night and predictably dominated like the absolute animal that he is. My only complaint with this match is that if Big E wants to go head to head with Cesaro, he better work on his conditioning, because Cesaro doesn’t mess around. Cesaro was suplexing and upper cutting Big E into oblivion, and at one point it looked like Big E might die in the ring. The two Germans into a belly to belly almost killed Big E because he couldn’t even jump off the ground, but thankfully Cesaro is superhuman and just tossed him over his head anyway. I will never get tired of seeing Cesaro throw guys around, and I will never understand why WWE doesn’t let him do it more often. Also, how about that rollup pin? I just want to find Cesaro and hug him for being so goddamn good.
The WWE puts on 52 Raw’s a year, which makes it virtually impossible to have a great show every week. People have bad days, weeks, even months; with that said, the WWE does get stuck in a creative rut from time to time, but this week’s show from Montreal was not one of those times. WWE’s production team is unmatched, and when they combine that with great wrestling, it’s one of the most entertaining things in the world to watch. We saw the emergence of New Day, the Raw debut of a local wrestling hero and Tamina Snuka might have actually killed a Bella Twin. Let’s get to the 5 stars!
1. New Day
The only time I don’t mind Raw opening with a talking segment is when someone I’m not expecting comes out to join the conversation. If you’re watching Raw and it’s 8:05pm, there’s a 99% chance you’re going to see Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Kane, HHH or Seth Rollins talking in the ring. It’s not the most exciting way to start a show, and a lot of time it takes the crowd out of it before they even get a chance to get invested. Well this week, New Day came out to break up Randy Orton and Roman Reigns pissing contest and it was AWESOME. New Day are a mix between the Nation of Domination and Bo Dallas at the height of his ‘Bo-lieve’ movement. They’re so condescending, and inserting them into random backstage segments where they’re celebrating HOURS after they beat Reigns and Orton was so good. Big E and Xavier Woods are both money on the microphone, and while I’d rather see Kofi and Big E in the ring over Woods, they all looked good last night. I don’t know what triggered the WWE to move New Day into this position, but I’m so glad they did.
If you watched the first hour of Raw, you saw the tiny glimmers of hope for the tag team division in New Day and Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. The Ascension still aren’t going anywhere, but Cesaro got to deliver 100 European uppercuts in a row so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy. Cesaro and Kidd are one of the only tag teams that look like a team, and it’s not just the tag team moves either. All their movements inside and outside the ring are in sync, and they genuinely look like they’re enjoying each other’s company out there. I also love that the swing into the dropkick was the move that got them the victory in the match. Tag Team finishing moves are always the best.
3. Dean Ambrose
This is the Dean Ambrose that needs to stay and never leave us again. Goofy hot dog cart Dean Ambrose needs to die and never be seen from again. The match between Rollins and Ambrose will be a top 5 Raw match by the end of the year, and it was one of the most enjoyable non pay per view matches in a very long time. Rollins and Ambrose work beautifully together, and the crowd ate up every single minute of it. These guys were rolling inside and outside the ring, and the Ambrose dive between the top and middle rope and the Rollins power bomb into the barricade were awesome. The Shield was the best thing going in the WWE for a long time, and there’s a reason for that: all three guys brought something to the table that made the audience connect with them. Rollins and Reigns have found that special connection as singles stars, and I hope this is the start of that same thing for Ambrose. Also, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but technically The Shield will be main eventing Payback.
4. Sami Zayn
Potential shoulder injury aside, this was amazing. John Cena comes out and tells the crowd he never quits for the first time ever, and issues another open challenge for his US title. Bret Hart’s music hits and thankfully there are no steel chairs in sight. Heath Slater tries his best to finally challenge Cena for the US title but Bret Hart bops him on the head with a microphone and introduces the actual man who’s going to challenge Cena for the US title, and it’s Sami mother f’n Zayn. The match was great, which isn’t surprising since Cena’s been incredible in the ring since winning the US title and I’m pretty sure Zayn is incapable of having a bad match. Anyone worried Sami’s move set wouldn’t make the leap with him to the main roster can breathe a sight of relief, because they were all on display Monday night, including his always insane dive through the bottom and middle rope swinging DDT. Zayn didn’t win, obviously, but giving him that moment in his hometown against THE guy was really great.
5. King Barrett
This Raw was so good that there were a lot more than five stars. Orton, Reigns and even Tamina Snuka had a solid show. But Bad News Barrett is now King Barrett, and he’s winning matches clean, so he’s on the list. The WWE is full of guys who can start a mid card renaissance, and I think Barrett is one of the guys who can lead the charge. He’s great on the microphone, he’s got a great look and he’s very good in the ring. Pairing him with or against guys like Sheamus, Ziggler, Neville and a returning Daniel Bryan can only result in great storylines and even better matches. It’s also impossible not to root for a guy who comes to the ring wearing a crown and carrying a scepter. If Barrett goes Macho Man on somebody and smashes them in the head with the scepter I’ll be the happiest little boy in the world.