There was a lot of good, and some really, really bad on the last Monday Night Raw before SummerSlam this Sunday in Los Angeles.
First, let’s go with the good.
Paul Heyman’s promo to start the show had me throwing cash at my television screen, and I already subscribe to WWE Network. Heyman, as he has been for almost three years now, was on point and hit yet another home run, making Lesnar vs. Cena seem like the biggest match in the history of pro wrestling. Imagine for a second, if Lesnar wins on Sunday. He won’t be at every television taping, but Paul Heyman will be. Imagine Paul Heyman, carrying the WWE Undisputed Heavyweight Championship to the ring on a weekly basis, cutting those masterful Paul Heyman promos. Cena’s promo later in the show in response was just as good, taking a serious tone that has been missing from Cena’s character for quite a while.
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, this Sunday at SummerSlam feels like a big deal, because it has been treated like a big deal. The hype videos, the special on WWE Network following Raw on Monday, it all feels like a big UFC main event. WWE should be taking a lesson from themselves. When you treat the pro wrestling genre as actual sport, treat the matches as actual fights, people get into it. They’re invested.
Hulk Hogan’s birthday celebration to close the show was just as good. Some of the names are frequent visitors, but others, like Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, were great to see. Hogan ripping off his red and yellow shirt to reveal the nWo shirt underneath was a highlight.
WWE also used the opportunity to continue to put the pedal to the metal on Lesnar vs. Cena. Lesnar and Heyman interrupted the festivities and teased attacking the ring full of legends before Cena chased him off. The entire build to this main event championship match has been perfect, and it hit a high note at the perfect time on Monday night.
Then, there’s the bad. And man, was it bad.
Stephanie McMahon cut a promo to start the 9 p.m. hour and invited Daniel Bryan’s “physical therapist,” who goes only by the name “Megan,” into the ring. Megan said that she’s been been embroiled in an affair with Bryan.
Not only was it executed with the precision of a blind surgeon, it wasn’t needed. There was plenty of heat already in this rivalry, and it was built well enough that most fans were ready to see these two fight at SummerSlam in about six days. They just needed to keep the train on the tracks, and instead, they triggered a massive derailment.
This angle came off cheesey. It stunk. It was the ultimate soap opera rubbish that Vince Russo loved when he was writing for WWE and WCW throughout the late-90s and 2000s. It was predictable – the entire building and a viewing audience of four million people knew where they were headed – and it was just bad.
WWE has two options at this piont. They could actually stay the course, and if they do, they took one of their biggest babyfaces in Daniel Bryan, and made him a heel. Because a guy who cheats on his babyface wife is a heel. They can’t change that. Or, they could make the dumb even dumber, and tell the audience that Megan was paid, she never really had an affair with Daniel Bryan, and everyone is getting along again.
And WWE wasn’t done there. That one horrific segment wasn’t enough. Later in the show, Megan had Brie Bella arrested for assault, after Brie slapped her earlier in the show for the affair. So they took a feud that didn’t need any more heat, and added an adultery and arrest angle with such poor precision it made me squirm with embarrassment for even watching it.
Luckily, the good far outweighed the bad.
– Seth Rollins picked up a solid win over Rob Van Dam heading into his SummerSlam match against Dean Ambrose. RVD returned to the company over a year ago now, and I wish they did more with him. RVD doesn’t need to be in the WWE Title picture, but he can provide more value than just doing jobs, which it seems he’s been locked into for the last few months.
– AJ Lee vs. Paige at SummerSlam should be a lot of fun, and it should be one of the most competitive matches in the Divas Division that we’ve seen in a while. It’s been nice to see WWE finally put some build behind a Divas program. I’m not counting the Stephanie-Brie feud, because she owns the company. AJ-Paige is a Divas feud, on its own, that has been built up really well and should pay off with a great match on Sunday.
Overall, a solid show. The Brie-Stephanie angle was terrible. I’m not afraid to call it perhaps the worst segment WWE has produced in, five? Maybe 10 years? It was horrifically bad. But Heyman, Lesnar and Cena saved the show, along with the nice surprises that filled Hulk Hogan’s birthday bash and some good in-ring action. Swagger vs. Cesaro was a good, competitive match, as was Rollins-RVD. And ultimately, the show accomplished what it set out to do, and that’s pump Cena-Lesnar for SummerSlam in six days.
Handicap Match: Roman Reigns def. Rybaxel
Singles Match: Seth Rollins def. Rob Van Dam
Singles Match: Jack Swagger def. Cesaro
Singles Match: Eva Marie def. AJ Lee
Singles Match: Heath Slater def. Dolph Ziggler via countout
Singles Match: Randy Orton def. Sheamus