One quick observation before we get into Monday’s Raw results:
When WWE Network was launched earlier this year, part of the pitch was that WWE would offer all of its PPV events for free on the network as part of the monthly subscription. In a subtle twist, the company appears to be pulling back on that initial promise, at least if you listen closely.
Every week, WWE Raw announcers JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler pitch the network. When the network was launched, part of that pitch included the free PPV events, and words, “including Wrestlemania!” This was still said even after Wrestlemania 30 this past April.
Now, the narrative has changed.
In recent weeks, JBL has stopped short of promising all PPV events as part of his pitch, and clearly states “all the way through the Royal Rumble,” when talking about how many PPV events were included with a subscription. It could just be a coincidence, or more likely, WWE has changed the dialogue purposely.
Here’s the rest of what happened on Monday’s Raw:
Cena Locks Up Heyman
Paul Heyman was out to start the job, pushing this Sunday’s main event between John Cena and Brock Lesnar at Night of Champions. Heyman did a nice job selling the pay-per-view rematch. In fairness, WWE has done a nice job rebuilding this rematch after Lesnar utterly destroyed Cena at SummerSlam.
As Heyman was about to leave, John Cena came to the ring. He told Heyman that he gave him a week, and that he was at Raw tonight for a fight. He wanted to fight Lesnar, but since Lesnar wasn’t there, he’d fight Heyman. Heyman started to squirm, and said Brock was on his way, but his private jet had been delayed. So Cena did what any rational human being would do … he kidnapped Heyman and held him against his will.
Cena dragged Heyman to the back in a headlock and threw him in an empty locker room, and he had The Great Khali guard the door. So there’s an accomplice! Cena told Heyman had he until “halftime,” about 80 minutes, to produce Lesnar or Cena was fighting Heyman.
Chris Jericho def. Kane
Jericho’s booking since the end of his cage match with Wyatt last Monday has been interesting, to say the least. First, he was attacked by Randy Orton backstage for no apparent reason. They never seemd to really revisit that either. It was spoken of tonight, but not with much else. He defeated Kane in about 10 minutes. The match was fine, but it’s hard to tell what the motivation was here from WWE’s perspective. My best guess is that Jericho is on his way out the door in order to tour with Fozzy this fall, and this was a way to get him off TV for at least a few weeks
Jericho did the clean job to Wyatt, and maybe this was a way for him to leave WWE on a positive note? But if that’s the case, why run the Orton attack angle last week? We’ll see, I guess.
Jack Swagger def. Bo Dallas via submission
If you thought this feud was going to travel down the road for a bit, perhaps you were wrong. Swagger forced Dallas to tap, clean, on live television, sliding Dallas even further down the depth chart. Dallas was strong at his debut, but his booking had him simmering for a bit, and WWE has clearly taken his pan off the burner.
Paige & Nikki Bella def. AJ Lee & Brie Bella
Good mix of these two Divas feuds. Most times, when writers combine two singles feuds into a tag-team match, it feels lazy, but this felt a little more natural. Credit to the women involved, in my opinion.
Paige got the win over Brie, who has been the victim of a heel’s heat for weeks on end. The angle has been booked very similar to the way that Kevin Sullivan used to book WCW. Sullivan’s strategy was to let the heels get as much heat on the babyfaces as possible. The babyfaces were constantly getting beat up and victimized, until they finally made their comeback. He used to compare it to a balloon. You need to fill up that balloon with a lot of heat, and the bigger it gets, the bigger the pop when the babyface makes the comeback.
Well Brie has been filling up the heel balloons for months now. The only problem here is that the audience is clearly starting to lose interest. It will be interesting to see what this segment did during the quarter-hour ratings, which are usually released later this week, as it was right near the beginning of Monday Night Football on ESPN.
Big Show def. Bray Wyatt via disqualification
A good match, which will certainly set up a future match between Wyatt and Show. Wyatt’s henchmen, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, broke up a Big Show pin attempt, forcing the DQ. Wyatt then bailed out and Show fought off Harper and Rowan, double chokeslamming them in the ring. The camera then cut to Wyatt on the stage, rocking on his rocking chair as Big Show stared him down from the ring.
The Usos & Sheamus def. Cesaro & The Dust Brothers
Stardust and Goldust decimated Jey Uso’s knee last week, wrapping it around the ring post and slamming it with a chair. Jey is now 100 percent healed. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t want to draw more sympathy on the babyface team. You can still have the match, but have Jey wear a knee brace and limp to the ring. Stardust and Goldust attack him again at some point. It’s a simple, effective way to continue to make them look like heels, while really building up sympathy on the Usos.
The match itself was slow to start, but they were pacing themselves as this bout went almost 15 minutes. The finish came when an Uso – I’m not sure which one, they’re twins, so give me a break – hit a splash on Cesaro for the pinfall. The Dust Brothers will get a title shot this Sunday at Night of Champions.
The Halftime Show
Here comes the pain …
Cena retrieved his kidnap victim from the back, thanked Great Khali for standing guard, and dragged Heyman to the ring, where Heyman was on his knees begging for mercy. Cena was a bit cheesy in his approach. He called Heyman the “Great Heyman-dini” and said he needed to “magically make Brock Lesnar appear” or else Cena was going to “make his teeth disappear with his fist.”
Be A Star, John. Be A Star.
Heyman then started to taunt Cena. He told Cena he would never be WWE Champion again, because his principles will get in the way. He begged Cena to hit him, and Cena wouldn’t. Then Cena basically admitted he was faking it. He told Heyman he thought he would produce Lesnar.
Heyman continued to taunt Cena as he was leaving. Really? Cena threatened to punch Heyman’s teeth out if he didn’t produce Lesnar. Heyman didn’t produce Lesnar and Cena just say, “I’m kidding” and walked out? This part of the segment was written horribly.
Cena charged back into the ring though and shoved Heyman. Phew! Glad that happened.
That is what brought out Brock Lesnar to the stage, wearing the WWE Championship around his waist. Lesnar charged into the ring and hit Cena with a German Suplex. One and done. He then kicked Cena out of the ring. But Cena attacked again, shoving Lesnar out of the ring, through the ropes, and the brawl was on at ringside before security broke it up.
It was a good segment with a strong visual heading into the title match on Sunday, but WWE played this angle out all too quickly. If you believe the reports, Vince McMahon was insistent on pushing Cena strong once he returned to Raw, instead of letting Cena seem vulnerable. This would have been a lot more effective if Cena appeared vulnerable for the past five weeks before finally getting his comeback on this show.
Naomi def. Cameron
I’m not sure anyone was paying attention to this match after the Cena-Lesnar segment, unfortunately, because Naomi is quite good.
Dolph Ziggler & R-Truth def. The Miz & Damien Sandow
OK, here we go. A rematch from perhaps the worst segment on last week’s Raw, through no fault of the guys involved, and totally on whoever thought what they did last week was actually funny. For some reason, Jerry Lawler was very pro-Miz to start the match, and was ripping Ziggler apart. He said Ziggler “was a terrible movie actor,” which means a lot, because he’s a pro wrestler.
The announcers continued to pretend like they couldn’t tell the difference between Truth and Ziggler, which I’m not totally sure, but might border on racist? At least not outwardly, but I’m sure backstage someone is getting the inside joke.
Ziggler and Truth win, as Lawler continued to rip them apart, for reasons unknown to anyone.
Speaking of weird, racist remarks, the show then cut to Seth Rollins backstage, who called Roman Reigns a neanderthal and a barbarian, and then adding that he was “part Samoan, part gorilla, and part rhino,” before rolling around on the ground and calling Reigns a “brainless animal.”
Roman Reigns def. Seth Rollins
It was a really good match, but they gave away a top PPV match on television, with the babyface going over clean, without really needing to. The match itself was really good, but the presentation continued to veer off down the horrendous path that Rollins started in the previous interview segment.
The announcers played up Reigns being a brainless animal. So Reigns went from being a calculated, cerebral wrestler to a brainless meathead. That’s a terrible narrative to start for a guy who you think can be the lead face of your company down the road. The storytelling in general has been abysmal. Are there too many cooks in the kitchen?
Vince McMahon’s favorite segment of the show
We all know Vince loves him some red, white and blue. When “Old Glory” is waving loud and proud, Vince is dancing in the Gorilla position. Really odd to have this segment close the program, though.
Lana and Rusev cut Henry down, talking about how he failed at the 1992 Olympics and he would fail again. They brawled a bit, and Henry ended the show shouting, “that’s what I do!” as he waved the stars and stripes. Good segment to pump their match at Night of Champions on Sunday, but odd placement.
My guess is that WWE was trying to strategically place certain segments on the show. When Cena said Lesnar had “until halftime,” to produce Lesnar, he meant it. Not by accident, that segment went on the air almost at the exact time Monday Night Football went to halftime.
If it works in the quarter-hour ratings this week, expect WWE to start placing its main event somewhere around 9:45 until January.