Monday night’s episode of WWE Raw furthered the storylines between Daniel Bryan and the Authority, the newly reunited Evolution, the Semi-Finals of the tournament to crown a new #1 contender for the Intercontinental Championship, and the Wyatt Family’s mind games against John Cena.
With two weeks to go until Extreme Rules, how will the rest of the card shape up? Before we delve into the happenings of the April 21 episode of WWE Raw, let me tell you what you can expect in my reviews for WWE programming.
You’re not going to find in-depth analysis and criticism of the matches. I’m not a play-by-play analyst; my opinion of matches basically falls within was I entertained by it or not. There will be no “5-star” match ratings and that other nonsense. This is about the angles, storylines heading into matches and the stories that come as a result. I’ll highlight the storylines and feuds I found the most interesting during the program, as well as list the match results and a short commentary after. I might change it up until I find a format I’m most comfortable with.
The Opening Segment
WWE Raw begins with Brie Bella-Danielson welcoming her husband, the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan to the ring. They start off a “YES” chant before they’re interrupted by Stephanie McMahon…
Stephanie unleashes the Big Red Monster
Stephanie McMahon enters and congratulates Bryan and Brie on their wedding. Stephanie’s smarmy, insincere compliments about their wedding (which she called “organic, crunchy rustic”) was laced with sarcasm and shade. It set the tone for what was about to come. Stephanie officially announced Bryan will defend his championship at Extreme Rules against Kane, suggesting to Bryan, “I’d make sure I got my pretty little wife out of harm’s way,” implying an appearance from Kane was imminent. Like clockwork, Kane’s music and pyro goes off, but no Kane. Bryan tries to get Brie to safety but Kane appears and brutally attacks Bryan. Stephanie screams for Kane to stop what he’s doing, all the while fueling Kane’s assault. After finishing Bryan off with two Tombstones, including one on the steel steps, medics arrive to attend to Bryan. Before they can take Bryan away, Kane comes back to decimate Bryan even more! Kane lays Bryan out with a third Tombstone piledriver, this time on the announce table (no it didn’t break)!
Stephanie “insulted” Kane by calling him a bastard repeatedly in an apathetic tone. The image of Stephanie holding both championship belts while taunting Bryan was a great way to start the night. It was an effective beat down that put tons of heat on the newly re-masked Kane, while also giving Bryan the night off in light of his personal loss. I’m not excited about a Kane/Bryan match. Will it be entertaining? Yes. But Kane in 2014 doesn’t scream main eventer. I won’t sound the alarm just yet, but having his first title defense against Kane isn’t the way I envisioned the start of his championship reign.
It’d be remiss of me not to praise Stephanie McMahon’s mic work since last fall. There’s a lot of nuances to her performances, delivering her lines with a mixture of sincerity (or insincerity depending on the situation), sarcasm and a mean streak. I love it.
Evolution Explains Their Ascension
The commentators hyped the appearance of Evolution throughout the first hour. It’s no surprise they kicked off the top of the second hour. Evolution – Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton – enters the ring, complete with a new titan tron showing their evolution over the years. It doesn’t matter so much as what Triple H and the other members of the Evolving Authority (ha ha) had to say, but what they set up. Long story short, there’s 31 world titles between them, they’re the best at what they do and embarrassed The Shield, watch our video of the years when we kicked a bunch of ass.
The Shield made their entrance through the crowd and Evolution retreated to the top of the stage. Ambrose remarked that their beating the previous week wasn’t their first and wouldn’t be their last. He says there’s a reason Triple H hired The Shield to protect him and “the little cream puff Randy Orton.” Ambrose refers to The Shield as the “meanest, nastiest, dirtiest, most ruthless animals in the industry.”
Seth Rollins says Evolution will come face to face with the Hounds of Justice at Extreme Rules, promising their battle will be “all out war.” He foreshadows dissent in the group once their backs are against the wall – with Batista’s Hollywood obligation, Orton looking out for himself and Triple H doing what he feels is best for business. Roman Reigns reminds Evolution of the ultimatum they issued to The Shield last week, but The Shield has one of their own for them. He gives them two options – to fight or be cream puffs and run and hide.
When they exit the ring to confront Evolution, they’re stopped by the 11 men who faced them in last week’s main event. Triple H says there’s always an option three. “Listen up boys, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. In life, you either adapt or you perish. That is evolution.”
Overall it was a hot segment. I was a huge fan of Evolution as a teen, so seeing the group reunite against The Shield is a great walk down memory lane, but I doubt this reunion will last longer than Extreme Rules. I’d rather see Triple H form a new Evolution under The Authority, with guys handpicked for superstardom, much like the original. That’s something I can touch on in a later piece.
I’m not a fan of Ambrose’s mic work. He’s had better promos, he’s had worse. Rollins had a strong night, though he tended to ramble at times. Reigns’ time on the mic was short but effective, the best thing for him at the moment.
#1 Contenders Tournament for the Intercontinental Championship
The Intercontinental Championship has long been a forgotten gem of WWE’s past. This newfound focus on establishing a series of contenders was the best move WWE could make to put the focus back on it as a secondary championship in the aftermath of the unification of the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship.
The semifinals saw Wade Barrett take on Sheamus and Rob Van Dam take on Cesaro. Barrett and Sheamus had a great match and Barrett was the right man to go over.
Cesaro’s loss to RVD was surprising but not totally unexpected. He needs to wrap up his feud with former parter Jack Swagger before he can officially move on to a new program. Cesaro will take on Swagger on Friday’s episode of WWE Smackdown.
If the post-match segment was an indication of what’s to come, I foresee a feud between former “Paul Heyman Guy” Rob Van Dam and current Heyman Guy, Cesaro, should RVD win the IC title. Cesaro is the future of the company and if RVD serves as a transitional champion to facilitate Cesaro’s further climb up the ladder, I’m okay with that.
1) #1 Contenders Tournament for the Intercontinental Championship Semi-Final
Wade Barrett vs. Sheamus
Winner: Barrett wins via pinfall with the Bullhammer.
Commentary: Damn good match. It’s been great seeing Barrett back in the ring after months of just appearing in segments. I’m still not too keen on the “Bad News Barrett” gimmick, but it’s the most invested the company has been in him in a long while. Sheamus does nothing for me and hasn’t for a long time. I don’t know whether a gimmick overhaul will fix it or what, but he needs to go away for a few months and come back a new man.
2) Los Matadores & El Torito vs. 3MB (Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal) & Hornswaggle w/ Heath Slater
Winner: El Torito wins via pinfall with a triple team move.
Commentary: I don’t have anything nice to say. I’m sure some people enjoyed it. I didn’t. Not a fan of camp at all. I get enough of it on General Hospital. To each their own.
3) WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos vs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust.
Winner: Jimmy Uso winsvia pinfall with a superkick to Cody Rhodes.
Commentary: Quick match that furthered The Usos’ feud with Rybaxel and set up a potential new angle with Cody Rhodes and his brother. After the loss, Cody stormed out of the ring with Goldust following behind him. It appears Cody has had enough of his situation with Goldust. Meanwhile, Ryback and Curtis Axel attacked The Usos.
4) Layla w/ Fandango vs. Emma w/ Santino
Winner: Emma wins via pinfall with the pink cobra.
Commentary: More than an angle than anything. Emma is a damn good wrestler and I enjoy the pairing with Santino to an extent, but this storyline has to go somewhere soon. Fandango and Layla aren’t clicking with me as a pair, hopefully they’ll find it in the coming weeks.
5) #1 Contenders Tournament for the Intercontinental Championship Semi-Final
Cesaro w/ Paul Heyman vs. Rob Van Damn
Winner: Rob Van Dam wins via count out after interference from Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter.
Commentary: Great match with a surprising finish.
6) Aksana vs. WWE Divas Champion Paige (non-title match)
Winner: Paige via submission
Commentary: Nothing special. Paige continues to have strong showings in the ring, I just wish she had a better selection of opponents to work against. I was surprised there was no interference or appearance by Tamina, Paige’s opponent at Extreme Rules. It was odd that there was no furthering of their storyline (as limited as it is) heading into the next event.
7) Alexander Rusev w/ Lana vs. Sin Cara
Winner: Rusev wins via submission.
Commentary: What is there to say about a squash match? It was what it was. Rusev looked impressive. I don’t if he’ll turn out to be something great for the company, but Lana is a definite keeper. Her look reminds me a lot of Stacy Keibler’s WCW persona, Ms. Hancock.
8) John Cena vs. The Wyatt Family (Bray Watt, Luke Harper and Erik Rowan)
Winner: John Cena via disqualification.
Commentary: Strong main event. Wyatt and Cena is one of the most intriguing feuds going for WWE at the moment, and anything that keeps Cena away from the main event picture is fine by me. Cena is a great talent and I’m hoping he’s able to rub off some of his magic on Wyatt and establish him as a credible threat. I haven’t seen someone get into Cena’s head this much since his rivalry with Edge.
I hope you enjoyed the first of what will hopefully be a series of reviews for WWE Raw. I want these reviews to be a platform for discussion. If you have an opinion that differs from mine, feel free to share it. Debate is what makes wrestling fandom so awesome. One person’s interpretation of a match/storyline can be completely different from another. Hit the comments and let me know your thoughts on the April 21 edition of WWE Raw.