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By Jon Mezzera, PWTorch Specialist
Last week, I was baffled by Raw. There was some good stuff with Randy Orton and Paul Heyman. But, I was thoroughly baffled by Sting's voice. The rapid fire tag team title related matches were so out of the norm for how WWE usually books Raw that it took me out of the action. I didn't care about the Bray Wyatt - Undertaker scene. I don't care to see the match after The Streak ended and Taker's bad match at last year's WrestleMania. And the ending with the beating went on way too long and gave Orton his revenge on Seth Rollins. I should want to pay to see him get that revenge at WM, but he got it last week. I was too baffled by some of it and upset at other parts and upset about the poor WM card and build that I couldn't quite bring myself to even write about it. At least this week's show was better.
Opening Segment: Raw got off to a pretty good start. The long talking segment did start to drag. But, I liked the mic work from various members of The Authority. This was a good follow up to last week's show closing angle. I have not been a big fan of what WWE has done with Orton since Fastlane. They took a simple story and have complicated it with having too much time to fill between PPVs. Some of it has been good and this part worked. Jamie Noble was great, calling himself the secret weapon of The Authority. After seeing too much of Orton getting revenge on Rollins last week, I wasn't sure giving away their WM match on Raw was a good idea, but I had a feeling it wasn't going to actually happen, so I was ok with it.
Bella vs. Lee: I am glad that this year's Divas WM match is more focused than last year's. Not that it will be given a lot of time, but at least the Bellas vs. AJ Lee & Paige has a chance to be a pretty good match and not just a clustermess of every Diva on the roster in a sloppy terrible match like last year. I have very little hope that #GiveDivasaChance will go anywhere, but this match added to that tiny iota of hope. Nikki and AJ had an 11 minute match on Raw. When was the last time a Divas match went over 10 minutes? It wasn't a great match and I didn't like the ending as much, but on the whole it was a good match and it was very nice to see WWE giving the Divas this type of time to have a good match.
Cena's Promo: If WWE wants John Cena to get cheered by the majority of the fans, then having him go so strongly patriotic is a good idea. Cena delivered a very passionate promo about how disgusted he is that Rusev represents all the US fans as the United States Champion. As I have said multiple times, Cena is at his best when he is serious and intense, dropping any type of humor since he isn't funny. I liked the line about the contract being his Declaration of Independence. This was well written and well delivered. It is too bad that the terrible lawyer's bit brought this segment down (more later).
Brock Lesnar: This was the right way to have Brock Lesnar talk. He is good in these types of segments where he isn't talking live in front of the audience. This was very effective at recapping Lesnar's history and allowing him to talk about how his purpose on Earth is to hurt people. I question bringing up that Lesnar might be leaving. I guess they want to address the situation for those fans in the know to make some doubt about what will happen. I think they are trying to avoid a WM 20 situation where the fans crapped on Lesnar's match against Goldberg. I mean, this won't be the exact same situation, but similar enough that WWE is worried about the fan reaction. I still am not convinced that they should have ever brought up his contract status. But, that was just a smaller part of a very strong segment with a good performance from Lesnar, mixed perfectly with WWE's production with the editing and images that were included.
Heyman and Reigns: I didn't like this segment as much as the Lesnar one, but it was good. This was far from Paul Heyman's best work. It seemed like he was starting to set up the idea that Lesnar vs. Reigns should be no DQ (you know, like very other one of Lesnar's matches in his 2nd WWE run), but then that idea seemed to go nowhere. Maybe I was just misreading what he was saying. Either way, it was still a good promo to continue to build up Lesnar as being unstoppable. Reigns was good in his role as well. This was definitely one of his best promos. I liked how he directed his comments to Lesnar and not Heyman. He seemed less scripted, maybe just because he had that ad libbed line about the fans who were chanting for Daniel Bryan while he was talking. I also liked the follow up after the commercial break with Heyman announcing that Lesnar would be on Raw next week to go face to face with Reigns which is a big thing that has been missing from this feud since the snowed in Raw the night after the Royal Rumble. But, I am still not sold on the match. I am far from sold on Reigns himself. They aren't doing anything to make him seem like the one I should be cheering for at WM. Lesnar is coming across like the one who should be cheered. It is doubtful that it is going to be a good match. So no matter how good Heyman is, no matter how good a job WWE does with a Lesnar pre-taped segment, and no matter how much Reigns improves on the mic, I still think the WM main event is going to be a big dud.
The Authority Tricks Orton: This story worked well and was weaved nicely throughout the show. I thought it was predictable, but still well done. They all played their parts well, first with Kane and The Big Show getting mad at Rollins and saying they wouldn't be in his corner for his main event match against Orton. Later on, Jamie Noble (who was just great) quit as did Joey Mercury. Later on, they had Triple H and Stephanie McMahon abandon him too. Rollins was very good at the end in gloating to Orton about how they were able to trick him. Obviously, The Authority could have just beat up Orton without the trick, but the purpose of the trick was to make Orton over confident and to pull the rug out from underneath him, the way he had done to Rollins the week before. That worked for me. Sting's appearance was a nice surprise and the type of appearance that uses Sting's strength's to great effect. But, the bigger issue remains in that Orton has gotten his revenge on Rollins and The Authority for what they did to him last November. Why should I care about their match at WM? They have one more Raw to make me care since I've already seen the payoff.
The Announcers: The announcing on Raw continues to be terrible. The constant bickering and infighting is so bad. They don't even seem to be watching the matches. Having JBL mocking Cole for getting the WM start time wrong wasn't enjoyable to listen to. Booker T who is supposed to be a babyface saying that all women hate each other was disappointingly sexist. I guess we've heard Jerry Lawler say the same thing enough that it isn't anything new, but that doesn't make it ok. The announcers were too busy joking around with R-Truth about the constant thievery of the IC Title to notice that Daniel Bryan was upset at Dolph Ziggler tagging himself into their six man tag match before the first commercial break in that match. They don't pay attention to the product. They are too busy making jokes and talking about other segments on the show and bickering with each other to actually pay attention and call what is happening in a match. In this case, they missed what should be an important moment in the match considering how Ziggler called Bryan a turd on Smackdown and what happened at the end of the match and afterwards between these two. I've been watching some Lucha Underground lately. Matt Striker and Vampiro are far from great announcers. But, it is so refreshing to watch a wrestling show with a two man announce team (three is too many!), who don't bicker with each other or make fun of each other, who actually say the names of the moves that the wrestlers are doing, and who actually pay attention and act as if they are excited to be calling the action of the matches. It is a far cry from the presentation of WWE who have more talented announcers who aren't doing a good job at all, in part because of the crappy way they are produced.
On an aside, the six man tag was probably Hit worthy, but I didn't give it a Hit since we saw a better version of it on Smackdown last week and it didn't need to happen again on Raw. Also, while it went a nice length at 17 minutes, it was interrupted by two commercials. I mentioned Lucha Underground in terms of the announcing, so I will mention it again in that they actually present long main events without commercial interruptions. Last week, the main event of Johnny Mundo vs. King Cuerno in a steel cage went nearly 14 minutes without a commercial. The week before it was Alberto El Patron vs. Texano which went over 12 minutes. I'm not saying that WWE can have 20 minute matches without commercials, but why can't they have 10-12 minute matches without them? Why can't they have 17 minute matches with only one?
Rusev's Lawyer: I'm not sure what WWE was going for with this guy. It was terrible. I really don't know whether WWE planned it to be bad, or whether the announcers talking about how bad it was was an audible called on the spot after hearing how bad it was. Neither is a good excuse. Lana was sorely missed here. I get what WWE was going for in terms of Rusev not being the one to accept the match, but then he did anyway, so that muddied the waters of what they were trying to do in the short term. Rusev's goal was to read an anti-America statement, and he would be willing to face Cena. It is hard to believe that after weeks of ducking Cena, he would be willing to sign the contract at that point. He bad mouths America like that every week. So, why was this special? Why go to the trouble of getting the bad actor to have such a bad Russian accent to appear like Rusev had a plan to not sign the contract that way? This was bad.
Tag Title Situation: The Tag Team Championship situation has been so bad lately. I do like Tyson Kidd & Cesaro. I wish WWE had just stuck with their feud against The Usos to have a solid if not really good Tag Team Title match at WM. Instead, over the past few weeks they have brought the super lame teams of New Day and Los Matadores into the picture. WM should be special and an honor for the participants on the roster who get to be on the show. However, it is not special when WWE tries too hard to find a way to get every wrestler on the roster onto the show through the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, a seven man Intercontinental Championship ladder match, and presumably a multi team Tag Team Title match. This situation was bad when the Usos were involved. Now that they are likely out due to an injury, it makes a bad situation even worse. And making the one selling point for Smackdown an inter species tag match with Kidd, Cesaro & Natalya vs. Los Matadores & El Torito is a terrible hook to get people to watch the show.
Mini Battle Royal: I don't care about the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. I didn't care about it last year, and after the winner Cesaro went absolutely nowhere after the supposedly huge victory, it is hard to get excited about it this year. There are a few mid card wrestlers in it, but it is mostly filled with lower card wrestlers some of whom are never even on Raw or Smackdown. WWE seemed to be heading for a rematch between Goldust and Stardust at WM. I was disappointed to see Stardust involved in the IC Title ladder match. And that leaves Goldust in this stupid match. Mark Henry was presented as a heel on Smackdown, so why would we pop for him coming out and announcing he will be in the battle royal? The quick rapid fire "eliminations" was not a good way to sell the battle royal at WM. It makes it look like that battle royal will last about 2 minutes. It is just a mess.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com's WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at his NEW email address - firstname.lastname@example.org.
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell's views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET's "Hitlist" section here.
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