WWE Raw: Looking At The “Excellence in Appreciation” Edition

Monday Night Raw definitely gave us a lot more to be appreciative for this week. I’m not just talking about...

Paul Jordan

Contributor

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Monday Night Raw definitely gave us a lot more to be appreciative for this week. I’m not just talking about the fact that it was Bret Hart appreciation night in Calgary or the fact that it was Memorial Day in the US. There was some great action, solid booking and great cameos during the night as well. The show began with the first of many touching tributes to the men and women of the US military. Before I begin talking about the wacky world of professional wrestling, I just want to say thank you to all who serve, protect our freedoms here domestically or abroad. Your sacrifice will always be remembered in my heart.

The opening segment of the night saw John Cena give a decent promo explaining how Ryback took him to hell at Extreme Rules. Cena then says he wants to return the favor at Payback and announces the match to be a Three Stages of Hell Match in Chicago.

(Side rant: Where the hell is Vickie Guerrero? Isn’t she supposed to be running things around here? First Ryback last week made a stipulation and now Cena makes his? I guess the inmates are running the asylum.)

For the uninitiated, a Three Stages of Hell match is basically a two out of three falls contest in which every fall has a different stipulation attached. This time the stipulations go as follows:

Stage I : A Lumberjack Match (Cena says he picked this stipulation so Ryback doesn’t run away. Why would he run? He’s in a title match. I guess they’re trying to play into the Shield part of the storyline, but who knows?)

At least, all the guys that will get bumped from the show due to the fact there’ll be three matches featuring Cena and Ryback will get a payday.

Stage II: A Tables Match: (John Cena says he picks this one because he listens to the WWE universe say they want tables. Okay. That’s a weird choice. And if memory serves, I don’t believe that John Cena has had the greatest record in tables matches. Didn’t Cena lose the WWE title to Sheamus in a tables match? And wasn’t the whole CM Punk pipe bomb thing right after a tables match against R-Truth which John lost. I know this is going to be the one where they tie it up for Ryback. But if you get to choose all three stipulations don’t you think you would pick something a little more in your favor? )

Stage III : An Ambulance Match (So here’s my thoughts on this, we all know that Ryback doesn’t have the best in ring stamina and he’s not going to go and become the sixty minute man anytime soon. My question is will Ryback have anything in the tank by the time they reach the third stage? I’m not sure if WWE should not have kept it just one fall. It’s in my opinion it is better to go shorter than longer with Ryback.)

After the champion announced that the stipulations Ryback comes out and says that he is Beelzebub, the Devil, and Satan saying that he would will welcome John Cena to hell because Ryback rules. This was much better than the ambulance promo last week because it was short, simple and to the point. Ryback needs to be silent and violent.

Just when you thought the segment was over Paul Heyman comes out with Curtis Axel. Heyman introduces his new client to the champion and Cena responds by giving the third-generation star some advice on getting away from Paul Heyman. Heyman and Axel feeling insulted by that statement make a challenge for later on in the night which Cena accepts.

I thought overall, the segment was fine. That being said, I like many of you was dreading what they may do in the main event. I will give Cena this much compared to last week with Triple H this was worlds better. The one thing I don’t like is everybody calling Joe Hennig a kid.. He’s going to be 34 this October.

We get to the first match of the night which sees Alberto versus Big E in a rematch from the week prior. At first the announcers say that Alberto is looking for revenge from last week. However then they mention Del Rio and his win on Main Event this past Wednesday, so wouldn’t that mean that the Mexican aristocrat already got his revenge?

Anyway, the match itself was not altogether as solid as this past Wednesday. Alberto picked up the victory after AJ interference backfires causing Langston to lose by roll up once again. There are already teasing dissension between Big E and AJ which I think is way too soon. There are some who believe that the WWE roadmap leads to Big E winning the Money in the Bank briefcase this July and use it to cash in on Dolph. That an interesting idea, we will have to wait and see if that comes to fruition.

We then see the first of two segments with Bret Hart, which I think went over quite nicely. The WWE Hall of Famer gives the overly aggressive Daniel Bryan some advice about tag team wrestling. I thought it was funny when Bret said that Hell No was one of the best units in history. Not to mention the fact that Daniel Bryan’s reaction was something to the whole as he looks like a child that just met Santa Claus. It was a great use of The Hitman and surprisingly very funny. It is interesting that they can still find comedy with the pairing of Daniel Bryan even though there taking the Dazzler in a more serious direction slowly but surely.

Dean Ambrose and Kofi Kingston met again for the United States title and I have to say it wasn’t one of their better efforts. The match just didn’t seem to click. It never really got to that second gear. The finish itself was pretty solid as Ambrose used Kofi and his momentum making him go into the ring steps face first then hitting the Mind Trip in the center in the ring for a clean victory. You have to think that this will be the end of Kofi being in US title contention for a while.

Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns come down to the ring celebrate Ambrose’s victory. Almost instantaneously, Kane and Daniel Bryan come out and we’re off to the races on the tag team title.rematch. This is without a doubt match of the night predicated on the abilities of Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan.

The overall aggressive nature of Daniel Bryan once again plays a factor in the tag team champions retaining the titles. A heel turn is coming for Daniel Bryan that is definitely for sure. Will we see Daniel Bryan versus John Cena? I mean how long can Ryback stay as the number one contender?

As for the tag titles, we see a bit of foreshadowing as Sheamus and Randy were shown talking backstage on taking down the Shield on the WWE App. We also see statements from the Primetime Players. However, I think we all know who the number one contenders are going to be.

Next up, we had the Raw Active segment segment of the night as fans had a choice of what the role of the Miz would be during a match between Fandango. The choices were a color commentator, a ring announcer and a referee. I found it funny that Michael Cole did not want the Miz to be a color commentator even though he works alongside the Miz on the Main Event. The fans choose referee which leads to chaos during the match with Fandango and Wade Barrett. The Intercontinental champion shoves down the referee, Fandango takes of the victory following a Skull Crushing Finale from the Miz. Then after the match, the Miz raises the hand of Fandango as he and Summer Rae begin to dance. The Miz then proceeds to kick the dancing superstar in the head making knocking him out as his dance partner awkwardly falls on top with the Miz counting three. The only saving grace of this awful segment was the crowd, who just loved doing the Fandango. So correct me if I’m wrong did that mean that Fandango is in Intercontinental title contention?

After the match, we see a segment backstage with John Cena and a bearded Shawn Michaels in which the WWE Hall of Famer attempts to talk some sense into the WWE champion. That was a nice surprise.

The Punjabi Playboy and Tons of Funk defeat the 3MB in a six man match set up over the destruction of Natalya’s birthday cake. After the victory, the big man serenades his girlfriend with a little happy birthday. This would not be the last time that was sung on this episode by the way.

Then we get the Highlight Reel with Paul Heyman and Chris Jericho which I thought was absolutely phenomenal. The back-and-forth between these two as Jericho is trying to get answers on the future of CM Punk was great. Heyman claims that punk will be back in three weeks to fight Jericho at the next pay-per-view in Chicago. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think this will be the start of the disintegration of Paul Heyman’s relationship with the Straight Edge Superstar.

From all the reports I’ve heard Punk does not plan on coming back anytime soon. So I’m seeing this as the situation where Curtis Axel is substituted for Punk in the match. I think CM Punk would definitely appear on camera in his hometown of Chicago. I just don’t think he’s going to wrestle. The premise would be that Heyman overstepped his bounds when he promised that the self-professed Best in the World would be in action that night.

The birthday girl Natalya loses to the Bella twins after a spear goes awry by The Divas champion Kaitlyn. This is definitely coming up to a Kaitlyn Natalya feud down the road. Although you have to wonder where does AJ fit in all this?

After the match, the Bellas proceed to sing happy birthday to Natalya which is actually worse than the Punjabi Playboy.

Bret Hart is backstage as he meets with Curtis Axel before his match. Not a bad interaction. As Curtis Axel stands up for Paul Heyman and tells the WWE Hall of Famer that the man known his father but he doesn’t know him.

Randy Orton and Sheamus makes short work of Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. I really do believe they are.the next in line for the Shield.

Then we see a promo for Bray Wyatt and his family from NXT. If you haven’t seen these guys you need to. This could be the next big thing in the WWE. I just hope the Eater of Worlds and his flock are not devoured by bad Raw booking.

We then move on to the main event of the evening which unlike last week’s saw Curtis Axel get the victory and the recognition. not to mention, Curtis got in a lot of offense on the WWE champion he didn’t fall prey to moves of doom. Say what you want to about Cena but he did his best to get the new character over to the audience. I was just afraid that Cena would come back in give him the AA and stand tall after Ryback’s interference causing the count out. However, Cena applauded Heyman and Axel in their victory which I thought was a refreshing change of pace. Hopefully this is building towards an actual clean victory over a top name in the company for Curtis in the near future.

All in all, the show definitely felt a little bit more enjoyable. If you have the opportunity to check out the show, I would highly suggest the tag team title match and the Highlight Reel as two things you must watch. And if you have extra time check out the Hell No-Bret Hart segment. Well, I will see you next week as we get closer to WWE Payback.