Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - The Shield steal the show, Curtis Axel vs. John Cena, C.M. Punk's return announced, The Wyatt Family gets a vignette, how compelling characters make predictability palatable
By Will Pruett
Wrestling is inherently predictable. When it isn't, it is usually bad (think of the unpredictable Vince Russo era in TNA). In the few moments where unpredictability and quality meet (Money in the Bank 2011), magic can happen. I mention this because I could predict the outcome of every match on this episode of Raw, but I didn't mind. When wrestling becomes predictable, it is the characters that keep me engaged.
The most engaging characters in WWE right now are The Shield. Every week they are going out and creating one of the top two or three moments on Raw. They continuously produce amazing moments in the ring and their characters are becoming a cornerstone of the promotion. In both of The Shield's matches on this show, I knew exactly who was going to win. This didn't bother me. I watched through two very long matches simply because the characters are compelling.
Elsewhere on the show, Randy Orton and Sheamus took on Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes. As much as I enjoy Team Rhodes Scholars, I could not find any excitement about this match. I knew the ending, of course. I knew how it would probably happen. I just didn't care to watch. It was a nice long match, but the characters in it were not compelling. Sheamus and Randy Orton are in an odd upper-mid-card form of purgatory. Team Rhodes Scholars are being kept around until they're useful again. These teams didn't capture my imagination.
Wrestling has to be more than matches in order to work. I love an exciting match, but it should have a story and exciting characters. When it doesn't, the excitement needs to be ramped up in the actual match (this is how the American Indie style has come into existence). I'd rather not see Sheamus and Orton kicking out of every finisher they can and landing on their heads also the time. I'd like to see an effort to make those stars as exciting as the new stars being built.
The predictability of wrestling is actually one of its strengths most of the time. Creativity amidst predictability is what keeps me coming back. It's what keeps me entertained. The Shield is bringing this right now, Orton and Sheamus need to.
- WWE is always classy when it comes to the armed forces. The tribute beginning this show was great. Thank you to all of the men and women who have served or are currently serving. We're all in your debt.
- I would have preferred the "Tonight on Raw" video to focus a little more on Curtis Axel as the man who took out Triple H, instead of just the guy in the ring with him. It would have made Axel seem like a much bigger star.
- I'm not quite sure of John Cena's logic in making the Payback main event a Three Stages of Hell match. I'm absolutely not sure of his logic in somehow making it contain the least exciting stipulations in the history of the Three Stages of Hell match.
- Lumberjack, Table, and Ambulance sounds like a Three Stages of my own personal Hell match.
- Ryback mispronounced Lucifer to sound like a combination of a Greek god and the devil. I'm all about LuciThor.
- This Ryback and John Cena promo made me feel like I had missed a chapter of their story. Cena was referencing a claim on the WWE Championship Ryback never made. He justified the stipulations in the match without them really packing a punch.
- Curtis Axel's involvement in the opening segment worked for me. Paul Heyman is going to have to do some amazing work to get Axel fully over and, at this moment, he is doing it. Heyman and Axel will have to develop their own chemistry as well.
- Tonight seemed to be a major step towards the babyface turn of Big E Langston. A.J. Lee cost him the match against Alberto Del Rio, and E was visibly frustrated. I'm not sure I want to see the turn this soon, but knowing E's work on NXT, he can quickly get over.
- Bret Hart's motivational speech for Daniel Bryan was pretty great. I'd still like to see Bryan used as a babyface, but if he is turning, WWE is logically building to it.
- Kofi Kingston lost another match to Dean Ambrose. Part of me expected this one to be more competitive, but it was very much in favor of Ambrose. Ambrose vs. Kingston has underperformed what I expected the matchup to give us. If this is the end of the feud, I'll be a little sad. I thought they had a nice, long match in them.
- I enjoyed the way Team Hell No came out instantly to begin the Tag Team Championship match with The Shield. It gave us a small moment of ordered-chaos on Raw.
- Daniel Bryan continued to get the biggest pop of the evening with his hot tag from Kane. Bryan's babyface comeback is like nothing else in wrestling right now. The Shield are masterful at selling it.
- Kane lost the fall in the Tag Title match, but I fully expect him to not believe he is the weak link on his team.
- I wish there would have been an option in the poll about The Miz to completely ignore The Miz, no matter what he did.
- Fandango vs. Wade Barrett was set up to be an awkward heel vs. heel matchup. This made The Miz's actions slightly more justifiable. This was a fun continuation of Fandango's actions from last week. I'm expecting a feud with The Miz to follow, which he can easily win.
- Shawn Michaels' beard was the star of the show for me. Where was this amazing facial feature when Michaels was on television full time? I think his beard may give him the power to finally beat The Undertaker's streak. Maybe he should try.
- It was slightly odd to see Michaels advising Cena in the same way he does Triple H. I didn't know they were that close.
- I fast-forwarded through all of Tons of Funk and Khali vs. 3MB. I have no regrets.
- I enjoyed the segment with Paul Heyman and Chris Jericho. Heyman was his usual self. Jericho was fairly affable here. It was a quality segment.
- I, like many others, enjoyed Heyman saying C.M. Punk was at home watching while Punk tweeted a picture from Dodger Stadium. This was some solid possibly unintentional comedy.
- I'm all for Punk not appearing on television until Payback in Chicago. WWE has to find a way to make Punk in Chicago feel special and him retuning to a hero's welcome in his hometown will do just that. Hopefully Punk returns refreshed and ready to do more of the amazing work he has been doing.
- WWE is trying hard to establish The Bella Twins as jerks, but they don't quite get all the way there. They sang to Natalya and were mean, but it was hard to care. Wouldn't Natalya be a more charming babyface if she stood up to them?
- Bret Hart (who looks great with grey hair, by the way) was great in his backstage segments. I love what he did with Curtis Axel. It allowed Axel to be a jerk to a legend, while still looking capable.
- The vignette for Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family was pretty amazing. Wyatt's act in NXT is one of the highlights of the show and must be seen to be believed. He is disturbing, frightening, and a character WWE could do almost anything with. Here's hoping this is the beginning of a great run for Wyatt and the Wyatt family.
- Orton and Sheamus were always going to beat Team Rhodes Scholars. The time spent on the match almost made me fall asleep while watching Raw.
- If Orton vs. Ambrose is still the plan for Smackdown (changes often happen), I can only hope Orton plans to put over Ambrose, or at least to end up in a no contest.
- John Cena vs. Curtis Axel was more of what we saw last week. Axel got a fair amount of offense in on Cena, before Cena decided he was tired of fighting him and went out to check on an ambulance. These victories don't exactly help Axel, but they don't hurt him either. Axel will eventually settle in and we'll get a better idea of where he is going.
- I'm happy about seeing Axel taunt Cena as Raw went off the air. It was a vast improvement over last week, where Axel was forgotten.
This was an alright episode of Raw, propped up by the tag title match and a decent Highlight Reel segment. It wasn't amazing, but it also didn't make me want to never watch wrestling again. There are some intriguing stories being told in WWE right now and this show did its best to highlight them. Sadly, all the story in the world doesn't make six hours per week easy and WWE is overexposed at best.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at email@example.com or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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