By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
John Cena and Paul Heyman: The opening segment was as strong as any we have seen on Raw this year. I was blown away by Cena's intensity. I love the way he is openly admitting that he's going to take a beating. It makes his fans concerned that he could lose the title, while also telling the Cena haters to tune in to see him take a pounding. Heyman got things off to a strong start last week, and this segment did even more to make Cena vs. Lesnar feel like a mega must see match. Excellent work all around, including Cesaro coming to the aid of Heyman to set up his own match with Cena.
Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella: Stephanie once again shined and Brie continued her streak of getting good pops for using the word bitch. The live crowd was really hot for Stephanie going to jail, and it was cool to see them be so responsive to Brie. The SummerSlam card is loaded, yet this match feels like a real hook for the show. The fans want to see Stephanie in the ring and one can only hope that Brie makes a real connection with the fans throughout the build. She hasn't received many strong reactions since she turned babyface. She's finally getting them now, but the key is making sure the fans stay behind her once she's done feuding with Stephanie. Call me crazy, but I'm looking forward to this match as much as any SummerSlam match other than the main event. The only negative to the followup from last week is that WWE was inconsistent with the story they told all week about Triple H arriving to the hospital at 1:00 a.m. The story changed to Hunter arriving shortly after Raw, and completely abandoned any hint of tension with Hunter and Stephanie over his decision to stay at the building last week.
Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins: We took a call during Prowrestling.net Live last night from a fan who was disappointed that this wasn't saved for pay-per-view. While these two could easily have a pay-per-view series, Jericho is clearly back to work a program with Bray Wyatt. In other words, Jericho working matches with fresh young opponents on television should feel like a treat. Enjoy it while you can because Fozzy's touring schedule suggests that Jericho won't be around much beyond Night of Champions. This was a strong match and the interference was logical considering that both men need to be strong heading into SummerSlam.
John Cena vs. Cesaro: A good match that saw Cesaro's stock rise despite taking the clean loss. Cesaro had a competitive match with the champion, which is a big improvement over losing matches to Kofi Kingston and Big E. Here's hoping that there are real plans for Cesaro and this was about more than just giving Cena a good match with a guy who was tied to Heyman.
Bo Dallas vs. R-Truth: I cringed when the winning streak ended and I still feel like they could have done more with it. However, this wasn't about Bo losing as much as it was about establishing that he has a mean streak. Here's hoping the writers don't have too much fun with Dallas having Alicia Fox-like post-match meltdowns where the focus is on what he does after the match rather than during it.
Rusev and Jack Swagger: The feud seemed to have lost momentum coming out of Battleground, but this segment was well received by the live crowd. They are clicking again and Zeb Colter's mic work was a big reason why.
A.J. Lee and Paige: A minor Hit. There still seems to be some confusion amongst the fans regarding which woman to cheer for, which one of our correspondents observed in his onsite report. Paige playing the disingenuous heel is easy enough to figure out, but they could still do more to make Lee feel like the babyface. Still, the lines are more clear than they were and I liked the exchange between these two.
The Uso Brothers and Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz, Ryback, and Curtis Axel: A minor Hit for what felt like the weekly six-man tag match. The Uso Brothers are among the most over acts in WWE. It's nice to see Ziggler getting wins, though I do fear that it's simply setting him up so that Miz can beat him at SummerSlam and they don't really have plans for Ziggler beyond that. Miz continues to play his part well. Rybaxel just feel like undercard performers. The crowd still responds when Ryback teases them with Feed Me More. Hopefully they will get him back to playing that character and put an end to the Rybaxel act.
WWE Raw Misses
Adam Rose vs. Damien Sandow: The weekly Sandow comedy skit didn't pack much of a punch. Worse yet, if you've seen Rose's act once then you've seen it a thousand times. Hasn't anyone bothered to tell Vince McMahon that Russell Brand is a villain in the eyes of most people?
Fandango vs. Diego: Is there a point to the Layla and Summer Rae scorned lovers routine? The formula of having them help undercard performers to beat Fandango was flat when it started and it isn't getting better with repetition. Repackage Johnny Curtis and find something that allows Summer Rae to play a heel role.
Cameron and Alicia Fox vs. Natalya and Naomi: Cameron's in-ring shortcomings were exposed. It has to be frustrating for Natalya to know that she carried Charlotte Flair to the best match of her career and her reward is losing on Raw every week. It wasn't as frustrating as a viewer when the company was pushing the Divas Champion and her challenger of the month. However, Paige and Lee have a feud, Cameron and Naomi have a feud, Summer Rae and Layla have whatever it is they are doing with Fandango, and the Bella Twins are tied up with Stephanie McMahon. It's nice to see WWE make better use of the Divas, but it's really sad that the renewed emphasis on the division doesn't seem to include Natalya outside the Total Divas reality show.