I know this is LONG overdue but finally I am back with the fallout from Payback and what it means for the storylines that build toward the Money in the Bank pay per view. This is my first review of a Monday Night Raw and for the time being it will be the only one, but as the WWE is famous for saying…anything can happen. For now, this is MONDAY NIGHT RAW in review:

The night kicks off with a montage of clips and pictures from the previous night’s pay-per-view event followed by Michael Cole’s traditional opening introduction.

Ricardo Rodriguez greets the audience, but there is something new about his tone. He drops a bit of a growl when he introduces Alberto Del Rio. Just a subtle hint of a more evil entrance. Once he and Del Rio get to the ring, they proceed to cut a promo about Superman and the events that took place when Ziggler cashed in the night after Wrestlemania and the match that took place at the Payback PPV. Having Ricardo re-introduce Alberto Del Rio by comparing him to Superman is just one more subtle point where Ricardo masterfully uses the smallest detail of the time they have been alloted in the ring to turn the audience against him. As Alberto Del Rio continues to speak, just about every “heel tactic” in the book is used as smoothly as possible from cheap heat calling Americans “pigs and cowards” to proving that thinking for himself rather than going along with “the people” earned him the World Heavyweight Championship while those fans he used to listen to are the same fans who now cheer and chant the name of a “swine” like Dolph Ziggler. Once Del Rio succeeds in decisively turning the crowd against him, the distinctive scratch of the first two seconds of CM Punk’s entrance music hits for the first time since the night after Wrestlemania 29, and the crowd’s mood instantly lifts. CM Punk talks about the last time he and Del Rio shared a ring thus establishing a purpose for him to have a reason to be in the ring in the first place. He challenges Del Rio while finding a way to put Ziggler over and mention his match at Payback in the process. Heyman argues that his clients “don’t fight for free” which fuels the story that Punk has started to take lately in which he and Heyman aren’t exactly seeing eye to eye. CM Punk was turned from a heel to a face by the Chicago crowd just by showing up in his hometown after near two month absence. This match (made official by Vickie Guerrero) is one of the best ways the company could’ve dreamed of cementing the turns of both men without rehashing anything from the pay per view that took place the night prior. 

Following the opening segment, Punk and Heyman share a moment where in short Punk requests that Heyman not follow him to the ring because he doesn’t need help to win matches since he is not a client, but a friend. This again serves to deepen the angle between Punk and Heyman. This story (just like the program that he played out with the Undertaker in the build to Wrestlemania) is becoming increasingly psychological. Little if anything in the Punk/Heyman program will be upfront at least at first. It is a slow-paced, organic story being told between two of the closest friends as well as two of the greatest minds in the business of professional wrestling.

In Vickie interaction #2, she postpones what was to be Wade Barrett’s Intercontinental Championship rematch to introduce her “big surprise” for the McMahon family who also serves as Wade’s opponent at the time: the returning Christian! Christian wins in a classic back and forth match which serves as an excellent opening contest to set the foundation for what would become one of the greatest night in recent Raw history…

Vickie is then mentioned in booking the next match once the show returns from break: A 2-on-1 handicap match pitting Team Rhodes Scholars against Sheamus. Long story short, as Sheamus prepares a Brogue Kick on Cody, Damien Sandow sneaks in and scores a roll up pinfall victory over the Celtic Warrior. This win while it seems spontaneous ultimately serves to build the blossoming feud between Sheamus and Sandow. After the Payback Kickoff victory Sheamus earned on Sunday, Damien evened the score on Monday. Unlike many of Sheamus’ previous feuds, it began to look as if Sheamus wouldn’t find the top of the mountain as easily this time.

Throughout the night there were some times when Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H each took the time to address Vickie Guerrero personally in which each of them took the time to either condemn or condone her actions and decisions during the night as the Managing Supervisor of Monday Night Raw. The strongest example of this is when Triple H encouraged her to “stand up to the Shield” but just as she was about to fire them, Vince appeared to admire the Hounds of Justice for their “ruthless aggression,” and that put Vickie in the tight spot of staying quiet in front of the Chairman. She certainly couldn’t fire them in front of their highest ranking supporter. 

In a backstage segment, Daniel Bryan and Kane share an exchange that sees the unofficial end of Team Hell No, and after seeing last Monday’s Raw (the show following the one I am discussing now) I would say they very well are done as a tag team seeing as both Kane and Daniel Bryan along with Bryan’s opponent on the 6/17 Raw, The Viper Randy Orton, will join three other superstars (Christian, CM Punk, and RVD) in a Money in the Bank All-Stars Ladder Match for the WWE Championship briefcase.

Until that however Daniel Bryan went one on one with Orton in a match that easily stole the show, as Daniel Bryan often does. Unfortunately, this match got cut short by a stinger suffered by Daniel Bryan when he launched head first toward Orton through the middle rope to the ringside area only to be blocked and sent into the barricade behind his opponent.Doctors ended the bout prematurely and a rematch ended up taking place on Smackdown before a rubber match took place the next week in the main event of the 6/24/13 Raw (A match that Daniel Bryan won).

After the first Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton match, AJ Lee takes center stage as she shows off her championship and proving that her claims and actions are all validated. The twisted, emotionally-vulnerable, mentally-unstable character that she has been playing for close to a year now continues to incite at least myself into the entire Diva’s Division. It certainly was a (wet) dream come true for me when AJ stood, with the strap across her shoulder, right beside Stephanie McMahon spatting back and forth about the implications of her actions against Kaitlyn in the weeks leading to Payback. Things got rather heated and near personal between the Black Widow and the Billion Dollar Princess before Kaitlyn and a handful of other Divas followed her out to the stage. Kaitlyn picks up where Payback left off showing signs of her own mental instability brought on by AJ’s methods. A brawl between the two breaks out which leads to Big E Langston’s interference. He literally removes AJ from the ring, tosses her over his shoulder and carries her out while she hangs over his back clutching her championship screaming that Kaitlyn will “never have this.”

Dean Ambrose defended his United States Championship against Kane in what truly served as the reason for Vickie to approach them backstage. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns interfered and triple powerbombed the Big Red Machine in the middle of the match.

One of the underrated moments of the greatest Monday Night in recent history has to be Zeb Colter’s segment in which he explains why he has called upon a new recruit in his militia: Antonio Cesaro. Pardon the bias here folks, but I absolutely LOVE Antonio Cesaro and Zeb Colter. This is an amazing pairing and I for one am merely impressed by the fact that Antonio Cesaro has a direction in the stories told on the show. While he may have laid quick waste to one of the greatest veterans still able to get in the ring in WWE today William Regal, the end of the match was possibly the most impressive thing I have seen in a long time. Colter hands Cesaro a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag that Antonio proceeds to unfold and drape over the sprawled body of the defeated Englishman as the two stand proudly over their newest conquer pledging allegiance to the “Real America.”

Next, John Cena enters to a surprisingly sharp pop from the lively crowd. Cena cuts a rather simple promo about never giving up and telling everyone where the champ is. Generic Cena fluff where he thanks the love and the hate and tells his supporters that he can’t do it without them because he does it FOR them. Nothing against Cena, but that is one of the things that I personally could do without from him. One thing he doesn’t do is mention any form of challenger AT Money in the Bank. He mentions and even to a point threatens the holder of the briefcase without any nod toward the person he’ll face at the July Pay-Per-View event. No sooner did Cena say “The Champ Is Here!” did Mark Henry begin to make his way to the ring for his retirement speech. Mark Henry speaks about his time in WWE, the titles he has won, the title he had yet to win, and he even mentioned his family…but as he told Cena following a surprise World’s Strongest Slam personally delivered to the Champ by Mark Henry himself, he’s “got a lot left in the tank”. One thing Cena mentioned in his promo was that the next man to hold the WWE Championship would earn it. After watching that Academy Award winning performance by Henry to kiss up everything and play everyone in the building like puppets, I can’t think of anyone who deserves the title more than the World’s Strongest Man.

Curtis Axel then defeats Sin Cara with The Miz on commentary which makes it obvious who Curtis will be feuding with in his next title match. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel could turn into Ric Flair vs. Mr. Perfect for the modern generation with the Figure Four Leg Lock and the Perfectplex Fisherman Suplex pinning combination, respectively. As a HUGE fan of both men, I couldn’t be more excited to see a match with my all-time favorite championships (maybe not by design but definitely prestige).

The main event of the evening came around, and this match was just as back and forth as it promised to be. The similar yet constrasting styles of CM Punk and Alberto Del Rio proved to be a rather entertaining story. Even though the World Heavyweight Championship was not on the line in this contest, it certainly could’ve been. Both combatants are technically sound between the ropes, and that lends to a rather enticing clash once the bell rings. The match was nonstop and lived up to its placement at the top of the card in the night’s billings, as it should have. I for one found nothing of fault in this match. Just as the tension mounted and the story reached it’s climax, CM Punk hoisted Alberto Del Rio onto his shoulders and nailed him with his patented Go To Sleep finishing move. Unfortunately for Punk, Del Rio rolled under the ropes and fell off the apron upon taking the hit. Ricardo Rodriguez hurried around the ring at that point to coax Del Rio to his feet before he helped the World Champion back his way up the ramp which led to a count out. The bell rang in Punk’s victory only seconds before former champion Dolph Ziggler launched himself from the stage toward the man who took his title just one night ago. After Del Rio attempts an escape and Ziggler follows, ring announcer Justin Roberts officially declares CM Punk winner of the match by count out. In no time, Brock Lesnar’s music echoed around the arena as Punk only stared up the aisle. The Beast Incarnate circled the ring before entering. He raised a microphone toward his lips as if he had something to say- only to drop the mic and deliver and swift F5 to the Best in the World.

…Can anyone say “Pipe-bomb”?

 

That was a beautiful night. In review, it only seems to make it better. I hope you enjoyed my recap roughly two weeks too late, but I for one enjoyed revisiting what is unarguably The Best Raw in…a While! 

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