Hello all and welcome to my first ever Raw recap. I've been wanting to do something like this for a long time now but truth be told, Raw has sucked for the last who knows how many weeks and I found there to be a significant lack of anything worthwhile to talk about. However last night was a special 3 hour Raw and if that episode was any indication then the permanent switch to three hours can't happen soon enough. With NXT being merged with FCW that really leaves a lot of talent with nothing to do except the occasional match on Superstars. Last night, while we did see some pointlessly overlong segments we also saw plenty of time for other segments interspersed throughout the night. It shows that, while WWE will likely never stop giving main eventers too much time, with an extra hour at least it won't take away from other segments too much.
Vince/Johnny/Sheamus open the show:
I have to say it was good to see Vince McMahon back again. Triple H, the anonymous Raw GM and Johnny Ace have not been good substitutes for him. Is it me or is Johnny just not getting as much heat lately? It seems as though the fans have stopped loving to hate him and they're just indifferent to him now. Anyway this was the type of opening segment you'd expect to get when Vince was advertised last week to give Johnny a job evaluation. Sheamus appears on Raw once again but this time I don't have a problem with it since it does mean he isn't taking a spot away from the Raw guys. And did you hear the pop he got? While smarks may have been against him for the whole WrestleMania fiasco, he still has his fans and people in the crowd that want to see him. What I like about Sheamus's character is that he isn't just a straight-up anti-hero. That character is just done to death these days. Sheamus is a traditional face but with an edge to him. He has an attitude but he isn't just out for himself like Stone Cold, Randy Orton, Triple H or any other anti-hero you can think of. The delivery of his promo was fine though the actual lines could use some work. Someone tell the writers to stop forcing the wrestlers to use big fancy words since they won't sound right coming from most of them. As for the wheelchair thing, could Michael Cole overreact more? I thought something shocking was happening offscreen when he was having a fit but nope, kicking the wheelchair off the stage is apparently a shocking thing to do. Segment rating: 6/10
Sheamus def. Tensai:
Is Tensai officially a jobber to the stars now? Well not much can be said from two losses but it's a pretty big switch to go from squash matches to losing to the main eventers. I'll address that in a moment. This was a nice opener and for once Tensai didn't bore me. Some good back-and-forth action that the crowd seemed mildly interested in. And this match wasn't the typical "job to the champ" that we'd typically see Sheamus in. Much like his match with Ziggler last week, Sheamus really had to work for his victory. If you're a face champion then I think it's necessary for you to look somewhat vulnerable in matches. This was a lot different from say Cena's matches where he is dominated for nearly the whole thing before almost magically mounting a Second Wind to get the win. To me, Sheamus looked like he was fighting back the whole time while he was being dominated whereas Cena tends to go for the hard sell during the heat then to almost completely no-sell his beatdowns when he mounts his comebacks. In case you didn't guess, I preferred this match to Tensai's one with Cena last week. Now the after match segment was very good in my opinion. A heel doesn't have to win all the time to come across as a threat and an attack like that was much more effective than a squash match. Could we see a feud between Tensai and Sakamoto? Not likely if you ask me since there's such a huge size difference. We'll likely see one match, if that, before Tensai gets an actual feud. I'd like to see them start something with Ryback but I'll get to that in a moment. Combined rating: 7/10
The first of many backstage segments starts of with Vickie Guerrero kissing up to Vince and actually looking good while doing so. Also nice to see Teddy Long doesn't have to wear that apron. I expected them to remove Kane from the WWE title match and insert him into the No Way Out match but a Fatal 4 Way to crown the new challenger works well too. I'm wondering if this means that Teddy will be reinstated as General Manager if Johnny is fired (and he should be). While I like Teddy, I think they can get more out of him being abused by the higher-ups and then they could develop some kind of revenge storyline for him.
And just when I thought R-Truth had lost his edge. Backstage segments and mic time really are necessary to give faces character and Truth was almost as hilarious as he was when he was a heel. I've heard he has a foot injury so that's obviously why he was knocked out and Kofi was on in-ring duty last night. Sorry but I still don't buy Big Show's Knockout Punch and I'm not likely to.
Layla & Santino Marella def. Beth Phoenix & Ricardo Rodriguez:
And the two forgotten champions return to TV at last. Another good indication of how beneficial the 3 hours will be, Layla and Santino got time for separate entrances as well as a lengthy match. Despite the mixed tag theme the Divas worked pretty much the whole thing on their own. Layla showed she hasn't completely lost her comedic edge with what she was doing to Ricardo, though admittedly it is harder to work comedy into your matches if you're a face. She and Beth worked well together and the ending was well done with Beth taking advantage of the knee into the Glam Slam. A title match was announced for No Way Out so I guess there's their build up that will likely be that if they don't get something on Smackdown (and it's not likely that they will). This does raise questions for the title match since Layla has already pinned Beth clean so another match between them doesn't seem necessary if they just wanted to give Layla another title defence. Natalya would have been a better choice. However could we see the return of Kharma on Sunday, perhaps destroying them both to cause a DQ finish? Either way that's something to hope for. 6/10
I think this Santino/Ricardo comedy has run its course though it is a little sad for Del Rio that his ring announcer is a bigger star than he is.
I liked this next backstage segment. The idea of Otunga as GM could work but I think he works much better as the sucking up underling figure instead of actually being in charge himself. Going back to what I said earlier about backstage segments and mic time being necessary for faces, Kofi got to show some personality here and did pretty well. It wasn't a five star promo but certainly better than the man he was cutting it in front of.
Daniel Bryan/Kane/CM Punk/AJ in the ring:
Daniel Bryan's promos are just awesome. I can't believe how over the "Yes!" chants actually are and in a few years they'll probably have replaced those "What!" chants completely. Bryan's promo was good but I preferred Punk's. Just when I thought he might be getting a little stale, he delivers another juicy promo. It was good for him to maintain that he hasn't changed from when he cut his famous shoot last year. And he actually got the crowd chanting "goat face". We'll see at the PPV if those chants stick and whether or not he'll shave his beard to shake them off. Though it's a bit rich of Punk to call anyone goat face when his facial hair could probably trap a few flies on its own. Kane's promo was pretty good as well though not as good as the other two. AJ on the other hand fell flat a little for me. It was just her lines. I would have liked it better if she had said something more instead of just a one-liner for each guy. It was like there was a lot of build-up to what she was going to say and then my reaction was "that's it?" though it was rectified with the match set for later. That was something I wasn't expecting. Segment rating: 8/10
Dolph Ziggler def. Christian, Jack Swagger and The Great Khali (Fatal-4-Way Elimination):
Now this was a match I liked the set-up of. Once again we had time for entrances and a match that didn't get completely lost in a commercial break. Anyone could have guessed that Khali would be the first one out though I'm pretty sure all three pinning him at once isn't exactly a legal thing. All of them hitting their finishers on him to take him out would have worked much better. Still he was out pretty soon and then we got down to the real wrasslin. Before I talk about that, words cannot describe how god awful Swagger's hair is. When we get that inevitable Ziggler/Swagger match please make it a hair-vs-hair deal to do him a favour. Ziggler pinning Swagger was a surprise as for some reason I expected Swagger to make it to the end. The crowd was pretty divided when it came down to Ziggler and Christian, showing that while Ziggler's popularity might be growing, Christian is still a big fan favourite too. The interaction between the two of them was really great and I can't really recall that many singles matches between them, sans the Intercontinental title tournament on Smackdown way back in 2010. The finish I'm in mixed feelings about. I was expecting Cody Rhodes to do a run-in to cost Christian the match, thus setting them up for No Way Out but Rhodes was nowhere to be seen even after the match. On the other hand the finish itself was still well-done. Vickie was involved so as not to make the Intercontinental Champion look weak losing clean but she wasn't heavily involved which still made Ziggler look strong. Nice way to benefit from Del Rio's concussion and this title match with Sheamus is likely to be better than anything with Del Rio would have been though I'm still not forgetting Ziggler's disappointing match with Punk at the Royal Rumble. Hopefully if they give this a nice go-home segment on Smackdown then the title match can be exciting enough. However I only see this as a one-shot deal. I see a feud with Swagger on the cards after No Way Out, continuing through Money In The Bank and eventually climaxing in a match at SummerSlam. Del Rio will likely be slotted right back into the title picture when he returns from his injury so this is just to give Ziggler something to do until then. Hey, maybe he'll even win a MITB briefcase? 7.5/10
Natalya back on Raw? And not farting, praise the wrestling Gods. She was looking mighty fine as were a certain pair of Funkadactyls. They finally got to speak and they spoke well enough for two girls never given mic time. Anyway I loved the little dance but what I loved even more was Zack Ryder's fantastic WTF expression. I love great Raws.
Ryback def. Willard Fillmore & Rutherford Hayes:
Ryback is still stuck in squash match mode. This was a little more fun than his usual squashes, mainly because it was quick and to the point. I'm hoping that next week they start a feud between him and Tensai. Unlike say Big Show and Mark Henry who went into Money In The Bank last year for a hyped match, this could be a battle between two big guys I'd actually want to see. Those are two big guys that can really go. I was always impressed with Ryback from his work as Skip Sheffield and Tensai has been over to Japan so make it happen WWE. Ryback is a curious character in WWE since they're pushing him in a face role so Tensai is a suitable heel for him to feud with. Please WWE, make it happen. N/A
Hmm another tasteless joke at JR's expense. Done by a midget too no less. I was surprised it was this long before Cena made an appearance. Oh hello there William Regal, I guess air time is air time right?
The Big Show def. Kofi Kingston (Steel Cage Match):
Well this was the low point of the night. To be honest, this wasn't even needed. I don't see why Big Show had to go and make one of the Tag Team Champions look so weak. There's a fine line between booking someone to be dominant and just making everyone else look bad by comparison. This segment ran for about five minutes longer than it needed to. Kofi finally got some form of offence in towards the end and I'll admit I almost thought he'd escape the cage for a moment. I think that might have been a better ending since Kofi escaping a cage doesn't make Big Show look weak in any way. I reserve the last comment I made about Big Show and his Knockout Punch. Chokeslam, powerbomb, spear, any of those would be more believable. Overlong and pointless segment that made another champion look like a complete sucker. 2/10
Sin Cara def. Curt Hawkins:
It's such a shame that with NXT being done with that Curt Hawkins is reduced to stuff like this on Raw. Hopefully with the three hour format him and Reks can get their characters properly fleshed out in front of the mainstream audience. This was the standard job to Sin Cara that could really have been reserved for a local talent but still fairly enjoyable. Hawkins got pretty much no offence in but what else is new? He reversed Irish whips and threw a few punches and kicks but all of Sin Cara's moves were nice to see. He seems to have tightened himself up on his time off so I guess that's a good sign. I'm expecting Sin Cara to be added to a last minute match at No Way Out though who it'll be against is anyone's guess. Perhaps the elusive Damien Sandow? 6/10
A cool backstage segment between Vince McMahon and Daniel Bryan. Never thought I'd ever see those two interact.
Vader def. Heath Slater:
Not much to say about this except Vader should have brought some scissors and done Heath Slater a favour. Anyway Vader was before my time though I'd heard all about him. Match went on for a bit too long though Vader looked solid out there. Slater does make an excellent butt monkey. 3/10
CM Punk & AJ vs Daniel Bryan & Kane:
God this was great. I was expecting it to literally be changed to a handicap match at the last minute but thankfully they kept it. We didn't see much interaction between Punk and Kane/Bryan that we haven't already seen before but the wrestling wasn't what we were here to see. I didn't expect AJ to get tagged into the match at all and of course I knew she wouldn't get offence in against either of the guys. I was wondering how they'd get around the "no hitting women policy" with the PG restrictions but there's the answer. A part of me went "she wouldn't really, would she?" but lo and behold she did. How long was she locked on there for? I loved how Kane just did not react at all and simply walked away silently. And there was me imagining that Punk would be jealous of something like that. I'm guessing AJ distracts Kane on Sunday long enough for Punk or Bryan to pin him. But then again can we honestly really predict what AJ is going to do next? 5/10
Vince/Johnny/Big Show/Cena in the ring:
Thankfully we had an ending segment that didn't go on for too long. I don't exactly see how Big Show should have anything to do with Johnny being fired. Is he going to threaten to hurt Vince if he fires him? That idea doesn't really make sense and they really shouldn't have brought the contracts into this. Cena's promo was meh, he hammed it up a little too much for my liking especially when we know he's capable of better. Now we have an added stipulation that Johnny will only be fired if Big Show loses. Honestly the match could go either way at No Way Out but I'd like for Show to lose just so we can be rid of Johnny already. They should have Vince introduce Eve as his replacement. She is someone who has potential as GM and there's a very good article on Bleacher Report explaining why. Look it up. The punch to Vince looked really bad at first and I didn't think it had even connected but when it was replayed it looked much better. I'm not sure if that's their idea of a good go-home segment for the cage match but I'm sure we'll get something on Smackdown. Segment rating: 6.5/10
So all in all, I enjoyed most of Raw tonight. Plenty of guys and girls got time to wrestle, talk and do their thing. I think this 3-hour format will be a good long term thing indeed. Truth be told there was a lot of filler on the show but you can chalk that up to being a one-off special. With a regular 3-hour show then there will be a lot more recurring storylines to fill the space. After all, why start a storyline on this Raw when it obviously won't have time to be featured next week? No Way Out has potential to be a good PPV and hopefully all the guys and girls deliver.