Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, where we break down last night's show in more details than we can during a live broadcast. It's our version of "hits and misses" that we felt were important during the show. Got feedback of your own? Hit us up on Twitter @RingRap and use the #AskRingRap hashtag so we can address your comments on our flagship audio show, RingRap Audio.
1. The Decision is….No Decision…
WWE pulled a bit of a bait and switch on fans by saying they would address the World Heavyweight Championship situation. Then they really didn’t. But that’s okay.
Stephanie McMahon played her part perfectly last night. From copying Bryan’s entrance to running down a list of heels she could hand the belt off to, she got good heat. They also kept the intrigue burning as to what will happen with the title by putting it off one more week.
One can only guess Bryan keeps the title – but that’s the good part of this. They’re creating mystery, which is a hook to draw folks in to see what happens.
2. Officials Only…
You need to get past the hole in the logic that Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose beat up Brad Maddox to earn their spots at ringside during the Rollins/Batista match. Triple H is the COO – why did he not just override all of it and send the pair backstage anyhow?
Anyhow, that aside Rollins vs. Batista was good and the brawl added to their story going into Payback. I’m digging the elimination stipulation for their match and think that gives it some extra juice than a no holds barred stip would. Now all they have to do is get Evolution true heat and make them feel more important than they do at the moment.
3. Women Scorned.
What am I supposed to get out of the whole Fandango love triangle thing? Fandango isn’t hot – he’s just an undercard gimmick. Summer Rae, who is returning from her filming of Marine 4, is the villain on Total Divas, but is she a face here? Layla is just an afterthought. Uh, help?
Johnny Curtis is more than this, and all this will do is put him in more silly skits like we saw last night. Downright awful.
4. Beat the Clock …
The one problem WWE has had is that they hand out mid-card title shots like they hand out hooker ads in Las Vegas. Lately that’s changing, and last night they made the challenger for Payback (Rob Van Dam) earn it by the Beat the Clock challenge gimmick. Generally I hate the gimmick, but it worked in terms of making the title shot feel important and prevented those three matches feel like filler.
5. Bad News…
Along that same vein, what are they trying for with Bad News Barrett? It used to be they would somehow try to get heat on a hometown heel character. Remember when Bret Hart would go home to Canada? He’d get cheered no matter what. Same thing is happening with Wade Barrett.
London loved him last night. He was an all out face and his attack and promo on RVD stole his momentum right out from under him. RVD will get a moment, but there’s no doubt that Barrett retains the title at Payback.
6. Disrespecting the Queen…
Paul Heyman was laugh out loud funny in his pre-match promo last night. When he laid down and asked the fans if he was the Queen of England or the Undertaker, and working in the “my client beat the Streak” business I admit I laughed. He’s genius.
Sheamus and Cesaro had a better match on Main Event, but this was still very good. Sheamus looked a bit dopey in the handshake sequence at the end. It’s nothing he can’t overcome going forward though, and Cesaro blowing him off was ultimately solid. It made Cesaro look heelish, which is what he needs.
7. He’s Got the Whole World…by the Ear…
The stunning visual of all those cameraphone lights in the audience shows the draw of Bray Wyatt’s character. Fans are definitely into him.
It’s a little odd that his promos feel so babyface. This is a very different approach for a heel character and one I hope that has an end game that doesn’t make him look like a fraud. And above all else, there’s no doubt that he is a captivating promo. Fans are hanging on everything he says.
8. Big Man Does Good…
Luke Harper continues to impress me in the ring. He had another solid outing in the ring last night. Cena gave up plenty of offense to him throughout the match and he executed well throughout. The post match beatdown was also done well in order to hype the last man standing stipulation for Cena and Wyatt’s match at Payback.
The announcers even played in well here. They reacted well to Harper’s moves, and JBL sold his brainwashed character well by saying “he doesn’t even know what he’s doing.” Good work from a normally flat Raw announce team.
Don’t let all the positive comments fool you though. This show was not red hot. It was a good night of television, but it was a marathon to get through. I don’t know if it was that it was taped or my lack of sleep, but it felt like a six hour broadcast.
WWE seems content to keep this three hour format. Let’s be honest – the only good part about it is the added revenue they get from TV rights. Apparently, that’s a trade off they are fine with making as it’s not going to change any time soon.
Worth pointing out is how much fun the London crowd was. They created a good atmosphere and really added to what otherwise was a pretty ordinary show.
That's all for tonight. Matt, Drew, and I will break down Raw, the build to Payback, and a lot more on RingRap Audio tomorrow, and we'll each be bringing you other commentary, news and opinion in "Around the Ring" periodically through the week. Be sure to subscribe in your favorite podcast feed (Stitcher, iTunes, TuneIn, etc.) so you can get those shows as well.