Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, where we discuss the hits and misses of last night's Raw broadcast. Got thoughts and questions of your own? Be sure to comment below, or tweet them to us (@RingRap or @RingRapAudio) so we can talk about them on our flagship broadcast, RingRap Audio, tomorrow evening.
1. A Night of Returns:
Surprise, surprise. We got three returns last night that we certainly weren't expecting - Chris Jericho, AJ, and The Miz (to a small extent). Back in the day like the Monday Night War era, we really got surprised by talent jumping between promotions and making returns to one company or the other. Because of technology, among so many other reasons, it's just not easy to do that today. These returns made for an interesting night on Raw.
Jericho appears to be targeted to work with Bray Wyatt and I think that's great. I figure they'll trade some wins before Wyatt goes over in the end, because Jericho is not the guy who will come back to put himself over. Jericho will end up elevating Wyatt, especially because by all appearances there's a good story for them to tell here. We'll see how that pans out. I'll discuss more on AJ in a moment.
I think bringing back Jericho and AJ did breathe some life into the Battleground and SummerSlam cards going forward.
2. AJ Takes Back Her Crown:
AJ's return came about with the rumors that she's pregnant, and her marriage to the malcontented CM Punk. So aside from the Punk questions, the pregnancy and her status with the company are seemingly addressed. Fans liked it, but immediately I'm lukewarm on it. Her character was tired with me when she left, so let's see where it goes. One thing that IS good is that it adds instant workrate credibility to the division.
I thought the instant title change was a miss, unless Paige is injured or going on a hiatus of her own. Just like when Paige came in and captured the title immediately, I would have preferred seeing AJ coming back in and going on a story, chasing the heel champion for a period of time before capturing the belt. I also didn't care for Paige's sudden role reversal. It was confusing to me as a viewer.
3. Really Bad News...
It didn't take as long for Bad News Barrett to lose his Intercontinental Championship as it did for Daniel Bryan. The title is up for grabs given the severity of his injury, which is looking to keep him sidelined for a couple months. They needed to treat this like a bigger moment than they did and addressed it early in the show. Matt Hester took a jab at me on Twitter for hating the idea of a battle royale to determine the new IC champion. I guess I'm of two minds: They needed to do something, and quickly, but I think they had better choices than this. This can work, but why not do a special one-night tournament? Use Main Event or Superstars on the Network to draw eyes to those shows?
4. Six Men Working Hard:
Sheamus and The Usos vs. The Wyatts was a good six-man affair. I think the right team went over, with the Wyatts picking up the win after a night of failure at Money in the Bank. They also got a moment with Jericho too, which looks to be setting up a future program. One problem I see is that going forward the Usos are going to be lacking opponents. They're a good team, and I enjoy watching them, but the list of opponents is getting awfully short. I hope they move some emphasis onto tag teams in NXT.
5. Out of Place:
With so much speculation over Brock Lesnar returning for SummerSlam to face John Cena, it was curious to see where they would go with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture. The Battleground match that they set up seems really predictable in that light. With all this stuff to consider, I didn't want to see a younger talent end up being fed to Cena, and I wasn't high on seeing re-run stories between Kane and Cena or Orton and Cena.
I'm alright with them doing a four-way, but Roman Reigns being in there doesn't make logical sense. Remember: This is the guy that spiked Stephanie's coffee to get into the Money in the Bank title match. Why should Triple H and Stephanie give him a title shot? Why doesn't Triple H stack the deck fully against Cena with Authority-based friends to decrease his chance of holding on to the title? If WWE wrote this story stronger, Michael Cole's interview with Triple H this Wednesday won't need to fill in so many logic gaps.
6. Speaking of the Four Ways...
The tag match featuring John Cena and Roman Reigns vs. Kane and Randy Orton was decent enough, and told the story of whether Cena and Reigns would co-exist given they re both in the four way title match. There were some good storytelling elements here. Kane tried taking out Cena so that Seth Rollins could successfully cash in. Dean Ambrose's threats to spoil Rollins' cash in attempts are great, and Ambrose delivered a solid promo about it.
My only gripe is that they should have held that promo off a week. They could have built some high drama with Cena and Rollins and the cash-in moment but that promo took off of it. It was still a good segment though. Rollins and Ambrose are definitely settling in to their post-Shield roles well and connecting with the fans.
7. Time for a Real American to Stand Up
So, it appears that Jack Swagger is going to turn face. Their segment standing up to Lana and Rusev was actually pretty good. Swagger was intense and looked like someone who wanted to fight. Colter, on the other hand, is someone who can make it easy to root for him given his character to this point. He's been pretty comical at times, which is something anyone can get behind regardless of political leanings.
8. Put it on Repeat...Again...
Remember how I said John Cena shouldn't face Randy Orton for a year? Well, it's soon going to get to that point with Goldust and Stardust vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel. I didn't find anything wrong with their match, but I'm just bored with them facing each other with what feels like no real story support other than the impending breakup of the Dust Brothers.
In an interesting development, it looks like Ryback is encouraging fans to chant "Feed Me More" at him. He said in an interview on WWE Network back around Mania that he intended to go back to that character. Maybe this is the beginning of that transition?
9. Sucking Face...
The lover's quarrel seems to continue with Fandango, Layla, and Summer Rae. Last night, Dolph Ziggler faced Fandango, who was accompanied by Layla. She and Summer had apparently agreed to "put it all behind them" after Sunday's pay per view disaster. Well Ms. Summer couldn't stay away, only to come out during the match and make out with Dolph. The distraction cost Fandango the match, and Layla didn't look happy.
I guess Summer's a face now? And I guess she did this to annoy the guy who jilted her on Sunday? This was a miss in my book.
That's all for today. Be sure to listen for RingRap Audio, which we'll record tomorrow night, for more on Raw, Money in the Bank, and other things relating to pro wrestling, MMA, and maybe even bacon! Tweet us your questions and opinions for the show @RingRap or @RingRapAudio.