Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, where we break down the hits and misses of last night's broadcast. Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and opinions and ask any questions you have @RingRap, or on Facebook (facebook.com/RingRap). We'll talk about that, and more, on RingRap Audio tomorrow night.
1. The Advocate Faces The Champ
Paul Heyman and John Cena engaged in a war of words to open last night's show, and it was really well done. Cena's intensity was really strong here. He openly admitted he will take a beating at the hands of Lesnar. That helps his fans have concern that he will lose the championship, and indicates to Cena's "haters" that it's worth tuning in to see him get beat up. Heyman had a strong segment last week, and his words with Cena really added to the hype behind the SummerSlam main event. Even Cesaro's arrival to help Heyman and set up a match of his own with Cena was done well.
Also, Cesaro got a rise in stock even though he lost to Cena. He had a competitive match which beats losing to Kofi and Big E. Hopefully this is a good launching pad for some real plans with Cesaro rather than just the coincidental tie to Paul Heyman, who manages Cena's SummerSlam opponent.
2. Contending For Her Job...
Stephanie McMahon came back from jail last night, and she and Brie Bella closed the show by setting up their SummerSlam match. As far as the live crowd is concerned, they really reacted to Stephanie and Brie as well. They want to see Stephanie get hers, and they're starting to connect with Brie a little bit. One can hope that they continue to do so once this story ends.
Some people really enjoyed this segment, I was more lukewarm on it though it wasn't bad. Something didn't click with me and I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps I felt it was better placed in a different part of the show? Also they did a really inconsistent job (as they do with most wrestling stories) of following up Triple H arriving to the jail at 1AM. They changed that tune to "right after Raw" and it killed any tension between Hunter and Stephanie, which I thought played in to the story also.
I am also feeling like there's a blatant Nikki Bella heel turn coming out of this match, where she gets involved and either costs Brie the match or attacks her afterward. While I'm happy they're working stories in the ladies division, I'd also like a bit more mystery.
Last night, we really saw how bad Cameron is in the ring. Also, it has to be frustrating that Natalya is now being fed to just about everyone on the roster as a reward for carrying Charlotte Flair to the best match of her career. And when you look up and down the ladies division, you have a good story between Paige and AJ, Cameron and Naomi, The Bellas being tied up with Stephanie, and Summer and Layla working whatever that angle is with Fandango. Natalya isn't a part of that picture, outside of the Total Divas show, and that's a shame as she's one of the better workers in the division.
4. A Return to Jericholism...
Chris Jericho had an interesting segment interacting with the Authority last night. He pulled out some of his old-school corny lines to cut on Triple H and Stephanie which surely added some nostalgia. But, it all got to his match with Seth Rollins, who attacked him from behind. Jericho is back to work with Bray Wyatt, clearly, but they had an entertaining television match. They protected both men by having Wyatt and the Family attack Jericho, and that made total sense. Both men need to look good heading to SummerSlam, and this accomplished that end goal.
5. Still Confusing...
I thought the segment with AJ and Paige was good, but from what I heard through my TV it seems the live crowd wasn't sure who to get behind as the face. I really think they need to do more to make AJ feel like a face. Paige is playing disingenuous, which works fine. The lines between the two characters are more clear than they have been in a long time and their exchange was good - but they could use some more help here.
6. Don't Stop Bo-Lieveing...
So, R-Truth broke the winning streak of Bo Dallas? I really felt like there was so much more they could do there and I thought it was a bit cringeworthy when it went down. That said, they established Bo having a mean streak by having him beat up on Truth afterward. Just don't make Dallas be like Alicia Fox, and it'll all be fine.
7. Six Man Routine...
Seems we get a six man event on Raw every week now, but The Usos and Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz and Rybaxel worked pretty well. The Usos are over with the live crowds it seems, and it's good to see Ziggler grab up some wins. The one fear I have is that Dolph is just getting fed to Miz at SummerSlam and there's no plan behind any of this. Miz's gimmick is being well executed but it feels a bit retreaded to me.
Focusing on Rybaxel though - they just feel like afterthoughts. The crowd still responds to Ryback's "feed me more" motion and one can only think he will return to that soon and it will end the Rybaxel tag team.
8. A Real All American American...
I got worried that Rusev and Swagger lost some momentum after Battleground. Their segment last night seemed to reignite some of it though. Zeb Colter did a really good job on the mic, and that really helped get this feud clicking again.
9. Undercard Blahs...
WWE still has undercard issues. Sandow's weekly skit fell flat and Adam Rose is falling off even more. If he's to be a Russell Brand type, someone forgot to tell Vince that man is a villain to most.
Also, I am tired of the scorned lover routine with Layla and Summer Rae. Nothing ever seemed to feel right or click with them helping other undercard performers beat Fandango, and just repeating it over and over isn't working. It's time to repackage Johnny Curtis, move Summer to a real heel role, and move on from all of this.
Overall, this wasn't a bad show. I thought they bookended it well with strong segments that the live crowd enjoyed (even if I didn't enjoy the close as much), and the middle of the show, while having filler, didn't fall flat on its face. I thought they did a nice job of doing some story advancement for the main stories heading to SummerSlam, and that's a positive given that the "biggest party of the summer" is only a couple weeks away.
Be sure to send those questions in (@RingRap or facebook.com/RingRap) so we can talk about them on RingRap Audio tomorrow night!