Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts - our hits and misses list regarding last night's broadcast. We'll be discussing this, SummerSlam, and all things pro wrestling and MMA tomorrow night on our flagship audio show, RingRap Audio, so make sure you comment here or on Facebook, or tweet us @RingRap with your questions and comments regarding the show and other wrestling topics for discussion!
1. Happy Birthday To Hulk...
This ended up being the close of the show, and I admit to getting a little worried - okay, a LOT worried - that we wouldn't get that real hard sell moment for SummerSlam. Brock Lesnar didn't disappoint though as he and Paul Heyman interrupted the proceedings. Heyman carried his devilish grin to the ring, and Lesnar did a decent job of being intimidating to all of the legends in the ring. I found myself wishing that there would have been someone that could have taken a bump from Lesnar to enhance the moment before Cena ran out for the save.
As for the birthday celebration itself, it was a fun moment with all of the surprise guests. The NWO guys (Hall and Nash) were definitely the highlight of all the returning legends, and the crowd really popped for all of them. So, a segment that I thought was going to be a total trainwreck as far as SummerSlam was concerned actually worked out fairly well.
2. Magic (on the) Mike:
As I mentioned in live coverage, Paul Heyman is in a league of his own on the microphone and last night proved it. Just like Heyman did with the popular CM Punk, he got fans who would normally cheer Lesnar in a fight with Cena to still put heat on Lesnar. That's a pretty hard feat to accomplish, yet Heyman knows just the right way to deliver his lines and what lines to actually deliver to make it happen. A good opening segment.
3. Claire Lynch, 2.0:
Oh my God...make it stop! WWE decided to go all TNA on us last night and grab up the Claire Lynch story as they brought the Stephanie/Brie feud to a head. The woman even had an uncanny resemblance! Then there was the arrest angle with Brie as Stephanie dared her to "end this (last night)" and have their SummerSlam match on Raw instead. The booing felt like go away heat rather than any real heel heat. This is the kind of nonsense that just doesn't belong on the show. None of it worked - so let's hope we saw the last of Megan Miller already.
4. Corporate Kane Returns
I wondered what Kane would do once he turned his mask back over to Stephanie, and we ended up getting his Corporate persona back. Definitely not a fan of that one. He booked Reigns to face Rybaxel, and Reigns came off looking strong. That said, his promo was a bit of a miss. I like that they're letting him be a bit more free on the mic but right now he should be working on that via Smackdown or live events til he gets his style more polished up. I felt he got too cute last night and if that continues he will lose that cool factor he has with the adult male crowd in particular. Granted, this is just one promo on one night so no harm, no foul here but it definitely didn't get me excited about his match with Randy Orton.
5. A Classic Case of Overthinking:
Conceptually speaking, it was cool to have Dean Ambrose break out of the large present on the stage and attack Seth Rollins after his match. The problem is, Rollins walked over to the box, acted suspicious of it, and turned his back only to have Ambrose emerge. They would have had a much stronger moment had they not given away what was about to go down. Minor, but still a miss in my book.
As an aside, the match between Seth Rollins and RVD was good. That Curb Stomp finish looks so badass, and we got the logical finish of Rollins going over clean.
6. Preacher Man Cena Shows Up...
Cena has been known to really put some mustard on his promo work when he's going into a big match and last night, he threw a double dose on. His intensity was really great and it made the whole promo strong. The one downfall to me was how he started acknowledging fans who want to see him turn. No one is watching SummerSlam with the expectation that Cena will suddenly go heel. Also, he was playing a bit too much toward "shoot" mode with the "I won't lay down for Lesnar" lines and some other insider style terms. This is already a big match, so he didn't need to go there especially when fans who grasp those terms also see it all for what it is. A good segment that needed a little bit of touch-up.
7. Face to Face...
Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho are both strong talkers, but their story hasn't incorporated that element. Last night, the pair sat down in a pre-taped face to face segment. It was unique for starters, which automatically made it more interesting. The two men also delivered strong work in the segment, which really made it a hit and something that breathed life into their match on Sunday.
8. A Role Reversal...
If coming out of Wrestlemania you told me that Cesaro would be facing Jack Swagger heading into SummerSlam on the go-home show, I would have thought that this was a showcase for Cesaro. That is far from the case right now. This match between Swagger and Cesaro was to highlight Swagger as he heads into a Flag Match with Rusev on Sunday. The match was a quality TV affair, with Cesaro tweaking his offense to target Swagger's bad ribs. Swagger was also good, both selling and picking up the win so he keeps his momentum heading to Sunday.
I do hope we get some sort of direction for Cesaro after SummerSlam. He's just floating aimlessly right now. Also, I was surprised we only got the one momentary look at Rusev after the match was over.
9. Viper Strikes...
Sheamus and Randy Orton is a match we've seen a lot before, but the pair delivered a solid TV match. It was important for Orton to pick up a win over someone of meaning going into Sunday, and Sheamus is a guy that easily fits that bill. The two guys worked hard and put on a solid affair. The one downside to this is how WWE ended up putting so little shine on the US Championship by not at least putting the belt on the line or some other sort of stipulation regarding it (i.e., future title shot for Orton, etc.). This is how badly the midcard titles are devalued by WWE at this point.
Overall, this was a show that had its moments, but for a go-home edition just seemed to "tread water." The only truly offensive "get off my TV" moment was the Brie/Stephanie/Megan Miller stuff as I saw it. I think the SummerSlam card is looking good, but I just wish WWE would have spent a bit more time with some solid final hype for the event. Felt like this show needed a bit more, even though it wasn't a bad show.
We'll be recording RingRap Audio tomorrow night, so be sure to send those comments and questions by so we can discuss them on the air.