Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, a hits and misses discussion of last night's WWE Raw broadcast. We'd love to hear your thoughts as well, so be sure to comment below or hit us on either our Facebook (facebook.com/RingRap) or Twitter (@RingRap) accounts!
1. Hall of Fame Start:
Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels gave us the opening to our show last night. They all got a nice reaction from the live crowd, and admittedly there is a certain feel added to the Night of Champions title match by having three Hall of Fame men speak on it. They did create a bit of a different narrative to the match, so that is a plus as well. Cena felt pretty cliche and uninspired for all the blathering they gave about his first time on Raw since losing the title. It didn't do anything for me, really, but it wasn't horribly offensive.
2. Bickering Sisters Fail, Miserably
Wow. Nothing made me rage last night more than this Bella Twins segment with Jerry Lawler. This was a lackluster show and it hit rock bottom by this point. Even after a night's sleep and a work day to think it through, I can't come up with something good to say about this segment. Nikki's promo was passable at best, and Brie was just God awful in this. Brie is by far the better wrestler of the pair, and comes off as such a natural on Total Divas, but she doesn't carry that over to in-ring on Raw. I was grateful that my audio went out (a local cable issue) during the segment so that I didn't have to endure it.
3. Pre-Taped Brilliance:
If you can't have Brock Lesnar appear live, the next best thing is to get as much mileage out of his appearances as possible with pre-taped promo segments. His sit-down interview style promo last night was well produced and came off very well. Lesnar is so good in those kinds of segments and given his limited dates they could use this opportunity to effectively build to the Night of Champions rematch along with Paul Heyman cutting some excellent promos. It doesn't change my mind on how I feel about champions appearing on TV live, but this was effective none the less.
4. Rest in Reigns:
I thought Seth Rollins was fine in his "eulogy" promo. It went on a little bit too long but Roman Reigns hitting the ring helped pick the segment up. I can't say that the handicap match was great, but it was worthy of a minor hit. They designed the post-match angle to give Reigns strength rather than putting heat on Rollins and that came off as intended. One flaw I see here is that if Reigns is truly destined to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania, they would want to keep him and the Money in the Bank contract holder (Rollins) apart to keep that matchup fresh. As I noted last night, this feels like a placeholder.
5. A Callback to HLA?
It's clear that Paige and AJ will continue to feud at least until Night of Champions. Paige picked up a clean win over Natalya last night to erase the previous upset wins Natty got. The post-match antics with AJ and Paige harken back to the days of Hot Lesbian Action (HLA) in the Bischoff years. The mind games didn't draw much reaction until they got to those lines. I would rather see them just set up a straight away feud, but this wasn't a complete failure either.
6. Sending a Message, the Wrong Way:
I can appreciate John Cena's intensity in the main event. I can respect the storytelling effort by Cole to say that when Cena would hit a German suplex that it was a message to Lesnar. But there's just a lot of problems with the main event segment. First, Cena is eight days removed from that "devastating loss" at SummerSlam, where Lesnar was said to have destroyed Cena. But yet here he is, on our TV and beating the holy hell out of the Wyatts. That was pretty much a joke.
It really crushed any momentum Wyatt had going coming out of his match with Jericho at SummerSlam, where he picked up a solid win. Add in to this that Mark Henry and Big Show came out to make it a six-man tag, and we already saw Show and Henry go over Harper and Rowan last week, and they will again face off on Smackdown this week. All of this pushed the Wyatts down to feel like a mid-card act, and they certainly are more than that.
7. Failing America, Again:
I thought Jack Swagger had some good momentum going into SummerSlam, but his loss there and the beating he took verbally last week made me change my mind. Last night's match was passable, and his submission attempts were believable. Rusev's kicks were bad though...there was a lot of light showing there. Add to it that Swagger's loss was that he couldn't continue and that fact didn't help him much.
It is worth pointing out that his moment after Bo Dallas' match was effective though and it makes sense to have him and Dallas oppose each other rather than pair up.
8. Brothers Gone Bad...
I reiterate my opinion that the Stardust gimmick wasn't gaining traction with me as a fan, and the overall pairing wasn't working in terms of their backstage celestial and cosmic key promos. The heel turn will keep my interest to see if it does help the pair gain any momentum, and I'll keep an open mind. Goldust has been a good heel in the past, and Cody can come off as an effeminate Riddler which will help him as a heel. The good news is the tag division gained another heel team not named Rybaxel.
9. Potato Shots and Title Shots...
When they announced Cesaro vs. Rob Van Dam, I immediately went to thinking that Cesaro would go over. They've been setting up a program between him and Sheamus over the past week or so. The match had meaning since it set up Sheamus' next contender for the US Championship. I have to admit I am looking forward to Sheamus vs. Cesaro though. It will be entertaining and physical - I guarantee some potato shots in that one.
The overall show was a downer for me. This show felt like it lacked any sort of heat because they didn't do anything to advance stories or generate any sort of buzz around Night of Champions coming up in a couple weeks. They really filled the time and didn't do anything else. I am shocked that they did that because the NFL kicks off the Monday after Labor Day. Are they just going to roll over for that week? If so, that's pretty disappointing.
Join us next Monday for more Raw coverage here on Ring-Rap.com.