Raw comes back stateside tonight, eminating from Nashville, TN. It's the go-home show heading into Survivor Series - but WWE has decided to give this a theme show: Raw Country. Not sure what that has to do with Survivor Series, but okay.
Last week, the show focused around the three on-screen authorities of Kane, Brad Maddox and Vickie Guerrero battling among themselves to assert control. Triple H and Stephanie were on vacation, as we were reminded multiple times. What will Triple H and Stephanie think about how Randy Orton was booked into a handicap match? And how will WWE sell us Survivor Series as a legitimate pay per view?
Show Open, Live from the Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Raw opens with a recap video of the Authority being on vacation last week. Cole is with JBL and Lawler and they introduce the show. Cole says there's no question as to who is in charge since Stephanie and Triple H are back tonight. He also hypes a performance by the band "Florida-Georgia Line."
They also hype up Curtis Axel vs. Big E. Langston for the Intercontinental Championship, Daniel Bryan, Goldust and Cody Rhodes and CM Punk and The Usos vs. The Wyatts and The Shield in a twelve man tag.
Triple H and Stephanie come out as we get a recap of Big Show putting Orton through a table last week. Triple H says it's good to be back and last week showed how vital they are to the program since last week's show was chaos. He says they could not be more disappointed with how Raw turned out. He says Brad Maddox and Vickie Guerrero have been avoiding them, and they will be addressed. Stephanie asserts that they are back and rested.
Randy Orton's music hits and he comes to the ring. He says that Hunter and Steph are trying to blame everyone but they are to blame since they left no one in charge. Orton says they are directly responsible for him being put through a table and they should do a better job of protecting their most valuable asset.
Steph goes to say something but Orton interrupts and keep venting. Hunter gets in his face and asks who he thinks he is. Orton says he's the face of the company. Triple H tells Orton he is the face of "our company." Stephanie says there was some confusion last week. Vickie comes out with Brad Maddox and does a meek "excuse me" bit. Maddox blames Vickie for last week's debacle.
Triple H says it doesn't matter and all will pay tonight. Stephanie tells them that the two will be competing. Vickie will face AJ, and Maddox will face Orton. Triple H says the Orton/Maddox match will be no-DQ and will start immediately. "The authority is back," Cole says. JBL says he loves it while Kane joins Maddox and Vickie on stage. Triple H and Stephanie walk to the stage and stand there momentarily then leave.
I guess Vince thinks that fans care about the authority figure and who is in charge? It makes sense for JBL to be happy to see the authority, but not Cole.
Match #1 - Randy Orton vs. Brad Maddox; No Disqualifcation
Orton goes after Maddox right away at ringside only to take a mic to the skull. Orton sells, and Maddox gets a two count. Orton recovers and goes to work on Maddox, slamming him into the ring post and hits him with the hanging DDT off the guardrail.
Back in the ring, Maddox gets repeated microphone shots. The official calls for the bell because Maddox appears to be knocked out.
Simple garbage punishment match.
We see Big E. Langston walking backstage, and he's getting a shot at the IC title, next.
They go into break showing a portion of a Keith Urban/Miranda Lambert video.
They announce the panel for Survivor Series, and it's Bret Hart, Mick Foley, and Booker T.
Match #2 - Curtis Axel (c) vs. Big E. Langston; Intercontinental Championship
Heyman did not accompany Axel, and it's said he disposed of Heyman as his mentor. Langston gets the better of Axel in the early going. Axel goes out to ringside, then gets in the ring but begs off.
Langston keeps up the power offense and gets the better of Axel. Finally, Axel gets back in things by dropping Langston over the top rope. Langston keeps up the power offense after the break. Langston eventually rips the straps down (which gets sold with "you know what happens when the straps come down in Nashville"). Langston hits the Big Ending to get the win and the Intercontinental Championship.
Entertaining affair, and Langston looked good. The live crowd popped for him winning too. A good moment.
Randy Orton and The Shield discuss the change of titles. Orton says there better not be a new WWE Champion on Sunday. He says The Shield will have his back, and Roman Reigns says they will have his back if that's what The Authority wants. He says that if they have his back, Orton will have theirs.
Gee, already teasing the cheap PPV main event finish. And all we're getting is teasers for various country musicians. Isn't there a PPV on Sunday?
Divas Musical Chairs
Jerry Lawler is in the ring and hosts this segment. Really. The ladies are all in country themed attire and they use the song "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line. Natalya is the first woman out, then Alicia Fox. JBL says it's the dumbest thing he's ever seen.
Thank you for saying that, JBL.
All hell breaks loose the next time the music stops and a brawl ensues. The fans chant for Lawler as he stands off in the corner. The women from Total Divas end up standing tall as the others get tossed.
This was bad...no wait, this was awful. Pointless segment. You could afford this if Survivor Series wasn't on Sunday.
They show a clip of Hootie (minus the Blowfish)'s country music video.
Match #3 - Big Show vs. Ryback
JBL puts this over as a battle of the bulls. Ryback shoves Show out of the lockup, but Show dominates the early going. Ryback clips him to get Show down, then throws some hands and a splash for two. Show gets a comeback, but Ryback hits a spinebuster.
Ryback goes for the Meathook, but Show goozles him for the chokeslam. Ryback breaks it up and knocks Show down. Ryback gets Show up for Shellshocked and hits it. The crowd actually pops for the feat. He gets only two. Ryback muscles him up to his feet, but Show counters
After the match, Randy Orton tries to sneak attack Show, but he hits a big spear. Orton clutches his midsection and backs away. The announcers talk about Orton being afraid he can't beat Show alone on Sunday.
Ryback muscling Show up for the spinebuster and the Shellshock was impressive. They're not killing off the character, I would guess. He got a lot more offense against a guy going after the WWE Championship than I would have expected.
Zack Ryder talks to the band "Florida Georgia Line" when 3MB appears. They're in country gear and they try to sing Rhinestone Cowboy and do so rather poorly. FGL wishes them luck tonight and says that they'll show them how to do it.
The announcers hype up that we'll hear from John Cena regarding his status to defend the World Heavyweight Championship on Sunday.
An hour in, and I was more excited about Battleground than I am Survivor Series. That's not a good thing.
A trainer is tending to Randy Orton. He gets upset and asks where The Shield was and where the Authority was. He ices his ribs, then throws the ice away and says he sees how it is.
Cole hypes Goldust and Cody Rhodes vs. The Real Americans for Smackdown, and it will be for the tag team championship.
Match #4 - The Real Americans (w/Zeb Colter) vs. The Miz and Kofi Kingston
Swagger and Cesaro control Miz in the early going. Kingston gets on a roll and goes up top, but Swagger catches him on the way down. Kingston comes back with a really neat spot where he flips over Swagger into a DDT.
Late, Kofi is going for the hot tag. Miz jumps down from the apron and holds his hands up. Swagger uses that opportunity to lock on the Patriot Lock for the submission win.
Miz was a terrible face, so I'm glad he turned. But he did so against a guy that doesn't get used properly (Kingston) and might go back to the same stale heel it would seem so it lacked some impact. Hopefully he has something to do to freshen up his act.
Cole hypes up the Vickie Guerrero/AJ Match for next. Backstage, Vickie approaches the trainer room, knocks, then slumps down against the wall and plays unconscious. A trainer tends to her as we go to break. JBL asks 'really?'
The trainers are about to wheel Vickie to an ambulance, but Stephanie approaches. She says Vickie is obviously dehydrated and stressed out after the past week. The trainer says her signs are normal. Stephanie tells them to take her to the hospital after they take her to the ring. Vickie screams and protests and the staff does as they're told.
Match #5 - Vickie Guerrero vs. AJ (w/Tamina)
The trainers wheel Vickie to the ring and she screams. AJ smiles as Vickie is rolled into the ring. Vickie faints again as the fans chant for AJ. She asks for water and wipes some on her face. She tries to escape but runs into Tamina. She falls on the floor, then fans herself with Tamina's hand. This is terrible. Vickie tries to escape but AJ catches her, drags her back to the ring by her hair and throws her in.
AJ and Vickie talk momentarily, and AJ takes her hand. AJ uses it as a means to lock in the Black Widow, and she taps out in seconds. She fans herself with the official's hand then faints again.
This was just horrible. Really, really pathetic.
The announcers give us breaking news. There will be a seven on seven Divas Elimination match at Survivor Series, featuring the Divas of the show Total Divas vs. AJ, Tamina, Kaitlyn, Aksana, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, and
Triple H is with Damien Sandow and Dolph Ziggler. He says that the two of them have had issues and this a chance for them to settle the issues. He says that since we're in Nashville, they'll have the chance to settle them in a Broadway Brawl. Hunter tells them to go out and make it entertaining and make some music together.
Some of the worst match hype ever. And there was a tech glitch in there from the truck to make it look really smooth...or something.
Halfway home, and I don't care any more about Survivor Series as I did starting the night.
Match #6 - Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow; Broadway Brawl
The ring has musical instruments that can be used as weapons. The announcers talk about the hardcore aspects of the match. Lawler points out that he got a tweet from "Conway Tweety" on Twitter.
Sandow grabs an electric guitar. He swings and misses at ringside with it. A bit later on, Sandow throws Ziggler off the ropes and into a keyboard that is set up in the ring. Sandow is still in control out of the break, beating on Ziggler in a corner.
Ziggler rolls Sandow up in a small package for two, then fires off some shots. The two exchange shots with a fiddle and a guitar. Ziggler comes back with a nice DDT and both men are down. Ziggler crawls into the cover for two.
Ziggler hits Sandow with the fiddle then hits a Fameasser for two. Ziggler tries the Zig Zag but gets countered, then Sandow throws Dolph head first into a chair set up in the ropes That gets two for Sandow. Sandow throws Ziggler into the bass set up in the corner then slams it down on him.
Sandow gets the electric guitar again and cues up. Ziggler sidesteps the charge and Sandow eats ring post and Ziggler rolls him up for two. Ziggler crowns him with the snare drum then the bass drum. This is the loudest I've heard the crowd through this match. Ziggler hits Sandow over the head with a guitar to get the win. The announcers recap it for us as Dolph plays to the fans.
Typical garbage brawl. The fans were pretty quiet during this one until Dolph started his final run toward the win. Dolph had to play them to get them going too. The match was fine though for what it was. But I have to ask - two underused talents beating themselves with instruments while the announcers told dated country music jokes?
The announcers send it into a recap of the opening of the show, where Orton confronted Hunter and Stephanie in the ring about last week's attack from Big Show.
Triple H and Stephanie are talking when Randy Orton walks in. He asks where The Shield, Triple H, or Stephanie were earlier when he got speared by Big Show. He says he should be respected and asks if he has their confidence as face of the WWE. Stephanie says they were just talking about it, and they need to think about it.
Double turn being foreshadowed? Screwing over Orton, perhaps? Should I care? Really, I don't.
John Cena is with FGL. He apologizes for 3MB earlier, and welcomes them to Raw. He says he knows they'll rock the house later. They shake hands and Cena heads toward the ring. He is up next to talk about his condition.
John Cena's music hits and he gets his standard mixed reaction. His arm is in a sling as he heads to the ring. He hands something to a fan at ringside. The announcers point out that Cena is injured and question if he's at 100% for his match on Sunday. Cole resets the show as we cross 10PM EST.
He thanks the fans for their reception. He says he has an added piece to his wardrobe and points out the sling. He feeds it to recaps of Del Rio's attacks on Raw and Smackdown last week.
Cena says he has had to watch that footage every day and he hasn't been in a good mood. He says the energy he feels from the fans made him want to come back from tricep surgery, but he asks if he came back too soon and if he should be champion.
Cena says when he looks around at the fans and the excitement, he feels damn right that he should be there and be champion. He says he has the privilege to perform in front of friends and family on Sunday, and once it's over he will hold the championship up and say loud and clear that "the champ is here!"
Del Rio's music hits and he comes out clapping. He says it was an amazing speech and we have a real superhero in the house. Del Rio says Cena almost made him cry and Cena tells him he will make Del Rio tap on Sunday. Del Rio asks him about holding the title up with the arm with the sling on.
Del Rio talks about embarrasing Cena in front of his friends and family. He says Cena will be humiliated. "A real champion takes advantage of every opportunity" and Del Rio enters the ring. Cena holds his hand out and agrees with him.
Cena admits that Del Rio is right and a champion does take advantage of opportunity. He yanks the sling off and attacks Del Rio. They scrum, and Cena tries to load the AA but Del Rio gets dumped to ringside. He backs up the ramp and he and Cena jaw. Cena holds the title belt up to close the segment.
Kind of the same-old from Cena. I still don't believe that Del Rio has a shot in hell of winning on Sunday and nothing happened there to make me believe Cena is remotely in trouble. This is really just the Hell in a Cell replay.
They hype up Michael Strahan being the guest host next Monday.
How will that mesh with The Authority?
Match #7 - R-Truth and Xavier Woods vs. 3MB (a.k.a "The Rhinestone Cowboys")
They give us a replay of Los Matadores and Santino beating 3MB (posing as the Union Jacks) in England last week. Truth raps his way to the ring with Woods (the former Consequences Creed in TNA).
Woods gets some offense in on Mahal before he ends up selling for the heels. They talk about Woods' education in the early going. Woods gets the hot tag to Truth, who opens up on the heels with a series of moves. He hits a front suplex. Woods pulls Slater of the apron when he tries to interfere.
Woods gets a tag and hits his "Honor Roll" move then his finisher, Lost in the Woods. Woods gets the pin, then he and Truth celebrate in the ring.
I was glad to see the introduction of Woods - the former Consequences Creed in TNA. It wasn't an impressive Raw debut, but it does show promise for the future.
Orton is sitting on a couch when Steph and Hunter walk in. She says they've been thinking about it and they have confidence in him to be the face of WWE. Triple H says there will be no help - no Shield, no interference. When Orton wins, he will prove himself worthy of being face of the WWE. Orton leans in on Hunter and says that he will show Hunter confidence.
It doesn't sell me on the match, or the show, but it does at least give hope that there won't be a cheap finish like we've seen on the past several pay per view events.
They hype Florida-Georgia Line for their performance, next.
They give us video of the opening of ticket sales for Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans.
We get the live performance from Florida Georgia Line, playing their hit song "'Round Here."
Admittedly, I am not a country music fan, so my opinion of these guys is slanted. Also adding in to that is the fact I grew up on Hank, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and the true "country" artists. These guys are pop stars that didn't make it in pop.
Match #8 - Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, The Usos, Goldust, and Cody Rhodes vs. The Shield and The Wyatt Family
Bryan comes out to a rousing ovation, then CM Punk behind him. Punk gets another rousing ovation. As Punk comes out Cole hypes up Bryan and Punk facing Rowan and Harper. Punk plays to the fans as we go to break. The rest of the faces enter during the break. The Shield makes their way through the fans and stand at ringside to jaw at the faces. We get the weird cut in and here come the Wyatts. "We're here." The fans pop for them a little.
Some tension between the Shield and Wyatts at ringside. Ambrose starts off with one of the Uso brothers. He slams Ambrose then tags in his brother, who ends up eating an elbow from Ambrose and he tags Reigns in. Jey (I think) controls Reigns with some strikes, but Reigns uses power to take over. Jey drives him to the unfriendly corner and Cody gets a tag, hits a strike, then teams up with his brother Goldust to double-team Reigns for a moment.
Goldust gets driven to the wrong corner where Rollins tags in. Goldust hits a backdrop and an inverted atomic drop on Rollins then tags in Jey, who hits a big kick. Rollins catches Jey with an elbow that sends him to ringside. Harper gets a tag, but Rollins bickers with him. The Wyatts and Shield bicker going to break.
Goldust is hammering away on Rollins in the corner as we come back. Cody gets the tag but Rollins is able to turn momentum on him though. Rhodes sells for the heel team as they work tags in and out. Reigns is sure to point out to the Wyatts that The Shield is going to work this match. Rhodes lands some strikes but takes an elbow from Reigns to snuff the run out.
The announcers talk about the friction between the Shield and Wyatts as the Shield continues to isolate Cody. Cody hits a front suplex but falls toward the unfriendly corner. Harper tags himself in and jaws at Rollins. Harper hits Goldust then takes the Disaster Kick from Rhodes.
Daniel Bryan gets the tag and he goes off on Harper with a missile drop kick, some kick strikes, and a drop toe hold to the corner. Reigns takes a suplex and Rollins gets tossed out of the ring. Bryan's offense gets snuffed off with a powerbomb. Wyatt gets the tag and he unloads strikes on Bryan. He yells at the Shield "why don't you trust me? Can I trust you?" Bryan continues to sell for the heels as the Wyatts and Shield make frequent tags in and out.
Bryan gets a counter and tries to get the tag. The heels all attack the faces on the apron, knocking them off the apron. The referee tries to restore order as we go to commercial. After break, they show some of the action that happened during the break, with Bryan sending Rollins over the steps.
Bryan gets the hot tag to Punk. He goes on a run, hitting a double neck breaker on two members of the Shield, then hitting the running knees and clotheslines. He hits the Macho Elbow on Ambrose and calls for nap time. He loads the GTS but Wyatt interrupts. Punk hits him with a big roundhouse kick.
Punk tries for the Anaconda Vice on Ambrose, and that's broken up by Harper and Rowan. A finishing sequence ensues. The Usos hit Rowan with a double super kick, then throw Harper out of the ring and hit a double dive on the pair of them. Reigns hits a spear on Goldust but takes Cross Rhodes from Cody. Cody tries for the Disaster Kick on Rollins, but he catches him for a buckle bomb. Punk hits the GTS on Ambrose to get the win for the faces.
Not much time for celebration, as the Wyatts and the Real Americans attack Punk and Bryan. They have the two down but Rey Mysterio's music hits and he comes running to the ring. He opens up offense on Cesaro, hitting a huracanrana to send him to ringside, then getting Harper and Swagger in position to hit the 619. Punk hits Harper with the GTS, Bryan blasts him with the running knee, and the heels are cleared. The faces celebrate as Cole gives us one last shill for Survivor Series.
The show ends with another ad for Michael Strahan being on the show next Monday night.
Well, they were talking about a "mystery opponent" for the face team in the one Survivor Series elimination match - so I guess that man is Rey Mysterio. He didn't seem too rusty in what action we got him in tonight. A nice minor surprise.
The main event was good, especially once we cleared the final commercial break. The "finisher fiasco" is always a crowd pleaser and the fans were hot to see the babyface team go over.
They didn't mock country music fans with the theme either, something that did start rolling around in my mind early in the show. I felt the performance by Florida-Georgia Line was a bit unnecessary though. It ended up being tamer than I thought it would be and probably didn't turn too many folks off.
We can't ignore the 500lb gorilla in the room though, and that's the build to Survivor Series. As a go home show this failed, miserably. Survivor Series has always been considered a "Big Four" pay per view, but this year the build has been so bad that it doesn't feel any more special than any other "off month" event. The build has been exceptionally bad all the way across the board, so they really needed to hit a home run tonight as it was. But for me as a viewer, nothing they did tonight raised my interest in Survivor Series at all.
I'll have more to say tomorrow night in Raw Afterthoughts. Be sure to join me then, and in the meantime, be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter as well.