By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena Confronted The Authority
As I've said time and time again, The Authority kicking off the show has grown tiresome over the last several months. It feels so repetitive, though you had to expect they'd confront Cena in some form and fashion following his title victory at the Money in the Bank. That aside, it was a logical follow-up to the events that occurred on Sunday night and it also built toward Battleground with the announcement of the Fatal 4-Way WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at the next pay-per-view, hyping up the main event match featuring the same four competitors at the same time. On a side note, I'm fine with Cena being on the cover of the upcoming WWE 2K15 video game. He's the face of the company and there's no one else that makes sense right now except for Daniel Bryan (who I believe was on the fan art cover for last year's game). At least he consistently appears on WWE TV unlike The Rock with WWE 2K14.
Seth Rollins def. Rob Van Dam
I mentioned last week that I wished to see a rematch between these two after their match last week ended in a disqualification, so I was glad to see the rematch held on this show. They work well together and produce enjoyable action. RVD received big reactions for his high-flying maneuvers and it was certainly a sight to see. Coming out of his Money in the Bank win on Sunday, Rollins needed to pick up a big victory on his own and this win over RVD provided that for him. It gave him the credibility as a singles star, so props to RVD for doing the favors. Dean Ambrose's post-match promo was great as expected and it was nice to see him establish that Rollins won't be able to cash in his briefcase without Ambrose being present to prevent it from happening.
Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter Interrupted Rusev and Lana
Swagger has been a heel his entire six year career in WWE and he hasn't done anything of note in ages, so his face turn in this segment was a welcome change. The crowd got behind him nicely and his "We the People" chant, much like with Cesaro, will get over in a big way. I realize I've said that Rusev needs a credible competitor to work with and while Swagger has been irrelevant for the longest time, he is a former world champion after all (somehow) and his character finally feels fresh. It's also a very logical feud to do given the obvious ties to the United States with Swagger and Colter. Colter is already a comedy character and Swagger showed good aggression here. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually excited for something Swagger is involved in for once.
The Wyatt Family def. United States Champion Sheamus and WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos
I initially groaned at the announcement of this match because we've seen it several times in the last month, but I ate my words once the match concluded. All six guys have such great chemistry together that it's near impossible for them to have a bad match. It was given great time and the action was all sorts of physical. The final few minutes were especially hot and I was happy to see The Wyatt Family get their heat back following their losses at the PPV. Luke Harper pinning one of The Usos leads me to believe that their hunt for the tag titles isn't yet over, but I guess only time will tell.
Bo Dallas Held a Moment of Silence for Daniel Bryan and Bad News Barrett
As funny as I find Dallas at times, this segment didn't do much for me. It was comical in theory for Dallas to paid tribute to two injured Superstars, but being in the arena, no one seemed to know how to react. There were some boos, of course, but most people just sat on their hands. It was a swing and a miss in my opinion coming off of his interaction with Daniel Bryan at Money in the Bank, but it isn't the end of the world for the Bo-liever.
The Funkadactyls def. Nikki Bella in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match
You'd think The Authority would make life miserable for Nikki more often than they are given their history with Brie Bella. They put her in Handicap matches on the post-Payback and Money in the Bank shows, but that's about it. Perhaps less is more since I have no desire to see Nikki wrestling every week. No one in the arena cared about the match, so it was a good thing that it was kept short and brief. The focus was obviously on the dissension between Naomi and Cameron and the split was well done. Whether their split is permanent remains to be seen, but I surely hope so.
Kofi Kingston def. Cesaro
These two have had very good matches in the past and I was surprised there wasn't more of a match between them. Most of it took place during the break and it was a decent match while it lased. Kingston's victory came as a major shocker and I didn't realize until later on that it occurred during the break. Cesaro regained his heat afterward by viciously attacking Kingston, but it would have been nice for Kingston to get his moment just once. Both will be a part of the Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal at Battleground, so I assume it was supposed to drive home the fact that anything can happen in that match.
The Great Khali def. Vincent McMahondow (Damien Sandow)
Once McMahon's music hit, I went berserk. He's shown up at episodes of Raw in Connecticut several times in the past, so I figured it was a possibility. Fans watching at home realized within moments that it wasn't McMahon, but it literally took me more than a minute to come to the realization that it was Sandow. A great impersonation of the boss. It's a dumb gimmick for Sandow to do all these impersonations and the biggest difference between him and Charlie Haas in 2008 is that Sandow deserves better than this, but I've grown numb to it. I can't exactly saw I'm happy to see Khali back, but I was thankful that his match was only a few seconds long. Why can't all Khali matches be booked that way?
The Miz Returned; The Wyatt Family Attacked Chris Jericho
Where to start? Based off all the "Wooo!" chants in the arena throughout the night, I assumed the former WWE Champion appearing on the show would be Ric Flair. Miz was my second guess, but I was still psyched to see him, regardless. I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I'm happy that he's back, especially now that he appears to have a new gimmick going for me. The Marine 4 is obviously no blockbuster which is what makes his new Hollywood persona so great. Jericho's return came as a major surprise to me personally since I hadn't been spoiled and the crowd went nuts for him. His interaction with Miz was entertaining and I really hope they are set to feud at some point soon. The Wyatt Family's attack on Jericho was also very well done and set up that dream feud perfectly. How many Superstars returned only to be attacked their first night in? Jericho is a class act. The "This is awesome" chants were well deserved, making this one of the best segments of the year to date.
Dolph Ziggler def. Fandango
There were several "We Want Ziggler" chants throughout the night and the crowd was definitely happy to see Ziggler when his music hit for his match. I still couldn't care less about Fandango or the stupid love triangle he's currently involved in, but even I found myself "Fandangoing" with the rest of the audience. The match was pretty inconsequential, but it was nice to see Ziggler score a win on the flagship show for once. Summer Rae's smooch with Ziggler actually received a very good reaction. I just hope the plan isn't for them to become a permanent on-air couple.
Goldust and Stardust def. Rybaxel
Even after seeing the act live, I'm still not getting into the whole Stardust shtick, though he and Goldust received a good reaction when they came out. It was a repeat match from Money in the Bank that felt like filler more than anything else. It wasn't a bad bout by any means, but we've seen it so many times that I've simply lost interest. It is worth noting that Ryback got a few "Feed Me More" chants during the match. It'll be intriguing to see whether he plays it up at some point or if he ignores the chants.
AJ Lee def. Paige to Win the Divas Championship
It was easy to predict that AJ would be returning given the fact that this was the first promo segment the Divas have gotten since AJ's departure the night after WrestleMania, but that didn't take away from the moment of her anticipated return in the slightest. It was odd to see Paige suddenly transition from being a babyface to a heel, bu the audience was so happy to see AJ back that it automatically made her a fan favorite. I liked how this segment showed shades of the post-WrestleMania Raw, but whether the immediate title change was a good idea or not is debatable. It's too soon to tell. I enjoy a good chase, so wouldn't it have been possible for AJ to return as a face yet still feud with Paige without winning the belt on night one? Either way, I look forward to the eventual gem of a match they're bound to have when they aren't relegated to a few minutes of TV time.
John Cena and Roman Reigns def. Randy Orton and Kane by Disqualification
It was a solid match for the most part, but it was nothing must-see or out of the ordinary. Everyone played their part well, but shennigans were expected given The Authority's presence at ringside so I didn't take any of the nearfalls seriously. Kane is great in his role as being the one to do the dirty work of The Authority and it served as the perfect tie-in to the attempted Money in the Bank cash-in from Seth Rollins. Some may have seen it coming, but it was the last thing on my mind at that point. Dean Ambrose received a big reaction for ambushing Rollins as did Reigns for taking out Kane. The staredown between Reigns and Triple H was an excellent way of planting the seeds for their rumored SummerSlam match. It's so surreal to see all the members of The Shield flourishing at the moment on their own as focal points of the show.
Being in attendance for this show will certainly sway my opinion of it, but even if I wasn't there live, I still would say that it was easily the best episode of Raw since after WrestleMania 30 and one of the best of the year so far. The returns of Chris Jericho, AJ Lee and others made this a newsworthy show in addition to the Divas title change, face/heel turns and more. I also loved how this edition of Raw was a good fallout episode from Money in the Bank but it also built toward Battleground in three weeks. This was undoubtedly the best wrestling event I've ever attended and feel very fortunate to get tickets to it. This felt like the big kickoff for the summer season that WWE usually holds every year and words can't explain how excited I am for the months to come.