By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Triple H Mediated the Confronatation Between WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and Kane
I found it comical that the commentators were playing this up as Triple H's grand return TV when in reality his last Raw appearance came only three weeks ago when he promoted Tough Enough. Nevertheless, you had to know this "intervention" was coming and both Rollins and Kane played their roles well. Kane's pending babyface turn continues to intrigue me, and he's added some extra interest to the championship main event at Payback, but they need to hurry up and get to his split from The Authority. I'm all for building to a big moment, but the longer they drag this out, people was start to not care. As always, I'm no fan of long talking segments kicking off Raw, but at least this set up several matches for the night.
Dean Ambrose def. J&J Security in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match
I've grown tiresome of Handicap matches during the Authority era (haven't we all?), but this one in particular was more fun than most due to Cincinnati's own Dean Ambrose being involved. The crowd was red hot for him throughout and J&J Security took his offense like champs. It was an easy win for Ambrose that only furthered his momentum going into the Fatal 4-Way.
King Barrett def. Dolph Ziggler
It looks like Barrett's name has been shortened to simply King Barrett, which is reassuring since the "Bad News" name wasn't going to get him anywhere. Call is corny, but the king shtick works for him and at least it's giving him more wins than he was getting before. As for the match itself, Barrett and Ziggker always work well together, so this being a good match was no surprise. Sheamus wasn't distracting on commentary and only added to the match by hyping up his rematch with Ziggler at Payback. Barrett scored another victory while heat was put on Sheamus going into his match with Ziggler, so this was wisely booked all around.
Erick Rowan def. Fandango
I've been clamoring for a Wyatt Family reunion for months and it appears we're finally getting it. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Bray Wyatt will be joining the act, but I sure hope so. He's doing well on his own, but he has so much more mystique when Harper and Rowan are backing him up. This was nothing more than a glorified squash win for Rowan, though I did find it funny that the commentators were taking bets as to how short he match would last.
Neville def. United States Champion John Cena by Disqualification
Cena's U.S. Open Challenge continued its strong streak of great matches with this bout. Neville was the perfect opponent for Cena in that not only was he a fresh face but Cena put him over in a big way. The action was entertaining and Neville was made out to look like Cena's equal. Neville kicking out of the Attitude Adjustment was a nice touch, though I wish they wouldn't do it every week because it loses meaning. The non-finish was predictable, but it was the right decision to make given that it protects Neville and gives viewers the impression that he was on the verge of beating Cena for the belt. Oh, and Rusev beat up Cena again. That happened.
Roman Reigns and Kane Brawled
This was infinitely better than any match they could have had. I dreaded the announcement of them facing each other on this show because we've seen it far too many times in the past. There should be a rule that Reigns can never again have a match with either Kane or Big Show. Granted, the brawl was pretty ho-hum for the most part, but it got more intense toward the end and Reigns came out of it looking strong.
Tamina Snuka def. Brie Bella
While I don't mind either Brie or Tamina, this was not a good match, like, at all. It was sloppy in spots and they never seemed to find the right rhythm. Moreover, the crowd sat on their hands almost the entire time, only coming alive when Brie screamed, "Brie Mode!" It's painfully apparent that the #GiveDivasAChance movement didn't last since the women matches continue to go shorter and shorter. They have a storyline going for them, sure, but it's nothing we haven't seen before.
Curtis Axel vs. Macho Mandow Ended in a No Contest
If watched Main Event last week, then you already saw this as it was almost an exact repeat. I get a kick out of the Mega Powers team of Axel and Sandow, but I can't help but think that Sandow is capable of bigger things in WWE. As I've said before, he's not world championship worthy, but he deserves better than to be utilized than as an enhancement talent. Hopefully their match with The Ascension is a one-off and he can go back to being Sandow afterward.
Daniel Bryan Relinquished the Intercontinental Championship
Bryan just can't catch a break, can he? Based off everything we've heard about his health as of late, him giving up the Intercontinental title isn't shocking, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing. It's not just that I was looking forward to his run as champ but rather it may not bode well for his career, especially considering how doctors don't know what the timetable for his return is. My fingers are crossed that he won't have to retire, but his health comes first and if hanging up the boots means he won't have to live in pain, then so be it.
Cesaro def. WWE Tag Team Champion Big E
Cesaro will get over as a babyface based off his enjoyable offense alone. It makes me wonder why they didn't turn him sooner, but that's another rant for another day. The match was good, and as great as Cesaro is, I feel Big E doesn't get enough credit for being an excellent athlete. He's very agile for a guy his size and it's nice to see him and the rest of The New Day finally coming into their own. The win for the babyface team was necessary after losing so much since Extreme Rules and I'm excited for the 2-out-of-3 Falls match on Sunday as it has the potential to be incredible.
Ryback Interrupted Bray Wyatt
Wyatt's promo started the same way most of his promos do: with nonsensical rambling. I really want to enjoy Wyatt's promos because his mic work is amazing, and I excused him not making any sense early on in his run, but there's no excuse anymore; it didn't make me any more interested in this feud. And when it came time for him to explain why he initially attacked Ryback, he said it was because he could, which is code for "Creative had nothing else for me." Ryback getting the better of Wyatt here should mean Wyatt goes over in their upcoming match.
Randy Orton def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins by Disqualification (Non-title)
As much as I loved their WrestleMania match and thought their Extreme Rules match was good as well, I found it difficult to get invested in this match. Perhaps it was because it came after a long show, but it also might have to do with these two having worked together so much over the last few months. They have great in-ring chemistry together and this was a solid match, but here's hoping this is their last one-on-one match for a while. The commentators were laying it on thick that the odds won't be in his favor at Payback, so combine that with the fact that he was taken out by all the babyface challengers afterward and it essentially guarantees that he'll be successfully retaining his title.
Last week's show was so great that it was going to be hard to top it, and while this episode didn't come close, it was still a solid show filled with a handful of good matches and memorable moments. It definitely dragged by the final hour, but the main focus of this edition of Raw was to build toward Payback on Sunday and they did so effectively. On paper, the card is strong and they've successfully gotten me excited for the event.