By Graham "GSM" Matthews
John Cena Confronted Dean Ambrose
Both Cena and Ambrose played their parts well and their mic work was solid, but they've confronted each other so many times in recent weeks that I felt like I've seen it before. They've done a nice job of teasing tension between the two, but there's only so much they can say before people want to seem them fight for real. The Authority's presence was predicable, but at least their announcement led nicely into the subsequent match.
John Cena and Dean Ambrose def. WWE Tag Team Champions Gold and Stardust and The Usos in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match (Non-title)
I was glad to see them switch things up a bit by putting The Usos and the tag champs in a Triple Threat match as opposed to a singles match or a six-man tag match for the millionth week in a row. It's not often we see these kind of matches on Raw, so it felt fresh. The action was enjoyable, but the focus was all on Cena and Ambrose, so it was obvious they'd be going over. Also, it was no surprise that Stardust was over with the audience since he's from the area.
Divas Champion AJ Lee and Layla def. Paige and Alicia Fox
So, is AJ's new gimmick finding a partner that she doesn't hate? AJ came off like a complete heel last week, and even though Layla is supposed to be a heel (?), AJ attacking her afterward wasn't very babyface-like. I still continue to question where this feud is headed. At first, they're friends, and then their enemies, and then they're lovers, and now they're both looking for friends? I had high hopes for this feud and I can honestly say they haven't been met, but that goes without saying.
Randy Orton def. Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler (Non-title)
These two always deliver exceptional matches and this was no different. It all came down to how much time they would get, and I was glad that they were a substantial amount of time to go out there and rip it up. They have such awesome chemistry together and it's been long enough since they lasted faced off that it didn't feel overdone. The finish was fantastic as the out-of-nowhere RKOs on Ziggler never get old. My only nitpick is that Ziggler had to suffer another non-title loss after losing to Rusev on SmackDown. Please don't let this mean the Intercontinental Championship curse is returning! On a side note, Cesaro performed well on commentary and his title rematch with Ziggler at Hell in a Cell should be stellar.
Seth Rollins def. Jack Swagger
This was the second consecutive match that got more time than I thought it would and I couldn't have been happier about it. Swagger hasn't done much of note as of late, so it was nice to see him get offense over Rollins and not have this be a complete squash. It was a very well-wrestled match with a fun final few minutes. The dirty finish put heat on Rollins while protecting Swagger at the same time. The crowd was hot for the tension teased between Orton and Rollins and it's a feud I'd love to see down the line.
Rusev def. Big Show by Disqualification
I liked the intensity from Show in this match and how he didn't treat it like any other match. It was better than taking the standard approach, which would have resulted in this contest being slow and plodding. Granted, this was no five star classic, but it was better than I originally thought it would be. Mark Henry's interference could be seen coming from a mile away and it's obvious they're building toward a Henry heel turn. I just dread the inevitable Henry vs. Show feud we're bound to be getting.
The Miz def. United States Champion Sheamus by Count-out (Non-title)
Miz and Sheamus are capable of having good matches, and this was decent while it lasted, but I was confused as to why this had to happen for the second straight week. Miz already pinned the champion, so isn't he in line for a title shot? It also made no sense to have him pin Sheamus one week and beat him via count-out the next. The crowd was dead for the match and Mizdow was once again the one to watch. As noted last week, Miz's win should set up a a United States Championship match at Hell in a Cell.
Brie Bella, Natalya and Naomi def. Nikki Bella, Summer Rae and Cameron
If you couldn't already tell, this was nothing more than a promotional plug for Total Divas since every participant in this match is a cast member of the show. It was nothing too bad and at least it furthered the feud between Brie and Nikki. I question the move to have Brie get the better of Nikki this early, but at least it was in tag action and not in singles competition. Thankfully, NeNe Leakes' involvement was kept limited.
Dean Ambrose def. John Cena in a No Holds Barred Contract on a Pole Match
I'm positive Ambrose and Cena can have a great match barring all the shenanigans, but the silly stipulation and all the interference watered it down to the point where no one cared. They tried their best at least, so I'll give them that. I honestly expected this to end in some sort of no contest to set up a multi-man main event for Hell in a Cell, but I'm happy we'll be getting Ambrose and Rollins one-on-one instead. Sure, it means we'll be getting Orton vs. Cena for the 3843948394892409th time at the event, but hey, it's a fair trade-off.
Although the show lacked excitement, it was easily the best episode of Raw since SummerSlam. There was a lot of great wrestling in the first two hours and Orton vs. Ziggler is definitely going out of your way to see. There was quite a bit of build for Hell in a Cell, but I couldn't believe no more matches were made official for the pay-per-view outside of the main event scene. The guest host stuff was kept to a minimum and didn't hinder the show's momentum, either. I'd like to see Raw have this same format in the future, but I'm not holding my breath.