By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Authority Kicked Off the Show
Ah, it wouldn't be an episode of Raw without The Authority segment! I would complain but I'd sound like a broken record after doing so countless times before. It was a logical follow-up to the events of Sunday's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, but it wouldn't have at all been notable had Randy Orton not come down and lay out Seth Rollins. The crowd was hot for The Viper and it was a nice way to further their feud after weeks of teasing tension with each other.
WWE Tag Team Champions Gold & Stardust def. Big Show and Mark Henry
We all knew where this was headed from the get-go, but did the tag team titles really need to be on the line? Sure, it made the match mean more since there was something at stake, but Henry and Show did nothing to deserve a shot at the gold. The match mostly consisted of Henry and Show dominating the 'Dust brothers and the crowd was quiet for most of it since they saw the finish coming from a mile away. I can't say I'm excited for a potential Show-Henry feud, but at least Henry's back in the role he's most comfortable in.
Roman Reigns Was Interviewed
This wasn't much different than his last interview, meaning it was almost as equally as pointless. Seriously, why even bother? I understand they're meant to keep him relevant and in the fans' minds, but he doesn't come across well in the pre-taped environment and he's better off being there in person. At least this time he teased resuming his rivalry with Seth Rollins when he eventually returns.
Divas Champion AJ Lee def. Alicia Fox (Non-title)
It's ridiculous how many times we've seen this match lately and I care less and less every time it happens. It's not the workers because both AJ and Fox are very good. It's the lack of storyline support that's hurting them. It's hard to care about Paige splitting up with Fox because they've been together for all of a month, but the post-match attack on Fox was effective in helping Paige regain some of her lost heat.
The Authority Confronted John Cena
Cena saying that his match with Randy Orton at Hell in a Cell wasn't the last chapter in their rivalry made me cringe. I know they'll face off again one day, but hearing him say that made it worse. The Authority's presence here was interesting and I was glad they announced a traditional Survivor Series elimination tag match this far in advance since they usually wait until the last minute. We've seen Cena's opponents encourage him to turn heel so many times before, so even though Triple H and Stephanie McMahon had strong mic work, what they said rang hallow. Simply put, I'll believe it when I see it.
The Usos def. The Miz and Damien Mizdow
It was refreshing to see The Usos work with a team that wasn't Goldust and Stardust for once. It didn't serve much of a purpose, but the bout was decent. As much as I love The Usos, I hate the idea of having them use "twin magic" as the finish to their matches. It's a heel tactic and the commentators shouldn't justify it. They'll probably tie it back to Miz and his stunt double and they'll try it, too, but it was still stupid.
Hulk Hogan Promoted the Susan G. Komen Fund
I know a lot of people have been disappointed with the way he's been utilized since his WWE return earlier this year. Believe me, I understand. But the guy is an ambassador for the company. He's going to do whatever they want him to, and that includes shilling merchandise, pay-per-views, video games, foundations and everything else. I wish he was involved from a storyline standpoint, even if it meant him confronting Rusev one night (how have they not done that yet?!), but on the bright side, at least he isn't in creative control like he was in TNA. I'd rather get too little of Hogan than too much.
Ryback def. Bo Dallas
Finally! I've been advocating for a Ryback face turn since the day he turned heel a year and a half ago. He floundered as a heel and I couldn't be happier to see him back to his roots. While they weren't the most electric crowd on this show, San Antonio showed Ryback some love when he returned and the "Feed Me More" chant was over big time. I really hope they have a plan for him this time around. Is a feud between him and Rusev in the works?
Dean Ambrose vs. Cesaro Went to a No Contest
I was slightly disappointed this match didn't end up coming to fruition because it had the potential to be great. I was even more disappointed that Cesaro was cast as an afterthought here after his recent strong showings against Dolph Ziggler. The most disappointing part about all of this was Bray Wyatt's promo, surprisingly. He cut a good promo, but it didn't further the storyline in any way or reveal anything. Seeing how this was the biggest talking point going into Raw, it flopped in terms of delivering on the hype. I haven't lost all hope, obviously, but this wasn't the best first night of this feud.
Nikki Bella def. Naomi
The match was fine for what it was, but this story with The Bellas is dead in the water. It's so reminiscent of when John Cena joined The Nexus four years ago. The Bellas aren't over enough for anything they do to garner a real reaction. As I said in my Hell in a Cell review, their in-ring ability isn't the problem. They've improved. It's the dull story and its predictability. I could see Nikki going for the Divas Championship at Survivor Series with Brie costing her the title.
Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler def. Kane (Non-title)
It may not look like the most exciting match on paper, but Ziggler somehow managed to get a good match out of Kane. Some may argue it went on longer than it needed to, but I didn't mind it. At least it wasn't a match we've seen a million times before. Plus, Ziggler actually won! I don't want to get my hopes up too high, but I'm hoping WWE does right by Ziggler and the title by not making him loss many non-title matches going forward. His post-match interaction with Cena may it obvious he'll be a part of his team come Survivor Series.
John Cena def. Seth Rollins by Disqualification
This was another fresh match that I really enjoyed. They have awesome chemistry together and it was great they ended up getting as much time as they did. They definitely picked up the pace down the stretch and the final few minutes were fantastic. The non-finish wasn't surprising, but it was still aggravating. Can they be so unoriginal that they must have Kane interfere in every main event match on Raw? The rest of the roster running down to brawl with one another was really strange and pointless. I'm sure the audience knows 90% of those jobbers in the ring won't be selected as Cena's partners.
It may not have been a home run of a show by any means, but it was a step in the right direction and easily one of the better editions of Raw in a while. There were a lot of fresh matchups and intriguing build toward Survivor Series which I'm glad they're starting to stack up now instead of waiting until the last minute like they did with Hell in a Cell. This show wasn't without its flaws (see: Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose), but Randy Orton's temper tantrum, Ryback's return and the main event made this an above-average episode (or at least more entertaining than anything else we've been getting lately). I like a handful of the stories being told right now and am excited to see where they lead in coming months.