CM Punk attempts to deliver a GTS to Mr. McMahon.
Great promo from the returning John Cena to kick off the show. He announced he had since come back to Raw following a two-week hiatus, cracked a few jokes, and then got serious by the end of the promo as he focused on CM Punk. It was a very well-rounded promo that I thoroughly enjoyed, which is saying a lot since most of Cena's comical promos don't get a chuckle out of this viewer most of the time. Highlighting the various angles happening in WWE today was a cool perspective on things as well.
Brief match with Ryback squashing both Primo and Epico in a Handicap match. It made sense following Ryback's match with Primo last week on SmackDown, so I saw it as a nice follow-up. I still see Ryback defeating two competitors at once as an impressive feat, especially when they were put over as a threat by JBL on commentary. Sure, Epico and Primo don't come off as a credible team after failing to defeat Ryback, but they're not doing anything at the moment anyway, so I don't mind it. Ryback hitting his finisher on both Primo and Epico simultaneously was a cool visual and there's no denying that Big Hungry was over with the crowd like crazy.
Fun segment featuring Brodus Clay and R-Truth. While it may not have lasted long and was simply a tie-in to Vince McMahon's state of the WWE address that followed, it was harmless comedy. As much as I'd like to see Clay and Truth as heels, I don't see it happening anytime soon due to how over they are with the children, so it'll be a fun pairing for the time being.
Fantastic promo between WWE Champion CM Punk and Mr. McMahon. Punk's interruption halfway through McMahon's promo was predictable, but I found it to be extremely intriguing with this being the first time these two have crossed paths on Raw since last July prior to the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. I've been anxiously awaiting a "pipebomb" of a promo from Punk since he cemented his heel turn a few months back, and will we finally got it here with some very strong mic work from Punk. He's playing his heel role to perfection and his back history with McMahon only enhanced the segment. McMahon sold Punk's slap to the face well and looking legitimately angry (which he could have very well have been) really have me looking forward to the night's main event between the two.
Good match with Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara defeating The Prime Time Players to advance to the finals of the WWE Tag Team Championship tournament. They've been up the feud between the two teams quite well in recent weeks, so it definitely gave this match more meaning. The outcome was never in doubt, but it still consisted of good action that saw the right team go over. As I've said numerous times in the past, I've been loving the recent resurrection of the tag team division and hope they keep the momentum going strong.
Solid match between World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and Wade Barrett. I would've liked to see it promoted more since it is such a high caliber contest after all, but it beats Barrett taking on yet another enhancement talent this week. Needless to say, these two Europeans have excellent in-ring chemistry and had an enjoyable back-and-forth brawling battle. I was worried about the finish since it could possibly make Barrett look weak, but having Tensai interfere was a pleasant surprise, which prevented Barrett from losing via pin-fall. Big Show didn't add much at ring-side, but at least he furthered his feud with Sheamus by attacking the Celtic Warrior and coming off as a threat for the first time since this rivalry began. I don't think a trio involving Tensai, Barrett, and Show will become a regular thing going forward, but it worked well here given the circumstances.
Wade Barrett takes control of the World Champion Sheamus.
Nice match between United States Champion Antonio Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. It was a step up from a squash, but Kidd was able to score some impressive offense before suffering the inevitable loss. Cesaro has been looking dominant in recent weeks and I hope to see his hot momentum as U.S. Champ continue going forward. Kidd would be a nice challenger for his star-spangled prize, but hopefully they do eventually enter Cesaro into a title feud at some point soon.
Excellent tag team match with WWE Tag Team Champions Kane and Daniel Bryan defeating Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio. While it feel somewhat random, it was very well wrestled and featured some exciting action. It also managed to tell a successful story with Bryan being isolated from Kane during a majority of the match, and their post-match antics were entertaining as always. It seems as if none of these four guys are involved a substantial feud at the moment, but I have no complaints, as this was a spectacular tag team bout.
Humorous segment featuring Larry King, Intercontinental Champion The Miz and Kofi Kingston that was successful on all levels. Usually, live crowds aren't that favorable towards celebrities, but they seemed to like King, so that made the segment more enjoyable. Miz's bashing of King and Kingston (ha, didn't even notice that name comparison till now) was hilarious and put over an impending feud with Kingston, who I'm so relieved is finally being spotlighted in singles competition yet again. Not only that, but it also helped put over King's new upcoming show, so everybody wins here.
Decent match with Team Rhodes Scholars defeating Santino Marella and Zack Ryder to advance to the finals of the WWE Tag Team Championship tournament. The action was fine for what it was, but what I truly took notice of was the newly revamped entrance of Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. They have such awesome chemistry together and have unlimited potential as a team if utilized correctly. I see them ultimately winning the tournament to face Team Hell No at Hell in a Cell, but it's been a fun ride to get to that predicted match.
Fine match with Divas Champion Eve defeating Kaitlyn to successfully retain her title. The action was actually better than expected, as Kaitlyn has improved immensely in the ring since her NXT days. Eve carried her to a decent match that focused primarily on Kaitlyn's injured knee. I'm glad they didn't avoid logic and actually gave Kaitlyn deserved title shot, so at least this now allows Layla to be the true number one contender to the title heading into the upcoming pay-per-view.
Strong brawl between WWE Champion CM Punk and Mr. McMahon to close the show. I'm glad we got his rather than an actual match, as this aggressive outing from both men was way more effective. Sure, one may complain that Punk was made to look weak against the WWE Chairman, but that's just what his character is all about. Punk is no Brock Lesnar, meaning he's able to take a beating from anyone but still be able to come out victorious. McMahon came off as a crazed lunatic, so this was the most I've enjoyed the on-air McMahon character in ages. The place became unglued for Ryback, and John Cena's interference was also logical as well. I enjoyed the ending cliffhanger with Punk having to choose between Cena and Ryback for a title challenger at Hell in a Cell before next week, as it leaves viewers something to look forward to and an incentive to tune into next week's show.
Overall, an extremely entertaining edition of Raw that was fantastically booked and hardly featured any dull moments. The action was beyond solid, the promos were stronger than usual, and the build to Hell in a Cell was also very well done. Better yet, I watched the show on an hour delay via DVR, so I was fortunate enough to fast forward through all the commercials and watch all the awesome content. Take nothing away from the live Sacramento crowd either, which really helped provide an electric atmosphere all night long. I realize I've been saying this quite a bit in recent weeks, but I feel confident in saying this was one of the best episodes of Raw thus far this year. With changes recently made to WWE's Creative Team, I surely this show is a sign of amazing things to come. If this episode didn't draw viewers, then I don't know what will. Ratings are somewhat important, but that aside, WWE should continue focusing on providing the best show possible (much like with this edition), regardless of the rating.