Raw Opening: Ultimate Warrior Tribute
It is crazy to think that just last week Warrior was wowing the fans with his Raw return, making us all nostalgic with his signature mannerisms that all the fans who followed him loved. It was very moving seeing the faces of Warrior’s former colleagues, namely Vince who if that picture of him and Warrior re-united is any indication, Vince is feeling pretty rough right now. But what got the tears flowing was the footage shown of Warrior’s family. Over the last three days of Warrior’s life it was evident how proud the family was that Warrior was finally getting the recognition he so richly deserved, and when I think of those girls losing their father, it rips me apart. The tribute was beautiful, and the crowd reaction Warrior received was beautiful.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam
This was a great opening match, with awesome back and forth action. RVD is looking great these days and he can still go with the best of them. Moonsaults here, Del Rio patented on the top rope enziguiri there, not to mention a nice legscissor roll-up from RVD that I got a kick out of. RVD picked up the victory with a Five Star Frog Splash to advance to the semi-finals of this tournament where the IC title is finally getting some significant attention. A great opening match to Raw.
The Brotherhood vs. Rybaxel
It was good seeing Cody Rhodes and Goldust gracing us with some in ring action again, they were missed. Cody Rhodes looked great when he was in the ring, very physical and hard hitting I’d like to see this guy a lot more in the future. Rybaxel continues to work very well together, they are a good pairing and it seems like these guys work in a manner that says they are eager to stay noticed. One spot of note in the match was a great counter move into an inverted atomic drop from Goldust, a move we’ve all seen a million times but it was wonderfully executed. Rybaxel picks up the win with Ryback hitting the meathook on Cody for the win. Hope to see these four back in the Tag Team title hunt.
Paige vs. Alicia Fox
Paige Paige Paige, you have arrived and I couldn’t be happier. I love everything about this woman, her entrance, her physical mannerisms, her in ring style it all works. This was a quick match but it did its job in showing us what Paige has to offer, and that she is a Diva that is here to stay. The most notable part of this match was the closing moments with Paige’s impressive finishing submission move the Scorpion Cross Lock, it wowed the crowd like I thought it would and she picked up a well earned victory. The only thing that I wish would have happened was an attack by AJ after the match to build the feud between them. Paige is a newbie, give her an intriguing feud to work with so everyone can get behind her.
The USOs vs. Randy Orton & Batista
Orton & Batista made the USO’s look like a million bucks in this match, it wasn’t the squash match that last week was. The USO’s got in some great offense on these two ring veterans and they were made to look like they belonged there. After a while the match spilled to the outside with Randy Orton doing some assaulting and it looked like we were going to get a repeat of last week before The Shield made the save and attacked Orton & Batista. The crowd eats the justice hounds up and it’s cool to see The Shield enforcing it, great feud building and foreshadowing as well. Read on.
Cesaro vs. Mark Henry
This all began with Paul Heyman coming out and receiving heat like only he can, it was brilliant to put him with Cesaro. Cesaro comes out afterward, ditching the Real Americans theme. The match itself was very physical, quick and awesome. It seemed like a showcase of Cesaro’s arms when you look at the bottom line. Uppercuts and forearms to last for days, it’s amazing that Cesaro gets in the ring and just with a lock-up looks like a formidable threat against a guy like Mark Henry. Cesaro wins the match to advance in the tournament with a neutralizer, couldn’t get him as far up as he did Big Show but it was amazing to see nonetheless. It’s an interesting relationship Cesaro has with the fans right now, his talent makes the crowd want to cheer him, but they are conflicted by his association with Heyman. It’s very compelling.
Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger
A great match between two talented wrestlers. A hard hitting match with some memorable moments including a body slam on Sheamus on the floor. An angle was employed in the match that made one think Swagger would take this when Swagger locked Sheamus in an ankle lock, Sheamus escaped but significant damage had been done. Sheamus did a great job selling at Swagger worked on the injured ankle a bit more on the outside. After Swagger got Sheamus back into the ring, Sheamus surprised Swagger with a brogue kick to pick up the victory. A hard fought match and both men showcased their best.
The Wyatt Family makes their way to the ring and cuts another promo that just enforces the opinion I have that he’s the best man with a mic the company has at the moment. He criticizes a society that falls for the “lies” John Cena has put everyone who worships him through, and emphasizes that he has never lied to them and that he will save everyone. He says he has a thousand faces, a thousand names. I love the energy this man has during a promo, the cat doesn’t know how to stay still. He pushes the current angle by saying he almost succeeded in awaking the beast within Cena, but all he needs to finish the job is one more significant push, it was very Joker ala Dark Knight.
Cena made his way out next and began to mock the Wyatt Family with his comedy act complete with parody pictures of each member of the Wyatt Family. I sat here thinking mocking a new hot thing with a gimmick this dark could reduce the amount of people that take them seriously, I wasn’t digging it. Then Bray made a comment along those lines, and Cena flipped the switch. He said he failed to awaken the beast at WrestleMania and will fail again, only this time at Extreme Rules in a steel cage. Bray Wyatt said he liked that, and the rest will be history. I’m loving this feud and am glad it’s continuing. Bring on Extreme Rules.
Bad News Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler
This was match of the night, hands down. It was actually PPV quality if you ask me. Very suspenseful, when you thought the match might be over, NOPE. Kick out at 2 at every turn, and the crowd ate it up. After some disrespectful ‘CM Punk’ chants the crowd realized what they were seeing was something kick ass enough to warrant ‘this is awesome’ chants. These two men put each other over in a beautiful way. Near the end of the match Barrett hit Ziggler with the Winds of Change for a near-fall, we all thought it was over. Barrett quickly regrouped and hit the bullhammer for the win to advance. After this match and how awesome Barrett has been since his return to action, I hope he takes the whole thing. I’m loving this. It was an excellent match.
The Shield vs. Heel Roster
Earlier in the night it was revealed The Shield would be in action against a group of mystery opponents, those opponents turned out to be the entire Raw heel roster. In a funny turn of events, Slater portrayed himself as the leader of this band of bad guys and the group got more offense in during the match than I thought would go down. Rusev and Ryback get some offense in before the match turns into an all out brawl outside and back inside the ring.
Then, in a markout moment for many many fans, the Evolution theme blasts through the speakers. The fans didn’t do this reunion justice, but when HHH, Orton, and Batista made their way to the ring side by side it brought back great memories. Evolution proceeded to brutalize The Shield and pay them back for a week of humiliation. A repeat of the Batista Bomb/RKO combo was used again on Rollins, and HHH taunted Reigns beautifully, who was doing his best to get his hands on HHH to no avail. HHH grabbed a mic and Reigns’ hair and said simply “Believe in Evolution”…a moniker to make any wrestling fan giddy with excitement. This feud is moving along swimmingly.
Closing Thoughts: Overall Raw thoughts are that it was an amazing show. Great matches, great feud progression, and I was moved several times with several “Ultimate Warrior Moments” throughout the program. Other notable moments were another Rusev squash match, the man continues to impress. Damien Sandow got some time on the mic and rocked it quite honestly, saying he deserves respect and attention, before being laid out by Big Show. I hope this was only a taste of things to come for Sandow. In a major development, after a scolding from Stephanie McMahon it seems we are getting back the Big Red Machine to battle Bryan. His segment ended with him unboxing his mask and staring it down. An epic moment, hopefully we get a re-energized monster.
Overall Raw Grade: A+
Review Written by Paul Huffman