Welcome to another one of my Raw reviews, valued readers! I’ll open this report talking about the Ultimate Warrior tributes they did. They opened with an excellent, tear-inducing package about his career, and the ten bell salute. Then it was followed up with short highlight clips of his best matches throughout the night. WWE always does nice tributes, and this was no exception. My thoughts and prayers go out to Warrior’s family, friends, and fans. Thank you for all you’ve given to entertain the people, sir.
The regular portion of Raw opened with the first match of an 8-man tourney to determine the number one contender to the IC Title, where the winner will face Big E at Extreme Rules. They did a great job choosing 8 worthy guys for the field, and the first match was RVD vs. Del Rio. Once again I’ll say that Del Rio has been on fire as of late. His character comes across boring, but his work is superb. Van Dam took some nice bumps here, and the two engaged in a very good, long match with RVD coming out on top. It’ll be a shame if Del Rio doesn’t renew his contract this summer. Ryback/Axel against the Rhodes Boys was next. This has no real back-story to it, but I’m glad they put some focus on the tag division. Dare I say Ryback has been improving from being with Axel! He has a long way to go, but has looked better in the past month. Ryback gets the clean pin for his team. A feud with these guys and the Usos could be really fun to watch.
Speaking of the Tag Champs, the Usos took on Orton/Batista next. It was so good last week, all the fans wanted a rematch. Hopefully you can sense my sarcasm. Anyway, this goes to a short no-contest because the Shield attacks, playing off the ending of last week. The Shield are SO over as faces. The new Divas Champ Paige faced off against Alicia Fox next, and although it was short, it was the best Raw divas match in months. Fox is very underrated, Paige looked great, and the crowd…actually cared. Paige wins obviously. Looks like Paige gets Tamina Snuka at Extreme Rules, as AJ asked for time off. Color me sad.
Cesaro vs. Henry was the next match in the IC title tourney. While not as impressive as the opener, it was still very solid. Cesaro wins with the Neutralizer. He’s so strong, that nothing surprises me anymore. Though I AM surprised that WWE can make a beast like Henry fall so far into the under-card, such a shame. But I’m betting Cesaro wins this tourney, and goes on to beat Big E at the PPV. Remember where you heard that first. Sheamus vs. Swagger follows, also in tourney action. Swagger looks incredibly strong here, and has some nice counters throughout. Sheamus gets heat for being booked as an “Irish Cena”, but he’s a hard worker. Good back-and-forth match that Sheamus wins with a Brogue Kick. Damian Sandow (yep, he was actually on Raw) has a great promo about how he deserves to be a breakout star. WWE repays him for this excellent work, with Big Show punching him in the face. Right behind Ziggler, there is nobody in WWE more underused than Sandow.
Rusev wins a quick pummeling match over Xavier Woods (good thing he’s up from NXT, huh?), then the Wyatts come out with another awesomely cryptic promo about how Cena is close to the edge of being a monster. Cena comes out to answer with some silly pictures of the Wyatts. As amazing as serious Cena is on the mic, silly Cena just comes off as annoying. Solid segment overall though, and Cena vs. Wyatt is set for Extreme Rules, in what should be an excellent cage match. Fandango/Layla are together now as Fandango has separated from Summer Rae, and they beat Santino/Emma is a short comedy match. Total filler, nothing much to see here. Stephanie McMahon also fires up Kane backstage about how he lost his step, and Kane picks up the mask in a fury. It seems we may see Bryan vs. Kane at Extreme Rules, which I’m fine with.
Ziggler vs. Barrett was easily match of the night, and one you should go out of your way to see. Looks like Barrett is getting pushed now, with his second quality win in a row, with a nasty Bull-hammer. This has a ton of great wrestling in it, and again shows why Ziggler should be a main event guy. Next week is the IC Semi-Finals, with Cesaro vs. RVD and Sheamus vs. Barrett. Both should be great. The main event is the Shield against mystery opponents…who wind up being the mid-card heel brigade. It’s 3-on-11 as they are forced by HHH to face 3MB, Rusev, Barrett, Fandango, Swagger, and several other pseudo-jobbers. The Shield excitingly overcomes the odds for a while, but eventually gets beat down. That leads to the Evolution music hitting, and HHH/Orton/Batista coming out reunited, to assert dominance over the Shield. That six man tag is now official for Extreme Rules as well. As much as I HATED Evolution in their time, I love the idea of an old established group facing a new one. It’s like past colliding with present, in a cool way to get new guys over. Nice way to end a solid show.
Overall, this was a big let-down from last week obviously, but still had some good substance. Go see Ziggler/Barrett right away, and all the other IC tourney matches were worth watching also. Extreme Rules took a lot of nice steps toward being a great show, and the ending was cool to see. Until the next opening bell, valued readers…