The night after Sheamus successfully defended his WWE Championship against John Cena, RAW started out with an all-star triple threat match to determine the next man to challenge the Celtic Warrior, pitting Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and Edge against each other.
This was a fantastic triple-threat match, featuring three of the industry’s best against each other and giving them PPV-scale time to put on the match. Lots of momentum changes and good storytelling, with Orton very much the lone wolf to Edge and Jericho’s on/off alliance. Very good characterising for all three! There were many great moments: Orton’s reversal of a double-backdrop into a double DDT, his missed RKO pushed by Edge into Jericho’s Codebreaker, Jericho countering a Spear in to the Walls of Jericho, the chain of roll ups by every man, the triple clothesline knocking them all down. In between all of this marquee work was lots of believeable exemplary, completely believable wrestling and near-falls. In the end, Orton took the match in one that will hard to top this week by anyone. Match of the year candidate? Maybe. I’m not sure how happy I am about Orton winning though. I understand that a heel vs heel main event would have some holes in terms of interest and emotion, but we have seen Orton against Sheamus before. I like Sheamus as champion, but a Sheamus-Jericho or Sheamus-Edge Simmerslam main event would have been very fresh (and I understand the first time in years where neither Cena, Orton or HHH had been in the main event). As I say though, I can understand the temptation to have Orton in a marquee PPV main event as a face against a heel, so the booking has reason behind it.
The next match was very short and not much of anything. Just a way to set up the return of MNM against DiBiase and Maryse. Still, not very well put over either in terms of the match or the storyline. For one thing, there was no reason (unless it’s expanded upon next week, why there should be a refereeing controvercy here – it didn’t affect anything.
Sheamus came out next and showed off his increasing mic confidence in a promo about how he had formed a ‘truce’ with Nexus. This is interesting as it suggests Sheamus’s face-turn might not be forthcoming quite so soon, and it heralded a kind of resignation to Nexus’ power which is what Sheamus has always been good a fronting and, as i’ve said before, would add an interesting tone of a selfish kind of bystander apathy to this storyline arc (all the more so after the revelations of the main event segment which i’ll be talking about later).
Sheamus went on to brag that he will be ‘the longest reigning WWE Champion of all time,’ before, with perfect timing, the new MITB briefcase holder hit the ring. Miz proved that he deserved this spotlight, becoming a truly unique kind of MITB holder. Indeed, he said he will be Sheamus’s ‘celebrity stalker,’ there to gauge whenever Sheamus is at his weakest, and pounce. The power of this resolution was shown when Sheamus had to take on Evan Bourne, with Miz at ringside, cradling his MITB briefcase. At first, I worried for Evan that this was going to be a squash match. It certainly looked like one for the first half, but eventually, the story I think we’ll all have to get used to about Evan’s ‘heart’ shone through as he fought back against Sheamus and had him on the ropes, hitting him with a crossbody to the outside after Sheamus rolled out to avoid Air-Bourne. All the time, Miz is literally on the edge of his seat, visably desperate to pounce. It is clear that with Miz constantly on his shoulder, Sheamus will almost have to guarantee victory or at least avoid a hard loss every time he wrestles, or he might lose his WWE Championship. Sheamus eventually picks up the win after a decent match that really improved towards the end, but Sheamus isn’t even safe then, as Miz hits him with the briefcase several times before manouvering the much bigger Irishman into a Skull-Crushing Finale on to the briefcase. The crowd were amped up for this, and Miz attempted to cash in right then and there! It seemed Miz was going to become WWE Champion that night for sure, until R-Truth’s music hit, and a sensible Miz cancelled the match and ran off with his MITB opportunity intact. This was a move I agreed with. Miz is already benefitting heavily from being Mr. Money in the Bank, and the situation where Sheamus is living under the constant watch of a predatory Miz is good for both, making them look strong, with Sheamus having to be on his A-game constantly, and Miz instilling fear in this established main-eventer. Plus, it would have all been too soon after Kane’s cashing it that it would have depreciated both experiences. I don’t know whether a feud with R-Truth is on the cards, or whether that will help Miz become a main-eventer, though I suppose he needs something to be getting on with, though I would like the feud to be with Sheamus, which I think is possible, even with the Summerslam main event in place – though if WWE don’t want their main event to go off on a tangent, it is certainly understandable.
I’m not going to criticise the tag match between Santino & Kozlov and Regal & Ryder, because a form of comic relief is needed from intense and often dark storylines that are currently on RAW, but I wont be praising it too much either.
The main event was Nexus leader Wade Barrett taking on Mark Henry. Now, I realise the booking seems a little short here, but I suppose Orton was too busy winning his #1 contendership and Cena had stuff to do afterwards. It does suggest though, that a new top face is required on RAW. Nonetheless, Henry was a good fit for this, as the idea seemed to be to get over that Wade Barrett himself, and the rest of Nexus individually, is a legitimate force in his/their own right, making the prospect of Nexus all the more intimidating. The two big men didn’t put on much of a match, but as I said, that wasn’t the aim. It was all building to the spot where Wade (just about!) lifts up the gigantic Mark Henry and hits him with his Wasteland move. This was a genuinely impressive show of strength, especially seen as Barrett nearly couldn’t hit Henry with it, nearly dropping him in what would have been reminiscent of a Samoan Drop! Luckily, Wade hit his move for the win, hammering home the strength of Nexus individually and as a unit.
All through the night, Cena had been teasing a heel turn (a very cruel thing to do to his detractors among the fans!), suggesting that, not being able to beat them, he would instead join them. This was an exciting prospect, though it was quite clear it wasn’t going to happen, not tonight at least. Cena, hearing Nexus’s proposal to join them, but also hearing the WWE Universe and looking at his ‘Never Give Up’ merchandise, decided he just couldn’t join them. In itself, this was all good storytelling, if a little disappointing, but it put Cena too much on the pedastal, which has been one of the shortcomings of this great storyline. Lukily, Cena revealed that his calling Nexus to the ring had all been a test of their attitude and a rouse, and issued the first major challenge to the group, having formed a team of seven from the RAW lockerroom to face them at Summerslam: himself, Edge, John Morrison (sporting blue jeans and an unconvincing new blue-collar look?), R-Truth, The Great Khali, Chris Jericho, and … BRET HART!
This is a subtle but important progression of the storyline. Not only is it no longer just about John Cena, but it paves the way for an escalation of the war. The beat-downs were brilliant, but now it seems we can look forward to all out in-ring rumbles, a’la the Alliance Invasion and, of course, most invasion storylines. This is the chance for the young stars of the Nexus and of the RAW side to come to the fore, while they and the rest show unending sacrifice and passion for their cause, indeed, putting personal issues aside and working for the good of their collective wishes, with the faces, of course, defending the honour of the industry. This puts Sheamus’s truce in to greater perspective. What will his role be during the battles that affect the industry that has made him? If he stays as he is, he’ll be getting a tonne of heat! Another nice image came when the RAW team stormed the ring, reclaiming the sacred ground for the first time really since the initial attack.
Another possibility of progression comes from the new ease with which a betrayal can be performed. I would be very surprised if everyone from the RAW side remains loyal during the Summerslam event. I don’t know who, but I strongly suspect a heel-turn at Summerslam, and of course, this will require face-turns to balance it out, one candidate being Chris Jericho, a man whose proximity to NXT and Wade Barrett makes their attack on him this week all the more sea-changing. As the wronged mentor, he would be very good as a reformed defender of the WWEs honour.
I do question some of the selections for the RAW team though, most of all, the Great Khali. Now, Khali is a former World Heavyweight Champion, but he is one of the few of that elite that has lost all main-event credibility. He is a monster, but how can he be taken seriously in this role having come from kissing Mrs. Brady last week! Where’s Evan Bourne! This would be the perfect opportunity for him to continue his push alongside veterans and in the biggest storyline of the year! R-Truth is ok. Though I question his main event credibility, he can no doubt show a humble kind of passion which makes him a good fit. This is something, however that John Morrison will struggle to do, and while I realise he’s probably a future main-eventer, I don’t think he had the charisma or storytelling skills to do well here.