In the fall out of Summerslam, this episode of RAW was nearly uniformally dominated by the – thankfully – ongoing Nexus storyline. The downside of this is that the usually showcased young talents of people like Evan Bourne and Ted DiBiase didn’t appear. Nonetheless, it was vital booking to keep alive – and fresh – the Nexus storyline, and this episode turned out to be a very good one.
First out was Nexus, talking about how they would only be stronger following their defeat at Summerslam. Pretty standard, but a good way of legitimising their survival. Cena came out to confront them, and question their confidence. Cena’s usually good on the mic, but usually he pulls out genuinely very funny promos and this was one, taking the time to undermine them all individually as opposed to as a group – highlights including comparing Heath Slater to the Wendy’s Girl. As a Brit, i’ll have to take his word for that, but the crowd loved it; and another playing on his similarity in appearance to Darren Young (this has been noticed by many fans who describe him as Cena if he blacked up) and saying that his mother’s stories about having a lovechild with Buckwheat – again, the reference is lost on me, but I enhoyed it nonetheless, and more importantly, so did the crowd. He also took the time to put over Daniel Bryan for his efforts the previous night. Young was highlighted divisively by Cena as ‘the weakest link’ of Nexus, causing a bit of turmoil in the group, before the General Manager informed us that each member of Nexus would take on each member of team RAW, with Barrett adding his own stipulation: any losing member of Nexus would be ostracised.
The first of these matches were Nexus leader Wade Barrett against his former mentor, Chris Jericho. This was probably the match of the night between these two whose history makes a match between them all the more interesting, as well as providing them with a good in-ring chemistry. Both men looked very strong in this match, and we saw some fresh, innovative stuff, especially at the matches end, where Barrett attempted a springing backdrop which Jericho sup out of to hit an enziguiri before attempting a Codebreaker which Barrett caught and seemlessly manoevered in to his Wasteland slam for the victory. Barrett getting a victory over someone like Jericho immediately re-enlivened his credibility as a threatening presence. Meanwhile, Jericho didn’t look overly weak and gave us a good match.
Nexus would follow the example of their leader in other matches as the night went on. Next up was quite a mouth-watering match-up for me between Michael Tarver and golden boy, Daniel Bryan. Like many of the RAW-Nexus matches from now on, this one was a relatively short affair, but one that nevertheless gave us a taste of what the two performers can do in the ring. Again, Bryan was all over the ring, leaping about and causing devestation when on the offensive, while Tarver was brimming with his usually brawling intensity. The match was cut short by Miz and his current rookie, Alex Riley, who interfered in the match, causing Bryan to lose and Tarver to remain in Nexus. This was probably the best finish to this match, as it didn’t hamper Bryan looking strong while Miz was allowed some TV time to further renew his intense feud with ‘The American Dragon.’ No doubt Bryan will be competing for, and winning, the US title at Night of Champions. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why this match was only second on the card. You’d have thought Bryan, with how hot a superstar he is now, would warrant a higher position, especially with Miz’s involvement. Also, that would have given them longer to put on a fantastic match in my view.
Next up came Justin Gabriel to take on Bret Hart, apart from the fact that our anonymous GM changed the billing, showing a new disdain for a superstar, by trashing Hart and replacing him with Randy Orton. This new tone reasserts the possibility that Michael Cole – who has been acting more and more like a heel and has trashed Hart on commentary as well – is, in fact, the GM. Anyway, with the two squaring off, I knew there was no chance that Gabriel would be pinning or submitting Randy Orton. However, Gabriel showed a lot of heart in the match, having a decent amount of offense against Orton. The kid has shown so much more since his boring babyface routine on NXT. He has a lot of potential as a heel. If any Nexus member was going to lose, it wasn’t going to be halfway through the show, so cue the interference of Sheamus, looking for vengence for Orton’s brutalisiation of him the night before. Their fight spilled in to the crowd, allowing Gabriel to claim a count-out victory. Orton was none too pleased a this and returned to the ring to RKO Garbiel before again beathing the holy hell out of Sheamus with a chair before returning to RKO him on the outside of the ring. The crowd were going wild for Orton, which shows me that if Cena were to turn heel, Orton could definately carry the load as top face. Again, good booking for everything concerned. I’m interested to see who – as we didn’t find out – will face Sheamus at Night of Champions. This sort of angle would usually point to Orton getting the shot, but i’m still sure he’s no longer eligible.
Earlier in the night, the Hart Dynasty had been presented with a new set of tag team titles, renamed the WWE Tag Team Championships. This is probably a good move, and the new belts were ‘old skool’ and pretty good looking. Anyway, this is relevent because the next match was Skip Sheffield & David Otunga against Truth & Morrison. This was a pretty good tag match, again making the Nexus contingent look strong. Indeed, Sheffield and Otunga looked good as a potential tag-team of powerhouses in their own right (let’s say … like the Steiner Bothers). Watching this match made me think about the extent of Nexus’ involvement at Night of Champions. Would they nominate Sheffield and Otunga to go get the tag titles? I’d like to see it, especially seen as Wade Barrett has a guaranteed WWE Championship shot. A few title could really make them look like a dominant, intimidating group. Unlike the other matches, this one didn’t do much for the WWE participants, with Truth & Morrison getting beat with relative ease. It was important for the Nexus guys to go over, but it’s a shame that the WWE guys couldn’t have quite the showing that Jericho, Bryan and Orton had.
This was followed by a six-diva tag team match pitting Melina, Gail Kim and Eve Torres against Alicia Fox, Maryse and Jillian Hall. This was one of the higher quality divas matches, on TV at least. Each of the faces got a lot of offence in, with Melina and Eve continuing to show good progress in expanding their move-sets. Jillian got the victory for her team, suggesting she may be next for a Divas Championship match. Perhaps some almost random booking, but fresh nonetheless, so I don’t mind. Fox should surely be getting her rematch though.
Heath Slater then took on Edge next up in a match which was prefigured by a backstage confrontation between the two in which Edge mocked how Slater, no matter how much he fashioned himself in Edge’s image, he is basically a cheap knock-off. A judgement which is pretty accurate. Despite this, Slater gave a good accounting of himself in the match, to the point where I thought he may well go over (relatively) cleanly, so again, job done in making the Nexus guys look strong. Edge was spared that potentially weakening fate by winning wia count out after a nice spot where, at the count of 8 or 9, he attempted a Spear outside the ring, which Slater avoided by diving in the ring, seeing Edge lose by count-out. You could argue that these technical victories don’t do much for the Nexus guys, but their winning at any costs strengthens the characterisation of them as devious and focused forces.
Our main event saw Darren Young take on long lost brethren, John Cena. This being the final match of the night, featuring a guy who was previously described as ‘the weakest link’ in Nexus, it was clear that Young wouldn’t be winning, but again, like Slater, he put on a good showing for himself, especially seen as he was taking on Cena. Indeed, Young had the majority of the offence, and in the end, the story was one of Cena simply outlasting and overpowering the youthful Young, who eventually tapped out to Cena’s STF. Nexus had been watching avidly from the stage, ostensibly to intimidate Cena, and as soon as Young lost, they made their way to the ring. Instead of attacking Cena though, they gave him an exit route before surrounding Young in familiar fashion. Ignoring Young’s apologies, the Nexus set upon the loser, obliterating him with various finishing moves, finishing with the 450 Splash, and with that, Nexus was a man lighter, but sold as stronger than ever having gotten rid of their ‘waek link.’
It will be interesting to see what happens to Darren Young. During the beat-down, I half expected to see Daniel Bryan attempt a save. I could certainly see them teaming up in the coming weeks (maybe against Miz and Riley), but apart from that, it’s difficult to see where he will figure in the shuffle. Despite his good showing, it’s difficult to see where the relatively small fish will survive in the gigantic RAW pond.