Last night’s RAW was incredibly well received all round, and in many ways, i’m not surprised. As Mark Henry said, there was a freshness in the air, but it was not because of the lack of Nexus, it was the hotness of the crowd for a show which featured the rise and rise of future main-eventers, John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler.
The show started out with what Cole termed ‘The Mizmas Carol’ featuring Alex Riley as Miz’s reign past, Cole as Miz’s reign in the present, and Miz Girl as Miz’s reign in the future. To each of them, Miz reiterated that he will continue to continue being the champion at every defence. It was silly, but it was funny, and when the real future of Miz’s reign, John Morrison, came out to confront him, it turned in to a good set up for the night’s main event, and build-up for their Royal Rumble match.
It was important following the progressive divas match at TLC that the divas match on RAW was also of high quality. It wasn’t as long, but it was fast-paced, athletic, and of good quality from all three competitors, Melina, Alicia Fox and Eve. Eve especially, who has wrestled little since her Divas Championship run, seemed to have improved yet further, hitting a nice standing moonsault. The ending of the match was good, with Melina rolling through to avoid a cross-body and gain the victory. Then came the much talked about Melina heel turn, slapping a sportsmanlike Natalya in the face. This too was a good move, as Maryse can’t carry the serious heel burden on her own. I have no idea why Gail Kim couldn’t have been in the match though, even as a loser. It’s a damn shame.
Next up was an IWC dream-match between Daniel Bryan and his trainer, William Regal. The first thing I noticed is that Regal seems to have let himself go somewhat. Nonetheless, he managed to put on a good match with his former student, if perhaps a slower paced one. It was a very physical match, with lots of chain grappling and a flurry of European uppercuts. The story was of the student besting the master as Bryan reversed an attempted Regal Stretch in to a Lebelle Lock for the victory. There was a lot of respect shown after the loss, but I wonder, given the sense that Regal will be retiring soon, he could be a new challenger to Bryan’s US title as a last run in his career. Maybe his initial sportsmanship could turn to bitterness next week. The Bellas continued to fight over a bewildered Bryan after the match – something I though played off nicely with Bryan’s desire to show respect to his mentor. Maybe Regal could take exception to his being distracted by the girls.
Later on, Cena made his first appearance since destroying the Nexus at TLC. The crowd were hot for this, which undoubtedly contributed to it being one of the best segments of recent memory. He was excited, charismatic and funny, especially showing his chairs yanked on Barrett spot from several different angles. This was only interrupted by Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler, who wanted an apology from Jerry Lawler for his comments at the Slammy Awards mocking Guerrero’s weight. This then turned in to a crowd-baited group bullying of Guerrero which may have gone too far with Lawler and Cena taking turns to make jokes about Guerrero. All this led to a match between Cena and Ziggler which was one of the best TV matches in a long time. Obviously an amped-up Cena had a lot of success in the early going, but Ziggler managed to get in a lot of his own offense, and the match was relatively equally balanced back and forth. There were also lots of good moments of drama surrounding finishing moves and near falls, as Ziggler reversed out of an AA in to a Sleeper, which Cena managed to slip out of. Cena managed to get Ziggler to tap to the STF, but ever resourceful, Vickie managed to distract the referee allowing a stay for Dolph. Unfortunately, he would soon go down to an AA and a loss to Cena. This was obviously no squash though – Ziggler was being tested at that level, and I doubt many would say that he failed. Following this, CM Punk, who had been voicing his anger at Cena’s actions (and the crowd’s approval of them), attacked Cena from behind with a chair, explaining that he was giving him a taste of his own medicine. It seems then that Cena has genuinely moved on, and will enter an intriguing feud with Punk. This has two other potential consequences: firstly that the Cena-Nexus feud is, as I expected, done. It will be interesting to see how and if Nexus continue from here. Also, there is a possibility, seen as there is said to be favour for a three-man commentary team, and a general desire for J.R. to return, that J.R. could replace the now active Punk at the announce table.
The main event say faces Randy Orton, John Morrison and Jerry “The King” Lawler take on The Miz, Alex Riley and Sheamus. This was another strong match, though I did think Miz was perhaps a little too cowardly in the face of The Viper, actually running away from him once or twice. Nonetheless, every one did a good job in this match, even the rookie, Riley, and the aging veteran, Jerry Lawler, who hit a lot of good moves, including a dropkick! Morrison got a crucial good pop from the crowd, and again seemed to be working out of his skin. Miz continued to develop his character as a wily opportunist, and attempted to hit a Skull Crushing finale on Lawler, only to be stopped and RKO’d by Orton, who allowed the pin to the King over the WWE Champion. That’s a nice move for Jerry, as long as he does vacate the main event now. As for Miz, he tried to attack Orton afterwards, getting in a cheap shot before backing off a frustrated Orton. A couple of times, it was mentioned that Morrison would get his title shot ‘some time’ in the future, suggesting that it might not come at the Royal Rumble, though I hope it does.