Damn spoilers. I thought i’d avoided most of what happened on last night’s pre-taped RAW, but as it turns out, i’d gotten the gist of it. I didn’t know precisely what was said, however, and therein was a lot of interesting ideas which i’ll discuss later on.
At the start of the show, it was announced that CM Punk had been ‘suspended indefinitely’, but if anything, this made the presence of Punk all the more conspicuous, especially when his Nexus followers came out to his music to face Vladimir Kozlov and Santino Marella. This was no mistake as they usually come out to the ‘We Are One’ song, and I liked how it started a trend for the show, with there being a constant spectre of Punk hanging over the show. The match was fine, and put the champions over which is good to see considering there have been quite a few losses for champions of late. The future of the Nexus tag team could well depend on the future of Punk. If Punk gets pushed as a heel, then they could get pulled along for the ride; if not, then I think they’ll still be fine. I just hope that, whatever happens, they stick together for a while. They may have been thrown together, but they have familiarity now, and if they stay together, they’ll be part of a suddenly burgeoning tag division. Following their victory, Zack Ryder came out alone and performed his catchphrases. I was pleased to see him get a really good pop and have the fans chanting along to the ‘Woo Woo Woo’ chant so vigorously. I’m excited to see Ryder on TV, and though I don’t think it’s the best, most exciting course for him, the most obvious consequnce is that The Major Brothers (Hawkins and Ryder) will reunite to take on Otunga and McGillicutty and further bolster the tag division.
It’s the 4th of July! Wheel out Hogan! Wheel out Dusty! Wheel out Duggan! Wheel out Serge! It was Serge this time. Maybe it’s my conditioning, but the pledge of allegiance in this sort of crowd setting is such prescriptive, surreal chanting that it freaks me out – partly because of the unthinking call and response, and partly because of it being slightly distastefully arrogant, coming as it always does in conjunction with strong nationalist sentiment. NONETHELESS! It was independence day, and I can understand the pride involved there, and it only took a minute or so, so it didn’t infect the broadcast. I liked Swagger wrestling Serge, even if it wasn’t much of a ‘match’. Swagger seems, once again, to be struggling to get over, and WWE seem to be trying to book him against legends as part of some sort of loose storyline. After ‘The Legend Killer’, this seems a bit stale, but if WWE could make a tighter storyline behind it, it could go somewhere. I’d like to see him linked with the more charismatic legends (Piper, Hayes, Dusty,Patterson, Nash, DDP and so on and so on) and/or give him a manager as a mouthpiece because he really needs to get noticed, and giving him a good manager could really help him! Nonetheless, I like that Evan is involved, and if he and Swagger are given opportunities in the ring in the run up to MITB, with a legend in Swagger’s corner as a manager, it could be great.
The biggest match of the night was ostensibly a #1 contender’s match between R-Truth, Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio. This was a pretty good match, but that was all it was. There was some nice triple-threat chemistry, with last moment break-ups of pins, and some nice spots, like the modified Doomsday Device, and especially the Sunset Flip/German Suplex combination. I think the reason it was a little underwhelming to me was that I knew (or at least felt I knew) that it was a meaningless match. Maybe this isn’t the case for a casual fan (and if it’s not, great!), but I knew fine well that this was a red-herring. As a ‘smart’ fan at least, I knew this was just part of a work to get over the Punk angle even more. That in itself isn’t to criticise the match. It worked well complimenting the main feud, but it just took an aspect of importance away from the match and made it less compelling. The finish was pretty nice with Del Rio securing his cross arm breaker on Rey (who really is going no whare at the minute) basically on top of the prone R-Truth. The announcers mentioned after the show that Del Rio would be replaced in the MITB match after earning his spot. This leads to a wealth of possibilities and only promises more of what MITB is so good at: unpredictablity. I’ll talke more about this in conjunction with the final seg.
Miz vs Riley. Cannot be bothered! I feel for Miz, and I still don’t get how Riley is so over – I suppose, however, that his getting over isn’t something to be criticised. The match for the most part more of what we’ve already seen. The finish, however, was more interesting. I liked how Miz was more in control, only to be rolled up for another loss that avoided Miz seeming weak while providing reason for Miz to get even more frustrated, which he did almost immediately, with a brutal beat-down of Riley. This was great for Miz, especially considering his poor form of late, because it made him look genuinely powerful, as if he might have a whole other lever of violence behind him, for the first time since his run up to WrestleMania with Cena. This will keep this feud fresh, at least until MITB, where I hope they caneach move on to something else.
Next up was the main event segment. Now, going back to the start of the show, we saw Cena come out and, perhaps surprisingly, defend CM Punk. In this opening seg, Cena instantly drew my attention when he too seemed to be keeping up the theme of breaking through the 4th wall as he mentioned the true stories of WWE confiscating signs they didn’t like from the crowd, and the uproar over Daniel Bryan being fired last year for being ‘overly aggressive’ – all things that WWE tried to sweep under the rung. Cena showed a lot of fire while being incredibly serious about Punk’s suspension, the direction of WWE and the industry he is so passionate about, and so he essentially called McMahon out to answer to the charge of tyranny over the industry, the superstars and the fans. At the end of the show, McMahon, who as Punk was so adroit at pointing out, will listen to Cena, indeed showed up initially claiming that he suspended Punk because he could and because Punk deserved it, but with a bit of a righteous prod from Cena, Vinnie eventually admitted that he suspended Punk because he was worried that is Punk won, it would cripple and embarrass the company. This was great because Vinve saying “I’m not sure you can beat him”, while ‘him’ (Punk) wasn’t there only made him seem more powerful, especially seen as Cena himself didn’t seem sure he could beat him. This isn’t SupeCena, this is a vulnerable man, taken out of his comfort zone, but willing to fight for the title and it’s tradition. Instantly, this makes Cena a much more likable, relatable figure, with more ‘edge’, while also making the championship and the symbolic belt seem much more meaningful and prestigious than it has in a long time! This was made even more clear when Cena seemed to hand back the belt to McMahon, not wanting it if he couldn’t defend it against a person who earned his shot (his politics aside). He didn’t have to shout, his (obviously genuine) passion for the business came through. It was the threat of his champion walking out anyway that eventually led McMahon to agree to let Punk challenge for the title. Though McMahon retains his gravitas, he was really on the backseat until he threatened Cena with being fired if he loses the title to Punk and from the company.
It really is hard to gauge what will happen, but we can only expect more genuinely unprdictable twists and turns in the coming weeks. There are so many questions: will Punk even appear on RAW? I don’t think he should, at least in the arena. The effect of him not being there but being constantly the centre of attention is great for his profile, and makes him seem like a huge, terrible force. Saying that, he should perhaps appear, talking; outside the arena, at his home, at ROH, with Colt Cabana, and so on and so on, just stirring up tension and excitement. Another one is what role, if any, will Alberto Del Rio play in it all? I really hope he has little to no role in the match. Not because he’s not talented or worthy, but because this is working so well without him now, and he could just clutter it. However, as a #1 contender who may be displaced by Punk, he could be a great villain to rail against Cena and Punk, while being a great foil for a heel McMahon if he stays around. Indeed, the more this unfolds, the more it points to a face turn for Punker. He is already garnering support (not least from the top face), and he has now been set up as an antagonist to a heel McMahon, and possibly now Alberto Del Rio. Again, this just goes to show the endlessness of possibilities for this angle.I still hope that Punk takes the title to the indy’s, but if and when he returns to the WWE ring, he could very well be a badass babyface, with the stature of Cena or Orton; something WWE desperately needs right now!