In recent years, the debate on whether WWE superstars should be classified as "wrestlers" or "entertainers" has raged on across television, social media and casual conversation.
At times, it's been used as part of storylines, with performers like CM Punk and Chris Jericho mocking the use of the words "sports entertainment." But on tonight's Raw, fans saw the semantics at play in a different manner.
Look at the careers of Shawn Michaels, who was being recognized in his hometown of San Antonio, and Brock Lesnar and there's a world of difference. One is Mr. "WrestleMania," and the other is a former UFC champion.
Yet they stood across the ring from each other on Raw, with Paul Heyman speaking on Lesnar's behalf. Heyman went as far as to call Michaels the greatest "entertainer" in WWE history.
But even that, he said, couldn't compare to Lesnar's abilities as a fighter and a warrior. Michaels responded by saying he has faith in his longtime friend - and frequent enemy - Triple H to take care of business.
And Michaels will have a front-row seat for the action, as he plans to be in Triple H's corner.
The segment ended without much drama, as Triple H emerged and Lesnar left, with Heyman cryptically indicating that they'll be seeing Michaels before SummerSlam. It will certainly be interesting to see what that means.
WWE has done a good job with the slow build to the Triple H-Lesnar match, and Heyman deserves a lot of the credit, as he's carried the program on the Lesnar side to this point.
The Rock-John Cena program leading up to this year's WrestleMania was the first attempt at a long-term build with limited appearances by one of the competitors, and it was apparently a success, as WWE seems to be adopting that strategy with Lesnar, as well as The Rock's Royal Rumble challenge.
After losing the Cena at Extreme Rules, Lesnar needs to look dominant in order for his return to be considered anything but a flop, so here's hoping Triple H does the right thing come SummerSlam.
- Daniel Bryan and John Cena worked a fun main event with a hot crowd. These two should be allowed to work a long-term program together, as they could likely do some amazing work. Cena doesn't get the credit he deserves most of the time. After the match was over, Punk left everyone in the ring laying and cut a promo about that's how Raw should end. But it was Big Show who actually had the last laugh, as he delivered a knockout punch to Punk and closed the show hoisting the title belt in the air. It's a shame Bryan has been relegated to a SummerSlam match with Kane, as he would have been a good addition to the triple threat match to make it a fatal four-way.
- CM Punk and Rey Mysterio re-ignited an old rivalry, thanks to the WWE Universe. Through RawActive Twitter voting, the fans selected Mysterio - other options were The Miz and Kane - to face the WWE champion in the show's first match. The two put on a good show, and Mysterio actually hit the 619, likely putting doubt in some people's minds. Their previous feud was highly entertaining and produced one of the creepiest scenes of recent memory, as Punk serenaded Mysterio's young daughter with a creepy rendition of "Happy Birthday." If WWE needs someone to keep Punk busy until his inevitable Royal Rumble collision with The Rock, Mysterio isn't a bad option.
- Alberto Del Rio's refusal to compete until SummerSlam was ignored again, as AJ booked him into a "surprise" match. Del Rio had to rush to get ready to face Christian, which was kind of funny to watch. The match itself was good, a drastic step above watching Del Rio face Santino Marella again. They worked a competitive match with some good counters. In the end, Del Rio clocked Christian with his boot to pick up the win. It was nice to see a more aggressive side of Del Rio, which is what he needs to be to portraying against Sheamus at SummerSlam.
- Primo and Epico scored a pinfall victory over the Prime Time Players in a match that saw some continuity from recent weeks. Abraham Washington tried to get Titus O'Neil and Darren Young to bail after a decent match, but Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth came out to make sure that didn't happen. This three-way rivalry has been developing for several weeks, so hopefully it will have a good payoff with a triple threat tag team title match at SummerSlam. This could really be the start of the tag team division revitalization fans have been begging for.
- The segment with AJ, Punk, Cena and Big Show on the microphone was a typical show-opening promo, and it had a number of problems. All four seemed comfortable and confident on the mic, but the content of their speeches had a number of gaffes and logic gaps (Punk questioning Cena's ability to hit an Attitude Adjustment on Big Show, no mention of Punk's triple threat title defense earlier this summer, etc.) Overall, it wasn't a horrid opening or a bad segment, but it raised a number of eyebrows with some of the remarks.
- Randy Orton and Big Show were actually having an entertaining match when it ended via countout. As I mentioned in the Smackdown recap Friday, it seems WWE is intent on protecting Orton, so this ending makes sense. After the match, though, Orton hit an RKO on Show, which is questionable, as Show is the one with an upcoming WWE Championship match while Orton is in flux.
- Alex Riley scored a huge win over Dolph Ziggler, courtesy of a distraction by Chris Jericho, who was on commentary for the match. The match was a showcase for Ziggler, but his cockiness got the best of him and allowed Riley to capitalize on his opponent's misplaced attention. This was a good way to build the Jericho-Ziggler feud while keeping them physically apart.
- A vignette hyping the return of Wade Barrett aired, showing footage based around a bare-knuckle fighting scene. This was an extremely well done hype video, and it appears Barrett will have a new look and a new character when he returns. I'm personally excited to see what's in store, as Barrett never got a chance to fulfill his potential before being injured.
- As Brodus Clay made his way to the ring for a match, he was jumped and assaulted by Damien Sandow. I really like the direction these two are heading, and I hope their eventual match is something meaningful, and not just a squash victory for Clay. Both men have practically begging to do something significant, and it seems they're on the right track now.
- Kane defeated Intercontinental Champion The Miz in a short, serviceable bout. There really wasn't anything special or offensive about this contest; it was just there. Though it is a shame to see The Miz losing cleanly while he holds the Intercontinental Championship. Let's hope this is an isolated incident and not the beginning of a trend.
- AJ Lee (who has acquired a last name since assuming the Raw general manager position) seems a lot more stable and less "crazy" than she has for the past few months. Maybe this is why she and CM Punk aren't getting along any more. He doesn't dig sane chicks.
- The divas emerged from their week-long stint in purgatory as the returning Kelly Kelly defeated Eve in a decent divas match. Nice to see the divas at least some time on the show again. Now let's just get a legitimate challenger for Layla's title.
- Bryan will officially face Kane at SummerSlam. There goes the teased match with Charlie Sheen, but the "winning" actor could still appear in the Big Red Machine's corner, if WWE chooses to go that route.
- Ryback has gone from non-clean finishes with Jinder Mahal back to handicap matches against Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks. Le sigh. Is there nothing better to fill three hours of weekly TV with?
CM Punk d. Rey Mysterio
Alberto Del Rio d. Christian
Big Show vs. Randy Orton ended in double countout
Ryback d. Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks
Primo and Epico d. Titus O'Neil and Darren Young
Kelly Kelly d. Eve
Alex Riley d. Dolph Ziggler
Kane d. The Miz
John Cena d. Daniel Bryan
There was a lot of wrestling on tonight's episode of Raw - nine matches worth. That's what fans have been clamoring for, and that's what they got. And on top of that, most of it was quality wrestling, too. Plus, there was story development that made sense! Overall, Raw has to be considered a success. On a personal note, though, I found it hard to stay fully invested, especially near the middle of the show. It was nothing to do with the quality of the programming but rather just dealing with a three-hour show. WWE delivered a strong show tonight, but the nature of their extended broadcast may be playing against the short attention spans of people like me.
Ring Posts’ Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents and All American Pro Wrestling to bring you From the Rafters Radio, a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing from 8-10 EST every Thursday on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net .Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun