The boss came back to Monday Night Raw, but it didn't really mean much.
Tonight's entire episode had been hyped around the return of Vince McMahon to conduct a job evaluation for general manager John Laurinaitis.
In the end, there wasn't much of a job evaluation at all. Instead, fans were treated to a variety of backstage segmets starring McMahon, ranging in quality from horrible and offensive to not very entertaining, and a show-closing angle featuring Big Show and John Cena.
The first problem with this scenario was that, with three hours of television to use, WWE never even attempted to explain why McMahon was able to evaluate Laurinaitis' performance when he had been fired by the Board of Directors a year ago.
The next problem was that silly McMahon is a lot like silly Cena; it just doesn't work. McMahon carved out his legacy in the business playing the cutthroat, ruthless boss. When he tries to portray the fun-loving corporate official, it fails more often than not.
Among the low points of the night were McMahon dancing with Brodus Clay's Funkadactyls and him and Hornswoggle mocking Jim Ross' bell's palsy. In addition to that, there were numerous interactions with David Otunga, Laurinaitis and other superstars. None of them were especially entertaining.
In the end, when McMahon came out to fire Laurinaitis, he was interrupted by the Big Show, who cut a strong promo about what McMahon has done to him through the years.
That, of course, brought out Cena, and a pull-apart brawl erupted, ending with Big Show knocking out McMahon, who had stipulated that if Show loses at No Way Out on Sunday, he will indeed fire Laurinaitis.
There seemed to be a lot of wasted time to get to a lackluster payoff for this special three-hour episode. There were a number of loopholes in the greater McMahon-Laurinaitis saga, and the portrayal of the character was off tonight.
Many had hoped tonight's Raw would be the spark and catalyst of the next big angle or movement in WWE, but it seemed to be little more than an excuse for McMahon to get himself back on television.
** The main event pitting WWE Champion CM Punk and AJ against Daniel Bryan and Kane was ... something. The wrestling was good, but limited, as this was a purely story-driven contest. AJ latching herself to Kane and liplocking the monster was something to behold. The finish then played off that, allowing Punk to pin Bryan following an elbow drop. Is that the first time Punk's elbow drop has actually won him a match? It's been said before, and it has to be said again: AJ is truly excelling in her current role and is becoming one of WWE's most dynamic characters.
** Dolph Ziggler won a really fun four-way elimination match, defeating Intercontinental Champion Christian, Jack Swagger and The Great Khali. The early goings of the match were slow, as Khali dominated, but once the giant was out, the action really picked up. Not only was the action compelling, so was the storytelling. Ziggler stole the pin on Swagger after Christian hit the Killswitch, furthering the issue between the two. In the end, Ziggler pinned Christian in clean fashion. This was a good way to make Ziggler look strong heading into a World Heavyweight Championship match at No Way Out. He's lost to Sheamus twice already, but this match succeeded in making him look like a threat again.
** A steel cage match on Raw should have been a big deal, but the match between Big Show and Kofi Kingston lacked something. Possibly, the match felt like it didn't mean much, as the conclusion was never in question. Kingston tried, but it just didn't really work for me.
** World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus won a hard-fought battle with Tensai in the night's opening contest. This was definitely one of Tensai's stronger matches since being back, and he and Sheamus complemented each other well. For two wrestlers with brawling styles, they put together an engaging contest that made both men look good. Sheamus won with a Brogue Kick, which is becoming the new RKO in the sense that it's being made to look as if it can be hit out of nowhere.
** Beth Phoenix and Divas Champion Layla worked the majority of a mixed tag match that featured Ricardo Rodriguez and United States Champion Santino Marella as their respective partners. They put together a decent match, but it wasn't on par with their previous encounters. Beth pinning Layla seems to indicate they'll meet again with the title on the line, perhaps at No Way Out. As for Marella and Rodriguez, their comedic shenanigans continued. There wouldn't be any real issues with the cheap comedy if Marella wasn't the United States champion, but as long as he's holding that title, he shouldn't be participating in angles like this.
** For some reason, I find myself in 2012 typing that Vader defeated Heath Slater in a glorified squash match. On the one hand, it was nice to see a different legend than the usual suspects back for a special Raw. On the other hand, this match showcased everything wrong with wrestling fans who chanted "You've still got it" without really seeing much of note from Vader. This wasn't a huge waste of time, and it was actually a little fun, but luckily it was kept short.
** Sin Cara continued to look good in defeating opponents in short matches, this time Curt Hawkins. Cara has really improved his abilities to work in a WWE ring. Hopefully he's proved himself capable and will be allowed to do something more significant in the near future.
** Ryback crushed two more jobbers. The difference this time was that they actually came out through the curtain. And they had entertaining names. Outside of that, it was the same thing we've seen for weeks.
** The in-ring promo with WWE Champion CM Punk, Kane and AJ was good, but it may have slightly overstayed its welcome. All four of them know their roles and play them well, but this just seemed to be going on for a long time.
** Tensai's post-match beatdown of Sakamoto seemed odd. That character had never really been developed to the point where the fans care for him. This just seemed like a cheap way of way getting heat on Tensai, and it did very little to actually accomplish that goal.
** Big Show delivered a WMD to R-Truth during a backstage segment, presumably to write the tag team champion off TV while he's reportedly injured. It's a shame, as R-Truth and Kingston were beginning to hit their stride as tag champs and helping bring some recognition back to those belts.
Sheamus d. Tensai
Beth Phoenix and Ricardo Rodriguez d. Layla and Santino Marella
Dolph Ziggler d. Christian, Jack Swagger and The Great Khali
Ryback d. Rutherford Hayes and Willard Fillmore
Big Show d. Kofi Kingston in a cage match
Sin Cara d. Curt Hawkins
Vader d. Heath Slater
CM Punk and AJ d. Daniel Bryan and Kane
Tonight's Raw was actually a good outing, for the most part. As noted in the intro, I felt the McMahon segments fell flat and were the low points of the show. But there were several good matches and storyline progressions to make this show worthwhile. The three hours seemed to fly by, and the show was built in a way that it didn't drag. This hopefully restores some faith in people that there may be a glimmer of hope in a permanent three-hour expansion, but for now, it's a waiting game.
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