Vince McMahon may have unwittingly provided the answer to America's unemployment campaign.
Apparently, you can show up to the job you were removed from months ago, pretend nothing has changed and go about your business. And as long as you suck up to the customers, they'll ignore the facts of the recent past.
The corporate management of WWE has become a clustered mess of chaos that only seems to be brought up when it's convenient for the sake of storytelling.
Is McMahon still the chairman of the board? Is Triple H still the COO? Is Brian Gerwitz still the head writer of Raw? Will John Laurinaitis show back up and claim his spot as vice president of talent relations?
Regardless, McMahon showed up in an authoritative role and tried to give a "State of the WWE" address. It went about as well as one may expect, with WWE Champion CM Punk interrupting the affair.
Punk and McMahon had a really strong back-and-forth verbal exchange that ended with Punk slapping McMahon - a physical symbol of the seven years of metaphorical slaps that Punk has received from the boss.
McMahon challenged Punk to a match later in the show, drawing yet another comparison between and allusion to a connection between Punk and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
When it came time for their "match," I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. What we got was a lot of fun. If someone watched it as a critical analyst, it would make no sense for an elderly McMahon to be tossing around the WWE Champion.
But as a fan who allowed himself to get caught up in the fun, it was a harmless brawl that was a fun ride while it lasted. McMahon and Punk beat each other with kendo sticks, until Punk low-blowed the boss.
Ryback emerged, Punk tried to escape, John Cena threw him back to the wolves. Ryback nailed a huge lariat on the champ and almost hit Shell Shock. This was by far the biggest rub Ryback has gotten yet.
In the end, as Punk escaped through the crowd, McMahon told him he will defend the title against either Cena or Ryback at Hell in a Cell. He has until next week to decide.
This will likely end with Punk vs. Cena, as it should be, but Ryback has made a bigger star in the past few weeks than he has in months of meaningless squash matches. I'm still not sold on the big man, but I like that WWE is actively trying to make a new star.
I never thought I would enjoy a Vince McMahon segment this much in 2012, but I was proven wrong.
- While it ties in with the main topic covered above, I felt this warrants its own attention. During a backstage segment, Jim Ross and McMahon - now best friends, despite McMahon repeated embarrassing Ross on television in recent years - were having a conversation when Ross encouraged McMahon to "think about what happened to The King after he wrestled Punk." That is a paraphrase but it doesn't change the meaning. Insinuating that wrestling Punk caused Jerry Lawler's heart attack is extremely distasteful and awful. I almost quit watching the show after that moment. WWE officials should be ashamed of themselves for letting that make air.
- An injured John Cena opened the show, and since he couldn't wrestle, he did what the Cena character does best: made jokes burying almost every champion in the company. He said United States Champion Antonio Cesaro has big names, mocked Tag Team Champion Daniel Bryan for looking like a goat and accused WWE Champion CM Punk of being the reason ratings are down. He turned things serious after a bit and told Punk he's ready for Hell in a Cell, and if Punk wants to be a real man and secure his legacy, he'll accept Cena's challenge. There still have been no viable explanation of why Punk needs to beat Cena again to prove himself. At least this was kept fairly short compared to some opening promos.
- Sheamus and Wade Barrett are two of the best brawler-style wrestlers on the roster today, so it's no surprise they had a really strong match. It was an odd decision to have these two meet on free television, as this could be a pay-per-view main event. Of course, it had a screwy finish to protect both men. Tensai hit the ring to help attack Sheamus, and things devolved into a three-on-one beat down that didn't end too well for the World Heavyweight Champion. Sheamus took a nasty spill to the floor, so hopefully he's alright. They are continuing to build Sheamus vs. Big Show without overdoing the physical contact, so I continue to applaud that. I'm looking forward to both Sheamus' match with show, as well as a rematch with Barrett.
- Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara became the first time to advance to the finals of the tournament to determine the number-one contenders to the Tag Team Championships by defeating the Prime Time Players. The match was good, but Darren Young and Titus O'Neil had limited time on offense. It made the masked duo look strong heading into next week's finals, but it was unfortunate to see such a decisive loss for the up-and-coming duo.
- Antonio Cesaro and Tyson Kidd had a really fun match that saw the United States Champion emerge victorious. After Cesaro squashed Brodus Clay last week, it was a bit surprising to see Kidd land so much offense in this match, but it was certainly a welcome surprise. Cesaro has always worked great matches against smaller opponents, and he and Kidd could have likely done even more with additional time. A rematch would be welcome.
- Kane and Daniel Bryan may still be called a pairing of random stars, but they have begun to learn to work like a (dysfunctional) team. They picked up another big win over the makeshift team of Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler. The match itself was quality, as is to be expected, and I still like the story that Kane and Bryan are telling in the ring. They're really becoming a rock in a very unstable tag division.
- Rhodes Scholars advanced to the finals, where they'll face Mysterio and Cara, of the tag team tournament by defeating Santino Marella and Zack Ryder. Rhodes Scholars looked dominant in the match and will be fun foils for Mysterio and Cara next week. After the match, Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre beat down an already downed Marella and posed on the ropes.
- Ryback returned to his handicap match ways, as he defeated former Tag Team Champions Primo and Epico. The Puerto Rican brothers put up a fight and wore down the big man, but in the end, they were put away like every team before them. The match was standard fare for Ryback. Nothing overly special.
- The seeds were planted for a rivalry between Kofi Kingston and Intercontinental Champion The Miz. They could have accomplished this, though, without the completely useless presence of Larry King. These two will most likely have good matches, but the start of this program was weak at best.
- Eve had a decent title against against Kaitlyn, who wasn't 100 percent. She targeted Kaitlyn's injured ankle and wouldn't release a heel hook. Layla, who is still owed a return title match, came to Kaitlyn's aid. Again, at least WWE is trying to do a divas storyline. That's progress.
- Brodus Clay and R-Truth were supposed to have a match, but since Little Jimmy is going through puberty, they danced instead. All of this led to McMahon coming out to give his speech. And they still think three-hour Raws are a good idea?
Ryback d. Primo and Epico
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara d. Darren Young and Titus O'Neil
Sheamus d. Wade Barrett by disqualification
Antonio Cesaro d. Tyson Kidd
Kane and Daniel Bryan d. Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler
Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow d. Santino Marella and Zack Ryder
Eve d. Kaitlyn
There was a lot of good in tonight's Raw, but there was also a lot of bad. Overall, I think the positives outweigh the negatives, at least in terms of in-ring action. There were some questionable decisions made otherwise, most notably the Jerry Lawler comment. This was far from the best episode of Raw, even just since the three-hour expansion, but it wasn't a complete waste. We'll call this one down the middle. Hopefully by next week, we're still talking about the good and forgetting about the bad.
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