I'm back after a week of (from work and blogging, not watching wrestling) and skipped out on going to the Orioles playoff game last night so I could watch and write about Raw for all of you. OK, that's not the real reason I skipped out, but whatever. I'm glad I stuck at home. I got to see an excellent episode of Raw and all the important parts of the O's victory over the Yanks thanks to the magic of DVR.
Speaking of magic, how great was the interaction between WWE Champion CM Punk and the Chairman Vince McMahon last night? The tension building promo, the slap and the brawl that was the main event of the show were all brilliantly executed. Interestingly enough, I came across one report that a "top talent" confronted Vince at Raw last week (the one John Cena missed) and said that WWE was going off a cliff and he was out of touch, prompting changes (several other reports indicate the writing team was shaken up, and obviously it wasn't announced until later in the week Vince himself would be on Raw). Then Punk cuts a promo more or less saying that, although wrapping it in the context of his "show me respect" schtick.
After slapping Vince, it set up a match between the champ and the chairman in the main event, which basically turned into a street fight, with the two brawling around the ring then beating each other with kendo sticks. When Punk finally got the advantage, Ryback's music hit and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Who would've thought that just a month or so ago? Punk bailed when Ryback hit the ring, then John Cena emerged and, despite his bad elbow, threw Punk into the ring to eat a Ryback clothesline and send the champ again retreating into the crowd.
McMahon got the mic and told Punk it was decision time, and that he has until next week to decide whether to face John Cena or Ryback at Hell in a Cell. To me, this seems to be setting up a back-up plan if Cena's arm isn't fully healed by then. Obviously, Cena is the bigger draw, but I think the intrigue of seeing the undefeated Ryback step in the ring with Punk -- let alone Hell in a Cell -- for his first title match is equally big for fans hoping to see something new. There are so many possible directions WWE could take coming out of this, it's exciting to see what's going to happen next, something fans haven't been able to say much in recent years.
-- Cena opened the show with a promo, which was mainly comedy, but drove home the point he still wanted to face Punk at Hell in a Cell. You knew something was up when Ryback came out right after the promo and he and Cena exchanged knowing glances as they passed each other on the ramp.
-- Ryback scored one of his more impressive wins to date, defeating former Tag Team Champions Primo and Epico in a 2-on-1 handicap match. I think WWE is being pretty smart with booking Ryback. I'd rather bury a midcard tag team in a handicap match than have him squash upper mid-carders/main eventers like Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio or Big Show on free TV. Those are PPV-level matches for down the road, although I'd love to see Ziggler bump all over the place for him. If Punk picks Cena, as should be expected, having Ryback vs. Ziggler on the undercard of Hell in the Cell would be a good idea, in my opinion.
-- When R-Truth was revealed as Brodus Clay's opponent, I was really hoping for a return to heel R-Truth. No such luck. Instead, he and Brodus danced with the Funkadactyls and Lil' Jimmy. Brodus and Truth might form a tag team now, which could easily set up one or the other going heel eventually. Brodus and Truth make more sense as an alliance because they are comedy acts rather than Truth and Kofi Kingston, who in a WWE.com exclusive, parted amicibly after failing to advance in the tag team tournament.
-- Kingston appears to be going into a feud with The Miz, after the two were part of a failed segment to promote Larry King's new show on Hulu Plus. This was one of the times I flipped to the O's game, by the way. Seems to me like we've seen Kingston vs. Miz before, back when Miz was the United States Champion (in fact, isn't Kofi who he beat for the title?), but I guess
-- Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara beat the Prime Time Players in the semifinals of the tag team tournament. The result didn't surprise, but I was disappointed they didn't get a little more time. These matches should've been on Smackdown where they would've had room to breathe (for that matter, wasn't it Smackdown GM Booker T who made this tournament? Shouldn't most of the matches be on the blue brand?). On the other hand, these two teams seem to have a budding feud, which could lead to a PPV match in a few weeks, so maybe they didn't want to give everything away. By the way, I loved masks Rey and Sin Cara wore, it made them look more like a team.
-- Later in the show, the Rhodes Scholars defeated Team CoBro (Santino Marella and Zack Ryder) in the other semi-final. I fully expect Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow to win this tournament, likely with an assist from the Prime Time Players in the finals, whenever that is. That would set up Mysterio/Sin Cara vs. Titus O'Neill and Darren Young in the undercard, with Rhodes and Sandow vs. Team Hell No for the titles.
-- Kane and Daniel Bryan continue to be well booked. They are raising the profile of the Tag Team Championships that hasn't been done since the days of Jeri-Show and DX. While I admitted flipped over to the Orioles during the first part of their match with Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler (mainly due to recognizing most of the segment would be entrances), I thought the second half was well done. Ziggler is largely bullet-proof as long as he's got Money in the Bank, and it's not like other main eventers don't get beat by Kane on the reg. Del Rio and Randy Orton will resume their feud on Smackdown it appears.
-- Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett seemed like too big of a match to give away for free, so I'm glad it didn't get into that next gear and ended in a smoz, although I didn't expect Tensai to get involved, especially with Big Show seated nearby. Barrett is still being built up and shouldn't be losing to Sheamus when that's a potential PPV main event going forward. What we did get from them was enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing that match again in the future.