With Over the Limit less than a week away, WWE Raw's central focus seemed more on advance two big angles -- Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar and John Laurinaitis' firing of the Big Show -- rather than giving a hard sell to the pay-per-view. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
For me, the two segments that will likely have little or not impact on Sunday's show were the highlights of Raw. In the opening segment, Triple H talked about how Lesnar had "offended" him and other professional wrestling fans by claiming to bring legitimacy to WWE. While the Game made a lot of compelling arguments about Lesnar (And frankly, ones that I agree with; when the going got tough, Lesnar quit -- and Triple H didn't even bring up his failed attempt to play for the Minnesota Vikings), I couldn't help but think that this was ultimately going to hurt business.
When Lesnar returns and faces Triple H, if he wins, then the Game -- heralded as one of the all-time greats -- just lost to someone who wasn't willing to work that hard. What does that say about Triple H?
Paul Heyman did his best to save the segment, calling it "damage control" and "spin" for the WWE to save face. That was good. Let's hope the fans bought that.
However, I didn't like when Heyman asked Triple H what he expected when he brought a "fighter" into an "entertainment business." I know a lot of people love the "worked shoot" interviews, but I thought this poked a little too much at that "legitimacy" buzz word that's been thrown around since Lesnar came back.
In fact, I thought it was appropriate that at some point in the segment, a fan sitting behind the announcers could be seen holding a sign that said "Wrestling is Fake."
However, I can't argue that the segment was compelling television, and I'm still looking forward to seeing Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H on a pay-per-view later this year, likely SummerSlam. I'm not sure if they can drag out the angle that long without Lesnar appearing on TV between now and say, August. I do think, because of the arm injury angle with Triple H, that Lesnar could come back before that and have another match or two before facing Triple H at annual summer event. I don't think we'll be seeing Lesnar at this weekend's Over the Limit PPV however, and I don't really expect to see Triple H or Paul Heyman on the show either. ...
Which brings me to another man who seemingly won't be part of the Over the Limit, and that's the Big Show. The 7-foot giant was "fired" by John Laurinaitis as repercussions for making fun of the General Manager of Raw and Smackdown last week. Laurinaitis got a ton of heel heat by forcing Big Show to apologize over and over, then telling him to get on his knees and beg for his job.
Big Show, for his part, conjured up some tears and spoke about how much being a WWE Superstar meant to him. I've read that a lot of people didn't like the segment, but I thought it was incredibly well executed thanks to Show's believability. It was quite a scene to see the giant on his knees, weeping and begging for his job, only for Laurinaitis to fire him anyway, and do it with a smile on his face. It was borderline uncomfortable, and that was the point.
Unfortunately, coming back after commercial break, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole attempted to recap the angle with a somber tone. Once they were finished, the music of the Funkasaurus kicked up and just kind of ruined the moment. This is the second time in three weeks we've seen this happen. The last time was right after Lesnar "broke" Triple H's arm. Is it an inside joke or something, or just really poor planning by the producers? I don't get it.
My initial thought was that this angle with Big Show was part of a bigger picture story of Laurinaitis' power trip, but after his segment with John Cena to close the show, I'm convinced the initial payoff is coming quickly.
First things first, however -- I hated the Cena promo. Usually, I'll defend Cena's happy-go-lucky promos, but channeling his inner Dr. Evil to cut off Laurinaitis at every turn with "loser" and his Jim Carrey-esque facial expressions just seemed way too over the top for me. Even referencing my two favorite sports teams in his promo -- the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins -- couldn't save it for me. Cena didn't need to be super serious, because let's be honest, he shouldn't really feel threatened by John Laurinaitis physically.
With that said, then end of the segment with the Board of Directors delivering a memo to Laurinaitis via Eve (there wasn't enough of her on my screen last night) and read by Cena informing him of the stipulations of the match between the two Johns at Over the Limit, was a nice twist. Since the match was announced, I've been convinced Laurinaitis was going to find a way to win, likely with help from Lord Tensai, who had been a key figure in this feud.
However, the stipulations pretty much make that impossible now. For the record, the stipulations are that no WWE Superstar can interfere in the match, lest they be terminated; that the match can only end in pinfall or submission (ie: anything goes) and that should Laurinaitis lose, he will be terminated.
I still think Laurinaitis is going to win with a helping hand, just not from who we'd expect. I envision the Big Show coming to ringside at some point in the match -- after all, he's no longer an employee, so he could interfere and not be terminated. Because of his size, he could easily shake off security. But when everyone expects the giant to give Laurinaitis a knockout blow as payback for his public humiliation, he instead clocks Cena with the WMD and drapes Laurinaitis over him.
The big reveal on Raw the next night would be the Laurinaitis gives Big Show his job back, but that he would be subservient to the GM. It would be similiar to the Shawn Michaels working for JBL storyline from a few years back. ...
The rest of Raw was less than impressive. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho was a decent TV match that ended in a disqualification when Sheamus, who was doing ringside commentary, interfered and attacked Jericho after he had flung Orton into Sheamus during a brawl outside. This lead to Orton and Sheamus getting in each other's faces, and Eve announced via Twitter that Smackdown's two top babyfaces would square off on Friday's Smackdown. ...
CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, the WWE Championship match at Sunday's Over the Limit got a little hype, with the two facing off in a tag team match that also included U.S. Champion Santino Marella and Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes. The two mid-card champs have apparently started a war of words on Twitter, and will wrestle in a non-title match on Friday's Smackdown. I really hope this isn't going down the path of a unification match between the two. I've been a staunch advocate for unifying the WWE and World championships, but I like having two mid-card titles. If their feud ends up being for bragging rights, then fine, but I think both titles still have value, it's the main event scene that needs to be cleaned up. (Caveat: If WWE establishes a clear pecking order of the WWE and World Championships, then I'm fine with this, just stop treating them like they are both equal in value. We know they are not.)
Oh, Punk won the match for his team, by the way, pinning Cody Rhodes. Punk and Bryan had seemingly little interaction during their match, and I think it's interesting how their match at Over the Limit really doesn't have much of a story. Maybe that's OK, because the selling point of the match is two of the best in the world going for the biggest prize in professional wrestling. Wait, wasn't that supposed to be the original storyline between Punk and Jericho? (Conspiracy theory thought: Remember the botched finished to Jericho's beat the clock match? I wonder if he wasn't supposed to get one more shot, but they switched up Bryan and Jericho's positions on the Over the Limit card after that botch, which is why the storyline hasn't been especially spectacular?)
Punk did have a run-in with AJ backstage (Punk was also seen with Alex Riley again, what the heck?) where AJ wished him luck and he backed off, essentially calling her crazy. Let's be honest, we don't need Punk involved with any more WWE Divas, kayfabe or otherwise. I think everyone expected AJ to get involved in Daniel Bryan's 2-out-of-3 falls match with Sheamus at last month's PPV and she didn't. This segment hinted she might get involved at Over the Limit. Let's hope not, because I think the match will be stronger if it's just a straight wrestling match. ...
In the ill-place six-man tag featuring Brodus Clay and the tag team champions Kofi Kingston and R-Truth against Miz, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler (ie: the entire Raw mid-card) the Funkasaurus once again pinned the Miz. Neither is advertised for Over the Limit, but I wouldn't be shocked if they end up in an unannounced bonus match. I'm getting my wish with Swagger and Ziggler challenging for the tag team titles, but with Epico and Primo waiting in the wings for a rematch, I think it's pretty much a lock the babyfaces retain. I'm still curious what role Mason Ryan is going to play, and now that there is an association between Clay and the tag champs, I wonder if Ryan and Clay might mix it up in the not-so-distant future? ...
Beth Phoenix squashed Alicia Fox in a standard Divas match while division champ Layla watched from the stage. Beth went for a post-match attack, but was thwarted by her Over the Limit opponent. Whatever. I usually defend the Divas division, but the recent lack of Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres in her new administrative role, I honestly don't care that much. I like Layla, but it just seems like a waste of our time until Kharma returns. ...
It should be noted that Kane, who defeated the Big Show before he was fired, will take on Zack Ryder in the Over the Limit pre-show on YouTube. I still love the idea of showing the pre-show dark match somewhere, I just wish that fans who've actually plunked down the money for the PPV would get it on TV too. I much prefer watching matches in HD on my 50-inch screen than on my iPhone or laptop. The ship has likely sailed on the Kane-Ryder feud -- which would've been hot earlier this year -- but at least they are getting some sort of blow-off to their feud. Both guys have lost a ton of steam since the end of 2011, when they were red hot.
Quick question though -- why Kane for the Big Show match on Raw? Why not Lord Tensai? He, like Ryder, was relegated to Superstars this week. Tensai, despite pinning Cena and Punk in recent weeks, seemed like a natural fit for this spot, doing the bidding of Laurinaitis. Has WWE given up on Tensai already? I hope not. He wasn't getting a great reaction, but I hate to see storylines abandoned. It seemed Tensai was in line to at least get a title shot against Punk at some point.