The "main event" of the go-home episode of WWE Raw was a contract signing between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship, taking place at this Sunday's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. But there were a lot more moving parts than just those two combatants, and the entire segment -- which of course featured "The Authority" Triple H and Stephanie McMahon as well as the match's guest referee Shawn Michaels -- seemed to serve to plant seeds for long-term plans rather than just hype Sunday's show.
Of note, the segment largely focused on best buds Triple H and Michaels not exactly seeing eye-to-eye over Bryan's future in the company. The segment also saw Bryan call out Triple H to a match, which the Game flat-out refused. His critics might say that he buried Bryan by saying when he laces up his boots, he only wrestles "stars." And quite honestly, if a match between the two never transpires -- a match Bryan should win, by the way -- then I'm inclined to agree with that. But if the match does take place, possibly at WrestleMania, that means Bryan will have been made.
Those who are fantasizing about Shawn Michaels returning to the ring as well -- assumed to be a WrestleMania match with Triple H -- might've seen those seeds planted as well, although I'm a firm believer that Michaels isn't coming out of retirement anytime soon. It wouldn't shock me to see him have a prominent role in the afforementioned Bryan-Triple H match, however, if it were to happen.
In all of this, it was actually Orton who came across as the forgotten man, and perhaps that was done on purpose. It was borderline humorus when he just chimed in a few times. He might as well just have been saying, "Hey guys, it's me, Randy. I'm still here." Anyway, that might've been on purpose because he is, in fact, going to be walking out of the cell with the WWE Championship.
Perhaps this was just for the meta-fans like me and millions of others who like to read into every little detail, but you couldn't help think that when Orton told Triple H that Michaels has it out for him, and Hunter looked at Michaels and said, "No, he'll do the right thing," that an HBK heel turn is coming. That was probably the idea, to make a segment of the fanbase think this, only to play it straight and have Michaels do exactly what he says he's going to do, and call it down the middle. HBK just has too much goodwill with the fan base and isn't around enough to truly sell a heel turn.
The big finish to the segment, involving the Big Show driving a big rig into the arena, seemed completely out of place. It's like they were trying to recreate the magic of Stone Cold Steve Austin driving some sort of vehicle into the arena to tick off Vince McMahon. At least Stephanie McMahon tried her darndest during Raw's open to act like it's completely crazy that Big Show could have access to a cameraman and tap into the feed to go "live via satelite." It's getting a bit ridiculous that he keeps showing up to all these events after being "fired." (It's like he went to the John Cena school of being fired where you are on TV more than when you were employed.) The rumors are that the end game to Big Show continuing to show up to all of these events is that Vince McMahon is backing him. I'd love to see a big swerve here that shocks everyone -- especially since the last time we saw Vince, he was the one behind wanting Bryan to fail anyway -- but I have no idea what that might be (Shane McMahon, please?).
Anyone, Show distracted everyone, allowing Bryan to hit the running knee on Orton, then join Big Show on the truck to celebrate as Raw went off the air.
All in all, the final segment (as well as the opening one) were good albeit with a lot of moving parts. I'm excited for Hell in a Cell. It's actually the most excited I've been for a pay-per-view since SummerSlam.
The wrestling on this show was really good too and, to no one's surprise, that's because of the folks involved -- Bryan, Orton, Dolph Ziggler and the Shield. Bryan and Dean Ambrose had a hot opening match, Orton and Ziggler had a nice 10-minute affair at the mid-point of the show, then the Shield and Usos had another fun match to determine the No. 1 contenders right before the contract signing. Obviously, Bryan and Orton won their matches clean, to keep them both looking strong heading into the pay-per-view, while the tag team No. 1 contenders match went to a no contest after Ambrose got the Rhodes Brothers, doing commentary at ringside, involved. The end result? A Triple Threat match for the Tag Team Championship at the pay-per-view. I'm good with that, as it gives us something a little different after having seen the Rhodes vs. the Shield a couple of times now.
Paul Heyman either cut a great promo or an awful one backstage with Renee Young, ranting and raving about volcanos and lava. I have no idea what he said, but it had a lot of intensity. It's like he channeled his inner Ultimate Warrior. Anyway, it all ultimately led to a tag match between Heyman's guys, Ryback and Curtis Axel, against CM Punk and newly-turned babyface Big E Langston. The finish saw Langston pin Axel, the Intercontinental Champion, cleanly, which then led to Langston vs. Axel for the IC title on the Hell in a Cell pre-show. That means Langston is probably going to win the belt, because WWE logic says the best way to get someone over is to put the once-proud now-meaningless IC title on them. It's also pretty clear he's headed into a feud with Ryback.
Nice to see Nikki Bella is back to full health and can work a match again. She teamed with her sister Brie, who is getting a Divas title shot against AJ Lee on Sunday, to face AJ and her bodyguard Tamina. Brie ultimately picked up the victory after a better-than-average Divas tag match. Nothing against Brie, but this will be her third consecutive PPV with a Divas title shot. It kind of feels like she has to win this one, doesn't it? I would've preferred AJ work her way through the total Divas cast (or at least the wrestlers -- Naomi, Natalya and the Bellas) since she cut the "pipebombshell" promo, as it was dubbed. The one-on-one match with Natalya that never materialized was the one I wanted to see, and WWE could've used that time to better establish the Bellas as babyfaces (as well as the AJ-Tamina relationship). Heck, last night's tag match would've been a good addition to the PPV to set up a title match next month at Survivor Series.
Bray Wyatt is still nursing a knee injury, but he's getting around OK, as they try to stretch out his inevitable feud with the Miz. I wouldn't be surprised if Miz vs. Wyatt gets added to the pay-per-view, but it turns into more of a beat down angle to keep Wyatt from having to work. They can't keep doing Miz and Kofi Kingston versus Rowan and Harper, can they? I could, somehow, see Dolph Ziggler getting throw into this program and teaming with Miz at the pay-per-view. After all, if the Wyatts hate Miz because he loves fame, shouldn't they dislike Ziggler because of his flamboyance? (Side note: After the Wyatt family debuted, they had a brief feud with R-Truth on television, talking about "truths." I would much rather see Miz and R-Truth reform the "Awesome Truth" as a babyface tandem to take them on. I thought they worked well together, but were basically set-up to be buried by Cena and The Rock at Survivor Series two years ago. Neither guy has been the same since.)
The Real Americans and Los Matadores will likely be added to the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view on Smackdown. They've spent a little time building this up -- as well as building up the Real Americans with wins over the Prime Time Players, Santino and Khali, and Tons of Funk -- and it would be a nice interlude between the more serious match-ups on the show. This will turn into comedy stuff with Zeb Colter and his bullwhip and Los Matadores' mascot, El Torito. We can all agree that what we really want to see is a six-man match with Zeb and El Torito involved right? No. Tough, you're getting it sooner than later.
Santino, the Great Khali and Hornswoggle dressed up as Elvis. Because, you know, Raw was in Memphis. Ugh. I hate them.