We're quite a few days removed from Raw and only a few more days away from the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, which means its a good time to look back at what happened in the WWE on Monday and what it all means for Sunday.
The general consensus on the interwebs is that Monday's Raw wasn't very good, and fans are pointing to some the lowest ratings in years for the show to back up their point. Meh. I didn't think it was a great show, but the angle that almost everyone seems to be crapping on is the removal of AJ Lee as the general manager of Raw for allegedly "fraternizing" with WWE's poster boy John Cena, which Cena claims was a business dinner. More on that in a minute. As a result, Vickie Guerrero was put in charge, at least for one week, as the "Managing Supervisor" of Raw, which even Vince McMahon said he doesn't know what it means, other than she's in charge for the time being.
I'm not sure why everyone is hating on all of this so much. One complaint was that it came out of the blue. Well, not really. As AJ addressed, there were numerous times over the past few months when her ability as the GM was called into question by attacking other WWE Superstars (namely Vickie Guerrero and Paul Heyman). Meanwhile, Cena has, on numerous occassions in his promos, directly or indirectly flirted with AJ. So, it's not like this is sudden. Moreever, the segment with Vince and AJ was one of the highest rated on a show that got bad ratings, mainly because of stiff competition from the presidential debate, Monday Night Football, and Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
So people tuned in for the intriguing and shocking angle that caught everyone by surprise. Maybe these "smart" Internet wrestling fans are just angry because they got swerved, and that's not supposed to happen to them.
Meanwhile, IWC favorites Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler had a match that was seemingly universally praised. Of course, that got one of the lowest ratings in years. I'm not hating on Bryan or Ziggler, by the way, I'm fans of both (although I don't agree with all the folks who claim Ziggler is the second-coming of Shawn Michaels; he's not even close), but I think when people rip into what is and isn't working for WWE, they need to recognize that what draws in the casual fan base isn't necessarily what the hardcore fans like. And generally speaking, those hardcore fans don't tune out of the show regardless of what is presented, so there is no reason to cater to them.
Back to AJ and Cena. The second complaint I'm reading is that AJ was never right for the GM role and that's why WWE acted so quickly to remove her. OK, so what's the complaint here? You say she's not right for the role, but then complain when they move on to something else? Shouldn't you be happy about that if you didn't like her in the GM role? Personally, I think she did a fine job as GM, at least as much as she could. The stories weren't all about her, like they have been with some authority figures (John Laurinaitis anyone?). Besides, it was about as high profile of a role she could get after she became one of the most over characters in WWE during the Daniel Bryan-CM Punk-Kane love triangle (square?) story.
Actually, she was perfect for it. It was AJ that was the catalyst for Team Hell No, which many fans claim are the most entertaining part of WWE these days. She's also helped CM Punk grow into his heel role. He's been able to use the fact he rebuffed her marriage proposal in the spring as a reason for her apparent disrespect for him.
Now, she's part of what could be a major story arc involving John Cena.
So tell me again, how was she not effective as the general manager? Oh right, the timing of her promos were off. Somebody get Mike Adamle on the phone.
The third complaint about the angle -- Vickie Guerrero getting the job -- actually has some merit. Her character when she's been in charge has always been to favor the Superstar she had a relationship with, whether that was Edge or Dolph Ziggler. So I get that. On the other hand, I think it's pretty clear that this is a temporary arrangment. And by temporary, I mean it could only last one week.
Rumors are already swirling that Ric Flair could be named the new GM on this week's Raw from his hometown of Charlotte, N.C. It's been rumored for a while that WWE wanted Flair to have the job, perhaps dating back to the 1,000th episode of Raw, but that some issues relating to a lawsuit with TNA Wrestling have forced WWE into waiting. It's possible those issues have been cleared up (and possibly have been for a while) and WWE simply targetted Flair's hometown for the return date. In that regard, AJ was always a short-term solution (and I do believe that was the case).
Finally, what I like about Vickie being the temporary GM (or whatever) and Cena getting dragged into the angle is it sets up a possible Cena vs. Ziggler match at the Hell in a Cell PPV. Both are key players in the WWE and World championship pictures, respectively, yet they don't have a match at the show? Fine, throw them in there against one another. Cena is going to be on the PPV YouTube preshow and I think setting the match up there could lead to some last-minute PPV buys.
Long-term, I'm not sure where they are going with the Cena-AJ stuff. It is interesting that they are doing an affair angle in light of Cena's recent divorce.
Here are my other thoughts on Raw, and what it all means for Sunday's pay-per-view.
Team Rhodes Scholars defeated Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara cleanly in the finals of the tag team tournament. It had some really cool spots, including Sin Cara's springboard moonsault and Damien Sandow breaking up a pin by diving under the referee's arm. I was surprised the Prime Time Players didn't get involved and cost Rey and Cara the match, since that seemed to be a budding feud, but it makes the Rhodes Scholars look stronger by getting a clean win.
What it means for Hell in a Cell: Cody Rhodes and Sandow vs. Kane and Bryan for the tag team championships in what should be a good match.
Justin Gabriel defeated Antonio Cesaro in a nontitle match that was a rematch from the week prior. I actually thought the previous week's match was better, but Gabriel's win seemingly sets him up for a U.S. Championship match.
What it means for Hell in a Cell: If there is enough time, I wouldn't be shocked if they add this to the PPV. However, I could see them using it for a future title match on WWE Main Event. Either way, I think Cesaro retains.
Ryback squashed Miz. That is all.
What it means for Hell in a Cell: Ryback continues his upward momentum (on Wednesday, he defeated Dolph Ziggler on Main Event) before his big WWE Championship match, while Miz seems to be trending downward in recent weeks heading into his Intercontinental Championship rematch with Kofi Kingston at the PPV. Kingston continued to build momentum, defeating Michael McGillicutty in a squash.
Kaitlyn confronted Eve with information that she set up Kaitlyn to be attacked at Night of Champions. They got into a brawl, Layla joined in. To be continued on Smackdown.
What it means for Hell in a Cell: Fair warning, spoilers upcoming ... on Smackdown, a Triple Threat for the Divas Championship will be set up between these three for the PPV. That's not really a spoiler, right? I mean, a blind man could've seen that coming.
Ziggler defeated Daniel Bryan after a minor distraction from Kane on the outside. Really good match. I loved the high spot where Ziggler hit a top-rope X-Factor on Bryan. This segment lead to Matt Striker being forced to host a ridiculous game show segment with Kane and Bryan -- the NewlyTag Game -- that wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been. Give Kane credit for saving this one. The Rhodes Scholars chose not to participate, instead cutting a promo from the stage. Striker escaped getting beat up by Team Hell No again, but Big Show threw him off the stage when he came out for his match with Kane, which Show won. Minor aside: With Daniel Bryan carrying that white towel the whole match and the wife of Arnold Skaaland -- look it up -- in the front row, I really thought Bryan might throw in the towel while Show had Kane in the bearhug or Collasal Clutch. Bryan could have argued he didn't want Kane hurt for their title defense Sunday.
What it means for Hell in a Cell: Ziggler got a much-needed televised win after a string of losses. He's still guaranteeing he'll cash-in at Hell in a Cell, but I don't buy it. At least he'll seem a little more credible if he does win the title now. Show's win over Kane, even if caused by the Rhodes Scholars' distraction was also much-needed en route to a World Championship match at Hell in a Cell.
Alberto Del Rio squashed Zack Ryder. Again.
What it means for Hell in a Cell: Del Rio continued the post-match beatdown and then posed like Randy Orton. The Viper wasn't in the house, so he couldn't make the save. No new twists here.
CM Punk defeated Sheamus for the second time this month in a Champion vs. Champion lumberjack match, billed the largest in Raw history. It was an entertaining match, although you couldn't tell from the crowd reaction. The finish saw a couple of the heels enter the ring and eat Brogue Kicks from Sheamus, then Big Show chokeslam Sheamus from the apron, allowing Punk to win. Ryback then marched to the ring, sending Punk fleeing, but babyface lumberjacks tossed him back into the ring. He press slammed Punk onto the heel lumberjacks as Punk and Heyman looked mighty concerned heading into Sunday's title defense.
What it means for Hell in a Cell: Again, upward momentum for Punk with the win, but even more upward momentum for Ryback. The cell is similiar to the lumberjacks in that there will be no where for Punk to run. Big Show looks strong heading into the World Championship match. Not so much for Sheamus, but that's OK, as I'm sure he'll come out of Smackdown smelling like a rose.