Monday Night Raw, once again, was rather generic and uninspiring. However, the "live podcast" special where Stone Cold Steve Austin interviewed Vince McMahon after Raw delivered more than I think even the most optimistic fan hoped.
If you're here just for the Raw recap, scroll down, and you will find it. But the biggest thing to happen with the WWE last night was that podcast on the WWE Network. After introductions, Austin started by asking "How's the Network doing?" and then neither side pulled punches, as they weaved through an interview that included topics such as the current group of wrestlers not being as motivated as previous eras, CM Punk, The Undertaker's streak ending, Jim Ross and the Austin-McMahon feud.
One of the interesting early parts of the conversation involved the current state of the locker room. Austin said that the locker room felt different than when he was a wrestler. Vince responded by saying, "This is a different group of guys and gals. It's millenials. They're not as ambitious, quite frankly. ... They just don't necessarily want to reach for that brass ring. The last one was probably John Cena. But there are others coming up now who definitely want to reach for it. Ambrose, Rollins, Roman Reigns, Wyatt."
For him to be that blunt about the locker room was rather startling, and it set the tone for the rest of the interview. Austin brought up Cesaro, and why he hasn't gotten over yet, and asked whether he was getting a proper push. Vince responded with, "He's not connecting yet, but we hope he will. He doesn't quite have the charisma, he doesn't quite have the verbal skills as well. It might be because he's Swiss, I don't know, and the European style. But those are the things he's lacking. The audience needs to care about you, and they need to be able to feel your presence, and you need to be able to project that. He's an extraordinary physical talent. But at the moment, he lacks it." McMahon went on to say that he wish he knew exactly what was missing and how to get there.
Of course, after what CM Punk said last week, he came up, and to Vince's credit, while he wouldn't go into specifics when it came to Punk, he did talk in length to Austin about the situation. He first apologized, saying, "I would like to apologize. Sometimes in a big corporation the legal people don't know what talent relations are doing and conversely. Punk got his severance papers on the day he got married. That was coincidence. I want to personally apologize for that." He went on to say that he does wish Punk was still with WWE and hopes that they can work again in the future. He blamed the divide on a lack of communication between the two sides.
McMahon had a lot more to say about topics like the Undertaker's streak, which he said was a result of there not being much more to do with Undertaker, not many more people he could face in compelling matches. He also talked about Jim Ross, whom Austin called one of the smartest people in the business, and Vince said he'd like to work with him again. The two went for 70 minutes, longer than expected, as Vince himself gave the show an extra 15 minutes when it looked like time was running out.
Seeing Vince in this capacity was fascinating. While you see him giving quotes, or in documentaries giving clips at a time, he rarely ever gives a lengthy an out-of-character interview like this. It was a glimpse into just how smart and charismatic this man is, which is something a lot of wrestling fans forget sometimes.
This is something I hope the company does more of. There's no reason why they couldn't make this a quarterly segment, either with Austin every time, or a different host. (Maybe someone like Chris Jericho?) While it went 70 minutes, it could have easily gone on for three hours without getting boring. So kudos to Stone Cold for not holding back too much, and kudos to Vince for being fairly honest, even if he slightly dodged a few questions. They created what may be the best thing to hit the Network to this point.
What happened on Raw:
** The opening segment featured a confrontation between John Cena and Seth Rollins. Cena had come out to shut the computer of the Anonymous GM (who, surprisingly, barely factored into the show), saying that they didn't need someone like that in the company. This brought out Rollins, who ran Cena down, but then pointed out that without the Authority, the WWE was just going to get all of these single-week GMs. He told Cena that he should allow the Authority back in power. Cena refused, after catering to the crowd. The Anonymous GM once against chimed in, making a tables match at TLC between the two, and if Cena loses, he loses his No. 1 contender spot. Rollins, Mercury and Noble attacked Cena, which brought out, in order, Ryback, Kane, Erick Rowan, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show and Luke Harper. The heels got the upper hand and sent Cena through the table.
The main event became Cena, Ziggler and Ryback against Rollins, Kane and Harper. The six had a pretty decent match, which ended with Ziggler getting a surprise pin on Harper. The six all brawled after the match, which brought out Big Show, and the heels got the advantage. However, Rowan came back out, and made the save, taking out all the members with steel steps and standing tall at the end.
They seem fairly intent on pushing Rowan. He beat Big Show by DQ, though caught a beating earlier in the show. Right before that match, they did an interview where it was revealed that Rowan actually has a genius IQ. I'm not exactly sure where they're going with that, but just giving him a backstory is more than they've done so far with Harper, and about as much as they've done with Bray Wyatt. To have him be the one to make the save is a fairly telling statement as well. I'm not totally sold on Rowan yet, but he is getting a reaction from the crowd. So only time will tell. I just hope they don't go too far with the "genius" thing, because Rain Man Rowan isn't an act that will get over.
** The show was built rather oddly, with the opening segment, the main event match and a tag-team turmoil match taking up literally half the show. The turmoil match was fun, though. It was between the Dusts, The New Day, The Usos, Adam Rose and the Bunny and the thrown-together team of Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. The match gave the chance to showcase the teams, giving them enough time to get over. The New Day made their Raw debut, and while I think they're treated a bit too goofy for my liking, their ring work is fantastic so far. The match also featured the debut of the team of Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. It's an interesting pairing, and one I think could work if they really try to gel the two. In order, The New Day pinned the Dusts, Cesaro and Kidd eliminated The New Day, the Usos elimnated Cesaro and Kidd and Rose and the Bunny.
** Later in the night, The Miz came up to Naomi and handed her a business card, while hitting on her. Damien Sandow beat Fernando in a match later, with Miz on commentary, and towards the end Jimmy Uso came out and told Miz to stay away from Naomi and slapped him. So they're actually adding a little bit of personal grudge to the title match.
** Bray Wyatt beat R-Truth, and cut a promo with tables, ladders and chairs after. Dean Ambrose came out and the two had a wild brawl all around the ringside area. Ambrose then shattered the rocking chair that Wyatt usually uses.
** AJ Lee and Naomi (who was voted to be AJ's partner) beat the Bellas in a tag match.
** Paul Heyman was interviewed, and he talked about how it doesn't matter who wins between Cena and Rollins because Lesnar can beat anyone the WWE could send at him.
** Jack Swagger and Rusev got into a brawl after Rusev injured Zeb Colter backstage. (The attack wasn't shown, but Fandango was supposed to face Swagger, but Swagger never showed up after it cut to the back and Swagger was tending to an injured Colter.)