Last evening’s WWE Raw was a three-hour affair which felt every bit as though it was stretching for time at every turn. Although the Hartford, CT crowd was definitely jacked and ready, being vocal the entire night, the audience was wasted on what felt like a subpar effort just one week away from the No Way Out pay-per-view.
The show begins with Johnny Ace, riding his scooter down to the ring, still selling his “injuries” from Cena from the Over the Limit pay-per-view. Johnny gets into the ring and can only get out “My name is John Laurinaitis” before Vince McMahon’s music hits.
Vinny Mac’s return brings a decent pop from the crowd. Vince gets into the ring and Johnny goes for a handshake but Vince refuses, declaring that he “has no idea where that hand has been.” Vince gives a fairly long speech about the situation, declaring that his decision to give Laurinaitis a performance evaluation “isn’t about friendship, it’s all business. “ Vince then asks Johnny to give him one reason he shouldn’t fire him on the spot, to which Johnny replies “People power!”
Vince continues to dress down Laurinaitis for his conduct, calling Laurinaitis out of his poor business decisions, such as bringing back Lesnar and signing the Big Show to a “no cut contract,” noting that Show “hasn’t performed at a high level since 1999.” Johnny begins to sweat, struggling to come up with reasons to keep his job, noting that he has friends who will vouch for him.
With Johnny on the defense, Sheamus’ music hits and out comes the World Heavyweight champ. Sheamus tells the world that yes, Johnny is a friend. The sort of friend who will fine you half a million dollars just because he can. Sheamus accuses Johnny of abusing his power, while McMahon points out that hashtag “Fire Johnny” is trending worldwide on Twitter. Sheamus tells Vince to kick Laurinaitis “out on his arse.”
Vince seems to agree, and tells Johnny that if he is not impressed by Raw this evening, Johnny Ace will be out of a job by the end of the night. With that, Vince makes Laurinaitis limp his way to the back as he steals Johnny’s scooter and pushes it off the entrance ramp, much to the chagrin of immobile seniors everywhere.
Following the opening segment, Sheamus simply stays in the ring, and the first match of the evening is between he and “The Banzai Bald Guy,” Tensai, whose gimmick does seem geared up for one final, desperate charge at getting over.
The pair get a lot of time for their match, and perform at a fairly high level in a physical bout between two big men. The crowd directs quite a few “Albert!” chants towards Tensai, who picks up his second loss in two weeks as he’s pinned following a Brogue Kick from virtually out of nowhere. Following the match, Tensai brutalizes his manager/”worshipper” in the words of Cole, Sakamoto. This beating drags on for far too long and brings pretty much zero reaction from the crowd, which is not a good sign for Tensai.
After the match is a backstage segment featuring Vince, Johnny, and Teddy Long. Vince tells Johnny that the match he just saw was “strike one” against Johnny. Vince then asks Johnny who will replace Alberto Del Rio to face Sheamus for the World Heavyweight title at No Way Out this weekend, since Del Rio is now out of action indefinitely following a concussion. Johnny struggles for an answer until Vickie Guerrero shows and suggests that Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger should wrestle Sheamus in a triple threat match, an idea which Vince seems to approve of.
Johnny stalls for a moment, then declares that he has a great idea, but would like to hear Teddy’s idea first. Long suggests a fatal-four-way elimination match between Ziggler, Swagger, the Great Khali, and Christian to determine the number one contender. Johnny nods and says that’s exactly what he was thinking, then sends Teddy off to get coffee while he tries to suck up to Vince some more. Johnny offers Vince a fist-bump, but Vince simply looks at his fist and tells Johnny he has small hands before he walks away.
Back in the arena, Tensai is still sulking about the loss, then proceeds to brutalize his manager/”worshipper” in the words of Cole, Sakamoto. This beating drags on for far too long and brings pretty much zero reaction from the crowd, which is not a good sign for Tensai.
Next up, Matt Striker interviews R-Truth about the fallout from his Big Show Beatdown a few weeks back. Truth says he’s feeling fine, but the beating left Lil’ Jimmy “traumatized.” Truth tells Jimmy that he “can’t be so sensitive,” then talks about how great it’s going to be to see Show lose this Sunday, which brings a huge punch from off screen as Big Show knocks Truth out in the middle of his interview. Big Show has to be the sneakiest human being alive given how often he seems to be able to slug people in the face without warning. One would think a seven foot tall, five hundred pound man would be hard not to notice but apparently that’s not true.
The next match of the night is a mixed tag match, with United States champ Santino teaming with Divas champion Layla to face Beth Phoenix and Ricardo Rodriguez. The match seems to be WWE’s obligatory comedy/divas segments rolled into one, with most of the action involving Beth and Layla. Beth picks up the victory with a Glam-slam to Layla. Following the match, Rodriguez gloats over a Layla and Santino until Santino rips Ricardo’s shirt off, revealing a Justin Bieber shirt underneath. Har har.
Head backstage, where David Otunga is chatting with Vince. Small, insignificant exchange between the pair in which Vince compares lawyers to parasites. In the middle of their conversation, Kofi Kingston busts in wanting a match with the Big Show for knocking out Truth. The match is made, and more significantly it’s made into a cage match as a preview for the Show/Cena bout on Sunday.
Daniel Bryan makes his way to the ring to a decent “Yes!” chant from the Hartford crowd. Bryan cuts a fairly long promo directed at his No Way Out opponents. Bryan has a great moment in which he says that AJ had a chance to be with “all this,” indicating himself, and then says “once you go Bryan, there’s no bother tryin’” which brings a big “Yes!” chant from the crowd. Bryan declares that come Sunday, he’ll be walking out of No Way Out as the champ, which brings WWE champion CM Punk to the ring.
Punk gets on the mic and says that this Sunday, he’s either going to be “the deranged, out of his mind freak” or Kane to retain his belt. Bryan tells Punk he used to respect him, but now he’s a “sellout” who “panders to everyone.” Rather long back and forth ensues between the pair in which Punk eventually calls Daniel Bryan “Goatfaced,” which is roughly one step away from calling him a scruffy-looking nerf herder. The crowd actually starts a “Goatface!” chant, which ends upon Kane’s arrival.
Kane just popped out to remind the two he is no stranger to doing crazy things, bringing up the occasions in which he has set Jim Ross on fire, electrocuted Shane McMahons testes, and tombstoned a priest. Kane isn’t even able to say a whole lot more as AJ heads down to the ring now. AJ addressing the lot of them, telling Kane that she’s “looked into his eyes and knows he has a heart,” telling Bryan that “you never forget your first,” and telling Punk that he’s “the coolest guy” in the world. AJ says that on Sunday, she knows the best man will win.
On top of all the craziness happening in the ring, out comes Johnny Ace, who stops the fun by arranging a tag match, teaming Kane and Daniel Bryan against CM Punk… and AJ.
Following that ordeal is the fatal-four-way number one contenders match. The match opens with Khali being eliminated in fairly short order, followed by some excellent wrestling by the trio remaining. Surprisingly, the crowd is firmly behind Dolph Ziggler for the entirety of the match. Dolph pins Swagger after Christian puts Swagger down with the Killswitch, then Ziggler nails the Zigzag on Christian for the win to a huge pop. After the match, Sheamus and Ziggler have a face off at the top of the entrance ramp.
Backstage we are treated to another Vince McMahon filler segment, in which Vince has run ins with Natalie Neidhart, followed by the Funkadactyls. The Funkadactyls tell Vince they have heard he likes to get funky and Vince confirms the rumor by yelling “Somebody call my momma!” and breaking out into an embarrassing dance segment. Maybe if DX ever makes the Hall of Fame they can use this as their new clip to make fun of Vince with. The other one was a bit outdated.
Ryback squash match time as he faces off against Willard Fillmore and Rutherford Hayes, “The Commander in Chiefs.” Very audible “Goldberg” chants through the whole match, which runs to its conclusion very predictably. WWE can’t keep feeding Ryback skinny local talent forever, so one has to wonder how this schtick is going to play out when he actually has to wrestle members of the roster.
More Vince time, as Vince gives pointers to Hornswoggle on how to best mock Jim Ross. Remember, folks, no one ever accused Vince McMahon of being a class act. Cena comes in as Hornswoggle exits and encourages McMahon to can Laurinaitis. Otunga follows, telling Vince that he’s only an attorney part time, so it’s alright. Vince tells Otunga to can it, telling him no one respects someone who will kiss another person’s rear… after which the camera shows William Regal. Apparently Vince forgot about his own experience in butt-kissing.
After those wonderfully tasteless antics the show gets back to some wrestling, with the steel cage match between Kofi Kingston and the Big Show. The match is dominated by Show, who eventually knocks Kofi out with a WMD, then paces around the cage taunting the audience and taking his time in getting the win. With both WWE Tag Team champs thoroughly manhandled by the Big Show this evening (and the past few weeks in general) one has to wonder if the belts will even be defended on Sunday.
Sin Cara in action next, facing off against Curt Hawkins. The crowd is dead in this boring contest in which Sin Cara scores yet another win.
Vince and Daniel Bryan have a moment backstage. Vince tells Bryan that if Bryan were just walking down the street with groceries, “no one would mistake him for a WWE superstar.” Vince McMahon, undermining talent left and right this evening.
Heath Slater heads out to the ring for a match with a “former Raw main eventer” who turns out to be Vader. Great reaction from the crowd for Vader throughout the match, with, “Let’s go Vader!” chants, “You still got it” chants, and “Vader Bomb!” chants. The big man picks up the win in dominating fashion and sticks around the ring for a bit to soak up the adulation from the crowd.
AJ is in back freaking out about the upcoming tag match. CM Punk tells her to relax and just let him take care of it, as it’s basically just a handicap match. Punk tells her to go “against every fiber of her being” and try not to do anything crazy.
Main event time, as Kane and Bryan head out first for their match with Punk and AJ. The match is a little rushed, and seems to be more about establishing storyline than about wrestling, as at one point AJ is accidentally tagged in and has a very strange moment with Kane, in which she skips around him and eventually leaps on to him and kisses him. Kane tags out to Bryan, AJ tags out to Punk, and the match ends fairly quickly as Punk kicks Bryan then pins him following an elbow drop.
Vince McMahon comes out for the closing segment, flanked by security, and calls out Laurinaitis. Big Johnny keeps begging off, telling Vince that he’ll be needed to keep Raw and Smackdown successful. Vince isn’t having any of it and seems about to can Big Johnny when Big Show’s music hits.
Show heads to the ring and lays into Vince for what he perceived as the years of humiliation that McMahon put him through. Show tells Vince that he had always done what was asked of him, but no more, then promises to take out Vince’s “Golden Goose” this Sunday at No Way Out. Cue the music of the Golden Goose himself, John Cena.
Cena yaps for what feels like forever without actually saying anything, and finally Vince breaks up the monotony by saying that this Sunday, if Big Show loses, Johnny Ace will be fired. The ring explodes into an all out brawl at this point, as Cena and Big Show fight off security guards to get at one another. In the middle of the fracas, Big Show accidentally plants McMahon with a WMD which was intended for Cena, and the show goes off the air to the crew calling for medical assistance for McMahon and Cena asking “What happened?” as Show slowly walks up the ramp towards the back.
If this evening is any indication, three hours of Raw is going to be too long every week. The show was stocked with filler, and in the three hours of time only one new match was added to the No Way Out card, with the exclusion of the replacement World Heavyweight title match. Going into this pay-per-view, only five matches have been announced, with an additional match announced for the free pre-show event.
This evening leaves only one question: Why expand to an additional hour if neither the wrestling nor the storytelling will benefit?