With Monday Night Raw – and WWE in general – being fairly light on genuine surprises, I almost always opt to dive into each show without reading the preview or any major dirtsheet spoilers. So I was surprised to see Triple H come out at the top of this week’s episode for a match with Curtis Axel, whom he is absolutely forbidden to face in accordance with his father-in-law’s decree. (Sidenote: I quite like Axel’s music; it’s high-tempo and isn’t marred by Creed vocals as with every other entrance theme.)
Vince McMahon ran amok in his own playground, sabotaging Trips’ match over and over and finally eloping with the ring bell. This minor embarrassment led to more than a few McMahon family confrontations over the course of the night, culminating in a “hug it out” segment which featured the golden Vince admission, “I don’t hug other men.” Aside from shades of Aronofsky’s The Wrestler colouring this arc – an aging wrestler battling on against better judgement – I have absolutely no idea where this is heading, which is a great thing. Too often I complain of predictable storylines building in the same cookie-cutter fashion to an inevitable pay-per-view conclusion; here, the McMahon/Helmsley melodrama is just baffling enough to have me invested.
The best marital conflict in the WWE, besides Triple H and Stephanie, is that of Kane and Daniel Bryan. “Is anyone getting along in the WWE?” asked JBL, shortly before the united Shield made their entrance. Kane dominated in his match against Dean Ambrose, proving himself not to be the weak link of Team Hell No as poor ol’ insecure Daniel Bryan insists the contrary. Following the match, Bryan and ‘the other man’ Randy Orton swept down the ramp to clear the ring, setting up matches for this Sunday’s Payback PPV. Vicki proved herself a patient woman by booking the tag match between Bryan/Orton and The Shield for just six days away. Trigger-happy Teddy Long, on the other hand, wouldn’t have hesitated to book one right that instant. Sometimes that man doesn’t know how to play the long game. Anyway, Orton must really be relishing all the time he’s spending away from Sheamus.
Chris Jericho gave a promo of praise for CM Punk, though as he spoke I couldn’t help but wonder just how uncanny his resemblance is to Matt Damon’s Scott Thorson in Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra. Ziggler interrupted to insert himself into the same league as both Jericho and Punk – a comparison which I am steadily having no problem with. He then set his guard dog, Big E Langston, against Jericho; of course, Del Rio intervened and made Ziggler look a fool. You could have bet your entire life savings on that happening. Del Rio needs to earn his paycheque and he isn’t exactly going to steal Triple H’s ring bell. (Sidenote: book it.)
Big E Langston reappeared to assist AJ Lee in her perfectly executed prank against Kaitlyn. Here’s why it was perfect: we all knew it as AJ Lee the whole time, and still none of us elected to inform Kaitlyn. We even let the poor girl head down to the ring for public embarrassment in front of millions. Then again, if you’re going to call out your secret romantic admirer in the middle of a wrestling broadcast in front of millions… well, you reap what you sow.
Even with lumberjacks surrounding the ring, Ryback was too scared to head on down and confront Cena. For their part, the lumberjacks were sort of confused; one moment they were throwing the pair towards each other, and in the next they tried to prise them apart. Nevertheless, the character assassination of Ryback continues, as does the degrading of heels once presented as unstoppable monstrosities. “Bitching and moaning” Ryback is looking at his last shot at the title before a rumoured title push for Daniel Bryan kicks into gear this summer, and then what next for the big guy?
Ryback reiterated the tired “You left me high and dry” to Cena, which incidentally is precisely what AJ Lee said to Kaitlyn earlier in the show as a motive for her prank (because the Divas title isn’t enough). Cena still thinks it’s a strange complaint, and he’s unquestionably right. WWE is a dog-eat-dog environment whereby each man looks out for himself – unless you’re part of a tag team or a quivering McMahon family unit. Why, in the chase for the World Title, should one wrestler have the other’s back? Look for Cena to, regrettably, stuff Ryback in the back of an ambulance this Sunday. Next stop: Sheamusville.