It’s always nice to see Vince swing by for an appearance now that he’s moved on from malevolent boss to frail old man. “Don’t boo my daughter Stephanie,” he pleaded with the crowd, asking nicely – for once – for us to show some respect to the daughter he beat the crap out of almost ten years ago in an ‘I Quit’ Match. Yes, Stephanie had returned too. “Boy, it sure does feel great to be back on Monday Night Raw,” she said, without a hint of enthusiasm. There were pressing matters for her and Vince to address, chiefly Triple H’s collapse at the end of last week’s Raw. Vince and Steph were adamant that Trips should not compete against Curtis Axel again – a decision that rightfully had the crowd booing. Then, Vince unleashed a tirade against the fans, blaming them for the tragedy that befalls such a wrestler when these injuries eventually take their toll – just in case this footage ever needs to be presented in court. “What the hell do you want from that man?!” screamed Vince at the jeering fans – overcome by either compassion or nepotism – making it seem as if Triple H was some sort of decrepit bag of bones, twice Ric Flair’s senior. Meanwhile, over in TNA, Sting challenged for the World Heavyweight Championship for the fiftieth year in a row.
Triple H pleaded his case soon enough, his backstage appearance eliminating the image of a dying pensioner and replacing it with something more akin to a wounded animal. Curtis Axel was referred to by the McMahon family as a kind of ubiquitous terror. He had yet to make an appearance, and yet he was still made out to be a pretty big deal. Did Axel eventually capitalise on this? Hardly. He scored another countout victory over Cena, though the moment was overshadowed by Ryback, who handed his fellow heel the easy victory by charging Fruity Pebbles through a table.
I raised an eyebrow as the end of Vince’s promo was interrupted by The Shield’s entrance music. They were only emerging for their tag match, yet I initially thought they were going straight for the Chairman himself. It would only make sense for the Hounds of Justice to cut the head off the snake. Then again, everyone and their third-generation grandson has gone after Mr. McMahon over the last 15 or so years. Hell, Mr. McMahon himself has gone after everyone on the roster.
The Shield were, yet again, facing off against Kane and Daniel Bryan, who teamed with Randy Orton in a rare appearance not involving either Sheamus or Big Show. Bryan looks to be the heel coming out of this tag team split, because Kane is being awfully nice in the face of a small-man syndrome exhibition. He’s the reassuring wife to Bryan’s abusive husband, but as we all know, Kane’s temper is a short one.
Shorter still is the straw drawn by Damien Sandow, now having to feud with Sheamus. Then there’s Cody, who in the meantime must offer himself up to the Celtic Warrior as squash fodder in order to enhance the larger feud. Still, Sandow on commentary made his tag team partner sound better than he looked, describing him as a “thinking man’s wrestler” and “the prince of precision”. Such an eloquent man; by comparison, usually upon any given tag team debut, Cole and King start screaming, “THESE GUYS ARE SERIOUSLY IMPRESSIVE. I SEE BIG THINGS.” And this is even before the bell’s rung.
The segment I was most looking forward to was the contract signing between Jericho and Heyman for the Punk/Y2J showdown at Payback. These two are equally electric on the mic, so it’s good to see them finally get a chance to bounce off one another. There wasn’t as much gesturing toward a Punk/Heyman tension as there was last week, perhaps with the intention of burying such clues until the big night itself. The biggest mention was Chicago, site of the PPV and Punk’s hometown. The Best in the World will certainly be received like the Second Coming of Christ, but that’s not to say that Jericho will be booed out of the arena by default. Y2J is a fan favourite to marks, smarks, the younger and older generation alike. What better opportunity than for Curtis Axel to lay out this pair of icons, during their match, and score both a double countout and the monstrous heel heat he so desperately needs? Axel vs. Punk: book it.