By Graham "GSM" Matthews
CM Punk def. Luke Harper
I went into this contest with high hopes, believing it would be a "Ring of Honor dream match" of sorts given their respective history in the organization. While it didn't live up to my lofty expectations, it was still a decent bout with Harper controlling most of the matchup. He looks to be the breakout star of the group (aside from Bray Wyatt), as his in-ring skills are improving and his facial expressions are priceless. Punk avenged the beating from last week and Harper was protected via the roll-up. Daniel Bryan coming to the aid of Punk was a cool moment and I hope to see the two team up come Survivor Series.
Ryback def. The Great Khali
This was about as good of a match as you would expect out of these two. By that I mean that it was relatively quick and painless. Despite picking up the victory, Ryback was dominated by Khali for most of the match, so he didn't exactly come out of it looking strong. His post-match attack on Santino Marella was a decent attempt at garnering heat from the live crowd, but I believe it is too little, too late for the Ryback character by this point.
Alberto Del Rio def. Kofi Kingston
These two always work well together, and this match was no exception. It was competitive and given a substantial amount of time, but the crowd wasn't able to get into the action since the ending outcome was never in doubt. Dolph Ziggler is currently face, which means the person Kingston faces at least once a month will be Del Rio. Kingston hasn't mean much as of late, so it was hard to buy into him winning, but it was a good win for Del Rio for what it was worth. By the way, the only way Del Rio's "face of the Mexican people" schtick will make sense is if he feuds with Rey Mysterio when he returns, but that is pure speculation.
WWE Champion Randy Orton def. Big E Langston (Non-title)
I found it incredibly hard to believe that Langston beat both Dolph Ziggler and The Miz by a landslide in the poll, giving me as well as many other viewers the impression that the WWE App is indeed rigged. Nonetheless, this was a solid match with Langston have an impressive outing against Orton. Officials appear to be high on Langston and his tremendous upside, so I was surprised to see him take the clean pinfall loss here. However, he looked strong in defeat and the commentators mentioned how Orton hadn't seen the last of him. While Langston is gradually getting over with live crowds, giving him a gimmick (such as the five count one he had down in NXT) would help.
Tyson Kidd and Natalya def. Fandango and Summer Rae
After many months out of action with an injury, it was great to see Kidd back on television, but his return fell flat with this viewer. Could it have killed WWE to play Kidd's entrance music instead of Natalya's in an effort to make his comeback feel more like a big deal? Granted, the reaction might not have been much bigger, but it is the small things that matter. The match was pretty basis and I am glad Kidd and Natalya went over here. It was only logical for Kidd and Natalya to pair up on television with "Total Divas" returning soon, so at least Kidd is being given something to do for the time being.
World Heavyweight Champion John Cena and WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust def. Damien Sandow and The Real Americans
Holding the rematch three days later on Raw made their initial encounter on SmackDown feel rather worthless, but it was a good enough match that I don't blame WWE for doing it again. It was given great time (more time than I originally expected considering this was on Raw) and the crowd was very much into the action. The final few minutes were fantastic and everyone was able to get involved and hit their signature spots. This was a high-paced, entertaining contest that the fans in attendance thoroughly enjoyed that proved to be even better than the bout on SmackDown. It was also nice to see the tag teams of The Rhodes Brothers and The Real Americans highlighted in a high profile matchup.
Dolph Ziggler def. Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel (Non-title)
Both Ziggler and Axel are very polished in the ring and had a good match together, but it was hard for the live crowd to care since Axel has meant very little as of late. Let's face it: Intercontinental Champion or not, he will not receive any heat without Paul Heyman, who apparently won't be returning anytime soon. I like the feud of these two feuding with each other, but I have no desire to see Ziggler holding a midcard title at this point. I hate to see the midcard champion lose yet another match, but it was a lose-lose situation with Ziggler in desperate need of victories, too. The Intercontinental title picture is cluttered right now with Axel, Ziggler and Langston, so who gets the next title shot is beyond me.
The Usos def. 3MB
After what transpired on last week's edition of SmackDown, I fully expected to face The Shield in some form or fashion, but apparently not. Their match with 3MB was fine for what it was and was nothing more than a glorified squash match. If nothing else, it was good to see The Usos get more exposure on Raw (in winning fashion, no less) and to not see Los Matadores face 3MB for the millionth time.
The Bella Twins and Eva Marie def. Divas Champion AJ Lee, Tamina Snuka and Aksana
The in-ring action was exceptional at best, but far from terrible. The Bella Twins have improved immensely in the ring to the point where they can hold their own against their opponents, so thankfully they did most of the in-ring work for their team here. Eva Marie getting the win for her team was solely to promote "Total Divas", but could she have not pinned Aksana instead of the monster Tamina? At least AJ didn't take the loss for her team, which would have led me to believe that Eva was getting a Divas title shot, which would be a major mistake considering how green she still is.
Big Show def. WWE Champion Randy Orton and The Shield in a 4-on-1 Handicap Match by Disqualification
There is nothing worse in wrestling that I couldn't care less for than lawsuits, and I can't imagine a majority of the audience was too excited about it either. The video packages they aired throughout the show were pain-inducing and did nothing to make me excited to see Show get his job back. Hell, not even the live crowd seemed to care all that much during this segment, knowing that Show's "banishment" from WWE was a sham and lasted all of five days. Why even bother banishing him in the first place if they were just going to have him return the very next week? The Handicap match was painfully pointless as well, but at least it ended with Orton and company standing tall. I am not at all excited to see Show contending for the WWE Championship in the main event of a pay-per-view in 2013, but time will tell how well this program ends up doing. For the record, the sole highlight of this segment was seeing Kane in a suit. I can't remember the last time (if ever) we saw that sight, and although I like him better masked, this new corporate character is good evolution for him. Any chance he can go back to using "Slow Chemical" as his entrance music?
The WWE as a whole is still in a sad state at the moment, but they are gradually moving in the right direction, and this show helped with that. There were several solid matches and successful storyline progression for a handful of feuds. There was a minimal amount of filler with the only stupid segment being the main event. The ridiculousness of the angle involving Orton, HHH and Big Show unfortunately overshadows all the good things WWE is doing right now, especially since it is constantly being shoved down our throats. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable episode of Raw and I didn't find the three hours to drag that much this week, although they didn't fly by, either.
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