By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Raw General Manager Brad Maddox Interrupted CM Punk
Having Punk open the show was a nice change of pace, especially since his current feud with Paul Heyman is the best thing going in WWE right now. He effectively built towards his match with Ryback at WWE Battleground and showed great intensity on the mic. Maddox interrupting Punk felt random, and his subsequent match with Big E Langston was even more strange. That was rather telling from the sound of crickets as Langston made his entrance.
CM Punk def. Big E Langston
As previously stated, Langston has very little heat at the moment, so it was hard to take him seriously as Punk's opponent. Langston scored a substantial amount of offense over Punk and The Voice of the Voiceless sold well for him, but the ending outcome was never in doubt for this viewer. To my knowledge, Langston hasn't appeared on Raw since prior to SummerSlam, so it will take time before he can finally live up to his potential. The match itself didn't serve much of a purpose, but it was nice to see Punk in action on Raw for the first time in weeks.
Kofi Kingston def. Fandango
These two have had far more entertaining matches in the past, so their latest encounter was a bit of a disappointment. This was partly due to the fact that they were hardly given any time to go out and have a good match. Kingston has been floundering since his return to the ring since August, which is a shame because there is so much more that they can be doing with him right now. As for Fandango, he seemed to be on the verge of a push after Night of Champions with wins over R-Truth and Santino Marella, but I guess that push came to an abrupt halt on this show.
Los Matadores def. 3MB
I'm torn on Los Matadores. On one hand, it is a stupendously stupid gimmick that is by far one of the silliest gimmicks I've seen in quite some time. On the other hand, it gives Primo and Epico (yes, those are the ones under the masks for those unaware) a chance to be exposed again on television and get some in-ring time. The crowd wasn't all that receptive to the tandem, but they seemed to be getting behind the "Ole!" chants at certain points. Los Matadoes could also have a potentially fun feud with The Real Americans as well, so they aren't completely useless.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon Made a Business Proposition to The Rhodes Family
Everyone involved in this segment provided solid mic skills and played their respective roles well. I would have liked to hear from Cody Rhodes and Goldust, but at least Dusty Rhodes was able to add some short and sweet mic work. I'm looking forward to Cody and Goldust at Battleground, and it looks like The Rhodes Family will be going over per the beating they took at the hands of The Shield on this show. I have been thoroughly enjoying the Rhodes vs. McMahons feud thus far and the tag match at Battleground is a logical way of furthering it.
R-Truth def. Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel (Non-title)
It was pretty predictable early on who would be winning this match when Michael Cole mentioned on commentary that Truth was longing for a title shot. Thus, his win over Axel didn't feel like a big deal whatsoever. The distraction of Punk's entrance music provided Axel with an out to lose, but why couldn't have Kingston been in Truth's spot instead given Kingston's history with Punk? I'm glad it was at least done for a purpose and to set up a title match for Sunday (which no one will care about anyway) instead of having Axel lose a non-title match for no reason.
Brie Bella def. Alicia Fox
First off, congrats to Brie and Daniel Bryan on their recent engagement. It was only a matter of time before it was brought into the storyline to get Randy Orton involved. Despite it being the focal point of "Total Divas", it was never mentioned previously on WWE television, which is why the well done video package for the cute couple fell flat with those in attendance. It is hard to buy into Brie as a fan favorite after years of her and her sister Nikki bullying the entire Divas division, but giving her a Divas title match at Battleground is a good way of benefiting from the buzz of the engagement.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio def. Zack Ryder (Non-title)
A basic squash match. Ryder was able to score a surprising amount of offense over Del Rio, but it was only inevitable before he tapped out to the world champion. I still find it shocking that Del Rio continues to garner something of a reaction despite being booked as an enhancement talent the last year and a half. Furthermore, it is good to see Del Rio continue to pick up clean victories, even if they aren't over credible Superstars.
Paul Heyman "Proposed" to Ryback
Heyman's promo was strong as expected, while Ryback showed some improvement on the mic. Heyman's whole "proposal" to Ryback was an absolute riot and garnered the desired reaction from the live crowd. Punk did an excellent acting job, making me think that he was legitimately injured when he first fell down. Alas, he miraculously recovered and laid a brutal beating on both Axel and Ryback. They have done a fantastic job of heavily hyping this match for Battleground and making me want to buy the pay-per-view simply to see Punk and Ryback duke it out.
The Shield def. Dolph Ziggler and The Usos
As we saw on last week's edition of SmackDown, these six competitors work well together and this match was no exception. The action was exciting throughout the bout and they maintained a rapid pace as well. The final few minutes of the match with everyone hitting their signature spots was extremely entertaining and made for a fantastic finish. I struggle to think why Ziggler isn't contending for the U.S. title at Battleground against Dean Ambrose since Ambrose isn't currently booked for the event, but I guess Ziggler is still in hot water with management and is being relegated to the Kickoff match instead.
Santino Marella def. Antonio Cesaro
Cesaro's swing and unadulterated strength never cease to amaze me, and it looks like the live crowds are getting behind the swing as regular thing as weeks progress. I was fine with Santino defeating Cesaro a few weeks back in Canada because it was Santino's long awaited return and it was in his hometown, but the fact it happened again here is blasphemy. Santino lost to Fandango, yet beat Cesaro this week. How in the hell does that make sense? Santino has been back for only a few weeks and he is already starting to annoy me again.
Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton Faced Off
These two were at each other's throats in the weeks preceding Night of Champions, which is why I found it strange that they hadn't crossed paths whatsoever since their match for Battleground was first announced. That being said, this final face-off was effective in getting viewers excited for their encounter for the WWE Championship on Sunday night. Bryan was good on the mic and Orton finally (finally!) insulted the fans to garner great heel heat, which was long overdue. Their subsequent brawl was excellently executed, as it enhanced the newfound aggressiveness of Orton when he decimated Bryan. Having Bryan's new fiance Brie Bella watch from afar was a nice touch.
There were several meaningless matches and stupid segments on this show that did absolutely nothing to build towards Battleground on Sunday, which alone was absolutely asinine. Although WWE announced a few new matches for the event, they failed to make the event feel important or worth buying. The main matches for the pending pay-per-view, but the undercard is desperately lacking. All in all, this go-home show was unsuccessful in making me want to buy Battleground, especially since Hell in a Cell is only three weeks away.
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