Hello and welcome to The Raw Spotlight, my weekly blog in which I discuss the three Raw segments that have left the biggest impression on me as a viewer. Some of these I will applaud, others I will hate with a passion, sometimes my reaction will have more to do with asking the right questions about a storyline rather than expressing an opinion. Major angles will undoubtedly make their way to the Spotlight, but my attention may also be grabbed by a small detail in a seemingly insignificant segment. Whatever the case, these are the three Raw moments that did not go unnoticed.
3. RYBACK’S “I HATE AVERAGE” INTERVIEW
Ryback’s new gimmick apparently revolves around intimidation, and the way I see it, it is very much based on the concept of a middle school bully. In Big Hungry’s own words, “he hates average”, which is what he calls the entire WWE locker room. In other words, Ryback is no longer focused on simply beating people up and now tends to invest more in dominant demeanor. As part of that character tweak, Ryback has altered his speech, abandoning his aggressive tone for a cocky one. Less growls and heavy breathing, more arrogant laughs. It does resemble Batista’s heel turn in 2009 in some ways, but WWE seems to be ignoring a crucial detail. In contrast to the former world champion, Ryback has not really established himself as a force to be reckoned with, and let’s face it, the Universe does not take him as seriously as the higher-ups would hope.
When The Human Wrecking Ball was initially pushed to the skies, he used to go out of his way to emphasize just how vicious and dangerous he was. Ryback’s current attitude speaks, “I don’t even need to show you. You know what I’m talking about.” And here lies the issue – we don’t. His one major victory in the last few months, the one over Chris Jericho at Money In The Bank, featured a go-home sequence far too disappointing to really showcase Ryback’s dominance, and I need not remind you that prior to that event, he was on quite the PPV losing streak. This gimmick would serve as a great breath of fresh air to the character of someone reputable, but the fans do not buy Ryback as a viable main-eventer, which is what WWE keeps trying to present him as.
This segment has earned its spot on the Raw Spotlight for Ryback’s latest gimmick change, which I feel has fallen flat.
2. EVA MARIE’S FIRST TV APPEARANCE
And here is another segment which simply did not work. While the aforementioned Ryback interview features a concept which feels out of place, this week’s edition of Miz TV has made the Raw Spotlight for its blatant lack of ideas. Its goal was to promote the Total Divas reality show, which premieres this Sunday on E!… and that was pretty much it. Whoever wrote this did so neglecting any creative direction for the segment itself, focusing only on the need to mention the upcoming program and to introduce Eva Marie, WWE’s newest diva, in the most generic way possible.
Considering that Miz TV has always been about controversy and about asking the uncomfortable questions, why was it chosen as an appropriate platform to advertise Total Divas? Were all the performers brought out just to get their names mentioned? And did Miz make Jerry “The King” Lawler get in the ring just so that he could get slapped by Eva Marie? Because that was when the segment concluded. These several minutes came across as staged as wrestling programming rarely does, because even though much of Raw may feel contrived, there is almost always an understandable (be it barely) motivation for the characters to act as they do. Why was The Miz the one to promote Total Divas? Why did he need Lawler? And what was Eva Marie’s beef with The King? I never really believed the actions of the people involved, because the only thing I could see was people who knew they had to hype a reality series.
This is when we get to Eva Marie. Last night’s Raw may have featured the laziest debut in the last decade, with the female wrestler declaring, “You know, Jerry, I don’t like how you’re looking at me. My name is Eva Marie and I’m here to make name for myself.” Heels do not get more cliched than this. The performance was that of someone who knew she had to act “mean”, without being given any particular character direction. So if we have to summarize this segment, Eva Marie is not a very nice person. Oh, and yeah, Total Divas airs this Sunday. Don’t forget it.
1. DANIEL BRYAN vs. ANTONIO CESARO
Daniel Bryan can make any opponent look good, but when that opponent is an excellent wrestler himself, the result is pure wrestling gold. Seeing Bryan and Cesaro battle it out in a 16-minute match on Monday Night Raw is a dream come true for fans of Ring of Honor, where these guys’ careers took off. Both of them deserve to be in the spotlight (pun intended) and their bout last night illuminated their extraordinary abilities. It was an extremely competitive match, where both men got an almost equal amount of time dominating each other. The build-up to every single maneuver had the audience on the edge of their seats, and its execution was always flawless.
The length of this contest was a clear sign of confidence on behalf of WWE in both performers, with Cesaro getting more ring time than Bryan’s final opponent for the night, Ryback. I am glad that these two athletes are actually being recognized for their talent and it makes me hopeful about the company’s future, because whoever says the majority of the audience appreciates someone large more than quality wrestling, needs to pay more attention to the “This is Awesome” chants.
Daniel Bryan, of course, deserves the biggest props for putting on three consecutive matches, and more importantly, maintaining a consistent quality. The need to steal the show overcomes any exhaustion.