Seattle Put On One Badass WWE RAW

The WWE is gearing up for the final installment of its 2013 pay-per-view action this Sunday night with Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (TLC), featuring mainstays John Cena and Randy Orton squaring off in the main event.

The match at TLC between Cena and Orton will unify the World Heavyweight and WWE Championships for the first time since WWE split its product into separate RAW and SmackDown brands in 2002. With talent frequently jumping back-and-forth from each of WWE’s flagship shows, the need for two championships is no longer necessary.

You, the casual wrestling observer, were probably not all that excited about TLC as you watched the go-home edition of RAW on Monday night. Despite the fact that you would have to dish out another $44.95 to watch the event live (for those keeping track at home, that would run your tab to just over $554 if you purchased every PPV this year), Cena vs. Orton in a title match, even considering the unification wrinkle, just isn’t all that exciting these days. Both wrestlers have had essentially the same character for the better part of the past decade, and their feud heading into TLC was rather brief and disjointed.

If you stayed up for all three hours and change of RAW, though, your opinion might have changed.

WWE’s go-home RAW output is usually a mixed bag of successes and utter failures, but on Monday night they – along with an enthusiastic Seattle, Washington crowd – delivered an excellent PPV-selling final 20 minutes.

A frenzied crowd

Okay so this one is slightly out of WWE’s control. They could, however, continue to make it a point to place important pre-and-post PPV RAWs in locations that have a reputation for producing great crowds; Seattle, Washington qualifies as one of those locations, as the crowd on Monday night helped make the closing segment of RAW one of the year’s best.

The final segment set up with Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and a bunch of notable past WWE champions (along with the Great Khali, Jack Swagger, and The Miz) joining Cena and Orton for a “Championship Ascension Ceremony.” (WWE loves to use strange words like “ascension” and “abeyance” whenever the opportunity presents itself.)

During Triple H’s super-important ascension ceremony introduction speech, the home-state, Daniel Bryan-loving crowd began to make itself heard, loudly chanting “DANIEL BRYAN” while interrupting Triple H, and eventually serenading Bryan with “YES!” chants until he returned the favor.

Bryan has been as over as any wrestler in the business thanks in part to the popularity of his “YES/NO” gimmick as well as the 18-second loss he suffered to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28. That was magnified on Monday night and Bryan was clearly relishing the attention in that sort of you-guys-are-probably-pissing-off-my-boss-but-please-don’t-stop kind of way.

Meaningful, on point promos

Randy Orton was on the mic first; while he isn’t at the top of WWE’s food chain in terms of mic-work, he did a solid job selling the match while still putting up with the pro-Bryan crowd in the background.

Orton criticized Cena for losing his “ruthless aggression” and failing to take out The Viper on the previous week’s edition of RAW, and also brought up his own past successes against some of the superstars gathered on the stage like Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels.

It was during Cena’s promo, however, when the segment started to hit a high point. It starts off a little slow with Cena using Bryan – cue the “YES” chants – to contrast the fact that the sub-6-foot indie wrestler has had to work for everything while Orton, the athletic freak-of-nature/son of a wrestler, has had everything handed to him. It picks up when Cena starts toeing the line between wrestling storylines and the actual truth, touching on how Orton was babied coming up through WWE, how he’s had problems inside and outside the ring, and how he’s never reached his potential.

Cena closes out by putting over the likes of Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, and Bryan before offering his hand to Orton while simultaneously letting him know that everyone is tired of his excuses.

Fisticuffs ensued.

While Cena is more than capable of producing quality mic-work on a consistent basis, too often his promos devolve into a series of poorly executed jokes and off-topic ramblings. This time he remained on point and did a great job of not only putting over the match but also legitimizing the Cena-Orton feud.

Two minutes of controlled chaos

After Cena’s promo, he and Orton shook hands briefly before Orton threw the first punch leading to a brawl. The cast of superstars in the ring broke up the fight, taking Cena and Orton to separate corners. The following events then occurred:

Orton shoves CM Punk; CM Punk punches Orton; Triple H throws CM Punk to the ground; CM Punk punches Triple H; Shawn Michaels Superkicks CM Punk; Bryan gives Michaels the Running Knee; Orton tries to RKO Bryan but is pushed into Stephanie McMahon, Triple H gives Orton the Pedigree; show fades to black with Cena, Kane, and Triple H helping McMahon up and the crowd still chanting “DANIEL BRYAN.”

While this type of fast-paced action is entertaining at a superficial level, it was also meaningful both for the TLC pay-per-view and for potential long-term storylines.

Cena ending up on the side of Triple H and McMahon – The Authority – teases that Cena may now join their side. Randy Orton ending up as the last one down on the mat suggests he might come out victorious on Sunday. Neither are necessarily likely to happen at TLC – especially Cena turning heel and/or joining The Authority — but WWE is at least teasing at the possibility.

Further, CM Punk is now set up for a feud with Triple H while Bryan and Michaels are, potentially, set to do battle. The WWE was able to craft a final two-minute stretch that was both entertaining and well-thought-out, leaving them with a number of possible directions at both TLC and down the road.

Overall, this episode of RAW – Slammy Awards mixed throughout – didn’t seem all that promising at the onset. However, WWE was able to close with an excellent final segment, and you have to give credit where it’s due.

Dustin Palmateer

Dustin Palmateer

Dustin Palmateer

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