Tonight, as ever, we find ourselves presented with a new episode of Monday Night Raw. Last week’s episode followed the WWE special Pay-Per-View event “Payback.” “Payback” was a good show, but, its name not withstanding, not all payback was had, and tonight we find ourselves presented with more unfinished business. It is the author’s hope that the following highlights of last week’s Raw will help illuminate what’s at stake this evening.
- Alberto Del Rio was a hero going into last week’s show, but he became a villain for kicking Dolph Ziggler in the head repeatedly. He drove home this point by calling the fans cowards, which is one step away from insulting the local sports team. CM Punk, now a hero coming back from a hiatus to defeat Chris Jericho at “Payback,” interrupted Del Rio. Before that, CM Punk was last seen dumping the (fake) ashes of the (fictional, but actually dead) father of the Undertaker (not actually an undertaker) on the Undertaker before their Wrestlemania match. Part of watching wrestling is to just accept that the motivations and morals of a character may change at any point. At least Del Rio explained that he hates the fans now.
- Wade Barrett lost the first match of the night to a returning Christian. Barrett’s character, the British man who threatens to hit people with his elbow then misses and loses the match, is not working. At this point it might be better to make him a chimney sweep who threatens to sweep his opponents under the mat. That way, he could still lose every match but at least he would be wearing a top hat.
- During the match between Sheamus and the team of Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes (calling themselves “Rhodes Scholars”), Jerry Lawler said, “If you can’t take the heat, don’t tickle the dragon.” It is true that tickling a dragon is a bad idea, and that it would end in burning, but no one should say that ever again. But the Rhodes Scholars won the match, proving that sometimes two people are greater one, which is usually not actually true in WWE.
- AJ Lee gloated about winning the Diva’s Championship over Kaitlyn until executive vice president Stephanie McMahon interrupted to demand AJ act like a Diva’s Champion. This is a positive storyline for the women’s division because it’s the first women’s storyline in at least a year.
- WWE Champion John Cena stood in the ring to talk. Somewhere between saying “The champ is here” the first time and saying “The champ is here” the second time, he rambled on about defeating Ryback at “Payback,” and about how much he loves everyone and is ready to keep wrestling. His shirt also said “The champ is here” with an arrow pointing down to the championship belt, or, his penis. Mostly, he served as a way of getting to the most important part of the night.
- The most important part of the night was when Mark Henry came out. On Sunday Mark Henry took to Twitter and teased the fans into believing he was possibly going to announce his retirement. Henry is forty-two years old and has recently been too injured to perform, so a retirement seemed possible. There is always doubt with wrestling though. Even the backstage shots of Henry tearing up and hugging other wrestlers seemed like they could have been staged. He walked down the entrance ramp and with tears rolling down his face, shook John Cena’s hand, then spoke from the heart about his career and needing to spend more time with his wife and children. Henry fought through his own tears to thank the fans, and to thank John Cena. Then Henry moved as if to embrace Cena only to pick him up and slam him to the ground and proclaim, “I still got a lot left in the tank.” Henry then called the fans “puppets” for believing him.
- Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Vince McMahon took turns attempting to convince Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox to listen to them. The whole thing was a convoluted mess that needs a flowchart to explain. Triple H is COO, Stephanie is Executive Vice President, and Vince is CEO. While Vickie is the Supervising Manager of Raw, and Brad Maddox is the Assistant to the Supervising Manager of Raw and also the Assistant General Manager of Raw. The worst part of all this is that there isn’t a wrestling match between any of these guys, just a mind-bending Ouroboros of conflicting authority, which, if left unchecked, might very well end up cracking a rift in the WWE Universe big enough to destroy it and end wrestling forever.
- The show wound down with Alberto Del Rio facing CM Punk in a match that set up the show’s conclusion. Del Rio, being the villain he is, tried to walk away from the match and take the loss. But Dolph Ziggler, now a hero for getting kicked in the head, attacked Del Rio from behind. This was followed by former WWE champion, UFC champion, and current Jimmy Johns enthusiast, Brock Lesnar, being confronted by CM Punk. Brock picked up a microphone, then assaulted Punk instead of speaking. Since Lesnar usually acts like one of those draw-string dolls, endlessly repeating various versions of the line “I’m a killing machine that is going to kill you,” his cutting to the chase here was actually a refreshing surprise. His assault kicked off a feud between CM Punk and Lesnar wherein CM Punk now requires payback, but unfortunately for him there are no more shows called “Payback” this year.
Brian Pickett is a writer living in Boston. He hopes you enjoy jokes, because he likes to make them. You can follow him on Twitter @BrianPickett.