If I was a WWE Superstar, I would be absolutely LIVID with that opening match last night. Why? Because you have two of the better workers in the ring to open the show in the form of Dean Ambrose and Daniel Bryan. That was the opener folks. The bar was set high.

Not to be outdone though, in Memphis, you get to enjoy… Canadian-Italian Elvis. And, a matching Elvis Cobra!

Holy epic craziness Paul Heyman. That was some rant he went on, presumably mocking Punk’s passionate promos, but I wasn’t feeling it. Ryback and Son of Perfect looked super bored. And, speaking of Hennig Jr? Sorry, but having that guy call Big E. a rookie is just… wrong. It’s one thing if it’s coming from an older established star, but hearing it come from Axel… feels off. Would be a heck of a motivator to have Langston grab that strap though.

And, of course, that was a solid opening segment. Show was excellent on the mic, I felt. One of his better recent rants. He almost came off like a 7 foot version of Stone Cold. Having it say “live via satellite” I assumed it was a ruse. These sometimes are. But the seeds are being planted that there are those within WWE who don’t like what Trips and Steph are up to, and who will lend aid when they can. Call it the insurgency.

And, I cannot help but wonder about the other seeds being planted for the result of Sunday’s WWE title match. They keep stressing that there will be a winner. But, they have purposely only said there will be a winner. Not that the champ will be one of Orton or Bryan, just that there will be a winner. I am probably reading too much into this, but I wouldn’t put it past WWE to have some swerve here. Maybe not, but they are being vague enough.

Speaking of foreshadowing of HIAC…Cole mentioned it on the broadcast of how you just know that Del Rio would target Cena’s newly repaired arm. All the more reason I think WWE is taking a decent gamble with John’s return… or is this a set up to knock him out again? Have him take the loss via the submission and then run with the storyline that his injury was aggravated and he’s out for 2-3 months? Would seem to be crazy booking, but at this point I wouldn’t put anything past WWE Creative.

Can I say I really am enjoying a face turn for Big E. Langston? He played what I thought was a really good heel sidekick, but I think he could do something good as a face too. Certainly sets up a new opponent for Axel, and keeps new blood around the IC belt.

I can’t say enough positive about the Ambrose/Bryan match-it was a heck of a way to open the show. The only slightly down takeaway? It used to be a big deal to beat a member of The Shield. Now, not so much. Also semi-surprised that neither Rollins nor Reigns interjected. Having DB in the opening match, I was suspicious that there would be a cheap outcome involving all three of The Shield with Cody and Dustin coming to the rescue setting up a 6 man match…but it wasn’t in the cards.

We did see such a move with Big E against the Heyman Boys. And college student Vicki restarts it as a tag match with Punk and Langston. Nice match. Not a bad way to get Langston some good face pops too. And, if a Survivor Series match is in the offing, Punk has at least one solid team member now. Really solid. Like. A redwood.

Truth? Pimpng for WWE shop? Hilarious. I want me a John Cena skateboard. No… really…

And… how can I forget the Shawn/Hunter/Stephanie segment from earlier? Classic Shawn. How he got to basically say he noticed what was going on and that those running it now were being not fun, that it wasn’t fans who changed but HHH and Stephanie. The voices, the mannerisms, he is always a pleasure to watch as he works the stick. I’ve believed for a while, before HBK was confirmed to be back on TV, that he would be at least part of the counter to the Power Couple-and I believe they are just setting that up. Even if he ends up off TV for a bit after HIAC, I have a feeling it will be done in a way where there’s an easy reason to draw him back in. With word of Vince scrambling for a big draw in New Orleans, could Shawn be a part of that draw? I wouldn’t write it off.

Another one I am really enjoying right now? Cesaro. Not so much the Real Americans, though they are working as a team right now, but Antonio is just getting over in his own way. Giant swings? What’s not to love about those impressive shows of strength.

Kudos to Cole for pointing out another plot hole of sorts. The Usos, having already won a match for number 1 contender spot, should not have to do it again, but are. He called it favoritism toward The Shield. I say if they’d been clever, they could have argued that they were number one contenders to The Shield, but since they’ve dropped the straps, the contenders are re-set. As a fan of good tag team action, I think fans win no matter what, so that’s a plus. And, then again, having that non-finish? Surely leading to a three-way match for the titles on Sunday. Would have been nice in the cage, but still should be a good match.

And, wrapping it all up, of course, the contract signing. You know when these happen, it will be an event, since these never go off smooth and clean. HBK continues to show disapproval about what’s going on. Orton with what I felt was a weak promo, especially overshadowed by Hunter’s own toward Daniel. And, to cap it all off? A Big Show driving a big rig into the arena. Man’s gotta score points for getting it out there without hitting much more than the garbage cans, right?

All in all, a pretty solid RAW leading up to Hell In A Cell. Nice build up, compelling stories, and eager anticipation for the payoff on Sunday.

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