Raw Reaction: July 15 episode

Brad Maddox addresses the WWE Universe on Raw, July 15, 2013.

Brad Maddox addresses the WWE Universe on Raw, July 15, 2013. Courtesy WWE.com

Turnbuckle Radio co-hosts Brian gives his thoughts and analysis of the July 15 episode of WWE Raw, which came to us from a raucous Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, N.Y..

B: The first thing I have to mention about this edition of Raw is the Brooklyn crowd. They were red-hot all night, reminiscent of the post-Wrestlemania Raw crowd (which, perhaps not coincidentally, was held nearby in New Jersey). Crazy chants (“Randy Savage”), massive pops (Daniel Bryan), and arena-wide Fandago-ing to a degree we haven’t seen since, yup, New Jersey.If all crowds could be like this, there wouldn’t be a bad episode of Raw. A bosterious audience not only elevates mediocre matches, but inspire even the best wrestlers to take their game to another level.

Match of the night, of course, has to go to RVD/Y2J. With two old pros like this, you can count on them to put on a show, and with 20 or so minutes to work with, they delivered a PPV-quality match on free TV. RVD certainly has not lost a step. My only question is, can he continue to take the physical exertion he did the last two nights consistently over the course of weeks and months. He’s no spring chicken any more.

Randy Orton is on fire right now. I’ll confess – I’m an Orton mark, so I’m biased, but the fans were going nuts at the conclusion of his battle with Fandango (which might have been the second-best match of the night on a very good card). He seems rejuvenated, and delivered two spectacular-looking moves with a top-rope superplex and a devastating RKO.

Brad Maddox may have got into this business as a wrestler, but he’s got a mean set of acting chops. His subtle mannerisms and expressions are well-timed and hilarious. Watch him closely, even when he’s in the background of a segment, and he’s consistency reacting to the proceedings and remaining engaged, even though there might not be a single eye in the arena on him. He was at his finest this week with Cena, asking a ringside photographer to get a shot of him and the champ, and then striking a pose and pointing to the camera – all while Cena continues to cut a promo. Those who don’t like Maddox in the GM role just don’t get it. He’s going to be great, so long as he gets fan reactions.

To flip Cena’s own catchphrase on him, Daniel Bryan’s time is now. He is hugely over. As much was evidenced by the monstrous crowd reaction on Raw, but that was no isolated pop – a la Fandango – D-Bry’s been generating like responses in arena coast to coast for months now. So to put Bryan in the SummerSlam title match against Cena is a no-brainer. Not only do I think Bryan can get a good match out of Cena, but I think Cena will gladly put him over. Write it down: new champ after SummerSlam.

It looks like WWE is finally turning Mark Henry face. I’m not sure if that was in their plans, or if it has just been willed by the fans, who have been solidly in his corner since Henry’s genius faux-retirement promo. We want to cheer for this guy, and after a face-ish promo on Raw, and the subsequent beatdown by The Shield, it looks like we’re going to finally get that chance.

But that presents another problem: There’s way too many heels turning face in way too short a span of time right now. With the crowd going apeshit for Cody Rhodes attacking Damien Sandow, it looks as if Goldust’s little bro is going face. AJ and Big E turning on Ziggler made Dolph’s face turn official (even though every last detail of his persona screams heel), and the same can be said for CM Punk, with Paul Heyman betraying him at Money in the Bank. Throw in the fact that we’ve already got faces who should be heels (Miz), main-event bad guys on the IR (Big Show), and upper-card babyfaces about return to action (Koffi Kingston), and the hero/villain ratio is hugely tilted. So we’re either going to get some heel turns (Orton?) coming quickly, or more face vs. face rivalries, like Cena/Bryan.

I said after MITB that I didn’t like Heyman turning on Punk (I know it’s pro rasslin’, but I still like some logic), but on Raw, the best mouthpiece in the business did a pretty damn good job explaining his motives for doing so. Punk/Brock Lesnar should be a good feud, and I’m assuming we can slot that one in for SummerSlam. Let’s just hope Lesnar doesn’t literally kill Punk before then. In pro wrestling, it’s your responsibility to make sure you don’t injure your opponent. Some wrestlers injure others because they’re just not very good (ie: the infamous Goldberg kick that effectively ended Bret Hart’s career). Then there are wrestlers who seriously hurt their opponents because they’re just careless. Brock is the latter, and he’s been this way his whole career. I cringed when he F5ed Punk through the announce table. There’s a reason why that was such a jaw-dropping spot: it was real.

Great episode all around. Intriguing plot developments, great matches and inspired promos with nearly no filler — and in the era of the three-hour Raw, it’s rare you can say that. The crowd put this one over the top, but this episode could have come to us from Corpus Christi and still delivered the goods. Looking forward to next week.

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