Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Raw Redux (September 22nd, 2014): AJ Starts as She Means to Go On

*Plays violin* Paige lost the title you guys! :(

There’s no time to nurse the physical wounds of Night of Champions for our Divas or the emotional ones for us Nikki Bella and Paige fans as Raw was tumultuous last night! Following the absolutely fantastic Triple Threat match on Sunday, we have a new Divas Champion in AJ Lee and to be honest, I am happy WWE threw us yet another curveball with our coveted Divas. An ecstatic AJ appeared on Raw to take on Nikki Bella, whilst we also saw appearances from Brie Bella and Paige around about the same time. Throw in a Natalya vs Summer Rae match and additional appearances from Lana, Layla, Rosa Mendes and Stephanie McMahon and we have the makings of a decent episode of Raw. Did the Divas deliver like they did at Night of Champions? Let’s find out.

TO THE VIDEOS!

Already in the ring for our first segment is Summer Rae, posing with her fellow Slayer Layla and the two are pretending to take pictures using an imaginary camera. Do all the Divas have to be padded-cell material?! Summer’s smile quickly turns to a grimace as everyone’s favourite Dungeon Diva Natalya (unless you count Chyna‘s M-rated dungeon experiences) and she’s accompanied by a very touchy-feely Rosa Mendes.

Following a Total Divas recap of Natalya and Summer’s ridiculously epic roadside scrap, Summer takes to the microphone. She declares that she is the best looking Diva on the roster and Natalya is simply jealous of her. She says that although Summertime is over for everyone else, it is always Summertime for her and ‘Lay’. Ok then… whatever that means!

The bell rings and Nattie charges right at Summer. The cowardly Summer backs off and wraps herself between the ropes to get out of harms way as the referee tells a feisty Nat to back off. Taking advantage of the referee’s obstruction, Summer shoves Natalya right in the face before clobbering her with a sick spinning heel kick. Summer then mounts Nattie and hits several slaps to the face before kicking Nattie in the gut. Summer then applies a bodyscissors submission, a lock she transitions into a lotus lock. Natalya tries to pin Summer to force her way out, yet Summer manages to revert back to the bodyscissors and intensifies it with a front facelock to dish out more punishment.

Eventually, Natalya breaks free and she knocks the wind out of the Sizzling Slayer with a scoop slam, a move that she follows up by dropping Summer right on her face. Tal then runs right over Summer and hits a basement dropkick before more-or-less catching Summer with a discus clothesline. Nattie repeatedly knees Summer in the stomach next, yet she becomes distracted by a troublesome Layla on the apron. Summer tries to capitalize with a roll-up yet Natalya reverses it. It looks like it could be Sharpshooter time yet Layla tries one last attempt at scuppering Natalya’s chances. An unlikely hero in Rosa Mendes saves the day, pulling Layla from the apron, sending the London-born Diva crashing to the arena floor. Natalya locks in the Sharpshooter fully and Summertime turns into Loser time!

My eyes enter the Queendom next as the fantastically dastardly Stephanie McMahon shows off how incredibly savvy she is. With Dean Ambrose brawling with The Authority, instead of ordering the Lunatic Fringe out of the building, she says to lock him in a security-guarded room. At least then he’ll be restrained. Stephanie has learned from her families bazillion mistakes in the past at sending someone out of building, as they always end up coming back. Well, except Aksana. She never came back. Oh wait, that’s because she was released. Oops.

We next are witnesses to the majesty of Lana and Rusev. Before the video, an opportunistic Lana goads Mark Henry into a rematch from Night of Champions and the super-athlete Rusev betters Henry yet again. Mark Henry passes out as a wickedly seductive Lana looks on. As much as Lana’s mic work is getting a little same-old, same-old, she looks phenomenal and her acting is second-to-none. As for Rusev, his intensity is awesome. His selling is also spot on; everything he does is made to look believable. Anyway, this isn’t Rusev Dirt so let’s move on before I list another 60 reasons as to why he is an excellent wrestler.

Our final segments of the night are all contained in one neat video and we first get a glimpse of Nikki Bella pulling off her best ‘sexy pout face’ backstage. Wait, did WWE’s sound department mess up? Why is she strutting to JJ Bella‘s music? Oh no wait, that’s the Total Divas theme song too…

We return from commercial and Nikki Bella makes her entrance. It’s just dawned on me that now the Bellas have split, we’ll never seem them shake their asses out of time from one another on their way to the ring anymore. Womp womp.

Nikki takes to the mic and she berates Brie, blaming her and her words in a Night of Champions backstage interview for causing her not to have her mind fully focused on winning the Divas Championship. Brie and her autotune-tastic theme song enter the mix and Brie is not happy. Brie blasphemes that Nikki is acting totally pathetically. Nikki says that this isn’t about her loss (it was about 10 seconds ago goldfish!) and it’s about how Brie has never supported her. Brie said that she’s simply tired of Nikki making up garbage about her (here, here sister) and that’s not going to stand there and listen to it anymore. Nikki declares Brie an embarrassment and she demands that Brie drop the Bella surname so that she can be ‘THE Nikki Bella’.

Childish and petty yet I loved that part.

Brie defends herself by saying that Bella is as much her name as it Nikki’s and she won’t give it up. Nikki thinks Brie could take the Bryan surname before she insults the YES! man. Having heard more than enough, Brie slaps the eggs out of Nikki’s ovaries and starts beating her ass. She goes for the Yes! Lock, yet Nikki escapes. Nikki won’t escape from AJ though, who enters the arena.

After some more adverts, we return to the arena to see that Paige has joined the commentary theme. It’s not even Thursday yet Paige is throwing it back with her classic black attire – awesome!

The bell sounds and AJ begins the match by working over Nikki’s arm. Next, AJ hits a headscissor takeover, corner clothesline and double neckbreaker combination which net her a two count. Nikki gains momentum in a major way, decking AJ with a hard clothesline whilst Paige sits pretty in Sarcasm City. It’s near Parts Unknown.

Nikki gets a two count and then decides to utilise the strangest submission ever. AJ’s stomach gets clamped between the middle rope and Nikki’s ASSets. Wouldn’t Nikki’s other two raised twin areas be more effective pain delivering tools? Nikki kicks AJ outside before throwing her right into Paige at the commentary desk. Just because she can. Paige calls Nikki a sweetheart (haha yes!) as Nikki throws AJ back in the ring.

The Busty Bella locks AJ in a spinning chokehold which has AJ trapped for a while, yet AJ breaks free with an arm drag. The momentum far from shifts though as AJ walks slap bang into a stiff big boot. Nikki changes tactic and goes after AJ’s arm, applying the same cross armbreaker that she debuted at Night of Champions. AJ wriggles and squirms like one of The Boogeyman‘s worms (most random simile ever) yet she eventually gets Nikki to release the hold. Nikki still keeps the offense going though as she sends AJ crashing to the mat Alabama Slam style. Even though the punishment keeps coming, AJ kicks out yet again! Good stuff here.

Nikki works over AJ in the corner with some shoulder thrusts and looks to get a run up to hit a third. Nikki charges yet AJ jolts to the top rope. AJ then resourcefully locks in the Black Widow and just like that, Nikki has no choice but to tap. AJ and Paige stare down as the wraps things up for Raw.

Thoughts: Let’s address the action chronologically and kick things off with Natalya vs Summer Rae. The match was short yet sweet and it’s obvious that these two have great chemistry. I often feel that although 10/10 in the charisma department, Summer is often overrated in the ring, yet last night, everything was on point. Natalya was crisp and reliable as always and she didn’t utilise all of her cliched moves in this match, which I liked even more.

Onto the secondary characters in Layla and Rosa and both impressed me. Layla was LayCool-esque comedy gold. Her antics hit the mark and she sold the apron bump to perfection. Rosa playing the touchy-feely friend was brilliant and who would have thought that I would be enjoying a Natalya/Rosa unrequited lesbian love/”I’ve been to rehab and I’m misreading the signals” storyline.

The Bellas story arch improved upon recent weeks, yet I was still underwhelmed with Brie and Nikki’s acting. Nikki, as always, performed better, yet I wasn’t overly impressed with the script writing for them both. These two are meant to be pissed at each other the writers make them say adjectives like “horrible” and “toxic”. We need more “you absolute skank” and “you total bitch”. More references to Total Divas dialogue would have been cool.

I can’t really complain about the match though as it was good for the time they had. Nikki throwing AJ into Paige was really nice and Nikki’s expanding moveset is also refreshing to see. I would have liked AJ to show-off a comeback set of moves as she tends to quickly hit the Black Widow ‘unexpectedly’ and then that’s it yet meh, she looked good coming off a PPV title win.

As for Paige no longer loving AJ, I’m glad WWE have went down this path instead of continuing the mind games. Paige has tried that before and it’s ended with her losing the title again. so now she’s in full-on angry goth mode and she doesn’t give a damn. She wants the title back and she’s going to let her wrestling do the damage and not rely on words. I like that.

Even though Paige and AJ’s feud is continuing, I still think AJ winning clean here was the wrong move. Surely, AJ vs Nikki for the title will happen down the line and then that will eventually lead to AJ vs Stephanie. Nikki losing now bills her as less of a threat when that happens later on down the line. Either a botched Paige interference or Brie returning to get even more slap-happy would have been better in my opinion.

Until next time!

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