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Raw Redux (April 14th, 2014): Paige Starts Strong, Alicia Shines in Defeat & Two Dancing Divas Mix Things Up

Good day ladies and gents! Welcome to this weeks official Raw Redux, where I, Bobby, will take you on a journey through the Diva appearances that took place on last nights edition of Monday Night Raw. Last week was a turning point in the division, as NXT standout Paige (Also known as #WhereTheFckIsPaige), made her long awaited debut and proved the wait would be worth it as she captured the Divas Championship from AJ Lee in what will surely go down as one of the most memorable Diva moments in history.

Tonight, our Champion is here! If you don’t believe me, please enjoy the following graphic shown during the Raw Pre-Show as proof:

And before we get things started, I greatly recommend anyone who may have missed out on this video package which aired last Friday on SmackDown to definitely check it out below:

Now that that’s settled, let’s get started for tonight! We’ve got Paige in action against Alicia Fox, Emma and Santino Marella facing Layla and Fandango in addition to the Ravishing Russian, Lana!

First up, we hit the ring for Paige’s first official match as the reigning WWE Divas Champion:

*Screeeeeeeeeeeech* Out struts Paige, decked in a fancy leather jacket and with the Divas Championship strapped upon her shoulder. She looks ready for business, hopping onto the ring apron as we get a replay of what went down last week between she and AJ. Following the video rewind, we head back to the present day as Paige is seen posing with the title and getting ready for competition against Alicia Fox. The bell sounds as the two circle around and lock up. Alicia stiffly shoves her straight back a few times… as I continue to wish every week that JBL would leave commentary again and stop screaming in my ear. Paige shoves Fox right back and then scores with a huge headbutt! Alicia nails a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, followed by two standing versions! All three look like they hurt like hell as the crowd starts to boo her.

She yells for Paige to get out of her ring, eating up the crowd reaction and dragging the champ back in. “Come here pretty girl”, while a “Let’s Go Paige” chant breaks out! Northern Lights Bridge Pin gets a two count, bringing Fox to lock in a choke hold. The crowd claps in unison to support the Divas Champion in her time of need, but Alicia isn’t having it and she slams her right back down. Gasp! The crowd is legitimately booing her actions, to which she hilariously replies “Sorrrryyyy” as she points to each of them and only makes the booing grow! My ears are singing like doves on Christmas at actual fan-to-Diva interaction that I don’t know how to handle myself. Foxy fortunately doesn’t give me much time to stall, as she punches Paige into the corner a few times and begins getting in her face. The referee has to restrain her, which gives Paige enough time to… LORD… burst my whole eardrum out as she kicks Alicia in the stomach and causes perhaps the loudest sound I have ever heard a boot make when connecting to flesh. Hashtag #Pray4AliciasAbs.

Paige now starts to mount a comeback, decking Alicia with a few shots to the face and following it up with three clotheslines in a row! She scores with a dropkick and now looks to be… YES… she’s locking in that Scorpion Crosslock! The crowd is getting behind it as Alicia screams and tries to flurry away, but Paige locks in the arms and the crowd explodes! I could literally buy each member of this audience an assortment of their favorite Pop Vinyl’s because I’m so happy to hear such a pop right now. Alicia Fox quickly submits to the dangerous maneuver as Paige celebrates her first official win in the Age of Paige. All hail our Crosslock Messiah!~

And it’s now time for our second Divas match of the night as Santino (Note: I DO NOT mean he is a Diva… let’s not revisit that road again) and Emma stand in the ring for mixed tag action. Their opponents will be none other than Fandango and Layla, as the commentary team actually provides a Twitter based recap of Fandango’s break up with Summer Rae. Hey! Fandango and Layla actually even get a pre match interview… well, Fandango does. Layla just looks on and genuinely happy to be there, which in turn, makes me happy to see her there. And I’m not even going to lie, I really love Layla in this role. The match starts as the men take things down, before Fandango eventually tags into Layla. Emma charges with a Lou Thesz! She beats Layla down and locks in the dilEMMA from the corner, before heading up to the second rope. Fandango tries to distract her, but Santino takes him down to the outside and… score! A “Let’s Go Emma” chant starts, which we could probably hear better if commentary wasn’t screaming over it. Layla stops the chant by grabbing Emma’s leg and pulling her down before covering and getting the three. Oh my… not sure about that finish, but honestly whatever gets us two Diva feuds works for me.

Be sure to also check out the Ravishing Russian, Lana, as she makes her second appearance in Alexander Rusev‘s official debut tour, this time getting a glimpse of her own tron and theme:

And like last week, because I can somehow string this into talking about the Divas… please check out another video package on Adam Rose and let’s all continue to speculate if any NXT or even main roster women could be part of his entrance entourage! Weeeeeeee-Aye!

Hungry. Hungry. Hippos.

Thoughts: As always, let’s split this into three categories…

The Good:

Paige’s Kick and Scorpion Crosslock – Because they deserve their own spot on this list as soon as my hearing returns.

Paige vs. Alicia Overall – I absolutely love how this match was put together. Paige and Alicia Fox brought a certain stiffness to their moves and their actions with each other that we only really ever see when Alicia squares off with Nattie on Superstars or Main Event and I need more. These two didn’t look like they were just doing move after move or putting on an athletic showcase… they looked like they wanted to beat the sh*t out of each other. It wasn’t filled with flips and it didn’t need to be. Paige went in wanting to prove her win last week wasn’t a fluke, meanwhile Alicia, being a former Divas Champion, wanted to show this rookie that she couldn’t just waltz in and be atop the division without proving herself. Pure perfection and it’s really both so insanely refreshing and exciting to watch.

Crowd Reaction – I’m going to freely admit I’ve been worried all week as to how the non-Raw after Mania crowds were going to take to Paige if they weren’t familiar with her work in NXT. And I’ll even admit that when her theme hit, my fears immediately began to come true as I didn’t really hear much of an ovation. Thankfully though, it seemed like every second the match went on, the more and more they began to really get behind her. And in turn, it made them react to Alicia Fox! I don’t even know which I was more excited for to be honest because it just feels like it’s been so long since we’ve seen a Diva get booed like that on Raw — especially in a match that’s not even really built up around anything — and it goes to show that if you put any amount of true effort into one Diva, it’s going to rub off on the others who face them as long as they take advantage of it. This is the type of reason why I was so behind seeing how the crowd reacted to Paige last week because it’s going to end up helping the division as a whole and stopping the crowd from being silent during women’s matches. The only reason I feel it never translated off of AJ Lee to others for the most part is because they waited too long to insert her into the division. She was still over sure, but if she would’ve come in full force as a babyface during the Punk/Bryan/Kane days, it would’ve been huge for the girls at the time to have someone like that seeing active competition.

I also have to give it up to Alicia Fox. This girl is a workhorse and she makes every single person look incredible. Not that Paige needs any help or anything, but you just know she was probably chosen for this match because they know Paige needs to be seen as something special right now and Alicia Fox is the one who, other than AJ Lee, can easily make that happen on the heel side. She ate up every second she was out there with her vocal taunts, and it made the boos grow louder and louder. Paige’s insanely sharp kick that may have burst my eardrum got a nice “OOH” from them, and her Crosslock went over even better than I was anticipating it to. Overall it was just so genuinely nice to see a crowd who wasn’t foreign and who wasn’t post-Mania getting involved with the Divas and reacting to them instead of sitting on their hands. Seriously hoping this becomes a weekly feature and every Diva who’s out there capitalizes on it like these two did tonight. No matter what your thoughts on Paige are whether you’re a fan or not, having a Diva that is over and uses it to help those facing her see reaction as well is a positive for the entire division, and I absolutely loved seeing just that very thing come into play here tonight.

Two Divas Matches Again – Speaking of weekly features… this is now our third week that we’ve had two matches on Raw involving the Divas. I don’t want to jump the gun and say this is going to be a permanent thing, but I would love it to because we can definitely have two feuds going at once between Paige and whoever’s next in line, as well as Emma and Layla which could even transition to Summer/Layla after Rae’s done filming The Marine 4. The possibilities are huge right now and while I know our hopes are usually always let down, I’m really hopeful right now that we could be in a spot where the company finally sees the worth these women can be if you give them opportunities and segments each week to spotlight them. You guys know I love everyone on the cast of Total Divas, but it doesn’t have to be all about them for these matches and segments to mean something. I’m so happy the company has finally seen that and is putting their faith in a few different people right now who are either new or haven’t really been given much spotlight for a while.

Lana/Rusev Marketing – Love. Seriously, they are marketing Lana and Rusev to perfection right now. I was always hoping they were going to plug it as being this huge Bulgarian giant who looks like he could destroy anything in his path… yet is somehow controlled by this foreign woman and this foreign woman alone. She is the one who holds the power to when he releases his opponents from his finisher or does anything at all… the ONLY one. It’s perfect, and the fact they’re even giving her a titantron and actual theme music is already giving me hope she could be inserted into the division down the line. Lana is so special and so unique, and I truly think she’s going to be something big if those training videos are any indication of what she can do in the ring.

AJ Being Absent – I know a lot of fans wanted to see follow up between AJ and Paige after what happened last week, but personally I think not having her on the show is actually so much better because it plays into the whole “crazy” shtick where she never thought she was going to lose the title. She treated it as her child after all… and so I want to actually be able to sense she’s unstable right now and seeing her on the show would’ve probably done an okay job of that, but I think not having her on this week leaves your mind to think she’s not handling things well and her whole world has come crashing down at the hands of Paige. Because of that, she wasn’t ready and she wasn’t able to show her face to the world after what a big game she talked during her reign, and thus she’s went into hiding for the time being. Plus, it gives Paige a week to look strong because she needs to be built up as a huge threat right now, being so new (to non NXT watchers) and all, so I think it was better to have her just have a week to show the crowd who she is out there without getting attacked or anything. I’d love that to come next week or the week after that, sure, but just for tonight at least I’m completely cool with it. They did at least recap last week’s segment so AJ’s face was visible for a bit and she wasn’t completely taken out of everyone’s minds.

Stephanie McMahon – Is there really anything I need to say about her that hasn’t been said? Her segment with Kane this week (which I sadly couldn’t find video of) is absolute gold!

The Somewhat Good:

Paige Being Toned Down – I have so many mixed feelings on this because I 100% understand why they want to present Paige as a rookie type figure being that you had AJ Lee plow through the whole division only to lose to her. You don’t want to make it look like the Divas in Training are already better than the main roster, therefore you have to make Paige come off as being beat down for a majority of the match right now no matter who she faces. It’s just hard to watch it when you know Paige’s whole backstory and that she’s been doing this for nine years of her life, but I do notice they haven’t yet mentioned that fact which is further proof why I think they’re trying to hide Paige’s backstory for now so it comes off more like a plucky developmental talent that surprised AJ because she didn’t know what to expect and got ahead of herself last week thinking if she beat all the main roster Divas, no one from developmental is going to compare. So like I said, I understand it and I’m okay with it, but it’s just hard when you know this girl to be so dominant and vicious from her NXT matches, and you’ve seen her branded as this huge Anti-Diva force.

The Not So Good:

Lack of Backstory on Paige – Let me preface this by saying I hate complaining about anything right now because I feel like effort is starting to be put into the Divas and I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but if I had one thing to say I want more of… it’s backstory. It doesn’t even have to talk about her pre-WWE past other than mentioning her family wrestles as well, but I do at least want to see interviews or a video package on the actual show. I know she got an interview on the pre-show and I know apparently she got a video package on the app. Michael Cole even mentioned he interviewed her earlier in the day… so let’s see it! Paige is getting reactions right now based on how vicious she comes off in the ring and her overall uniqueness, and it ended up working out fine tonight despite any backstory being mentioned. I just hope we get some sort of look at her on Raw in the coming weeks so that fans who don’t follow NXT know what this girl is about beyond the ring and can see that she does have an actual personality and is a good speaker who can connect beyond just the moves she does.

And who knows? Maybe they’re saving that stuff for the UK Raw in a few weeks which would be absolutely brilliant. I’m not going to really write it off yet because it’s still early, but I’d love to see something. A few nights ago I went to an NXT show where Paige was there and cut a promo, basically asking if the fans really thought she was scared of AJ like she showed on Raw and asked us if we really believed she didn’t know all along what she was doing when she was out there “congratulating” the champ. That’s more of the kind of stuff I think would be great to witness on TV, but I can also see a fear in doing it because it kind of makes her look sneaky and depending on how you feel about AJ, it could come off as kind of heelish if it’s not executed right. It does provide an explanation as to why she was acting like she was last week though, so it could at least help in that front.

Finish to Mixed Tag – I’m happy we got a second Divas match, and I fully expected Layla to win… but that finish was not good. Summer’s kick to Nattie got a lot of complaints, but I think that was even better than just seeing Emma get pulled off the top rope and pinned while Santino was right there. I do have to say though, while I prefer Summer Rae overall, Layla fits this role so much better to me. It feels like a good thing for her rather than it did a setback for Summer, who will be a great force in the division which is going to need some solid heels for Paige to challenge in the coming months. Plus, it’s giving Layla more to do both on TV and in the ring (since she’s hardly been featured upon her return) instead of restricting Summer from getting to show all she can do being that she was stuck having to incorporate dance into her matches. I honestly think this switch works best for everyone in the long run, and hey, it even gives Emma someone new to square off with instead of always Summer. Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens when Rae returns, but as for now, I’m enjoying Fandango and Layla… just never let us see that finish again. Do your corner flipping stunner (please)!

Until next time, don’t be a lemon… be a rosebud!

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