'WWE Raw:' Who's Afraid of Seth Rollins?

'Real Housewives,' rasslin,' and a ridiculous main event take center stage in Atlanta

Seth Rollins and Randy Orton face off during 'WWE Monday Night Raw.' Credit: WWE

As was made very clear by Big Show's awkward references to "Hot Atlanta" and Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes' ornamental inclusion, last night's Raw did indeed take place in the Peach State's proud capital city. And convenient as it would be to suggest all three hours were the pits, that would be a fuzzy recounting of events.

For those who like their action between the bells, Raw offered its most filler-free installment in recent memory, buoyed by unexpected booking swerves that kept anticipation high from opening bout to main event. Naturally, not everything was executed without giving a concerted viewer pause – or compelling them to fast-forward. But in the interest of providing a service to you readers, I've broken the action down into five essential takeaways. And, as a bonus, a bunch of stuff that may have taught us nothing, but gave everyone something to tweet about.

Here's what I learned from the October 13 edition of Monday Night Raw.

5. Chrisley! Chrisley! Chrisley!
Did you know season two of USA's reality series Chrisley Knows Best premieres tonight at 10 pm? Of course you did, because: A) I just told you, and B) If you dared skip ahead through the gauntlet of ads and extended teasers thrown your way throughout Raw, Chrisley himself showed up at ringside and offered some exclusive insight about what hijinks he, wife Julie and kids Chase and Savannah will be drumming up for the millions – and millions – of the Chrisley clan's fans. And hey, Jerry Lawler "could listen to that guy all night!" A la Kathie and Hoda's disastrous Brooklyn cameo, the appearance wasn't purely promotional (Julie's battle with breast cancer was also acknowledged), but it mostly stunk.

4. Let's Get Physical
Those who believe that actual wrestling should make up the majority of airtime had to be thrilled with Monday night's show, which featured bouts between Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton, Jack Swagger and Seth Rollins, Big Show and Rusev, plus a tag contest with John Cena, Dean Ambrose, the Usos and Gold/Stardust. We got mid-air RKOs, flying elbows off the top rope outside of the ring, reverse-springboard German suplexes and other highlight-reel spots spread generously over several matches. In fact, the only contest that, regrettably, wasn't mapped out over several momentum changes was the main event between Cena and Ambrose, despite the supposedly dire stakes (more on that in a bit). Buzz-killing mid-fight commercial breaks and occasionally hazy rooting interests – still tough to get behind Swagger, and can we really cheer Show and Mark Henry ganging up on Rusev? – aside, it was a fun night for those who'd rather the wrestling tell its own story.

3. I Miss Paul Heyman
We all know Brock Lesnar's around on a limited basis, and have embraced the idea of a World Heavyweight Champion who lurks in the shadows. And, as discussed, last night's Raw was more about exhibiting the roster's talent and widening a couple key storylines than ceding the floor to Miz TV and other sideshow segments. But it would be nice to see Lesnar's legendary advocate reappear, both to sate any growing unease with his client's disappearing act and arouse our attention like the true emcee he is.

In a different era, Paul Heyman might have been a ringmaster for traveling carnivals and attractions. In 2014, he's the Raw road show's mightiest mouthpiece and, ultimately, an advocate for our total viewership. Hopefully, with or without Brock's participation at Hell in a Cell (available, of course, via the WWE Network two Sundays from now for just NINE-NINETY-NINE), Paul E. will show up next Monday and remind the upper card just how petty their squabbles seem to he and the Beast.

2. Where's My Ten Dollars?
You've got to hand it to Raw's brain trust: Not since Swagger and Zeb Colter managed to turn all those patriotic frowns upside down has the show taken hold of something cynical and turned it into a populist catchphrase.

When HHH interrupts a sparring Cena and Ambrose to talk Hell in a Cell, declaring it an event that "all of you can see on the WWE Network," he made sure to take that perfect pause after "for just" to let the live audience dutifully respond, "$9.99." Who knows how the company's simultaneously self-effacing and subversive tactic to rally support for their fledgling streaming operation translates to new subscriptions. (My guess: It must be working.) What's undeniable is the way they constantly stay one step ahead of their consumers and, even if the on-air product can be inconsistent, do tend to emerge pretty solid about what's best for business.

1. Who's Afraid of Seth Rollins?
Let's forget for a second that Cena and Ambrose's "Contract on a Pole" (a head-scratching stipulation if there ever was one) main event, which was originally slated for Hell in a Cell, concluded with a bit of a whimper. It's probably also best to defer judgment on yet another hurried Cena vs. Orton feud until we see how it plays out (plus, both men have been at top form in the ring of late). The real question is: How excited are we for Ambrose vs. Rollins? Or, more to the point, was Rollins really looming as such an enticing prize for whoever snagged that clipboard?

As the war between Ambrose and Cena intensified, it's become less-and-less clear what they're fighting for. In recent weeks, Rollins' in-ring work has amounted to a squash match here or there against the likes of Kofi Kingston, a lot of running and hiding behind Orton and Kane and, last night, narrowly edging out Swagger thanks to a handful of tights. Rollins' M.O. has been cowardice, and it helped distinguish him as an unambiguous heel. But with Lesnar not around as schoolyard bully, Rollins would benefit from some added mystique, especially if he's the precious target of WWE's marquee act and top young face. Otherwise, it's a long fall from the top of that pole.

Below the Belt:

  • I'm intrigued by this Orton/Rollins tension, although I'm not sure about the "Here, I just helped humiliate your opponent, take that!" technique of intimidation.
  • Lana been abusing the bronzer much?
  • Also, what was with that belated Braves diss?
  • Rusev does not crush on the mic.
  • Cesaro not so fluent in quality commentary.
  • Layla took some really solid bumps.
  • Loved mixing it up with the opening match.
  • Not so into that new Ambrose shirt.
  • That Bray promo had me up until the fog machine.
  • Time to film some pretaped skits with Miz and Mizdow out to dinner with Maryse, shopping at the mall, etc.
  • Gotta love Steph and HHH placing the old Trading Places bet.
  • So, this has been a thing on social media since Orton and Ziggler's theatrical RKO moment.
  • Best line of the night: Stephanie, taunting Cena and Ambrose's "blustering back and forth": "Oh, you're the veteran, oh you're unstable…that's just talk."
  • Worst line of the night: Oh, Sheamus: "Take two brogue kicks and call me in the morning."
  • Fan Gesture of the Night: The man feigning choking in the front row while Show and Rusev labored on the outside.
  • In case you fast-forwarded through commercials: Hate Chrisley? You'll love Benched! Also, Subway ads have something to do with bacon-strip eyebrows and Michael Strahan is endorsing Metamucil. You didn't miss much.