Tonight’s Raw follows Wrestlemania 29, the veritable Super Bowl of wrestling, so to speak. The thing about the WWE is that the Raw’s after WM are always more interesting because of their very nature of being directly after WM. It’s the “season premiere” in a way, and like any other serialized show, is generally when they introduce new story lines, characters, or themes to the show. It wasn’t surprising to me at all then that this Raw was one of the best ones in a very long time, partly due to the fact that it was booked really well, everyone was on their A-Game, and the crowd was hotter than hell. A lot of folks online were complaining about the quality of WM 29, and while I can see where they’re coming from I still enjoyed it immensely. Sometimes I wonder if Wrestlemania no longer holding the same “prestige” it once did for me is because I’m just older, or if it is directly because their product isn’t as good any more. It’s hard for me to objectively gauge, but I do know I can still enjoy sitting in a room of wrestling fans, cheering when the guys I want to win, win, and being shocked together by the surprises that came.
Some wanted Wrestlemania to be a heel turn-fest, and provide shocks and twists abound, along with whatever other incredibly specific thing they each wanted. What we got instead were a bunch of great stories told inside the ring, with a specific set of characters telling them well. So Cena didn’t turn heel, so what? His match with The Rock was still exciting, and even though I knew he was going to win it was still fun to watch. I know I’m a total smark and talk all the time about how certain payoffs should or shouldn’t happen, but that’s only when what’s being given is lackluster, or comes at the sacrifice of good wrestling. Last night at Wrestlemania, neither of those things were sacrificed. If you watched that whole 4 hour show and didn’t find yourself standing on your feet at least once, you’re just dead inside. That all being said, Raw tonight was damned amazing.
Raw opening with Cena was inevitable, and what I’m about to say may shock and worry you but rest assured it couldn’t any more than it did me. Frankly, I was glad to see it open with Cena. I KNOW I KNOW, IT’S NOT BIZARRO WORLD BUT HEAR ME OUT! Firstly, his character in the last 2 weeks has received a considerable and noteworthy change. That main change is the earnestness of his character. He’s confident now in a way that isn’t unearned, or at the very least, isn’t grating. He’s able to communicate that his weakness is his UNRELENTING URGE TO ALWAYS WIN FOREVER AT EVERYTHING. Unstoppable Terminator Death Machine Cena is a much more interesting character than Fake Underdog Cena. He doesn’t have to sell us any line of BS about overcoming the odds or any of that crap, he’s goddamned JOHN CENA and everyone knows he’s nigh impossible to beat. A guy who comes out and says “HEY I’M THE BEST, BECAUSE I AM” is someone who I can respect more than a guy who comes out and says “HEY AREN’T I GREAT, HERE I’LL SHOW YOU OVER AND OVER, TELL ME HOW GREAT I AM!” Him coming out tonight in the ugliest shirt possible, standing there amongst the very loud, very obvious boos (that Cole and Lawler were trying so desperately to pass off as a “mixed” reaction) was something to behold. Fittingly it’s not a heel turn for him, because he’s not really done anything bad, but it’s a spark of a new direction for his character to take, and that alone is a breath of fresh air for Cena. It looks like he’s slowly going in the direction towards being a heel, but I’d put money on him never actually turning. It doesn’t matter though at this point, because I’d still rather have Cena be the champion. Why? Because one is an annoying, arrogant, sexist, baby talking self-centered douche bag, and the other is an annoying, invincible, up until now mostly bland and boring self-centered douche bag. If I have to pick between douche bags, I’m gonna pick the one that doesn’t hate women. Period.
Firstly, HOLY CRAP BIG E LANGSTON IS FINALLY DOING SINGLES MATCHES ON RAW YAAAAYYY! Secondly, he’s not getting to use his own totally awesome music from NXT. BOOOOO!!!!! But it’s okay, because hopefully this means he’ll turn face and we’ll get to bring the maniac murdering machine who’s obsessed with the number 5 to Raw now! Lastly, he got to wrestle against Daniel Bryan! And they both looked great the whole time! I’m used to Raw opening with a lengthy promo, but when the promo is interesting and captivating, and is then followed up by great wrestling, well I’ll be darned, YOU JUST GONE DUN MADE YOU THERE A GOOD RASSLIN’ SHOW! Which is funny because all of the dirt sheet info is saying that The Rock was supposed to show up tonight, and start a feud with Brock Lesnar for reasons. Then he decided to just head home and all of it was scrapped at the last minute. If you ask me it sounds legit because the whole excuse for Rock not being there due to “injury” just smelled something rotten. Regardless of the reason, this Raw is the result of The Rock not showing up and everyone scrambling to tell a new story? Well done. Do this every week please?
If you’re one of the millions of people who ordered Wrestlemania yesterday you’re no doubt confused like me as to why you didn’t see the Intercontinental Championship defended. The reason was because it was, but it was on the Pre-show that they stream on YouTube online. I don’t know about you, but if you’re over at a friend’s house waiting for a 4 hours wrestling show to come on, drinking beers and grilling hotdogs, you’re not gonna bust out a laptop and have everyone huddle around for one pre-show match. I understand it’s purpose is to get people who were otherwise unconvinced to watch it on YouTube for free a bit, then decide to watch the rest on PPV. But if you’ve already ordered the PPV, why the hell can’t we watch it in HD on our tv’s, before the actual PPV starts? Why not just include it? I’ll never understand why it’s not included, but it isn’t, so that’s that.
All that being said however, I’m glad they repeated it tonight on Raw because Wade Barrett and The Miz have found their perfect complements to each other’s skill sets. The two of them know how to build up a great match and keep everyone guessing. I full expected The Miz to win this match and keep another long IC title reign, and when Barrett finally smashed Miz’s face in with his Bullhammer finisher (that he finally got to look amazing instead of utter s**t!), I was sold on tonight being a great Raw. I’m only going to say that about 3 or 4 more times in this review, but believe me each time when I say it was great.
This was a match that had me on my toes for 2 reasons. The first was I love seeing Alberto Del Rio demolish either Swagger or Zeb Colter, because it’s just great. Zeb Colter using the rampant jingoism in every wrestling fan against them, to get them to inadvertently cheer for him was a brilliant heel move. This feud is one I could see going on for a while, and escalating into something great, or, I could see it ending quickly in the limelight of what happened after the match ended. Which leads me to my second reason:
DOLPH ZIGGLER CASHING IN THAT MONEY IN THE BANK AND THE WHOLE DAMN CROWD MARKING OUT FOR IT LIKE IT WAS BIGGER THAN JESUS’ SECOND COMING HOLY F***!!!
I cannot stress enough just how awesome this crowd was at tonight’s Raw, and how special they made it by just being so into it that by proxy it made you even more into it. I can only imagine how magical it must have felt to have been there. Jerry Lawler “mishearing” the audience as saying “We want Colter” was particularly stupid though. Everybody friggin’ loves Dolph Ziggler already. He’s the top of the talent you’ve got and the future of the biz. Let him be loved by the people. It’s amazing. These matches were amazing. This whole night was amazing so far. You can tell when Raw is good because I don’t have much to say other than really liking it. It’s when it’s bad that all of a sudden I can’t shut up.
And then somehow, impossibly, as if things couldn’t get even MORE exciting, The Undertaker comes out! Just the presence of Undertaker is enough to get one excited, but after his top-notch match against CM Punk last night, it was more than enough to get me going. He looked so good that it convinced me he could easily go another 4 years and make the streak go all the way to 25 at the very least, if not 30. At this point I really don’t see anyone being able to ever beat him, and that’s a good thing. HIs streak means a lot to the WWE, and whoever comes to finish it off better bring a hell of a lot of gravitas and meaning to it. Whether next year it’s going to be Punk again, or Kane or Cena or whoever, it’s something I’m looking forward to. There’s only two people I can see being the ones to end The Streak, and the most obvious is Cena. He’s the Unstoppable Force to Taker’s Immovable Object. But concerning story and character arcs, it has to be Kane. He’s the only one who should end it, and the day they announce him has the one to go against Undertaker is the one day I actually put money against Undertaker at Wrestlemania. From now on, it’s clear sailing on Taker from here until then.
But that’s not it, we’ve now got The Shield showing up, challenging Undertaker, and my heart nearly skipped a beat! What are these guy’s agenda? Why Undertaker? Furthermore, if Kane and Daniel Bryan didn’t show up to back Taker up, would they have been able to do their triple power bomb of destruction on him? With the way The Shield have been going so far, it almost wouldn’t surprise me. Seeing Kane and Daniel Bryan come out was so great too. Any time characters support each other mutually for reasons that make sense, especially emotional ones like the support over the loss of a loved one, gets to me. Kane is THERE for Undertaker, and Daniel Bryan is THERE for Kane! Amazing!
Of course though, it couldn’t all be perfect. There had to be at least once match that slowed everything down so we could all catch our breath. As much as I love 3MB any and all of their coolness was utterly negated by the inherent lameness of Zack Ryder, Santino and R-Truth. Which is a shame because with the exception of Santino those guys used to be really funny and interesting. Then they just got lamer, and lamer until you didn’t care about them anymore. Then they both just became annoying and made you wonder why you ever even cared about them to begin with. Santino is the worst, so I can’t really hate on him too much because that’d be like kicking a deaf, dumb, blind weasel in the throat that was wearing a green sock on its paws and pretending to be threatening. The dude is such a non-wrestler that I could not see him for months and not even think a single thing about him, or even notice his absence. Oh wait, that happened. It just did. This is the first time I’ve seen Santino in months. And he won using his stupid Cobra finisher that obviously does nothing. There goes my theory about 3MB slowly amassing strength from all their combined defeats. If Heath Slater can’t kick out of a finger poke, he can’t kick out of goddamned anything.
This match is a great example of a perfectly serviceable match between Sheamus and Orton, with Sheamus Sheamusing around and Orton Ortoning right back. The both of them doing their boring invincible white guy thing back and forth. It’s also a great example of this crowd turning a relatively boring match into an exciting one, as they brought it to life with different chants and reactions that made Sheamus and Orton actually put some effort into their stuff, rather than just going through the repeated old motions that they’re used to. By the time Big Show stormed out and demolished them both I found myself surprised rather than cynical, simply because the crowd got me into it. Guys, the crowd got me into a Sheamus and Randy Orton match. That’s. In. Credible.
It was a really good Raw. I’m telling you.
God I love Fandango. The guy actually can totally wrestle, so everybody who chants that he can’t can just shut it. Plus watching him beat down Kofi Kingston using the ART OF DANCE, AND WRESTLING was goddamned amazing. Sure Jericho had to come and ruin it all because he’s upset that Fandango beat him last night at WM. Listen Jericho, Fandango beat you fair and square. A roll up pin is still a pin, and just means you fell for the most obvious and old hat trick in the book. You have nobody to blame but yourself for losing, so why are you acting like something was stolen from you? I like Jericho but he’s not above me calling him out when he starts acting like every other hypocritical jerk that’s supposed to be a face wrestler in the WWE. If you don’t like Fandango, why not try besting him in a dancing competition, or just prove to him you’re the better wrestler by issuing a rematch? Running out and interrupting his beat down of Kofi Kingston is not the way to my heart Jericho. IT IS NOT.
This was a match that got bumped from the Wrestlemania card on Sunday, and it’s a shame. My lecherous cousins, friends and I all were looking forward to seeing the return of the Bella twins to the WWE in a wrestling capacity, if only for their looks. Like I said, we’re not the greatest, most classy bunch of men. Anyhow, it’s a shame because I’m sure the match would have been better then than it was tonight. It was by no means bad, but I’m so not into “Tons Of Funk” as Tensai and Funkasaurus have been rebranded, that it really makes me sick. Like I said before, there’s really no logical reason at all to dislike Team Rhodes Scholars, and if you do there’s something wrong with you. But it was really nice to see Naomi and Cameron actually get to wrestle for a few moments. Made me remember when the WWE had an actual women’s divisio… A woman’s do-what? A what’s division? What was I saying? I can’t remember anymore, because the WWE CLEARLY DOESN’T WANT ME TO.
Mark Hentry vs Cena means of course I’d like to see Mark Henry win, but I know I won’t. It’s Cena. He’s in this new attitude where he’ll still let you take that same challenge against him, but now he’s so confident he’ll win that actually fulfill his duty to enact that challenge and actually have it happen that night. The best thing about it was the fake out they’re trying to do, by having Cena win in the “cowardly” way by count out. It would seem they’re trying very hard to create some traction with his character and give some new life to him, and having him win in this “gray” way, (for Cena at least) is a surefire step up from Mr. Five Moves Of Doom. Seeing Mark Henry angrily World’s Strongestly Slam him into the ground and hold up the belt triumphantly was great as well. What was greater was how into it the crowd was! They wanted Cena’s BLOOD! When The Ryback finally showed up and took out Henry, everyone was going insane and it made it all that much better.
Then the predictable thing happened, where The Ryback went to offer a hand to help Cena up. A wrestler acting honorably is something you don’t often get seen raucously booed into oblivion, but the people at the show there tonight hated Cena and wanted to see him suffer. So it was pretty jarring to see what I’m guessing is ostensibly a heel turn, with The Ryback viciously attacking Cena, be cheered as if it was some glorious, honorable display! I’ve never seen a potential heel turn so widely and resoundingly cheered, that it might have totally ruined his heel turn! If they want The Ryback to be hated or booed, they’re gonna have to try again, because tonight at least, the people certainly didn’t hate him for taking on Cena. It was amazing you guys.
It was a really good Raw.