Overall, I was actually very disappointed with tonight’s episode of WWE Raw. I’m usually very optimistic about the brand and the product and when I do find fault with something it is with good reason. But from beginning to the almost end, I had a ton of problems with tonight’s show and thought that it was generally boring, lackluster and uninteresting. The final segment between Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and Triple H at least left me in a good mood to end the show, but otherwise I would have been just fine if I had been unable to watch the show tonight and had just read the results online instead. Anyway, here are my extremely verbose thoughts on tonight’s episode:
When WWE tweeted this afternoon that John Cena had been in a car accident, my first thought was that it was part of a storyline. Perhaps The Rock was driving the car that hit him or, flashing back to an older storyline from my college days, perhaps Rikishi was back and driving the car in an effort to help The Rock gain an advantage in his match at Wrestlemania. But, it seems like neither was the case as everything being reported by both WWE and other media outlets makes it seem like the incident was real. I can only imagine that Vince McMahon must have nearly had a stroke when he heard the news, because if John Cena had been injured less than two weeks from Wrestlemania his dreams of the largest Wrestlemania buyrate in history would have gone down the drain fast without his money main event. Of course, it could still turn out to be part of the storyline ( although I highly doubt it) but what remains to be seen if he is more hurt than he is letting on in order to protect the pay-per-view. Only time will tell if that’s the case, if we ever find out at all.
As for WWE Raw tonight, the show kicked off with a recap of the verbal confrontation between Chris Jericho and CM Punk from last week when Jericho announced that CM Punk’s father was an alcoholic. If any current Superstar can match (and sometimes beat) Punk on the microphone it’s Chris Jericho and last week and everything leading up to tonight has proven that. This, along with the fact that both men are two of the best wrestlers in the world, is why I am so excited for their match at Wrestlemania. Punk didn’t respond last week but did tonight, saying that the fact that his father is an alcoholic is no secret, but what matters is that his father has fought to recover from the disease, that Punk is proud of his father and that he is proof that you can achieve greatness no matter what circumstances you came from as a child. Jericho showed up live via satellite on the TitanTron to seemingly apologize for last week’s comments, but then went on to say that he found out that Punk’s sister was a drug addict, and between his father and sister, Punk was destined to drink and do drugs. Punk responded, but whatever he said must not have been PG because WWE bleeped it out, but it definitely looked intense.
In my opinion, this match did not necessarily need this storyline. Having each men claim that they are the best in the world is enough to get me interested because, in terms of their mic and wrestling skills, both men are. But with The Rock vs. John Cena and Triple H vs. Undertaker, I can understand how the WWE felt that this match might get overshadowed and needed something added to it. I just hope that this match goes on early so that it is given the time it deserves and not cut short because other matches (or, even worse, backstage segments) go long.
The first match of the night featured The Big Show versus Kane, which is interesting since both men have matches at Wrestlemania and both need momentum going into the big show. Before the match could start, Cody Rhodes came out and had a video shown of Big Show’s Wrestlemania “highlights,” which included his past matches against Cena, Kane, Mankind and Floyd Mayweather, which were all hilarious. I’m so happy that not only is the Intercontinental Championship on the line at Wrestlemania, but that the storyline surrounding it is getting a lot of attention. As for tonight’s match, Kane won with a chokeslam off the top rope when Rhodes distracted Big Show. After the match, Rhodes handcuffed Big Show to the ring ropes and teed off on him with kicks and punches.
Next up was the captain of Team Teddy (Santino Marella) versus the captain of Team Johnny (David Otunga). So far, Teddy Long’s team is represented by Marella, Kofi Kingston and R-Truth while John Laurinaitis is represented by Otunga, Mark Henry and Christian (which so far puts the advantage squarely in the corner of Laurinaitis). Marella was about to win the match when Laurinaitis distracted him by throwing his phone at him, and while Marella smashed the phone, Otunga hit his finisher and pinned Marella for the win. After the match, while Laurinaitis was mocking Long and Marella, Long slapped him but then ran way when Laurinaitis went after him in retaliation.
After the next commercial break there was a teaser video for a new WWE Superstar. All we know right now is he’s covered in Asian tattoos and his name is Lord Tensai. Given the rumors online that former WWE Superstar Albert (aka A-Train) has been re-signed and that for the past few years Albert has been performing in Japan, it could be him. If it is, I have two problems already with this. First, everyone who knows anything about WWE in the 1990s will know that it’s Albert, so they had better explain why he has a new name and not just ignore the fact that Albert has a ton of history with the company. Second, I don’t see the need to sign a wrestler who has not been in a WWE ring for over 10 years (no matter how good and popular he has been in Japan) when you have a ton of guys already signed to contracts that deserve to be on TV and get a push.
Was it really necessary for The Rock to film another video segment outside the arena? He already did it three times in Boston, so maybe in Philadelphia he could have actually cut his promo in the ring. But instead, he videotaped himself outside at the famous Rocky statue talking about how his dream was to not only be the greatest Superstar of all time but beat all of the other greats and over the years he has done that and the only one left is John Cena. You would be hard pressed to find someone who has been a bigger Rock fan than me over the years and I am praying that he beats John Cena at Wrestlemania, but overall I give this promo a C+ which means I give all of his promos over the past month an average grade of, at best, a B. I don’t know if the same promos every week (which are the same promos for the past ten years) is just getting old or if The Rock just can’t deliver it like he used to, but I have been way more impressed by John Cena and his promos over the past month. Of course, it doesn’t help that all of Cena’s promos are in the ring and most of Rock’s are videotaped, but that is no one’s fault except for The Rock. The Rock did announce that he was going to be in the ring later in the night and my only thought at this point was a small prayer that it would be better than this was (more on that later).
Before the show, Zack Ryder held a rally outside the arena to convince Teddy Long to add him to his team at Wrestlemania. Ryder got the chance to prove his worth next in a match against World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, who was accompanied by his girlfriend AJ, about whom he blogged earlier in the day about how she can be a better Diva (a must read). Ryder actually fought very well and got in most of the offense, but Bryan locked in the Lebell Lock out of nowhere and made Ryder tap out.
The next match was John Cena versus Mark Henry and the only thing I could think of as the two men were making their way to the ring was “Why?” Yes, Mark Henry is big and was once named as the World’s Strongest Man, but Vince has buried him over the past couple of months and only recently did he actually start winning again. Obviously Cena is not going to lose a single match before Wrestlemania, let alone two weeks before the show, but what does it matter when he beats Henry? In my opinion, nothing at all. If I’m the WWE, I keep John Cena out of any matches since The Rock isn’t about to step in the ring and wrestle before the pay-per-view. We all know that Cena can (sort of) wrestle and win matches, but his match against The Rock is not about who can beat who in a wrestling match, so beating Mark Henry (especially Mark Henry) has no purpose. It’s not like fans of The Rock watching Raw tonight are suddenly going to start rooting for Cena because he beat Henry tonight. Sure enough, Cena countered everything Henry had to offer and hit the Attitude Adjustment for the win.
After the match, The Rock’s music hit and the Great One stormed down to the ring, hit the Rock Bottom on Mark Henry and headed back up the ramp. In my opinion, those thirty seconds were ten times better than the entire taped video segment from before. First, hearing The Rock’s music hit and seeing him come out at the top of the ramp still gives me goosebumps. Second, there was no promo with corny catchphrases that he’s been repeating on and on for over ten years, talking about shoving cheese steaks up Cena’s ass or going back in time to save the American Revolution. It was just The Rock, storming the ring, making a statement with a Rock Bottom and leaving. If I’m a writer for the WWE or anyone in charge of what goes on, I get rid of the entire taped segment and just have The Rock do what he did in the ring and let that be it.
At this point in the show, WWE tweeted a video of John Laurinaitis announcing that Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler were both joining his team at Wrestlemania. Then a video highlight from Extra last week was shown and WWE confirmed that Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos would be teaming up to face Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres. Of course, the smart thing to do at that point in the show would be to have a promo or match with at least one of those Divas, but that was not the case. However, we did at least get a great segment featuring The Miz, who noted that he refused to go from being in the main eventi Wrestlemania to not having a match at all and that he was issuing an open challenge to convince Laurinaitis to put him on his Wrestlemania team. Unfortunately, that challenge was answered by Sheamus, who promptly and easily won the match. I really hope that this constant burial of The Miz every week, and not putting him anywhere on the card at Wrestlemania, goes somewhere and has a payoff because otherwise they are just wasting a great talent. I do have a crazy theory as to how The Miz will be used at the show, but I’m going to wait until we get closer to the show to reveal what that is in case something changes between now and then.
What was the point of Josh Matthews interviewing Randy Orton at the top of the ramp instead of in the ring? Did Orton just not want to walk all the way down to the ring just to cut a two-minute promo? The entire time I was waiting for Kane to come out and throw Orton off the stage, but Orton just said that his name was Randy Orton and he was going to beat Kane at Wrestlemania.
The next match was a tag team match featuring Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler versus Kofi Kingston and R-Truth with each team representing their respective team at Wrestlemania. Ziggler won the match for his team, after which Aksana and Vickie Guerrero went at it before being separated.
I had seen the footage from the live WWE show at Madison Square Garden last night earlier today online and loved it just as much the first time I saw it as I did the second. In it, Triple H does the throat slash that Undertaker usually does, then hit the Tombstone Piledrier on Ziggler and stuck out his tongue while pinning him. That took us to the final segment of the night, an in-ring segment featuring Triple H, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. The entire commercial break beforehand I was praying that this segment would save what I saw to be an otherwise lackluster night and, for the first time tonight, the WWE did not disappoint.
Shawn Michaels was out first and kicked it off by noting that despite the match being Triple H versus Undertaker at Wrestlemania, the entire world is talking about him as the special guest referee, which is no surprise since he made a career out of stealing the show, especially at Wrestlemania. Michaels said he thought it was very cool that he held the end of an era in the palm of his hand, and while he would not give a prediction on the match, he would give his opinion. But before Michaels could finish his thought that the “end of an era” really meant the end of the streak, The Undertaker made his presence felt. But The Undertaker literally got less than a minute into his promo about his match with Triple H staying pure when Triple H came out himself! Triple H told Undertaker that it was their destiny to meet at Wrestlemania inside Hell In A Cell, that it was their destiny to bring an end to an era in that way, especially since the two of them have been in 19 of the 24 Hell In A Cell matches in history. Undertaker asked Triple H if he was willing to put it all – his mind, body, soul, career, wife, kids and even his life – to win the match and Triple defiantly said that if it meant ending Undertaker’s career, then he was. Undertaker nodded and was about to leave the ring, before changing his mind. He got right into Triple H’s face and told Triple H that when he said a few weeks back that Shawn Michaels was better than him, he was right.