Wow. That’s all I could say walking out of the Scottrade Center last night in St. Louis. After months and month of hype and buildup, the 1,000th episode of WWE Raw (#Raw1000) was just as epic, historic and momentous as I had hoped it would be. Having traveled all the way from Baltimore, my only hope going is that I would end up going home happy, thinking the trip was worth it; sitting here now ready to catch my flight back home, I can definitely say that it was. From the return of nearly 30 WWE legends, to some great matches and moments and a fantastic ending with a huge swerve that no one could have predicted, the show definitely lived up to its hype. Out of the entire three-hour show, I was only upset about the ending to one segment (more on that later) and I can even forgive the WWE for only having six matches (half of them being of the squash variety), leaving three of the titles off the show and having no Divas match because there was so much to pack into one show. The WWE did a fantastic job of both honoring the past and looking to the future and I only hope that all of the three-hour episodes each week from here on out are even half as good.
The show kicked off with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon coming out to the ring to thank the fans for helping Monday Night Raw to reach 1,000 episodes. The fans, in turn, thanked Vince for taking us there. He then introduced Degeneration X to officially kick off the show, which brought out Triple H and a returning Shawn Michaels. In my preview post last week, I had stated that a DC reunion would not be the same if only those two Superstars were involved and if the segment was just a rehash of the sophomoric jokes that were part of their shtick when they reunited a couple of years ago. Well, Vince McMahon must read my blog because he gave us fans exactly what we have been clamoring for since the Degeneration X reunion was announced – Road Dogg Jesse James, Bad Ass Billy Gunn and even X-Pac! Michaels and Tripe H kicked off the segment by nothing that something seemed off, that something seemed to be missing. Immediately the crowd was whipped into a frenzy, hoping and praying that this was leading to where it would eventually go. Michaels the noted that he seemed to remember there being more of them, which prompted the DX music to play once again and Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and X-Pac roll in on a tank (reminiscent of their WCW invasion). Admittedly, X-Pac looked pretty awful because he never got the microphone, but the New Age Outlaws looked like they could step in the ring again (and given the state of the tag team division, they probably should). The five Superstars cut a great promo, bringing back all the classic catchphrases, but before they could wrap it up they were interrupted by Damien Sandow. Sandow acknowledged that they could easily beat him up, but that would only make him a martyr, as he was there to enlighten the WWE Universe and save them from degenerates such as them. This led to a Super Kick from Shawn Michaels, a Pedigree from Triple H and a celebration in the ring.
The first match of the night was a six-man tag match featuring Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara & World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho and Alberto Del Rio. The match was serviceable and although I would have rather seen the World Heavyweight Champion featured more prominently on the show (they could have announced the #1 contender to his title last night instead of saving it for this week’s Smackdown) it did give these six deserving Superstars the chance to shine in front of what I expect will be a larger-than-normal television audience. We also all thought that maybe Ziggler would maybe cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase, but instead the match ended when Ziggler attacked Jericho (furthering their teased feud) and Sheamus hit the Brogue Kick for the pin and the win.
There were a handful of segments with Charlie Sheen, who was serving as the WWE Social Ambassador for the night, but with Sheen taking down his Twitter feed they instead had him do some live Tout videos. Thankfully they only did it a few times and all each time it was quick, but the last one was one that had everyone scratching their heads. Earlier, Sheen had insulted Daniel Bryan (among other Superstars), who later responded by saying that he would slap the Yes Lock on Sheen before he could say, “Winning.” Sheen responded by saying that he was not hard to find, that the next time Bryan was in Los Angeles (which is where SummerSlam happens to be next month) he should look him up. Everyone around me turned to one another and wondered aloud if this meant it was going to be Bryan vs. Sheen at the pay-per-view. I assume not, at least I hope not, but I would not necessarily mind having Charlie Sheen there in some capacity (like the special guest ring enforcer or timekeeper) and get involved in Bryan’s match against someone else.
The second match of the night was a quick squash match, with Brodus Clay defeating Jack Swagger (who I feel worse for now than any other Superstar on the roster) in about a minute. Normally I would complain about this, but the WWE completely saved the segment by having Mick Foley come out as Dude Love to be at ringside and dance in the ring after the match.
There were a number of great backstage segments that included a whole host of returning WWE legends. In one, Layla was trying to talk AJ out of marrying Daniel Bryan, which got AJ upset that everyone was calling her mentally unstable when half of the people walking around backstage were crazier than her. She proved it by opening the door to the dressing room, which saw Hacksaw Jim Duggan walk by, followed by R-Truth and Rowdy Roddy Piper playing jump rope with Little Jimmy and even Mae Young introducing a grown-up hand. If that last thing makes no sense to you, go back into the WWE archives and watch the video of what happened when Mark Henry got Mae Young pregnant (yes, you read that right).
In another segment, we got a little déjà vu from an old storyline where Stephanie McMahon walked in on Triple H and Trish Stratus in a precarious position while Triple H was helping the Trish stretch for a match. Last night the roles were reversed as a returning Trish Stratus was helping Triple H stretch and do some yoga when DX walked in. Although I wish Trish had actually come out to the ring in front of the live crowd, perhaps as part of some larger segment involving the WWE Divas (seeing as how the only current WWE Divas we saw the entire night were Layla and AJ with only the latter coming out to the ring for the wedding segment), it was great to see Trish back and she looked just as good as she always did.
The wedding between Daniel Bryan and AJ took place last night, and someone really should have told those crazy kids that in-ring WWE weddings never go off without a hitch. Whereas I thought that Kane was going to interfere and try to steal AJ away, instead what we got was the most head-scratching moment of the night and my only complaint from the entire show. Just as the preacher (returning WWE legend Slick Rick) was about to pronounce them as man and wife, AJ stopped him and said that she was not saying “yes” to Bryan, but instead to another man who had proposed to her earlier in the night. This brought out Vince McMahon, who quickly explained that it was not that kind of proposal, but that he had decided to name AJ as the new General Manager for Raw and Smackdown. At this point the crowd was completely silent and then quickly very vocal in our displeasure and I hope Vince took note of it. While I love the AJ character, and there are certainly way worse routes the WWE could have taken with the GM storyline, naming AJ to fill the role is just puzzling. From a reality standpoint, why would Vince give control of his flagship show to a mentally unstable person? From a storyline standpoint, where does this even begin to go? Hopefully it doesn’t last long and a new GM is named soon, but to only have one complaint about the last five minutes of one segment from an entire three-hour show is pretty darn good.
After AJ walked out on him, Bryan destroyed the ring and said he refused to leave and that no WWE Superstar in the back could make him. This brought out WWE Champion CM Punk, who told Bryan that he wasn’t sorry for him and that he got exactly what he deserved. Punk said that he would continue to be WWE Champion while, with AJ as the new GM, Bryan’s career was about to take a turn for the worst. Bryan said that Punk claimed to be the best in the world but he wasn’t even the best in the ring right now and that he was the best WWE Superstar of all time. As soon as the words came out of Bryan’s mouth, The Rock’s music hit and the Brahma Bull made his way to the ring. He told Bryan that it was not up to him to determine who was the best ever, but up to the fans (who chanted for The Rock). The Rock then turned his attention to Punk and told him that he was there to announce that in January, at the Royal Rumble PPV, he would be facing whoever was the WWE Champion at that time for the title! Punk and Bryan each claimed it would be himself but The Rock said he didn’t care who it was because he was going to become WWE Champion yet again. Bryan started to go on a tirade but Rock interrupted him, said he looked like the illegitimate child of a homeless man and an Oompa-Loompa, then hit a Rock Bottom on Bryan before leaving the ring.
Apparently the WWE is going to continue the trend of announcing major matches far in advance, at least when The Rock is concerned. Why they are waiting to have this match at the Rumble, which is six months away, and not Survivor Series, which is three months away, is puzzling, but either way there’s no doubt it will be a big money match. What The Rock does between now and then remains to be seen, because in my opinion, you can’t just show up at the Rumble and fight for the WWE Championship. If The Rock wants that match, I think he needs to show up on TV on a regular basis the closer we get to January.
The third match of the night featured a very shocking title change, as after Bret “The Hitman” Hart announced both participants, The Miz defeated Christian for the Intercontinental Championship in the second-best match of the night. I am so happy to see The Miz with gold around his waist yet again and hopefully this means that we will see the title featured and defended more on WWE TV. In fact, with three hours to fill each week now, I hope that all of the titles are featured and defended more.
The announced confrontation Triple H and Brock Lesnar featured the return of one of my favorite WWE characters of all time – Stephanie McMahon! The segment kicked off with Triple H demanding that Lesnar come to the ring and answer his challenge, which brought out Paul Heyman instead. Heyman said that Lesnar was there, but that as Lesnar’s representative, he was going to be the one to reject the challenge for a match at SummerSlam. Triple H tried to goad Lesnar into coming out to the ring, but instead, Heyman got under Triple H’s skin by mentioning his family. He said that he was sorry for his kids that they had to have Triple H as a dad, which brought out Stephanie McMahon (who looks as fantastic as ever, especially after having two kids). Stephanie told Heyman to never mention her family, especially her children, but Heyman wouldn’t let up, so Stephanie slapped him. An irate Heyman then screamed that Lesnar would accept Triple H’s challenge and that Stephanie had better be prepared to watch her husband get his as kicked. Heyman then insulted her children again, which prompted Stephanie to jump on top of Heyman and wail away with slaps and punches. Triple H separated them but then Lesnar came out to attack Triple H, who ended up getting the better of Lesnar and knocking him out of the ring. The segment ended with a stare down between the two men as the crowd roared.
Howard Finkel returned to introduce Heath Slater, who came out and said that he was sick of WWE legends returning to take away his spotlight and he was challenging any legend in the back to a match. In a huge but pleasant surprise, Lita answered the challenge as her music hit and she ran looking as sexy as she always did in a bikini top that was begging for a wardrobe malfunction. Lita said that she was going to answer Slater’s challenge, but that she had brought along some protection, which then brought out Bradshaw and Farooq (of the APA) who were joined by about 10-15 WWE legends who surrounded the ring to watch Lita hit her move off the top rope and pin Slater for the win.
Of the two unannounced Superstars I was most hoping to see make his return, only one did but it sure was one hell of a return. The segment started when Kane came out for a match but before he could set off his pyro he was interrupted by about 6-8 mid-card jobbers, led by Jindar Mahal. The Superstars surrounded the ring when suddenly the lights went off, a gong sounded and the crowd erupted as the arena was bathed in purple light and The Undertaker came out to the stage! Undertake slowly made his way to the ring to a standing ovation and, once there, he and Kane promptly disposed of all the other Superstars with double chokeslams and Tombstone Piledrivers before posing in the ring and back up at the top of the ramp.
The main event of the evening featured John Cena cashing in his MITB briefcase and facing CM Punk for the WWE Championship. A lot of people correctly predicted that Big Show would interfere, costing Cena the match and making him the first Superstar to unsuccessfully cash in a MITB contract. But what no one could have possibly predicted what would happen next. Continuing with the recent trend of launching a big new angle over the summer, CM Punk turned heel. That’s right, full-fledged, crowd booing him out of the building heel. With the referee knocked out, Big Show came out and knocked out Cena with ne punch. CM Punk seemed unsure what to do but eventually revived the referee and went for the cover, but Cena kicked out at two. Seeing this Big Show came back to the ring and completely laid out Cena, causing the disqualification. With CM Punk just watching from the corner, Big Show continued to decimate Cena, which brought out The Rock to make the save. Rock did manage to get Big Show out of the ring but when he turned around, he ate a swift kick to the head from Punk. As the crowd booed, Punk hit the Go To Sleep on The Rock before leaving up the ramp with the WWE Championship on his shoulder.
With regards to Cena losing the match after cashing in the MITB briefcase, I love the decision and not just because I hate Cena and like to see him lose. At some point in time, a MITB winner was going to have to lose so that when future winners cash it in it is not automatically guaranteed that he will win, thus leaving some intrigue to the stipulation. Granted, Cena lost as a result of a disqualification, but the bottom line is that he cashed in the MITB briefcase and did not walk about with the world title. As for Punk turning heel, I’m also a huge fan of the move. The WWE is lacking true heels at the top right now and Punk proved with the Straight Edge Society storyline from two years ago that he is very good in that role. If I had to guess, I would say that Punk continues to retain the title from now until January, as a heel, before finally facing The Rock at the Royal Rumble. Whether Rock shows up to exact revenge for last night, or if not, how soon before the Rumble he makes his return, and what actually happens in that match at the Rumble in January all remains to be seen.
I think the biggest surprise for me was the fact that Stone Cold Steve Austin did not make an appearance. I understand he is off filming a terrible Adam Sandler movie, but Austin defined Monday Night Raw in the 1990s and I don’t know if there would be a 1,000th episode had it not been for the Austin/McMahon feud. Of all the Superstars who could have made an appearance but did not, Austin is the biggest surprise. He could have taken a day off from filming the movie or, at the very least, videotaped a message for the fans.