Did you ever think, either 10 years ago or a few months ago, that The Undertaker and Fandango would appear in the same sentence about anything related to professional wrestling? I certainly didn’t, but as WWE Raw emanated from the United Kingdom last night, they were certainly the highlights of an otherwise okay show. I was unable to watch the show live last night because we were out with my wife’s family celebrating her birthday and I did everything in my power to avoid both the spoilers online (because WWE was in the UK the show was technically not broadcast live) or the tweets coming in throughout the night. And while the show was not spectacular by any means, it was fun and entertaining enough that I am glad I waited (and stayed up well past my bedtime to watch it, something I am regretting sitting here at work today).
WWE Raw kicked off with Paul Heyman in the ring reading an e-mail from Triple H apparently noting that The Game did not make the trip to Europe because of his injuries. Bust just as Heyman was insulting Triple H for not being there, calling him a “gutless coward,” Triple H’s music hits and he makes his way to the ring to confront Heyman. Triple H says that he lied in his e-mail and asks Heyman to tell Brock Lesnar that he accepts the challenge for a steel cage match at Extreme Rules before hitting Heyman with a Pedigree. So Extreme Rules will feature the third match between Triple H and Lesnar and with Lesnar’s record at a paltry 1-2 since his return to the WWE last year, either he has to win or he should just void the rest of his contract and walk away now because he would not be able to be booked as an “unstoppable monster” from that point on.
The other highlight of the night was The Undertaker’s first match on Raw in over three years and most likely his last match ever in the United Kingdom given that he rarely travels within the US these days, let alone overseas. Before the match, there was a hilarious segment backstage with Tag Team Champions Kane and Daniel Bryan, with Bryan wanting to know where Undertaker was and for Kane to call him so they could go over diagrams for their match against The Shield and Kane explaining that Undertaker doesn’t exactly carry a cell phone and begging Bryan not to try and hug him during the match. The champions were then attacked by The Shield and when the six-man tag team match started The Undertaker was by himself, but Kane and Bryan eventually made their way to the ring and the match was officially on. As you would expect the match was spectacular, with Undertaker hitting all of his classic spots and the other five Superstars all doing their thing (watching Undertaker square off against rookies Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and even Roman Reigns was like a dream match). In the, while Undertaker and Kane were busy dealing with Rollins and Reigns, Ambrose rolled up Bryan for the win after Bryan missed a flying headbutt off the top rope. For The Shield to pick up such a huge win over a legendary Superstar like The Undertaker, even though Bryan technically took the pin, is a huge step in the right direction for Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns.
In a backstage segment with AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler talked about how he loved his World Heavyweight Championship and how great it would be if AJ were the Divas Champion as well (foreshadowing a match later in the night). Vickie Guerrero interrupted to announce that if Ziggler was unable to defeat Chris Jericho in their match later on, then the triple threat match between Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger for the world title at Extreme Rules would become a fatal fourway with Jericho added in. Unfortunately, this gave away the result to the match before it even started because Jericho is going back to being a part-time performer and there is no way he would be added to the world title match at the next PPV, but on the bright side it meant that Ziggler got a rare win, and over one of the top Superstars on the roster at that. As for the match itself, it was no surprise that it was by far the best one of the night, made all the more sweeter when Ziggler pinned Jericho for the win (granted it was after Fandango’s music started playing, distracting Jericho long enough for Ziggler to hit the Zig Zag, despite the fact that Fandango never appeared). Later in the night, Fandango (with his new dancer, NXT Diva Summer Rae) had a match against hometown hero William Regal, which Fandango easily won. After the match, Fandango and Summer were celebrating and dancing at the top of the ramp when Jericho attacked Fandango from behind and three him off the stage and then proceeded to woo Summer into dancing with him as an irate and hurt Fandango looked on.
The end of the show featured a verbal exchange between Ryback and Mick Foley, who had some choice words for Ryback in a backstage interview and, as a result, was called out by Ryback later in the night. It had been announced online earlier in the day that John Cena would defend the WWE Championship against Ryback at Extreme Rules (yay) so the onus behind Foley’s comments was that Ryback had not earned a shot at the title and shouldn’t have spent his entire promo last week complaining about how no one helped him when he was repeatedly being attacked by The Shield (I agree). Ryback retorted by insulting the fans and Cena but between his pre-recorded promo last week and the being just verbally abused by Foley last night, it is clear that the WWE is (unsuccessfully) trying to force Ryback down our throats as a heel and, for some reason, are desparate for it to work. Fortunately for us non-Ryback fans it won’t last long as there is no way Cena loses the title just five weeks after winning it after not holding it for nearly a year. Anyway, Ryback gets angry and makes a move to attack Foley but Cena comes out for the save and as the two of them are staring each other down, The Shield make their way to the ring. At first, Cena leaves Ryback to fend for himself, just as Ryback did to Cena last week, but Cena finally gets in the ring with a steel chair to attack The Shield and then hits Ryback with an Attitude Adjustment to end the show.
Here are my thoughts on the rest of WWE Raw:
A week after inexplicably losing the United States Championship to glorified mid-card jobber Kofi Kingston (who did not even appear on Raw this week), Antonio Cesaro lost to R-Truth in a fairly quick match last night. So after holding the title for over 200 days, Cesaro then went on to not appear at Wrestlemania, not be involved in any feud or storyline leading up to Wrestlemania, lose the title the week before he returns to his home continent and then lose a singles match to rarely seen Superstar R-Truth. All this coming from one of the best wrestlers in all of wrestling today (check out his matches as Claudio Castagnoli and as part of the Kings of Wrestling tag team in Ring of Honor). Sigh.
On the same day that the WWE announced a new reality show on E! featuring the WWE Divas, the WWE Divas had a battle royal match to determine the #1 contender for the Divas Championship. Unfortunately, while I should be happy that the Divas were featured on TV at all, let alone as part of the beginning of an actual storyline actually centered around the title, the match was a debacle (although the ending was exactly what I hoped for). First of all, the “battle royal” only featured five Divas – AJ Lee, Layla, Tamina Snuka, Naomi and Aksana. Not only did this show how weak and thin the Divas Division is, but the winner was made obvious since Divas Champion Kaitlyn and AJ Lee already have a feud stemming back to their days on NXT. And furthermore, where were the rest of the Divas. It was announced that the Bella Twins had been barred from the match as a result of cheating to win last week, which is stupid because Superstars and Divas cheat to win all the time and are never barred from future matches. There is a rumor online that Rosa Mendes was sent home from the trip for being intoxicated, but even if that is true, where was Natalya Neidhart, Alicia Fox and even Naomi’s partner Cameron? Of those three, only Natalya would be worth having in the ring, but at least there would have been more than five Divas in the ring. Frankly, it was pathetic, and it just goes to show how badly the WWE needs to call up some of the Divas down in NXT and rebuild the division from scratch (and not sign supermodels, actresses and singers who have no wrestling background or experience). As for the match itself, AJ got kicked in the head early on and was supposedly knocked unconscious, but when it came down to just her and Layla and Layla tried to drag and lift AJ out of the ring, AJ suddenly woke up and threw Layla out of the ring for the win. Now that AJ is the #1 contender for the title, I just pray that a feud between her and Kaitlyn is given the time and energy it needs to develop and that is results in multiple matches between the two before AJ ultimately wins the title (while I LOVE Kaitlyn as the champion, it makes a lot of sense for Ziggler and AJ to both be champions at the same time, harking back to when Triple H and Stephanie McMahon held titles at the same time).
Big E Langston quickly defeated Zack Ryder, which would usually not even be worth mentioning except for the fact that Ryder posted a very cryptic video on YouTube yesterday that was supposed to announce the return of his web show but instead had him act disgusted with himself and throw his merchandise at the camera. If this is the beginning of a Zack Ryder heel turn I am all for it.
Tons of Funk (Brodus Clay and Tensai) and Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow) squared off in two singles match last night, with Sandow first beating Clay after a distraction from Rhodes and then, as a result of the distraction, later in the night Tensa faced and defeated Rhodes.