WrestleMania is just 48 days away. Seven weeks, minus a day, until the rematch of last year's biggest bout, the Rock versus John Cena.
Been there, right?
Slow news day on Raw, building to the inevitable Cena win and Rock departure to Hollywood?
Instead of business as usual, everything we thought we knew after Elimination Chamber is up in the air once again. CM Punk has outsmarted the world one more time with the mere power of his voice. Instead of going to WrestleMania 29, Cena will instead wrestle Punk next week for the honor of facing the Rock for his brand new, redesigned WWE title.
That's right. Rather than just go to WrestleMania and take on the Rock for the title, Cena was party to creating his own stipulation, making life harder for, wait for it, John Cena. Hey, he's good-looking and muscular. If he was smart too that would have just been unfair to the rest of us.
Overall it was a two-hour Raw stretched thin to fill three hours. But it wasn't all bad. Some segments delivered in a major way. Click on to find out which wrestlers made the grade and who is going to be held back on another edition of the Raw Report Card.
Everything we thought we knew yesterday is the oldest of news now. Wearing a sweatshirt and short trunks, CM Punk interrupted a John Cena interview to completely rock the WWE Universe's world.
Punk, you see, lost the WWE title and his attempt to regain the belt, in a truly questionable manner. Although he's the boy who cried wolf, this time his grievances have some merit. He did have the Rock pinned at Elimination Chamber. The match at Royal Rumble was re-started under suspicious circumstances.
In short, CM Punk was screwed by the man.
John Cena, to everyone's surprise, agreed with Punk. But rather than step aside he challenged Punk to earn his place at WrestleMania. If Punk can beat Cena next week on Raw, he'll take Cena's place in the main event.
Key Quotes: "I expect nothing less from you than to take the easy way out." —CM Punk to John Cena.
"When you're talking about wins and losses—you have never beat me." —CM Punk to John Cena.
"I won the Royal Rumble and deserve to go. Sorry you didn't get the job done." —John Cena to CM Punk.
"The Rock versus John Cena is deja vu. I've already seen that television show. It's a rerun." —CM Punk.
"You talk business. I handle business." —John Cena.
Grade: C+. The news was important, but this fell pretty flat. Rock and Punk had several great back and forths in the ring. Cena, however, isn't able to adjust on the fly nearly as well as those two—and it showed. Hope the match next week is better than this tepid promo.
Sheamus and Ryback almost came to blows backstage, fallout from their six-man tag with the Shield at Elimination Chamber. Sheamus was left laying on the floor. Ryback was pinned. Neither was happy.
It was left to Chris Jericho, looking like Horswaggle next to the two big heavyweights, to make peace. Jericho promised a rematch with the Shield on Raw and both men stopped staring into each other's eyes to agree to a rematch.
Mark Henry, fresh from a dominant showing in the fearsome Elimination Chamber, made short work of Sin Cara. He continued to abuse him after the match until the Great Khali came out for the save. Henry thought better of taking on Khali one-on-one, but it seems likely they are building that match for WrestleMania. Sorry Mark!
Key Quotes: "Feed me Shield." —Ryback.
"Absolutely no remorse." Michael Cole on Mark Henry.
"If I wanted to dance, I'd get a date." Mark Henry to Great Khali.
Grade: Promo: B. Jericho added some much needed levity to a Sheamus and Ryback staredown that was nearly, but not quite, comical in its level of testosterone. Match: C+. Henry continues to be built into an unstoppable machine.
Antonio Cesaro and Miz have been feuding for what feels like forever. At Elimination Chamber it seemed like Cesaro had finally gone over once and for all.
Not so fast.
Instead of moving on to new opponents, the two met in a No DQ match that saw Cesaro work over Miz's injured arm. It was all Cesaro, until, out of nowhere, Miz secured a big win with the figure-four leglock. Now the two appear to be tied together through WrestleMania.
After a commercial break, Swagger and Colter are featured in a clip from Zeb's YouTube channel that seems to have been lifted directly from conservative talk radio. They are against everyone and every thing.
Key Quotes: "Miz might have to tap out just to fight another day." —Jerry Lawler on Miz's injured arm.
"That's what you get. Now it's payback." Cesaro to Miz. Michael Cole speculated he was speaking German.
"We'll give you a handout. That handout will be a one way ticket to wherever you came from." Zeb Colter.
Grade: Match: B-. Cesaro may be growing into the best wrestler in the company, but he didn't have the chance to show it here. Not enough time for wrestling. They've got storylines people! Promo: B+. As for Colter? I'm intrigued. Time to bookmark that YouTube page!
Daniel Bryan and Kane continue to creep closer and closer to "feuding teammate" status and complete cliche. For now they remain adorably incompatible.
Dolph Ziggler remains the WWE's most inept performer. Not only does he fail to beat Del Rio, he can't even properly cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase after "Big E" Langston lays Del Rio out after the match. Not even Jericho, at his worst, was ever booked to look this buffoonish.
Key Quote: "You're not the Big Red Machine anymore. You're more like Barney the dinosaur." —Randy Orton to Kane.
"How I love over dramatic women." —Paul Heyman to Vickie Guerrero.
"He didn't even wait for Ziggler to get back to his feet." —Michael Cole on Del Rio's superkick.
Grade: Promo: B-. I'm still riding with Team Hell No. Forget the monster Kane—this is the artistic highlight of Glenn Jacobs' career. Match: A-. Ziggler is a pretty good worker and he and Del Rio have a really good TV match including an incredible reverse superplex by Del Rio. They are building up the cross armbreaker nicely and making it into a legitimate finisher. That's always cool to see.
Wade Barrett is out to brag about his role in the new Colin Farrell movie Dead Man Down, which doesn't actually look half bad. Must not be a WWE production. Sheamus ruins his fun by revealing that he didn't even have a speaking role.
Next up is the Funkdactyles squashing Primo, Epico and Rosa. WWE continues to build Tensai and Clay as a major comedy act.
Key Quote: "Got to wind it up fella." —Sheamus to Wade Barrett.
"You ruined my special moment." —Barrett.
Grade: Promo: D+. You can't fool me WWE—that was a thinly disguised commercial. Match: C-. Squash. And not a good one.
It's official. The WWE is playing the race card in the world championship match at WrestleMania 29. Swagger, according to Colter, is a real American, a patriot. The champion, Alberto Del Rio, is a foreigner who is here just to take from America, to "reap the rewards of our motherland."
Can't wait to hear how Del Rio, inevitably, responds.
After the speech, Swagger steps into the ring against Daniel Bryan.
Key Quotes: "Tonight is about our country. The state of our union. There's only one man brave enough. One man wise enough. One man honest enough to give it." —Jack Swagger on Zeb.
"The Bill of Rights gives Jack and me the right to stand out here and voice our opinion." —Zeb Colter.
"Real Americans are not to blame. The blame lies solely on the shoulders of the millions and millions of people living in this country illegally." —Colter.
"He's going to reclaim America." —Colter on Swagger's goal for WrestleMania.
"That knees gone." —Zeb Colter on Bryan's injuries during the match.
Grade: Promo: A; Match: A. I love the new Swagger. He works Bryan's injured midsection with no remorse, then does a number on his leg to finish the bout. Bryan is still the best worker in the company and this was a really good match.
Brad Maddox is named the new assistant to the managing supervisor. But that isn't the big surprise. The big surprise? Mr. McMahon, still on crutches, wants to fight Heyman. In the ring. Next week. Right here on Raw.
Wow, the people in "Cajun country" must feel great that all the good stuff is next week.
Key Quotes: "Assistant to the managing supervisor." —Vickie Guerrero clarifying Brad Maddox's job title.
"Just close your mouth Mr. Heyman. When your mouth is open, you are lying." —Vince McMahon.
"Firing is too good for you quite frankly." —Vince McMahon to Heyman.
Grade: B+. McMahon still gets it done on the microphone, making up for Maddox and Vickie straight stealing a bit from The Office that is probably a decade old now.
The Shield is live on Raw for the first time, trying to live up to an incredible performance at Elimination Chamber. This one was just as intense with the Shield really showing themselves to be major players.
They didn't just make a good showing. There were no moral victories. They actually pinned Jericho after a really intense back and forth match. Jericho had Ambrose in the Walls when Rollins came flying in with a knee to the temple off the top rope. That was all she wrote for Jericho, and for the second night in a row, the Shield announced themselves as legitimate WWE superstars.
Not "superstars." Actual superstars. If you catch my drift.
Key Quotes: "There's a zealousness to every attack."—Michael Cole.
"You can never catch your breath against the Shield." —Cole.
Grade: B+. Another really good match. One day we are going to see a Sheamus-Roman Reigns match that is really, really special. They seem to have a good chemistry. By chemistry, I mean they appear willing to beat the hell out of each other. If this six man is run back at WrestleMania 29, I'll be pretty happy.
Damien Sandow came out claiming his ancestors were advisers to Presidents. No wonder he's mad about being a jobber. He snaps and was taking it to Kingston early, not even bothering to remove his robe. Then, from nowhere, R. Truth came out to save the day.
They were ready with his music before he sprinted down the aisle, but he wasn't prepared enough to have wrestling gear on. Truth was still wearing a shirt and tie. That was weird.
Key Quote: "Tonight I propose a new deal. All of you nitwits remain silent and simply allow me to save you from the doldrums of your own self-imposed ignorance."
Grade: D. What a waste of time.
It's a feud that has been brewing for all of about two hours. Scintillating stuff.
It's your standard Kane match until Daniel Bryan came out and distracted Kane for just a split second. But that second is all it takes for Orton to hit the Diamond Cutter, er, Ace Crusher, er, HIS MOVE to win the match.
Oh Daniel Bryan. How could you?
Key Quote: Woah." —Jerry Lawler, still scared when Kane sets the turnbuckles on fire. After seeing it weekly for a decade.
"Daniel Bryan is proving tonight that he is not a man of his word." —Michael Cole.
Match: C. Solid professional wrestling, but the key here is the angle. How will they manage to ratchet up the tension until WrestleMania without making it completely unrealistic that they don't just part ways now, belts be darned?
The University of Louisiana Lafayette matching band leads the Rock to the ring. Which may be a first. Say what you will about the Rock, but whatever he does, he does it big.
After taking some shots at Punk, Rock does something we've all wanted to do—he finally, finally, got rid of the hideous spinner belt. A new belt is unveiled. And, while ugly and gaudy, at least it doesn't spin.
Cena comes out. Will he defend the indefensible belt? Or just jibber jabber?
Option three? Punk nails him from behind with the cheese ball belt. Then he tosses it down like trash.
"I want that one," he says, pointing to the Rock's new title. And then he walks off—like a boss.
Key Quotes: "CM Punk, last night you did everything you could to beat the Rock. And you showed the world what a piece of human garbage you are when you spit in the Rock's face." —The Rock.
"Two pay-per-views in a row, the Rock beat your punk ass in the middle of the ring 1-2-3." —Rock to CM Punk.
"There were some people who thought this title was cool. And there are some people who believe in Bigfoot." —The Rock on the "Spinner Belt."
"Flat out badass." —Rock describes his new title belt.
"I want that one." —Punk points to the new belt.
Grade: A. Any doubt they are going to do a three-way dance at WrestleMania? Interesting. I hate that style of match, but it's good to see Punk get one more run with the big dogs.