This episode of WWE Monday Night Raw opened with John Cena. He said that WrestleMania was beginning to take shape, but before he could get too into it, CM Punk made his way out.
Punk beat the best WWE had to offer for 434 days and doesn’t get to main event WrestleMania, but Cena won a “circus match” for a title shot. Cena purposed one more match between them with the winner getting the title shot at the event. Punk agreed, but only if it was next week.
This was a good opening segment right here. Cena gave a solid promo during the segment, which is great to see. With WrestleMania drawing near, I don’t want to see Cena try to be funny and give awkward promos. I want to see him be serious, and that’s exactly what he was here. I’m not the biggest John Cena fan, but I do enjoy his promos when they’re on the serious side.
Punk delivered a good one as well, though that’s not really a surprise. He’s been great on the mic his entire title reign, but he’s really been on the ball since his feud with The Rock. Even though the victor for next week’s match is an obvious one, it should be a great match.
They have had great matches in the past, and assuming that it’s not the typical Raw main event that gets no more than 10 minutes, they should be able to deliver again.
Backstage, Matt Striker was with Sheamus. He was trying to talk about what happened at the Elimination Chamber with The Shield, but Ryback was pacing back and forth. They got in each other’s faces before Chris Jericho broke them up. He suggested a Six-Man Tag Team match and both superstars agreed.
Why is Jericho all of a sudden in The Shield storyline? Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns haven’t touched him at all. Not once has he been attacked, but seeing as his feud with Dolph Ziggler seems to have abruptly ended, I guess he needs something to do.
The confrontation between Sheamus and Ryback was intriguing. Could WWE be setting up Sheamus vs. Ryback at WrestleMania? That would be quite the hard-hitting match, but we’ll just have to wait and see where it all goes.
Mark Henry vs. Sin Cara
In the typical formula of a WWE squash match, Sin Cara got in a few bits of offense before he was flattened by Mark Henry. It would be good to see Henry actually get to face someone who he can’t just destroy, but what happened post-match wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
Before Henry could deliver a second World’s Strongest Slam, The Great Khali made his way out. As soon as he got into the ring, though, Henry just walked away. Please don’t tell me that it’s going to be Mark Henry vs. The Great Khali at WrestleMania.
That is such a waste of a spot on the card, and Henry deserves better than having to face Khali at the biggest show of the year. I was hoping for Henry to face Randy Orton since their feud from 2011 was rekindled over the past few weeks, but who knows what WWE has in store for either of them.
I hope this is just something that will be settled on SmackDown, so Henry can move onto someone who can actually have a solid match.
Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz: No Disqualification Match
After Antonio Cesaro dominated the majority of the match, The Miz locked in the Figure-Four Leglock for the victory. I thought that this match was very well done. On top of being very physical and at times intense, Cesaro and Miz kept the feud going strong.
Cesaro would dominate most of the contest with attacks to The Miz’s wrapped up shoulder. Some of the attacks were great, including an armbar inside of a steel chair. The Miz’s victory is what keeps the storyline going, though.
If Cesaro won here, the feud would be over. He would have defeated Miz for a third time, so Miz would really be out of chances. Seeing him win this match, especially after getting beat up for most of it, shows the fans that he can defeat Cesaro. I think their next encounter will be at WrestleMania.
Team Hell No Argue and Paul Heyman Meets with Vickie Guerrero
Backstage, Daniel Bryan approached Kane. He wasn’t too happy about Kane uppercutting him instead of hugging him inside the Chamber. Bryan would be wrestling later and didn’t want Kane at ringside. Kane said he’d get his own match while mentioning his hatred for snakes.
Randy Orton just happened to be standing there and called Kane Barney the Dinosaur before walking away.
Team Hell No continue to argue. It really is only a matter of time before they break up. I would hope they lose the WWE Tag Team Championship first, though. Orton calling Kane Barney was quite funny. The Viper has a point; Kane really isn’t the Big Red Monster anymore. I don’t know if I’d call him Barney, but he’s not the monster he used to be.
Paul Heyman then arrived in Vickie Guerrero’s office. She told him that she had an announcement that would impact his career, but that she would say it in the ring. This announcement better be big if she can’t simply say it backstage.
If it will impact his career, I would imagine that Vince McMahon gave her the green light to fire him. Then again, it really could be anything. Heyman’s life-changing announcement last week wasn’t very life-changing, so this could be nothing at all.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
Despite a distraction from Big E. Langston, Alberto Del Rio made Dolph Ziggler tap out to the Cross Armbreaker. Del Rio and Ziggler had a good match here. They gave fans some nice back-and-forth action throughout the contest, but I liked their match on Main Event last week a lot more.
I think it was because they had more time on Main Event to deliver more action than they did here. I really liked Del Rio’s reverse suplex from the top rope, though.
Del Rio and Ziggler have some great chemistry in the ring with one another, and that gives me hope that their future feud will deliver. Whether Ziggler cashes in on Del Rio or Jack Swagger, a Del Rio/Ziggler feud will no doubt happen sometime this year.
Speaking of cashing in, Big E. Langston attacked Del Rio after the match. Ziggler saw the opportunity to cash in and almost did. Ricardo Rodriguez would steal the briefcase and run up the ramp with Langston right behind him. Ricardo dropped the briefcase on the ramp, but by the time AJ Lee got it for Ziggler, Del Rio was up and kicked him in the head.
For a second, I thought that there was going to be a new World Heavyweight champion. Then I remembered that WWE has had many chances to have him cash in, but each time he was stopped by Sheamus, Orton, Cena or somebody else. So I knew this would end up no different. I still think that he’ll finally cash in at WrestleMania, though.
Sheamus Knows Colin Farrell
Wade Barrett then appeared in the ring to declare that he was the star of a movie called Dead Man Down. He showed a trailer, with it clearly showing Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace as the stars. Sheamus than appeared on the titantron to say that he knew Colin Farrell and that Barrett wasn’t a star. If he didn’t like what was said, then Barrett should do something about it.
So what was this about exactly? With Dead Man Down being a WWE Studios film, I really couldn’t care less about it. I’m a big movie guy, but I am yet to see a good WWE film.
So does Sheamus interrupting this segment mean a Sheamus/Barrett feud leading into WrestleMania? If so, what about Barrett’s feud with Bo Dallas? Then again, that really didn’t go anywhere, so I won’t be surprised if it was dropped.
Both Sheamus and Barrett need something to do for WrestleMania, and a match between them would be a good one. This was just a random way to get it started.
Brodus Clay, Tensai and Naomi vs. Primo, Epico and Rosa Mendes
The babyface team just destroyed Primo, Epico and Rosa. Naomi was impressive during her short time in the ring, but other than that, this was a straight up squash match. I really don’t know what else to say.
The State of the Union Address
Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter then appeared to give their own State of the Union Address. Coulter said that the Bill of Rights gave them the right to speak their minds, and that the state of the country was pathetic. It was pathetic due to illegal immigrants and it was time for them to be stopped.
Swagger’s title match at WrestleMania is more than just a title match, but it’s a battle for the country. Swagger won’t only win the title, but he’ll reclaim America.
I don’t necessarily agree with the views of the Zeb Coulter character, but I do like the character. This was a good segment thanks to Coulter’s great mic work. Coulter, or Dutch Mantell to older fans, has been in the business for 40 years. That man hasn’t lost a step on the mic.
Once the character is finished, WWE would be crazy not to send him down to NXT to teach the talent down there how to cut a promo.
Swagger is benefiting greatly with Coulter by his side. He’s been a heel since his debut in 2008, but he has never gotten this much heat before. The controversial views of Coulter are rubbing off on Swagger, and that’s getting fans to want to hate him as a result.
Whether rushing him into a World title match at WrestleMania is a good idea remains to be seen, but Zeb Coulter is the best thing to happen to him in a long time.
Jack Swagger vs. Daniel Bryan
After Coulter gave his address, Swagger then defeated Daniel Bryan with the Patriot Lock. Swagger and Bryan had a good match with a lot of solid action. They went back-and-forth throughout the contest and delivered as a result.
This would be the first one-on-one match Swagger has had since his return where he didn’t squash someone. The Elimination Chamber reminded me how good Swagger really was, and that was confirmed for me here.
Swagger is a great in-ring talent, and now that he actually has a gimmick and someone to do his talking for him, he’s going to go quite far. I don’t know if he’ll go as far as a World title, but I think he’ll at least remain in the main event.
Team Hell No really need to lose the tag titles so Bryan can get back to singles competition. That man is too talented not to be back in the main event.
Brad Maddox Returns and Mr. McMahon Issues a Challenge
Vickie Guerrero and Paul Heyman then appeared in the ring. She announced that Brad Maddox was her new assistant, but Maddox would say that he was the assistant managing supervisor of Raw, not the assistant to the managing supervisor.
Heyman didn’t see how that would change his career, but Vince McMahon then appeared on the titantron. He held Heyman to his promise of doing “anything” to get the stipulation he wanted, so Mr. McMahon told him he was challenging him to a fight next week.
So is Maddox Guerrero’s assistant or does he have some power? Either way, it’s good to see him back. Maddox annoyed me at first, but after hearing him on commentary a few times, I realized just how entertaining the man is. This is a smart move by WWE. He adds a new flavor, so to speak, to Guerrero’s usual way of doing things.
As for Mr. McMahon wanting to fight Heyman, something is definitely up. With the chairman on crutches, there won’t be much of a fight between them. There will be a fight, though, between Brock Lesnar and Triple H. Lesnar will come out before anything happens, but before he can attack McMahon, Triple H will run out for the save.
Chris Jericho, Sheamus and Ryback vs. The Shield
The Shield picked up the win when Dean Ambrose pinned Chris Jericho after Seth Rollins hit an impressive springboard knee to Y2J’s head. This was an entertaining match with a lot of solid action. I thought this contest was on par with the match at the Elimination Chamber.
A part of me liked this one a little more, as I’m a big Jericho fan, but they were both good.
The Shield really are a cohesive unit. They work so well together, but I am particularly impressed with Ambrose and Rollins. I’ve been a fan of Rollins since his days in Ring of Honor, but he has truly stepped up his game now that he’s in the WWE. I can’t wait to see him go out on his own.
Ambrose is probably the best overall performer of the group. He’s great in the ring like Rollins, but he’s got something Rollins doesn’t really have, and that is solid mic skills. Rollins can get it done, but Ambrose is a lot better.
I’m not too big a fan of Roman Reigns and sometimes feel that someone else should have been called up instead of him, but if he wasn’t then The Shield would be missing the intensity that he brings.
This match also raises a big question for me, though: What will these six superstars be doing at WrestleMania?
A Match Turns into a Return
Kofi Kingston vs. Damien Sandow was set to happen, but Sandow attacked Kingston before the bell rang. He was beating him down until the music of R-Truth hit. Truth made his return to help Kingston, and it paid off. Sandow was sent packing while the former partners stood tall.
It’s good to see R-Truth back. With him helping Kingston, I hope that their team will reform. The Tag Team division was looking very promising last year, but it’s now back on the backburner. The division could benefit from another team, and Truth’s attack on Sandow could end up leading to Team Rhodes Scholars reforming for a few months to feud with him and Kingston.
No matter what R-Truth’s return leads to, it’s just good to see him back.
Randy Orton vs. Kane
After Kane got distracted by Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton hit the RKO for the victory. I couldn’t really get into this match. It didn’t necessarily bore me, though. The action was solid between them and it was a decent match, but I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it.
I don’t know why, as I have enjoyed their past matches very much. They work well in the ring with one another and usually deliver. I can’t put my finger on it.
The Rock Unveils a New Championship Belt
After The Rock was played to the ring by a marching band, he declared that the belt he held in his hand worked eight years ago when it debuted. The WWE Championship shouldn’t look like a toy, though, so he handed the belt to someone at ringside and revealed the new championship belt.
He then began to address John Cena and CM Punk, but Cena’s music would hit. Cena just stood there on the stage, and he was soon hit with the spinner belt by CM Punk. The Rock and Punk stared at each other to close the show.
WWE has finally gotten rid of the spinner belt! I hated that title eight years ago when it first debuted, so I am so happy they’re finally trashing it. The Rock’s right, it did look like a toy.
I like the finished product of the new belt. It looks so much better than the spinner, though my favorite will always be the eagle design. My question is, though, why is there no name plate?
Perhaps the side plates could answer that question. The plates on the side of the belt were the Brahma Bull, which is the symbol of The Rock. Perhaps those will change to the symbol of the particular wrestler holding it. If so, that’s very different and I like it!
Overall, I thought that this was a good episode of WWE Monday Night Raw. The show featured a number of good matches, while most of the segments were great as well.
The main storylines for WrestleMania got some solid build, though there are still a lot of questions about the roles of some of the top talent. Hopefully things become more clear as the week progresses into Main Event and SmackDown, or at least next week on Raw.
WWE started things on a high note this week, though, so I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week for professional wrestling brings!
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