On a night where the stakes were high and excitement was in the air, fans witnessed two blockbuster returns, as well as a spectacular main event match on this week's extraordinary edition of WWE Monday Night Raw.
With WrestleMania drawing closer, this show did an effective job of getting the WWE universe excited for this year's spring spectacle and planted the seeds for the marquee matches at the event.
Here, I will analyze each significant segment presented on the show. I will also provide a combination of prediction and wishful thinking about what I hope to see in the coming weeks.
Triple H returns to brawl with Brock Lesnar
In a strong segment that featured Mr. McMahon, Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar and Triple H kicked off the show. A brief interaction between McMahon and Heyman was well done and their subsequent fight was fun while it lasted.
The brawl between HHH and Lesnar was incredibly intense, and the crowd was hot for both guys. Lesnar being busted open was a very nice touch, despite the fact that it probably wasn't planned.
Sure, most people saw this coming, but it's what needed to happen and it was excellently executed. While I'm not high on a rematch occurring between the two at WrestleMania 29, this was an awesome opener and set the tone for the rest of the show.
Ryback def. Dolph Ziggler w/AJ Lee and Big E Langston
This was a decent match between Dolph Ziggler and Ryback. It was pretty predictable that Ryback would emerge victorious, but Ziggler selling like a champ for all of Ryback's moves made the match entertaining.
After picking up a handful of monumental victories in late last year, it's a shame to see Ziggler back to his consistent losing ways. Nonetheless, I hope he's given a meaningful match at WrestleMania this year and that it kicks off relatively soon.
CM Punk promo
This was an effective promo from CM Punk. He heavily hyped his match with John Cena for later in the night and emphasized just how important it was to him, the WWE Championship and the main event of WrestleMania 29.
Not only that, but he also seemed to foreshadow a feud with Undertaker as well. If that's the direction they end up taking with the Voice of the Voiceless going into the "show of shows," then this promo did a successful job of planting the seeds for that match.
Mark Henry def. The Great Khali
In a harmless match, Mark Henry quickly defeated The Great Khali. I was afraid that we'd be getting this match at 'Mania after what was teased last week, but thankfully, the mini-feud was blown off this week instead.
The match was mostly painless and it once again showcased Henry's sheer strength and dominance. Henry is another guy who deserves a spot on the 'Mania card, so here's hoping he's given a credible face to work with at the event within the next few weeks.
Miz TV guest starring World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio, Ricardo Rodriguez, Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter
This was a solid Miz TV segment that featured World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter. As great as Coulter's mic skills are, what he said this week was no different from what he's been saying up to this point.
Del Rio's response was pretty flat as well and did not have me looking forward to their upcoming match at WrestleMania 29. Personally, I believe Swagger should be suspended and left off the 'Mania card due to his inexcusable actions from last week, but I guess it's too late for that now.
Randy Orton def. United States Champion Antonio Cesaro (non-title)
This was typical match with Randy Orton defeating United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. We've seen this match a handful times in the last month, so the action was nothing out of the ordinary.
Aside from the cool finish, this bout served no purpose whatsoever. Cesaro shouldn't be losing each week to top-tier Superstars that have no intention of chasing the star-spangled prize.
Sheamus discusses Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett's role in "Dead Man Down"
This was a throwaway segment featuring Sheamus and Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. This was one of the few times that I actually found some of Sheamus' comedy humorous, but it doesn't take away from the fact that this segment was stupendously stupid.
I would love to see these two face one another on the grandest stage of them all, but why can't they abandon the comedy and take a more serious approach?
R-Truth def. Cody Rhodes
This was a brief match between R-Truth and Cody Rhodes. The action was fine for what it was, but the bout was over within mere minutes.
Damien Sandow was brilliant on commentary, and it's nice to see him entering a singles feud as a singles competitor, but where is this headed?
I don't see Truth and Sandow facing one another at WrestleMania (unless it's on the pre-show), so I'm not sure what the point of this rivalry is supposed to be.
WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No def. Prime Time Players (non-title)
This was a fine match with WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No defeating the Prime Time Players.
Having Daniel Bryan compete blindfolded and Kane with one arm tied behind his back only made the Prime Time Players look weaker, which is a shame since they're a talented tandem.
Obviously, Team Hell No will be doing something at 'Mania together, but I hope to see them part ways sooner rather than later. They've been an entertaining tag team over the last six months, but at this point, they're doing nothing for the tag titles.
Randy Orton and Sheamus ambush The Shield
This was a great promo from The Shield. Each member produced strong mic work and put over their impressive accolades since their debut.
Sheamus and Randy Orton targeting The Shield makes sense given their history together, but it also feels a bit random at the same time. Sheamus looks to be headed for a feud with Barrett, while Orton has been irrelevant for a long time.
Jack Swagger w/Zeb Coulter def. The Miz
This was good match between The Miz and Jack Swagger. As far as I know, this was the first ever one-on-one match between these two, so it felt fresh.
Swagger scored a substantial amount of offense throughout the bout before Miz battled back for a brief bit before inevitable falling victim to the Patriot Act. After Miz defeated Antonio Cesaro in a non-title match last week, wouldn't it have made sense to grant the Awesome One another title shot?
John Cena def. CM Punk to advance to WrestleMania 29 for the WWE Championship
This was a fantastic match between CM Punk and John Cena to determine the number one contender to the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29. These two are simply incapable of having a bad match together, so it shouldn't have come as any surprise that they stole the show.
There was no doubt in my mind that Cena would win here, but the false finishes were still believable and only enhanced the contest. Punk and Cena have phenomenal chemistry with one another, but if this is the last time we see these two do battle for a good while, I'm happy they ended their blockbuster feud on this high note.
Punk looked strong in defeat and loses absolutely nothing from the clean loss to Cena. I understand that many people (myself included) were expecting Undertaker to return at the end of the show, but it would have taken away from Cena's celebration.
Expect the Deadman to return next week to jump-start his rumored feud with Punk going into WrestleMania.
Overall, this was a solid show that was made memorable by the opening segment and the main event matchup. Everything else (specifically the second hour) was pointless filler and dragged on for the most part.
I'm not sure why WWE opted to plug so many movies and shows over the course of the three hours, but that might have played a factor in that. On a side note, I'm completely content with Donald Trump entering the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame this year, given his rich history with the company.
Furthermore, I'm glad they kept their mentions of Glenn Beck to a minimum and relegated Michael Cole's attempted "interview" with him to their YouTube page. Nonetheless, the WrestleMania 29 card looks slightly clearer after this week's show, and I highly anticipate next week's Old School edition of Raw following the success it did in late 2010.