Though many eyes remain firmly fixed on the Road to WrestleMania, for this week at least the emphasis of Monday Night Raw was not on this year’s Showcase of the Immortals.
Instead we witnessed a show honoring the late William “Paul Bearer” Moody, who unfortunately passed away last week aged 58.
Numerous video packages and vignettes were aired to help us remember Moody’s great contribution to the professional wrestling industry—while there was also something of a testimonial in the form of a victory for Kane to close the show.
All in all, it made for a great show.
As a result, it was incredibly difficult to pick just five talking points to discuss this week. With this is mind, we run through the five of the most prominent talking issues to emanate from Monday Night Raw.
After last week’s blockbuster announcement, the WWE added further build to The Undertaker’s upcoming clash with CM Punk at WrestleMania XXIX.
However their methods have attracted widespread criticism.
CM Punk distastefully interrupted ‘Taker’s tribute to Paul Bearer before proceeding to cut one of his typically brash promos on The Deadman. He then closed the show in possession of Bearer’s urn–further exhibiting his lack of respect.
While this segment may have served its purpose of hyping up the duos WrestleMania bout, was it correct for the WWE to have Punk taint Bearer’s tribute show?
Perhaps not, but the likelihood is that The Undertaker would have condoned such a turn of events.
While this doesn’t necessarily forgive Punk, we must remember that this is the professional wrestling industry–and that instances like this are very much sanctioned for storyline purposes only.
The fact that Bearer featured so prominently in the rest of the show demonstrated the amount of respect and appreciation that the WWE has for Paul Bearer.
Nonetheless, I’m very much remaining on the fence with this one, as it is a highly tricky subject to manage—but what do you guys think?
One of the more shocking aspects of Raw this week was the return of Nikki and Brie Bella.
Perhaps more shockingly still was the fact that they appear to have aligned themselves with the Rhodes Scholars—an unlikely matchup to say the least.
Regarding the impact that this development could have, I would expect the twins to play more of a managerial role than anything else—despite the fact that they criticized Kaitlyn and the state of the Divas division since they left.
Nonetheless, with Kaitlyn not yet booked for ‘Mania it wouldn’t be totally out of the question to see one of the Bellas challenge the Divas champion at the big one.
However this one pans out though, I think it’s great to have the Bella twins back. They make for a unique double act and could really add a very interesting dimension to the Rhodes Scholars gimmick if they remain aligned with them.
How would you most like to see the Bellas utilized upon their return?
With Brock Lesnar slated to appear, it was always likely that we were going to see him accept The Game’s challenge for a match at ‘Mania.
However I’d like to give the WWE props for the way they went about this one.
While many, myself included, predicted the incorporation of the New Age Outlaws into this storyline, it still made for a vastly entertaining segment as Lesnar delivered an F-5 each to Road Dogg and Billy Gunn.
Furthermore, the decision to delay the announcement of the match’s stipulation—and also not to reveal the precise nature of that stipulation—was a great way of adding to the anticipation surrounding this one.
Though some form of no-DQ stipulation seems likely, it’s incredibly hard to predict exactly what conditions this match will take place under.
I for one am keen to see how this one pans out, and I find my interest in this contest growing ever greater by the day.
Though nothing was officially announced on Raw, a number of seeds were sown which appear to point to extra matches that could well be added to the WrestleMania card.
Firstly, there was the aftermath of Dolph Ziggler’s win over Daniel Bryan–specifically the fact that Big E Langston chose to attack Bryan after the bell.
This, along with the history between AJ and Bryan, could suggest that a Team Hell No vs. Ziggler and Langston match for the Tag Titles is being teased for WrestleMania.
Neither pairing is currently engulfed in any major storyline, so it would certainly be a feasible option at this stage.
Also, we saw an altercation, both verbal and physical, between Wade Barrett, Chris Jericho and The Miz.
The result was the announcement of a Triple Threat match for the Intercontinental Championship next week on Raw, and it seems highly likely that this match could eventually provide us with our IC Title match for ‘Mania.
Who exactly that remains to involve remains to be seen, but I personally find myself hugely intrigued by the prospect of Barrett vs. Jericho.
Their history would make for a great feud; while their ability will ensure we get a top quality match to bolster the show’s mid-card—would you not agree?
Apart from a promo building-up their WrestleMania showdown, we didn’t see either the Rock or John Cena live in person this week on Raw.
While this is something of an issue given the fact that this is going to main event the April spectacular, there is a huge positive for the WWE to take here in that they put on a great show without either or their two top stars.
Granted, other part-timers were present to atone for this, and Bearer’s tributes may have given Raw a rather unique feel—but either way it is an encouraging sign to be able to say that Cena and Rock were not particularly missed.
However, given that their match is drawing ever nearer, this cannot be kept up.
Cena needs to appear next week to cut a promo at least, as the Rock is not scheduled to appear until the final two episodes of Raw before ‘Mania.
But as far as the post-WrestleMania future goes, the WWE’s ability to perform without their two top faces is hugely encouraging for both the company and fans alike.
An entertaining and emotional show this week provided us with plenty to digest, as the WWE effectively balanced paying tribute to Paul Bearer and hyping up WrestleMania XXIX.
Perhaps most importantly though, we saw a number of the lower-card matches receive some much needed attention, to the point that we could have some new and exciting rivalries to look forward to at ‘Mania and beyond.
There is still much work to be done, but for me this was a very solid showing of Raw given the current circumstances.
As ever though, I’d love to hear your opinions. Comment below with your thoughts on the show, the talking points outlined in the article, and potentially any other issues that were not yet discussed.