On another electrifying edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, we witnessed more seeds planted regarding potential matches for WrestleMania 29. With top names such as Triple H, John Cena and WWE Champion The Rock absent from the show, other stars such as CM Punk and Undertaker took center stage and built towards their upcoming match at the show of shows.
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.
CM Punk interrupted Undertaker's tribute to Paul Bearer
It was an excellent opening segment featuring Undertaker and CM Punk. The video package remembering Paul Bearer was touching and very well done.
Having Undertaker kick off the show by paying tribute to Bearer with the patented urn was a nice touch, and Punk's inevitable interruption was logical. I would have found this disrespectful had they had not paid tribute to Bearer for the remainder of Raw, but since they did, I was fine with it.
Kane's subsequent attack on Punk helped set up their main event match for later in the night.
Big Show def. Seth Rollins w/The Shield by disqualification
Smart booking with The Shield dismantling Big Show. The first singles match of a Shield member should feel special, so I'm glad they held off on doing Show vs. Rollins here.
The Shield delivering a triple powerbomb to Show was a cool visual and helped further their recent strong momentum. It was also nice to not see Randy Orton and Sheamus come to the aid of the World's Largest Athlete, which wouldn't' have made any sense at this point in time.
Dolph Ziggler w/AJ Lee and Big E Langston def. WWE Tag Team Champion Daniel Bryan
Great match between Dolph Ziggler and WWE Tag Team Champion Daniel Bryan. These two have amazing chemistry together, so it was great to see them get just enough time to shine inside the squared circle.
AJ Lee's involvement was interesting given her history with Bryan, and Langston also played his role well. The action was exciting and Ziggler scoring the victory was a refreshing change of pace, as Bryan loses nothing from the loss.
This appears to be setting up a tag title match between the duo of Ziggler and Langson and Team Hell No, which I wouldn't mind if it meant finally getting the straps off Kane and Bryan.
Fandango refused to compete against Tensai
Typical promo with Fandango refusing to face Tensai. He had exact same shtick he did last week, so there was nothing new here whatsoever.
He generated some mild heat, but that was about it. As previously stated, I can't form a full opinion of the character until we see him change things up, hopefully in coming weeks.
Brock Lesnar attacked New Age Outlaws and addressed Triple H's challenge
Strong segment with Brock Lesnar interrupting the match between Team Rhodes Scholars and New Age Outlaws. I didn't even think about the possibility of Lesnar attacking Road Dogg and Billy Gunn due to their affiliation with Triple H, so that was brilliantly booked.
Paul Heyman's promo was excellent as expected and really put over Lesnar as a force to be reckoned with. The feud between Lesnar and HHH has been built surprisingly well in recent weeks and I look forward to what's in store for the rest of this rivalry going into WrestleMania.
Mark Henry def. Kofi Kingston
Nice match with Mark Henry defeating Kofi Kingston. We all knew Kingston didn't have a chance against Henry going into this bout, but the Ghanian grappler still had an impressive outing, regardless.
Henry catching Kingston in mid-air for the World's Strongest Slam was a sweet spot and once again showcased Henry's dominance.
Ryback def. Heath Slater w/3MB
Basic squash match with Ryback dominating Heath Slater. We've been seeing the same thing from Big Hungry for weeks, so this was nothing out of the ordinary.
The face-off between Ryback and Mark Henry was intense, aside from the fact that hitting their finishers on Drew McIntyre multiple times was pretty lame. I assume their advertised match on this week's SmackDown has a non-finish in order to set up a confrontation for WrestleMania 29.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio def. United States Champion Antonio Cesaro (non-title)
Solid match with World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio defeating United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. Their styles meshed nicely and made for some enjoyable exchanges while the bout lasted.
With this being the first-ever encounter between the two, it felt fresh. The fact they didn't make a big deal of the Champion vs. Champion stipulation was disappointing, yet unsurprising.
Of course, Cesaro losing yet another non-title match does damage to both him and the U.S. title, but it's not even worth complaining about at this point.
Randy Orton and Sheamus def. Team Rhodes Scholars
Good tag team match with Randy Orton and Sheamus defeating Team Rhodes Scholars. It received a fair amount of time and allowed Rhodes and Sandow to score some offense before ultimately being defeated.
This also helped establish Orton and Sheamus as allies going into their apparent match with The Shield at 'Mania. Rhodes Scholars, on the other hand, should resume their feud with New Age Outlaws at the show of shows after the interruption of their match earlier in the evening.
Chris Jericho hosted The Highlight Reel with The Miz and Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett; Miz vs. Jericho went to a No Contest
Entertaining segment featuring Chris Jericho, The Miz and Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. I have highly anticipated an encounter between Miz and Jericho for years now, so I was entertained by what we ended up getting.
Some may have seen it as a train wreck, but I found it to be both fun and frantic. The plugging of The Marine 3 and Dead Man Down was unnecessary, but it's been the norm on Raw in recent weeks.
The subsequent match between Miz and Jericho was also enjoyable while it lasted, with that being yet another first-time-ever matchup. The Triple Threat Intercontinental Championship match involving all three competitors on next week's show should be a blast to watch.
Jack Swagger w/Zeb Colter def. Sin Cara
Brief match with Jack Swagger defeating Sin Cara. Zeb Colter's pre-match promo was effective, but it went a bit longer than it needed to.
That aside, the match itself served its purpose in giving Swagger more momentum going into 'Mania and continuing his crusade against Mexicans. On a side note, Sin Cara continues to impress me in the ring, as he's improved immensely over the last two years.
WWE Tag Team Champion Kane def. CM Punk in a No Disqualification match
It was an enjoyable No Disqualification match between Kane and CM Punk. They utilized the surrounding environment to their advantage and reawakened the crowd.
I'm fine with Kane going over Punk here, as it allowed Kane to pay his respects to Paul Bearer with his brother Undertaker before being brutalized by Punk. As noted earlier, I'm completely content with this storyline as long as they don't go overboard with it.
They wouldn't be doing this angle if 'Taker didn't approve of it, so with that in mind, I think it'll only benefit the feud between Punk and 'Taker. Fans will desperately want 'Taker to get his hands on Punk by the time 'Mania rolls around, so this angle will be effective in that aspect.
Overall, a great show that featured some entertaining action and solid segments. There was hardly any filler and the three hours didn't seem to drag as much as they normally do.
While they might not necessarily "save" the Divas division, it's nice to see The Bella Twins back after a near year-long absence from the company. The absences of Triple H, John Cena and The Rock went unnoticed by the end of the night, but it was still smart to give them the week off.
The video package that aired for Rock and Cena was very well done and has me extremely excited for WrestleMania 29. More matches were teased for the event on this show, so it's nice to see the card slowly but surely filling out.