5 Things to Watch for on March 18 Edition of WWE Monday Night Raw
Photo courtesy of WWE.com
Time is running low for the WWE when it comes to building toward WrestleMania XXIX as there are now just three weeks until the show of shows takes place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. With that in mind, each passing week becomes more and more important, so tonight's edition of Raw will be vital.
The main thing that the WWE has been promoting for the past several days is Triple H's answer to Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Triple H challenged Lesnar to a match at WrestleMania two weeks ago and Heyman accepted on Lesnar's behalf under the condition that Triple H signs the contract blindly without knowing the stipulations.
In addition to the Triple H vs. Lesnar angle advancing, fans are certainly interested to see how the WWE progresses with The Undertaker and CM Punk after Punk stole the urn last week. Also, The Rock is not scheduled to appear, so the creative team will have to work around that once again. Add in a triple-threat match for the Intercontinental Championship between Wade Barrett, The Miz and Chris Jericho, and this is shaping up to be a strong show.
Here are the top five things that you should keep an eye on while watching tonight's critical episode of Raw as the road to WrestleMania rolls on.
Triple H to Address Brock Lesnar's WrestleMania 29 Demands
A rematch between Triple H and Brock Lesnar has been in the works since Lesnar defeated Triple H at SummerSlam, and it is now extremely close to becoming official.
Triple H prevented Lesnar from once again attacking Vince McMahon a few weeks ago and then issued a WrestleMania challenge to Lesnar on the old-school episode of Raw. Lesnar and Paul Heyman accepted last week, but the ball is now back in The Game's court.
Lesnar interrupted a match between the New Age Outlaws and Team Rhodes Scholars last week as he hit both Billy Gunn and Road Dogg with an F-5. Lesnar didn't actually get physical with Triple H, as he wasn't present, but Lesnar did hit The Game where it hurts by taking out his two former D-Generation X partners.
Heyman also laid down the gauntlet by telling Triple H that Lesnar would fight him at WrestleMania, but only if Triple H allows Lesnar to set the stipulations.
Realistically speaking, something like this would never go down in the business world, but Heyman said that if Triple H doesn't accept the terms then he'll be letting down his fans, his family and himself. That is likely to resonate with Triple H and will almost certainly cause him to sign the contract blindly despite the fact that Lesnar and Heyman could really stack the deck against him.
Hopefully we also find out what the stipulations are on tonight's show. There are limitless possibilities, as there are a number of different match types that could add some juice to their feud. My hope is a Hell in a Cell match, but I could also see a street fight or perhaps even an I Quit match.
Also, it is important to remember that Heyman said the word "stipulations," so there will probably be more to it than the match type itself. My guess is that Heyman will slip some language into the contract that states Triple H just retire if he loses to Lesnar. That would obviously add some intrigue to their encounter.
What's Next for The Undertaker and CM Punk?
When it became official two weeks ago that CM Punk would face The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXIX, there were some mixed reactions. While most fans seemed to be happy due to the fact that the quality of a Punk vs. Taker match will be fantastic, others were put off by the lack of a storyline. The WWE acted quickly to improve in that regard last week, though, and now Punk vs. The Undertaker is easily the most anticipated bout on the entire WrestleMania card.
Last week's episode of Raw focused largely on paying tribute to the late Paul Bearer. He tragically passed away at the age of 58, but his contributions to the business will never be forgotten. If not for Bearer's guidance, there is no telling whether or not The Undertaker would have become so popular. Taker and Bearer were good friends in real life as well, so it was fitting that last week's Raw opened with a video tribute to Bearer followed by The Undertaker kneeling before the urn.
Punk interrupted The Undertaker, however, and said that would snap Taker's 20-0 streak at WrestleMania. Kane took exception to Punk's disrespect and beat him in a match later in the night. Punk attacked Kane with the urn, though, and ran off with it. The show closed with Punk mocking The Undertaker's signature pose with the urn while The Phenom made a throat-slashing motion in Punk's direction to signify his desire to get revenge.
I am extremely excited to see where this feud goes over the next few weeks. It seems likely that Punk will still be in possession of the urn on Raw, so that should be the main storyline. The hope among many fans is that Taker will take the urn back immediately, but I would like to see Punk keep it and string the angle out through 'Mania in order to add some heat to the rivalry.
How Will WWE Handle The Rock and John Cena?
Due to outside commitments, WWE Champion The Rock was not present at Raw last week. Because of that, the WWE kept John Cena off television as well and decided to show a promo to hype their feud instead.
The Rock is not scheduled to appear on Raw tonight either, so the creative team will once again have to figure out a way to keep the feud relevant without at least one of its key players in the fold.
Many fans were critical of The Rock not being on Raw last week, and that criticism is likely to be exacerbated this week. It's important to understand that The Rock and the WWE have been transparent throughout this process. Nobody has claimed that he would show up when he hasn't. It was always well known that The Rock would have to miss some dates, but the WWE was more than willing to live with that because Vince McMahon realizes how good The Rock is for the company.
During their feud last year, Cena would often blast The Rock for not appearing on a regular basis. It seemed like plenty of fans ate that up, but it actually damaged The Rock, as it made him look like a deadbeat even though he was living up to what was expected of him. I was glad that the WWE decided to not allow Cena to cut a promo last week because he would have made The Rock look bad once again in all likelihood. Unless the other man is present to defend himself, it really isn't a good idea to allot mic time in this feud.
The WWE will probably be hard-pressed to keep Cena off TV two weeks in a row, so it is in a tough position. The best move would be to have Cena win a match in order to look strong and perhaps cut a very brief promo in reference to his WrestleMania match. The promo should focus on himself rather than The Rock, though, as the WWE needs to ensure that Cena elevates himself rather than cutting down The Rock.
Wade Barrett vs. The Miz vs. Chris Jericho IC Title Match Set
The WWE has clearly had some issues as of late when it comes to booking its mid-card, and that was once again the case last week.
During a segment of The Highlight Reel, Chris Jericho welcomed The Miz and Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. The Miz and Barrett argued about whose movie is better and then Jericho told Barrett that he would like to become a 10-time IC titleholder. That led to a No. 1 contender's match between Jericho and The Miz, but an indecisive finish left us without a winner.
Because of that, Vickie Guerrero announced that this week's episode of Raw would feature a triple threat for the Intercontinental Championship between Barrett, Miz and Jericho. It's a bit strange to hold a title match this close to WrestleMania, but the WWE hasn't done anything with the IC title lately, so it's not like it really matters. Barrett has lost constantly over the past couple months as the title around his waist has been an albatross more than a vehicle to elevate him. Perhaps this match can send him in the right direction, though.
Based on the way things went last week, my guess is that the feud moving forward will involve Barrett and Miz, but not Jericho. It may not seem like a great way to push a rivalry, but the fact that Barrett and Miz are both in WWE-produced movies is reason enough to put them together as far as the writers are concerned. As for Jericho, the WWE really needs to figure out something for him to do as he is one of the top talents on the entire roster.
I am still holding out hope that Jericho will face Dolph Ziggler at WrestleMania, so maybe Ziggler will interfere in the match and cost Jericho a chance to win the title. This would set up Jericho vs. Ziggler as well as The Miz vs. Barrett. A feud between Miz and Barrett isn't ideal since both of them need to win, but at least the Intercontinental Championship would get a little bit of the spotlight.
Will Mark Henry vs. Ryback Be Announced for WrestleMania 29?
The WWE has slowly been building toward a match between Ryback and Mark Henry at WrestleMania XXIX over the past couple weeks, but a wrench was seemingly thrown into those plans on SmackDown.
Randy Orton and Sheamus chose Ryback as their partner for a WrestleMania match against The Shield and Ryback accepted. The Shield attacked Ryback prior to his match with Henry, but The World's Strongest Man finished the job with three World's Strongest Slams.
Even though Ryback is scheduled to team with Orton and Sheamus at WrestleMania, all signs point to him bowing out in favor of a match with Henry. This would then allow Big Show to be added as a member of the team that will be taking on The Shield. It obviously would make sense for Ryback to go after The Shield since Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have made life miserable for him over the past few months, but most fans are much more interested in Ryback vs. Henry.
It isn't as if that match is going to be a technical display by any means, but Ryback and Henry are arguably the two most dominant forces in the WWE today, so they should have some great chemistry together. The WWE has received a lot of criticism for the way it has handled the mid-card heading into WrestleMania, and that criticism is largely deserved. With that said, I feel like the creative has done a really nice job with Ryback and Henry.
While it's certainly possible that the WWE could carry on the charade of Ryback teaming with Orton and Sheamus for a couple weeks, I would rather see Ryback announce his intention to face Henry this week. Most fans already know where this angle is heading, so there is no reason to drag it out.