WWE Monday Night Raw: Biggest Hits and Misses from March 18 Edition
March 18's Monday Night Raw wasn't as entertaining or thrilling as the last few episodes have been.
The show never really reached that "must see" level, which is especially bad given WrestleMania XXIX is only a few weeks away.
Not coincidentally, this week's Raw was a lot less 'Taker vs. Punk-focused than last week's show. It was definitely worse off for it.
However, it wasn't all bad as some segments did make an impact and resonated.
The following are the biggest hits and misses from March 18's Monday Night Raw.
Miss: John Cena Opens Raw
After not appearing on last week's episode John Cena makes his way to the ring to open this week's show.
He cuts a decent Cena promo about his match with The Rock at WrestleMania but is eventually interrupted by The Prime Time Players.
This was not typical PTP, however, as Titus O'Neil was playing what may become his alter ego, Rufus "Pancake" Patterson.
Titus and Darren were actually a lot of fun, but it was the strangest way to introduce a new gimmick and made the segment feel sloppily random.
Darren Young says he and O'Neil are ready for WrestleMania which John Cena take issue with.
They have a match, Cena wins, the women and children roar their appreciation.
The Prime Time Player's, particularly O'Neil, have so much potential. However, this was not the place to showcase that.
Their involvement felt too arbitrary and Cena squashed Darren for basically no reason.
Hit: Ryback vs. Henry Made Official for WrestleMania
David Otunga stars in "The Call," which is slated to be the highest grossing film WWE Studios has been involved in.
WWE surprisingly aren't shoving this down our throats, and Otunga was handily destroyed by Ryback.
After their match Big Hungry talks some smack about Mark Henry, and next thing you know, The World's Strongest Man is out for a confrontation.
Before the two powerhouses can get in the ring Henry is stopped by Vickie Guerrero and Teddy Long and taken out of his match with The Shield at 'Mania and put into a match with Ryback.
Nothing groundbreaking but WWE are doing a good job at making this angle play out slowly for a big, shell-shocking reward at the Show of Shows.
Oh, and Ryback hit Otunga with a shell shocker afterwards because murdering Drew McIntyre last week wasn't enough.
Miss: Fandango Isn't Clicking
Fandango has only been pulling his "I won't compete until you say my name properly" act for a few weeks now, but it's hard to see it ever working.
The good thing about predictability is that fans can anticipate a payoff.
Fandango, however, is very predictable, but it's hard to tell if we'll be rewarded for our patience with him.
This week we got to see his full entrance, but after that he quickly bailed on his match, as usual.
The character is also miscast.
Johnny Curtis is too American to pull off the exotic Spanish dancer, and it can be awkward to see him try.
Later on in the night he had a brief backstage encounter with Chris Jericho. It would be a shame for Y2J to put him over only for the character to go nowhere.
Hit: CM Punk and Undertaker Work the Shortest and Sweetest Segment of the Night
Last week's episode of Raw was heavy on the Punk vs. Undertaker angle.
Perhaps creative want to slow it down or maybe they don't want Punk doing much following his light injury.
Either way, all we got this week was this brief segment that saw Undertaker cut a short promo and CM Punk give an immediate retort via titantron.
Undertaker's mystique can be broken a little when he talks, but his promo was fine.
CM Punk was stellar, talking with a smooth villainy while playing with Bearer's urn as if it were a basketball.
The Second City Saint is guaranteed to get some nuclear heat from this, and it seems similarly likely that he and Undertaker will steal the show at WrestleMania.
Hit: Cody Rhodes vs. Alberto Del Rio, Ricardo Rodiguez's Ankle vs. Ankle Lock
This segment had two parts; Alberto Del Rio vs. Cody Rhodes and a post-match brawl between Del Rio and Jack Swagger.
Cody Rhodes' role on television has been marginalized in recent months, hitting a low point when he was squashed by John Cena back in January.
Despite losing, Cody was made to look like strong competition to the world heavyweight champion, which was definitely nice to see.
More importantly, the two worked a very solid television match.
While Del Rio was celebrating his victory he was attacked by Jack Swagger.
Following some brawling, Swagger laid out Del Rio and locked the Patriot Act on Ricardo Rodriguez.
The lock was only applied for a few seconds, but Rodriguez sold it like Swagger snapped is ankle in two.
Alberto looked great following his win, and Rodriguez's strong selling helped the program immediately feel more personal. This segment worked.
Hit: Jericho, Barrett and Miz Work Solid Triple Threat Match
This Triple Threat match started slow but ended up being the best match of the night.
The three superstars told their story well; Miz and Jericho looked strong but Barrett sneaked his way to victory.
Some of the high spots in the match included a Lion-sault from Jericho onto Miz while he had Barrett locked in the figure four, and a lot of Jericho's counters were exciting, too.
Y2J was undoubtedly the star of the match, but Barrett scored his first big win in what feels like a very long time.
Miss: Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar II
The main segment of the night and the one that closed the show was the contract signing for Triple H's match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
It was a bit of a mess, as the entire program is.
For a rivalry that features two huge stars and one of the best talkers in the industry, their feud feels so generic and forced.
Triple H is trying way too hard to be the hardened badass that WWE are obviously looking to get him over as.
Everything seems engineered around a big Triple H win that can make him look as tough as possible.
It's a little jarring to see him in a leather jacket and jeans when he was in a suit and tie not so long ago. Again, it feels very forced.
To be fair, Lesnar and Triple H do have impressive physical charisma and their brawls are always entertaining.
Unfortunately, segments that don’t involve a brawl just never feel right.
Additionally, Triple H wrestles so infrequently that the "career on the line" stipulation feels almost completely weightless.
Miss: Dead Crowd
As a fan, it's hard to get into the product if the crowd isn't lively. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh wasn’t a particularly excitable crowd.
Some matches, such as the Triple Threat intercontinental championship bout, got a decent reaction (though still smaller than you'd expect).
Other matches like Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston, felt totally ignored by the live crowd.
Perhaps the worst instance of this came at the end of the show.
Paul Heyman had just taken a beating from Triple H and was about to unveil his nefarious plan to screw The Game.
He announced that Triple H's career would be on the line at WrestleMania.
The crowd, it seemed, was completely indifferent to this news, though a small "Triple H" chant did break out just before the show went off the air.
You can't blame WWE for the lack of crowd response, but it certainly hurt the show at times.
Miss: Lots of Filler
The show had several good segments but as a viewer it never felt like anything we were watching was particularly important.
The reason is because there was a lot of filler that hurt the flow of the show.
Raw has always had filler, especially since it's been a three hour program. However, this week it was worse than usual.
Segments of significance were book-ended by ones that were either boring or severed very little purpose.
We can't expect WWE to fill three hours with must-watch TV, so matches like Orton and Sheamus vs. 3MB and Sandow vs. R-Truth were expected filler.
However, other segments felt far less exciting than they should have, such as the matches with Team Hell No and Dolph Ziggler that worked towards a tag team championship match at WrestleMania.
Miss: No WWE Champion
The Rock is busy promoting G.I. Joe 2 and so had to miss out on Raw for the second week in a row.
It's a tough situation for WWE to work through; Rock is guaranteed to bring big business, but his schedule is very inconsistent.
Putting the WWE championship on The Rock meant TV ratings and media buzz, which is all great.
However, two consecutive Raw's where the Raw world champion is absent is ridiculous.
Putting the title on The Rock doesn't necessarily hurt its prestige, but it certainly makes it feel like it’s just a simple prop.
Follow Daniel on on Twitter for more wrestling ramblings @dvanboom