Having entered the second-half of March, we now find ourselves at arguably the most important time in the professional wrestling calendar.
WrestleMania is less than three weeks away, meaning that now more than ever is the time for the WWE to step up and deliver the goods.
But as we look back at the most recent installment of Monday Night Raw, can the company really say that they gave us the best show that they possibly could?
Perhaps not, but nonetheless that remains a story for another time.
Today we instead take a look at the bigger picture, analyzing five of the biggest talking points to come from the March 18 episode of Monday Night Raw, assessing their potential significance moving forward.
The biggest issue here was the absence of the WWE Champion.
However we already knew that this would be the case, and so instead of giving the Great One any more criticism, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and reserve judgement on his performance until after his eagerly anticipated return next week.
Regarding the World Heavyweight Title picture though, we finally saw an improvement in the storyline.
Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio’s post-match scuffle added some much-needed intensity to the feud, while the “Real American’s” assault on Ricardo Rodriguez has really made this one personal (despite the fact that Swagger’s xenophobia should have already achieved that).
But I think the best development of the night came from the Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar rivalry.
While CM Punk and The Undertaker put together a decent segment, I would have expected the pair to receive more airtime and for The Undertaker to have been better utilized; his three-line promo was effective but somewhat insufficient in my eyes.
Triple H however, was much more involved. His verbal and physical exchange with Paul Heyman was perhaps the highlight of the night, although—and pardon my recurrent pessimism—I think the WWE could have done more with the stipulation.
No Holds Barred is hardly the rarest type of match. The uniqueness of 3 Stages of Hell, I Quit and a Last Man Standing match would have really added to the ‘Mania spectacle, and thus in my opinion would have been better options for Creative to pursue.
On the whole though, how do you think the WWE did in terms of building the four biggest clashes on the WrestleMania card?
Having originally been booked to team with Randy Orton and Sheamus against the Shield, Ryback has now been scheduled to face Mark Henry in singles competition at this year’s Showcase of the Immortals.
Given recent developments, this makes sense.
Ryback has had more interaction with Henry than the Shield as of late, and though he still has unfinished business with the rebellious faction, that storyline seemed to peter out somewhat after the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view.
Question marks will remain over why the WWE announced one match for the “Big Hungry”, only to change their mind a few days later, but if—as he is expected to do—the Big Show takes Ryback’s place then at least we have a rivalry that seems more relevant.
Furthermore, I’m very intrigued to see how the dynamic of a heel and two faces plays out as it could well result in a turn for one of the three men.
On the whole, I think this is a solid call from the WWE—though perhaps it should have been made sooner.
We haven’t seen much of R-Truth lately, but this week he returned with a count-out victory over Damien Sandow on Raw.
Most notably though, Truth appears to have dropped the “Little Jimmy” gimmick.
Though it’s difficult to claim that an invisible person is not in fact present, during Truth’s entrance he was seen interacting with the crowd rather than escorting his imaginary friend to ringside.
This, along with Jerry Lawler noting that the imaginary friend was nowhere in sight, would suggest that the former US champ has indeed dropped the confusing gimmick.
As far as I’m concerned, this can only be a good thing. Truth’s persona whilst endorsing the “Little Jimmy” idea was far too slapstick, and it turned Truth from a solid in-ring worker to one of the company’s village idiots alongside the likes of Santino Marella and Hornswoggle.
Granted the concept wasn’t necessarily targeted at viewers such as myself, but by ditching it the company can once again rely on Truth as a useful mid-carder capable of some athletic and entertaining matches.
Last night we saw such qualities on display, as well as an added focus from Truth that is far easier to buy into than his previous attitude.
Let’s hope that Little Jimmy remains truly invisible this time, for the sake of R-Truth and fans alike.
On Raw it was announced that the 5-time WCW Champion Booker T will be the sixth member of the Hall of Fame class of 2013.
Initially, I thought the WWE might be overdoing it a little here, as there are already a number of big names waiting to be inducted on April 6.
But on reflection, it’s a decision I really can’t argue with.
Booker T is entirely deserving of such an honor, even though it may be coming rather sooner than expected.
The success he achieved in both singles and doubles competition, with both the WWE and WCW, make him one of the most decorated and pioneering African-American professional wrestlers of all time.
Though he made it as a Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion, I always felt Booker could had the potential to become one of the very best in the company after the acquisition of WCW in 2001, but for whatever reason he was limited to just one more World Title run in just over six years.
Nonetheless, congratulations to Booker T for making it into the WWE Hall of Fame—but is it a decision you agree with?
After some brief clashes over the past few weeks, Kane and Daniel Bryan issued an official challenge to Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston on Raw.
As a result, we now have an exciting Tag Team Title match to look forward to at WrestleMania XXIX.
Though I do feel Ziggler could have been better utilized at ‘Mania—and he may well be if he does cash in his MITB briefcase—it will surely be a match of the highest order given that he and Bryan are involved.
Add to that the experience of Kane and the intrigue surrounding Langston’s in-ring debut and you have a match that really adds to the depth of the PPV’s card.
Furthermore, we may well be seeing an Intercontinental Title match announced soon.
Wade Barrett successfully defended his strap against The Miz and Chris Jericho, but Miz did not appear too pleased with the manner in which Barrett escaped with the victory.
This would suggest a rematch could be on the cards, but given Jericho’s amusing exchange with Fandango we could be looking at a one-on-one match-up at ‘Mania instead of another Triple Threat.
I had been hoping for Barrett vs. Jericho, but in all honesty as long as we get an IC Title match at WrestleMania I’ll be pleased.
From where I’m sitting, that match looks set to be Wade Barrett vs. The Miz—“movie star” vs. “movie star”—but what do you think?
Though I don’t like to end things on a dampener, I had been hoping for a little better from Raw this week.
But nonetheless, we saw an extra dimension added to a couple of the upper-card matches, while some much-needed depth was added to the mid-card.
But what do you think of the talking points discussed in the articles?
How well has the WWE handled the main event matches?
Is the Big Show the right man to potentially replace Ryback alongside Orton and Sheamus?
And will we see an Intercontinental Title match at ‘Mania this year?
Comment below with your thoughts, as well as any opinions you may have on this past Monday’s showing of Raw or the article itself.