After three straight weeks of solid shows, last night's edition of WWE Monday Night Raw broke the strong streak by delivering an uninspiring episode. Although the three hours dreadfully dragged on, there were a number of major matches confirmed for the WrestleMania 29 card in less than three weeks.
I will analyze each significant segment presented on the show. I will also provide a combination of predictions and wishful thinking about what I hope to see in the coming weeks.
John Cena def. Darren Young w/Rufus "Pancake" Patterson
Meaningless match with John Cena defeating Darren Young. Cena's promo was pretty basic, but it wasn't anything we haven't heard before from him and it lacked from the absence of WWE Champion The Rock.
As much as I enjoy the Prime Time Players, their pre-match shtick felt random and wasn't all that humorous. The match was mostly taken up by commercial, so it hardly served a purpose.
Ryback def. David Otunga
Basic squash match with Ryback dominating David Otunga. We've seen the same thing from Ryback for weeks now, so the match was nothing out of the ordinary.
The post-match angle with Vickie Guerrero putting Ryback in a match against Mark Henry at WrestleMania 29 was logical, but why did it take so long to get to this point? Nonetheless, I'm glad we'll be getting that match at 'Mania, as it could make for an exciting clash of the titans.
Fandango Refused to Compete Against The Great Khali
Standard segment with Fandango refusing to compete against The Great Khali. This was essentially the same segment we've been seeing from Fandango for weeks aside from the fact he actually made his entrance this time around.
While he's garnering some mild heat from the live crowds, it doesn't exactly mean that they care about his character. He needs to take the next step soon or suffer from becoming stagnant.
R-Truth def. Damien Sandow by Count Out
Fine match between R-Truth and Damien Sandow. These two haven't feuded in several weeks, so it felt odd for them to resume it on this show. The match was nothing special and was over before it even started.
Sandow losing via count-out protects him, but why should he be losing in favor of Truth anyway? I'm not sure what role either of these guys will be playing at WrestleMania 29, but I guess time will only tell as far as that goes.
CM Punk Sent a Message to Undertaker
Solid segment featuring CM Punk and Undertaker. Undertaker's promo was good, but not nearly as strong as I expected it to be.
The same could be said for Punk, who showcased his excellent mic work, but it left a lot to be desired. The fact the segment was rather brief might have hindered it, but I feel like there should be more to the feud than just Paul Bearer's death. That has seemed to take precedence over everything else for some reason.
WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No def. Primo and Epico w/Rosa Mendes (Non-Title)
Decent match with WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No defeating Primo and Epico. It was well-wrestled and felt fresh, but the ending outcome was never in doubt.
That being said, this bout dragged on a bit longer than it needed to, but I won't complain about getting more wrestling. AJ Lee's interference was well done and was nice nostalgia from the angle involving those three from last summer.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio def. Cody Rhodes (Non-Title); Jack Swagger Injured Ricardo Rodriguez
Nice match between World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio and Cody Rhodes. I didn't expect Rhodes to defeat the World Champion, but he had an impressive outing nonetheless.
The subsequent brawl between Jack Swagger and Del Rio was very physical and was probably the highlight of this feud thus far. Bonus points go to Ricardo Rodriguez for his awesome selling of the Patriot Act.
Randy Orton and Sheamus def. 3MB
Typical match with Randy Orton and Sheamus defeating 3MB. The match wasn't at all meant to be competitive, but rather a tune-up for Orton and Sheamus going into 'Mania, so I was fine with it.
Big Show making the save and implying he will be the third member of the face team at the show of shows was logical and effective. However, here's hoping this doesn't lead to a full-fledged face turn for Big Show, who has been flourishing as a heel over the last year.
Dolph Ziggler w/AJ Lee and Big E Langston def. Kofi Kingston
Good match between Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston. Of course, we've seen it countless times and it has seemed to have lost luster by this point, but there's no question that these two always work well together.
Furthermore, it was a decisive victory for Ziggler and a nice momentum booster at that. Team Hell No challenging Ziggler and Big E Langston to a title match at WrestleMania made sense and was well executed.
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett def. The Miz and Chris Jericho in a Triple Threat
Great match with Wade Barrett successfully defending his Intercontinental Championship against The Miz and Chris Jericho. All three guys developed amazing chemistry over the course of the contest and provided some entertaining action.
Some of the near-falls were believable, but it's hard to care about a title that's been devalued for so long. Nonetheless, I see the feud between Barrett and Miz continuing into WrestleMania.
Triple H and Brock Lesnar Contract Signing
Strong segment featuring the contract signing between Triple H and Brock Lesnar. I, for one, have found Triple H much more intriguing since his return a few weeks ago, so I enjoyed his mic work here.
Paul Heyman was excellent on the mic as always and had a fun verbal exchange with the Game. Making their 'Mania match No Holds Barred was a smart move, as it's perfectly fitting for this feud.
I don't expect Triple H to lose and subsequently retire, but it's still a strong stipulation that has me even more invested in this pleasantly surprising rivalry.
A lackluster show that featured far fewer highlights that what we've been accustomed to getting in recent weeks. I appreciated the effort they put into establishing the under-card for WrestleMania, but everything else just seemed to fall flat.
Aside from the final half-hour of the show, there was nothing worth watching for a second time. On a side note, it's great to see Booker T join the already star-studded WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2013, as he is most definitely deserving of the induction.
The show also seemed to suffer without The Rock there, who has been absent from the program the last two weeks. With two editions of Raw remaining until WrestleMania 29, I surely hope that they kick the hype for the show of shows into high gear starting next Monday night.