After a fortnight away, the WWE Champion finally returned to Monday Night Raw this week—and he was not alone.
The Great One was accompanied by an overwhelming sense of expectation and a real pressure for the WWE to deliver after a worrying decline in both the quality and the viewership of the company’s flagship show in recent weeks.
But would such anticipation prove to be a burden to the champ?
For me, it most definitely did not. In my eyes Raw put on a much better show this week and my recently-wavering faith in WrestleMania’s ability to deliver this year has once again been restored.
With plenty on offer to discuss, this article identifies and analyses five of the biggest talking points to come from this week’s showing of Monday Night Raw.
Prior to Monday Night Raw this week, there had been question marks regarding whether or not The Deadman would even be showing in Philadelphia.
While he may have had no real reason to be absent, the WWE refrained from advertising The Phenom on their site—though in rather contradictory fashion the Wells Fargo Center went ahead hyping a scheduled appearance.
Was this a deliberate piece of marketing from the WWE?
Quite possibly, and it certainly worked on me. I had not been expecting The Undertaker to show up, and thus when he did it gave his segment with CM Punk some valuable shock value.
And even if you did see ‘Taker’s appearance coming, at least we got to see him in some form of action as he beat Punk down into the corner.
Having originally been fairly critical of The Undertaker’s health and physical condition, I was made to eat my words on Raw. He’s looking in great shape and though his involvement was brief, he was on good form nonetheless.
Such developments make me all the more optimistic ahead of this year’s WrestleMania showcase.
After various verbal and physical interactions in recent weeks, Chris Jericho vs. Fandango was indeed officially added to the WrestleMania card during Monday Night Raw.
This storyline really came out of nowhere, and a few weeks ago there appeared to be little or no plans for such a contest to go ahead.
But some effective booking from the WWE has got me intrigued to see how this one works out, while I’m also finding myself a lot more invested in Fandango’s character as of late.
In the past couple of weeks he has demonstrated some highly entertaining mic skills as well as what seems to be an impressively athletic repertoire inside the squared circle.
Chris Jericho will no doubt be able to provide Fandango with the kind of quality and impactful match that his much-hyped gimmick is in need of, and thus I think this pairing is as smart as it is unexpected by the WWE.
But what about you, have you been finding yourself more convinced by Fandango lately and what do you make of this latest WrestleMania announcement?
This may not have been the biggest match on the card, but I think there are a few talking points to be taken from this one nonetheless.
Firstly, Cesaro won, which is an incredibly unfortunate rarity these days. And while it may not have been clean, at least it was technically a victory over the World Champion, so surely that’s at least a minor positive for the prestige of the United States title?
However on the flipside, there is still no sign of a ‘Mania match for Cesaro.
I could write all day about how much of a farce this is, but with time and space not on my side I’ll simply say that hopefully he features at least in some capacity at the Showcase of the Immortals.
The final take-away from this one was Del Rio’s brief scuffle with the interloping Jack Swagger.
Since Swagger’s attack on Ricardo Rodriguez this storyline has really picked up, and it’s now looking like the intense and bitter rivalry that it always had the potential to be.
Criticism may well remain widespread regarding their imminent WrestleMania match, but did events on Raw this week add anything to their ongoing feud for you?
After a simple yet effective promo aimed at Brock Lesnar, Triple H began to make the long walk back to the locker room only to find a particularly pompous Wade Barrett blocking his path.
Barrett then had the gumption to usher The Game on his way, and was rewarded with a hard low blow from the King of Kings.
Though it may be a long-shot, this exchange instantly had me contemplating a Barrett vs. Triple H feud at some point in the future.
Is it on the cards? Or was these tease no more than a method of making Trips look more ruthless ahead of his clash with Lesnar at WrestleMania?
As much as I’d like to see a match between the two come to fruition, it seems a very unlikely rivalry for the WWE to push, though admittedly stranger things have happened.
Either way, we then saw Barrett put on a solid match with The Miz in which he ultimately lost to the former Intercontinental Champion.
It seemed odd not to wait until ‘Mania for this one, but I guess this way The Miz has earned the right to challenge Barrett with the strap on the line come April 7.
Nonetheless, should the WWE have put this one off until the big one? Or was it a good idea to have the two compete in something of a precursory contest?
Almost half an hour of the show was dedicated to this segment—an unprecedented length of TV time in any other circumstances.
But after two weeks of next to no build, the WWE Title clash between The Rock and John Cena was in dire need of a big push to restore the hype surrounding this one.
And for me, it was exactly the segment that the rivalry needed.
I particularly liked the manner of it all. It was almost done out of kayfabe, with Jerry Lawler referring to Superstars’ WCW achievements, the acknowledgement of Goldust’s real identify as Dusty Rhodes’ son and Bret Hart’s subtle reference to his real-life rivalry with Shawn Michaels.
It gave the segment a unique and highly enjoyable feel, while The Rock and Cena’s answers added some additional layers to the rivalry—Cena’s suggestion that he lost to “himself” at ‘Mania last year proving to be rather interesting indeed.
It all made for a great end to the night, and for me it actually felt like a WrestleMania go-home show rather than the penultimate episode.
With that in mind, I for one am definitely looking forward to Monday Night Raw next week, aren’t you?
Having stuttered and slowed in recent weeks, the WrestleMania build was well and truly back on track after the events of this most recent showing of Monday Night Raw.
Perhaps it was the impressive Philly crowd. Perhaps it was the appearance of yesteryear’s greats such as Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Or perhaps it was just simply a great display from the WWE.
Either way, it made for a show that left me thoroughly satisfied and eagerly anticipating the 29th anniversary of WWE WrestleMania.
But what did you guys think?
Did Raw get you hyped for the Showcase of the Immortals?
Or are you still struggling to get behind the build for this year’s card?
Comment below with your opinions on this, and let me know what you think about some of the talking points discussed in the article itself.