With less than two weeks remaining until WrestleMania 29, this week's excellent edition of WWE Monday Night Raw did an extraordinary job of building towards the anticipated event. From the marvelous matches to the spectacular segments, this show didn't disappoint in the slightest.
Here, 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.
Undertaker Interrupted CM Punk
Great promo from CM Punk to kick off the show. This was the strongest promo we've seen from Punk in recent weeks and really helped set the stage for his match with Undertaker.
It was simple and effective, which is all it ever really needed to be. Undertaker's brawling with Punk was a pleasant surprise, but it didn't give away too much going into WrestleMania 29.
While they haven't completely abandoned the Paul Bearer story-line, it's nice to see that it wasn't featured as prominently here. This was a hot opening segment and set the tone for the rest of the show.
Chris Jericho def. Dolph Ziggler w/AJ Lee and Big E Langston
Excellent match between Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler. This was the match I was hoping to see at WrestleMania (specifically over the World Heavyweight Championship), but at least the feud was blown-off on Raw rather than forgotten about all together.
As expected, their chemistry was off the charts and produced some extremely entertaining action. I have no problem with Jericho going over here, as he's been the one to put over others since returning to WWE earlier this year.
Fandango looked impressive in his attack on Jericho, which helped solidify their match for 'Mania. The feud between the two has been well-booked thus far, aside from the fact that I'm still somewhat against the idea of Jericho being relegated to a match against someone who just debuted a mere month ago.
Mark Henry def. The Usos
Standard squash match with Mark Henry defeating the Usos in two-on-one action. It was nice to see the Usos score some temporary offense, but it came as no surprise that they were inevitably decimated by the World's Strongest Man.
It asserted Henry's dominance and continued his major momentum heading into his match against Ryback at the show of shows. Only thing that separated this from past squash matches Henry has been a part of in recent weeks was the fact that it was a Handicap match, so at least it was something different.
United States Champion Antonio Cesaro def. World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio via count-out (non-title)
Nice match between World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio and United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. It was well wrestled while it lasted, but easily could have gone a few extra minutes.
Smart booking by having Jack Swagger attack Ricardo Rodriguez at ringside in order to get Del Rio to lose via count-out. Despite the fact Del Rio attacked Cesaro after the bout anyway, it was still a nice win for the Swiss sensation.
WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No def. Prime Time Players (non-title)
Decent match with WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No defeating Prime Time Players. While there was nothing necessarily wrong with the match, it didn't serve much of a purpose.
We've seen the bout numerous times in the past and the outcome was never in doubt. However, having the trio of Dolph Ziggler, Big E Langston and AJ Lee look on from afar was still a nice touch.
Triple H Discussed His Match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania
Solid promo from Triple H. He didn't say anything we haven't heard before, but it was still exceptionally executed.
This feud closed the show last week, so there was no need to have another hot angle on this week's edition as well. I, for one, have enjoyed this rivalry since been revisited and look forward to the No Holds Barred match at WrestleMania.
Triple H hitting a low blow on Wade Barrett felt unnecessary, but it gave him an out to lose the subsequent match.
The Miz def. Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett (non-title)
Good match between Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and The Miz. These two work well together, and I was glad to hear the commentators make note that it was their first ever match against one another in singles action.
Unfortunately, the crowd was flat for this bout, but who can blame them? WWE hasn't given fans a reason about either guy or the title in recent months. Nonetheless, their title rematch at WrestleMania should be just as solid.
The Shield def. Zack Ryder, Justin Gabriel and The Great Khali
Throwaway six-man tag team match with The Shield defeating Zack Ryder, Justin Gabriel and The Great Khali. The Shield was up against the ultimate job squash, so the ending outcome was not shocking in the slightest.
The commentators referenced how it was rare to see the villainous group wrestle on Raw, so at least it felt special. It served its purpose in giving The Shield a decisive victory going into 'Mania. The post-match powerbomb onto Khali from The Shield was also a cool visual.
Team Rhodes Scholars w/The Bellas def. Brodus Clay and Tensai w/Cameron and Naomi
Fine tag team match with Team Rhodes Scholars defeating Brodus Clay and Tensai. There was nothing particularly memorable about this match and it was mostly what we saw from the two tandems at WWE Elimination Chamber.
Although I'm happy Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow scored the victory here, I'm not sure how much it did for them. Even still, this looks to be setting up a mixed eight-person tag team match at 'Mania also involving the Funkadactyls and the Bella Twins.
Ryback def. 3MB
Typical Handicap match with Ryback decimating 3MB. We've been seeing the same shtick from Ryback for weeks now, so it was nothing out of the ordinary.
He had an impressive showing in the three-on-one format, but nothing we haven't seen before. It's been awhile since we've seen him hit his finisher on two people at the same time, so at least that was worth watching.
AJ Lee def. Divas Champion Kaitlyn via count-out (non-title)
Brief match with AJ Lee defeating Divas Champion Kaitlyn via count-out. The match was kept short, but that's acceptable if they plan on holding a rematch for the championship at WrestleMania.
This feud has been brewing for over a year now, so I couldn't be happier that we're finally seeing it culminate on the grandest stage of them all. I can't think of a better moment than AJ winning her first Divas Championship against her best friend in her home state at the biggest show of the year.
It's also worth noting that this was the first Divas match on Raw in nearly two months, so here's hoping this is a sign of things to come for the the division going forward.
WWE Champion The Rock and John Cena Participated in a Legends Q-and-A
Strong segment featuring WWE Champion The Rock and John Cena. Much like their confrontation from Old School Raw a few weeks back, they brought out the best in each other and kept the comedy to a minimum.
I loved how they took us back to the closing moments of their match from WrestleMania 28, which is why this rematch is happening to begin with. Additionally, the Legends played their respective roles well.
This is the most intriguing that Cena has been on the mic in a great while, as he showed some heel tendencies in his delivery. No, I don't think Cena is turning heel at WrestleMania (I lost hope a long time ago), but it's still something to think about.
Nonetheless, the Rock Bottom to Cena was very well done and ended the show on a high note.
Overall, an highly enjoyable show that featured some awesome action and solid build for almost every match on the WrestleMania card. Unlike last week, very few segments felt meaningless, as almost every part of this show seemed to serve a purpose.
While I'm not overly excited for WrestleMania 29, WWE has given me hope that this could end up being a much better event than expected. With one episode of Raw remaining until 'Mania, I surely hope they continue this strong momentum going into next week's highly anticipated go-home show.