WWE Raw: Analysing the Final Build for Each WrestleMania Rivalry on the Go-Home
With WrestleMania 29 just days away, the stage is now set for the biggest professional wrestling show of the year on April 7.
This week’s episode of Raw looked to put the finishing touches on the numerous rivalries that are currently dominating WWE television, with each and every one of the WrestleMania combatants featuring on the go-home show.
But just how effective were the company’s efforts on Monday Night Raw this week?
Were you left satisfied with the WWE’s last big push ahead of the Showcase of the Immortals this weekend? Or do you think that they could have done better?
This article takes a closer look at this week’s episode of Raw, analysing how well the WWE did in hyping each of the imminent WrestleMania clashes.
Wade Barrett vs. The Miz
It was important for Barrett to pick up a win before ‘Mania, and that’s exactly what he did on Raw this week.
The Intercontinental Champion secured an emphatic win over Zack Ryder with his Bull Hammer Elbow, sending a clear message to his The Miz, who was at ringside for the match.
The avoidance of any physical confrontation here means that neither man can truly claim to have got the better of the other, and thus, this one remains wide open ahead of WrestleMania. In fact, it’s possibly one of the more difficult matches on the card to call.
The one negative here was the announcement that the match will take place on the show’s pre-card.
The Intercontinental Championship is deserving of a much more prestigious spot on the WrestleMania card, and it’s demotion to the pre-show seems to take away some of the contest’s momentum in my eyes.
Nonetheless, I’ll still be tuning in to this one come Sunday evening.
Tons of Funk and The Funkadactyls vs. Rhodes Scholars and The Bellas
Though this one certainly has the feel of a throwaway match, I’ve actually been fairly impressed with its build in recent weeks.
The Bellas returning alongside Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes is an interesting move, while I’m looking forward to seeing more of the Funkadactyls after a solid showing on Raw this week.
Their match against Nikki and Brie Bella was important, as it showed that the foursome can definitely deliver the goods in the ring, and thus we needn’t worry about this one being a typical, token WrestleMania three-minute filler match.
Furthermore, given Tensai’s awkward role alongside Brodus Clay, there is always the possibility of a return to his heel-ish ways, while on the other side there have been rumblings of a Cody Rhodes face switch.
Such speculation may be rather far-fetched, but either way I’m finding myself surprisingly interested in this rivalry.
Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston
Daniel Bryan’s match with Dolph Ziggler on Raw was world-class in my opinion, and for that reason alone, the hardcore fans will be eagerly anticipating this one.
Langston’s repeated post-match beatdowns also add to the hype, while it’ll be great to finally get a look at the former powerlifter in action on the main roster.
Slowly but steadily, this has developed into a feud of some significance, with a number of backstories adding to the interest surrounding this one.
The handling of this rivalry on Raw may have been simple, but in my mind it was effective. It’s another tough one to call, but my only worry is that they won’t give these superstars the length of time that they deserve.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
Again, the segment involving these two on Raw was very simple, but it certainly did the job.
Fandango’s idea to start judging Jericho’s spots was a novel and amusing method of getting under Y2J’s skin, while his subsequent attack on Jericho concluded a pretty dominant Road to WrestleMania for the Latin ballroom dancer.
He seems to be benefiting from working with one of the best in the business already, and if he can continue with an impressive display at WrestleMania, who knows where Fandango could take this peculiar gimmick.
My only criticism would be that perhaps their tussle on Raw could have ended differently to keep things fresh; but at least it further added to the intensity of their rivalry.
Ryback vs. Mark Henry
After an unexpectedly successful bench press competition on SmackDown, these two behemoths were once again confronted with one another on Raw.
Ryback's subsequent use of Santino Marella as a human battering ram was an entertaining twist, as was his taunting of the World’s Strongest Man afterward.
It continues what has been quite an intriguing feud which has successfully managed to demonstrate either man’s physical dominance without them actually coming into direct contact with each other.
However I’m still not completely into this rivalry, partly because I’m worried about the pace of their match. Ryback is used to short-lived appearances in the ring, while Henry himself is coming back from a lengthy injury layoff.
But in terms of how well they were booked on Raw this week, it was another solid showing that steadily develops the growing enmity in this clash of the titans.
The Shield vs. Randy Orton, Sheamus and The Big Show
After weeks of back-and-forth brawling, we saw something of a different side to The Shield on Raw this week.
The trio arrived through the crowd as a unit, rather than appearing in their usual flanking formation—and they certainly came across as intimidated by their WrestleMania opponents in the ring.
Such possible fear further adds to the psychology behind this feud, while the promo they delivered was as solid as any other segment in the night.
This subtle yet effective change was a nice little curveball to throw into proceedings before ‘Mania, and while I think the relationship between The Shield’s opponents could have been handled differently, events on Raw suggested that this feud is very much good to go.
Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio
A few weeks ago, this feud looked like it was in danger of falling into irrelevancy.
However, Swagger’s sneak attacks on Del Rio and his companion Ricardo Rodriguez injected some much-needed intensity into a rivalry that should have been a lot more serious from the word go.
That being said, the two have largely been doing the same thing week-in week-out since Swagger “broke” Rodriguez’s ankle. Though the use of crutches on Raw made the challenger’s assault appear far more vicious this week, I still feel that this controversial storyline had the potential to be so much more dramatic than it has been.
Still, at least we've seen a more brutal rivalry develop as opposed to the horrendously unfunny parody videos that we were initially subjected to.
It should be a solid match, though this feud could have been something bigger. Much bigger. Expect this one to feature fairly early in the evening.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar
In arguably one of the highlights of the night, Shawn Michaels returned on Raw and announced that he would be in The Game’s corner for his WrestleMania match with Brock Lesnar.
For me, this was a great revelation. It gives the match even more star power, while it successfully incorporates a part-time star without focusing too much of the limelight on him.
It also suggests that HBK may have some involvement in the match himself.
Will we see Sweet Chin Music one more time in front of a WrestleMania crowd? Or will Shawn perhaps look to screw Triple H after he “failed” to protect Michaels from the wrath of Lesnar last summer?
In all honesty, other than adding to the spectacle of the occasion he will most likely have little impact on the outcome of the match.
Nonetheless, his presence is certainly a great addition and it was one of the better pieces of promotion from the WWE on Monday Night Raw this week.
CM Punk vs. The Undertaker
This was certainly the most shocking part of the evening, as CM Punk lured The Deadman to the top of the stage before beating him down with his own urn.
The disrespect that Punk then showed his opponent by emptying the vessel’s contents on him is sure to get the former WWE Champion even more heat, and as a result, we can deem these developments on Raw as a huge success.
Of all the matches on the card, this is now the one that I am most looking forward to.
Hopefully this one doesn’t end via disqualification as the WWE have teased, as I feel that could result in something of an anti-climax.
Punk vs. 'Taker may not close the show, but the WWE title match will definitely have a tough time trying to top it...
The Rock vs. John Cena
Especially if events on Raw are anything to go by.
It wasn’t necessarily that The Rock and John Cena’s promos were weak, I just felt they weren’t as good as either man’s display during the previous week on Raw.
Their segment with the Legends at the end of March would have been the perfect feed into WrestleMania, as it truly had that “big fight feel” that the WWE seem so intent on creating these days.
Without a face-to-face interaction on this most recent episode of Raw, I felt that this feud was just lacking the finishing touch that it was crying out for.
But thanks to a combination of a more attitudinal John Cena and the memorable Legends segment, I’m very much looking forward the WrestleMania main event—perhaps more so than I should be considering it’s only a rematch, after all.
Aside from the return of Shawn Michaels and CM Punk’s attack on the Undertaker, the go-home episode of Raw wasn’t a particularly spectacular show in all honesty.
But it got the job done nonetheless.
The WWE made a conscious effort to cover each of the 10 WrestleMania contests, and did so pretty successfully in my eyes.
Sure, this year’s WrestleMania build has been far from perfect—but is it ever?
Over the last few weeks, the action has really picked up, and I for one now can’t wait for the 29th annual WrestleMania showcase.
But can the same be said for you?
How well do you think Raw did in adding that final build to the WrestleMania card?
Comment below with your opinions and let me know what you think about this year’s WrestleMania build.