On Sunday at WrestleMania, John Cena did exactly what he said he was going to do. He beat the Rock cleanly in the middle of the ring to win the WWE Championship for the 11th time, finally proving to himself and the world that he can beat the best that's ever been.
On Monday at Raw it was time to celebrate—but the crowd wasn't nearly as happy with his win as Cena was. He was booed out of the Izod Center in New Jersey—the first sign that the crowd was going into business for themselves.
Throughout the night, whenever something displeased them or they were the slightest bit bored, the fans broke into loud and often ribald chants. Sometimes they were connected to what was going on in the ring. At other times they felt like complete non sequiters. But they were intent on having fun—whether that was what the WWE was providing or not.
At the end of the night a WWE superstar turned heel, going over to the forces of darkness. Unfortunately for a desperate fanbase, that superstar was not John Cena. Instead, Ryback attacked Cena without provocation. On this night, however, that dastardly act earned the loudest cheers of the night.
What did I think of the show? Was the Ryback turn a game changer. Click on to read my thoughts. Share your own in the comments below.
You hear a lot about how John Cena gets a mixed reaction from the crowd. Kids and women, we are told, are on Team Cena. Young men are Team Anybody Else. Older guys fall asleep before the match is over.
That wasn't the case on Raw tonight. The crowd was almost entirely anti-Cena. Virulently so. Vocally so.
Cena came out with the WWE title and said very little of import. He teased fans with a heel turn, then announced he wanted to defend the title immediately, right there on Raw rather than on the next pay-per-view. He teased a few potential foes (CM Punk got the biggest pop) before Mark Henry walked to the ring and took him up on his challenge.
Booker T sauntered down to declare, despite his complete lack of storyline authority on Raw, that the match couldn't be for the WWE title—Rock, it seems, is still the No. 1 contender. But Booker cut a deal with Henry. If the World's Strongest Man can beat Cena on Raw, the rematch will be for all the marbles.
"It should be every WWE superstar's dream to be in the main event at WrestleMania. Not only be in the main event—actually win the main event at WrestleMania. Because when you win the big one at WrestleMania, you get to enjoy everything that comes with it. The adulation. The respect. The cheers. The cheers? The cheers?" Cena as the crowd boos like mad.
"We've known each other for 10 years now. I may be going out on a limb tonight, but you guys seem a little angry...I'm upset too. WrestleMania is over. I get it." Cena as the crowd chants "boring."
"Out of that, a champion rose. So I proudly say to you tonight: The champ is here!" Cena on Rock's injury in their match at WrestleMania.
"Right now, right here, this is my post-WrestleMania celebration. I'm going to celebrate the only way I know how....I'm fighting for this." Cena, announcing a match for the title tonight.
"What's up champ? The problem with coming out here and asking for trouble is trouble just might find you." Mark Henry.
"It's a raucous crowd. They want to have sex with chocolate." Cena, as the crowd chants "Sexual Chocolate."
"I'm afraid. I'm afraid to tell you you have the breath of 1000 asses." Cena.
Cena didn't have much to say. The crowd owned this segment. They were completely in sync, even getting together for some atypical chants like "sexual chocolate." Hilarious.
Poor AJ Lee. Big E Langston is so green he accidentally clocked her in the mouth with an elbow on their way to the ring. She might not have cared for it. I, of course, found it hilarious.
In the ring Langston continued to, as the brilliant announcers told us with utter confidence, "literally explode into his opponents." If I ever meet the trio of Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler, I'm bringing a dictionary for each man. I hope it will help.
Bryan had the upper hand until both Lee and Dolph Ziggler interfered. That allowed Langston to hit HIS MOVE! And the Big E Langston push continues full stop.
"He's more than just Ziggler's heavy." Michael Cole
"He's still heavy." Jerry Lawler. Jokes. They've got them.
This had the makings of an interesting match. Unfortunately, we didn't actually get to see that match on Raw. Instead it was rushed, both men trying to fit a 10-minute match into a five-minute slot. Would have been nice to see this one get a little more time. Perhaps down the road Bryan can take Langston out for a spin and see how he does in a PPV-length bout.
Because nobody demanded it—a rematch from last night's show opener. Worse? WWE, in its infinite wisdom, booked this in the unofficial workrate spot, one of two matches that will get to last more than a single segment.
For Miz versus Wade Barrett? Really?
The crowd, by the way, hated Miz. Hated him. When he and Barrett botched a neckbreaker, they were so incredibly delighted I couldn't help but be tickled myself. They were giddy just for the opportunity to give Miz a hard time—but not nearly as happy as they were when Barrett landed the Bull Hammer to win back the strap.
"If you had a different head and a different body, you'd look a lot better." JBL to Michael Cole.
"Let's go Barrett." The crowd. They were quite an opinionated bunch.
"I just figured he'd end up a Kardashian brother. Instead he's a main eventer." JBL on the Miz.
Remember above where I complained about this match getting so much time? Well, you've got to hand it to Miz and Barrett—they made the most of it, putting on a pretty darn good TV match.
Zeb Colter is truly a nefarious villain. As the heel, he knows the crowd doesn't want to do anything he instructs them to do. He also knows the Constitution requires that any citizen must, I repeat must, join in a "USA, USA, USA" chant. And the wave, at least the first two times it goes around the arena.
Talk about a rock and a hard place.
Despite Colter, the crowd is completely dead for Del Rio and Swagger, until a great finish. But the place lights up and comes unglued when Dolph Ziggler finally cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase to challenge an injured Del Rio immediately after he defeated Swagger in a tough match.
"I want to ask you for your support. You know years ago I volunteered for the war in Vietnam because I love my country. And tonight, I'm going to stand in the ring with Jack Swagger for the very same reason." Zeb Colter
"USA, USA, USA." Colter, encouraging the crowd to chant at Del Rio.
"Everybody love freedom of speech until somebody actually uses it." JBL on Colter.
"We want Ziggler." The crowd, demanding Dolph get a chance to cash in on his guaranteed title shot.
"High drama on Monday Night Raw." Cole after Ziggler cashes in the Money in the Bank.
The crowd didn't care about Swagger versus Del Rio—at all. This was a perfectly solid match that no one seemed to pay the slightest attention to. The finish, however, is worth pointing out. Del Rio grabbed a squirming Swagger by the hair to control him on the ground, allowing the champ to sink in the armbar. That wasn't just brilliant pro wrestling. That was brilliant Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Things were taken up 12 notches when Ziggler came out to finally cash in his title shot. In a short, spirited match he took "big goldie" from Del Rio with the Zig Zag, much to the crowd's delight.
The Undertaker continued two streaks at WrestleMania 29. He not only won for the 21st time in his career, but more importantly, he continued his run of having absolutely great matches on the grandest stage of them all.
Making a rare appearance on Raw had the crowd abuzz. What would the Undertaker have to say about the match, his departed friend Paul Bearer and his opponent CM Punk?
Unfortunately, we'll never know, thanks to the Shield's untimely interruption. The three jackals surrounded the ring, but before they could strike, Taker's brother Kane and his tag team partner Daniel Bryan saved his skin.
For long-time wrestling fans, it was an amazing moment. As my friend Matt Hollinger pointed out on Twitter, former indy wrestling darling the American Dragon (AKA Bryan) actually saved the iconic Undertaker.
"Last night at WrestleMania I dedicated that match to the memory of Paul Bearer. A man I have the.." Undertaker, interrupted by the Shield.
"How can this show get any better?" JBL. Cosigned.
"Better believe The Undertaker won't run." JBL.
"That explosion from Kane knocked The Shield straight to the floor." Jerry Lawler as Kane and Daniel Bryan came to his brother's rescue.
Something cool was brewing after Kane's sudden entrance almost made me pee myself. The Shield, however, wisely demurred. That's okay, I can wait.
You know how sometimes during the halftime of a professional basketball game they'll bring out two teams of little kids to run full court? That's kind of what this felt like, kids inexplicably sitting at the adult's table at Thanksgiving.
"Lead air guitar." Cole on Heath Slater's role in 3MB.
Santino and his crew won the battle of jobbers, and it was short enough not to be offensive to the senses.
Randy Orton and Sheamus begged the powers that be for a match with their WrestleMania partner the Big Show. Booker T granted the match to Orton, Vickie Guerrero to Sheamus. Both wanted it badly and the two argued back and forth throughout the show about which of them would get a chance to get revenge against the traitorous Big Show.
The two general managers came to an elegant solution—Orton and Sheamus would have to wrestle each other first, with the winner getting a shot at Big Show. And thus, a match was born.
Both the announcers and the crowd pretty much entirely ignored the action in the ring. A partial list of the chants I could make out from the crowd, none of them about the match at hand:
Mike Chioda, Ole, RVD, Big Show, JBL, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, Justin Roberts, CM Punk, Y2J, Austin, XPac, ECW, Randy Savage, HBK, Thank You Big Show, We Are Awesome, One More Chair, Holy Sh*t.
Full list of crowd chants: Chioda, Ole, RVD, Big Show, JBL, Jerry, Cole, Justin Roberts, CM Punk, Y2J, Austin, XPac, ECW, Savage, HBK. #RAW— Arda Ocal (@arda_ocal) April 9, 2013
In the end, there was no winner unless you count Big Show, who came out and beat the heck out of both men, mercifully ending a match that was going nowhere fast.
"Great teammate? He knocked out both of his partners." Cole arguing with JBL.
"Big Show's mine tonight." Randy Orton.
"RVD, RVD." The crowd starts chanting for Rob Van Dam while the announcers pretend not to understand what they are saying.
"These folks are brilliant." JBL after the crowd begins chanting for him.
"They are chanting my name." Cole. Yes, those wackos were chanting Cole's name.
"You want to fight him? There he is." JBL on Big Show's arrival. He liked it so much he said it three times.
"Thank you, Big Show." Crowd.
Grade: C (Crowd: A+)
The crowd is fantastic here, making something that could have been terrible just fly bye. The WWE doesn't know what to do with either Sheamus or Randy Orton. They are both drifting and the audience couldn't even pretend to care.
They went into business for themselves, chanting about anything and everything that popped into their heads. When they started chanting for the late Randy Savage, you could see Orton get visibly annoyed. They committed wrestling's cardinal sin—losing control of the crowd. Only the Big Show's sudden appearance got them back in line.
Chris Jericho put Fandango over at WrestleMania and tonight it was time for the dancing fiend to pay the piper. There's getting your heat back and then there's Jericho on Raw, absolutely wrecking Fandango, running in just as the match was getting started and obliterating the newcomer.
"They are actually humming Fandango's entrance theme." Cole on the amazing crowd.
"Jericho is all over this dancer." Lawler.
"Come on. Where's the Spanish announce table?" JBL as wrestlers wreck his set again.
"We need combat pay. We need to start doing this by remote." JBL.
"It's Fandango." Fandango, correcting the pronunciation of his name even after getting a mudhole stomped and walked dry by Jericho.
That's the kind of beating it's hard to come back from, a heat-killing and entirely unnecessary move by Jericho and the WWE. Luckily Fandango had the presence of mind to correct the announcer's mispronunciation of his name. The little things matter, and that's the kind of character work that will get Fandango over no matter how badly he's booked.
First they got cut from WrestleMania, then their match at Raw was actually joined in progress. Not a good week to be Rhodes Scholars or Tons of Funk.
Not much here after all the wait. Just a garden variety comedy squash.
"Do these guys shop with Michael Hayes?" JBL on Tons of Funk's pimp gear.
"There's no way to slow this guy down. They had to put speed bumps at the buffet." Lawler on Brodus Clay. Because he's fat. See?
"You've got the rhythm of a drunk elephant." JBL to Cole as he tried to dance.
You have to wonder about WWE booking sometimes. The crowd is desperate for new champion John Cena, the biggest name in the industry, to do something different.
A change in music.
A new finisher.
A funny catchphrase.
A heel turn.
Something to break the monotony. Anything at all.
Instead, after a lame count-out win over Mark Henry, one Henry didn't take kindly to, Ryback comes down for the save. He makes short work of Henry and offers Cena his hand. It's all a ruse though—the show ends with Ryback laying Cena out with the Shell Shocked.
The fans are dying for a Cena heel turn—so they turn Ryback instead?
Of course it fails. He gets the biggest pop of the night. Fans are done playing around. If WWE won't turn Cena, the fans will need to do it themselves. New Jersey understands. Now the rest of America needs to follow.
"John Cena last night help define his legacy." JBL on Cena's win over the Rock.
This was a hot angle. But I can't help but think the dynamics are all wrong. I know Cena does tremendous work with charities and kids love him. But nothing lasts forever, and kids have to grow up some time. It's time for Cena to turn. Period.