If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past couple of days, it’s that the WWE is a truly extraordinary entity.
In the world of entertainment, where else could you experience two more contrasting shows in just over 24 hours? The answer, most likely, is nowhere.
It must be said that WrestleMania XXIX was an unfortunate disappointment. However the reason for this is that we know the WWE is capable of producing so much better—as it so fittingly demonstrated last night on Raw.
Monday’s show couldn’t have been more different to Sunday’s pay-per-view in nearly every way.
The logistics, delivery and execution of Raw were all spot on, so much so that it’s difficult to find too much wrong with the show.
In what was consequently an incredibly difficult task, I try to identify five of the biggest talking points to come from this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw.
A few hours before Raw went on air, it was reported that The Rock had gone back to Los Angeles without notifying the WWE.
Such news cued rampant speculation suggesting that the Brahma Bull had finally lost faith in the company’s product, or that he’d “taken his ball and gone home."
However it was revealed on Raw that The Rock actually suffered a pretty grueling injury at ‘Mania and this was the reason for his absence.
The raucous New Jersey crowd voiced their skepticism in no uncertain terms, but I personally think this is a true explanation.
The Rock is a consummate professional, and he wouldn’t simply walk out on the WWE on such late notice. Furthermore, there would have to be a pretty big reason for him to pull the plug at the last minute—and I think tearing his abdomen and adductor muscles from his pelvis certainly constitutes a valid excuse.
I may be wrong, but allegations of a falling out between the two parties just seems too farfetched to me.
However it does leave me questioning The Rock’s physical health, given that he also tore a muscle in last year’s WrestleMania showdown.
While a WrestleMania cash-in would have been huge, it would have been difficult to beat the exceptional turn of events that we witnessed on Raw last night.
From the moment Alberto Del Rio’s match began, the crowd were demanding Ziggler—and their wish was eventually granted.
The Showoff blew the roof off the Izod Centre, and it must be said that the brief match itself against Del Rio was thoroughly gripping with twists and turns aplenty.
The WWE deserve credit for holding out with this cash-in, and also for putting together an excellent little segment for the actual crowning of the new World Heavyweight Champion. It was a great moment and in my mind, one of the better Money in the Bank cash-ins that we’ve ever seen.
So congratulations to Dolph Ziggler on what is now officially his longest-ever World Title reign. Let’s hope it’s the start of something special for one of the company’s hardest working talents.
One thing that let WrestleMania down was the balance and flow of the overall card.
Including the pre-show, the event was five hours long—the last hour-and-a-half of which saw three huge main events aired back-to-back.
By this time the crowd was exhausted, and understandably so. The cancellation of the eight-person tag match didn’t help matters either as this would have provided the fans with a perfect break after the exhilarating CM Punk vs. Undertaker clash.
On Raw though, the card was planned to perfection.
The use of Zach Ryder, Santino Marella and R-Truth against 3MB broke up the show nicely, and giving us the forgotten WrestleMania match demonstrated exactly how it could have aided the pay-per-view had it been featured.
It may be a minor point but it vastly improved the show from a planning perspective, and may be one of the reasons the crowd had such energy for the big moments.
Kudos to the WWE for this.
Okay, this wasn’t necessarily the WWE’s doing, but it is something that deserves credit nonetheless.
In fact, this was probably one of the best crowds that I have ever seen in all my 12 years of watching professional wrestling.
Their early interaction with John Cena was brilliant (props for Cena’s “heel turn” by the way), while the likes of Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Booker T received some really well-deserved pops.
But their display during the Randy Orton vs. Sheamus match was simply unbelievable.
Chants for Mike Chioda, RVD, JBL, Michael Cole, Randy Savage, ECW and a host of others (including themselves) had even the commentary team in awe–it was a truly amazing turn of events.
And to then spend virtually the rest of the show singing Fandango’s theme song was the icing on the cake—if only every week could have a post-WrestleMania crowd as great as this.
As I mentioned earlier, it was difficult to find much wrong with this show—so much so that I could have found dozens of topics to discuss from this week’s show.
This in itself is a talking point in my eyes, as it is rare for Raw to produce such a high-quality show.
There were plenty of mark-out moments for the hardcore fans–myself included. Wade Barrett’s win over The Miz was one of my favourites, as was Ziggler’s title win and The Shield’s audacious attempt to interrupt The Undertaker.
The only criticism could be that the main event was cut short. However the WWE rescued themselves by having Ryback emerge to take out both Mark Henry and John Cena.
For me, this is an excellent move—and it was an example of exactly the kind of performer Ryback should be.
Not a face who sucks up to the other good guys, but an unstoppable force who let’s nobody get in his way. This doesn’t mean he has to turn heel necessarily; fans can still get behind a dominant star without him being either the villainous bad guy or the cheesy babyface–just ask Goldberg.
It seems to be a more logical persona for a near-300 pound behemoth, and I certainly hope that the WWE persist with this new, more attitudinal Ryback,
Either way, at least we have an interesting WWE Title picture right now with Henry also seemingly after Cena’s strap.
So WrestleMania XXIX was meant to be a story of redemption.
And yes, Cena did redeem himself with a win at the big one over The Rock. But if we take a look at the bigger picture, it was Raw that provided us with the real redemption.
Redemption from a lacklustre pay-per-view, from poor prior planning and from a failure to identify what the audience truly desires.
Having the closing acts booed out of the building on Sunday night was a worrying sign, but Vince McMahon need not panic if he continues to produce episodes of Raw like Monday night.
And even if it was just a one-off event, let’s just appreciate the great entertainment with which we were provided.
Of course, there may well be those who are less enthusiastic in light of Raw this week; if so, what did you make of Monday Night Raw?
Were you unhappy about The Rock’s absence? What did you think of the title changes that we witnessed? And what’s next for Ryback after clotheslining Cena into next week?
Comment below with your thoughts on the biggest talking points from Raw, and let me know whether you agree with me in that it was an excellent showing from the WWE.