It was a historic night on WWE Raw. For the first time in three years, the Undertaker wrestled on the promotion's flagship television show. The Deadman joined his brother Kane and Daniel Bryan to take on The Shield, seeking revenge for the group's disrespectful behavior the week before.
And thank goodness he did. Without the Undertaker's novelty appearance and the subsequent tremendous performance by all six men in that match, this would have been the worst Raw in recent memory. As it is, it's running neck and neck with last week's awful showing.
Of course, it wasn't all bad news. There were some standout moments to go along with three hours of mind-numbing drivel. I've graded it all, the good and the bad, from A-F. Just like in school, only I actually give out A's, something most of you knuckleheads have never seen on a test paper.
Disagree with my sentiments? Drop me a note in the comments and we'll cut promos on each other until the end of time. Or at least until next week's Raw.
Remember the Triple H versus Brock Lesnar match from WrestleMania? The one the fans completely tuned out and most pundits criticized for being too long and complicated? Well, they are running it again at Extreme Rules, with pretty much the same stipulations.
Maybe this time it will be positioned in a way that allows at least some success, instead of after a match fans care about more like CM Punk vs. Undertaker.
Triple H accepts Lesnar's challenge and pedigrees Heyman.
"I am here this evening as the advocate for Brock Lesnar." Paul Heyman
"ECW, ECW, ECW." The London crowd which, by the way, never had a chance to chant ECW live.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Triple H is not here at Raw this evening." Heyman.
"I know my reputation is that of a liar. How I got that I'll never know." Heyman.
"I applaud you...Well played. My compliments."
"See right there? I lied. Here's the thing—I want you to go back home and tell Brock Lesnar I accept." Triple H.
Even the London fans, the hardest of hardcores, don't seem especially keen on this angle. They boo a mention of Triple H's name and then respond with lukewarm enthusiasm to his "surprise" appearance. Was there any doubt Triple H would accept this match? Not much suspense there.
I don't even know what to say about this. Cesaro, arguably the best technical wrestler in the whole company, has finally been given a new gimmick. Should be good news right? A chance to shine just a little brighter in a company that likes a little entertainment as a side dish to wrestling's main course.
Unless, of course, the new gimmick is as "inept yodeler." Then you are dead in the water. I feel awful for Cesaro, who deserves so much more than this.
R-Truth pins Cesaro.
"There is such a thing as world famous yodelers?" Jerry Lawler.
Truth is absolute awful in the ring, a decent athlete who has somehow always been robotic and uncoordinated in his movements.
I didn't like this pairing because I knew getting a good match out of Truth was beyond even Cesaro. So, I was inclined not to like this before Cesaro did the job.
And before he came out to the ring yodeling. Yodeling?
The bright side? At least he's not Fandango.
It seems like the hotter the crowd, the worse the show they are given. I guess WWE just assumes London will enjoy almost anything—so why bother with anything decent?
Damien Sandow rolls up Brodus Clay with a handful of tights. That's cheating!
"You're a double zero. No seven after it. Just two zeros." JBL to Michael Cole.
"Duke of decency? He pulled every illegal move he could think of in that match!" Jerry Lawler.
Two squashes in a row. And this one didn't even have the potential to be interesting. Redeemed only by Cole's attempts to "dance" during Clay's entrance. His utter failure saved this segment from being, well, a failure.
Earlier in the evening Vicki Guerrero and Brad Maddox interrupted Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee making out (and Big E watching like a total creeper) to break the bad news that Ziggler had an important match with Chris Jericho. If he were to lose this bout, Jericho would be added to the triple threat to make it a Fatal 4-Way at Extreme Rules.
Pretty solid swerve by WWE here. It seemed a given that Jericho would win and earn a spot in the title match—because that's always what happens. Always. Except this time, thanks to that incredibly catchy Fandango theme music, which got Jericho flustered and cost him the match.
Ziggler pins Jericho with the Zig Zag after Fandango's music distracted Jericho.
"Nobody knows what she's thinking. She doesn't know what she's thinking." Michael Cole on AJ Lee.
"She won kiss of the year at the Slammy's. And runner-up. And runner-up to the runner-up." JBL on AJ. Because she's easy. See what he did there?
"C'mon baby!" Chris Jericho. Who else?
"I hope Cole drowns." JBL, as the London crowd starts the wave.
What's more ridiculous—Jericho's hair or Ziggler's name?
They put this match in the "workrate" spot, giving it two long segments. It was a solid match with a legitimately surprising finish. And yet it's a match we've seen many times before and one that just didn't feel important.
Make no mistake about it—the crowd doing the wave during a match isn't a compliment to the workers or the product. It means the fans weren't engaged. And that's not a good thing.
Usually we get stuck watching Tons of Funk on every episode of Raw as WWE tries desperately to recreate the magic of Rikishi and Too Cool—and fails.
Tonight, however, we got to see them twice. What did we do to deserve this?
Tensai pins Rhodes with a running senton.
"The unwashed masses that Damien Sandow talks about—is that these guys?" JBL on Tons of Funk.
"I used to do a lot of dancing. It got so bad I had to enter a two-step program." Jerry Lawler
"I don't even know what a washtub is." Michael Cole.
"It's what Tensai uses as a salad bowl." Lawler. These guys, they've got jokes.
That angle that wasn't over earlier? Still not over.
The WWE spent last week's show trying to guarantee Ryback's heel turn was an actual heel turn and not just a rocketship to the top of the babyface ranks. Because lord knows they have their top hero firmly cemented in place.
What it seemed to do, instead, is turn the crowd entirely against the angle. They booed and jeered Ryback's interview, chanting boring and generally rejecting the entire thing,
Big E pinned Ryder with the "Big Finish."
"I've been attacked by the Shield more times than I can remember. And where was John Cena?" Ryback.
"Boring, boring, boring." Crowd.
"Big E Langston is not paid by the hour." Michael Cole.
WWE is working on getting Langston over. So far, so good. If you're going to give me a squash, make sure the jobber gets wrecked. That's my only requirement, so this meets my standard.
Solid mic work by both teams prior to the match. Bryan and Kane have such natural chemistry, it's really a joy to watch. Dean Ambrose is about five inches of bicep short of being a major star.
The match, of course, was tremendous. Ambrose channeled Terry Funk (and the Undertaker) with some punch-drunk selling and Seth Rollins went full-on Mick Foley with his crazy bumps outside of the ring.
Lots to love about this match, from Undertaker's incredible effort to WWE creative's inspired decision to keep The Shield strong.
Dean Ambrose pins Bryan after a missed flying headbutt.
"I have diagrams. Diagrams." Daniel Bryan trying to convince Kane to bring Undertaker in for a meeting to go over the match.
"Whatever you do, do not try to give him a hug." Kane to Bryan.
"First time in three years we have seen the Undertaker on Raw. And he's giving it all he's got." Jerry Lawler.
"You've still got it. You've still got it!" Fans, in tribute to the Undertaker.
"They think as one. They act as one....somehow in a three-on-three matchup they always have a numbers advantage. It's incredible what these guys do in the ring." JBL on the Shield.
"This is awesome." The crowd, complete with cute accent.
"Do you believe in the Shield now?" JBL.
Finally. After more than two hours watching complete dreck, a match that reminded me why I'm a wrestling fan in the first place. The Shield is so great. Undertaker is so great. Daniel Bryan is so great. And Kane knows exactly what he does well and when to do it.
Great match. Is it just me or has every Shield match been stellar to this point? And how dare I go this long without mentioning they arrived at the arena in a helicopter? Because they totally did.
Poor Mick Foley, a legitimate legend being used a prop in this DOA John Cena vs. Ryback angle.
And poor William Regal. Longtime fans will remember his run as WCW TV champion and a string of great matches. Now? Just another jobber for Fandaaaaaaaaango.
Fandango pinned Regal with his MOVE. Chris Jericho got the last word by knocking Fandango off the stage—and then dancing with his girl, Summer Rae from NXT.
"I think you going out there alone tonight is a big mistake." John Cena to Foley.
"It's my mistake to make and I'm asking you to accept my decision." Foley.
"Do me one favor—take this with you." Cena, handing Foley a chair.
"This may be the only place in the entire world where William Regal would get a standing ovation." Michael Cole on Regal.
"One of the toughest guys this business has ever seen." JBL on Regal.
I'm feeling generous tonight. Bonus points for Fandango's wild bump off the stage and for his smoking dancer friend.
Do I have to pretend that this mattered? I'm not going to. Complain in the comments if you are so inclined.
AJ Lee, playing possum, won the title shot.
"Nice outfit. Can I talk you out of it?" Jerry Lawler to Kaitlyn.
"Is that too soon?" Kaitlyn, after Lawler made a heart attack joke.
"If Lady Godiva rode by, he'd notice the horse." Lawler on Michael Cole not liking girls.
That actually wasn't nearly as terrible as I expected it to be. Would love to see all three members of Team Ziggler come to the ring with their very own title belts.
The good news? Mick Foley, already walking with a pronounced limp, didn't feel the need to take a bump in order to sell Cena vs. Ryback or his own DVD set. Eventually Cena came out to save him.
But before Cena and Ryback could come to a head, The Shield came out. This time, however, Cena bails out of the ring to leave Ryback to his beating. Or so it seems.
Instead, Cena picked up Foley's discarded chair to save Ryback. But it wasn't to repair their friendship—it was because he wanted to beat up Ryback himself. Mission accomplished as the crowd rains both men with boos.
Cena lays Ryback out.
"I did not come here with the intention of getting into a confrontation. Yet here I am, right here in London, England, about to enter one." Mick Foley. Cheap pops are still pops.
"I sure as hell have something to say. The only thing missing from this equation is Ryback." Foley. Also missing? Crowd heat. That would change as Foley and Ryback continued to get more and more intense.
"How does John Cena giving you that chair help you out?" Ryback.
"In my day I took on the biggest, the baddest and the best this business had to give." Foley.
"Whether it was a tooth sticking out of my nose or my ear being ripped off my head, I took punishment but I always stood up...but it's never been more obvious that my day has come and gone." Foley, admitting that chair or no chair, he couldn't stop Ryback.
"I know what I did. And I liked it. Hell, I loved it." Ryback on his heel turn.
"What happened to the man who commanded respect because he demanded respect?" Foley.
"I got up and did the best I could. I didn't spout statistics. I didn't chart graphs. I got up." Foley, getting fired up.
"Look at you and look at me. There's slight differences." Foley.
"Shut up, Foley. God, just shut up....You come out here with your old archaic messages from the past like you mean something. For what? For what? To sell more DVDs?" Ryback. Uh oh. Sounds like a shoot.
"I want to be WWE champion. And at Extreme Rules, I will be." Ryback.
"Look at you. You trying to lecture me. You're trying to lecture me about how to be a man. Shut up and look at him. There you stand holding a weapon. So I'm going to ask you one more time, you fat, pathetic lazy bastard. How does John Cena giving you that chair help you standing in the ring with Ryback?" Ryback. Wow. that escalated.
"You tell me." Foley, brandishing a chair that Ryback would soon toss out of the ring.
This was well-performed by all involved. Foley, like many of the Attitude Era stars, makes pretty much everyone in the modern WWE Universe look terrible by comparison every time he cuts a serious promo. The crowd chanted "You've still got it" at Undertaker earlier. Foley deserved a similar chant.
Objectively it was a fine segment. Ryback proved he could deliver a long live promo and not fall flat on his face. Hopefully, at the very least, it sold some DVD's for Mick. I can't wait to pick up my own set the next time I'm out at the store.