The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 2/24/14
Only 24 hours removed from an eventful Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, the road to WrestleMania kicked off with several headline matches being made official while others were set up.
John Cena once again fell victim to an assault at the hands of the Wyatt Family Sunday night. What would he have in store for the enigmatic group? Perhaps more importantly, what would they have in store for him?
Randy Orton escaped the Chamber match with his WWE World Heavyweight Championship intact, though not without controversy. Now, with a major title match against Royal Rumble victor Batista on the horizon, what would The Viper be up to on this week's Raw?
What awaited The Shield following a crushing loss to the Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber? Where exactly did Dean Ambrose go? How awesome was that match?
Daniel Bryan once again found himself screwed out of a title opportunity by someone connected to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Had frustration reached a boiling point for Bryan, and if so, what would he do about it?
The answers to these questions would be revealed as WWE rolled into Green Bay for its flagship program.
What was good, great and awesome about the first show on the road to WrestleMania XXX?
Find out after the jump.
Sheamus vs. Christian
There was nothing inherently wrong with Monday's match between Sheamus and Christian. It was well-wrestled, but it lacked any real energy to excite and enthrall the audience.
The two had demonstrated solid chemistry when they feuded back in 2011, but since both returned from injury, they have yet to have that one great match with one another that would warrant a series of rematches.
Most startling is that Christian appears to have completely lost it between the ropes. As great as he was and as many truly special matches as he has been a part of, the Captain Charisma fans see on today's WWE television is a shell of his former self.
Whether that is because of injuries affecting his performances or a lack of enthusiasm about his spot on the card, and deservedly so, it is clear that he has lost a step over the course of the last two years.
What that means for his chances of a spot on the WrestleMania card remains to be seen, but Sheamus was clearly the better worker Monday night.
The Usos stun The Outlaws
Sunday night, The Usos dropped a tag team title match to The Outlaws that they should have won. One night later, they kept themselves in title contention by knocking off the champions in under two minutes.
The win seemingly sets the brothers up for another championship opportunity, perhaps at WrestleMania on April 6.
They have long been among the best teams in wrestling but have yet to capture the tag titles to back it up. A win on the grand stage of WrestleMania would be the crowning achievement of their young careers and a fitting way to cap off their championship quest.
Emma dances her way to victory
The feud between Emma and Summer Rae continued this week as the former NXT Divas met in singles action.
The match was adequate enough, nowhere near their better matches from prior NXT episodes, but it did a solid job of putting Emma over. The Australian Diva has an infectious personality that stands out on a roster full of women that are over only because of a reality show.
She is a welcome addition to Raw and SmackDown and could wind up being one of the most over women on the roster by the time summer approaches.
The Hulkster is back
Hulk Hogan made his return to WWE Monday night, and while he did not have much to say outside of plugging the WWE Network and his role as host of WrestleMania XXX, it was great to see one of the iconic figures in wrestling history return home to the company that he helped build.
The crowd in Green Bay treated him with the respect he deserves and, as long as he does not step back in the ring and take the spotlight away from the product's current stars, there is nothing wrong with Hogan playing the "Babe Ruth" role for WWE.
Down with the machine
Just 24 hours after seeing his WWE World Heavyweight Championship hopes dashed following the interference of the Wyatt Family, John Cena made his way to the ring to address the WWE Universe.
Before turning his attention to the dangerous, enigmatic trio, he took a moment to inform the locker room that the future of WWE and the industry as a whole goes through him.
With that said, he called out his Elimination Chamber attackers and watched intently as they stalked towards the ringside area.
Bray Wyatt cut another outstanding promo about heroes and the dishonest message they send to the masses. Cena, in less showy fashion, warned Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan about entering the ring and starting something they may not be able to finish.
That is exactly what the heels did, however, and they beat Cena down, injuring his knee and forcing him to be carried out of the arena on a stretcher.
It was a solid angle that presented Cena with yet another obstacle to overcome, and though that story may be played out in the eyes of the majority of the audience, Wyatt now looks like a threat to the top star in the industry rather than a young performer outside of the former WWE champion's league.
Would a simple promo from Wyatt, perhaps on the Titantron screen, have been sufficient? Yes. In fact, it probably would have been even better, as it would have delayed physical contact between the two for a bit.
But what we got was sufficient, and it will be interesting to see how the performers tell their story going forward.
The Dead Rise
The road to WrestleMania is underway, and this year's Showcase of the Immortals will be headlined by The Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar, as was made apparent at the end of Monday night's broadcast.
Paul Heyman spent the final minutes of the show complaining about Lesnar not receiving the title opportunity he deserves, then revealed that The Authority had issued an open contract for a match against Lesnar on April 6.
Just as Heyman declined said contract, the bell sounded and the lights dimmed as the Undertaker made his return to WWE, just in time to defend his undefeated streak at WrestleMania.
The Dead Man stared Lesnar down before jamming a pen in his hand and chokeslamming him through a table.
It was a great, buzzworthy way to end Raw and one that should have fans returning next week to see what happens.
"Are you listening?"
The promo by Daniel Bryan following his victory over Director of Operations Kane was full of energy and emotion and did a really excellent job of setting up a potential match against Triple H for WrestleMania.
The way the company has tied in the rabid crowd response for Bryan in recent weeks, creating the Yes Movement and a merchandise line to back it up, indicates that they have heard the fans and that the payoff they have been waiting months to see is right around the corner.
The visual of Bryan standing in the center of the ring, yelling at Triple H and asking if he is listening to the chants of the fans was a stunning visual.
Speaking of Bryan, he turned in a tremendous performance Monday night, delivering a quality match against former partner Kane to conclude their weeks-long story.
Intercontinental Championship Match
On Sunday night at Elimination Chamber, Big E and Jack Swagger delivered a very competitive, hard-hitting match for the Intercontinental title.
Monday night, E and Antonio Cesaro improved upon that match to kick off the in-ring portion of the night's festivities. Like Sunday, it was hard-hitting, but Cesaro is a superior worker and he and champion Big E gelled very well.
The disqualification finish was disappointing, but it furthered the dissension among the Real Americans and set in motion the eventual breakup of the team.
Cesaro delivered some great facial expressions while showing his frustration with Swagger. If he can continue to do that and allow his personality to show through more often, there is no reason he cannot make the leap up to the next level of competition as 2014 progresses.