The February 24 edition of Monday Night Raw was a special one for WWE fans. While the night after any WWE pay-per-view was basically just a results recap, that was not the case this time. In fact, many fans may say that Raw did something the Elimination Chamber did not—it set the stage for WrestleMania 30.
There are four major reasons for this, and each one revolves around a different top Superstar in the company.
Hulk Hogan Returns
Raw saw the return of the man who could be considered perhaps the biggest icon the pro wrestling industry has ever known.
Hulk Hogan returned to WWE, and his reception from the live crowd was deafening. The six-time WWE and WCW champion had not been in Vince McMahon's ring since 2007, so this was a welcome sight for many fans. His tenure in TNA and any controversies that may have followed him in the past were not an issue on Raw; the fans were just happy to see him.
But Hogan's return was not merely just a bit of nostalgia. The fact is that it was the first step of something much bigger.
Hogan is to be the special guest host of WrestleMania 30. While fans have seen this in the past, most notably with The Rock at WrestleMania 27, using Hogan in that role could mean much more for the event itself.
Aside from the obvious marketing campaign that will surely use him as a main focal point, Hulk Hogan's influence could be felt in a very big way at WrestleMania 30. That is due to the fact that the Superstar has so much history with WWE and with its primary pay-per-view event.
Had it not been for Hulk Hogan being used in the Rock n' Wrestling Connection back in 1985, WrestleMania may have not been the financial and crossover success that it was. Vince relied on his top star to sell the event to the masses, and it worked on every level. Hulk Hogan went on to become a household name, and Vince McMahon's company received more publicity than anyone likely dreamed possible.
So to imagine that Hulk will be nothing more than a figurehead at WrestleMania 30, with very little involvement or interaction, seems highly unlikely. Hogan is at his best in WWE when he is playing the hero, saving the day for fans. This could very well be true again on April 6.
Hogan could impact any of the main-event matches, and one of those matches features WWE's biggest underdog.
Daniel Bryan is that underdog and one of the key reasons Raw set the stage for WrestleMania 30. During the program, fans saw Triple H and Stephanie McMahon arrive at the building and be immediately confronted by Daniel.
Bryan was furious over the events that transpired inside the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, which saw Kane interfere and ultimately be the distraction that cost Daniel the WWE World Championship. This was not the result that many fans wanted, as Bryan has been chasing the title since the night after SummerSlam in 2013.
For those fans, there is not a more deserving Superstar currently in WWE to hold the gold than Daniel Bryan.
But The Authority of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have done everything in their power to prevent Daniel from realizing his dream. Every time Bryan gets close, it is taken away from him. However, he never gives up and he never backs down. Bryan has the drive of a champion and is fearless when he goes to war.
This is perhaps the best description of Hulk Hogan's babyface character in WWE. To imagine a scenario in which Bryan finds himself being pushed down once again at 'Mania with no help from Hogan to help even the odds just sounds impossible.
The truth is that Daniel Bryan versus Triple H will likely happen at WrestleMania 30. The match would be one of the most important in Daniel's career, and a victory over The Game could propel him up the ladder higher than any match against Randy Orton or Kane ever could. But that win would not come easily.
Hunter has stopped Daniel in the past, and he would certainly try to do the same at WrestleMania. And when he does, Hulk Hogan could be there to lend a helping hand. Hogan's inclusion at 'Mania may have seemed like just a way to involve him, but it could end up as something much more for Daniel Bryan.
John Cena saw his WWE World Championship hopes dashed as well inside the Elimination Chamber thanks to the Wyatt Family.
Bray Wyatt led Erick Rowan and Luke Harper inside the steel structure and attacked Cena, leaving him for dead and for a pin by Randy Orton. And while many fans may have not seen this coming, the truth is that it's not the first time it's happened.
John Cena was very close to dethroning Orton at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view when The Wyatt Family made their presence known. For reasons yet unknown, Bray has a problem with John Cena, and this problem is only getting worse.
Monday Night Raw was the third such confrontation between the two men and is the one that will likely lead to a match at WrestleMania 30. And this time, Bray finally gave some insight as to why John has been a target on two previous occasions.
The fact is that in many ways, Bray is the perfect foil for Cena. Bray is dark, he's enigmatic and he's very vicious. He manipulates others to get his way, and his cryptic messages of destruction are delivered with an evil smile and despicable intentions.
Bray Wyatt is a heel in every sense of the word, as there is no redeeming value in his character whatsoever. Wyatt takes what he wants, and he does so with a devilish glee that is disarming yet very compelling at the same time.
Bray is the complete opposite of John Cena, and for that reason, he is the perfect opponent for him. Cena has always been portrayed as the fearless hero, the man who is above reproach and has a heart of gold. He never surrenders, he never makes excuses and he takes the fight straight to the source.
Their incident on Raw has set the tone for their impeding rivalry and their possible match at WrestleMania.
Unlike the other two matches that could potentially be booked for WrestleMania, Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar is the only one that is actually set.
The Deadman returned to WWE on Monday Night Raw. The moment came at the end of the program, when Paul Heyman was refusing an open contract on behalf of his client, Brock Lesnar. But before the two men could exit the ring, the bell rang and the lights went out.
The moment ended months of speculation among WWE fans as to whom Undertaker would face at WrestleMania. Lesnar's name had become the focus of the debate in recent weeks, and now that the match is official, fans can point back to Raw as the night it all happened.
The fact is that the Elimination Chamber seemed like the end of a chapter while Monday Night Raw felt like a new page. The characters may be the same and the situations very similar, but the direction feels a little bit different.
Raw is WWE's flagship program, so for these events to unfold and lay the groundwork for the grandest stage of them all is only fitting. Raw has set the stage for WrestleMania 30, and perhaps that is the way it always should be.