The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw (3/3/14)
The fans inside All State Arena were every bit as vocal and hostile as many expected when Monday Night Raw rolled into Chicago.
Questions abounded regarding the status of hometown hero CM Punk. Would the Best in the World return to WWE after a two-month hiatus? If so, how would he be integrated into the top stories heading into WrestleMania? How would it affect Daniel Bryan?
Speaking of Bryan, he dispatched Director of Operations Kane on last week's show and picked up a big win over his former partner in six-man tag action last Friday on SmackDown. With the Big Red Monster out of the way, he would be able to turn his attention to Triple H.
Would the COO accept Bryan's challenge for a match at WrestleMania, or would he resist the urge to compete against a man he considers to be a B+ talent?
A rematch of epic proportions was scheduled to take place as The Shield took on the Wyatt Family. Would dissension within The Shield prevent the trio from avenging their loss to the Wyatts back at Elimination Chamber? Would John Cena make his presence known in an attempt to get a measure of revenge against Bray Wyatt for the injury he suffered last week?
With so many questions and so many different stories unfolding heading into WrestleMania XXX, there were plenty of answers to be had as the road to the biggest show of the year rolled through the Second City.
What was good, great and awesome about this week's edition of Raw?
Find out after the jump.
Tension within the Real Americans
Intercontinental champion Big E found himself in the middle of a tag team-partner squabble between Jack Swagger and Cesaro.
In a rematch from last week's broadcast, the champion took on Cesaro early in Raw's broadcast. Big E ended up outside the squared circle and blasted Swagger, much to the former world champion's dismay. Moments later, Swagger entered the ring, delivered a Swagger Bomb to his rival and cost Cesaro yet another victory.
The partners argued as Zeb Colter was forced to play mediator.
Later in the night, Big E returned to the ring to do battle with Swagger. Seconds after the bell sounded, Cesaro entered the squared circle and planted E with the Neutralizer, drawing a disqualification. This resulted in a more heated exchange between Cesaro and Swagger, which got physical with some shoving.
Again, Colter played mediator and was able to convince his wrestlers to hug. Sure, the hug was met with great resistance from both men, but they did as Colter instructed.
This was another segment that once again hints at a future split between the Superstars, which will benefit Cesaro greatly. Unfortunately, both matches came at the expense of Big E, who was more or less treated as an afterthought and a joke.
While a triple threat for the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania may not be out of the question, one has to wonder just how beneficial that would actually be for Big E, who has fallen off significantly since his brief push late in 2013.
The Bella Twins vs. Aksana and Alicia Fox
At first glance, a match between these two teams may not be anyone's idea of "good." With that said, all four ladies delivered solid performances on Monday night en route to a tag team match that was better than it had any right to be.
Brie Bella, in particular, appeared to be energized more so than usual, and her performance in the match was really solid.
Alicia and Aksana have been growing steadily as tag team performers thanks to matches on Superstars and Main Event in recent weeks.
Considering the fact that the Divas division consists of several pairings, such as Alicia and Aksana, the Bella Twins, AJ and Tamina, the Funkadactyls and Natalya and Eva Marie, one has to wonder if the division would be better off introducing tag titles to the mix since there are very few legitimate threats to AJ's Divas title at this point.
Regardless, the match was an enjoyable one for the four minutes that it lasted.
Daniel Bryan vs. Batista
The main event of Raw was good, and it was easily Batista's best match since returning. Considering that Bryan was involved, it should be no surprise.
The Animal's considerable ring rust, however, really prevented the match from reaching the level of quality it could have had the company held off on the match until a later point in time.
The lack of a definitive finish was no surprise, as neither can really afford a loss at this point. WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton drew the disqualification win for Daniel Bryan, but an RKO attempt on Batista led to a running knee from Bryan, ending the Viper's night.
Leaving Bryan to take a Pedigree from Triple H to close out the show, in front of a crowd in Chicago that clearly wanted nothing to do with seeing the Authority stand tall, was a bold move from the creative team.
It is also a move that deserves to be applauded.
Sure, there were likely thousands of fans that left Allstate Arena disappointed, but at the same time, the creative team is in the business of telling stories that will ultimately culminate at WrestleMania. Rather than give into the audience, the WWE writers told the next logical chapter in their story, and it worked.
All of the lows that Bryan has experienced since last August will eventually be proven to be worth it when he defeats Triple H at 'Mania and goes on to win the WWE title sometime soon after.
Bryan hijacks Raw
Daniel Bryan entered the All State Arena to a huge pop and chants of "Yes!" Then, the leader of the Yes Movement mentioned the supposed "hijacking of Raw" that many expected to occur with the lack of CM Punk and overall dissatisfaction with the product being presented.
He eventually called either Batista or The Authority to the ring and was greeted with the presence of the latter.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon once again ran down Bryan and referred to him as a B+ player. The Game reminded him that there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is a great honor that many would be proud to have.
But Triple H does not lace his boots at WrestleMania for a B+ player. (Which is fairly ironic considering that CM Punk decided he would not be lacing his boots at WrestleMania for a B+ player, either. Isn't that right, Triple H?)
Triple H ordered Bryan out of the ring, but the defiant former WWE and World Heavyweight champion replied with a dare: "Why don't you make me?"
This brought out Kane, whom Bryan dove through the ropes to attack. As he was forced to the back by security, the "CM Punk" chants that had polluted the segment gave way to "Yes!" chants in a moment for Bryan that resembled some of the great early Steve Austin work.
A really great segment, even if what Triple H was saying was something fans did not want to hear and CM Punk did not make an appearance.
Bray Wyatt warns John Cena
Was the meat of the John Cena promo repetitive? Yes. For the second week, he reiterated that the future of WWE runs through him. But he also paid tribute to a Chicago crowd that he obviously respects and while that did not win them over, the audience was significantly less hostile toward the leader of the Cenation than it has been in the past.
Wyatt's promo on the Titantron was great, as usual, and the feud continued to progress.
It is difficult to ask for any more than that in the penultimate segment of the show.
Paul Heyman trolls Chicago
The broadcast kicked off with CM Punk's "Cult of Personality" theme playing and the fans in Chicago coming to their feet for the arrival of their hometown hero.
Or so they thought.
Instead, Paul Heyman made his way to the ring and began what many believed would be a so-called "pipe bomb" in defense of Punk.
That was not the case, as he blamed the fans for Punk not being there, then shifted the blame to Undertaker, the man Heyman believes is responsible for the disintegration of his friendship with Punk dating back to last year's epic clash at WrestleMania.
This gave way to Heyman introducing Brock Lesnar, who promised to beat Undertaker, then viciously assaulted Mark Henry for the second time in as many months.
The segment was a gutsy way to start the show, as Heyman addressed Punk's absence by trolling the fans, who so wanted to see the former WWE champion, then turned the focus to the Undertaker-Lesnar feud that will result in one of the marquee matches at WrestleMania.
Heyman was his typically awesome self and had the segment not have felt repetitive—with Lesnar once again attacking Henry—then it may have landed in the "awesome" section of this week's article.
The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family
The rematch of the epic six-man tag team match from Elimination Chamber saw The Shield and The Wyatt Family tear the house down midway through Monday's broadcast.
The match was as wild and chaotic as the first one, with Seth Rollins introducing the frenetic pace early on. His feats of athleticism were amazing, as he delivered high-risk maneuver after high-risk maneuver, landing on his feet more times than not to the delight of the rabid Chicago fans.
Roman Reigns remained hot, as the crowd was chanting his name before he even entered the match. When he finally did, he exploded with his trademark high-impact offense, including the Superman Punch.
The dissension within The Shield, however, finally boiled over, as a frustrated Rollins walked out on Reigns and Dean Ambrose, no longer willing to be the so-called "glue" that held the team together. It was an interesting development for those who thought Ambrose would be the man who would walk out on the team.
Despite being overlooked over the last two months, Rollins has done everything in his power to stand out and prove to fans and management that he will not be the forgotten member of The Shield.
The win for the Wyatt Family, following Sister Abigail from Bray on Ambrose, allowed them to continue building momentum for the eventual showdown between their leader and John Cena.
A great match that accomplished what Creative wanted it to accomplish and kept the vocal audience in Chicago at bay for a little while, at least.
The Usos win the Tag Team titles
There is no team in WWE more deserving of winning the company's Tag Team titles than Jimmy and Jey Uso. And Monday night, in front of a hot crowd, they did just that by defeating the legendary New Age Outlaws.
The match was good—probably the Outlaws' best since returning to the ring on a full-time basis—and really put over the twin brothers strong.
Jey withstood a long assault at the hands of Billy Gunn and "Road Dogg" Jesse James and what appeared to be the tweaking of his left knee to make the hot tag to his brother Jimmy, who exploded into the match and carried the remainder of the action for his team.
The big splash to capture the titles for the Usos was exactly how the match had to end, leaving no doubt as to who the better wrestlers, and more deserving champions, truly were.
The match itself does not belong in the "awesome" section. With that said, the Usos have worked so hard for so long, constantly improving and delivering some phenomenal performances over the last year, that they deserve the honor of holding the titles that their father held.
Monday night was their crowning achievement.
The lovely Renee Young interviewed Batista, who ran down the "geeks" in the audience who "read too many comics and watch to many films."
The same Batista who, later this summer, will be promoting Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, a film based on a comic book of the same name.
Sheer stupidity and ignorance can, in fact, be awesome.