The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw (3/24/14)
The penultimate Raw before WrestleMania XXX emanated from Brooklyn and featured a very hot crowd and some tremendous in-ring action.
John Cena continued to express fear and doubt heading into his match against Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania. How would those feelings affect him as he took on Luke Harper in singles competition?
After being gunned down and left lying in the ring for the first time in their main roster careers, the members of The Shield were looking to inflict their own brand of justice on those responsible. Ryback, Curtis Axel and the Real Americans would give them a sense of satisfaction, but they really wanted to get their hands on Kane and the New Age Outlaws. Would they?
One week after viciously and savagely assaulting a handcuffed Daniel Bryan, Triple H addressed his actions in a sit-down interview with Michael Cole. Vowing to introduce the Reality Era to WWE, he promised to end the Yes Movement.
Batista and Randy Orton confronted one another and, at the same time, earned the scorn of Stephanie McMahon.
With all of that and appearances from Undertaker and Brock Lesnar capping off the show, Monday's broadcast was a very busy one as the road to WrestleMania rolled on.
What was good, great and awesome about this week's show?
Find out now.
Stephanie, Batista and Randy Orton
To say that Batista and Randy Orton have become stuck in the shadow of Triple H and Daniel Bryan heading into WrestleMania would be an understatement. Monday night, however, the opening promo did a solid job of putting the focus on the WWE World Heavyweight champion, the No. 1 contender and what has been the growing tension between both of them and The Authority.
Stephanie McMahon has been the best heel in wrestling over the last month, and she drew tremendous heat from the Brooklyn crowd to kick off the show. After interrupting the boss' daughter, Randy Orton's promise to do what is necessary to retain his title, even if that includes beating Triple H, was both logical and effective.
Batista's work on the mic was solid but one cannot help but feel that he is still uncomfortable in the role he is playing. His "drool" comments about Stephanie were unexpected and popped the crowd, leading to a jaw-dropping slap from the Billion Dollar Princess to the Animal.
The spear from Batista to Orton was a nice receipt for the RKO a few weeks ago.
With all of that said, and taking into account the effectiveness of the segment, the issues between Batista and Orton make for one of the coldest title feuds in recent history.
Undertaker and Lesnar
Any time Undertaker makes an appearance on Monday Night Raw, the show becomes must-see television. His WrestleMania feuds in recent years have been some of the most heated bouts on the shows, and more times than not, they end up being the best match on the event card. That may still be the case this year when he takes on Brock Lesnar, but thus far, the feud between the two is far from the most interesting on the road to WrestleMania.
The program has cooled significantly since Undertaker's return to WWE a month ago, when he chokeslammed Lesnar through a table. The mic work from Heyman has been stellar, as one would expect, but there is no real story past the tired "I'm going to end the streak" sentiment on Lesnar's part.
Monday's segment, while executed well enough to be included in this week's article, was right out of the Undertaker handbook and really added nothing new to the rivalry.
With one more Raw to go until the big event, the creative team will have to come up with something that fans have not seen a million times or risk having this year's Undertaker feud fall into mediocrity and repetition.
"The Reality Era"
The sit-down interview conducted by Michael Cole and Triple H was not the way to go about accomplishing what the company wanted to accomplish Monday night. Had the interview been pre-taped or had it been a more traditional in-ring promo from Triple H, it may have worked better and achieved "awesome" status. Instead, it must settle for being great, thanks in large part to Triple H's delivery and one key statement he made that may play into the festivities at WrestleMania.
Triple H discussed what he calls the "Reality Era" and the demise of the Yes Movement come WrestleMania. He brought up Twitter and fans voicing their opinions when they do not get what they want.
Then he hit the WWE Universe with the cold, hard truth: He has the power to make everything he says happen.
And he does. What is stopping Triple H from losing to Bryan and still adding himself to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match anyway? As the COO of the company and the second (or third)-most powerful person in WWE, he can realistically decide whatever he wants, and that is an element of his character that has gone underestimated in recent weeks. Like any good villain, he has the ability to give the fans and their hero a sense of hope before tearing it away.
Triple H has been putting in some of the finest work of his career leading up to WrestleMania. His mic work has been focused, and every word has meant something. He has done a phenomenal job of putting over just how much Bryan is getting into his head and affecting his psyche without coming across as a lunatic. If he can summon some of his workrate form years past to back up the outstanding mic work, fans may witness something truly special come April 6.
John Cena vs. Luke Harper
If the SmackDown main event between Cena and Harper hinted at crazy good chemistry between the two, then Monday night's match confirmed it, as the two Superstars nearly stole the show with their hard-hitting, high-impact match. The fans in Brooklyn ate up the action, and rightfully so.
The lack of finish means that neither man can claim victory and that the company can go back to that match when the time comes.
The conclusion of the match, in which the lights went out and came back on to see Cena trapped in the ropes with the lamb mask covering his face, was outstanding and really added a new element to the story the performers are telling. Cena has done an exceptional job of putting over the fear and uneasiness he feels in regard to Bray Wyatt.
While much of the hype may be surrounding the rise of Daniel Bryan and his match against Triple H, the Cena-Wyatt feud may be the best, most focused story heading into WrestleMania on April 6.
The Shield vs. The Real Americans
Take four of the best workers in the roster, put them in a tag team match in front of a passionate Brooklyn crowd and the results will be awesome, indeed.
The Shield's match against the Real Americans Monday night, the result of Cesaro and Jack Swagger working alongside Kane and the New Age Outlaws last Friday night on SmackDown, was the best match on Monday's show and featured A-plus performances from both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
In fact, Ambrose's performance may very well have been the best of his main-roster career. The facial expressions he displayed as he took the brunt of the offense from Cesaro and Swagger were outstanding, and the body language he expressed, especially after each slap from Cesaro, only added to the quality of the bout.
Rollins, the so-called architect of The Shield, continues to roll following his pinfall victory over Swagger, and Reigns tore Cesaro up following the bell, planting him with the Superman Punch and the spear before joining Rollins and Ambrose in a triple powerbomb of the Swiss-born Superstar.
The crowd absolutely exploded for the intensity and aggression shown by the Hounds of Justice and treated them like huge stars.
The post-match promo by Kane made the six-man tag match between him, the Outlaws and The Shield official for WrestleMania, which was expected following Friday's SmackDown.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus vs. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio
Over the last month, Ziggler, Sheamus, Christian and Del Rio have intermingled in singles and tag team action while the company has tried to figure out what to do with them at WrestleMania. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal saved the writing team from having to come up with anything remotely creative or interesting to compliment the great in-ring action those four Superstars have been responsible for.
Monday night, they once again mixed it up, this time in a Fatal 4-Way match to determine the No. 1 contender to Big E's Intercontinental Championship. Considering that all four competitors are former World Heavyweight champions, it is quite a step down for them to find themselves in contention for the secondary title.
They did not allow that to prevent them from turning in stellar performances in a match that got the show off to a great start. Ziggler really shined, as he has of late, but it was Christian who capitalized on an opening and pinned the resident Show Off following the Killswitch.
He will receive his title opportunity Tuesday night during a live broadcast of Main Event.