The Good, the Great and the Awesome from WWE Raw (4/7/14)
From the solidification of The Shield as a babyface group in opposition with The Authority to the debuts of fresh new talent that will lead WWE into the future, the post-WrestleMania episode of Monday Night Raw was another major accomplishment for the company during a week of them.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman had plenty to gloat about as they took to the ring to address Lesnar's improbable, shocking victory over The Undertaker at WrestleMania, snapping a winning streak that spanned two decades.
Speaking of Heyman, he would be busy later in the evening as well, making a very special appearance during Cesaro's acceptance of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy.
The Wyatt Family looked to gain a measure of revenge for Bray's loss to John Cena the night before. Would they get it as they squared off with Cena, Sheamus and Big E in the night's first action-packed bout?
With so many buzz-worthy occurrences taking place on Monday's show, there was plenty of good, great and awesome to go around.
While many were expecting to see him one night earlier, Rob Van Dam returned to WWE on Monday's Raw, defeating Damien Sandow with relative ease.
His return comes at an interesting time for WWE.
If Monday's show told us anything, it is that the company is going to make a concerted effort to focus on the young stars of tomorrow. The 43-year-old Van Dam most certainly is not a star of tomorrow, but what he can be is a guy who helps elevate such wrestlers and mentor them.
One of the most perpetually over stars in the business, Van Dam will never struggle to get a reaction. It should be interesting to see if he can up his game and continue to evolve as a performer, especially with hungry young men and women vying for television time over the next year.
Barrett Delivers Bad News...in the Ring
It had been a long time since Bad News Barrett competed in a televised match. Monday night, he returned to the ring for a match against Rey Mysterio.
The crowd in New Orleans heavily favored Barrett, who worked a very good match against the former World Heavyweight champion. Rey, to his credit, recognized the boos being sent his way and actually played to them at least twice.
If the point was to reestablish Barrett as a legitimate threat between the ropes, WWE accomplished its goal. He looked crisp, on point and showed no signs of ring rust whatsoever. A great way to reintroduce Barrett and the perfect time to do so.
An Ultimate Sendoff
Just 48 hours after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Ultimate Warrior appeared on Raw for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Assuming the character of the Ultimate Warrior as opposed to just Warrior (confusing enough?), he spoke to the crowd about the talent in the back and how they will succeed at the top of the business with the support of the people. He finished by saying that the power of the Ultimate Warrior would live on forever.
It was a great way to end what was an incredible weekend for Warrior. He got to enjoy an appearance on Raw, in front of a rabid audience, and he did a very good job of putting over how much the people have the power to affect what is going on in front of the camera, which was the theme of the entire WrestleMania week.
I'm Not a Zeb Colter Guy; I'm a Paul Heyman Guy
It only took Cesaro 24 hours to leave the Real Americans behind and take on Paul Heyman as his new agent, signaling what should be the start of a huge push for the so-called Swiss Superman.
The match between Cesaro and Swagger was a brief taste of what they could be capable of if given more time. With Extreme Rules right around the corner, expect to see Cesaro and Swagger tear the house down on the WWE Network.
Cesaro has long been one of the best workers in the business and really needed a mouthpiece to help make up for the fact that he is not the greatest talker in the industry. With Heyman by his side, he has that one missing ingredient and can now enjoy the fruits of a sudden rise up the ranks in WWE.
Kane Spills the Beans
A very agitated Kane let too much information spill during a backstage segment in which he and The Shield were being prepped by Stephanie McMahon as to what to do to ensure that Triple H left with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Angered by his loss to the Hounds of Justice one night earlier, Kane revealed that it was The Authority that helped orchestrate the Director or Operations' attack on The Shield on SmackDown a few weeks earlier.
The facial expression flashed by Stephanie, the type usually reserved for situations when someone needs to shut up because they're ruining everything, was brilliant.
A great little segment that adequately set up what happened in the night's final segment.
New Talent Initiative
Monday was a night of change for WWE, as the company wasted little time in announcing the impending arrivals of two of NXT's brightest stars. First, a motivational promo aired hyping the debut of former NXT champion Bo Dallas, then two promos featuring the Exotic Express promised the eventual appearance of Adam Rose.
Later in the evening, the Bulgarian Brute Alexander Rusev, flanked by the Ravishing Russian Lana, made his in-ring debut against Zack Ryder. He demolished the former United States champion, finishing him off with the Accolade.
Another new face made their presence felt in a big way, but we'll save her for a moment.
The Hounds are Unleashed
After serving as The Authority's hired henchmen for the last eight months, the Hounds of Justice bit back at their owners, preventing them from ruining Daniel Bryan's first night as WWE World Heavyweight champion and igniting a war with Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton that should make for some tremendously fun television over the next few months.
The Shield has been on a roll since it turned babyface with an attack on Kane back on March 17, and the group is easily one of the most over acts on the roster.
It was only fitting that on a night that looked toward the future, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose were featured as heavily as they were at the close of the show.
"You Deserve It!"
The New Orleans crowd greeted new WWE World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan with the reaction most expected they would. So loud was it, in fact, that Bryan struggled to speak between all of the "Yes!" chants and a united "you deserve it" declaration.
Bryan corrected the audience, telling the fans that they deserve it and that without them, he would never have made it to where he is now.
Of course, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon interrupted, and a match between the Game and the new champion was announced for the evening's main event, but that could not detract from the major reaction Bryan received to start the show.
Monday night Raw was ripe with excellent moments and thrilling debuts, but the work of Paul Heyman may very well go down in history as one of the best performances in WWE history.
Early in the show, he was like a kid in a candy store, gleefully discussing his client Brock Lesnar's victory over the Undertaker and the fact that Brock likes nothing more than putting tears in the eyes of children. He discussed the injury the Phenom suffered during the match, his collapse backstage after the bout and Vince McMahon personally accompanying him to the hospital.
Then, he talked about the lack of respect Lesnar received from his peers. Of course, when he is the "one in 21-1," respect does not matter.
It was a glorious heel promo from Heyman, who even insulted the broadcast team with this gem: "John Bradshaw Layfield and the other two things they call announcers." He left the ringside area with Lesnar in the middle of tremendous heat.
When he returned later in the evening to assume the role of agent to Cesaro and cut a largely babyface promo on Zeb Colter, Heyman's greatness as a performer was solidified even more than it had been previous.
He went from getting the type of heat only the most vile, despicable and disgusting heels could to getting a babyface pop just over an hour later. Very rarely can any entertainer in any field play with the emotions the way Heyman did Monday night, and for that, he deserves more credit than this writer could ever give.
John Cena, Big E and Sheamus vs. The Wyatt Family
The first match of the night was an incredibly fun six-man tag that was instantly elevated in terms of quality by a molten hot audience.
Bray Wyatt looked outstanding and was able to catch Intercontinental champion Big E with Sister Abigail and score the pin, slightly making up for the loss he suffered to Cena the night before. A good, old-fashioned six man tag team match to get the in-ring portion of the evening's festivities off to a hot start.
New Divas Champion
It has been a very long time since the fans had anything to sink their teeth into in terms of the Divas Championship, but that all changed Monday night when the Total Divas cast was left in the locker room and NXT Women's champion Paige emerged from the back, went face to face with Divas champion AJ Lee and ended the 295-day reign of the New Jersey native.
The passionate post-WrestleMania fans made the night very special for the Norwich, England native, delivering a thunderous ovation as she made her way to the ring.
Her win ended a reign for AJ that should have meant more, but a lack of quality competition and too much focus being put on a reality show hurt it severely. Luckily for her, a rivalry with new champion Paige, who scored the victory over AJ when she broke out of the Black Widow and delivered the Paige Turner, could result in some very good matches if given the time and opportunity.