Last night’s RAW kicked off the countdown to Wrestlemania in a quiet manner. Although the evening saw the debut of the new WWE Championship belt and established a match for next week that could cost Cena his spot in the main event at Wrestlemania, the show was stacked with a lot of meaningless filler and a few uncomfortable moments.
RAW opens with a well produced video segment outlying the “Road to Wrestlemania,” with highlights from last nights title defense between The Rock and CM Punk. There are so only so many times an individual can write about how good WWE’s production on that stuff is, so let’s just take it as a given from now on.
Cut to live action in LaFayette, LA as John Cena’s music hits to the usual mixed reaction. If anything the crowd seems a bit quiet, but that might be a consequence of the audio. Cena says the Road to Wrestlemania is heating up and that Wrestlemania is finally taking shape, noting that now we all know that at Wrestlemania 29, John Cena will take on The Rock. Not but a second after this declaration is out of Cena’s mouth, CM Punk’s music hits and out comes the former champ with Paul Heyman in tow.
CM Punk asks Cena if he’s sure that he’s facing The Rock for the WWE title, telling Cena that choosing that route would be the easy way out.. CM Punk notes that The Rock shouldn’t be champ because of the screwjob finish the night before, and also points out that John Cena has never beaten him. Punk says he has earned the right to be in the main event at Wrestlemania by beating the best in the business, and belittles Cena’s Royal Rumble victory. Punk notes that “Rock vs.John Cena is deja vu. I’ve already seen that show, it’s a rerun.”
John Cena takes a moment to get a word in and asks Punk what he wants from him. Punk tells him to “Leave the ring, leave the WWE, get out of my life. Just walk away.” Cena refuses, telling Punk that he has “some merit” as he hasn’t beaten Punk or Rock. So John Cena decides he’ll let CM Punk earn a spot in the main event by putting his title shot on the line in a match, one on one, tonight. Cena tells Punk that while he talks business, Cena handles business.Punk confers with Paul Heyman and after a bit tells Cena he’ll take him up on the match, but only on his terms. And his terms are that the match will be next week. Punk and Heyman laugh and high five out of the ring like they just pulled off the grandest prank, and Cena and Punk are on for next Monday.
So just to be clear, RAW opens by setting up a match that won’t take place until next week. Sorry for the fans in attendance, but apparently Lafayette just isn’t the proper town to have a big match in.
It’s cool though, fans. You’ll get The Rock’s “Championship Celebration” tonight!
King and Cole send off to Matt Striker, who is backstage with Sheamus and Ryback. Sheamus and Ryback talk about how they were affected last night by their loss to The Shield. Yes, we’re just going to forget that Cena was part of that match so he can go on to ‘Mania unencumbered by that baggage. Tempers flare as the duo accuse one another of the loss until Sheamus and Ryback broken up by... Chris Jericho? Jericho says he’s never worked for another company since he walked into the doors at WWE, and he never will. Somewhere in America, a tear rolled down Dixie Carter’s cheek. Jericho compares The Shield to the Nexus and the nWo (recalling a Shield promo where they said they were nothing like those stables) and says that they need to be stopped, so Jericho wants to make a six-man tag against The Shield tonight.
Sin Cara is in the ring, awaiting Mark Henry. Yeah, you can probably see where this is going. Henry absolutely crushes Sin Cara, picking up the win with the World’s Strongest Slam, then he continues the assault after the match. The Great Khali heads down to make the save, and Henry makes a quick exit before the combined awfulness of Henry, Khali, and Cara in the ring at the same time makes the world implode. As Mark Henry heads up the ramp, he mocks Khali’s dance moves, yelling that the only thing Khali is good for is dancing.
A quick break from your regularly scheduled recap for a public plea to whoever may be listening: please let this not be a setup for a Wrestlemania match. Let those two face on Main Event or something, but don’t let Khali and Henry happen at ‘Mania. Please.
Alright, on with the show.
Once again we cut to Cole and King at ringside, who are recapping The Miz’s accidental low-blow on Antonio Cesaro that cost him the US title. Apparently Cesaro and Miz will wrestle again tonight in a non-title no-dq match. But not before a Fandango promo.
At least they ponied up the cash to whoever they needed to pay off to drop the extra o. Fandangoo sounded vaguely pornographic.
Cesaro and Miz are in the ring and they both received a jobber entrance for the sake of commercials and Fandango. This disappointing detail wasn’t enough to spoil what was actually a decent match. Both Cesaro and Miz were making use of what Dusty Rhodes might have one time called “the plunder,” as the pair (mostly Cesaro) rocked one another with chairs and a kendo stick. Miz picked up a clean win over Cesaro via submission when Cesaro actually tapped to non-botched Figure Four Leglock.
Cole and King at ringside. Again. The pair bring up the World Heavyweight Championship match, noting that Jack Swagger will wrestle champion Alberto Del Rio at Wrestlemania. Apparently Swagger and his new buddy Zeb Colter are going to give a State of the Union address tonight, but apparently they’ve already been flapping their gums in YouTube videos. Cue a remarkably uncomfortable video (which can be found here, for the morbidly curious) in which Zeb Coulter talks about immigration in a rather controversial fashion. This is sort of foreshadowing the State of the Union address tonight, which is actually more inflammatory, but we’ll get to that.
Now cut backstage to Kane and Daniel Bryan, with Bryan pouting over Kane’s actions at Elimination Chamber the night before. “I don’t know if I feel comfortable teaming up with you anytime soon,” says Bryan. He’s going one on one with Jack Swagger tonight, and tells Kane not to accompany him to the ring. Kane says he wants a one on one match too, and makes a huge stretch in the conversation to mention snakes, which magically summons Randy Orton. Kane goes on a rant about hating snakes, Orton tells Kane he’s “not the big red monster anymore” but “more like Barney the Dinosaur,” and clearly we have Kane and Orton one on one tonight.
Awkward fade (stress on awkward fade, you couldn’t hear the director of one segment say cut and the other say action but you could feel it) to Vickie on her cell phone. Paul Heyman enters the picture and tries to get her attention but Vickie ignores him until she finishes the call. Apparently Vickie “summoned” Heyman to congratulate him on the stipulations he put into the match from the night before. More than that, Vickie tells Heyman that she has an announcement for him later in the evening that will have a big impact on his career. Heyman wants her to tell him now, but she says she’ll tell him later in the ring. Heyman says he hates surprises. Vickie says she knows. Ooooh, what a catty cougar.
Dolph Ziggler is on the way to the ring now with his entourage. He’s in a non-title match with World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio next. The match opens with Ziggler absolutely mauling Del Rio in the early goings. Overall it’s a great back and forth match with a lot of innovative offense. In the end, Ziggler taps to the Cross Armbreaker. Post-match, Big E Langston attacks Del Rio, screaming that Del Rio’s “time is over.” Dolph goes to cash in the Money in the Bank contract but Ricardo Rodriguez steals the briefcase and runs away. By the time AJ and Langston retrieve the briefcase, Del Rio is up and he clocks Ziggler with an enzuigiri, preventing the title change.
After a very long commercial break, we find Wade Barrett’s in the ring. Barrett notes that he is now not only a “top WWE superstar, but ... about to become a huge movie star, too.” Barrett notes that he is going to be in the upcoming film Dead Man Down, then tells them to roll the trailer. The full theatrical trailer rolls, sucking up about 4 minutes of time, after which Sheamus appears to ruin Barrett’s fun. Barrett is furious that Sheamus “ruined his moment,” and thankfully one of the more terrible segments on the show comes to an awkward end when the camera just cuts to King and Cole at ringside selling WWE figures.
Yep, the pair are just playing with toys. So there was a movie trailer and a toy commercial disguised as a part of RAW. As if the show didn’t have enough ads.
Now Brodus Clay and Tensai head to the ring, but their entrance is interrupted by Primo and Epico. Apparently it’s a 6-person mixed tag, with Rosa teaming with Primo and Epico to take on Tensai, Brodus, and Naomi. Naomi actually looks really impressive in the few moments she actually has in the ring, but the match is far too short to judge her abilities quite yet. Brodus and Tensai pick up the win with a double Big Splash, after which the pair dance in the ring.
King and Cole again, talking about the announcement of Wrestlemania XXX being at the Superdome in New Orleans. If you haven’t heard the announcement yet, a short article and the press conference video can be found here.
Jack Swagger’s State of the Union address is next. Watching Swagger lisp his way through the introductory section is painful indeed, and then things get worse when. Zeb Colter gets on the mic. Zeb thanks the Founding Fathers for the Bill of Rights, particularly the First Amendment right which he intends to exercise tonight. Coulter says the State of the Union is pathetic, but real Americans are not to blame. Instead, the blame is to be put on the millions of people living in this country illegally. Coulter then points out that the World Heavyweight Champion is a man named Del Rio, who is here to exploit this country. If this is sounding uncomfortable, just imagine watching it. Coulter pitches the WHC bout at Wrestlemania is a battle of ideals, of a “Real American” in Jack Swagger against, well, I guess not a real American.
So, essentially, Alberto Del Rio, who is supposed to be a wealthy Mexican aristocrat (and is probably here on a work visa, you know, legally) is representative of illegal immigrants who are in America to exploit us and get handouts, etc.
Even typing that feels gross. This feels about as bad as Muhammad Hassan’s terrorist storyline. You know, the one that ended his career.
Daniel Bryan heads to the ring after Coulter gets done with his rant to take a quick loss to Swagger. Bryan had Swagger locked in the No-Lock at one point, but Swagger broke free and forced Bryan to submit to the Patriot Lock.
Heyman and Vickie in the ring next for the … well, maybe not big announcement so much as more filler. Vince McMahon pops on to the ‘tron to let Heyman know that he is going to fight him next week. Not a match but a full on brawl. It’s worth giving that concept the benefit of the doubt. It could be pretty entertaining. Vickie also announced that she has hired Brad Maddox as her “Assistant to the Managing Supervisor.” Eh. Take it or leave it.
Jericho heads to the ring for the six man tag against The Shield. Match ends when Rollins throws a Sagat-like Tiger Knee from the top rope into Jericho’s skull, allowing Reigns to get the pin. This was a really fun match to watch. It’s tough to say where you can really go with a three-man group like The Shield, but they’re great as a team.
Kofi Kingston in the ring next, facing off against Damien Sandow.Sandow says many members of his family have been personal advisors to the Presidents, claiming that one of his relatives actually came up with the idea of the New Deal. Sandow jumps Kingston before the bell even rings and the pair engage in an all out brawl. No match actually happens as Damien lays a severe beatdown on Kofi until R-Truth makes the save.
Second Fandango promo of the evening, which is somehow even more terrible than the first.
Randy Orton and Kane are up next. Good match, one in which Kane actually manages to counter Orton’s second-rope DDT. Kane looks as though he has the match in hand when Bryan makes his way down the ramp, distracting Kane just long enough for Orton to hit an RKO (out of nowhere) and pick up the win.
The Rock’s celebration is apparently up next, because the University of Louisiana’s marching band is out to play along with The Rock’s theme as he heads to the ring. The Rock says that CM Punk showed the world that he was a living piece of garbage, and that two pay-per-views in a row The Rock beat him in the middle of the ring. Rock says he’s going to ‘Mania as champion, but that he’s not going with the WWE Championship that he holds now. “When this title was unveiled 8 years ago by a certain WWE superstar, one of the greatest of all time … it worked. And there were some people who thought this title was cool. But there are also some people who believe in bigfoot.” Rock notes that “the WWE title should never look like a toy, and it should never spin.” Rock tosses the spinner belt to a guy at ringside and tells him to “take it to the Hall of Fame,” then Rock proceeds to unveil the hideous monstrosity which is our new WWE Championship belt.
Cena comes to the ring to confront The Rock, but is jumped halfway down the ramp by CM Punk, who apparently napped the spinner belt just to nail John Cena with it one last time before they retire it. Punk looks at the spinner belt for a few moments before tossing it down next toa prone Cena, then Punk points to the belt Rock has over his shoulder. Rock looks ready for a fight but CM Punk simply turns and walks away to close the show.
RAW last night was certainly difficult to watch. Following along with the Twitter feed, it was obvious other fans were having similar difficulties, with many pointing out the inappropriateness of the storyline which is forming around the World Heavyweight Championship match, as well as the general predictability of the programming. Yet next week’s show seems to be promising; having John Cena face CM Punk with the main event of ‘Mania on the line is decently compelling television. While there is absolutely no reason to think that Cena will lose his shot, there is a good possibility that the match could end in a way which would have Punk be inserted into the match, making it a Triple Threat main event for the WWE Championship.
Rumors are spreading already about a possible return of The Undertaker next week, as well. The Undertaker’s health has been an issue, with many questioning whether he would return to defend his historic winning streak at Wrestlemania at all. While the rumors will likely prove to be false, it is worth tuning in just on the off chance that The Undertaker makes an appearance.
Moral of the story? Last night’s RAW was terrible. Hopefully next week’s will be better. Right?