Last night’s RAW revolved around a well-done tribute to the late Paul Bearer. Utilizing classic Bearer clips throughout the evening, the event was a reminder of his contributions to the industry and brought him into the present to incorporate him, in controversial fashion, into the escalating feud between CM Punk and The Undertaker.
RAW opens with a very well done video package of the late Paul Bearer. Following the video, the Undertaker’s music hits, and the Phenom makes his way to the ring. His urn stands at the center of the squared-circle, and The Undertaker does his trademark bow to the urn as Paul Bearer’s picture comes on the Titantron. In the middle of this display, CM Punk’s music hits, and out comes Taker’s challenger for Wrestlemania.
Punk extends his heartfelt apologies for Taker’s loss... at Wrestlemania (oooh, burn). Punk says that “at least to Paul Bearer, the Undertaker will always be perfect.” In spite of his heel status and disrespectful words, the crowd actually starts a “CM Punk” chant.
Cole and King cut to the RAW Active mobile app feed after a commercial break to show that CM Punk’s disrespect lit a fire under Kane, who charged from the locker room to attack Punk. Punk manages to escape the grasp of the Big Red Monster, and Kane goes on a rampage backstage looking for Punk.
Big Show heads out for the opening match of the show. Big Show is going one on one with Seth Rollins of The Shield. Show dominates the match for about 30 seconds before the numbers game kicks in and The Shield take the disqualification in order to lay a beating on Show. The trio put Big Show down with their Triple Powerbomb and stand triumphant over him to massive heat from the crowd. Surprisingly (or not?), no one comes to help Big Show out.
Backstage with Maddox and Vickie and CM Punk interrupts. Vickie says she’s throwing Punk in a no-dq match against Kane for disrespecting Paul Bearer.
Daniel Bryan’s music hits and the crowd pops in a big way as he makes his way to the ring for singles action. Bryan is facing Mr Money in the Bank, Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler gets the jobber entrance, but not the jobber ending as he picks up the win in a very good match with the Zig-Zag. The crowd was incredibly involved in the match the whole time and firmly in Bryan’s corner. Post match, AJ gives Big E the go-ahead for some extracurricular activities and Big E puts the hurt on Bryan with the Big Ending. Dolph and his entourage of Big E Smallz leave the ring, laughing and smiling.
Triple H and Brock Lesnar video package next, detailing their own Road to Wrestlemania.
Tensai and Brodus Clay are in the ring now. Tensai will apparently be taking on Fandango. Or not. More likely not. Tensai grabs the mic and wants Fandango out “NOW!” Fandango’s music hits and he and his... dance partner? ...make their way out from the back. As usual, Fandango refuses to wrestle, as Tensai mispronounced his name and apparently he is a disgrace to dance. Fandango tries to stir the pot by telling Naomi that she’s better than the rest of them. He wants Naomi to say his name so he’ll go to the ring. Naomi refuses, Tensai gets angry, and Fandango skips town again.
The Rhodes Scholars are out to take on the New Age Outlaws. Sandow has the mic as he and Cody translate the New Age Outlaws entrance for “taste and good form,” changing things from “Oh you didn’t know?” to “Oh, you were not aware?” and other such nonsense. The match doesn’t get but a few minutes in before Brock Lesnar’s music hits and Lesnar heads to the ring accompanied by Paul Heyman. Lesnar hauls both Billy Gunn and Road Dogg, giving each an F-5. Heyman then gets on the mic, and to summarize a rather long and intense Paul Heyman promo, says that Lesnar will fight Triple H at Wrestlemania, but will only do so if they get to name the stipulation. Oh, and they will only reveal what the stipulation is after Triple H signs the contract.
Kofi Kingston takes on Mark Henry next in a match which is every bit as short as you would imagine. Kofi gets to show off some high-flying moves before he is put to bed with the World’s Strongest Slam.
Backstage with the Rhodes Scholars. Cody Rhodes is hitting on Kaitlyn, but Damien Sandow says he has better ladies for the pair, and introduces the Bella Twins. Yes, the Bellas are back. Vickie interrupts and welcomes back the Bellas, but says the date is going to have to wait as the Rhodes Scholars are facing Orton and Sheamus.
Ryback on the way to the ring. Ryback is taking on Heath Slater. Mark Henry comes out to the ramp to watch Ryback, who picks up a quick victory with the Shellshock. Drew McIntyre tries to jump Ryback but takes a Shellshock himself. Henry makes his way to the ring and delivers the World’s Strongest Slam to McIntyre, which prompts Ryback to deliver another Shellshock to McIntyre. The pair basically land finishers on the former “Chosen One” now ragdoll while they stare one another down.
Antonio Cesaro versus Alberto Del Rio is up next. It’s not as great of a match as you might expect. Del Rio wins with the Cross Armbreaker.
Kane backstage with Josh Matthews. Matthews essentially asks Kane how he’s holding up after Bearer’s passing. Kane has the urn cradled in his arms, but says nothing, then walks away.
Video package of Rock v Cena kills some time before Orton and Sheamus head to the ring to take on the Rhodes Scholars. Sheamus and Orton pick up the win when Sheamus Brogue Kicks Sandow. The Shield hit the ring after the match, and Rollins puts Orton down with his Sagat-style Flying Knee.
Chris Jericho is in the ring now for the Highlight Reel... minus the Jeriton or any real props. Big Y2J chants from the crowd. Apparently Y2J is interviewing The Miz about his hit movie, The Marine 3, which brings out Wade Barrett. Feuding over movie. Wait, wasn’t Barrett feuding with Sheamus over this stuff just a week ago? Nevermind, apparently. Miz says the only reason that Wade keeps bringing up his movie every week is because he hasn’t won a match in weeks. Jericho gets involved, lets Wade know he’s a nine-time intercontinental champion. Brad Maddox heads out, tells the trio to chill. To sum up how bad this entire awful segment is, Michael Cole actually says “this may be the worst segment in the history of RAW.” While it’s far from Roddy Piper telling Cyndi Lauper he loves her, it’s still pretty terrible. Maddox makes Miz v Jericho, who put about 50% into a crappy match before Barrett gets dragged in and makes it look more and more like there will be a Triple Threat match at Wrestlemania for the Intercontinental strap.
Ricardo and Alberto fake Zeb Colter video, talking about the threat of Mexican food. Video is a short four minutes or so and can be seen here. Probably worth a look.
Sin Cara is waiting in the ring to take on Jack Swagger. Zeb Colter gets on the mic on the way to the ring and rips on Sin Cara. Zeb tells him he’s a thief and tells him he flies around the ring like a Mexican jumping bean. You know, the usual uncomfortable kinda racist stuff that makes wrestling’s appeal difficult to explain to your non-fan friends. Jack Swagger picks up the win with his Patriot Lock. Swagger continues the assault after the match, but Del Rio makes the save, trapping Jack Swagger in the Cross Armbreaker until Colter manages to break the hold and make his escape with Swagger in tow.
CM Punk and Kane have their match to finish out the evening, with the pair having a solid No-DQ bout. The crowd kicks out quite a few “CM Punk” chants throughout the match, but the Straight Edge Superstar eventually takes the loss. The ending comes when the sound of The Undertaker’s bell rings through the arena, distracting Punk just enough for Kane to land a Chokeslam and pick up the win. The Undertaker heads to the entrance way and both Kane and Taker bow to Paul Bearer’s image on the Titantron, but Punk jumps Kane with the urn, beating him down. Taker heads to the ring but CM Punk escapes, urn in hand. As Undertaker tends to Kane, Punk poses with the urn in classic Undertaker fashion to close out the show.
There were a lot of mixed reactions on Twitter to incorporating Paul Bearer’s death into this feud, but the general consensus is that if it wasn’t alright with The Undertaker, they wouldn’t be doing it. Frankly, adding Bearer into one final WWE storyline like this seems like as good of a way as any to honor him, and bringing the urn back into the picture brings back a bit of the mystery that has always been associated with The Undertaker.
Overall, RAW was fine, but the overall direction of the company heading into their biggest pay-per-view of the year seems incredibly confusing. The past few weeks have seen feuds brewing and then suddenly disappearing while new ones take their place for no apparent reason. Sheamus and Ryback seemed in line to face The Shield, then Sheamus seemed as though he was going to take on Wade Barrett, then he was back in the picture with The Shield alongside Randy Orton with Miz and Jericho facing Barrett instead, and Ryback is feuding with Henry now, and... well, you get the picture. It is a giant mess. There are still more than a few weeks to get this straightened out, but for the love of God, let’s hope they do it soon.