Wow, was last night’s WWE RAW terrible.
There really is no better word to describe the unbelievable snoozefest that was three hours of building to what could be the Guinness World Record holder for “World’s Most Predictable Card,” this upcoming Wrestlemania. The last few weeks have been nothing but a confusing bait-and-switch for an underwhelming undercard and last night’s RAW did very little to improve on what seems to be one of the more disappointing lineups in Wrestlemania history.
RAW opens with a video package highlighting the Triple H/Brock Lesnar feud. Hearing Triple H ask Lesnar if he’s going to just “stand there and bleed” is cringeworthy. We get it, H, you watched Tombstone recently. The package also runs down CM Punk’s encounter with The Undertaker and his theft of the urn.
Cut to the arena and we’re live in Pittsburgh, in front of a dead crowd which proves to be indifferent to pretty much everything going on throughout the evening. John Cena’s music hits and the number one contender to The Rock’s WWE Championship makes his way to the ring. Cena says the fans have twenty days to pick a side between he and The Rock. Cena then says that he has a message for all The Rock’s fans: “Your time is up, our time is now.” Cena is actually interrupted by the Prime Time Players of all people. Titus O’Neil, wearing an afro, introduces himself as Rufus “Pancake” Patterson (“Pancake” because he “flattens fools.”) John Cena, witty as ever, says he can get Titus some medication for his multiple personality disorder. The entire bit is just a lot of time-wasting nonsense that leads to some randomly generated WWE ‘13 match pitting Darren Young against John Cena. Cena gets a quick win with the AA (quick in that there was a minute of match before and a minute of match after the commercial break) and RAW is officially off to a really bad start.
Following the match is a video clip of Ryback being attacked by The Shield on SmackDown. Apparently The Shield’s new nickname is “The Hounds of Justice,” which sounds like an original character in a deranged teen’s anime fanfic. Remember how they’ve been pulling Ryback away from The Shield in recent weeks to set up a Mark Henry match for ‘Mania? Well, they apparently changed their minds. (Or did they? Keep reading!)
David Otunga is in the ring after a jobber entrance to face Ryback. Ryback squashes Otunga in front of a crowd that really doesn’t care, picking up the quick win with the Shellshock. The few scattered cheers actually make the win seem more awkward than anything else.
Ryback grabs the mic after the match yapping it up in a way that can only be described as “Vintage Ryback,” which draws Mark Henry’s attention. Teddy Long and Vickie head out to stop Mark Henry from making it to the ring. The duo make official what we all have seen coming, taking Ryback out of the six-man tag none of us thought he would be in to set him up in the match with Mark Henry that none of us wanted. Mark Henry and Ryback are officially on for Wrestlemania.
Take a break for a second to reflect that Sheamus is the only person that The Shield has had beef with in the last few months who is actually going to be in a bout with them at ‘Mania. While it’s best not to recycle matches month after month, the ability of WWE superstars to forgive and forget is remarkable. Cena moved on to bigger and better things, Jericho is doing something new, Ryback is mixing it up with Henry... The Shield is such a potent unit that once anyone has lost to them, they just don’t even want to mix it up with them anymore.
A Fandango promo hits, as he apparently premieres next. Except we all know better at this point, and the next segment plays out like you would expect. Fandango heads to the ring to take on The Great Khali. Fandango gets a bit annoyed by the dance moves of the Punjabi Playboy and insists that he and Natalya stop dancing. Fandango wants Natalya to try to pronounce his name. “Don’t be afraid of all this masculinity,” Fandango says to Natalya, providing frat boys around the world with a new pickup line. Natalya feigns interest before siccing the big man on Fandango, and Fandango jets from the ring. Once again, Fandango doesn’t debut. Best gimmick for a three hour show ever.
R-Truth is out for in ring action. Apparently he’s wrestling Damien Sandow. A lot of boring pre-match banter leads to a dull encounter in which Damien heads for the hills to avoid taking a pinfall loss to R-Truth, thus leading to Truth winning by countout.
The Bella Twins are backstage with the other half of the Rhodes Scholars, Cody Rhodes, and they are lovin’ on the mustache. Kaitlyn interrupts, letting Cody know that she can’t hang out later. Apparently she “has a thing,” which is never a good thing to hear... unless you’re already getting loved on by twins. The Bellas are rude to Kaitlyn, Kaitlyn responds by letting the Twins know that they can have Cody’s mustache... and he can have theirs. Kaitlyn bolts on that epic female facial hair burn.
Back to the ring and The Undertaker’s music hits. The Phenom heads to the ring, saying that CM Punk made a mistake when he decided to make things personal. The Undertaker promises Punk that at Mania, he’s going to hurt him, and “hurt him bad.” Taker wants the urn back. CM Punk comes on the Titantron manipulating the urn like a dummy and doing a Paul Bearer impression. To sum up a long CM Punk promo, Punk says that The Undertaker is the best at Mania, but Punk is the best in the world 365 days a year. Punk goes through a long spiel, all while playing with the urn like it was a basketball, and ends up dropping it, complete with a fantastic “expletive deleted” moment. Taker fumes as the segment comes to an abrupt close.
Epico and Primo are in the ring to take on the WWE Tag Team Champions, Team Hell No. The teams have a decent match and Kane seems in line to pick up the win when AJ’s music hits and she comes out skipping around the ring in an attempt to distract. Kane almost loses via rollup but kicks out and picks up the win with a chokeslam in spite of the distraction. AJ blows a kiss to Daniel Bryan before she skips away.
Cut backstage to Chris Jericho. Jericho says he has held the Intercontinental Title more than any superstar in WWE history. Jericho is interrupted by Fandango. Jericho proceeds to mess up Fandango’s name in “hilarious” ways, like “Fan-Django,” etc. Fandango storms off in frustration, but Chris Jericho says Fandango shouldn’t go as Jericho hasn’t gotten his movie tickets yet. Jericho tops off the joke by trying to get tickets to Dead Man Down and the segment comes to a close.
Video package of WWE Divas Alicia Fox and Natalya visiting Rwanda, handing out mosquito nets for the Nothing But Nets foundation, which provides mosquito nets to ward off malaria. This is actually awesome, more excellent philanthropic work by WWE in a place where there really is no vested interest in the product.
Cody Rhodes in action now. Rhodes is taking on World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio. The pair have a long match, but not a good one. Del Rio wins with the Cross Armbreaker. Jack Swagger jumps Del Rio after the match, attacking both him and Ricardo Rodriguez. Del Rio manages to turn the tide but only briefly as he’s tossed all around the ringside area. Crowd is chanting “USA” … which is remarkably confusing given the angle. Jack Swagger eventually puts Rodriguez in the Patriot Lock, apparently breaking his ankle. Rodriguez sells the ankle injury in a very loud way and the announcers go silent as though something tragic just happened and RAW cuts to commercial.
Back from break and footage is shown of Rodriguez being placed on a stretcher to be taken to the back. Cole then introduces the next person being inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame: Booker T. They actually used an edited version Booker’s infamous “We comin for you” clip in the Hall of Fame video. Amazing.
Randy Orton and Sheamus are set to take on Drew McIntyre and Heath Slater of 3MB. Cole keeps saying that now that Ryback is off the team, it may be a 2 on 3 handicap match against The Shield at ‘Mania, completely ignoring the whole Big Show setup of the previous, oh, two weeks? Randy Orton wins with an RKO on Slater but the victory celebration is short lived as The Shield makes their way to the ring. The ring is surrounded when Show’s music hits and the World’s Largest Athlete evens things up, making The Shield reconsider and leave. Show points at the Mania sign. There’s a lot of that going around tonight. Apparently by thrusting his meaty finger at the Wrestlemania logo, he has thrown himself into the six man tag match.
Kofi Kingston is in action now. Kofi is facing Dolph Ziggler. Cole reminds the audience that Dolph Ziggler has until this July’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view to cash in his contract, which probably doesn’t bode well for a ‘Mania cash-in. Dolph picks up the win in front of a crowd so dead you could hear a pin drop and Cole actually loses it because Ziggler has won three matches in the last three weeks. He’s not Barry Horowitz, he’s actually supposed to be a legitimate upper midcarder. Post match, Kane and Bryan head out and challenge Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston to a match. AJ wants Team Hell No to put the Tag Team Championship on the line, and the match is made for Wrestlemania.
WWE replays the same Rock v Cena video package from last week, because the WWE Champion can’t be bothered to show up to build his feud. It’s a great video package, but then again it was great the first time they showed it last week.
The main event match of the evening has arrived, and it is an Intercontinental Title Triple Threat Match with Miz and Chris Jericho facing champion Wade Barrett. Barrett gets a jobber entrance, coming in during the commercial break between his two challengers. The match was excellent, but the crowd’s indifference hurt it so much. Barrett retains with a rollup on Miz after Miz hit Jericho with the Skull Crushing Finale.
On to the final segment of the evening as Triple H heads to right for the big Wrestlemania contract signing. Paul Heyman heads out with a trio of security guards, causing Triple H to complain about Brock Lesnar not wanting to look him in the eye. Heyman notes that Lesnar is fearless. Lots of talk and killing time in the closing segment, which is ridiculous given that there is no time left to kill. Paul Heyman runs down possible stipulations, including a “Winner Gets Stephanie” stipulation which causes Triple H to snap.Heyman screams for Brock as Triple H slaps him up and then eventually signs the contract. Brock Lesnar’s music hits after Triple H roughs up Heyman for an awkward amount of time, but Heyman talks Lesnar down. Heyman announces that it will be Lesnar v Triple H in a No Holds Barred match with Triple H’s career on the line, and the show closes on that rather mundane announcement.
This RAW was painful to watch. While a few more matches for ‘Mania were set in stone, there is a feeling that this Road to Wrestlemania is more of a hastily constructed wooden bridge which could collapse at any time. Things are coming together, but only with great difficulty, and the key matches on the card are so remarkably predictable that they hardly seem worthwhile. Even this far out, it seems unlikely that The Rock, Brock Lesnar, or CM Punk will walk out of their high-profile matches victorious. And with this much predictability in the upper card, what is the point of dishing out the money for this pay-per-view event?
There still is enough time for things to turn interesting, but this RAW did nothing to alter the perception that this Wrestlemania card is one of the more disappointing of recent years.