WWE RAW came into Indianapolis last night with emotions running high after the passing of revered manager Paul Bearer earlier this week and Wrestlemania close to a month away. Let’s examine the show and how it builds up hype
Pro Wrestling Examiner watched the show last night on DVR delay due to the undeniable lure of a delicious pizza cooked by the world famous Lou Malnati’s and a chatty girlfriend besides me. You can check out my Twitter jokes: @kevkellam
CM PUNK INTERRUPTS THE UNDERTAKER’S TRIBUTE TO PAUL BEARER
WWE was going to have to acknowledge Bearer’s passing in some story line way, especially with the Undertaker who is symbolizes both life and death in the WWE Universe. Paul Bearer’s attachment to the Undertaker is undeniable, so WWE did what was the right thing to do for the show: CM Punk interrupted Taker’s tribute to Bearer, and dished insults towards the Undertaker spinning the emotions into the story going into WM29. Now Tuesday morning quaterbacks and moral high grounders are going to cry fowl for WWE, doing this as they did when Punk made fun of Jerry Lawler after his heart attack. This time though is exception as Paul Bearer was unique fantastical character played by a kind and talented man named William Moody. His name still has weight as a character, so using it in this way is paying tribute to him in a profound way. You could almost say that Paul Bearer is managing the path of the Undertaker even in his real life passing.
WWE was endearing in their flashbacks of the big moments in Paul Bearer’s WWE career. This Examiner was fond of the Wrestlemania XI comedy clip of Bearer in a drag outfit. Lawler’s sincere words and the performance by Kane (who was Paul Bearer’s adopted son) all played Bearer’s memory into the current action in a sensitive but fitting way to play a reality into the unreal world of WWE.
THE BIG SHOW VS. SETH ROLLINS / SHEAMUS & RANDY ORTON IN TAG ACTION
The Shield pack mentality played well tonight, and a 6 man tag team fight seems all but a done deal for Wrestlemania 29 on April 6th. Sheild made a real impression when they triple-power bombed the 450lb giant to the mat. Meanwhile Orton and Sheamus looked strong as they faced Team Rhode Scholars in their second match of the night. Orton, Show, and Sheamus vs. The Shield has the right parts, but needs just another spin on the wheel to get the right momentum.
DANIEL BRYAN VS. DOLPH ZIGGLER
What stellar showing by two of the best in-ring talents in the company. Reminds of their thrillers they put on in 2010. Bryan may have come up short here, losing to Ziggler but he still delivered another stand out match and can ride into a Wrestlemania match with his fellow WWE Tag Team Champion partner Kane. Zigger and company are back on the winning track, after it seemed like Zigger’s Money in the Bank briefcase would mean nothing if he kept losing every week on RAW. WWE needs to make some move with Ziggler before Wrestlemania to make his cash-in hard to call.
FANDANGO DANCES HIS WAY OUT OF ANOTHER MATCH
What is up with the dancing doofus? That’s right, he gets the oldie-but-goodie insult of doofus. This guy’s voice changed for no apparent reason during his promo on the entrance ramp. His dancing partner maybe stunning, but his character being booked as uncourageous non-fighting braggert seems weak, even he’s facing the tons-of-fun of Brodus Clay and Tensai.
BROCK LESNAR LAYS OUT THE NEW AGE OUTLAWS AND LAYS DOWN A WRESTLEMANIA CHALLENGE OF HIS OWN TO TRIPLE H
It was a feel good moment to see the New Age Outlaws back in the ring, but the Brock Lesnar run-in was an unpredicted curveball. WWE was smart to give Lesnar a wild attack on Triple H’s DeGeneration X buddies Roaddogg and Billy Gunn, instead of just “Up Next: Brock Lesnar”. It plays into Lesnar’ savage nature. Paul Heyman’s promo drove the story up for Lesnar vs. Triple H, and makes the eventual contract signing between these two to more interesting than your average contract signing segments on RAW, which seems commonplace WWE TV now. Heyman was effective in making this into grudge or score to be settled between Lesnar and the Game.
MARK HENRY VS. KOFI KINGSTON
This was a glorified squash match with Henry just brutalizing Kingston in grand fashion. Henry still looks like a beast, whose ready for Wrestlemania to face another monster, Ryback. Meanwhile Kingston has lost his proverbial ‘boom’ that had him riding high with the WWE Intercontinental Championship, and now appears jerking the curtain at the worst possible time. Kingston still did his duty here, making Henry look ferocious
ENOUGH WITH THE MOVIE TRAILERS
WWE Films may be putting out mainstream movies and direct-to-dvd features that are getting slightly better reviews than the previous lot of WWE flicks, but RAW has been giving up a lot of TV time to plug these movies. When commentator Michael Cole threw to a trailer for ‘the Call’ starring Halle Berry, it was annoying considering it came right after a commercial break. It feels like you are just watching another commercial.
RYBACK VS. MARK HENRY ‘SLAM OFF’
The showdown between Ryback and Mark Henry after they tried to out-slam one another with Drew MacIntyre as their chew toy. The tension between these two is simple: I am big and band but I am bigger and badder. Sometimes a story with simple characters like this should be straightforward, so kudos to WWE for just letting these guys build to their Wrestlemania match without any hoopla. WWE is throwing away something special on Smackdown by having Ryback vs. Henry on Smackdown.
CHRIS JERICHO, THE MIZ, AND WADE BARRETT
Did Michael Cole break character when he was mocking RAW Asst. to the Supervisor Brad Maddox during the ‘Highlight Reel’ segment? That joking seemed to hinder the Jericho vs. Miz match, which had some pacing issues. Jericho still look on point, even after being off RAW for the last two weeks doing an Australian tour with his band, Fozzy. The no contest ending didn't do that match any favors, and it supposedly upset WWE boss Vince McMahon so much that reports are circulating that he told the RAW commentators Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole to bury the whole segment on live TV, which they did.
CM PUNK VS. KANE NO DQ MATCH
This showed the tooth fang and claw scrappiness that will be on display from CM Punk at Wrestlemania. The steel chair mayhem was effective, and the use of Paul Bearer’s passing in the story of the match felt touchy but necessary. Punk got one of the best one-on-one performances out of Kane and brought his Wrestlemania feud with Undertaker to new and very personal level by using the symbolic urn to attack Kane after the match. The closing scene of Punk mockingly posing with the urn and the Undertaker glaring on from in the ring, it hit the right note.
Overall this week’s WWE RAW was strong top to bottom with even the middle card getting strong developments and non-main events on Wrestlemania 29 getting carved out. The inclusion of Paul Bearer’s passing into the Punk/Taker story was sensitive but it clicked and makes the story seemed compelling less than a walk in the park for the Deadman at MetLife Stadium. WWE Champion The Rock and John Cena were also not on this show, did anyone forget that? It’s hard to remember that both men who are main eventing Mania were not on the show live on RAW this week with WWE really putting Punk and Undertaker in the spotlight.