Less than three weeks to WrestleMania!
We began last night with Jerry Lawler in the ring because they were in Cleveland. Yes, they love The King in his hometown of Memphis, but he's more into Cleveland... which is strange since Memphis is younger. Lawler introduced John Cena for his portion of the Rock/Rap Concert.
Cena came to the ring to "Basic Thuganomics" and was decked out in a throwback jersey and the old chain and padlock. Cena's rapped more in the last year than he had in the previous five combined, so it wasn't surprising to see him lay down a new "freestyle" (that's what the kids call it, right?), but it was still pretty damn good. He took swipes at The Rock getting plastic surgery on his pecs, put some of Lebron James's Cleveland heat on him and called him "chickenshit." Oh, and promised to teabag him at WrestleMania... these two should just make out and get it over with already.
Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler was our opening contest and when you give two guys like this 15 minutes to work with, good things are bound to happen. This was an excellent TV match, thanks mostly to Ziggler making the #1 contender for the World Title look like a friggin' BEAST. How about Ziggler reversing the Irish Curse into a crucifix?! Gorgeous! Sheamus picked up the win with the best Brogue Kick ever and I'd love to see these two feud for the World Championship after WrestleMania.
And I saw a lot of gripes about them cutting to Daniel Bryan & AJ in the skybox during the match, but I didn't see what the big deal was. Cutting away during a lull period to hype a PPV is totally okay in my book. That's standard operating procedure for TV... get mad if they cut away from a PPV match to hype a TV show.
The whole Santino vs. Mark Henry & David Otunga bit was dumb. I don't mind the tag match at WrestleMania to determine the sole GM, but 12 guys is way too many. This whole segment, while a decent way to get guys to care about Otunga and Henry, just flowed awkwardly. R-Truth and Kofi Kingston also came across as the worst helpers ever.
There was a lot of backstage filler after the Santino segment, highlighted by John Laurinaitis giving Miz (with Psych's James Roday) a match against CM Punk for a spot on his WM team, and lowlighted by this stupid Eve and Zack Ryder story still happening.
Jinder Mahal vs. Brodus Clay was next and wait... The Funkasaurus is back? Clay did seem rejuvenated (or motivated) due to his mysterious month-long vacation and the prone splash is a waaaaaaaaay better finisher than that running crossbody, but I suspect the only reason he's back is because WWE realized they don't have enough good guys for Teddy Long's team at WrestleMania. I'm still skeptical of the whole shtick, but if Brodus can really get into it, it could be something fun. The Cleveland crowd loved it, but they loved everything last night.
I don't really have much to write about Shawn Michaels & The Undertaker sparring on the mic, it's pretty much what I expected, but I love the fact that HBK is in both guys' heads. He told Triple H last week that he knew Taker would win at WM27 for the same reason he knew who was going to win this year, and then used the same line on Taker this week to imply that Triple H was going to win. Threatening to be the one to end The Streak in retirement was a nice dickhead move too, it's what Shawn does best. I'm still a little worried about Shawn's involvement in the match, but hopefully it just means Undertaker killing them both and going 20-0. 21-0 if we're using the Sid Vicious method of scoring a streak.
The Miz vs. CM Punk was about five minutes too short, but they did well with what they had. Punk forced Miz to tap out to the Anaconda Vice, which naturally upset the same people who would've been upset if Miz beat the WWE Champion three weeks before WrestleMania, but such is life in Internetland.
Things got really interesting after the match though when Chris Jericho appeared on the TitanTron and revealed that CM Punk is sXe because his dad was a raging alcoholic that missed all his tee ball games. "And the cat's in the cradle with the silver spoon..."
That got a huge groan out of me, but Jericho managed to turn things around and revealed that his new motivation for WrestleMania is to beat Punk so bad that he drives him to drinking. I'm not sure if "I will drive you to alcoholism" is the best or worst motivation for a bad guy in wrestling history, but it was amusing nonetheless. I don't think this story needed this, but I do think it could've worked if not lost in the shuffle of Mania Madness. Play this card for the Extreme Rules rematch, it's not going to get the time it needs to play out when The Rock, John Cena, Triple H, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels are showing up every week.
Many people have pointed out the Jericho/Raven parallels though and I can't help but love it just a little more after that.
The David Otunga ambulance-chaser vignette was absolutely brilliant. More of these, please.
I can't believe they gave that much time to Randy Orton vs. Jack Swagger. I'm not complaining, the match was fine, but I just didn't expect Swagger to look that impressive, the dude has barely been relevant for 18 months and they give him that impressive of a showing against the golden boy? Of course, Orton won handily, but I thought the match was a pleasant surprise. The ropes exploding when Orton went to do his pose on the turnbuckle was a nice touch too and will do more to hype his match against Kane than anything else they'll do over the next five shows.
I'm still bummed Ryder doesn't get to get his revenge on Kane at WrestleMania, but I assume this was hastily slapped together after Barrett's injury. Nature of the beast.
The Rock Concert was our main event of the evening and since "Leavin' Sacramento" is still my all-time favorite Rock bit, I was excited to see it return. But as usual with The Rock, there had to be some eye rollers. Before he even began singing, Rock had to give us some very timely references like Vanilla Ice and the gay Teletubbie. What, were The Wuzzles too dated?
Once the concert got going though, The Rock was really entertaining. Of course, there were plenty of gay jokes, but I applaud The Rock for calling male Cena fans virgin nerds and not homos. That's progress for ol' Dwayne. Also, I hate myself for laughing at "menstrual clock," but dammit, it was funny.
Yadda, yadda, yadda, your penis is nonexistent, you're gay, but you have a wife and bang Eve on the side, blah, blah, blah... typical Rock stuff. It's juvenile, it's schoolyard, but it was Rock doing what Rock does best. The crowd ate it up and it was better than his usual material since he had to rhyme. For some reason, latent homosexual tension is just more amusing when it has a nice melody. You know they're totally going to man-hug at WrestleMania.
So all in all a good night for The Rock... wait, there's more? Oh dear God, he's singing his own version of "We Will Rock You" by Queen. Oh no, make it stop, MAKE IT STOP!!!! In the words of Sir Charles, that was "turrble."
Good God, what made anyone think that was a good idea? First and foremost, you don't parody Queen. Only certified musical genius, Mr. Weird Al Yankovic, could get away with parodying Queen. You can do a cute scene where everyone headbangs to Queen, you can even do a polka cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, but you don't parody Queen without an accordion, it just won't work.
Secondly, as much as I love Queen, "We Will Rock You" stopped being edgy when it was used as background music in trailers for children's movies. Once you get to "We Will CROC You," the power of the song is gone. He may as well have just sang Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" if he wanted a rock song that's been completely neutered.
Uber-lame ending aside, I really liked last night's Raw. Everyone brought their WrestleMania season work boots and everything was advanced fairly well. Some rough spots with that long bit of filler and Chris Jericho pulling a Big Boss Man on CM Punk, but overall, it was a good hype show for Mania. They've got two more Raws and three more Smackdowns to really seal the deal and if they're anything like this, I'm pretty confident about the excitement factor for Mania.