Sorry I'm late, personal life has taken priority in the last week, and if it's enough to keep me away from WWE during WrestleMania season, you know it's a big deal. Nothing to freak out about and I was actually away Monday night for fun stuff, but just took a bit to get to Raw.
Kicking things off with CM Punk was a great idea since Jericho's "I'm going to drive you to drink" motivation required a certain spotlight and attention to detail that this feud was not getting. I'm still not 100% sold on it, and Jericho shifting focus from the dad to the sister didn't help, but CM Punk's performance did. Punk was genuine, believable and giving him a 12-second delay to play with was a great was to put across how pissed he was. And like an iconic band once said, "if you wanna win, you gotta learn how to play... head games!"
I had little interest in Kane vs. Big Show (though the top rope chokeslam was cool), but Cody Rhodes putting on some gloves and teeing off on Show's head like Floyd Mayweather was awesome. And how about the refs using boltcutters to free Show from the handcuffs? What happened to the magical referee handcuff skeleton key? It's nice to see the IC Title not only get defended at Mania, but have a legitimate story behind it. More of this, WWE!
Santino Marella vs. David Otunga wasn't really a match, but as with all this between these two guys lately, it was a lot of fun. Santino's airbrushed abs, the pose down, T-Lo slapping Johnny Ace in the face - ACE IN THE FACE! - it was a good time.
Lord Tensai? Supposedly that's a returning Giant Bernard aka A-Train aka Albert, but I'm surprised they're not just bringing him back as A-Train. I'm all for a fresh start, but I am a little sad that I can't watch the smark implosion over The Funkasaurus teaming up with the Hip-Hop Hippo... TURN IT UP!
The Rock's promo in front of the Rocky Balboa statue is always a necessity when The Rock is in Philly, but before I get into what he said, can we discuss how weird it is that Philadelphia has a statue of a fictional character prominently displayed in their city? New York doesn't have a Spider-Man statue and we all know Haddonfield, IL is still waiting for their Michael Myers statue! Good stuff from The Rock though, playing up some WrestleMania history on top of his Philly pandering, it actually seemed like The Rock cared about the fact that he was going to have a wrestling match.
Daniel Bryan vs. Zack Ryder was way too short, but very good for what it was. If you're still holding onto that Ryder stock, I'd advise you to sell, but it looks like he could bounce back with a WrestleMania appearance on Team Teddy. Still a tough break, I think his triumphant ending should've been a WrestleMania victory over Kane, but I'd guess Wade Barrett's injury, leaving Orton with nothing to do, is responsible there. Still, I think there's a lot of potential in Ryder and Santino forming an alliance and the best way to get that started is the 12-man match at Mania.
John Cena was in a car wreck on Monday before Raw, but I think I'd rather take my chances with the tractor-trailer than Mark Henry! Crowd was red hot for this one, especially as Mark Henry was splitting wigs (Philly hates everyone, especially Cena), and it's just another example of how much a crowd can boost a match. Obviously there wasn't anything revolutionary here and they were taking it easy since Cena was fresh off a car accident (no matter how minor, you're always a little stiff), but the crowd made it fun. Cena flying out of the World's Strongest Slam and hitting the AA was a super cool ending too.
And then The Rock showed up, which only got the crowd fired up more. Rock Bottom on Henry (vulture!) and that's about it. Kudos to Rock for not making a gay joke about Cena getting "rear-ended."
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs. Beth Phoenix & Eve at WrestleMania? Ooookay. Seriously, Menounos should just go to FCW and join the company, you know she wants to do it and it's not like you need to be particularly good to be a Diva these days. I'm sure Extra pays better though.
The Miz vs. Sheamus was next: the battle of the guy who went from the main event of WM27 to being left off WM28 and the guy who was left off WM27 and is main eventing* WM28. Good match though, they're certainly trying to keep Miz relevant (with the exception of that Big Show match), but Sheamus is the Rumble winner, so obviously he's winning here. Hopefully this ends with Ace snubbing The Miz and he gets revenge by breaking good and joining Team Teddy. Would be a cool moment, when's the last time WWE did a great face turn (and no, "well the crowd's cheering, so put him against bad guys now" doesn't count) and it would give the 12-man a nice boost.
Josh Mathews doing an 80s-style side-stage interview with Randy Orton was the coolest thing associated with Randy Orton in quite some time. I was actually impressed with Orton too, it was a simple and effective promo with an old school vibe, which is exactly what Orton should be. Have you been watching The Walking Dead on AMC? If not, you're apparently the only one, but Jon Bernthal plays Shane on TWD and I see a lot of eerie similarities between Shane and Orton. Unbalanced, dangerous, but there's still some good in there; if Orton can add that element to his character, I think it would go a long way. I'd still hate him, but hey, it would be something!
Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger officially joined Team Johnny for WrestleMania and took on Kofi Kingston & R-Truth, two members of Team Teddy. Match got a surprising amount of time and the baddies pulled it out thanks to a little help from Vickie, but Aksana got in her face and we had a good ol' fashioned lady fight! Wouldn't be surprised if they add the ladies to the match since WWE doesn't have nearly enough good guys to round out Teddy's team.
Shawn Michaels, Triple H and The Undertaker going face-to-face...to-face was our main event of the evening. Shawn did his thing first, reminding us that he holds The Streak in the palm of his hand, which brought out The Undertaker, who obviously doesn't like when it's worded like that. The Undertaker's entrance was longer than the time he got to talk before the arrival of The Game (muhuahuahuah) though. Triple H was rocking his t-shirt and jeans look too, because this match is too big to be weighed down by a fuckin' suit, bro!
Triple H raised a good point though, Taker needs to stop worrying about Shawn Michaels and start worrying about Triple H. He also reminded us that of the 24 Hell in a Cell matches, HHH or Taker have been in 19 of them, but never against each other, which is surprising. Triple H started on his "I know what it takes" spiel (you didn't last year), but Taker goes dark and basically said he might murder Triple H, leave his children fatherless and his wife a widow. Christ, Deadman, that's some Mike Tyson shit.
Triple H went darker though and seemed to agree it was fine to raise the stakes to that level. Taker reminded Triple H that HBK is still the better of the two and that was pretty much it.
Despite the finale going a little flat (what more needs to be said about this match?), I liked that something other than Cena and Rock got to close the show. In fact, Rock vs. Cena was almost non-existent this week, with Punk vs. Jericho, Teddy vs. Johnny, Triple H vs. Taker and really even Cody vs. Big Show getting more prominent roles. That's good though, they don't need it if they tried to keep doing gimmicks like Rock vs. Rap, it would start to wear thin.
The rest of the stories got some much needed room to breathe and it worked. I'll be surprised if anything but Rock/Cena and Triple H/Taker get a lot of time next week, but they're two of the biggest main events in recent Mania history, so you can't fault them there. Good Raw.