"Don't tell any doctors I said this, but at this point in the situation the bus pretty much drives itself." - Abed Nadir, Community S02E22: "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts"
When's the last time Raw opened with a random tag match? It's not unusual for them to start with a big one-on-one match, even a WWE Title match, but how often do they start with one of those main eventer pairings that could serve as the final match of Smackdown any given week? Well, last night's Raw dove right into the action with Randy Orton & Sheamus taking on Kane & Daniel Bryan. I really enjoyed this match with Sheamus kicking ass, Orton being used sparingly as a hot tag and Bryan serving as the glue holding everything together. Hell, I even enjoyed the ending with AJ distracting the ref long enough for Kane to chokeslam Sheamus from the apron, which was a pretty cool visual. Definitely a situation of "punked on Monday, win on Sunday," because there's no way Kane and Bryan are winning at Mania, but at least they have some momentum. Terrific start to the show.
David Otunga vs. Santino Marella was the longest, messiest set-up for a reveal in recent memory. I really don't think we needed Michael Cole as the official Team Johnny commentator, Booker T bringing out Teddy Long, Hornswoggle & Vickie Guerrero as flag bearers, a 20-second match and a Three Stooges bit to introduce The Miz as the final member of Ace's team. I get why they did two segments on the Teddy/Ace story, so they could both reveal their final team members individually, but this was just convoluted.
Eve vs. Kelly Kelly gave my DVR a workout. Next!
CM Punk vs. Christian was scheduled as the 10pm main event (EEEEEK!!!), but didn't go down as planned (sad face). For starters, Chris Jericho again appeared on the TitanTron, this time to insult CM Punk's mom. Okay, claiming Punk is just one bad break away from drowning his sorrows in the sauce thanks to his genetics is a little sleazy, but I can see how the story could work. But attacking Punk's mom because his parents weren't married until months after his birth? Now we're in full blown Big Boss Man/Big Show territory.
Honestly, is "bastard" really a worthy insult in 2012? My parents, who have been together for 30+ years never got married. Who cares? This isn't the 1950s and CM Punk isn't Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, so the bastard thing just came across as laughably stupid. Just put these two in the ring together and let the magic happen.
Apparently it made CM Punk real mad though, since he took out his frustrations on Christian so viciously that Captain Charisma will not be able to make it to WrestleMania. I guess Christian got re-injured or his previous injuries still haven't completely healed? Regardless, it's a bummer Christian won't make it to WrestleMania and an even bigger bummer that he's been replaced on Team Johnny by Drew McIntyre... who?
Brodus Clay vs. Curt Hawkins was the definition of filler. Clay's shtick has worn thin and he just squashed Hawkins in his debut a few months back, so the only reason I can see they ran this match with six days to go until Mania was they literally had nothing else to do.
Big Show vs. Primo was more filler, but at least this time we got some Cody Rhode's awesomeness to hype the biggest IC Title match in recent memory. It's not like we're talking a Rock/Cena war of words or anything, but track this down if you missed it, Cody was spectacular here.
The Lord Tensai vignettes are interesting, but people are surely going to remember him as Prince Albert, right?
Mark Henry vs. The Great Khali was another messy set-up for Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy, but at least this one had an exciting and unexpected payoff. Henry dominates Khali, John Laurinaitis throws T-Lo to Mark Henry, Team Teddy tries to make the save but Team Johnny has the ramp blocked, so Booker T sneaks in the backdoor and makes the save, joining Team Teddy for WrestleMania. Took awhile to get there and I have no idea why Team Teddy each rushed the ring individually - although Kofi's springboard off someone's back onto the apron and into the waiting arms of Mark Henry was cool - but this worked much better than The Miz reveal.
Our main event of the evening was the final confrontation between The Rock & John Cena. No concerts, no costumes, no history lessons, no empty arena interviews, just a straight up one-on-one battle of words to hype the BIGGERESTEREST MATCHEST EVARZ! Both guys were pretty toned down, The Rock only made two references to genitals (one male, one female) and Cena didn't go into Reverend Cena mode until the very end, but it was fine. I would say it did what it needed to do, but they didn't really need to do anything at this point.
Which brings me to the Community quote I posted at the start of the review, at this point, the bus pretty much drives itself. Rock vs. Cena has been sufficiently hyped for months and just in case you weren't 100% sold, they made a one-hour documentary about it that aired before Raw and will air 87 bajillion times on a dozen networks between now and Sunday.
On that same note, Triple H vs. The Undertaker has been sufficiently hyped, and I'd even say everything since Triple H uttered the words "Hell in a Cell" has been completely unnecessary. They could've announced Triple H vs. Undertaker: HIAC a week after they announced Cena vs. Rock last year and it would've been sufficiently hyped.
Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk was sufficiently hyped once Jericho said he came back to prove who the real "Best in the World" is. Hell, just say "we're going to put Chris Jericho and CM Punk in the ring together at WrestleMania with the WWE Title on the line" and I think most people would've been fine. The Straight Edge Bastard stuff was completely unnecessary, it's like putting gravy on ice cream.
For the last month, the only matches that really needed the hype were the ones that got it the least: Sheamus vs. Bryan and Kane vs. Orton. Kane and Orton, I understand, it had to be hastily thrown together, but I really would've enjoyed some word battles between Sheamus and Bryan, especially under the big spotlight of Monday Night Raw. They could've halved the amount of segments devoted to the 12-man and given Bryan and Sheamus some promos and it would've been much better.
But at this point, the bus pretty much drives itself. Sheamus and Bryan will have a good match and the matches people are paying to see are so far in that upper echelon, WWE could've just run video packages for a month and I suspect the Mania buyrate would be the same. Of course, the ridiculous amount of hype dictates the matches have to deliver on Sunday and WWE has a lot of work to do for WrestleMania 29 since they're not going to be able to run this kind of card next year, but I'm ready for 28. I've been ready, everything since the Rumble has just felt like when you were a kid and the wait between Thanksgiving and Christmas felt like eons.