We're less than a month away from WrestleMania! With the card they have, WWE doesn't really have to do much, the stories pretty much sell themselves, but they're bringing out the big guns for Raw nonetheless.
Shawn Michaels kicked things off in Boston in the arena he had his first last match in, The Garden. Shawn took his time here, but I don't care what anyone says, HBK is awesome and will always be awesome and if you disagree, you are significantly less awesome. We eventually saw the arrival of Triple H and Shawn didn't take too kindly to the fact that all it took to get HHH to agree to the match was The Undertaker saying Shawn was better. Triple H gave some flimsy excuse about how he's doing it so people stop saying Shawn couldn't get the job done (I don't think anyone is saying that), but I've grown accustomed to assuming everything Triple H says out loud is total bullshit. Cerebral Assassin, ya'll!
HBK then dropped the bombshell that I think we were all expecting, he'll be the special referee for the Hell in a Cell match. It ties up both stories nicely and special refs aren't unusual in the Cell (and by "aren't unusual," I mean Mick Foley did it once), but I worry this could be distracting. Hopefully it's just to beef up the card as much as possible, I just don't want to see shenanigans in a match like this, especially with 20-0 on the line. Turning that into a schmoz would just feel cheap. Although I do kinda like the idea of The Undertaker kicking the shit out of both of them... no offense, Shawn (but offense to Triple H).
Our opening contest was a United States Title match with Santino Marella challenging Jack Swagger, who I honestly forgot was US Champ. Am I alone in thinking this match was really, really fun? Don't get me wrong, it was a total clusterfuck with Dolph Ziggler, Vickie Guerrero, John Laurinaitis, David Otunga, Teddy Long, Kofi Kingston and Aksana (??) at ringside, but it's not like we should've expected a technical masterpiece here.
Thanks to a steady stream of shenanigans, Santino COBRAAAAAAAAAAAAA'd all over the place and picked up his first singles title since the Glamarella days. I'd say it's well-deserved, Santino's been working his ass off lately and the crowd has gone absolutely bonkers for the guy. I don't think they should've taken the title off Ryder (especially considering what they've done with him since), but you gotta live in the now and Santino is far more viable right now.
Here's hoping we see the debut of the Luger-Meter in Santino's quest to become the longest reigning US Champion in history.
T-Lo vs. Ace was much more fun this week as well, they kept it all to a minimum and it worked much better.
The Rock's history lessons were typical Rock, but that's far better than what we got last week. I liked the first one with Rock throwing Cena merchandise off the bridge the best since it was a nod to Stone Cold tossing Rock's IC Title, but "tranny Wonder Woman?" Really, Rocky? Here's a challenge for the "greatest Superstar of all-time" (weird, they called HBK the same thing 40 minutes ago): get through one promo without calling someone a transvestite, hermaphrodite, a eunuch, a gay, or giving a clever nickname to your penis. Just once. Please.
Alicia Fox vs. Eve... no one cares. Zack Ryder returned, looking like a douchey Dr. House (the show does take place in Jersey, after all), but the crowd loved him. Of course, WWE pissed it all away (again) by having him fall for Eve's Jezebel-ness. I'm beginning to wonder if Ryder's shtick is that he's living with severe brain damage.
John Cena's super serious empty arena promo was not his best. Luckily, he'd get a second shot at it later in the evening and at least he was trying to make the match feel big, unlike someone else I know.
CM Punk & Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan & Chris Jericho was an awesome tag match. I saw some gripes that they were "giving away" the title main events, but c'mon, it was a tag match. A no-touch feud is great when you're building something huge like Rock vs. Cena or The Undertaker vs. Triple H, which is exactly what they're doing with those feuds, we don't need to overdo it. I'm just happy they haven't made Jericho & Punk team up and win the Tag Titles.
Jericho & Punk gave us just enough to make it a nice WrestleMania tease and the finish was perfect. In the battle of two guys who have legit claims to "Best in the World," it looked like Jericho had the edge on experience alone. Sheamus and Bryan were good spice to add to the match, but there wasn't any significant build there.
The Rock returned for another history lesson, this time in front of a statue of Paul Revere riding a horse (and ringing those bells). Rock mentioned that he's hung like a Clydesdale and did his own version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy," but come on, you're standing in front of a statue of Paul Revere and don't say "I did it like this, I did it like that, I did it with a wiffle ball bat?" For shame, Dwayne.
The Miz vs. Big Show... look kids, a falling star, make a wish! I don't know what the hell happened to The Miz, but going from headlining Mania to losing to a single punch is pretty bad. I know the commentariat insists that The Miz's career is over, but this guy has overcome far worse. Again, you can't ever say someone's career in wrestling is over unless they've suffered a horrible injury. The Miz is in a slump, but he's still the go-to guy for press junkets and has more crossover appeal than anyone in the company not named John Cena. Consider him Triple H post-Curtain Call, if he hasn't bounced back by this time next year, there might be a problem, but until then, just chill. And if you're too young to remember HHH in 96, just look at how Sheamus bounced back in the last year.
The Rock's penis is huge, guyz.
R-Truth vs. Kane was hype for a WrestleMania showdown between Kane and Randy Or--ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
I honestly had no idea they were doing another John Cena vs. Rock face-to-face confrontation this week. I figured Rock's penis lessons were going to be him bringin' it via satellite, so it was a welcome surprise. Much more balanced this week with The Rock not stumbling all over himself, but his arsenal still consisted of "You say I was shaken? Nuh-uh, I'm totally confident, I swears!" and "You're my bitch." This is the best the "best ever" has for the "biggest" match ever? I know this stuff worked in the 90s because "he said 'hermaphrodite' and 'llama bitch nipple' on TV, tee-hee!"
This whole time, Cena has been punking Rock (heh, Punk Rock) while still making the match at Mania feel like a big deal... The Rock is treating it like it's his rematch with The Hurricane. I've had people tell me "that's just The Rock's character" or "that's what Rock always does," but no, it's not. The Rock made the hype for WrestleMania 18, he made Hulk Hogan an uber-star after years of being a laughingstock in WCW, his matches with Austin were epic (and I hate that word), as was the hype surrounding them.
So either The Rock is such a great actor that he's intentionally making it look like he's unintentionally getting schooled by Cena, or Cena's right and he's not dealing with The Rock, he's dealing with Dwayne.
Overall, a good Raw, very good in fact. Everything built toward WrestleMania and the only filler was the usual Diva break. It may not have been worth getting five hours of sleep to stay up for, but I'll give it a solid thumbs up.