I realize Raw generally has a 15 minute overrun and PPVs never go the full three hours, but these three hour Raws feel like I'm watching two PPVs back-to-back. The commercials don't help, especially since WWE has had the same six sponsors since 1989, "it looks so natural, no one can tell, with Just For Men gel!" Even when the show is solid, like last night's was, there's just so much pointless bullshit. In the 90s, at the height of the Attitude Era, Vince McMahon himself once said the ideal time for a wrestling show was 90 minutes. At what WWE and many fans consider their creative peak (this fan excluded), Vince thought the show should be half the length it is now. This format has provided us with longer matches, which is nice, but there's still so much nothing going on, more on that presently.
The show began with CM Punk throwing a temper tantrum over the "Phoenix Screwjob," and he certainly had a legitimate beef, but there was nothing there that couldn't have been accomplished with his superior appearance with The Rock later in the evening. Vince's appearance was unnecessary too, as they could've just promoted the Paul Heyman performance review all night, which they did anyway. The Rock's win has a huge asterisk on it, and that could've been the basis of a good segment, but this boiled down to "I'm the bad guy, I lost, so I'm mad," it was a waste of Punk's historic loss to treat it like any other champion dropping the title.
Randy Orton vs. Antonio Cesaro with The Miz as special guest referee was a good match, maybe even a great match by Orton standards, but it was also pretty dumb. Why is Cesaro constantly getting paired up with Orton only to lose? They let Barrett get a clean win over him a couple weeks ago and those two at least have a long history, this is just doing nothing for Cesaro and really nothing for Orton. I hate when the internet commentariat talks about "burials," and I'm not going to go that far, but this was, fitting with the theme of the night, pointless. Cesaro can't keep talking about how no American can beat him for the US Title when Americans keep beating him in non-title situations. Miz being in this match as guest ref was equally irritating because it continues WWE's bizarre obsession with making their good guys as unlikable as possible. Why am I going to boo Cesaro when Orton and The Miz are the one's who are essentially cheating? I don't want to cheer for those guys if they're going to act like assholes. Miz attacking Cesaro after the fact is even worse, what's the justification for that? He beat you fair and square the night before? Not cool, dude.
Ryback clobbering the Prime Time Players (and Matt Striker for good measure) was fun and inoffensive, but again, pointless. Ryback was featured later in the evening in a much higher profile situation and his entrance there was diminished due to his earlier appearance.
Bo Dallas vs. Wade Barrett was one of my favorite parts of the evening because WWE just doesn't book like this anymore. Typically when a new guy comes in, he's doing jobber squashes or working way down the ladder, but this was the 1-2-3 Kid scenario. Here's a kid coming out of nowhere, has an impressive showing at the Rumble and then gets a big win over the Intercontinental Champion, who also has a lot of momentum going for him. Dallas looked good, Barrett got caught sleeping, you instantly have a new Superstar and a ready-to-go feud.
John Cena vs. Cody Rhodes... not so much. I get it, it's the Year of Cena, but this was, as the Essence of Mustachioed Magnificence said, a "waste of Cody Rhodes." Cody had an awesome showing in the Rumble, is still a part of a major tag team, and the crowd was clearly into the idea of him mixing it up with Goldust, so let's just have John Cena beat him in 20 seconds. BLURG! Here's a list of guys you could've done this with instead:
Big E Langston
Darren Young (had they held off on the Ryback nonsense)
Titus O'Neil (see above)
Would've still let Cena plow through someone and deliver his half-drunk promo where he shit all over Alberto Del Rio and the World Heavyweight Title. Not that the World Title needs any help being irrelevant, but geez, that was just obnoxious for Cena to basically say, "well I'd beat whoever holds that belt (I forget who it is at the moment), but I want the WWE Title." I get what Cena was trying to do, he was trying to sound like Ryu and look for the biggest challenge, face Rock or Punk, one of the two guys that have his number and climb the highest mountain. But instead of making Rock or Punk sound like Mt. Everest, he just made the World Championship scene sound like an anthill.
Cena seems to be devolving on the mic lately and it's quite concerning because he can usually be counted on to deliver the goods when talking SERIOUS BIZNESS like WrestleMania, but this was bad. Not "AJ's making wiener jokes!" bad, but still bad, so it was welcome to have The Shield come out and kick his ass. Then Sheamus's ass. Then Ryback's ass. Though it took a long time to get there, at least someone looked good in this mess of a segment, The Shield.
Kudos to Tensai for being a good sport in the dance-off segment with Brodus Clay, where they found lingerie big enough for him, I'm not sure, but I'm confident it was a table cloth in a former life. I know Vince finds stuff like this funny, we all have our weird things - personally, I don't think there's anything funnier than a dog driving a car - but they also flat-out tell us that they know it sucks and is stupid. Michael Cole wouldn't do that without approval, so it's gotta be considered okay to say these segments are pointless, but that's the worst thing to do here. It's okay to have some stupid fun, but you don't just come out and say "this sucks, we're sorry," HAVE FUN WITH IT! JR would've sold the shit out of this, Cole just encourages us to pick up the remote.
And it's where I turned off the show for the night. Take note, WWE.
I did help their DVR numbers in the final hour or so though, the Big Show segment was perfect and almost (more on that in a bit) the highlight of the night. It did go on a little long, but watching Show manhandle Ricardo Rodriguez while Del Rio was duct taped to the ropes was villainy personified. Alberto made Big Show look like a fool the night before, so Show ruined his existence, and it played out perfectly - you felt Ricardo's physical pain, you sympathized with Del Rio's anguish, and you wanted to see Show get his ass kicked. Take notes, Miz, Orton and Cena: you're supposed to be the guy taped to the rope, not the asshole beating up the defenseless little guy.
Divas... hey, I can fast-forward on DVR, WOO HOO!
CM Punk interrupting The Rock's platitudes is all this story needed. Punk was still pissed, but his points were legit: mocking The Rock's use of "punk ass bitch" in 2013 and insisting that he was giving The Rock a rematch and not the other way around? Great stuff. I also loved his dig that he'd be working house shows and Raw next week, while Rock will be MIA, so they'll just have to do the rematch at Elimination Chamber instead.
I'll be honest: I don't really like The Rock and the novelty has worn off for me because he's a one-trick pony. "Llama's nipple" and "deep fried Twinkie tits" (ugh) worked in 1999 because no one had ever talked like that in wrestling before. It was also acceptable because our comedy was Jackass and the American Pie movies, but tastes have evolved. The Rock's shtick doesn't sync up the cultural zeitgeist, he's Movie 43 when the rest of us have moved onto Silver Linings Playbook, he's Rules of Engagement to CM Punk's Louie. That's not to say I don't think he's good for business or capable of having great, entertaining wrestling matches, I'm just done listening to him talk, he's an unlikable douchebag who shows zero flaws, zero vulnerability, and zero evolution. He's John Cena without the occasional modesty.
One odd thing though: with Cena setting his sights on the WWE Title and Punk vs. Rock set, how are they going to do two Chamber matches? Obviously the World Title will be up for grabs, but they won't do a second one to determine a #1 contender for it, there aren't enough guys in that scene, and as John Cena mentioned, no one gives a shit. Maybe we'll only have one Chamber this year, like only one Cell match at HIAC? That's a good thing.
Hey Sheamus, you just got your ass kicked by The Shield, so go out and kill Damien Sandow in a tables match! Again... utterly pointless. The match was great, I really thought they gelled together, but it was just more filler. If this were the late 90s, this would've been the time for Al Snow vs. Gangrel, but now we have top guys beating almost-could-be-top guys for no reason other than the fact that it's Raw Roulette and we need a tables match. I have no problem with Sandow losing to Sheamus, even after The Shield beatdown, but don't just do it for no reason other than, "well, these guys need something to do." Tell me a story, read to me!
3MB, Zack Ryder, Great Khali and Hornswoggle? Next.
Chris Jericho doing Y2J Classic was fun and in this case, the "randomness" of Raw Roulette was acceptable, forcing Jericho to team with Ziggler against another team with a less-than-bromance relationship was at least a different dynamic to take the feud. Hell No got to do their thing and they held it together better than JeriShowoff did, so picked up the win. Nothing fancy, didn't reinvent the wheel, but it at least made sense.
Finally, we get to the end of the show with Vince McMahon evaluating Paul Heyman and providing evidence that he is behind The Shield, as well as Brad Maddox. The premise was flimsy, I'm still not sure why Vince is back in charge two years after all the shenanigans with HHH, but whatever... wrestling logic. I'm also not sure why Paul Heyman gets evaluated by Vince, I thought he worked for Punk, but again... wrestling logic.
That aside, Heyman was just magnificent here and if even half the roster put half the kind of thought and detail in their character as a Heyman, the stories would write themselves. Heyman acting like a mafia don in the Maddox tape was perfect, him pulling a Shaggy and saying "it wasn't me" made me laugh, and then his begging and pleading with Brock Lesnar felt genuine and made the situation all the more terrifying. Heyman in the corner of the ring saying, "Vince, please get out of the ring. Please get out of the ring," is the kind of stuff that sticks with me as a fan. I'll always remember that, because it felt organic, I slipped away from the idea that I was watching a fake sport and felt Paul Heyman put his professional issues with Vince aside and being genuinely concerned for his well-being. Of course, Heyman's pleas fell on deaf ears as Lesnar F5'd the chairman and "fractured his pelvis," according to WWE.com.
I'm not sure how I feel about it, since it will inevitably lead to Triple H returning to stick up for his papa-in-law, whether that means SummerSlam rematch or HHH pulling a "you're gonna have to face... THE UNDERTAKAH, PLAYA!" remains to be seen, but I'm not eager to go down that road again. HHH vs. Lesnar was massively disappointing and The Undertaker being used as a prop to defend Vince's pelvis doesn't exactly scream "STREAK MATCH," but we shall see.
Overall, Raw needs to be 2 hours. Please.