What a difference a week makes when you're not painting yourself into a corner with the Raw Roulette gimmick.
CM Punk opening the night and saying you shouldn't believe anything Vince McMahon puts on his program was pretty funny, there's breaking the fourth wall, then there's firing a ballistic missile at it. Booker T interrupting to set up the Raw Active portion of the evening was weird, but I guess it wouldn't make sense to have Vickie do it. At least we got some of Booker's infamous tongue-tying, shucky ducky!
Ryback vs. Antonio Cesaro made a lot more sense than the random pairings of last week. Cesaro has been ducking Ryback for awhile now and finally got his comeuppance, but it was arguably Ryback's hardest fought win to date, the US Champ took him to the limit in what might be Ryback's best match yet.
Jack Swagger's return continued with an easy victory over Santino Marella. Everyone keeps talking about the new Jackie Swaggs, but all I see is bad hair. Calling the ankle lock the "Patriot Act" is a nice touch, but it doesn't change the fact that everything else about Swagger - look, attire, that fucking theme music - just screams "this dude's act is as fresh as ECW on Sci-Fi." Let's at least boost him up to "Syfy," okay?
I like Swagger, I'm glad he's back, but he's gonna need a lot more than looking like the asshole who's trying to shut down the rec center if he wants to be taken seriously again.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Cody Rhodes suffered from random pairing syndrome, but it would appear that's Cody's role for the time being. Del Rio was wonderful as ever though, as were Big Show's hotel antics. For my money (which isn't much), these two are the best thing going in WWE, no one else is playing their parts to perfection like these two and their feud is both deliciously old school and refreshing.
Hey, if you're just gonna give me Daniel Bryan vs. Rey Mysterio, I'll buy the PPV as a thank you. If I could offer one critique though, it's that I'd love to see these two square off with some kind of stakes. Not a title necessarily, but give them a story to work with. I know Rey and Sin Cara are kinda-sorta feuding with Team Hell No, but really it's more like Hell No are feuding with each other while Rey & Sin Cara are in the background.
That's fine for the current situation, WWE's still tepid about the tag division and the shenanigans between Hell No is the story, but I want to see Bryan in a wrestling feud and Rey is the go-to guy for stuff like that. When CM Punk and Chris Jericho need something to do, you can throw them in there with Rey Mysterio and magic happens, I want Bryan to be that guy. Hell, throw him in there with Sin Cara too and we might actually see Cara break out of his shell a bit.
Oh and MARK HENRY returned! Asses were kicked, wigs were split, the K-I-N G was in here, it was magniflorious. I don't know what his role is going to be in the WrestleMania scene, but we should just hand the World Championship back to its rightful owner. HALL OF PAIN, MOTHERFUCKERS!
I have no idea why Sheamus vs. Kane happened, other than to further push the rift in Hell No... whose entire concept is a team with a rift from within. Seemed silly and the match was probably the weakest of the night, also diminished Sheamus's appearance later in the evening, but more on that later.
I'm just going to throw this out there: Miz TV last night did more for The Miz than headlining WrestleMania. The start was a little shaky, a bit too typical modern WWE face for my taste with Miz slinging fat jokes at Paul Heyman & Vickie Guerrero, but the minute Brock Lesnar's music hit and Miz went did that little "FLAME ON!" pose? Fuck yeah, that's The Miz I love. Make no mistake, Miz got his ass handed to him, he knew what was going to happen, but he didn't flinch and not in that John Cena trying to take on three guys kind of way, he knew he was outmatched by the most dangerous beast in the business, but went balls to the wall anyway. Brock throwing those director's chairs on Miz's face was NASTY~! and I think I'm going to hire "There Goes the Pain" movers next time I need to get my couch to a new house.
Best segment of the night, hands down.
Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett made more sense than Orton/Cesaro, he has a deep history with Barrett, but I can't say that I was a fan of the match. I did like them telling the story of Barrett's scar and elaborating on his bare-knuckle history by saying more than "the former bare-knuckle boxer," but the match was by-the-numbers Orton and Barrett.
So Bruno Sammartino is finally going in the Hall of Fame? Man, when Vince buries a hatchet, he really buries a hatchet. Bruno went from practically non-existent in the last 25 years of WWE history to "THIS MAN IS THE GREATEST WRESTLER OF ALL-TIME AND THE GREATEST HUMAN BEING TO EVER WALK THE FACE OF THE EARTH!" overnight. Kudos to WWE, particularly Triple H, for making it happen though... sometimes all it takes is a phone call.
Why CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho went on before that silly "main event," I do not know, but what a phenomenal match. I honestly think these two get better with each match against each other and with the roles reversed, it felt significantly different than their two encounters last year. They got a great amount of time, Punk quelling the increasingly insufferable "this is awesome chant" was amusing and they tore the house down as usual. I need more of this.
John Cena "calling out" The Shield was your main event, except Cena didn't call them out and instead set-up an ambush. Aside from Sheamus running through the crowd looking like a ginger pug, I don't know what possessed them to have this close out the show. Sure, it made sense to have Ryback and Sheamus as backup, and the other guys who have been wronged by The Shield blocking the ramp was fine, but really, this is your main event, The Shield running off? Woopity-doo.
However, I do love the idea of doing The Shield vs. John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus inside the Elimination Chamber... War Games style and it would appear that's what they're setting up.
Other than a weak ending though, this was a great Raw from top-to-bottom. We're not quite in overdrive yet, but Elimination Chamber was set up well and the WrestleMania picture is still a little fuzzy, which keeps me guessing and that has me pretty excited.