I have to wonder what the plan was for CM Punk & The Undertaker before the death of Paul Bearer? So far, the entire thing has revolved around the urn, which is totally fine, I'm just curious what the original plan was. Not that it needs any plan, as I've been saying for weeks, the mere idea of Taker and Punk sells itself, but a little seasoning doesn't hurt. Punk's whole, "I don't care about the streak, I just want to break it" keeps up his nihilistic tendencies and Paul Heyman's general scumbaggery made for a great segment. Who does Heyman come to the ring with at Mania though, Punk or Brock? Both?
Taker getting in a few punches as Heyman absconded with the urn was a nice touch too.
I'm not exactly sure how WWE managed to pull this off, but Chris Jericho vs. Fandango might be the most compelling match on the entire WrestleMania card. I still don't get the hype for Fandango and I thought putting him with Jericho at Mania was an early April Fool's joke, but I'll be damned if they're not kicking ass with this buildup. It's not like they're reinventing the wheel either, it's just two dudes who pissed each other off punching each other in the face (nice shiner for Jericho too), but it is a tried and true formula for a reason. They can't debut Fandango beforehand though, that would ruin it. Who was the last person to have their debut match at WrestleMania? Has it ever happened?
Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler wound up being a really great match too, not that it should come as a surprise. Jericho got the win with the
Mark Henry & Ryback tried to one-up each other in handicap matches, Henry fought two guys in The Usos, Ryback claimed he was one-upping with 3MB, but let's be honest, The Usos are tougher than 3MB. Hell, Tamina is tougher than 3MB. I'm sure you're shocked that Henry and Ryback won their respective matches.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Antonio Cesaro is a feud that needs to happen, and not in the context of this "let's just throw Cesaro in there with a big name guy every week" bullshit they insist on continuing. This wasn't much of a match though, mostly just an excuse to get Jack Swagger out there to beat up Ricardo and cause Del Rio to get counted out. Del Rio still took time after the match though to attack Cesaro, which I hated. Good guys should not do that; Del Rio's loss was his own fault, Cesaro didn't do anything wrong. Oh well, at least no one said "fiery Latin temper," so I'll move on.
Team Hell No vs. The Prime Time Players part 4824739479 was pretty dreadful. I like the idea of Hell No going up against Big Z at WrestleMania, there's built-in history with AJ there, but it doesn't change the fact that WWE's tag division is still in shambles. Titus & Darren are great in their role too, but there's nothing about this match that was going to get people off their feet unless they were going to get some nachos.
Triple H kept it suspiciously short and sweet for his promo against Brock Lesnar. I liked it, he had some great lines like "if you go into a match with Brock Lesnar thinking it couldn't be your last, you've already lost," but of course, he just had to kick Wade Barrett in the dick for no apparent reason. At least he didn't get Pedigreed through a table, I guess?
Barrett vs. The Miz played up on the aforementioned dick kick, allowing Miz to score a win and perhaps set up a Mania match, but if this does make it onto the WrestleMania card, you know it's getting bumped to the WWE Active pre-show. This match was l-o-n-g though, and I don't think anyone needs to see it again at WrestleMania.
The Shield vs. The Great Khali, Zack Ryder & Justin Gabriel was another "oh I'm so shocked" match, but a good excuse to show The Shield triple-powerbombing Khali. Although I am really tired of the "no, we're turning the tables on you, Shield guys!" from Randy Orton & Sheamus, surely The Shield should see that coming by now.
Rhodes Scholars vs. Brodus Clay and Sweet T would've been a lot better if the Bellas were wearing those sweet capes they were rocking before they left. Blah to the rest of the match though.
AJ beat Kaitlyn by count-out... I suppose that'll be your Lumberjill match at WrestleMania.
I love, love, loved the "Hall of Fame Forum" with John Cena & The Rock. Adding Mick Foley, Bret Hart, Booker T and Dusty Rhodes to the mix was great too, gave it all a bit of much-needed gravitas.
And it's probably cliché to say this, but they set up a heel turn for John Cena expertly. For the first time ever, Cena made an excuse for a loss. For the first time ever, Cena seemed desperate. For the first time ever, Cena looked weak. I was reminded a lot of the lead up to Austin's turn, which did backfire horribly, but the fans didn't want to boo Austin, they wanted to boo The Rock. This time, they want to boo Cena and it hasn't just been a mere three years like it was for Austin's run, it's been over a decade. If Cena does turn (which I highly doubt despite the set-up), I suspect it'll be more like Hogan joining the nWo than Austin joining McMahon.
Again, I don't think they'll do it, but that segment was so great, it made me think not turning Cena would be a missed opportunity. This Raw wasn't particularly great and for the most part just treaded water for Mania, but I'm infinitely more interested in Rock vs. Cena now than I was this time yesterday.