The last Old School Raw was November of 2010 and it was a wonderful show, even in spite of Randy Orton being the WWE Champion. Big shoes to fill, so big, it's no surprise WWE didn't attempt the show again for over two years, so did lightning strike twice last night?
Well it certainly got off to the right start with the return of The Goddamn Undertaker. He didn't do much aside from appearing at the top of the stage, but that was enough to spark a debate between CM Punk, Randy Orton, Big Show & Sheamus over who should face The Phenom at this year's WrestleMania. Vickie Guerrero set up a Fatal 4-Way, which was a really flimsy way to set up a match with The Undertaker, but whatever, they had a show to fill. It doesn't really need these shenanigans, but it is cool that merely getting a chance to beat The Streak is something worth fighting for. You could see the end of the night coming a mile away, but I gotta admit, the prospect of Sheamus vs. Undertaker caught my attention, shame we'll probably never see it.
Ryback vs. Antonio Cesaro was fun, if for no other reason than Cesaro going for an even more old school look than he usually has. The match was quite good too, but I just don't see the point of continuously feeding Cesaro to Ryback or Orton every week. Ryback and Cesaro had an interesting little mini feud going, but it came to an end last month and there are plenty of other guys that could fill the role of "more" in "feed me more."
Mark Henry vs. Zack Ryder was total wig splittage, but they did tease a little confrontation with Henry and Ryback and yes, I want that match. I want it right damn now, but I am willing to wait till WrestleMania. Feed Me More vs. Hall of Pain needs to happen and I don't know why I didn't even consider it until now.
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler was way better than it had any right to be. No secret that I'm a huge Miz fan, but anytime they try to push someone as "The New (insert legend here)," I die a little inside, so this thing with Ric Flair hasn't really done it for me... but they were killing it last night. Sometimes all it takes to sell me on something ridiculous is seeing guys have fun with it: it's how I came around on Hell No, so seeing Ric and Miz somehow make this pairing work was fun. Ziggler was stellar as always and continues his streak of being the only guy in wrestling who looks better while losing, but it's time to pull the trigger.
I don't know why you need a Fatal 4-Way to set up an opponent for The Undertaker and I don't know why you need to bill John Cena & The Rock together in a ring as "point-counterpoint;" makes them sound like they're bickering talking heads on CNN, although I would've enjoyed hearing "John, you ignorant slut."
This segment is what pisses me off about Rock and Cena these days, because they are capable of being this good, telling this kind of story and being this engaging. But instead of getting this every week, we get "Herp derp, you got a booger dick." "Derp herp, you have intercourse in your butt." Last night was a confrontation worthy of a WrestleMania main event and it told a great story, Cena has to get redemption, Rock wants to shut him down once and for all and prove no matter how good Cena is, he's not Rock good. This is all perfectly fine and there are more ways to sell that story without resorting to the playground humor, but I'm not ready to hold my breath.
I saw some talk that Cena's desperation is beginning to resemble Austin's before WrestleMania X-7, and speculating this could be a catalyst for a WrestleMania heel turn, but I just don't see it happening. The parallels are there, sure, but since Austin himself considers it the biggest mistake of his career and it was the moment WWE began a nosedive it never recovered from, I wouldn't get too excited.
Jack Swagger going all Rand Paul campaign rally on Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter and Dusty Rhodes was pretty great. He's the #1 contender for the World Heavyweight Title and he's being reduced to the kind of gimmick match that he would've been humiliated in two years ago? I'd be a little pissed off too. The new Zeb Colter video was good too, especially with the newly-added disclaimer before it... he's still too tame to be a Teabagger though.
Remember when all the nerds said Daniel Bryan didn't have the charisma or look for WWE? That's really funny. The whole match with Hell No and the Prime Time Players worked thanks to him oozing charisma from his eyeballs. Even during the usually useless "let's show these guys walking" backstage bit before the match, he was hysterical. He kept looking at Kane and when Kane would return the glance, he'd look away, my wife and I were in stitches watching that. Even in a match with the friggin' Million Dollar Man at ringside, he stole the show (and the $100 bill from Darren Young's mouth). It's hard to say he's underused when Hell No is probably the most highlighted act outside of the title picture, but he is quietly one of WWE's most entertaining performers, I hope they realize that.
Brodus Clay & Sweet T(ensai) vs. 3MB was the opposite of the Hell No match, as the only person I cared about in this match was the guy who's not on TV every week, The Honky Tonk Man! I'm all for anything that gets Heath Slater a meeting with El Kabong though.
I know people are excited about Fandango, but I'm here to tell you that it's going to flop. Flop, floppity, flop-flop. Sorry, it's just one of those things, I know WWE has invested a lot of time in hyping him and I know the vignettes are fun, but it's a flop. The "I won't wrestle to you announce my name right" is funny, but it'll reach a point of diminishing returns and unless he really tears it up in the ring (he won't), this is a one-dimensional shtick. The eventual feud with Brodus Clay kinda writes itself, but is that really what you want to see on Raw every week? Saturday Morning Slam, sure, but this gimmick just doesn't have a shelf life.
Is it the haircut? It's gotta be the haircut since absolutely nothing else has changed about Triple H, but this renewed feud with Brock Lesnar is great stuff. It's only been one brawl and one Triple H promo (and if you've heard one Triple H promo...), but I'm a bajillion percent more excited for the Mania match than their SummerSlam encounter. "Are you just gonna sit there and bleed" fits Triple H's 80s action hero shtick very well and I hope they maul each other on April 7.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Wade Barrett was pretty good, especially with that NASTY~! kick to Del Rio's face late in the match. And since I don't recall these two wrestling before, I don't mind so much that the IC or US Champion gets used as cannon fodder. Not much else to say about it, just a good ol' fashioned wrasslin' match that made Del Rio look like the man to beat at Mania.
The New Age Outlaws (yes, those New Age Outlaws) defeated Primo & Epico in a fun little throwback match. It was just like the Attitude Era too, Road Dogg does all the work, then Billy Gunn found his way in to hit one move and win. Road Dogg looked great too, I really think he could've been WWE Champion had it not been for his personal issues, the dude could get a crowd in the palm of his hand as well as most of the main eventers of that time and was way better in the ring than he was given credit for. Looked like Billy Gunn got his horrible hair though... and somehow made it more horrible.
The Fatal 4-Way, as mentioned, was pretty pointless. It was a very WWE style F4W too, with two guys wrestling while two others take a siesta outside. The action from the final commercial onward was fine, but we all knew CM Punk was winning the damn thing and will face The Undertaker at WrestleMania. I'll have more on that match in tomorrow's column, but it's the only conceivable match for either guy this year. They could've fit Punk in with Rock and Cena if Taker wasn't ready, but if the Dead Man's ready to work, then Punk is the guy for him to face this year.
Not as fun as the 2010 Old School Raw, but a perfectly acceptable show that officially got the ball rolling on WrestleMania. There had been a bit of stalling in the last couple weeks, but now that we're a month away, the card is starting to shape up and I like what I see.
But where the hell is Chris Jericho?