Doesn't WWE sometimes put the Raw after WrestleMania on the Mania DVD? I really hope they do that this year.
An explosive Raw kicked off with new WWE Champ, John Cena addressing his adoring fans in East Rutherford, NJ. Cena really set the tone for the night, basically telling them, "I know you don't like me and sometimes I don't like you, but let's have fun tonight." Cena reveled in the boos and despite being worried about where Cena would go from his Mania win, he definitely seemed rejuvenated last night. "How about a little dance? Maybe a heel turn?" Brilliant.
And though he wound up merely being a red herring for another story, I loved the addition of Mark Henry to the segment. "You got them laughing, I ain't laughing!" Booker T set up our main event, Henry vs. Cena in a non-title match, with a future shot guaranteed to Henry if he could win. I kinda hate that premise, especially when a bad guy is in the role of challenger, but a minor gripe.
In-ring action kicked off with a half-rematch from Mania, Daniel Bryan vs. Big E. Langston and I am officially a Big E fan. There's nothing particularly new coming from Langston, it's not like he's the first big ass-kicker in WWE, but something about the way he moves and hits his moves makes me really dig him. It might actually be a smidge over-the-top, but being in there with The Dazzler made it work. Big E gets an impressive win for his Raw debut after finishing Bryan off with the Big Ending.
Wade Barrett vs. The Miz was a WrestleMania pre-show rematch (how dare they give it that away, I paid a hard earned $0 for that!) and wound up being one of, if not the, best match that either guy has had in a WWE ring. Miz has had some fun over-the-top brawls, he was on his way to becoming the master of the falls count anywhere match, but last night was the first time in awhile that Miz has had a fantastic straight-up wrasslin' match. Barrett's neckbreaker on the apron was particularly gross, but the whole match was hard-hitting, fun and the crowd was into it, what more do you need? Oh how about a title change for good measure?
I know some people were annoyed by Miz dropping the belt right after winning it, but I didn't see the harm. Barrett's not gonna break the Honky Tonk Man's record, so an interrupted reign doesn't hurt him and a little bit of unpredictability goes a long way.
So after decisively defeating Jack Swagger at WrestleMania, Alberto Del Rio had to face him again, this time in a 2-on-1 handicap match with Zeb Colter added to the mix. This was not nearly the clinic they put on at Mania, very much an hour 1 Raw main event, but the purpose of this wasn't to be an jaw-dropping wrestling match, it was a means to an end.
After being locked in the Patriot Act for an extended amount of time, Del Rio managed to escape and lock with the Cross Armbreaker for the win, but the damage was done and Dolph Ziggler struck.
I just re-watched the segment, I couldn't tell you the last time I heard a crowd EXPLODE like they did for Ziggler heading to the ring. They were already begging for it, so by the time "I'M HERE TO SHOW THE WORLD!" hit, they were practically orgasmic. The match itself was one of the better mini-matches in the history of the Money in the Bank concept, I still had some doubt that Ziggler would win the thing, but of course he did. Dolph Ziggler is finally, FINALLY, World Heavyweight Champion, he deserved a moment like this and here's to long and well-deserved reign.
I was a bit surprised The Undertaker appeared on Raw, but it got me a bit more hopeful that Taker would be sticking around. As I said in my Mania review, he looked like he was ready to get back into the ring more frequently and The Shield interrupting his moment seemed to confirm that. Hell No rushing to the ring to make the save was super fun and the crowd loved it, but how couldn't you with the awesome image of Daniel Bryan standing between Taker and Kane? The Shield vs. The Dazzlers of Destruction seems like a natural fit for Extreme Rules and a needed evolution for The Shield, so I really hope that's the direction we're going. Taker working some tag matches here and there, maybe SummerSlam and then the Mania build would get no complaints from me.
Zack Ryder, Santino & R-Truth vs. 3MB... next!
Although Ryder, Santino and R-Truth would make for a fun 3-Count reboot.
Sheamus & Randy Orton were arguing over who got to fight the Big Show after their WrestleMania implosion, WWE made this seem like a bigger deal than it was, and the NJ crowd was having none of it. The two had a match to determine who got the "privilege" to get in the ring with the World's Largest Athlete, but they were met with a series of chants that had absolutely nothing to do with the match: "RANDY SAVAGE!" "MIKE CHIODA!" "COTTON CANDY!"
I felt bad for Sheamus, they clearly had no interest in even giving the match a chance, but it's not like two guys in creative limbo were going to put on a barn-burner with the story of "who's gonna wrestle Big Show?" I was a bit torn on the whole thing, the "WE ARE AWESOME!" chant was particularly bad since once you say you're awesome, you kinda stop being awesome (unless you're The Miz), but at the same time, WWE gave them something they didn't want to see and they gave them grief for it. At the end of the day, they paid to be there, they can chant whatever the hell they want. I wish more crowds had this kind of fun.
Fandango vs. Kofi Kingston barely got started before Chris Jericho interfered and kicked Fandango's ass, but forget about the match, let's talk about the new sensation that's sweeping the nation: Fandangoing!
I've been watching wrestling for close to 30 years at this point and I can honestly say I've never seen a crowd hum a guy's theme song throughout the match. I've been skeptical about Fandango, but this needs to become a thing; if you're going to Raw next week, sing and dance along! Don't be afraid to look stupid, don't be too cool, have fun.
Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls vs. Rhodes Scholars & The Bella Twins got bumped from WrestleMania, which is a shame for the performers involved, but getting to go in front of this crowd, not having to follow something like Punk/Taker or HHH/Brock and having the benefit of indoor arena acoustics, it turned out to be a pretty fun match last night. They still were probably rushed through since the show was running long, but I'm glad they got to do their thing.
Since the show was running long, John Cena vs. Mark Henry never really got started before Cena won by count-out. Obviously they weren't going to let this Raw end on a count-out in front of this crowd, so they were setting up something... enter Ryback. Ryback roughed up Henry a bit, but his true target was the WWE Champion and Raw came to an end with Ryback Shell Shocking John Cena and posing over his body with the WWE Title held high.
Cena vs. Ryback is fine, they missed the boat on Ryback being the next big good guy, so let him be a villain for awhile. Some folks are saying it wasn't a turn, just Ryback being Ryback, which is possible, but the announcers seemed to treat it like one. A little uncertainty might be best for Ryback though, he doesn't need to be tied down by the concept of good guy or bad guy, his whole shtick is "FEED. ME. MORE." so his opponent's disposition should be irrelevant.
Ryback started losing when he started teaming up with people, maybe he becomes this Stone Cold-esque loner who fights any and everyone?
This Raw was spectacular. I don't think we're in for a drastic change in direction or anything, but with some new faces for Cena to work with, Daniel Bryan hanging with Taker & Kane and Fandangoing, I'm excited for the post-Mania run. I'll have more thoughts on the raucous crowd later in the week, but if you want more Raws like this, buy a ticket and make some damn noise.