Good things come to those who bitch on the internet.
Hulk Hogan opened Monday Night Raw for his announcement that had been hyped all week, but let’s just take a minute to appreciate the fact that Hulk Hogan, a guy who has been bald for 30 years, is wearing a wig, so he can still give the impression that he has a beautiful blonde skullet underneath that bandana. I love you, Hulk, I have always had a soft spot for you through your decades of ridiculousness, but let the hair go, brother. You really don’t need to stitch hair into the bandana, unless you’re going to start selling them, because that horse hair you’re rocking looks about as authentic as something you’d pick up at the merch booth.
Hulk’s big announcement was that after watching WrestleMania III on the WWE Network, he started feeling nostalgic for ol’ Andre and announced The Andre the Giant Memorial WrestleMania 30 Battle Royal
Match for Brand Supremacy of the Billionaires in the Bank Terri Invitational Tournament with a McMahon in Every Corner.
It’s a bit verbose.
Personally, I love this idea. WrestleMania 4’s Battle Royal where Bret Hart and Bad News Brown buddy-up, only for Bad News to turn on Bret, then Bret to break his trophy, is one of my all-time favorite Mania moments. Wrestling needs more Battle Royals and wrestling needs more trophies, so this just seems like a perfect idea. Much like the Hulkster, I’ve been watching a lot of WWE Network as well and one of the things I miss most about old school wrestling is the meaningless prize. Sure, the titles are technically meaningless prizes too, but random trophies, Jesse Ventura talking about how winning matches gets you more money, $10,000 Body Slam Challenges, etc. While we’re bringing stuff like that back, let’s have Big Show vs. Big E in a $50,000 Body Slam Challenge (adjusted for inflation) too.
John Cena was out next to express his interest in being added to the battle royal and since not even the four-year-olds in the audience believed there was any chance in hell that he was actually going to be involved in something like that, The Wyatt Family quickly interrupted and set up their match for WrestleMania. Wyatt cut an awesome promo as only Wyatt does, Cena of course did his lame Rock impression and made fun of Bray’s Hawaiian shirt.
Bray had an awesome line, “If you look up to me, you will see a friend. If you look down on me, you will see an enemy. But if you look me square in the eye, you will see a god,” Cena should’ve stole Captain America’s “there’s only one God and you ain’t him” and made the segment 100% cooler, instead he sang Margaritaville.
Cena vs. Erik Rowan was a solid opener though, Cena looked way more vulnerable than usual and won by sneaking a roll-up. I think it was kept shorter since Cena is nursing some ambiguous injury, but it worked.
The Usos vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel was fine, Road Dogg was surprisingly good on commentary and very refreshing with his calm tone… I’d much rather hear him every week than “THE USOS ARE KICKING PEOPLE, MAGGLE! KICKING! NOW THEY’RE JUMPING OFF THE TOP ROPE, MAGGLE!” Ryback’s star has fallen to a shocking degree, but The Usos are hands down the best pure tag team WWE has had in well over a decade, so it’s nice to see them doing so well. Hoping for something a little more involved at WrestleMania than just a simple rematch with The Outlaws though.
Big E vs. Jack Swagger was just another segment to tease tension between The Real Americans and it accomplished that, but meh. I know the crowd is begging for Cesaro, so I can’t blame for splitting them up, but I like them together.
The Undertaker is my favorite wrestler ever. I’ve had many favorites over the years – Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, CM Punk… even Al Snow for a brief period in the 90s, but no one comes close to The Phenom. Nothing against the aforementioned favorites, as I said earlier, my love for Hogan is undying, but each of the guys have had moments over the years that have tarnished their reputations in some way or another.
Whether it’s returning for one more match a few too many times, walking out on the company for right or wrong reasons, having a sex tape, or just otherwise being a bit of a dickhead, wrestling is not a medium where people and characters tend to age well. But The Undertaker is a fine wine, he keeps getting better with age. Part of that is only working a month and a half a year with only one match in that time, but most of it is just the mystique of The Deadman. If you haven’t gotten caught up in the magic of The Streak since at least 2007, I don’t get you.
So, now that we’ve established that The Undertaker is the greatest WWE Superstar of all-time, let’s talk about the greatest microphone worker in the industry today, possibly of all-time, Paul Heyman.
Heyman interrupted The Undertaker to ask him to back out of the match with Brock Lesnar in the way that only Heyman can, by making it sound like there’d be nothing wrong with it. Heyman heaped loads of praise onto Taker’s Streak, mentioning that Mr. WrestleMania himself, HBK, only won two Mania matches in a row. Aside from that confirming that The Miz is twice as good as Shawn Michaels, it showed that even the greatests of all-time like HBK, Hogan, SCSA, and I guess if you want to include HHH, haven’t even come close to what Taker has accomplished, so why put that on the line against Brock Lesnar?
Because he’s The goddamn Undertaker, that’s why.
The Shield exorcised a demon that’s been lingering over them for months when they defeated Cody Rhodes & Goldust in tag team action. I enjoy the callback to the cracks starting to show within The Shield when they lost the tag belts, but I’m really bummed how the Rhodes Bros. have gone from the hottest act in the company to almost forgotten since they lost the titles. All for keeping The Shield together as long as possible though.
Bella Twins vs. AJ & Tamina was a Divas tag match. AJ has to defend the title against Natalya tonight on Main Event though… guarantee she’s dropping it. You can quote me on that. If I’m wrong, don’t quote me on that.
Okay, so the Daniel Bryan thing. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: one, “#OccupyRAW?” Really? I get that they’re playing off the Hijack Raw thing from last week, but “Occupy?” Welcome to 2011, where I seem to remember WWE doing a storyline where they buried the entire roster walking out of Raw and made Triple H look like the hero of all heroes… just so they could mock the whole Occupy Wall Street thing. It was the worst thing I’ve seen on WWE TV since Katie Vick, so let’s not drudge up any memories of that. Two, the Memphis crowd fucking sucked. Jesus Christ, you’re at one of the final Raws before WrestleMania, make some noise for fuck’s sake. The good news is, still photos of the Daniel Bryan fanatics surrounding the ring look awesome and WWE will definitely make it look great in future video packages when they tell us about how this was their brilliant plan the whole time.
Okay, bad stuff out of the way… DANIEL BRYAN IS IN THE WWE TITLE MATCH!
Well, he has to beat Triple H first, so that doesn’t guarantee anything, but for the first time yet, they’re actually presenting a path where Daniel Bryan could win the WWE Title in the main event of WrestleMania XXX. Pardon me for a minute…
YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!
This segment was extremely well done, minus the crowd. Bryan, Triple H and especially Stephanie McMahon were doing such an excellent job that I was really getting on board with the whole HHH vs. Bryan thing without the title match stip (don’t tell WWE I said that). It would’ve been the greatest booby prize in the history of wrestling, but they were really getting me invested in their match.
But then, after Triple H accepted, Bryan continued to hold the show hostage with a “wait, wait, wait, wait, wait… that’s not all that I want,” and then my pants got tight.
Ever since the Attitude Era, I’ve really hated the constantly negative gripes about WWE that come from what was once known as the IWC (Twitter rendered this concept useless). Whether you want to call them smarks, basement dwellers, or titty babies, we all know there’s a pocket of the fanbase that’s never happy… but there was this really bizarre trend after the Rumble to lump everyone in with that crowd when WWE basically told their customers to fuck off. When people are begging for Bryan and they give us a match nobody asked for instead, how could you not be annoyed? It has nothing to do with hijacking, occupying or revolting, it was just unsatisfied customers expressing their displeasure. This was unprecedented for WWE, there’d never been this kind of backlash over dropping the ball on something so obvious.
So I’m not buying that this was the “slow burn.” Please, if Batista would’ve come back to thunderous applause, Daniel Bryan would be in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and he’d be the one wrestling Christian twice a week for a month on Raw and Smackdown. This isn’t vindication for the “wait and see” crowd, this is vindication for “just fucking do it already.”
But WWE did take ownership of the Hijacking™ and totally made it their own, making it look like it was their master plan all along and good for them. Why not? Wrestling is manipulation and they manipulated the audience into handing over their “movement” and making it a part of the show. Everyone wins. Daniel Bryan is going to get his WrestleMania moment and that’s important because WrestleMania matters. It’s not coming at Battle Rights or Over the Payback or whatever throwaway event name they’ll come up with this year, it’s at WrestleMania 30. THIRTY! And they’re finally not sitting on a guy until it’s way too late, they’re pulling the damn trigger at exactly the right moment.
Sheamus vs. Christian in a Memphis Street Fight had a tough act to follow, especially since the crowd had been sitting on its hands all damn night, but they finally got them into it toward the end, which seems to be the trend for their matches. I feel bad for these guys, two great wrestlers with nothing else to do, kicking the shit out of each other every week for completely unappreciative crowds. Since Sheamus’s skin is made of paper and every welt and bruise showed up in real-time last night, give the man at least a timid “let’s go Sheamus” chant. Winning with the Brogue Kick through a drum was so great, Animal would be proud.
Daniel Bryan & Big Show vs. Batista & Randy Orton was our main event and I think this gif pretty much sums up the entire story of the night:
|What Royal Rumble?|
If Daniel Bryan is Hootie, Orton & Batista are The Blowfish. But they need to be there, just like HBK and HHH were there for that other WrestleMania triple threat main event… and hopefully 10 years later, WWE will give us a moment to replace that tainted one.
Really, it was a one-story show, but it was the story we’ve been begging for since SummerSlam and set an entirely new tone for what was shaping up to be yet another middle-of-the-road WrestleMania. Everything feels rejuvenated with three Raws to go. Keep it up, WWE.