5. John Cena open mic night
John Cena defeated Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, repressing the monster inside himself and standing up for his values, but Bray almost had him and almost brought Cena over to the dark side. Makes perfect sense for the story to continue and it makes sense for Cena to have more confidence heading into the rematch, he knows he can beat Wyatt, he's done it before. So I didn't really have a huge problem with Cena going into his comedy bag of tricks and mocking the Wyatts a bit, if Wyatt would've responded by getting angry and kicking the bottom rope, as bad guys on the other end of a Cena mocking are wont to do, it would've flopped, but Bray totally no sold it and flipped it around on Cena.
Bray's right, this is what Cena does, he makes jokes when a legitimate threat comes along, and he's excited for Cena's proposal of a steel cage match at Extreme Rules, despite the fact that it neutralizes (but not really) Harper & Rowan. This is what makes the Wyatt character interesting, you can beat him, you can mock him, but he doesn't care. He's not here to win matches or titles, he's here to play with your head, which kinda makes him the modern day Jake the Snake.
4. The IC Title matters
I love a good wrestling tournament and putting one together to determine the new #1 contender for Big E's Intercontinental Title is exactly what the championship needs to matter again. Give people a reason to care and they will, and judging by the names in this tournament, it looks like the IC gold is about to reclaim its spot as the #2 title in the company now that the WHT is out of contention.
Unfortunately, most of the matches in the first round just weren't very good. RVD looked a little rusty against Del Rio, Swagger vs. Sheamus was bowling shoe ugly and Barrett vs. Ziggler was nowhere near as good as people are claiming it was. The crowd played a big part in the matches never coming together, Birmingham was terrible last night, but the wrestlers weren't clicking either. And what the hell was Barrett doing trying to get the crowd to start a "Bad News" chant? The lone highlight of the tournament came in the match with the man I expect to win it...
3. Cesaro vs. Mark Henry
This match was just a good ol' fashioned hoss fight. Cesaro looked like a beast when he hit Henry with The Neutralizer and Heyman sure did his damnedest to get some of that Streak heat onto Cesaro, but the crowd just doesn't want to boo the guy. If they're hellbent on making him a bad guy, he can't do the Big Swing, and there's something really amusing about a guy called "The King of Swing" who never does said swing. I want to see him tease it every match, then turn it into something like a spinning toe hold.
2. The Ultimate Tribute
I liked the tribute stuff to The Warrior, that video package they put together was nice, but absolutely heart-wrenching when they highlighted his daughters. It was a wrestling-heavy show with lots of vignettes of Warrior's best moments in WWE and I think that's the best way they could've paid tribute to him. Warrior Week on WWE Network is a nice touch too.
1. Evolution reunites... uh oh.
So Evolution reunited to thunderous apathy from the Birmingham crowd and took out The Shield after The Authority forced them to wrestle half the roster first. Yawn. We've seen the "handicap match vs. the world" nonsense before and it does nothing for anybody. But it looks like Triple H, Orton & Batista vs. The Shield is on tap for Extreme Rules, which is fine, but what about my War Games match?
No, instead it looks like Daniel Bryan (who was off this week for his honeymoon) will be defending the WWE Title against a re-masked Kane. And with the massive steps forward WWE has taken in the last month, they're taking a huge leap backwards here, Kane is nowhere near on Daniel Bryan's level right now and it doesn't leave me optimistic for his reign. This is Punk 2012 all over again, getting saddled with glorified Raw main events on PPV while snoozers like Big Show vs. John Cena with Johnny Ace's job on the line headline. Granted, Evolution vs. The Shield is a little bigger, but the focus on the show is still on the abusive authority figure and not on the WWE Champion. Going back a few years, it's the same thing they did after WrestleMania 20 and what they constantly did to the World Heavyweight Champion even if his program was way hotter than the WWE Champ's.
I hate to be so pessimistic after WWE knocked it out of the park last week, but we've all seen how bad the post-Mania hangover gets and history is not on their side here. Bryan working with Kane right now is like if Austin's first opponent after WrestleMania 14 was Vader. A fine match on paper, but by mid-98, Vader's heat had completely evaporated and a main event run just wouldn't have worked. Kane's time as a viable WWE Title contender ended around 2003, so this is a big step down for Bryan, the hottest act the company has had since Cena. Granted, Bryan could return next week and with the right crowd, they could make it a red hot feud, they have great chemistry together, but as it stands right now, it looks like WWE is sliding back toward their Royal Rumble mentality, which concerns me.
Quick hits on the rest of Raw:
- Rybaxel looked great in their match against the Rhodes Bros, but what about the Rhodes Bros?!
- Paige vs. Alicia Fox was short, but good... Alicia has improved dramatically.
- Why are The Shield randomly Batista & Orton and costing The Usos a match? Talk about an injustice.
- This sentence took longer to read than it took to watch Rusev vs. Xavier Woods.
- Appreciated Sandow getting time to talk, hope it's a sign they plan on reinvesting in him.
- Nobody cares about Fandango, no matter who you put him with... dude is just creepy.