I personally cannot wait for Wrestlemania. I’m hoping the WWE Network has all the connectivity kinks worked out so my little shindig can go off without a hitch. All we have to do is get through a couple more Raws. However, if this latest episode is any indication, these next two weeks may elapse in slow and brutal fashion.
This week’s Raw kicked off with an in-ring promo. Surprised, right? This time, it’s only Stephanie, which isn’t half bad I guess. The Boss’ Daughter broke the bad news about Daniel Bryan not being in attendance, then pumped up Triple H as future WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Her arrogant boasting brought current champ Randy Orton to the ring to share a piece of his mind.
The champ meant no disrespect, of course, but confidently stated that he’s gonna mangle Triple H should the Game beat Bryan and make it to the title match. Orton also slandered Batista in his great proclamation of Wrestlemania glory, and that brought the Animal out of hiding. Dave went into his bit about how he’s gonna demolish Orton and whoever else makes it to the triple threat, but was almost literally drowned out by “A-hole” chants and mic problems. We got some weird interaction between Steph and Batista that led to an entertaining chain of events – she slaps him, Orton laughs, Batista takes Orton out with a spear.
Raw treated us to something a bit different in delivering a fatal fourway style match as the first bout of the evening. Well, considering the participants, it was more like a tornado tag team match. In Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus, bad blood from individual feuds boiled over, so it was pretty much face-on-heel action here. Christian secured the win by hitting the Killswitch on Ziggler and in the process, earned himself a shot at Big E’s Intercontinental Championship on WWE Main Event. You would like to think that whoever wins this match will take some momentum into the battle royal at Wrestlemania, but it probably won’t mount to much unless the title changes hands – and that’s still pushing it.
Daniel Bryan may not have been in the house, but apparently John Cena was. The Wyatt Family appeared on-screen for an impromptu backstage promo, hosted in one of those dark, desolate places they seem to find at every arena. They kept it short and sweet by warning Cena that they’re coming for him and he better run. Spooky stuff, man.
Poor Primo and Epico. Weren’t they irrelevant enough as Primo and Epico? Thankfully, RybAxel vs. Los Matadores doesn’t last long. A Shield citing amongst the crowd serves as the distraction that enables one of Los Matadores to roll up Curtis Axel and “steal one” as Michael Cole would say. Things don’t get much better for the odd pairing of RybAxel because after the match, they both got destroyed by the Shield. The beatdown culminated with the group’s trademark triple powerbomb on Ryback, much to the delight of the crowd.
Word on the streets of the dirtsheets is that the Shield has been “turned babyface”. The crowd reaction has been more favorable week after week, so I guess attacks on definitive bad guys the likes of Kane, Axel, and Ryback are supposed to make it official. I think the group has reached a point where they’re respected and will be well received no matter which side of the fence they play on. Having said that, I don’t see this group face run lasting long. I know I keep saying it, but a split is inevitable, so time will tell just who remains crowd favorites when things officially fall apart.
Love in-ring promos? Then you got your frills from this show. Michael Cole and Triple H kept the conversation flowing by conducting their weekly interview in the ring. Hunter used this segment as an opportunity to let the WWE Universe, particularly members of the Yes Movement, know that they suck. He reminded me a little of myself in his controlled rant on how the fans have gone soft and it’s up to him to put an end to these pathetic charades. I thought it was interesting that Steph and Triple H both had their own solo promos in the ring. A combined segment may have been doubly dubious initially, but it might’ve spared us a few minutes of hot air as well.
This episode had even more talking in store as Hulk Hogan made his way out to the ring later. The host of the upcoming extravaganza, Hogan plugged Wrestlemania then invited Hollywood stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Manganiello to join him. They seem to pull the guest host thing out whenever they feel like it. This near dreadful segment was interrupted by the Miz, who apparently played a heel this week. Long story short – after mouthing off about why actors have no place in the ring, Miz wound up embarrassed by all three men. Hogan launched the formerly Awesome One out of said ring then proceeded to pose with his Hollywood comrades as Real American cranked over the speakers.
Erick Rowan got his shot two weeks ago. This week, Luke Harper got a chance to soften up John Cena for Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania. Harper was not only in control for a vast majority of the match, he was also the most over as the anti-Cena crowd was quite vocal in their disdain of Mr. Hustle, Loyalty and Respect. Deep into the match, Cena was prepared to hit an AA when things started to get screwy. The lights went out and when they came back on, Cena was twisted in the ropes, apparently beat to a pulp, donning the infamous sheep mask with the Wyatts hovering. Bray chatted some chilling jibberish and hit us with now infamous catchphrase, “Follow the Buzzards.”
I’m not surprised that this turned out to be a very solid match between two gifted powerhouses. Quiet as kept, I think Harper is the standout member of the Wyatts, kind of like their version of Roman Reigns. Sure, Bray is the leader and oozing charisma with this particular gimmick, but Harper has physical skills that make him very capable in the ring, and the larger than life look to boot. These combined attributes may be enough to flourish in a post-Wyatt Family role whenever that time may come.
Earlier in the night, Triple H put the Shield in a tag team match against The Real Americans. Consider this as another sign that the group has gone good guy because tension with the Authority couldn’t be any more apparent. As for the match, it was Rollins and Ambrose representing in a good, albeit short match against a team that has had more than their fair share of problems as of late. The Shield scored the win, then put an exclamation point on the victory by triple powerbombing Cesaro through the announce table. After the match, Kane hit the stage with the snazzy dressed New Age Outlaws at his side. He set up a match between themselves and the Shield at Wrestlemania, raising the ire of internet wrestling marks far and yonder who believe the young trio deserve something more meaningful.
One more promo. Standing in the middle of the ring, Brock Lesnar cut Paul E.’s attempt at sugarcoating the situation by calling out the Undertaker for a fight. Be careful for what you wish for. Out go the lights, the creepy cult music plays – a gang of druids methodically approached the ring lugging what is presumably the Deadman in a casket. They dropped the casket at ringside, prompting Lesnar to go vandal and attempt to destroy it to no real avail. He got super ticked after opening the lid and finding no Deadman inside – for now. Heyman grew cocky and proceeded to rip the Undertaker about his mind games. As it turned out, Taker somehow wound up in the casket and eventually in the ring. He got the better of Lesnar in a brief exchange, setting up a conclusion that saw both men giving each other the death stare while gazing back and forth at the Wrestlemania logo in the backdrop.
I know I shouldn’t be too critical about all the promo action. WWE does have three hours to fill. Guess I would appreciate it a bit more if they dedicated more of that time to actual wrestling. The war of words is arguably just as important as the physical battle in this federation, but a combination of longer matches and perhaps additional matches that help further along the few angles they do have going into the big pay per view could’ve made this episode better for me. On the bright side, the bad guy Razor Ramon was announced as the latest inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame, and there’s only on more Monday between now and Wrestlemania!