It wasn’t a matter of if the hometown Chicago crowd was going to steal the show, but when. Luckily, WWE’s creative team was smart enough to recognize this, and they attacked the CM Punk issue head-on. As a result, Paul Heyman gave us one of the most tangible, addictive show openings in recent history. Notice that Heyman didn’t directly attack Punk… instead, he played off the hopes of the fans by coming out to Punk’s music – thus taking the proverbial wind out of the crowd – and then proceeded to blame everybody in attendance for Punk not being there. He earned their jeers. This was another “Paul Heyman Instant Classic,” and it did a great job of setting the tone for Monday Night.
But that’s not all. Heyman furthered the storyline between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker by insinuating that Punk simply wasn’t good enough to beat the streak. So he went out and hired a true animal. While Brock’s subsequent promo was just a bunch of yelling and scratchy-voice sounds, I’m glad Brock got a chance to speak his mind (ever notice that the only intimidating thing Brock Lesnar says is his name?). And it was great seeing Mark Henry come out and look for that ounce of revenge. It sucks that Henry got buried (even further!), especially since we know Henry has monster-heel potential as well. Still, the brawl between him and Lesnar was fun, and the sight of seeing Henry F5ed through the announce table won’t soon be forgotten.
And holy cow – kudos to The Usos and New Age Outlaws for delivering their best match yet. They had a tough bill to fill, following up that hot opening segment, but both teams delivered in spades. The Usos have truly earned their right to carry the gold. And while I hope we don’t see NAO off tv for good… I’m glad they’re backing out of the title picture.
Things got especially interesting between Cesaro, Jack Swagger, and Big E. This slow dissolution between “The Real Americans” has been handled very well, and with a storyline that looks to eventually culminate at ‘Mania, you can’t rush things. Swaggers “jealous interference” is entertaining, as is Cesaro’s reaction. And don’t get me started on the fantastic (as always) Zeb Coulter. I like WWE’s refocus on the mid-card in recent months, and appreciate that they dedicated two, albeit short, segments for a good cause. I’m expecting a three-way Intercontinental Championship dance at “The Showcase of The Immortals.”
After the announcement on Friday Night Smackdown, I was jazzed to see The Wyatts vs The Shield II. These two teams just have great chemistry. So while it didn’t live up to their fantastic outing at Elimination Chamber, the chaotic brawl gave me a different kind of enjoyment. Most impressively, the announce table was back up, and they tried to destroy it (again) at three separate times. I liked the story here with Rollins abandoning his team. He needs to step-up if WWE hopes to leave him intact after The Shield dissolves. It was also great to see Reigns back in leader mode. The Shield might’ve lost, but their future gets brighter every week.
Speaking of announce tables… can we bring back the Spanish announce team every week? First, it’s another great destruction prop at ringside. Second… Ricardo Rodriguez!
I felt pretty bad for Sheamus and Christian. These guys came out and delivered one helluva solid effort. Was it the greatest match ever? No way. But there was some decent chemistry between these two, and nothing they showed was painstakingly bad. For some reason, though, the live crowd chose these two men to be their sacrificial lambs. Part of the blame lies on WWE’s lap for not giving fans more of a reason to care about either man at this point. But I’ll also point the finger at Punk who, if memory serves, walked out on the company (and the fans, yada yada), thus building an insatiable fervor around last night’s show that could only be satisfied with a few “boos” and “boring” chants. Stay the course with these two. Please. I love me some heel-Christian.
Hey Dolph Ziggler was back on TV!! And with a celebrity! Good for him.
The storyline between Triple H and Daniel Bryan got a whole lot more interesting by intersecting directly with Batista and Randy Orton. Bryan’s initial call to “hijack the show” was a little too meta… but Triple H and Stephanie really stole the show here. I still wish their characters were better defined (heel? face? do they like Kane? do they hate the fans? how do we even know they’re really married?). Triple H cut a scathing promo that did more to sell a Bryan/HHH match at ‘Mania than anything we’ve seen so far. And Stephanie McMahon was, by far, the most hated person of the night. The main-event between Bootista and Bryan was short. Still, the chaos created by Orton’s interference, Bryan’s knee to Orton, and Triple H’s pedigree to Bryan – and the announcers calling him out for getting physically involved – left me wanting more. I’m worried the creative members are sticking with Orton/Batista, but I’m at least now willing to hear them out.
Overall show was the best RAW we’ve seen in a very long time. For a three-hour show, it was well paced, had great in-ring action, and furthered some very important storylines. Best of all, people aren’t talking about CM Punk’s apperance (or lack thereof) today. All eyes are on the product itself. And that’s what’s best for business.
Did you enjoy last-night’s show? Still disappointed that Punk didn’t return? Just wish I’d shut-up already? Sound off in the comments below! Or let me know what you think on Twitter. And be sure to follow Between the Ropes while you’re at it!