Monday Night RAW HITS:
Overall Show: Coming off one of the best WrestleManias in recent years, the crowd at the Monday Night RAW that followed was amped as usual. And they were given plenty of things to invest into, as this was one of the hottest RAWs in recent memory, and certainly better than any of the RAWs leading to WrestleMania. There’s plenty to cover in this hitlist, so I might as well just get started.
The Crowd: They weren’t quite as animated as last year’s post-WrestleMania crowd, but they still made cool moments very cool moments by their boisterous responses throughout the show. WrestleMania weekend can be exhausting for both talent and fans, between the Hall of Fame, WrestleMania itself, and the two episodes of television taped afterward, but the energy these post-RAW crowds emit help talent preform at a level that otherwise would be unthinkable. This year’s crowd was slightly better behaved than last year’s (although, it still gave Batista and Randy Orton a run for their money), but it was given plenty to cheer (and boo) for throughout the show, which kept them more focused than last year.
Paul Heyman: Jan asked me a question last night, and I’m struggling to come up with an answer other than no. His answer was, “is there anybody more important in WWE right now than Paul Heyman”? The answer is very obviously no. Brock Lesnar ended the most iconic streak in professional wrestling history, and the only person qualified to speak about it the very next night in front of 20,000+ people and the largest television viewing audience of the year was Paul Heyman. That was by far, and beyond exaggeration, the very best heel manager promo I have ever heard in my entire life as a nearly 30 year professional wrestling fan. I can’t give it justice with words. If you only watch one thing from Monday Night RAW, make sure that this is it. The master at his most masterful.
Randy Orton and Batista vs. The Usos: The Usos were given plenty of offence against two “top card” guys, and the interesting dynamic of Batista and Randy Orton realizing they’re better partners than enemies was a fun transition to make. The Batista Bomb to …uhh…. I’ll go with Jey Uso… on the ringside steps was brutal, and vicious, and pitch-perfect for the mood of Orton/Batista. A fun match.
The Shield turning on The Authority/Evolution: The fans are absolutely ready to cheer The Shield, and this was the right crowd to pull the trigger in front of. After what seemed like a surefire screwjob of Daniel Bryan as his first night as champion instead turned into another post-WrestleMania moment for the ages. The visual of The Shield (complete with bad-ass new masks) marching through the crowd to right the injustices of Kane, Randy Orton, Batista and Triple H beating down Daniel Bryan was awesome. The crowd, four hours into a television taping that followed a six-hour marathon WrestleMania taping that followed a five-hour marathon Hall of Fame taping EXPLODED out of their seats when Reigns hit the spear on Triple H. Just a really cool moment that reminds me how fun professional wrestling can be.
Cesaro is a Paul Heyman Guy: As noted in my WrestleMania hitlist, I had Cesaro winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal in my pool. Big Show was too obvious, and there wasn’t anyone else in the fray that really stood out to me. Cesaro stands out. If you go back and read any one of my hitlists from the past six to eight months, I’ve felt that pretty much everything Cesaro has done has turned to gold. And now Heyman will be able to properly exemplify that. And I kind of feel bad for Ryback and Curtis Axel. Neither of those guys had the right tools to succeed under Heyman. Neither had a truly exceptional quality (like CM Punk or Brock Lesnar) that Heyman could latch onto, and promote in the way that only Heyman can. Cesaro does. “The King of Swing” will shatter the glass ceiling and be a major player in 2014 and I couldn’t be happier that it’s happening. I just hope that this doesn’t leave Jack Swagger behind.
The Wyatt Family vs. Cena/Sheamus/Langston: This was a case of the hot post-Main crowd taking a good match and making it great. They were wholely invested in the Wyatt Family, and as such, they came across like mega stars. Each guy in this match worked hard, and Luke Harper continues to impress beyond my wildest expectations. When the “loose wheel,” so to speak, in this match is Big E Langston, who has done good things with the opportunity he’s been given, you know you’ve got a quality six-man tag match on your hands.
Alexander Rusev vs. Zack Ryder: An excellent, hard hitting squash victory that showed off the impressive power Rusev has. I was more impressed by these three minutes than I have been with anything that Rusev has done in the past two years in NXT.
Paige debuts: I am excited for this debut, as I am for a number of NXT call-ups that were announced last night on RAW. But this one is long overdue. Paige is the most gifted female wrestler to be in WWE for a long time, and on her first night in the company she defeats the diva who has had the most exposure and most sustained push in recent memory. A solid debut, if in unspectacular fashion. Don’t be surprised to see AJ take some time away from WWE following this loss. Her character (and likely her body) could use some rejuvenation that can be found by taking a few weeks off to recoup.
NXT Callups: WWE has a lot of television time to fill. And there are a number of guys in NXT that have been main roster ready for a long time. The call ups of Rusev, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas, Paige, Emma, and others are long overdue, and a welcome refreshment to a sometimes stale roster. Time for these boys and girls to shine, and I’m excited.
Monday Night RAW MISSES:
Lack of Undertaker follow-up: WWE (or the Undertaker himself) decided to end the most iconic piece of business the company had at WrestleMania. And don’t get me wrong, Heyman was absolutely masterful in his promo talking about Brock Lesnar’s greatness, and domination of the Phenom. But, as published earlier in the day on WWE.com and major news outlets, The Undertaker was rushed to the hospital post-match, and followed there by Vince McMahon (leaving the remainder of WrestleMania to be run by Stephanie and Triple H). This, in real life, is a big deal, and felt like an underscore on RAW. Given the medical situation, I assumed an Undertaker appearance was out of the question, but I felt like they missed the boat on making a bigger deal of this.
Rob Van Dam returns: Perhaps the lack of promotion going into this return made it feel less important, but the return of Rob Van Dam, and a short squash victory over Damien Sandow was forgotten before it was over. When I compare his return(s) to other legacy stars (such as Chris Jericho), they always seem to underwhelm. The good news is, he’s back. I guess that’s all that really matters.
Bad News Barrett: ……okay, he doesn’t suck. Actually, he had a good return back to the ring. But the character just isn’t clicking for me. The line “I’ve got some bad news” has gotten over, but everything he says after that falls completely flat. Maybe Barrett as a bare-knuckle fighting Heyman guy would get more over with me. He has all the talent in the world, and a this character just isn’t doing it for me.