Welcome to a special version of the Good, the Bad and the Indifferent as we analyse this past week’s edition of Monday Night Raw, where yours truly was in attendance in front of a strong crowd! No point in wasting your time here so let’s jump right in to it:
Daniel Bryan. This man was the most singularly over person all night, with John Cena possibly rivalling him. Vince McMahon worried about the “YES!” chants fizzling out and as such hasn’t fully capitalised on them, but, at least in London, the chants were loud and filled the night from before the show to after it. Daniel Bryan, whenever mentioned, prompted or (especially) when seen was by far the most invested person on this edition of Raw, at least from the live crowd’s perspective. The roar of “YES!” should’ve woken the surrounding Greenwich area around the O2 Arena from any sort of slumber. Daniel Bryan is a made-man if this continues. His segment backstage with Kofi was solid (had to watch it on YouTube as not a word could be deciphered live), and their match together was an excellent exhibition for both men, showcasing their talents and just having a good old fashioned fun tussle. Bryan’s offence drew “YES!” while Kofi’s drew “NO!” It was fantastic fun, something I’m sure the man who had cut his hair and shaved his beard to resemble to former World Heavyweight Champion, sitting roughly two rows in front of me would agree with.
Speaking of quality matches, after the initial surprise of Mark Henry making his entrance even before the show had begun the crowd was fully behind CM Punk kicking off the show with a solid back 7 forth brawl between Henry and Punk. Whilst not as good as their clash two weeks prior in Miami, Henry and Punk brought a solid amount of violence (and believe me, Punk’s fling into the barricade was violent) with a good story told throughout as Punk was unable to get a sequence going due to Henry’s sheer power. The Cactus elbow finish with the chair was a great conclusion to what had been an exciting match to warm us all up for an evening of excitement. The post match shenanigans of Chris Jericho were as always relatively entertaining. Jericho is probably my favourite wrestler of all time, but despite this, even I was thrown off by just how Canadian the man sounds live. The accent’s a lot heavier in person. Anyway, the announcement of the Chicago Street Fight was a nice development, especially on Punk’s note of “kicking Jericho’s in front of my father”. One hopes WWE concludes this angle with Chicago’s own taking home to climatic win in his hometown.
Brock Lesnar/John Cena continues to be an interesting situation. We’re in a world now where we’re acknowledging that Brock Lesnar’s here not because he misses wrestling, but because he’s going to take WWE to the next level and “legitimise” it. That’s actually a highly intelligent way to work this angle and based on the WWE.com photo of Brock’s ring attire (which now no longer appears to feature on the sight) we’re heading down a path of making Brock look like an MMA machine, not just a genetic freak. Brock’s not a nice human being, and is a ruthless one at that. The interview made him come across in that way. At the same time, they made Cena look excellent by having him admit that he is afraid. I wouldn’t buy Cena saying he’s not scared of Brock. Lesnar was UFC Heavyweight Champion. John has balls, but Brock’s already (kayfabe) shattered Cena’s knee in the past. Cena’s admission was fine and the follow up that he goes to Extreme Rules to fight made perfect sense. Cena’s afraid, not of fighting Lesnar, but of Brock Lesnar. Those are two different things, and WWE worked that well.
A final note here for the good, this Raw was heavy on progression. There was no Brock Lesnar live, same with Jericho (though he was competing in the post-show dark match) and we saw teasing occur for multiple actual and potential matches for Extreme Rules. Raw right now is getting pretty bloody interesting because they’re finding a way to squeeze pretty much every storyline they can into a solid amount of time. From Punk to Cena to Funkasaurus, everyone got their time on this show. The real test will come once we get past the WrestleMania fall-out season And we gear up for the summer where WWE always likes to pull the rug from underneath us with some sort of major twist (See: Nexus & Summer of Punk for details). Then and there we will find out if WWE can truly keep the momentum that they got from the 1.3 million who bought WrestleMania XXVIII.
The show wasn’t perfect, and while I had a lot of fun there are things to point out. First off, David Otunga vs. Santino Marella was horrifically sloppy. Otunga’s improved a lot in a year or so, but he remains one of the sloppiest members of the main roster and as such, he fails miserably in making himself look like a real threat. He got booed convincingly on his entrance, but his offence had zero heat and the same with his false-finish. Otunga’s a few short steps away from being a legitimate star in the wrestling industry, and when the time comes, he’ll seize it I’m sure. Santino as the United States Champion is a lovely novelty act, but sooner rather than later he’s going to lose that belt, and if Otunga can improve quickly enough, he seems like the guy who can and probably should take it.
Another thing I’ll stick in the bad is Primo & Epico and the Tag Team Championships. Around SummerSlam last year, or just after even (whenever it was that Air Boom took the belts), there was a general sense that WWE was going to try and invest time and effort into the tag team division. So far there has been a lack of effort, if any. Primo & Epico won the belts on a house show and very rarely feature on Raw or SmackDown and while there appearance/loss is part of a storyline (or two, depending on this twitter thing tying in with Abraham Washington’s resurgence) no one really cares about them. Rosa Mendes is their biggest asset, and that’s probably a problem. The Uso’s should be champions in the near future, possibly even on SmackDown this evening.
I remain deeply uninspired by Lord Tensai. His assaults are quite stiff and solid, but really, the live audience is really not buying into the character as far as I can see. He’s A-Train working as a Japanese inspired guy. Is that really going to work in the long run? Eh, we’ll see. He was solid against John Cena, and the Green/Black/Muta/Tajiri Mist he used at the end of the Cena match was a good touch. A Claw/Mist combo could be a lethal finisher and is quite an innovative move for Tensai to employ, especially when you factor just how powerful he is. Oh, and of course, WWE is pushing him as a big star already, I mean, the dude pinned John Cena in a Raw main event. That’s pretty major. I’m almost certain a championship feud with Punk awaits for the early summer. That could be interesting.
Any Other Business
I was so drained after Daniel Bryan’s match that I needed to pay an extortionate amount of money in order to buy a drink. That’s something I’m not normally prepared to do, but thought I’d put myself through just for the hell of it. The Chief Jay Strongbow package was very well done and surprisingly well received too. Michael Cole is veering away from being a heel these days, but he remains one of the most hated men in WWE. He was booed, quite frankly, out of the building when he came out and the chant of “We Want JR” was fairly audible throughout. While our favourite Oklahoman may have buried the hatchet, it would seem that the fans haven’t. Oh and one final thing; how bad-ass was that lariat from Ryback last week on SmackDown? That thing looked vicious. If you haven’t already seen it, I implore you to check it out.
Another week, another exciting, fun edition of Raw. I had the pleasure of sitting down and observing this week’s show and it was certainly worth the money I paid. I had some pretty terrible seats and still I could see most of the show and was not hindered at all apart from some blocking of the tron. Kudos on another good show WWE and a fun live event.