WWE Monday Night Raw last night (April 2, 2012) emanated from Miami, Florida and featured all the fallout from WrestleMania 28. It was also the night of big returns, as Prince Albert made his way back as Lord Tensai and Alberto Del Rio reappeared to challenge Sheamus.
Oh and that one other guy, Brock Lesnar.
Apologies for not having this up sooner, but I've been running myself ragged over the past week and I crashed last night before getting to this. But, like John Cena, it will always be here, sooner or later.
- A problem WWE frequently faces in today's pro wrestling scene is its lack of credibility. That seems like a weird thing to say about a sports entertainment conglomerate that got itself over using fake fighting and scripted, over-the-top storylines, but it's true in the sense that its characters are unbelievable on a very visceral level. John Cena, for all his popularity and ability to move merchandise to the kids who adore him, has very little of the human element. Those kids adore him because they look at him as a larger than life superhero. Adult fans despise him because they see through the facade. So when Brock Lesnar showed up and destroyed him, it gave all those adult fans a reason to cheer in a way they haven't in years. Grown men marking out like kids at Christmas was a sight to behold. And it's because Lesnar brings something Cena never could -- a physically violent believability. This man is a behemoth freight train who we know can legitimately cause a great deal of harm to his fellow human beings because he's coming back after winning the UFC heavyweight championship. That alone adds an air of legitimacy that Cena -- or Rock, for that matter -- simply can't match. Watching Lesnar kick Cena's hat out of the ring after delivering the F-5 and stare down at him with a look of menace and utter disdain was a highlight none of us will soon forget. Because Superman just ran into his kryptonite.
- I don't know how many dates Lesnar has agreed to but I hope it's more than what's being reported. Pro wrestling felt like a big deal last night and most of it was because of him.
- A lot of it, though, was the insanely hot crowd at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. Smart pro wrestling fans can often be more of an annoyance than a pleasantry but I think we can all agree that it was great to see an entire group of people band together to collectively raise their middle finger at WWE for booking Daniel Bryan to get squashed at WrestleMania 28 on Sunday night. Sure, it's part of a larger storyline that dates back to when he won the world heavyweight title in a similar fashion. He kept that title in all the wrong ways, too, and eventually he would get his comeuppance for his actions. But the crowd didn't care about all that. They turned Bryan last night because they love what he does and that's all that matters. YES! YES! YES!
- "People Power" is never going to get over. It's just too cheesy. And not in that good, Brodus Clay as the Funkasaurus dancing around like a dinosaur way, but that nerdy actor who says triumphant line at end of bad movie way. It fits for John Laurinaitis' character but it's a terrible catchphrase. Or creedo or mantra or whatever it is.
- The Rock is gone again, out of our lives and never to return. Okay, that's a lie, he'll be back in a few months but this is the last we would see of him for some time, which put WWE in an interesting spot. How would they send him off? They chose to go with a tease for later, which is, of course, the smart play. The first time Rock came back, he said he would never leave. That sufficiently held off the hounds long enough to let him bail and make sporadic appearances. Now, they've upped the ante. Instead of revealing the main event for WrestleMania 29 next year in New Jersey, Rock said he would one day walk the aisle as the WWE champion again. This sent the crowd into a frenzy at the thought. Their enthusiasm should be tempered, as we know what it leads to but it's hard not to think of what that would look like and how it would be booked. The Rock holding the WWE title in 2012 or even 2013? Sound good to you?
- It's nice that Mark Henry is back on the right side of the fickle WWE executives who love to use him as their whipping boy. CM Punk gave him a great match last night and he's slowly reestablishing his good name, the one he built up last year by beating Randy Orton clean for the world title before embarking on the best run of his pro wrestling career. Let's just hope he doesn't suffer a sprained ankle and complain about it even once.
- Speaking of Punk, I'm not sure why they insist on keeping his issues with Laurinaitis going even as an offset to his main program with Chris Jericho, which kicked into overdrive last night with an awesome angle. Punk and "Ace" have a certain chemistry that works but they're not the modern day version of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon so they shouldn't pretend they are and book them accordingly.
- It was brought up by Major right here on Cageside that Jericho could get a ton of heat for pouring alcohol straight down Punk's throat while he was laid out and that's exactly what happened last night. And it was just as effective as Major thought it would be, though it was hampered somewhat by Jericho slipping in the puddle of booze and falling on his ass. He played it off well enough but the Miami crowd was unforgiving. Combine that with the head shot of the gimmicked bottle that actually broke while still in Jericho's hand and it wasn't the best night for him. But the angle was still incredibly effective and came off well on television. That speaks to what they were doing.
- We've seen calls lately of Brodus Clay being a racial stereotype. Normally, as you Cagesiders know, I'm quick to jump on WWE for being racist. That's because they undoubtedly are and have run far too many angles and introduced far too many cheap gimmicks to ignore it. But this is a rare instance in which I'll just go along with it and have fun because I don't feel like it's meant to come across in a bad way. No one is getting embarrassed here and everyone is having a good time. Let's roll with that. SHEEWAH!
- Speaking of Clay, how awesome is Dolph Ziggler? I know, I know, "Geno's a Ziggler mark, we get it, get over it," but that bump he took off the headbutt at the top of the entrance ramp was about as money as it gets. This after he saved Santino Marella's botch by bumping like crazy for him. There are others who would have sandbagged the guy to make him look shitty. Not the Zig man.
- Lord Tensai debuted and the best thing about it was WWE acknowledging his past. Michael Cole outright saying he used to wrestle with the company but left for Japan and got over big and has now come back was a shocking surprise. But a good one. More of that, please. I'll reserve judgement on Tensai for now because we've seen one squash. He looks good so far.
- Not looking forward to everyone referring to him as Albert instead of Tensai.
- It sure was nice to hear those boos for Sheamus, wasn't it? Sure, it was only because he beat Daniel Bryan for the title at WrestleMania 28 but I like to think it was an acknowledgement of the issue with having Sheamus as a babyface -- there's no discernible reason to cheer this man. He does nothing that warrants cheers outside of beating up heels. He's like Teddy Long in that regard. Only over as a face because of the heels he's opposing. Not a formula for success, WWE.
- Like my colleague here at Cageside Thomas Holzermann said last night on Twitter -- stop fronting, folks, Eve Torres is a pretty damn good promo.
- The Miz beat Zack Ryder and about 16 people gave a shit, none of which write for this blog and least of all me, though it's important to note that Miz must have shook enough hands to get himself out of the doghouse.
- Alberto Del Rio coming back last night was a nice touch, though he seemed a bit thrown off by the loud chants for Bryan. They've already ruined his return, though, by booking him in a match against Sheamus on Smackdown with the following stipulation -- if he can beat Sheamus in a non-title match, he will then be awarded another match against Sheamus, this time for the title. WWE comes up with a lot of ridiculously stupid stips but there is nothing worse than having a guy beat a champion just to earn a shot at said champion's belt.
- SI! SI! SI!
- Cody Rhodes and Big Show will continue their feud over the Intercontinental title and that's cool. I guess.
This was an awesome show. Plenty of great wrestling, a good promo or two, a few returns and re-debuts, and a really hot crowd made pro wrestling feel like something fresh again. A+ grade from me.
But that's me. I want to hear from you, Cagesiders, so give us your thoughts on Raw last night in the comments section below. Did you enjoy it as much as I did?