When WWE Monday Night Raw makes one of their semi-annual trips to Las Vegas, NV, they lean heavily on their Raw Roulette gag as a means of "randomly" setting up matches and stipulations. The only time I can remember it working out well was when Kane defended his and the Hurricane's tag team championships in a TLC match way back in 2002.
But coming off of a pay-per-view that had generated a ton of buzz, surely they wouldn't rely on the wheel for much. Right?
Well, sort of. There was too much nonsense specifically created by the gimmick and just generally not directly working from the Royal Rumble. But the segments that were drawn from the latest big four PPV were very, very good.
Click here for the results and live blog, and here for some live blog commentary overflow. That's right. You crazy Cagesiders and your rapid fire commenting broke the internet last night. I hope you're happy.
- CM Punk is doing some of the best work I've seen from a pro wrestler in a long, long time. Considering that you have to figure large chunks of the live crowds love him as much as we in the internet wrestling community (IWC) do, the fact that he draws heat is nothing short of astounding. Even though the route he seems to be taking out of his defeat at the Rumble isn't anything new - he opened the show acting not unlike Bobby Roode after his loss to Austin Aries in TNA last year, and his later promo had some of John Cena's talking points from his feud with the Rock last year - he's still putting his own spin on it and absolutely owning it. His response to being called a "punk-ass bitch" by the new champ: "I am going to stand on the stage like a punk-ass bitch, because it's cool to swear, ladies and gentlemen", was taken right from our hearts and minds...but delivered much better than we could have dreamed. If it wasn't for his manager, the recently deposed champ may have given the performance of the night.
- Rock's promo was a little on the rambling/pandering side, and featured the seemingly required quota of genitalia allusions, but it got the job done. He's playing the good guy, "People's Champ", and he's going to do it whenever his schedule allows from now until the WWE Championship rematch at the Elimination Chamber PPV. The debate about whether he should have been the one to beat Punk or even be champ at all will rage on, but for now, it is what it is. Hopefully they can up their game a little more in the ring next month. Would have been nice if they used this opportunity to give us a new belt design, but I don't think any of us really thought that was going to happen, did we?
- Early on in the show, our Royal Rumble winner and all around hustling loyally respectful guy, John Cena, was out to squash Cody Rhodes and deliver the least shocking announcement of all time...that he'd use his Wrestlemania shot to go after the WWE Championship. What actually was a little surprising was that he put over Ryback in his promo. Anyway, the Shield came down and did their thing, beating back save attempts by Sheamus and the Hungry One in order to powerbomb Cena. Why? Well, I'm not sure exactly.
- Look, I don't want to get into the Raw Roulette segments too much, but let's address them. I give Tensai credit for giving his all to his ridiculous lingerie dance party with Brodus Clay, and he may have turned himself babyface in the process. Somebody in the back thinks laughing at Khali's English is hilarious and there is no bigger mess on TV than the WWE Divas' division right now. Moving on...
- Antonio Cesaro is wonderful and I will cry when he's no longer US champ because I look forward to seeing what new accessories he will have decorated with our flag each time he walks down the ramp. Randy Orton is directionless and it's still weird. Miz is an unentertaining dick as a technico.
- The Big Show's beatdown on Ricardo went on a little too long (like the scene with the dogs in Django Unchained too long), but it served its purpose. This is an old school rasslin' story. The challenger is really evil, the champ is an underdog but he's willing to risk it all to represent his fans and protect/revenge his friend. I'm glad they recognize that it's working.
- They made us wait for Chris Jericho or Dolph Ziggler last night, but it was mostly worth it. Jericho is in smarmy face mode (I hope Miz is taking notes) and Dolph and his posse are great foils - even if I still think rekindling a beef with Y2J should be in his rearview. Being thrown together into a tag match with the disintegrating-before-our eyes Team Hell No was fun, but also spoke to poor planning of the three hours.
- The ending had so much packed into 15-20 minutes that I'm almost positive I'm forgetting to mention something. Paul Heyman's acting was phenomenal and almost threatened to bring some nuance into the story, until they went the obvious route as Vince showed footage of Punk's manager admitting to paying Brad Maddox and the Shield for everything they've done to protect his 434 day title run. There was some debate in the comments last night about whether the Straight Edge Superstar was complicit with his man's scheme, but Heyman said he was and the WWE doesn't do shades of gray very well. I would really like to hear Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins address this, hopefully by saying that working for Heyman is only part of their crusade for justice - I still don't get why they're attacking Orton and Cena otherwise.
- Myself and several other members of the audience were ready for a good old-fashioned Vince humiliation-fest at that point, when instead...HERE CAME THE PAIN! Brock's return was spoiled on twitter a couple of minutes before he showed up live, but it was still a pretty great moment. Probably the best thing about his contractual schedule is how cool it is when his music finally hits. There was some tension as to who would get F5'd, but it only lasted long enough to allow Heyman to really make the scene with his begging of McMahon to leave and Brock not to do something he would regret. VKM foolishly bumped like mad for the attack, and we're all set for HHH to return to defend his Pop's honor.
The good outweighed the bad, even if the bad put up a lot of fight. Grade-wise, B seems fair. I'll definitely be watching some of the highlight videos multiple times, even as I try to forget I ever saw Tensai do the lawnmower in a negligee or heard Khali karaoke HBK's entrance theme.
What about you, Cagesiders? Was the excitement of the big stories worth the comedic dreck? What do you want to see booked for the Heyman guys? The stage, and the comments, are yours.