WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (March 11, 2013) from Indianapolis, Indiana, featuring a show heavily devoted to paying tribute to Paul Bearer with Undertaker and Kane in particular as featured attractions.
And, of course, that dastardly CM Punk playing heel to it all.
Click here for full results and the live blog from the show if you missed it. Let's get right to reactions:
- We knew WWE would pay tribute to Paul Bearer and we also knew Undertaker would do something in his honor. For a moment, it appeared "The Deadman" would break character on television for the first time in, well, forever, but of course CM Punk would interrupt for a promo. But even then, they handled this delicately and with as much class as we could ever hope they would. Punk offering his condolences on 'Taker's loss but swerving to say he meant the streak, not Bearer's death. The line about it being nice that Bearer will always remember Undertaker as being perfect was even touching while also getting heat for Punk because, well, it's still him saying it.
- Then, as the show wore on, we got Kane getting rightfully pissed at Punk's disrespect while carrying around the urn that supposedly has Bearer's ashes in it. And you just knew that by the end of the evening, the two would have a match that would see "The Second City Saint" make off with it. Sure enough, he used it as a weapon against Kane and stole it, presumably to use it against Undertaker at a later time. This exploitation of Bearer's death had some feeling queasy but I was okay with it. It's not like Bearer's ashes are actually in the urn and while they're using a real life situation to advance a storyline, Bearer was all in on the industry. He was killed on TV many times during his career. This felt fine.
- I get that all the part-timers coming and going makes it difficult to fit everything in the way we see with full timers but what's the excuse for John Cena not even appearing on the show? We know The Rock isn't going to be around all the time but as we get closer to WrestleMania 29, are we really going to have entire shows that don't feature either of the big event's main eventers? Just odd.
- The Shield are still entertaining but the booking is getting lazy as all get out. Pick wrestler, attack viciously, surround ring, scream, triple powerbomb, repeat. There isn't much stated purpose for anything other than the convenient all-encompassing "justice" nonsense. I'd like to see more depth of storytelling here.
- Fandango is rocking that go away heat HARD.
- Did Dolph Ziggler win a match? Did that really happen or did I take a nap and wake up in some alternate universe where he and AJ Lee actually matter because they're booked strong and not because she's cute with nice legs and he's got a briefcase that was supposed to make him a main eventer but actually turned him into a jobber? The funny thing about all this? I'm more interested in Big E. Langston than those two.
- Love, love, love the way the New Age Outlaws were used. Look, I don't mind their having returned for the gimmick "Old School" show for a cheap win and a nice little pop -- though Buffalo shit the bed on that -- but what was the point of their coming back here? There didn't seem to be one until they were going about their business and BROCK LESNAR came through to be the destroyer of men. He's at his best in that role and Paul Heyman speaking for him adds the perfect layer to an awesome character. If you have an imposing monster of a man on the roster, this is how you book him.
- It should come as no surprise that Lesnar vs. Triple H at 'Mania is going to have an added stipulation but it should be interesting to see which one they go with. My money is on "Loser Leaves Town" or some form of a career threatening match. "The Game" should be losing, though I still don't think he'll do the job, and this should be his swan song.
- I love simple psychology in pro wrestling. Kofi Kingston trying his high flying bullshit on Mark Henry? Get caught and slammed through the mat like a child.
- Maybe I'm silly for holding on to the fact that Drew McIntyre has potential in THIS BUSINESS but I still enjoyed watching Henry and Ryback go back and forth with their finishers. Tazz on Twitter: That kid took more bumps in that one segment than I did in 17 years. Sadly, all it really accomplished was showcasing how weak The World's Strongest Slam and Shell Shock are as actual finishing moves for big men like that. Still, excited for this program.
- My thoughts on the Bellas returning can best be summed up by my Cageside colleague Hulk Holland: "Tough out there in the real world, ain't it?" Indeed, sir.
- How long until Michael Cole figures out that Jack Swagger's ankle lock submission is now known as "The Patriot Act" and not the "Patriot Lock"? Let's get an over/under on that, please. Thanks!
- What the hell happened in that segment with Chris Jericho, Wade Barrett, The Miz, and Brad Maddox? Alongside those three, Jericho was brought down but why was Cole smashing it so much on commentary? I didn't get the point of this at all. Jericho vs. Barrett at WrestleMania? No, thanks. Barrett vs. Miz at WrestleMania? Nope, not that either. Jericho vs. Barrett vs. Miz at WrestleMania? Yeah, the undercard is going to be lacking.
- Loved the promo for "The Call" featuring David Otunga, Halle Berry, and Kane, who is at his best when he's self aware and plays it up for how ridiculous his character is.
This was an odd show for a number of reasons, though that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Paul Bearer tribute videos throughout the night were nice and the Lesnar stuff was gold. Everything else was underwhelming.
We expect better from WWE on the "Road to WrestleMania." But those are my thoughts, Cagesiders, and now we want to hear from you.