WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (March 18, 2013) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, featuring a show heavily devoted to booking the WrestleMania 29 match card.
It's just too bad it featured very little in the way of anything even remotely entertaining.
Click here for full results and the live blog from the show if you missed it. Let's get right to reactions, with a bit of a different set up and formula this time around. These were written as the show moved along with real time reactions to everything that occurred hour-by-hour.
- John Cena making references to Joe Namath's famous guarantee to win Super Bowl 3? This might be acceptable if they were in New York last night but they were in Pittsburgh and he made it worse by name dropping the Steelers and Penguins. Actually, the entire opening segment screamed "Rock isn't here, so we have to figure something out, so let's have Prime Time Players act dumb and Cena will do the same before hulk smashing while showing off his new ugly yellow shirt." It was an awful way to start Raw, especially when the opening segment has been consistently strong and doing great ratings for weeks now. This is why we complain about Rock missing shows. Not because it's a huge deal not to see him but because this is the creativity we get otherwise. The first 17 minutes of Raw were a gigantic waste of time.
- Rufus Pancake Patterson is my hero, though. Right up there with Benny Camer and Stan Stansky.
- I don't mind Ryback. He's a hoss and we need plenty of those in professional wrestling. I would rather he never get close to a mic again and it would have been awesome if Pittsburgh stone walled him when he said "together we scream" and then went into his catchphrase all alone. Oh well. Also, can we get David Otunga some creative, please? He deserves better than this.
- Fandango is getting his own elaborate entrance with stage set up and props now too? This man has no heat at all and Great Khali is his first feud? This gimmick is tired and his schtick is lame. Pittsburgh tried to save it with the "You can't wrestle" chants but holy shit, this was 40 minutes into the first hour and I was ready to shut the television off and go live my life doing anything else.
- To cap off the piece of shit first hour, WWE went with the laziest booking move in history: Having a heel walk out of a match. If anyone can do it, it's Damien Sandow because his character is able to thumb his nose at everyone and not look much worse for the wear but after the first 45 minutes of garbage, this felt like old WCW nonsense. No one looks good when a wrestler just leaves a match and gets counted out. It's dumb and makes me feel like I wasted my time ever bothering to care at all.
- The tease of Undertaker to kick off the second hour was all that kept me around.
- I love the psychology behind the feud between Undertaker and CM Punk, even if I'm offended by the source material. Yes, I'm not a big fan of how they're treating Paul Bearer's death but at least I can understand why they would do so, and as long as I tell myself Undertaker signed off on it and Bearer loved the business and would have been fine with it -- they killed him a million times on TV, after all -- then I can move on to analyze it purely from the storyline ramifications. To that end, it's phenomenal. Punk is attacking an angle no one else has ever had the advantage of and that's to get inside Undertaker's head and get him so far beyond pissed that he's vulnerable. "If you get counted out or disqualified, it's still a loss." It makes for compelling television and manages to help cast a least a tiny sliver of a shadow of doubt of the match outcome.
- Okay, maybe not, but it's the right story to tell and it works because even when Punk loses, it will be satisfying to see the babyface beat the heel after all the bullshit he's pulled. These two are masterful storytellers and either outcome would be tremendous and fit well within the narrative.
- I like the idea of Kane maintaining his anger at Punk's actions and struggling with his anger at Paul Bearer's death. Using it in his ongoing issues with whatever else he has going on with Daniel Bryan is what should happen, so it's nice to see that attention to detail.
- Please, god, not the AJ Lee skipping gimmick again. Although, if it means more of her in that outfit ...
- Chris Jericho became my hero all over again -- yes, that means I have more than one with old Rufus Pancake Patterson -- when he took a gigantic shit all over the Fandango character. There were rumors that these two will be working together at WrestleMania and if that's true -- and it could be based on Jericho's comment that that's the night everyone wants to make the biggest impact possible -- Jericho will have earned all the praise he gets from the smart crowd that loves him so. Putting over Fandango at the biggest show of the year? Who would do such a thing?
- I far prefer babyface Alberto Del Rio to heel Alberto Del Rio but I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to like about him. His former character, a rich privileged athlete, hasn't gone away just because he's fighting the good fight now. I can't identify with him, even if he's fighting for the right American morals. What does it say when I'm more interested in a wrestler's manager than the wrestler himself?
- It doesn't help that they gave the long match to Del Rio and Cody Rhodes, two guys who are having a hard time getting any sort of heat right now. They also had a botch-filled encounter that included Rhodes nearly getting dumped directly on his head off the second rope and multiple moments where they were loudly calling spots, even obviously stalling to work out what they wanted to do next. Just awful all around.
- Ricardo Rodriguez bumping around for Jack Swagger after the run in was the only good thing in all this. Is it just me or was Swagger working stiff as hell last night? Rodriguez's selling of the ankle injury was a bit overdone but at least he was enthusiastic, as was that huge grease spot his hair left on the mat.
- Also, a stretcher job for an ankle injury? Triple H walked out with barely any help, with a torn quad, brother.
- Booker T getting announced for the Hall of Fame was nice. Well deserved, too. Weird to see WWE use that promo where he called Hulk Hogan the "N" word, though.
- It wasn't as awful as hour one but hour two wasn't much of an improvement.
- Heath Slater sure can take a finisher, can't he? Actually, he might be the best jobber on the entire roster and I don't mean that in a bad way at all. Pro wrestling needs jobbers and Slater is a specialist.
- Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus, Randy Orton vs. Dean Ambrose, and Big Show vs. Roman Reigns sounds great to me. A six man tag team match isn't nearly as appealing, although I won't hate it because we've seen The Shield deliver enough to feel good about it. Big Show's silly pointing to the WrestleMania sign as a way to signal he wanted in the match instead of just calming walking over and saying that to the two guys right in front of him made me far angrier than it should have.
- Big E. Langston doing drive by interference is awesome. Is Michael Cole referring to it as much a bit racist? I didn't get that feeling but want to be safe about it, of course.
- I was actually happy to see Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston, if only because they generally work well together and after some of the awful angles and bad wrestling this show had given us, we needed to just watch to talented folks go at it.
- Greatly looking forward to Team Hell No vs. Ziggler and Langston at WrestleMania, not because I think there is going to be a title change or because Kane and Daniel Bryan might finally break up, but because it should just be a fun match. We need more fun in WWE.
- Speaking of fun, Wade Barrett vs. The Miz vs. Chris Jericho was far more fun than I ever expected it could be. It didn't feel like we got too many unnatural spots where one guy was obviously stalling to give the other two time and so on and so forth. Plenty of near falls and with Barrett's Intercontinental title reign being what it is, the outcome was absolutely in doubt, especially with how heavy they promoted it. I would love to see this again at WrestleMania, though it doesn't look like that's the direction they're going.
- I did like the way they tried to keep the surprise of the special stipulation by having Triple H sign the contract sight unseen. I just didn't like how they went about getting to it. No one in the audience gave a shit about the entire ordeal, and all I could think back to was CM Punk making fun of the entire thing and Triple H standing on back in 2011 as COO. Didn't really enjoy "The Game" smacking around a helpless Paul Heyman, either. Also, what's the deal with top WWE babyfaces ripping off heels clothes? To a point, this got uncomfortable with the crowd looking on in silence as Triple H tore off Heyman's clothes and smacked him around. When the cheers finally came, they seemed to be more out of pity than enjoyment.
- When it turned out that Brock was actually there and let the entire thing go down, it became incredibly maddening because it felt like an incredible waste of time. That is until they revealed the stipulation that Triple H will be putting his career on the line in the match, giving everyone some sliver of hope that he'll do the right thing and do the job for Lesnar without ever getting his win back.
- Yeah, I doubt it happens either, but we'll see.
This was an awful episode of Raw and the bad outweighed the good so heavily, I felt drained after watching it. Three hours is too long already but when it's WrestleMania season and this is the best they can come up with, there is absolutely no excuse. Sure, they got most of the card fully booked up now and can focus on the matches that are actually set in stone but this was just bad.
It didn't help that Pittsburgh was an awful crowd but they get a break because the show was terrible.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off with all your thoughts in the comments section below. How did you feel about this one?