WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 15, 2013) from Greenville, South Carolina, featuring the return of both CM Punk and Brock Lesnar following their respective losses at WrestleMania 29 to Undertaker and Triple H.
But only one of them is sticking around.
Click here for full results and the live blog from the show if you missed it. Let's get right to reactions. Remember, these were written as the show moved along with real time reactions to everything that occurred hour-by-hour.
- Not sure I liked the decision to start with Randy Orton entering first to start the show. The Boston tragedy is still ringing through our heads, we go to WWE to give us a respite from it and the first thing they do is have a theme song that starts with "I hear voices in my head" that was created for a guy who can't control himself and a character who acted that out by punting people in the head and injuring them so badly they couldn't work? Yes, I was probably thinking too much here and maybe being a bit oversensitive but after spending so much time on coverage of the horrific events in Boston, it was hard to turn that switch off and just lose myself in pro wrestling.
- What I wish they would have done was have John Cena be the company leader as the squeaky clean babyface acknowledging the tragedy while getting the word out to a bigger audience of folks who could possibly help. And while you could certainly say there wasn't enough information on the situation for WWE to say much about it, that doesn't mean they can't acknowledge it and direct their audience to all the possible places they can help the victims and victims families.
- Once I did get to the actual show and what was happening, it was to wonder how it's possible Michael Cole could say they never saw Big Show act with such rage when he attaked Orton and Sheamus last week to set up the first match of the show this week. I'm pretty sure we saw him act that way for much of the past six months, no?
- That said, I enjoyed the match, especially the finish. Show, a big pissed off monster, should require a Brogue Kick into an RKO to be pinned clean. Hell, he held up well in a two-on-one handicap against two of the top guys in the company, neither of which came off looking worse. The commentary team did well to acknowledge all this. It was booked well, but I still would have rather they saved this for maybe the second segment on the show.
- It's good to see how committed WWE is to 3MB. I mean, these guys are quality jobbers and they are frequently recognized for being as much. For jobbers like this, getting the call to be the one to get destroyed by Brock Lesnar is high praise.
- Heath Slater trying to run away before running into a Lesnar clothesline on the outside was phenomenal. It's insane how athletic Brock is for his size and build. There should be a bonus for jobbers like Slater who are willing to take the punishment he does on a weekly basis. Those two F-5s on the barricade were vicious.
- Paul Heyman putting over Triple H the way he did was that perfect bit of promoting by one of the masters of the business. Your guy loses, so the only way to cushion the blow of that is to make the man who defeated him look just as strong in comparison. That also makes it far more meaningful when Brock finally does put Trips away for good at Extreme Rules.
- That's going to happen, right? Right? RIGHT?
- Hey look, it's Antonio Cesaro. I wasn't sure he worked for WWE anymore after his disappearing act the past few weeks. And now he's yodeling. The man is yodeling. He's one of the best wrestlers in the company and he's yodeling. At least Kofi "They Still Don't Know What To Do With Me So I'm Jobbing Like What" Kingston is in the ring and about to eat the Swiss Death and Neutralizer combination that I've so come to enjoy. But what's this? It's a competitive match? Oh dear god, what's this? They just had Kofi Kingston win the U.S. title from Cesaro on a meaningless episode of Raw? I suppose it doesn't mean much with the way the belt has been treated lately, but Cesaro deserves so much credit for this. Kingston had done nothing but job for weeks on end and Cesaro made him look like the champion he now is by giving him an incredible match before putting him over clean in the center of the ring.
- I love how they just decided to replay the entire match between Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio last week. That amazing crowd, that unbelievable moment, that incredible performance from everyone involved in the entire segment. Seeing it again was a real treat, the one time an extensive replay is more than just acceptable, it's welcomed.
- Ziggler makes me wonder how much a wrestler's voice has to do with how over he can get. His voice is fine but it doesn't project. It's kind of small and gets too squeaky when he gets overly excited. Can someone go back and look at all the guys who really got over big and see how their voice compares? Maybe this entire line of thinking is dumb? Let me know either way.
- Alberto Del Rio is Lex Luger circa 1993/1994. He's not getting over and we all know it but they're going to keep pushing him to the sky because they really need someone to fill the shoes left by someone else who was much better in that role.
- Didn't like the idea of Ziggler vs. Del Rio for Dolph's first fued, so having Jack Swagger interrupt to run another angle between the two to keep their issue going was a welcome sight. Unfortunately, that means more Del Rio-Swagger matches and I'm just not into it.
- I don't know about you but I've had just about enough of Team Hell No vs. the Prime Time Players. I like every single guy on both teams right now but having seen every possible variation of match with these two squads working together, from tag to singles, I'm ready to move on. Plus, I'm not sure Team Hell No has ever lost against PTP. Just end it.
- Ryback reminds me of Mel Kiper when he talks. He uses every muscle in his face while speaking and it makes it hard to focus on the words coming out of his mouth.
- I wasn't a big fan of his promo, partly because it so obviously wasn't his. And yeah, most of the promos in WWE these days are scripted, but Ryback was straight reading off a teleprompter in a dark room while breathing heavy. He did okay with it but the material was silly -- "If you're Superman, say hello to Kryptonite" -- and it went too long. At least it made sense and with Ryback referencing every issue he has with Cena and laying out a compelling case for why he should want a match with him, this was a nice bit of WWE taking the time to tell a story that actually makes sense not just for this week but dating back months.
- Wade Barrett loses the Intercontinental title to The Miz at WrestleMania 29, wins it back the next night on Raw, then loses in a brief non-title match to R-Truth the very next week. After the Ryback pre-tape, this was just odd.
- How is it that Teddy Long just rolls up making matches and telling Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox that he made said match and the first thing Vickie thinks is "does Booker T know"? We've often poked fun at the kayfabe power structure on Raw and SmackDown but it's gotten beyond ridiculous.
- The Rhodes Scholars have been reduced to matches against Great Khali and Santino Marella with poor Natalya acting as ... something ... and Hornswoggle there because he's, uh, I don't even really know. I guess they're all kinda sorta friends and run together and end up in matches like this against a tag team that should be doing so much better than they actually are.
- Fandangoing was built on the backs of smarky fans who were making something their own without WWE telling them they needed to do it, like Ryback's "Feed Me More" chant. It felt natural. It was organic. It wasn't fed to any of those wonderful fans in New Jersey, they created it. So when WWE pushes it, it really only feels like "the man" is trying to take it away. Plus, the more "mainstream" Raw crowds couldn't care less about this kind of stuff. It's why ECW never got to be as big as WWE. And it's why it died a slow death out there. It was ours, they took it to try to make it theirs to twist it into what they want it to be, and now we don't want it anymore because it isn't ours anymore.
- The immediate aftermath of this on social media was mostly to blame the crowd. After all, they could have waited until London next week and it would have been largely the same. I think I agree, but I also think Vince McMahon probably took some perverse pleasure in destroying something he didn't create or can't take complete credit for, even if Fandango is his pet project.
- I love how Swagger killed Del Rio earlier in the night only to get rewarded with a shot at Ziggler for his efforts. So a heel beats up a babyface and gets a match with the heel champion for it? Teddy Long set it up and he's actually got something going on with Booker T, so I think all this was done so we can get to a Teddy Long heel turn. Good god, Teddy Long is getting storylines while Antonio Cesaro is jobbing away his title to a jobber. WWE sometimes, I tell you.
- Love Dolph Ziggler walking up to Swagger saying, "What, bro?" and smacking the taste out of his mouth. We need Ziggler strong like that to give him credibility as champion. Remember, it can be the little things when a guy doesn't have that "IT" to make him a star. We know he's always going to have great matches but we just don't live in a pro wrestling world that rewards guys like that, and when WWE books its heels the way it does.
- The way AJ Lee clutches the world heavyweight title to her chest probably puts the belt over more than WWE has in a long, long time.
- Who is surprised that Ziggler lost his first match on Raw as the world heavyweight champion? Anyone? Anyone at all? Who else is surprised that the guy he lost to turned around and immediately got taken out by a guy who he injured earlier in the night and was hopping around on one leg?
- HOLY SHIT, DID YOU SEE MARK HENRY DRIVE SHEAMUS THROUGH THAT FAKE WALL? THAT'S WHAT HE DOES!
- Absolutely loved the way CM Punk left. Yes, it looks like he's taking time off now and the way they did this was just awesome. He tries to get through his promo talking about always looking for the next big goal in his career, a chant breaks out for Undertaker, it becomes a dueling chant with fans expressing their love for Punk, he turns to his best friend, Paul Heyman, gives him a hug, hands him the microphone, and walks off. It was powerful. Heyman looking on confused and concerned made it that much better. It was what John Cena should have done after doing the job for Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules. It's what would have made his win over The Rock at WrestleMania 29 a great story. But this will give Punk time to go get healthy and it I'm already dying for him to come back. I loved this. So much.
- Oh here's the Booker-Teddy backstage issue playing out with Del Rio being added to the match with Swagger and Ziggler. So we get a triple threat match now and Ziggler is going to have to be the guy to make the match digestable. That's how they're going to book him as champion. Take it as you will.
- I missed the Divas match. Not for a piss break, though, I promise.
- Thought John Cena was good dressing down Ryback but found it odd that "Big Hungry" was booked to simply walk away when he was stepped to. I don't get that. I found it even more odd when The Shield showed up, though I applaud WWE for bothering to cover up the technical mistake when they showed the crew getting in position to attack. I just don't get the why with these three. At first, it was because they were being paid and I'm hoping they attacked Cena and it comes to be that they were paid by Ryback. Because if they're mercenaries, that just makes them bigger badasses, but if they're directionless thugs, it's a waste of time. And if it was just done to get heat on Ryback as a heel going into his match with Cena, then it's really awful.
A crazy thing happened on this show that really isn't so crazy when you think of WWE: Every champion lost or looked awful. Antonio Cesaro dropped the U.S. title to Kofi Kingston, Wade Barrett jobbed to R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler lost to Jack Swagger, Kaitlyn lost to the Bellas, and John Cena ended the show laid out by The Shield.
After last week's amazing show, this was a huge letdown.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off with all your thoughts on the show in the comments section below. Sound off.