WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 1, 2013) from Washington D.C. featuring the go home show to the WrestleMania 29 pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza set to go down this Sunday night in New Jersey.
And it was rather ho hum as far as go home shows go.
Click here for full results and the live blog from the show if you missed it. Let's get right to reactions, with the new set up and formula. Remember, these were written as the show moved along with real time reactions to everything that occurred hour-by-hour.
- Literally no one on Earth was surprised when John Cena started in with the silly wordplay in his promo to open the show. Cenacrats? Rockpublicans? Boy, I can't wait to hear the rest! Oh, he gets serious for a second only to make reference to "Dwayne's 'Johnson'". At least he got passionate towards the end and started acting like he cared about winning the match. That's the real problem with Cena and his campy nonsense: It works for the kids but it makes it hard to ever take him seriously, even when the stakes are this high.
- I did enjoy the basic gist of the promo: Rock got a new belt designed for him and Cena can't wait to beat him in his first defense of it and then rub that shit in his face when he defends it every time thereafter all throughout 2013, which he plans to dominate. He was still too smiley throughout this supposedly serious promo but the idea was sound.
- Recording live Touts on the air and sending them out while we have to watch? You know what, it's too early in the show to get pissed off about it. Moving on.
- Thought the Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show match against 3MB was booked really well. Not only did we get the best jobbers on the roster to put them over huge heading into the biggest PPV of the year, but we got to see all the big finishers to pop the crowd and it was set up as such that Orton and Sheamus gave way to Show so as to let the fans know he's a good guy -- at least for now -- and it's okay to cheer him both now and this Sunday night.
- The Shield has always needed more time on the microphone and this was a primo time to do it. Dean Ambrose was the opposite of Cena: Great delivery, poor content. Seth Rollins was great. Roman Reigns was good but that probably had more to do with lowered expectations than anything else. Also, kudos to Michael Cole for putting over the fact that the trio has never lost a match in WWE. JBL piggybacking shows why they're such a good team, and why Jerry Lawler's time to step aside was last year in Montreal.
- Seeing as the show emanated from Washington D.C., the Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger promo was, if nothing else, well placed. But it's still all ass backward to have Alberto Del Rio defending the values of America against them. Swagger was good with his promo but Del Rio was much better, if only because he referred to Colter as "Jumanji guy." Sure, we would smash Cena for such a dated reference but it fit so well and was so charming coming from Del Rio, I think we can let it ride this time, yeah?
- Love Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan getting the first long match of the evening. Sort of a preview of what we can expect at WrestleMania 29 this Sunday night. That's both for the quality of the wrestling and the angle of Big E. Langston having to get his hands dirty in an actual match and AJ Lee being the wildcard who obviously gives the heels the advantage.
- Want to also point out how perfectly well done the spot was when Kane went to chokeslam Big E and Langston broke out of it to deliver his big slam. The crowd reacted perfectly to this, mixing shock and then despair with flawless timing. The feeling, of course, is there's no way the heels don't win the titles at the big show, right? The perfect set up for the babyfaces to overcome.
- All told, not a bad first hour at all.
- The return of Shawn Michaels was a great way to start the top of the second hour. Commentary team continued a strong performance by telling us no one knows more about WrestleMania and a retirement match than "The Heartbreak Kid." Oh yes indeedy. I enjoyed the promo that followed when Michaels talked about Undertaker ending his career but doing so with respect while Lesnar is a monster who has no respect for anyone and will murder death kill everyone and that's why he's going to be in "The Game's" corner at WrestleMania. The old D-Generation X duo, back again.
- No wrestler in history looks as badass walking out from backstage as Brock Lesnar. That's just that. Dude has incredible presence. He's like gravity, and that's why I'm glad he's sticking around, even if it's just for one-off matches like this. Paul Heyman on the microphone to build him up even further makes the two of them near the top of the heap in pro wrestling. I absolutely mean that, too. Together, they might be the best in the business. Triple H with the crotch chop as Brock and Heyman walked off would have made Lesnar look like shit if he just stood there and stared at it but Heyman laughing it off put them on equal footing, just how it should be. The guy is a master of the small details like that.
- I love the way they announced Wade Barrett vs. The Miz for the pre-show, in a throwaway segment just before Barrett squashed Zack Ryder. I will forever love watching Ryder get squashed no matter who it is that does it. His incessant whining on Twitter is the worst.
- Of course Santino Marella would do the stock April Fool's Day joke during the show but can we all agree that if you're over the age of 10, you absolutely shouldn't be participating in any of that ridiculous nonsense? Great, thanks!
- Also, more Brad Maddox on my television, please.
- WWE Production is the best. Santino Marella staring up the ramp after Mark Henry's music hit with a look of sheer terror giving way to a zoom out and up to Henry's back, which took up the entire screen was just awesome.
- The no contact clause in the contract between Mark Henry and Ryback is sound in theory but what's Ryback doing using Our Funny Guy, Santino, to beat up Henry with? The crowd didn't know how to react to this until Ryback shouted "I DIDN'T TOUCH YOU, STUPID!" He was like a gigantic oversized four-year old who felt really great about himself after solving what in his mind was a complex problem. You really got one up on him, Ryback!
- I love the idea of Matt Striker just outright asking CM Punk if he feels like he has been disrespecting the memory of Paul Bearer with what he's been doing with the urn. I also love that Punk's heel enough to just say "The better question is whether or not I give a damn if I'm disrespecting his memory." That works. It also works for him to say that he's the most dangerous opponent Undertaker has ever faced because he's now made it clear with what he's done with the urn that he will do absolutely whatever has to be done to win the match at WrestleMania. He's still not convincing enough people he's got a real shot at winning but at least he's trying. This promo was also the most passionate of any promo during this program.
- I'm not sure why WWE would bother to put Zeb Colter in with Del Rio in a match to get the babyface over. That's not going to do it because no matter how much they heel it up, Colter is still old as dirt. Of course they didn't go through with it but even teasing it was lame. The eventual result was predictable: Swagger and Colter left Ricardo Rodriguez and Del Rio laid out leading to Sunday night. Meh.
- Another decent hour, although nothing to blow you away.
- Easy call to kick off the third hour with The Rock. I don't know why he insists on dousing himself with water and oil before going out to the ring, especially considering the fact that he's always wearing clothing and it looks silly as shit. His want to take as much time as possible pandering to fans is as grating as I imagine it was when Hulk Hogan was doing it in the 1980s.
- The promo itself was mediocre at best. Curb stomping references always make me a bit uncomfortable and he wasn't really saying anything other than the usual stock nonsense playing off his location and the typical catchphrases that he stumbled through. I don't think he's phoning it in, it's just uninspired nonsense. This wouldn't have been any good if it was the first promo he cut on Cena to lead to this. It became awful when you realize it was the last promo on Raw leading into freaking WrestleMania.
- I'm still not fully on board the Fandango train, though I can at least understand why it is that some of you are. But having him come out and score moves Chris Jericho was doing in his match against Antonio Cesaro by holding up giant numbers at the top of the ramp has to be one of the greatest ideas anyone at WWE has had in years.
- Still sad about Cesaro being left off the card at WrestleMania as of now, though. That guy deserves so much more. Wade Barrett is on the pre-show and Cesaro can't get some love somewhere? Hopefully he gets an unannounced match during the evening.
- Big props to the D.C. crowd for the "you can't wrestle" chants to Fandango. Trolling a troll wrestler is the only acceptable trolling outside of the trolling the troll wrestler is doing.
- Oh man, Brodus Clay and Tensai -- the Tons of Funk, baby -- have their own little entrance dance now? Enjoy it, kiddies.
- Good to see a legitimate Diva's match featuring ladies who haven't been showcased so much that they're stale by now. And I know that sounds odd to say in the sense that the Diva's are never showcased enough to be showcased too much but for a while it was the same three or four girls and that was that. Now, we get Cameron, Naomi, and the Bella Twins and that's nice to see. All of them can work relatively well and the fellas -- Tons of Funk and the Rhodes Scholars -- cheering them on from the outside added to the match a great deal, especially Clay not giving a shit and pumping the pom poms like Terrell Owens. If you could ignore the dead crowd and the bad jokes on commentary, this wasn't bad at all.
- Closing the show with Undertaker was a bit of a surprise. It made me think it possible that while The Rock vs. John Cena is being promoted as the main event of WrestleMania 29, perhaps Undertaker vs. CM Punk will go on last. Yeah, probably not, but it's still a surprise that the go home edition of Monday Night Raw would close with a match that won't be the main event. That just seems odd to me, though maybe it shouldn't when considering the three hour era. The Rock would have been in the main event segment if this was still the two hour era. So, yeah.
- How did WWE exploit Paul Bearer's death this week? By having Paul Heyman dress up like him and using the same audio track they used at WrestleMania 20, complete with druids coming down to the ring, when Undertaker returned to his "Deadman" character after his days as the "American Badass." Then, Punk, dressed as a druid, attacked 'Taker with the urn and then poured the ashes out on him while rubbing them on his chest and face. Offensive? You bet. Like, seriously offensive. Ridiculously offensive. But, as Punk likes to say, he's the bad guy and he's supposed to do such things. He's supposed to do whatever he can to piss off Undertaker and all his fans so everyone will want to see him get beaten at WrestleMania. Still, it was low. I enjoyed Scott Hall's reaction on Twitter: "Wow, that's tasteless." And that's coming from THEE bad guy. That said, it was one hell of a segment to close the show, and suddenly it makes sense why they wanted to end on that note.
The heavy hitters largely failed to deliver in terms of adding hype and driving interest in their respective matches this Sunday night. Punk and Undertaker's final segment did well in that regard but may have turned off a lot of people.
This was a good episode standing alone but as a go home show to the biggest event of the year it was lacking.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on the show.