WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 22, 2013) from London, England, featuring the return of Undertaker, not just for a segment or a dark match or a promo or an angle or anything like that, but for an actual match that he worked like an everyday wrestler.
And he was probably the best guy in the match!
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.
- Starting the show with an in tight shot of Paul Heyman's ugly mug immediately had me sold for the show. That's perfect.
- I don't understand the point of having Heyman do the tease that Triple H wasn't actually at the show for two reasons: 1. The show is taped, so spoilers were already available (though that's at least explainable by the fact that Raw is a show designed to play off the crowd as much as the audience at home) and 2. Triple H was advertised and WWE already said he would be there to answer the challenge. It made no real sense but whatever, out he came, got the big pop, did his thing, and that's that.
- I know Heyman is basically a god around these parts, but he did a hell of a job with the Pedigree, didn't he?
- You have to love the international crowds. They'll even sing along with R-Truth's nonsense. I guess it's all nonsense and they don't care, they just roll with it anyway. Those are the best fans to attend live shows. They're even popping for Antonio Cesaro? These folks are good with me.
- As far as Cesaro yodeling, I'll let the WWE Creative Humor Twitter account speak volumes with this tweet: "Seeing @AntonioCesaro yodel must inspire thousands of independent workers killing themselves for a slot on the WWE roster."
- As far as Cesaro jobbing to Truth one week after jobbing his U.S. title to the jobber Kofi Kingston, I'll say this: Fuck.
- The Shield showing up in helicopters? God, yes.
- I don't have much of anything to say about Brodus Clay vs. Damien Sandow and that's kind of sad. The most interesting part of the match, for me, was how long it took Tensai or Sweet T, or whatever the hell his name is today, to stand up when he got in the ring after the match.
- Here's what I love about AJ Lee and Dolph Ziggler: They legitimately act like a couple. It's not just for TV; you get the feeling these two could actually be dating when the cameras are off. You also get the feeling Big E. Langston is just as creepy as he looks and I'm glad WWE is finally acknowledging the weird dynamic that exists between these three. It also works to plant the seeds for a feud, possibly over AJ. In fact, I would rather see a two or three month program with Ziggler and Langston going at it than Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger.
- Love, love, love the promo The Shield cut on Undertaker. Dean Ambrose is so solid, Seth Rollins' in your face intensity is a phenomenal compliment to Roman Reigns' more in-your-face intensity. The reason the promo was good, other than the great delivery, is that it made sense. "For two decades, Undertaker has been judge, jury, and executioner. Well, I don't know who gave him that right, but we're the hounds of justice and we're going to dish out our own form of punishment tonight." That's simple and effective storytelling.
- Speaking of which, WWE giving a nod to Chris Jericho having beat Ziggler not long ago and that maybe giving him an edge in their match is the perfect little touch that we smarky smarks like to mark out over. Also, Ziggler wearing the Big Gold Belt as an ass cape is the greatest thing in the history of time. I need a GIF of that RIGHT NOW (cough IRodC cough). Also, also, any Ziggler match is made better by AJ's presence. If there's a slow spot in the ring, just look at her on the outside and she'll keep you entertained.
- Jericho vs. Ziggler is the perfect math for the long one on the show. The chemistry between these two is something else.
- Holy hell, the pop Fandango's music got. The London crowd did not disappoint here and this makes WWE's decision to try to get Fandangoing over in Greenville, South Carolina, last week look even worse. They should have waited, the way they did with CM Punk in New Jersey the week before that.
- Ziggler doesn't need to win clean, he just needs to win. Good on WWE for letting him get there and good on Jericho for doing the job.
- Tensai breathes too loud. He actually got the chance to show he's a pretty good worker in there with Cody Rhodes, though. That rolling senton in the corner was insane.
- Daniel Bryan game planning for a match is awesome. His getting really upset at not being able to go over that game plan with Undertaker because he wasn't around is even better. Kane getting upset because Bryan is trying to treat "The Deadman" like a regular guy is the best.
- Someone tell Ryback he doesn't need to move every muscle in his face when he talks. Seriously, I can't focus on his words when his face is contorting so violently. Also, Ryback Rules is an awful catchphrase.
- What the hell is this? Big E. Langston has his own entrance theme? And stage props? And they're still going with the power lifter gimmick? Yeah, okay. Oh, they've got Ryder -- who is inexplicably growing his hair out -- jobbing to him. Nice. Ryder looks kind of like a smaller version of Jack Swagger with that haircut. That is not a compliment.
- I don't care how much older I get, or how much more jaded on pro wrestling I get, or how much older he gets, or how much anything of anything, Undertaker's entrance will ALWAYS be one of the coolest experiences. Sometimes I wonder if there is another individual in the history of the industry who could have played this character other than Mark Calaway. Maybe that's why it works a full 20 years after it first debuted. He was born to do this.
- I really, really can't handle seeing Undertaker in the ring working with Dean Ambrose. Then Daniel Bryan in there with him. I just can't. Everything about this match is great, from how well Undertaker is moving, to Kane working extra hard because everyone around him is going crazy, to Roman Reigns giving his all and looking outstanding doing it, to Seth Rollins selling. Holy shit, his selling of those Bryan kicks is on Ziggler levels, and maybe better because he doesn't sacrifice himself for it and he doesn't make it look overly ridiculous like Dolph is prone to do at times. DEAR GOD, THAT SUICIDE DIVE. Rollins giving Ambrose a run for his money. Oh man, Rollins taunting 'Taker and Undertaker throat slashing him and pacing on the apron like 'you want to mess with me?' is the best. I can't handle how great this is.
- Did Undertaker find the fountain of youth in London? He looks incredible. OH MY GOD, AMBROSE SELLING THAT BIG BOOT. I'M SERIOUS, DANGEROUS MARK OUT LEVELS BEING REACHED HERE. I really don't understand how 'Taker is working with energy this strong.
- The finish was done well, though I would have rather had Ambrose hit some form of finisher instead of getting a pin on Bryan missing the diving headbutt. Then again, the idea was for them to steal the win with the Brothers of Destruction on the outside occupied. By the way, Ambrose bailing out after the pin and seeing Kane right there led to an awesome short freak out that deserves a GIF (cough IRodC cough). Rollins hauling ass and jumping the barricade was also great.
- Final note on all this: The booking was really good. All too often, and TNA is probably the most guilty of this with Aces and 8s, a promotion will book a stable to look strong during run-ins but lose when they have matches. The Shield has managed to look strong during run-ins with the occasional exception while never actually losing when it came time to have a match, no matter the opponent, and that now includes nearly every big name on the roster, including Undertaker himself.
- WWE decides to follow this with Fandango, over as hell in the U.K., taking on William Regal, even more over than Fandango. You know why? He's a real man's man, that's why. He's also man enough to put the up-and-comer over, which was nice.
- Jericho stealing Fandango's girl. Just gonna leave that here.
- The Diva's battle royal was actually slick if only because AJ sold a superkick like her man Ziggler, but a million times better. She literally sold it like death. It was made better by the fact that she was doing it to play possum so she could easily win the mini-battle royal, a strategy no one ever uses for the bigger battle royals, like the Royal Rumble. Just die in the corner and come back when it's time to end it.
- Mick Foley showing up every now and again is fine, I guess, but I didn't like this because it was so clearly just to promote his DVD and because he's got comedy gigs over in London. So they figure out a way to write him into the show and do it with a stupid set up for a segment with Ryback. Silliness.
- Then again, holy shit, Ryback is actually holding his own on the microphone. Foley gets him worked up, Ryback gets all pissed and goes off, and now he's fully established as a heel. That was the point, and it was done really well. Credit where it's due here. Certainly appreciate his use of the term "Super Cena."
This was a pretty good show.
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.