WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Mar. 17, 2014) from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, featuring all the latest build to the WrestleMania 30 pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza scheduled for April 6 in New Orleans.
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.
- Batista's skinny jeans get more amazing each week. This guy is unbelievably great.
- That opening segment was brilliant. Batista is the whiny Hollywood blowhard who thinks he deserves so much more than he does because he's a STAR and everyone should give him everything he wants because he's so great. Randy Orton is the insecure champion who needs far too much coddling for anyone's good. Triple H is the overbearing boss who thinks he knows what's best for everyone but his ego is so unbelievably large that he always ends up coming back to himself. So after cutting an awesome unreality era promo, calling out both for perceived shortcomings both real and imagined, he just said fuck it and booked his match with Bryan with the added stipulation that if he wins, he'll enter the title match in the main event. This was awesome.
- It was also great because there was no doubt after they booked Bryan the way they did last week. It was too obvious he was going over in both matches and while that's a strong selling point, it's never a bad thing to create some doubt. It works especially well here because Bryan has been screwed over so often but they couldn't possibly be thinking of doing it here, right? This was genius, and Triple H was at his best on the mic.
- Maybe the best part about the opening segment is Orton continuing to perpetuate the angle he's currently using that no one likes Batista so he should just go away. He's doing it like a smart ass but retaining that insecurity he's so good at playing up, which is just the best combination for him.
- Last but not least: Batista mentioning he doesn't have to get beat to lose. Foreshadowing.
- The Usos vs. Real Americans was a fun tag team match made even more fun by the fact that, well, Cesaro is probably the best damn wrestler in WWE not named Daniel Bryan. It isn't just that he has great spots that always impress, it's that he bothers to get innovative with them. Put simply, watching him wrestle is fun. Now we just need some character development and it will be off to the races.
- Also, the Real Americans beat the tag team champions in a non-title match, so I'm guessing they're the new number one contenders to the straps now. That could mean holding off on Cesaro breaking away from Jack Swagger until after WrestleMania, and that's okay. A multiple team tag match at the big show this year would be just fine with me.
- The Shield running afoul of The Authority has a lot of potential if done right. They could very quickly become anti-heroes but again, this is likely just to set up the inevitable break up, and that works well too. So far so good, though Kane is becoming less and less bearable.
- Hornwoggle handing out St. Patrick's Day gimmicks leading to a Bad News Barrett segment is pretty much the least offensive of all possibly holiday nonsense from WWE, right? This was nice and, short, simple, and dumb. So, perfect!
- Oh I spoke too soon. They booked Titus O'Neil to make a fool of himself getting squashed in a match against Sheamus. You know, because stereotypes!
- Actually, I'm so glad this match happened because Christian turned in the best guest commentary spot since CM Punk a few years ago. He completely destroyed JBL -- "you keep calling me ugly, meanwhile you look like David Spade in a fat suit" -- while making outrageous claims like he's undefeated in active competition. This was absolutely glorious
- "Tit-arse O'Neil". I popped.
- Impressed by John Cena's promo because it means WWE took to heart the fact that, well, Cena shouldn't be turning Bray Wyatt into a joke by making light of his words. I would much rather they just go old school babyface and have him admit that he's scared Bray is getting to the masses with his haunting sermons and Cena feels the need to fight to preserve all that he's always fought for his entire career. This was always the right angle.
- Then they went and made it a million times better by having Wyatt acknowledge that Cena's comedy was simply a way to make himself feel better about the devil he has to face at WrestleMania. In fact, it makes him even more phony and Bray will stop at nothing to expose as much. He will die for it, and because he's so goddamn good at delivering his gospel, we can't help but believe him. Cena vs. Wyatt is shaping up to be the most intriguing match at WrestleMania, and they've gotten there in the span of about four promos. Really great stuff from both guys on this episode.
- I adore Randy Orton. He's the forgotten man in this four-way stuff with Batista, Triple H, and Daniel Bryan, but he is so very good at everything he's been doing lately. How awesome was it when he was berating that fan asking for a DQ in a No DQ match after he used a Kendo stick? Then to blame the fan for a back body drop through the table right after? How can anyone hate this guy at this point?
- If I had a favorite stock spot in any wrestling match, it might be the superplex. It always looks like an impressively high impact move, about as aesthetically pleasing as it gets for a straight wrestling match.
- The Batista stuff all night had me thinking CM Punk. First, he complained about his booking at WrestleMania, then he literally walked out after being told he may end up having to work a match with Triple H at the show. I don't know, but I liked it. I also like when he came back and speared Orton during his match with Bryan, allowing Bryan to get the pin. Simple booking: this is a possible scenario for WrestleMania, so let's showcase it as such. I like it.
- That video they played hyping Undertaker's streak was something special. WWE Production is beyond special and while they haven't been given much to work with here, they absolutely owned this video. Essentially, Undertaker has struggled more and more as the years have gone on as he's slowly being forced to come to grips with his own mortality. Brock Lesnar is a man who has destroyed all the opponents who have given Undertaker trouble in recent years -- Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and CM Punk -- and he's going to be the one to kill death once and for all. This was really great. I've been moaning about needing more back story but they're just using the streak itself for that, and considering Brock's stature, that's fine. I just wish I had more reason to think that he might actually have a shot at breaking it.
- I fear Stephanie McMahon. I also love her. You won't be blamed for feeling either, or possibly both.
- Actually, Stephanie was awesome here playing the role of concerned wife who isn't exactly concerned with her husband so much as her own place in all this. Like, hey, Triple H is acting increasingly like he doesn't have everything under control and it has made him vulnerable. That means he might actually lose at WrestleMania, Bryan might actually succeed so much more than they ever could have thought, and that's a bad look for all of them. So Triple H better get his shit together or she'll rip him to pieces.
- Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention but I'm not entirely sure why Goldust was so pissed off after he beat Fandango clean, though some were asking me if he was injured during the match. Either way, the match was okay, nothing special and played up mostly for comedy.
- I still hate that The Shield are using the "best for business" phrasing but realized last night they are doing so ironically. That dumbass phrase is corporate and they are very clearly going against that, essentially saying they're doing what's right and that's what's best. They're no longer heels without a clear function other than chaos, they're babyfaces running over the tyrannical powers that be. I just wonder how long this can last and, again, if it's simply a tool setting up the break up. The more we go along the less I want it. As stated, maybe that's the point.
- The Bella twins were looking decidedly Bella last night. I think I will just say "YES", Brie, thank you.
- That eye patch, though.
- The match sucked and was mostly a waste of time other than getting Naomi back out there and seeing how she did with the eye patch. She did incredibly well, all things considered, and her pinning AJ clean may or may not signify that she's back in the title mix. Of course, the Bella twins were on commentary claiming the same in between hitting on Fat Suit David Spade -- I'll never call him JBL again, thank you, Christian -- so who knows where the Divas division is headed as we go into WrestleMania.
- I couldn't care much for the Tamina-AJ break up because I just watched it on Impact this past Thursday night.
- Getting into debates about how worthy anyone is for the WWE Hall of Fame is pointless because it's a gimmick to make money rather than an actual showcase to honor deserving individuals. That being said, I'm kind of going to do just that and say Mr. T is the most deserving celebrity inductee of anyone ever. So, good for him.
- So Big Show is definitely winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, right? He has to, right?
- At this point, eight-man tag team matches are only good for that point in the match when they start spamming finishers video game style. Naturally, Big Show ended all the fun with a choke slam of Damien Sandow for the pin because he's Big Show and Sandow is killed dead.
- The Bray Wyatt-John Cena video package might have been just as good as the Undertaker-Brock Lesnar video package. Don't you just love how much WWE steps its game up during WrestleMania season?
- Bray beat up Kofi Kingston. There isn't anything to say about this, so I'll just report that that's what occurred.
- The final segment was an all time awesome angle. They set up brilliantly that Triple H and Stephanie were not a united front, then swerved us completely with it. Triple H even got to take some more shots at CM Punk in his promo saying he respects Bryan for going through all he's had to go through the past year and actually sticking around instead of taking his ball and going home. But Stephanie demanding police arrest Bryan for his illegal actions last week just so some fake cops can come out and cuff him before Triple H reveals the swerve and just beats the ever loving shit out of Bryan is an awesome angle for this feud. I loved this. Thoroughly entertaining stuff.
- Stephanie McMahon mocking the YES chant will never be anything other than incredibly fun.
- Wait. The very best thing to ever happen happened here. Triple H set up Bryan in the corner, grabbed a chair, and smacked it against the post and, presumably, Bryan's head. Stephanie's reaction was the best pro wrestling reaction in history. She got a look of shock on her face at first, then glanced at her husband in disbelief, then legitimately looked like she had an orgasm at the realization of what her husband had done. I can't get over how great this was. Later, after Triple H hit Bryan with the Pedigree, she got in the ring and kissed her hubby over Bryan's dead body, wiggling and smiling all the way.
I fucking loved this show.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?