WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Mar. 24, 2014) from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, 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.
- WWE is back to referring to Stephanie McMahon as a "principle owner", so we're hoping that means Vince McMahon will, finally, be making his return soon to have that battle over control of the company. Her promo included references to being the boss and Triple H being the most powerful man within WWE. They're really starting to push it hard, and the payoff will be great.
- Before all that, though, we got this gem of an opening segment, featuring Stephanie showcasing her wide range of awesomeness by out-awesome'ing both Randy Orton, who was his sly devil self trying to use his smooth tongue to get his way, and Batista, who rocks his heel character like the biggest boss in the building. She stopped both Orton and Batista during promos to deal with a lively crowd who were chanting too much and distracting from the segment and a production snafu when Batista's mic kept cutting out. She dealt with this like a true professional, hardly missing a beat.
- This is one of the rare times I'm okay with Batista making a crack about Stephanie getting "drooled over a lot" because she shoot slapped the taste out of his mouth for it immediately after. Naturally, Batista no sold a shoot slap that knocked his glasses clear across the ring. Orton, still doing his best work, responded the best way by literally slapping his knee in laughter. This opening was great.
- It was made even greater when we got to see later that Batista had ripped his jeans at some point. So the one time he didn't wear skinny jeans, he still tore his ass out. This guy is truly incredible.
- What does it say about you if WWE decides to bring you out to ringside during a match but elects to keep you from doing guest commentary? They couldn't give Big E a headset and let him show that he's actually, you know, a pretty damn good talker when given the chance to show some personality beyond "big black man with muscles who has meaningless prop around his waist".
- It's not easy to have a really good Fatal Four-Way match. You usually end up with a convoluted mess with too many bodies, poor psychology, and bad booking. Here, we got Sheamus, Christian, Alberto Del Rio, and Dolph Ziggler all participating in a bout that felt meaningful with a shot at the Intercontinental title on the line with Big E sitting on the outside watching each guy give his all. You want value for the mid-card belts, this is how to do it. Go tear the house down in Brooklyn with fans who will let you know when you're kicking ass and set up what should be a good match for the belt.
- Not excited about Christian, Intercontinental title contender, but whatever, the match should be good on Main Event.
- Bray Wyatt delivered even better with his latest promo. He continues to hit all the right notes, this time hammering home that John Cena, for all his strength, cannot hurt him because he does not feel. He did so after calling out the truth that Cena still runs around with that "you can't see me" nonsense when it's so clearly not true. This was a good way at chipping at Cena's image. He's a liar. You can't see him? He's a walking informercial, a big ass billboard advertisement pushing his message. This feud is awesome.
- SCOOBY DOO!
- Poor Damien Sandow. He's now doing clean jobs in squash matches to Sin Cara, of all people, all with a gigantic dog walking around on two feet at ringside. Hey, at least the Sin Cara lighting was oddly fitting for once.
- I don't understand announcing a tag team title match more or less under your breath during a late hour one segment on a Raw two weeks out from the biggest show of the year, but that's what we got here. I guess it's all you can expect when it's Rybaxel vs. The Usos.
- Really, really loved The Shield coming down during Rybaxel vs. Los Matadores, sans music, and completely wrecked Curtis Axel and Ryback. It was particularly delicious watching Axel get thrown into a barricade by Roman Reigns before he went into the ring and speared Ryback into next week. Cap it with the Triple Powerbomb and three fist salute and The Shield were on some super alpha fuckng boss shit in front of a Brooklyn crowd who were eating it up.
- I can't help but wonder why Triple H likes these sit-down style interviews with Michael Cole so much. They aren't just doing them on WWE.com anymore, they're bringing them to the ring so Triple H can rant and rave from his position of power.
- I like the WWE move to once again take something that started on the Internet some time ago, in this instance the so-called "reality era", and use it for their own purposes. Triple H has shown he's willing to take ideas from fans running wild online, and now they've done it again. Once they got away from the typical interview nonsense, Triple H's promo was great. He's got all the power, he's holding all the cards, no one can stop him, and everyone knows it. Great build to Bryan actually being the one to stop him.
- I really hate it that Goldust, despite doing some of the best work of his career in ring, has quickly been relegated to doing joke angles with the likes of Summer Rae and Fandango. His tag team with his brother Cody Rhodes has been fun to watch but it's devolving quickly and we've seen this story enough times to know it's probably only going to get worse from here. We'll see.
- Did anyone else expect Brooklyn to completely take a shit on Hulk Hogan? I was surprised when they treated him like a hero. Same for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Celebrity. Everyone got a lot of respect. Actually, it was nice to see and hear. Sometimes it's cool to just cheer for guys like this instead of tear them down. That's the low hanging fruit, and it's not easy to avoid it all the time.
- That said, Arnold completely losing his mind over how big Hogan's muscles are was a little weird.
- Bringing out The Miz was actually the right call here, considering his standing with the WWE audience and this show being held in Brooklyn. Plus, he's got the Hollywood connection with his film work and what not, thin as it may be. Then he unironically called himself a "real tough guy" before getting totally punked out by Joe Celebrity, punched out by a geriatric actor, and tossed out by a dinosaur whose back is perpetually broken. He was made to look like the biggest panzy in the history of pro wrestling here and I would have a problem with that if this was anyone other than The Miz. But it was The Miz, so it was just a dumb segment that wasn't much more than a big waste of time.
- Fans cared about Big Show vs. Titus O'Neil so much they chanted for CM Punk, who probably isn't ever coming back and they all know it but that's how little they cared about Big Show vs. Titus O'Neil.
- I can't believe it took this long, and I can't believe no one suggested it prior to it actually happening tonight, but WWE did, in fact, go with an angle where John Cena is seeing sheep masks in mirrors. The idea, I guess, is that The Wyatt Family is that far in Cena's head. The problem, of course, is that we all saw the sheep mask too. Unless that just means they're also that far in our heads. Whatever. It's always dumb, but gets a pass here because it wasn't nearly as dumb as the Hogan-Warrior bullshit from WCW. To the commentary team's credit, they did not reference actually seeing the mask when talking about it, just that he was "looking over his shoulder". So someone knows to pay attention to at least some details.
- The Cena vs. Luke Harper singles match was really well laid out. Harper had a strong counter for most of his opponent's offense early on, forcing Cena to dig deeper and deeper as the bout wore on to pull out a victory, all the while looking out at Bray and Erick Rowan in anticipation of interference. This was both good psychology for the match at hand and the general theme that Bray is in Cena's head.
- Never finishing the match was beautiful. The visual they put together was amazing. Turning the lights out, having the Wyatt clan tie Cena up in the ropes, and putting a sheep mask on him? Awesome. The crowd chanted just that, too. This is the best feud WWE has going right now.
- I don't know why I noticed this or particularly liked it, but Tamina Snuka wearing the same shirt as AJ Lee felt right.
- Naomi's eye patch got more ridiculous. I'm glad it was there, though, because we got to see AJ make fun of it like a good heel champion. The ridiculous walk out finish almost pissed me off until it became clear that it was just a storyline tool to book a Divas title match proper at WrestleMania. AJ Lee vs. The World. We'll see if she's the best.
- I'll use this space to rant on the subject because I was just baffled beyond measure watching the video announcing Razor Ramon was going into the Hall of Fame this year. That name is important as a distinction here because they completely ignored everything Scott Hall did in WCW and his later run in WWE. Absolutely zero mention of his being a founding father of the nWo or one half of The Outsiders, an unbelievably over tag team in their time. Others quickly pointed out to me that perhaps they're saving that for another induction later, but that's still beyond ridiculous. They didn't ignore Ric Flair being a founding father of the Four Horsemen and inducted him twice anyway. Sure, Hall is no Flair, but come on.
- In pro wrestling, the minor details are often what make a world of difference in stories, or matches, or characters. That's why it's good to see The Shield, who are good and pissed off about everything that's been happening lately, not even wait for the Real Americans to make it to the ring to start brawling with them. That's the kind of psychology you hope to see from the performers, the exact opposite of the singles match on Raw a month or so back between Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns where they worked rest holds in the middle of a blood feud.
- Notice, again, that The Shield tag team was Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins with Reigns roaming around the outside.
- I'm pretty sure the Brooklyn crowd botched the chant during Cesaro's Swing on Ambrose. That's a real thing that happened, and it was actually kind of endearing.
- The match was great, and featured a lot of awesome stuff, like Ambrose going insane and the commentary team putting him over for it, Rollins being a god among men and getting the pinfall for it, and Reigns destroying everything because that's what he does like Mark Henry claims to. It was also great to see the post-match Triple Powerbomb to cap off their night of retribution. Because you don't ever fuck with The Shield and not pay the price for it.
- I do like Brock Lesnar's new shirt: EAT. SLEEP. BREAK THE STREAK.
- The final segment of this show was so over the top campy that I absolutely adored it. I continue to maintain that Lesnar is one of the best pro wrestlers who ever pro wrestled and Undertaker, because he's so damn committed to the gimmick he has, is a real life cartoon. Brock, somehow, fits perfectly within what they're trying to do here, too. How glorious was it to watch him be piss scared WHILE calling "The Deadman" out? Then to watch him tentatively kick a casket because he was scared of looking in it? Then outright bludgeon the damn thing because nothing was happening with it? Then start to look in but lose his nerve? Then actually go through with looking in and snap because he'd been swerved? Then feign like he was going to kill one of the druids? I love this man. He is the quintessential pro wrestling within pro wrestling who pro wrestles.
There were some problems with this show, but I largely had fun watching it.
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?