WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Mar. 3, 2014) from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, featuring a monster show in a big city full of fans who were planning on hijacking the proceedings. Except they never really did, despite the fact that CM Punk did not, in fact, make his return.
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.
- That pop for Cult of Personality. Amazing. WWE having the balls to go through with putting that music on the speakers and not delivering the man himself is glorious. Paul Heyman might be the right guy for it, though, and we'll see what he has to say. He's encouraging the chants.
- Heyman struggling to sit Indian style. I love this guy.
- Heyman shooting on Punk could be the best thing. He might be the only guy to get away with taking a gigantic dump on him in front of this crowd. Unless this is a set up. I feel like I can't write this live because I have no clue what's going to happen and that's glorious. Haven't felt this way in a long, long time for a WWE show.
- Now we get Heyman blaming the fans for taking him away. It's there fault he left. They took him away from themselves and they took him away from Heyman. This is genius. He also blames Undertaker, who sent Punk on his downward spiral. That's actually a great storyline tie-in. Because, really, Punk hasn't been the same since then, both in storyline and in reality. He was hurt badly in that match and his character hasn't really recovered. I love the way they played this. Took the attention straight from Punk to Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar, at least for this segment. That's great.
- Lesnar got a nice response but the CM Punk chants continue because, well, of course. Giving him a mic was interesting. The fact that he actually cut a nice little promo was a pleasant surprise. Get him the heat calling Punk "your baby boy" in Chicago. The best part was his grandiose claim that Undertaker is piss scared of him. That's a great response to last week's segment.
- I don't know why Mark Henry attempts to fight Lesnar so often, but someone really needs to get in his ear and tell him to stop. It never, ever ends well for him. My sister-in-law Talytha's response to the beatdown was this: "Brock Lesnar doesn't look like he's acting. That's the problem." That's the best thing about him. He's as real as can be in this cartoon pretend world.
- So real, in fact, that people were saying he hit a fan in the crowd with a monitor he flung across the ring. This is an out of control beast off his chain who does not know his own power. These things happen when Lesnar is wild eyed and drooling with violence in his heart. In all seriousness, though, if someone did get hit, we sincerely hope that person is okay.
- Absolutely loved the decision to have Road Dogg come out and refuse to do the New Age Outlaws intro because the crowd didn't deserve to hear it. When you've got a hot crowd like this, the heels should heel their ass off and the babyfaces should be played up to the fullest. You'll never get over as well as you will in a situation like this. Phenomenal job by Road Dogg.
- Usos vs. Outlaws was really well put together, incredibly well worked, and a super fun tag team match that got just the right amount of time. I've been critical of the Outlaws but you know what? They were awesome here. They got the heat early with the intro gimmick, made the crowd want to see them lose, then put the Usos over super strong for their first tag title victory. This was a great booking decision that probably happened really late. Who cares? It was awesome.
- Giving Cesaro a jobber entrance on this show? Come on, now. Unless the idea is to downplay him and treat him like a heel, but no way would the crowd go in for that. They didn't. In fact, they booed Big E and cheered everything Cesaro did. Jack Swagger stepping in to interfere in the match again was necessary to continue the dissension between the two, but why not just go ahead with the turn here? This would have been the right place to do it, no? Oh well.
- Much better psychology on the start to the Wyatts vs. Shield match. I don't want to see these two teams doing holds, I want them to brawl like the madmen they are.
- SETH ROLLINS, DESTROYER OF WORLDS. (Here is where I point out that Rollins is from the Quad Cities. I know, it means nothing. But, you know, represent.)
- Crazed Dean Ambrose is much better than controlled rage Dean Ambrose. I'd rather he just turn it up to 11 at all times and go nuts.
- Bray Wyatt's punch/forearm shots are really great.
- Oh no. Not Seth. This isn't how this is going to happen, is it? I mean, yeah, story. Rollins can't handle being the glue to hold the team together, I get that.
- I wasn't ready for this, though. Not this way. Let Ambrose, the insane one blow it all up. Not Rollins, the one who has his head together. It makes sense, though. It does. But man, it was heartbreaking seeing him stand up on the ramp and watch his team lose despite its most valiant efforts.
- Even after just a couple seconds of reflection, this was great for the story. Like, even better than Ambrose being the guy to cause this. He and Roman Reigns came together and battled hard, giving us multiple huge spots that popped big for the crowd. But they could not overcome and that's the way it should have been. Also, this was yet another outstanding match. Really, really good.
- Batista's monotone promo was pitch perfect. He is the dull, boring, big plodding idiot we all want to hate. He's dumping on Daniel Bryan being too small and not good enough. Bryan is the energetic, amazing, incredible worker who is our hero. Also, he couldn't have looked more like a dope saying people have been watching too many movies and reading too many comics thinking they could be heroes. Yes, this is a man who plays Drax the Destroyer in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film. I loved this.
- Chicago gives us the "We want Ziggler" chant during EMMA and Santino Marella vs. Summer Rae and Fandango. I'm actually good with this because I might prefer Ziggler in the role Santino's in right now. Or maybe it wouldn't work as well. I don't know. I'm just happy EMMA is on my TV and the crowd is actually starting to get it.
- That commercial for WWE Network featuring Stephanie McMahon was something else. She brings up that her children can grow up and watch their daddy's matches and it cuts away to a scene of Triple H screaming raising a sledgehammer looking like a terrifying monster of a human being. That was nice.
- I assumed Sheamus vs. Christian would get mercilessly booed and/or the crowd would go into business for itself early and never let up. I was okay with this too. Then, Christian slapped Sheamus twice and took off running with that "oh shit, oh shit, oh shit" look on his face and it was just entertaining enough to hold off on any bad feeling. Then, silence. There were no chants to speak off. Just the occasional "oh" and "ah", and never with all that much energy. It's almost too bad, too, because this match wasn't anything close to what they did last week. Again, your milage may vary with these two, but this wasn't as good as it could have been. It was also given way too much time.
- After a long match no one cared about, we get an angle between the two to continue the feud. Again, I just can't find a reason to care about any of this. Maybe you can and if so, good for you.
- They follow this with a Divas tag match. Interesting. I suppose on a normal Raw, this would be the cool down after a good long match between two top characters and not tainted by the apathy of Chicago. Instead, this felt like a really long dry period after a super hot first hour. There was zero momentum going into the third hour of this show.
- You know, there really isn't much better than when a crowd utterly and completely supports someone and does everything it can to let him know as much. Totally okay with Bryan stealing the "Hijack Raw" gimmick from whoever came up with it. That's great. Let him get the rub for it. He deserves it.
- I can't believe how loud they booed Triple H and Stephanie. I've been watching for a long time and I knew it was coming, but holy hell they booed her like she was Vickie Guerrero and ran over their dog. Reaction like this is way too much fun. They did, in fact, chant "NO" when Bryan asked for a match with Triple H at WrestleMania 30. Then they booed when Triple H said he wasn't going to book it. So, yeah.
- I would rather Bryan not pander to the crowd, though. No need to point it out. You've already got them. And we can hear them.
- Stephanie's face when she called Chicago a "sea of inadequacy". Nothing better.
- Shamefully big pop for Bryan suggesting Stephanie lace up the boots for a match at WrestleMania while Triple H watches and "The Game" responding by saying he's 95-percent sure she would whip his ass too. These three are all just way too good at what they do.
- Hey, it's Aaron Paul! Did anyone else almost completely forget he was supposed to be on this show? Oh, he's just driving Dolph Ziggler out for his match with Alberto Del Rio. Oh, okay, commentary too. He was actually pretty damn fun to listen to, considering he was just being a fan and having fun with it cheering Ziggler on. It was a nothing match, but that's fine. This was cool.
- He did not, in fact, say "bitch" at any point during his time on this show, however. I am disappoint.
- The continuation of the Swagger-Cesaro break up was done well, mostly because it's nice they're actually going with the slow burn and not turning Cesaro immediately. I probably would have rushed the gun and did it here, but after seeing how this second segment played out, it might be better to do it at a bigger show and let Cesaro start his big push by vanquishing Swagger on the big stage on his way to much bigger and better things.
- John Cena is severely hurt, you guys. But he's super brave because he just refuses an MRI. He won't do it. That's how tough he is, folks. That's how game he is for a fight. He's willing to come out, even when he can't compete, and make it known that he's up for a fight later, when the doctors clear him.
- What's funny, though, is Cena's promo was really good. He pandered at first but quickly turned it around by saying what he always should have been saying. You want change? That's not given, it's earned and if someone can do it, cool, but they gotta come through me. Sorry. This was as close to a heel promo from Cena we're going to get. It was great.
- "I am the reaper. And I am going to put you down." - Bray Wyatt, early contender for "Wrestler of the Year" in 2014.
- Starting Batista vs. Bryan at 11 p.m. ET made me think it would be more of an angle than an actual match. Then they started working and what they were doing was fine but the crowd was dead by this point and the way this was laid out felt really odd when they went to commercial at 11:05 p.m. ET. Michael Cole acknowledged it was overtime, so perhaps a big return is coming? Nope! Instead we get Bryan tearing ass through everyone before laying down to a Batista Bomb and a Pedigree. It's a good set up for the revenge at WrestleMania, but there was no doubt a lot of disappointment that CM Punk did not, in fact, return to WWE. He's gone, folks. He's really gone. Not only that, but the "Hijack Raw" plan failed completely. Punk didn't return and the show ended with Triple H's music playing as he stood over Bryan.
You almost have to admire the way WWE played this. They did a lot of great things on this episode. They also totally shit the bed during long stretches of it too.
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?