WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 14, 2014) from Birmingham, Alabama, featuring all the continued fallout from WrestleMania as well as build for Extreme Rules.
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.
- The video package they did for Warrior was incredibly well put together. Everyone has been grappling with the issue of his controversial opinions and general dickheadedness while he was alive but you know what? I want to remember the good in a man when they die. Everyone is born good. Everyone's got the same sized soul. If for only this moment, I don't think it's wrong to forget the bad of the man in favor of connecting with that.
- I'm not one to worry all that much about how prestigious pro wrestling titles are or what WWE can do to make them mean something again or whatever. But if I were, a tournament to crowd a number one contender is about the best way you can go about it, right? It gives the winner instant credibility as a title challenger, provides for an easy way to book various matches with meaning attached, and opens up potentially new and interesting feuds.
- While watching Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio I realized I was watching two stars who have received top billing at various points throughout their careers and are generally considered big name guys -- though Triple H might call them "B+" players -- and I've never really felt very strongly about either of them in either direction. There just isn't much to say. Or think. Or, worst of all, feel. Either they have good matches or they don't and if they don't, they might as well not even exist.
- Right after I typed that up, Van Dam missed badly on a kick off the ropes and the crowd died. Del Rio, to his credit, got 'em back quickly with a backcracker, but that was ugly.
- I love that Batista and Randy Orton could be meeting with and shaking hands Triple H and Stephanie McMahon after operating as a team to close Raw last week and Michael Cole can still get his super serious voice -- on a tribute show to Warrior, mind you -- and wonder solemnly what they could possibly be meeting about. This is Cole and why he's so hated. Stupid.
- It truly warms this smark heart of mine when Triple H hypes a babyface team like The Shield by saying things like "together, I'm not sure anyone can stop them". Stephanie McMahon stepping in to say she knows one team who can, and that's Evolution works just as well because that one little exchange serves to both put both teams over as super strong units and builds intrigue for a match because we, as fans, can't help but wonder who would win in a showdown between the two elite groups. This is the kind of build we want/need for matches like this at the top of the card.
- The bad about this segment? Orton and Batista were telling Triple H they were more concerned with getting the title back than they are with helping him when, just one short week ago, they were HELPING HIM TRY TO WIN THE WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE. Stupid.
- Is it just me or does it seem like forever ago now that the Rhodes Brothers were having consistently awesome tag team matches? Not that there was anything all that wrong with what they put together with Rybaxel last night but it's a far cry from late last year. Quality of opponent matters, sure, but maybe WWE should have gone ahead with splitting them up and feuding.
- I already hate Bo Dallas with a fiery passion that burns deep within my soul with the heat of 1,000 suns, but these promos are making it that much worse. I'm told that's the point. I'll wait and see.
- Alicia Fox was amazing wrestling Paige. She was the perfect heel in a match that would establish Paige as the babyface champion who had to overcome a tough challenge in her first match after winning the title. Those three backbreakers and follow up kick out of the ring while screaming "GET OUT OF MY RING"? Swoon. Paige was really good as the babyface in peril before making her comeback with plenty of fire. I loved this.
- Shout out to The Usos for psychology. They were embarrassed by Orton and Batista last week so they immediately went on the attack to establish themselves this week before the match could get underway. If nothing else, that was necessary just to level the playing field for the match. Shout out to Orton as well. He was tentative during his entrance because he didn't have Big Dave out there with him and only got in the ring -- and even then it was slowly -- once Batista was right there with him. It's the little things, and Orton does them all exceedingly well.
- Did you hear that pop when The Shield randomly attacked in a match you wouldn't have expected them to, even though they kind of already told us that's what would happen? That's the product of good booking. We've been dying to cheer these guys for their awesome work for a long time now, and thanfully WWE is giving us that chance before splitting them up. Also a testament to how great Orton and Batista have been as heels that the babyfaces could launch a sneak attack with a 3-on-2 advantage and get cheered so massively for it.
- Batista's sell of the Superman punch set a new low for selling that move. It will never get worse than this.
- Paul Heyman did it again. He cut yet another amazing promo. He acknowledged that he's going to beat it into the ground that his guy beat the streak at least until "hell freezes over, kind of like it did at WrestleMania". That's brilliant. Then to give Brock Lesnar credit for being the guy to "truly immortalize Undertaker" was special but he took it over the top with the beautifully delivered line, "hey, kid ... made ya famous". Please never go away, Heyman.
- I can't be the only one who was disappointed that Cesaro didn't give Mark Henry the Giant Swing, even though I recently watched an interview in which he outright admitted he can't do it to Henry. Still, it's hard not to want it when half of the appeal of his matches is watching him do it. It didn't help that the Neutralizer, while impressing just through completion, wasn't the smoothest. I might be splitting hairs here but he was getting over as a babyface before they broke him away from Swagger because of the Giant Swing. So they book him in three straight matches where he doesn't use said move. I don't get it. I don't get where he's going and how they're going to get there and the dynamic with Heyman, while it has great potential, it just confusing right now.
- Let's pause here to give Lana credit for delivering her hype job promo for Alexander Rusev without skipping a beat despite the crowd giving her the "what" treatment. When is the "what" nonsense going to end, by the way?
- I guess this act is getting over in the way Vince McMahon was hoping it would because Rusev vs. Xavier Woods went about 45 seconds and the crowd still managed to get a USA chant in there. This wasn't great because of that, though. It was great for the continued awesomeness that is the Lana/Rusev combination. Lana's disapproving expression when R-Truth attacked Rusev before she could call him off Woods. Her stepping in the way and backing Rusev off a confrontation with Truth immediately after just so Truth could walk off to check on his buddy and she could order the attack from there. Rusev going along with all of it without questioning her. I love this. These two are great together.
- Every time they cut back to Big E watching matches on the monitor backstage, I imagined he was doing the same thing, or I should say that's what I wanted to think. Like they arrived at the arena early, shot some tape of him watching a blank monitor while thoughtfully rubbing his chin, and just switched out the picture on the monitor for each new Intercontinental title tournament match. If we're to assume this isn't what happened, that means he was just standing in the same spot for the entire show and it makes me wonder why he wouldn't grab a chair or if no one at WWE offered him one. Way to treat the Intercontinental champion when a tournament is being held just to find a challenger for him.
- I did not enjoy Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger. They suffer from the same issue Alberto Del Rio and Rob Van Dam do. The match wasn't great and there's nothing else to hang on so why bother.
- "Show, if you have anything to say, now would be the perfect time to keep it to yourself." - Damien Sandow with the best one-liner on Raw I've heard in ages. Naturally, he was hit with a KO punch from Big Show to end the segment. Dumb fun.
- The Wyatt Family was really over in front of the folks in Birmingham and the timing of this couldn't be better after Jim Ross cut a big promo on the state of heels in WWE. We want to cheer these guys too much to hate them and they have too many babyface gimmick spots to be the strong heels they're needed to be.
- I have never hated any pro wrestler as much as I hated John Cena last night. Everything he did in that segment was everything that is wrong with his character and everything that is wrong with WWE and the sense of humor of those in charge or, worse, the sense of humor they believe the fans have. Why would anyone think it a good idea to have Cena go out and produce ridiculously idiotic photoshopped pictures making fun of The Wyatt Family while speaking in that goofy voice he gets when he decides to play to all the six-year-olds in the crowd? Who the hell thinks this kind of thing is funny? Maybe I have to look at this like the six-year-olds must have loved it, so I should just ignore how stupid it was and how utterly insufferable John Cena is when he gets that way. The flip flop between jokey and serious is the worst thing, because the two sides of him are on such extreme ends of the spectrum. But his jokey nonsense is so over the top, it's a feud killer. On top of that, he says dumb shit like "you kept trying to bring the monster out of me, but that monster doesn't exist" when he literally gave an interview to Renee Young on the WrestleMania 30 go home episode of Raw saying he would bring the monster out himself. There was nothing to like about Cena here and everything to hate. That's not even mentioning the various ridiculous one-liners he tried and failed to deliver all while Wyatt was doing everything he could to remind everyone that this is a serious program and he's a killer but except no he's not, Cena beat him clean at WrestleMania, thus justifying all the joking he's been doing. That's the worst, really. He shit on him by joking about him and it's all justified by rubbing his face in the fact that he already beat him clean. Wyatt is full of it and Cena is not for that simple fact. this was awful in so many ways.
- As if the segment wasn't bad enough, The Wyatt Family, all three guys, just stood in the ring like idiots while Cena embarrassed them and never once thought "hey, there are three of us and only one of him, let's go beat the shit out of him instead of standing here like morons and being made to look like the hapless morons".
- Thoroughly enjoying Fandango since he broke up with Summer Rae. His inset promo last night was probably his highlight of the year so far, which is actually kind of sad, considering.
- Stephanie McMahon > Vince McMahon. Her bringing the monster out of Kane was great, even if there is not a single soul on Earth looking forward to this rehashing of the same story we've gotten from Kane about 800 times in his career. Her absolute glee when she believes she has either directly or indirectly caused someone great suffering is truly special. I couldn't help but wonder why Bray Wyatt hasn't recruited her to bring the monster out of Cena, though, seeing as it took her about one minute to get the monster out of Kane. Something tells me she wouldn't put up with Cena's bullshit jokes, though.
- Jerry Lawler is actively bad at his job and should be removed from his position immediately. I won't say anything more than that.
- We can now confirm that Bad News Barrett trying to start a "Bad News" chant is, in fact, the worst thing in the world. That one guy who briefly joined him is the second worst thing in the world. Third worst is "why so serious" Jokey John Cena.
- What was really enjoyable about the Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler match wasn't the near falls late and spamming of finishers, it was the crowd starting the match turning on it with a "CM Punk" chant -- with Barrett and Ziggler in the ring, mind you, two guys so many have been begging to get pushed -- and then changing their mind about about three near falls and chanting "this is awesome". No better example of the fickle nature of pro wrestling fans than this.
- I didn't understand The Shield vs. random 11 guys. I get the idea behind The Authority wanting to put them down by giving them a match they couldn't win because of THAT DAMN NUMBERS GAME but they mixed and matched too many heels who aren't supposed to get along. You can convince me to overlook Swagger and Del Rio teaming together but when Rusev went out there, it killed this. Way to destroy the guy's gimmick before he's really getting over with it. So he only listens to Lana and only ever stops because of her but he's out here on his own and acting like just another guy? What a stupid decision. He was tagging in and out like just another guy because, despite all the hype, I guess he's just another guy and Lana is irrelevent to the process. Stupid. (Editor's Note: Lana tried to save this later with a tweet saying she allowed Triple H to use him, but it was still stupid.)
- Meanwhile, the angle they ran here was good in theory and probably great on paper but was executed really poorly and wasn't much more than a comedy of errors played out in front of a crowd who didn't seem to care about what should have been a huge angle. After they 11 man heel team overwhelms The Shield, "Line in the Sand" hits the speakers and NO ONE reacts. Evolution has reformed and this is their big return to set up a match with The Shield in what should be a historic clash and Alabama couldn't have given a shit less. As if that weren't bad enough, they start hitting finishers to really sell the beating and get the heat on the babyfaces and after the first one, an RKO from Orton to Seth Rollins, the Evolution theme briefly plays over the speakers again. Someone in the production truck made a mistake and, again, the crowd died. The big spot to all this was Roman Reigns crawling up to Triple H, battling his heart out to get back into the fight. Triple H played it up and they built to "The Game" dragging him up and delivering the money line: "Believe in Evolution". Again, this didn't get over with the crowd but even if it would have, Triple H dropped the mic to the mat to give Reigns the Pedigree and the mic hit and made a LOUD beep sound that just killed the ensuing spot. What a disaster this was.
Alicia Fox was the highlight of this show. Let that sink in.
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?