WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 21, 2014) from the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland, featuring all the latest build to the upcoming Extreme Rules event scheduled for early next month in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
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.
- Knowing the excruciating pain he had to have been in walking out on the stage to kick off Monday Night Raw, it was really difficult to watch Bryan break down while doing his YES skip to the ring. Seeing him look to the sky, surely thinking of his father. Having his wife Brie Bella greet him in the ring to lead a "YES" chant together. I hope this was some sort of therapy for him. I hope his going out to perform was what he needed to help him get through this moment, if only this moment.
- With that said, and maybe because of the emotional impact felt by fans of Bryan who knew his father had died recently, the opening segment was phenomenal. At first it felt like a typical wrestling angle, with Kane coming back to terrorize Bryan and his wife so he could destroy him as he vowed to do last week. Then, it became clear they were writing Bryan off television so he could go deal with his father's passing, at least until Extreme Rules. They put this together really well, too, with Stephanie McMahon demanding Kane stop while "The Big Red Monster" repeatedly and without emotion destroyed Bryan with multiple Tombstones, one on the floor, one on the steel steps, and one on the announce table (that didn't break). Stephanie was emphatic, but not so much that it didn't feel disingenious. Kane was perfectly vicious. Brie ran away and came back when it was time to stretcher Bryan out and was great as the concerned wife. This was great.
- I almost forgot to mention Michael Cole. He gave the call of his life here. He let the moment breathe and when it came time to express justified outrage, he was perfect there too. He added to this a great deal, screaming for someone to help when Kane was Tombstoning Bryan through the announce table. This was great.
- It just sucks that all that happened, and was necessary, because of Bryan's father passing.
- Sheamus vs. Bad News Barrett was a very good match considering its placement and the situation. A good showcase to open Raw with in the semifinals of an Intercontinental title tournament that featured good action in front of an appreciative crowd with a legitimately surprising finish. They actually put Barrett over here, and clean.
- Am I the only one who is way too excited for Hugh Jackman to return to Raw next week?
- Really appreciated Bray Wyatt's return promo from that abomination of a segment last week. His new angle is to say that John Cena is in denial of the truth. When he first tasted truth it was bitter but delicious and Cena needs to taste it the same. The truth he needs to taste, and one that is becoming increasingly more clear, is that each time these two cross paths, Bray converts more and more of Cena's fans. This would have been a great angle had the crowd booed, but many of them actually cheered and by the time Wyatt's promo was over, they were singing along with him. He told them what he was doing, made them understand it's not a good thing it was happening, and then when and did it anyway. And they all bought it, hook, line, and sinker. I love this character. He's perfect.
- If I never have to hear another announcer scream "GORE! GORE! GORE!" it will be too soon.
- I don't have an issue with WWE booking El Torito vs. Hornswoggle, nor do I have an issue with the six-man involving Los Matadores and 3MB designed just to showcase the little guys doing stuff ... things. They just clearly don't really care about booking these two like they're worth anything more than a chuckle from the kiddos in the crowd who would get a kick out of seeing two little people fight. I could take it or leave it.
- Man, you could tell Triple H really, really missed arriving to arenas in a limo with his buddies in Evolution dressed to the nines and stepping out with doves flying around as they made their slo mo entrance. I could be convinced he reformed Evolution for this one moment alone.
- I'll give Evolution this much: When they walk out, they feel like an elite group. You could endlessly debate whether or not that's the case, but they do a great job coming across like they are.
- Triple H is the best cocky little shit in history and it's time we start recognizing him for that. That line about The Sheild shouting and talking tough until to get slapped down by their daddy? His shit eating grin during the delivery of this line? Man, I wanted to beat the shit out of him right then, but I know I can't so I'll live vicariously through The Shield and get giddy in anticipation of the moment they get the chance to do it. And that's why Triple H is a master.
- Randy Orton and Batista, meanwhile, were hidden. Batista might just end up saying "deal with it" exclusively from here on out. I would hate that, too, because he's the most hateable of the three. Orton is kind of lost here because I can't buy into his tough guy act now after watching him walking around with his head down wallowing in his own insecurity for the past eight months. We'll see how it works out.
- Dean Ambrose is the wild dog off the leash, and that's a great thing. Seth Rollins is the controlled dog with a vicious bite and that's a great thing. Roman Reigns is 100-percent pure badass motherfucker. You know why he's going to be the next big star? Because he's the type of badass the men want to be and the women want to be with. John Cena never had that, not really, and if he did, not to this extent. I still worry about how he'll look removed from Ambrose and Rollins -- his calm badassery is the perfect balance to how wild the other two are -- but so far everything is perfect.
- WWE told me here, by bringing out a bunch of dorks to back up Evolution, that all of those guys are jobber dorks. Alexander Rusev, once again, was one of those dorks and, once again, he was without Lana. This kills my enthusiasm so much, and for what? Just so they can surround Evolution with a bunch of bodies? I hated this.
- The Usos vs. Rhodes Brothers was as forgettable as it gets and I probably wouldn't ever remember it if it weren't for THE BIG GUY going out and doing commentary. He was great too, putting over his competition before sneak attacking them and heeling it up to set up a later match. Couldn't ask for much more than that, though Curtis Axel being involved continues to be problematic.
- If you had asked me about Cody Rhodes and Goldust splitting up three months ago, I wouldn't have endorsed it (unless it led to a WrestleMania match). Now? Might as well. The shine is off the apple.
- Jerry Lawler before the Emma vs. Layla match: "I can't wait to be ashamed by what I say during this match". Go away, Jerry.
- You know, I hate the Emma pairing with Santino Marella as much as the next guy. But I gave props where it was due when they did the bit where Santino accidentally high-fived her with the Cobra and her arm just stopped working completely. But this nonsense with Emma now breaking out a Cobra of her own and using it as a finish? Of all the wrestlers to ape a move from, Santino? Of all the wrestlers to run with, Santino? What's more, Marella decided it would be funny -- or probably Vince McMahon, really -- to have his male Cobra attempt to molest Emma's female Cobra after the match. This was so stupid my brain almost completely shut down.
- John Cena was back to being serious here and hey, the entire angle actually feels like something we should care about again. Isn't it funny how that works? He treats it like a big deal and we do the same. So odd, right?
- Cesaro's new theme song sounds like someone gave a bunch of children some instruments and they recorded the ensuing chaos then put a siren on the front of it.
- They cut off Paul Heyman's promo with a Godzilla commercial. I was tickled to death by this. It was even better when they came back and Heyman was still talking about Brock Lesnar having beaten Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Who would have thought the mileage WWE would ultimately get out of the streak ending would just be Paul Heyman yelling at people. It's almost an ultimate troll job and with distance and time, I love it.
- I've seen so many Rob Van Dam matches that I may have reached my limit here. I just couldn't buy his goofy rolling offense against Cesaro, who I always expected to just pick RVD up and throw him around the arena. When he didn't, it baffled me beyond measure. Why is RVD giving Cesaro such a big run? And then to have Van Dam win via countout after Jack Swagger interfered and his big spot was to push Cesaro into the ring post? Really? This was bad. This was really bad. Cesaro got one up on Swagger before the segment was over but this felt like a character killer, from the crappy entrance music, the bad jacket, the terrible booking, and the mediocre match. This couldn't have gone worse for Cesaro.
- But wait, it could go worse. They do an interview with Rob Van Dam and have Cesaro and Heyman interrupt just to say RVD couldn't win on his own and he should feel bad just for RVD to turn it back on them and walk off? Baffled by the booking of Cesaro on this show. Even Heyman looked bad by the end of it.
- Paige vs. Aksana was painfully slow. Let Paige go get her wins and all but this was brutal. When the thing I enjoyed most was some random guy standing and politely clapping after it was over, you know there was a problem.
- Sin Cara did a sunset flip on Alexander Rusev and it terrified me. Other than that, this was the same thing we've been getting from these two and that was fine. The referee rolled Sin Cara's carcass out of the ring after and Rusev and Lana both just stepped over it like they didn't appreciate the inconvience of having to step over the guy Rusev just crushed. That was fun. I also think I learned today that I appreciate Lana just as much for what she does now as the inevitable time WWE will decide to try to do more with her and what that will look like. Aren't you excited for that? The ideas they must already have?
- Jerry Lawler said John Cena fans had voted for the 3-on-1 handicap WWE App option so Cena could get his hands on Bray. This assumes that either Cena's fans are stupid or WWE desperately wants to explain away that vote in a way that can make Cena look as good as possible. Because, remember, Cena must always look as good as possible.
- Bray Wyatt dancing John Cena must be made a GIF and viewed endlessly. This is your homework for tonight, Cagesiders.
- Here's what I learned from this 3-on-1 handicap match: Bray Wyatt, even with the help of his two goons, cannot defeat John Cena. He just can't. He couldn't do it at WrestleMania when he was playing head games, and now he's shown that he can't do it even when he has a two man advantage. That's all this taught me. What an utter and complete waste of time the steel cage match is going to be at Extreme Rules. What's the point of it? Cena said he wants it so he can get Wyatt alone. After seeing that he can win when it's 3-on-1, I can't imagine what Cena is going to do to poor Wyatt inside that cage.
This is a far cry from where we were just one month ago. Rough sledding.
That's it from me, Cageisders. 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?