WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 28, 2014) from St. Louis, Missouri, featuring the go home show to the Extreme Rules special event this coming Sunday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
But it didn't feel like it.
No, this felt like something else entirely. Instead of leading into a hot pay-per-view (PPV), this felt more like a routine SmackDown show with half the crew missing. Except they were at full strength and there were only a couple standout performances mixed in with some mediocre to bad wrestling interspersed with terrible segments and angle killing interviews.
Normally this space would be reserved for bullet point real time reactions to all the night's events, but I'm going to tinker with the format a bit and try something new. We'll break down the major segments and angles, then get to the bullet points for the smaller stuff.
Hide your kids cause they brainwashing errybody out here
John Cena's fans are kids. We know this, WWE knows this. They've played this up in promos, namely with the big stars like The Rock and CM Punk, but no one else gets to go there and even then, you can't go after kids in your promos, even as a heel. Not in this era.
That's what made this so outstanding.
Someone had to come along and turn those kids against Cena. You can't be like him and do it, hustling, and being loyal, and having respect. He's got the market cornered on that. No, you need a fresh tactical approach.
Kids love Cena for how colorful and goofy he is while being a safe fatherly type figure they can look up to. As a child, you can feel like you're in good hands with a guy like Cena. He's strong and tough but soft and compassionate. Kids love all that.
But kids also love singing stupid songs and playing dress up. Bray Wyatt, with his slick tongue and smooth delivery, brainwashed these kids -- he's actually been brainwashing them with that song for weeks now -- giving them costumes and turning them on Cena.
And then he provided a picture that would surely turn the hero's dreams to nightmares: He rocked back and forth in his chair with a child wearing a goat mask while laughing maniacally.
This was genius storytelling and some seriously next level heel shit. Wyatt lost all his edge over the past couple weeks after failing to defeat Cena at WrestleMania and on Raw despite marked physical advantages, namely his two goons. So why the need for the steel cage match this weekend? There was no need.
Until Wyatt turned those kids. Now Cena has to save them.
Here's to hoping he doesn't because his character badly, badly needs a fresh coat of paint.
Segment grade: A (Even though Cena tried to ruin it later with that ridiculous comedy interview with Renee Young)
"You look ridiculous, stop shaking. This is not a joke."
When you do something great, it's almost impossible to follow it up with something of equal or greater value. It's fitting, then, that Hugh Jackman, the star of a film franchise that has managed to stay fresh through multiple offerings, partook in a segment on last night's show that was a million times more entertaining than what he was asked to do the last time he was on Raw.
It didn't look that way early. He was yukking it up with hipster Dolph Ziggler, who was commanding the microphone with a lesser version of his stand-up routine the St. Louis crowd was actually receiving well. They bothered with continuity, remembering Jackman punched Ziggler out in his first WWE appearance, made up, and waved to the crowd.
Damien Sandow Magneto.
I knew it was Magneto because of the glorious costume this man was wearing, one surely made by Make-A-Wish kids whose dream was to be a WWE seamstress. It looked like an adult sized kid version of a Magneto Halloween costume.
And then Sandow started cutting a promo on Wolverine and this man was so totally dedicated to the character, he took this role so seriously, that it was the funniest damn thing I've seen on Raw in ages. Everyone in the building is laughing their ass off, including Jackman and Ziggler, and Sandow is pissed because it's not a joke and he's trying so hard to tell them that and they won't listen.
How he got through this entire segment without breaking character is beyond me. He deserves an award for it.
Jackman got to hip toss Sandow -- the crowd popping huge because WHOA, CELEBRITY KNOWS WRESTLING MOVE -- and he very clearly just had so much damn fun out there that you couldn't help but feel great about it.
This was pro wrestling comedy done right with the right characters in the right situation with the 100-percent correct use of the movie star making a guest appearance.
Segment grade: A+
If this show taught us anything, it's that Kane doesn't have an inner demon so much as he puts on a mask -- complete with hair -- and the mask gives him the powers of a DEMON. This includes but is not limited to hiding under the ring for long stretches of time, breaking through said ring to kidnap foes, and summoning fire.
There was reason to appreciate that this scenario ever existed in the first place. Stephanie McMahon is doing the very best work of her career as the mock concerned employer who had a sudden change of heart and only wishes the best for her world heavyweight champion.
She went to great lengths to prove this, namely giving Brie Bella an impromptu title shot. It may or may not have been a ruse, but we're supposed to believe it was and now the skinny Bella twin is about to go all BRIE MODE on the boss lady's lying ass.
That's the good to come of this. The Stephanie McMahon-Brie Bella feud should be fantastic.
Kane still attempting to kidnap people by dragging them under the ring in 2014 is an abomination, especially considering it's never executed well and everyone looks bad when all is said and done. Bryan, for example, needed a monkey wrench to fight off Kane while his wife needed only to kick at him a couple times and scream really loudly.
Segment grade: D+ (If only because GET OUT, YOU BITCH)
Oldest ride, out of order (operator possibly intoxicated)
Ric Flair was a member of the original incarnation of Evolution. He was the member of the group representing the "past" even then. That was 2004.
Fast forward a decade and time has not been kind.
I've watched this segment multiple times now and I can't quite figure out what the point of it was. Flair reminisced about running with his old buddies, he slurred his words, acted like he was buzzed, then abruptly put over The Shield as the hot young up-and-comers.
Basically, he did what Triple H has already been doing for weeks but did so while possibly being intoxicated.
Again, I don't get it.
To make things worse, Flair, after shaking hands with each member of The Shield, turned and winked at Evolution. Their response wasn't to react with a subtle nod of approval, or some signal that they understood the work here. They looked just as baffled as the rest of us.
If the idea was "Flair will come out, say words, we'll stand here like idiots, and he'll just leave", mission accomplished.
This was bad. The Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton match that followed was underwhelming, the inevitable brawl shortly after was equally uninspired -- though I'll never tire of Dean Ambrose wildly attacking someone, especially if that someone is Triple H -- and the finish didn't leave me wanting the way it was supposed to.
Segment grade: D
All the best to all the rest
- The Usos may be fighting champions who got over by winning, but it sure would be nice if they could sell injuries during matches. Or just to decide on what the injury is they're supposed to sell and then sell it. These details kind of matter in the land of fake fighting.
- More people might care about Cody Rhodes and Goldust breaking up if WWE provided a good reason for them to do so. Currently, Cody just looks like a dick because he keeps losing and then getting upset at Goldie when he tries to help. These two were on fire late last year; now they just can't get the twigs to spark.
- I cared a lot more about Heath Slater winning a match than I do this El Torito vs. Hornswoggle feud that already feels like it will never end and only consists of Torito goring people in the nuts and JBL cracking every bad joke he can think of on commentary. It's the worst.
- Bad News Barrett absolutely should have won the shot at Big E for the Intercontinental title at Extreme Rules. After so many years of failed pushes, this one might catch.
- Cesaro's big summer push is starting with a triple threat against Jack Swagger and Rob Van Dam? That's one way to go about it.
- Paul Heyman told the knock knock joke about his client Brock Lesnar conquering the Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania. It was great.
- Who did Sheamus piss off?
When grading a go home show, you have to consider whether or not it made you more or less likely to watch the event it was attempting to get you excited for. This show failed to do that on nearly every level. Still, there were a couple segments that were home runs mixed in with some really awful promos/angles and the actual wrestling on this show, oddly enough, ranged from mediocre to bad.
Overall grade: D+
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?