WWE Monday Night Raw last night (Jan. 30, 2012) emanated from Kansas City, Missouri, and featured Chris Jericho attacking CM Punk, Undertaker making his long awaited return with a terrible wig, and plenty of great wrestling.
- Since taking over Cageside Seats, I've done my best to make this a relationship between I, the writer, and you, the reader. It's always a fun and interesting time to interact with you crazy Cagesiders but it was especially nice to see that you guys can already peg how I'll feel about particular events and shows. Reading someone say, "Geno's gone through three pairs of pants by now," has to be a career highlight for me (and you were close, it was four). Thanks to all you awesome folks for helping make this such a great place to hang out to talk pro wrestling.
- Now onto the show, which was one of the best Raw shows I've ever watched. It had a strong opening angle, plenty of great wrestling and an intriguing show close with a major return and some comedy relief in between. If every Raw was something close to this, it would be one of the best shows on television.
- I talked about the angle setup with Triple H and Undertaker a bit already but I'd like to say here that I'm no different than many of you who have expressed your displeasure with yet another WrestleMania match between the two. This will mark the third tango and second in as many years. That's too many. Shawn Michaels could pull it off because he's Shawn Michaels and had a chemistry with 'Taker that was unmatched but Trips doesn't have that. Plus, it scares the hell out of me that Triple H is just egotistical and crazy enough to try to go over on Undertaker and end the streak. If that were to happen, he would surpass Hulk Hogan as the worst man in pro wrestling history as far as politics and ego are concerned.
- I am, however, going to do my best to avoid incessantly complaining about the match getting booked and instead try to focus on the interesting aspects of the program, which include the story they're getting ready to tell. If executed properly, it can be as compelling as any other story within WWE right now, so this is one of those rare times I'll accept the concept of "wait and see."
- Seriously, though, that ridiculous wig.
- John Laurinaitis lives to see another day ... I think. They didn't really make that clear and that's part of why last night was so great. It's nice to have a little cliffhanger and it's not even the focus of the closing angle, not ultimately after 'Taker returned, at least. When you think about it, it's amazing how much Laurinaitis has grown as both a character and a performer. Back in Aug. 2011, I was complaining about him being on my TV. Now? I was actively rooting for him to stay.
- Part of the reason the opening angle was so strong was they set up a match between two of the best wrestlers in the world today, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, while getting them both in one place at one time so Sheamus, the Royal Rumble winner, could come out and state that he might be going after either one of them for their title at WrestleMania 28. The ensuing match between Punk and Bryan was probably one of the best Raw matches we'll see all year and completely blew away every match on the card at the Rumble pay-per-view this past Sunday night. Another cool wrinkle is that while Punk is really putting over the "Best in the World" character, Bryan is becoming the character the heel straight edge character Punk portrayed but Bryan is now using the fact that he's a vegan and doesn't eat meat. Adding that to what he was already doing and we're talking about one of the best in the entire company.
Thoughts on the rest of the show after the jump.
- It's good to see Chris Jericho finally make his move and attack Punk to cost him the match against Bryan, which got Bryan yet another cheap win and set up the feud with Punk and Jericho. I didn't like how Jericho just came off like another regular bad guy the way he did, especially with all the intrigue he created in his first weeks back but we can overlook that just for the simple fact that we're about to get a feud between Jericho and Punk. It's going to be awesome.
- Randy Orton and Wade Barrett continued their issue without ever actually interacting with each other, which is good because I'm still not a Barrett fan, though he's gotten much better since he's done spots on commentary. Orton instead had a four-star match with Dolph Ziggler, a truly great match that also blew away everything from the Rumble pay-per-view this past Sunday night. That's two matches on Raw that were far and away better than anything on the show we paid for. It's like we're dealing with TNA here or something. I won't complain, though, because hey, take it how you can get it. And before you blast me for not taking that stance with TNA, think about it for a second. Thanks.
- Brodus Clay is a Funkasaurus who is funky and he's from Planet Funk, y'all. I've heard complaints that he's getting booked in too many squash matches and I suppose I can understand that gripe, to an extent. But really, they're giving him plenty of time to get over (and he is) and they're not feeding him anyone that fans care about anyway. It hasn't ceased being fun, even if he's not calling out spots like he was in the beginning.
- I was fairly surprised that Kofi Kingston went over clean on The Miz. I suppose when they set the match up it came down to who to give the rub to from the impressive feats they both accomplished at the Rumble. Miz lasted the longest of anyone in the match, starting at number one and going for over 45 minutes but Kingston did the handstand and walk save that had Twitter and social media sites going insane for him. So, really, when put that way, it's not surprising that Kofi was given the clean win. Good on him.
- R-Truth did commentary for said match and while he took a less is more approach to it, I was entertained by him.
- Teasing dissension between David Otunga and John Laurinaitis was a nice touch in the storyline with Ace being so paranoid about potentially getting fired. I find that not only am I enjoying Laurinaitis' work on Raw, I'm also impressed with Otunga. He said he's happy in his current position and I would like to say that that extends beyond kayfabe. He's good where he's at now.
- How great was it hearing Triple H chide John Laurinaitis for the way he was "inserting himself into situations to the detriment of others for his own personal agenda of making himself a star?" It was like Trips was talking to himself and didn't realize it. Even when he admitted that he did the same when he was in charge of Raw, it spoke to who Triple H actually is and had me rolling when it was actually happening, especially since "The Game" had that shit-eating grin on his face the entire time.
- Beth Phoenix picking up a squash win over Eve set up the Kane scenario so John Cena could make the save and embrace the hate just a little bit more. My only quarrel with this one, and it's relatively minor, is that Kane told Eve that essentially he's trying to get Cena to embrace the hate and all that crap and he won't stop terrorizing her and her boyfriend until he does. He then said that Cena knows he "can't beat me or The Rock until he embraces the hate." This means Kane is working to try to make it to where Cena can beat him. Sometimes I wonder if the WWE Creative Team actually bothers to proof read and take the time to go deep enough into a story to realize this kind of crap.
- Intense Cena that f*cks sh*t up is probably the best Cena. Other than heel Cena, of course.
Overall, this was an awesome show with very little filler that served its purpose of advancing all the storylines that needed advancement. The build to WrestleMania 28 really has begun and this show was fantastic in getting the train rolling. I'm hopping on and riding until the wheels fall off in Miami, Cagesiders.
The show gets a solid A.
But that's enough from me. Now it's time for you to sound off with all your thoughts on the show in the comments section below. What's your grade for Raw last night?