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WWE Raw preview (March 2, 2015): #UseHarper

What you need to know

If you watched WWE television on Thursday night, you might have been convinced that the Intercontinental title is Smackdown's most pretigious prize.  Maybe it is.  And maybe Daniel Bryan is the star of the blue brand.  Time will tell if that's truly the case, but for one night at least, it sure looked that way.

That started with The Beard coming out for his second speech of the week designed to make sure his fans are okay with his absence from the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and WrestleMania main event scene.  The YES! Movement is alive and like John Cena, he'll never give up.

Before we could learn what Bryan's big plans for 'Mania were, Bad News Barrett interrupted him and gave us a hint of what WWE's plans are for both of them.  Barrett is still pissed that Dean Ambrose stole his IC belt at Fastlane.  Queue The Lunatic Fringe for a brawl, one that results in the title landing in DB's hands (one of several that will hold it in these two hours).  The former Nexus leader ends that segment still without his championship and having gotten his asskicked.

It wasn't all bad news for Barrett, though, since he used the Ambrose's match with and eventual victory over The Miz as an opportunity to reclaim his prize.  Unfortunately, he should have gotten a bick lock for it or something, because R-Truth took time out of killing it on commentary (I'm still chuckling about his calling Byron Saxton "Coach" and welcoming him back from SportsCenter) to abscond with the strap and return it to Dean backstage.  To make matters worse, that crime was enabled when the Brit's losing streak continued when The YES Man countered a bullhamer with a running knee.

Though she's still being treated like a second class citizen who gets talked over by her husband and his friend, Natalya is buying in to Tyson Kidd & Cesaro's model of using underhanded strategies to complement superior in-ring skill.  As the tag champs watched, she faked an injury to get earn a victory against Naomi.  Put it more succinctly for me, FACT man...

New homeowners Lana & Rusev keep getting praise from President Putin, and keep throwing shade on John Cena for passing out in the Accolade.  The United States champ continues to say he will not rematch the Ce-nation leader.  But he is happy to continue stretching another patriot who won't give up, Jack Swagger, every time the Real American steps to him.

Don't listen to my boss.  Curtis Axel has a cutting edge new website that will finally, with the help of his crusade to main event WrestleMania by virtue of never having been eliminated from this year's Royal Rumble match, is finally getting the respect he deserves.  Well, when you lose to Fandango, respect probably isn't the word I'm looking for, but...

At least he's not Adam Rose, who ate a quick pin in his match with Goldust, and then had another wrestler impersonate a member of his entourage to attack the guy they're feuding with (this time it was Stardust in a Monkey Suit).  Rose has to be wondering if anyone even really wants to party with him, or if they're just using him for his menagerie.

Two men who are heading towards matches with guys who have limited dates on their contracts, Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns, did their best to hold up their programs by themselves.  The Eater of Worlds is more up to this task than The Big Dog.  If they were serious about fighting Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, they'd just go show up wherever they are, like this guy did.

And, in what felt like the 70th variation of Team Fired vs. Team Authority since Surivor Series, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan & Ryback got their win back from the pay-per-view (PPV).  Plus, they pinned Seth Rollins, which has triggered everyone's "Money in the Bank winners usually take a lot of losses right before they cash in" pattern recognition programs.

What to look out for

The Monday night extravaganza will be across the Hudson in Newark, New Jersey, making it possible for outgoing Daily Show host Jon Stewart to accept an invitation from Mr. Money in the Bank, Seth Rollins, to meet him face-to-face in the ring.  Does the 160 pounds of soft wood have a back-up plan for facing the Crossfit Superstar?  I hope so, because recent pins aside, I don't think a splinter will slow down Rollins.

The tenuous partnership within The Authority might, though.  Randy Orton seemed to reconnect with the faction responsible for writing him off in kayfabe, but given that he bookended the truce by chasing Seth out of Fastlane and RKO-ing J & J Security, everyone involved is understandably on their toes.

Unlike last week, the WWE champ isn't even expected to be in Jersey tonight, so it'll fall on his Advocate, Paul Heyman, to represent him against #1 contender Roman Reigns.  Will Heyman be up to the challenge of hyping both sides of the match?  And can The Big Dog keep his momentum going in the ring as he heads toward the biggest challenge of his career?

Cena will be looking to push Rusev's buttons to get the Bulgarian to give him a second chance at the red, white and blue belt.  And Bray Wyatt may need to pull out something other than strong language and symbols of the Dead Man in his quest to rise the Undertaker - and to keep heat on that program.

And, lo and behold, the Intercontinental title is a hot topic.  Ambrose and Barrett seem shoe-ins for the ladder match at 'Mania that will decide who leaves Santa Clara with the suddenly important accessory, but who else will join the fray?  Just the guys from last week's drama - Bryan, Ziggler and Truth - or will WWE round it out with another man to make it an even number?  And does that mean everyone else ends up in the Andre the Giant battle royal?

Tune in for all that, plus to hope that Stardust's quest to "get the attitude out" involves writing Kane or Big Show out of the main event.

What they should do

As we can presently assume things will shake out, the card for the Granddaddy of Them All doesn't look too bad from where I'm sitting.  'Mania is never going to be a Takeover - there are too many masters to serve with tastes that are diverse to say the least.

So having John Cena and Randy Orton away from the top prize while Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose get to work together in a story that elevates a secondary title and Tyson Kidd & Cesaro are getting a chance to impress as a unit is far from a worse case scenario.  Triple H vs. Sting does next to nothing for me, but I understand why it's on the card and I hope it entertains the folks who are looking forward to it, and pleasantly surprises me.

But there is one thing that has me hot under the collar.  No, it's not the treatment of women or minorities.  That one always simmers, but only rages to a boil at the grossest offenses - otherwise I'd probably have a heart attack.

No, the thing that has me on fire right now is Luke Harper's "Creative has nothing for you status".  As a Hollywood legend once said, "Really?  Really?  Really?"  This is a large man who can convincingly work any style in the ring.  An above average talker who has always been able to get over by adding character tics to his in-ring performance (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah).  Having spun him away from Bray, this is the perfect time to tweak his character.  If Erick Rowan can become a genius vinter, Luke can get something, right?

Even if he's not seen as a main eventer, he should be prepped to replace someone like Kane or Show (after Cody takes them out, natch).

Let's get him in that Intercontinental title program - remember, you gave him the belt a few months back, just before you forgot he existed?  Really, his character doesn't need changing, but if there was an idea you (or - gasp - he) had, this is as good a time as any to do it.  He's too good a pro wrestler to not get every chance to succeed on the biggest stage.  And I'm highly confident he can get over given half a chance.


What we're afraid they will do

I'm actually more than a little concerned about how this Jon Stewart situation is going to work out.  The powers that be have a tendency to overdo it whenever the get a whiff of mainstream approval.  And while I don't think the Big Daddy star will sign up for a lot of time on the show, I worry that they'll spend the whole night building up to an appearance that will be a let down, or end with Rollins looking like a chump, or both.

How will WWE build to 'Mania with three of the main event acts from that show not there, and one entertainment industry big shot there who won't be at the March 29th event?

Only one way to find out.  And the best way to do that is by watching along with your fellow Cagesiders in our live blog!

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