What you need to know
Sting did what needed to be done - hoot & holler like it was 1994, and completely disregard all the WCW nonsense Triple H has been spewing in the build to their WrestleMania showdown. Throw in a little Stephanie McMahon channeling her pops at his most evil, and not only a thwarted slap but also some bat trumps sledgehammer action - the 'go home' Raw was off to a rousing start.
Intercontinental championship wackiness ran wild, first when Dean Ambrose & R-Truth defeated Stardust & Luke Harper in a fairly paint-by-numbers tag match. The good news for titleholder Barrett was that he killed it on commentary and made it away from ringside with his belt. The bad news was that Kane took it from him for safe keeping until Sunday. The Lunatic Fringe pulled double duty, guest refereeing a rematch of the gauntlet finals from Smackdown. Dolph Ziggler defeated Daniel Bryan again in that one, but then all seven of 'Mania's ladder match participants went at it - even though brawling six days before it counts doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Something else ran wild, and it was a whole lot of -manias, but not necessarily of the Wrestle variety. Mostly, Snoop Dogg staked his claim to a spot in my all-time celebrity guests Top Five, by virtue of having fun, having Hulk Hogan call him a pothead and ripping off his shirt to expose his six centimeter pythons, brother. My man, Curtis may have been the butt of the joke, but bow-wow-wow, yippee-yo-yippee-hey, #AxelMania is here to stay. Jack.
Bill Simmons wasn't given as much to do, but The Sports Guy also acquitted himself well flashing some pro graps knowledge and schilling both WWE Network and the Andre the Giant Memorial. And doing that over the witty banter of Michael Cole, JBL and Booker T is no easy task. Not that trying to convince us that a match whose biggest names are pushing 50 or named Ryback is much easier. At least Will Ferrell & Kevin Hart stuck up for Damien Mizdow and stunt doubles every where - much to Miz's chagrine.
Since THE DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Kane was busy with logistical tasks, Jaime Noble & Joey Mercury were voted by the WWE Universe to do the important work of taking pins for Seth Rollins. J & J Security got App voted into an ass kicking, as Randy Orton DDT and RKO-ed them while licking his chops thinking about doing the same to Mr. Money in the Bank in Levi's Stadium.
WWE used another of their favorite tricks in building to Sunday's Divas tag match - teasing dissention between rival tag partners. AJ Lee was actually preaching sisterhood to Paige, but the Anti-Diva wasn't about to let a shot at Nikki Bella's championship pass her by. And on a night when Brie finally remembered to speak her forgiveness to her twin for their Summertime hostility, it was miscommunication between The Legion of Womb that cost the Brit the belt, and re-ignited animosity between them on the eve of their big pairs match at 'Mania.
Continuing to adhere to John Cena's "Never Give Up" credo, Jack Swagger took another run at United States champion Rusev. Unfortunately, the Real American didn't fare much better than the Face that Runs the Place. Swags tapped to an Accolade - again - and when Cena tried to stop the Bulgarian from inflicting more damage, John got beaten like a Nazi at Stalingrad.
Los Matadores got their interspecies win back over Natalya and the tag champs, but no one is betting on them or The New Day in the Kickoff tag title match on Sunday. I'll be wearing my heart on my sleeve in my fancy new Tyson Kidd/Cesaro shirt from WWE Shop, but you should never count out The Usos...even if they only have three good arms between them.
Not only did Bray Wyatt spit some fire in The Undertaker's direction, if The Dead Man wasn't going to show up, The Eater of Worlds used his own special effects and pose to further convince the world that he has a chance in hades come on the Grandest Stage of Them All. Paul Heyman likewise tried to carry a feud on his own, even though the newly re-signed WWE World Heavyweight Champ and the #1 contender were there. But they played children's games over a bauble rather than make war, and Monday night ended on a much more low key note than it began.
What to look out for
With a busy week ahead, the gang didn't go far. In fact, they stayed right in the Staples Center and kept on filming. We won't go into any of the particulars of what happened exactly, but if you want the blow-by-blow of the tail end of the night ahead of time, spoilers are right here.
Actually a little surprised that there was enough action to constitute a spoiler report for the last Thursday night before this weekend's spectacle. The pre-WrestleMania Smackdown has often been a full-on clip show and hype video affair. But thanks to the West Coast start time for Raw, we know for certain that we'll get yet a multi-man match, served up pot luck style with representatives from almost every match on the card for Santa Clara.
For team babyface, Daniel Bryan will represent for the ladder match, John Cena for the U.S. title (and, let's be honest, for John Cena), Mark Henry stands in for the Andre and Roman Reigns for the main event. They'll lock-up with Kane & Big Show from the battle royal, Seth Rollins of the Team Authority break-up and Bray Wyatt, still doing all the work for a guy who only works at 'Mania these days.
Other than that, you're probably still getting a whole lot of clips and video packages. The other six men who'll try to climb for the white and gold belt may get the night off after working what felt like half the show on Monday, but look for the pieces of tag matches that didn't have to wrestle on Raw to get some work...so maybe AJ, Brie, the healthy Uso and Kofi Kingston?
(Note: I know some folks have come looking for a more definitive match listing - that will be posted behind spoiler text in the comments. If WWE.com releases more information on anything that's officially going to take place on tonight's show, that'll be updated here)
I mean, you're either in or out already by now, right?
Whether you're committed or on the fence, you're guaranteed to enjoy yourself more if you watch along with fellow Cagesiders! Get started on a big weekend with the all your friends in the live blog tonight!