WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 7, 2014) from New Orleans, Louisiana, featuring the fallout show from the WrestleMania 30 pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza that went down this past Sunday night in the very same city.
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.
- Just way too cool for Raw to open with the crowd doing the YES chants without any lead in from Michael Cole, no pyro, no nonsense. Just the hottest crowd we will get all year showcased cheering for the WWE world heavyweight champion they've been begging for so long and now finally got. When he came out and led the arena in "YES" chants, it was glorious.
- Good god, these people were hot for Bryan. Like, Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1998 hot for Daniel Bryan.
- Triple H: "I'm not going to get in the ring because I might do something to you I would regret." Daniel Bryan: "Oh, you won't? Here, let me do this. (Gets in his face and does the YES chant with his two titles.)" Bryan has always been the "hey, I'm just smiling because I'm happy to be here" guy but he added that extra layer of defiance to it with this one bit. He's always needed that little extra punch and it felt like such a boss move. We didn't just want him to win, we wanted him to win and then rub it in Triple H's face. He did that here. Even better? They set up a title match with it so the return bout would be so much hotter. And because of the WWE Network they don't even have to worry about giving it away on Raw anymore.
- Batista showing up to complain at Triple H about "not getting any of this" felt so very reality era. Like he doesn't get any of the decisions made by the powers that be, made by the wrestlers he's worked with, made by the fans cheering against him, made by the fans cheering for Bryan. He just doesn't understand. That's okay, because he's not supposed to.
- This tease of an Evolution reunion does not tickle me the way it tickles others. I love a good strong heel group as much as the next guy, but I'm partial to the work Triple H, Batista, and Randy Orton have been doing over the past couple months. I've especially enjoyed Orton and can't imagine he would prosper in a stable, though he's proved me wrong many times over in the past. This could also be Triple H having fun with the Internet again, considering the rumors. That said, I'm confident they can make it work and maybe I shouldn't underestimate the three of them together because of the great work they've done individually. Plus, they could mask Batista's newfound weaknesses as a performer.
- I'll give John Cena this much: He knows where he is and who he's in front of at all times. I want him to be the babyface who knows he's the man and makes no bones about it. When he walks out and gives the crowd in New Orleans a shit-eating grin, almost acknowledging that he got over on their guy and there isn't a damn thing they can do about it, it plays into that and feels so very right. He can do this for crowds like this in situations like this without sacrificing his character anywhere else. He's basically Bret Hart the babyface in Canada, heel in America.
- This crowd was so incredible, they were singing songs together and swaying like they were one entity. It was amazing. The post-WrestleMania crowd has become something as special as WrestleMania itself.
- LUKE HARPER SUICIDE DIVE.
- They booked The Wyatt Family in a six man against John Cena, Sheamus, and Big E so they could give the Wyatt clan a clean win without actually having to pin Cena, right? And I'm curious as to why he was butt scooting up the ramp and looking at the ring in absolute terror after Bray hit Sister Abigail on Big E and got the three count. What's he terrified of? He just won a match against that very same guy, despite his having two big monsters with him, just last night. Inconsistency sucks.
- I do not Bolieve. I don't.
- Good to see the crowd get behind Emma and do the dance, though the enthusiasm was tempered. I remain convinced it's tempered because there are so few people who still want Santino Marella to be a character on television next to truly talented acts. Sure, he has his place on the roster and can do some incredibly entertaining things. Maybe my problem is there's likely a belief within WWE that Emma needs to be paired with Santino just to get some sort of story for her character and it wouldn't be worth it otherwise.
- First thought upon seeing Brock Lesnar's black eye was that WWE put make-up on him. Then they got up close and I couldn't be sure. Then I wondered why such a thing would matter to me in this setting and here was the man who defeated Undertaker's WrestleMania streak and Paul Heyman had a microphone and was getting ready to talk and oh hell yeah.
- "We hate to say we told you so, but ladies and gentlemen ... WE TOLD YOU SO! ... EAT, SLEEP, AND BREAK THE STREAK!" This was arguably the biggest promo of Heyman's career and he delivered like he always does. "Brock Lesnar is here to put tears in the eyes of children." Glorious. Then he started referencing "shooting" from the hip and called out Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler for being awful commentators (he's right) and made fun of Hulk Hogan for botching his lines at WrestleMania last night (he did). This was perfect. It was fun, and it was fun because he was saying all this from a position of extreme power. No one could refute what Heyman was saying. How could they? He was standing next to the man -- who was so perfectly mixing intimidation, badassery, and outright glee at the pain of every fan in the arena -- who broke the streak. If Lesnar didn't already look like the baddest son of a bitch who ever lived for beating Undertaker at WrestleMania, Heyman made him a god with this promo.
- My only issue here is what comes next. I would love a Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan program but then you have an impossible conundrum as far as booking goes. That's a corner I wouldn't want to be in, and I'm glad I'm not paid to make these decisions. You have to capitalize on breaking the streak but you also have to keep Bryan hot after he just had his big WrestleMania moment(s).
- Adam Rose joins Bo Dallas as a call up coming soon. Rose is fine but give me Sami Zayn so they can run back the Cesaro feud on the main roster.
- The first Uso punch on Batista was the ugliest I've seen all year. The first Uso punch on Randy Orton was one of the best I've seen all year.
- The booking of Orton and Batista as a team in a tag title match seemed odd at first, then made some sense after considering all the booking possibilities. Then they had an unbelievably short match that featured very little action and went to a double count out where the tag champs, The Usos, ended up laying on the outside like two guys who aren't anywhere near the former Evolution stablemates in the pecking order. That's absolutely true, but still a baffling decision to make it a title match just to go to a double count out. I may be splitting hairs but putting the belts on them may have been a good idea if they're really reuniting Evolution. Confused by this all the way around.
- RVD! RVD! RVD!
- Really, really appreciated the good heeling from Damien Sandow, the forgotten genius, interrupting Rob Van Dam trying to get his gimmick off to the crowd. They all wanted to run with it and he refused to let them, at least at first. That can come later and it would feel that much better when they got there. Simple but effective.
- Think about this: There was a time when Rey Mysterio would have been a prime candidate for the post WrestleMania Raw crowd to get him over. Now think about how long gone those days are and the fact that they're never coming back. It's almost sad to think of.
- Boy is it good to see Bad News Barrett not only used in a televised match but used correctly. The heel asshole should absolutely make the babyface wait to start the match just so he can get in his face and tell him he's afraid he's got some bad news. And considering the position the two are in and the crowd they were in front of, it was the right call to have this match play out the way it did. Mysterio's lot in life with WWE has permanently changed and it's good to see the powers that be willing to ride with that wave.
- LANA! It really is great seeing her there next to the ring, stalking around while Alexander Rusev utterly obliterates Zack Ryder. You know, I wasn't sold on the guy after all those awful promos but that beat down of Ryder was impressive. He's athletic, vicious, and powerful. I'm not sure why, but I really liked his stoic expression when he tapped Ryder. All told, this was a fine debut if somewhat underwhelming considering how much they tried to hype it.
- They had Ultimate Warrior come to Monday Night Raw and he didn't run down to the ring. I understand he's an older man but his gimmick these days is that he's managed to stay in great shape. He can't run down? At least he shook the ropes... wait, he didn't really shake the ropes, he grabbed them and tried and they didn't really move. I'm going to choose to believe they tightened those ropes just to rib the guy because I think that's funny.
- Oh dear god, he asked the cameraman to hold the microphone so he could put on a Warrior mask and act like he was suddenly Ultimate Warrior again. Then he proceeded to massage his ego some more because, apparently, he's still just so very insecure about the way WWE has treated his character for the past however many years. Honestly, I was fearful he was going to have a heart attack right there in the ring. Let's let that be the last time Warrior comes out and cuts a promo on WWE television, please.
- AJ Lee coming out and calling herself the "best Diva in the world" had to be on purpose, right? I mean, this is the reality era and all that good stuff, so AJ got to do a little trolling like Heyman earlier, right?
- In front of any other crowd, Paige debuting like this probably wouldn't have worked. But this crowd, full of hardcore fans and the core WWE audience, many of whom know her and the fantastic work she does, gave her a very warm welcome. AJ, for her part, was an awesome heel full of hubris, eager to put this rookie in her place.
- I did like Paige saying she wasn't ready for this match yet she came out to congratulate AJ while wearing full ring gear. Unless she's like John Cena and just wears her ring gear everywhere.
- And holy shit, they put the belt on Paige in her first main roster match, having her go over the longest reigning Divas champion in history. Maybe that explains the "best Diva in the world" line. AJ knew she was losing the title tonight and just said to hell with it. I'll say, though, that was the best Divas segment since AJ's pipebomb shell promo, and maybe better seeing as the Bella twins weren't anywhere screaming to say it to their face.
- You know what's great? That Hulk Hogan is at that age and in that position that we can absolutely have fun with him by repeatedly bringing up his awful WrestleMania botch at the Silverdome Superdome, brother jack dude. It's also great that WWE, Hogan, and everyone else has been so light hearted and easy going about it all. Way to have a sense of humor, Hulkster. It was a pleasant surprise that Hogan just said "congratulations" and just left.
- HOLY SHIT, CESARO IS A PAUL HEYMAN GUY. THE KING OF SWING. THE SWISS SUPERMAN.
- So instead of having Cesaro lug the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy around with him, they had that dastardly jealous idiot Jack Swagger come out and break it the very first night Cesaro had it. This was perfect. Swagger got over huge as a heel here, and the way they played the Heyman bit put Cesaro over big. I'm not sure how they'll manage to alternate heel and babyface with Heyman as an advocate but that can be worked out later. For now, hell yes.
- Okay, they made this even better by having the two work a match after a commercial break and Heyman, awesome as he is, decided to grab the broken piece of the Andre trophy and carry it around while he managed Cesaro. This thing was missing a foot, but Cesaro celebrated with it anyway. The fans, by the way, hummed along to the Patriot theme, still being played for Cesaro. This was great.
- I loved WWE bothering to have Stephanie rally The Shield just before the main event title match. Because I absolutely expected them to appear in some way in the main event by the time all was said and done, it's more effective to set up having The Shield help Bryan than it is they just do it without warning. This also could lead to that rumored Shield vs. Evolution deal.
- I really, really liked the way they played this. Bring out Batista and Randy Orton before Triple H has even made his entrance, bring Kane out too, and have them beat Bryan down. Meanwhile, The Shield are lingering in our mind and the crowd, right on cue, chants "HOUNDS OF JUSTICE" (they switched to 3MB pretty quickly, but whatever). Then Triple H comes down and because of everything that's happened, you feel like maybe they really do beat Bryan and take his title away. Hell, they killed this guy every way they could in 2013. Why not in 2014 too?
- Then, The Shield. I like the masks. I do. Yes,they're a little Aces and 8s but they work because Roman fucking Reigns, Seth fucking Rollins, and Dean fucking Ambrose are the ones wearing them.
- Then, that Spear on Triple H was absolutely amazing. That double suicide dive was even better. That choke slam break into a Superman punch was even better. Their surrounding Triple H for a Triple Powerbomb was just the best damn thing. All to set up Bryan's flying knee so the heels could grab their king and drag him out of the ring. This was awesome. It felt electric, like The Shield and Wyatt Family feud from February.
- "You just started a war you cannot win," Triple H shouts to The Shield and Bryan. "THIS IS WAR!"
Fucking awesome. The future is here, and were it not for that awful glimpse into the past -- which has nothing new to say, by the way -- this would have been an A+ evening of entertainment.
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?