The 2/24/14 edition of Raw was one of the busier ones in the past calendar year. All in all, we saw the returns of Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker, the launch of the WWE network, the setup of the card for Wrestlemania, and several excellent matches. Lets go step by step through an eventful three hours.
The show opens with a Hogan promo about the WWE network being launched and how he will be the Wrestlemania host. Good crowd reaction. I was hoping he’d get more into the future and put over some young talent, but this was fine for what it was intended to do. Nothing special, but a nice way to get the crowd going. Batista vs. Del Rio followed, because clearly it did so well at the Chamber and everyone wanted to see the rematch. Please excuse my sarcasm. Batista was once again booed to the high heavens, while Del Rio only seems to get cheered when he’s facing Batista. The match was ok, again nothing special, but passable. Orton distracts Batista, leading to a Del Rio win. The post match Orton-Batista promo was pretty bland (go figure), but I do love how Orton acknowledged the fact that the fans hate Batista. I really, really do not want to see this match ever, let alone headlining the biggest show of the year.
Cesaro vs. Big E is next, and this was great. Once again, Cesaro is in my favorite match of the night, and I think this is Big E’s singular best effort he’s had since being on the main roster. This had plenty of time to develop, and was given a lot of false-finishes. Big E sold Cesaro’s strikes really well, and both men utilized tons of nice counters. Big E’s agility and Cesaro’s strength amaze me every week. Just as Cesaro is about to win, Swagger runs in and attacks Big E, giving the former Langston the win by DQ. Then Cesaro lays Big E out with the Neutralizer. They are teasing the Cesaro/Swagger breakup big-time, and I think it’s time. For Mania, I’d LOVE to see Cesaro and Big E again for the IC belt, but Cesaro vs. Swagger would also be great.
Cena is out next to call out the Wyatts for the Chamber attack. Guess everyone forgot about the Rumble? Oh well. Wyatts emerge as Bray talks about Cena wanting to be a hero and letting people down, while Bray is the truth. Excellent cryptic promo as always from Bray. Then the Wyatts attack Cena, but Rowan accidentally hyper-extends Cena’s leg right away, and Cena is visibly very hurt. Great segment, I just hope Cena is ok for Wrestlemania, because this may easily be the match I’m most looking forward to. Sheamus vs. Christian follows, and it’s another very good match. Sheamus’ personality is extremely bland and he gets a lot of (justified) heat, but he’s been working hard since his comeback. Christian falls short yet again after a top rope dive gets countered into a Brogue Kick…sick finish. Great match, I just wish Christian was treated better. He deserves more in what will likely be his final run with the company.
Bryan vs. Kane was next, and low-and-behold, it’s another very solid match. Maybe not on par with Bryan’s other recent outputs, but fun to watch. Nice story as Kane works over Bryan’s shoulder, and Bryan tries to work Kane’s leg to chop the bigger man down. Lots of good psychology here, and some great bumps by Bryan. Bryan gets the win with the flying knee, and cuts a promo on how he wants to face HHH at Mania. Stinks that he’s officially out of the Mania main event, but beating a legend like HHH on the biggest stage is still a good way to use Bryan here. No complaints from me. Emma beats Summer Rae in a short match next. Summer Rae has personality for days and looks better every week. Emma is an excellent wrestler, but I hate the stupid dance gimmick and the fact that she was thrown into a comedy role with Santino so quickly. The New Age Outlaws lose to the Usos in about 20 seconds next. The Usos attacking the NAO, cutting off their pre-match shtick was ill-advised and makes them look like heels. Otherwise, they got their heat back and should be getting another shot at the belts at Mania.
Wyatt vs. Reigns was solid as well, but the crowd was really weird. They started off dead, and then started crapping on the match by chanting random things. Strange night for the crowd of Green Bay. Anyway, not the best effort by either man, as the match started very slow, but picked up in its second segment. Ambrose runs out and attacks Wyatt at the end, costing Reigns the match by DQ, which was the EXACT same finish from earlier in the Big E/Cesaro match. Uncreative, but keeps things going forward for the Shield breakup. I’d love to see those 3 in a triple threat at Mania.
And finally, Lesnar and Heyman are out for a promo, saying HHH gave them an open contract to face anyone at Mania. Heyman says they decline the offer, because they want a history-making moment. The gong hits, the lights dim, and the Undertaker appears to a great reaction. After a stare-down, Lesnar signs the contract, then Taker jams the pen into Brock’s hand, and choke slams him through the table. Nice closing segment. I think Taker’s age/body and Brock’s reckless style are a weird dichotomy and make for a dangerous component here. I’d rather see Taker face a few other less established guys (Reigns, Ambrose, or Ziggler), but this should be solid. Not my first choice, but they will find a way to deliver. Until the next opening bell, valued readers…