With Wrestlemania right around the corner and fans lobbying to take over shows to support their favorite wrestlers, there was almost as much action going on outside the ring as there was inside. With the last two weeks being filled with drama, returns and announcements, this week saw a slight dip down in terms of quality. I’ll jump right into it:
Hogan opens the show and announces a 30 man, Andre The Giant memorial battle royal for Mania. The winner gets a trophy. I have mixed reaction to this news. As great as it is to get 30 under-card guys on the show for a big payday and a chance to work at the biggest event of the year, I’d still rather see singles/tag matches so the workers get a chance to shine individually. I’m sure the match will be cool, but I’d rather have seen time given to a Shield three-way, Big E vs. Cesaro, and a Rhodes Brothers showdown. Anyway, Cena comes out to kiss Hogan’s ass, then the Wyatts come out to another great Bray promo about false hope. Man, Bray’s mic work gets better every week. Cena challenges Wyatt to a match at Mania (which Bray later accepts), then Cena beats Eric Rowan in a short but solid match. Rowan has improved SO much since NXT, I give him credit. Call me crazy, but Cena vs. Wyatt may steal the show at Mania.
Steph and HHH cut a promo about how Daniel Bryan needs to apologize for kicking HHH last week. The crowd in Memphis tries, but they aren’t even half as vocal as Chicago. The Usos beat Ryback/Axel in another short tag match. Nothing special, just showcasing the new tag champs. Then Big E rolls up Swagger in another very short, unimpressive match. More dissention in the Real Americans. I wish they’d been in some bigger match(es) at Mania. The first hour was very lackluster and boring.
Taker kicks off hour 2, but Heyman comes out to cut a great promo that gives stats about how nobody in history has ever had more than 4 Mania wins in a row, but Taker has 21. Heyman idolizes Taker and wants to see the streak stay where it is, so Taker should back out of the match with Brock. EXCELLENT way to put over the Undertaker and make Brock seem like a legit threat. Heyman did more for this feud in 5 minutes than most would do in 5 weeks. Rollins/Reigns vs. the Rhodes Brothers follows in what is easily the match of the night. Just great back and forth work that really showcased Reigns athleticism. The Shield win without dissention. Odd placement. The Bellas then beat AJ/Tamina when one of them pins AJ. The booking of AJ to get pinned in every match that isn’t for the title is atrocious. What an insult to your champion, which also helps nobody.
Daniel Bryan comes out and says the “Yes Movement” is taking over the show and not leaving until they get what they want. Several fans start to come in the ring with Bryan shirts on. In what begins as a lame attempt to shove fan-created terminology down our throats (ala the Fandango dance), it winds up looking like an amazing moment. The visual of TONS of fans in the ring and on the ramp, celebrating and causing ruckus with Bryan is really cool. HHH/Steph come out and do a wonderful job playing the antagonists, yelling and screaming and sending security down to take their show back. But Bryan’s crowd proves to be too much, and HHH gives Bryan a match with him at Mania. In a nice twist, Bryan also demands that if he beats HHH, he gets inserted into the world title match between Batista and Orton at Mania as well, and HHH angrily obliges. Excellent way to give Bryan a special moment on RAW and also building Mania around he and his story. Couldn’t be happier with the way it’s all playing out.
Christian and Sheamus wrestle (yes, AGAIN) in a Memphis Street Fight. The match is very solid (as all their matches have been), but there are two major disconnects. 1. The crowd doesn’t like either of them, or care who wins. 2. Sheamus ALWAYS wins. Sheamus wins again here (for the 4th time in a row), which makes the idea that this is a feud, seem silly. Good effort from both men though. The main event saw Bryan/Big Show vs. Orton/Batista. Bryan managed to carry this one to make it a half-decent main event, despite who he was in the ring with. Man, people really hate Batista (and you can count me among them). Bryan pins Orton cleanly with the running knee, and the crowd goes home happy.
Overall, two very solid matches (Shield tag and street fight) and two great promos (Wyatt and Heyman), but the special moment was Bryan and his fans “hijacking” RAW. Nice way to incorporate the fans efforts into also giving the fans what they’ve been begging for. Wrestlemania is really taking shape now with Wyatt/Cena, the battle royal, and Bryan potentially in 2 main event matches. This show started terribly slowly but did it’s job in furthering storylines and raising the fans awareness for the biggest show of the year. Until the next opening bell, valued readers…