February 27, 2014 by Joey Keogh
The first Raw after a PPV, whether it has been well-received or otherwise, is always problematic. If the fans got what they wanted the night before, the atmosphere is often electric, regardless of what the Monday night antics consist, but if WWE got it wrong, as they so often do, the weekly shows can suffer, to put it mildly. For the most part, the Elimination Chamber was a fun, frivolous and ultimately satisfying affair, with only the ending really falling flat of what everyone was hoping for. But really, in all honesty, did anyone actually expect Bryan to win? For the majority of fans (someone has to hate Bryan, right?), it was a kick in the teeth, but it didn’t take away from the rest of the show, or indeed the match itself, which was, for the most part, enjoyable.
Perhaps sensing some hostility from the gathered crowd in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the powers that be have pulled out the big guns tonight, with no less than three “surprise” guests (who are only really a surprise if you don’t live on planet Earth) set to appear. Two of them are decent, and the other is Hulk Hogan. As the show opens and we are reminded yet again that we are still on the road to Wrestlemania – in case you’ve forgotten since last night and thought we were on the road to Summer Slam or Hell In A Cell or whatever – it’s Hogan’s incredibly irritating theme tune that blasts through the arena, to, it must be said, rapturous applause.
The near-dead leathery one also receives a standing ovation from the commentators, though JBL is surely taking the piss as his smile seems much more forced than usual, even by his standards. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I was listening to whatever bullshit Hogan was spewing, but there are about a million replays of it during the night so I gather he’s happy to be back, brother, and also he’s hosting Wrestlemania, which we all already knew. Yippee. After he shuffles off, hopefully to die backstage at the feet of John Cena, who will surely cry genuine tears at his passing because he’s just that good, we get the first Network plug of the night.
JBL is mainly using the new system (which is running very well, cough cough) to search for himself, and watch classic matches where he beat the shit out of idiots like Boo-tista. He refers to it as “the greatest invention since the printing press” because he is an awesome heel and should be allowed to market things instead of ass-licker Cole. Seriously, that would be hilarious. Speaking of Cole, he’s still stuck on the idea that the Network is like TV, but BETTER. It sure is, Cole, it sure is. Now take your paycheque and shut up for a bit. Tonight, we will be seeing Kane versus Bryan, though, which will be good. And also Brock Lesnar may be in the building, which makes King sound so excited he might just have another heart attack live on air (too soon?) Before we get to any matches, did you know that Raw was the #1 most-watched TV show last week? There must be more marks than I thought! What a terrifying statistic!
Batista -v- Alberto Del Rio (rematch)
Given this is the first match that Boo-tista’s been involved in on Raw in four years, he isn’t very well-received at all, emerging to mostly boos. In fact, he pauses en route to the ring to point at a sign in the front row which reads “Boo-tista”, which either means he has more of a sense of humour than is at first obvious, or he’s trying to act as though he does when really he’s seething on the inside (much like his buddy Orton). Since this is a re-match, there’s really nothing new to enjoy, and the crowd quickly become bored, along with those of us at home wasting our precious time on this rubbish. Much like last night, the crowd are totally on ADR’s side, going crazy whenever Boo-tista gains any advantage over him. Just when we were all drifting off to sleep, what’s this? Orton’s music? ADR quickly seizes the opportunity to pin his opponent and win. Hooray, now on to something interesting, please.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio (and his wonderful scarf that apparently goes with everything in his wardrobe)
As Orton emerges, smirking as per usual, Boo-tista snarls in the ring, angered that nothing has changed for him and he’s still headlining Wrestlemania even though he doesn’t deserve it. Those bastards! Orton reckons it’s funny he interrupted the match and made him lose. It isn’t, because nothing has changed, but seeing Boo-tista lose is amusing nonetheless. “You know what else is funny, Dave?” Orton teases. Eh, not you Orton, the company could easily replace you with a Standee of yourself and no one would notice the difference. A “CM Punk” chant erupts as Orton points out how negative the crowd reaction has been, but Boo-tista is defiant, he’s glad he came back, this is his home and his return has absolutely nothing to do with the failure of his movie career.
Although, fuck knows why he didn’t do well, because he delivers the line “I love this business” with total conviction and not at all like he’s reading it off a strategically-placed card behind the camera. The two trade barbs for a bit, because Boo-tista reckons Orton’s dishonest, and they used to be friends, so how could they fight, and blah blah blah, but the best moment of the entire exchange – aside from when Boo-tista rubs it in that he’s headlining WM whether we like it or not – is when he momentarily forgets who he’s up against, in spite of the fact he and Orton have been discussing it for several minutes at this stage. Orton shakes his belts for a bit (oo-er) as Davey snarls. The whole thing was totally pointless so yay.
Cesaro -v- Big E Langston
What’s this? NOT a rematch? How odd! This is the Raw immediately after the PPV, right? I didn’t stumble across another one on the TOTALLY AWESOME NETWORK, did I!? Buy it now! Watch more Raw! Remember the good times! Speaking of which, tonight we are celebrating the 1,083rd episode of the show, which is a special number, no matter what way one looks at it. It’s beautiful really, brings a tear to the eye. Anyway, these two are both decent, Cesaro in particular has been gaining traction lately which is great, and he held his own in the Chamber last night – speaking of which, here are some screen grabs, because no free footage for you, loyal WWE fans! – but, let’s face it, this seems like a random pairing, even if the commentators are at pains to tell us how, though Big E is clearly bigger than his opponent, their strength is actually matched. It’s unclear how they figured that one out, but I’m certain it’s logically sound, because everything they say totally is. Although Cesaro isn’t quite over yet, he still gets a good reaction, with the crowd chanting “We the people” almost immediately upon his entrance, alongside fellow Real American, Jack Swagger and the man with the best moustache in the business, Zeb Coulter. Unfortunately, we don’t get any banter from Zeb this evening, nor do the three stop to do their regular, hand-on-heart declaration, which must mean we are in redneck country. Eek. This match is mostly played for laughs, with Cesaro attempting to pick his opponent up, and almost immediately toppling over afterwards, before Big E administers the Belly Flop (which I hope isn’t seriously the name of one of his moves). Cesaro delivers a decent amount of blows, in spite of his lack of comparative size, while JBL refers to him as “discombobulated”, a word I haven’t heard used on TV since an episode of Kenan and Kel. At one point, Big E holds Cesaro up and slams him down over his knee, almost like Bane and Batman, but with sillier costumes. Big E eats the turnbuckle twice, before the two roll around on the mat, holding one another in simultaneous headlocks. There are quite a few near misses, where it seems like it’s all over for each participant, before Big E reveals his triumphant moobs and we almost cheer “FINISH HIM” in unison. The crowd rallies behind Cesaro as he goes for the Swing again, but once more, Big E is just too heavy, and he collapses. Finally, he gets a good hold of his opponent and manages to swing him a shocking ten times, before Swagger intervenes and gets him disqualified.
Winner: Big E Langston (what an anticlimax)
Following that weird anticlimax, we are treated to more stills from the EC, to remind us that the Wyatts fucked Cena over and now he’s pissed and wants to confront them. He emerges to rapturous cheers, oddly enough, before revealing that the little kid inside him is thrilled to see Hogan back (see, he’s a total pro) and also the Network is totally awesome, you guys. It’s worth noting that there are lots of positive Cena signs on display tonight, more so than there have been in a long, long time at a Monday Night Raw show. Cena seems to notice he has traction here and so he speaks in a bizarre country twang tonight, using the word “y’all” while demanding respect, which is kind of counter productive. He realises he’s an easy target (probably the easiest, actually) but the Wyatts took his match and damn it, he wants revenge! He removes his shirt dramatically and waits for the inevitable strum of music to start, and the swamp folk to enter.
At this point, I took a bathroom break, and upon my return, the Wyatts still hadn’t entered, but at least they personalised their entrance slightly by saying “Green Bay, we’re here” which is a nice touch, if one is from Green Bay and easily satisfied. Bray takes his chair, and for a moment it seems we may be spared his pedantic bollocks but then he begins to talk and doesn’t stop for about five years. Suffice to say, he thinks a virus and an infection are the same thing, he flubs a line that he’s repeated on many an occasion, and he’d like us all to join him at the Hat Convention next weekend in Reno, if we’d be so kind. He’s showing an exhibition of specially-made head protection for swamp folk, and he reckons he’s got something to fit any budget, so please stop by and support him. As Bray stalks the ring, a dude in the front row gives a thumbs down – he knows what’s up – but it doesn’t deter him from claiming “We are the reapers who bring death to this era of lies” which means, what exactly?
Funnily enough, Cena’s one line, “My name is John Cena” elicits more cheers than Bray’s entire speech, perhaps because it’s not as tempting to check one’s Facebook during it. But why does he call everyone Jack? The man’s name is Bray, Cena. I know he’s boring and annoying but he definitely isn’t called Jack, I’m pretty sure. We’re teased for a bit as they stare each other out, before finally Cena takes all three of the Wyatts on, as the crowd start their first “Yes” chant of the night. They triple team Cena for a bit, but when Bray calls them off, he sells how hurt he is before turning it around and attacking again.
This probably has something to do with a rumoured match between Wyatt and Cena at WM, but we can only speculate (but that’s most likely what it is, because the WWE don’t do subtlety). Next up, we get a little backstage action as we are shown secret video footage of Sheamo and Christian having a big ol’ argument earlier tonight, amongst the bins and chairs and ghosts of shows long since past. Sheamo may be being calm as fuck, but nobody understands what he’s saying, so it all comes out like “Ye wanna foight, fella?” which leads the rather hilarious Brad Maddox to appear as if from nowhere and offer the two of them a match, which they graciously accept.
Sheamus -v- Christian
Another non-rematch – oh, they’re spoiling us tonight! This crowd LOVE Sheamo, and rightly so, because he’s totally awesome and he lasted a whopping 26 minutes in the Chamber last night, so good for him. These two are sort of feuding after last night, and also some other shit that happened on Smackdown that nobody really cares about. For once, Cole says something that makes actual sense, the Brogue Kick through the pod last night was totally fucking awesome, one of the highlights of the night, in fact! But before he can bask in the glory of being an actual journalist for a moment, JBL uses the word “rambunctious” and renders him totally useless once more. Maybe next time, Cole. Just keep at it, just keep showing us how to use the App and you’ll eventually gain the recognition you so crave. Apparently Sheamo is the first Irish-born WWE champ, which makes him a national treasure, even if he doesn’t hang around Cabra as much as he used to (come home to us, Sheamo!) Because he’s such an array of colours after last night – he looks like a box of Lucky Charms, essentially, but that’s not racist because I am Irish also so it’s okay for me to say that – the commentators speculate on what colour his opponent is and settle on “Canadian”. That might be racist, but I’m not sure, and Canadians would probably be too polite to say so anyway. No matter, because this match is surprisingly good, with Sheamo going so far as sticking his head between Christian’s legs at one point, in order to flip him backwards out of the ring, in spite of the fact both of them must be exhausted after last night. There are several, pretty decent, spots before Christian decides to take the top rope and launch himself at Sheamo, only for the Great White to deliver the Brogue Kick and seal the deal.
Winner: Sheamus (make us proud, son)
As our national treasure celebrates his win, and possibly the chance to finally get some rest, a sign in the crowd becomes visible which reads “I came to see Sheamus kick arse” – kudos to that person for using “arse” instead of “ass”. If Sheamo is able to see through the stars, he will appreciate that you made that distinction on his behalf. Earlier on, Renee was doing interviews in the parking lot, for some reason, where she interrupted The Authority as they were entering the building. Trips reckons the Network launch is akin to the first ever WM, which Steph, resplendent in a bizarre polo-neck with cut out shoulders, was present at, don’t ya know. Suddenly, they are interrupted by a super angry Bryan, who feels incredibly hard done by and demands to know what it’s going to take to get the recognition he deserves – what does he have to do, fight Trips!? Considering Punk was apparently supposed to fight Trips at WM, and apparently walked as a result of it, leaving Bryan to take the hit, it’s not surprising that this angle is being introduced now.
These “earlier on Raw” segments are weird, though. Why can’t these things just happen now? Is the show so packed full of action that there’s no time for them!? Or maybe it’s because they have to plug the Network more, but with the same goddamn info yet again. And then we’re on to another Black History Month segment, starring the Soul Patrol, AKA Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson, two interesting men who achieved a lot over the course of their careers. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to pay attention to what we’re being told about them, because the music that has been chosen to score this whole thing sounds uncannily like the Channel 5 News theme from Anchorman.
Elsewhere, The Shield are hanging out in some sort of damp, underground bunker, shrouded in darkness as they bicker like the cute little family they are. Ambrose tells his bitches, er, I mean, brothers, to listen to him and trust him implicitly, but, when he’s out of earshot little baby Rollins confesses he doesn’t really, possibly hinting at a fracture, yet again. As luck would have it, the Wyatts have chosen this exact moment in time to take a break from gator huntin’ and banjo playin’ to stroll through these very same corridors. What are the chances!? Bray refers to Reigns as an “interesting creature” because clearly he’s been stalking his OKCupid profile, and it works because Reigns wants a date, er, I mean, match with him tonight, which Bray graciously accepts. He needs to work on his evil laugh though, it’s not quite Bond villain enough yet.
Aside from the stupid “earlier on the show” segments, there’s also a brand new, Pre-show panel, headed by Josh, who tonight is joined by Booker T and Ric Flair. It’s called “Backstage Pass” according to the massive sign behind all of them, but no mention of that title will be made tonight (maybe they’re still working on it, because it kind of sucks?) Booker is excited for Reigns v Wyatt, while Ric is excited for Cena AND Kane, because he just loves everyone! He even manages to start a “Yes” chant because he’s that nice a dude, or he doesn’t really follow the show and thinks it’s something to do with either of those men he just mentioned.
Daniel Bryan -v- Kane
The moment we’ve all been waiting for – the reuniting of Team Hell No! Okay, it isn’t really, but still, we live in hope (and by we, I mean me). A euphoric “Yes” chant greets Bryan as he enters, still looking as pleased to be there as always, followed by his opponent, who really should have a different theme tune now that he’s corporate/the DOO. Bryan is still bandaged up, but over the course of the match, he’ll lose pretty much all of his dressing thanks to an unrelenting attack by Kane, who isolates his injured shoulder and refuses to let up as Bryan sells it like the champ he rightfully deserves to be. Bryan looks kind of tiny in comparison to his ex-best friend, but he gives as good as he gets in spite of it, and the crowd remain 100 per cent behind him throughout. At one point, Kane takes the top rope, only for Bryan to climb up there with him, grab a hold and flip him backwards onto his back – an impressive feat for someone about half his size. He also dropkicks Kane from the top rope, which is quite a sight to behold. A brutal choke slam from the DOO looks like it’s going to end it all, but Bryan still has more fight left in him and, quite shockingly considering the past few weeks, he emerges victorious.
Winner: Daniel Bryan (no, really)
Following the match, Bryan gives an impassioned speech to the crowd, as he calls out “sell-out” Trips while simultaneously demanding their match up at WM. He leads the crowd in a triumphant “Yes” chant, urging them to make their voices heard, which is commendable since he was, apparently, the second choice for this particular bout. Even King is onboard, calling for a “hashtag Yes” like an old man trying to sound cool (albeit sporting a garish, over-embezzled T-shirt, as always).
The Reigns/Wyatt match is teased with their remarkably similar promo shots, which honestly look like the same person but with slightly different facial hair and a strategically placed, Photoshopped hat, so that’s kind of confusing. Lesnar is definitely here too, which completely removes any element of surprise for later. We get another Rusev promo. Snore. But more importantly – Summer Rae is finally getting a match!
Divas Match: Summer Rae -v- Emma
Words cannot express how happy this makes me. Finally, Summer is being given a shot to show how great she is. I don’t even mind that it’s opposite someone with the worst entrance music in the history of the world, who looks borderline offensive when she does her “hilarious” dance moves. Apparently, Emma recently beat Summer at a dance-off on SD, which nobody cares about because it’s irrelevant. For once, Fandango is on the sidelines, delivering some wonderful reactions that almost rival that of his girlfriend’s. Almost. Apparently, Summer will feature on the second season of Total Divas, too, which means it may be time to finally get around to watching it! Anyway, this is a mostly silly match, but Summer can definitely wrestle, even when she incorporates some dance moves here and there. She can be pretty sadistic too, in spite of dressing like Tinkerbell, as she squashes her opponent’s face into the ropes and asks Santino (also watching from the sidelines) “Isn’t she CUTE!?” Watching her choke Emma is more satisfying than it really ought to be. Maybe I have anger issues, or her entrance music is designed to cause fits of blind rage. In her defence, the girl is flexible as fuck, and the so-called Emma Lock is pretty cool. Unfortunately, neither of these women really gets to showcase their talents because it’s over before it’s even really begun, because Summer taps out. Grr.
Winner: Emma (please don’t play the song again)
In case you’ve blocked it out, respected news outlets (and TMZ) have been covering Hogan’s return, which means the world really is ending and we should all go live underground now. After that shocking reminder of the demise of the worldwide media, we are treated to screen grabs of last night’s tag team match, complete with SOUND EFFECTS so it feels like we were really there (except not).
New Age Outlaws -v- The Usos (rematch)
After kicking ass last night, in the tag team match, in spite of their advancing age, the Outlaws are on a high and, as they enter the ring, they stand around for a few minutes, cracking up over their old people jokes (or memories of soaking Cole with a water pistol). They tell their opponents to respect their elders and leave the ring while they do their little opening bit, because they reckon they’re going to win yet again. Unfortunately, just as Road Dogg is delivering his infamous speech, The Usos interrupt and choke slam him, causing the crowd to boo like fuck. And that’s it, it’s over. Ten seconds of a match, most of which was speaking. Talk about disrespect.
Winners: The Usos (brats!)
The commentators literally have not stopped plugging the Network tonight, and yet Cole still manages to flub his line. The next match is about to start, but before that, another Nashville promo y’all! Sorry, I mean, another Wrestlemania promo.
Roman Reigns -v- Bray Wyatt
Both men have promised to leave their cohorts behind for this match up, and therefore Reigns enters the arena alone, to a few scattered boos. He also looks kinda sad as he waits in the ring for his opponent who, let’s face it, takes a fucking year to get there. Cole is over-using the word “collision” again, for some unknown reason, but at least it kills time while we suffer through this long-ass entrance for the second time tonight. Finally, the battle for the Lorèal contract begins! Whose leave-in conditioner will be victorious! In all seriousness, this one is pretty great. Reigns actually manages to leap several feet into the air before elbow-dropping Wyatt, which almost happens in slow motion, it’s that cool. He also pulls on Wyatt’s beard before powering out of a choke hold, as he is wont to do lately (seeing him do so never gets old). Bray still has a long way to go with regards to his fighting style, but at least he isn’t standing around, talking bullshit like he usually does. A “CM Punk” chant punctuates the air as the two circle the ring, which is funny, because Raw is in Chicago next week (uh ohhhh). There’s also a chant for Randy Savage, but that has nothing to do with anything. Cole comments that both men “are trying to gain advantage” which is so insightful, it might just win him a Pulitzer for journalism. Reigns pretends he’s fading and exhausted, but really he’s just faking to gain traction. Before he can seal the deal, though, Harper and Rowan show up, only to be tackled by Rollins, who didn’t even descend the stairs like he normally does, thereby totally getting the jump on everyone! Reigns takes the opportunity to deliver a Superman Punch, Ambrose appears – he hasn’t even had time to remove his jacket – to corner Wyatt and the bell rings, because none of this is fair. Of course, it doesn’t matter, because this lot aren’t afraid of a DQ, they’re outlaws! Not THE outlaws, obviously, because they were on beforehand, but you get what I mean.
Winner: Bray Wyatt (by DQ, so whatever)
Following the chaos of that match, we return backstage, to where Brock Lesnar is receiving a pep talk from his manager, Paul Heyman, whose presence is sorely missed on Monday nights, along with the incomparably wonderful Vicky Guerrero. Heyman advises his clients not to tear “anything or anybody” up tonight, which is fair enough for anyone else, but seems kind of redundant when it comes to Lesnar. Before we get to him, though, next week’s Raw is going to feature Need For Speed (sigh) star Aaron Paul! Is this is a more random booking than Betty White? Only time will tell. Lesnar and Heyman are soon in the ring with a table and a contract for signing, which Heyman explains has been offered to his client, by The Authority, in order for him to choose any opponent he wants for WM.
Heyman refers to this offer as a “consolation prize” because “In WWE, you can have anything you want, except for what you want the most” which may be a nod to poor ol’ Bryan, or may just be clever writing (for once). Like a good manager, Heyman then lists his client’s accomplishments in order, while Lesnar stands there smirking, and thinking about beating people up. Basically, Lesnar wants to make history – he doesn’t just want a match, he wants THE match, he wants to be World Heavyweight Champion and nothing else will satisfy him. Heyman’s a truly great speaker – he was even featured on The Soup! – and, as he turns to leave, it’s clear that nothing short of a miracle is going to satisfy him this time.
Then, right on cue, none other than The Undertaker’s theme tune begins, signalling that shit is about to go down (even if we did see it coming a mile away, because it’s usually about this time every year that he shows up). His entrance is still very atmospheric, even after all these years – it reduces me to an excited little kid every time. Lesnar actually looks kind of scared, as he waits for him to approach. Taker, on the other hand, looks much healthier than the last time he was on, which may have something to do with the colour in his beard, but who knows, one match a year is probably doing him well. The crowd are deafening as the two stare each other down. Taker glances at the sign and Lesnar nods quietly. A dude in the front row puts his jacket on, sensing the show is over. Lesnar leans over and signs the contract, but Taker stabs him in the hand with the pen, before choke-slamming him through the table! A “holy shit” chant follows, which is totally justified, as Taker broodingly descends the stairs and shuffles off, leaving Lesnar to writhe in pain on the mat – surely a sign of what’s to come at WM?
Considering this was the first Raw after the PPV, it wasn’t a completely terrible show, although it ultimately wasn’t amazing either. There were scarcely few matches, and too much time was wasted on talking about what happened last night, instead of just showing it (we get it, we have to pay for it, but a few seconds of play isn’t going to bankrupt the company). Certain feuds are being set up, such as Sheamo and Christian, Cena and Bray Wyatt and, of course, Lesnar and Taker, but the introduction of this Bryan versus Trips angle feels cheap and, ultimately, quite unsatisfying. I mean, does anyone actually want to see these two fight at WM? That’s not to say Punk v Trips would’ve been much better, of course, but Bryan deserves a proper opponent, and a genuine chance. Why not build his feud with Kane and line those two up for WM instead?
There’s history there, they work well together, it could be built up over the coming weeks, and, most crucially, it’s interesting. Bryan versus Trips isn’t interesting, it’s just pandering, as per usual. Speaking of Punk, it’s rumoured that he could return at WM, or possibly even the week before, which could be interesting, or disastrous, depending on what they choose to do with him. Everyone wants him back, and he still has massive reach, it’s just not clear if he has any desire to return. But if this week’s Raw is anything to go by, they’re struggling to fill the void without him, and there’s only so much of the same ol’ shit we can take before it all becomes sadly, unavoidably, predictable.
Here’s hoping that, even though this wasn’t the best Raw ever, as even Foley had hoped it would be, maybe next week’s will be a bit better. Or at the very least be so stuffed full of matches we won’t notice the rest.