RAW Review 2-25-13, a.k.a. “A Change of Pace”
Most fans won’t readily acknowledge that RAW’s ratings, as of late, have hovered around the 3.1 area. While this means absolutely nothing to the average fan, it means a lot to analysts and pundits such as us.
It doesn’t mean or suggest that the quality of the product is getting better; what it does suggest is that fans are finding more reasons to tune into the show each Monday night. The “Road to WrestleMania” is typically filled with more than enough elements to energize fans and entice them to purchase the WWE’s annual mega-sports entertainment event, but last night’s show offered more than what most probably expected or anticipated. To say that last night’s RAW was knocked out of the park would be a huge understatement. While I would hesitate to say the show was “perfect,” I will say that it was great all around and well above average.
Three things made the show awesome: the hot Dallas, Texas crowd, the opening brawl between Brock Lesnar and Triple H, and the MOTY candidate bout between CM Punk and John Cena. Everything in between seemed to add some depth and volume to the undercard for WrestleMania XXIX. It will be interesting to see how the company can keep up this momentum between now and April.
Here’s the most noteworthy stuff:
- WWE Vengeance: Lesnar vs. Triple H II
- WWE Insurrextion: Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett
- WWE Judgement Day: The Shield vs. Randy Orton
- WWE December to Dismember: Featuring AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler, and Ryblack
- WWE Bragging Rights: CM Punk vs. John Cena
The evening started out with last week’s proposed fight between Mr. McMahon and Paul Heyman. While it was safe to assume that very few people (right-minded folks, mind you) expected a true fight to take place between the million-dollar geriatric and South Philly’s favorite son, even fewer could have accurately predicted the magnitude of the brawl that followed their slap fight.
Two really cool things happened during the exchange between Heyman and Mr. McMahon; for starters, Scott Stanford sent a tweet question whether Heyman had been robbing homes in Dallas prior to appearing on the show. Secondly, Heyman gave Mr. McMahon “The Pounce,” and no one seemed moved by his perfectly executed, skillful and dangerous maneuver.
Nevertheless the whole spectacle was cut short by the unmistakable sound of Brock Lesnar’s music. The beast of a man approached the ring and prepared to sink his teeth into Vince McMahon’s old and surprisingly muscular carcass. Before Lesnar could get another taste of McMahon’s blood, Triple H’s music blared through the arena and we all knew that a rematch between the two would take place at April’s blockbuster pay per view. The standard brawl took place between the two after McMahon hightailed it out of harms way, and everything that happened afterwards was unintentionally magnificent.
The brawl between Lesnar and Triple H seemed real; it felt real even though it looked phony at times. You could easily tell that Lesnar was using his MMA training against Triple H, who’s experience in body building didn’t seem to help his situation at all. I even wondered if there would be a point in the fight where Trips had to whisper to Brock, “Hey! It’s not real fighting, bro!” Not too soon after I had that thought, Lesnar eased up a bit on the realism and switched back into scripted entertainment mode.
The money moment of the fracas was when Trips sent Brock’s skull sailing into the ring post, busting him open the hard way. Half of Lesnar’s head was soaked in blood as the cameras attempted to avoid showing it on live television. Despite their best efforts the effect of this was necessary to make this rematch between the men mean something. I would venture to say that it was Lesnar’s blood that sold a good number of people on this pay per view alone; the awkward part of it all is that this was only the beginning of the show…
It’s anyone’s guess as to how epic their match will be at WrestleMania, but if their brawl last night was any indication we can expect this grudge match to be more passionate and grueling than their first encounter.
Another thing that stood out was a segment in which Sheamus made fun of Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and his work as an extra in the upcoming movie Dead Man Down, starring Ireland’s second favorite dandy, Colin “Remember Me?” Farrell. A few fans in my Twitter feed commented on how absurd it was for a face (Sheamus) to continue to be a face while making fun of (bullying) someone for their small part in a movie. I started to respond to a few of these comments but stopped when I thought about the lack of angst against John Cena and his many heel-like tactics over the past few years; be a star, everyone.
The eventual exchange between the two was far from being bad, and it actually provided a few chuckle-worthy spots (I particularly LOL’d when Barrett referred to the fans as “idiots;” it was the accent and the air of arrogant confidence that did it). I also site this as being worth mentioning because of a previous post where I stated that the only program decent for Sheamus at this point is a feud with Barrett for the Intercontinental Title. I also stated that spot belonged to Bo Dallas, a spot he was politely pulled out of because of WrestleMania season.
Another thing to consider is the recent “international flair” the title has acquired with its most recent champions. The title has suffered from a lack of importance, prestige, and significance as of late. Having non-American champions gives some sort of meaning to the title even if that meaning is still not all that defined. Another match between Sheamus the feisty fighting Irishman squaring off against Barrett the brutish bare-knuckle Brit is something good for both men and for the title.
Sheamus would make another appearance that night during an in-ring segment involving The Shield. The three members of the so-called “arm of justice” in WWE were busy spouting their manifesto to the audience when they issued a warning to the hapless superstars in the back. Sheamus strolled out in his wrestling gear and responded to their warning, only to serve as a decoy for a sneak attack at the hands of Randy Orton. With Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns advancing on Sheamus, Orton slithered into the ring and leveled Seth Rollins with a surprisingly devastating RKO.
A number of fans have commented that Orton seems to be floating aimlessly at this point in his career. I wouldn’t say a feud with The Shield would invigorate Orton’s character, but it would give the rub to the group of young lions. What’s more interesting about this story is the story of how all three of these young WWE superstars made it to their first WrestleMania. Speaking particularly about Dean Ambrose’s rise to glory, it was only at WrestleMania XXVII two years ago in Atlanta (where we first saw him in person) that he received a try out match with WWE, a match that got him this far in the company. It’s an impressive story, and to share that story with two equally talented young superstars in a match with Randy Orton is pretty big. It will be a thing of beauty to see what comes from this.
Speaking of things of beauty, AJ Lee’s fall from grace has been less majestic than anyone could have ever imagined. When you consider the amount of time and energy that was put into AJ’s character during the latter part of 2012, it’s amazing how dimly her once radiant aura shines now. Ever since being partnered with Dolph Ziggler, AJ has seriously fallen off the radar of relevance; problem is, there’s is no justifiable or logical reason for such a tremendous dip in attention given to her character.
The same thing could be argued for Dolph Ziggler, the current Mr. Money In the Bank contract recipient. Dolph has literally seen several stop and go storylines and at one point looked to be headed towards the main event scene like a bat out of hell. Things looked even better for the bleach blonde superstar when he was essentially given his own little stable to work with. It just seems like after awhile the writers gave up on him and have reduced him to wrestling matches for the sake of simply keeping him on fans’ minds and in our collective consciousness.
All of this could be for a good reason, however; Ziggler has until July to cash in his contract for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, and a lot can take place in the five months between now and the July 14 Money In the Bank pay per view. The more cynical fans tend to write off wrestlers or storylines that don’t receive immediate attention or payoffs. It remains to be said that patience is a virtue, and Ziggler may be in the midst of being primed to have a major role in the company moving forward.
The question is where does AJ Lee fit in the middle of all of this? At this point in the game she’s barely a skid mark in the frilly unmentionables of the Divas Division, and the creative writers have all but abandoned the idea of making her a credible valet for Mr. Ziggler. The good news for AJ is that she’s an actual wrestler, and given our affinity with Trish Stratus and Lita it would not surprise me at all that AJ’s “sunny days” are ahead of her.
As for Big E Langston, the massive and mysteriously silent monster is playing his role to the tee. Langston is standing in the footsteps of such legendary bodyguards as Diesel, Dave Batista, and Ezekiel Jackson just to name a few. Perhaps Big E will one day serve as the potential grouse in John Cena’s pheasant hunt. But then again, a man can dream can’t he…
Speaking of John Cena, just how exhilarating was his match against CM Punk on Monday night?!?!
Many fans and pundits have said this before already, but Cena seems to be the type of wrestler/superstar that is very capable of having an excellent match if he’s pushed to the limit by his opponent. It’s anybody’s guess as to the pep talk given to either Punk or Cena prior to the match, but whatever was said or done it gave both men the passion and desire necessary to deliver one hell of a battle.
We often condemn the WWE for not having matches like this on the regular, but the truth of it all is that these rare gems should be rare gems, because if matches like this happened all the time what exactly would a rare gem be?
The other thing to pay attention to is CM Punk’s ability to bring the best out of Cena. It’s often said (and ignored largely by fans) that a wrestler is only as great as his opponent makes him look. While the myth of John Cena’s stature tends to overshadow all around him, Punk truly stood out as a performer by showing off his ability to take Cena beyond complacency and mediocrity in the ring. This is why Punk’s legendary 21st Century WWE Title reign is lost among fans today; we miss the significance of all he brings to the product because we’re too busy focusing on the obvious flaws of the company to appreciate the crown jewels in their possession.
I did get truly pissed me off during the match as Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler casually ignored the fact that Punk spent a majority of the match working on Cena’s neck and head. It’s one thing to constantly state that Punk was “trying to wear Cena down,” but he could’ve easily done that by working on Cena’s mid-section, making it harder for him to breath the longer the match progressed. Instead Punk worked over a previously injured area of Cena’s body, making him super vulnerable for a knee to the face or the dreaded Anaconda Vice submission hold. I know understand why people say RAW’s commentary team has gotten awful. The little things always make a difference, and I wish the commentators could’ve at least acknowledged that in their incessant banter.
So what’s the end game for both men? Of course we get another “Once In a Lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena, but more importantly CM Punk is available for what could be the biggest match of his WWE career against The Undertaker at WrestleMania. We assume Taker will win the match, but what would it say about how the company feels about Punk if he becomes the first and only wrestler to defeat “The Dead Man” at the pay per view? Once again…a man can dream, can’t he?
That all I felt about the show last night. What do YOU think about it?