Stephanie McMahon opened the show with thanks for the audience for attending and news that Daniel Bryan would not be competing. Bryan was not medically cleared to wrestle. At no point was this directly attributed to the beating he had suffered at the hands of Triple H the week before, even though said beating was the basis of a later segment. Which felt like a wasted opportunity. Steph justified the attack by saying that a message needed to be sent to the locker room so that nobody started to develop ideas above their station. Beating Bryan senseless was "the only way" to get him to listen.
Then she talked up her family. Again. Interestingly this included her saying she felt she is the only person capable of shouldering the responsibility of decision making. She then added that Triple H is the most powerful man (emphasising man) in WWE while talking him up. The more comments like that get made (and they're getting made routinely) the more material Vince McMahon will have to work with when he returns to TV. Which will surely be soon.
Randy Orton (wearing his ring gear even though he wouldn’t wrestle on the show) joined Steph in the ring to offer a suggestion: that 'The Game' simply end his WrestleMania XXX at beating Daniel Bryan, because Orty will have to batter him if he enters the triple threat. The suggestion was met with "Boring!" and "Daniel Bryan!" chants, the latter of which prompted Steph to reiterate her promise that he wouldn't be on the show.
Just when viewers were thinking things couldn't possibly get any more charismatic Batista mooched down to the ring. This week's natty ensemble was a merch T-shirt, sunglasses and some ripped jeans. It turned out hearing the two talking had compelled Batista to remind the world that he's going to be the next champion. His proof was that he's been saying he'll be the champion for weeks. On Planet Batista saying something repeatedly makes it true. He then said "Deal with it" three times. Whether you like him or not you have to admit he makes a compelling argument.
In fairness 'The Animal' did bring up something relevant to the storyline after that when he mentioned that Triple H has never beaten him. Then he said Orton's sucking up to The Authority makes him sick and cracked a joke about Stephanie being drooled over. Steph slapped the shades off Batista's face and left. Then Batista speared Orton and posed with the belts.
The segment did little other than establish that Orton and Batista are underestimating Bryan. The most entertaining part of it was Batista's microphone malfunctioning. He tried a witty, off the cuff remark when that happened, but it was poorly delivered and not at all witty anyway so he was booed for it. Orton turned around to hide his laughter.
The evening's first match was a four-way match to decide who'd get to challenge for the Intercontinental championship the following night on Main Event. The competitors were Sheamus, Christian, Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio. IC champ Big E sat at ringside and watched. It would have been nice to have him on commentary. The match was fun in places but was mostly unmemorable. It did have an above average finishing sequence though: Sheamus stood up while Del Rio had the cross armbreaker applied to him, at which point 'The Show Off' nipped in and delivered a Zig Zag to the arm barred arm. Before he could make a cover he was dropped with an Unprettier by Christian, giving 'Captain Charisma' the victory and the title match.
Big E entered the ring and offered a handshake to the veteran. Christian laughed and walked off. Backwards up the ramp, natch.
A Wyatt Family vignette was shown. Before he started the standard issue gibberish waffling Bray came out with some enjoyable stuff about people not believing in things they can't see, being able to see John Cena, and Cena not taking the time to "see" him. Luke Harper also got a few lines about being able to hear Cena whispering. He has a wonderfully dead stare that makes these sorts of statements particularly effective. Erick Rowan said nothing, although he was looking dapper in his sheep mask and boiler suit.
|This sort of thing happens now. Get over it|
After Sin Cara (accompanied by a bloke in a Scooby Doo outfit) had beaten Damien Sandow with a Swanton bomb there was a thirty second match between Los Matadores and RybAxel. Diego and Fernando won when The Shield walked to ringside through the crowd and distracted Curtis Axel. Ryback was isolated in the ring, speared and triple power bombed, all to the sound of cheers. People are not keen on 'The Big Guy'.
The first hour of RAW ended with a sitdown chat between Michael Cole and Triple H. The point of it was to discuss 'The Cerebral Assassin's' attack on a handcuffed D-Bry at the end of the previous week's show. Triple H's immediate response when asked about the attack was whether he should answer as the COO or a competitor. Then he mentioned Bryan's occupy RAW segment from March 10, calling it an attempted coup. Tripper's defence seemed to be that Daniel Bryan had done something wrong so it was perfectly reasonable for him to respond in kind. That's probably not how things work other publically traded corporate entities, but who cares about that, eh?
Cole replied that Bryan's occupation of the ring was "an inspiring act" while Triple H's attack was an act of "thug-like aggression". It's hard to disagree with the latter. Trip's response to that was that Bryan had asked him to be a competitor and that when he was a full-time competitor he did things like that all the time. Which is true of course, but doesn't exactly excuse his heelish behaviour. Basically the segment was proof that extended debating on the motivations of wrestling bad guys is ill advised.
The segment ended with Triple H working himself up and announcing the beginning of The Reality Era (something I don't think will catch on). He used the word "reality" what must have been at least a dozen times as he said he'd end Bryan's run on top and become the WWE champion. Reality is best for business.
|'Crazy Legs' Fandango|
Match four saw Cody Rhodes facing Faaaaaan... daaaaaan... goooooo. Summer Rae being at ringside was an excuse for the commentary crew to plug Total Divas. They seized it with gusto, Cole referring to Summer as a stooge (apparently for something that had happened on the previous evening's TD). Over at the ring Goldust and Summer got into a pose off at ringside, distracting Fandango and allowing Cody to win the match with a Disaster Kick.
That was followed by another promo. This one featured Hulk Hogan, who got a loud reaction and avoided tearing his shirt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Joe Manganiello (no idea). After 'The Hulkster' had made the obligatory trip down memory lane he introduced the actors, both of whom were cheered, to put over WWE and talk up their film (and, in Arnie's case, Hogan's muscles). Arnie asked if there were spots for he and Manganiello in the battle royal but before Hogan could answer (his body language was supposed to make us think he was interested in adding two non-wrestlers, one of whom is 66, to the battle royal) The Miz interrupted.
Through a sequence of events too boring to relay 'The Awesome One' was expelled from the ring. The babyface trio celebrated. The entire ten minute sequence was mostly wretched but it was at least a good use of Hogan. And if celebrities have to appear on RAW (and the way WWE functions means that they do) then this is an effective enough way of using them.
After Big Show had beaten Titus O'Neil with a WMD punch we were shown The Authority and The Shield talking in an office. Triple H told the trio that their problem with Kane and The New Age Outlaws (a feud which has mostly built up on SmackDown) is nothing to do with him. Stephanie said if they were looking for vengeance she'd give them a match with The Real Americans later on in the show. She neglected to explain how exactly that classified as vengeance.
Elsewhere in the building John Cena was washing his face. The sheep mask of Erick Rowan was shown peeking around a door frame (too high to be on Rowan's head at the angle it was at, meaning it was held by hand) "watching" Cena. When the hero span round the mask was gone. I'd like to think this was a tribute to The Warrior appearing to Hollywood Hogan inside a mirror on Nitro.
|Bray Wyatt, King of Expressions|
The Harper v Cena match that followed was very enjoyable. The Brooklyn crowd backed the Family member over Cena, which ensured a loud and lively atmosphere. Harper used uppercuts, a super kick, a suicide dive, a Raven-esque DDT and a Michinoku driver to wear Cena down, but ultimately it wouldn't be his match to win (which I don't think would have surprised anybody watching). But it wouldn't be Cena's either. As he scooped Harper up for an AA the lights went out. When they came on seconds later Cena was tied up in the ropes with Rowan's sheep mask on his face. Bray laughed and called him two-faced as the crowd broke out in a "This is awesome!" chant. It wasn't awesome, but it was a nice step in building Bray up as someone who has a chance at toppling the unstoppable force that is John Cena.
Naomi v AJ Lee was next. That Naomi (currently wearing an eye patch) has not been repackaged as a pirate shows how uninspired WWE's creative department is. This has been a wasted opportunity to introduce a much needed gimmick performer to the Divas division.
The match lasted less than a minute. AJ took some drop kicks before scooting to the outside to take a count out loss. Vickie Guerrero reminded everyone of her existence when she wandered out and announced that AJ would defend her championship in a Vickie Guerrero Invitational at WrestleMania. Vickie revealed that everyone will get a crack at AJ Lee (insert your own jokes here), including the champ's bodyguard Tamina. She then did a lengthy Rita Repulsa laugh to close the segment.
Before the evening's final match it was announced that Razor Ramon is to be included in this year’s Hall of Fame honours. Not Scott Hall but Razor Ramon. Only work from that period of Hall's career was shown. He’s a deserving name and I think it makes sense to induct him as 'The Bad Guy'. Not only was that when he did his best work but it was also when he first became a star. It's the WWE Hall of Fame and everything of note he did in the company was done as Razor Ramon.
|Cesaro v Rollins would be a nice, lengthy SmackDown match. Just saying|
Ambrose and Rollins versus Swagger and Cesaro was, fittingly, the best match of the night. Ambrose found himself isolated for several minutes, eventually getting a hot tag that allowed Rollins to come in and take out both foes in a sequence that saw him monkey flip Cesaro over the top rope and immediately follow up with a suicide dive to each man. Moments later he did his single foot stomp to the head, now being called Peace of Mind, on Swagger to get the win. If they'd had twenty minutes the four could have produced something superb.
After the match The Shield pulled the announce desk apart and power bombed Cesaro through it. Then Kane and the Outlaws showed up, all three in suits, to announce a six man tag match for WrestleMania XXX: The Shield v Kane and The New Age Outlaws.
The final part of the show was a confrontation between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. This started off with Paul Heyman doing some talking in the ring. It wasn't bad as such, but it is becoming apparent that Heyman doesn't have anything left to say on the subject of The Streak that he's not already said several times before. Basically, 'The Beast' will end The Streak.
Lesnar did a rare bit of mic work for himself. He simply said he was at RAW to fight, not promote. That brought 'The Dead Man's' druids out to the ring with a coffin. After lining it up neatly alongside the ring they filed back into the aisle, leaving Lesnar to kick at and then wrench open the coffin. Finding nobody in there he walked into the aisle and ranted at the druids.
|Undertaker and Sin Cara share lighting|
Annoyed, 'The Pain' slammed the casket shut and shouted that he was going to leave. Heyman talked him around, yammering about 'Taker being scared then seeking (and finding) cheap heat by calling Brooklyn a slum. The lid then opened, revealing that 'Big Evil' was inside (it's almost like these things are paced so Undertaker has time to climb into the coffin from a hiding place or something). 'Taker clambered out and exchanged blows with Lesnar before Lesnar was clotheslined out of the ring, landing head first on the coffin.
RAW went off the air with the two men staring at one another.
All told it was a successful show. They announced three ‘Mania matches (the third was RybAxel challenging the Usos for the tag straps) and reminded people why The Shield, Lesnar, Undertaker, and Bray Wyatt are significant names in 2014. Considering there was more talking than wrestling, and no Daniel Bryan, I think we should be impressed with how good the show was.
Next week’s the big test, of course. That’s the final RAW before WrestleMania XXX. Expect big things.