Somehow we made it through Elimination Chamber and we are now 7 weeks away from WrestleMania. The one thing Sunday night did do is confirm some matches for wrestling’s show of shows. The Rock versus Cena is set, as is Jack Swagger versus Alberto Del Rio by some weird shift in the space/time continuum. Lesnar versus Triple H seems like a forgone conclusion but from there, everyone else is in flux.
CM Punk was locked in to face the Undertaker but what if the Dead Man doesn’t show? Is it as simple as just putting Punk in the WWE Championship match and making it a triple threat? Sheamus, Ryback, Orton and the Big Show don’t really have anything going on right now. Jericho and Ziggler have heat, as do Barrett and Bo Dallas. Kane and Bryan keep heading down splitsville but they are also still the tag team champs. What does the Shield do now? I can speculate on a card (and I just might if we don’t get answers tonight) but there are too many variables to be too sure about anything. Considering the matches we are currently confirming we have two rematches and Jack Swagger. Undertaker better be able to go.
Tonight’s Raw is promoting a championship celebration by the Rock. He had one of these last month when he won it. What is he celebrating? Not losing it? If he’s going to be around I think he needs to actually perform more. Even if they are squash matches. First off, he needs to get in ring shape. He wasn’t that great in the two matches against Punk. The burst of energy just wasn’t there. The Cena match was good but that was a year ago. He essentially hasn’t had a great match in nine years. Second, young viewers are only seeing the Rock for the first time now. They are basing their opinions of him not on the Attitude Era, but on the four matches he was in over the last two years. He still needs to show the young audience that he belongs. None of that will happen though, so let’s move on.
John Cena greets the crowd to open the show and doesn’t look like he could care less about losing to the Shield last night. He promotes WresteMania and talks about how Swags will face Rio and he will challenge the Rock for the WWE Championship. Punk’s music hits and he comes out with Paul Heyman interrupt. He tells Cena that facing the Rock is taking the easy way out. Punk tells the crowd that the Rock beat him fair and square if you don’t count the fact that Punk had Rock pinned in the middle of the ring with no ref and technically hit a ref. Punk then throws out the fact that Cena never beat him. Punk says that Cena winning the Rumble is a case of luck helping him win a gimmick match and he already faced Rock at WrestleMania last year. Punk says he deserves to be in the main event instead and tells Cena to walk away. Naturally, Cena says no, he will not hand over his title shot. Cena admits that he hasn’t beaten Punk or the Rock, and decides to challenge Punk to match right now, with Cena’s title shot on the line. Punk and Heyman huddle up and Punk accepts the challenge but decides he wants to do it next week instead. Cena promotes the match that just got promoted in front of our face and next week’s Raw already sounds better than this week’s.
Backstage Josh Matthews is interviewing Sheamus while Ryback paces around like a dope. Sheamus stops him and tries to get him to keep his composure. In doing so he calls Ryback a mindless neanderthal (not good advice) and they are about to fight. Chris Jericho jumps in and breaks it up, saying they need to stay together if they are going to beat them. He says they are more dangerous than the NWO and Nexus and all those guys. He says that tonight is the night to start fight back, and that he is going to talk to Vickie about putting them in a match against the Shield tonight. Again, it’s very interesting how John Cena just doesn’t care about losing to the Shield after he made such a big deal about it over the last couple weeks.
The first match of the night has Sin Cara fed to Mark Henry. Cara kicks him in the leg a few times and it looks like a kick trying to get his dad’s attention. Henry then tosses him around the ring. Sin Cara hits a spinning kick by the ropes, but when he tries it again Mark catches him and throws him down. World’s Strongest Slam and Sin Cara is done. After the match, Henry is about to hit Sin Cara with another WSS but Khali comes out to assist. Henry doesn’t even put Sin Cara down until the Khali was about to get in the ring. When he does, Henry leaves the ring saying he’s had enough of Khali already (so have we). He then mocks Khali’s dancing, saying that if he wants to dance he’ll “get a date.” Pretty good line. That’s the point Sin Cara is at right now. He gets beat up and Khali comes to help. Not a good situation.
Vickie confirmed the Shield match against Sheamus, Jericho and Ryback before the Miz goes against United States Champion Antonio Cesaro in a non-title, no-DQ match. I guess Guerrero really is a face now. In other news, I don’t care. Cesaro won via DQ last night because he got Miz to accidentally hit him in the crotch. That’s a man who wants to keep his title an any cost. Why didn’t Punk think of that? As long as I’m rambling, are we supposed to take Fandango seriously? The match starts off fast and strong with Miz jumping Antonio and clotheslining him out of the ring. Miz then lands a double axe handle from the top rope outside the ring but Cesaro hurls Miz into the barrier by his bad shoulder, then driving the shoulder into the ring post. Cesaro then gets out the weaponry, including chairs and a kendo stick (best weapon in the business). Cesaro starts using all the weapons on Miz’s shoulder but can’t get a cover. It’s an extreme version of last night’s match. Miz almost botch a spot coming out of his back breaker, but recovered and Cesaro sent him into a steel chair. He moves as Antonio comes running in, and Cesaro injured his knee. Miz toe dragged Cesaro’s jaw into another chair, applied the figure four (correctly this time) and won the match via submission. Kinda surprised by the result but a solid match overall. Right now it looks like these two will meet yet again at WrestleMania.
Meanwhile Zeb Coulter has internet hate videos on YouTube with Jack Swagger standing behind him with a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. It’s all about sending immigrants out of the country and all the stuff he has been yapping about the last couple weeks. Not sure how much more of this gimmick I can tolerate. It’s going to get weird as people will be asked to go against America. Some people won’t, and other people will just flat out think Zeb is right. I just don’t think it’s a good idea.
Backstage, Kane and Bryan are arguing about what how they fought at Elimination Chamber. Bryan requested a singles match and will face Swagger. He also doesn’t want Kane coming out with him. Kane says he’ll ask for the same, and says that he hates snakes. Randy Orton popped in with snakes being mentioned, and after Kane got in his face, Orton said he was a lot more intimidating before he started doing group therapy sessions, and he’s more like Barney the Dinosaur (who he definitely doesn’t hate). I guess they’ll face each other tonight.
Meanwhile Vickie Guerrero is rubbing in Punk’s loss in Heyman’s face. Vickie says she has a surprise for Heyman and will announce it in the ring later. Paul is in a pissy mood about the whole thing.
Dolph Ziggler next in the ring to take on World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio. To say the crowd didn’t pop for Del Rio is a massive understatement. In a perfect world, Ziggler gets DQ’d by hitting Alberto with a foreign object, then immediately cashes in the briefcase to take the title. At least that’s what I’d do. Instead we get a real match. Dolph hits a standing dropkick early but Del Rio comes back with a side kick. Alberto tosses Ziggler over the top rope onto the apron, hitting an enziguri to send him down to the arena floor. Great start. Back in the ring Dolph is in control as he hits another dropkick. He then distracts the ref so that Langston can sneak in a blow to the head. Dolph then hits the fame-asser but still can’t finish him off. Ziggler then goes to the top rope when Del Rio knocks him down, catching his cojones on the turnbuckle. Alberto then hits an enziguri into Ziggler’s ass, and follows it up with a side suplex from the top rope. From there Del Rio gets his momentum going, hitting a swinging back breaker and a sidekick to the face for a two count. It’s funny how guys like him and Barrett use the side kick but can’t reach high enough so they just do it while the opponent is on his knees. Del Rio went for the cross armbreaker but Dolph wiggled out and hit a neck breaker. Time to wrap it up. With the ref distracted, Big E went to the apron but Del Rio took his legs out and dropped him to the mat. Ziggler moved in to hit a DDT but Del Rio countered with a cross armbreaker and won the match. After the bell, Big E came in and beat the crap out of Del Rio. Ziggler realizes that he’s down and gets the MITB briefcase (it’s going to happen!) but Ricardo grabs it and runs off (ah crap!). Langston runs after him and gets it back to Ziggler, but Alberto got up and lands another enziguri to knock Dolph out before he can cash in. Very good match but COME ON MAN!
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett in the ring next to promote his appearance in the upcoming movie “Dead Man Down.” They even show the trailer. So this is what he was doing when he wasn’t appearing in last night’s PPV. I’m not sure I actually saw him in the clip. Sheamus jumps on the titantron to inform us that his good friend Colin Ferrell (they are friends because they are Irish) is the star of the movie. Barrett is pissed because his moment is ruined.
Further ruining the moment, Brodus Clay and Tensai (Tensai wearing one of Brodus’ hats) come out, but their entry dance is cut off by Epico and Primo’s music. They are in a six-person mixed tag match, with Naomi and Rosa representing each team. Naomi gets the jump on Rosa, then lands a hurricarrana on Epico. Tensai hits a head butt, Brodus hits a splash and team Fat Dancers wins in a squash. I like that the tag team division keeps getting infused with new teams, but the only ones that ever get air time are the ridiculous ones. Gimme the Usos versus Kidd and Gabriel. I bet you’ll be more entertained.
Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter to give their State of the Union while Del Rio watches backstage. Once again I will sum up the entire segment here. Coulter: “Jack Swagger is a true patriot and American. Alberto Del Rio is foreign and bad. Swagger will win and reclaim American. WE THE PEOPLE.” Imagine that going for ten minutes. Anyway after they wrap it up, Daniel Bryan comes out for his match against Swagger. With Jack starting to grow a beard and letting his hair get longer, Bryan kind of looks like a future Swagger. They went to commercial and when they came back the match already started. WTF! After going back and forth for a bit, Bryan tries to apply the Mexican surfboard (I wonder if Coulter took offense to it) but Swagger powered out. Outside the ring, Swagger drives Bryan into the barricade and takes over from there. A two handed toss over Jack’s head and a running knee in the corner tilt the match further. Swaggerbomb hits for a two count and Jack is in full control. Bryan sticks an elbow out on Swagger running into the corner and mounts some offense. After the backflip off the top rope, Daniel hits a jumping elbow and lowers the rope to get Jack out of the ring. Bryan then jumps through the ropes into Swagger and brings him back in where he hits a dropkick from the top rope for a two count. On comes the kick barrage from Bryan. Swagger catches the final kick though and hits a spine buster. With both men down Bryan applies the NO Lock but Swagger reaches the ropes. Daniel then misses on the jumping kick in the corner, injuring his leg. Jack takes immediate advantage, taking out Bryan’s leg. After Zeb is heard saying that “the knee’s gone,” Swagger applies the Patriot Act ankle lock and Bryan taps out. Strong match, but that’s usually what happens when Bryan cuts off the schtick. In ring work was never Swagger’s flaw either. Not into Coulter, but a manager is always a positive for him.
Vickie Guerrero and Paul Heyman in the ring now for the “huge announcement.” Vickie may make face decisions now, but she still yells “Excuse ME” so she gets booed. Vickie announces the assistant to the managing supervisor, and its Brad Maddox. Brad comes out and says it is a reward for exposing the truth about Heyman and the Shield. Heyman says he doesn’t care about either of them and starts to walk out. That’s when Vince McMahon gets on the screen via satellite. He says that Maddox’s promotion is not Heyman’s surprise. They go back to last week, where Heyman said he would do “anything” for the count out/DQ stipulation to be added to the Elimination Chamber match. McMahon decides that firing Paul is too good for him, and decides that next week Vince (fresh off his hip surgery) will walk into the ring with Heyman, and they will fight. The crowd immediately groans and you hear one guy say, “you gotta be kidding me.” I couldn’t agree more. Is this the only way to get Lesnar and Triple H together? Lesnar comes out for Paul and Triple H saves Vince? Very poor job here.
Hour three kicks off with Chris Jericho, Sheamus and Ryback against the Shield. The idea has popped up that Jericho is behind the Shield, which would be an interesting twist but wouldn’t really make any sense considering they spent the last few months beating on people he isn’t interested in. It would give reason for a Ryback/Jericho match at WrestleMania which was rumored at one point. Did someone have to inform the Shield that they were booked to a match? Did they have to sign up? They aren’t backstage so how would they know to even come out? They are kind of like Batman, just showing up whenever their music goes on.
Ryback starts off against Seth Rollins and spears him in the abdomen about 300 times before Jericho pulls him away. We then get the real start of the match when Jericho takes on Dean Ambrose. Jericho hits a second rope dropkick and tags in Sheamus but as soon as Sheamus gets tagged in Dean runs to his corner and tags Roman Reigns. They trade blows and both get their moves in before Sheamus gains control and hits White Noise. He calls for the Brogue Kick but Rollins pulls Reigns out of the ring. Sheamus then decides to hit Ambrose will the Brogue Kick while he’s standing idly on the apron. Back from break the Shield is controlling the match with Sheamus in the ring. They run the dual running dropkick spot which looks awesome whenever I see it. Sheamus finally makes it to his corner and gets Ryback on a hot tag. He destroys the Shield and hits Rollins with a meathook. He gets him up for Shellshocked when Jericho grabs the ref, giving Reigns the opening to spear Ryback (maybe he is in charge). Ryback is now stuck being controlled by the Shield. Cole was just talking about how the Shield hasn’t been breaking any rules in their mathes when Ryback ducks under Reigns in the corner, giving him the opening to get Jericho in on a hot tag. He brings down Ambrose in the ring, hits Rollins with a springboard dropkick and hits the lionsault for a two count. Reigns and Ryback fight outside as Jericho applies the lion tamer on Ambrose. Sheamus runs in to stop Reigns from breaking it up, but Rollins hits a springboard knee to Jericho’s head. Dean then covers the knocked out Jericho to get the pin and win another match for the Shield. A springboard knee to the head wins it on a guy who was barely in the ring? Weird finish, but regardless the Shield is really being built up as a force and had another really strong performance. Ryback is probably on the verge of snapping and Jericho has barely won since he came back. Sheamus is just being Sheamus up in here.
Kofi Kingston gets to follow that match against Damien Sandow. Sandow informs us that several members of his family advised past presidents, and had a great part in creating the new deal. Damien then proposes a “new deal” to the audience, that they stay quiet during his match. Sandow doesn’t even let the bell ring before he attacks Kofi, beating him down and throwing him into the ring post and out of the ring. He continues to beat up Kingston when R-Truth comes out for the assist. He runs in all suited up, hits a running kick, a leaping scissor kick and clotheslines Sandow out of the ring. So at the end of all that, we can officially say that R-Truth and Lil Jimmy are back in our lives. Hopefully he sticks to Saturday Morning Slam.
Because seeing them at Elimination Chamber wasn’t enough, the cast members of the GI Joe movie are at Raw as well. They have a trailer too! That’s two trailers shown during the broadcast. They are catching up with he number of matches.
Time for Kane and Randy Orton to settle their differences. Last year this exact match mid carded WrestleMania. Now it is a mid card on Raw. Kane hits a shoulder block early but sells a shoulder injury from last night. Orton starts working the shoulder. Orton brings him to the corner and pummels the shoulder while sitting on the top rope until Kane manages to knock him off the turnbuckle to the outside of the ring. Somehow Kane continues to control the action in the ring despite the shoulder injury. Oh wait, he just decided to stop selling it. Randy starts to fight back but Kane hits a DDT for a two count. Orton then dodges Kane in the corner and starts to gain momentum with a dropkick. Randy then hits a powerslam but Kane answers with a sidewalk slam. Orton then ducks away from Kane leaping from the top rope but can’t land the second rope DDT. Kane sets up for the chokeslam but Daniel Bryan comes out. Kane turns to tell him to leave and Orton hits the distracted Kane with an RKO and wins the match. The solid match ends with Bryan looking peeved as he goes back up the ramp. I’d say the plot thickens but it’s been going in the same direction for weeks now. At this point I’m just waiting for something different.
The Rock’s celebration closes the show of course, and it starts with a marching band that helps perform Rock’s theme so that he can make his grand entrance. Why am I supposed to be excited for the Rock to be on a show when he doesn’t actually do anything? It’s all window dressing. It’s one thing if you come by once in a while, but he’s the WWE Champion and he has been on too much recently for this to mean anything. Okay I might have to eat my words. He says that he’ll be going to WrestleMania as WWE Champion, but he won’t be going with the current belt. He says that the spinner belt Cena came out with 8 years ago is not good enough to represent the company, and finally unveils a brand new WWE Championship belt. To a drum roll he unveils the new belt, and I have to say, I might hate it even more. It has a Rock logo on each side and a giant WWE logo on the front. What else can I say. It sucks. Was the old style winged eagle version that bad? It just doesn’t have any shine to it. Anyway, Rock starts to talk about his WrestleMania match and how he’d rather face Cena (or at least he was alluding to it) when Cena comes out to interrupt. He looked like he was going to go down the ramp when Punk sneaks up from behind and knocks him out with the old belt. He then throws the old belt down like a piece of garbage, points at Rock and says “I want that one.” Punk then walks out to massive boos and that’s how the show ends. What a bunch of crap.
In hindsight, I can see the potential in it. If it turns into a gimmick where instead of a nameplate, the holder of the belt’s logo is printed on it then I hate it. If they just replace it with some kind of global design when Rock drops it then we’re on the right track. Also, just having the WWE logo front and center with nothing behind it makes it looks too plain. If you put a gold plate behind it instead of exposed black leather it might make a big difference. I do love that it actually says “champion” instead of champ. The letters and logo are just all too big. It’s like those large font birthday cards you give to the elderly.
So after all the talk about a new belt, I end up wishing the old one was still around. Punk is planting the seeds for a triple threat WWE Championship match and it’s looking less likely that the Undertaker will show up. It’s a very rough start to promoting WrestleMania as next week’s Raw main event looks better than anything on the current card.