Now that the Undertaker is officially back it really feels like WrestleMania is upon us. However, eerily just one day after the Undertaker returned, his long time manager Paul Bearer passed away at 58 years young. From everything I had read and seen he was a very normal man for leading such an abnormal life. He seemed like a guy I might enjoy having a beer and watching some hockey with. Rest in peace Bill Moody.
The question from the WWE’s perspective is now how do you handle it? More specifically, do you make it part of the story between Punk and the Undertaker? It wouldn’t be totally unexpected after Punk mocked Jerry Lawler’s heart attack in November, but that was after Lawler had returned to work. This is different. Moody isn’t with us anymore. But, it’s certainly possible that there is a feeling, like with Lawler, that Moody would want the show to go on and that he would in fact be honored to be brought into things this way. I have no idea if they will do it, and I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t (if they did it would have to be perfect), but you have to believe they have thought about it.
Tonight’s show opens with a montage and tribute to Paul Bearer. After the video the Undertaker’s music hits. Taker comes out to the ring and raises his arms, only instead of turning on all the lights it only turns a spotlight on to an urn sitting on a table in the middle of the ring. The Undertaker kneels next to it, just like he did for all those years when Moody held it, paying tribute. Just when you thought it was going to end, guess what? CM Punk’s music comes out and he spoils the party. You have to give it to him, he’s got balls. Punk says he wants to personally give the Undertaker his condolences for his loss…at WrestleMania! He says it’s a shame that to Paul Bearer he will always be perfect, but to everyone else he will be 20-1. He says that after WrestleMania everyone will ask where they were when CM Punk beat the streak. Very split crowd reaction. Before Punk can head back, fire erupts from the stage and Kane comes out. Furious over Punk spoiling a tribute to his dad (remember that?), he grabs him by the throat and looks to choke slam him off the stage. Punk escapes however and runs off, with Kane in hot pursuit. I know people will attack Punk and the WWE for mocking a man who passed away, but this is the exact emotion they want to get out of the fan base. There is a weird line that pro wrestlers walk where they have to be that character all the time. No other actor has to do that. In that way I feel like CM Punk is paying his respect the only way he can. He can’t go out there and give the Undertaker a hug, but he can go and talk smack about him. It’s kind of like being in a roast. You make fun of those you love.
The first match of the night puts the Big Show against Seth Rollins, making him the first member the Shield to compete in singles action. Big Show has been getting attacked by the Shield which now automatically makes him a face, even though he isn’t acting like it yet. Big Show dominates early, throwing Rollins out of the ring into Ambrose and attacking Reigns. Outside the ring the three Shield members attack Show, ending the match via DQ. They hold Show down but the Big Show powers his way out of it. Show was about to chokeslam Rollins when he got speared by Reigns. They beat him down and hit the big man with the triple power bomb. Wasn’t sure they would be able to pull it off but it looked pretty good.
Backstage again, CM Punk is is barking at Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox about what Kane did to him. Punk said his beef is with the Undertaker and he shouldn’t need his brother to fight his battles for him. Vickie decides to put Punk in a no DQ match with Kane.
Back in the ring, Daniel Bryan is facing Dolph Ziggler (and his entourage). This can also be referred to as the World Heavyweight Championship match that I was hoping for at WrestleMania. Instead it’s mid card on Raw. They whole reason they are fighting is because Ricardo Rodriguez threw a bucket of water at AJ and Bryan made fun of her. So now Dolph has to defend her woman. Ziggler has to win tonight right? Bryan can absorb the loss and Ziggler desperately needs a win. Ideally without help but I’ll take what I can get. He needs to get some sort of momentum going into WrestleMania. If Ryback is going to face Mark Henry, Ziggler’s opponent seems likely to be Chris Jericho. That’ll work.
They start of with some mat wrestling early, ending with Bryan applying the mexican surfboard before Dolph responds with a standing dropkick. As Bryan starts to regain momentum with a flurry of kicks, Michael Cole reminded us that Ziggler has until July to cash in his MITB briefcase. Could to know, but I’m still putting my money on WrestleMania. Bryan tossed Dolph over the top rope, but Daniel was stopped from running out to continue the attack when Big E jumped on the apron to get in his way. Ziggler then took control, applying an extending head stand chin lock before Bryan caught Ziggler attempting a drop kick, hurling him into the corner. Bryan then back flipped over Dolph in the corner, and hit a jumping clothesline. Dolph got a boot up as Bryan ran in to attack him, but Daniel applied a sunset flip. Ziggler tried to roll over and get a pin attempt of his own, but Bryan fell to the side and the spot was botched. Back in the corner, Ziggler was putting Bryan up on the turnbuckle but Daniel knocked him down. Bryan then attempted a side suplex from the top rope, but Dolph moved to his side to splash Bryan down on the mat. Dolph then landed a fame-asser to end another fast sequence but could only get a two count. This match is everything I wanted it to be. Bryan then started to apply the NO Lock but AJ distracted the ref so that Big E can pull Dolph toward the rope to break the hold. Bryan went after Big E and Dolph tried to take advantage of the distraction with a roll up pin. Bryan got out on two and went to apply the NO Lock again but Dolph wiggled out. Ziggler then ducked under a roundhouse kick, nailed the Zig Zag and finally pinned Bryan for a victory. Fantastic match. These guys needs to be on the card for a PPV soon. Afterwards, AJ had Langston attack Bryan, hitting him with the whatever you call it. Curious if this goes anywhere.
How else do you follow a great match than with Brodus Clay and Sweet T (Tensai) dancing away. Tensai is in solo action against Fandango, and Clay had Brodus pull off his tear away pants to end the entrance routine. The funny part is that Tensai was wearing regular pants under his breakaway pants. Fandango only come to the stage after Tensai called him out, and he said that Tensai didn’t get his name right, and that Tensai and Brodus are abominations to dance. Fandango says he’ll only come out if Naomi says his name. He seems to have the hots for her, saying she is the only one of them with real rhythm. She was about to try when Tensai get grabbed the mic to call him out again. Fandango then cut him off, saying Tensai cost everyone their chance to see “FAHN-DAHN-GO.” In reality, we were saved from a crappy match.
Now to a real match, as the Rhodes Scholars reunite once again to face the New Age Outlaws. Two matches in two weeks for them? Are they just on the roster now? Meanwhile I’m hoping that the Rhodes Scholars break up amicably every week, only to make a big deal out of reuniting the next week. If there was ever a pair of guys to pull that off, it’s Rhodes and Sandow. Sandow and Rhodes come out first and do a grammatically correct version of the NAO’s entrance. Absolutely awesome. I love Sandow. Of course Gunn and Road Dogg come out next and to it their way to a big pop, and in honor of Bearer (Mercy mercy, this one’s for you Percy), but you can’t deny how great the Rhodes Scholars version was. Road Dogg gets his dancing in to deliver a punch to Cody, but Sandow jumps in to distract him and Cody lands a distaster kick. Before the match can go any further Brock Lesnar comes out with Paul Heyman. Lesnar hits F-5’s on both members of the New Age Outlaws and Paul Heyman grabs the microphone. Heyman says that while Triple H says the game is on, Brock Lesnar doesn’t play games. Brock Lesnar hurts people. He goes through Lesnar breaking Shawn Michaels’ arm, Vince McMahon’s hip, and now dismantling the New Age Outlaws. Finally, Heyman gets to the point, proclaiming that Brock Lesnar will face Triple H at WrestleMania, but only if they can name the match stipulation. The catch is that Triple H has to sign the contract before knowing the stipulation. Good stuff. Heyman has had to hold himself back so much with CM Punk, that now that he’s doing all the talking for Lesnar he is on fire. He finishes up by mocking the New Age Outlaws, saying that “If you’re not down with that. I’ve got two words for you. BROCK LESNAR.” The smart money says Hell in a Cell, but I can see them getting creative with it here. First blood? I quit?
Potential squash match time with Kofi Kingston being fed to Mark Henry. Henry’s beef with Ryback continues to gain steam on Smackdown, although the only thing they do is stare at each other. It’s possible they just love each other. Anyway the match was basically over before it started. Henry tossed Kofi around before landing a big boot in Kofi’s face, sending Kingston out of the ring. Hold on a minute, Henry went to run over Kofi outside the ring but Kingston moved and Henry went into the post. Kingston then hit a one handed leaping chop off the steps to take Mark down. Back in the ring however, Kofi went for a cross body splash off the top rope but Henry caught him in the air and landed the World’s Strongest Slam for the win. Henry is being booked very well.
Backstage Cody Rhodes is flirting with Kaitlyn, and she’s digging it when Sandow comes by saying that he found the perfect women for the ladies division. He then reintroduced the Bella twins who were apparently reinstated. I didn’t miss them for a minute but whatever. Vickie Guerrero then came by and informed them that since their match got cut short, the Rhodes Scholars will now face Randy Orton and Sheamus. Sure, because that always happens when a match gets cut short. Meanwhile, Cody just got totally cock blocked by Sandow. That’s not what best friends do, bro.
Keeping the feud going, Mark Henry is standing on the stage as Ryback squashes Heath Slater. Gorilla press slam, meat hook clothesline and a Shell Shocked give Ryback the win. Drew McIntyre then comes in to attack Ryback for some reason, and gets a shell shock as well. Mark Henry then comes in and hits Drew with the WSS to show Ryback up. Ryback then hits Drew with Shell Shocked again, and Henry hits the WSS again. The two of them stare each other down again before Henry backs out of the ring. Just make out already and be done with it. Drew McIntyre should be happy at the end of this though. It’s the most attention he’s gotten in a while.
After a trailer for “The Call” starring Halle Berry, United States Champion Antonio Cesaro is taking on World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio. Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger have to be going nuts right now. Swagger should definitely come out and interfere here. Cesaro hits a hurricarana on Del Rio only to be countered with a cross body splash from the top rope. Alberto when to the top again but Antonio took Del Rio’s leg out from under him, bringing him back to the mat. From there Cesaro controlled the middle of the match, with chin locks and elbow drops. Eventually Del Rio came back, hitting Antonio with a super kick to the chin (while Cesaro was on his knees, I think it should be called a side kick instead). Del Rio brought Cesaro down for a back breaker and a two count. Alberto then went to the top rope again for a double axe handle but Antonio hit him with an upper cut. Del Rio then avoided whatever move Cesaro was going for, applied the cross arm breaker and Cesaro immediately tapped out to end the match. No problems with the match except for the fact that Swagger and Colter never came out. Big missed opportunity there. Although it would have planted seeds toward a Cesaro face turn and there is no way that’s happening. It’s a very weird situation having a foreign US and World Heavyweight Champ, and a heel that hates foreigners.
Backstage, Josh Matthews is talking to Kane about his match with Punk. Kane is holding Paul Bearer’s urn. He stares at it, looks pissed, and walks away. It’s kind of easy to forget how much of a force Kane was in his prime now that he’s joking it up with Bryan. It’s good that they separated the two of them for this angle with Punk.
The Rhodes Scholars sadly do not do the New Age Outlaws intro again as they prepare to face Sheamus and Randy Orton. What’s really weird is that Orton came out first. Then the Rhodes Scholars came out during the commercial so that Sheamus can make his entrance on TV like Randy. What kind of team comes individually out in between the other team? Orton and Sandow start off with Orton controlling things with a suplex before tagging Sheamus in to hit Damien with a battering ram. Sandow then pushes Sheamus into his corner in order to tag in Rhodes who does no better. The tide starts to turn when Sandow lowers the rope on Sheamus to get him to the outside. The Rhodes Scholars then keep Sheamus away from his corner and wear him out. Sheamus eventually gets Orton in on a hot tag and hits Rhodes with a power slam and a belly to belly suplex. Orton goes for the second rope DDT but Sandow pulls Cody down to save him. Orton comes out to attack both of them and Cody throws Orton into the steel post. Back in the ring, the Rhodes Scholars are controlling things again, essentially repeating the spot from earlier with Sheamus now waiting for the hot tag. Sure enough, Orton knocks Rhodes down from the top rope and lands a superplex, giving him the chance to tag in Sheamus on a hot tag. Sheamus now gets his signature moves in on Sandow, and by the looks of things he’s been told to hurry up because he is going through the moves really fast. Sheamus lands White Noise and teases the Brogue Kick when Cody Rhodes comes in to help. Sheamus moves away and Orton hits Cody with an RKO, giving Sheamus the chance to hit Sandow with a Brogue Kick and win the match. I can’t think of a tag match that better showcased the two individuals on one team better. During the commercial after the match, the Shield attacked Orton and Sheamus on the way up the ramp. Rollins hit Orton with a leaping knee from the stage and Reigns speared Sheamus. It’s only a matter of time before Big Show hooks up with them and this match becomes official.
Back from touring with Fozzy, Chris Jericho is out for another edition of the Highlight Reel. After asking if his lite up jacket was working and showing a clip from “The Marine 3,” Jericho called out his first guest the Miz. That’s two movie promotions so far, and we haven’t gotten to Wade Barrett yet. Jericho congratulates Miz on the sales numbers of his movie and wouldn’t ya know it, Wade Barrett comes out to talk about “Dead Man Down.” He shows a clip from his movie, a clip that he isn’t in, and Miz makes fun of how much he talks about this damn movie by doing a poor British accent. Barrett says that the accent shows how little range Miz has as an actor, while Wade has been turning down movie offers left and right because he is too busy being Intercontinental Champion. Miz believes Barrett keeps brining up his movie to distract us from the fact that he hasn’t won a match in weeks and will eventually lose his belt. Jericho must have gotten bored because for some reason he decided to jump in, mocking Miz’s “really” line by saying it like Ace Ventura. Cole can’t help but mention how bad it is. Wade tells Jericho to keep out of this before he drops him right now, prompting Jericho to remove his jacket and tell Barrett that despite helping bring him into the WWE through NXT and is a two time IC Champ, Jericho is a nine time IC champ. Jericho says that maybe he’ll make it ten (ooooooh). This brings Brad Maddox out to introduce himself and Michael Cole says this may be the worst segment in the history of Raw. Hard to argue him right now. Maddox is just stammering through his bit, and the crowd is gone. Eventually he manages to say that Miz and Jericho will fight now, with the winner facing Barrett next week for the Intercontinental Championship. Brad tells the crew to remove Jericho’s set, but Jericho casually informs him that it was removed at the beginning of the segment. Train wreck.
Barrett sits at the announce table for the match, which starts the two men trading blows. Jericho gets a boot up on Miz running in the corner, Miz counters the bulldog by pushing Jericho into the other corner. Jericho then avoids getting thrown out of the ring to hit a double axe handle from the top rope, only for Miz to land a big boot for a two count. Fast pace in a match that seems very improvised. Jericho finally lands the running bulldog but Miz gets his knees up to block the lionsault. Jericho then blocks the Miz’s jumping clothesline in the corner and tries to apply the Walls of Jericho. Miz wiggles out of it and tries to apply the figure four leglock but Jericho escapes and again goes for the Walls but Miz turns it into a small package for a two count, with Jericho still holding on to Miz’s legs and finally applying a Boston Crab. This is a good match to teach someone about the fundamentals of pro wrestling with. Miz eventually makes it to the rope to break the hold, and heads out of the ring to recuperate. Jericho pursues and accidentally(?) throws Miz into Barrett. Jericho then continues working on Miz when Barrett gets up and attacks him. Wade then goes after Miz but Miz knocks him into the apron as Jericho hits him with a baseball slide. Miz and Jericho then throw him back into the ring, hitting Barrett with a Skull Crushing Finale and Code Breaker respectively to end the segment. During the commercial it was revealed that since the match ended in a DQ, Barrett with now face Miz and Jericho in a triple threat match for the Intercontinental Championship. Coulda seen that one coming.
Jack Swagger takes on one of the WWE’s other mexicans, Sin Cara. Sadly with rumors of Rey Mysterio retiring due to all the injuries, we aren’t far from Sin Cara being the only luchador in the WWE. Before the match Zeb Colter says he has a chip on his shoulder, specifically with Sin Cara who does not know the United States native language but was welcomed to the country. He says the people only cheer for him because they are programmed to, noting that he jumps around like a mexican jumping bean. Zeb calls Sin Cara thief because every night there is a Sin Cara sneaking across the border trying to take jobs from American’s, and it’s the people’s fault because they are afraid to say something about it. Zeb and Swagger aren’t afraid and will say it for you. Zeb then critiques Del Rio for saying he was born in Mexico and made in America. Anyway they eventually had a match and Sin Cara controlled things early, hitting a cross body splash from the top rope to the outside of the ring. This drove Swagger nuts, kicking the announce table and steps. Swagger then blocked a hurricarana but Sin Cara swung around the other way to attempt a roll up pin, only Jack blocked that as well. Swagger then tried whipping Sin Cara into the corner but Cara jumped over the top rope onto the apron and delivered a kick to Jack’s face. Sin Cara then went for another top rope splash but Swagger met him with a big boot to the mid section and started working on the ankle. He locks it in and Sin Cara quickly taps to end the match. Swagger doesn’t let go of the lock however until Del Rio comes in to save him. Eventually Del Rio locks in the arm breaker but Zeb Colter pulls Swagger away before any harm can be done. You could have sold the match on having the ankle lock versus the arm breaker. Oh well.
Meanwhile it looks like Ryback will face Mark Henry on Smackdown. I wonder if that means they won’t square off at WrestleMania.
Main event time as CM Punk takes on Kane in a no disqualification match. I wish they would just call it a hardcore match every once in a while. Kane comes to the ring holding Paul Bearer’s urn. Cole has to explain what the urn means, making me feel really old that it is necessary. Punk wastes no time, leaping through the ropes at Kane on the outside. I wonder if they will make mention of the feud they had with Daniel Bryan and AJ. Punk continues with a flurry of knees before Kane lands a few punches and throws Punk into the ringpost and dropping him on the barricade. Kane then clears the announce table but Punk strikes Kane in the stomach with the ring bell and hits a double axe handle that takes Punk toward the urn. He stares at it for a moment until Kane hits him in the head with a tv monitor. Finally the two men get in the ring and it kind of looks like a real match is taking place. Kane sets up for a superplex but Punk pushes him down and hits the flying elbow from the top rope for a two count. Punk works Kane into the corner and hits two high knees, but Kane blocks the bulldog and throws Punk out of the ring. Back from break, Punk props a chair between the turnbuckles but Kane reverses the irish whip and sends Punk into the chair head first. Kane then hits a sidewalk slam and clotheslines Punk out of the ring. Kane then starts tossing all the steel chairs he can find into the ring. He is about to chokeslam Punk into one of the chairs but Punk grabs Kane’s head and DDT’s him into the chair instead. Punk then starts attacking Kane with a chair, eventually mocking Undertaker’s hand across the throat taunt before Kane grabbed Punk by the throat. Punk landed a roundhouse kick however, maintaining control. Punk calls for the GTS when the Undertaker’s bell sounds. Punk immediately turns around, giving Kane the opportunity to deliver a chokeslam and win the match.
Afterwards the Undertaker’s music continues and the Undertaker does come to the stage, taking a knee while Kane does the same to pay respect to William Moody. Punk again interferes in the tribute, attacking Kane from behind with the urn! Punk continues to beat Kane with it until the Undertaker gets in the ring. Punk retreats with urn still in hand, stopping at the stage to take a knee and mock the Undertaker some more. Undertaker gives the slit throat sign and looks pissed as the show ends.
I’m not sure what they would have done if Moody had not died, but I doubt it would have been nearly as effective at creating instant heat between Punk and the Undertaker. After the last four years have been all about how much respect the have for the Undertaker, I really appreciate somebody stepping up and just pissing him off. Especially when it is someone as good as CM Punk. People may not agree with it, but it’s creating a whole new reason for the Undertaker to wrestle besides just keeping the streak going. Now if they can just make Punk seem like he actually has a chance against him instead of losing most of the time.