WrestleMania is less than a week away and considering that I am attending for the first time ever I actually couldn’t be less excited. There is a staleness to the entire card right now, with the main event overshadowing the matches I actually care about. It just feels like creative has taken a lazy approach to building up all of these matches, expecting the names alone to sell the card.
That brings us to the last Raw before WrestleMania, giving the WWE one more chance to sell the world on its plans for the show of shows. We’re off to a good start as JBL is joining Cole and Lawler. Throughout the show, let’s be aware of the law of reverse momentum, as whoever gets the edge tonight will probably lost on Sunday.
John Cena opens up the Washington D.C. show with the usual chorus of boos. He lets it linger for a while saying that he’s in a house divided (the crowd reminds him it’s not, they all hate him) before saying nothing in particular in an attempt to promote his match with the Rock at WrestleMania. He keeps talking the up Rock, how much he respects him and how great he is and how important this match is (it isn’t that important). He even calls the Rock the greatest WWE Champion of all time. Cena then starts talking about how he did the impossible already by winning the Royal Rumble (which he already did), beating CM Punk (who has lost a lot over the last few months) so beating the Rock is possible too. He explains how much it sucked to watch the Rock unveil the new WWE Championship, and that Cena will make sure the Rock loses that belt in its first defence at WrestleMania. He says that the Rock’s time is up, and Cena’s time is now (Rock’s time was 10 years ago and Cena’s time has been over the last ten years). Cena says that when he win the Rock will have to live with the loss for the rest of his life because this is what people will remember of him (Rock already said he wouldn’t take a loss the same way and there is no way this match will be the one people remember him by). At this point a very loud “boring” chant comes down from the crowd, making Cena pause for a moment. He finally wraps it up by saying the Rock will have to live with the fact that the belt made for the Rock is defended by Cena and screams that the champ is HEEEEEEEERE! Cena is getting booed like a heel, and it’s going to be really bad when WrestleMania ends in a huge chorus of boos as Cena beats the Rock. This feud just has nothing to offer that it didn’t do last year. Wanna bet that Cena wins because the Rock tried to do a five knuckle shuffle and ends up getting hit with an Attitude Adjustment instead?
The first match of the night is one we’ve already seen several times before as 3MB takes on Sheamus, Big Show and Randy Orton (who turns 33 today). JBL already had the line of the night, saying 3MB looks like the mean street posse at a karaoke bar. Big Show gets top billing when the heels go to the ring as the whole story of the match is whether or not the Big Show can be trusted. I have every reason to believe that Orton might be the one to turn heel, giving Shield another win. He’s painfully overdue for a heel turn and would there be a better spot to do it? You can then start a Sheamus/Orton feud and have plenty of possibilities going forward. The match went the same way as all of the other matches between the two teams so I won’t bother describing it. After all the faces hit their finishers to win the match with Big Show getting the pin on Mahal (SPOILERS!), the Shield comes out through the crowd to cut a promo. All three men find different ways to say, “enjoy doing good now, but we will beat you on Sunday.” The crowd was pretty pro Shield. One guy in particular kept screaming that he believes in the Shield. I’ve enjoyed each of the Shield’s matches and expect this one to be good as well. I also expect a swerve to come somewhere (likely in Orton’s heel turn) but it could also play straight and still work.
Being in the nation’s capitol, Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger went in front of the Capital Building to talk about how the country is weak and drained from immigrants and that Swagger will change this by beating up a mexican in a wrestling match. Swagger is starting to talk more which is for the best as he’s going to have to speak at least a little more if his push is going to continue. Del Rio responded backstage, saying that Swagger has the right so say whatever he wants but Alberto is going to keep his title whether he likes it or not. Apparently he is also going to face Colter in a match that Zeb challenged him to. Del Rio called him a fat pinata. They are turning into second graders, calling each other names in the playground.
Match of the night time as Daniel Bryan (with Kane in his corner) goes against Dolph Ziggler (with Big E and AJ). Bryan is the first one to gain control with a series of kicks and a backflip off the top turnbuckle into a takedown. Ziggler turned things around with a swinging neckbreaker and a dropkick to the back of Bryan’s head. Bryan then moved over Dolph running into the corner and suspended Ziggler over the top rope. When Daniel released the hold he went to the outside and ended up having a stare down with Big E. Dolph recovers while Bryan is outside and hits a fame-asser back in the ring for a two count. Ziggler takes control for the middle portion of the match, applying the headstand chin lock and fighting off Bryan’s attempts at coming back. Daniel finally delivers a kick to the head, but Dolph counters with a sleeperhold. Bryan fights him off and applies a sleeper of his own. Ziggler drops Bryan back and all of a sudden AJ starts skipping around Kane. Kane stares at her like a confused puppy and gets blindsided by Big E. Bryan does a baseball slide into Langston through the ropes, giving Ziggler the opening to roll up the distracted Bryan, grab a hold of the tights and get the victory. After the match, Langston runs in and drops Bryan with the reverse powerslam thing. Kane then comes in and after taking out Dolph he grabs Langston by the throat for a chokeslam. Big E powers Kane’s arm away however and reverse powerslam thingies him too! AJ then grabs the tag titles to Dolph and Langston, who hold them up in the air. Good match, but this was all about establishing Big E as a more legit force. Until now he had only been used for run ins but this was a good showcase of what he’s capable of. There’s no way Ziggler and Big E are winning is there?
Time to promote Triple H and Brock Lesnar rematch again and what better way to do it than with Shawn Michaels. Every time he comes out he looks more and more like he was in the middle of a hunting trip when he shows up. Now he’s in a full camo vest, kind of dressed like Zeb Colter. There were rumors that since he was so involved in the Triple H/Undertaker match that he would take a back seat this year to the McMahon family. Michaels goes through the card before getting to the Triple H/Lesnar match which is the whole reason he’s here. He says that he’s concerned about his best buddy Triple H putting his career on the line which immediately brings HHH out. Hunter says that he knows what Michaels is going to say and that he knows Shawn was in the same situation against the Undertaker. Micahels then says their situations were much different, as he and the Undertaker had mutual respect for each other while Lesnar doesn’t respect anybody, and that Triple H needs the WWE much more than Michaels did. With that in mind, Triple H said that he isn’t going to get talked out of the match. Michaels again retorts, saying that he isn’t trying to stop the match. Instead, he wants Triple H to kick Lesnar’s ass and Michaels is going to be in his corner while he does it. This is a nice twist from last year where Michaels was the Adrian to Hunter’s Rocky, always saying he can’t do it. They hug and Michaels is about to tell us to suck it when Heyman and Lesnar come out. Heyman has to physically hold Lesnar back so that he can talk about how Lesnar will beat Triple H into retirement and disappoint everyone from his family to the board of directors since he won’t be able to lead them anymore. I didn’t realize that this stipulation included retiring from his office job too. Could’ve been more clear about that. The more trash Heyman talks the more Triple H and Michaels motion for Lesnar to come to the ring and fight. Heyman calls it a sucker move from men who fight from emotion which is why they will lose. Heyman continues to cut a pretty good promo (is he capable of a bad one?) about how Lesnar broke both of their arms and will be known as the man who made Triple H retire before they both head back up the ramp. Again, is there any chance in hell that Triple H loses this match?
This is followed up by Zack Ryder making another grumpy appearance against Wade Barrett while the Miz joins the broadcast booth. Before the match it is announced that Barrett will defend his Intercontinental Championship against the Miz during the WrestleMania preshow. Barrett starts strong with knees to the gut and a snap suplex. Ryder comes back with a face buster and baseball slide outside the ring, but Wade regains control by taking down Ryder when he goes to the top rope. The match continues it’s back and forth pace when Ryder gets going again, hitting the Broski Boot for a two count. Wade then gets Zack in the corner and catches Ryder’s knees when he tries to counter. Barrett then hits Ryder with the Bull Hammer Elbow and gets the win, looking at Miz the whole time while Miz talks trash. Miz versus Barrett is midcard on Raw, and it’ll mid pre-show at ‘Mania. Sounds about right. Miz is probably lined up to win here.
Backstage Santino is warning Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox that Vince McMahon is in the house and is angry at them. Just as Vickie starts to freak out Santino jumps back in to yell “April Fools!” Oh Santino, I don’t miss you at all. As payback, Vickie puts Santino in a match against Mark Henry. Santino kicks Henry a couple of times, making Mark mad. Henry hits Santino once to knock him out. One World’s Strongest Slam later and the match is over. Ryback then comes out and heads into the ring. Henry reminds Ryback of the no contact clause that they have before their WrestleMania match. Henry then starts to leave when Ryback grabs Santino and rams him into Henry, sending him out of the ring. Ryback then throws Santino into Mark, taking him down again yelling, “I didn’t touch you, STUPID!” Okay, that’s the line of the night. I have really high hopes for this match, but reports are that the crowd and WWE officials haven’t been pleased with their matches during house shows. Let’s hope they pull it together for WrestleMania.
Backstage Matt Striker is talking to CM Punk, asking if he is disrespecting the memory of Paul Bearer by taking the urn. Punk responds by saying that he doesn’t give a damn, and that he is trying to get in the Undertaker’s head so that he can end the Undertaker’s streak. He says the Undertaker is more concerned with Paul Bearer’s streak of waking up every morning (burn) while Punk is only concerned with winning the match. Punk is willing to take the victory by DQ or count out as long as he wins at the end of the day. He promises to becomes synonymous with WrestleMania as he kisses the urn and leaves.
Gimmick match time as Zeb Colter gets in the ring (with Swagger in his corner) against Alberto Del Rio. Alberto wants Ricardo to leave ringside but Rodriguez refuses despite Swagger being there. Swagger immediately goes after Ricardo who holds up a crutch in self-defense. Colter grabs the crutch and Swagger attacks Ricardo. Del Rio then jumps out to save Rodriguez and takes out Swagger. On the way back in, Zeb hits Alberto with the crutch. Eventually Del Rio grabs it from him but before he can attack Zeb, Swagger comes in and takes down Alberto. The patriotic duo then starts attacking Del Rio with the crutches until a ref finally breaks it up and the heels head back up the ramp.
Rock coming out in the middle of the show? You damn right he is. The WWE Champion kicks off the third hour by telling John Cena that this Sunday isn’t about his redemption, but about the will of the people guiding the Rock to victory. Rock agrees with me in saying that Cena is saying the same things he said last year when he lost (Rock is saying the same things too though) and that Cena will never get his time. And that’s it. Probably the shortest promo the Rock has given since he came back. The WWE is so concerned with keeping all of their talent healthy that none of them seem to have wrestled since the last pay per view. Rock only work’s PPV’s. Cena hasn’t had a match since he beat Punk. Punk hasn’t had a match since winning the match to face Undertaker (he does have a legit injury though). The rest of the card only comes out for a few shows at best so we should be lucky that they are all even in the building tonight. The whole show has been monologue after monologue, with only a couple of real matches. Aside from Michaels announcing that he’ll be in Triple H’s corner, what has actually happened tonight?
***UPDATE*** I don’t know how it got deleted but I swear I had a full breakdown on Jericho’s match against Antonio Cesaro. The highlight for me was Cesaro yodeling before running into the corner for an uppercut, followed closely by Fandango coming out giving scores on all of Jericho’s moves. This is the best thing that character has ever done. After Jericho got Cesaro to tap out to the Walls, Fandango ran in and attacked Chris, hitting a couple of top rope leg drops while the crowd chants ÿou can’t wrestle” at a man who they have never seen actually wrestle. This is the risk the WWE is taking. They have a man making his in ring debut against a future hall of famer at their biggest show of the year. No pressure or anything.
What’s better for the last match before WrestleMania than a Divas tag match putting the Bella Twins against the Funkadactyles? Well, plenty but this is what we’re getting as a plot device for the 8 person mixed gender match with Team Rhodes Scholars and Tensai and Brodus Clay joining the ladies at WrestleMania. Naomi, who actually does have some talent, starts strong against one Bella but loses control against the other Bella. JBL says Tensai and Brodus look like “large rythmic tomatoes” with their red jump suits as Naomi botches a roll up pin but hit an enziguri, giving her the chance to get Cameron in on a hot tag. She hits a leg drop split move followed by a big DDT. One Bella saves the other from being pinned, with Naomi coming in to pull the illegal Bella out of the ring. The men get involved outside the ring (not what you think) leaving Cameron and the legal Bella in the ring alone. Naomi hits a running cross body for a pin attempt, but the Bella rolls her over and gets the win via pinfall. Not a bad match at all, and only now do I realize that Cody and Sandow are wearing each other’s shirts. I love Team Rhodes Scholars.
Undertaker in the ring to close the show. He says the pain he will put on Punk will last much longer than his championship streak did, and that Punk is the one who made it personal so Punk will now suffer. Taker admits that the streak may come to an end due to his emotional state, but Punk will never live to talk about it. At this point the druids that normally come out to introduce the Undertaker come out. A confused Undertaker watches as Paul Heyman comes out dressed like Paul Bearer, holding the urn. The Undertaker starts to run toward him when he realized he is surrounded by the druids. Taker starts attacking them until Punk reveals himself and attacks Undertaker from behind. He then takes the urn and starts beating the Undertaker with it. Punk calls the Undertaker “Hocus Pocus,” saying that he did this to him before emptying the ashes of the urn over the Undertaker’s body. Punk holds the urn over Undertaker as the show ends and that is a hell of a way to sell this feud. I would still love to know what they would have done had Bearer not passed away, but that was great.
So that’s it. WrestleMania is in six days as with very few exceptions everything is set. I’m more drawn in by the potential of the matches than the way the stories have played out. While I may not be that interested from a creative standpoint, I do see the potential for a number of matches to be very good, if not great. Regardless of what happens though, the sight of Paul Heyman dressed as Paul Bearer almost makes the whole thing worth it.
Since I’ll be at WrestleMania I won’t be able to do the same coverage that I would if I was watching on TV. On the bright side I’ll have some distant pictures from my upper deck seats. Everyone wins!