Last night’s episode of Raw was a perfectly acceptable program, except when compared to the excellent broadcast a week before it and without the benefit of that hot crowd it seemed pretty boring.
It’s unfair to expect what we got in New Jersey every week but Monday’s Raw, which started out great and had a very solid first hour and a half, went downhill fast. Still, though, storylines were advanced and we got a few setups for the Extreme Rules pay-per-view.
• The show started off with a solid 2-on-1 match with Randy Orton and Sheamus – or, the “Celtic Vipers,” as Michael Cole referred to them post-match – taking on Big Show, continuing their WrestleMania fallout. After Mark Henry speared Sheamus in the back, we were set up with a Celtic Vipers v. Mark Henry and Big Show match on Smackdown.
I thought immediately after Cole branded the team of Orton and Sheamus that they might be sticking together to be that new babyface tag team WWE is lacking behind Team Hell No. Or maybe we’re getting this Smackdown tag match as a setup to singles programs of Sheamus-Henry and Orton-Show instead.
• WWE did what they usually do and instead of letting the “Fandangoing craze” just be organic, they tried to force it down our throats. The Greenville crowd had zero interest in the gimmick. Give credit to Fandango for trying to bring them back in, but the audience just wasn’t having it.
It was especially awkward while Fandango was making his entrance and the announcers were explaining what a “viral hit” he had become and the crowd was completely silent. While I’m glad WWE didn’t just throw away everything that happened in New Jersey, they probably should have realized it would be hard to replicate that sort of atmosphere again.
• Dolph Ziggler also got very little reaction, which is scary since Vince McMahon tends to overreact based on one night. It’s also surprising, since Ziggler got a better reaction than that even as he was losing clean to Kofi Kingston for weeks before cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase. I have no problem with Jack Swagger working his way into the Alberto Del Rio – Dolph Ziggler rematch. In fact, it makes sense, since Swagger made the claim on Smackdown that he softened up the champ and made it possible for Ziggler to cash in.
I wouldn’t have a problem with Ziggler losing – a week after winning the title – to Swagger either, since it does set up Swagger’s involvement in the match even more, if WWE didn’t constantly have its champions lose non-title matches on TV. There are plenty of other ways to get people involved in the title picture. Oh, how I miss the plain old Number One Contenders match.
• Speaking of which: Wade Barrett also lost a non-title match to R-Truth and Kaitlyn was pinned by one of the Bellas in a non-title contest. One champion lost his belt on the show and three other champions lost non-title matches.
• Antonio Cesaro dropping the United States Championship to Kofi Kingston was a questionable move, although it really shouldn’t be based on the way Cesaro has been booked lately. The match itself was great, though. Hopefully for Cesaro he’s onto something more meaningful now. That may be wishful thinking.
I wouldn’t be shocked if we see a Big E. Langston v. Kofi Kingston US Title match at some point with Langston winning the gold.
• CM Punk pulled a Shawn Michaels and “lost his smile.” Punk’s brief promo before walking out made sense, and perhaps he takes some time off to rehab his myriad injuries and comes back as a face again.
• I loved that Heath Slater called The Shield a “three-man cover band” during his promo. Brock Lesnar got a nice pop and roughed up 3MB, which brought out Paul Heyman to lay down the challenge to Triple H. Lesnar v. Trips at Extreme Rules in a steel cage match.
While the majority of the internet hates this, and it’s hard to argue that view, at least it will be the final chapter in the Triple H – Lesnar saga and hopefully will then allow Lesnar to move on to another program.
• The long Ryback pre-taped promo was a well done, old school segment but it definitely took the air out of the live crowd. The show didn’t really recover after that. All of Ryback’s talking points made sense, though, explaining that he was there to save John Cena when he needed it, but Cena was never there to help Ryback against The Shield.
It planted seeds that Cena might be aligned with The Shield, as far-fetched as that may be, until later in the show when The Shield attacked Cena and Ryback stood by without helping. It might be a reach to assume Ryback is aligned with The Shield and more likely that this was just done to build more tension between Cena and Ryback.