A night after Wrestlemania, Monday Night Raw took place in New Orleans, and what a show it was!
In recent years, this post-Mania show has become a hugely important one where returns take place and shocks happen. The fact that the audience is made up of a wide variety of nationalities, all visiting the town for Wrestlemania, only adds to the fun. Two years ago Brock Lesnar returned, and last year Dolph Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank, whilst the crowd began “Fandango-ing”. So what were the highlights from this year’s show?
Paige debuts and wins the Divas title
This was perhaps the biggest shock of the night, as the extremely talented 21 year old from Norwich, England, not only debuted but beat champion AJ Lee in an impromptu match for the title. AJ was gloating about defeating all of the current division at Mania, only for NXT champion Paige to come out from behind the curtain. It was the perfect time to debut, as the crowd was a “hardcore” wrestling audience, those who perhaps know more about wrestling than your average joe. They knew exactly who she was, as many would have watched NXT, and so she received a great reaction. It was still extremely surprising to see her beat AJ, and so quickly(!) but this could be the start of a very special feud. Arguably the two best female wrestlers in the company are now enemies, so let’s hope they are given time to wrestle and talk, and make this feud one of the best in recent memory. I feel like Smackdown has been lackluster recently, and has not furthered many feuds, so time could quite easily be given to these two. It would benefit greatly from it.
Daniel Bryan & The Shield vs The Authority
The night started with the newly crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion addressing the crowd, only for HHH and Stephanie to interrupt and create a match between HHH and Bryan for the title later in the show. Cue angry responses from Batista and Orton (who decimated the Usos in a tag match), as well as Stephanie telling Kane and the Shield to get along. When the time came for the match, Orton, Batista and Kane attacked Bryan in the ring, before HHH ordered the referee to ring the bell. This injustice brought out the Shield, who confronted the Authority(/ Evolution) before taking the fight to them. War broke out in an excellent final segment, with Reigns spearing HHH before Bryan delivered a knee to the boss. The new generation vs the old, this was a great example of the WWE creating new stars for the future. It is their hottest storyline right now.
Cesaro – The New Paul Heyman Guy
Well, who would have seen that coming? Hogan gave Cesaro the Andre the Giant trophy, before Zeb took the microphone and started spewing his propaganda. The huge shock came when Cesaro snatched the microphone to declare that he was no longer a Zeb Coulter guy, but rather a “Paul Heyman Guy”! Heyman came out and declared Cesaro “the King of Swing”, which the crowd quickly began chanting. Swagger attacked from behind and destroyed the trophy. An official match was begun but soon Swagger had left the ring, under the guidance of Coulter, wanting no more of Cesaro for the evening. This is an interesting turn of events for Cesaro, who is one of the best athletes in the company today. He seems to have turned face, but Heyman is very much a heel manager. Anyway, it looks like Swagger vs Cesaro is the feud heading into Extreme Rules, which I have no problem with at all.
Brock Lesnar – The Man Who Beat the Streak
The shock waves were still reverberating last night at Monday Night Raw from THAT moment at Wrestlemania on Sunday night. The Undertaker’s perfect record now blemished with that ‘L’ next to 21 ‘W’s’, all courtesy of the Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar. And the WWE were not going to miss the opportunity to emphasise the importance of this, as was evident the moment Lesnar and Paul Heyman walked out from behind the curtain. Rightfully so! This is a momentous time in the history of the company, and that was the biggest moment in wrestling history for a quarter of a century. Heyman and Lesnar need to brag about this constantly, and so even if Lesnar leaves for a few months, fans will still be talking about the man who broke the streak. This particular segment was exactly that, with Heyman playing up the magnitude of the moment, and claiming Brock surpasses Rock, Hogan etc as the best there ever was. Heyman is so good at playing the heel manager it’s scary. You can’t help but listen, he’s absolutely magnetic on the mic. One of the best managers of all time. The question now is what’s next for Lesnar? We didn’t really get any indication of his future, but I’m sure we will all tune in next week to find out more.
Alexander Rusev debuts on Raw
This was not officially Rusev’s debut as he competed in the Rumble but it was his first one on one match. Who better to begin his career against than Zack Ryder? I wonder who will win this match! Rusev made short work of Ryder, making him tap out to the camel clutch. The good news is that Rusev seems much more athletic than Ryback who went on a similar path of destruction against jobbers not too long ago. Here’s hoping Rusev is the next Lesnar rather than the next Ryback or Koslov.
Bad News Barrett makes his in ring return
As an Englishmen this was great to see. In 2010 when the Nexus debuted with Wade Barrett as its leader, I was extremely excited. Here was a promising in-ring talent with great charisma, who looked destined for the main event. Since then he has faded away due to a mixture of poor booking and unfortunate injuries, even though he has had multiple Intercontinental title reigns. His most recent return has seen his gimmick change to Bad News Barrett, and his role limited to a verbal one. That was until now. Last night, he garnered a great reaction as he returned to the ring to face Rey Mysterio. A victory via a bull-hammer elbow is extremely promising for the man from Preston. I hope he gets an opportunity to prove himself and who knows, maybe even climb to the top of the company.
The Wyatts vs Cena Continues
Cena may have beaten Wyatt in the middle of the ring at Mania but that is not the end of the story it seems. Last night there was an entertaining six man tag match between the Wyatt Family and Cena, Sheamus and Big E, with Bray pinning E for the victory. I can’t see Sheamus or Big E getting involved in this feud though, and I hope the focus remains on Cena and Wyatt, as the promo work was sensational in the lead up to Mania. May be some sort of stipulation in a match between the two at Extreme Rules could keep it feeling fresh, and Wyatt may even pick up the victory. It was only a match this week, so let’s hope the actual story is pushed forward either on Smackdown or next Monday night.
Rob Van Dam returns
This was not a huge shock, but it’s still great to have a legend back. He worked a fun, short match with Damien Sandow (how far as he fallen since being “The Uncrowned World Heavyweight Champion”?) and now I’m hoping he can play a similar role to Chris Jericho has in recent runs. Jericho worked with young upcoming talent and his legendary status was enough to help push them towards stardom. Big E, Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, or may be even Sandow himself, could benefit greatly from defeating Van Dam at a couple of PPV’s.
This was a fantastic show, with so many noteworthy points. A new generation of superstars is on the rise and its great to see. Finally it appears WWE is looking towards the future, and you can’t help feel that this is due somewhat to the increased power of HHH in that area recently. He gets a lot of stick, but there’s no doubt he cares about the company, and it may just be in safe hands (I’m not saying I wouldn’t welcome a Shane return, with his awesome entrance music!).
Some superstars continue to be wasted though. The likes of Rhodes, Ziggler, Sandow and even Intercontinental Champion Big E seem to be in limbo, so we will have to wait to see what happens with them. They are all extremely talented, and main event worthy in my opinion, but there is limited spots at the top. May be the seeming changing of the guard in WWE will help get their careers back on track.
Anyway, a fantastic post-Mania show with a lively crowd who added to the action (hilarious 3MB chant when Bryan was being beaten down). Looking forward to Shield vs Wyatts on Main Event, then on to Smackdown and next week’s Raw!