Wrestlemania is now well and truly behind us, and this week the WWE gave us some idea of the story lines going into the next PPV Extreme Rules in early May. Without Daniel Bryan, who was on his honeymoon, would the show be as successful as last week’s?
The Ultimate Warrior Tribute
The Ultimate Warrior, a true legend of the business passed away last week, just a day after he appeared on Monday Night Raw. The wrestling world has been in mourning ever since. Last night, the WWE put on a fitting tribute show for the Warrior, with highlights from his storied career playing throughout the night. He will be sorely missed.
The end of Corporate Kane
Finally, it looks like we are seeing the end of Corporate Kane. When he first handed his mask to Stephanie McMahon last year there was intrigue as to what role Kane would play. He has since become Corporate Kane, the Director of Operations, who just so happens to wrestle in his suit pants and shoes. It’s been an awkward look and hasn’t really worked. He’s been involved in the main story line with Daniel Bryan and the Authority but hasn’t really been billed as a threat to Bryan. Last night, Stephanie angered Kane, goading him into unleashing the Big Red Machine once more. It looks like he will once again wear his famous mask and red/black attire. Obviously, he is still working for the Authority though, and so only his anger and clothes will change I assume. What is most worrying for Kane though is that he is focusing on Bryan, who has beaten him numerous times recently, and so the audience has no reason to doubt he will do it again. That lack of a threat will no doubt take something away from a potential feud.
The Number 1 Contender’s tournament for the Intercontinental Championship
This was a great idea by the WWE, and let’s hope (I’m being optimistic here) that this is the beginning of a huge push for the Intercontinental title. That’s right, a push for the title. It’s been undervalued and under appreciated for too long now, and now that there is only one main title, this belt needs to be given ample time for interesting story lines to develop. It used to be extremely prestigious, with some of the most famous champions being Chris Jericho, Pat Patterson, Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, The Rock, SCSA, HHH, Kurt Angle and Randy Orton to name a few. In fact, at Wrestlemania VI then Intercontinental Champion, The Ultimate Warrior, defeated WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan to close the show. The recent New Japan Pro Wrestling product is the perfect example of how the title should be treated, as the Intercontinental Championship matches (both Tanahashi vs Nakamura), closed the Wrestle Kingdom 8 and Invasion Attack 2014 shows this year. The WWE equivalent must at least become a title for those upper-mid-carders who are not quite at the main event yet.
This tournament is the perfect way to set things into motion. Eight mid/upper-mid-carders, who by challenging for the title will add prestige to it. RVD defeated Del Rio with the five star frog splash in a well worked match, before Sheamus successfully knocked off The Real American Jack Swagger with the Brogue Kick. Cesaro also Neutralised Mark Henry in between. They were all okay matches, but I feel each competitor can produce more. The stand-out match of the evening though was Ziggler vs Barrett. These are two guys who deserve more than they have been given, and they produced a great match last night, with a bunch of near falls keeping the audience on their toes. Barrett eventually defeated Ziggler with the bullhammer elbow. This sets up Cesaro vs RVD, and Sheamus vs Barrett for next week. Due to the recent pushes of Barrett and Cesaro I suspect these two will progress to the final, with Cesaro earning the shot at the title. In truth though, any of the four men would bring the spotlight back on the title. That is not a jab at Big E, who I think is an excellent performer. He is simply suffering poor booking and underdeveloped story lines, like many recent champions have.
The Return of Evolution
This should have been a big deal. One of the most dominant factions in WWE returned last night. Instead, it fell rather flat. Sure it put a smile on my face, but it wasn’t the sort of “Oh my goodness” moment that perhaps was expected. I’m trying to figure out why. I think it’s partly because it was teased at so much, that people just sort of assumed it was going to happen. Also the commentators stayed rather quiet, I think only Lawler said “Oh no”. Where was Good Ol’ JR when you needed him? Finally I think it’s because only HHH is truly interesting at the moment. In 2003 when the original faction was formed both Batista and Orton were hot. They were the future of the company. Today in 2014 though, neither truly gets a reaction anymore because what are they? They aren’t the future anymore, they are in fact rather bland characters. It even comes off a bit like HHH and his cronies, rather than an equal team, which is shocking considering the titles Orton and Batista have held between them. They were both in the main event of Mania 30!
Anyway, no it wasn’t brilliant, but it was still one of the most noteworthy occurrences on a rather drab show. They returned to beat up the Shield who had been beaten up by 11 other superstars in the main event. Each Hound of Justice was dissected by Evolution but the audience didn’t really seem into it. I guess since the Shield are now face, and they’ve already fought the Wyatts, this feud makes the most sense. Let’s see where it goes in the next few weeks.
Paige gets a longer slot to show off her skills
Last week Paige shocked the world by defeating AJ Lee for the Divas Championship. The match was much too short though, and neither competitor could truly impress the fans. This week the new champion faced Alicia Fox. Both athletes actually impressed in this one, but even though given more time than last week, the divas still suffered time constraints. Fox’s backbreakers were suberb, but they were not enough to get her the victory, and instead Paige made her tap with the awesome Scorpion Crosslock. Paige is a true talent, and this match seemed to be one of the few divas matches recently that the crowd were actually into. There was even a gasp as Paige applied her submission. This woman can be a star. Now where was AJ to build this feud?
Cena/Wyatt II in a Steel Cage
The segment leading up to the announcement began well, as Bray Wyatt was in the ring delivering a world-class promo. Cena interrupted and made jokes, showing cringe-worthy photoshopped pictures, before finally turning serious. That was when he delivered the news that Cena/ Wyatt II would take place inside a steel cage at Extreme Rules. This is a good addition to the card, as it should be a good match with a different story to the one told at Mania, and the stipulation is a way of keeping the Family out. Cena making jokes was disappointing, as it really takes the intensity out of the feud, and the heat off Wyatt. When he becomes serious he is one of the best on the microphone, so why does he rely on jokes so much? I will never know. Anyway a rather up-and-down segment but at least we got an intriguing match from it.
This was a rather mediocre show in truth. Particularly when compared to the product produced last week. Evolution returned and began a feud with the Shield, whilst an interesting tournament began, but it just felt flat. In many ways it needed the injection that Daniel Bryan brings. He can always lift an audience, and that often rises a show too. It was disappointing that there was no AJ either to build a feud with Paige. I’m not sure why she wasn’t there, but it seemed strange. As always there continued to be misused talent such as Ziggler, Rhodes and Sandow, who all suffered a (sort of) loss this week. Finally, there was no Lesnar, although Heyman managed to make sure we didn’t forget the Beast. I really hope he appears more often but I don’t see it happening.
The story lines moved forward, albeit slowly on an average Raw.