Well no, not ever, obviously. I know there’s only so much on this topic I can expect all of you to endure. But RAW was just too damn good this week not to talk about.
When I started writing more regularly about wrestling last month, I made mention of the fact that Wrestlemania season is unique in the WWE because they can actually build the feuds on the card for something more than three weeks. Those days are over, as the company moves on to the annual Extreme Rules show on April 29. With RAW devoted to Mania fallout, that leaves them a scant three weeks to build the matches for Extreme Rules, but they certainly laid out enough set pieces to keep my interest in the product for the next couple of weeks at least.
Behind the cut, what I loved about the show.
Jericho Offers Punk a Drink
I like those moments when different angles in the WWE dovetail into each other, it adds an element of world building to the product that I appreciate. So not only does CM Punk get put into a title match with Mark Henry because Punk lipped off to John Laurenaitis, the newly crowned GM of RAW and Smackdown, he has Jericho come out and assault him after the match, continuing their feud.
The worry in the month after Mania is that the company will just coast along on rematches. While we know now that won’t be the case, I appreciate that even in those storylines that continue, the intensity’s been increased. Everyone came out a winner in this: Mark Henry got to look strong demolishing Punk, Punk’s still the champ so he’s fine, and Jericho got to get on the mic and sneer about ‘this is the guy who beat me?‘ before pouring some Jack Daniels all over Punk’s head. Just nice booking all around. Well, except when Jericho slipped onto his ass when he went to kick Punk.
The Ascension of Daniel Bryan and a Crowd on Fire
The one thing I kept coming back to again and again during my live-Tweet of the show was how insanely hot that Miami crowd was. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a crowd at a live event, especially a WWE live event, that gave it up so hard for what they liked, and gave it just as hard for things they didn’t. From the ‘You still got it!‘ chant as The Rock cut his promo, to outright booing and calling for Daniel Bryan as new champ Sheamus squared off with a returning Alberto Del Rio. I imagine there were more than a couple quizzical faces on the creative team Monday night.
Speaking of Bryan, for a guy with only a few seconds of on-air screentime, he was all over that show, as fans spoke out en masse to voice their displeasure with the WWE’s decision to job him out in 18 seconds to Sheamus the night before. While I do think [as some, like Aftermath’s Arda Ocal have mused] Bryan’s ‘YES!’ chant will take on a life of its own, in Miami the chant was the crowd’s way of letting the WWE know they’re not going to forget about Bryan no matter how weakly they try to book him. Peep this footage of Bryan in the ring from the dark main event that happened after RAW went off the air.
What’s amazing about that is how they cheer even when he’s ass, doing his ‘AJ, shut up,’ bit [something I’m choosing to believe is more of a smart-mark appreciation of his heel tactics that any misogyny in the crowd. At least I hope so].
While I hope this means a continued push for Bryan, and a three-way chase for the WHT between him, Del Rio and Sheamus, as a reader on Twitter pointed out, the fans at Wrestlemania weekend are pretty smart about the business, and Bryan will need to start getting over like that in Topeka before creative takes him seriously. Fingers crossed.
Here Comes the Pain
And there’s the main thing people were talking about on Tuesday: the returning Brock Lesnar, and his laying out of John Cena.
What I love about this is Lesnar is the perfect guy to feud with Cena right now. With his loss to The Rock at Mania, lots of people were practically rending their garments they wanted Cena to turn heel so badly. But as his promo quickly made clear, he wasn’t going to do it. He wanted to rise above the hate, again, give some shine to the better man, be the good guy, murder any chance that the people who already hated him could ever come around and probably push away most people who were on the fence about him. Look, I get that Cena’s a role model for the chilluns, but I thought we learned in the last month that he could incorporate some edge to his character without losing the kids. Instead he comes out bedecked in his new merch, looking like a Shamrock Shake and apologizing for not getting the job done.
And into this comes Brock Lesnar, who walks in, takes Cena’s hand to shake it, dumps him on his face, and in the most telling gesture, kicks Cena’s hat out of the ring with a ‘Fuck outta here!‘ snarl on his face. Lesnar is the anti-Cena. He’s doesn’t talk, he doesn’t josh with the fans, he’s just slab of muscle that likes to hurt people; he’s exactly the type of character the Cena-haters want.
Some smarts have concerns about Lesnar’s desire to do well by the business this run, recalling Lesnar quitting the WWE for UFC when he wasn’t the top guy anymore. While I don’t think we should ignore Lesnar’s past actions, we should remember that Lesnar’s in his 30’s now, and has likely gotten some perspective on his career and his professionalism by now. He’s older, he took some injuries in last few MMA matches and according to the dirtsheets he’s got a sweet part-time deal for something like 35 appearances between now and Wrestlemania 29. I really don’t see him going into business for himself this time out.
Internet scuttlebutt [so salt grain it] has Wrestlemania getting about 400K more buys than they were hoping for. If any of those were casual fans they managed to keep going into RAW the following night, they certainly gave them enough to keep them interested.
Kind of a good time to be a fan right now.