Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - Daniel Bryan celebrates, The Shield turns babyface again, Triple H is angry, Brock Lesnar gloats, Cesaro becomes a Heyman guy, and Paige, Rusev, Rose, and Dallas get the call up!
By Will Pruett
Something new is happening. Something very new is happening. This is a major deal, so I'll say it again, something new is happening. WWE has been in the midst of a youth movement for a while. Daniel Bryan was part of the beginning of it. The Shield was a part of it. The Wyatt Family was a part of it. Now, WWE is pushing Cesaro and welcoming Paige, Rusev, Adam Rose, and Bo Dallas onto the main roster. The youth movement in WWE is actually amazing when you step back and look at it. This night was over two years in the making and it was the coming out party for a new era in WWE.
Not every piece of this youth movement will work. Some of them will debut, fall away, then quickly be put back down in NXT. Some of them will debut and flounder on the main roster. Some of them will hang out as lifetime mid-carders and possibly frustrate fans four years from now when they aren't getting "their push" people think they deserve. All of this is to say not every piece of talent is going to main event WrestleMania. In fact, few, if any, will.
This doesn't mean WWE shouldn't be trying. This doesn't mean WWE shouldn't be constantly looking at their main roster and evaluating what needs the wrestlers in developmental could fill. What stories can people in developmental play a role in? WWE is rotating talent in and out far better than they were two years ago. They are freshening up the roster and finding new slots for guys on a weekly basis.
Paige's debut on this show was much like the debut of Gail Kim on Raw many years ago. Paige won the WWE Divas Championship in her first match, which seemed like a sudden choice. The great thing about this is the shakeup it provides all of the women in WWE. A.J. Lee had ran through the list of challengers two or three times and was stuck in an anti-Total Divas tailspin. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't good for anyone. Her reign went on far longer than it needed to. I like A.J., but change was necessary. Paige brings some fantastic change with her, even without a championship chase.
Rusev finally made his in-ring debut with a squash match. It was quick. It was vicious. It was everything Rusev needs to be. I'm not sure about the long-term place for this character and I worry about it being one-dimensional, until it becomes comedy. Rusev is getting a chance, but to me, he has the greatest chance of potential failure.
Adam Rose debuted in NXT a little over a month ago with this very fun act. It was immediately over with the NXT fans. It just kind of clicked and the former Leo Kruger dropped into this act better than he ever dropped into his mercenary routine. Rose isn't a main event act by any means, but it will be an extremely fun part of the upper-mid-card if used appropriately. With some tweaks, anything is possible. He's going to be fun.
Bo Dallas had a brush on the main WWE roster before. He failed. This is try number two and he is being set up for success. His vignettes on this show cracked me up. In NXT, they tried so hard to get him over as a babyface that he ended up being relentlessly booed. Bo embraced this, tweaked his act, and is a very good (and different) heel. This heel is coming to WWE. Once again, I'm not sure about the potential of him as a top star, but I am sure he has a place.
This is just the latest group of stars debuting for WWE. New talent has been coming almost non-stop in the last two years. It's fantastic to see WWE investing so much in their future. This was the beginning of a new era on the WWE main roster. This night set into motion the stories for many years to come in WWE.
And now for some random thoughts:
- The show opening with the Daniel Bryan saga being spelled out via video package, culminating with the opening and closing matches at WrestleMania was fantastic. They made this moment all about Daniel Bryan's story. WWE presented him as a true number one level star on this show. He was made out to be the "A+ player" Triple H told him he wasn't.
- Every year, the crowd at the post-WrestleMania Raw is awesome. Sometimes they can be too self-indulgent, but this year, they caught the spirit of the show perfectly. Their reaction to Daniel Bryan coming to the ring as WWE World Heavyweight Champion is well worth remembering.
- I'm a little sad WWE didn't take it down to one belt for the champion on this show. Two belts looked silly on Orton and it's a sillier look for Bryan.
- The tease for Triple H and Bryan's rematch was really well done. I was surprised to see them going with this so soon, but the bait and switch was nice. Triple H vs. Bryan can be a heck of a main event for Extreme Rules.
- Randy Orton and Batista could actually make a pretty fun tag team if they were paired together. I would enjoy seeing them as two monsters ruling over the tag division. It would also give Orton some time to rehab his character after his weird title reign.
- This crowd loved The Wyatt Family and The Wyatt Family looked like major stars in front of them. John Cena, Sheamus, and Big E played their roles as babyfaces in front of this heel-loving crowd as well as they could. It was a tough task for them.
- Sheamus will have a heck of a heel run in front of him when WWE decides to turn him. The babyface side of the roster is deep, but more heels are necessary. I'm not sure how to make this move have the most impact or if Sheamus should be aligned with The Authority or a heel on his own, but I know becoming a heel is what will be best for him.
- Fandango and Summer Rae vs. Santino and Emma seemed to be an excuse to get a few dancing acts together. The fans, while they went for the Fandango-ing fad, didn't bite for the rest of the dancing fun.
- Santino and Emma's story is awkward. I'm not sure why it's happening.
- Paul Heyman cut the promo of a lifetime in front of the crowd with Brock Lesnar beside him. This was amazing. When I saw how this crowd reacted, I was more sure than ever that no one else should have broken The Streak. Lesnar can handle this ridiculous heat. Bray Wyatt couldn't. Roman Reigns couldn't. No one on the roster could have aside from Lesnar and Heyman together. This segment made me sure WWE made the right call.
- Paul Heyman's promo was honestly one of the best I have ever seen. It was a promo worthy of The Streak itself. This segment had me actually questioning my "Best Manager of All Time" rankings, because Heyman was basically perfect here. I can't think of anyone else who could have cut this promo.
- The heat for this Paul Heyman promo was off the page. The legitimate anger and sadness people feel about The Streak ending came through and Heyman played it off perfectly.
- Brock Lesnar looked like a monster here. I'm not going to complain about WWE not setting up what is next for him, because where he was last night was more important. Brock and Heyman hit the perfect pitch they needed.
- The Exotic Express is what happens when Daniel Bryan's bus rules aren't followed. It's pure anarchy.
- Some people have complained about The Uso Brothers being destroyed by Batista and Randy Orton, but I didn't mind it. I would have liked to see a competitive match and would have even been fine with this reformed version of Evolution winning, but the destruction worked for me.
- Rob Van Dam is back. WWE wrestlers should probably invest in mouth guards and expect to get some dental surgery.
- I could have never expected Bad News Barrett to actually be over. I believe some of it was U.K. fans cheering one of their countrymen. I also believe some of the cheering was being done ironically. Whatever it was, I hope it lasts. Barrett could use a nice run and a chance to really connect with people.
- I want to feel sorry for Rey Mysterio when he is booed, but I really feel like he just shouldn't be wrestling at this moment. The guy is having to put too much effort into losing a connection with fans.
- Ultimate Warrior cutting an old school nonsensical Warrior promo made my heart smile.
- WWE's video package thanking the fans was great. The real "thank you" to the fans was putting on two great shows in a row full of moments they will never forget. Once again, wrestling was at its best at WrestleMania and this Raw.
- A.J. Lee's promo must have been one written for C.M. Punk. She probably just added the word Diva into it a couple of times. Honestly, this was a promo meant to troll the fans into chanting for Punk and Lee played it off well. The interruption for the timid and respectful Paige was nice.
- I can listen to the argument for a nice long chase for Paige, but I am also fine with the instant win. This was a very necessary shakeup.
- If I never hear that damn Kid Rock song again, I will be a happy man.
- Guys, I Bo-lieve.
- Color me surprised when Cesaro declared himself a Paul Heyman guy. I don't think anyone was expecting this major career move from the "King of Swing." It was fun to see two managers fighting over a wrestler like it was 1983 all over again.
- How good of a night could Paul Heyman have? He was brilliant.
- I'm not sure how I feel about Heyman managing the monstrous heel Brock Lesnar and the rising babyface Cesaro, but I'm going to give it time to play out. If anyone can pull it off, it's Paul Heyman.
- Jack Swagger killed The Dre. I will never forgive him.
- It looks like Swagger vs. Cesaro (with Zeb Colter and Paul Heyman as cornermen) will continue. This should be a good launching point for Cesaro, but what about Swagger? Where does he go?
- The segment with Kane and The Shield backstage featured a little more foreshadowing than I would have liked, but it still worked.
- Batista and Orton as a team beating up Bryan charmed me. This was fun.
- Triple H standing over a fallen, beaten, and battered Bryan was great. It only could have been better if Triple H grabbed the giant shovel sign in the crowd and pantomimed burying Bryan.
- The Shield's music hitting and their big stare down with Evolution plus Kane was excellent. The crowd knew exactly what was going to happen, but they still got crazy excited for it.
- I'm a major fan of Reigns, Ambrose, and Rollins in their new masks.
- Can JBL stop saying the whole farm animal thing? It bothers me. Actually, can JBL stop commentating? He isn't adding anything to WWE's shows.
- I'm not sure whether The Shield vs. Kane, Batista, and Orton and Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan or The Shield and Bryan vs. Evolution plus Kane is more compelling for Extreme Rules. Honestly, I would be really excited to see it in a WarGames style format, but I would get my hopes up for WWE to bring it back.
This show was excellent, and not just because it was a celebration of WrestleMania. In fact, it was less about WrestleMania than the past few Raw after 'Mania shows have been. This show was about the future. WWE seems exceptionally excited about their future and they showed it off to one of their hottest crowds of the year. This show was a success on pretty much every level.
WWE is exciting, new, and young right now. What more can we ask for?
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at @itswilltime.
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