By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw Hits
Overall show: This was everything I want a night after WrestleMania to be. I knew we were in for the right kind of "night after" show when they aired clips on the Raw Pre Show that featured the big events that have transpired on past "night after" shows. Raw exceeded my expectations for setting the course for the new year. This was not one of those glorified WrestleMania recap shows. WWE set the course for the new year and showcased a major youth movement (see the debuts of Paige and Alexander Rusev, and the vignettes for Bo Dallas and Adam Rose). It will be interesting to see where things go once they get away from the night after WrestleMania super fans, but I really believe that the time is now for the younger talent.
Daniel Bryan opening: There was so much fan focus on The Streak ending coming out of WrestleMania, but WWE wisely placed the emphasis on Daniel Bryan at the start of the pre show and the beginning of Raw. They shifted focus from the fan funeral for The Streak to the celebration of Daniel Bryan's championship win. Triple H's interruption was great and the setup to the final segment was strong. The Raw crowd passionately chanting for Bryan and telling the humble new champion that he deserves it was great, and I really like the way Bryan turned it around and praised the fans. Triple H and Stephanie's interruption came at just the right time and gave viewers a big hook for the final segment.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H segment with The Shield: You could argue that the Bryan vs. Hunter tease was a bait and switch, but I haven't heard anyone complain because they delivered a hot closing angle and Bryan survived the night as champion. You could see where things were going with The Shield a mile away, but it didn't seem to matter since the live crowd was so hot for all four babyfaces standing up to Hunter's crew. The four vs. four staredown was hot and it left me wondering where things are going. A big eight-man tag match? War Games? A Bryan vs. Hunter title match and The Shield vs. Kane, Batista, and Randy Orton in a six-man tag match?
Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar: The best taunting heel manager celebration promo I have ever seen. Brock had an easy night as his job was essentially to stand there and not crack up while Heyman went off on his terrific tangent. Heyman's words were not met with the traditional mega heel heat. The fans got the boos protesting the end of The Streak out of their system during the entrance, and Heyman had rowdiest crowd of the year hanging on his every word. There was no direction teased for Lesnar. There was no talk of Lesnar wanting the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and no one came out to challenge Lesnar. My guess is that Brock is going away for a while. If they want to get the most out of Lesnar getting the most out of The Streak, then there's no way he should lose to Daniel Bryan at Extreme Rules.
Paige vs. A.J. Lee: WWE created a star. As much as I would prefer that they simply set up Paige as a strong contender to Lee rather than having her win the title on her first night, the super fan crowd was so hot for her debut that even someone at home who had never seen her had to be excited by what transpired. I'm simply a fan of going on the journey of the championship chase rather than having someone reach the peak right from the start. That said, I cannot deny that she got over in a big way last night.
Cesaro is a Paul Heyman Guy: Heyman and Lesnar received huge heat during their entrance and then Heyman cut a promo in which he gloated and ripped on everyone and everything. A short time later, the fans pop huge when Cesaro says he's a Paul Heyman Guy. That was fun. I'm not sure where this is going since it looks like Cesaro is going to feud with Swagger, and it will be odd to have two heel managers involved. Cesaro is gaining babyface momentum. Heyman could be used to shut that down just as he did when C.M. Punk turned heel, but the King of Swing name suggests that Cesaro won't be abandoning his crowd pleasing big swing move. Is this a short term relationship that sets up a Cesaro vs. Lesnar program? I don't know where this is going and I like that.
The Wyatt Family vs. John Cena, Sheamus, and Big E: A big bounce back match for Bray Wyatt. The loss to Cena on the big stage at WrestleMania suddenly feels like it occurred weeks ago. The crowd reaction to the Wyatt Family was great, and I was surprised to see them look so dominant through the match. Can Big E just drop the Intercontinental Title so I can have someone new champion to complain about when he loses all of his non-title matches? The routine is getting a little worn out with E.
Randy Orton and Batista vs. The Uso Brothers: The crowd got too self indulgent with the chants and didn't seem to take notice of how vicious the suddenly unified Orton and Batista were in attacking the tag champions. I'm not a fan of seeing the tag champs worked over so easily as it sends the message that two singles stars are better than the best tag team in WWE, but that can be corrected. I'd love to see The Uso Brothers call out Orton and Batista next week. Obviously, it's not going to be a pay-per-view program because of what's going on at the top of the card, but it doesn't mean they can't do something on television that gives the Uso Brothers more of an edge. I will be really disappointed if they are back to beating throwaway teams and doing their usual dance number next week.
Bad News Barrett vs. Rey Mysterio: A big night for Barrett. The UK fans in attendance were hot for Barrett, and multiple readers who attended the show said it actually more than just those UK fans. The "Bad News" line that Barrett uses is over even if what he says after it is usually flat and doesn't seem to be leading to anything. I can't understand why WWE hasn't done more with the guy who was the key to the success of The Nexus back, but hopefully this is the first step toward something big. Meanwhile, I hope WWE finds a better role for Mysterio if he re-signs.
Alexander Rusev debut match: Rusev's gear looked better than the gear he wore during his NXT run. Lana seems to be clicking more on the big stage than she did in NXT. Rusev looked vicious in the ring and this was a quality debut match.
WWE Raw Misses
Rob Van Dam vs. Damien Sandow: A minor Miss. This felt like a youth movement night in WWE and RVD actually felt a little out of place to this viewer. The crowd was hot for him, though, so it's certainly not all bad. I just would have saved him for a show where his return could have meant more and wasn't lost in the shuffle.
Santino Marella and Emma vs. Fandango and Summer Rae: A minor Miss for all but one participant. It was a good night for Emma, as she got to show off the offense that helped make her click in NXT. I don't understand what they are doing with Summer. She was the big heel last week because the episode where she slapped Natalya aired on Total Divas, and now this week she was beaten thoroughly. It's nothing she can't bounce back from, yet it seemed inconsistent. My what a difference a year makes for Fandango. The crowd was into the song and all, but at this time last year I really thought that he would be doing something more meaningful. Santino's comedy act feels like more of a fun house show act than anything these days.