Powell's WWE Raw Hit List: Paul Heyman takes on Chicago and wins, The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family, Triple H and Daniel Bryan, Batista vs. Daniel Bryan, The Uso Brothers win the WWE Tag Titles, Aaron Paul
By Jason Powell
Check out the Prowrestling.net Live audio show that Jake Barnett and I hosted after Raw (airs live every Monday at 10:30 p.m. CT) at Blogtalkradio.com/prowrestlingdotnet.
WWE Raw Hits
Paul Heyman: A true gem of a segment that let the fans get the C.M. Punk chants out of their system, yet also had them hanging on Heyman's every word. Heyman was the perfect guy for this both because of history with Punk and his own ability to handle this type of a situation. I'd say that Heyman was put in a tough spot, but he seemed to relish the opportunity to take on this challenge. The verbiage of the promo left me feeling like the door was opened creatively for a Punk and Heyman reunion at some point. How hot would it be if Daniel Bryan captured the title and Punk was there seemingly to congratulate him the next night on Raw only to beat the holy hell out of Bryan? Of course, we can all come up with fantasy booking scenarios for Punk, but it seems rather futile since there is no reason to believe he will be back any time soon.
The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family: Another hot match between the trios. I enjoyed the Elimination Chamber version more, but perhaps my judgement is a bit skewed because I saw the first one in person. I like the finish of Seth Rollins walking out on his partners. I mentioned the possibility of something like this happening in my Elimination Chamber preview with the thought that it would be a cool swerve since so much of the focus was on the issues between Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Rollins really needed this as he's not just the guy pleading with his partners to make nice. I continue to suspect this is setting up a Triple Threat between The Shield members for WrestleMania.
Triple H and Daniel Bryan: I continue to appreciate the way this storyline is being crafted. It was WrestleMania main event or bust for Daniel Bryan fans, so they are playing this perfectly by having Bryan be the one to demand the match, as it makes it seem like this is what he craves more than anything. Hunter and Stephanie are playing their parts extremely well. As much as I feel the heel authority figure routine is tired and overplayed and that everything that so much of what led up to the build for this match was a mistake, it's clearly working now. The Authority are not going for shades of gray silliness when they are verbally jousting with Punk. They are straight up heels and they are very good at that. Hunter's refusals to agree to a match with Bryan are building the fan desire to see that match. Some Bryan fans will see it as a letdown, but I believe most will actually pop big when Hunter agrees to it. Of course, there's still the possibility that the match will carry a stipulation that puts Bryan in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match if he beats Hunter. Either way, the build to Hunter vs. Bryan has been very well done.
The Uso Brothers vs. The New Age Outlaws: I enjoyed this match more than any Outlaws match in their latest return. They worked really hard to make the tag title change click. I would be surprised to see a tag title change tonight on Main Event Live because it would be foolish to put the tag titles on The Uso Brothers for the first time only to have them lose it a night later. I'm not sure what the tag match will be at WrestleMania, but don't rule out a big multi-team gauntlet style match that gets a lot of wrestlers on the show. By the way, I continue to find it ridiculous that Cody Rhodes and Goldust are on the outside looking in. How many shows did those guys help carry with their great in-ring performances? They deserve better.
Christian vs. Sheamus: A minor Hit based on match quality. I could easily give this a Miss because the fans still aren't connecting with this program, but both wrestlers continue to work their asses off. The issue isn't with the talent, it's with the creative. Both wrestlers came back cold and were paired together.
Cesaro and Jack Swagger tension: You could see everything coming a mile away, but it was still effective. I love the tease for the crowd pleasing Cesaro Swing on Swagger before Zeb Coulter stepped in and talked him out of it. If they continue to milk that, the fans should pop huge once he finally performs the move on Swagger and eventually Coulter.
Aaron Paul: The Breaking Bad star looked like he was in awe of the Raw setup. I like the way he was paired with someone other John Cena, Santino Marella, or the Divas. Dolph Ziggler was also a wise choice because he's over with the rebellious crowd that would have been most likely to jeer any guest host or drown them out with C.M. Punk chants. However, the guest host gimmick is really flat. If they knew they had Paul coming in even a few weeks in advance, why not do a brief angle that positions Paul as being friends with Ziggler before the actor arrives? This would make Ziggler look cool while also building some anticipation for Paul's appearance.
Overall show: A hot show. All eyes were on how WWE would handle the hostile C.M. Punk crowd in Chicago and they more than delivered. Heyman got things off to a great start and then the rapid fire action of the rest of the first hour kept fans engaged in the product more than cheering for their hometown hero. This felt like a hot WrestleMania season Raw and the Chicago fans created a fun and memorable atmosphere rather than truly hijacking the show.
WWE Raw Misses
Batista vs. Daniel Bryan: I expected WWE to make this feel like a bigger match. Batista's Smackdown promo set the stage nicely, but they spent more time focussed on Triple H and Daniel Bryan than they did on this particular match. Obviously, Bryan vs. Hunter is the WrestleMania 30 match, but there was still a way to make this main event feel more "must see" than they did. Batista seems much more comfortable in his heelish role than he did as a babyface. I think the best is yet to come from Batista now that he's being recast.
Stephanie McMahon's WWE Network video: A big turnoff. She's one of the nastiest heels in the company, yet she breaks character to gush about watching WWE Network with her daughters. This was every bit as bad as heel characters appearing in the Be A Star video packages.
Brock Lesnar attacks Mark Henry: Zero impact. Lesnar needed a big bounce back week after showing fear and then being manhandled by Undertaker last week. This would have been a big deal had we not watched Lesnar destroy Henry in a previous angle. Heck, even if they had bothered to rebuild Henry after that it might have felt big. The only thing this did was make Henry look weak. Brock tossing the monitor that bounced into the crowd got a bigger reaction than anything he did to Henry. No, having Brock beat up Big Show again isn't the answer either.
John Cena promo: The bulk of the promo was a collection of Cena's greatest hits. The "my name is John Cena" line, the "new guys go through me" bit, and even the attempt to win over a hostile crowd all felt like things we've seen more. Cena really laid it on thick with the Chicago and respect talk. He seems to enjoy the challenge of getting the hostile crowds to at least stop booing him, but he's come across more genuine and far less repetitive in the past. Fortunately, Bray Wyatt came through with a strong promo on the big screen that made the segment worth watching.
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