Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - Daniel Bryan gets what everyone wants, occupies Raw, and saves WrestleMania, The Shield is united, John Cena's got jokes on jokes, Undertaker and Paul Heyman do things, and more!
By Will Pruett
When you're done reading this, make sure to check out part two of my Ten Years of John Cena series leading into WrestleMania. New blogs will be posted every Monday until the Monday before 'Mania.
After the Royal Rumble, I feared we may have been robbed of this year's WrestleMania moment. Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly for Daniel Bryan to win the 30 man match and headline WrestleMania (as 70,000 adoring fans chanted "Yes"), but he didn't. Bryan didn't win the Rumble and Batista, the man who did win, was booed out of the building.
WWE had a problem after the Rumble. They had to find a way to satisfy Bryan fans who were deeply unsatisfied. They solved their problem and more on this show with a great (but slightly dated) "Occupy Raw" segment. Fans poured into the ring to create a striking visual of Bryan and the masses together and Bryan was able to demand a match with Triple H and, if he is able to win that match, his own addition to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.
Suddenly, Bryan's moment seems like a sure thing (he's the only main event babyface on the WrestleMania card aside from John Cena and The Undertaker). The fans demanded change at the Rumble and have demanded change ever since. Bryan has been teased with moment after moment. As he's been teased, the people have risen up each time. Look at every match he's been in. Look at the Elimination Chamber. The teases of Bryan's ascension have been well done.
Bryan now has the chance to follow in the footsteps of Bret Hart and Chris Benoit, who were mistreated and downtrodden in WWE until they were able to close out a WrestleMania with a number ending in 0 with a championship. This is the biggest of deals. Hart's win was a sort of apology. Benoit's win was the endorsement his career needed. Bryan winning would be both.
There is still so much story left to tell, but after tonight, it is so much easier to be optimistic about WrestleMania. It's not just Bryan, but suddenly it looks like we'll have a really good card for the show of shows. The two Bryan matches, Wyatt vs. Cena, and Lesnar vs. Undertaker could all be blockbusters. The top four on this show seem much more pleasant than they did two weeks ago.
And one for some random thoughts:
- Hulk Hogan seemed much more comfortable delivering the WWE verbiage on this show.
- The Andre the Giant memorial 30 Man Battle Royal is a fun idea to incorporate the "get everyone on the show" WrestleMania match into the actual show and give it some meaning. WWE presented it well with the trophy and Hogan promoting it as a huge announcement. I'm all about this trophy as well.
- The major question going into WrestleMania: will someone break Andre the Giant (in statue form) over someone else's back?
- It was more than a little surreal seeing John Cena share the ring with Hulk Hogan.
- Cena's promo about the battle Royal, Bray Wyatt, and WrestleMania was not his best work. It was comedy in a serious situation. This is something Cena breaks out far too often. He tends to go for the funny in serious situations when he really shouldn't.
- Wyatt's response to Cena worked for me. People will complain about Hogan and Cena running off the Wyatt's, but 'Mania is still almost four weeks away. There is plenty of time for Bray, Luke, and Erik to get their heat.
- This show was yet another example of Triple H and Stephanie McManon being great heels. As a bonus, we didn't get a video package built on nostalgia for Stephanie. They performed extremely well as heels on this show.
- The Uso's are a fun team to watch wrestle, even in enhancement wins. I could do without their big finishing spot being the impressive dive/tag combination, but this is because I want the spot to be more special than an every week spot.
- Seth Rollins did a really nice job backstage talking to Kane. He's grown a lot promo-wise since The Shield's debut over a year ago.
- I don't want to write some awkward Shield fan fiction here, but Reigns seemed to be going for seductive when he said "Believe in The Shield."
- The build to Cesaro's split with Jack Swagger is getting weird. I'm ready for the split to happen, but I fear it may be held out for the WrestleMania battle royal, which would be a mistake.
- Undertaker needed to make an announcement of some sort, so he walked to the ring. He was immediately interrupted by Paul Heyman and his announcement was never made. What did he need to say? Was it important? Did we miss a major detail because Undertaker didn't announce it? I am obviously overreacting here.
- Heyman and Undertaker did a decent job building up the Lesnar vs. Undertaker match. They didn't make me believe Undertaker could lose, but it may be impossible to make me think that.
- Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust was just as awesome as it was last year. These four guys have a ton of chemistry. It was a nice treat to see this match again before The Shield's split.
- Are Cody Rhodes and Goldust destined for the WrestleMania battle royal? Some great talents will end up in it, but I'll be sad if they aren't involved in the tag title scene somehow and the Outlaws are.
- I don't think there is a conspiracy behind A.J. Lee being beat so often on TV. I also don't think it is anything special. A.J. hasn't mattered for almost a year. Even her one-night buzz from the completely scripted anti reality TV "Pipebomb-shell" promo was just one night buzz. A.J. is, sadly, settling back into the pack of random girls after her standout 2012 (and coasting 2013).
- Brie Bella should be the next more-than-temporary standout female on the WWE roster.
- Where was Emma on this show?
- Natalya probably shouldn't do commentary. She seemed to be trying to work in random buzz phrases like "believe in my heart" and other emotional silliness.
- I was worried when I saw the beginning of the "Occupy Raw" segment. It seemed campy (no pun intended) before the commercial break. When they came back and the ring and ringside area were completely full, I was into it. It was a unique visual and Bryan worked well within it.
- More than anything, the Occupy Raw moment reenforced Bryan as a man of the people, which wasn't necessary, but is always cool to see. They gave Bryan a moment completely custom to him, not based off of The Rock, Steve Austin, or anyone else who came before him.
- Triple H and Stephanie were great as the resistance to the occupation.
- "Give it to me, chubby." - Triple H
- Sheamus and Christian were in the tough spot of following the downright cathartic Daniel Bryan segment. Somehow this turned out to be the best of their encounters together. They had some fun street fight moments together and the crowd actually knew how to react to them. These guys have been doing good work and the story around them is finally catching up.
- Wyatt's response to Cena was well done. I am still looking forward to their match, despite the humor from Cena earlier.
- I would go to a Bray Wyatt concert.
- Batista and Randy Orton acted appropriately as they learned they could be facing Bryan in their WrestleMania main event.
- My dream of an Evolution reunion (one night only) is getting closer. WWE has to be tempted with Triple H, Batista, and Orton all standing in opposition to Bryan.
- The main event match was all about Bryan, just like this show was all about Bryan. It was his night and he delivered one of the best all around performances of his career.
I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about WrestleMania before this show, but now I am. Bryan helped to breathe some life into a show lacking it. Wyatt and Cena progressing their program helped as well. I believe this week and last week will be seen as the formative Raw episodes heading into 'Mania. WWE is in a good place and they still have plenty of story left to tell. They aren't peaking early, but they are providing excitement.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at email@example.com or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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