By Will Pruett
When you're done reading this, make sure to check out the final installment of my Ten Years of John Cena series leading into WrestleMania.
With some stories, it is not about the beginning or the middle, but it is all about the end. Look at a television show like <I>Lost</I>, which had a brilliant beginning, a pretty good middle, and let people down at the end. There was a serious lack of emotional satisfaction for fans desperately searching for it. People don't remember an all-time great television show or the emotional journey they went on up until the finale, they remember disappointment.
Last night, another great show ended with How I Met Your Mother. Today, I'm sure you can find blog after blog maligning some of the more controversial choices and columns about how laypeople like you and I would have booked it. You will also likely find people who loved the finale and found it to be a great emotional journey. Personally, with HIMYM, I was happy to be there for the big moments. It was an unusual slice of life for a sitcom finale, because it was complicated. Life is complicated. How I Met Your Mother gave me a serious case of the feelings last night and rewarded my emotional investment in the journey of Ted, Robin, Lily, Marshal, and Barney.
Raw was a great example of how an ending can paint perception, good or bad. The end of Raw featured Daniel Bryan, who was held off of the last 12 hours of WWE produced first-run programming, running through the crowd (without pants on, for some reason), and attacking Triple H at the announce table. Bryan got his shots in on the COO, Batista, and Randy Orton and ended Raw with an arena full of people chanting "Yes!" with him. This was the pitch perfect ending for this very complicated WrestleMania season.
The rest of the show definitely happened, but nothing made much of an impact. Everyone in the Battle Royal ended up illogically fighting each other with nothing to gain. Batista wore something absurd. The tag teams had an eight-man tag. The Divas had a "Lumberjill" match. Nothing stood out as particularly special. Even Brock Lesnar finally getting the best of The Undertaker, after circling the ring for what felt like 45 minutes, seemed to be too little, too late. Take the final segment away from this show and the entire wrestling world has a serious case of the wrestling rage.
This is the perfect parallel for WrestleMania as well. One look at the card and you'll see how unspectacular it has the potential to be. With over 60 wrestlers on it, standing out at this year's WrestleMania is going to be tough. With multiple matches with over ten wrestlers set to appear, those matches are sure to be mostly filler. It happens. It's the choice WWE made. It doesn't really matter. Right now, WrestleMania is reliant on one thing, the end. Even The Undertaker's Streak, the highlight of the last five WrestleMania shows, couldn't carry this show with the lackluster build behind it.
The end was the only important part of Raw, and it will be the only important part of WrestleMania. WWE, please look at how How I Met Your Mother took its audience on an emotional journey and delivered an ultimately satisfying ending. You can do it. Give the people what they're begging for.
And now for some random thoughts:
- I was happy to see the show open with Undertaker, partially because it confirmed to be that the show wouldn't close with Undertaker. I'm sorry, but he hasn't been compelling this year. His promo was more of the same, aside from not eliminating duplicates (and adding one tag team) to The Streak, which caused his "21 men have tried" line to be inaccurate.
- At least we had never heard an Undertaker promo about swimming before.
- Brock Lesnar tentatively circling the ring waiting to attack Undertaker was a great example of how poorly WWE has built him up ever since his first segment with The Undertaker. Why did he wait? Would it have really made Undertaker look bad if Brock had just rushed in and been the better man? Does The Streak need protection like this?
- The announcers did their best to salvage the story of Lesnar and Undertaker, but it was too far gone. On the plus side, no one rubbed the ashes of Undertaker's fallen friend Paul Bearer all over their body as the show closed. So, you know, it could be worse.
- Alberto Del Rio vs. Big E surprised me by being better than I though it would be. I could get behind these two having a feud over the Intercontinental Championship sometime this year. I'm not sure why Big E needed to lose, but he has a midcard title, so it's his lot in life.
- Bray Wyatt has the potential to be a top ten promo guy in history.
- I'm surprised it took until three episodes into season two to get a <I>Total Divas</I> crossover match on Raw. I expected these right away. It was actually refreshing to see a women's match on Raw not involving A.J. Lee, who has been around for quite a while.
- The Farewell to the Yes Movement segment with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon was fantastic. The Authority have fully embraced their status, not only as heels, but as meta-heels to the community watching and looking for any inside tidbit they could find.
- A "Triple H Burying People" video package was so very necessary and so very great. I wanted this to last forever.
- Batista received a mild pop from his hometown crowd and wore a puzzling outfit yet again. His promo, along with Randy Orton's, didn't really impress me. It was not a bad segment, but nothing could top the greatness of Triple H burying everything in video form.
- Los Matadores shocked the world by breaking out Los Mata-Magic! Alright, so it was a bad finish meant to give people hope in the least important team, I guess. I didn't like the eight man tag, which is sad because The Uso's are fantastic and The Real Americans are just wonderful as well.
- Damien Sandow and Fandango could be a very fun addition to the tag team division.
- Pet peeve of mine: WWE runs actual relevant angles on the second screen experience portion of the WWE App. I live on the West Coast and watch Raw live (at 5:00pm my time) but am not able to participate in the second screen fun. This makes me sad. Why must you try to make me sad, WWE?
- I hope Summer Rae was paid a lot of money for appearing on this show three times.
- Bray Wyatt vs. R-Truth happened. At least R-Truth lost. We can always celebrate Truth not being pushed.
- John Cena must have asked future-potential-brother-in-law Daniel Bryan for his old Wyatt jumpsuit. His appearance in the ring was nice, but I didn't love how long it took Wyatt to realize Cena was there. The moment worked. The program didn't need a ton going into WrestleMania. Cena and Wyatt has a chance to be great.
- The Lumberjill Match needed more Brie Bella.
- Was Rosa Mendes wearing a wig? My wife and I both believed she may have been.
- A Kid Rock theme song and a large multi-diva match? Is anyone else having a flashback to the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal at WrestleMania 25? Remember that? When Sunny seemed dignified and not super creepy and gross? Those were simpler times.
- The Shield really drew the short end of the WrestleMania stick when they aborted their breakup and decided to feud with Kane and the Middle Age Outlaws (or Stooges 2014). I believe in their ability to have a good match, but I doubt the heel team can. Not everyone can shine at every WrestleMania and if if this what we must endure for a sweet Shield babyface run, I can love with it.
- Why would a bunch of wrestlers run to the ring to fight everyone in the Battle Royal in the days before the Battle Royal? What if other professional sports worked this way? Would you see the two Super Bowl teams getting into a heated pick-up game at a press conference? I don't think so. It's illogical to risk injury just to run to the ring and fight. Wrestling is dumb sometimes.
- Roddy Piper sure was on this show. Good for him.
- Randy Orton, say what you will about him, but he can always find a kendo stick.
While the middle of a show can disappoint and the beginning can underwhelm, nothing is a damning as a poor ending. Raw knew this and it didn't end poorly. How I Met Your Mother told a beautiful story with its ending and even threw in some big surprises. WrestleMania is all about the ending at this point. I hope it is strong.
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.com/itswilltime.