Kester's WWE Raw Rundown: John Cena puts over Lord Tensai, Brock Lesnar defines his role, Chris Jericho continues to pester CM Punk, and more
By Ryan Kester
John Cena and Brock Lesnar
John Cena and Brock Lesnar had two near pitch-perfect performances last night. Brock Lesnar's video package detailing his current character and his motivations showcased his strengths rather than the weaknesses that were on display in last week's backstage promo. John Cena then delivered a very different John Cena promo that addressed his loss at WrestleMania and was devoid of the standard dismissive attitude that Cena usually displays
This is exactly what John Cena's character has needed. Fans, and myself on several occasions, have been calling for a heel turn ad nauseum from John Cena, but I think this is the more convincing story to tell for his character. John Cena finally has some vulnerability and the idea that when he's wrestling he will either win clean or lose in a fluke fashion is no longer a guarantee.
I look forward to what is to come for John Cena. The idea that his era could be coming to an end is intriguing, yet Cena is resolute as ever that he will fight on for his fan base. Cena hasn't compromised his character in the slightest, but he has managed to show a degree of growth that fans have been begging for. I have to commend WWE and Cena for this endeavor as I feel they have found the best balance between retaining his core fan base while giving those disenfranchised with the character something to work with.
Chris Jericho and CM Punk
CM Punk had a very entertaining match with mark henry. I wish WWE Championship matches, especially those with a completely obvious outcome, didn't make their way onto free television, but that is mostly nitpicking. WWE did a good job with making both Punk and Henry look strong while getting the live crowd hot for the rest of the show.
Jericho's video footage of Punk at a pub and Punk's subsequent reactions were well done, but I feel like this feud has lost a bit of its luster. This was hot going into WrestleMania and worked well with the faux whiskey bottle smash, but the beer bath and this week's "I saw you at a bar!" don't really live up to smashing a whiskey bottle over someone's head. WWE has given me no reason to expect Jericho to go over at Extreme Rules, and with the decisive finish of their match at WrestleMania, I doubt WWE will see returns from going back to the same well of seeing Jericho get his comeuppance.
I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but renaming the LaBelle Lock the Yes Lock was a brilliant move for Bryan's character. WWE is on a roll with Bryan's heel persona, and I have enjoyed the work he and AJ have put on.
I hope beyond hope that WWE resists the urge to turn Bryan. He works well in the sleazy role he is in and I really don't want to see this character continue under a babyface light, especially with AJ playing the role he's playing. This angle puts heat on Bryan because he's a heel; it would make WWE look godawful if this continued while Bryan was a face. WWE is walking a tightrope at the moment with Bryan and AJ and they can quickly cross the line if they turn Bryan and continue telling the story they are telling.
Either way, Bryan seems to be getting more leeway to work a more grappling-based move set and he seems to be more comfortable and engaging in the ring because of it. Bryan's character has come so far since he was the dorky virgin babyface and I am glad that WWE isn't afraid to give him more freedom with what he does.
Lord Tensai with Sakamoto
I seem to be in the minority here, but I am intrigued by the Tensai character. I can never lay claim to enjoying Tensai when he was wrestling as Prince Albert or A-Train, but WWE is handling him well thus far. I could do without the Japanese speaking and green mist spitting, as those fit more with stereotypes than they do with any true "warrior" doctrine, but I like the act as a whole. Tensai would do well to shed several more pounds, but he is a big man that is able to move better than most big men and most importantly, he showed that he can effectively sell for his opponent.
Last week I called for Tensai to wrestle people that fans already have a vested interest in, and there are few people fans have more invested in than in John Cena. Tensai's win here was huge, and WWE would do well to continue to have Tensai face credible opponents if they want to see this character get any traction. I'll admit they are not off to the greatest start with this character, but I am willing to see where it goes before I declare whether or not there is money in this gimmick.
On a side note, thanks to the Tensai character, Sakamoto is on my television. I have enjoyed the style he's worked in FCW, and his brief moment of offense in Tensai's match with John Cena added to the act. Even if Tensai ultimately fails to catch on with WWE's general audience, I hope WWE can find a way to utilize Sakamoto as he's a unique talent that can help freshen up WWE's product.
I Like Kane, I make no bones about that. He's an absolute workhorse and he has done a lot for WWE in putting guys over throughout the years. However, he should never, ever talk to garner heat unless he's doing it with The Undertaker involved. Glen Jacobs plays a much more version of Kane when he is in his wheelhouse, which is silent, imposing, and using body language to convey a story.
With A.W. showing up to "scout" for talent, I hope WWE wises up at some point, gives Jacobs a vacation, and allows him to return with someone that he can use as a mouthpiece while he does what he does best; looking imposing and telling a story through body language. Unless they go that route, Kane is just going to continue to be groan-inducing for this viewer.
Big Show and Khali
This match existed solely to give the London crowd a chance to see the two giants in the ring. That's all well in good for a short segment for the live audience, but the decision to have them squash the tag team champions only does more long-term damage to a pair of belts that might as well be scrapped. It's particularly frustrating to see Big Show involved in this considering he's one of the main reasons why those belts were beginning to mean something with his runs with Jericho and The Miz.
I'm all for giving a live audience there fill but please save something like this for a preshow dark match or a house show or simply use a team of local jobbers. There was no reason to use the champions in this spot and it simply wastes an available draw that WWE should be utilizing rather than squandering.
As much as I have enjoyed Brodus Clay's surprising in-ring work in the past and how entertaining I find his devotion to such a ridiculous character, it is time for him to have an actual match. It looks like he's starting something here with Ziggler and Swagger, but those two have been used in filler angles for so long that it is just frustrating. All three men deserve some creative attention, but they feel like they are hovering in a holding pattern which does none of them any good.
Overall, this was a very solid edition of Raw. The top of the card angles were certainly treated better, which is to be expected, and I had my fair share of gripes about the undercard, but overall I left the show feeling enthused about the product and intrigued by several stories WWE is telling. The usual WrestleMania hangover has not hit as of yet, and I hope WWE keeps this momentum going forward.
If you have any questions or comments or just wish to chat with a fellow wrestling fan about whatever, then feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter at @TheRyanKester.
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