Powell's WWE Raw Hitlist: Brock Lesnar returns and takes out John Cena with an F5, The Rock celebrates his WrestleMania 28 win, Lord Tensai debuts, Chris Jericho attacks C.M. Punk with a bottle of booze, red hot Miami crowd
By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw Hits
Brock Lesnar's return: A red hot return. Brock looked a bit uncomfortable and unpolished, but the live crowd was so hot for this that it more than made up for it. He looked like a guy who has been enjoying his time off since his last UFC fight. I have no doubt that he'll get himself back in shape soon. The great thing about this move is that Brock returned on a huge night for WWE. Exit The Rock (for now) and enter Lesnar. The big concern I had about the WrestleMania card was that everyone in the top two matches other than John Cena was expected to disappear after the show.
WWE struck while people were still buzzing about WrestleMania and gave them a hell of a hook to continue watching. I must say that the camera cutting away during the handshake that led to the F5 was an awful production move. WWE is usually so strong in that department that I was shocked that they blew it by cutting to a crowd shot for no reason. I'm also disappointed that Paul Heyman is not involved at this time.
Yes, Lesnar has shown that he can talk for himself in a standard promo setting, but WWE will miss Heyman when it comes time for the back and forth verbal exchanges they are so fond of. Plus, Heyman is such a sleazy agent type of character that his association with Lesnar would make it easier for people to side with his opponents. Furthermore, I was hoping that Punk declaring himself a "Paul Heyman Guy" would come backfire in the form of Heyman leading Brock to go after the WWE Champion.
The Rock wants the WWE Championship: This announcement creates some great storyline possibilities. Keep in mind that Rock saying he wants to win the WWE Championship doesn't mean he will win the WWE Championship. I would wait until the fall and announce that The Rock has been granted a title shot at WrestleMania 29, and state that for this year only, the Royal Rumble winner must challenge for the World Hvt. Championship. I believe WWE could create some intrigue regarding who the champion will be heading into WrestleMania 28.
This could make the pay-per-view title matches that follow the announcement all the more interesting. It would certainly make the Elimination Chamber match more compelling, though I would hope that WWE wouldn't make the mistake of booking a title change on that show, as I want the champion to go into Mania with a real title reign rather than taking the belt just before Mania. Most people assume they are setting up The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania with Brock defending the WWE Championship. That's certainly a possibility, but I also wonder whether this will actually lead to John Cena capturing the title and getting his rematch with Rock at WrestleMania 29.
John Cena promo: The praise goes to the way the segment was built up throughout the night rather than the actual promo itself. Granted, it was a little over the top for Michael Cole to tease that friends of Cena were questioning whether he was going to call it a career because it just doesn't mesh with the Cena character, but perhaps it was effective with some of his younger fans. Either way, they generated intrigue about the Cena promo, creating a strong hook to keep viewers watching throughout the night. Cena didn't say anything unexpected during the promo, but the dynamic was great with the great live crowd creating a special atmosphere. By the way, does Daniel Bryan really owe John Cena one for saying "Yes!" as Cena joked? After all, Cena was the guy who was getting booed out of the building, whereas Bryan was getting the mega cheers from the crowd all night. In other words, did Cena's endorsement mean anything?
C.M. Punk vs. Mark Henry: An entertaining match that made Henry look like a monster, while Punk also looked good by slowly chopping him down only to be counted out. This was a strong television match and I assume this will lead to a rematch that Henry loses, only to then accept the offer of A.W.
Abraham Washington: Speaking of A.W., did we really see the return of a manager?!? Granted, I'd be surprised if WWE actually referred to him as a manager. Rather, I assume they'll come up with some new term for manager since Vince McMahon considers managers to be old school wrasslin'. That said, I don't care what they call him, I'm just happy to see the apparent return of a manager type. I've been saying for weeks in Dot Net Audio that A.W. was a developmental standout who people within the company were high on, so I'm not surprised to see him back on WWE television, yet I wasn't sure whether we'd see him in this type of a role. Keep in mind that he's been shown talking with different wrestlers in the background of backstage segments lately. Could we also be seeing the beginnings of a stable in addition to a manager? If so, I love it.
Chris Jericho attacks Punk with a bottle: Okay, sure the bottle appeared to break before he actually hit Punk with it. And, no, a whisky bottle wouldn't shatter like it did. Oh well. It was still a cool visual and the angle was effective in putting heat back on Jericho the night after he tapped out to Punk on the big stage at WrestleMania. I believe the hardcore wrestling fans will order Extreme Rules to see Punk return to Chicago to face Jericho, but I am worried that the casual fans may not see Jericho as a real threat to the championship given that his character has yet to back up his big claims since he returned. Thus, I'm curious to find out whether they come up with a way to make fans perceive him as a threat to the title or go entirely with the revenge factor as the key part of the buildup for the match.
Overall show: This was the best night after WrestleMania edition of Raw we've seen in years. The show had star power, debuting talent, and the huge return at the end of the night. The night after WrestleMania used to feel like a new beginning. In recent years, it's felt like a WrestleMania followup show that didn't give viewers enough incentive to keep watching. That wasn't the case last night. WWE did a great job of delivering a hot show that made WrestleMania 28 feel important and gave viewers plenty of motivation to stick around. Of course, a major Hit to the live crowd in Miami who created one of the most entertaining atmospheres in Raw history.
WWE Raw Misses
Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio: I felt bad for Sheamus in that the live crowd was so supportive of Daniel Bryan that he was booed even though he was bumped to the dark match at WrestleMania 27, and limited to 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28. Granted, he won the title on Sunday, but it's a shame that he's the villain to the Bryan loving fans. Then again, I see real potential for a double turn if WWE wants to go in that direction. I wouldn't lock in those plans just yet, though, as the Miami crowd was obviously filled with a lot of diehard fans who traveled to WrestleMania 28 and stuck around for Raw on Monday. I'd wait to see if the "Yes! Yes! Yes!" phenomenon catches on with the regular WWE live crowds in the coming weeks.
If so, WWE could make a lot of money with a babyface Bryan chasing a heel Sheamus. The only unfortunate thing about that approach would be that I love the dynamic between Bryan and A.J. and would be disappointed if we don't get to watch that relationship saga evolve. Meanwhile, I want to see something new from Del Rio, who has been doing the same schtick for too long. I'm honestly more entertained by Ricardo Rodriguez, and that's coming from someone who loved the Del Rio character when he debuted.
Lord Tensai: I want to like the character, but I just wasn't impressed with the initial angle. Part of the problem is that there was so much going on that his debut just didn't stick with me after the show. Worse yet, as a fan who remembers A-Train, Albert, and Prince Albert all to well, he became those characters again once he removed the costume and started making all of the usual noises throughout his squash win over Alex Riley. That said, it may have been more effective with younger fans who weren't around for his previous run.
I like the touch of acknowledging that he did work for WWE in the past. That admission may help squash some of the fan chants of his past gimmick names now that the fans know WWE isn't trying to hide something. I love the idea of a ref stoppage, but this one was awkward in that Riley should have been out cold rather than rolling around on the mat since that occurs in plenty of matches that aren't stopped by the referee. Tensai's debut may not have done much for me, but I am hopeful that he and Punk can have great matches and thus the act gets over as a result. Of course, I assume they are headed toward a feud since John Laurinaitis reference a natural disaster on Punk's horizon, and the Tensai symbol that was used means "natural disaster" as a couple of our readers pointed out in recent weeks.
Cody Rhodes vs. Kofi Kingston: I expected Show to get his payback by playing a video ever since Cody started that embarrassing WrestleMania video gimmick. Thus, this just felt a little too predictable for me. I also didn't care for the way they showed that Cody could have put Kingston away in less than a minute had he not been distracted. Sure, Kofi got the win, but it was fluky. That scenario wouldn't have bothered me so much if it had involved Kingston, who I believe the company should be doing more with.
The Miz vs. Zack Ryder: This felt flat. The crowd still loves Ryder. I like the guy in the Youtube videos, but the character we see on WWE television is the biggest doofus in the company. He was played for a fool by Eve repeatedly and he was way too giddy about trying to hook up with her. Ryder has such a great true story in terms of how he got himself noticed and saved his job, but the story that has been told with him on the air has been lousy. Meanwhile, The Miz character needs to evolve or, at the very least, a change of scenery to Smackdown.
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