Powell's WWE Raw Hit List: Undertaker and Hulk Hogan return, WWE Raw Pre and Post Shows on the WWE Network, John Cena injury angle, Batista tries a new approach, Daniel Bryan challenges Triple H, Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns
By Jason Powell
Check out the Prowrestling.net Live audio show that Chris Shore and I hosted after Raw (airs live every Monday at 10:30 p.m. CT) at Blogtalkradio.com/prowrestlingdotnet.
WWE Raw Hits
Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman: Taker's return after nearly a one-year break was hot. He was the most over man on the show and I liked the way he stabbed Lesnar's hand with the pen (even though it looked odd that there was no blood or even a noticeable blemish on Lesnar's hand afterward). I don't know how the lead up to this match will play to the hardcore fans, but I believe WWE will sell a lot of pay-per-views and WWE Network subscriptions to casual viewers who will see this as a major happening if it's positioned properly.
Hulk Hogan returns: A minor Hit. Hogan was actually more relaxed in the post-game show interview, presumably because he didn't have so many things to remember. Still, it's always cool to see Hogan back on WWE television after a long absence, and it's nice to know that he can be featured in new segments for the WWE Network. The deal makes sense for both sides.
WWE Pre and Post Show: Minor Hits. The panels still spend too much time clowning around, but it did feel like these shows were more relevant than the Kickoff shows. The pre-show was just newsworthy enough to feel worthwhile, and the post-show featured the aftermath of the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar segment, the Hulk Hogan interview, and the John Cena injury update. The only major complaint is the way they cut to and away from the matches on the pre-show. It made those matches feel inconsequential, and I'm sure there are some fans who would prefer to watch those matches play out in long form on one of the seemingly 85 weekly airings of WWE Superstars on the WWE Network.
Daniel Bryan challenges Triple H: Bryan is finally angry and demanding a match against Hunter. His character should have been angry months ago, but at least we're finally there. The writing of this segment was interesting as they are clearly trying to sell Bryan fans on this being a match that he desperately wants. In other words, they want fans to accept that he's not challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I like the Bryan vs. Hunter matchup. It makes more storyline sense than the C.M. Punk vs. Triple H match did. I also can't rule out the possibility that the match will have some type of stipulation that gives Bryan a shot at the title, perhaps even at WrestleMania 30, if he beats Hunter.
Aaron Paul hosting Raw next week: Science, bitch! I need to get my excitement over the "Breaking Bad" star appearing on Raw out of the way now because there's a very good chance that he's cast in some crappy comedy will kill my enthusiasm by this time next week. I'm begging WWE to avoid the bad comedy, Diva hang-ons, and do something that actually makes them and the guest star look good for once.
Overall show: A minor Hit. If you had looked at the lineup prior to the show, you would have assumed this was going to be a red hot night. After all, the Sheamus vs. Christian, and certainly Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns matches would have looked better than they played out on paper. Instead, this turned into a show with strong bookends in the form of Hogan and Taker. It wasn't a poor show by any means, but somehow I expected a little better on WWE Network launch day.
WWE Raw Misses
Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns: WWE misread the fan interest in The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield six-man matches and thought it would carry over to this match. I can only blame them so much for that because I also thought the fans would be more passionate than they were. I do blame them for booking the match to go way longer than it needed to. Rather than choose sides, the fans just sat back and waited for something to wow them. And without the craziness of the six-man format, nothing really did until the the other members of the factions ran out. I don't think any more damage was done to either act, but they certainly didn't take a step forward. And did they really go with essentially the same finish as the Big E vs. Cesaro match?
John Cena injury angle: First off, Cena played this exceptionally well. While I couldn't pinpoint where it happened, he played it up in a manner that left me assuming that something flukey had happened. His performance is certainly Hit-worthy. The reason this gets a Miss is because I strongly question the idea of working a fluke injury rather than taking the traditional injury angle approach. Cena has sympathy, but the heels didn't really gain anything from this because it looked flukey and it seemed like Bray Wyatt was calling off his minions because of the injury. Granted, they can still put heat on The Wyatt Family by having them go after the knee in the future, but I'm not really sure what was gained here aside from making Cena sympathetic.
Batista approach: He's John Cena with an edge. It has worked for Cena because his fan base has been large enough to counter the anti-Cena sentiment. I'm not so sure there are enough troops for Batista to rally to make the same approach work for him. It seems like the families that attend live events are behind him, but the adult male crowd that seems to be dominating pay-per-views and some Raw shows clearly doesn't feel the same. Of course, this could be step one toward a heel turn, so let's see where it goes before completely writing it off as a mistake.
Sheamus vs. Christian: The match really dragged and overstayed its welcome, but at least they got the fans back with the great Brogue Kick finisher. The fans haven't been given anything new to get excited about with Sheamus, and Christian hasn't gone full fledged heel yet, so the crowd didn't really have much incentive to feel strongly about either wrestler.
Emma vs. Summer Rae: After weeks of non-reactions from fans who WWE mistakenly assumed watched NXT on a regular basis, their big plan to get Emma over is to play up that she's clumsy. Michael Cole told us that we could see what a great athlete she is on NXT, so I guess that means she's only clumsy on the main roster. What a mess.
The New Age Outlaws vs. The Uso Brothers: The match was quick and painless. The minor Miss is due to the fact that the feud is continuing even though there doesn't seem to be much fan interest. Let's just say that I don't blame the Uso Brothers for this issue. Can we cut to the part where Goldust and Cody Rhodes regain the tag titles or challenge different champions for the tag titles?
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