Powell's WWE Raw Hit List: You can't hijack Raw, but you can force WrestleMania main event change, Sheamus and Christian go all out, John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt, Hulk Hogan brands the WrestleMania 30 battle royal
By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw Hits
Daniel Bryan and Occupy Raw: Last week, WWE sent the message that fans can't hijack a show if they see it coming. This week, they sent the message that fans do have a voice and if they use it enough they can actually change something as big as WrestleMania 30. I was not blown away by the Occupy Raw visual. Having them all dressed in the same Bryan t-shirt made it feel too organized. Sure, you can argue that Bryan organized it, but something about this felt very scripted and sanitary, unlike the old images of the true fans entering the ring in a classic ECW scene.
Don't get me wrong, I realize WWE can't encourage 15,000 fans in an arena to storm the ring or all hell might break loose, but this just didn't pack a big punch with me. We've seen some rabid pro-Bryan crowds including the North Carolina fans going nuts for Bryan during Smackdown and certainly his hometown fans in Seattle going crazy during Raw. Watching the scenario play out last night it looked like there were a lot of legitimate fans standing back and taking it all in rather than passionately cheering along with the plants in the ring. It would have been an amazing visual if the fans in the stands were all delivering the Yes! chant with as much passion as we've seen in other buildings.
I can't help but wonder what the reaction would be if WWE had taken this approach with John Cena or another star who isn't an internet darling when their popularity was at the same level that Bryan's is now. I suspect that many fans are so caught up in the hysteria over Bryan getting a chance to be in the main event of WrestleMania that they love this segment more than they would have if it had involved someone they have not claimed as their own. Nevertheless, the important thing is that WWE listened to their fans. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon did a hell of a job with their performances and I'm actually looking forward to Bryan vs. Hunter as much as any match on the show. I didn't dislike the Occupy Raw segment. I know many fans feel it was a grand slam and that's their prerogative. I give the dated take on Occupy Wall Street a solid double, and the actual decision to put Bryan in the title picture the real grand slam.
Sheamus vs. Christian in a Memphis Street Fight: If my Twitter feed is any indication, fans were groaning at the idea of sitting through another match between these two. After all, the hard work from these two has been there all along, but the storyline support for the feud left fans feeling indifferent toward their previous matches. Christian has been more of a heel lately and that helps the cause, but the true credit for this match getting over goes to both he and Sheamus. These guys tore it up and took a lot of punishment and in the process made the fans take notice of their efforts.
John Cena and Bray Wyatt: I have been skeptical that WWE could make this match work at this year's WrestleMania. I feared it would feel like a step down for Cena, and premature for Wyatt. In fact, I felt that way going into last night's show, but things really clicked for me. Wyatt's mic work continues to be excellent and suddenly this match feels like one of the top WrestleMania matches. Granted, there was nowhere to go but down for Cena after working The Rock the last two years, but the match no longer feels beneath him. I also liked the Cena and Hulk Hogan pairing. Granted, Edge played the mouth agape, awestruck Hogan fan better than Cena did, but it was a cool visual to see the two icons of their era together. I just hope there's not a plan to turn this into a six-man tag with Hogan and another legend (Sting?) teaming with Cena to face the entire Wyatt Family, because I really am looking forward to Cena vs. Wyatt straight up. That said, if the idea is for Cena to plow through Wyatt, then I'll take the six-man.
Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Goldust and Cody Rhodes: WWE has suddenly shifted the focus to Rollins and I really like it. His character was treated as the least important and he didn't stand out on the mic like Reigns and Dean Ambrose have, yet he's been the guy responsible for so many great in-ring moments. It was no exception in this match. It wasn't as great as when the Shield members were heels and Cody and Goldust were the babyfaces, but it was still a very entertaining match.
Hulk Hogan announces the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: If you're going to have a 30-man get everyone on the show match, you might as well brand it and give it some meaning. I'd enjoy it more if the winner got a future title shot or something more than a trophy, but at least the match has some meaning.
WWE Raw Misses
Undertaker and Brock Lesnar hype: Paul Heyman did a hell of a job of building up the magnitude of The Steak. Unfortunately, the match feels like it's more about seeing the annual attraction that is Undertaker and his Streak than it does about whether he can actually extend it. They really need to do something soon to put some heat on Brock Lesnar heading into the match. As good as Heyman was, I nearly forgot about this segment. Taker had an easy night of work. That said, if his appearance generated more interest and led to more people seeing the WrestleMania changing angle with Daniel Bryan, then his appearance, albeit uneventful, paid off.
Big E vs. Jack Swagger: Same story, different week. And I'm fine with the slow build toward the Real Americans split, but I don't understand why it always involves the Intercontinental Champion. It had me wondering if they were working toward a Triple Threat match for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania, but now that E has entered the battle royal it seems like the match is less likely.
The Bella Twins vs. A.J. Lee and Tamina: Lee is starting to mean less as champion with every passing week. They're not burying her despite the conspiracy theories relating to C.M. Punk's departure, but it's not like she's been showcased as a strong champion or in anything particularly meaningful lately. She lost here to make her look vulnerable heading into her Main Event title match, but I don't think it was necessary because she looked vulnerable and like an afterthought going in. The real Miss was for Natalya on commentary. She tries hard to say the right thing, but it just doesn't come naturally to her. That said, I hope Lee and Natalya get plenty of time on Main Event to deliver a memorable match.
The New Age Outlaws: A minor Miss for their commentary in the Uso Brothers vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel match. Road Dogg is entertaining in this role and I think he could actually be a good color commentator if he worked at it. The ongoing issue is that they aren't going for true heat. They are comedy heels and I really don't have any desire to see the Uso Brothers defend the straps against a comedy heel duo at WrestleMania. Here's hoping there's a plan to get the deserving duo of Cody Rhodes and Goldust into the tag title match instead.
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