Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - The fans hijack the show, Dolph Ziggler becomes World Heavyweight Champion, Ryback goes all Ryback on John Cena, Undertaker gets involved with The Shield, and more!
By Will Pruett
While change was not in the air at WrestleMania, it definitely was on Raw the next night. These changes range from positive (Dolph Ziggler winning to the World Heavyweight Championship) to negative (the entire show being rewritten because The Rock was injured at WrestleMania) to downright absurd (the crowd singing Fandango's theme through the last half of the show). No matter what the changes were, they complimented a WrestleMania card where nothing seemed to change almost perfectly.
Change can be a powerful force in wrestling. A major change occurred at the end of the show, when Ryback attacked John Cena after running off Mark Henry. Was this a major turn for Ryback? His character definitely evolved in one way or another. It's almost impossible for a wrestler to pull off a traditional turn against Cena, since most crowds are split on him and this particular one was unanimous in their booing.
Dolph Ziggler has waited and waited and is now creating change. Dolph Ziggler called cashing-in his Money in the Bank his WrestleMania moment and it's hard to argue with him. It isn't hard to wish this moment had happened in front of 80,000 people on Sunday. So many fans were waiting for this moment. It would have been a nice treat on Sunday and would have told the exact same story.
The show itself, well, it wasn't WWE's by the middle of it. It was the New Jersey crowd's. It's very possible this would have happened even with the original show, but I feel it was more likely with the rewritten and reworked show WWE put on. These fans took what may have been a dull and disappointing Raw and made it a spectacle. There was frustration in the air after WrestleMania and from the very beginning, they were out to prove a point. These were passionate fans. They changed this show.
In an odd way the Raw after WrestleMania was everything WrestleMania wasn't, in both good and bad ways.
- John Cena's "The Champ is here" shirt with an arrow pointing down was stupid years ago when he first made it and if was stupid last night. I'm normally not a critic of John Cena shirts (I even enjoy the 10 Years Strong design), but this one makes him look exceptionally douchey.
- I never realized there was a dance called a heel turn. Kudos to John Cena for playing along with the crowd a little bit.
- So many parts of this show could have been fixed with a little editing. Why would WWE allow John Cena and Mark Henry to tease the fans with a WWE Championship match, only to have Booker T, a babyface General Manager, tell them they couldn't have the match. It was odd booking.
- I'm wondering about the logic of making sure we all know The Rock is still number one contender for the WWE Championship. If The Rock can't get physical (or can't even get to Raw) in the next few weeks, does he just vacate the slot? Everything Booker T did could have been justified a different way and it wouldn't have drawn a ton of attention to the odd situation surrounding The Rock.
- Big E Langston looked fine in his short singles debut. Daniel Bryan was probably the right opponent for this, even though I know the crowd hated seeing him lose so quickly.
- Kurt Warner's promo would have been absolutely killed by the live crowd. I wish he would have had to say it mid-ring.
- The Miz and Wade Barrett improved upon their WrestleMania preshow encounter with their match on Raw. Both men seemed more motivated and it really helped make the match (even though Miz's clumsiness often hurt if).
- Miz now joins the ranks of Edge, Dean Douglas, and Chris Jericho as having held the Intercontinental Championship for a day or less. His win before WrestleMania seemed to be a big moment to hype up the crowd, but nothing more.
- How does it help Wade Barrett to lose and then win immediately the next night? I'm not sure, but WWE wasn't exactly trying to help him in the first place.
- What if Miz and Barrett fought constantly (house shows, TV, and pay-per-views) for the next three months and there was a title change every time? Would it get to a point of absolute absurdity?
- There was an odd reliance on General Managers tonight, which seems to be WWE's crutch when they don't know what to write. The dueling G.M. situation with Sheamus and Randy Orton was almost as odd as what would happen during the match between them.
- Fans will chant U.S.A. pretty much anytime they're asked to. It was funny to hear a heel encouraging it and the fans play into it for a little while. Zeb Colter was good here, but the one note character still depresses me.
- I half expected Jack Swagger to tag Zeb Colter into the match when Del Rio was on the verge of tapping out. This would have been a fun spot to allow Colter to get some heat. Then again, he has enough and Swagger has almost none.
- The sustained roar of the New Jersey crowd when Dolph Ziggler's music hit gave me goosebumps. This was an absolutely magical moment.
- Ziggler vs. Del Rio was a nice rendition of the standard heel cashing-in the Money in the Bank match. The babyface didn't go down easily, despite being hurt, and the heel was still able to put him away quickly. It was a basic formula really enhanced by the rabid crowd living and dying with every move.
- Dolph Ziggler as World Heavyweight Champion opens up a ton of possibilities towards the top of the card. I am glad WWE held off on this moment for as long as they have, even though I wish Ziggler would have been protected in the meantime.
- I'm hoping Ziggler is not actually in a program with Alberto Del Rio or Jack Swagger to start out. I'd rather see him against characters the fans actually like.
- The Undertaker was on this show specifically to get his entrance on the show. Well, at least it seemed that way. It's always nice to see Undertaker on an episode of Raw and just his appearing made this show seem more important.
- The Shield's interruption of Undertaker and the save from Kane and Daniel Bryan (Team Friendship, for you cool kids) was well done. I would love for this to lead to a six man tag match at Extreme Rules where The Undertaker could be easily protected and Kane and Bryan could do most of the work. This may be a dream given how limited Undertaker's schedule is. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
- Dolph Ziggler's post win promo was real. His real emotion and excitement shined through. Why is it so hard to get these moments from the rest of the roster. Even the top of the card often seem inauthentic 90 percent of the time (The Rock and John Cena). Real emotion leads to real investment.
- 3MB can't beat Zack Ryder, Santino, and R-Truth. This is not a good sign for them.
- Randy Orton and Sheamus' story was odd before Orton forgot his lines and asked Sheamus about them. It turned absurd right around that point. The G.M. run in to call for a WWE Active poll and the complete ignoring of said poll did nothing to help the absurdity. Then things went from bad to worse as the fans rebelled.
- What does it say about today's WWE product when an arena full of fans rebel against two top stars (Orton and Sheamus) in a match together for the first time in ages? People are bored with these characters and their frustrations are showing more and more.
- Mike Chioda deserved his chant.
- I wonder if Sami Zayn was backstage at Raw listening to the "Olè" chants for El Generico and keeping his head down as he smiled from ear to ear.
- My favorite cover from the announcers until they embraced the absurdity of the situation themselves was the explanation that the chants were all from European fans.
- Even those closest to the ring were not paying attention as Orton and Sheamus fought. I'm sure Orton was frustrated by it, especially knowing the match was scheduled to go long. This would have been a good time for an audible.
- Sheamus looked to be begging the crowd to cheer and chant for something actually in the match at some points.
- The best chant of the night, aside from Fandango's music, was "Thank you Big Show." This crowd was amazing.
- I don't know what is more over coming out of this weekend, Fandango or his theme music.
- One has to feel bad for Kofi Kingston. Not only was he left off the WrestleMania card, but he was also introduced on this show with no love from the crowd. I've been wondering for months if the time to strike with Kofi Kingston had passed and I'm beginning to believe it has. There's nothing wrong with being a lifetime mid-card act and Kofi seems to be there.
- If more crowds don't start singing the Fandango theme, I will complain about it on the internet.
- Chris Jericho's revenge seems to set up a match between the two at a later date. Soldiers booking and hopefully Fandango is a little more solid in the ring for their encounter.
- Fandango correcting Justin Roberts while selling an injury was brilliant.
- Paul Heyman's promo covering for the absences of C.M. Punk and Brock Lesnar was fantastic. Paul is amazing at what he does, even if it is simply justifying a loss for one of his guys. I'm still holding out hope for a Punk and Lesnar team for at least one match.
- The mixed tag match originally scheduled to appear at WrestleMania was a fun encounter, but it lacked substance. I didn't expect anything more than that, but it was still disappointing.
- I want the tradition of singing theme music for wrestlers to pick up. Singing Mark Henry's theme as he entered the packed and excited arena was perfect. Mark Henry didn't even have to try to split all of those wigs.
- Given what the announcers were saying about Rock's absence (if it can be taken as true), I don't blame The Rock for taking off the Los Angeles. He is filming a movie very soon and hundreds of people are relying on him being well enough to perform in that movie. He did the right thing for his actual career.
- Will this be the end of Rock wrestling? He tore a muscle at last year's WrestleMania, now he has torn others and injured himself again. It's almost like he is carrying an unhealthy amount of muscle on his body. I wonder how he gained so much.
- How deflating was the win by countout for John Cena? Mark Henry could have looked dominant here, but sadly it was not his match to look dominant in.
- Ryback's entrance and brawl with Henry was all pretty expected. A triple threat for the title with these guys might be fun to watch, but it would also be the slowest match in the history of wrestling (or at least since the last time Big Show and Khali fought).
- Ryback's attack on John Cena instantly made him a hero to this Fandango-theme-singing crowd. Was it supposed to? This was a major moment for the character of Ryback and one has to wonder if going forward he will be a hero with a goal to win the title or a villain with a goal to hurt Cena.
This show changed my outlook on the current WWE product. After sitting in a funk after WrestleMania on Sunday, I was suddenly reminded of how much fun wrestling can be with this show. I was also reminded, through moments like Dolph Ziggler's World Heavyweight Championship win, how fun it can be to emotionally invest in wrestling stories.
This show was all about change, after a WrestleMania that lacked any substantive changes. Some of the change was welcomed by WWE and some was actually forced upon them by circumstances (The Rock, the crowd) they couldn't control. Either way, this was an entertaining episode of Raw. I'm not going to say the Raw after WrestleMania is the new WrestleMania, but after this show, I'm close to believing it myself.
As for John Cena, maybe the story is the world changing around him.
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 at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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