Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - WWE successfully hijacks #HijackRaw, Daniel Bryan stars in two long segments (including a super-sized overrun), C.M. Punk doesn't show up, Shield vs. Wyatt's II!
By Will Pruett
When you're done reading this, make sure to check out part one of my Ten Years of John Cena series leading into WrestleMania. New blogs will be posted every Monday until the Monday before 'Mania.
People wanted a revolution. People wanted a riot. People wanted a world where the WWE would be forced to adhere to their agenda. People wanted to "Hijack Raw." They didn't and they couldn't. WWE responded to their hijacking with a delightfully packed show and the first show of true fire in the promotion leading to WrestleMania.
Chicago is a special place. There's only one city on WWE's regular touring schedule I actively look forward to seeing them in. They are passionate. They care more than any other fan base in the country. It's remarkable. They make shows far more enjoyable. Even a bad show in Chicago is worth watching.
The remarkable part of this episode was the way WWE did something they often do as a mistake, but they did it on purpose. Think about it. Chanting "Yes" is super fun and cool, but putting "#YESmovement" in your tweets feels dirty and corporate. It's the same way with "#hijackRaw" and the way people responded. Paul Heyman, Daniel Bryan, and so many others used the phrase and embraced it on TV. Suddenly, it wasn't a near-riot in Chicago, it was a hot crowd reacting the exact way WWE wanted.
More remarkable was the show WWE produced. They moved Bryan ever closer to a match with Triple H and (quite possibly) a title match on the same night. They moved Batista further into heel territory, through his short destined-for-a-schmoz encounter with Bryan. They made John Cena seem both respectable and respectful. They gave us the first moment of The Shield's eventual breakup. They showed us just how dominant and creepy The Wyatt Family is. WrestleMania took shape on this show in front of this hot crowd.
Who cares if people always want to hijack a show? Let them do what they want, just present fantastic wrestling storytelling around them. People will gravitate to it. Some will be stubborn, but Chicago showed how good writing and good performances can win the masses over.
Maybe this is a lesson for WWE. If you strive for every part of a show to be good, it can be and it will be. The audience won't rebel against good. They'll embrace it. Chicago wanted to hijack Raw, but Raw was too good to be hijacked.
And one for some random thoughts:
- WWE knew just how to deflate the crowd's enthusiasm for C.M. Punk right off the bat, by giving them the chance to go crazy for him as the show began. Paul Heyman delivered a masterful promo. The crowd did just what it was supposed to. The addition of Brock Lesnar also helped. Heyman and Lesnar took a tough assignment and made it work.
- Something about WWE trolling passionate crowds who want to see one specific wrestler makes me smile. I know it shouldn't, but looking at Chicago going crazy for nothing was quite fun.
- Mark Henry got himself Bork Lasered once again. When will he learn not to walk to the ring during Lesnar segments? Henry had this Bork-ing coming to him.
- The Middle Aged Outlaws vs The Uso's was a good tag match with a great ending. It was fun to watch the crowd suddenly realize The Uso's would be winning the tag titles. We needed the Outlaws out of the tag title scene and we needed The Uso's to get a reign. This works.
- The matches between Cesaro/Jack Swagger and Big E last night were all about the breakup of The Real Americans. I'm interested in seeing this story play out, even if I'm not optimistic about it now. The tag scene needs great teams and Cesaro and Swagger have the potential to be a truly great team. Their hug was fun (but not classic "hug of the year" material).
- With Cesaro getting over the way he seems to be, I don't blame WWE for breaking him off from Swagger. People want Cesaro, so give them Cesaro.
- The Shield and The Wyatt Family had a very difficult task in front of them. They had a classic match at Elimination Chamber they were being asked to top. They also had a little more story to get over with this match. They lived up to their previous match and they got their story across. This match was a work of art.
- Please give the agent who laid out both Shield vs. Wyatt's matches a raise. They are amazing.
- I didn't see Seth Rollins being the guy to walk out on The Shield, but I'm intrigued by it. Rollins looked to be the odd man out of The Shield's breakup, and now he is the centerpiece of it.
- The closing flurry of Shield/Wyatt's from Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose was absolute insanity. Is there anything these guys can't do?
- The Wyatt Family is now the dominant faction in WWE. The torch-passing matches from The Shield have been the some of best WWE matches in years.
- Batista's calm heel promo about how the fans are idiots and the "Yes movement" is ridiculous was phenomenal. Batista seems so much more comfortable in his heel skin. No one likes to see things fail, but Batista's babyface comeback failing may be a blessing in disguise for WWE.
- I don't blame WWE for going live with Main Event and building the show up. They need to test out the WWE Network's live streaming capabilities.
- While I'm not a fan of how WWE has introduced Emma to their fans, I was a fan of her work on this show. Emma is supremely talented in the ring. She got to showcase her "five moves of doom" style comeback and finishing sequence and she did so really well. Emma can get over with a few more performances like this.
- I think we're all going to be delighted and shocked when Emma's act takes off the night after WrestleMania as all of those fans do her dance.
- Stephanie McMahon, who on this show played an amazing heel, probably shouldn't be describing how emotionally touched she is by WWE Network. I understand wanting people to see all of their memories on the WWE Network, but why not have a babyface be a part of these ads?
- Christian vs. Sheamus seems to be the match that will never end. Both guys are great workers. They are having passable-to-good matches together. They aren't connecting with the crowd. Something about these characters is not working. It's not just Chicago. It comes across on television as well. Christian and Sheamus need to look at what they're doing and reevaluate.
- The Scooby-Doo WrestleMania movie will be in my top five wrestling shows this year.
- Not only can most of the divas not act, most of them cannot wrestle. I get nervous every time Aksana steps into the ring. It's sad to see The Bella Twins stuck in a never-sending feud with women who severely lack in talent.
- This "Sirens" show on USA is just a rip off of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," isn't it?
- Daniel Bryan was the perfect guy to encourage the fans to hijack Raw. It's actually remarkable the way WWE brought the fans to life by repeating their own phrase back to them.
- Bryan's promo exchange with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon was nearly perfect. The Authority played their heel roles masterfully. They played into insider stereotypes, while also playing great normal heels. Bryan played the plucky babyface refusing to back down against them really well.
- The effort being put into making fans want to see Bryan vs. Triple H, even though it feels like a consolation prize to some. Making Bryan beg for it will make fans beg for it.
- Alberto Del Rio faced Dolph Ziggler, who stole Del Rio's old entrance gimmick. This was a fine way to get Aaron Paul, the guest star, on Raw. It was also surprising to see Ziggler actually win.
- Paul Bearer is a great induction into the Hall of Fame. I'm hoping we get some sort of appearance from The Undertaker, even though he normally doesn't do anything at the Hall of Fame. Bearer was a special manager and is very deserving.
- John Cena has shown how great he is at playing and manipulating a crowd. On this show, he played Chicago nicely. His promo asking The Wyatt Family to step up wasn't anything new, but it was interesting. Cena in Chicago is always an event, so seeing him here was fun.
- Bray Wyatt's backstage big screen promos are so creepy and so well scripted/filmed/acted. The Wyatt Family is quite unique and seeing them at the top of the card is awesome.
- Well, that Alexander Rusev appearance was weird.
- Daniel Bryan carried Batista to his best match since his return, but it still wasn't amazing. Hopefully Batista is getting his wrestling legs back under him as he is getting his character back under him.
- Bryan taking the beating from Evolution (minus Flair) in the closing segment of Raw was terrific. Not only did it make Bryan the plucky underdog once again, it also teased fans to the very end of the show about a Punk appearance. People stayed tuned in just in case Punk made the save.
- I am joking about an Evolution reunion, but I definitely want to see it. Give me a nice in-ring segment with Triple H, Batista, and Orton!
- The end of Raw seemed to be aimed at setting up both Bryan vs. Triple H and Batista vs. Orton vs. Bryan. I still believe doing both matches in one night is the best idea WWE could have right now. They've built Bryan. Punk would have been a round peg in a square hole. The show needs to be about Bryan.
This was a great episode of Raw. It was one I could never see fans truly hijacking, because WWE was determined to give fans a great show. Raw was fun from beginning to end and even the slow portions of the show weren't truly awful.
This was the first show where WrestleMania season rules felt in effect. Sure, we saw Hogan and Undertaker return last week, but the combination of a great crowd, a written show, and some compelling performances lead to a great show. We didn't get C.M. Punk, but we got something better.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at email@example.com or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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