Hulk Hogan Return
Unless you are the saltiest of haters, it is good to hear “Real American” on Raw again. Hogan, who some speculated might not receive a warm ovation, receives the loudest pop I’ve heard in WWE in quite some time. And when Hogan gets pops, they are sustained for minutes at a time. Cole, JBL and King give Hogan the standing applause he deserves, and Cole describes the atmosphere as “spine tingling”.
After some pandering in the ring, the “Hogan!” chants were simply deafening. While the reaction was great, the promo wasn’t exactly anything to remember. He started off strong with “Well let me tell you something brother!” but it was downhill from there. The subject matter wasn’t great, he was mostly just pimping the launch of the WWE Network, but Hogan compounded the issue by botching a couple of lines, most notably when he mistakenly mentioned the launch of the “WWE Universe” instead of the “WWE Network”.
All in all I was A-OK with the opening segment. Hogan’s reaction was up to par with what I had expected, the 24 inch pythons look good and he will host Wrestlemania, a good role for him (thank god he isn’t wrestling). His promo wasn’t exciting but the crowd stayed with him for the most part. It only took 7 minutes total, so even if you hated it, the segment was pretty harmless.
Alberto Del Rio vs Batista
I’m quite confused as to why this match is happening again, as nobody really wanted to see it the first time. Del Rio gets a few “Si” chants during his entrance, while Batista is heavily boo’d during his. Cole spouts off “Like it or not… Batista is the #1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship”. I feel like Triple H is in his earpiece feeding him that line.
King and Cole would continue on trying to take the piss out of the fact that Batista has been getting torn apart by every crowd he steps in front of. But, they basically conclude that the fans’ opinions don’t mean shit, and we should just grin and bear the fact that this guy can’t even do more than 4 reps of his synchronized pyro/hand gestures without needing to stop for a breather.
The bell rings and I guess Batista wants to show he can do more than 10 moves in this match. The crowd doesn’t seem impressed though as he is hit with the #1 most dreaded chant even over “boring” chants… The Green Bay crowd declares to Batista: “You can’t wrestle!”. That’s gotta hurt.
Batista and Del Rio go to the outside, with Batista remaining in control. The crowd moans with a few “boos” as Batista works over Del Rio, hitting him with a sloppy spinebuster into the apron. Del Rio slides back into the ring, and as Batista follows Del Rio kicks him in the chest, drawing cheers from the crowd for doing so. After a series of punches Del Rio screams something to the crowd and they actually respond, chanting “SI! SI! SI!” What if WWE bringing back and over-pushing Batista was actually just a way to finally get Alberto Del Rio over with the crowd in this cleverly disguised filler feud? Hey, if not, silver linings and all that.
As the match continues on, Del RIo and Batista exchange right hands, with the crowd yelling “yay!” when Del Rio connects and “boo!” when Batista connects. Batista, noticeably gassed, takes a kick to the gut but then counters a charging Del Rio with the weakest looking clothesline of all time, and follows it up with an even weaker clothesline. After a lame slam and 2 count, the crowd grows restless as the Batista victory nears.
Batista hits his little spinebuster and goes to the ropes to do his half Ultimate Warrior/Half HBK taunt, and it really pisses off the crowd who are booing the hell out of him. Just as Batista looks to be kicking things into maximize boredom overdrive, the segment takes a turn for the even worse. Randy Orton’s theme hit, which naturally caused Batista to completely forget that he was having a match with ADR and look toward the ramp like a buffoon. ADR picks up the sneaky roll up victory, and Batista is left to look like a clown.
Orton cut a promo making fun of Batista for the crowd booing him on his return. While I am a bit impressed and surprised that WWE is even touching on the crowd thing, Orton isn’t exactly the dude who should be calling him out. Sure, Batista gets boo’d, but Orton doesn’t garner any reaction at all. As Orton wraps up his thoughts, the crowd begins chanting “CM Punk”.
Batista, barely able to breathe, tells Orton that he “couldn’t be any more wrong”. He then tells the fans that “he loves the business” to which he gets the most heat I’ve heard any wrestler get in maybe all of 2014. He says if the fans cheer him, he will cheer them back. If the fans boo him, he will boo them back. He concludes by saying the crowd doesn’t matter and he is going to kick Orton’s ass at Wrestlemania. Astounding.
Batista’s best work since returning if that says anything, but it doesn’t.
Big E vs Cesaro- Intercontinental Championship Match
The battle of the dude who lost his last name vs the dude who lost his first name. Big E was sort of over with the Green Bay crowd, but they LOVE Cesaro. As has been the case in recent Cesaro matches, the crowd loudly chants “We the people” as things get underway. While I am a massive fan of Cesaro, I can’t really say I ‘get it’ with Big E.
A lot of people have touted Big E as a future main event player, but outside of his friendship with John Cena I don’t see any reason to speculate that. He is explosive and strong, but he just seems really bland, both the character (if there is one?) and in the ring. His finisher looks goofy and weak to me, and his Intercontinental Championship reign has been painfully uneventful. He just looks weird being so short but having those D Cup pecs. And his suplexes and slams just look strange on taller guys, Cesaro has to jump up to get tossed for Big E’s belly to belly suplexes and it just doesn’t look very fluid.
Cesaro comes into this match with a ton of momentum, and I have been touting him to become the Intercontinental Champion for a while now. It is the man that makes the belt, not the belt that makes the man, and now that the IC strap is the perceived #2 belt in the company after the WHC/WWE Championships were unified, Cesaro is a man who can make the title feel important. He had a great run as United States champion, and I think a long reign for Cesaro as IC champ is just what the doctor ordered to restore prestige into that title.
Just as he did against Cena, Cesaro would manhandle Big E when given the opportunity. At one point he catches Big E out of mid air and spins him into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Big E would go for his Big Ending, but Cesaro countered, sending Big E into the ropes and then hitting him with the Very European Uppercut. Cesaro gets up after the 2 count and signals for the Big Swing, and the crowd lets out a massive cheer. Big E was able to counter before Cesaro was able to swing him, but the crowd wasn’t happy, booing Big E for his efforts.
Big E is tossed to the ground, and Swagger sees an opportunity to take a cheap shot. Big E dodges his attempt, however, and instead plants Swagger with a stiff clothesline. Upon returning to the ring, Big E is dropped by Cesaro, allowing for him to now pull of the Cesaro Swing. The crowd eats it up, but after Cesaro tosses him, Swagger comes in from the outside and begins attacking Big E, thus getting Cesaro disqualified.
As Swagger and Cesaro argue after the match, Big E again attacks Swagger. Cesaro defends his partner, and hits Big E with a neutralizer that dumped him right on his head. It looked ugly, and Big E could have been hurt, luckily he seemed OK.
This match was solid, Cesaro always delivers in the ring. The groundwork is now being further laid for the potential breakup of Swagger and Cesaro, plus the door is still open for Cesaro to win the Intercontinental Championship.
John Cena Segment
Instead of Cena’s usual mixed crowd reaction, he came out to a massive pop consisting entirely of cheers. Cena begins by praising Hogan and saying how glad he is to be back. He continues by saying that now that the WWE Network has launched, our future is now. I would argue that our present is now, but I digress.
Cena again begins on the theme that the future of the WWE goes through him, and transitions to Bray Wyatt, who cost him his chance to headline Wrestlemania at Elimination Chamber. It doesn’t take long for Cena to go into tough guy mode, as he calls out Bray and rips his shirt off, bringing some squeals from the ladies in the crowd.
After a few seconds, Wyatt appears on the tron with his trademark lantern, and informs Cena “We’re here”. The Wyatts make there usual entrance, and Bray begins his promo sitting in the rocking chair, but soon begins pacing back and forth in front of it as he cut a very intense promo. I expected the build would be great for this match, but I didn’t think Bray would have the hair on my arm standing up with his first promo of the feud.
Wyatt continues “..we are the reapers that bring death to this era of lies”. Cena warns Wyatt that if they attack him, they are starting something they might not be able to finish (jack). We get an intense stare down between Cena and Wyatt, and the Wyatts pounce, proceeding to beat the tar out of Cena, leaving Cena limping. There has been some speculation that Cena suffered a legitimate knee injury during the segment. Honestly, its hard to tell these days.
A few disenchanted boys chant “Cena! Cena!” but it is too late. Bray flattens Cena, and drops to his knees, holding his arms out in a Christ-like pose, as the crowd rains down boos. Bray screams out “Follow the Buzzards” and the segment ends.
It would be quite depressing if Cena’s knee injury is legitimate and prevented this match from taking place. If this segment is any indication, the build up is going to be spectacular.
Sheamus vs Christian
Christian gets a jobber entrance, and Sheamus gets a decent pop. This match was actually pretty entertaining and was given a while to run, but these are two characters I am not all that interested in. Sheamus has been good since his return, and the crowd seems to be digging him. I enjoy his matches and the stiff style that he works, but WWE needs to give me a reason to care other than he is pale and Irish.
Christian has had no direction ever since the “one more match” angle on Smackdown a couple of years back, and all of the injuries have only further hindered the latter stages of his career. The heel turn last week was quite random, and doesn’t really add or detract from what he is doing, he is still just a guy with some name recognition hanging out at the bottom of the top tier. Sadly, nobody is gaining anything from a win over Christian these days, and that includes Sheamus, who won this match.
I’ve heard some speculation that Sheamus could possibly work with Christian for a Wrestlemania program, but judging by the way this match unfolded, being given 10+ minutes to run and Sheamus going over cleanly with a brogue kick, I can’t see it continuing on from here. This just feels like WWE giving his win back over Christian to keep his momentum going. I’m not sure who Sheamus will feud with at Mania, he seems to be the one somewhat major player who isn’t fitting into the puzzle as the pieces fall into place.
Daniel Bryan vs Kane
Now, I’m not one of those people who complain until I’m blue in the face about Bryan’s “poor treatment” by WWE, but this nonsense with Kane really does feel about 10 steps beneath him. Last weeks match was fine, but Bryan should be moving on to bigger fish at this point. I think it is time we start getting more build between Bryan and Triple H instead of Kane being jammed into the middle of it all. I don’t mind him as Corporate Kane, but he isn’t doing anything to help Bryan or the story, he is just… there.
Bryan gets the crowd going par usual, instructing the yes chants during his side trot down the ramp. Kane comes out to essentially no reaction, or what I call an Orton-reaction. The match centered on Kane attacking Bryan’s hurt shoulder, and consisted of a lot of the same stuff as their match on Raw last week. I didn’t want to see this match up then, really didn’t want to see it now and to make a long story short Bryan got the 3 count after hitting Kane with his running knee.
More importantly than WWE trying to hype up someone beating the biggest jobber this side of Dolph Ziggler, Bryan cut a promo after the match calling Triple H a coward. He called out Triple H for “hiding behind his wife’s skirt” when he challenged him for a match at Wrestlemania. Outside of Bray Wyatt vs Cena, Bryan vs HHH is the most intriguing of the potential Mania match ups for me.
The Usos vs The New Age Outlaws
Nothing makes the tag team look better than double jobber entrances for both teams. Judging by how the match at Elimination Chamber, one might be led to believe that the Usos will continue feuding with the Outlaws until Mania, where they will likely pick up their first championships.
As the bell rings, Road Dogg grabs a mic and tells the Usos to show some respect and leave the ring while he does his signature introduction. Just as Road Dogg finishes the routine, he eats a superkick and then a splash, resulting in a 3 count. This was a non-title match and honestly not a bad way to sell the fact that this feud should continue, coupled with the cheap victory by the Outlaws at Mania. These two teams seem to have good chemistry working together and it will make for a fun feud and big win for the Usos at Mania.
Still though, this segment felt incredibly rushed, especially with both teams getting jobber entrances.
Roman Reigns vs Bray Wyatt
These two facing off in the 6 man tag was the highlight for me, so I was excited when Reigns challenged Bray to a 1 on 1 match during a backstage segment. Reigns asked for Wyatt to leave his Family behind, and in turn he would leave the hounds behind. Because Bray seems like a trustworthy cat.
Bray, fresh off he and his family’s destruction of Cena (perhaps quite literally if this knee injury is serious) has all sorts of momentum, and he does come down to the ring by himself. Reigns is very stoic, standing in the corner as he awaits for the Wyatt to enter the ring and the match to begin.
The two men meet in the center of the ring and exchange right hands. Wyatt’s right hand jacks the jaw of Reigns, but Reigns’ return shot sends Wyatt to one knee and he rolls out to regain his composure, smiling as he looks in at Reigns, who still stands in the center of the ring in a very stoic manner.
The two again meet in the center of the ring, this time locking up, resulting in Reigns driving Wyatt back into a corner, but Wyatt gains control with a kick to Reigns gut, sending him to the mat. The crowd is eerily quiet for this one, I’m not sure why that is as they seemed into both guys when they came to the ring, and the biggest buzz during the 6 man tag match was when these two faced off. This crowd even had the balls to be the first ignorant shitheads in a few months to bust out “Husky Harris” chants. For shame. But what do you expect? They live in Wisconsin.
WWE comes back from break, and the Green Bay crowd which I now hate is cycling through announcers to cheer for. As Wyatt hits a running senton splash, they begin chanting for Michael Cole, and later Jerry Lawler. As Wyatt remains in control, the crowd begins chanting for The Undertaker. People bitch that they want new stars, then when the two hottest new stars of 2014 are put into a 1 on 1 match they chant for the guy who has been with the company since 1992. Awesome.
The horrendous crowd aside, the match was methodically paced, but you expect as much from these two competitors. It was hard hitting and both men look very strong during the back and forth action. Reigns, after being on the business end of a Bray beatdown, eventually regains control and does his signature taunt, generally signifying an upcoming superman punch. Not surprisingly, the Wyatt theme hits and Reigns is hella distracted.
As Reigns looked out at Harper and Rowan, Seth Rollins showed up and nailed both of them with a diving flip over the top rope. Reigns gave a fist pump and showed his thanks, but Wyatt took advantage by going for a quick roll up. Reigns, able to kick out at 2, is tossed outside the ring and we see Rollins is now being beaten up by Harper and Rowan.
Out to save the day came Dean Ambrose, who flew in like a bat out of hell to help out Rollins. As The Shield regained control on the outside, Reigns gets the upperhand on Wyatt in the ring with a monstrous superman punch that ignited the crowd. As he flexed over the prone Wyatt, Ambrose slides into the ring and begins attacking Bray, getting Reigns (who appeared to be in full control) disqualified.
As the bell rings for the DQ Harper and Rowan hit the ring and the Wyatt Family begins to take control, but the Shield eventually clean house and send the Wyatts packing. The booking to this match seemed all over the place, and I can’t help but wonder if WWE had to shift to this plan once Cena’s injury happened. Ambrose coming out to help but then getting Reigns DQ’s just seems so random, and the crowd reaction expressed nothing but confusion. I’m still very interested in where this is going, but now I’m wondering if a potential Cena injury isn’t putting the Shield breakup on the backburner for the time being.
Brock Lesnar Promo starring Paul Heyman
When Lesnar returned in late December and Heyman declared him the #1 contender, many wondered what that would lead to. Would he have a title match at the Rumble? Would he win the belt in his home state at the Elimination Chamber? As things turned out, Brock was never going to have a title match, Heyman’s arrogance in declaring Lesnar #1 contender without having earned it was simply the avenue WWE took to set up the Lesnar/Taker feud.
Heyman says that he took his idea to Triple H, but instead of giving him a title match, they gave Lesnar an open contract stating he can face anyone he chooses to. He lets it be known that Brock Lesnar only views this as a consolation prize, and goes on to insult both Triple H and poor innocent sweet Stephanie.
He goes on to say that Lesnar does not accept the open contract offer, but Heyman instead again demands he is given the chance to “make history” by being put into a championship match. He concludes by saying if the demand isn’t met, you can forget hearing the names “Brock Lesnar” and “Wrestlemania” anymore.
As he finished, the lights went out and Undertaker’s familiar gong went off. The Deadman came out, yes, still the Deadman, not the American Badass or Big Evil as some had speculated to a louder reaction than even Hulkamania got. Taker… methodically… made his way to the ring. He eventually makes his way to Bork for a face to face and the crowd erupts.
As Taker goes to sign the contract (does he sign contracts “Undertaker”?) he instead decides to smash Brock through a table. Not complaining, just seems like a dick move. Also I’m not all that keen on Taker doing these silent returns every year. Can’t his character speak more than two promos a Mania season?
Oh well. Beginning with the return of Hulk and ending with the return of Taker is something, even if both returns underwhelmed in their own ways. We got to see the confirmation of a few feuds for Mania. Wyatt vs Cena (pending health). Bryan vs Triple H. Taker vs Brock. Nothing unexpected, but those matches all sound great to me.