Hello everyone, my name is Jamie and I am one of the writers over at WWENews.Net. Kendra has asked me to fill in for her this week and this was an opportunity for me that was far too good to turn down. It's the biggest thing I have done so far for the site and while I can't promise to be anywhere near the standard of Kendra I hope my first attempt at this goes well.
The best thing about being able to do this is we are in my favourite time of year, the build up to Wrestlemania. This is where WWE pull out all the stops to give us the best event we could hope for at their biggest show of the year. I'm sure I'm not the only one but I feel this year has been a little different and that is down to the odd situation WWE finds itself in with CM Punk walking out, Batista's return not coming close to expectation, and Wrestlemania matches being almost up in the air. Luckily with just under four weeks to go until Wrestlemania there is time to start turning this around, so without delay lets get straight into this weeks show.
Opening Segment - Hulk Hogan's Announcement - Grade C
When I see Hogan on screen he just looks so happy to be back with WWE. The crowd has eaten up his return and he seems genuinely overwhelmed by the reception he has received so far. People have been speculating as to what Hogan's announcement could be. I must admit I felt like it was going to revolve around Daniel Bryan somehow but I wasn't sure how he would fit Bryan into any kind of main event plans so I was intrigued. I was pleased when Hogan announced that there would be a 30 man Battle Royal in honour and memory of Andre The Giant. I love the fact that WWE are honouring such a great superstar from their past with this match and it gives the majority of the roster a chance to appear at Wrestlemania who might not have otherwise got a chance.
When John Cena joins the fold things start to get a little dicey for me. Every time I see Cena come out in a key segment I worry he is going to launch into one his over the top diatribes and ruin a perfectly good moment. Sadly that's almost exactly what happened and Cena put Hogan over in a way that just felt cheap for me. Immediately then out come the Wyatt's and the end result is Cena challenging Bray to a match. I felt both Bray and Cena bounced off each others promo's well in this segment and I actually found Cena somewhat entertaining with his response to Bray talking about him being "a homeless man in a buffet shirt". Hogan and Bray were probably the only saving graces in the segment to scrape the C grade.
John Cena vs. Erik Rowan - Grade D
I felt this match was pretty standard. It wasn't meant to set the world on fire but it wasn't totally unwatchable. Rowan got the majority of the offense in during the match and showed his strength and power. I'm still trying to figure Rowan out in the ring as I'm not sure that after the Wyatt Family is over how long he will last as he hasn't really shown me much in the ring. I felt the finish to the match was poor with Cena suddenly hitting the roll up for the three count as he had very little offence overall and it really was a stolen victory.
The tease at the end of the match for the Wyatt's to attack Hogan and Cena was a nice touch before they backed off to set up a response later in the night. I don't know why but I really enjoyed seeing Hogan playing to the crowd and striking his famous poses. There's something about watching Hogan work a crowd that pulls me in. Sadly he did have Cena in the spotlight too trying to work the crowd but luckily I think more of the attention was on Hulk at the time.
Triple H and Stephanie Segment - Grade C
This was just a moment to set up for what was to come later. The whole point of this segment was to draw heat on the Authority some more and they certainly achieved that while being brief and to the point. The talk of severe consequences if Bryan didn't apologise to the Authority set up nicely for a response from Bryan and it left me wanting to see what would happen next.
Ryback and Curtis Axel vs. The Uso's - Grade C
I really am so pleased Jimmy and Jey are finally getting the run they deserve. They have been ready for me for at least the last year and it was only a matter of time before WWE finally pulled the trigger. Having the New Age Outlaws on commentary made this all that more entertaining as again the match wasn't anything special and it felt like it was just another one going through the motions. I'm not sure what happened with Jimmy Uso randomly falling into the ropes at one point but I did enjoy the super fly splash at the end with the DX chop aimed at the Outlaws. Hopefully we will see The Uso's and the Outlaws in a match at Wrestlemania as both teams have certainly earned their spots and it is a great way of further putting the Uso's over.
Kane and The Shield Backstage Segment - Grade D
Another pretty brief segment but I expected so much more from this. The cracks that seemed to be forming in the Shield following Seth Rollins walk out on the team last week suddenly seemed to have disappeared. I thought something might happen following the comment by Ambrose about "exercising that demon we talked about" to Kane but I guess that was more wishful thinking on my part.
Big E. vs Jack Swagger - Grade D
The brief theme seems to be occurring more and more tonight as this match was barely 4 minutes long and wasn't really anything special. Neither looked majorly sloppy as they have in past weeks but there wasn't anything that made this match a standout performance and it felt more like they were going through the motions. The match was more again just a way to further tease the dissension between Swagger and Cesaro and I liked how Zeb finally flipped before getting both men to shake hands. The sooner Cesaro breaks away from the Real American's gimmick the better for me and I have no doubt Wrestlemania will provide the stage for this to finally blow up.
Undertaker's Segment - Grade B
If you haven't ever experienced the Undertaker's entrance in person then it is something you are truly missing out on. I love the eerie feeling his entrance brings and it was clear from the fans reaction before Undertaker spoke just how much respect he commands. Paul Heyman coming out was a nice touch before Undertaker said anything and I loved how he talked about achieving something so significant as an undefeated streak of 21 straight victories before turning the promo around and talking about Brock Lesnar being the one to finally break the streak and that he begged Undertaker not to take the match as if he should be afraid. I loved Taker being brief with what he said about the fear of death being greater than death itself but the fear of the unknown is greater than fear itself. Being brief with his promo helped keep to the mystery of Undertaker's character and I felt both Taker and Heyman were strong in this segment.
Goldust and Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns - Grade B
This was probably the first decent match of the night for me. I felt the Shield came off as the stronger of the two teams and if anyone didn't bring their A game it was Cody Rhodes. Rollins and Reigns were strong as always but I felt that Rollins once again stepped up his game and was the standout of all 4 men. Since dropping the Tag Titles the Rhodes brothers have struggled to gain any momentum and I'm not so sure the fans were really as into the match as they could have been. I thought the match could have been used to build more tension with the Shield but nothing came of it and it seems WWE are maybe waiting a little longer before they pull the trigger on this. All I know is when the moment comes it is going to be a big moment.
The saddest moment of this match for me was the one and only CM Punk chant of the night. I'm not really sure why the fans suddenly felt the urge to put this out there at this point and I feel really now is the time to let this one go. I'm as disappointed as anyone that Punk doesn't appear to be coming back but we all need to look at moving on and accepting his choice.
The Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka - Grade B
No that isn't a typo, I really am giving a decent grade to a Divas match. I felt the work of all four Divas in this one was excellent and this is something I hope that continues going forward. Sadly I don't think the fans shared the same interest as I did in this one and that is a real shame as there is certainly a strong potential for the Divas division to only improve. Looking past the history of WWE's usage of the Divas I do feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel and they are slowly but surely steeping up their games. I'm certainly seeing AJ defending the title at Wrestlemania against either Brie Bella, Natalya or both and this was a nice way of setting this up.
Daniel Bryan Segment - Grade A
What can I say about this segment. This was easily the best part of the show for me and can easily be up there with one of Raw's greatest moments. You can easily put this up there and hold it against moments such as Austin and the beer truck, Austin and Tyson, Triple H's return from his first quad injury, and DX invading WCW. Bryan used all the momentum he has built up over the last few months and literally ran with the ball so far there isn't anything in the world that was stopping him having his big moment. The fans were eating right out of his hand and hanging on his every word from the word go. I loved how the ring and ringside area literally seemed to be overflowing with fans when he decided that he would start the Occupy Raw movement there and then. I was actually beginning to wonder just how many fans they could actually fit into that one area.
There is a portion of the WWE Universe that doesn't get the Daniel Bryan fascination but I really find it hard to see how you cannot like this guy. He identifies with the fans in a way similar to how Stone Cold did back in the Attitude Era in that we have all at some point felt like the under dog in life and that there are forces outside our control trying to hold us back. His fantastic in-ring work is just another added bonus for Bryan and right now he is the hottest commodity in wrestling today.
Triple H and Stephanie's reaction to the Occupy Raw movement was brilliant and helped to play up the situation so well. Hunters reaction when Bryan said he wanted to be inserted into the championship match at Wrestlemania was priceless after having already accepted his challenge to a match and seeing him being dragged away by security was brilliant. This whole situation finally brings everything that has happened from Summerslam onward full circle and it feels like maybe, just maybe, the pay off is coming that we have all seriously longed for as fans with Bryan at least getting his championship opportunity. If there ever was a time for WWE to put the title on Daniel Bryan I would say Wrestlemania 30 is the time to do it. Patience is a virtue and finally it looks like we are being rewarded for being patient and for sticky by Bryan.
Sheamus vs. Christian - Grade B
While this match was somewhat a rehash of last week we at least got the added twist of a stipulation. I felt last week in Chicago the fans were rather harsh on these two as I thought they had a good match and sadly they fell victim to the Chicago crowd. Being in Memphis this week it was kind of obvious that the stipulation would be a Memphis Street Fight but I feel both Christian and Sheamus delivered a hard hitting match. There was a nice mixture of drama and near falls throughout for me and I felt both men carried themselves well during the match. Sheamus Brogue Kick through the bass drum was nicely executed and was a good way to end this match.
Brad Maddox, Randy Orton and Batista Segment - Grade D
Just like the segment with Kane and the Shield earlier I felt a little let down by this. Granted the opportunity to tease dissension between Orton and Batista was there but I don't feel like they really followed through with this. It was good to at least see Batista refuse to agree to put their differences aside but I was expecting Batista to at least say something in response rather than just walking off.
Lana and Alexander Rusev Segment - Grade E
The less said about this for me the better. I'm not really a Rusev fan having watched him in NXT so we're off on a bad footing there already but to then have the guy come out and cut entire promo's in Bulgarian just makes me wonder exactly what the point of his segments are. He's not giving the fans any reason to dislike him other than I can't understand what he is saying in his promo's and all I heard when he spoke were the What? chants breaking out. If you want to get Rusev over then I say get the guy in the ring destroying enhancement talent sooner rather than later.
Wyatt Family Segment - Grade A
Bray Wyatt once again shows us just how amazing he is at cutting promo's. Any time he speaks I can't help but be sucked in and I want to listen to his every word, wondering just what exactly he is going to say next. Wyatt knows how to control a crowd and get them hanging off his every word. Wyatt raised a point in accepting the challenge of Cena to a match in that Cena has everything to lose. I somewhat disagree as Cena really has nothing to lose, it's Wyatt himself who has everything to lose here. He has proved without a shadow of a doubt he is one of the best talkers in WWE right now, and his match at the Royal Rumble with Daniel Bryan showed everyone how talented a worker he is, but this match with Cena will not only be another test of his character in the ring, it also becomes a test of how long Wyatt can keep fans interested in his character going forward to prevent him getting stuck in a rut and losing any momentum he is holding onto right now.
Daniel Bryan and Big Show vs. Randy Orton and Batista - Grade B
There wasn't really much to say about this match other than Daniel Bryan was the main reason I gave it a B. He really once again stood out as the best worker in the match and whenever he was in the ring the fans were literally hooked on his every move. The same cannot be said for the other men in this match who seemed to be just going through the motions and putting on a standard match. I was left scratching my head when Batista tried to set up Big Show for a Batista Bomb as if he had pulled that one off then I think he might have at least turned a few people away from getting on his back.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in this match was the fact that Daniel Bryan didn't just pin Randy Orton, he pinned him cleanly after the running knee finisher. Is this a statement of WWE's intent for Bryan? It's hard to say at this stage but I certainly didn't see that finish coming. Fair enough had it been a dirty finish but to put him over clean speaks volumes for the faith WWE has in Bryan right now. Ending the show having Bryan doing the Yes chant while in shot of the Wrestlemania sign would have capped this off nicely for me but I will take what we were given and that is the sign that finally all systems are go on the Daniel Bryan push.
Overall this weeks Raw wasn't much to get excited about as a whole. For me the best segments involved Undertaker, Hulk Hogan and Daniel Bryan. Maybe WWE are saving their big guns till nearer Wrestlemania to ride the wave of momentum into the biggest show of the year but tonight very much felt like people were just going through the motions and it felt like very little really moved forward. The one huge success that came out of tonight was Daniel Bryan getting not only the match with Triple H but it finally looking like his push is certainly on and WWE finally pulling the trigger on Plan B and having him pull double duty at Wrestlemania. Yes he has to defeat Triple H first, but if anyone is capable of pulling double duty and putting on two great performances it's Daniel Bryan. I must admit I am giddy at the prospect he could win the championship at Mania. Without a doubt Bryan showed tonight why he has been WWE's most consistent performer over the last year and he now has one of Raw's most memorable segments in history to add to his already extremely impressive resume.
I hope you have enjoyed my guest appearance this week and that this isn't the last time I am allowed to grace you all with my presence. Before I go I thought I would end with a cheap plug for WWENews.Net, one of the sister sites of WNW. There are a wealth of great articles over there by myself and a lot of extremely talented writers that are just waiting for a new audience so if you do one thing today that you wouldn't normally do I would ask that you visit the site and check out the great content available. Until next time, so long and thanks for reading.