The controversy over Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger has quickly been replaced by the horrors over what WWE did to Bearer's good name. Richard has already expressed his views on the subject, and while I know there's a lot of people who do not agree with him, I'm one who does. Rather than go into it here, and then later, I want each segment to speak for itself.
And about segments speaking for themselves, there were a lot of segments that were more about WWE movies than WWE wrestling and wrestlers, and I'm rather disgusted by it all. I time the wrestling matches, but I really want to know how much of our time was taken up by movie previews. While making movies is a great extension for the WWE, putting three of them out during the Road to WrestleMania is a monumentally bad move. I want to see just how much of our wrestling time was sucked up by other stuff. That, does not include the videos about Paul Bearer. He's a whole other entity unto himself, and will be missed.
RIP Paul Bearer > A+
This was a lovely video for a man who has touched us all in his own way. He played uber creepy so well, and had a huge hand in making Taker who he is today. They worked together so well, and became so much more than the sum of their parts. This video choked me up and brought tears to my eyes. They did a wonderful job building this tribute video. He's gone way too soon and will be missed.
GONG! > A
I was still choked up going into the GONG, but I cheered right along with Stacy who smirked at me. We had discussed and hoped that Taker would come out and pay his respects in a way only Taker could do. The way he came out, the way he was dressed, the urn in the center of the ring sitting in that draped crushed velvet was wonderful. The production crew with the camera angle of Taker staring at the urn with the picture of Bearer on the tron was just excellent.
As soon as Punk's music hit messages started flying in. Between people screaming about it on Facebook and people messaging me personally, it was just an onslaught and no one was happy, except me. I was nervous about what they were going to do, but knowing that Moody's sons were at RAW, I knew that whatever was going to happen would be with their blessing, so I rolled with it.
Punk's timing was superb! "I want to offer my condolences..." then the pregnant pause, "for your loss... at WrestleMania." The fans in the arena seemed shocked that Punk was out there and saying this. Then Punk going on and saying that to Bearer Taker will always be perfect, but to everyone else it will be 20-1. yes, Punk got a bit more selfish here, but in some ways I think that this run and their match will be one of those things people always remember. It sucks to say that Bearer's death will add so much more to this feud and this match, because it is so terribly sad that he's gone, but he loved this industry and was passionate about the WWE, Taker, The Streak, and WrestleMania. I think he would love being such a huge part of the storyline, even posthumously.
After all these props for the production crew, I was really shocked when they screwed up with the cameras on Punk. That's something you rarely see from the WWE, but during a moment as huge as this, it's an even bigger error in my eyes.
Backstage Segment > B
Normally I don't mention these little bits where nothing is said and someone's just readying or heading for the ring, but I have to here because of the creativity behind it. Big Show was talking to someone so much shorter than him. They were standing close that made the height difference that much more obvious. And then there was the head tilt. The man's head was tipped way back to look up at Big Show. Big Show's chin was about on his chest looking down at this guy. It cut a strong image going into Big Show's next match.
Video > B+
As much as I was wondering what Taker might do on RAW, I was also wondering about Kane. Going with the storyline, Kane lost his father. This could be a huge deal changer for Kane's storylines and character going forth from here. I'm very interested in seeing what the plan is for him.
Backstage Segment > B+
What is it about Riley? That man is the first to be abused backstage! Gabriel, Dallas, 3MB and the Prime Time Players, who Kane has been feuding with, were all right there, but it was Riley who took the bump. At least he got the show bonus? I do like the passion shown by Kane, but he really is a consummate professional.
Big Show vs Seth Rollins > B
This wasn't really a match, but it did a lot to push Big Show forward toward WrestleMania and facing The Shield. This was another big step in Big Show's turn, and it worked well. I will say that Reigns getting slammed into the barricade looked really great, but possibly too great. Reigns looked fine after, but that could have been a bit uncomfortable. They also really struggled to get Big Show for the three man bomb, and Reigns looked a little nervous, but they did it.
Those three are quite the team and continue to look great going forward. I wasn't sure about how they were going to build toward their WrestleMania match, but after this segment, I'm getting more and more impressed. It seems as though someone on the writing team was awake when putting this segment and the growing momentum on the Road to WrestleMania for the six men involved in this feud. Only thing that didn't make sense was that Orton and Sheamus didn't come out to the ring here. I know they had a match later, but it still felt a bit off to me.
Winner – Big Show via DQ (0:39)
Backstage Segment > B+
Vickie is always the best of heels, but she was great here. The way she talked about Bearer, Taker and Punk's No DQ Match. It all worked wonderfully.
Remembering Paul Bearer > A
February 16, 1991 – Bearer's first pairing with Taker. That's where it all started.
Announce Segment > C
This was short, sweet and to the point, telling the fans to Tout about Bearer. I can't abuse Cole and King for that too much.
Bryan vs Ziggler > A-
Bryan and Ziggler both showed just how great they are in the ring. Not just great, but both hard hitting and creative. Ziggler's midair reversal on Bryan was jaw dropping, and completely believable looking. I actually wrote a full paragraph about how these two deserve to be at the top, but they're not, then I realized that there were so many positives in this match that I didn't want to look at most of the negatives. These two gave us a strong, creative, energetic and entertaining match. That's something to be said coming off the first match that was so terribly short and not even really a match.
That Ziggler actually won this match gives me hope that maybe things will be looking up for him in the future. What I don't like is that they felt they needed AJ and Big E help Ziggler get that win. I know he's a heel and they're out there to look out for Ziggler, but he's stronger than that and should be shown to be stronger than that.
Also, when is Big E going to be doing more than hitting his 5-count on people when AJ wants him to? He's started to develop some personality, but I worry that the FCC is going to start blurring out some of his body parts. Between the serious bum being shown since he's shortened the legs of his singlets, and the pecs he shows when the straps come down, I worry that he might be showing too much skin. He has a perkier bum and bigger boobs than most women I know! Many say women are jealous of what the Divas look like, but to have a bum you could bounce a quarter off!
Winner Ziggler (11:35)
Video > B
This was a very strong recap video of the build for Trip and Brock. That they only showed it once, and it was so well produced, I can't knock it.
Sweet T vs Fandango > D-
I'm really over Fandango. Bringing him out the way they did gave six people show bonuses, but that's all it did. It was a total waste of time, and the fans really don't care about this guy. One of the loudest crowds I've heard at at WWE show in a long time, and they were dead for Fandango. That should really show McMahon that this is a massive waste of time.
GI Joe: Retaliation (1:31) > C-
The grade is not for the movie, but for the time taken out of RAW to show this video. Yes, I understand it's in The Rock's contract that the WWE will be pushing his movies while he back with the WWE. It's a great idea and makes perfect sense, or would if the WWE wasn't pushing so many other movies at the same time. If it was just this movie, I'd say little and move on, but they pushed four movies during one episode of RAW. For me that's a bit much.
Remembering Paul Bearer > A
This is what I said was my favorite Bearer moment in The Fine Line this week. WrestleMania XX when Bearer returned with Taker was such a wonderful moment for everyone watching. I will mention that this video cut down on the crowd reaction, because those fans were out of control when Bearer's voice was heard.
New Age Outlaws vs Rhodes Scholars > B
I have to say that as soon as Rhodes started Road Dogg's schpeal, I had to stop my DVR and laugh for a moment. It just gave me the giggles. Sandow and Rhodes did a great job of it, and even watching it again brings a smile to my face. With the people who struggled on mic last night, I hope McMahon noticed just how great Rhodes was rattling off that schpeal so quickly without the slightest kerfuffle. Sandow is so great on mic, but it's Rhodes who gets the props for this bit.
Lord have mercy, this one's for you Percy! I wanted to hug Road Dogg for how he handled that. It was lovely, much better than Road Dogg looked in the ring this week. He seemed slightly off his beat here. Even so, I hope we see more of him and Gunn putting guys like Rhodes and Sandow over.
Winners – New Age Outlaws via DQ (1:26)
In Ring Segment > B+
I split Brock's attack off from the match because it really was its own segment until itself. I didn't even think about it until Brock's music hit, then it all clicked. Brock went after HBK previously, then after McMahon, so why not DX members? I have to admit that I'm glad that they all worked out their issues and returned to the WWE, but it also put them in the path of Brock. I'm sure they're enjoying their time back in the ring, being able to reprise these roles.
The F5 on Gunn looked a looked a bit rushed and rough. Gunn didn't seem to land a bit off, but Road Dogg looked a little better.
Heyman on mic is always fantastic. He is so well spoken, but also has a slightly slower way of speaking that makes him come across so much more forceful. I find Heyman easier to write word for word than most other Superstars. His patter is at a great speed, but there's so much personality in every word he speaks. So, Brock has stips for their WrestleMania match, but won't tell Trip until after he signs the contract? That's an interesting swerve that I wasn't expecting. Be interesting to see what those stips are, because you know Trip is going to agree. Not sure if he will agree right off the bat as they need to draw this out a big, make things interesting for the next couple weeks, but he will agree in the end.
Kofi vs Henry > D-
I'd really like to know what Kofi did to tick off McMahon so badly. He's really taking abuse from all angles, especially from Henry's knee! Kofi got a bit of offense in this match, but that was it, just a bit. Then Henry tossed him around carelessly again. I'm so sick of Henry's laziness in the ring.
Winner – Henry (2:26)
Backstage Segment > B+
I like the chemistry between Kaitlyn and Cody. It's really cute to watch him trying to be suave, but making a whole mess of it. Then there's Sandow who makes and even bigger mess of it for Cody. Is Kaitlyn going to be an issue between the besties?
The biggest question I'm left from this segment is if the Bellas are back, does that mean Kharma is soon to follow? Patrick sent me a note that @KevinGonzalez_ posted @Kharma Since the Bellas are back, any chance we'll hear that cackling laugh once more? #PleaseAnswer. She answered with @KevinGonzalez_ perhaps. I have to admit that I'm more than a little giddy. I was honestly just figuring that the Bellas were back because they're dating Bryan and Cena, but now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there's more, so much more!
Psych (0:32) > C
Okay, this isn't a movie preview, and because it's a crossover for USA Network, but added in to all the movie previews they're showing and I'm a bit annoyed. I will say that I thought Cena was better in his episode of Psych than I expected. I saw Cena's episode, and an episode with Stacy Keibler that I hadn't known existed. She was pretty solid as well. At first I thought she was just going to be a ditzy bimbo, but she showed some attitude!
Ryback vs Slater > F
The grade for this is less for the match than what came after it. I really thought we'd see the big guys go at it, but no, we get to see McIntyre, who really hasn't done anything to anyone other than not getting over with the fans, get demolished. I don't know about anyone else, but I thought both Ryback and Henry looked really reckless when they tossed around McIntyre. McIntyre sold the first bump well. Then the second one, but after the second shell shocked, McIntyre looked rough. It was the second WSS that really seemed to do McIntyre in. Also that last WSS looked really reckless. Henry barely had a hold of McIntyre and didn't protect him at all in that slam. It looked bad, and I'm sure felt much worse! I do hope McIntyre isn't injured for being the whipping boy for these two big guys.
Winner – Ryback (1:05)
The Call (2:34) > C
All of the movie previews are getting the same grade, a C, even though the more they showed, the more I wanted to fail them. There's other segments that actively deserve to be failed!
Cesaro vs ADR > B
Cesaro is another wrestler who's booking I just don't understand. The man is pound for pound the strongest wrestler in the company, and one of the most creative in the ring. That man can do anything, and is carrying gold, yet he keeps losing. The fans who were loud for most of the show, even for Ryback – even though some of that was probably piped in – were completely dead for this. They were dead for ADR, the WHC who is normally much more over than this, and they were dead for Cesaro who had been getting some solid heat. I'm really confused by all this. It has to be in the character development for Cesaro, and they need to review that, but why ADR was so flat made no sense after the past couple weeks.
This was a fairly creative match, if a bit short. They both worked it hard, and ADR was more diverse than he had been showing in the ring. But for me I'm missing the neutralizer from Cesaro. It feels like forever since we've seen it!
Winner – ADR (4:49)
Backstage Segment > A
This segment about broke my heart. Kane looked like a traumatized little boy. The way he cradled the urn, but did say a word spoke volumes.
Remembering Paul Bearer > A
Bearer bringing his son, Taker's brother, into the ring for the first time. That was such a huge moment in the WWE.
Video > B
This was a pretty solid video for Cena and The Rock, and their WrestleMania matches. That neither of them were on the show, this was a solid way of keeping them in our minds. I'm thrilled that they didn't show it to us over and over. They really could have driven this into the ground, but they seem to be learning from playing videos too much. Either that or they had so many videos to show that they didn't have time to show them more than once.
Video > C-
Recapping Brock's carnage was a bit much. We knew it happened, let's move on to some actual wrestling.
Orton & Sheamus vs Rhodes Scholars > B
If you count the loss earlier in the night, because Brock attacked the New Age Outlaws, so that means they technically won by DQ, and that would be Sandow's 6th straight loss. For someone we know is well liked backstage, and is planned to be pushed when the time is right, why is he losing all the time? I guess the same could be said about Punk, but on a much grander scale. It seems as though wins in the WWE are smiled at, but losses have little meaning right now. With Ryback's push, yet his PPV losses, he's the third Superstar who is dealing wit this troubling problem, and I haven't even mentioned Ziggler!
I will say that this was a pretty solid match. Everyone looked solid, though Orton's five moves of doom are getting really too much. Orton's popularity is waning, and I'm willing to bet it's because of how stagnant he is in the ring. His work is so lackluster, and he doesn't seem to care to make it better. I could understand why McMahon kept Orton around after another Wellness violation, but at this point he'd be better off benched, leave him home collecting the minimum of a paycheck when there's so many other great Superstars who are driven to be top stars and are actually working for it, not just sitting back and resting on their last names.
One last note. I have mention Orton's superplex. I know it's his father's move, and he looks great doing it, but he really cracked his and Rhodes' heads on the mat with that one. Luckily Sheamus looked so effortless with white noise, and then the brogue kick, that it brought the match back from that bad bump. They need this push forward if they're going to be facing The Shield.
Winners – Orton & Sheamus (8:03)
Video > B
I actually really like that they're showing these videos to those of us who don't have time to check the WWE App during the commercials because we're trying to write down every word they say and move they make. These little videos are helping push the storylines forward toward WrestleMania.
Tout > A
Other than Cole not knowing when they were going to play the Touts, I was quite impressed with the love sent out for our dearly missed Paul Bearer.
Highlight Reel > F
The only good thing about this Highlight Reel is the way Jericho commented about his furniture and Jeritron 6000 being missing – a couple times. Then there was Jericho telling the 'monkeys' to role the movie footage. Later, the way he mumbled under his breath to Maddox that they'd already talked about the Jeritron 6000 being gone. As much as Jericho is normally great, he seemed a bit off his tempo. He was the best part of this segment, but he wasn't as great as he normally is.
Miz way way off himself. I timed his movie preview for The Marine 3 (0:34), and hoped he wouldn't talk any more.
Then Barrett came out showed his preview of Dead Man Down (0:34) and I was begging for Miz to talk again.
But then Miz spoke again. Really!
But then Barrett spoke again and I wanted to cry.
But then Maddox came out and forgot all his lines. When the announce team is mocking you, you're that bad. Maddox was worse than Laurinaitis. Maddox was worse than Adamle. I don't know who is so hot for Maddox backstage, but they need their head examined! This guy is not a wrestler, he's not good on mic, he has as little charisma as Swagger, and he doesn't have a special look at all – in fact he looks too much like Garett Bischoff for me to see anything but. It's time to cut bait and move on. I'm not saying fire him, but the best place for him is in ref stripes, but that has probably been destroyed because of his atrocious character build, or lack thereof. Please, someone, save us from Maddox!
Miz vs Jericho > B
This match was so much better than the Highlight Reel, but with Barrett on announce I wanted to cry. If he bombed so badly on mic previously, why did they let him talk that much on announce? Beyond that, I really enjoyed the reversals between Jericho and Miz. They both went after those submissions as if that was the only way to win, and it looked great. They really worked that ring and those submissions hard.
It was obvious that something would happen with Barrett ending in a Triple Threat Match next week. Barrett and Miz have shown that they needed something injected into their feud, and Jericho could be just what they need. Of course Miz and Jericho won't stay friends in the match and the growing animosity between the three could build to a solid match at WrestleMania – hopefully!
Winner – N/A (4:18)
Video > B+
Even though I saw this video of ADR and Ricardo mocking Zeb and Swagger on Smackdown, I was again left laughing. Ricardo is so strong on mic, and I feel he's been held back until very recently. Even ADR was really strong in this video. Hopefully this will give them the little push they so greatly need.
Remembering Paul Bearer > A
I do not remember this video of Bearer in a dress and wig, but it just further showed that he had no trouble playing the fool for the industry he loved so much.
Swagger vs Sin Cara > D
They want Swagger to look strong and they put him in the ring with Sin Cara? Anyone looks strong in the ring against Sin Cara. Sin Cara can barely have a big match without getting injured! It was a pretty pathetic mess. Even the fans were only slightly into this match, and that's giving Swagger and Sin Cara a lot.
The best part was ADR rushing out, even though even he didn't get the pop I'd expect while attacking Swagger. I honestly don't know what they can do to make these guys get the reactions they feel they should be getting. Maybe it's true and they're just not good enough to be top guys.
Winner – Swagger (1:49)
Video (2:18)> B+
I really wanted to dislike this segment, but Kane and Halle really sold it. Kane is so great at being creepy. I'd love to see Kane in a real psychological thriller, rather than the slasher he was in. He's so good and really deserves a great script. I think he'd also do really well with a more mature comedy, not slapstick, but solid comedy with a story behind it. His timing is wonderful. So, as much as I've been complaining about the movie previews, I thought this was handled very well, and was a creative way to integrate the WWE in with the movie push. Halle calling fire from all four at the end, then Kane's sexy appreciation of it tied it all in together. How long before Halle is Special Guest Star of RAW?
WWE Rewind > A
A recap video, but it was about Bearer, so I am all for it. It tied the start of the show in with the end perfectly.
No DQ Match – Kane vs Punk > A-
This was a wonderfully created and executed match. Who better than Taker's brother to face Punk, especially after Punk disrespected Kane's father the way he did at the start of the show? I'll admit I was a bit worried about Kane and Punk going too hard in this match, but I think they gave a smashing match without putting themselves in too much harm's way.
They worked very hard and gave the fans something we wanted – Punk being beaten down and Kane letting out his emotions over the loss of his father. I thought the match was a wonderful tribute to the man who brought us Kane. I will agree with Richard that giving Punk a clean loss was really bad for Punk at this point. Hopefully Punk has some build before WrestleMania, because if he doesn't and beats Taker, it wouldn't feel right.
I did notice that Kane didn't hit his tombstone on Punk in this match. I wonder if it just didn't fit into the match, as I think it would have been a great way to end the match, because of Punk and Cena's unapproved piledriver a few weeks ago. If that's the reason, I think it's pretty crappy because it would have been a lovely way to end the match.
Winner – Kane (12:08)
Final Tribute > A
GONG! Cole called Taker Kane's step-brother, but he's Kane's half brother. That moment with both Taker and Kane down on one knee, Bearer up on the tron, it again choked me up. It was just lovely. Again, I know some people had issue with Punk attacking Kane with the urn, but I thought it was well executed. I had a feeling Bearer was going to be kidnapped, but not this early! Even though Punk's a heel, it had to be so cool for him to pose like that with the urn. He was smiling behind the urn, something his character would do, but he really seemed to be reveling in it.
As per usual, I have the times of all the matches, and if my math is right – and that's a very BIG if – there was 48:18 of wrestling. Three hour show, take out about twenty minutes from each hour for commercials, and that leaves you two two hours of actual show time. That means almost half of that was wrestling time. It doesn't feel right, but that's what the number are giving me this week. And then there's all those movie previews I timed today. I will admit that the segment with Halle, Otunga and Kane wasn't really a movie preview, and I loved the interaction between Halle and Kane, but I'm feeling particularly cranky, so I added it in. As I stated before, my math is never terribly reliable, but I came up with 8:03. I really thought it was going to be longer than this as it felt like they were feeding us previews at every turn, but I guess it wasn't as bad as I thought.
I was pretty impressed with big parts of RAW, and rather disappointed in other parts. One thing that struck me and really stuck out, beyond the lovely tributes to Bearer, was the crowd. They seemed a lot louder and really into segments in ways I haven't heard much lately. I think that's why the lack of pop and heat for certain people was so much more noticeable than usual. But the fans in Indianapolis were really hot, and displayed something I haven't seen much of in a very long time – really creative signs! There was a really great cartoon Sheamus that left me smiling, and something blinking that made me think of Jericho's jacket. I'd forgotten the days of The Rock's face in cardboard floating in the crowd with his eyebrow wiggling up and down at the whim of the creator. All I have to say is keep up the crazy sign making! It adds so much to the entire feel of the show.