Below are my notes from this week's episode of Monday Night Raw at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois:
This week's show opened with CM Punk's "Cult of Personality" theme music. Paul Heyman finally came out after an intentional delay. Heyman appeared to play a babyface, agreeing with the audience that was demanding Punk. It was a bait and switch as Heyman finally blamed the fans for the reason Punk left. He switched the promo to "the streak" and The Undertaker. Heyman blamed the loss to Undertaker as the beginning of Punk's unraveling as introduced the only man that could conquer it - Brock Lesnar.
Brock came out and cut a promo on Undertaker, which brought out Mark Henry. Remember it was Henry that Lesnar wrote off television a couple months ago. Lesnar ended up destroying him and tossed a monitor into the ring. The monitor bounced out of the ring and into the crowd but there didn't appear to be any injuries.
The segment was brilliant. Vince McMahon knew the Punk chants were going to be at their loudest when the show went live so he gave the crowd what they were chanting for. The Heyman promo had to have been scripted by Heyman himself as it was as clever as anything you'll see. Heyman played a babyface to calm the crowd before switching to a heel to continue Lesnar vs. Undertaker. It was well planned and well thought out.
The Usos beat the New Age Outlaws to win the WWE Tag Team Championship. WWE scripted a title change immediately after the opening segment to keep the crowd hot. The go-home sequence was impressive with Jimmy Uso going for the hot tag, making it, but continuing to fly over the top rope and onto Road Dogg on the outside. Inside the ring, Jey Uso ended up hitting the diving splash off the top rope to go over for the pinfall victory. Putting the Usos over for the tag title was something that was seen as inevitable. It'd been talked about for quite some time and I actually expected it to happen at Elimination Chamber.
They did a segment backstage with The Bella Twins, Natalya, Aksana and Alicia Fox talking about guest star Aaron Paul. Aksana said she'd like to go for a ride. The Total Divas questioned her and she said she likes fast cars.
WWE Intercontinental Champion Big E beat Cesaro w/Zeb Colter via disqualification that was caused by Jack Swagger. This was super quick but long enough for Cesaro to put Big E in the Big Swing. Cesaro was upset with Swagger afterwards but needed up taking The Big Ending.
The Wyatt Family beat The Shield clean in an Elimination Chamber rematch. This wasn't as good as the bout at the pay-per-view but it was still a very good bout. There were a lot of high risk spots and you're going to want to go back and watch the tape. Dissension finally culminated with Seth Rollins walking out on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Reigns tried to stop him and he said he couldn't keep being the glue and for them to figure it out. In the end, Reigns destroyed Erick Rowan in the announce table. Luke Harper tried to make the save with a suicide dive through the middle role. Meanwhile in the ring, Bray Wyatt hit Sister Abigail in the ring on Dean Ambrose to go over.
Backstage, Batista told Renee Young that he thinks it's amazing what's passing for WWE Superstars these days, when asked about Daniel Bryan. He blamed the fans for reading too many comics and thinking just an ordinary person could do it. This is absolutely the right direction and proves Vince McMahon is listening to his audience. Batista as already taking on the role of the way things "used to be" in the eyes of the fans, so why not roll it into a character as the ultimate antagonist? His WWE return has completely bombed because they've been intent on getting him over as a babyface in a day where "people like him" are no longer accepted like they were. This has me much more optimistic about the Batista character.
Emma & Santino Marella beat Fandango & Summer Rae in an inter-gender tag team match. The finish saw Emma put the Emma Lock on Summer Rae, making her tap out. As the world saw last week, Emma is no joke. Her character might be the clumsy clueless little girl but in reality, she has plenty of in-ring skill. She showed flashes in very limited time and did the Santino tombone with him after the match. They ribbed referee Marc Harris on commentary with JBL saying he wasn't sure if Harris was the legal man. Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were questioning his call on who was the legal participant and I believe it was Cole that said, well it is Marc Harris.. I don't know much about Harris but I do know he blocked me on Twitter for reporting on one of his blown spots.
Sheamus beat Christian with a Brogue Kick in a good match. The crowd was weird in this bout. They would go from really into it to chanting "boring" and "this is awful." The match wasn't boring or awful and I'm not sure why anyone thought it would be clever to chant CM Punk during it. Sheamus and Christian both worked really hard and had a good technical bout. The finish saw Sheamus catch Christian with a Brogue Kick and get the win. Sheamus hit his entire arsenal including the Irish Curse backbreaker and White Noise. Christian hit a good amount of offense, with his most impressive spot coming on a Frog Splash. When Raw came back from break, Christian took out Sheamus in a backstage interview with Renee Young.
The Bella Twins beat Alicia Fox & Aksana when Nikki Bella hit the Rack Attack on Alicia Fox and pinned her. Nikki was impressive in this one, hitting two nice dropkicks, one on each of her opponents. Brie Bella also hit her missile dropkick, which always causes me to mark out. None had their entrances televised but this wasn't as forgettable as some might think.
Daniel Bryan came out to a loud reaction from the crowd. He told the crowd they were going to hijack Raw and he wasn't leaving until one of two things happened. Either Batista came out and fought him or Triple H accepted his challenge for a match at Wrestlemania XXX. Hunter and Stephanie McMahon came out. Triple H had nuclear heat as he explained Bryan was a B+ player and everyone that hasn't made it in WWE just wasn't good enough. Stephanie McMahon made a remark about Bryan's past, emphasizing it was amazing he was here "especially considering" where he came from. Hunter finally told him his little match at Wrestlemania wasn't going to happen and to just get over it. Triple H told Bryan to get out of his ring. Bryan said it wasn't his ring and Stephanie had a great line. She said, no. It is actually. It's our ring. Bryan told Hunter to "make him" and The Authority called for Kane. He came out but Bryan attacked him and Stephanie called for security.
I like where Hunter/Bryan is going and feel this program is more than necessary based on many reasons. However, none smaller than The Authority being booked as completely unstoppable when Bryan was programmed against Randy Orton. The problem is, fans still want Bryan in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match. As much as the fans are going to be behind Bryan no matter what, this is still secondary to what they really want. I know it's been discussed to insert Bryan in the title match but WWE is going to have to do it. There's just absolutely no way the fans are going to settle for Batista vs. Randy Orton for the title at Wrestlemania.
Dolph Ziggler beat Alberto Del Rio after hitting the Zig Zag. You read it right. Dolph Ziggler got the win in a short match that saw him hit a rolling DDT and his nice dropkick. Ziggler was drove to ringside by guest host Aaron Paul. Paul was on commentary for the bout and stood on top of the announce table to distract Del Rio, which allowed for Ziggler to pickup the win.
WWE announced Paul Bearer as a posthumous inductee into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame. He joins The Ultimate Warrior, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Lita as members of the Class of 2014. Bearer was a lock for the Hall of Fame and he knew it before he died. It's sad that he died before he could accept the honor but he is absolutely worthy. The Undertaker is one of the most talented performers in the history of this business but there's no getting around that Bearer greatly helped the mystique of his character.
WWE Intercontinental Champion Big E beat Jack Swagger via disqualification when Cesaro interfered, hitting a Neutralizer. After the match, Swagger and Cesaro got physical and Cesaro got ready to take him out but Zeb Colter talked him out of it. He forced them to hug, stand up straight, put their hands over their chests and we the people.
John Cena came out and battled the CM Punk chants. He talked about respecting the city of Chicago and highlighted some of the memories he's had from the Allstate Arena, including a match at a Money in the Bank pay-per-view against a certain someone. Cena said he wasn't cleared to compete, selling the knee "injury' from last week. Bray Wyatt cut him with a promo on the big screen.
Alexander Rusev and Lana did another segment at the top of the ramp. Lana introduced him and he went on to speak in another language.
It was announced that Hulk Hogan will appear live on next week's Monday Night Raw in Memphis and he'll make a Wrestlemania XXX announcement. They rolled tape from his appearance on the Today show from last week.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton came out to watch Batista vs. Daniel Bryan. Predictably, the crowd hated Batista and they let him hear it. There were loud chants of "you can't wrestle" in-between CM Punk chants. Batista had the control when The Authority came out with Kane. Batista mocked the "Yes" chants and Bryan caught him with a kick. Orton got in the ring, took Batista out and went for an RKO on Batista. Bryan took out Kane as he tried to get in the ring. Bryan went for the suicide dive on Hunter on the outside but Batista destroyed him with a spear. Kane ran in to get his hands on Bryan but Hunter stopped him. Triple H got on the mic and said he was getting tired of Bryan's little fantasy crap. Bryan kicked him in the face but he ended up getting the Batista Bomb. Hunter took his tie off and gave Bryan the Pedigree, in what Michael Cole said was a gross misuse of power. The show went off the air with Bryan down and Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Kane standing over him.
This week's show started really strong but as is the problem with Raw each week, three hours is a long time. Considering the fact they're now starting on WWE Network a half hour earlier and running a half hour longer, it's a long night. If all the good from this broadcast was condensed into a two-hour format, it would have been a great show. WWE handled the situation with CM Punk brilliantly and it was exactly what they needed to do if they couldn't get him back. Paul Heyman had to have had a hand in scripting that segment as only he could have pulled that off to start babyface, switch and promote Wrestlemania.
It was notable that Brock Lesnar tossed a monitor and it went into the crowd. I heard the crowd was chanting "lawsuit" as it did make contact with a member of the audience.
Speaking of Lesnar, The Undertaker was advertised for this week's show and did not appear.