Richard's Notes From Raw In Brooklyn - Batista Ripped, Cena Destroyed, Undertaker's Alive; Closing In On Wrestlemania 30

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The show opened with Stephanie McMahon cutting a promo on last week's attack on Daniel Bryan. She said it was hard to watch but they had to send a message that insubordination would not be tolerated. Stephanie stated they didn't want a passing fad creating a false leader. The crowd was hot with a lot of heat and loud CM Punk chants ensued. Stephanie said her husband Triple H was the greatest WWE superstar in history.

Randy Orton came out and cut his standard promo before Batista came out. Batista's promo had some problems as he had a bad mic. He told Stephanie she's been drooled over a lot and she slapped his sunglasses off. Stephanie got out of the ring and the cameras caught a shot of her underwear as she bent over. Batista speared Orton and ripped the ass out of hits pants.

The problem with the opening segment is Orton vs. Batista is a match fans don't want to see. Yes, the heat is there but it's not the heat WWE wants. The situation should be resolved with the Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan stipulation, however, I can't remember the last Wrestlemania where there was so much apathy to the title match. We're less than two weeks away and the fans have made it clear Batista vs. Orton is something they want no part of.

Christian won a Fatal 4-Way match to get a shot at the WWE Intercontinental Championship on this week's episode of WWE Main Event when he pinned Dolph Ziggler after a Kill Switch. This was a great match that also involved Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus. Big E sat in a chair and watched from ringside. Ziggler was over like rover, garnering at least double the reaction of anyone else. Neither Christian nor Del Rio had their entrances televised. Ziggler hit a great dropkick on Sheamus, who had a nice spot with Christian on the outside, where he landed a fallaway slam. Del Rio was the weak link, botching an enziguri badly. He also kicked Christian in the head, which I question the logic behind that given his recent concussion problems. The bout went 12 minutes and is worth going back and watching if you missed it.

The Wyatt Family cut a promo on John Cena. Bray Wyatt was singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and asked Cena if he'd take the time to see who he really was. The way into the city of woe, the way into eternal pain. Really good stuff by Bray, who *is* the character he plays. Luke Harper said they were coming to find him. This program has been very well built by the outstanding mic work of Bray Wyatt. He's certainly a candidate for a major breakout performer this year.

Sin Cara squashed Damien Sandow as he hit the Swanton Bomb from the top rope before pinning him. There's no question where Sandow stands right now, very low on the card. His entrance wasn't televised and he didn't land any offense in the bout that was just over one minute long. Scooby-Doo came out with Cara, coming out of the Mystery Machine that was driven out to ringside. Hunico has embraced this opportunity and looked good in the ring, the problem is the crowd couldn't have cared less. I'll also note Michael Cole actually sang the Scooby-Doo theme song on Sin Cara's entrance.

Los Matadores beat Curtis Axel & Ryback when Axel was rolled up because he was distracted by The Shield coming out through the crowd. The news here was that Axel and Ryback were removed from the 30-man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal because they'll challenge The Usos for the WWE Tag Team Championship at Wrestlemania XXX. The storyline is Kane "gave them the match" for helping him against The Shield on Smackdown. It'll be interesting if they actually challenge for the titles as they are essentially afterthoughts on the card right now. After the match, The Shield, now babyfaces, took out Ryback and Axel with Romain Reigns spearing Ryback and then a triple powerbomb to finish him off.

Before break, they promoted the appearances of Hulk Hogan and Arnold Schwarzenegger with the following graphic:

Triple H did an in-ring sit down "interview" with Michael Cole as the 9 PM lead-in. This was a strong effort from Hunter, where he questioned what fans wanted - Triple H as the COO or Triple H as the competitor at Wrestlemania. He suggested people were confused about what they were asking for. Cole said the fans saw Bryan's Occupy Raw segment as inspiring but last week's attack as thug-luke aggression, unbecoming of the COO of WWE. Triple H followed up by asking the COO or competitor question and said the fans forced his hand to make him a competitor. He said the fans got exactly what they asked for and Daniel Bryan got what he deserved. Hunter said when he looks out, he sees little people with no power. People that send him Tweets with their displeasure. He's "sick to death" of the whole thing and the world has changed and he can't take it anymore. Maybe it's on him to decide where the whole thing goes. Maybe he'll start the Reality Era, that will start with him walking out of Wrestlemania 30 as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

The most entertaining Wrestlemania program is the stuff with Daniel Bryan and this promo was well done by Triple H. I like how Hunter has incorporated the aspects such as "show hijacking" and "little Tweeting people" to turn him as the authoritative heel that's power drunk. Hunter's sit down interviews with Cole are always entertaining and advance storylines and this was one of them, just as the 9 PM lead-in rather than a video released on Wednesday afternoon.

Cody Rhodes beat Fandango after hitting the Disaster Kick in 2:46. This was better than last week's Goldust vs. Fandango train wreck. Fandango hit a nice leg drop and hooked suplex on Rhodes. Cody impressed with a missile dropkick off the top rope. Cody got the win as Goldust and Summer Rae were doing comedy on the outside, with Goldust doing disco and Summer Rae "hurting herself" trying to dance.

Hulk Hogan came out to introduce Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Manganiello, this week's guest stars, to promote their new movie Sabotage. Arnold talked about inducting Bruno Sammartino into the WWE Hall of Fame last year and put over Hogan and Manganiello. Manganiello got heat and said he was pumped to be hosting his first Raw and pointed to the fact he was in the ring with two icons. He called Hogan the greatest WWE Champion to ever step foot in the ring. Arnold spoke about his friendship with Andre the Giant and him visiting the set of Conan the Destroyer back in 80s.

The Miz interrupted the promo and questioned if fans wanted to see Arnold and Joe in the 30-man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. He said he was a fan of Arnold and definitely going to see Sabotage but was sure Arnold was his fan for his roles in The Marine and Christmas Bounty. Miz doesn't play a tough guy, he is a tough guy that does acting on the side. He said he will win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Miz said he's the most must-see WWE superstar of all time and people are still talking about him main eventing Wrestlemania 27, defeating John Cena. Miz told all three that none of them belong here. Joe said if Miz wants them to leave to go ahead and try and pushed him. Arnold landed a shot before Hogan threw him out of the ring.

WWE handled the segment well and I appreciated Arnold putting over Bruno and Andre. The Miz telling the three of them they didn't belong there was definitely scripted to highlight the real-life attitude towards him that he's worked tirelessly to overcome. It's hard to believe just three years ago Miz was in the main event of Wrestlemania and is now nothing more than an undercard afterthought.

Big Show beat Titus O'Neil when he hit a massive shoulder block and followed with the Knockout Punch in 2:24. The bout wasn't a complete squash as Titus landed offense (although he botched a leg drop). Titus O'Neil looks like he belongs but the crowd doesn't buy the heel turn. There was the dreaded 'CM Punk' chants and I believe I even heard a 'Y2J' chant. The announcers played Show up as the odds on favorite to win the 30-man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Backstage, Triple H told The Shield what was going on with them and Kane was between them. Stephanie said if it's vengeance they want, how about a match tonight against The Real Americas and then they can all sit down together and discuss this. A shot of John Cena was shown before they went to commercial.

John Cena and Luke Harper fought to no contest when the lights went out as Cena was going for the Attitude Adjustment. When they came back on, The Wyatt Family had Cena tied up in the ropes with the lamb mask on him. Bray screamed to follow the buzzards, which drew "this is awesome chants." This was the first opportunity for the WWE fan base to really get an opportunity to see Luke Harper. He worked hard and it translated but there were some problems. First, I'm concerned about the spots directed at Cena's head. He took a nasty bump off a kick from Harper and another on the outside when his head bounced off the barricade off a suicide dive from Harper. At a time when WWE seems intent to improve concussion management, those are concerning. Harper was a clear babyface in Brooklyn and the announcers played up the reaction to Cena as "very emotional" and "polarizing." Cena botched a hurricanrana badly. The story told in the bout was that Cena was distracted by the Wyatts and constantly looking over his shoulder heading into his match at Wrestlemania 30.

Naomi beat WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee when AJ Lee used the champion's advantage by getting herself intentionally counted out in just over one minute. This allowed for Vickie Guerrero to come out and announce the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational. This was not before Vickie called AJ a "real bitch."

WWE officially announced the Hall of Fame induction of Razor Ramon. There was a clear emphasis on Razor Ramon, the 4-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, and not Scott Hall of the nWo. I'm told this was intentional and will have more on this later in the week.

Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose beat The Real Americans when Rollins pinned Jack Swagger in 14:09. This was a good match and worth your time but it wasn't without its issues. The issues weren't with the ring work but with creative confusion. The Shield are in the midst of a babyface push, something The Real Americans, or more specifically, something Cesaro, has been teetering on for months. Because of the fact Cesaro is over as a babyface, it made it hard to distinguish the new reactions of the Shield. Rollins is more over in the new role than Ambrose and was outstanding in this one. His high risk flip to the outside was incredible and drew the beloved "holy shit" chants from the Brooklyn crowd. After the match, The Shield brought Cesaro to justice with a triple powerbomb through the table.

Kane came out with The New Age Outlaws, all three in suits, and informed The Shield they've been signed to a Wrestlemania match against the three of them. Kane said they are going to annihilate them and to believe that.

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar came out for the final segment. Heyman talked up the streak and what an accomplishment that 21-0 was. He admitted it would never be duplicated, not by anyone, even John Cena or his client Brock Lesnar. Finally, Brock grabbed the mic and told Paul enough. He said he wasn't here to promote but here to fight. The lights went out and druids brought a coffin to ringside. Lesnar carefully opened it to reveal an empty casket. Lesnar said he was leaving and Heyman told him that was exactly the game Undertaker wanted him to play. Paul called Undertaker out for not showing up in a slum like Brooklyn for a fight. The coffin popped open again, except this time, Undertaker was lying there in his ring gear without his trench coat. He rose up 'Undertaker-style' and had a physical confrontation with Lesnar. Undertaker threw him out of the ring and Lesnar retreated up the ramp with Heyman. Both pointed to the Wrestlemania XXX logo hanging above as Undertaker did the throat slash and the show went off the air.

I loved the Undertaker coffin entrance, the druids and how they had an empty casket ended up with the Undertaker in it. The problem is it took way too long. Three hours is a long time and there was too much "empty space" in the final segment to effectively accomplish the goal. I'm sure I would feel differently if I hadn't just consumed 3 hours of programming but I really felt the viewing fatigue here.

All and all this week's episode of Monday Night Raw was used to cleanup storylines and put the focus on Wrestlemania 30. The goal was accomplished, however, there was a lot of filler content for such a show. I'll argue filler content is essential when you're doing three-plus hours of live programming each Monday but that it also takes away from "big show" build. Daniel Bryan was held off to sell last week's beating at the hands of The Authority and next week the company will look to capitalize further as they go-home to Wrestlemania 30.

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