Below are my notes from this week's episode of Monday Night Raw at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee:
Hulk Hogan opened the show and cut a promo on the WWE Network. His Wrestlemania 30 announcement is a 30-man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. They show the winner will get a trophy. John Cena came out and really put Hogan over in an over the top way. We all know by now Cena really (no, I mean really) respects Hogan but this was too much. Cena said to throw his name into the Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. Bray Wyatt and The Wyatt Family came out and Cena dogged on Bray, calling him a homeless man in a Jimmy Buffet shirt (or something like that). Cena challenged Wyatt to a match at Wrestlemania but he didn't immediately accept. Instead, the Wyatts approached the ring with Hogan and Cena standing.
John Cena beat Erick Rowan when Rowan took starred at The Wyatt Family on the outside and Cena rolled him up. They booked it that Cena stole it but a forgettable opener. Hulk Hogan remained ringside in Cena's corner and posed down with Cena after the match.
Bray Wyatt did a good job following Hogan and Cena on the mic in his promo but the opening love affair between Cena and Hogan was a nightmare for any Attitude Era fan. That's the stuff that turns older fans off. The only way they pull that segment off is if Cena turns on Hogan and we all knew that was going to happen. We're four weeks away from Wrestlemania and that was not a good way to begin the night.
The Authority were out next. Stephanie McMahon called on Daniel Bryan to admit he was wrong and apologize. They can move forward as long as he can apologize.
WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos beat Ryback & Curtis Axel when Jimmy Uso hit the Super Fly Splash on Axel. The bout was non-title and Ryback announced in a pre-tape that he'll be in the 30-man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Ryback and Axel didn't have their entrances televised. There was one high-risk spot by The Usos but this was just a few minutes long.
WWE Intercontinental Champion Big E beat Jack Swagger in a non-title match. Big E rolled Swagger up when Swagger yelled for Cesaro to not get involved. After the match, the dissension between Swagger and Cesaro continued even after Zeb Colter got them to shake hands. This was the third match of the night that didn't touch the four minute mark. Big E announced himself as a participant in the 30-man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Undertaker came out for the 9 PM segment. Paul Heyman got on the mic before Undertaker could and explained how hard it was to win consecutive Wrestlemania matches. He said after last year, he too worships Undertaker but implored him not to face Brock Lesnar at the show this year. If he does, his streak will be conquered. Undertaker said the fear of death is far worse than death itself but the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all. If Brock Lesnar shows up at Wrestlemania, may he rest in peace. Heyman and Undertaker had a good exchange and I appreciated Undertaker's short and to the point promo. Classic Dead Man.
Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns beat Cody Rhodes & Goldust when Rollins stomped Rhodes' head into the mat and pinned him for the three count. This match had a lot of energy and was fun but the crowd chanted CM Punk. I questioned on Twitter if I was living on another planet as it was the first match all night that's exceeded 4 minutes yet they had a hard time keeping the crowd. I guess we can point to a lack of momentum from the Rhodes Brothers, making it hard for the fans to see them as viable threats.
The Bella Twins beat WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee & Tamina Snuka when Nikki countered the Black Widow and hit the Rack Attack and pinned AJ Lee. Natalya was on commentary to promote the Season 2 premiere of Total Divas on E. Nattie said she meant no disrespect but felt she was the best Diva in WWE. After the match, Nikki stood over AJ with the Divas Championship belt. This caused Nattie to get on the apron in reaction.
LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell were interviewed in the crowd by Renee Young to promote NCIS Los Angeles.
Daniel Bryan came out as the lead-in to the 10 PM segment. Considering it was Hulk Hogan that opened, followed by Undertaker at 9, that's a pretty big deal. Bryan refused to apologize for something he should have done a long time ago. He declared an "occupy Raw" movement and the ring filled up with fans in #YesMovement t-shirts. I noticed Rick "Sign Guy" Achberger but they were all in the ring and the ringside area. The Authority came out and Triple H said that now that all the trolls and hippies had their moment, they had 30 seconds to clear the ring. Bryan rallied them and they refused. When Hunter tried to send security, they turned back. Damien Sandow came out but refused to go to the ring. Stephanie McMahon said all this is hers and she demanded the occupy Raw movement clear the ring. Bryan said they're not leaving until they get what they want - Bryan vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania XXX.
Hunter got on the mic and said he liked Daniel Bryan but at Wrestlemania he will not stop until he ends him. Triple H said be careful what you wish for but you're on but for everyone to shut up and get the hell out of his ring. Bryan said that's not all they want. Bryan said he wants in the title match if he beats Hunter earlier in the night. Enraged, Hunter granted his request if they would just clear the ring. Therefore, it's Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan. If Bryan goes over, he'll be inserted in Batista vs. Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. We first reported the discussions of adding Bryan to the title match here on WrestlingNewsWorld.com Premium.
Sheamus beat Christian in a Memphis Street Fight voted on by the fans when Sheamus hit a Brogue Kick through a drum on Christian. This was a good physical street fight, similar to what they did last week but add the Memphis street fight stipulation. All of the normal spots were hit, the Irish Curse backbreaker from Sheamus, the Frog Splash off the top rope from Christian. There were kendo sticks and other weapons used and the commentators worked hard to sell the go-home. Afterwards, JBL walked us through how to sign up for the WWE Network.
Alexander Rusev cut a promo in another language at the top of the ramp that was preceded by Lana's introduction. They put over his Royal Rumble appearance, noting it took four guys to throw him out.
Bray Wyatt officially accepted John Cena's challenge to a match at Wrestlemania XXX in a backstage promo. It was strong, like we've come to expect from Bray in this role. The test for Bray, as I discussed in Ask WNW, will be the "stay ability" in this character. That will determine how far he'll take this.
Daniel Bryan & Big Show b. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton & Batista when Bryan hit the running knee on Orton and pinned him clean. The match highlighted Bryan and visited his past feud with Orton.
If there's one thing this show screamed about Daniel Bryan, it's the push is on. Not only did Bryan join Hulk Hogan and Undertaker as names that led key segments (Hogan opened, Undertaker at 9 then Bryan at 10 and overrun at 11), he's likely to join the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestlemania XXX. He's now in line for one of the biggest pushes ever. Just think about that for a minute. From a guy they refused to push to a guy that's probably going to pull double duty in two main event matches at the biggest show of the year. The push is on and WWE is going "all in" if they do in fact put him over Triple H. Bryan has earned it and I do not see him disappointing.