By John Canton
Raw begins with "Real American" as Hulk Hogan made his return to WWE. He was rocking the red and yellow and the crowd went wild for the Hulkster. Michael Cole, John Bradshaw Layfield and Jerry Lawler welcomed us to the show.
Hulk milked the ovation for all he could. "Let me telling you something, brother!" Hulk said it was great to be home. Of course it is because he was in TNA for years. He got a cheap pop by mentioning Green Bay. He spoke about history being made with the launch of WWE Network. Hulk mentioned the ability to watch Bruno Sammartino, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and The Rock. He also mentioned the future of WWE Network at WrestleMania. "I am the official host of WrestleMania 30, brother." He finished with this: "Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania, the WWE Network and WrestleMania 30 run wild on you, brother."
Analysis: It was smart to start the show with Hogan. Hogan had good energy in his return. You could tell he was happy to be there. I was expecting somebody like Randy Orton to cut him off, but nobody came out. He'll likely be around later in the show.
The announcers plugged WWE Network. They went over all the specifics that they usually do.
Later on Raw: Daniel Bryan vs. Kane, Brock Lesnar is there and Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio up next.
When Hogan came out, there was a sign behind the announcers that said "The John Report TJRWrestling.com" on it. Here's a screencap of it.
Thanks to Marvin Nickel for bringing it.
Alberto Del Rio and Batista made their entrances after the break. There were boos for Batista on his entrance.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Batista
Batista hit a suplex and then a clothesline that sent Del Rio over the top to the floor. Del Rio tripped up Batista on the apron. Del Rio threw him into the steel steps and there's the vintage floor to commercial break.
Back from break, Del Rio was still on offense until Batista moved out of the way and Del Rio went crashing to the floor after missing a running attack. Batista hit a superplex from the middle rope. He was selling an arm injury as well as grabbing his head after that fall. Clotheslines by Batista and then a powerslam for two. Del Rio came back with an arm breaker using his knees to the arm. Side kick attempt by Del Rio was missed because I think Batista moved too early. They messed that up somehow. Del Rio missed a corner charge and Batista hit a Spinebuster. Randy Orton's music played. Orton stood at the top of the ramp. Rollup by Del Rio. That's it? Yes it is. Match is over in 10 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Alberto Del Rio
Analysis: *1/2 It was a below average match for wrestlers of this caliber. They messed up the side kick spot. Then the finish was awful. That's my most hated finish in WWE when the music distracts a guy leading to a less. It's the worst finish that they regularly do. Doesn't help either guy. A guy like Batista shouldn't be losing on a rollup like that.
Post match, Orton spoke from the ramp and told Batista that the WWE Universe didn't like Batista. He wondered if Batista was sorry about coming back. Batista also had a microphone and he said he loved this business. If the fans cheer him then he cheers them back and if they boo then he boos them back. Batista said it's being real. All that matters is that he goes to WrestleMania to beat up somebody that used to be his friend that has turned into a whiny, kissass, suck up. "You're looking at the next WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Deal with it."
Analysis: That was not a strong promo exchange. Batista sounded very tired. It was a 10 minute match and he talked for about two minutes there. He was tired from the match. Batista did the Cena thing where he said he didn't mind if the fans booed, but it didn't come across very well. Does not feel like a WrestleMania main event feud. There's still time to alter it.
Big E vs. Cesaro coming up.
Big E vs. Cesaro (w/Jack Swagger & Zeb Colter)
Two heavy hitters here in the battle of the guys that have shortened names. Big E hit a nice belly to belly suplex and a shoulder tackle. Cesaro got a boot to the face. Big E hit Cesaro with three backbreakers in a row for two. The announce team is all over the place tonight. Cesaro powered down Big E with a tilt a whirl backbreaker. Great power spot right there as they went to break. A replay would have been good.
They replayed the backbreaker. Good thing he held on because otherwise Big E was going to land on his head. Cesaro has freakish power. Big E with a Gorilla Press. Cole said: "Look at this! Oh boy!" I miss JR announcing. Big E went shoulder first into the steel post, so Cesaro was in control. Running elbow attack by Cesaro in the corner. Cesaro hit a powerslam for two that was a bit sloppy for him, but can be forgiven since Big E is a big dude. Gutwrench suplex by Cesaro for two. Another impressive power move. Big E made the comeback with a belly to belly suplex and the big splash gets two. Straps down, so the announcers say "uh oh" on cue. Cesaro avoided the Big Ending, launched Big E into the air and hit the uppercut. Big E kicked out of the Cesaro Swing, which the crowd booed. Cesaro charged in and Big E countered with a STO like counter for two. Looks like Cesaro landed on his head. "We the people" chant by the crowd. Swagger's interference didn't work. Cesaro Swing time with the crowd chanting along for ten swings. Swagger jumped into the ring and applied the Patriot Lock as if he was somebody that has never wrestled before. Ref called for the bell with the DQ. Match went 15 minutes.
Winner by DQ: Big E
Post match, Big E tried to attack Swagger. Cesaro made the save on Big E and gave him the Neutralizer. Looks like Big E's head hit the mat hard. The heels just left as the ref checked on him and the announcers moved on. Big E could be hurt.
Analysis: **3/4 I enjoyed that match although the finish was bad. Swagger's never seen a match before? It was a bit stupid. He wanted revenge on Big E for hitting him on the floor and cost his partner the match. Looks like Cesaro is going face and you can pencil in Cesaro vs. Swagger at WrestleMania. The match was a good battle between two power wrestlers who are stars on the rise. There were a few instances where you could see a bit of a struggle as they were doing the moves. Cesaro had a tough time getting Big E up like usual, but that's because Big E's a big dude obviously. Big E's corner STO looked a bit sloppy too with Cesaro landing hard. That's the thing about power moves. You can do them to anybody, but there are times when it's harder when it's a bigger opponent.
They showed a pic of Elimination Chamber when John Cena lost. Up next, Cena addresses the Wyatt Family at the top of hour two.
The neon green t-shirt machine John Cena made his entrance. Cena said it was phenomenal to see Hogan back in WWE. He sucked up to the fans by mentioning the city and mentioned WWE Network like everybody else does. He spoke about his message to the younger guys that they had to go through him to prove they were ready to be the top dog. Cena mentioned that when you put something like that out there, it opens up possibilities and then enter Bray Wyatt. He spoke about Wyatt costing him the match at Elimination Chamber. He also did at the Royal Rumble, but that wasn't mentioned. Cena called him out. "We're here."
The Wyatt Family made their entrance. Bray sat in the rocking chair. He spoke about the world having an infection and the virus is the human race. He wondered what the world would be without their heroes. Bray said that Cena was full of empty promises and tells them everything will be alright as long as he's around. "You are lying, John Cena." Bray said that he stands for everything that is real. He agreed that the future has to go through Cena. "Allow me to properly introduce myself: My name is Bray Wyatt. We are the reapers that bring death to this era of lies." Cena told him his name. I think he's aware. Cena said if one of them goes into the ring then they are something that they may not be able to finish. "If you make that move it's go time, jack."
All three Wyatt Family members surrounded the ring. They went into the ring and were able to take down Cena. It looked like Cena was favoring his left leg. The Wyatt Family stopped their attack due to Cena favoring the left leg. They just left. The doctor wanted to look at the leg, but Cena didn't want that and Bray did a cheap attack on the leg. He did his pose over the fallen Cena. "Follow the buzzards."
Analysis: I absolutely loved that Bray Wyatt promo. His delivery, tone and dialogue are perfect for the character. It makes him stand out from the pack because he's different from the others. Fans don't chant "what" when he talks. They listen because he says different things. Cena's left leg injury looked like a work at first, but could be legit. Hard to know. He's in a 1 on 3 situation, so he's already sympathetic in that sense, but due to Wyatt being a newcomer they need to try to make him look like a threat to beat Cena. This Wyatt/Cena match has been mentioned for WrestleMania for months now. It's not official, but it's coming. If Cena's injury is legit, hopefully it's not too serious. It's WWE. Who knows? Wait and see.
They showed Cena getting carted away during the break. The announcers talked like it was serious. No idea what it is right now.
Sheamus vs. Christian
This was set up from their issues from the Elimination Chamber match. Sheamus was in control early, but Sheamus was able to use his quicks to come back with a missile dropkick off the middle ropes. Knee to the ribs by Christian. The announcers were rambling again as Cole said he looked forward to reading Twitter during the break. Sheamus hit a back body drop over the top rope to the floor. Then he hit a shoulder tackle. It's vintage floor to commercial break time. Now you can check your Twitter, Cole.
Back from break, Christian knocked Sheamus off the top rope and he went crashing to the floor. Christian slammed the arm of Sheamus against the steel steps. Apparently the announcers were talking about Winnie the Pooh earlier, which is what I was ignoring. Cole said that Cena had swelling around his knee. Christian hit an uppercut punch outside the ring. He's back to his heel role, which I like. Christian missed a cross body off the top, so Sheamus drove him into the corner, hit some forearm shots and then Christian dumped him to the floor. Knee to the jaw by Sheamus and then the ten clubbing blows to the chest by Sheamus. Christian went to the middle ropes, Sheamus pulled him off and applied the Texas/Irish Cloverleaf submission. After a chase around the ring and some reversals, Christian got a rollup for two. Powerslam by Sheamus for two. Sheamus missed a Brogue Kick. Christian stunned him a bit, then went to the top rope and jumped off right into a Brogue Kick. Sheamus covered for the win after 15 minutes. Awesome finish right there.
Winner by pinfall: Sheamus
Analysis: ***1/4 That was an enjoyable TV match between two really good workers that had a grueling Elimination Chamber match the night before. The crowd wasn't into it the whole time, but they got into it by the end. That Brogue Kick looked even better on the reply. Perfect timing as Christian came off the top rope and Sheamus nailed him right in the face with it. They had a match on Smackdown that was similar to this one too.
The announcers talked about WWE Network again.
Earlier tonight, Daniel Bryan went up to The Authority as they arrived to the building as Renee Young was trying to interview them. Bryan wondered what he had to do to impress them. He wanted a match with Hunter right there or at WrestleMania. Hunter just laughed it off. Stephanie told Bryan he had a match with Kane on Raw. Hunter just kind of laughed off the WrestleMania.
Analysis: The rumor has been that Bryan is going to face Triple H at WrestleMania. This is the first time they mentioned it. Hunter just laughed it off. I'd prefer Bryan in the WWE Title match, but since they mentioned it here they did it for a reason. See what happens later in the show.
The announcers talked about WWE Network some more. They didn't know how people would stop watching. Somebody should have said "hey at least it's way better than Tout."
The Black History Month video package focused on WWE Hall of Famers Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson, who is The Rock's dad.
The Shield had an argument backstage as Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns wondered where Dean Ambrose went last night. Dean said he explained himself to them. Ambrose left. The Wyatt Family left. Reigns challenged Bray to a match and said that if Bray left the family behind then he would leave alone. Bray accepted that.
Analysis: Reigns vs. Wyatt later on? That should be awesome.
There was a Raw panel hosted by Josh Mathews with Booker T and Ric Flair sitting at the table. They talked about stuff that happened. Then Flair led the crowd in "yes" chants.
Daniel Bryan made his entrance for the match with Kane. Loud "yes" chants of course.
Kane wrestles in a tank top and black slacks. He stole Hunico's ring gear.
Daniel Bryan vs. Kane
Bryan still had his left shoulder taped up, so Kane whipped him repeatedly into the middle turnbuckle. Bryan was able to regain control after hitting a running dropkick to the left knee of Kane. Bryan chopped away at the left knee and applied the half crab. The announcers were arguing about more stuff as Kane was able to regain control with an arm wringer. Bryan was thrown into the steps and there's another vintage floor to commercial break.
Back from break, Kane hit a clothesline in the corner and then applied the armbar. Bryan made the comeback with a running clothesline. Bryan with some kicks to the chest, but Kane ducked the roundhouse kick and hit the sidewalk slam for two. Kane went up top, so Bryan knocked him down and hit a hurricanrana off the top for two. Good move. Running dropkick by Bryan in the corner twice, but Kane hit a punch to the mouth to stop a third attempt. Bryan hit the dive outside the ring to take control. Back in the ring, Bryan hit a missile dropkick and he got a nearfall. Bryan went to the top for a headbutt, but Kane caught him and hit a Chokeslam. Bryan kicked out at two. Very good nearfall right there. Kane was mad at the ref, so it gave Bryan time to recover. He wanted the Yes Lock, but that didn't work. Bryan avoided an attack, hit the running knee and he covered. Bryan wins after 17 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Daniel Bryan
Analysis: ***1/2 Kane is a part time wrestler at this point in his career, so there would be no reason for him to win. Bryan got the win as a way to get himself some revenge against Kane for costing him at the Elimination Chamber. I thought the chemistry they had was really good, which isn't a surprise since they tagged together for so long. The biggest pop was for Bryan kicking out of the Chokeslam. Few people do that against Kane, so it mattered. Also liked how he set up for the running knee finish.
Post match, Bryan did a promo in the ring. "Triple H is a coward!" He said it twice. Bryan said he challenged Hunter to a match at WrestleMania and Hunter hid behind his wife's skirt. Bryan said ever since Hunter put on the suit he ignored what the people want. He encouraged the people to make their voices heard. Bryan said to give the people want they want. "Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 30." The crowd chanted "yes" for that.
Analysis: They can try to make it sound like the fans want Bryan vs. HHH at WrestleMania, but they really want Bryan in the WWE Title match. Having Bryan say he wants that match is WWE's way of trying to get the fans to encourage it and forget about the WWE Title aspirations of Bryan. I think they're making a mistake by keeping Bryan out of the WWE Title match.
The Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt match is official. Of course it is. People that book the show don't actually book matches before the show. Stuff just happens. Fans know management is inept.
Summer Rae in action up next.
This Friday on Smackdown, Batista will tell the WWE Universe what he thinks of them. That doesn't sound very babyface like.
There was another Alexander Rusev promo with Lana. He debuted at the Royal Rumble, yet they're continuing with these promos.
Summer Rae was in the ring dancing with Summer Rae. Emma entered with Santino.
Summer Rae (w/Fandango) vs. Emma (w/Santino)
This is Emma's first match on Raw. If you don't watch NXT, Emma's one of the best female wrestlers in WWE. Summer Rae is pretty good. Emma got a rollup for two and then Summer nailed her with a back kick. Summer kept Emma grounded and slammed her head to the mat. Armbar by Summer as Santino fired up the crowd. Emma blocked a kick, then applied her bridging submission finisher known as the Emma Lock. Summer tapped out after three minutes.
Winner by submission: Emma
Post match, Emma tackled Santino in a playful manner and then they danced.
Analysis: * It was just okay. If you haven't seen Emma wrestle, watch NXT. She's one of the better ones in WWE. The crowd didn't know how to react to Emma at first, but after she won they got into the dancing.
They showed Hulk Hogan's WWE return at the start of the show.
New Age Outlaws vs. The Usos after the break.
New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn) vs. The Usos (Jimmy & Jey)
They were all in the ring. The Outlaws told them to step out of the ring so they could do their entrance. When Road Dogg was finishing, one of the Usos hit a Superkick. They sent Gunn outside the ring. Dive took out Gunn. Top rope splash finished off Road Dogg in a match that went about one minute.
Winners: The Usos
Analysis: Just a short match to put The Usos over after losing at Elimination Chamber. Will likely lead to another match for the tag titles at WrestleMania where the Usos should finally get the tag titles.
The announcers talked about WWE Network some more with some demonstrations.
The Shield's music hit and Roman Reigns entered alone. It sounded like more cheers than boos for him.
WrestleMania 30 is 41 days away. I'm ready although the current WWE Title match doesn't excite me.
Bray Wyatt made his entrance by himself.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
This could be a future PPV main event. Fans cheered Reigns as he hit a shoulder tackle and he even did a palm thrust to the head. You don't see too many of those in today's wrestling business. Wyatt came back with a clothesline. Some annoying fans were chanting "Husky Harris" but it didn't pick up. Harris hit a running forearm shot to the head. The action spilled out to the floor and they went to a break. Fans were not as loud for this match as they were on Sunday.
Back from break, Wyatt was in control. The pace of this match was too slow for my liking. Wyatt hit a running body attack that took out Reigns. Wyatt hit a corner charge, but he missed his second one. Reigns hit a leaping clothesline and then a corner clothesline of his own. Running dropkick by Reigns outside the ring. Spinning slam by Reigns. He set up for his finish, but The Wyatt Family graphic showed up. Harper and Rowan were in the aisle. Rollins ran into the ring and he hit a somersault plancha to take them out. Wyatt got a two count and then Reigns went into the turnbuckle. Harper & Rowan brawled with Rollins. Ambrose showed up to make the save. In the ring, Reigns hit the Superman Punch on Wyatt. Ambrose went into the ring after Wyatt. That led to the DQ finish after 14 minutes.
Winner by DQ: Bray Wyatt
After the match, everybody started brawling. JBL pointed out that Reigns lost the match because of Ambrose. There wasn't any dissention shown by The Shield after the match. Stare down ended the segment.
Analysis: **1/2 I'm not sure why they decided to do the match that way with a really slow pace to it. The crowd was bored, so they chanted other things. That's not a good sign. These characters are over, but the match was rejected by the fans. The finish wasn't very good either. Ambrose basically did something similar to what Swagger did earlier in the show. Don't they go over finishes so as to not repeat stuff? Weird that they would do something like that twice. I'm a big fan of Reigns and Wyatt, but that match didn't really work for me. I think it's likely we'll get The Shield vs. Wyatt Family again next week on Raw.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman were backstage. They walked towards the ring.
Next Monday on Raw, Aaron Paul will be on the show from Chicago. He's in the Need for Speed movie and also was on Breaking Bad. Talented actor. Yes Raw is in Chicago - the home of CM Punk. Cue the rumors all week.
Brock Lesnar walked out with Paul Heyman. Lesnar had his "EAT SLEEP CONQUER REPEAT" shirt. They entered the ring. There is a table in the ring as well as a contract. Time check is 10:59pmET. Heyman said Lesnar was the #1 contender for the WWE WHC and should be main eventing WrestleMania. Heyman said Lesnar was not in a good mood. Heyman suggested that Orton and Batista should get their match out of the way and the winner should face Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Heyman said when he approached Triple H and Stephanie McMahon about a WrestleMania match, they said Lesnar can have an open contract against anybody. Heyman said Lesnar wants "history to conquer" and went over his credentials NCAA wrestling, WWE and UFC. Heyman said Hunter/Steph tried to impose their authority on them. Heyman said Lesnar wanted to make history. Heyman said "no thank you" to the contract. Heyman said they had to give Lesnar history to conquer.
*GONG* Lights out. *GONG* Cue Undertaker music. Of course Jerry Lawler is shocked that Undertaker is there. It's like it's his first year showing up right before WrestleMania or something.
Undertaker made his full entrance. He walked very slowly to the ring. Lesnar did a good job of having a serious look on his face. Undertaker had on a full coat and hoodie as they did a face off. Undertaker busted out his old school black goatee. In recent photos he had a white goatee, but obviously he colored it.
Undertaker stared at the WrestleMania 30 sign behind Lesnar. Lesnar was nodding his head yes. Lesnar signed the contract that was on the table. Heyman told Undertaker to sign the contract. Undertaker took the pen and jammed it into Lesnar's hand. I guess that counts as a signature. Undertaker took off the hoodie part of his outfit, revealed his bald head (it did have a streak of hair) and gave Lesnar a Chokeslam through the table. The crowd exploded for that moment. Awesome ending to the show. Undertaker walked away from the ring while Heyman checked on Lesnar and that ended things at 11:10pmET.
Analysis: I liked the promo that Heyman did because he talked about how Lesnar wanted to conquer history. There is no better history to conquer at WrestleMania than the 21-0 streak of Undertaker. I really liked how they handled it with Undertaker not even saying a word. He just looked at the sign, Lesnar said yes and then Undertaker put him through a table. The crowd loved it. I did too. I still mark out for Undertaker returns like that.
The segment was well done. It was the right way to end the show. My hope is that if they actually stick with Orton vs. Batista (I really don't want them to) then they should put Undertaker vs. Lesnar on last. They could do Bryan vs. Triple H last too. I think Undertaker wins too. I don't think The Streak is ever going to end. Not sure how many matches he has left. Enjoy it while he's here. That's how I look at it.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Daniel Bryan
3. (tie) Sheamus
3. (tie) Christian
7 out of 10
Last week: 6
2014 Average: 6.44
2014 High: 8 (January 13)
2014 Low: 5 (February 3)
Last 5 Weeks: 6, 6.5, 5, 6.5, 6
I'm giving it a 7 out of 10. There were several good matches. Memorable promo to end. That's an above average show to me.
It's nice to see some direction for WrestleMania finally in place. The big matches are looking like Orton/Batista, Triple H/Bryan, Undertaker/Lesnar and Wyatt/Cena if Cena's able to do it. Those matches were all rumored for months in Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer. Actually it was Punk vs. Hunter and Bryan was against Sheamus, but they had to change it. It would be nice if Bryan could be moved to the WWE Title match. Perhaps they can add a stipulation where Bryan gets added to it if he beats Hunter earlier at WM30. Wishful thinking maybe. It would be better than Orton/Batista, which the crowd did not really react to.
While I admit that I am not a huge Hulk Hogan fan, it's cool to see him back in WWE where he belongs. As long as he's not wrestling or playing a major role it's certainly fine with me.
Welcome back to Undertaker. The build to the match with Lesnar should be very interesting. Hopefully they acknowledge their history going back to 2002 and also a couple years ago when Undertaker challenged Lesnar at a UFC show.
I'm exhausted after two long days of writing, so I'll just wrap it up there.
We'll bring it home with some plugs.
Plug time: I hope you're checking out my WWE related columns for WhatCulture.com. That link will take you to my archive with columns about the 20 best PPVs ever, a piece about 10 things WWE wants you to forget about Triple H and currently working on a big one about Trish Stratus for Tuesday. Check it all out now and head back there daily for more because I have at least 10 posts per week over there.
It's also TJR Radio time Tuesday at 10pmET for 90 minutes. You can listen live right here or use the same link after the show to listen whenever you like. You can also find it on iTunes right here too. It's The Ace, Matt Seagull and myself. Give it a listen!
Thanks for reading.
John Canton - firstname.lastname@example.org