Live from Memphis, Tennessee this is the Raw Deal for episode #1085. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport.
For what it's worth, my banner making friend Steve Melo and myself know that's the old WWF Title in the graphic up above. We just think it looks cool.
Raw begins with WrestleMania 30 host Hulk Hogan making his way down to the ring slowly...because he's old. Good reaction from the fans with Hogan milking it like usual. He said he watches WWE Network at home and he watches himself on there. Of course he does. He mentioned matches with Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage and Andre the Giant. Hogan spoke about slamming Andre "through the mat" (it was more like a gentle slam) at WrestleMania 3 and it gave him an idea. Hogan announced an over the top rope 30 man battle royal in honor of Andre the Giant. He said there will be "three superstars in the ring" - he probably meant to say thirty there. The video wall showed a trophy that had Andre's image on it. He asked what we're going to do when the Hulkamania and Andre's memory runs wild on us, brother.
Analysis: That's a good idea to get 30 people involved in WrestleMania that otherwise wouldn't have been a part of it. Could see some legends brought back for it too.
John Cena's music started up and he ran down to the ring. He's no longer selling that leg injury. Cena sucked up to the fans by talking about their energy. He put over the battle royal as he spoke about Hogan/Andre at WrestleMania 3 as his favorite moment. He said he was going to enter the battle royal...but wait it's Wyatt Family entrance time. "Memphis...we're here."
The Wyatt Family made their entrance. Bray sat in his rocking chair with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan by his side. He was mocking the catchphrases of Cena and Hogan. He called them both liars because they pray upon the weak and fill them with hope. Wyatt said if Cena looks up at him he'll see a friend, if he looks down he'll see an enemy, but if he looks him straight in the eye he'll see a God.
Cena said he sees a homeless dude that's spent too many years wasting away in Margaritaville - nice Jimmy Buffet song reference there. Then he ripped on the look of Harper & Rowan by saying they look like bums from Cracker Barrel. Cena said he wanted Wyatt at WrestleMania 30 after he apologized to Hogan for missing that battle royal. Wyatt said it's always fun and games for Cena until he's caught in the spider's web. The Wyatt Family approached the ring and the show went to break there with Cena standing beside Hogan.
Analysis: That was an odd moment for a break. It was nice to see Cena make the challenge since he should be mad that the Wyatt Family cost him the WWE Title twice (Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber), so it was nice to see him stand up for himself. As usual, Wyatt did a great job on his promo. He's one of the best promo guys in the company already.
John Cena (w/Hulk Hogan) vs. Erick Rowan (w/Luke Harper & Bray Wyatt)
It's interesting to note that earlier on Monday they promoted Cena vs. Harper on Twitter, but changed it to Rowan. I think they book Raw on napkins backstage. Backbreaker by Rowan for two. Fallaway slam by Rowan and then a corner splash for two. Bearhug by Rowan followed by a forward slam. Cole mentioned Cena's leg injury that Cena is no longer selling. Rowan wanted a slam, but Cena slipped out and rolled him up for the win. Match went four minutes.
Winner by pinfall: John Cena
Post match, Harper and Rowan stood on the apron, but had second thoughts about going in the ring for a fight.
Analysis: * Cena had no offense until the finish. Weird booking for a Cena match. Not used to seeing him having matches like that.
Hulk Hogan celebrated with John Cena in the ring. They did some Hogan poses together for the crowd. Somebody let that Hogan guy know that some fans don't really like that Cena guy.
The announcers for the show are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and John Bradshaw Layfield. Lawler was wearing an Elvis Presley tribute shirt. They mentioned a poll for a Sheamus/Christian match later: Falls Count Anywhere, 2 out of 3 Falls or Memphis Street Fight. Later in the show it's Daniel Bryan and Big Show vs. Batista and Randy Orton. Also, The Undertaker is there.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were shown walking backstage.
Triple H and Stephanie stood at the top of the ramp for a promo. Stephanie did all the talking as she said that last week Bryan attacked Triple H, so Hunter hit him with a Pedigree. She said Bryan had a niche value, but wasn't an A player like Batista, Orton or even Triple H. They wanted Bryan to apologize. Crowd chanted "no" to that. She ended it by saying if Bryan didn't apologize then he would have to face severe consequences.
Analysis: It was fine. Just trying to get heat. Better than when they straddle the fence. At least it wasn't a long promo.
The New Age Outlaws entered to do commentary on the next match.
There was a pre-match promo from Ryback saying he's going to be in the battle royal at WrestleMania. Axel will be in it too, but we didn't hear from him.
The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel
Road Dogg and Billy Gunn joined the commentary team. Did Betty White give them "medicine" to make Billy shit again? The announcers talked over most of the Usos entrance. Axel threw Jimmy face first into the ropes. That's a painful looking bump. Suplex by Ryback. Jey tagged in and was on fire with a Samoan Drop on Axel. Running butt splash on Axel, then superkicks for Ryback and Axel. Jey hit a dive on Ryback as he tagged in Jimmy. To the top, Jimmy hit a crotch chop while he was in the air delivering the top rope splash. Match went about three minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Usos
Analysis: *1/2 A dominant win for the new tag team champions. Road Dogg did the talking for the Outlaws and it seems like they're going to save their rematch until WrestleMania although that wasn't confirmed. There are reports that Road Dogg has a legit back injury, so that could play a part in it too.
Backstage, Kane spoke to The Shield by mentioning their loss to The Wyatt Family last week. He said they were an asset in the past, so he had to see if they still are. He mentioned that the first crack in The Shield happened when Reigns & Rollins lost the tag titles to the Rhodes Brothers, so they will face them later. Rollins wondered if it was about them or if it's about Kane getting pinned by Bryan on Main Event and Smackdown. Kane told them to step up. Believe in the Shield, Kane.
Analysis: The Shield feels like a tweener group at this point. They're not coming across as heels as much as they used to be.
Big E vs. Jack Swagger (w/Cesaro & Zeb Colter
They're doing this match again? Yes they are. Big E hit a corner splash, but Swagger came back with a power slam out of the corner. Big E taped a promo earlier about being in the battle royal at WrestleMania. He said he's going to win. Does that mean no IC Title match at WrestleMania? That's a shame. WWE doesn't know how to book midcard titles right. Belly to belly suplex by Big E. Swagger took him out with a dive to the knee. Swagger was mad that Cesaro wouldn't interfere even though he told Cesaro at the start of the match that he had this. Big E rolled up Swagger for the win after 3 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Big E
Analysis: * Stop doing this match. Big E won using the diva match finish. Somebody gets distracted, then a rollup finish. Cena also won with a rollup earlier.
Post match, Swagger and Cesaro were arguing again. Colter was so mad he took off his vest. He made them shake hands. They shook hands and Cesaro squeezed so hard that it hurt.
Analysis: Hopefully they have a singles match at WrestleMania with Cesaro going over as the face. They deserve a match rather than being entrants in the 30 man battle royal.
That Undertaker guy is up next.
There's a WWE/Scooby Doo movie released on DVD March 25. I will not be watching that.
The Undertaker walked to the ring. Good thing he had his MMA training gloves on to deliver a promo. I wear them while I write this Raw Deal column. Maybe not.
Paul Heyman appeared at the top of the ramp and spoke before Undertaker could say anything. He apologized for his presence interrupting Undertaker's train of thought. Heyman was there to say that Undertaker had the greatest streak in sports entertainment (his 21-0 record at WrestleMania). Heyman put it in historical perspective by saying Shawn Michaels didn't win more than two in a row at WM, HHH didn't get 3 in a row, Hogan didn't get 4 in a row, Steve Austin (biggest pop) had a streak of four, but could never get to five. Cena's streak was four. He once again mentioned Undertaker has 21 consecutive victories in 21 WrestleManias. That's why he is there to ask him not to step in the ring with Lesnar. His theory was that everybody needs something to worship like the fans need to worship Undertaker. He said Undertaker needs to have fear when stepping into the ring with Lesnar. He added that the streak will be conquered by Brock Lesnar.
Undertaker replied by saying that "the fear of death is far greater than the death itself, but the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all." Undertaker told Heyman to tell Lesnar that if he shows up at WrestleMania 30 he will...rest...in...peace.
Analysis: That was a solid promo exchange although it was about 80% Heyman. He's such a gifted talker. He set it up well by sucking up to Undertaker and then suggesting to him that he should back out of the match because he's going to lose. Well played. It was reported by Dave Meltzer that the plan was to keep Undertaker and Lesnar apart until the last Raw before WrestleMania, so that's why there was no Lesnar here. I find it funny that they promoted Undertaker's appearance by saying he had a big announcement when in reality he didn't really say much.
This Tuesday on WWE Network at 8pmET it's WWE Main Event with Dean Ambrose defending the US Title against Mark Henry while AJ Lee defends the Divas Title against Natalya. In other words, they care about Main Event again since it's on WWE Network.
Goldust & Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns (w/Dean Ambrose)
The Rhodes Brothers were aggressive early on against Rollins, but he was able to counter by slamming Cody face first into the middle turnbuckle. That led to The Shield working over Cody in their corner. He was able to tag in Goldust, who hit Reigns with clotheslines and then an uppercut. Spinebuster by Goldust on Reigns for two. Goldust hit a cross body block to take out both Shield members at once. Back body drop by Goldust sent both guys outside the ring. Goldust hit a dive off the apron while Cody hit a dive off the top and that led to the vintage floor to commercial break.
Back from break, The Shield took control after a Samoan Drop by Reigns and an overhead slam. The heels isolated Goldust as Rollins hit a corner splash. Reigns tagged in and hit his impressive leaping dropkick outside the ring while Goldust was on the apron. Plenty of quick tags for Rollins and Reigns as they worked over Goldust with a Rollins jump kick to the head. Clothesline by Reigns, but Goldust came back with a powerslam. Goldust tagged in Cody while Rollins was also in. Nice nearfall by Rhodes off a cradle, then a Disaster Kick to Reigns on the apron and a moonsault on Rollins for two. Cody hit a Samoa Joe-like Muscle Buster for two as Reigns broke it up. Reigns hit a huge Spear on Goldust while Cody and Rollins collided with each other. Cody wanted Cross Rhodes, but Rollins avoided it. Powerbomb into the turnbuckle by Rollins. Curb stomp by Rollins (running kick to the back of the head in a stomping motion) earned the pinfall for his team. The match went about 14 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns
Analysis: *** It was a good tag match between two teams that have worked together a lot. They had better matches last fall when Cody and Goldust were hotter as a tag team act. The crowd isn't into them as much now, but they did work really hard like usual. Also, the idea is that The Shield is back to their winning ways. It will be interesting to see what happens with them at WrestleMania. Hopefully they get to do more than be in a battle royal match, but if that match happens I think Reigns might be the winner.
Another reminder to vote on the Christian/Sheamus match stipulation.
Here's a video reminder from Smackdown when Natalya made AJ Lee tap out to the Sharpshooter in a tag match.
Nikki & Brie Bella vs. AJ Lee & Tamina Snuka
Natalya is on commentary for this match plugging Total Divas and her Divas Title shot at Main Event on Tuesday night on WWE Network. Brie and Nikki did some sweet tag team moves, but Tamina stopped that after a superkick to Brie. Natalya said "enough is enough and it's time for a change." The Owen Hart line. Love that! AJ hit a spinning back kick on Brie for two. Brie broke free with a dropkick and then a hot tag to Nikki, who hit some dropkicks of her own. Nikki slammed AJ's head into her knee. Brie took out Tamina outside the ring with a leaping body attack and then AJ kicked Brie. AJ went for the Black Widow on Nikki, but Nikki countered into her Torture Rack backbreaker and pinned AJ after about 5 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Nikki & Brie Bella
Post match, Nikki posed with the Divas Title while Natalya jumped on the apron to stare at her.
Analysis: *1/2 They worked hard and had a competitive match. AJ Lee is doing the "champion that loses non-title matches" thing to build up competitors for the Divas Title. It will likely be a multi-diva match at WrestleMania. I don't expect Natalya to win the Divas Title on Main Event, but I'd love to be wrong about that. The announcers haven't called Nikki's move "The Rack Attack" so maybe they're not going with it anymore. Also, kudos to Nikki on improving a lot in recent months. Brie did last year. Now Nikki is. They're working hard, so I'm happy to give them credit.
At ringside, Renee Young interviewed LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell of the show NCIS: Los Angeles. They loved being there. Renee asked who they could use on their show. Chris said Cena while LL Cool J mentioned Undertaker, Bryan and the Bella Twins.
Main event is Bryan & Big Show vs. Orton & Batista.
There was a video recap of Bray Wyatt's promo exchange with John Cena from earlier.
Daniel Bryan entered the ring for a promo. This fairly quiet crowd has woken up. He mentioned the Stephanie McMahon apology from earlier saying he didn't think it was sincere. Bryan said he wasn't going to apologize like they asked him to. Bryan told Hunter that this is the night where it ends because Hunter isn't listening to them. He said that the Yes Movement is going to occupy Raw. Bryan claimed he wasn't going to leave the ring until he gets that match with Triple H at WrestleMania. He asked some members of the Yes Movement to come down to the ring right now. There were a bunch of people in Daniel Bryan "yes" gear that filled up the ring. They went to break there.
Analysis: It was a cool idea for a promo.
Back from break, the ring was full of people in the ring as well as outside the ring. They were all wearing Daniel Bryan t-shirts. Bryan stood on the turnbuckle and led the crowd in "yes" chants.
Hunter and Stephanie stood on the entrance ramp. It was so nice of them to wait until after the commercial break. Hunter congratulated the "occupy Raw" movement and called him a troll. He said they have 30 seconds to get out of the ring before they call security to have them arrested. Hunter mocked a fat guy in the front saying he would get tired. He called for security. Bryan said he'll lead everybody out of the building and Hunter can have a show in front of empty seats. Two security guys went to the ring, Bryan mocked the two people and then they walked back. They couldn't do anything.
Analysis: That was pretty funny with the security guys.
Stephanie told the fans that Bryan is the wrong horse to back. She asked them if Bryan is really worth it. Bryan said The Authority's problem is they underestimate the people. "We own this ring," said Bryan. Hunter said to get the next match ready and the show goes on. He walked backstage with Stephanie.
Damien Sandow walked out. I remember him! Fans were yelling "no" at him. Bryan told Sandow to get in the ring too. There were guys in the ring filming Bryan on their phones. Hunter came back out with Stephanie. They yelled at Sandow. Stephanie talked about how all of this was hers. Stephanie: "When I was born this place became mine!" She freaked out yelling "get out" repeatedly.
Analysis: I have to give Stephanie a lot of credit for being a fantastic angry woman. Sounds like she's had a lot of practice yelling really loudly. I'm just saying.
Bryan re-iterated that all he wants is a match with Hunter at WrestleMania, so if Hunter accepts the match he'll get the show back. Hunter said he actually saw something in Bryan and he tried to protect him. He claims that he protected him at SummerSlam. Hunter talked about WrestleMania. "You want to fight me at WrestleMania?" Loud "yes" chants. "Be careful what you wish for. You're on!" Hunter told them to get out of the ring.
Bryan said that wasn't all he was asking for. He said what the people really wanted was for him to fight for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He suggested that if he beats Hunter at WrestleMania then he gets added to the WWE WHC so then it would be Batista vs. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan. Hunter ran to the ring, but the security guys pulled him back. Hunter said that Bryan gets his deal.
Analysis: Wow. It's on now. That's what we've wanted all this time. We wanted Bryan to get in the WWE WHC match and now it's going to happen. Of course, Hunter could win and...nah that's not happening. They know that Bryan has to be in the main event and now that they've put him in that spot they have suddenly made WrestleMania a greater event. That's what they needed to do and I'm glad they went with it. Yes! Yes! Yes!
Analysis x2: As far as that Occupy Raw segment, I thought it was terrific. We haven't really seen anything like that before, so it was a great way to have Bryan look like a hero to so many fans. They likely just got a section of fans to wear Bryan merchandise and put them in the ring with the hope that none of them act up too much. It was funny seeing them snap pics or take videos. You're part of the show! Act natural! Anyway, it was great because it gave us a memorable moment and that's never a bad thing.
There was another reminder of the main event tag match.
Poll results hosted by Jerry Lawler in the ring: Memphis Street Fight got 67% of the vote, so that's what we get.
Memphis Street Fight: Sheamus vs. Christian
They set up some musical instruments outside the ring for this street fight. They brawled around ringside a bit, but then went over to the staging area where Christian hit a Tornado DDT off the stage onto the floor below. Officials came out to check on both guys as they went to break. This is another version of a floor to commercial break, but that's what we got.
Back from break they were in the ring and Christian was destroying Sheamus with a kendo stick. JBL was complaining about the security and said somebody was in cahoots with Daniel Bryan. Is that going to lead to the return of babyface Vince McMahon? It could be what they're going for. JBL said Lawler was involved. Sheamus made a comeback with a shot to the face as they focused on the back of Sheamus that had red marks on it. Sheamus hit clubbing forearm blows and then a forward roll for two. Sheamus hit White Noise for two followed by his forearm shots against the ropes. Powerslam by Sheamus. They went outside the ring where Sheamus hit his Irish Curse backbreaker. Sheamus brought four chairs into the ring as well as the big drum. Christian used chairs to attack the ribs of Sheamus, then placed them on Sheamus and hit a frog splash off the top onto two chairs. Two count for that. Christian went to use the drum as a weapon, so Sheamus hit a Brogue Kick into the drum and that knocked Christian out. Sheamus covered for the win after 14 minutes. The replay of the finish was great.
Winner by pinfall: Sheamus
Analysis: *** It was a solid TV match between two guys who have had many matches together in the last month or so. They did some silly spots using the instruments at ringside, but also some creative spots as well. That's no surprise in a Christian match because he always comes up with cool ideas in matches. This was a rumored WrestleMania match. I don't see why they would do it now when it seems like Sheamus has won the feud. If they're both in the battle royal then Sheamus would have to be considered a favorite to win it.
The announcers did the WWE Network plug.
Brad Maddox was backstage with Batista. He's still Raw GM? I barely remembered that. Randy Orton showed up as well. Maddox said The Authority left and they told him that the two of them have to work together. Orton told Batista he'd be willing to work with him. Batista looked angry and just left.
Analysis: I figured they would complain more about Bryan possibly being added to the WrestleMania match, but there wasn't much of that. There are other shows to do that, though.
The same promo by Lana and Alexander Rusev that they do every week took place on the stage. She called him the man invading WWE and a "super athlete." He was in the Royal Rumble and since then has been involved in promos like this. It's a long build for this guy.
Earlier tonight, Hulk Hogan announced the battle royal tribute match in honor of Andre the Giant.
It was Wyatt Family promo time as Luke Harper said that Cena made a mistake by falling into the hands of the reaper. Wyatt said that seeing Cena out there with Hogan thinks that maybe Cena was seeing himself in his future. Wyatt said he accepted Cena's challenge at WrestleMania 30. Wyatt said that Cena's the one with everything to lose. Wyatt claimed that Cena's time is up and Wyatt is forever.
Analysis: It's official. We knew it was coming from all the way back at the Royal Rumble when Wyatt cost Cena in the WWE World Heavyweight match. It should be a good match. I've been very impressed by Wyatt of late. Cena's a solid big match performer.
Big Show made his entrance for the main event.
Daniel Bryan made his entrance. They showed the Occupy Raw segment from earlier where Bryan got what he wanted. Batista then Randy Orton made their entrances.
Daniel Bryan & Big Show vs. Batista & Randy Orton
One minute into the match, Bryan sent Orton outside the ring and hit the Flying Goat dive to take him out. Another commercial.
Back from break, Bryan was isolated in the heel corner as I had some Evolution flashbacks from 10 years ago. It's just that back then Orton and Batista had more hair as well as less tattoos. The announcers were arguing about the Occupy Raw segment earlier with JBL complaining about it. Batista hit a clothesline for two. Bryan was able to make the tag to Big Show, who cleaned house on Batista with a sidewalk slam. Then Orton distracted Show and Batista clipped him in the back of the knee. Quick tags from Batista and Orton as they worked over Show, which led to Batista hitting a Spear on Show. How many people in WWE do the Spear these days anyway? Batista wanted the Batista Bomb, but Show hit a back drop to break free. Hot tag to Bryan while Orton also tagged in. Clothesline for Bryan followed by the series of kicks on Orton for two. Bryan missed a top rope headbutt after a slight Batista distraction. Orton got a rollup for two, so Bryan came back with the Yes Lock. Batista broke that up. Show with a kick to knock down Batista and then Orton with a RKO on Show. Batista went for a Spear, but Bryan avoided it and Orton got hit with it. Bryan with the running knee to Batista. Orton avoided a corner dropkick and then hit the DDT off the ropes on Bryan. RKO avoided by Bryan, who got a backslide for two. Bryan hit the running knee to the face of Orton and he covered for the win after 14 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Daniel Bryan & Big Show
Analysis: **1/2 It was a pretty average tag match. They had two different face in peril spots and really did an awesome job of putting Bryan over, so in that sense they accomplished what they wanted to do. I liked seeing the mis-communication spots with Orton and Batista. Just because they are heels doesn't mean they should be allies. Big Show was just kind of there. Didn't do much. Fine with me.
To end Raw, Bryan led the crowd in "yes" chants.
Analysis: It's fine for Bryan to look strong and get the win now. This was the feel good edition of Raw. Last week he got his ass kicked. Next week he will too, most likely. That's just how it goes from week to week. What's great about ending Raw on a happy note is that people are going to be more likely to try out the WWE Network so they can see WrestleMania. Maybe some fans will be willing to go to WrestleMania now. I was already going, but now that Daniel Bryan is going to be in the main event it's going to be that much more fun for my buddies and I. Really looking forward to it now.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Daniel Bryan - His promo work was even better than his in-ring work.
2. Triple H - Some people may not like him, but he was great in that Occupy Raw segment. Perfect range of emotions.
3. (tie) Sheamus
3. (tie) Christian
7 out of 10
Last week: 8
2014 Average: 6.65
2014 High: 8 (January 13/March 3)
2014 Low: 5 (February 3)
Last 5 Weeks: 8, 7, 6, 6.5, 5
That's the third above average edition of Raw in a row. I enjoyed the show. It wasn't as good as last week, but pretty close.
The best part of the show was definitely the Occupy Raw segment with Bryan in the ring surrounded by fans as he got Triple H to give him what he wanted.
In terms of matches, there were some good ones with Sheamus/Christian, Shield/Rhodes Brothers and the main event tag while the rest of it was okay. Some weird finishes, but nothing that bothered me too much.
I like where things are headed for WrestleMania. The battle royal idea is a good move because it'll allow more people to be a part of WrestleMania. Hopefully the winner gets a decent build up after the win because if it means nothing then there's no point to it.
If you're wondering, no CM Punk chants or at least none that I could hear. He's moved on. So have the fans.
That's all for me. Check out my column archive at WhatCulture.com as well as visiting that site daily and have a great week. Thanks for reading.
John Canton - firstname.lastname@example.org