At its core, professional wrestling is about storytelling.
Every writer has good works and bad; it's simply the nature of the beast. Sometimes the simplest stories gain traction when they really shouldn't and become sensations (just ask Stephanie Meyer).
On last week's Raw, the Undertaker returned to confront Triple H, challenging him to a rematch at WrestleMania. To say the fan reaction has been mixed would be an understatement.
No matter one's thoughts on the pending match - giving "The Game" an unprecedented third shot at ending Taker's undefeated streak - viewers have to take note of the circular storytelling being employed for this feud.
In 2010, Shawn Michaels wanted nothing more than to receive a second shot at the Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI. The Deadman refused, forcing HBK to use every trick he could to wrangle his way into another match.
Last week, when Undertaker issued his apparent challenge, Triple H simply brushed him off. It seems the roles of the build to WrestleMania XXVI have been reversed, with "The Phenom" now being the one hunting the "King of Kings."
On tonight's Raw, Triple H himself pointed out even more of the circular storytelling of this angle, relating last week's incident to the initial stare-down between himself and Taker before last year's WrestleMania.
"The Game," however, said he would decline the offer for a third contest out of respect, as he wants to remember Taker's career as one of strength and dominance, not one of brokenness and frailty.
This angle has to be building to something more than just an ordinary rematch. Odds are, and this is purely speculation, that it will become another Streak-vs.-career match, with Hunter putting his in-ring tenure on the line. Another stipulation, possibly Last Man Standing, will likely also come into play.
No matter the stipulation - or where the angle heads from home, as Taker promised "it's not over" - I will have a hard time getting excited for the match. Going to the well a third time could prove a risky move, but there are admittedly few other choices for Undertaker’s opponent.
There's only one man in my eyes who could believably end the Streak, and he's busy with The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII.
But even with low expectations and a lack of interest in the match itself, I must step back and appreciate WWE for two elements of this feud: The amazing video production work we've seen already and the fact they’re using the full advantage of circular storytelling to remind us - even oh so subtlety - that the writers do, in fact, remember the past.
- Chris Jericho earned the final entrant spot in the Raw Elimination Chamber match by virtue of defeating his five pay-per-view opponents in a "six-pack scramble." The match started out a mess with all six superstars in the ring, but by the end, it became an engaging and quality bout. The ending saw CM Punk deliver a Go To Sleep to Dolph Ziggler, only for Jericho to pull Punk out of the ring and pin Ziggler himself. He then mocked Punk by sitting Indian style in the ring. It appeared R-Truth may have been injured in the match, as well, when he fell on his back on the floor. Hopefully it was nothing too serious.
- Fans watching the first 90 minutes of this show may have been confused as to whether or not they accidentally tuned into Smackdown. The first three matches featured seven Smackdown stars and David Otunga. Yes, having the six Raw Elimination Chamber participants in the main event took a lot out of the roster, but does this reflect the sad state of the roster?
- Jericho explained his "end of the world" ramblings by calling out the locker room as wannabes and accusing people of stealing his routine. Some of it was humorous, but overall, the explanation was still a letdown. Things appeared to be ready to pick up when Punk's music hit, but the champ came out and said nothing before dropping the mic, raising his title belt and leaving. Isn't he proving Jericho's point by stealing his silent gimmick schtick? Also, did we really need another "say nothing, hand gesture" promo one week after having the Undertaker throat slash with Triple H?
- Randy Orton and Great Khali won a tag match over Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett when Khali chopped Rhodes mid-air for the win. After the match, he went after Orton but ate an RKO for his trouble. No matter what they do, they will not convince me that Khali belongs in the World Heavyweight Championship match at Elimination Chamber. It's hard to convince he that he belongs under contract, but that's another story altogether.
- Daniel Bryan's work on the microphone saved a pretty terrible segment that involved a short match between him and Big Show. He again manipulated the situation by using AJ to distract the giant. The match itself was kept very basic, with Big Show in control for much of it, but again, the segment would have fallen very short without the post-match promo. Not bad for a guy with no charisma, huh?
- David Otunga was spotted Tebowing in the ring. It's surprising it took WWE this long to work it into a segment. Otunga's reward? A match with Sheamus in which the legal expert landed a surprising amount of offense before being put down. Yes, Sheamus has a free ticket punched to WrestleMania, but it would be nice to see him do something more meaningful than squash jobbers for the next month and a half.
- The sad treatment of the divas was on full display tonight. On a show that featured minimal wrestling and an overabundance of video packages, an eight-diva tag match was limited to about two minutes, and half the women never even tagged in. Couldn't they have allotted these women some actual time, given the sad state of the rest of the show?
- Two pertinent announcements were made. First, Shawn Michaels will be returning to Raw next week. As I’ve said, the build to Triple H vs. Undertaker seems poised to be better than the match itself, and HBK will add an interesting dynamic to the mix. Second, Cena will face Kane in an ambulance match at Elimination Chamber. I had expected a Last Man Standing stipulation, but this is at least something different. I'm not holding my breath for a five-star classic, though.
- John Laurinaitis' job appears to be safe, as Triple H said the Board of Directors is taking the matter into consideration. A decision is expected to be announced on WWE.com at 10 a.m. (no time zone specified) tomorrow. My bet is they announce their decision will be announced next week on Raw.
- Cena will wave the green flag at the Daytona 500 in a few weeks. I'm not a racing fan, so I obviously don't find that news to be all that exciting. It's a good way to put Cena and the WWE in front of a large audience, in Florida, nonetheless, so it will likely be a good publicity move. But I'm left thinking about all of the TNA-Nascar crossover and how much that helped everyone involved. All Wheels Wrestling anyone?
Big Show d. Daniel Bryan by countout
Sheamus d. David Otunga
Great Khali and Randy Orton d. Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett
Tamina, Eve, Kelly Kelly and Alicia Fox d. Beth Phoenix, Nikki Bella, Brie Bella and Natalya
Chris Jericho d. Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, The Miz, R-Truth and CM Punk
I try to not be overly negative, but there was little to find positive with tonight's Raw outside of the main event. Coming off the heels of a hot show last week, this show was a letdown of epic proportions. First, none of the matches were allowed any real chance to develop and tell a story. Second, the show was overrun with video packages, many of which were longer than half the matches on the show. Would it have hurt to let Primo and Epico have a title defense tonight? How about an actual Brodus Clay match – or even an appearance? The shortage of talent caused by the main event cannot - and should not - be blamed for the show's shortcomings. The show was just poorly planned and executed equally.
Twitter Comment of the Night
"I'm convinced WWE hates (Oklahoma City). They spared JR but gave the crowd a middle finger." - Mia @MiaaBonita