After all the hype and importance placed on the 1,000th episode of Raw, the show delivered and then some. Between excellent legend returns, well-hyped matches and comedy segments, Raw was entertaining and easy to watch.
A scene you wouldn’t expect ended the show: CM Punk standing tall over a fallen John Cena and The Rock, the two men who headlined WrestleMania 28. This was especially special given it is a rare moment of weakness for The Rock, who has looked invincible since his WWE return in 2011. The use of part-timers and legends on Raw was on point -- Daniel Bryan and CM Punk interacting with The Rock, Jinder Mahal leading a cast of lower-level WWE superstars against Kane and The Undertaker, Dude Love dancing with Brodus Clay, Lita as Heath Slater’s final legends opponent, Damien Sandow with DX -- and each scenario was a perfect way for a current WWE superstar to get elevated by the legend(s) they were in the ring with. It still felt -- despite the amount of familiar faces there -- that the show was more about the current WWE roster than it was about the legends, which was refreshing.
Another key theme throughout Raw were the opportunities WWE took to poke fun at itself, from “revealing” Mean Gene Okerlund as the mastermind behind GTV (“G” for Gene and Okerlund with the great line, “I wasn’t even working here at the time!”), to Mae Young’s hand making an appearance “all grown up,” to DX (all of DX, including the New Age Outlaws and X-Pac) throwing jabs at each other throughout their comedic opening segment, to Triple H and Trish Stratus re-enacting their backstage innuendo. The delivery was seamless and well received.
The show saw many changes from what we are used to from Raw, including a new signature and a look back at the first 999 episodes of Raw. Kudos to the WWE video production team members, who often don't get as much credit as they deserve and are faceless, nameless soldiers in the WWE empire.
Many news items were revealed during the episode. Daniel Bryan and AJ’s wedding went awry (shocking!) as Vince McMahon announced AJ would become the new permanent general manager of Raw. This is a great move considering how much emphasis has been placed on AJ’s unpredictability, and that will suit a position of power very well. She has been for many weeks the most compelling character on Raw and this creates a good excuse to distance herself from Daniel Bryan and CM Punk into a new prominent role she definitely deserves. Back to the wedding for one moment -- it was a letdown for me that the St Louis fans didn’t give the officiant for the proceedings, a returning "Dcotor of Style" Slick, a bigger ovation. He was one of the more surprising returns to Raw 1,000. The most surprising to me? Believe it or not, former WWE broadcaster Sean Mooney, who did one backstage interview.
Triple H and Brock Lesnar has been confirmed for Summerslam, with excellent mic work from Paul Heyman, Triple H and a returning Stephanie McMahon. It was very simple, effective storytelling with a physical altercation between Triple H and Brock Lesnar to get the WWE Universe thoroughly invested in a match that's just a few weeks away in Los Angeles.
The Rock returned and confirmed an upcoming match, likely his next – facing the WWE champion at the 2013 Royal Rumble. Much like the buildup to WrestleMania 28, which lasted an entire year, it’s great to have something to look forward to, especially in the distant future in WWE. The Rock seems to be the perfect vehicle for this, which also further cements his “I will never, ever leave” prophecy.
Charlie Sheen was interviewed via Skype throughout the show and I didn’t mind his presence – particularly his digs at Daniel Bryan. Could a match be brewing between the two? Doubtful, but it seemed that way at one point.
Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara and World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus defeated Chris Jericho, Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio. It was announced that a new No. 1 contender would be determined on Smackdown. I hope that Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler continue a rivalry, not only because you could certainly expect a great match from the two, but also because this would distract us from weekly Dolph Ziggler Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in teases.
Bret Hart was one of two guest ring announcers on Raw 1,000, as he announced the Intercontinental title match between Christian and The Miz, who upset the champ and claimed the gold. Much like with Christian, I look forward to The Miz as champ, but feel the big key to success for the title is consistent title defenses.
The last opponent for Heath Slater turned out to be Lita, who hired the APA (Bradshaw and Faarooq) as protection. All the previous legends Slater faced forced him back into the ring to face the music, which was swift. Lita looked to be in great shape and appeared to be having a great time. It will be interesting to see what comes next for Slater, who has been prominent throughout this whole legend returns scenario.
Kane and Undertaker cleaned house on Jinder Mahal, Tyler Reks/Curt Hawkins, Hunico/Camacho and Drew McIntyre. As I mentioned before, it was compelling and a welcome surprise to see a superstar like Undertaker share a ring with younger talent. No matter what the situation is and the outcome, this makes members of the WWE Universe say their names and it can be built upon.
In the main event John Cena won the bout by DQ after the Big Show interfered, making Cena the first man to not claim the WWE title upon cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase (despite not losing his match). One big hook for Raw 1,001 is CM Punk’s first words after that iconic last image of Raw 1,000. I compare his blank stare in the ring to Shawn Michaels after he superkicked Hulk Hogan to set up their match at Summerslam 2005.
One big complaint among the WWE Universe is the absence of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was shown in retrospective videos, particularly his rivalry with Mr. McMahon. I understand the concerns, however I wonder with the way Raw unfolded and how jam packed it was, whether it would have been impactful. Would he have been welcomed with open arms? Yes. Was Raw terrific as it was? Yes. That being said, I do look forward to the day Stone Cold returns to my TV screen in WWE (although I hear good things about his new show "Redneck Island").
Overall, there are many compelling items leading us to Raw 1,001, and I remain optimistic about the three-hour era of Raw. Let’s see what I say in two-to-three weeks.
Follow theScore TV personality and Baltimore Sun blogger Arda Ocal on Twitter.