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WWE Raw recap: Cena gets the better of The Rock

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Finally, The Rock came back to Monday Night Raw.

And upon arrival, he found himself facing stiff competition from his WrestleMania opponent, John Cena. The two never got physical, but they accomplished more with words than many could with actions.

The Rock's promo wasn't what many expected. People mockingly assumed he'd come out, cut his signature catchphrases and leave. When that didn't happen, people immediately jumped on Rocky, criticizing his promo.

Yes, some of The Rock's material seemed less than par for the course, calling Cena "Kung Pow Chicken," but for the most part, it wasn't as bad as people on social media made it out to be.

When Cena arrived, the segment did hit the next level, as Cena cut what I found to be his best promo in a long while. He kept his words short but sweet, rather than dragging things out as Cena tends to do.

The words cut through The Rock like a knife, and the living legend even seemed thrown off course when finishing his speech after Cena left.

As the show closed, those reading Rocky's lips could even decipher what seemed to be a pretty serious curse word.

For the record, I agree with people saying victory in this battle of the war of words belongs to Cena.

Whether John Cena and Dwayne Johnson have a real-life dislike for one another or not, they are at least capable of telling a story of ill will and animosity. Judging from the way this has played out, though, the lines are blurred more than usual and reality seems to have control.

This feud is being carried solely by personal issues and dueling personalities, a stunning contrast to something like the one between WWE Champion CM Punk and Chris Jericho, which is established soundly around the principles of wrestling prowess.

WrestleMania may just find the right mix between sports and entertainment.

Quick Hits

* The show-opening promo exchange between Punk and Jericho took a simple concept and message and turned it into a really strong segment. These two men know their match isn't the main event (or semi-main, for that matter) of WrestleMania, but they're obviously not prepared to roll over, play dead and forsake the honor of stealing the biggest show of the year. They don't need a stipulation or any extenuating build to their match; this bout is simply two men out to prove they really are the best in the world.

Daniel Bryan and Punk met for the third time in a rematch from Tuesday's live Smackdown. This week's match didn't receive as much time as last week's, and therefore didn't have the opportunity to reach that level. The match was another strong outing from the duo, but the focus was placed on Raw general manager John Laurinaitis and Smackdown GM Teddy Long. By the end, all hell had broken loose, as the officials battled in the ring and Jericho assaulted Punk on the ramp and locked in a Liontamer.

Some people have already been complaining that the champion-versus-champion match became a backdrop to the Laurinaitis-Long issues. I admit, I found the camera's focus on the commentary table during the early stages of the match to be annoying, but as my friend Greg DeMarco tweeted, "Sometimes chaos works." This was one of those times. That was one of the strongest openings to Raw yet this year.

*The teams of Epico and Primo, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler, and R-Truth and Kofi Kingston put on a really good triple threat Tag Team Championship match. WWE hasn't focused on tag team wrestling for a while, but it really seems they're in a position to make things work. Of course, part of that entails not having Kane come out and destroy at least four of the six guys who just busted their tails to put on an entertaining match.

* In a repeat of the main event of last year's WrestleMania, Cena faced The Miz. This time, though, the result was flipped, as Cena wound up on top. The match was pretty good for television, and Miz actually landed some offense, including a good-looking DDT. The downside of this match is that it drove home the point of just how far Miz has fallen in the past year.

* Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes showcased another of Big Show's "finer" WrestleMania moments, playing video of Show's match with boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather. The recap video of that match lasted longer than the following tag team match pitting Show and Sheamus against Rhodes and Mark Henry. Henry, who has been built as a monster heel through the past year, has officially been neutered. The man has been working injured, so it's understandable for him to take it easy, but his treatment the past few weeks has been awful.

* Kelly Kelly and Nikki Bella had the token divas match for the night. The match wasn't bad, but they really need to let the women have some time if they ever want people to even consider taking the divas seriously. Also, shouldn't Divas Champion Beth Phoenix be building her WrestleMania feud by now?

* Eve had the opportunity to cut a short promo establishing herself as a heel willing to use her looks to get ahead. It wasn't a bad promo, but the purpose seems questionable at the moment. Hopefully Eve's heel turn has a purpose and leads to something in the near future.

* Not surprisingly, the video package WWE used to hype the Undertaker-Triple H match at WrestleMania was very good. Featuring legends of the past and performers who know both men well, such as"Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and Cena, makes it seem even more special. They're almost making me excited for the match itself. Almost.

Match Rundown

Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk had a non-finish

Kelly Kelly d. Nikki Bella

John Cena d. The Miz

Primo and Epico d. R-Truth and Kofi Kingston and Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler to retain the WWE Tag Team Championships

Sheamus and Big Show d. Mark Henry and Cody Rhodes

My Take

Tonight's Raw was very strong, in my opinion. WWE is fully on the Road to WrestleMania, and this show represented a positive advancement down that path. The company clearly realizes it has to not only build to that show but also keep momentum moving forward for another five weeks. The main event was a definite low point on the show, but even that kept Sheamus looking very strong and furthered the feud between Big Show and Cody Rhodes. I'll take it. The bar has been set high for the remainder of the season.

Comment of the Night

"So a black guy, a white guy and Puerto Rican guy walk into a chokeslam. #KaneStandUp" - Langdon Alger, @KeepItFiveStar

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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