The closing shot of the final Raw before WrestleMania 28 saw The Rock and John Cena throw down their microphones and get in each others faces, but not a throw down many were expecting or hoping for. And in that regard, the final build to WrestleMania this weekend really fell flat.
That's not to say I'm not excited for the show. I do believe this WrestleMania could be one of the best ever, if the three top matches are given time and have good, clean finishes. But Raw didn't do much to get me any more excited for the event than I already was.
Rock and Cena filled out the final 20 or so minutes of the show, and if you've been following along, you've heard it all before. If you decided to tune into Raw this week as a casual viewer to see what the big deal was about Rock and Cena, and WrestleMania, then it was probably a good refresher, and you understand the essence of this feud. The intensity did ramp up in the final minutes, with both stating why they needed to win on Sunday, but still, it didn't present anything vastly different than what we've already seen. And I don't know if it was a hard enough sell to change someone's mind who was on the fence about this.
Unfortunately, if the plan was to keep these two from coming to blows until the PPV, then this was fine. I really wanted to see the two start throwing punches though and have a bit of a pull-apart brawl. As the Rock said during his promo, "John, I just don't like you." Yeah, then why let him talk all that trash and not smack him in the mouth? Let them start exchanging punches as Raw goes off the air. After the cameras stopped rolling, they did a segment with Miz getting beat up by the Rock again, that I'm guessing will be posted on WWE.com later today. Why not, while the two are coming to blows, the Miz and another heel (Dolph Ziggler?) come in and take finishers from both men? It's kind of what happened last year in the same arena when the Corre attacked following the two making this year's WrestleMania main event. Ah well. ...
The main story of the night was filling out Teams Johnny and Teddy for the six-on-six general managers match. And I gotta say the final additions were disappointing to say the least. Team Teddy, no wait, Team Johnny, added the Miz, lost Christian and then added Drew McIntyre, while Booker T became the final member of Team Teddy.
Apparently Christian and Alberto Del Rio aren't ready to go, medically. As I strongly believe that was the original plan, based on the Elimination Chamber promo that got the ball rolling on this whole thing. (See below for more on Christian.)
I don't have a problem with McIntyre being on Team Johnny, I really don't. From a storyline perspective, he has more reason to hate Long than any of the rest of the squad. It's just he's been booked like crap over the past few weeks. Had he gotten on a roll after being re-hired by Laurinaitis during "crossover week" with the GMs, it would make more sense.
Unfortunately, it also meant that Miz ended up on Team Johnny which seems like a letdown. He got his spot after he saved Laurinaitis from Santino's Cobra after Santino beat David Otunga in a cluster of a match that involved flag bearers and ... ugh. Whatever. Anyway, after weeks of the Miz not being able to get a WrestleMania match, I think this killed a potentially good story. (See yesterday's blog about all the possibilities for Miz at WrestleMania by clicking here.) Even if Miz got squashed by Brodus Clay at 'Mania, I thought it made more sense to do something with him in a standalone capacity, but the injuries dictated otherwise.
Same for Team Teddy. I think they were holding out hope for Rey Mysterio to be the last member, but Booker T became the guy when no one else was really worthy. Booker, like Miz, saved Teddy Long from a beatdown at the hands of Mark Henry. I don't have a problem with Booker getting that spot. He did a great job elevating Cody Rhodes at the end of last year and earned a WrestleMania moment. Plus, it hopefully gets him off commentary the rest of the show.
Speaking of which, Michael Cole announced he was the official commentator of Team Johnny. That might've just been a way to foreshadow Booker joining Team Teddy, but there is a piece of me that's rooting for Team Teddy now if that means he kicks Cole out and let's Jim Ross do commentary for the card's biggest matches.
Zack Ryder and Mark Henry are the two guys to watch in this match, in my opinion. Henry has been dominating again since he became part of Laurinaitis' team, including the victory against Great Khali last night with an impressive World's Strongest Slam. His push could be re-kindled if he leads his team to victory. Ryder, meanwhile, is a wild card because he seems willing to do anything for Eve Torres and his character is a total rube. So she wants him to stay at her hotel rather than with his teammates the night before WrestleMania? Hmmm.... would Ryder take a dive and cost his team the match if Eve promises him some forbidden fruit?
Check back later today for my predictions on the Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy match, and check back each day for predictions on the four main events the rest of this week. ...
Christian was "re-injured" by CM Punk at the top of the 10 o'clock hour. The two were scheduled for a match, then Chris Jericho showed up on the TitanTron again and talked more about Punk's family, saying his mother gave birth to Punk before she and his father were married, making Punk the legal definition of a bastard. Christian attacked Punk from behind, then Punk snapped. He smashed Christian's head into the announce table, gave him a Go To Sleep on the steps (which was a really cool spot) then twice locked him into the Anaconda Vise. The second time, the camera perfectly captured a crazed look on the face of Punk.
This segment was really well done and probably my favorite part of Raw. Christian took a nasty beating we don't see very often and Punk looked the part of a maniac. Well done. Back from commercial, the announcers told us Christian had "re-injured" his neck (which was a kayfabe injury in the first place -- the reality is his high-ankle sprain probably hasn't healed enough) and wasn't medically cleared to fight at WrestleMania. I do hope this sets up a Christian-Punk feud when "Captain Charisma" finally does return.
What I've decided I didn't like the was the injection of the family drama into the Punk-Jericho storyline. I really think it should've been saved for the rematch, likely to take place at Extreme Rules in Chicago, Punk's hometown. If Jericho would've just introduced the tidbit about his father this week, even when/if Punk wins at WrestleMania, he could've continued the next two weeks about his sister and mother to goad him into a rematch, and say he was going to embarrass Punk in front of his family in his hometown of Chicago. It's a good storyline, it just could've been saved for next month. This month should've been about who is the better wrestler. What's the storyline next month now? Or are we just going to get more rehash? ...
The best wrestling match on the show was the opening tag team bout from Smackdown, with Kane and World Champion Daniel Bryan defeating Randy Orton and Sheamus. During the course of the match, I couldn't help but think Orton-Bryan and Sheamus-Kane would've made better WrestleMania matches, and might've actually been the plan until Orton got hurt right before the Royal Rumble. The finish saw Kane avoid an RKO on the floor and shove Orton into the ring post. Back in the ring, as Sheamus readied Bryan for a Brogue Kick, AJ got in the ring to keep him from striking her boyfriend. As the referee cleared her from the ring, Kane chokeslammed Sheamus from the apron, allowing Bryan to get the cover.
When the match started, I wondered how the finish might be booked, as WWE clearly didn't want to derail anyone's momentum heading into WrestleMania. However, I really liked this one. For the first time, we saw AJ interject herself into one of Bryan's matches, rather than her incidentally getting involved, and again Bryan found a way to win without really doing the heavy lifting himself. Good stuff. ...
Big Show squashed Primo, one half of the Tag Team Champions, who aren't booked for WrestleMania. Some folks are pitching a fit because WWE doesn't care about the tag titles. Personally, I think Show should've beaten both of them in a handicap match. That would've made him look really strong heading into 'Mania, where I expect him to lose to Cody Rhodes. ...
Kelly Kelly pinned Eve in a singles match, which was pretty average for a Divas match. I was surprised Eve lost though. This tells me that the heels are going over at WrestleMania, which is what I predicted late last week. ...
Brodus Clay squashed Curt Hawkins (this is the closest he's going to get to WrestleMania) and there is a rumor WWE wants to tack on a Brodus Clay squash match to the show. I'm fine with that if they have time, but I think it'd make more sense for him to win the dark match battle royal they do every year and not rush one of the eight promoted matches.