Chair Shots: Cena-Lesnar brawl highlights WWE Raw

Strike while the iron is hot. WWE wasted no time following up on Brock Lesnar's return last week, as a match between for the former UFC Champion and John Cena was set for Extreme Rules on pay-per-view later this month, then the two engaged in a wild pull-apart brawl at the start of the show that had me reminiscing of Tyson and Austin nearly 15 years ago.

Unfortunately, WWE Raw went on a downward spiral from that point, with squash matches and lame comedy from the new Three Stooges. But let's focus on the positive for now.

Cena-Lesnar is taking a completely different track from Cena-Rock, which was built up slowly over a year with lots of promos and little physicality. Last week, Lesnar had no words for Cena before delivering an F-5, and this week, Cena had no words for him, slapping Lesnar across the face before Lesnar hit him with a double leg takedown and a stiff punch that bloodied Cena's mouth before the entire locker room emptied to seperate the two. (Notably absent: Randy Orton, CM Punk, Chris Jericho and Big Show)

It was a hot start to Raw and really this feud. I don't know if that first stiff punch to bloody Cena was planned or not, but it was definitely impactful and, if only for a second, had you wondering if this whole thing was a shoot or what? I wrote this a while ago when WWE stopped having guys blade every other show -- blood will be much more impactful when it does happen. As we saw at WrestleMania with Triple H vs. Undertaker when the Game started bleeding hardway, it was a big deal. Same thing with Cena's mouth last night.

WWE tried to make clear that Lesnar was a heel by aligning him with General Manager John Laurinaitis, who introduced him as the new face of the WWE. After the reaction he got last week, that's probably the only way they could truly make him a heel to both casual fans and smart fans alike. Some fans are still going to want to cheer for him (especially those at Extreme Rules in Chicago, who really don't like Cena) but casual fans not as familiar with Lesnar who might've wanted to cheer him based on his reaction in Miami now at least know that his character is supposed to be a heel.

Laurinaitis said Lesnar would bring legitimacy to the WWE, and the letters "UFC" were mentioned several times, which was a bit surprising. I guess WWE is trying to prove that they don't view the Ultimate Fighting Championship as competition, and therefore don't mind bringing them up on Raw. In a backstage promo later in the show, Lesnar said he conquered UFC and basically pinned all of their success on him. That's not entirely true, but Lesnar certainly raised the UFC's profile.

Lesnar called himself a "War Machine," which will no doubt be his nickname going forward. The words he said were definitely the words of a heel, but Lesnar's delivery of it wasn't great. I don't know about everyone else, but I expect a much "bigger" voice to come out of Lesnar when he speaks. Angrier and more intense. I don't agree with the legions of Internet wrestling fans who think Paul Heyman should be brought back as his mouthpiece. Heyman is well respected for what he did for professional wrestling, so I think you'd have a large chunk of fans pop for him and again blur those heel/face lines. Lesnar and Laurinaitis, as well as David Otunga, should be somewhat inseperable going forward, however.

Cena had a nice promo backstage with Laurinaitis where he demanded a match with dried blood still on his lip. Cena said he likes to hit and likes to be hit. I guess this is WWE's way of saying, hey Cena's still a tough guy. This lead to a 5-minute squash of David Otunga by Cena in the main event. I was hoping Cena would be a bit more aggressive in this match, doing a little more MMA "ground and pound" type offense to prove his point rather than having a standard wrestling match with Otunga. Oh well.

As the show ended, we had come full circle as Lesnar did a run-in from the crowd, kicked Cena with a low-blow from behind and gave him another F5. Jerry Lawler kept asking how the low blow was "legitimate" so I guess that's the buzz word we'll be using.

I am curious if a stipulation will be added to the Extreme Rules match. If not, it just begs for the WWE to rebrand that pay-per-view, since the whole idea is every match is contested in some sort of variety of hardcore match (the same issue I had with Triple H vs. CM Punk, a nontitle match, headlining Night of Champions, but that's a column for another day). I get the impression this won't be the last official encounter between Cena and Lesnar, so it might make sense for this one to end in a no contest to continue the feud. Personally, I think Lesnar needs to win in order to keep his momentum going, even if it is by dubious means. He'll lose a ton of heat and "legitimacy" if he does the job or goes to a draw in his return match to WWE. ...

CM Punk and Chris Jericho continued their storyline, with Mark Henry getting a nod for best supporting cast member. Punk cut a good promo about why he's straight-edge and Jericho continued to play the role of dastardly jerk. The promos went a little longer than I think they needed to, but set the stage for what followed. After the announced WWE Championship match between Mark Henry and CM Punk started, an enraged Punk got disqualified by attacking Henry with a television monitor. Jericho's music started playing, distracting Punk, which allowed Henry to gain the upper hand and drop him with a pair of World's Strongest Slams. Jericho then emerged with a case of Natty Boh (!!!) and proceeded to pour the beer all over Punk, hitting a few Codebreakers whenever Punk started coming to.

It was a bit more of the same from a week ago, although I definitely marked out for Natty Boh. Clearly, this is building to Punk and Jericho at Extreme Rules in Punk's hometown of Chicago, where the two will likely just have an all-out brawl. Obviously, John Laurinaitis will try to tip the scales to give Jericho the advantage.

The real question here is whether Punk will still be WWE Champion by then. Backstage after the segment, Henry noted he beat Punk two weeks in a row but by countout and DQ, so the title didn't change hands. Next week, he'll get a title match with no DQs or countouts. Next week is WWE's annual Raw in the O2 Arena in London, where they tend to put on a pretty big show. This is a pay-per-view quality title defense, so it should be pretty good.

I'm curious how Punk continues to get booked going forward. I assume he'll find a way to retain against Henry, but the storyline here will have to be that Laurinaitis forcing him to defend the WWE Championship every week will cause Punk to burn out and eventually drop the title. The question is to whom and when? ...

The rest of Raw was pretty ho-hum. Brodus Clay and Santino Marella defeated Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger in a tag team match when Clay got the hot tag and proceded to go through the slowest "flurry" of offensive moves I've ever seen, ending with the big splash on Ziggler. I was shocked Ziggler did the job and not Swagger. Obviously, I'm a Swagger mark, so any time he doesn't do a job I'm happy (keep your expectations low and you'll never be disappointed) but Ziggler shouldn't have been jobbed out here either. In January, Swagger was U.S. Champion and Ziggler was in contention for the WWE title, now they are jobbing to the Cobra and the Funkasaurus? Yikes. WWE needs to do something with these two and quick. Give them the tag team titles or something, it's gotta be better than Primo and Epico. ...

Speaking of guys who continue to fall down the card, Zack Ryder pulled the short straw this week and did the JOB to Alberto Del Rio in about two minutes. I get Del Rio winning, as he has a championship match with Sheamus coming up (perhaps tonight on the live "Blast from the Past" Smackdown?) and needs to look strong, but Ryder is in a worse place than he was three months ago. Why couldn't Ryder have gotten the "beat Cody Rhodes with a distraction from Big Show" spot that R-Truth got and have Little Jimmy do the job to Del Rio? It's not like R-Truth is going anywhere fast. ...

So yeah, Rhodes beat R-Truth with a distraction from Big Show, which was essentially the same segment as last week, just with Truth replacing Kofi Kingston. ...

Yoshi Tatsu got on Raw after challenging Lord Tensai on Twitter. Didn't work out so well for him, as Tensai squashed him and won by referee stoppage, just as he did over Alex Riley last week. The fans were too busy chanting about some guy named "Albert" to care about Tensai. Smart fans are so cool. ...

I don't really want to write about the Three Stooges, but I will. It was a reminder of how painful the guest host concept for Raw was a few years ago. It certainly seemed to send a mixed message when the night was all about "legitimacy" and Brock Lesnar's return. Will Sasso, who apparently did an angle with Bret Hart on MADtv back in the day and did an impersonation of Stone Cold Steve Austin when he was on the show, performed as Curly and did a Hulk Hogan impression. I'm not gonna lie, I chuckled at the Hogan bit. The crowd hated every second of this. Then Kane came out and chokeslammed him, which you'd think would get a pop, but elicited pretty much nothing. These segments went over like Natalya Neidhart's gimmick in church. ...

Super Smackdown Live is tonight, with a Blast from the Past theme, which I imagine will be similiar to the Old School Raw from Hershey, Pa., that I attended a few years back. Legends, all of whom I think are part of the "Legends House" reality show WWE was trying to do for the Network that's never going to launch, will be the focus of the show. There is also expected to be some repercussions for Sheamus Brogue Kicking the referee after his disqualification loss to Alberto Del Rio last week. ...

No one on Raw mentioned this, but it was noted on Friday's Smackdown that Booker T was supposed to meet with WWE Corporate in Conneticut on Monday. I can only hope they are removing him from commentary. ...

Which reminds me, Laurinaitis did a couple backstage segments on Raw with both Eve Torres and the Miz where he promised he'd meet with them later, with the implication being he has big plans for both. I guess this was WWE's way of addressing two of the key players in Team Johnny's WrestleMania victory, both of whom he's already moved on from because he has bigger fish to fry. I'm interested to see where this goes.

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