Carroll County Times

Chair Shots: Undertaker returns to WWE Raw, challenges Triple H to WrestleMania rematch

Following a solid Royal Rumble Sunday night, WWE pulled out all stops on Raw with the return of not only Triple H, but his WrestleMania opponent from last year (and likely opponent for this year) the Undertaker to close a very strong Raw that put everyone in the fast lane on the Road to WrestleMania.

The show-closing angle saw Triple H return in his COO role to do a job evaluation of Interim Raw GM and Executive Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis. Let's just say it wasn't going well for ol' Johnny Ace. Laurinaitis did his best to suck up, saying he saw the error of his ways, while Triple H berated him in comedic fashion while also acknowledging the convoluted storyline that saw both Vince McMahon and Triple H removed from running Raw for letting personal issues cloud their judgment -- the same reason he was going to remove Laurinaitis from his post.

As the Game was about to future endeavor Laurinaitis, a familiar sound brought the fans to their feet. Gong. Triple H stopped as the Undertaker made his return, enterting the ring and having a stare down with Triple H, glancing at the WresteMania sign and back at the Game, recreating the infamous scene that set-up their match a year ago, just in reverse.

However, instead of accepting, Triple H put his hand on the Undertaker's shoulder and left the ring, leaving Undertaker looking confused.

What does it all mean? At first blush, I keep coming back to Triple H talking about how he was removed from running Raw because he let personal feelings cloud his judgment, keeping him from doing the best he could. And how that now that he put that behind him, the Board was willing to let him run the show again. It almost seems like he considered fighting Undertaker, but decided he didn't want to jeoparodize his job as COO.

Personally, I hope this is WWE's way of dismissing a third WrestleMania match between the two that has long been rumored. It would seem out of character for the Undertaker to demand a WrestleMania match, especially with someone he's beaten twice. Yes, Triple H took him to the limit a year ago, but 'Taker still won. What more does he have to prove? Especially considering the whole build-up to Undertaker's second match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXVI, which he refused several times for that exact reason.

Bringing back Undertaker with so much time before WrestleMania also raises some questions for me. Is he going to actually get back in the ring before that? Is he going to disappear again for a few weeks? Or will he show up each week to confront Triple H?

Regardless, expect many more plot twists as the Undertaker seeks to extend his WrestleMania unbeaten streak to 20-0 this year. Perhaps the story could be that he keeps challenging people, but no one wants to be that milestone victim, only for someone completely unexpected to emerge to challenge the streak? Sheamus perhaps? ...

Speaking of the 2012 Royal Rumble winner, Sheamus was involved in the opening segment of Raw, but that was about it. I recognize he's a Smackdown wrestler, but that hasn't exactly stopped Smackdown wrestlers from being heavily involved on the Raw before -- especially when they just won arguably the biggest match of their career. ...

In what was potentially his last night as Raw GM, Laurinaitis put together a fairly loaded card for Raw, including a champion vs. champion match between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan that had smart marks giggling like school girls. Tons of praise has been heaped on the match itself, which I agree was very good, although both Punk and Bryan gave me reasons to boo them when they pontificated about how they are straight-edge and vegan, respectively, in backstage promos.

It was funny hearing Punk say how despite this, he doesn't view himself as a role model when his gimmick less than two years ago as Smackdown's top heel was that he should be a role model because he's straight-edge. Don't worry, smarks won't be critical of WWE wanting us to have selective memory there because their boy CM Punk is involved.

But I digress ... both did a nice job in the opening promo setting up their match with Bryan being the more sanctimonious of the two, belittling the personal squabble between Punk and Laurinaitis and that Punk wasn't much of a challenge after Bryan beat both Big Show and Mark Henry in a steel cage the night prior.

Punk made a ton of "Best in the World" references, which set the stage for Jericho's interference at the end of the match. While I understand why they wanted Bryan to be announced the winner by disqualification, it seemed to go against pretty much every run-in I've seen in WWE for the past 15 years. He first-touched Bryan to remove him from the ring, but Jericho immediately hit the Codebreaker on Punk. Shouldn't have that been a double DQ no contest? Just sayin'. Perhaps if he waited until after the announcement, then hit the Codebreaker on Punk, it would've come across better.

The disqualification finish also took some of the luster away from the match, in my opinion, but that's OK. Lots of fans -- oddly, the same ones who were salivating over the match -- complained that WWE should've saved a marquee match-up like this for a pay-per-view, but they would've gone crazy if they paid money only to see a DQ finish, so I thought it was perfect. ...

Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler, the first official match-up of the show, was also really good -- pretty much like every other match these two have had in recent months -- although I didn't like the squeaky clean finish of Orton going over. I guess they wanted to make Orton look strong and completely recovered heading into a Smackdown match with Wade Barrett which was announced for Friday's show. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Ziggler, who also lost about four times to Punk at the Rumble (if you consider the three falls Laurinaitis didn't see) and who is among the six participants in the Raw Elimination Chamber match that was announced earlier in the show.

Barrett doing commentary during the match from a skybox was different. Michael Cole basically said he was showing off his wealth. Jerry Lawler concluded he was scared to be too close to Orton. Both make sense and play into Barrett's character well. However, I wish he could've gotten a house microphone and started talking trash to Orton, distracting him long enough for Ziggler to pick up a much-needed bounce back win after losing the championshp match last night. I think that would've given just as much heat to Barrett and Orton heading into their Smackdown collision.

Orton vs. Barrett is a PPV-quality match too. I bet we get another no-finish. At least we should. ...

How crazy is it that a Divas match was the set-up to advance the John Cena-Kane angle? After Beth Phoenix made short work of Eve Torres, Kane showed up on the TitanTron and concisely explained why Cena needs to embrace the hate -- that he can never beat the Rock if he doesn't. That's really the first time the Rock has been brought up in this feud and, if you think about it, it's almost like Kane is trying to do Cena a favor.

I've compared this storyline quite a few times to "The Dark Knight" with Cena as Batman and Kane as the Joker, and I'll continue to do so. Just replace Batman with Cena, Joker with Kane and "embrace the hate" with kill, and you've pretty much nailed this storyline. Batman, as you would expect Cena to do, heroically "rises above" to prove he doesn't have to stoop to Kane's level. And as long as I'm going the Batman route, Eve and Zack Ryder are kind of like Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent in "The Dark Knight."

Cena, for the first time really, showed some dominance over Kane last night when he ran from the back to save Eve. Those stair shots looked brutal and he teased an AA through the announce table before Kane escaped. The rumor is a Last Man Standing match is in the works for Elimination Chamber. Anyone else envisioning a spot where Zack Ryder mans the controls lowering the chamber and traps Kane under it to help Cena win the match? ...

Also, I've got no problems with Beth Phoenix squashing Eve. Beth is clearly going to be built-up strong before she faces Kharma at WrestleMania, plus the storyline was that Eve's mind was elsewhere. ...

I do have a problem with Kofi Kingston essentially squashing the Miz in about three minutes with no distractions from R-Truth, who was seated ringside doing commentary. I guess they wanted Kingston to look credible heading into the Elimination Chamber, because let's be honest, the way he's been booked as of late, he doesn't belong anywhere near the WWE Championship. I thought Miz regained a lot of credibility for lasting longer than anyone else in the Rumble match the night before, and they essentially erased that by having him lose clean and quick. ...

Brodus Clay is a guilty pleasure, and I definitely laughed out loud at Lawler's "Jurassic Park" reference for a match between the Funkasaurus and "T-Reks" Tyler Reks. The best part of Clay is he's getting all sorts of people we had no idea WWE still employed on television. (Although William Regal and Curt Hawkins both were gladhanded by Laurinaitis earlier in the show. Regal is subtlely hilarious.) At some point, they are going to need a storyline for Clay. There aren't that many jobbers left. Maybe he can beat Primo and Epico in a handicap match and destroy any credibility the tag team titles might've had. ...

So the question remains -- is John Laurinaitis still the Raw General Manager? Triple H technically never fired him. Guess we have to stay tuned to find out.