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Chair Shots: 20th Anniversary of Raw review

I know, I know, a day after saying I'm going to do less reviews of Monday Night Raw, what do I do? Post a review for Monday Night Raw.

But last night's episode inspired me. The 20th Anniversary of the show seemed to promise a lot of returns, but instead, it just delivered a really good and entertaining three hours without relying heavily on nostalgia appearances, outside some recaps videos (most of which I skipped, since I watched on about 90-minute delay on DVR), and the Rock, who for all intents and purposes, is a full-time guy until WrestleMania, and Ric Flair, who's WWE status isn't completely clear right now.

That was good. We just got a heavy dose of nostalgia at Raw 1000 less than six months ago, and even a few surprise cameos at the Slammys last month. And while both of those were quite enjoyable, it would've been overkill to see another DX reunion and what not. It also may have killed one of the best parts of the Royal Rumble, which is the handful of surprise entrants that are often nostalgia acts.

Here are my thoughts on the show, in chronological order:

Alberto Del Rio got a much more positive reaction than I expected, but it's clear WWE is trying to cater to the Hispanic audience with him. Besides his white, green and red tights, the WWE had him win the belt in Miami, and now they are on a tour of the Southwest, including Raw in Houston and Smackdown being taped in San Antonio tomorrow night, which have a large Hispanic population. It's smart, business-wise. I'm curious to see what his babyface reactions are going forward. ...

I thought Big Show was good in this segment, and he's been playing the heel role really well since he turned last year. I did think it was a little inconsistent for him to be forced into treating Vince McMahon with respect, then bringing up his ironclad contract. In theory, shouldn't he have been pushing McMahon around? Just a thought. The Big Show-Del Rio rematch will take place at the Royal Rumble, which was to be expected. I wouldn't be shocked if Show regains the title there. ...

Wow. Wade Barrett going over clean on Randy Orton in the opening match was the shock of the year for me (granted the year is only two weeks old). That's a heck of a win for the Intercontinental Champion, especially since he doesn't seem to have any obvious challengers after beating Kofi Kingston twice. My guess is Orton is doing some jobs as a babyface -- after the loss last night, would it surprise anyone is Antonio Cesaro beat him clean on Main Event? -- before making a heel turn and getting a big push. ...

Dr. Shelby's visit with Kane and Daniel Bryan was what it was -- campy fun. I chuckled a few times. I guess I'll skip around a little bit here, since we had singles matches that saw Kane defeat Damien Sandow and Bryan beat Cody Rhodes in a combined 3 minutes or so. WWE booking tells me the Rhodes Scholars will likely defeat them for the tag team titles at the Royal Rumble then. The squashes can be covered with some good promo work from the heels -- for example, Rhodes can say he tapped out quickly because the important match is for the titles and he wants to be healthy. Cheap heat. ...

The Shield interrupting Mick Foley was kind of cool, if only because having Foley do a speech now and then at the Hall of Fame would've been a little overkill. Also gets the Shield some more cheap heat. Ryback, Orton and Sheamus making the save was no surprise, as WWE has kind of been building to something involving those six for a while now. Maybe a six-man tag team match is coming on Raw. I assume they'll have interaction at the Rumble as well. ...

Kaitlyn defeating Eve Torres for the Divas Championship was one of the best Divas matches I've seen in WWE in years, and the crowd responded accordingly. Obviously, this was Eve's last match with the company, as she quit later in the show. It was reported earlier that she would not be re-signing with WWE. I'm thinking the plan was to have her drop the belt at the Rumble, but when they realized Houston was Kaitlyn's hometown, they did it there instead. As I wrote yesterday, I'm sad Eve is leaving. One of my favorite Divas. Kaitlyn is someone to build around, along with AJ, but WWE needs an influx of new female talent soon.

CM Punk defeating Brodus Clay clean is the type of stuff I'd like to see on Raw a lot more frequently. There isn't enough of the main eventers -- especially the heels -- working guys in the undercard (not the mid-card) in competitive matches. The match was only 4 or 5 minutes long, but Brodus cut a good promo to show he was serious and got in enough offense to make it interesting. Nice to see Punk win clean with the Anaconda Vise. He should have another match like this next week to make him look good before he faces the Rock at the Royal Rumble. Punk's short and sweet "facts" promo after the match was perfect. I liked it a lot better than his long-winded one last week. ...

Heath Slater of 3MB winning the over-the-top rope challenge against Sheamus was cool, even though he got an assist from Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal. No one expected the modern day JOB squad to have a chance against the Celtic Warrior. This is all setting up for a fun spot in the Royal Rumble, me thinks. ...

Antonio Cesaro stole the show when he interrupted the Miz TV segment with Ric Flair. He had some great burns, although Flair took 'em in stride. While the segment was designed for Flair to give an endorsement to a babyface Miz, I don't know that the fans really reacted positively to it. I didn't like Flair having Miz do the Figure-Four Leglock. Flair should've at least applied it first. I wonder if that will become a regular part of the Miz's arsenal going forward? Anytime Flair elbow drops his suit I mark out. Cesaro is being built-up perfectly, and I look forward to when he and the Miz tie-up, likely at the Rumble, with the U.S. title on the line. ...

For the second week in a row, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler provided a PPV caliber match on free television. And for the second week in a row, Cena came out on top despite interference from Big E Langston. Personally, I don't mind that Cena is being booked this strong, especially if the idea is for him to have a great 2013. I just hope it's building toward something, like Ziggler eliminating Cena from the Royal Rumble. I'm not too concerned about Ziggler long-term. This isn't hurting his so-called "credibility." If he were doing jobs to Zack Ryder, that would be one thing, but it's John Freakin' Cena.

Ziggler's still a guy who is going to be a world champion and get a huge push, likely right after WrestleMania. I'm becoming more and more convinced that he'll wait for the biggest show of the year to cash-in and be crowded champion. He just needs to keep having amazing matches along the way and he'll be fine. It doesn't take much in WWE for the momentum to shift in the other direction in a hurry. ...

Far from PG and somewhat offensive is how I would describe the first part of the Rock's concert. As heels, Paul Heyman and Vickie Guerrero are supposed to be punching bags, but at some point, it's just downright rude and crude, isn't it? But, fans responded positively to it, so the Rock and WWE will keep doing it. In fairness, he used to do this stuff to Stephanie McMahon back in the day and no one really complained about it.

However, for all that was wrong with that stuff, I liked the intensity the Rock brought after calling out CM Punk and the pull-apart brawl to end the show felt very real. Turning Punk's "box with God" comment from a week ago on him was cool. And when the two started rolling around and punching each other, it's looked like they had agreed to make it look stiff to add a sense of realism to it.

Bottom line, I'm excited for the Royal Rumble in two weeks. And that was the point of this show.

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