Monday Night Raw starring Brock Lesnar? Not this week. Starring John Cena? Kind of, if you like your top stars live via satelite. Well, then Triple H had to be there to address what happened last week, right? Um, well ... no. Instead, we get a man the IWC is way too excited about seeing -- Paul Heyman.
Make no mistake, I appreciate what Paul Heyman has done for the wrestling business. While I wasn't an old school ECW fan in its heyday, I certainly recognize that Heyman's influence is what made the WWE "grow up" in the 1990s and ushered in the Attitude Era. Unfortunately, it was also what lead to years of "garbage wrestling" that has resulted in some of the concussion problems some wrestlers have suffered.
But with that said, Heyman has always had a great mind for the business of professional wrestling and very much has his finger on the pulse of what the most passionate fans want -- likely because he is one of them. (It's also one of the reasons he and Vince McMahon have clashed so often -- because they try to cater to different fan bases, but I digress).
Last night, Lesnar returned as the legal representative of Brock Lesnar. His promo was good -- Heyman has such a strong pressence on the microphone -- and set the stage for the inevitable Lesnar-Triple H match down the road. He read a statement from Lesnar in which Lesnar quit WWE. Doubt it, but it's a good way to keep him off television for a while so they don't blow through all those limited appearances.
What Heyman's role with WWE is remains to be seen. The hot rumor is that he'll be an on-screen pressence until SummerSlam, when Lesnar returns to faces the Game. I'd be surprised if they waited that long for the match, not to mention, I'd be surprised if Heyman is an every week character.
It will be interesting to see if Heyman's return blossoms into a full-time job with WWE again. He's certainly an excellent mouthpiece, especially for Lesnar, who as we saw a few weeks ago, struggles when cutting long promos. I'd love to see him get more work behind the scenes, helping the current talent with character development, which is what he really did well during the halcyon days of ECW. ...
Two other large, bald men stood out to me as he focal points of last night's episode.
The first is Lord Tensai, who picked up a pinfall win over WWE Champion CM Punk in the main event of the show, a handicap match that also included Punk's Over the Limit opponent, Daniel Bryan.
Unfortuantely, Tensai still isn't getting over with the crowd. I can't put my finger on why. He's definitely improved in the ring, although I think some of his hand motions before his big moves look a little silly. I think too many smart marks still can't get over the fact it's the former Albert/A-Train. However young fans should be booing him like crazy. He's beaten the two top babyfaces on the Raw brand and has clearly aligned himself with John Laurinaitis. What else is it going to take to boo this guy?
I suspect Tensai will be up next for a WWE Championship match against Punk at June's No Way Out pay-per-view, especially if he helps Laurinaitis overcome Cena.
Tensai actually makes a good henchman for Laurinaitis, especially after "Big Johnny's" promo to open the show. He talked about his success in Japan -- although he defintiely embellished quite a bit, a point CM Punk made when he resumed his feud with Laurinaitis interrupting the promo. But, to hear the former Johnny Ace tell it, his story mirrors Tensai -- he struggled in the States, so went to Japan and found success -- the difference is Laurinaitis never returned to wrestle in the states successfully. (If the lack fo reaction to Tensai continues, it'll be the same story.) ...
The other big bald man whose new storyline intrigues me is the Big Show. Laurinaitis accidentally bumped into him while he was texting and walking at the same time, then berated Show for not watching where he was going. Show mocked him, only to notice Eve standing right there ready to tattle. Of note, Laurinaitis in the show-opening promo said anyone making fun of his voice would be reprimanded. You see where this is going?
Show got his Intercontiental Championship rematch with Cody Rhodes, which ended in about a minute when Rhodes grabbed his belt and got intentionally counted out. OK, fine, we get it. Big Show > Cody Rhodes. I thought Smackdown would be the end of their feud, but I guess this was a vehicle to move on to something else.
Eve came out to get Show to apologize, embarassing him, I guess, by letting him know there isn't exactly a lot of work for 7-foot, 441-pound freaks outside professional wrestling. She's right, which is why Khali has a job, I guess. Later, she told "Big Johnny" she didn't think the apology was sincere and was going to talk to Big Show again. She found him yucking it up with two guys from whatever show USA was pimping backstage, while they were making fun of Laurinaitis.
I assume we'll learn his punishment on Smackdown. I think this will ultimately lead to a PPV match with Tensai, although I'd like to see Show vs. the new tag team of Kane and Mark Henry in a handicap match, only for Khali to make the save. Yes, I want to see Show/Khali vs. Henry/Kane. I'm a sucker for matches involving that much humanity. ...
Speaking of Smackdown, the match of the night featured three guys from the blue brand and another guy I assume is headed there. Chris Jericho pinned World Champion Sheamus after some miscommunication between the Great White and his partner Randy Orton. During a flurried finish, the Viper delivered an RKO to Alberto Del Rio while Sheamus lined up Jericho for a Brogue kick. Jericho, the crafty veteran, ducked and Sheamus struck Orton in the face. When he turned, he was met with a Codebreaker for the 1-2-3.
Jericho celebrated by grabbing the World Championship and proclaiming he should be the champion now. Meanwhile, Sheamus went to help Orton and ate an RKO.
The segment continued backstage, as Jericho demanded a title match and Del Rio reminded everyone he's the No. 1 contender. Orton and Sheamus got involved and everyone started fighting. The two faces exchanged words and Laurinaitis made the World Championship match at Over the Limit a Fatal 4-Way.
While I would have rather him booked Orton vs. Jericho in a singles match to determine the next No. 1 contender, I can't argue that Fatal 4-Ways are always action packed. Hopefully, we'll get Orton vs. Jericho for free as part of the build-up. ...
Dolph Ziggler defeated one half of the Tag Team Champions, Kofi Kingston, in a first-hour match, presumably setting up a title match for Ziggler and Jack Swagger against Kingston and Truth. The match was fine, as Kingston and Ziggler have great chemistry, which they should, considering they've wrestled on TV about 93 times in the past three years.
Epico, Primo and Rosa Mendes were watching the match with A.W. backstage when Mason Ryan showed up. I noted in yesterday's blog about Smackdown that Ryan was the bodyguard for Ziggler at house show events. It's not clear what he was doing there, but one can assume he's about to turn heel and align himself with A.W.'s "All World" stable. Michael Cole noted that A.W. told Epico and Primo to hold off on their rematch.
If the point of the singles match was to establish Ziggler and Swagger as contenders, this is where a deeper tag team division would help. Building up the challengers by having them defeat the champions in nontitle or singles matches, to me, doesn't build interest. You want both teams to look good heading into their match. So, ideally, you'd have Ziggler and Swagger beat the team of Zack Ryder and Santino Marella, for example, to put them in line for a title shot. This pretty much applies to every division/championship in the WWE, but it's particularly notorious in the tag team and Divas divisions. ...
Of course, the Divas will prove me wrong in this case. Beth Phoenix is getting her Divas Championship rematch against her replacement at Extreme Rules and current champ Layla without the two of them facing off. Layla pinned Maxine (who I hope to see more of without watching NXT) in a tag team match also involving Kelly Kelly and Natalya. Beth did commentary. I like Layla, but the looming spectre of Kharma returning has made the Divas division pretty dull, not that it was particularly exciting to begin with. ...
John Cena was techinically in Greensboro, N.C., for Raw, but appeared only during a "live via satelite" interview with Michael Cole. Unlike the Rock, Cena was actually live backstage. He participated in a dark match against Kane for the live crowd. The idea was Laurinaitis ordered him to stay home and get his arm healthy for their match at Over the Limit in two weeks. Cena's promo was typical babyface, but had nice intensity to it. Nothing particularly memorable, however. ...
Brodus Clay achieved his biggest win to date in what was also his longest match to date, defeating the Miz in about 4 minutes. It's sad when that's your longest match yet. More memorable than the match was Clay reminding people to call their mama on Sunday for Mother's Day. Miz cut a promo before the match to get himself some heel heat and build himself up before Clay beat him. I'd like to see some more from these two, as perhaps it could give Clay a legitimate feud and Miz something to do.