WWE wasted no time in allowing John Cena and Brock Lesnar to get physical -- and the result was magic.
For the past year, Cena and The Rock were kept apart, competing on the microphone rather than in the ring. WWE appears set to go a completely different direction with Cena's newest foe.
After General Manager John Laurinaitis introduced Lesnar with a glowing welcome, the former UFC champion took to the mic. But before long, Cena would emerge.
And in uncharacteristic fashion, Cena let his actions speak louder than his words, slapping Lesnar. A brawl erupted, and it appeared Lesnar may have forgotten he's left UFC behind, as he got a little stiff with Cena.
The locker room, front office and seemingly even the creative team (with the exception of media rep Joe Villa, who said on Twitter he didn't dare enter the scuffle with Cena and Lesnar involved) emptied the backstage area and tried to pull the two men apart, showing off Cena's bloody mouth - a strong visual in today's PG WWE environment.
The two superstars would break through and brawl several more times before ultimately being separated. The ending of last week's Raw, featuring Lesnar's return, was hailed as one of the best show-closing moments in recent history, and this has to go down as one of the best opening segments in the same time frame.
When Laurinaitis announced that Cena would face Lesnar at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view later this month, my initial reaction was to say the match was happening too soon, but WWE has made this so intense already that it almost seems necessary.
The contrasts already between this match and Cena's clash with The Rock are great. From the time Lesnar made his return, people began talking about another yearlong build to WrestleMania 29, and WWE has gone a completely different direction.
I, for one, love it.
* And, believe it or not, that wasn't even the end for the two. Cena stormed Laurinaitis' office, demanding to be in action tonight, looking to prove to the boss and the fans that he could be "legit." Lesnar responded with a promo expressing his pride at being back and claiming he was the source of UFC's success. Both men came across strong in these segments. Extreme Rules will likely be the third consecutive pay-per-view to be headlined by a non-title match featuring Cena, but I don't mind. This contest already has a big-match feel and might be just what WWE needs to pull out Cena's best attributes.
In the main event, Cena competed against David Otunga, who scored an almost unbelievable amount of offense in the match's early stages. Cena made the comeback and put Otunga away clean, sending a message to Laurinaitis in the process. Cena's taunts of the general manager were a highlight of the match. Afterward, Lesnar emerged and low-blowed Cena before delivering the F5.
* CM Punk and Chris Jericho exchanged words again this week. Punk presented a more serious side to his personality while Jericho fell into the trap I thought The Rock suffered from the past few months: His promos are becoming repetitive, and he's not really saying anything we haven't heard for weeks now.
Punk's WWE Championship match with Mark Henry was very short and ended with Henry winning by disqualification when Punk assaulted Henry with a television monitor. This was really more of angle than a match, a shame after they darn near stole the show last week. Henry still has a legitimate claim to a title rematch, and it will be interesting to see where this storyline leads. After the match, Jericho came out, distracting Punk and allowing Henry to manhandle him. Jericho proceeded to pour beer all over the downed champ.
Henry will receive a third shot at Punk's WWE Championship - not the World Heavyweight Championship, as he said in his promo - in a no-disqualification match on Raw. Honestly, at this point, I'm more interested in the Punk-Henry part of this feud than the Punk-Jericho portion.
* The ongoing gag between Intercontinental Champion Big Show and Cody Rhodes is beginning to get old. Show emerged during Rhodes' match with R-Truth and replayed the video of him interrupting Rhodes' match with Kofi Kingston last week, which included the footage of the Knockout Punch at WrestleMania. Yes, it was a replay of a replay. Rhodes' embarrassing Big Show moments were funny, but the shtick has run it's course. I'm really hoping this feud ends at Extreme Rules.
* After the events of last week's Raw, a tag team match between United States Champion Santino Marella and Brodus Clay and Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler seemed inevitable. We got that match tonight, and the result was a decent contest. There were a few sloppy spots, but overall, it looked good. Clay was in the match minimally, with Marella taking the beating, but the Funkasaurus scored the pinfall on Ziggler, who seems to be losing a lot of matches lately. Clay and Marella actually make a good tag team, as they can play off each other well, but it would be nice to see Marella defend his championship more often.
* Less than a week after winning a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, Alberto Del Rio made Zack Ryder tap out. Ryder actually controlled most of the short match, before Del Rio locked in the cross-armbreaker and made Ryder tap. The Long Island superstar isn't exactly a top-tier challenger, but this showcased Del Rio's ability to lock in his signature submission move out of nowhere.
* Well, it didn't take long for WWE to book Lord Tensai against Yoshi Tatsu. Tensai made quick work of Tatsu, once again winning a match by referee stoppage and continuing the onslaught afterward. It's hard to gauge how much Tensai has improved or how well he will do in WWE from these squash matches.
* The Three Stooges were awful guest stars. The clips of their movie, which opens this weekend, did not look funny at all, and the actors did nothing to sell me on it. Their interaction with Marella at least drew a laugh from my roommate's 3-year-old son, so maybe there is an audience. Too bad they're not old enough to buy a movie ticket.
Santino Marella and Brodus Clay d. Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger
R-Truth d. Cody Rhodes
Lord Tensai d. Yoshi Tatsu
Mark Henry d. CM Punk by disqualification
Alberto Del Rio d. Zack Ryder
John Cena d. David Otunga
Tonight's episode of Raw started off on about as strong of a note as you could hope, but from there, it become a bit of an awkward show. From an in-ring, work rate perspective, there wasn't much to rave about. But as a transitional story, evolving the stories from WrestleMania toward Extreme Rules, it made good strides. The lowlight of the show, by far, was the involvement of the Stooges. I think most fans would agree that angle would have worked better as a swerve to bring back Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco. Following last week's Raw was not an enviable task, and while this episode didn't live up to that standard, it was still a fairly entertaining show.
Ring Posts' Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents (http://my123cents.blogspot.com) and All American Pro Wrestling (aapwrestling.com) to bring you "From the Rafters Radio," (http://www.facebook.com/#%21/RaftersRadio) a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net (http://www.wggh.net).