At Wrestlemania, WWE seemed determined to elevate the mid-card titles from the purgatory they were in. Monday was the pinnacle of that experiment, as the US title was defended in the main event in a 30-minute Match of the Year candidate.
John Cena once again defended against Cesaro. Interestingly, Kevin Owens came out first, enraged after his loss of the NXT title to Finn Balor over the weekend. Once Cesaro came out, though, Owens yielded his shot to him, backing away.
The two put on a match that topped the previous week's classic, lasting a half hour and allowing both wrestlers to really show their arsenal. Surprisingly, at no point did Owens get involved during the match, and it was simply a show of two guys who wanted the title. The desperation shown by both shows the credibility of the title, as we could believe that they wanted it. After Cena won with a second-rope AA, Owens did try to attack, but Cena dodged and for the first time in the feud, Cena ended up standing tall.
Cena's open challenge has been the highlight of RAW for months. Nearly every week he puts on a match that leaves fans raving. It's done enough where not only has it raised the prestige of the title, it's started turning the tide on the waves of Cena hate, something that seemed like it was endless. Yes, Cena still gets his share of boos during his entrance, but the “Let's go Cena/Cena sucks” chants have seemed to wane somewhat, and if you look on a message board after a show, there will be countless posts with Cena praise. And it's certainly raised the interest of the US title to the point where it could credibly main event RAW.
Hypothetically, this should also result in a raise in profile for Cesaro. He's really had the opportunity to show off the past two weeks. We all remember what Vince said about him months ago, about how he doesn't connect and he's not sure if he can grab that “brass ring.”
He's certainly connecting now. The big test is where he'll be next week. If he's no longer in the US title picture, then this week did nothing for him, unfortunately. We've always known that Cesaro could put on a great match and “almost” win the big one. He's been putting on great matches in losses for years now, including several to Cena. So the WWE needs to capitalize on a great opportunity they have here. Cesaro is hot after the past two weeks, he's sympathetic after Tyson Kidd's injury, and he's as dynamic as he's ever been.
So far, the US title experiment is a success. And a continuing feud between Cena, Cesaro and Owens can only bring great things. Hopefully we get to see more.
The Rest of RAW:
--The Cadillac that showed up last week met its demise at the hands of Brock Lesnar this week, as he decimated the car, and then decimated J&J to boot. The way he did it was pretty impressive, pulling out a pair of axes, then going to town on the car. There aren't many scarier sights than an axe-wielding Brock Lesnar. He, of course, got to show off his impressive strength when he ripped a door off, and threw it toward (and into) the crowd. A fan actually got hit by the flying debris, though apparently he's fine. While it was all expected, it was executed well, and provided some images that will remain in the highlights for a while.
--Shockingly, the best segment of the night might have come courtesy of the Rusev/Dolph Ziggler feud. While this feud still is, for the most part, terrible, this week's segment wasn't bad. Rusev came out as the misogynistic cocky guy, and ran down Lana and Dolph. And his lines were pretty good, even though he either stumbled over a line, or was over-exaggerating the stereotypical Russian sentence structure by calling Lana a “Snake of a Lana that calls herself woman.” However, it wasn't until Dolph came out that the segment really got going. While Dolph and Lana again provided cringes with their interactions, Rusev finally was able to get physical, as he dissected Dolph. He then unstrapped his boot to show his foot was fine, and finally smashed his crutch into Dolph's neck. So finally this feud is getting somewhere, and in what will be best for all of us, it seems like Dolph and Rusev will be able to blow off the feud at Battleground.
--Miz continues to show good work with this Hollywood gimmick. If it wasn't for him, this IC title picture would've been dead in the water weeks ago. Instead, while it isn't great, it at least isn't completely dead. He owned the crowd, in perfect heel form, while being on the mic at ringside during the Ryback/Big Show match. And when the match ended in a no-contest and ended with his beatdown, the crowd came alive in a situation where most of the time, they would have been pretty dead.
--The divas storyline actually progressed logically, as Paige lost to Brie Bella after heavy interference from Nikki and Alicia Fox. Throughout the match, Cole harped on the fact that nobody in the locker room was coming to help Paige. This is clearly leading to Charlotte, or maybe multiple NXT girls, coming up to help Paige. There is another possibility though, which I could see driving people crazy. Eva Marie is training hard to get back in the ring, and Total Divas is coming back. If Eva Marie came out instead of Charlotte, people would completely lose their minds, but at the same time, it's not something that can be disregarded completely.
--Roman Reigns and Sheamus had a decent back-and-forth match, though it eventually just served to further the feud between Reigns and Bray Wyatt. It seemed like Bray Wyatt was making his entrance down the ramp, and Reigns went to attack him. However, as a wig came off, it proved to be another mind game from Bray. This was a much better usage of Bray than a 4-minute promo.
--The New Day beat the Lucha Dragons, but the highlight was the Prime Time Players, particularly Titus O'Neil, on commentary. One of the questions that people still have about Titus is exactly how good he is on the mic. As shown here, he can definitely hold his own.
--Dean Ambrose beat Bo Dallas in a relatively quick match. The interesting thing was that Dallas was getting some pretty big cheers. There was a “Let's go, Ambrose” “We Bo-lieve” back and forth chant that had the same tone as most Cena chants, with the higher-pitched chants going toward Ambrose, and the deeper tones going toward Bo.
--King Barrett beat R-Truth. I don't know if this is going to be the end of their feud, but most likely it's not the last we've seen of these two.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comment section, email me or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also find my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jobbing-out/id998790026?mt=2