When last we left our heroes, they were on the WWE Network. Heck, odds are some of you never left the heroes today. I know I'll be going straight to the Network when the show's over.
The PG Era Rant for WWE Raw, February 24, 2014.
Live from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Or is it Milwaukee? Where's R-Truth when you need him?
BUT FIRST, it's a Raw Pre-Show!
Your panel is Josh Mathews, Booker T, Alex Riley, and Ric Flair.
The first big story is that Hulk Hogan is back and will host WrestleMania 30. But first, he's in the house tonight, and on the post-game show (which I am not reviewing, thank you very much) they will interview him.
Booker T is distracted by Kofi Kingston coming out for Superstars, but the panelists talk about who they're most looking for. Booker cites Hogan, but Flair cites Cena. Riley talks about the ending of the Elimination Chamber and wants to know what'll happen next. Kofi's opponent is Damien Sandow, by the way. You're welcome.
We cut to Superstars, where Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton are calling the action. Kofi with some kicks on Sandow, and he leaps on Sandow in the corner with the ten punches only for Sandow to escape. Sandow ducks a high-risk move and gets two. He repeatedly headbutts Kofi...
...and back to the panel as Booker analyzes what we just saw.
Josh Mathews says it's time to discuss the six-man tag team match from last night as Bray Wyatt pinned Roman Reigns of all people. Riley is interested in what Seth Rollins is thinking right now, because the Shield is falling apart and he's the one who put it together. Booker says the Wyatts were the better team last night, because Roman Reigns has become the leader of the group and he needs people to fall behind him. Flair agrees, and thinks Reigns is ready to go solo.
Back in the ring, Kingston steals the win from Sandow with a small package. No way to rate this.
Lawler interviews Kofi on the stage. He asks Kofi about WrestleMania and how big the win was. Kofi says all wins are big. He plays up the great crowd, and says he now has momentum.
Mathews jokes that Kofi is in Booker's Fave Five. Flair: “If he wants to be The Guy, he's gotta buy himself a Lear Jet, cuz it's a long way to WrestleMania.” Booker says that the win – and attention from Lawler – will help his cause.
The panel recaps Alberto Del Rio's match against Batista, talking about Del Rio's fake injury and how it wasn't enough for him to take over on Batista. There will be a future rematch at Del Rio's request, which Flair thinks is career suicide. Booker T is a Randy Orton fan, but he knows Batista is on a huge roll. Even so, Booker is picking Orton to win that match. Riley says Del Rio could win tonight.
The Brothers Rhodes are making their way for a match.
Your WWE.COM question: what was the Match of the Night? Usos/Outlaws, Wyatts/Shield, or Chamber? Each panelist picks a different match.
Los Matadores are on their way to the ring.
We're back as 3MB is coming to the ring, and we discuss that Brock Lesnar may be in the house. We look back at the Brock/Show match – what little there was of it – at the Royal Rumble, complete with 100 chair shots. Josh asks who should be worried. Flair: “The entire building.” Riley says that if he can do that to Show, he can do anything to anyone. Booker says the locker room is afraid.
Brad Maddox is with Renee Young. Renee asks about Brock Lesnar rumors. But before Maddox can talk to Renee, Sheamus and Christian are arguing about their recent rivalry. Maddox interrupts their argument and puts them in a match on Raw. Sheamus issues an idle threat.
The live look-in ad talks about the results of the Elimination Chamber and the return of Hulk Hogan.
Booker T is looking forward to the match, but Riley reminds us that Christian pinned Sheamus inside the Chamber. Flair reminds us that Christian has been in ladder matches, so he isn't afraid. Booker claims Christian is starting over, so he needs the match more than Sheamus. The Superstars match appears to be Cody, Dustin, Fernando, and Diego against Jinder, McIntyre, Ryback, and Axel.
Josh brings up the Chamber match itself, with emphasis on all the outside interference by the Wyatts and Kane. The editing implies Kane cost Bryan the title. Riley says that Bryan was absolutely about to win, but Booker T disagrees and says that we'll never know. He called Orton winning, you know. Flair wants Riley to just start a Yes chant and get it overwith. Riley notes that Orton drew the last number, but Booker writes it off as luck. Flair points out that those five matches means he knows the people in it and that helped him retain. Booker and Riley argue about the Orton/Bryan thing. Booker says it's time for Bryan to take a back seat, because Orton and Batista is set for Mania.
Josh turns the attention to Cena being attacked by the Wyatts. The question: what does Bray have against Cena? Josh seems to say Wyatt cost Cena the title. Flair says that when the Wyatts arrive, hide from them. Booker says the Wyatts just want to hurt someone. Riley says that the 'down with the machine' message goes straight to Cena, who is the biggest beneficiary of the Machine.
The Raw announcers are on their way to the desk. Did Booker T do a 3 Minute Warning reference?
Your RAW hosts are Michael Cole, JBL, and Jerry Lawler.
Final question: what do you look forward to most? Booker: how John Cena and others are going to make their statement. Flair: “In this business, you're only as good as your last night.”
We are ready to begin as a YES chant starts up.
And we open the main show with the return of Hulk Hogan! Pardon me while I mark out.
*one minute later*
Okay, I'm back. The announcers are giving Hogan a standing ovation. Hogan milks it for all it's worth because that's how Hogan rolls. LONG Hogan chant. Hogan: “WELL LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING BROTHER!” Hogan does the usual Hogan promo to say that tonight is a turning point of his career, because he is home (brothers). He says he was part of something special back in the day, that being WrestleMania I. He says history was made then, and it's being made today with the launch of the “WWE Universe”. You mean Network, Hulk. He covers for his slip. And the Hulkamaniacs were part of the launch. He feels like a proud father because of the Network. He can watch Sammartino matches, Michaels matches, Austin matches, Rock matches... but most importantly, then, now, and forever are on the Network, and the future of the Network is WrestleMania 30. He makes it official: he's hosting Mania. Whatcha gonna do when WrestleMania runs wild on you? I find it interesting that Hogan opens his Raw and Rock, in the same role, closed it. Also, Hogan didn't make fun of the people in the main event or spoil any major results.
Cole speaks about the WWE Network launch and that the one-week trial is underway. And every PPV ever will be on it. Lawler shows us that you can see every PPV and how to find any PPV ever (while Hogan entertains the crowd with poses). JBL is showing us the Network on the laptop. He says you can search by wrestler, even. Such as JBL. The announcers are giddy about this. I love it.
Tonight, Daniel Bryan faces Kane. Also, is Brock Lesnar here? Plus, Batista rematches against Alberto Del Rio next.
Alberto Del Rio v. Batista. Crowd is really not behind Batista. They're not necessarily for Del Rio yet. Cole does acknowledge the reaction, saying “Like him or not...” I think the crowd is on “not”. Batista attacks right off the bell, stomping away in the corner and getting a Hammer Throw. Short clothesline by Boo-Tista and Del Rio bails, but Batista catches him and throws him into the barricade. He sends Del Rio into the apron and throws him back in, but Del Rio catches him and attacks as the crowd chants “Si”. Suplex try is blocked and reversed by Batista, who then clotheslines Del Rio to the floor. Del Rio sweeps out Batista while on the apron, then throws Batista into the steps as we go to break.
Del Rio/Batista, part two. Del Rio has floored Batista as the crowd keeps up “Si” chants. He stomps away on Batista, then mocks his posing to scattered cheers. Del Rio charges but flies through the ropes as he usually does. Del Rio returns and hangs Batista up on the top rope before going up, but Batista punches him and throws rights before following up. Superplex by Batista leads to a Double KO. Crowd counts along with the ref. Del Rio is up first, and a slugfest breaks out with the crowd on Del Rio's side. Del Rio ends it with a gut superkick but runs into clotheslines. Powerslam by Batista gets two. Del Rio with the Armstabber out of nowhere and he's ready to finish with the low superkick, but he misses and has to adjust to stomp Batista. Was that a botch? Del Rio is ready for another something, but a blind charge misses and Batista gets a spinebuster. And here comes Randy Orton to a cheer? Del Rio uses the distraction to roll Batista up for the pin at 9:33. Orton insincerely apologizes before beginning his promo. **
Orton says they go way back, and they've shared laughs, but that loss was hilarious. He also finds it funny how the WWE Universe hates Batista. Orton thinks Batista's sorry he returned. This starts, for no reason, a CM Punk chant. Batista (winded) says Orton is very wrong. He tells everyone that he loves this business (no one seems to buy it). He also loves the voice the fans have, but he has a voice too, and if the fans boo him, he'll boo back. “It's called being real.” Orton doesn't know what real is. But that's not relevant right now; what is relevant is that he will beat up someone he used to consider his friend, but who is now a “whining, sniveling, kiss-ass suck-up”. Batista calls himself the next champion, and deal with it. That was weird. I'm kinda curious where they're going with this.
Up next, Antonio Cesaro faces Big E Langston.
Big E Langston v. Antonio Cesaro. I'm using full names because I'm a rebel. Last night, Langston beat Jack Swagger. Cesaro has Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger. Langston with a headlock as a huge We The People chant begins. After a long leapfrog sequence, Langston floors Cesaro, who bails. Swagger offers advice, and back in, Cesaro gets a waistlock takedown. Langston throws Cesaro and punches away, but Cesaro with knee strikes and a European Uppercut. Cesaro with more knee strikes, but he runs into an overhead suplex. Langston gets a second one and spears Cesaro into the corner. Another shoulder ram and he covers, getting two. Langston with the arm, but Cesaro punches out and gets an uppercut. Clotheslines go nowhere, but Cesaro with a big boot. Swagger taunts Langston as Cesaro works the back and goes to a neck crank as we get a USA chant. For whom? Langston fights out, but a blind charge eats elbow. Cesaro dives into Langston's arms, and Langston with a series of rib breakers. It gets two. Langston with the arm again as JBL and Cole ask what “E” stands for in “Big E”. Cesaro with a series of headbutts and a headlock. Cole reveals E's real name: Ettore. JBL: “Like in Winnie the Pooh?” Cesaro holds the headlock, but Langston breaks it only to get caught in mid-air in a leapfrog to a throw for two as we go to break.
Langston/Cesaro, part two. We return with Cesaro holding what looks like a cobra clutch. Langston punches out, and a slugfest breaks out, won by Cesaro until he runs into a press slam. Blind charge eats the post, though, and Cesaro rolls him up for two. Cesaro with a running jump stomp for two. Cesaro with more uppercuts in the corner, and the ref forces a break, only to allow Cesaro a running strike for two. He switches to the sleeper as Cole puts over Langston's resiliency. Langston elbows out, but Cesaro stuns him only to get caught. Cesaro slides out and gets an Orton-esque powerslam for two. Swagger and Colter offer coaching, and Cesaro goes for the Karelin Suplex, connecting for two. Back to the chinlock, switching to the sleeper. A slugfest breaks out, which Langston wins, but Cesaro reverses a whip and goes back to the sleeper. Langston beals him off the shoulder, but runs into an elbow. He recovers with clotheslines and a Greco-Roman throw. Ultimate Splash follows, for two. The straps are down, boys! He's ready for the Big Ending, but Cesaro avoids it and lands the Catapult Uppercut for two. Swagger is incredulous. Crowd wants the swing, and so does Cesaro. Langston fights out of it before it starts and catches a charging Cesaro in an STO for two. That was a nasty landing on the STO. Crowd rallies behind We The People as Cesaro low-bridges out Langston. Langston catches Swagger trying to run interference, and Langston's back in. But he runs into the GIANT SWING OF DOOM (8 rotations, though the impatient crowd reaches 10). And then out of nowhere, Swagger races in and applies the Patriot Lock for the DQ at 15:44. ***1/4 Colter and Cesaro are furious. Swagger tries to explain, but as he does, Langston attacks Swagger. Cesaro cuts it off and gets the Neutralizer, with a nasty landing. Swagger looks a little jealous. He's desperately trying to explain, but Colter doesn't want to hear it.
We go back to last night and look at the Chamber main event, focusing on Cena having Orton beaten (maybe) when the Wyatt Family materialized inside the Chamber and wiped the floor with him. So tonight, John Cena will issue a rebuttal.
John Cena is out next as it's already 9:00 and that first hour felt like an Action Zone show. Wait, why's Cena running the ropes? He doesn't have a match. But first, Cena is happy to see Hogan back. And the fans will remember tonight because Raw #1083 is when the Network began. So the future is NOW! He mentions that he's been challenging all the young guns to step up by going through him. He knows that a lot of people are uncomfortable with that, but he wants the respect of being the gatekeeper to the future. He knows he's made himself a target, which segues to Bray Wyatt. Wyatt has caused trouble, and he knew they were coming for him... but at the Chamber? Isn't the Chamber locked shut? But no, Bray got in and cost him his championship match. Cena asks if Wyatt wants to make another bold move, because Cena is ready for a fight.
And now the rebuttal: “Green Bay, we're here.” They redid that specifically for tonight. Interesting. Here comes the Family. Bray takes a seat and a mic. He says the world has an infection: the human race. It makes sense that Cena's in the middle of these troubling times. What's the world without a hero? He says Cena's the knight in shining armor. But Cena is hollow, with empty promises. He says he'll save the people, keep them safe, and that everything will be all right when he's there. But he been lyin to you, man! The world is awful, cold, and lonely. Cena stands for illusions, but Bray believes in the real. So is the future through Cena? Bray likes that and agrees. Bray then properly introduces himself to Cena. “We are the reapers who bring death to this era of lies”.
But Cena introduces himself too, and he says that as long as even one of them starts it, they won't be able to finish it. “So if you make that move... it's go time, Jack.” Cena's surrounded (sort of) and begging them to come in as we get a standoff. The Family charges, and after a flurry by Cena, the numbers are too much. Bray pulls back the Family after a brief message sent as the crowd wants Bryan to make a save. Bray taunts Cena, who pulls himself up.... and charges? Bad idea, as the Family pounds him back down. After another flurry, Bray calls them off and taunts again. Cena pulls himself up again, and this time the Family leaves, message sent. Except Rowan. Cena knocks him out of the ring, and Bray catches Cena with a back elbow as he returns. Bray poses over Cena's body as we blink out. I'm getting a “Superman II” vibe from that segment, and that's a very good thing, as you know.
Moments ago, you saw what happened. Cena was taken out on a stretcher.
Christian v. Sheamus. Christian is limping to the ring as we look back at the Raw Pre-Show set-up for this match. Sheamus pushes Christian into the corner and breaks. Another lockup try, and Sheamus throws Christian out of the ring. Christian slowly returns, ducking a lockup and slapping Sheamus. This just ticks him off. Sheamus goes to town in the corner, adding a clothesline for two. Sheamus with knees to the back and an armlock. Christian slaps out of it, but Sheamus clotheslines Christian out of the ring. Christian catches Sheamus, but an attempt to do the splits on the post backfires and Christian is loopy. Back in, kneedrops by Sheamus and he hooks the nose. Christian catches Sheamus and drops him on the top rope. Missile dropkick gets one. Sheamus fires off forearms, but Christian with a knee to the gut and Sheamus is in trouble. Christian hooks the nose on Sheamus, but can't send him into the buckle. Sheamus fights out of it and backdrops Christian out of the ring, following with the Battering Ram as we go to break.
Christian/Sheamus, part two. Sheamus is on the top rope but gets caught and sent to the outside. He sends Sheamus into the steps, and back in, he gets two. Christian fires away on Sheamus and says he should be champion, then stomps away in the corner. He tries to pull Sheamus out, and after some struggle, gets a falling headbutt. Christian works the ribs with a back bearhug (!?), driving his knees into the back. Cole provides a medical update on Cena while the crowd is bored by this match. Sheamus fights out of it, but Christian kicks away and goes to an abdominal stretch. Sheamus fights out of it, landing elbows and uppercuts. He puts his head down, though, and Christian takes over with a kick and over-the-top uppercut. He goes to the top, but the bodypress misses as Sheamus ducks. Sheamus catches Christian and gives him a kneelift and Polish Hammers. Christian slides out the back and tosses Sheamus, but Sheamus avoids a charge and kneelifts Christian. Ten of Clubs time, and Sheamus catapults back in with a shoulder tackle for two. Sheamus tries for the Cloverleaf, but Christian punches out of it and goes up, only to get caught and put in the Cloverleaf for real. Christian makes the ropes. He bails, and Sheamus chases, allowing Christian to ambush him in the ring. Christian claps up the crowd, looking for the Killswitch, but Sheamus goes for White Noise, but Christian with a roll-up for two. Pump slam by Sheamus gets two. Both men struggle to their feet as the crowd gets behind Sheamus, who signals for the Brogue Kick. It misses, and Christian gets a pendulum kick. He goes up and dives... RIGHT INTO A BROGUE KICK for the pin at 15:46. Great finish to a boring match. Christian just has nothing left in the tank anymore. *1/4
The announcers talk about how to get the one-week trial of the WWE Network, mentioning the Raw Pre-Show, then earlier tonight before we went on the air, Daniel Bryan ran into the Authority. See, Renee Young was talking to HHH about the WWE Network when Daniel Bryan storms in and is FURIOUS. He wants to fight HHH at WrestleMania. HHH refuses the fight because Bryan's not an A+ player. Bryan will get a match, don't worry. Daniel says he's won every time... but Stephanie offers Kane as a sacrifice. Bryan does not seem satisfied. Okay, Bryan/HHH needs to happen at Mania 30.
So, yeah, Daniel Bryan will face Kane tonight.
Black History Month looks back at Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson.
Backstage, Seth Rollins asks where Dean Ambrose disappeared to, but Ambrose is sick of explaining himself. If they don't trust him, fine. Ambrose waks out. Rollins wants to believe him, but doesn't know if he can... and the Wyatts arrive. Reigns is ready to settle it and challengers Bray Wyatt one-on-one, no backup. Bray accepts, and as the Shield leave, Bray laughs.
Did you see the Raw Pre-Show? They cut to the panel, where Alex Riley is nowhere to be found, but Booker, Josh, and Flair are still around. Booker praises the Christian/Sheamus match, but he says he's ready for Reigns/Bray. Flair, on the other hand, wants to know how Cena is, and then he wants to see Kane/Bryan. Flair leads a YES chant. As a reminder, they'll all be on a post-game show later tonight.
And this segues into Daniel Bryan.
Sidenote: my minions are informing me that CM Punk is being pitched a sweetheart deal to return next week in Chicago and set up a match with Triple H at WrestleMania. A match that would mean that Bryan would not be allowed to face the champ OR the Authority at Mania. So as much fun as Punk is in the ring, you'll forgive me if I tell him to stay away. I also know that the fans will forgive Punk instantly and not hold it against him, even though he'd essentially be taking Daniel Bryan's match from him by whining about it.
Daniel Bryan v. Kane. Bryan charges and kicks away in the corner. Kane grabs the injured arm and uppercuts Bryan, working the arm and throwing it into the buckle. He sends him across the ring shoulder first, but Bryan sends Kane into the buckles with a drop toe hold. Bryan with more kicks to the hamstrings, wrapping it around the ropes and landing a dropkick. Bryan keeps working the leg as the crowd chants for him. He goes to the Celtic Knot as Cole brings up a good point: if Daniel Bryan's not good enough, HHH should be able to beat him. JBL's reply: he's not a wrestler anymore. Bryan clips Kane repeatedly, then goes to a single-leg crab. Kane makes the ropes. The announcers are arguing over HHH's motives as Kane drapes Bryan's arm over the ropes, then slams him into the post arm-first. Kane stomps the arm back in, then wraps his arm around the middle rope. Kane gets a boot choke and lifts Bryan up, dropping him on the arm. It gets two. Lawler wants to talk about the match going on as Kane gets a hammerlock and chinlock. Bryan elbows out, but Kane throws him to the floor. Kane follows, so Bryan slides in and dropkicks Kane through the ropes. Tope suicida try is cut off by an uppercut, and Bryan goes shoulder-first into the steps as we go to break.
Bryan/Kane, part two. Bryan is kicking away at Kane's leg, but Kane gets a big boot for two. Kane rips off the tape on Bryan's shoulder, wrapping it around the bottom rope and getting an avalanche for two. Kane with an armbar, but Bryan punches out of it only to get a straight right. Bryan with the video game comeback, but he lands on his bad arm. Crowd goes YES to rally Bryan, and it leads to the YES Kicks, but the roundhouse misses. Kane with a side slam for two. Kane goes outside and to the top, but Bryan intercepts and kicks the leg away. He follows Kane up, landing a Frankensteiner for two. Bryan with coast-to-coast dropkicks on Kane, but the third one runs into a throat thrust by Kane. Kane charges but gets low-bridged, and Bryan follows with the Tope Suicida, sending both men into the barricade. Bryan adds a dropkick into the barricade, and back in, Bryan goes up with a missile dropkick (again landing on the bad arm). Bryan somehow kips up, and the roundhouse YES Kick gets two. Bryan back up, and it's a Ram Jam (with the Mania sign being framed nicely), but Kane catches him with the goozle and chokeslam for a very close two. Crowd is into this one, starting a YES to celebrate. JBL argues it's a three. Kane grabs Bryan, but Bryan gets the Yes Lock instead... but Kane blocks it and chokes Bryan. He goes for another chokeslam, but Bryan blocks it and goes back to the Yes Lock try. Kane shoves Bryan aside, but Bryan returns with the Buraiku for the pin at 15:40. Man, they're bringing the workrate tonight. ***1/2 Cole says this proves that Bryan should get a Mania payday. The fact that this match happened, in full, on Raw, means Bryan/HHH has to be endgame.
Bryan has the mic now, and he recaps what happened earlier today. He calls HHH a coward – no, he screams it. He says HHH hid behind Stephanie's skirt after being challenged. Bryan says that ever since HHH became the COO, he's ignored the crowd, and he demands the crowd become too loud to ignore. This leads to a YES chant. Bryan: “ARE YOU LISTENING?” Bryan demands HHH at WrestleMania as the crowd chants behind him. This is so making the video package. Bryan officially lays down the challenge. The Yes Movement is behind him. Cole is claiming this is too much for HHH to ignore.
Later tonight, it's Roman Reigns against Bray Wyatt. Also, Brock Lesnar IS in the building! But next, Summer Rae is in action.
Batista will appear on SmackDown, and he's going to say what he thinks. Get your popcorn ready.
“He knows nothing of entitlement. He will achieve greatness by any means necessary.” He is the most interesting Bulgarian in the world.
Summer Rae v. Emma. This is Emma's major league debut, bubbles and all. And she's trying to swat the bubbles. JBL hates Emma. The two dance to start, but Summer pushes Emma down, and Emma returns in kind. Summer with a guillotine roll and catfighting, then she poses. Summer throws Emma into the buckle, but a blind charge misses and Emma returns with a cradle for one. Summer with a spinning standing kick for two. Summer throws Emma down and stomps the back. She chokes Emma on the middle rope (“Isn't she cute, Santino!?” “Yes she is, okay!?”) and drapes her knee over Emma's throat for two. (“You're not gonna help her?” “I'd be disqualified!”) Summer with another two-count, and she goes for a cobra clutch. Crowd gets behind Emma, which is a good sign. Summer keeps Emma grounded, though, and holds the lock in for some time. Santino fires up the crowd, and Emma escapes, catches the kick, and gets an Indian Deathlock Bridge for the submission at 3:30. She jumps into Santino's arms... and knocks him over. Decent debut for Emma, but too much Summer Rae cobra clutch stuff. Needs more offense from Emma. 1/2*
Hulk Hogan's return made serious headlines everywhere, as you may have heard. And here's footage of him from earlier tonight.
Up next, the Outlaws face the Usos in what appears to be a non-title match.
The WWE Rewind is about last night and the Outlaws retaining the tag titles... but they spotlight that Gunn had a handful of tights. Interesting.
New Age Outlaws v. Usos. No entrances. Outlaws beg off as the match begins, and Dogg asks for a mic. See, they forgot to do their spiel. The Usos actually leave the ring to let them do it. As a reminder, the bell did ring. And Dogg turns around into a superkick. Jey goes up top for the big splash as Jimmy dives on Gunn. Suck it as the Usos win at 1:14. Gentlemen, your homework for tonight is to go on the WWE Network and watch the Hart Foundation against the Bolsheviks. Because they didn't.
More WWE Network info. Dude, you already have my money. Jerry Lawler shows us that old episodes of TV are available as he shows us how to load a show on an iPad. You can get it on the Kindle Fire or laptop, too. Again, JBL searches for himself.
Roman Reigns is on his way to the ring, through the crowd, alone. As promised.
Roman Reigns v. Bray Wyatt. Bray also arrives alone. We get a flashback of the Wyatts attacking Cena, as word is Cena may not be 100% legitimately. Who knows? Cena has been sent to a medical facility. Roman hasn't moved since Bray arrived. Now Bray hasn't moved since the bell. Bray opens with an uppercut, but Reigns returns fire and Bray bails out. Back in, a lockup lasts a while, with Reigns winning but Bray fighting back with a headbutt. Uppercut by Bray, and another headbutt, but he charges right into a Reigns tackle and elbowdrop for one. Reigns punches the gut and slaps Bray in the ear, causing Bray to leave again. Bray returns, kicking away on Reigns and headbutting him again, but Reigns fights back only to be caught in the throat. Big boot follows, and Bray rakes Reigns' eyes on the top strand. Bray with more headbutts in the corner, and a short clothesline follows, getting one. Crowd yells Husky Harris as Bray goes to the chinlock. This match is going nowhere. Reigns fights out of it, but Bray goes to the knee and knocks Reigns over. Big stomp and Reigns eats turnbuckle. Bray works him over, but Reigns reverses and sends Bray into the buckle and out of the ring. Reigns with a clothesline on the outside as we go to break.
For the record, I don't think Cena's hurt. He was being taken to the hospital with an ice pack on his knee. If they were really worried about his knee, they'd have had a splint on it. He'll recover.
Reigns/Bray, part two. Bray has a headlock as the crowd is chanting for Cole. Bray slams Reigns down and gets the running senton as the crowd switches to Lawler. It gets two. During the break, the two men sent each other into everything that moves. Bray with a falling headbutt and a headlock/punches combo. Bray chokes Reigns in the ropes, but Reigns quickly punches out of it. Bray recovers with a suplex for two. Bray back to an anaconda headlock as the crowd wants Randy Savage. Are you sure these guys had a great match last night? Reigns punches out, adding a headbutt but running into Bray's back elbow for two. Crowd wants Undertaker now as Bray slams Reigns into the buckle and punches away. Bray with an avalanche, but a second one misses. Reigns stops a blind charge and shoves Bray away with his feet, adding a leaping clothesline as he builds momentum. Avalanche clothesline and Reigns pounds away, then the drive-by dropkick. Reigns with a Nodowa Otoshi for two. He preps the Superpunch, but the transmission is interrupted and the Family is present, despite promises otherwise. Reigns is not amused, but Rollins dives onto both men. So there. Bray rolls Reigns up for two. Reigns charges into the post as Harper and Rowan attack Rollins. So where's Ambrose? Wait, there he is to the rescue. All heck breaks loose as Reigns hangs Bray up and gets the Superpunch. Reigns knocks down Harper, but Ambrose jumps in and attacks Bray for the DQ at 13:56. Everyone's in the ring now as the fight continues. If Cena's hurt, this is the match they need to make. The Shield get the face reaction. It should be noted, though, that the one one one portion had very little heat, but when everyone showed up the crowd got into it. *1/4
Brock Lesnar is backstage as Paul Heyman preps him. He wants Brock to act like a gentleman, so no vicious attacking. And they're on their way.
Aaron Paul will host next week's show.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman make their grand entrance as we will main event this workrate-heavy show with... a promo. Yay. There's a table in the ring. For some reason. It looks like they want a contract signing. Paul Heyman claims Brock Lesnar is the obvious #1 Contender and therefore he should be main eventing WrestleMania. Heyman says tonight is about history, given the Network stuff, but Brock Lesnar isn't here to celebrate. See, it's apparent to everyone that Orton and Batista should not main event Mania, but instead should fight early and the winner gets Brock. Heyman has told this to the Authority, but HHH says that Brock will make history in a different way: an open contract. He can name any opponent he wants. But that's a consolation prize. See, that's how they work you in the WWE. They can have anything they want, except what they want. Brock is the most dominant athlete in the NCAA wrestling, in the WWE in his first go-around, in the UFC, and he's conquered everything. Now, he wants to conquer the WWE one more time so he can be the only champion when WrestleMania ends. So why can't it be done? Because the Authority won't let it happen. “And that's how they get you!” The crowd knows what's coming and chants for Undertaker. Heyman says they won't play their game with Lesnar, so the open contract is worthless. Lesnar wants to make history at WrestleMania, so they reject the open contract. Lesnar will not be at WrestleMania unless he gets what he wants, and they WILL give him what he wants. They go to leave...
...and there's the gong. The crowd is ready. The TitanTron lights up. The ramp is in flames. There's a chill in the air... the funeral march sounds... and here he is! He's working the Ministry of Darkness look, with the evil goatee. Undertaker slowly walks to the ring. Brock looks a little perplexed. The crowd, which has been silent for most of his entrance, pops for the lights being lifted. Brock looks on in confusion as the Undertaker stares him down. Crowd pops for the staredown. LOUD Undertaker chant. Heyman looks to the sign, as does Taker. Brock only stares forward. Brock nods. He asks for the contract from Heyman, as it appears Brock found someone to make history with. He quickly signs it, then all but DARES Taker to sign it as well, shoving the pen in his chest. Crowd gives a great OOOOOOOOOOH at that. Heyman asks for Undertaker to sign it if he wants. But Taker STABS Brock with the pen, then chokeslams him through the table. Crowd goes BONKERS at this, chanting something I'm not going to repeat in a PG column. Cole: “I'll take that as a yes.” Lesnar is immobile as Taker glares at Heyman. Taker walks away, point made.
I thought the Pay-Per-View was last night. I just got to see a PPV quality Raw for free.
Everything about tonight was well done. Matches were given time. Emma's debut was very well-handled. The crowd was hot for Bryan/Kane, Cesaro/Langston, and Del Rio/Batista. The Usos got back in the title picture.
Folks, every year we complain about the booking and about what it means for WrestleMania, and every year the WWE kicks it into overdrive. They've done it again.
It's clear they needed a home run because all eyes were on them with the WWE Network and Hogan's return, and holy cow did they ever deliver. Cena/Bray (or Wyatts/Shield, who knows), Bryan/HHH, and Taker/Brock look like winners. Orton/Batista may be bombed on, but it won't main event if they're smart. Plus, there were good matches tonight, the right stories have momentum, and... seriously, what's not to love?
MATCH TIME: 75:23 over seven matches, but 70:39 of them were in five matches
BEST MATCH: Bryan/Kane
WORST MATCH: Emma/Summer
NIGHT MVP: The fans.
FINAL RATING: 9. This is the best Raw I've recapped thus far, and I'm ready for WrestleMania.
Scott Keith, envy this Raw and find the three hours on the Network! Tommy Hall, give me some NXT Arrival and SmackDown! I'll see you for Raw in Chicago! We're on our way to WrestleMania, BROTHERS!