Credit where it’s due as I was surprisingly entertained by both John Cena and Sheamus last week on Raw. I am happy Cena withheld the puerile name calling and excrement jokes while confronting Bray Wyatt and Sheamus held his own in the match with Christian. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, but I did not roll my eyes at either individual or bury my nose in a book while they were on screen. We can only hope Cena remains in “super serial” mode for the duration of this feud. As for Sheamus, other opponents will tell whether or not it was a one in a million match, or a sign that he effectively used his time away.
Overall, a very positive reaction to last week’s look at removing on-screen authority figures as most people were in agreement with the need for their absence or liked the overall storyline (even if it was cribbing from an earlier column). One person doubted they would let Kane chokeslam Stephanie McMahon, which I agree is a stretch. But as a one-time occurrence, I think they could get away with it, especially as a launch point to a major storyline. Going TV-14 for one week would not kill their product.
Tonight, In This Very City…
Well, this has been the Raw that we have been waiting for since the Tuesday after the Royal Rumble. WWE Monday Night Raw is live from Chicago, Illinois. While the fans in the various other cities have made some weak efforts to express their disdain over the absence of CM Punk, just about everyone is ready for a revolt bordering on riot from the audience tonight. We are all curious how the WWE is going to play to or against an expected hostile crowd. CH Punk last week offered his recommendations to the WWE on how to “win over” the audience. This week, I decided to offer my own booking for tonight’s episode.
Caveat: This is pure fantasy booking with no actual knowledge of any rumors. I wrote this up around 7pm Sunday evening, so any news that may have come out subsequently was not figured in. I also tried to write this as close as possible to being a WWE show, so it means there are some long, plodding talking segments and misuse of time and talent. It does take into account all previously announced events.
The screen fades in from the WWE opening to a raucous crowd. In the ring are a carpet, table, and chairs. Triple H’s music comes blaring out and the audience almost blows up the Rosemont Horizon (born and raised in Chicago, it will always be the Horizon to me; just like the store on State Street with the big green clock will always be Marshall Field’s). The Authority comes out all a smile and milk the boos as they slowly make their way to the ring. Stephanie welcomes us all to Raw and promises an evening of epic events. Paul Heyman and his client Brock Lesnar will speak on the Undertaker as The Beast looks to take on The Streak. There will be an episode of Miz TV featuring an appearance by Sheamus, and of course, plenty of great in-ring competition. However, there is no better way to kick off an epic episode, but to sign the contract for the main event at Wrestlemania XXX between challenger Batista and the champion, Randy Orton.
Orton and Batista make their way to the ring individually, the crowd going ever more insane and rabid. Triple H notes that management could not ask for a better match-up to headline the biggest show of the year. In fact, their match may be the greatest Wrestlemania championship match of all-time. Right behind Triple H versus John Cena from Wrestlemania XXII in Chicago. And Triple H versus Booker T. And let’s not forget Triple H winning the four corner elimination match at Wrestelmania 2000. Still, Triple H is certain Batista/Orton will be a Top 5 match. After some further crowd riling by Orton and Batista, the two move to take their seats for the contract signing, only to have Flight of Valkerie’s blare and Daniel Bryan makes his way to ringside. He gets into Triple H’s face about the company head avoiding him all week, refusing to acknowledge his challenge. Triple H warns Bryan that interrupting him during such a big moment is not endeavoring him to Triple H’s good graces, and if he did not leave immediately, Bryan may just end up watching Wrestlemania. Daniel Bryan starts up a No chant, refusing to leave until he gets an answer from Triple H. Triple H responds the fans and Bryan have answered his own question: No.
Then there is some muffled sound of like a bullhorn from a figure in the front row. He moves to stand atop the barricade and pulls down his hoodie, and of course, it is CM Punk. This leads to the first commercial break. We return, once the crowd comes down from a level where someone can be heard on the mic, Triple H is threatening for security to remove him. Punk though has gotten into the ring and reminds everyone, he is still an employee of the company, and therefore he has every right to be there. He goes into a diatribe expressing the viewpoints that have been expressed by fans for the past month. He notes that they are heading for the biggest Wrestlemania blunder this side of Wrestelmania IX. Punk points out that the only way The Authority achieved their “dream match” was by screwing over the hottest pair of competitors by getting Kane to sneak in and eliminate Punk and keeping Bryan out of the Rumble all together. The pair of crowd favorites continue to rile and antagonize Triple H, Batista, and Orton. Finally, pushed over the edge, Triple H offers to give the pair “one more chance.” The main event for the evening will be CM Punk and Daniel Bryan versus Randy Orton and Batista, and if Punk and Bryan win, the title match for Wrestlemania will be a four-corner elimination match.
From that announcement, we are sent over to the announce table, where they recap everything that just happened in the past thirty minutes. This leads into Michael Cole talking about the epic and historic first week of the WWE Network. We are given tutorials on how to access the Network from our laptop or tablet (and maybe it actually working on screen this time). Cole again clumsily explains how it works from an “entertainment device” such as Xbox One (or maybe they will have created a graphic).
The first match of the evening is a stellar clash as Jack Swagger (with Zeb Coulter and Cesaro) takes on Mark Henry (with Big E. Langston). Henry scores the win when Swagger gets distracted and starts talking to Coulter and Cesaro and walks into The World’s Strongest Slam. Before going to commercial break, the Wyatt Family gives a dimly lit promo in the back, promising chaos, confusion, and destruction of the Shield, like all others who have challenged them.
We return from break for Miz TV. The Miz continues to go on his rant about not being given his due opportunity. He complains about Punk and Bryan getting chance after chance, yet the Miz is felt held down. Which brings him to his guest for the evening. Sheamus comes out and the Miz lights into him as another example of someone who is being given preferential treatment over the Miz. Sheamus talks about how he is struggling just like anyone else, looking to climb the ladder after an extended absence, and if the Miz has a problem, they could settle it like men. The two stand toe to toe, but Miz backs off. He then cheap shots Sheamus before getting out of the ring. In the back, Batista and Orton talk, going on about how they don’t like each other, but need to put their problems aside so they can deal with Bryan and Punk and not have to share the spotlight.
An Alexander Rusev teaser runs before we get our next match of the evening, the Usos versus 3MB in a handicapped match. Cole announces the match was made by The Authority as punishment for the behavior of the Usos last week on Raw with blindsiding Road Dogg and what is felt like inappropriate actions in their tag match from Smackdown. The Usos are victorious, but it is interrupted by a Titantron promo from the New Age Outlaws, disrespecting the brothers along with their father, Rikishi. From there, it is back to the announce table, to teach us once again how to use the WWE Network and get an ad for one of the shows on the new channel.
The music of Brock Lesnar greets us as we return from commercial and out he comes, along with Paul Heyman. Heyman recaps the situation that has led to the impending match between his client and the Undertaker. He talks about how Lesnar has more motivation than any other opponent in the history of going after The Streak, especially after tonight. Lesnar not only has the desire to make history in beating The Streak, but he also to seek retribution on the Undertaker. After what transpired earlier this evening, Lesnar could have had a reason and legal justification to get involved in the WWE Title match. However, since the match with the Undertaker was made last week, Lesnar has no such option. Therefore, he is more angry than usual. Further, upon beating the Streak, The Authority will have no choice, but to give Lesnar a title shot. Before going to commercial, The Shield gives a backstage promo in their handheld camera, promising to extract justice on the Wyatts.
We are treated to an extended match between Dolph Ziggler and Christian. The Chicago crowd is firmly behind Ziggler, who scores victory with the Zig Zag. After the match, the announce crew discusses the status of John Cena, replaying the moment when Cena apparently injured his knee in his confrontation with the Wyatts. Cole discusses the nature of Cena’s injury and that later in the evening, we will here from John Cena.
After the commercial break, The Miz versus Sheamus is announced for Smackdown, following their altercation earlier in the evening. Punk and Bryan are seen in the back, talking about the tag match and what it means to the two of them. While they agree to work together, there is hostility as both argue over who is the more talented competitor and just who is going to have the “Wrestlemania moment” this year. This leads us into the Shield versus Wyatt Family. The match is another extended affair that allows all six men shine and has the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand. The Wyatts ultimately score victory following a miscommunication between Reigns and Ambrose that causes Rollins to take the pin.
Following the commercial break, Cena does a “via satellite” interview with Cole, selling the severity of his injury. He promises to return as soon as possible and take a stand against Bray Wyatt. Diva’s champion AJ Lee makes her way ringside for commentary on the women’s match between Emma and Tamina Snuka. The newest member of the female roster scores a victory with the Emma Lock against the larger opponent.
It is then main event time. The audience is engrossed in the match, cheering themselves horse for Bryan and Punk. Towards the end, there is a ref bump, and leads to Triple H, rushing out, pulling on a referee shirt. He takes over officiating duties. At one point, Bryan gets a two count on one of his opponents. He starts arguing with Triple H, who gets right back in his face. Orton looks to clothesline Bryan from behind, but misses and nails Triple H, and knocks him out of the ring. Batista gets pissed off and starts fighting arguing with Orton. Bryan charges the pair and Bryan nails Batista with the running knee, knocking him out of the ring. As Orton and Bryan tangle in a finishing sequence, Punk blind tags in and nails Orton with the Go To Sleep and the original ref recovers to climb into the ring and count the three, securing a spot in the Wrestlemania main event.
Is this a perfect show? No, but as stated above, I did not intend it to be. I was trying to make it as much like a WWE show as I could, but still giving the crowd what they most wanted: an appearance by CM Punk and shaking up the main event for Wrestlemania into something fans actually want. There are two crowd pleasing matches (Christian/Ziggler and Shield/Wyatt Family) with a possible third in the main event.
How likely is any of this to occur? I’d give odds of 18,000 to 1. They are not going to abandon Triple H/Bryan for Wrestlemania and it is extremely doubtful that Punk will be there tonight. A person can always dream though.
Until next time, I relinquish creative control.
Tags: cm punk, Daniel Bryan, john cena, Raw, sheamus, The Shield, triple h, WrestleMania XXX, WWE, wyatt family