With just 20 days to go until the biggest wrestling event of the year, Monday Night Raw opened with John Cena in the ring, promising to win his main event rematch against The Rock. Makes sense, right? Not for long. Cena was interrupted by the Prime Time Players — Darren Young and Titus O’Neil, the latter of whom was costumed in a blue jumpsuit and afro wig, calling himself Rufus “Pancake” Patterson. After some nonsensical jibber-jabber about breakfast cereals, Cena easily defeated Young in a quick and pointless match.
It set a strange tone for what would be a strange episode of Monday Night Raw. CM Punk once again pushed the limits of taste by taunting the Undertaker with Paul Bearer’s urn. Fandango almost made his debut again. And with WrestleMania just around the corner, the defending WWE Champ was nowhere to be seen. Here’s a look at the various highlights, lowlights and head-scratching moments of a disjointed Raw.
Best Match: Smack-dab in the middle of the broadcast — literally the mid-card — we got a main event-caliber match: Cody Rhodes versus Alberto Del Rio. The Mexican and The Mustache delivered a fast-faced, back-and-forth match with some innovative moves and heavy hitting. After Del Rio took the clean win with a cross arm-breaker he suffered a “surprise” (but not really surprising) attack from Jack Swagger. Ricardo Rodriguez got the worst of it, taking an ankle lock from Swagger that appeared to cause some serious damage. An eventful end to an eminently watchable match.
LOL Moment of the Night: If you like dark comedy, CM Punk’s impression of the late Paul Bearer was a shade of comedy darker than the Undertaker’s eyeliner. As tasteless as the bit may have been, Punk’s ensuing monologue, while performing Harlem Globetrotter-like trickery with urn, was hugely entertaining. When he accidentally dropped the urn — and blurted “Oh sh**!” on live TV — it looked as if the Undertaker himself had to momentarily stifle laughter. Punk’s coup de grace: “No disrespect intended.”
WTF Moment of the Night: R-Truth scored a victory over Damien Sandow, which itself was a surprise. But then again, everything about this match was puzzling, such as R-Truth’s new outfit (basically pajamas, see below), Michael Cole’s (mis)use of a latin phrase, and the conclusion of the match: a deliberate countout. Sandow just walked away from the ring and the referee counted to 10. It’s a classic heel way to lose a match, and one we rarely see anymore.
Holy Sh** Moment of the Night: Raw took a stomach-churning twist — along with Ricardo Rodriguez’s leg — at the hands of Jack Swagger. Following Alberto Del Rio’s victory over Cody Rhodes, Swagger put a fierce ankle-lock on Rodriguez. The third time Swagger wrenched Ricardo’s ankle, it seemed to snap. Whether the ankle is legitimately broken (as the commentators claimed), or just kayfabe “broken” to build the feud, is hard to know for sure. But it sure looked legit. And gross.
Worst Match: Although it was rather entertaining to see Randy Orton and Sheamus destroy the 3MB with their respective finishers, it’s misleading to classify it as a “match.” As usual, the 3 Man Band put up nothing resembling a fight, serving only as cannon fodder for Sheamus and Orton. The so-called “match” was merely a means to build toward a WrestleMania match with The Shield (who stormed the ring after 3MB were dispatched), and to introduce The Big Show as a third partner for Sheamus and Orton.
Chant of the Night: “You Can’t Wrestle! You Can’t Wrestle!” For the first time in ages, the chant was not directed at Cena, but rather at Fandango, who once again refused to make his wrestling debut. The funny thing is, Fandango can wrestle. He just chooses not to. Although Fandango’s schtick is taking a lot of flack from fans, you can’t deny that he’s generating some scorching heel heat.
Fan Sign of the Night: It seems that ringside signs are getting less and less creative these days. Perhaps WWE security goons are confiscating all the witty, subversive signs before Raw hits the air. Or perhaps people just aren’t trying very hard these days. That said, one sign in the front row demonstrated Shakespeare’s adage that brevity is the soul of wit. It said: “Cole Shut Your Hole.” Short, sweet and made a valid point.
Road to WrestleMania Moment of the Night: The Undertaker finally uttered a few words, and he didn’t mince them: “Punk, you sealed your own fate when you decided to make this personal. I’m gonna hurt you, and I’m going to hurt you bad. You have one chance to save your soul. I want that urn back.” CM Punk answered with a mocking, taunting monologue with Paul Bearer’s urn. In a relatively short time, this match has arguably built a more compelling backstory than the long-simmering Cena-Rock feud.
Crowd-Killer of the Night: Raw ended with a over-long and underwhelming “contract signing” for the Triple-H’s WrestleMania showdown against Brock Lesnar. After an uncomfortably long torture session of Paul Heyman (the three security guards Heyman hired were utterly useless), Lesnar finally stormed the ring and… did basically nothing. The long-awaited stipulation? No holds barred, with Triple-H’s career on the line. Cliffhanger, fade to black.
Commentary Line of the Night: “R-Truth has never been known to use a word that would send a viewer to the dictionary.” — Jerry Lawler, commenting on the “poetry” of R-Truth, which ended with the line “You gonna git got.”
Tweets of the Night:
– @KayfabeNews: “Tout is Twitter’s developmental territory.”
Jobber of the Night: David Otunga was the sacrificial lamb thrown to Ryback this time around. You got the sense that WWE’s not-so-creative team wanted Ryback to destroy a muscular black guy in order to build interest in his WrestleMania match against Mark Henry (which was later confirmed by Vickie Guerrero). Ryback seemed to be working especially stiff (even reckless) during the match, and Otunga will probably be sore for a few days.
Overall Lowlights: A nonsensical opening segment with John Cena and the Prime Time Players; the WWE Champion and was nowhere to be seen (except in commercials for G.I. Joe); a contract signing as the main event (in front of a crowd quieter than the Impact Zone).
Overall Highlights: An excellent match between Alberto Del Rio and Cody Rhodes; some extremely dark comedy and mega-heelishness from CM Punk; Booker T was officially named as a Hall of Fame inductee (even though WrestleNewz broke the story two weeks ago…).