The “go-home” episode of Raw leading into the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view kicked off in a compelling manner: with Paul Heyman in the center of the ring emotionally tendering his resignation. Like most resignations in wrestling, however, it was short-lived. It ended in male bonding session that set a surreal tone that the rest of the show maintained. Raw flip-flopped between entertaining matches (Bryan vs. Jericho), blink-and-you’ll-miss-it squashes (Henry vs. Khali) and plenty of chatter (including a rambling, sporadically entertaining story by The Rock). Here are some of the assorted highlights, lowlights and other noteworthy snippets Raw:
Best Match: How could Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Bryan not deliver the goods? Despite having been in the wrestling business a long time now, Jericho is still in peak shape and is an artist in the ring, with no signs of slowing down. In other words, he’s a fantastic opponent for Daniel Bryan, who practically always puts on five-star performances. The only problem, which is becoming more and more common on Raw lately, was awkwardly timed commercial breaks.
Surprise Cameo of the Night: It’s hard to say what was more surprising: the sudden knockout punch that Alex Riley received from the Big Show, or the reminder that Alex Riley still works for WWE. His first Raw appearance in many months included a few lines of dialogue with Yoshi Tatsu, followed by nursing a very sore jaw. Runner-up: Zeb Coulter (a.k.a. Dirty Dutch Mantell) appeared as Jack Swagger’s manager and delivered an Anti-American-American speech that will surely draw some heat.
Chant of the Night: ”One more time! One more time!” The crowd was demanding that Mark Henry squash Hornswoggle again, after having already squished him with the World’s Strongest Slam. It’s a good thing leprechauns are immortal, because a normal midget would have been killed.
LOL Moment of the Night: Big Show wasn’t in the mood for being interviewed, apparently. Matt Striker had been hoping to ask the giant a few questions, but only managed to squeak out five words — “Big Show, do you feel…” — before he absorbed a colossal roundhouse right. Striker: stricken. The Big Show pondered making a speech before finally stalking out of the ring without having uttered a word. Beware the angry giant.
WTF Moment of the Night: “Fandangooooooo.”
Speech of the Night: Nobody delivers a promo quite like Paul Heyman. At times it seemed more like a doctoral dissertation, given the references to Greek legend (the “Sword of Damocles”) and to his own martyrdom. Whether you love the Walrus or hate him, you can’t deny that any time he spends on the microphone makes for real must-see TV.
Logic Fail of the Night: Vince McMahon called Vickie Guerrero from his hospital room, but Paul Heyman immediately demanded to speak with the boss. After discussing a stipulation for the Rock-Punk rematch Sunday, Vince hung up on Heyman. But wait: didn’t he call in order to speak with Vickie? What did he want to say to her? Alas, we may never know the true intention of his call.
Worst Match: Even the biggest fans of 3MB — assuming such fans exist non-ironically — didn’t believe the team stood even the faintest chance against John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus. To call it a “match” at all is being charitable.
Fan Sign of the Night: It was a tie between “Paul Your Deep-Fried Twinkies Are Distracting Me” and “Sandow Makes Me Want to Be Dumm.”
Holy Sh** Moment of the Night: Antonio Cesaro delivered a fantastic, brute-force “big swing” with which he slammed The Miz into the ringside barricade. Like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, The Miz swung from side to side, thwumping against the barricade with each turn.
Upset of the Night: Brodus Clay and Tensai won a match! Repeat: Brodus Clay and Tensai won a match! Then again, their opponents were Primo and Epico, so it hardly counts as a true upset.
Jobbers of the Night: We knew it wouldn’t be a stellar performance for 3MB when they didn’t even get a proper introduction. It got worse from there, as John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus completely demolished Slater, Mahal and McIntyre. 3MB: Three Men Buried.
Disappointment of the Night: Because the Undertaker had been spotted in Nashville this past weekend, the internet scuttlebutt was that he might appear on Raw. No such luck. No Brock Lesnar either. Expect to see glimpses of them after Sunday, as we embark down the home stretch of the Road to WrestleMania. If they’re going to be part of ‘Mania, they’ll have to start showing up regularly on Raw soon.
Tweets of the Night:
@WrestlingMemes: “Bo Dallas? Bo Verrated.”
Commentary line of the Night: Proving that he doesn’t know what the word “literally” means, Jerry Lawler hollered after John Cena’s entrance that ”the roof just literally came off this arena.”
Overall lowlights: Several matches were completely one-sided squashes; no Undertaker, no Lesnar; The Rock gobbled up valuable airtime with a long and ultimately pointless story about buying a used car from a crackhead; still not much momentum toward WrestleMania.
Overall highlights: Some entertaining matches, particularly Jericho vs. Bryan; excellent mic work by Paul Heyman; an intriguing development with Jack Swagger’s new manager Zeb Coulter (Dutch Mantell); some great silent-but-violent knockout moments from the Big Show.