WWE ‘Monday Night Raw’ Recap – [3/19/11]
Less than two weeks out from WrestleMania XXVIII, and WWE finally appears to be turning up the gas on all its simmering storylines. This week’s Monday Night Raw was a solid two hours of entertainment, with some good wrestling, interesting story developments and not a single Divas match to suffer through! Keep reading as we run down the most important moments from this week’s show.
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Deep down, even CM Punk is a Jericoholic
After last week, when Chris Jericho outed CM Punk’s father as an alcoholic, I was excited to see where the two’s ongoing rivalry would go. Truthfully, Jericho’s return feud has been a little lackluster since he failed to win the Royal Rumble, and I wasn’t encouraged by the fact that Punk opened his show-starting promo this week by announcing that his nemesis wasn’t even there, as it negated a lot of the suspense tied to if and when Jericho would emerge from the back.
That said, Jericho turned it all around, showing that even via satellite he can out-talk most of the WWE roster. This week’s reveal – that Punk’s sister is a drug addict – wasn’t so shocking in and of itself, but Jericho’s excessively Canadian delivery sold it as perfectly as Punk’s furious reaction. Punk may have lost me in the midst of his somewhat unnecessary and rambling promo against alcoholism, but I got sucked right back in via his quivering anger at Jericho’s latest revelation.
Matt Bloom! Prince Albert! A-Train! Giant Bernard! Lord Tensai…?
One of my favorite moments from this week’s Raw wasn’t a match, a promo or even a backstage vignette – it was video package for a new wrestler known as Lord Tensai. Outside of some heavy tribal ink and Hakushi-esque Kanji tats, there wasn’t much in the video to identify the unknown wrestler, but coupled with dirt sheet reports from this past week regarding the return of A-Train, it’s a fair guess that Matt Bloom could be coming home to WWE.
Though most American audiences will remember him from his WWE run as Prince Albert and A-Train during the dying days of the Attitude Era, the wrestler has since achieved even greater success in Japan. After kicking around both All Japan and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Bloom, wrestling as Giant Bernard, formed an absolutely awesome tag team called Bad Intentions, with fellow bald gaijin Karl Anderson. Read the rest of this article, preemptively thank me in the comments, and then go lose your afternoon on YouTube, watching those two animals beat the hell out of some Japanese guys.
The Rock actually put John Cena over!
I haven’t been a big fan of the Rock’s promo work the past few weeks on Raw. Whether he’s been legit flubbing his lines and losing his train of thought, or it’s all some type of elaborate work, I don’t know, but even when he’s been on the ball, his promos have largely consisted of him calling John Cena gay, a tranny or just an outright woman. Putting aside the homophobic and misogynistic undertones, it just hasn’t been terribly entertaining, and did little to stoke interest for the two’s impending WrestleMania match.
That changes this week, however, as Rock cut a promo that for the first time in recent memory, actually built up his opponent in the audience’s eyes. Yes, his relentless references to great wrestlers of the past were a pretty shameless attempt at getting a pop from the Philly audience (to say nothing of the cheesesteak references), but more importantly, by including Cena in the rant, he elevated his opponent to the level of true, undisputed wrestling greats like Hogan, Flair, Austin, Savage and others. It seems like someone must have reminded the Rock that in order for a wrestling win to actually mean something, your opponent has to look good too, and I’m thankful for that.
Shed a tear for poor Zack Ryder
Remember when Zack Ryder was a thing? People on the internet couldn’t stop talking about the guy, live crowds went nuts for him and his merchandise was selling like gangbusters. Then, WWE feinted a Ryder push with a United States Title run and quickly followed it up by having Ryder get beaten mercilessly by Kane for weeks on end, only to then watch his kinda-sorta-girlfriend make out with the company’s top face on live television, all whilst seated in a wheelchair. It seemed like WWE had done a pretty efficient job of killing all the momentum Ryder had built up largely on his own.
So it’s somewhat shocking that fans still seem to care about Ryder, freaking the balls out when he emerged for his match on this week’s Raw. Of course, there was absolutely zero chance of Ryder winning the match, seeing as it was against one of WrestleMania XXVIII’s eight (!!!) headliners, Daniel Bryan. The World Heavyweight Champion made Ryder look as good as he could in the short match, before putting his opponent away with a jumping application of the LeBell Lock, which might just be my new favorite way for Bryan to lock on his submission finisher.
World’s strongest cannon fodder
Last week I was pretty cheesed off (that WWE would build up Mark Henry as a total monster – feeding him United States Champion Santino Marella, Kofi Kingston and R-Truth – before booking him in a match this week against John Cena, who would almost certainly end up beating him. It seemed a waste not only of Henry’s potential as one of WWE’s absolute best monster heels, but also of the guys they just sacrificed to him, and are still being expected to draw some kind of attention for the Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny match at WrestleMania.
So, I was surprised and delighted this week to see that while John Cena did, obviously, go over on Henry, it was only after a hard-fought, physical match. Anyone who likes to parrot the popular internet sentiment that Cena can’t wrestle should take a closer look at this match, in which the guy sells like crazy and tells a tremendous story that culminates in him miraculously getting Henry on his shoulders to deliver an Attitude Adjustment. It was a tremendous match, and even thought it was a loss, did far more to elevate Henry than the three midcarders he stomped through up last week.
I was less thrilled by the follow-up to the match, however, in which the Rock ran out and delivered a Rock Bottom to the already defeated Henry. I get that it is supposed to be reminiscent of the Rock of old, and in convoluted wrestling logic, is meant to “send a message to John Cena,” but any pop it received was the cheapest kind imaginable, as the Rock beating up an already beaten foe does nothing to elevate him and only makes Henry look even worse.
Three grizzled old dudes, talking about their legacies
This week’s Raw ended with WrestleMania XXVIII opponents Undertaker and Triple H, and their referee, Shawn Michaels, all in the ring together. Over the past month or two, we’ve seen more than our fair share of these middle-aged men, and while they haven’t engaged in any actual physicality, they have done a fair amount of chitchatting. I wasn’t terribly excited to hear them all jibber-jabber at one another again, but I figured that if WWE was saving it for the final segment of the night, they must have something exciting in store, right?
Ehhhhh…not so much. The segment wasn’t bad, but there was also not one iota of new information, or anything to complicate a storyline that has already been pretty well laid out. Sure, I liked hearing the Hell in a Cell statistic (of 24 HiaC matches, Taker or HHH have been in 19 of them), and I’m always happy to have the world’s oldest sexy boy in the squared circle, but the entire segment mostly felt like recap, right down to Undertaker reiterating that yes, when he said that HBK was better than Triple H, he actually meant it. The entire somewhat-questionable, yawn-worthy segment was redeemed in the final moments, however, as Michaels responded to the above assertion with the most fitting and hilarious smirk I can ever remember seeing on WWE.
What did you think about this week’s Monday Night Raw? Was your favorite moment listed here? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
Aubrey Sitterson is a professional writer and editor specializing in comics and professional wrestling. He’ll be doing weekly recaps of ‘Monday Night Raw’ and ‘Smackdown’ along with other special features. Follow him on Twitter.