WWE ‘Monday Night Raw’ Recap – [4/2/12]
It was one night after an awesome ‘WrestleMania XXVIII,’ and WWE put on a solid, entertaining ‘Monday Night Raw,’ teasing several new directions and storylines for the promotion. And oh yeah, it also featured the return of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock biscuit-eating Lesnar. Exclamation point.
Keep reading as we run down the five most important parts of this week’s show, then make sure you leave your favorite moments in the comments and share us across all your social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and yes, even Google+. And if you’ve still got a hankering for more ‘WrestleMania’ coverage, make sure to check out my complete write-up of the event. Finally, follow me on Twitter so we can make Funkasaurus jokes together during next week’s show.
The Rock wants the strap
After the type of wacky “everyone, heels and faces alike, in a room together to awkwardly listen to the boss” segment that absolutely cracks me up for some reason, this week’s ‘Monday Night Raw’ went into a promo from the Rock, fresh off his victory against John Cena not 24 hours earlier. It was a sizable promo, but the main gist of it was this: The Rock had a vision and he wants to win the WWE Championship, presumably whilst rhyming.
While I wasn’t thrilled with WWE booking their top guy (Cena) to lay down for a part timer like Rock, oddly enough I’m kind of intrigued by the notion of Rocky getting his hands back on the WWE Championship. While it would almost certainly result in far, far fewer title defenses on television, and absolutely none at house shows, that could potentially be a good thing, causing the title to stay in one place for a while, maybe even building back up some of its prestige. Also, I won’t lie: I’m totally in love with the idea of the Rock doing all of his “GI: Joe” publicity with the WWE Championship around his waist. What could be better publicity than that?
It also bears mentioning in regards to this segment that even though they had their kinda-sorta hometown hero standing right in front of them, the Miami audience chanted pretty much nonstop for Daniel Bryan, making good use of his signature “Yes! Yes! Yes!” This was just the beginning of a steady show of support for the recently deposed World Heavyweight Championship, so I’ll pick up on it again a little later…
Your prince is now a lord
Prince Albert is back! If you checked Twitter or Facebook during tonight’s debut of Lord Tensai, you were probably bowled over by the sheer volume of insider, smark wrestling fan jokes, including everything from references to his old WWE names and gimmicks, to the fact that he’s not actually Japanese, to easy gags about him being an updated version of either Hakushi or Keiji Mutoh. But concentrating on all of that can cause you to lose sight of one simple fact: Lord Tensai absolutely rules.
Tensai squared off against Alex Riley and proceeded to beat the ever-loving crap out of him. So badly was Riley’s ever-loving crap beaten out of him, in fact, that the referee ended up having to stop the match, after which Tensai locked on a vicious-looking old school claw. This was certainly a squash match, as Riley got about 0% offense in, but it was a squash done well, as Tensai wasn’t just a Funkasaurus-esque monster with a couple big moves, but instead a deceptively quick and versatile technician who dissected his opponent with falling sentons, spinning elbows and all manner of other attacks. This match really showed off how fantastic Tensai has become during his time in Japan, and I was thrilled that WWE didn’t force him to spend time in their developmental territory, instead letting him bring his unadulterated puroresu-style action direct to television.
Also, once again: Daniel Bryan chants.
The Shitterson Match of the Night
Narrowly beating out the absolutely rad Lord Tensai squash for the coveted Shitterson Match of the Night award was WWE Champion CM Punk vs. Mark Henry. I could feel America groan when this match was first announced, as folks generally expected Henry to go out and get embarrassed once again. But instead, we got a stunning back-and-forth match that saw Punk sell tremendously for the World’s Strongest Man, putting him over as the monster he truly is. Even the finish was great, as Punk was too badly beaten to make it back into the ring before being disqualified. Not very smart on Henry’s character’s part, but still: Great stuff.
After the match things got even better. There’d been more than a few rumors floating around that Jericho was going to cut out of WWE following his loss to Punk at ‘WrestleMania,’ so I was delighted to see that wasn’t the case. Jericho rushing out to dump Jack Daniels all over Punk and beat him senseless was a great way to keep their feud going. I’m still unsure why Punk needed the ‘Mania’ win if they were going to keep the angle brewing, but I’ll never complain as long as I get evil, maniacal Jericho, especially if he ends up slipping on spilt liquor.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, there were “Yes!” chants during this match too, as it began to eclipse “What!?” as the WWE Universe’s favorite thing to yell pretty much whenever-the-balls.
YES! YES! …that’s it?
All night, there wasn’t anything the smarky Miami crowd wanted more than to see Daniel Bryan. “YES!” chants, “YES!” signs and even just regular old “Daniel Bryan” chants all indicated that despite the wrestler’s heel leanings, he was incredibly over with the fans in attendance, and presumably certain fans watching at home (like myself and my entire Twitter feed). If WWE had their business together, they would have gotten Bryan out in front of the audience, even rewriting the entire show if necessary – just to take advantage of that hot crowd. Instead, WWE gave Miami the guy who beat Daniel Bryan at ‘Mania,’ and they weren’t too happy about it.
Sheamus didn’t get the victorious hero reception both he and WWE must have been expecting, and making matters worse, he had no time to get the crowd in his corner before he was interrupted by a returning Alberto Del Rio. The crowd seemed a little excited to see ADR’s matinee idol good looks, but it didn’t really do anything to cut down on their Bryan fandom, as their “SI! SI! SI!” chants were really just a way of continuing to cheer for the former World Heavyweight Champion. This led to the one and only Bryan appearance on ‘Monday Night Raw’ this week: A backstage pretape in which he doesn’t say a single word. Someone was really asleep at the wheel in regards to how over Bryan has become, as further evidenced by the fact that while advertising this week’s ‘SmackDown,’ his name wasn’t even mentioned.
From Rock to Brock
The final segment of this week’s ‘Monday Night Raw’ saw John Cena take to the ring to pretty much uphold the status quo: He lost, but he’s going to keep trying, he’s not going to turn heel, and presumably “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” is still the creed by which he lives. The whole thing was pretty snooze worthy to begin with, but it was even harder to get into his “I lost” speech on account of the Miami crowd, which was still going absolute bananas over Daniel Bryan and more importantly, started mixing up their “YES!” chants with a few “We want Lesnar!” ones as well.
If you pay any attention to wrestling news sites or dirt sheets, you knew that former WWE and UFC champion Brock Lesnar was in Miami this weekend, and there were rumors about him coming back to WWE for some type of angle. Apparently, the crowd in attendance had read all those same rumors, and they didn’t need to hear the rest of Cena’s speech to know that this was all heading to the return of Brock Lesnar.
The crowd spoiling Lesnar’s return is very similar to their overwhelming support of Daniel Bryan, as both are a result of the audience being a little too clever and knowledgeable, and WWE’s inability to work around it. It didn’t ruin the moment of course, and I’m glad WWE didn’t try and swerve people just for the sake of a swerve, but I’d be lying if I said I wish I hadn’t known about it ahead of time. Still, a Lesnar/Cena feud is an intriguing one seeing as A) Lesnar is huge and awesome, B) He could bring a lot of UFC fans back into the fold, and C) The two men already have history, with Cena’s finisher originally being called the FU as a takeoff on Lesnar’s F5.
Even if Lesnar doesn’t return for a full-time schedule, or pulls a Rock and disappears for months at a time only to return at ‘WrestleMania,’ I still think I’d be OK with it. Cena taking part in smaller feuds throughout the year, all positioned to build him up as a big, powerful guy, then facing humongous, iconic threats at ‘WrestleMania’ seems like a winning formula to me. Sure, I’d like to see the two guys slug it out every week for months on end, but as well as the Rock/Cena feud turned out, I’m willing to be open-minded about a similar build here.
Aubrey Sitterson is a professional writer and editor specializing in comics and professional wrestling. For GuySpeed, he writes weekly reviews of ‘Monday Night Raw’ and previews of ‘Friday Night Smackdown.’ Find him on Twitter and at aubreysitterson.com.