The WrestleMania picture got a lot clearer at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn. at Raw, and it took a mini-revolution to get there.
Everything that happened on Raw Monday wasn’t captivating, but what WWE has positioned to be the main stories heading into the biggest show of the year delivered, in my opinion.
Occupy Raw was awesome
Sure, the whole occupy thing was so three years ago, but it still worked nonetheless. Daniel Bryan went to the ring and told the Authority that he wasn’t going to leave the until he got his match against Triple H at WrestleMania.
However, Bryan didn’t come alone. He brought dozens of people with him into the ring and at ringside to stand with him until he got his match. The Authority came and demanded Bryan and his friends to leave the ring. They all refused. Triple H then sent two security guards to clear the area, but two clearly wasn’t enough. He then ordered for the next match to start, which brought out Damien Sandow (Where has he been?). After surveying the situation, Sandow opted out of this situation as well.
Stephanie McMahon turned into Regan from "The Exorcist" and further demanded Bryan leave the ring. He still refused. Eventually, Triple H gave Bryan his match at WrestleMania, but Bryan wanted one more thing and that was the caveat that if he beat Triple H at WrestleMania, he got slotted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Randy Orton and Batista. Triple H went also went nuts and gave him that as well.
Let’s cover this from all angles, shall we? First, let’s take a look at the booking decision. It was the only decision. Once WWE saw that they would have a stale main event on their hands between Orton and Batista it had to change course a little bit. It didn’t hurt that CM Punk left after the Royal Rumble, which also forced WWE to re-shuffle the deck.
WWE couldn’t have Batista and Orton go out there in the main event and die a slow death in front of those fans. It also couldn’t afford to keep the hottest babyface going out of the main event. Either one would have been bad for business, no pun intended.
Although everyone sort of saw this decision coming, no one really knew for sure because WWE has a history of being stubborn sometimes. It’s good to see that this was not one of them. I also doubt that this was the plan all along. WWE didn’t bring Batista back just to have in a triple threat match and potentially put over Bryan. Batista was supposed to be a major babyface return — a return that backfired.
Now let’s look at the execution of this angle Monday. Flawless. Although the occupy thing is a couple of years late, it still felt right given the characters involved. Bryan is a man that fights for the people whereas Triple H and McMahon are the rich jerks holding the working man down. It still works. That story almost never gets old. Having a bunch of people in Bryan T-shirts fill up and surround the ring was great and provided an awesome visual. Seeing the Authority helpless for the very first time was also great. It was good to see them finally knocked off their square a little bit. Everyone played their roles perfectly, in my opinion and the segment came off great.
Hulk Hogan announces Andre the Giant invitational
Hogan opened the show with his major announcement regarding WrestleMania, which turned out to be the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. The battle royal will have 30 participants where the normal battle royal rules will apply. The winner will receive a trophy with the likeness of Andre the Giant.
I like this decision for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a great way to honor the memory of Andre the Giant, who deserves any accolades and honors thrown his way. He was one of the most recognizable people in the world during his time and was one of the main reasons why WrestleMania and WWE in general is in the position it enjoys today. Plus, Andre the Giant won numerous battle royals throughout his career, including one at WrestleMania II.
Another good thing about this is that it’s an easy way to get everyone on the card that night. Since WWE stopped having the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania, it has not found a way to stuff a bunch of people on to the show. It has now found that way.
Now, I do believe that a spot at WrestleMania should be earned and not handed out, but some of the people in this match have been working their butts off all year taking bumps, making appearances, traveling, being away from home, among enduring a number of other rigors of being a professional wrestler/sports entertainer. By virtue of that, those people deserve to be on the card in some way. It may not be a main event attraction, but it will get some focus because of Andre the Giant’s name.
However, it will seem weird having a 30-man battle royal just two or three months after having the Royal Rumble.
John Cena and Hulk Hogan interact
After Hogan’s announcement, John Cena joined him in the ring and talked about how much of a fan of Hogan he when he was a child and wanted to be the first man to enter the battle royal.
That didn’t last very long as Bray Wyatt came out with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan and called both Cena and Hogan liars. This prompted Cena to change his mind and challenge Wyatt to a match at WrestleMania. Wyatt accepted later in the show.
Before that, however, Cena defeated Rowan in a match and posed with Hogan afterwards.
Seeing Cena and Hogan in the ring is something that should be appreciated no matter how you feel about either guy. There aren’t many times you get to see two No. 1 guys of their respective eras in the same ring at the same time interacting with each other. Even the most hardened Cena hater will look back on that one day and appreciate that moment.
Paul Heyman-Undertaker confrontation
The Undertaker came to the ring and attempted to speak, but was thwarted by Paul Heyman before he could even get a word out. Heyman ran down Undertaker’s accomplishments and talked about how much respect he had for him and the streak, which was why he didn’t want Undertaker to go through with his match against Brock Lesnar because if he did, his legacy would be tarnished by losing.
Undertaker didn’t say anything spectacular as far as a rebuttal, but did enough for people to know that he isn’t backing out of the match.
I did think that Heyman’s portion of the promo was amazing, as he ran down the WrestleMania streaks of other all-time greats like Cena, Hogan, Steve Austin and Triple H.
The Shield works together for a win
After a lot of dissention last week, The Shield looked to be back on the same page again Monday as Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns defeated Cody Rhodes and Goldust. Interesting thing of note was that Rollins, not Reigns, put on the finishing touches and gained the pin fall. It was another nice way of making him relevant in this entire story. Even Dean Ambrose was on his best behavior as well.
More dissention among the Real Americans
Once again, Jack Swagger faced off against Big E with Cesaro and Zeb Colter at ringside. There was more friction between the Real Americans again, as Cesaro refused to help Swagger when the official’s back was turned. When Swagger went over to complain, Big E rolled him up for the win.
After the match, Swagger got in Cesaro’s face, which caused Colter to throw a fit and demand the two shook hands. They obliged, but not before Cesaro put a tight squeeze on Swagger’s hand.
I know WWE has plans for Cesaro as a singles competitor, but I do like the Real Americans as a tag team. I thought they embraced the team aspect despite being thrown together and it worked. They established double team moves, wore matching track jackets, developed a cool handshake. They looked like a team and that’s something WWE doesn’t have a lot of at the moment — real tag teams.
Sheamus-Christian Memphis Street Fight
This was done because of a vote on the WWE App. The match itself wasn’t something to go crazy about, but it was good nonetheless. Seeing Sheamus do a Brogue Kick through a drum to Christian was pretty cool. However, this was eerily similar to what WWE did with Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow a couple months ago, when they would just go out there and fight hardcore matches. I believe they had a Nashville Street Fight, but I’m not totally sure.
AJ Lee is losing to Total Divas
The Divas Champion AJ Lee has been struggling as of late. She tapped out to Natalya on Smackdown last week and then lost clean Monday to Nikki Bella. Natalya was doing commentary during the match and got up on the ring apron while Nikki Bella was holding up the Divas title. I guess since Total Divas is starting back up Sunday, that means AJ has to lose to them clean on television.