Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, where we reflect on last night's show in more detail than we can while writing the live recap.  Feel free to chime in with your own comments and questions!

Looking at the big picture...

Let's first go back and look at the overall picture.  The show last night was decent, but it just seemed to lack the "go home" pay-per-view punch to this viewer.

Usually, John Cena can come out and give a strong, preacher-man style promo to bring that hard sell for the pay-per-view.  That wasn't the case with last night's show.  Last night's closing promo was all over the place. His promo rambled and he tried being cute rather than dropping the silliness and delivering like we know he can.  And the "Skidmarks 187" username reference for Black Ops was just, well, poopy.

Rock and CM Punk hype was very solid.  I think many, myself included, would liked to have seen them go face-to-face one more time, but for me that's perhaps a bit of nit-picking.  They may have peaked to some in the early going, but the hype has been very good.

I thought the quality of the Beat the Clock Challenge matches was good.  The only issue ended up being that the gimmick became meaningless when Vickie told Dolph that he could only pick number 1 and number 2.  In terms of story, it made sense since Dolph was flirting with AJ in front of Vickie, and Vickie got some sense of revenge.  It just left the gimmick flat.

Finally, we got hype for the Rumble match proper and it felt like "it's about time!"  The problem is that it seems we've seen the big show-ending brawl a hundred times before.  They've done more creative set-ups before as well.  Once the Prime Time Players came out, it was a telegraphed set up and it felt like one big Team Hell No argument with everyone's "I'm going to win the Rumble!" claims.

Believe in The Shield:

I am a big Rock fan, but even I agree that this was a perfect use of the Shield last night.  It gives Rock that storyline "injury" that makes him seem vulnerable going into Sunday's match with Punk which will make people wonder if Rock can win.

I appreciate and think the camcorder promo was good, but I hope they do get another sit-down interview with these guys.  The camcorder promo comes off like a highlight segment to me and people might miss that there's new material in there.

Punked...

Punk delivered a solid promo again last night.  It wasn't so much that it was new material but more like a solidifying of what he's been saying to this point.  It wasn't a "wow" promo, but what's impressive is that Punk has been an all-out heel.  He hasn't been making fun of Rock to win people to his side.  He's playing straight and it's working for him.  It will be very interesting to see where they go from here.

Some Quick Hits:

  • Brad Maddox seems like he is growing in his confidence and comfort level.  His interjection last night was well done.
  • Saying Punk will be stripped of the title if the Shield interferes in his match Sunday with Rock eliminates them, but what about Maddox?
  • Sheamus and Wade Barrett have had better matches, but nonetheless they worked very well last night.  The non-finish was logical given the story with Ziggler.
  • Miz has a lot of work to do to become the new Master of the Figure Four.
  • Randy Orton and Antonio Cesaro had an entertaining match down the stretch, but the two caught hell even from Jerry Lawler for their slow early pace.
  • Lawler's commentary to cover for Cesaro in that same match, and his call-out of their pacing, showed he had some inspiration last night.  Lawler hasn't been doing great work of late on the mic.
  • Alberto Del Rio is Hispanic, just in case you didn't know that.
  • The idea that Rock got a ticket to the show to get his full entrance and deliver a promo was crappy storytelling as far as his being banned from the building was concerned.

That's it for this week!  Be sure to tune in Sunday night for Royal Rumble coverage live at 7:30 p.m. EST, and we'll have another Raw report for you next Monday.