Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, where we break down last night's show in more detail than can be done during a live show recap. Got questions, comments, or thoughts of your own? Feel free to comment below, hit us on Twitter (be sure to use the #AskRingRap hashtag so we see it!) or email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the return of RingRap Audio, we're going to change the format of Afterthoughts a little to streamline it. Here's "Ten Key Points" on last night's show.
1. The Authority (sort of) makes things right with Daniel Bryan:
If you read my live Royal Rumble coverage, you know fans crapped all over WWE for not putting Bryan in the Rumble match on Sunday night. There was nothing WWE could really do to completely wipe that out, but the opening segment did a decent job of addressing the story.
A couple quick notes on this segment. First, Daniel Bryan did a nice job of standing up for himself. He didn't just "yes!" chant things away. He showed good fire in his promo and wasn't just "happy to be there." The interaction hinted at Triple H and Bryan facing off at Mania because unlike CM Punk, Bryan has had long-term issues with Hunter. They could also tie in a title shot for Bryan should he beat Hunter at Wrestlemania.
The best business would have been to put Bryan in the Rumble, and have him win it, then go on to win the title at Wrestlemania. But WWE did give Bryan fans hope by putting him in the Elimination Chamber match at least with a shot at the title.
2. Daniel Bryan, John Cena, and Sheamus battle The Shield for the right to go to Elimination Chamber
Smart booking to have Cena team with Bryan, first on the save in the opening segment then the main event match. This kept Bryan fans from turning more on Cena than they did at the Rumble. I also thought they did a good job of following up with Roman Reigns' strong performance in the Rumble by showcasing him here as well.
The one problem I have here was the finish. This was the weakest way possible to end the night and it left me wondering which of the authority figures was going to walk out and say that the faces weren't going to get to compete in Elimination Chamber. It was just a dud of a finish, and I'm wondering if we get a rematch next week.
I didn't mind the tease of the Wyatts facing The Shield at Elimination Chamber. There's a short-term story there to work with, with the Wyatts costing The Shield the shot at Elimination Chamber by their interference. Fans have wondered about that match, so maybe this is how they get there.
3. Brock Lesnar wants to fight someone...but not tonight...
This was a little confusing. I'm not sure why Brock Lesnar is demanding matches against Orton or Batista at this point. I am curious how they get there though. Is this simply Brock declaring he wants to have a spot in Elimination Chamber and getting it? That's one way to get there.
The other way for the declared #1 Contender to get there is to face the Royal Rumble winner, Batista. The problem here is that Elimination Chamber takes place in Minneapolis, MN. Brock is billed from there...and Batista will likely get another round of the boo-birds like he got in Pittsburgh.
4. Old Age is setting in...
I have been pretty high on the work that Cody Rhodes and Goldust have put in since their return and teaming up. And back in the day, I enjoyed the New Age Outlaws too. The problem is that the NAO are dragging the momentum that Cody and Goldust have down. Their match was just flat.
If the Outlaws were truly playing heel, it could work, but they're in that "legacy star" spot where they're not going to get a true heel reaction out of fans. And part of enhancing their heel reaction means that Road Dogg has to drop the babyface entrance bit. Fans chant along with it, regardless of their turn on Punk.
5. Follow (through) the Buzzards...
Bray Wyatt had the match of his life at Royal Rumble. On the heels of that, I expected a much stronger follow-up than what we got. They came out in the main event segment, interfered in the match, and got chased off by Cena, Sheamus, and Bryan. That isn't how you follow up such an outstanding effort as Wyatt had at the Rumble.
6. Slapping sense into him...
Zeb Colter can be feisty, it would seem. Jack Swagger wasn't focused during his match with Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara. While at ringside, Colter took a moment to slap Swagger across the face and wake him up. That was apparently just what the doctor ordered, and the Real Americans went on to pick up the win.
By the way - it was surprising to me to see the Sin Cara character on TV given the controversy created by the original Sin Cara (Mistico). He claims rights to the character, though it was created by WWE. Mistico is no longer with WWE.
7. Del Rio is obsessed...
Live fans went into business for themselves in the early going of the Del Rio/Kingston match and they had reason to. It wasn't all that good or exciting. Fans spent the time chanting for JBL, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Cole even. Del Rio got a bit indignant when JBL stood up to acknowledge the chants, but for the most part the two maintained their poise and eventually got fans to buy into the match down the stretch.
WWE needs to breathe life into these two guys though. Kingston's stuck in neutral after pinning Randy Orton, and Del Rio is obsessed with Batista for some reason.
8. Discarded toys...
When Fandango beat Xavier Woods last week rather handily, I thought they might just do something more with him going forward. Well, that didn't quite happen last night. Fandango ended up losing to R-Truth in a pretty throwaway affair.
The only way I can explain this is that Vince got bored like a kid with a number of new toys at Christmas. He seems to have gotten bored with Fandango, though he was so high on the character this time last year.
9. The Battle of Cleveland...
I'm local to Pittsburgh, so nothing about the idea of a "battle of Cleveland" was exciting to me whatsoever. But to WWE's credit, giving this match between Dolph Ziggler and The Miz (both native to the Cleveland area) a title gave the match a little bit of a hook and more importance than just sending them out to work a match. The two guys worked hard and put on a decent affair, and the live crowd bought in to the action especially given their local ties.
10. The Brothers just keep rolling...
The Uso Brothers had a good match with Curtis Axel and Ryback. It wasn't anything overly special, but they just simply kept their momentum going. I look for them to get a shot at the New Age Outlaws for the titles down the road somewhere, perhaps even at Wrestlemania.
That's it for this week. We'll talk more about Raw when Drew, Matt, and I bring you RingRap Audio on Thursday. I should be back in the saddle for live Raw coverage this coming Monday for more on the road to Wrestlemania, right here on Ring-Rap.com.