Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, where we break down last night's program in more detail than we can in a live show recap. Feel free to ask us questions, make comments, and give your own opinions either in the comments below, or hit us on Twitter. Be sure to include the #AskRingRap hashtag so we can address your questions on RingRap Audio this week!
1. The Network has Landed...
WWE has officially launched the much-hyped WWE Network. They've been having some technical issues, but all in all the Network is very good and looks like it will develop to something great. I know I personally enjoyed the small amount of time I had with it last evening.
Of note were the WWE Pre-Show and Post-Show for Raw last night. Due to my travel schedule for work, I missed the pre-show but I did see the post-show. The panel was decent enough although they spent a bit too much time clowning around. They definitely lent a sports-like feel to Raw as they touched on Undertaker's return, John Cena's "injury" (more on that in a minute) and Brock Lesnar. Definitely looks like WWE Network is hot in the early going.
2. History to Conquer...
Brock Lesnar came out with an open contract, looking for a title match. Well, he got the Deadman instead. Undertaker's return by far was the hottest thing on the show last night. Despite the fact that Lesnar did not shed blood or have a mark on his hand from the moment, Taker stabbing him with the pen was a neat moment. Hardcore fans might not give this match much love, but by far and away it will likely sell some pay per views and Network subscriptions if WWE positions it the right way.
3. Hulkamania is Running Wild, One More Time...
Hulk Hogan has come back to WWE for Wrestlemania season (at a minimum) and he made his historic return to open Raw last night. His opening promo was fine and he got a great reaction from the live crowd. His interview segment on the post-show was better than the live promo. I expect to see Hulk doing some more stuff for the Network going forward. This is a deal that can work out well for both sides in the future.
4. A Promo Long Missed.
Where has THIS Daniel Bryan promo been? It's several months late, but Bryan finally got mad last night and made it clearly known in a solid and intense couple of promo segments. What's tricky about this is that they're trying to convince Bryan fans that he wants this match - which at its core is getting them to accept that he won't be involved in the title match. I think that's a mistake to do, because they've got to pull the trigger on him soon with a legitimate title run.
All that aside, the possibility of a Triple H/Bryan match works. It has good storyline sense, better than if CM Punk would have been the one to challenge him. They can heat this up even more by having a title match stipulation attached to this - even on the very same night.
5. He's Hurt...oh, wait...
Several outlets, including us, picked up on John Cena being injured last night in his segment with the Wyatts. Well, turns out that was a work. He played it up very well, and that misled a lot of folks. So his performance in this segment was worth a "hit" if this were a hit and miss list.
Here's my issue with it though - why would they have not gone with a true injury angle rather than fluke move like this? Cena is already a sympathetic character, so the Wyatts got nothing out of this angle because Bray pulled off the troops because of the injury and it looked pretty flukey. They can get heat on the Wyatts going forward by working that same knee, but only Cena got anything out of this segment. And that worries me going into Wrestlemania.
6. Not Quite the Same Magic.
The Wyatts and The Shield had really good magic on Sunday Night at Elimination Chamber. WWE read that as fan interest in the individual characters, though and that was not the case last night in the Wyatt/Reigns singles match. The two factions are able to capture a level of chaos and craziness in a six-man format that just can't be replicated in a singles match. The live crowd was waiting for something to wow them, and that didn't come about until the other members of the teams got involved.
Nothing really hurt these guys by this match, but they didn't gain anything either.
7. This Ship Has Sailed...
I found myself scratching my head about what went down between The Usos and The New Age Outlaws. But in retrospect, it was quick and painless so it wasn't too offensive. The problem lies here in the fact that the fans don't seem interested in these two teams feuding any longer. And I don't pin that on The Usos. I'm hoping we see a return to the Brotherhood holding the titles, or challenging different champions.
8. The Batista Dilemma...
I am struggling to figure out what Batista really is to the WWE at this point. The best I can arrive at is that he is John Cena with a sharper edge to him. Cena can get away with his mixed reaction because he carries a large enough positive fan base to drown out the boo birds that follow him around town to town. Batista just doesn't have that same luxury. Reading other sites' house show reports, there are a lot of positive reactions for Batista. But that isn't translating to Raw, Smackdown, or pay per views where there are a lot more of the "adult male" types who easily drown out his cheers.
For all we know, Batista is turning heel sooner than later. So, I'm willing to let this play itself out before saying too much more. But none the less, WWE has a problem on their hands right now with the current face/heel arrangement of their main event of Wrestlemania 30.
9. Overstaying its Welcome, but Getting a Payoff:
Sheamus vs. Christian really overstayed its welcome. It's not that it was a horrible match (much like many of the "down moments" of last night's show) but it just went on longer than it should have. The fans bounced right back though with the Brogue Kick finish they went with as Christian lept off the ropes. The fans haven't been given much to care about with Sheamus, and Christian hasn't made up his mind if he's face or heel, so they just didn't emotionally invest themselves into the match.
10. The Big Picture...
If you knew what was going to happen on the show last night, you'd have figured for a red-hot program. Sheamus vs. Christian looks good on paper, as does Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns. They didn't play out quite like WWE would have hoped, I'm sure. Some of the other things that happened on the show (like Emma vs. Summer Rae) felt like filler material and kind of killed the crowd. Hulk Hogan and Undertaker bookending this show as they did really perked up the crowd at both times.
I would have expected more from WWE on Network Launch day, although it wasn't a terrible program.
That's all for tonight. Remember, we'll be recording RingRap Audio later this week, so get those questions and comments in via the #AskRingRap hashtag on Twitter. More on the Road to Wrestlemania next week right here on Ring-Rap.com.