Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts.  Time to break down last night's Old School Raw in a bit more detail than we can during a live show report.  Feel free to comment and ask questions!

The Better Business Bureau…

I always try to avoid leading off with John Cena pieces in “Afterthoughts” because most readers tune out, I suspect.  That said, the segment between him and Rock last night was strong and is worth being the lead tonight.

Last year, Cena and Rock had a very rocky build to their match.  They spent a lot of time tramping all over each other, cutting off lines, and tearing each other down.  It was a game of one-upsmanship that really had no place in their build.  It seemed like they were more interested in the “you showed him” reaction rather than doing business.  We got very little of that last night.

The two of them went out last night and expressed their desire to win at this year’s Wrestlemania event.  They didn’t tip off the finish to the match, and they didn’t trample all over each other.    They simply went out there and did good business and established a big match feel.

The one problem I had with this segment is how Cena overplayed his “down year.”  He really hammed that up but it wasn’t as big as he made it sound.  Consider that Cena came back and won several big matches after his loss to The Rock, including one against Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules within a month of Mania.  That jumped the shark for me and made me roll my eyes.

For Whom The Bell Tolls…

The show opened hot with the appearance of Undertaker.  From there, we may have expected CM Punk to come out and challenge Undertaker.  He did just that in a solid opening promo.  What we didn’t expect was the addition of Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus to the mix.  The four men were put in a four-way match to find out who would get the shot at the Undertaker’s vaunted Streak.

This was logical and it was an easy way to make the Streak mean just a little bit more.  Each guy made his case and each were logical candidates to face Undertaker.  None of them are tied to programs at the moment, so it left the finish somewhat in doubt.  The announcers laid it on pretty thick as to the stakes involved, though.  With the match we saw last week between Cena and Punk, this match was going to be hard pressed to reach that level.  Simply emphasizing that “a shot at The Streak is on the line” would have been sufficient.

Speaking of wins – Punk needed it last night and I’m glad it went over as a “clean” win.  I thought for a moment we might see interference from The Shield somehow, but that did not happen.  After two straight losses to The Rock and then to Cena last week, Punk needed this win.  He should get more going into Mania as well.

Time to Play the Nickname…

Triple H spent some amount of his promo time emphasizing his nicknames.  That aside, he did one thing really well and that’s tie the whole story together.  He reached back to the SummerSlam match and lead-in, brought it full circle with Vince’s recent hip surgery “caused by Lesnar’s F5” and included the brawl from last week’s show.  Very well done.

With Lesnar and Trips both scheduled to be at Raw next Monday, expect fireworks.  I’m already more interested in this likely match than I ever was with the SummerSlam program that felt like it was lacking by comparison.

Quick Hits:

  • WWE does such a great job when they do the Old School theme.  They really embrace it and give it a true nostalgia feel with the letters on the stage, the way the Tron is set up, and all the rest of the visuals they use.
  • Catch the Punk add of “straight edge” in his promo to open the show?  First we’ve heard that in a long time.
  • Randy Orton needed a timeline lesson:  He was a rookie in 2002, not 2005.
  • Mark Henry is such an animal.  He’s doing great stuff right now and yelling “that’s what I do!” after he annihilates someone is a great sell.
  • Swagger beating up three legends was designed to get him heat rather than Colter, and it should have.  The Buffalo fans were kinda quiet though, so it’s hard to say if it did any good.
  • Punk walking through the Mae Young birthday celebration was a classic heel move.  It worked.  Someone wearing cake as a result could have been more fun though.
  • Feeling like we’re in “repeat debut” mode with Fandango.  What they’re doing is similar to how they introduced Damien Sandow.  It is mildly entertaining though.

That’s it for this week.  Join us again next Monday as we continue our journey to Wrestlemania 29 right here on Ring-Rap.com.