WWE Raw is in Green Bay, WI this evening, and it is expected to be a very exciting and newsworthy episode.
Elimination Chamber has come and gone, and we still have Randy Orton as our WWE World Heavyweight Champion. What sort of fallout can we expect? Will Batista make a move against his opponent for Wrestlemania XXX? What will Daniel Bryan have to say?
Plus, the long-awaited return of Hulk Hogan to WWE, the launch of the WWE network, and the rumored return of The Undertaker.
We will go live with coverage beginning at 8pm EST! See you tonight!
WWE Raw Preshow
The very first ever WWE Raw Preshow features a panel of Josh Matthews, Booker T, Alex Riley, and Ric Flair. They have a pretty fancy table.
They hype up the return of Hulk Hogan during Raw. In the background, Kofi Kingston and Damien Sandow have a match for WWE Superstars. I gotta be frank - this is pretty freaking cool. They kick over to the live match and Byron Saxton greets us. Back at the table, photo highlights of The Wyatts vs. The Shield. Alex Riley ponders the split between The Shield. This is a great way for WWE to reinforce stories.
Another jump to the action. Kofi gets the win. Don't bother watching Superstars, folks.
After the match, Jerry Lawler interviews Kofi on a stage positioned near the entrance ramp. I wonder if they'll use this during Raw. Watching all the retro shows, it really makes me wonder why they don't do this more often. Kick to the table for more discussion, then commercial.
Back at the table and they're discussing Alberto Del Rio's loss to Batista. He claimed he wasn't ready and wanted a rematch tonight, which he's gotten.
Behind us, Goldust & Cody Rhodes come out to the ring for a match. On a side note, go to WWE.com and vote for the match of the night at Elimination Chamber. Los Matadores come out to the ring and we get another commercial.
Back at the table, Brock Lesnar is rumored to be in the building. Clips of him destroying The Big Show with chairs at the Royal Rumble.
Backstage, Renee Young interviews Brad Maddox about Brock Lesnar. He starts to speak, but Christian and Sheamus are in the background arguing about last night. Brad Maddox goes over and calms them down, then grants them a match. This felt way more organic than the typical backstage "Oh, I'm just here with a camera" kind of thing. I like it.
They put over Elimination Chamber and talk about Daniel Bryan losing. There's some good debate back and forth between the panel. Reminds me of some of the arguments we get on Sports Center. They talk about John Cena and Wyatt's interference. Michael Cole, JBL, and Jerry Lawler walk out to the ring behind us. Raw is going live soon.
Last question: Who needs the big night the most? Booker T says John Cena. Ric Flair gets a little insider on us all.
WWE Raw kicks off immediately with Hulk Hogan walking out to massive applause. He says "I'm home" as he walks to the ring. The crowd is going pretty crazy. The music dies down and Hogan stares at the Wrestlemania 30 sign. The entire place is on their feet chanting "Hogan! Hogan!" He grabs the mic - "Well let me tell you something, brother!" He says tonight marks the turning point in his career, because he is "officially home." He talks about being part of Wrestlemania 1. He puts over the history being made with the WWE Network. He's proud to say his Hulkamaniacs were a huge part of that. He's proud that the past, present, and future are being immortalized. He can watch Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, and The Rock. He puts over the future of the network, and talks about Wrestlemania 30. He announces that he is the official host for Wrestlemania 30. "Whatcha gonna do when he runs wild on youuuuuu!"
Michael Cole talks about the Network and the cost, what you get, etc. He's showing the app on an iPad. The experience is far different than my PS3. Now they shift over to the laptop experience. Looks like a Chromebook. JBL shows all the pay-per-views he was involved in. Shill shill shill.
Later tonight, Daniel Bryan vs. Kane! Brock Lesnar might be showing up too. Plus, Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio in a rematch.
Pretty fantastic seeing Hulk Hogan in a WWE ring again. He clearly seemed to enjoy it and eat it up. I was surprised it wasn't more outwardly emotional for him. He hasn't lost a step and clearly seemed more excited about those few minutes than anything I ever saw him do in TNA.
Alberto Del Rio comes out to the ring, determined to have a better match with Batista than he did last night. My girlfriend just said it along with Justin Roberts. "Albertooo Dell Riiiiooo." Funny. Batista comes out to a mixed response.
Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio
The fans are chanting "Bootista" immediately. Del Rio is clearly the face, as far as the fans are concerned. I didn't see the match yesterday due to means outside of my control, but so far, this one isn't too bad. Del Rio works over the shoulder and tosses Batista into the steps outside the ring as we go to break.
Back in the ring, Del Rio is still controlling the match. Del Rio continues to work the arm. Finally Batista gets some momentum. He sells the arm the entire time. Suplex off the top. Trading punches, boos for Batista, cheers for Del Rio. Batista hits a slam for a near fall. Del Rio sets Batista up for a superkick, and he misses, but he attacks anyhow. Del Rio misses a charge in the corner. Batista amps up, but Randy Orton's music kicks in and distracts him. Del Rio hits a roll-up victory for the win, and the audience goes nuts.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Orton grabs a mic and insults Batista. He says Del Rio beating him was funny, and how the WWE Universe is acting to his triumphant return. "I don't know if you can sense it, but they don't like you very much." A CM Punk chant breaks out. This has nothing to do with anything.
Batista grabs a mic and tells Orton he couldn't be any more wrong. He says "I love this business." Chorus of boos. He loves they have a voice. If they cheer him, he cheers them back, but if they boo him, he boos them back. It's called honesty, something Orton knows nothing about. He says he's going to Wrestlemania to beat Orton. "Get used to this - you're looking at the next WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Deal with it."
Pretty decent match, for the most part. I thought Batista was going to turn heel just then, but he didn't. He tried to pull a John Cena in his own way. I think they fans would've rather had the heel turn.
Up next: Antonio Cesaro vs. Big E.
Big E "It's Still Langston to me" comes out first. Cesaro, flanked by Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger, is next.
Big E vs. Cesaro
Nice pop for Cesaro. "We the people" chant. Langston got a huge leapfrog over Cesaro. Lawler just called him Langston, so I will continue to as well.
Cesaro unloads onto Big E with a bunch of knees. Huge belly-to-belly suplex by Big E. Let's make that a pair. Spear in the corner. That'll be two as well. Near fall.
JBL makes veiled references to Batista getting blown up. A USA chant breaks out. Are they chanting for Langston or Cesaro? I'm not sure. Cesaro leaps off the top, Big E catches him. A few back-breakers for his trouble.
Cole talks about the "E" in Big E. Cesaro catches Big E in mid air and hits a tilt-a-whirl back breaker. It was sort of clunky, but Cole sells it like it's the greatest thing ever as we go to break.
Back after break, they're trading punches. Big E presses Cesaro. E misses a shoulder in the corner and hits the post. It looked legit. Cesaro hits a double-stomp and a two-count.
The entire premise of this match is "No, I'm stronger." Gutwrench and a two count for Cesaro. Punch vs. European Uppercut here. Cesaro locks in a sleeper-hold. Big E tosses him. Big Splash onto Cesaro and a two-count. Straps are down. He sets Cesaro up for the Big Ending, but Cesaro launches Big E and hits the uppercut for a near fall. Very good match.
Cesaro teases for the Cesaro Swing and the place pops. Big E pushes him out. Cesaro charges at him but gets tosses to the mat. Two-count. Another "We the People" chant. Big E rolls out of the ring, and Jack Swagger goes for a cheap shot, but Big E defends. Back in the ring, Cesaro locks in the Cesaro Swing. 10 swings on this one. Swagger runs into the ring and locks in a patriot lock on Big E. Cesaro stares him down. He's not happy.
Winner: Big E via Disqualification
After the match, Cesaro is pissed. Zeb steps in and tries to talk them down. Big E attacks Swagger from behind, but Cesaro jumps in and hits the Neutralizer. Rough landing there. The Americans depart the ring.
Pretty good match. These guys worked well together, especially considering they're both pretty big men. Looks like Swagger and Cesaro come Wrestlemania. I'm ok with that.
We get a quick photo flashback of our Chamber match from last night. John Cena will be out to address the crowd after the break.
We come back to your standard shots of the arena in Green Bay, WI. John Cena hits the ring. He grabs the mic and puts over Hulk Hogan's return. He says Hogan made sense - they will remember tonight, because today is the day the world changed, thanks to the Network. Cena talks about his statement last week about going through him to make a statement about the future. "The future of this business will run through me."
He says he made himself a big target. He talks about Bray Wyatt. He calls Wyatt out to the ring.
Bray Wyatt's tron kicks in and he comes out to the ring with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Bray sits in his rocking chair. He says this world has an infection, but the virus is the human race. He says it makes sense that Cena would position himself to be in the middle. What would the world be like without their hero. He says Cena promised to save these people. "Everything will be alright just as long as you're around." Wyatt calls Cena a liar.
Wyatt properly introduces himself. "My name is Bray Wyatt, and we are the reapers that bring death to this era of lies." Cena says "as long as they're exchanging pleasantries," his name is John Cena, and if one of them slides under the rope, they're starting something they may not be able to finish. He goads them into the ring. Harper and Rowan flank the apron. Wyatt paces, then steps into the ring. All three attack. Surprisingly, Cena actually takes the beating. Bray pulls back Harper and Rowan. Cena stands up and charges into Bray, but the three attack. They step back again, letting Cena get back to his feet. Cena sells a hurt leg. The Wyatts finally step out of the ring, but Cena hobbles to Rowan and attacks him. Bray jumps back into the ring and takes him out. Bray drops to his knees and shouts "Follow the Buzzards." We go to commercial.
Hot start to an angle that I'm actually looking forward to come Wrestlemania. I was surprised that The Wyatt's got over here. They need to be protected, and if history is any judge, Cena will have to restrain himself.
Back from break, they show highlights of John Cena possibly injuring his knee. Christian comes out to the ring for his match against Sheamus. They recap the events of the pre-show.
Sheamus vs. Christian
Sheamus tosses Christian outside the ring pretty early on. Back and forth, Sheamus is hitting Christian pretty hard. Christian eats the ring post. Sheamus works over Christian with some knees.
Christian hits a nice dropkick from the top rope. Knee to the gut. Christian has the momentum now. He tears off the top turnbuckle cover, which the announcers are too busy jawing to notice. He tries to headbutt Sheamus into the exposed bolt, but Sheamus stops him. He tosses Christian over the top rope with a back body drop, then hits a running shoulder block off the apron as we go to break.
Back from break, Christian is in charge. Christian stretches Sheamus out. Sheamus starts to get some steam. After the first few matches, this one is exhausting. Not sure why. Christian misses a dive through the ropes, and Sheamus hits him with a knee instead. Clubbing blows across the chest.
Sheamus locks in the Cloverleaf. Christian grabs the ropes for the break. He ducks out of the ring and uses Sheamus' pursuit as a means of advantage. Back in the ring, Christian reverses a White Noise attempt. Both men sell exhaustion. They stagger to their feet. Sheamus is up first. Sheamus misses a Brogue kick in the corner, but connects with one seconds later when Christian leaps off of the top rope onto him. Pinfall victory for Sheamus.
After the frantic pacing of the last couple of matches, this felt like a step down. It was a very good match, but went a little too long in my opinion.
More WWE Network plugs. They recap a confrontation between Daniel Bryan and The Authority - stuff that must've appeared on the App. Renee Young approaches Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. She asks them about the Network. Daniel Bryan runs in and interrupts. He's pissed and challenges Triple H to a match at Wrestlemania. They downplay his request and tell him they'll find a place for him on the card. Daniel Bryan is pissed. He'll face Kane later tonight.
Daniel Bryan needed to cut that promo six months ago.
Video package of Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson for Black History Month. Good package.
The Shield argue amongst themselves backstage. Ambrose says he's sick of explaining himself. He walks off. Rollins says he's not sure if he believes him. The Wyatt's approach. Roman Reigns challenges Bray Wyatt to a one-on-one match later tonight, noone at ringside. Interesting...
They kick to Josh Matthews, Booker T, and Ric Flair at the Pre-Show/Post-Show Table. They do what they did during the pre-show, but the audience is mic'd in here. Watching Ric Flair chant "Yes!" is pretty amazing.
Daniel Bryan comes out as we go to break.
Daniel Bryan vs. Kane
Kane wrestles in his suit pants and tank top. Funny. Bryan works over the leg. The commentator focus on Triple H and The Network, instead of the match. Kane starts to get the advantage. He works over Bryan's bandaged arm. Bryan sells it like a champ. Kane continues to work that arm over. Kane has the advantage as we go back to break.
When return, Kane continues working over the arm. Bryan starts to get some momentum and hits a running kick. The fans chant for him. He gets to his feet and lays into Kane with kicks. Kane hits a sidewalk slam and gets a near fall. Bryan hits a top-rope hurricarana. Two-count. Bryan gets a few running attacks in, but Kane cuts him off. Good match.
Daniel Bryan hits a diving attack onto Kane outside the ring. Running kick to Kane outside. Bryan heads up top and hits a jumpkick off the top. Bryan heads up top and dives off, but Kane catches him and hits a choke slam. Near fall, Bryan kicked out at the last second.
Bryan goes for a Yes! Lock, but Kane counters. Bryan counters his counter. Out of nowhere, Bryan hits the running knee on Kane and gets the victory.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Solid match. Kane and Bryan work very well together and there were some very believable near falls. The right guy won here.
After the match, Bryan grabs a mic and challenges Triple H again. He calls Triple H a coward. He says Triple H hid behind his wife's skirt instead of accepting his challenge. "Ever since Triple H put on that suit, he's ignored what you people want." Bryan asks the camera if they're listening. The audience chants Yes with him. He begs Triple H to give them what they want to see: Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania XXX.
I take it back - THAT was the promo we needed six months ago.
Summer Rae in action, up next!
After the break, we get a promo for Alexander Rusev. Simple, backstage promo. Back in the ring, Summer Rae and Fandango dance. Emma comes out with Santino. The bubbles are flying.
Summer Rae vs. Emma
Emma struggles to flip into the ring backwards. Emma starts dancing after the bell. Summer Rae looks like she wants to slap the taste out of her mouth. They get into a shoving match. Emma gets a one-count after a sneaky roll-up. Summer Rae kicks her in the face.
Summer Rae tortures Emma and talks trash. Not sure where this came from, but Emma locks in a finisher called the Emma Lock. Summer Rae taps out.
Winner: Emma via Submission
Clips of Hulk Hogan's return across multiple media outlets online. They recap Hogan's return earlier tonight.
Up next, The New Age Outlaws vs. The Usos!
The New Age Outlaws vs. The Usos
The bell rings, but Road Dogg grabs a mic and says the conclusion is forgone. He asks The Usos to step out of the ring so they can do their intro. The Usos barely let them finish when they jump in and attack. Superkick to Road Dogg, Bill Gunn gets tosses out of the ring, and it's a flying splash off the top for the win.
Winners: The Usos
Clever finish and I'm glad to see them get over on the Outlaws, even if the match was short.
More plugging for the WWE Network.
Roman Reigns comes out to the ring, through the crowd, by himself. Bray Wyatt next. They show clips of John Cena being carted away by ambulance to have his knee evaluated.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
This could be an awesome match. Bray has control early on. Slow pacing to start. There's a Husky Harris chant. Shut the hell up.
Action spills outside as we go to break.
After the break, Wyatt hits a nice suplex. The stupid chants break out. CM Punk. Randy Savage. They collide in mid air. Like two Mack Trucks running head-first. Reigns his a nice flying clothesline. He starts building some steam. Reigns slides out of the ring and hits an impressive jumping kick onto the apron. Two count. Reigns charges up the Superman punch when the lights go out. Rowan and Harper are ringside. Out of nowhere, Seth Rollins slips into the ring and dives over the top rope onto them, taking both out.
Wyatt and Reigns continue. Rollins is getting dissected, but Dean Ambrose comes out of nowhere to make the save (causing the DQ, however). Back in the ring, Reigns nails Wyatt with a Superman Punch. He's got it under control when Ambrose rolls into the ring and attacks Wyatt. The brawl goes crazy and The Shield clears house. They stand tall, in the middle of the ring.
Winner: Bray Wyatt via DQ.
This was a match that looked better on paper and never really got out of first gear. Just when things started picking up, we got interference. Perhaps that was by design?
Backstage, Paul Heyman talks to Brock Lesnar and tells him not to tear anything or anyone up. They walk out to the ring.
After the break, those promises are delivered. Lesnar and Heyman walk out to the ring. There is a cloth-covered table in the middle of the ring. The reason is not yet clear.
Heyman introduces Brock Lesnar as the man that should be headlining Wrestlemania XXX. Heyman says Lesnar is not in a good mood this evening. He says Orton and Batista should get their title match out of the way and the winner should face Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Instead, Triple H and Stephanie have given the choice to Lesnar to choose anyone he wants to face at Mania. Heyman calls it a "consolation prize." "You can have anything that you want, except the thing that you want the most." Heyman runs down all the things Lesnar has conquered, including his wins in UFC. He says the open contract doesn't mean a thing - he wants to make history. He tells Triple H and Stephanie "no thank you."
"You will give Brock Lesnar history to conquer, or speak the name Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania no more."
The Undertaker's bells chime in immediately.
Taker walks out to the ramp.
My Twitter feed is exploding.
Taker walks to the ring and Lesnar stares him down in awe. Not sure if he's wondering what he got himself in to, or if he's salivating at the chance.
The lights come up and Taker enters the ring. He approaches Lesnar and the two stare down. Huge Undertaker chant. Taker looks up at the Wrestlemania sign, then back to Lesnar. Lesnar tells him to "Sign the damn contract."
Lesnar signs, then slaps the pen on Taker's chest. Heyman says "The contract has been signed and if you'd like to sign it, you may have the match at Wrestlemania." Taker pins Lesnar's hand to the paper and signs his hand, then picks him up and chokeslams him through the table. He looks over at the Wrestlemania sign, then raises his hands up, tongue out. I'll take that as a yes.
Lesnar is laid out as our WWE Raw coverage comes to an end.
WWE Backstage Pass
Some footage from in the ring with Taker still walking to the back. We're with the same panel from earlier - Josh Matthews, Booker T, Alex Riley, and Ric Flair. They put over Taker's return, and the way Brock Lesnar reacted.
They kick over to Renee Young who is waiting for Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman to come backstage. Back to the desk. Back to the ring - Lesnar is still laid out. I think the pen is stuck in his hand still, or at least they're selling it that way. They put over how serious this is that Lesnar is the one laid out. Turn of events for sure.
Byron Saxton is also backstage. I'm liking the news-like feel here. Saxton asks Dolph Ziggler and Xavier Woods what they thought of what just happened. Woods calls Taker crazy.
Lesnar is walking back on his own two feet. More commentary, plus an update on John Cena up next.
Recap of Cena getting attacked by the Wyatt's earlier, showing the potential injury Cena suffered during the attack. They show footage of him being stretchered out. They kick over to Tom Philips, who talks to Medical Staff about his injury. Ric Flair puts Wyatt over. They kick over to a Hulk Hogan interview from earlier. He says it's cool to be "home" where he belongs. Quick promo, typical Hogan.
There's an exclusive interview w/ Kane coming up. Actually, it just happened. He doesn't have a reaction. Hmm.
Renee Young has Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman backstage. She wants a quick word. They keep walking. No interview for you.