The following are my thoughts from last night’s episode of Monday Night Raw at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
–The crowd was electric all night long. This was the perfect crowd to play in front of with two weeks left until WrestleMania. The quality of the matches and interviews on this show were great to begin with, but the crowd took everything to another level, specifically in the Fatal 4 Way match, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. Real Americans and John Cena vs. Luke Harper. I think that the crowd clapped along with the music for Bray Wyatt’s entire entrance. Brooklyn was just a notch below Chicago as the most vocal WWE crowd of 2014
–I liked that Daniel Bryan wasn’t on the show, still selling his injuries from last week in that fantastic angle with Triple H. Far too often, a wrestler gets a severe beating only to return the following week as if nothing happened.
–The opening segment involving Stephanie McMahon, Randy Orton and Batista was well done. Stephanie’s slap to Batista was a nice twist.
–The Fatal 4 Way for a shot at Big E. Langston’s Intercontinental Championship was phenomenal. Christian, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler had tremendous chemistry. I felt it was a PPV quality performance from all involved. The crowd was solidly behind Ziggler with Christian as a close second. There was even a big pop when Christian pinned Ziggler for the win. Spectacular match that you should go out your way to watch if you missed it.
–The Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Manganiello segment was way better than I anticipated. Unlike most celebrities associated with WWE, Arnold is a genuine wrestling fan. He and Hogan have been tight for years and he also inducted Bruno Sammartino into the Hall of Fame last year. Arnold looked like he was having a blast and the crowd was very respectful of him. Joe seemed to enjoy himself too. Miz came out to ruin the fun and did an excellent job of antagonizing the good guys. The ending of him being knocked out by both, then getting tossed out by Hogan was simple and effective booking.
–John Cena vs. Luke Harper was great. Harper is the best big man in the business. He can pull off spots that he shouldn’t be able to complete, which makes his overall body of work all the more impressive. The NY crowd loved everything Harper did and despised Cena. However, there were eventually some dueling chants. The finish was very creative. Just when it appeared Cena had the match won the lights went out. When they came back on we saw Cena tied to the ropes at the mercy of the Wyatts. He also had on Erick Rowan’s sheep mask. There were loud “this is awesome” chants.
–I loved the video they aired for Scott Hall’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. It was all footage from his early- mid 90s stint as Razor Ramon. While some fans were upset that they didn’t show any of his WCW footage from the NWO days (where he was a major player for a few years), I didn’t have too much of a problem with it. After all, he experienced his greatest singles success as Razor Ramon and his stint in WCW is really when his vices began taking over. Then again, he made his biggest contributions to the business as a member of the NWO. This was a very well put together package and the comments from Hulk Hogan and Paul Heyman really made it click.
On a personal note, I am extremely proud of Hall’s induction. Along with Jake Roberts, also being inducted this year, he has to go down as one of the most unlikely performers to ever be inducted. It’s no secret that he and Roberts have battled substance abuse problems for most of the last 15 years. There were even times when both really should’ve died as result of all the chaos they put their bodies through. Yet, here we are in 2014 and both have turned their lives around in a manner I never thought possible. Diamond Dallas Page deserves all the praise in the world for being the guiding light that motivated their recent turnaround. Now both are able to take their rightful spot in WWE history.
–Triple H’s sit-down interview with Michael Cole was good. In reality, this segment was a live extension of the interviews Cole conducts with him every Wednesday on WWE.com. Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan is the hottest feud in wrestling and Triple H is the best heel in the business.
–AJ and Naomi went to a count out. Then in one of the more perversely entertaining segments I’ve seen on Raw in quite some time, Vickie Guerrero came out to inform AJ that she will be defending her Divas Championship in the Vickie Guerrero Diva’s Invitational at WrestleMania. Vickie proceeded to bring out every woman currently on the main roster, including Layla, Eva Marie and Rosa Mendez. Honestly, it got comical by the time Rosa came out. The final name she announced was AJ’s best friend and bodyguard Tamina. AJ did a great job of acting freaked out by all of this.
Deep down, I was hoping Vickie would bring out Paige.
–Dean Ambrose vs. Real Americans was super. The crowd was very much into the Real Americans with multiple “we the people” chants. However, Ambrose and Rollins were so great that the fans eventually got behind them as well. Rollins has one of the best babyface comebacks in wrestling today and reminds me of a more out of control version of Daniel Bryan. There was a rare “holy ****” chant as Rollins cleaned house. When you hear that kind of response at any WWE event, you know the wrestlers must’ve done something awesome. The aftermath was wild as all three members of the Shield powerbombed Cesaro through the announce table. Afterwards, Kane came out with the New Age Outlaws, all dressed in suits, and announced that they will be facing the Shield at WrestleMania.
–The main event segment served its purpose. I wouldn’t call it great because I’ve been a little disappointed with the Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker build. It will probably be an epic match and will probably be the hottest thing at WrestleMania aside from anything involving Daniel Bryan. The best part of all this was Brock’s short, but sweet promo. He basically challenged Undertaker to come out and face him like a man. Guess what happened? Undertaker played more mind games. Even though this segment was predictable, it was nice to see Undertaker land a few blows onto Brock. Next week should be the time for Lesnar to get some much needed retaliation.