So last week was WrestleMania, I guess. A bit of a lackluster showcase of the immortals as there were really only a few worthwhile moments mixed in with a lot of predictability. The Intercontinental ladder match was excellent, however, with everything you’d want in a ladder match. Jack Ryder winning the title would have been the most shocking victory of the night, that is, until Baron Corbin not only entered the Andre the Giant battle royal, but won the whole damn thing. The Women’s Championship match (Note: Good GOD, I’m so happy I can say that now. The Divas title design can go back to the 2002 tattoo parlor it slithered out of) was arguably the best match of the night. This may mark the first time a women’s match legitimately stole the show at WrestleMania. The Shane/Undertaker match didn’t disappoint, as Shane joined Mick Foley’s very, very exclusive club as he plummeted off of the Hell in a Cell with an elbow drop through the announce table. Oh, and The New Day entered through a giant cereal box dressed as saiyan soldiers from Dragonball Z and I lost my 12-year old mind.
So, those were really the only memorable moments from WrestleMania. Aside from a pleasant appearance by Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and an in-shape Shawn Michaels, there wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about. Styles/Jericho was just fine. Lesnar/Ambrose was no more hardcore than any Raven match on Sunday Night Heat. The Rock walked out with a flamethrower and symbolically burned up his good name, then proceeded to make the Wyatt Family look expendable for no reason. Roman Reigns would later win the WWE Heavyweight title in a main event that no one was ever all that invested in.
All in all, it was a poor WrestleMania. Even though I wasn’t expecting much due to all of the injuries, it seemed like they misused even the resources that were available.
So, let’s put it behind us. It’s in the books. Which brings us up to the Monday Night Raw which followed WrestleMania; one that turned out to be a wonderfully smarktastic spectacular. I hate to sound like a run of the mill wrestling geek, but WrestleMania shouldn’t just be geared toward the mainstream audience. The type of people who enjoy that entire weekend are the die hard fans who want to see a show similar to last Monday. That being said, I appreciate the acknowledgment on the part of WWE to give the fans what they want. And I don’t even consider it too little, too late. No, I’m not so cynical. It would seem that the Raw after Mania is the Mania for the smart mark, and if that’s the way it has to be, I’ll happily eat the leftovers.
The introduction to Raw was a little odd. Despite having lost his match to the Undertaker, Shane McMahon was given control of Raw. Vince tends not to care about the repercussions of match stipulations anyway, so why not work it into the storyline? So Vince handed the keys to the car to his son, Shane, a representative of the people and proponent of what wrestling could be. And with that opportunity, Shane brought NXT and some familiar crowd favorites to Raw.
Members of the WWE Universe who were previously unfamiliar with the NXT product were introduced to the likes of Apollo Crews’ impressive combination of strength and agility. Baron Corbin made his Raw debut in a solid bout with Dolph Ziggler. And a popular NXT tag team who had appeared on WWE Roadblock, Enzo and Cass, finally debuted on Raw. I think it may be fair to say that they might be the next big team in WWE, considering there isn’t a superstar on the current roster (excluding Heyman) who is as engaging and entertaining as Enzo Amore is on the mic. With Colin Cassidy, a charismatic big man, they have a cartoonish in-ring style, whipping Enzo around the arena and using his friend as a weapon. Very Unique. Very riveting. And their Raw promo counter to The Dudley Boyz left a remarkable first impression.
There were a couple of exciting returns as well. Former Divas champion and current Miz-wife, Maryse, made her return to WWE, helping The Miz in defeating Zack Ryder for his Intercontinental title. A one day title reign is never a good sign, but don’t worry; Ryder has that coveted underdog appeal and will get his revenge. I’m excited for Maryse’s return and I don’t care if anybody else is or isn’t.
In the fatal four way main event of the evening, there was a open spot for the number one contender match. They could’ve gone with a big name star, like Cena (if healthy enough). But the decision appealed to the smark in all of us, and the return of Swiss superman, Cesaro, was upon us. This main event was a wrestling clinic, and AJ Styles’ victory won him a title match. This is an interesting development…
While this could just be a match for Roman Reigns to go over on someone as champion, the fact that AJ Styles is a face could prove to be a catalyst for Roman to finally turn heel. Reigns teased it a little on Monday, as he came out, shrouded in boos, saying, “I’m not a bad guy. I’m not a good guy. I’m THE guy.”
Not bad… It’s a step in the right direction at least. I really wouldn’t mind Roman in a grey area role where he’s not being shoved down our throats as a face. Pushing a newcomer (to the WWE) like AJ Styles, even with all of his experience, is a surprise as well. It speaks to WWE’s ever growing climate of amnesty toward world talent. The fatal four way match featured Chris Jericho, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro; four guys who cut their teeth around the world and in the indies.
It may not be cause to sound the revolution bells (is that an actual expression?) just yet, but that seems to be the tone that the Shane McMahon regime is trying to set. It’s incredible how stark the difference in atmosphere that Shane’s RAW had compared to WrestleMania. The only real remnant of a totalitarian WWE was the condescending and downright insulting commentary of JBL, saying, “This is the Raw after WrestleMania! These fans will boo who they normally cheer and cheer who they normally boo,” which was a pathetic attempt to cover up the unpopularity of Roman Reigns. Has that same audience been at every WWE show for the past six months?
I don’t know why they insist on making excuses at this point. It reads as desperate when they clearly have a grasp on what the fans actually want. The mainstream audience aren’t so far removed from the average wrestling geek. We all have eyes and ears and are able to recognize shapes and patterns, as well as tell the difference between what’s good television and bad television.
The mainstream fans as well as the smarks pray that they’ll allow this very pleasing Shane McMahon run to continue. Hopefully, WrestleMania was just a way for them to burn down all of the dead trees and dead storylines so they can start anew with fresh talent for the spring. As much as I would love to see this influx of new talent take over and turn Raw into a lush, green landscape, the inevitable Winter is coming. But it’s not like us fans have much of a choice. We will watch and hope that their efforts are in the audience’s best interest. Because WWE isn’t bad wresting. WWE isn’t good wrestling. WWE is THE wrestling.