The most recent episodes of Monday Night Raw have not been bad, they simply haven't had the feel of the build to WrestleMania.
Not only did Monday's show still lack to feel of WrestleMania season, it wasn't all that good of a show either, creating a double whammy for the WWE.
Sure, some good things happened and one tremendous thing happened. But overall Monday's show was a microcosm of a lot that's wrong with this year's road to WrestleMania: It seems disjointed and poorly planned and thought out.
Before I dive deep into this show, let's run through the full match observations from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh:
- Daniel Bryan def. Bad News Barrett
- Dean Ambrose def. Stardust
- Ryback & Erick Rowan def. Big Show & Kane
- AJ Lee def. Summer Rae
- Rusev def. Curtis Axel
- The New Day def. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro
- Naomi def. Natalya
- Los Matadores def. The Usos
- Roman Reigns def. Seth & Randy Orton
With that out of the way, let's get into my highlights and observations from this week's episode:
Randy Orton-Seth Rollins payoff given away
As with every episode of Raw, multiple stories are furthered, but the featured story was the ongoing confusing one between Randy Orton and Seth Rollins.
Orton and The Authority began the show with a bunch of humor, but during the course of the humor Orton flat-out told Rollins what he had up his sleeve before saying that he was merely joking. Rollins naively believed him.
Rollins' naïveté came back to bite him at the end of the show when Orton finally turned on him, gave him two middle fingers (which the WWE conveniently did not shoot) and commenced to unleashing hell on Rollins.
Here are the positives of all of this: Orton finally stops playing the useless mind game and finally focuses on gaining revenge on Rollins for curb stomping him many months ago. The fact that Orton re-joined The Authority only to turn on Rollins again never made any sense to me. It was too much storytelling.
That's about where the positives end. However, there are more negatives.
Firstly, why on earth would Rollins be so gullible to believe that Orton was legitimately his friend? Wasn't Rollins the architect of The Shield? Isn't he supposed to be the smart one in The Authority? Why would a guy supposedly as intelligent as Rollins is fall for something so obvious?
I don't see how making your heels look so dumb helps them.
Another problem I had was why the WWE had Orton beat the daylights out of Rollins before WrestleMania. I thought the whole point of the story was for Orton to get his hands on him. That's what you're trying to build to. Why not save that for the match?
I just saw Orton destroy Rollins for 15 minutes Monday night. Why would I care to potentially see it again in three weeks? It defies logic to think that would be the right thing to do.
An easy story to tell would have been for Orton to hunt down Rollins, but never quite getting his hands on him. Orton coming up empty-handed would only build up anticipation for the match, where Orton can finally destroy Rollins.
Instead, Rollins was just physically dominated.
Paul Heyman blurs the lines
Boy, I don't know whether Paul Heyman was legitimately "shooting" during his epic promo Monday night, but it's the closest thing we've seen to a straight up shoot promo on Raw since CM Punk cut his famous pipe bomb back in 2011.
Heyman mentioned many real-life things that made it feel like a shoot, including the WWE potentially having Roman Reigns beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship just so it could potentially have Seth Rollins cash in on Reigns instead of Lesnar.
Heyman mentioned the infamous Montreal Screwjob, and said that if anyone wants to revisit that at WrestleMania, they would not leave Santa Clara, Calif. alive, courtesy of Lesnar. He all but dared anyone from the WWE to do anything about the fact that Lesnar will not only win at WrestleMania, but that he will take the title with him to whatever he does next, maybe even holding the WWE and UFC heavyweight titles at the same time.
Despite all of the very things Heyman brought up, he danced back into kayfabe a bit by mentioning that Reigns wasn't going to beat him at WrestleMania, which we all know is not up to Lesnar or Reigns. That's up to WWE Chief Operating Officer Vince McMahon.
Whether any of the real stuff Heyman talked was remotely true doesn't matter to me. It was all brilliantly orated by Heyman, who has single-handedly carried the feud, or lack thereof, between Lesnar and Reigns. Reigns didn't even come out to interrupt Lesnar, which I think was a mistake.
Despite all of his wizardry on the microphone, I'm not sure if Heyman could get the fans to get more behind Reigns. That sense of apathy I've mentioned here before still exists, and it's especially evident during this program.
The Undertaker finally accepts Bray Wyatt's challenge
After weeks and weeks of vague promos and symbolism, The Undertaker has finally accepted the challenge of Bray Wyatt.
No, The Undertaker didn't show to confront Wyatt personally. Instead, he took the Sting route and delivered his message via the titantron. He also set Wyatt's rocking chair on fire.
The segment was good for what it was. I just wish that the WWE could have thought of something more creative than to have The Undertaker speak through the big screen. Sting just did the same thing about a month ago and had a video package of his Monday night.
Sting finally speaks
It wasn't quite what I expected from Sting's verbal debut on WWE television, but it was still effective.
Sting is becoming more and more proficient with that video editing software Vince McMahon brought him for Christmas and put together another video, but this time he actually spoke.
Why the production of the video was good, I didn't understand why Sting's voice was altered. It sounded kind of silly.
John Cena knocks out Rusev, gets his WrestleMania match
Although John Cena may have acted like a heel in order to get it, he got what he wanted, and that was another chance to face Rusev for the United States Championship at WrestleMania.
Some may question whether Cena should have done what he did in storyline, but putting Rusev to sleep, waking him up and putting him back to sleep was kind of funny to me.
Hey, at least he finally cinched the STF. We all know Steve Austin has been riding him about that for seemingly forever. Let's hope he keeps it up moving forward.
Intercontinental title scene a complete joke
What an absolute joke it is. People have been stealing the title for weeks and now R-Truth came prepared to steal it with his very own burlap sack. He also brought an extra so that he could swindle Bad News Barrett into thinking that he gave him his title back.
Despite all of this madness, there are two crazy things that could easily come of this at WrestleMania. The first is that Barrett might win the match, which is crazy to think about given the face that he's lost almost every match since he became champion again.
But that's the WWE's booking logic sometimes — have a guy lose a ton of matches but then have him win on pay-per-view.
Another crazy is that this may turn out to be the best match on the show. There are a lot of good pieces to this puzzle, but none of them seems to be fitting well together. However, the match itself could steal the show come March 29, just like the Money in the Bank ladder matches used to once upon a time.
Tag team scene is a mess
There has to be a better way to determine top contenders to championship titles than having the champions lose on a weekly basis. It just doesn't make any sense to me.
It's happening with Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett and now it's happening to Tyson Kidd and Cesaro.
Besides them losing again, where in the world did Los Matadores come from and why are they getting a tag team title shot? They go months without being scene on WWE television and when they do appear, they don't win and they're not entertaining.