Monday Night Raw the night following WrestleMania was just amazing. The general consensus seems to be that there is no way that WWE is topping this show at any time in the upcoming year. So, let's take a look at what made it so awesome.
First of all, John Laurinaitis is now the General Manager of both Raw and Smackdown. He began the show Monday night by holding a meeting with the entire roster and promising to give people the entertaining show that they want. Like having two championship matches in one night!
1. Santino Marella v. Dolph Ziggler v. Jack Swagger (United States Championship): 3 out of 5. There's a 3 here, because this match was pretty predictable from the moment it was announced. Mehe mused at which one of Vickie's clients would take the title, and then I correctly predicted, "Santino's not dropping the belt. Eventually Dolph and Swagger are going to start fighting over who gets to pin him." I was right, which didn't make it THAT much less entertaining, but it certainly took some wind out of my sails knowing that it was going to go down that way. The best thing that happened however, was after the match, when Brodus Clay showed up to headbutt Dolph Ziggler out of mid-air, saving Santino's butt.
2. Lord Tensai v. Alex Riley: 2 out of 5. A squash is a squash, although there were two awesome things going on here. First, that Albert (or A-Train, or whatever you want to call him) returned with this vicious gimmick of having earned his wrestling stripes in Japan. Second, that Alex Riley got utterly crushed. The best part of Albert's return as Lord Tensai was that he was openly acknowledged to have been in the company before. Nobody came out and said, "Prince Albert", but it was nice to see that nod from the commentators.
3. Mark Henry v. CM Punk (WWE Championship): 4 out of 5. This could have been a potentially horrifying match in one of two ways. One, Punk could have dominated Mark Henry, leaving the poor guy buried. Or it could have gone the other way, with Henry making quick work of Punk in a squash match. I like it when my matches that involve one of the big guys are believable, and that's what this was. The 'E still found a way to keep the title on Punk (Henry won by count-out, and thus did not take the title) while keeping the World's Strongest Man looking strong. After the match, Jericho poured whiskey onto Punk's face, smashed another bottle over his head, and slipped in the resulting puddle on the floor. Meanwhile, some guy I'm told is from the old ECW days offered to represent Mark Henry as his manager, and I like where that is going.
4. Miz v. Zack Ryder: 2 out of 5. This match was just a post-mania grudge between the guy who got pinned and the guy who did the pinning for Team Johnny. Nothing really special here to make it stand out.
5. Kofi Kingston v. Cody Rhodes: 1 out of 5. Even worse, Cody Rhodes only got a match on the show as an opportunity for the new Intercontinental Champion Big Show to come out and gloat so as to distract Cody, giving Kofi the win.
The big mid-show promo saw the return of Alberto Del Rio (and his personal ring announcer, Mehe's favorite, Ricardo Rodriguez), who interrupted newly-crowned World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus to tell him that they have a match on Friday. Good Ol' Johnny Ace set this match up as an opportunity for Del Rio to win an upcoming title shot. Backstage, Daniel Bryan was not amused, and had nothing to say. AJ, for her part, looked PETRIFIED.
The show began and ended with the combatants reactions to the Rock/Cena match. Rock was the first thing we saw after Mr. Ace on Monday. He gave his respect to John Cena for a hard-fought battle, and then... well, apparently he's decided to become WWE Champion again. Um. What?
Conversely, the end of the show saw Cena come out and admit defeat to the Rock. He had his serious voice on, and didn't laugh it off like many of us were worried he might do. He still managed to piss the fans off when he encouraged an already-going "YES!" chant from the crowd and then thought Daniel Bryan owed him something. The crowd in Miami on Monday night, by the way, was FANTASTIC. These were people who know what a wrestling crowd is supposed to sound like. Something we don't hear very often any more. The arena was filled to the brim with the smartest of marks, and in the middle of John Cena's speech, they were already chanting, "WE WANT LESNAR!" John Cena tried to play it off, but it was a lot harder to do when, after he invited the Rock to the ring in order to pay him respect, Brock Lesnar showed up instead.
Arrive. F-5. Leave.
I'll tell you what I want from this rivalry. I want Lesnar to refuse to call John Cena by name, and instead refer to him only as "Boy Scout." I want this to frustrate John Cena. I want these two to have a series of heated battles that leads them to a steel cage match at SummerSlam, and I want Lesnar to beat Cena clean in that match. This is where John Cena begins his slow-burn heel turn. He's been beaten by the Rock, and now he's been defeated by Lesnar. Maybe he's not as good as all that. Maybe, just maybe, he does, in fact, suck. I want Cena to start using underhanded methods, little shortcuts at first, turning eventually into desperation chair shots while the ref is down. Preferably, at some point, Cena starts referring to Brock Lesnar as "friend" and you're not quite sure how to take it. Then one day, it's all too clear: John Cena has turned into Bizarro Cena.
Okay, so maybe it's a bit geeky.