There was no Sting. No CM Punk. But that didn’t matter because there was a talented roster of WWE superstars who contributed to a newsworthy and exciting Monday Night Raw on April 7, the night after WrestleMania XXX.
The Smoothie King Center came alive in New Orleans when Daniel Bryan kicked off the show, which aired live on the USA Network.
The leader of the “Yes Movement” celebrated his WWE world championship victory that happened across the way at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, April 6 in the main event of WrestleMania XXX. It was as loud a reaction as anyone has ever received at any sports entertainment event.
An irate Triple H, who is also WWE’s COO, made a title match for himself against the new champ as the featured attraction. “The Game” vowed to take away the gold from Bryan, using Batista, Randy Orton, Kane and The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins) to do it. However, it was The Shield who evened the sides. Old school versus New school. The lines were drawn and the emerging newer talent stood united to the sounds of an energetic crowd.
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With fans from more than 30 countries in town for WrestleMania Weekend, it creates a unique and festive atmosphere.
Raw following the company’s biggest show of the year always draws the loudest audience. This time around was no exception. They loved Bryan, but also showed their support for Bad News Barrett and the Wyatt Family. Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan entered the rampway with fans clapping to their music. It was very much like being at a rock show.
John Cena was not so lucky, with the crowd singing “Cena sucks” during his theme music the same way they did with Kurt Angle’s entrance. The packed house even sang a line from Bray’s favorite song in unison. “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” It was a sight to see and hear.
Cesaro also received a hero’s welcome when he accepted the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy from WrestleMania XXX host Hulk Hogan. This led to a shocking revelation that he had become a Paul Heyman Guy. His former manager Zeb Colter had Jack Swagger represent him to seek revenge for the turn. Swagger then proceeded to break the trophy, which led to a “Thank You Sweeper” chant for the clean-up crew.
Heyman billed Cesaro as the “King of Swing,” which the arena immediately gravitated toward. During the Cesaro/Swagger match, Heyman held the Andre the Giant statue which was the only piece remaining from the smashed hardware.
The master of the “Cesaro Swing” has gained the respect and adulation of the WWE Universe. If you need proof, look no further than the streets of New Orleans after Raw where people were humming his music. Interestingly enough, the controversial Heyman has one of the most hated men in his camp in Brock Lesnar and now one of the most popular.
Lesnar wore a T-shirt: Eat-Sleep-Break The Streak. Heyman delivered one of his patented promos to profess Lesnar’s latest big victory, stopping the Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. The crowd did not like it. The Undertaker was not on the show because of a reported concussion and neck issue, stemming from the battle. It was also reported that Undertaker was taken to a nearby hospital after the match. Heyman even mentioned it during the promo.
Familiar names also made huge returns. Rob Van Dam was victorious against Damien Sandow. The Ultimate Warrior, a new WWE Hall of Fame inductee, appeared on Raw for the first time since 1996. He addressed the fans, but not before putting on his signature jacket and a mask to symbolize his iconic face paint. He even shook the ropes, and with that many reverted to their childhood.
This edition of Raw will be remembered as the night NXT made an impact. The WWE developmental program saw representation by its inaugural women’s champion Paige, who in her WWE Raw debut pulled off the upset over WWE Diva’s champ AJ Lee for the belt. Lee was the longest reigning Diva’s champion of all time at 295 days. The segment drew the most interest for the division in years, maybe since Lita and Trish Stratus. This showed people will care about women’s wrestling if WWE gives fans a reason to care.
Alexander Rusev with Lana made his much anticipated Raw wrestling debut, squashing Zack Ryder. Video teasers also aired for NXT talents Bo Dallas and Adam Rose. The tradition of WWE introducing new characters on television after WrestleMania continues. The landscape has changed over the last few months, and this Raw exemplified that. New faces have been given the ball.
There was even a “3MB” chant during the main event.
It’s an exciting time to be a fan.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.