With the past few weeks of WWE television being lack-luster and not giving Wrestlemania a proper build, tonight’s Raw needed to knock it out of the park to really show why this year’s Wrestlemania is the biggest of all time. Fortunately, the WWE was able to accomplish this task and made sure to address every rivalry going into the event this Sunday, from the undercard all the way up to the main event for the WWE Championship. From beginning to end the show was totally focused on Wrestlemania, and made sure to sell it in a way it has not been able to as of late.
John Cena’s promo to kick off the show did not help him to make much of a connection with the audience, even making them go so far as to chant “boring” in the middle of it. While many would see this as another failed promo by Cena, it actually helped show how he is struggling to get over going into his main event match with The Rock, but has the will to overcome and beat him. The Rock responded to Cena later on in the night in typical Rock fashion, speaking of how he wants to be President Rock and how he will take the flaming title belt and stick it somewhere unpleasant on John Cena. It was his remarks at the end that truly stood out, stating that he will not be “passing the torch”, making it seem for the first time that he could actually beat Cena in their match. A new intensity has been added to this already high stakes main event that could be even better than their encounter last year.
Tonight also saw the return of Mr. Wrestlemania, Shawn Michaels. He came to bring attention to the fact that when he was retired at Wrestlemania, he faced a man he respected and he knew respected him. With Brock Lesnar as Triple H’s opponent, however, Michaels knows that neither man respects the other and it is nothing like what we have seen in recent career threatening matches at Wrestlemania. He followed this up by announcing that he will be in his best friend’s corner on Sunday to support him. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman soon came out to taunt their adversaries from the top of the ramp. They continued to involve Stephanie in their promos, making it seem more and more likely that she will show up Sunday night in some capacity to support her husband. There was no physicality in this segment which worked perfectly, as they needed to solidify the personal war that this match has become.
The show closed with The Undertaker coming out to address his Wrestlemania opponent, C.M. Punk. He made it clear that he understands The Streak could come to an end on Sunday, especially with the current state of mind he is in, but he will not let Punk live to celebrate it. He is soon cut off by the chanting of druids, who begin to file out lead by torches. After a while of chanting, Paul Bearer’s famous cry of “Ooooooh yeeessssss” is heard and out Paul Heyman comes out dressed as The Undertaker’s late manager. As ‘Taker goes up the ramp to go after the imposter, he begins to attack the druids until Punk jumps him from behind and beats him down with the urn. After getting him down to the ground, Punk pours out some of the ashes from the urn and throws them into Undertaker’s face and puts them on his own face to close the show. This is the farthest the WWE has pushed this storyline and it completely paid off. With the knowledge of William Moody’s sons giving their blessing to have their father used in the build, it helps to take away the offensiveness of the story yet still keep the shock that they would still have it go that far. This match now has all the official makings to be the show stealer. Both men have been saving their bodies for the past month (and longer in The Undertaker’s case), so they will be able to give it everything that they have to show a great story come to a head on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
While the show had a rough start with John Cena’s promo not connecting with the audience, by the end everyone was hooked and ready for this Sunday. The Rock helped to restore some intrigue to his match against Cena by showing that he is not ready to just back down. Brock Lesnar and Triple H’s fight took a new twist with the addition of Shawn Michaels in Hunter’s corner to help even the odds against the scheming of Paul Heyman. By pushing the envelope farther than many people thought possible, C.M. Punk and The Undertaker seem ready to put on the best match of the night and leave us all wondering if The Streak truly is safe. As someone who is attending Wrestlemania, I was already very excited to attend the event, but tonight’s Raw really helped drive home that this truly will be the biggest Wrestlemania of all time.