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ThunderStruck: WWE Raw Analysis 02/25/13

Vince McMahon opens Raw. Paul Heyman interrupts him. Heyman says he won’t lose to Vince if they fight tonight. Heyman knocks Vince down and hits him with his own crutch. Vince catches the crutch and hits Heyman with it, and then Lesnar’s music hits. Lesnar is about to go after McMahon when Triple H’s music hits. Lesnar and Triple H brawl. Hunter gets the upper hand and clotheslines Brock into the crowd. Lesnar gets the upper hand and slams Hunter onto the announce table(botched messy F5). Lesnar tosses Hunter in the ring and grabs a chair. Hunter delivers a spinebuster to Lesnar and bashes him with the chair to the outside. They stare each other down to end the segment.

^For a match that I really don’t care about seeing again(Brock/HHH at Mania), this segment was a hot start to Raw! I think Hunter’s lack of hair makes him look a lot older, but he can still go based on the brawling we saw in this segment. I’m going to remain optimistic that WWE will grant us more of a wrestling based brawl than the UFC style garbage(I’m not bashing UFC at all; I’m saying that pro-fake-wrestling is NOT UFC!!!) we were treated to at Summerslam. I loved the segment, but not as much as I love watching a fired up face Vince McMahon get into the action!

Dolph Ziggler goes one on one with Ryback. Ryback defeats Ziggler in about twelve minutes despite attempted interference from Big E and a distraction by AJ Lee.

^Ryback is clearly not the greatest wrestler, but the pace set here by both men made for a nice story. I could definitely see these two having multiple matches on pay per views while feuding over a World Championship. Ziggler will have his time in the sun, but right now Vinny Mac’s second-favorite face is going to be booked strong. I’m okay with it.

CM Punk comes out to cut a promo. He says tonight is about more than WrestleMania, John Cena, and the Rock. He says tonight is about him. Punk says he is the greatest of all time and refers to himself as God.

^Punk talking like this(and Mike Lightning much like the rest of the world will probably agree) makes for a perfect setup for Punk to face the Undertaker at WrestleMania. The setup feels a bit predictable because of all the rumors and whatnot, but does it really matter? We’re probably going to be treated to a Match of the Year contender at Mania, so why bitch about it?

Donald Trump is revealed as the next inductee in the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

^Trump never intrigued me much, but he’s definitely been an involved celebrity in the long history of WWF/E(more than Drew Carey and his one Royal Rumble appearance, anyway).

Mark Henry goes one on one with the Great Khali. Henry wins the match with the world’s strongest slam.

^So Khali won’t be a WrestleMania feud for Henry after all. That’s a huge relief. I’m expecting Henry to have a strong face as his opponent, and I wouldn’t complain if it were Ryback, Jericho, Sheamus, or even Randy Orton again. The only thing I would object to is Big Show turning face AGAIN to face Henry AGAIN. Please be original, WWE! Nothing but a squash here, but that’s about anybody can get out of Khali these days(unless your name is Antonio Cesaro).

The Miz comes out in a suit, and we go to a commercial. The Miz has Jack Swagger, Zeb Coulter, Alberto Del Rio, and Ricardo Rodriguez in the ring for a MizTV segment. Zeb and Del Rio exchange words regarding living in Mexico and how long it takes to gain citizenship there. The segment ends with Jack Swagger and his “we the people” line.

^Everyone involved in this segment is great on the mic, and this gimmick situation makes for a very compelling World Title picture. Are you telling me everyone would be as intrigued if this feud didn’t involve the World Heavyweight Title? No way. Good stuff here; I like what WWE is doing both for Del Rio and Swagger(who apparently won’t be in any trouble right now for his recent media publicity).

It’s shown on “Raw Active” that Swagger attacked the Miz during the commercial.

^More heat for the new top heel! Smart booking can be so simple sometimes and oh so effective.

Antonio Cesaro goes one on one with Randy Orton. Orton wins with an RKO when Cesaro jumps into it from the top rope.

^Not that I’m a huge fan of your dominant US Champion being booked to lose, but I like Orton being made to look strong here. I’m not sure what direction Orton is taking for Mania(and yes, Mania is what I’m focused on and the booking for it is why I watch for “clues” to how it will be set up). Good match from two of WWE’s top performers.

Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox inform Kane and Dbry that one will be blindfolded and the other will have a hand tied behind his back during their match tonight against the Prime Time Players.

^You can already see the issues coming about between Vickie and Brad. The Kane/Dbry stipulation sounds cool. Apparently the Darren Young injury rumors were just that…rumors.

Sheamus comes out in a suit to talk about the Oscars. He talks about Wade Barrett and his minor role in Dead Man Down, and out comes Wade Barrett. Sheamus and Barrett go to attack one another but Sheamus ducks a clothesline and Barrett avoids a big boot.

^So, is Sheamus feuding with the Shield or is he feuding with Barrett? Or are both things taking place separately? The Mania card looks rather puzzling to me when it comes to this stuff, but you would think Barrett’s official WrestleMania feud would have to be in the works soon if they want the Championship to seem important.

Damien Sandow is on commentary when R-Truth defeats Cody Rhodes using the little jimmy finisher. Sandow jumps in the ring after the match and Truth gets the best of him.

^Looks like Rhodes Scholars and Kofi/Truth(Kofi wasn’t out here this week, but he’s involved) are going to have themselves a feud. This match was actually fun despite how short it was. The little jimmy finisher surprised me with how quickly it came from out of nowhere. Good segment to fuel the rivalry, but Cody losing so often still bothers me a bit.

Kane and Dbry defeat the Prime Time Players when Kane chokeslams Darren Young.

^I haven’t been as interested in Team Hell No as of late, and I blame WWE writers for that. For a while, they were becoming a pretty important part of the show. Now they just get a quick segment backstage and a quick match. Where did all the fun go? I could see a quality WrestleMania match being delivered by them, but I could also be just as excited for them to stay teaming up and take part in a four way tag team match for the titles.

The Shield comes out and cuts a promo. Sheamus comes out and challenges them to come up to the ramp. Rollins stays in the ring and gets an RKO from Randy Orton(who comes from out of nowhere).

^I’d like to see these guys involved in a major WrestleMania feud, especially Ambrose and Rollins. I wonder if WWE would be smart enough to book them in a triple threat match with themselves that had some sort of incentive? It could easily steal the show with that amount of talent. Orton getting the best of the group with Sheamus is interesting to me, and it makes me wonder if we’ll see another six man tag involving either Jericho or Ryback in the near future.

Jack Swagger defeats the Miz using the patriot act.

^This one wasn’t anything special, but Swagger’s dominance here makes me think that his WrestleMania push won’t be coming to an end. I do expect Swagger to be suspended at the very least(probably after WrestleMania), but right now WWE seems very pleased with his gimmick and storyline with Zeb and Del Rio.

Josh Mathews interviews John Cena. Cena says we are moments away from Thunderdome in Dallas. He continues to hype the match with Punk tonight.

John Cena defeats CM Punk after a standing hurricanrana followed by an AA for the victory. Cena celebrates his win to end the show.

^Five star match. Outstanding story told by both men. Cena’s hurricanrana wasn’t perfect, but unlike Sin Cara at least Cena was able to carry Punk all the way through the execution of it. I was a little surprised that there was no controversy here, but then I remembered that WWE has no problem with Punk losing clean(it’s Cena that they have an issue with). This was definitely better than their match from Summerslam 2011, and right on par with the quality of the match at Night of Champions last September. Was it as good as their MITB ‘11 match? Not quite, but it was damn close in terms of the story told and excitement factor given with all the near falls. Incredible action!

I’m optimistic that Rock/Cena 2 will be better than last year, and I’m excited for the likelihood of Punk working with Taker(the feud kicking off in the next couple of weeks, if not next week). The show tonight was fantastic, and I enjoyed every minute of it! I’ll be back with the Smackdown analysis on Friday! Until next time, you’ve been ThunderStruck! – add me! – like it!