April 3, 2012
Raw: Cena's bad week continues thanks to Lesnar's return
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling
The night after WrestleMania is always a special one. It's a night of new beginnings, unless the WWE needs feuds to carry over to SummerSlam, that is. The biggest names from last night's big event shouldn't be in that situation, so we'll see what lies ahead as Raw goes live on USA from Miami.
John Laurinaitis is large and in charge thanks to the exploits of his team at WrestleMania XXVIII. As he addresses the assembled performers, he promises to use his new power over both shows for good. Apparently his definition of good is a bit different than mine, though, as he tells Santino Marella he'll be putting up his United States title in a Triple Threat Match against stablemates Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger. Johnny isn't taking any questions, but CM Punk has a statement on behalf of the fans and most of the locker room: Laurinaitis is still a giant toolbox. Laughing off what he feels is obviously one of Punk's jokes, the GM kicks off the “People Power” era by booking Punk to defend his WWE Championship against Mark Henry.
The first live appearance of the night comes from the hometown boy himself, The Rock. He can't even get started speaking before a huge “Boots to asses!” chant rings out. The People's Champ talks about everything he and the fans did over the past 14 months, but he says it wasn't until Sunday night that he could truly stand in front of everyone and say he had finally come back home. Despite the booing he gets when he says it, Rocky says he has to thank John Cena for bringing it to him and helping him make history for the fans. Of course he couldn't have done it without the millions (and millions!) of The Rock's fans. He guarantees that this is not the end, but the beginning. Of what, one wonders? The fans like that, giving him a “Thank you Rocky!” chant. He goes on to say that he had a vision during his post-WrestleMania celebration, one that people told him was impossible. And that vision involved him becoming WWE Champion again. Does that mean he's going to come back semi-full time? Interesting.
Match 1 – Santino Marella (champion) vs. Jack Swagger (challenger) vs. Dolph Ziggler (challenger) – United States Championship Match
I really don't want this to be the jumping off point for a Ziggler-Swagger feud, so let's hope that's not where this is going. Because of those long show-opening promos, we get commercial breaks before the heels come out and about a minute into the match. We come back to see Santino going for the Cobra until he is double teamed. Swagger and Ziggler have their inevitable disagreement over the pinfall attempt, and they do enough damage to each other to get Santino back into it. Ziggler is knocked to the floor, leaving Swagger easy prey to be pinned by the Cobra. The heels chase Marella up the ramp, where Brodus Clay steps out to lend a hand. Ziggler runs into a big headbutt, and it's dancing time.
Match 2 – Lord Tensai vs. Alex Riley
Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler put Tensai over as a “former WWE superstar” who went on to great success in Japan. That's actually mostly correct. It remains to be seen if just beating the crap out of A-Ri and sporting some cool tattoos will get him over. Riley spends a few minutes getting beaten to the point where the ref calls a stop to it. After the bell, Tensai sprays some mist on his hand and smothers Riley with it. I'm not seeing this working, but I'm willing to give it a few weeks.
The announce team sells Chris Jericho's assault on Punk's back last night as Henry beats the champ around the ring in the early going. The champ finally catches a break when the World's Strongest Man misses a splash off the turnbuckles. We've got to step out again for some advertisements. Punk mounts a strong rally after the break, smacking Henry with two high knees in the corner. But his bulldog is no good, with Henry lifting him up and dropping him over the top rope. Punk is too beat up to get back in the ring, and he's counted out. Henry wins the match but not the title, and he wants to take out his frustration with a World's Strongest Slam on the floor. That could not have felt good. Laurinaitis comes out to say that the WWE Universe wants to see Punk defend his title on a regular basis, and that he sees a natural disaster on the horizon for the champ. If that wasn't bad enough for our hero, Jericho hops out of the crowd and vows to lead Punk down the road to alcoholism. He pours a beer on the Second City Saint, then slips in the puddle while trying to kick him. Unfazed, Jericho gets a liquor bottle and warns of the way drinking can go straight to your head, shattering the bottle over Punk's head.
Match 4 – Cody Rhodes vs. Kofi Kingston
They're not too far into the match when the Big Show comes out to show Rhodes his very own embarrassing WrestleMania moment. Kofi takes full advantage of the distraction, hitting Trouble in Paradise for the win.
Henry gets a locker room visit from someone who wants to represent him. Because, yeah, what Henry needs to get over is a manager. Or not.
Eve Torres comes out to boast about getting her WrestleMania moment by manipulating Zack Ryder. She says it would be easy for her to manipulate any man – except for John Laurinaitis, because powerful people can't be manipulated. Thanks for that advice.
Match 5 – The Miz vs. Zack Ryder
Well, I guess this isn't going to be an ongoing feud, as The Miz wraps this one up in a matter of minutes with a Skull Crushing Finale. Poor Zack.
Clad in his all new green gear, Cena comes to the ring. He says he never thought of losing, quoting Muhammad Ali while talking about accepting defeat. Cena discusses how other people would backtrack or make excuses, and how many people are wondering if this would be the day he'd finally lash out at the WWE Universe. Sadly, he says that's not going to happen. He also claims he's not going to call out The Rock, and he gets interrupted by a loud “We want Lesnar!” chant. Cena doesn't want to fight Rocky, but to congratulate him, apparently. In perhaps the worst kept secret in recent WWE history, Lesnar does indeed come out to the stage. Or maybe that was an incredible display of mass psychic ability. Brock offers up a handshake but delivers an F-5 instead. Message delivered, and Cena's bad week just got worse. Haters have to be loving it. See you in seven!
Nick Tylwalk thinks that the old adage about absence making the heart grow fonder is more true in the WWE than anywhere else. Tell Nick how much you'd love him if he went away for a year or three on Twitter, on Google+ or by email.