CM Punk prepares to connect with a GTS onto Chris Jericho.
Strong promo from CM Punk to kick off the show. He's been incredibly entertaining since dropping the WWE Championship to The Rock and he's seemed to add an extra edge to his character. Having him state that he's still the champion despite not having possession of the belt was nice twist on things. This was effective in building towards his WWE title match at Elimination Chamber despite the fact Rock wasn't on this week's Raw.
Good match between Ryback and United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. Sure, we've seen this a handful of times in recent weeks, but it was still a quality contest. It was a nice win for Ryback and Cesaro scored an impressive amount of offense throughout. However, it isn't wise of WWE to continue to allow their mid-card champions to lose cleanly for no apparent reason when they should instead be protected.
Basic squash match with Jack Swagger and Santino Marella. Although he didn't receive much a reaction from the Atlanta audience (a crowd which is usually dead anyways), he still looked dominating in the ring. I'm enjoying his new aggressive style and it's good to see him being given a meaningful push for the first time in ages. While it's nice to see his Ankle Lock finally named the Patriot Act, any chance that a change in entrance music is next on the list?
Brief match with World Heavyweight Champion quickly defeating Cody Rhodes. Given the fact this was a first-time-ever matchup, I expected it to go a bit longer, but they made the most of the mere minutes they were given. Rhodes tapping out to Del Rio's finisher almost immediately made him look weak, which isn't smart if they hope to push him as a singles star. As for Del Rio's subsequent promo, it was fine for what it was, but it felt somewhat forced.
Great match between WWE Tag Team Champion Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio. These two work well together with their styles meshing nicely and providing some fun action. Bryan countering Mysterio's top rope splash into the No Lock made for a cool finish, while having Bryan go over Mysterio cleanly via submission was a pleasant surprise. Speaking of surprises, Mark Henry looked like an absolute beast upon his return to Raw and here's hoping he is pushed accordingly going forward.
Brock Lesnar lays a brutal beating on The Miz.
Solid match between Sheamus and WWE Tag Team Champion Kane. Although it didn't last long, they managed to have a nice matchup that felt fresh since we don't normally see it often. Daniel Bryan's interference at ringside was logical and it'll be interesting to see if this is building towards a Team Hell No breakup for just teasing tension for the upcoming Elimination Chamber bout.
Excellent Miz TV featuring Paul Heyman, Vickie Guerrero and Brock Lesnar. As always, Heyman was brilliant on the mic and I found this to be the best promo Miz has produced thus far as a fan favorite. He limited the number of corny jokes he used and kept a serious time the entire time while scolding Heyman. Vickie's reason for re-signing Lesnar made sense and she played her part well. Lesnar's beat down of Miz was absolutely awesome (no pun intended) and Miz looked credible by standing up to the Next Big Thing. After seeing this chaos unfold, I'm extremely intrigued as to where they go next with both Lesnar and Heyman.
Predictable match between Randy Orton and Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. The crowd was mostly dead for it, and I can't blame them. We've seen these two cross paths countless times in recent years and it's grown beyond tiresome by this point. It didn't help that Orton once again went over Barrett in clean fashion and hardly benefited from the victory. As stated earlier, it's a mistake to have the mid-card champions lose so frequently, as it makes the titles feel worthless.
Fantastic match between CM Punk and Chris Jericho. With the roles reversed this time around, it made for an incredibly entertaining contest with the false finishes down the stretch making for some great suspense. Personally, I found this to be a much better match than what they produced last year, so I hope we see these two clash once again down the line. Punk beating Jericho clean was very smart booking and gave the Voice of the Voiceless his first credible victory in a long time. That being said, you have to give props to Jericho for taking the loss here and still looking strong in defeat. Nonetheless, it was odd not to see Dolph Ziggler make an appearance here (or on this show as a whole) given his recent rivalry with Jericho.
Strange segment to close the show with The Shield attacking Brad Maddox before being confronted by John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback. Maddox has undoubtedly improved on the mic since his initial promo a few months back, but it was still odd to see him return from "injury" so soon after only a mere two weeks. Unless this is foreshadowing a Maddox face turn (which I hope it isn't), having him get ambushed by The Shield was simply strange. Cena, Sheamus and Ryback clearing the ring of The Shield made sense in order to hype the six-man tag team match at Elimination Chamber, but it felt rushed and should've been much hotter than it actually was.
Overall, a great show that featured a number of memorable moments and certainly had the road to WrestleMania feel to it. While not everything on this week's Raw was perfect, it was refreshing to see not as much filler on the show as we're used to and the bad aspects kept to a minimum. Additionally, the Bruno Sammartino WWE Hall of Fame video package was very well put together and it's great to see WWE treating the induction as a major happening, as they should. The absences of the Divas, Dolph Ziggler and The Rock from the show were fine with this viewer, but they should have at least been explained a bit better. Although this edition didn't do much to sell viewers on the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view next Sunday, I expect to see the hype for the event go into high gear on the go-home show Monday night.