By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton and Batista Interrupted Triple H
Triple H and/or Stephanie McMahon always open Raw, so the fact that was the case yet again here didn't excite me much. However, it ended up being a stronger segment than I initially expected it to be. Everyone involved played their roles well and the shots they took at one another rang true. The anger all three showed in their promos (especially toward Daniel Bryan) was good and the announcement of HHH possibly being entered into the WWE World Heavyweight title match at WrestleMania 30 made his match with Bryan more intriguing.
The Real Americans def. WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos (Non-title)
These two teams have always worked well together and this match was no exception. It was given good times and the action was enjoyable from start to finish. The finishing sequence was very well done and I liked that The Real Americans went over clean. The Usos lose nothing in defeat and this puts The Real Americans in contention for the straps going into WrestleMania. I like that Cesaro and Jack Swagger are sticking together for just a little bit longer, but if I had to guess, the split between the two will come at 'Mania or the next night on Raw.
Sheamus def. Titus O'Neil
Given that it's St. Patrick's Day, you had to expect Sheamus would be involved in some sort of Irish shenanigans on this show. I didn't mind Hornswoggle making an appearance, but the match itself was a complete throwaway. Sheamus dominated most of the match and it was a waste of O'Neil's talent. Can someone please enlighten me as to why they opted to split up The Prime Time Players again? I figured Sheamus would enter the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, so his post-match promo was logical. I liked Christian's attack on Sheamus afterward, but why bother continuing this feud if Sheamus is going to win every time?
John Cena Responded to The Wyatt Family
It feels like we've gotten the same segment multiple times in the last few weeks, but this was their best verbal exchange yet. Unlike last week, I really liked that Cena kept it serious here and even admitted to being afraid of The Wyatt Family, even if it came off odd. Speaking of odd, Wyatt wearing a Cena shirt was a strange visual, but his promo was excellent as usual. These two have done a great job of building up their feud in recent weeks and I look forward to their clash at WrestleMania.
Daniel Bryan def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton in a No Disqualification Match (Non-title)
The streak of Bryan and Orton having better matches together on Raw as opposed to on pay-per-view continues. They made good use of the extreme stipulation and Orton especially shined here by heeling it up at various points. They have such great chemistry together that no matter how many times we see them face off, their matches never get old. It was predictable that Batista would come back to cost Orton the win, but it was still another big win for Bryan. Orton has been so horrendously as champion that they can't take the title off him soon enough.
Paul Heyman Addressed The Undertaker
This was another very good promo from Heyman, but it was much of the same from last week. He once again made the streak feel important and prestigious, especially with the extremely well done video package, but it felt like filler a part of this feud more than anything else. Undertaker and Brock Lesnar haven't had a face-to-face confrontation since the night after Elimination Chamber, so here's hoping they encounter each other next week. It would have been nice for 'Taker to made an appearance in front of his hometown Texas crowd.
Goldust def. Fandango
Goldust's antics before and during the bout were comical, but what was the point of this match? I received more time than I thought it would, but it was meaningless in the end. There were a few botches here and there, which Goldust was obviously frustrated about following the contest. The Rhodes brothers were lighting the tag team division on fire just a few short months ago and now involved in comic relief for no apparent reason. I really hope they aren't inserted into the Battle Royal at 'Mania if only because they would be overshadowed and deserve better than that.
The Shield Attacked Kane
Kane calling out Jerry Lawler was random even though Kane tried to make sense of it by saying Lawler contributed to Occupy Raw last week. The Shield turning on Kane could be seen coming from a mile away since they attacked on SmackDown last week as well, but it still came off as a cool moment. I would mark this as the official face turn of The Shield, but perhaps "anti-heroes" is the correct term. I'm intrigued as to what this means for the future of The Shield and a potential match/feud with Kane going forward.
The Funkadactyls def. Divas Champion AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka
I'm glad to see Naomi back in action after she was forced to take time off after suffering an eye injury several weeks back. The match was only mere minutes long, but at least it wasn't too short. Naomi pinning AJ to pick up the victory was logical and it sets up a Divas Championship match for WrestleMania. However, it still bothers me that AJ loses all non-title match and only wins when it matters most. Based off The Bella Twins being on commentary, I suspect they'll be in the title match as well. It was only a matter of time before Tamina broke away from AJ and I can't say I'm necessarily excited to see Tamina as a face.
Big Show, Mark Henry, Intercontinental Champion Big E and Dolph Ziggler def. Damien Sandow, Alberto Del Rio, Ryback and Curtis Axel
Isn't it sad that more than half of the guys in this match contended for a world title last year and are now involved in a throwaway 30-man battle royal at WrestleMania? Granted, it's dedicated to the memory of Andre the Giant, but still, a majority of the participants will be overshadowed during the bout. This was actually a solid matchup and I liked how Ziggler played the underdog by building to the tag to Show. I really hope Show doesn't emerge victorious in that battle royal. He doesn't need the win, so give the win to someone who can actually benefit from it.
Bray Wyatt def. Kofi Kingston
It was obvious this would be a squash match from the get-go, so Kingston was never taken as a serious threat to Wyatt. Essentially, this was the same exact match we saw from these two on SmackDown three days ago. What was really of note here was the phenomenal video package that aired prior to the bout highlighting the Wyatt-Cena feud thus far. I have really been enjoying this rivalry and that vignette did an excellent job of recapping it up to this point.
Triple H Came Face-to-Face with Daniel Bryan
Both HHH and Bryan were great on the mic here and recapped their lengthy feud dating all the way back to SummerSlam nicely. The way tension was teased between The Authority only for Triple H to attack Bryan anyway was well done. This was the most aggression we've seen from The Game in quite some time and Bryan was protected by being handcuffed. The attack put more heat on HHH, made Bryan look sympathetic and made fans of Bryan badly want to see him get his revenge beat HHH at 'Mania, so this was a strong segment to close out the show.
This was the fourth week in a row that WWE delivered a good episode of Raw that I enjoyed from start to finish. It mostly focused on the drama surrounding Daniel Bryan and his WrestleMania opponents, but that's the feud that's carrying WrestleMania anyway and all of what he was involved in on this episode was solid. Everything else was decent enough and built towards 'Mania. My only complaint is that more wasn't done with the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar feud. The Heyman feud was effective, but the lack of appearances from Lesnar and 'Taker has been disappointing to say the least. On a side note, I'm glad to see Mr. T go into the WWE Hall of Fame this year given his involvement with the first few WrestleMania shows. He is definitely deserving of the honor. Happy St. Patrick's Day!