By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Paul Heyman Addressed the WWE Universe; Brock Lesnar Attacked Mark Henry
With this show being held in Chicago, WWE was basically forced to acknowledge the CM Punk situation in some form or fashion. Thankfully, they did so at the top of the hour to get the Punk chants out of the way early, which is a very smart move by them. The way this entire angle was executed was picture perfect, as the tremendous pop for Punk quickly turned into boos for Heyman. Of course, Heyman's promo was fantastic in that he discussed Punk's absence, acted like a heel, but also didn't give too much away. I found it interesting that Heyman cared about Punk leaving the company despite the fact they feuded for the better part of 2013, but perhaps it's a sign that they'll be aligned again at some point down the line. As for Lesnar's brawl with Mark Henry, it was incredibly intense and a good way of putting heat back on him after being manhandled by The Undertaker last week. I just feel bad for Henry, who has had his ass handed to him by Lesnar three times in the last two months and returned no more than a month ago.
The Usos def. The New Age Outlaws to Win the WWE Tag Team Championships
The New Age Outlaws haven't had many stellar performances since returning to the ring on a regular basis in January, but this was far the best match they've had yet. The Chicago crowd was into the action and didn't cheer for Punk the entire time as some people expected them to. The entertaining offense from The Usos kept their attention and they popped big for the title change. If it wasn't going to happen at WrestleMania 30, then Chicago was the next best place to pull the trigger. The Usos have had a hell of a chase for the straps over the last four years and have been extremely deserving of a run with the belts for some time now. I am ecstatic to see them finally capture the gold and get the great reaction from the crowd that they deserved.
Intercontinental Champion Big E def. Cesaro by Disqualification (Non-title)
The match wasn't even a few minutes old before it abruptly ended on a disqualification... again! Seriously, would it have killed Creative to come up with something a little more original instead of repeating the same finish from last week? I feel bad for Big E, who was booed relentlessly by the Chicago crowd after attacking Cesaro after the match. The seeds have obviously been planted for a Real Americans split, but there was any place to turn Cesaro into a full-fledged face, it would have been in Chicago.
The Wyatt Family def. The Shield
As expected, it was another insanely awesome match between the WWE's most feared factions. The Chicago crowd heavily favored both The Wyatts and The Shield, but with The Wyatts going for heel heat more often, The Shield came off as the babyfaces. There were several cool spots from everyone involved, especially toward the end. Seth Rollins walking out on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns came as a shock, as everyone expected it to be Ambrose or Reigns doing that. I like it, though, as it gives Rollins the spotlight he deserves without allowing him to be forgotten. The build to The Shield split has been excellently done and I expect to see all three of them clash for the United States Championship at WrestleMania.
Santino Marella and Emma def. Fandango and Summer Rae
These two teams actually had a very fun inter-gender tag team match on NXT many months ago, but it was apparent that the Chicago crowd would react much differently to it than the Full Sail University crowd did. Even still, the live audience didn't completely crap all over it, and I was glad to see the Divas given more in-ring time than the male Superstars. Emma's signature dance has been getting over nicely and it was smart to have her pick up the win for her team. I don't mind her partnership with Santino, but I hope she moves into a serious role sooner rather than later, especially after that great match against Paige at NXT: Arrival.
Sheamus def. Christian
I have thoroughly enjoyed the feud between these two in recent weeks, if only because it gives both guys something substantial to do for the first time in forever. That being said, how is this any different from their rivalry from 2011? All of their matches thus far have been solid, sure, but Sheamus wins in decisive every time, so what's the point? However, I don't think this match deserved the "boring" and "awful" chants it ended up getting, as I thought it was well wrestled and both Christian and Sheamus put forth a strong effort.
The Bella Twins def. Alicia Fox and Aksana
How many times have we seen this match before? It wasn't tremendously terrible, but it was a complete waste of time. It was nothing out of the ordinary and didn't do anything to benefit The Bella Twins since Fox and Aksana hardly have any credibility. Why couldn't AJ Lee have made an appearance in the same city she won her Divas Championship in to begin with?
Daniel Bryan Called Out Triple H
It may not be the match that many fans want to see at WrestleMania (they want him in the title match), but Bryan vs. HHH makes a lot of sense and I'm personally excited for it. They have history dating back to SummerSlam, and the match itself could be very good. I like the way that it's being built up in that HHH continues to refuse to face Bryan at the event, but hopefully they don't drag it out too long and confirm it for the card in the next few weeks. This was a strong segment with Bryan showing great mic skills, something that he isn't known for more often than not. I like this serious version of Bryan much more than the version that didn't care that he was being screwed over time and time again.
Dolph Ziggler def. Alberto Del Rio
Interesting to note that these two also faced off in Chicago at last year's Payback pay-per-view. You know, the same show were Ziggler lost his World Heavyweight Championship and hasn't been pushed since? Thankfully, he seems to have a turn of luck with a win over Del Rio here, even if it came after a distraction from Aaron Paul at ringside. Speaking of whom, he played his role well on commentary, but a majority of the audience must have been disappointed that he didn't say his signature line.
Intercontinental Champion Big E def. Jack Swagger by Disqualification (Non-title)
What a waste of a match. Seriously, why not save this for SmackDown or something? It literally lasted only a few seconds. It was complete filler and probably didn't need to happen at all. I realize it was to mirror what happened earlier on with Swagger interfering, but this was obviously done to further foreshadow a split of The Real Americans. I think it's time for Cesaro to break off as a babyface (and bring back his old extremely addictive entrance music), but it will be sad to see them go their separate ways and do further damage to the tag team division.
John Cena Addressed The Wyatt Family
We saw this same exact segment last week, only without the brawling. So, what exactly did this accomplish? Bray Wyatt and Cena had an enjoyable exchange on the mic, but it was nothing noteworthy, nor was a challenge match by either guy for a match at 'Mania, so this felt like a filler week for the program more than anything else. There wasn't anything wrong with it per se, but it didn't do much for this viewer.
Daniel Bryan def. Batista by Disqualification
With this match starting up so late in the show, I didn't expect it to go long at all, but at least they were given some time before the interference from Randy Orton. Batista and Bryan have an interesting dynamic together in the ring, so I hope this isn't the last that we see of them against each other. Orton being at ringside made it obvious he was going to interfere, so I was fine with the non-finish. I appreciate the effort in making Bryan look strong by taking out Kane and some others before being taken out by Triple H, but where was everyone else to make the save? Of course, this would have been the perfect opportunity for CM Punk to return, but it wasn't meant to be. I didn't expect him to return anyway so I didn't get my hopes up thinking he'd be there, but closing the show with another beat down on Bryan was tiresome to say the least.
A lot of people are going to point at the ending and say that it ruined the show for them, but everything up to that point was excellent, so the conclusion of the show didn't bother me all that much. Sure, there will be those that will be disappointed that Punk didn't come back, but at least he was acknowledged, right? I think that's the most important thing. Here's hoping fans give up going forward in chanting his name knowing he will more than likely not be back for WrestleMania. From The Usos winning the tag team titles to The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield to the opening segment, there was a lot to like about this episode of Raw that made it the best edition of the year to date in my opinion. Additionally, I was very happy to see Paul Bearer announced as the latest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame, as he is very deserving of the honor and this was a fitting week to do it given that he passed away one year ago this Wednesday. It was hot from start to finish and while no new matches were confirmed for 'Mania, at least several feuds were furthered over the course of the night and gave viewers a glimpse of what to expect at The Show of Shows.