Before we begin, here are some WrestleMania 31 thoughts:

It was weird to have the show in sunlight. Between that and the HD cameras it almost looked like a movie at times rather than a live event.

Way to put your big moment for Mizdow on the pre-show when most of the world is still getting their pizza and chips ready for the show.

The ladder match was exactly what you would expect it to be. Fun trainwreck. Right two people there at the end, right guy won. So sad for the way Barrett destroyed the Cosmic Ladder.  Needed to be a bit longer to really make a lasting impact. ***

Orton vs. Rollins really picked up in the last few minutes. The repeated counters helped make clear how well they knew each other. And that final RKO was bananas. ***½

Sting vs. HHH was so close. Once you bring out all the old dudes it’s no longer an actual important match. It’s a spectacle like you’d find down in Tennessee where Austin Idol and Bill Dundee are working. So at that point why the hell do you not give the crowd the happy ending here. HHH is bulletproof, and with all the shenanigans no one would have thought about him losing beyond last night. Instead he has to get that one last win as Vince’s proxy. And don’t tell me he needed to stay strong for later in the show. He’s been staying strong since 1999. I think his cred will survive. Also, how do you this ending, not have Ric Flair involved, and then show him 5 minutes later in a backstage excuse for Ron Simmons to say Damn? Screw everything in the world. I wanted to love this more than I did. ***

On a four hour long show, AJ Lee/Paige vs. the Bellas got 6:42. Or not quite as long as Kid Ink. Weirdly laid out match, with AJ being on the floor for much of it, but still getting the fall. **½

Rusev had a tank. Had he won that would have meant all the stars. As it was he and Cena had a match, Cena worked hard, Rusev worked hard, the ending sequence sucked, CENAWINSLOL. Nothing offensive about it, but felt restrained for being World War III. ***

I have no interest in ever seeing Rock vs. HHH. The segment ran for what felt like an hour. But that moment when the whole crowd realizes Rousey was sitting in the front row and that Rock was heading right at her. That was a ***** moment.

Bray had dancing scarecrows. The Undertaker had a forehead you could land a plane on. But at least he didn’t seem like a frail old dude until well into the match. An improvement on last year. They tried, but this was never going to be a classic. **

And then the main event happened. For a good chunk of the match it seemed a longer, more-drawn out version of Cena/Lesnar from Summerslam. Only here every time Reigns hit Lesnar he seemed to bust him open. It felt like watching a Tomohiro Ishii match the way they hit each other with no regard for the other’s wellbeing.

Then something weird happened to me. I bought into the story. Maybe it was all the noise at the party. Maybe it was because in the end I like giving myself over to the artist’s dream. Maybe I just couldn’t resist Roman’s eyes. But in that moment I wouldn’t have been unhappy with the tale that was told, regardless of who won. Brock Lesnar retaining after having to fight like never before, or Roman Reigns winning with the gutsiest performance ever. These endings would have worked.

But neither ending happened. Seth Rollins cashed in, made it a triple threat, and won shortly thereafter. I understand why. He’s the best choice to be champion for a show that has to start all over again the next night because the story never ends. But I think in the end I wish Rollins had caused a DDQ, followed by cashing in after he’s wrecked both guys. But it was still awesome. I can go **** on it. Hell, let’s be generous and go ****½.

And that leads up to Raw. THE Raw.

Three questions to answer tonight:

  1. Who will get the first shot at the new champ? The list of enemies that Seth Rollins has made is a long one. Does Randy Orton get him first since he beat him last night? Does Roman Reigns get him first since Seth snuck into his match. Does Brock Lesnar get him first because Brock says so? Do they all fight each other and let Rollins sneak away?
  2. Who will the crowd latch on to/against? Every year the crowd at the post-Mania raw ends up giving inordinate amounts of love to someone. Is tonight the night that they randomly adopt Titus O’Neil? Maybe Stardust? Tyson Kidd? Such choices! Very options!
  3. Comebacks/debuts, will there be any? Already there’s been a few hints on Twitter of people who might show up for the first time on Raw. Do any of the NXT guys make their debuts on the show? Does Finn Balor do the full demon entrance and instantly become the most over guy on the roster? Do the Bellas get some genetically superior bosses to deal with?

Only one way to find out. It’s the most anticipated Raw of the year, I’m so excited I’m watching it sober, and it’s on NOW.

Monday Night Raw
March 30, 2015
SAP Center
San Jose, California

I’m watching the opening credits and already dreading the 30 minute long opening promo. I know it has to be done to set everything up for the summer, but do it in the middle or something.

Opening promo sure to include everybody: Brock Lesnar is the first one out tonight, and he is still bruised up from last night. JBL’s voice is still almost shot. Hopefully that will mean less JBL than usual tonight.

“Suplex City” is a phrase in search of a shirt to be printed upon. Crowd unsure what to do with Heyman speaking ill of Rollins. They love Heyman, love Lesnar, but don’t really want to boo Rollins at all.

And the next person down is Stephanie McMahon. Excellent work shutting the crowd down and smart to bring her out instead of Rollins. The crowd has no qualms about booing her. Keeps everyone from getting too confused about who they love and who they hate.

If they somehow could get Ronda Rousey to make an appearance tonight this crowd would explode.

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard Paul Heyman doing white meat babyface promo work. The difference is subtle, but his tone loses the condescension and smugness when he wants to get the crowd cheering. Winner: Restraint. Only 3 people appeared in this promo.

Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler: This match is not a fair test of whether the IC belt is going to be treated well, since it is for the title. Let’s see what happens first time there’s a non title match with the champ involved.

Seriously folks, a “this is awesome” chant this early in the match? The whole chant is being devalued by overuse.

Wade Barrett could step into the announce booth for the whole night in place of JBL and the broadcast would be dramatically improved.

Daniel Bryan will forever be able to make people worried just by grabbing at his neck after hitting the mat.

That was a hell of a match, as we would expect. Not sure what’s up with the sudden love of headbutts but I’m good with it. This surely means that Tomoaki Honma is going to come in and win the WWE belt. The final running knee from Bryan was absolutely amazing looking.

Sheamus is back. He’s got a wacky mohawk and he’s beating up Ziggler and Bryan. And he is now a legitimately weird looking guy. The crowd seems to agree what with a thunderous “You Look Stupid” chant.

I like him just saying “I am back” rather than going into some long-winded spiel about what he did in his time off and feeling abandoned and blah blah blah. Give me Sheamus as a guy who just likes the beat the hell out of everyone and I can get behind this. Winner: Daniel Bryan.

Ascension and Swing Cats vs. New Day and Lucha Dragons: We have our first debuts. The crowd chants “NXT” as Vince McMahon wonders where the hell Mason Ryan is when they obviously need him.

I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t rebrand Sin Cara with a new name. Just to give them a totally fresh start.

The dynamic of Cesaro being so strong that it takes Kalisto doing about 400 spins to get enough centrifugal force to take him down was awesome. Also Kalisto’s debut is already much better than Sin Cara’s debut.

Crowd again going with an NXT chant. In response Vince McMahon just offered Nathan Jones a million dollars to return.

Even the announcers had to acknowledge the “New Day Sucks” chant in time to Xavier clapping. I think even Kofi slipped and chanted it once.

Kalisto finishing with the Salina del Sol. Vince stopped trying to find where Ezekiel Jackson went for a moment to ask why Rey Mysterio looks so much younger.

Seriously though, there is some major money in Kalisto if they want it. Kids will absolutely love him. Winners: Lucha Dragons

And just to continue the NXT theme we get a Neville promo video. The slo-mo Red Arrow looked absolutely majestic.

This Match Isn’t Going to Happen Now. Is it? The crowd seems unsure that this is going down. Like they’re waiting for something to prevent this. They keep delaying and delaying the start. And finally…Rollins to the outside.

Brock Lesnar turns the table over on the announce crew and then gives Michael Cole the F-5. Brock is now the single biggest face since JYD in the Superdome.

You all know how much I enjoy Stephanie McMahon, but her being able to tell Brock Lesnar to leave her ring, and having Brock obey without the use of a tranquilizer dart or men with shotguns really pisses me off. If Brock returns before night’s end I can forgive this, but if that’s the last we see of him until we get near Summerslam that will be a big old pile of bullshit.

Upon the return from break they’re still cleaning up the carnage from the Brockpage. This review may be later than usual as I spend the next 6 hours watching Brock murder the announce team on a constant loop.

Steph gets to be all big and bad and call Brock a son of a bitch. I can only assume this is leading to Stephanie vs. Brock, Steph going over clean.

I’m really just not feeling Steph’s character and how it is being used tonight.

If Brock’s actions lead to a new announce team I’m having Jimmy John’s every day for lunch for the rest of my life. Winner: ME! NO MAGGLE! NO BOOKER! NO JBL! HUZZAH!!!!!

Byron Saxton is here. Send down Wade Barrett and let him do color commentary for the rest of the night.

Mizdow vs. Stardust: It’s a matchup of two guys who should have had big singles blow-off matches at Mania, and in the end did nothing, and saw months of buildup wasted on the pre-show or never happening at all.

I am glad that the smarter-than-thou crowd didn’t go full hipster backlash against Mizdow. Could totally have seen them deciding that the joke is over and booing it.

“Flattery is the sincerest form of flattery.” I guess it is Bryan. I guess it really is.

Mizdow got the win, and then was surprisingly attacked by Miz. There was some quality unhinged ranting there from Miz. To get a genuine heel reaction from a totally ironic crowd is an accomplishment. Winner: Damien Should Probably Change His Last Name

I’m ignoring the masturbatory segment about WWE.

Neville vs. Curtis Axel: I’m not keen on Neville not having a first name.

Didn’t think that promo was announcing he’d be here in an hour. He is fast though.

Crowd loved Neville and he looked good. Only problem is that he is debuting after Kalisto on this show. Kalisto is so absurdly fast and flippy, that Neville doesn’t seem quite as amazing as he otherwise might. But good to get him in front of such a NXT loving crowd. Winner: (Adrian) Neville

John Cena Sucks: Impressive that he had a John Cena branded flag shirt ready for when he won the US Title. Maybe it was a leftover from WM 20.

I keep waiting for the year where the crowd post-Mania all has the same idea to be sarcastic and cheer Cena, so that he ends up coming down to the biggest cheers he’s heard in a decade.

Oh my god I just saw that the shirt has the US belt on it. I hate John Cena.

Johnny Cash would never dress like you. Johnny Cash knew how to rock an outfit like nobody’s business. You look like an eight year old given a screen printing machine.

Think they’ll mention that Dean Ambrose had this title for like a year or so?

Good thing that Lillian apparently has all of their weights and hometowns memorized for an occasion such as this.

Byron did mention Ambrose holding the belt for a year. I like this guy.

OH FUCK NO! Not Lawler! Why? Why must there never be peace in the land?

Dean’s moving like a man who fell from a high place onto a ladder last night.

I really am not happy about this Lawler thing.

Cena is bailing to the outside much more than usual. Not that Cena isn’t a heel to most crowds, but especially with this crowd it is cool to see him throwing in some subtle touches of evil.

Things are getting ugly. Dean slips on the sunset powerbomb. Cena’s hands slip completely off Dean’s head during the STF.

This was an awesome match. And it could be a vision of what a different John Cena could be. He was not afraid to play dirty. His refusal to have a good old fashioned punch-up and instead kicking Dean in the shin to set up the AA was just perfect. Grumpy old man Cena could still be all smiley and primary colors in his promos, but let him wrestle like that on a regular basis and I might not have to say his results like… Winner: LOLCENAWINS

So the main event involves Big Show and Kane. Their annual spring pushes are as much a part of the passing of winter as baseball opening day and me having to get back on allergy meds. So Orton, Reigns and…? I’m hoping for Sid. Sid makes every angle better.

Natalya/Bellas vs. AJ/Paige/Naomi: AJ is wearing a Bayley shirt! Paige is making funny faces! Naomi’s butt is a phrase that gets google hits!

The crowd has decided they want Paige. The crowd has some good taste.

Natalya’s running the ropes and using Naomi’s back was a nifty little move. Total veteran telling the rookie they have not earned respect thing.

“No More Bellas!” I would not be unhappy to live in a world where this was the case.

Paige tackling Nikki Bella through the ropes into an nasty looking fall to the floor.

AJ is being bent at about 0.8 MsChif right there.

This match was much better than the match at Mania. Obviously Naomi’s doing.

Sadly my dream of Sara Del Rey showing up with Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Becky Lynch as a Nexus like stable for the women’s division appears not to be happening. Instead we look to be pointing towards Naomi’s butt-based offense against Nikki Bella. This is not a feud that is going to have me excited for the next month or two. Winners: Paige/AJ/Naomi

Ryback is way too calm. Hopefully there’s a nice protein and cocaine shake waiting for him so he can be prepared for the main event.

This show has lost momentum in the third hour. This is not unusual but I was hoping this would be the show that didn’t lose its energy as it went along.

Rusev vs. Goldust: A slow methodical Rusev match is definitely not what this show needs right now.

The announcers mentioned it so obviously it is a thought they want us to have, but I really don’t get what the plan with Rusev is right now. I’m hoping this is just because of the post-WM Raw weirdness and that Rusev will have a direction in the next week or two. Winner: Guy Who Lost to CENAWINSLOL

Seth Rollins/Kane/Big Show vs.Randy Orton/Ryback/Roman Reigns: I’m shocked. And stunned. Like when the Rutles learned Leggy Mountbatten was moving to Australia. Thankfully I can submit the rest of this review through tapping on the table. And postcards.

Suppose having Reigns off the show for one night to sell the worst beating ever would have been a bit much.

This whole match feels like WWE’s way of telling the fans in the building to go screw themselves. You’re getting 15 minutes of Big Show and Kane in the main event in 2015 and damn it you’re going to like it!

This is the WWE. Boring their paying fans so much that they cease to pay any attention to the match going on. Totally the sort of thing worth having a laugh about. Winners: Team Orton

Well then. I think someone forgot to fill the tank as we started down the Road to WrestleMania 32. This show was hot for the first two hours. A third hour as good as that and this would be a Raw that people talk about as a contender for Best Raw Ever. But that third hour or so was just hot garbagey death. Pretty much everything from the moment the women’s match ended on was pure Meh.

How did WWE answer the questions of the night?

  1. Who will get the first shot at the new champ? Not Brock Lesnar. It looks like, as expected, Orton is going to be the first one to step up to the champ. Reigns is waiting close behind. And Brock is off to chill until we get past the Fourth of July.
  2. Who will the crowd latch on to/against? They didn’t like Roman Reigns. I had trouble making out a lot of the chants. Not sure if it was the audio mix or just too many years of wearing headphones. I do know that the crowd loved them some Lucha Dragons. And despite all the months of being a JTTS, Dean Ambrose still has a fanbase. Who knew? Also, they didn’t like Big Show and Kane very much. Can’t blame them I guess. Perhaps if they were closer, and could appreciate the size of Big Show’s skillethands they would have been more appreciative.
  3. Comebacks/debuts, will there be any? Why yes there were! Sheamus is back and he’s angry. I certainly would be too if someone knocked me out and I woke up with that hair/beard combo. I assume he was abducted and incapacitated in order for that to happen. Neville appeared and did mighty flips. And holy crap the Lucha Dragons. I have seen the future, and his name is Kalisto.

Awards for the night:

  • Ugh: Everyone in the main event. Even Ryback wasn’t fun tonight. That match could not have been a bigger F.U. to the fans unless they ended it by all pinning Daniel Bryan at once. Also, Stephanie McMahon for not being afraid of Brock Lesnar. That’s some wrongheaded stuff my friends.
  • Honorable Mentions: Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, John Cena, Dean Ambrose for bringing the hot fire in the ring. Either of their matches would have been the second best match at Mania. The Lucha Dragons for a fantastic debut that hopefully means big things for them. Paul Heyman for so seamlessly moving from heel to face without changing a word of his delivery.
  • MVP: Brock Lesnar eliminated the announce team. The entire announce team! For this, not only is he MVP, but this shall forevermore be known as the Brock Lesnar MVP award.

So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed it. Next week is Raw from Europe, so we should get one more week of wacky hijinks and quite possibly shenanigans. If you liked this, please share. Watch for a big preview of SHIMMER Vols. 72-75 coming up soon. And tell me how much you love me, or hate me, or give me barely a thought @spiffie6123.