Monday Night Raw 3/18/13 – Undertaker/Punk climbs to the top of the Wrestlemania card

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“You’ve got 20 days left to pick a side,” said Cena to the Pittsburgh crowd, as part of his obligatory stand-and-point-at-the-Wrestlemania-sign promo. It’s a fair ask, especially if you’re placing money on the match; I’d encourage you all to bet life savings on John Cena defeating The Rock for the WWE Championship. Aside from gambling prospects, I can’t get myself reasonably excited for this year’s rematch, still decidedly bitter that The Rock took the title from CM Punk, and never overly enamoured with John Cena following ten years of his repetitious superhuman feats.

“They don’t want to see you at Wrestlemania, John,” said Titus O’Neill as inexplicable new character Rufus Pancake Patterson, in the role of promo-interrupting squash bait. “What they want to see is the Primetime Players!” Well, yes, Rufus, that is true, but let’s provide further contextualisation: the people want to see the Primetime Players in the ‘Future Endeavoured’ section of WWE.com.

Even Darren Young’s uncanny resemblance to Cena stopped being funny in 2010. Thankfully, their match was over almost immediately. See you at Wrestlemania, Pancake Patterson. Probably not, though. Most people do tend to skip the pre-show.

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Undertaker wants his urn back… again. The Dead Man seems to misplace his urn as often as Kurt Angle has his gold medals stolen. Only, CM Punk is here to polish regurgitated shtick into gold with exceptional promo skills and a knack to bring out the best in his opponents both on the mic and in the ring. Plus, Paul Bearer is now in the urn instead of outside! “Oh shit,” cried Punk, as the urn slipped from his grasp and crashed to the floor.

And as if to emulate the ‘human’ element of Undertaker/Punk, Del Rio/Swagger has now been graced with the ankle-snapping of Ricardo Rodriguez, whom we all care so much about. It’s hunting season for managers. Watch your back, Heyman. The viciousness on display from Swagger this week is E’s way of turning up the heat on a thus far lukewarm angle, but with at least three other red-hot main events, one flimsy exception does little to no harm.

The Rock took yet another break this week to promote another film featuring guns and gurns. His inability to multitask was highlighted when two other BLOCKBUSTER movie stars in The Miz and Wade Barrett were able to put in an appearance for an Intercontinental Championship Triple Threat alongside Chris Jericho. Arguably the match of the night – possibly the only good match – in which Barrett retained, ideally leading to a one-on-one against former mentor Jericho at Wrestlemania, infused with some potentially blistering promos. However, the closing shot of Miz’s pained expression leads me to fear that this same triple threat will reoccur on the big stage.

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Heyman dutifully ignored the recent ill fate of wrestling managers and delivered a typically provocative promo to the Game. The stipulation of the match initially dictated that the winner receives… Stephanie McMahon. Triple H’s response was to strip Heyman bare, shove his fingers down his throat and seethe ‘I’m going to make you squirm’, which is exactly what Brock had planned for Stephanie following his victory.

But then, following a violent showdown between Trips and Lesnar, Heyman ran through a gamut of actual stipulations for Wrestlemania: the match will in fact be no holds barred, with Triple H’s career on the line. You could hear a pin drop when that last doozy was announced. Conditions like this fail to have much gravitas when we only see the Game twice a year. What’s more, no holds barred matches are an obvious excuse to bypass the wrestling form and instead reach for steel chairs and alternate finishing moves. With each passing day, Undertaker/Punk climbs to the top of my Wrestlemania card.

– Ed Doyle

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