WWE Raw: Vintage John Cena returns before Wrestlemania

Joey Logano, driver of the #20 The Home

Joey Logano, driver of the #20 The Home Depot Toyota, greets John Cena in the garage area prior to the start of the NASCAR Daytona 500. (Feb. 26, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Last night’s Raw was built around the “John Cena Rap vs. The Rock Concert” as the two Wrestlemania opponents squared off in a battle of musical talents. The overall motif of the show made sense as Raw was in Cleveland, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I felt Raw was strong but it fell flat compared to the last few weeks, which haven been excellent. The WWE always revs up the product before Wrestlemania so maybe my expectations were a bit too high last night. Let me explain why it fell flat.

Cena turning the clock back to 2003 was a mark out moment. The fact that Cena delivered a mark out moment is a story by itself. He came out to his old “thuganomics” theme music topped off with his master lock chain, vintage jersey and baseball cap. It’s sad that after this feud we won’t get to see Cena like this anymore.

He delivered an awesome rap and the fans enjoyed it. He stuck to what has worked for him in recent weeks: he kept it short and to the point. Click here to see Cena's full rap.

WWE gave Rock the last 15 minutes of the show for his musical talents and about half way through his segment I realized why I was never a HUGE Rocky fan during the Attitude Era. Ever since The Rock has been appearing on a weekly basis, you notice that The Rock’s promos are heavily recycled. He has the signature catch phrases that begin and end each promo (“Finally……” and “If you smell…..”). The rest of his promos involve insulting Cena about his clothes and comparing him to “insert farm animal here.”

While I’m glad The Rock has returned, I understand why he is probably better as a special attraction at this stage of his career. Don’t get me wrong, he’s great for business and very entertaining, but I’m not heartbroken if after ‘Mania we don’t see him till Summerslam.

But that’s not why the show fell flat for me. Raw ends with The Rock standing on the turnbuckle singing along with fans. Maybe that was a fitting ending for you, but it fell below expectations of the last “Rock Concert” I remember. Click here to see The Rock doing the same thing leading up to Wrestlemania 19 in 2003 against Stone Cold Steve Austin.

I realize that The Rock was in his prime nine years ago and nothing can match his legendary feud with Austin. My main gripe is how the concert in 2003 ended with Rock and Austin’s intensity to rip each other apart tuned into an epic brawl. The 2012 concert just ended. Click here to see The Rock's segment on Raw.

I would have liked to see some interaction with Cena and Rock rapping and singing together going tit-for-tat. Or, some physical altercation would have been nice, but I understand the WWE trying to protect their main event. The final segment of Raw could have been much more than what we got.

The other reason why Raw fell flat to me last night was the Undertaker-Shawn Michaels segment. The segment was exactly what every other segment has been is hyping ‘Taker’s match with Triple H. HBK said it was ironic how he could still end the streak and that’s when ‘Taker threatened him. The segment ended with HBK walking up the entrance ramp and exchanging a look with Triple H, who was on his way out to deliver a DX-crotch chop to Undertaker. Triple H’s crotch shop came off very childish and a poor way to end the segment.

One week after the WWE planted the seed that HBK could cost his best friend the match, now the WWE is planting those same seeds with the Undertaker. Much like the Cena-Rock build, the WWE is running out of ways to keep these feuds fresh without having any physicality before Wrestlemania. I don’t expect Undertaker to do anything physical from now till April 1 since the WWE is trying to keep it a secret his long black hair is gone. He appears every week with a hood on his head and it seems they will not show his new hair cut until Wrestlemania.

The segment will best be remembered for Undertaker stating that Wrestlemania is April 21st. Fans started to chant "April 1st," but 'Taker didn't bother to fix his error. Twitter lit up with a ton of jokes at Undertaker's expense. Hey, if he thinks it's April 21, then the event should be moved to that date. Why? Because he's the Undertaker.

So there, the two top feuds going into ‘Mania have hit a bump, in my opinion. All the promos are starting to blend and there are still two Raws until ‘Mania. With the creative powers running out of ideas, they advertised that Triple H, Undertaker and Michaels will all be in the same ring next week. Great! But how will that segment be any different then what we’ve already seen?

The other big talking point on Raw was Chris Jericho’s promo about CM Punk’s alcoholic father. The promo was good and it received a lot of positive reaction from fans. For the first time ever, we saw CM Punk at a loss for words and vulnerable. I thought their feud was going along perfectly and there was no need to stoop to these levels to advance their match. It’s not like the WWE was having a hard time drumming up drama for their match and this was a last resort.

Personal feuds are fun to watch play out, just look at Cena and The Rock for a recent example. CM Punk and Raven had a similar feud in ROH. My only concern with bringing this part of Punk’s personal life into this is it overshadowing their match at ‘Mania.

Quick hits:

**I have not been very high on the Teddy Long-John Laurinaitis feud for many weeks, however, I’m starting to turn the corner. It’s giving guys like Santino, Mark Henry and David Otunga some TV time and a match at Wrestlemania. Also, this will prove more entertaining than the Jerry Lawler-Michael Cole feud from last year.

**The Dolph Ziggler-Sheamus match was very solid. If you would have told me six weeks ago that the World heavyweight Title was going to get decent TV time leading into Wrestlemania, I would have disagreed. Yet, the WWE has done a good job building up Sheamus and Daniel Bryan. Still, this match will be in the mid card at Wrestlemania.

Tags: Raw , Wrestlemania 28 , John Cena , The Rock , Undertaker , Shawn Michaels , Triple H , Sheamus , Daniel Bryan , Chris Jericho , CM Punk , John Laurinaitis , Teddy Long , Raven , Stone Cold Steve Austin , David Otunga , Santino Marella

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