So, this is a bit late, but let's talk about Raw anyway. We can't exactly ignore a show that had Steve Austin, JBL, and other surprises now can we?
The pattern held the same with very little wrestling being integrated into storyline development for Wrestlemania. The positive this week was that the stories really did move forward for the most part and the show was much more entertaining as a whole. It didn't hurt that there were some surprises along the way and perhaps one of the better endings to a Raw that I've seen (sans Rock returning because that's in a league of its own).
With such a positive show, who stood out? Who was HOT and who was NOT? Let's find out.
1. Steve Austin - I'm not not the biggest Steve Austin fan in the world but he had a good showing Monday. He limited the speaking, amped up the ass whooping and drinking, and got himself into Wrestlemania. Those are the best Austin appearances and though they are basically the same every time he appears, it seemed better this time. Perhaps it was the whole segment and the fact that it screwed over Michael Cole that made it amusing, but for some reason, it worked for me. Stone Cold and Rock at Wrestlemania? Please give them a backstage segment.........PLEASE!
2. The Miz - For two hours, it seemed The Miz was holding true to his word of boycotting Raw. Then, instead of boycotting the show, he stole it in a matter of minutes. From taking out Cena, to mocking Rock's catchphrase (quite well I might add), to stealing Rock's famous elbow finisher, the kid took the attention from the Cena/Rock war of words and placed it back on himself. This was the perfect segment to take Miz out of the shadows and place the heat on him. Both Cena and Rock are beloved by a lot of fans and even though they are going at it, the fans don't hate either. They are supposed to hate Miz and I think this segment will allow them to do that. Granted, I'm an analyst and I appreciate how great a job he's doing at getting that heat, so I place him on the HOT list for his efforts. I have taken notice of Miz in this feud and hopefully everyone else has now. I would have put him at #1 this week, but I didn't want to be accused of being too much of a mark for the guy. He probably deserved the top spot though.
3. Dolph Ziggler - I'd say going from unemployed to having a job is grounds enough to land on the HOT list. However, Ziggler took it a step farther by beating the rising John Morrison in pretty short order. Granted, he did cheat to do so, but that's what heels do right? Actually, perhaps the best news for Ziggler is that his now ex (when did they break up exactly?) Vickie Guerrero might not get a job on Raw. The deck is certainly stacked against her as she'll face Trish Stratus next week, but we'll talk about that when it happens. I think the best thing for Dolph at this point is to go it on his own. We know he's one of the better in ring competitors out there. Now's the time to show us that he can be a successful character that people will be interested in WITHOUT the heat magnet Guerrero.
1. Michael Cole - This week's "it sucks to be me" award unsurprisingly goes to Michael Cole. The cocky announcer thought he had it all figured out and really did make an excellent choice in guest referees. It's tough to be a returning superstar without getting cheers, but JBL did just that. People still booed him and he made it very easy to believe that he'd help out Cole at Wrestlemania. Of course, those plans were thwarted by Steve Austin as he signed the referee contract instead. On a side note, when the appearance of the contract was known, was there anyone that didn't see a swerve coming? I certainly did, but Cole didn't and the odds are now a lot more even. He still has Swagger in his corner, but the referee sure as hell will not be. That referee even spilled some beer on Cole to further the embarassment. It actually could have been worse, but Cole sold it well and made us all believe that it sucked to be him on Monday. For that, he deserves this spot on the NOT list.
2. David Otunga - Just when you thought that Randy Orton couldn't make New Nexus look worse, he did. Nexus finally got smart and pre-emptively struck on the Viper, attacking him backstage. They carried him beaten to the ring and called for the bell. This should have solidified the victory for Otunga, but it didn't. Mr. Hudson still found a way to lose and be punted, thus writing him off of TV and certainly takes him out of the Wrestlemania picture. This was the guy who was second in command to Barrett in the original Nexus and he has arguably looked worse than anyone in these Orton attacks. He's gone now and I sincerely hope he works on his ring skills while away. Well that and GET A GOOD HAIRCUT!!!
3. JBL - He's basically on this list so I can talk about him. I was legitimately surprised to hear the bells that signify the arrival of JBL's limo. This was a good idea and made a lot of sense as someone that Cole would bring in. The stock afficianado still cut a great promo and gets heat as well as anyone in the business. However, we have to justify his spot on the NOT list so let's do that. The guy took TWO stunners. Not one, but TWO. You have to be an idiot at this point to fall for the "drink a beer with Austin" trick, but JBL did. I guess he really likes beer and risked it in that moment, but he was made to look stupid, and that's enough for me to end up on the NOT list.
This show did a few very important things. It moved stories forward and it kept the fans guessing. This seems to be the formula recently and for the most part, it's working. I'd still like to see a little more wrestling on the show as I think getting a taste of what guys are capable of in ring will get people even more excited for Wrestlemania, but the storybuilding has been great. Raw has truly been a guessing game, and for a guy who knows quite a bit about the product, it's been a lot of fun. I've included the last segment of the show as I really liked it, but I suggest that you tune in each Monday for Raw as the build to Wrestlemania will seemingly only get better.