The build is on for John Cena vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania 34
Recap: After losing the six pack challenge match for the WWE Championship at Fastlane on Sunday night, John Cena showed up on Raw looking for answers as to how he could get to WrestleMania. Cena beleaguered that point in front of the live audience in Detroit and initially determined that the only option left for him would be to simply attend the event in New Orleans as a fan. Cena then proceeded to get on board with his own idea and said that the fans and the WWE Universe are what makes WrestleMania tick anyway. From there, Cena jumped into the crowd where he had a sip of a beer and led the audience in a “this is awesome” chant. Cena then left the crowd and went back into the ring to lead the audience in the patented “let’s go Cena, Cena sucks” chant. After the chant died down, Cena told the crowd that if he was just a fan, he shouldn’t care if he does something that could get him in trouble. He furrowed his brow as he thought it over and then did the unthinkable and flat out challenged the Undertaker to a match at WrestleMania. The crowd went ballistic and Cena reiterated that challenge a few times over before peering into the camera to directly address the Undertaker. With Cena staring a hole at Undertaker via the camera, he told him to get over his ego and to stop hiding behind lame excuses. Cena finished by saying that he’s going to WrestleMania as a fan or as Undertaker’s opponent before telling the deadman that “it’s time to see if you’re still alive.”
Evaluation: The first half of this promo with Cena trying to sell us that he’ll be attending WrestleMania as a fan simply wasn’t needed. It featured silly Cena which isn’t Cena in his best form. The promo would have been more effective had Cena come out and said that desperate times call for desperate measures and then immediately jump to challenging Undertaker. Cena was on point and on his game in that moment. He was clear with his challenge and more than transparent on what he thought of the Undertaker in 2018. In addition, he adequately conveyed the history involved in them facing off at WrestleMania.
Forecast: John Cena and the WWE aren’t trying to troll or goad Undertaker into taking this WrestleMania match. Cena vs. Undertaker has long been rumored as a potential match this year and tonight’s promo from Cena all but makes it a certainty. Obviously, it’s the right call. At the very least, neither Cena or Undertaker have anything else in the pipeline for WrestleMania so it makes sense to put them together. More importantly though, this is a dream match and given the trajectories of both careers, who knows if it would ever line up this way again. The time was now to pull the trigger and though it’s not official yet, they essentially did so tonight.
Roman Reigns gets suspended four weeks before WrestleMania
Recap: Kurt Angle began Monday Night Raw by revealing to the audience that after being promoted and advertised for the show, once again, Brock Lesnar would not be appearing. As the boos rang in from the crowd because of that announcement, Roman Reigns hit the ring to confront Angle. Reigns told Angle that he wished he was surprised, but that he wasn’t. He then asked Angle if Lesnar would be receiving any type of punishment for being a no-show and proceeded to answer his own question by saying “there won’t be because he’s Vince’s boy.” From there, Reigns detailed what would happen to the rest of the locker room and the Detroit crowd if they decided to not show up for work. He then proceeded to call Kurt Angle a middle man and said that the real problem was Vince McMahon and that he’s fine being disrespected by Brock Lesnar but because of all he does for the WWE, he won’t be disrespected by McMahon. Reigns then tossed his mic down before heading to the gorilla area to confront McMahon face to face. He asked Vince what his problem was and Vince cooled the situation by saying that he’d talk to Reigns in private. The audience wasn’t privy to that exact conversation, but after it, Renee Young caught up with McMahon who admitted that Lesnar held a lot of cards and that he deserved some of the perks that he receives on a regular basis. McMahon then said that due to the lack of respect Reigns showed, he was temporarily suspended.
Evaluation: This entire angle was just too much tonight. The WWE got the reaction they were looking for when Angle announced that Lesnar would not be appearing. The crowd booed and then gave a nice pop for Reigns immediately after. That’s all that was needed. The rest of the segment was too much and too cute. For one thing, if anyone is Vince’s boy, its Reigns. Everyone knows that and trying to present him as something other than that is counterproductive to the goal of getting him over as a babyface. Overall, with this story, less is more and tonight they put a little too much salt on the dish and it tasted funny.
Forecast: The WWE is working to build up to a major face to face moment between Reigns and Lesnar on TV prior to their match at WrestleMania. Lesnar being a no-show the last few weeks is getting him heel heat while also serving as a mechanism to kick the can down the road and buy more time before that face-off happens. Reigns being suspended will kick that same can down the road even further. I’m intrigued by the story being told, but to be effective, it must be flushed out in the right way. Part of that way is admitting what Roman Reigns is in the WWE. Doing what was done tonight and trying to fight common knowledge regarding the Reigns push and his position in the company will make this story unravel as WrestleMania gets closer.
Alexa Bliss gets caught red-handed by Nia Jax
Recap: After seemingly making good with Nia Jax earlier in the show, Alexa Bliss was caught backstage saying some very negative and two-faced things about her so-called best friend. Jax had finished demolishing a poor jobber in the ring, when Bliss and Mickie James were shown on the big screen waiting to be interviewed by Charly Caruso. Apparently not knowing that a mic was on and a camera was running, Bliss ran down her best friend by saying that she’s desperate, needy, and easily manipulated. Bliss said that earlier in the show she was just being nice to Nia regarding her feelings toward her and that the truth hurts. Jax saw and heard this exchange by Bliss and James from the ring and was visibly shaken and distraught because of it. At the same time, Caruso informed Bliss that everything she said was heard in the arena which prompted Bliss to panic and run out of the room. Jax’s anger continued to boil which led her to storm the backstage area in search of her former friend. Bliss was nowhere to be found.
Evaluation: Alexa is teetering on the edge of the line in terms of how she’s talking about Nia Jax. It’s one thing to get heat, but if she keeps up the talk about the difference in her looks and Nia’s looks the feud will get distasteful pretty quick. That said, she hasn’t crossed the line yet and the words she’s using is drumming up sympathy for Nia Jax. This is important. With Jax being such a dominant heel for so long, it’s imperative for the fans to have a reasonable connection with her so that they can cheer her when the time comes. Bliss has to tone down the verbiage a bit and if she can do that, the feud between these two should get hotter and hotter each week.
Forecast: Nothing official yet, but all signs point to Bliss vs. Jax at WrestleMania. Next week, look for Jax to get involved in the Bliss/Asuka finish to further drive a wedge between the two.
-The Ultimate Deletion will go down next week on Raw. I’m interested to see this done with WWE’s spin. They certainly have the capability and budget to blow it off huge, but part of its allure the first time was that it wasn’t over-produced.
-Braun Strowman more than deserves to be featured in a WrestleMania match this year. That said, decimating an entire division to give him that match isn’t the answer.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 3/5: Ronda’s WrestleMania match is set, Cena sounds confident, Symphony of Destruction, Reigns doubles-down