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The following report was published on PWTorch.com five years ago this week…
KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
APRIL 1, 2013
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
-The show opened with a narrated video package on the top feuds going into WrestleMania including a plug that Shawn Michaels would be on the show for the first time since Brock Lesnar broke his arm. It closed with: “Six days before WrestleMania, seven of the biggest Superstars in WWE history are here… live… tonight” as images flashed John Cena, The Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, C.M. Punk, and Shawn Michaels.”
(WK Reax: That’s a hell of a compliment to C.M. Punk, who isn’t yet in the company of the other six. Brock Lesnar only is because of his UFC accomplishments, really, because the others have had such a larger enduring lengthy historically significant impact on WWE over the years. But it’s not absurd to put Punk – or Lesnar, for that matter – in the grouping because it’s plausible historically within the context of today’s WWE, plus it’s good business because they’re a huge part of selling the show.)
-Cena made his full ring entrance as Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and JBL introduced the show. They briefly showed the announcers before going back to Cena in a bright yellow shirt and khaki cargo shorts. He got a mixed response, mostly boos and “Cena sucks!” chants. He soaked it up and said then said, “I stand in the middle of a house divided.” The camera panned the big crowd. “Ironically in Washington D.C., home of the Democrats, home of the Republicans. But tonight’s arena is full of Ceno-crats and Rock-publicans.”
He said all eyes are focused on WrestleMania and it’s no locker room secret he and Dwayne Johnson don’t like one another. He said he does respect Rock’s global superstar status. He said he’s also worthy of being called WWE Champion. He said a year ago he’d have made some “rude, way over the line remark about Rock and questioned his passion and his allegiance to WWE.” Then The Rock would come out there and “make fun of my mom, talk about my personal life, and throw my t-shirt in a big bowl of Fruitty Pebbles.” Then he said: “Those childish games are over because we know this is much, much bigger.” Why? Because the WWE Title is on the line.
(Quotebook – John Cena: “So tonight I am not going to waste my breath talking about Dwayne’s johnson.”)
Cena gave Rock credit for doing everything he said he’d do. He said he believes Rock is the greatest WWE Champion of all time.
(WK Reax: That’s a credibility killer instantly. One whole title defense in two months, and a few reigns over his span in WWE prior to shifting to movies.)
Cena insisted Rock’s time is up and his time is now, citing his accomplishment of winning the Royal Rumble. He paused for a very loud “Cena sucks!” chant. He smiled. He said the new Rock title belt arrogantly implied he’ll be champion for a long time because it’s designed for him. He said the “mighty Rock” will experience failure on Sunday and he’ll have to watch him defend the title belt designed for Rock. A loud chant of “Boring! Boring!” broke out. Cena paused to let it catch more fire.
He then said this Sunday, people will be shocked at what they see, but they will know The Champ is Here. He threw the mic down, as the boos intensified, and the camera zoomed in on the WrestleMania banner above his shoulder.
(WK Reax: It would have benefited from being trimmed by 25 percent in length, but such is the case in this bloated three-hour Raw era. Not that there weren’t long segments in the two hour format, but they had more luxury to cut back the opening segment if they didn’t have enough material to fill the time when it was just two hours. Now they need the opening segment long. Cena rarely looks flustered or confronted with the unexpected, since he’s embraced the boos and stood tall up against The Rock the last two years, but the “boring” chant clearly surprised him and his facial expressions revealed in just a few seconds that he was trying to decide how to react and whether to sell it or talk over it. In the end, he wanted to sell the idea that he will “shock the world,” but that teaser of a turn or change in attitude was somewhat lost among the bloated promo. The comments were a proverbial dog whistle to hardcore fans who were convinced, or at least intrigued, by the hints Cena gave that he’s going to have a new attitude on Sunday.)
-They went to the announcers who pushed fans to post videos on Tout asking for feedback on who wins the Rock vs. Cena match. Cole then filmed Lawler predicting a win for Rock. He then explained how he posted it online with #rockcena.
-They showed Big Show, Randy Orton, and Sheamus walking backstage. [c]
(Quotebook – JBL on 3MB: “They’re what happens when the Mean Street Posse goes to a karaoke bar.”)
(Quotebook – Jerry Lawler: “3MB reminds me of a band I was once in. We were called Blank Check, but we were never signed.”)
(1) Randy Orton & Sheamus & Big Show beat 3MB (Jinder Mahal & Drew McIntyre & Health Slater) in 3:00. A clip aired from Smackdown of the Shield teasing an attack, but Sheamus & Show & Orton met them in the crowd and sent them retreating. JBL said everyone works well together until faced with adversity. Show hit Mahal with a KO punch to get the win. Cole saw the win as a sign the babyface team could work together effectively.
-Afterward The Shield’s music played. They, as usual, stood in the crowd and stared at the ring. Dean Ambrose then mocking congratulated them on a big win. He said Sunday they will leave the ring with nothing to celebrate. Seth Rollins said they aren’t really all on the same page, but they’ve convinced themselves and the fans (“all these arrogant, foolhardy people”) that they are. Roman Reigns said The Shield is a real team and when they win at WM29, the world will believe in The Shield. JBL said he can’t see the Shield losing after Cole pointed out they’ve never lost.
-They hyped Michaels speaking about Triple H’s career being on the line. [c]
-The announcers hyped WrestleMania. Lawler also hyped Zeb Colter will wrestle his “first-ever WWE match” tonight against Alberto Del Rio.
-A video aired from earlier in the day of Zeb and Jack Swagger in the parking lot of the Capitol building. He said the country is as broken as Ricardo Rodriguez’s ankle. Swagger said he can fix it; first he’ll win the World Title, then he’ll begin to cleanse the country.
-Backstage Matt Striker interviewed Alberto Del Rio who said he’ll express his Freedom of Speech by beating Swagger at WM, but first he’ll dismantle Zeb. [c]
-Back from the break, with Dolph Zigger already standing in the ring without a full entrance airing, they plugged Vince McMahon is now on Twitter. JBL said “hell froze over.” They also hyped that McMahon will make a “big reveal” on Friday.
(2) Dolph Ziggler (w/A.J. Lee, Big E. Langston) beat Daniel Bryan (w/Kane) in 11:00. The announcers hyped, of course, the WrestleMania tag team title match. Cole called Big E. “the wildcard in all this.” They cut to a break at 4:00.
(Quotebook – JBL on A.J.: “She’s dated everyone in the ring, counting Kane, except for the referee.”) [c…]
Late in the match, A.J. skipped around the ring. Kane turned to look, leaving him vulnerable to a clothesline by Langston at ringside. In the ring, after Bryan slide kicked Big E., Ziggler rolled up a distracted Bryan with a yank on his tights and got the three count.
(WK Reax: This match filled some time in a good way with the typically good action you’d expect from these two. They also went with the angle that we’ll learn a lot about Big E. in the tag match and that he could be Ziggler’s key to victory. He’s now called “the human bulldozer.”)
-After the match Bryan yelled at Ziggler, then Big E. hit Bryan with a clothesline. Kane went after Ziggler and Big E., but Big E. broke free from a Kane chokeslam attempt and drove Kane hard to the mat. Cole and Lawler were astonished by his display of power. Ziggler & Big E., with A.J., posed with the tag titles. Cole asked if that would be the scene on Sunday.
-The on-screen graphic said Undertaker will “eviscerate” C.M. Punk later, but first Michaels speaks. [c]
-A clip aired from last August of Lesnar injuring Michaels.
-Shawn Michaels made his full ring entrance with three minutes left in the first hour. He slapped hands on his way to the ring and milked the cheers once he got inside the ring. Cole called him a “legendary Hall of Famer.” He plugged that he’s vocal on Twitter.
Michaels said they couldn’t have WrestleMania without Mr. WrestleMania. He said he loves this time of year, then went down the list of top matches. He said one match in particular, though, jumps out to him. He said his best friend is facing Brock Lesnar with his career on the line. Triple H’s music interrupted as Michaels began to express trepidation that Hunter agreed to the stip that his career is over if he loses.
Cole said this might be Triple H’s final appearance on Raw getting ready for a match. Hunter paused as fans chanted “DX!” briefly. It faded, and Hunter shifted to telling Michaels that he felt they already talked about this stip and it was old business. Hunter told Michaels that he “knows what he’s doing.” Michaels said it’s Hunter who doesn’t know what Hunter is doing. He said their situations aren’t the same. “They couldn’t be more different,” he said.
Michaels said when he faced Taker at WrestleMania with his career on the line, he and Taker had a mutual respect for each other. He said he was heartbroken when he lost to Taker, but what’s different about that match is Taker was heartbroken, too. He said Lesnar doesn’t respect Hunter, him, or WWE. He said Lesnar does what he does for money and because he likes to hurt people and wreak havoc. He said Hunter has poured his life into this job, so he’s putting more than his career on the line, he’s putting his life on the line.
Hunter acknowledged that Michaels has his best interests on the line and he loves him like a brother, but he can’t talk him out of wrestling this match. Michaels said he wasn’t back on Raw after 364 days away to tell him not to wrestle Lesnar, but rather to tell him to kick Lesnar’s ass. He said he will be at WrestleMania in Hunter’s corner to make sure it happens.
Brock Lesnar’s music played and he walked out, led by Paul Heyman. JBL called him “the greatest manager that ever lived.” Lawler almost gasped. Lesnar was red-faced and on edge. Hunter and Michaels stood side-by-side. Heyman said they will beat Hunter into retirement at WrestleMania, his career will be over, and Hunter and everyone will have to learn to live with the disappointment that results from that. Heyman said Hunter won’t be able to fight Vince McMahon’s battles anymore, plus he won’t be above to fulfill his duties as COO anymore. Worst of all, he won’t even be able to perform his duties for his wife anymore. Heyman paused and said, come to think of it, Stephanie probably has already gotten used to that. He closed by saying Hunter will also disappoint Michaels.
Hunter told Lesnar to bring it. Heyman said Hunter is playing tough guy, but Lesnar picked this fight and Hunter should have walked away, just as Michaels did after he lost at WrestleMania. Heyman said, unlike Michaels, Hunter won’t be able to walk away because Lesnar will turn him into a “beaten, battered, emasculated retiree.” He said Hunter, by agreeing to the match, committed professional suicide. As Lesnar and Heyman backed up onto the stage, Hunter gave them a crotch chop. Heyman smirked. Lawler raved that this will be an epic great fight on Sunday.
(WK Reax: Lesnar and Heyman were great raising the stakes and painting a picture of pending destruction. WWE didn’t give Michaels a long time to talk before Hunter walked out. They could have gone down the road of being overly corny or sappy here, but they actually kept this from going on too long. In 12 minutes, they fit in three segments – Michaels talking alone, Hunter and Michaels talking together, and Heyman’s final heel promo.)
-A video package aired on the Undertaker-Punk feud.
-Clips aired of Cena’s promo and the Shield’s promo in the first hour.
-Cole announced officially on Raw that The Miz would face Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Title. Miz said the most important matches at WrestleMania are the first and the last, and he’ll be in the first match during the pre show on the app or YouTube. He called it “the most must-see pre-show of all time, baby!”
(WK Reax: That was a bit of a stretch by Miz trying to portray being off the main card and in the Internet-only opener is some sort of co-main event.)
(3) Wade Barrett beat Zack Ryder in 4:00. Miz said he’ll be at his pinnacle at WrestleMania. Late in the match Ryder landed a Broski Boot for a two count. Barrett came back right away with a Bullhammer and then his finisher, looking at Miz before scoring the pin.
(WK Reax: Miz is smooth on color commentary and it was an efficient way to get the IC Title match some mic time on this show.)
-They showed Vickie Guerrero backstage watching on a monitor with Brad Maddox. Santino walked in and said Mr. McMahon arrived. He said when he got out of his limo, he looked very mad about Brickie. He said someone gets fired when McMahon is mad like this. A worried Vickie said it won’t be her because she’s done everything right in her role. Maddox was looking very worried Santino then said, “April Fools!” He then laughed and said Maddox made “a little caca in his pants.” Vickie said as punishment for that prank, she’s making him wrestle next. Maddox said the biggest fool of them all will prove to be Santino. Maddox and Vickie celebrated and laughed together.
-Cole asked if Punk went over the line using the memory of Paul Bearer to get into the head of Taker before their match at WrestleMania.
-A video package aired on Cena vs. Rock, hyping that it’s available on Xbox live, Samsung TV apps, smart phones, and tablets for the first time. [c]
(4) Mark Henry pinned Santino in 1:00. Before the match Santino was happy-go-lucky until Henry’s music played. Cole talked about the bench press challenge on Smackdown as Henry made a slow walk to the ring, including pointing out that by shoving the bench press bar across Ryback’s throat didn’t count as “making contact.” Lawler said that was the technicality of all technicalities. When Santino kicked Henry, Henry just got mad. When Santino reference The Cobra, Henry brushed him off and gave him the World’s Strongest Slam for the quick win.
-Afterward “Feed Me More!” played in the arena as Ryback stormed out. JBL said the no-contact clause was about to fly out the window. Henry reminded Ryback that he couldn’t break his bench press record last week on Smackdown, then he reminded a fuming Ryback of the no-contact clause. Henry said nobody wants to get his hands on Ryback as much as he does, but tonight’s not the night. He said tonight the only thing he’s going to do is smile at him. Ryback then picked up Santino and charged at Henry and knocked him to the floor. Ryback said, “I didn’t touch him.” He then asked Santino if he was okay, before immediately throwing Santino at Henry at ringside. Ryback said, “I didn’t touch you, stupid!” He led the crowd in chants of “Feed me more!” Cole said it’ll be “earth-shaking” on Sunday and “something has to give.”
-A camera caught Swagger and Zeb talking strategy for Zeb’s match against Del Rio later. [c]
-The announcers hyped McMahon on Twitter and Undertaker’s plan to “verbally eviscerate” Punk tonight.
-Matt Striker interviewed C.M. Punk, who had the urn in his hand. When he asked Punk if he’s disrespecting Bearer, Punk laughed and said he doesn’t give a damn about Bearer’s memory. He said all he’s trying to do is get into Taker’s head because he’s more concerned about his own legacy. He said he’s different than Taker’s other opponents because he will succeed at getting under his skin. He said he just has to get Taker to get himself DQ’d or counted out because he has rattled him, and then the streak is over. He said he’d do anything it takes to win. He said after Sunday, anytime anyone thinks about WrestleMania, the grandest stage of them all, they’ll think of his name.
-Swagger led Zeb to the ring. A replay aired of Swagger breaking Ricardo’s arm two weeks ago on Raw.
-Ricardo hobbled out on crutches, but smiled and introduced Del Rio. Del Rio smiled as he walked out – so that we know he’s a nice guy and a babyface – and told Ricardo to return to safety to the back. Ricado snuck to ringside, and Del Rio told him to leave, but then he had to turn his attention to Zeb.
(5) Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo) beat Zeb Coulter (w/Jack Swagger) via DQ in 1:00. Del Rio toyed with Zeb at first as Swagger stalked Zeb at ringside. Zeb yanked Ricardo’s crutch out of his hand. Zeb was going to hit Del Rio with the crutch as Swagger attacked Ricardo. Zeb hit Del Rio with the crutch and was DQ’d immediately.
-Afterward, Del Rio tried to attack Zeb, but Swagger slipped back into the ring and attacked Del Rio’s left knee. Then Zeb and Swagger hit Del Rio with repeated crutch shots. JBL said he doesn’t want to be part of Swagger’s America, but he has a right to speak his mind. Cole said it’s all garbage.
-They showed a clip of Cena at the start of Raw, then hyped Rock was up next. [c]
-Three minutes before the third hour began, The Rock’s music played. He came out to the pop of the night. He played to the crowd and marched to the ring. Cole bragged that Rock was in the no. 1 movie in the world.
Rock seemed to really love the crowd reaction he got, including a loud “Rocky! Rocky!” chant. Lawler said, “Wow!” Rock said the reason he’s standing in the ring and the reason he’s the defending WWE Champion going into WrestleMania is because of the will of the people. He said Sunday isn’t about John Cena’s redemption, but rather for The People because his connection to The People is bigger than anything else. He then hinted at a Presidential run, saying if The People are willing, they could change the world, because he might end up living in a big house right up the road – “a big… White House.” The crowd cheered. He said maybe they’ll go from President Ba-rack to President The Rock. The crowd chanted “Rocky! Rocky!” He said he believes he can count on their vote.
Rock transitioned into reacting to what Cena said earlier. He said Sunday isn’t about passing The Torch. He said the only way he’ll get “this torch,” holding up the WWE Title belt, is if he lights the belt on fire and sticks it up his candy ass. He said Cena isn’t just facing him, he’s facing 70,000 in that stadium and the millions and millions around the world. He said he lives for that “connection” to The People. He said Cena cannot deny the will of The People and he cannot beat The Rock. As the crowd continued to chant “Rocky! Rocky!” he did his routine “…if you smell what The Rock is cooking.” Rock’s music played as Cole said WrestleMania is a “Tale of Two Superstars.” He said Rock is confident, whereas Cena sees his back up against a wall in a must-win situation.
(Quotebook – The Rock: “You are looking for redemption, but The Rock has already found what he is looking for. You’ve just seen it, you’ve just heard it, because the bottom line is this, The Rock lives for this connection. This Sunday, you cannot deny the will of The People and you cannot deny The Rock.”)
(WK Reax: I liked this quite a bit. Rock was on his game. It was better to give him the last word and not have him in there against Cena where his focus was on standing tall and confident in front of Cena pelting him with lines about taking digs at his mother last year. Instead, Rock got to be a big star who countered his image as Mr. Hollywood by making it all about the fans. It’s a smart approach, and the framing of the match is intriguing – with Cole saying Rock is confident and Cena feels immense pressure to win. That promo went about nine minutes, a few minutes shorter than Cena’s earlier, and it felt just right. Rock seemed to gain confidence every minute that went by when it was clear D.C. had his back.)
-A video aired on Brock-Hunter. [c]
(6) Chris Jericho submitted Antonio Cesaro in 13:00 in a non-title match. As Cesaro settled into a chinlock, the announcers talked about Fandango’s name.
(Quotebook – JBL on Fandango: “He’s like a cross between Fred Astaire and Randy Couture.”)
(Quotebook – Jerry Lawler to JBL: “The only reason you weren’t on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ not because you can’t dance but because you’re not a star.”)
(Quotebook – JBL: “Jericho is the only WWE Superstar to be on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and not date George Clooney.”)
A few minutes in, Fandango’s music played, which woke up the crowd that had come down from Rock’s promo. Fandango and his dancer danced on the stage as the match continued. They cut to a break with Jericho awkwardly talking to the ref. [c]
Back from the break, Fandango appeared to be critiquing Jericho’s performance. Cesaro did his new yodeling routine at 10:00, then charged Jericho with a splash in the corner. Fandango gave him a 4 score for a double axe handle off the second rope. When Jericho landed the Lionsault, Fandango graded it with a 3 score. He began to walk to the ring. Jericho was about to apply the Walls (of Jericho), but Cesaro blocked it and gave Jericho a gut wrench suplex for a near fall. Jericho slide-kicked Fandango when he came to ringside. Cesaro surprised Jericho with a rollup for a two count, but Jericho came right back with the Walls for the tap out win.
-After the match, Fandango attacked Jericho. The crowd chanted “You can’t wrestle!” (Shouldn’t it be, “You choose not to wrestle!”?) Fandango posed and stomped Jericho, then gave Jericho his surfboard legdrop. He slapped him a few times and told him to say his name. Eventually referees ran in. Fandango ignored them and landed a top rope legdrop. He then leaned over a beaten Jericho and said, “It’s Fahn-dahn-go!” His music played as JBL said, “That’s how you make a name for yourself.” Cole called WrestleMania the greatest live show in entertainment. He said no one will ever forget Fandango’s name if he beats Jericho at WrestleMania.
(WK Reax: Good segment to put some heel heat on Fandango and gave Jericho fans a reason to want to see Jericho get satisfying revenge at WrestleMania. Fandango found the right balance of being ridiculous and despicable with his mannerisms, which isn’t a bad combination if you want to draw money from fans paying to see you get your ass kicked. He had good ruthless intensity in the beatdown of Jericho to give him some credibility headed into his WrestleMania in-ring debut.)
-Cole asked if Punk has taken things too far, and said Taker is up next.
-WWE Fact: More than 115 Superstars, Divas, and Legends will appear at WrestleMania Axxess, making it the most interactive fan event ever.
-They went to the announcers at ringside who said Stephanie McMahon will induct Trish Stratus into the Hall of Fame. JBL talked about the Hall of Fame. Cole threw to Tout videos on Rock vs. Cena.
(WK Reax: Those were the best Tout fan videos yet.)
-Cameron and Naomi were joined on stage by Brodus Clay and Tensai. [c]
(7) The Bella Twins (w/The Rhodes Scholars) beat Cameron & Naomi (w/Brodus Clay, Tensai) in 5:00. The Bells worked over Naomi at first, then Naomi hot-tagged to Cameron.
A brawl broke out with the men getting involved and out of the chaos a Bella rolled up Cameron for the win. [c]
-They showed a video billboard in Times Square in New York City featuring Rock and Cena. Cole said WWE is taking over New York City this week.
-As Undertaker’s entrance began, Cole said, “This is what I’ve been waiting for.” Taker walked slowly to the ring as the crowd cheered. A clip aired from last week’s Raw when Taker punched Punk. The announcers talked about Taker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. JBL said he thinks it’s in jeopardy this year. Taker paced and finally spoke. He said Punk’s WWE Title reign lasted over 400 days, but the pain he’ll inflict on him on Sunday will last an eternity. He said because Punk chose to make it personal, he will suffer. He said the disrespect he showed to Paul Bearer means he must pay the ultimate price. He said Punk might be right – his streak might come to an end on Sunday, but Punk won’t live to talk about it. Suddenly two druids came out holding torches.
(WK Reax: Between Rock referencing “torches” and the druids holding “torches,” I feel like I owe WWE for subliminal product placement or something.)
More druids walked out. Lawler said he doesn’t think Taker was expecting this. Cole said it’s all very strange as he reset the show for those tuning in for the overrun.
Paul Heyman dressed as Paul Bearer walked onto the stage holding an urn. He imitated Bearer with head nodding. Taker took off his ring jacket and walked toward the stage. He beat up the druids. Punk, though, dressed as one of the druids attacked Taker. He smashed Taker with the urn then taunted him to do his “hocus-pocus” and sit up. A battle chant broke out of “Un-der-tak-er!” and “C.M. Punk.” Punk continued to beat down Taker with the urn. Then he began to pour ashes onto Taker and rubbed them over Taker’s chest and then his chest. Punk said it’s all over at WrestleMania. He knelt and lifted the urn as Raw signed off only four minutes past the end of the third hour.
(WK Reax: It’s risky to incorporate a real life death this much into a storyline when it’s a tribute, but when the heels are scripted to make fun of him with a borderline comedy impersonation of him, it’s even more risky. The worst part is that when Heyman first walked out like Bearer and they played “Ohhhh yes!” over the sound system, they might have tricked some fans and viewers into thinking Bearer wasn’t really dead. I’ve even gotten that question via email. I also wonder what we missed out in terms of how this match would have been promoted had William Moody not died just over a month before WrestleMania. Was Plan A really inferior to going this route by having the last hard-sell for WrestleMania be the implication that Punk poured Paul Bearer’s ashes on Taker’s chest? I get that Bearer was a fictional character and when actors on TV shows die, they write off the character they played on the TV show. This, though, in the context of pro wrestling and using the emotions and memory of the character to sell a fight on a pay-per-view, it just runs a big risk of rubbing people the wrong way and giving them a distaste for the WWE brand for choosing to go that route, both because it seems both tacky and desperate, if not completely disrespectful.)