It doesn't feel like WrestleMania is this Sunday, but it is. The past couple episodes of Raw have felt incredibly underwhelming and not a whole lot was accomplished. The WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar has barely been on the show. When Lesnar is on the show he has been relegated to standing next to Paul Heyman while Heyman single-handedly tries to sell the WWE Universe on the main-event at WrestleMania. The other half of that main-event, Roman Reigns, hasn't gained any traction with WWE fans and it is hard to think of a Wrestle<ania main-event with less hype surrounding it than this one.
There is a lot of disappointment with where Daniel Bryan is positioned on the card. Just a year after main-eventing Wrestle<ania, Bryan is in the Intercontinental Championship ladder match. Dolph Ziggler is also in that matchup and it just seems that these superstars are being wasted. One would think that given the popularity of Ziggler and Bryan, the WWE would be able to come up with something better for them. The Undertaker has yet to appear on WWE programming since last year's WrestleMania and it has left the WWE to have Bray Wyatt essentially cut the same promo week after week in hopes of getting people excited for the match. John Cena and Rusev is one of the more exciting feuds the WWE has going for it right now, but they just had a match last month at WWE Fastlane. It can be argued that the match the WWE Universe is most excited for is Sting versus Triple H. I don't see how that can be a good thing simply because both men are well past their prime and certainly wont be wrestling weekly on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown from now on. There is a significant lack of hype for this year's WrestleMania, will this episode of Raw fix all of that?
*Spoilers follow below!
10 Sting Opens the Show
Another episode of Monday Night Raw, another promo to open the show. However, this promo is different from all the others because it is the first time ever that Sting kicked off an episode of Raw. The WWE finally let Sting speak instead of just stand there and pointing a bat at Triple H. I find it amusing that the WWE seemingly ignores Sting's run in TNA and constantly refer to his time in WCW. Stephanie McMahon interrupts and eventually tries to slap Sting but he blocks her attempt, which leads to Triple H coming out. Stephanie gives Triple H his sledgehammer and Sting takes out the baseball bat. Triple H retreats, leaving Sting to celebrate in the ring. This was a solid way to kick off the show and got the crowd excited for the matchup between the two at WrestleMania.
9 Dancing Around the Truth
Dean Ambrose & R-Truth face off against Stardust & Luke Harper. Wade Barrett joins the announce table and essentially just talks about how awesome he is. The build up to the Intercontinental Championship ladder match has been lackluster at best. R-Truth winds up getting the pin over Stardust. R-Truth and Dean Ambrose celebrated and danced in the ring after the match. My opinion on the ladder match remains the same, it is a shame that the WWE couldn't come up with something better for the majority of the superstars in this match.
8 Guest Stars
Damien Mizdow and The Miz interviewed Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart to promote their new movie "Get Hard." Ferrell and Hart were both enamored with Damien Mizdow, continuing to build the jealousy between The Miz and his stunt-double. Bill Simmons was also featured on this episode of Raw as a guest commentator, which was entertaining and I think it is a good idea for the WWE to include celebrities from other mediums in order to build their brand. Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion, or whatever he is being called these days, also performed on the show. Curtis "Axelmania" Axel interrupted Snoop Dogg and, naturally, the immortal Hulk Hogan came out to make the save. This was incredibly corny but entertaining nonetheless. I know many WWE fans get bothered by guest stars and for the most part they are disastrous. Personally, I think there is a place for guest stars on WWE programming, as long as they are incorporated with the show well. The past few weeks the WWE has done a decent enough job with bringing so-called "outsiders" onto their programming. Hopefully this trend continues and they don't go back to having guest hosts that are out of place and completely drag the show down.
7 Orton Versus Rollins
As voted by the WWE Universe on the WWE app, Randy Orton faced off against Seth Rollins and J&J Security. Rollins actively tried to avoid being tagged in throughout the match, leaving Orton to beat the heck out of J&J Security. This was smart because it shows just how much of a coward Rollins is and how dominant Randy Orton is. This is a good set-up for the match between Orton and Rollins at WrestleMania, as it protects both superstars. If Rollins wins, it will likely be some sort of screwy finish in which he cheats to win. If Orton wins, it shows that he is back to being one of the more powerful superstars in the WWE and leaves the door wide open for Rollins to get his revenge on Orton in the following weeks. This match was only a couple of minutes but it furthered the feud and accomplished what it set out to.
6 Not on the Same Paige
Nikki Bella gave either Paige or AJ Lee the opportunity to face her for the WWE Divas title. The catch here is that Paige and AJ had to figure out which of them would be fighting for the title. The Bella Twins hoped that this would cause dissension between AJ and Paige before their tag-team match against them at WrestleMania. Paige and Nikki Bella had a very good match and WWE actually gave them a solid amount of time on the show. AJ accidentally hit Paige with an elbow, mistaking her for Nikki Bella. Nikki got the win and retained her title. The Bella Twins master plan worked as Paige and AJ wound up fighting each other after the match.
5 Going Nowhere Fast
The tag-team title match at WrestleMania is revealed to be a part of the kick-off show at the event. I thought this would happen, simply because the WWE has done little to nothing to promote the tag-team division over the past few weeks. Tyson Kidd, Cesaro & Natalya faced the Los Matadores & El Torito on this episode of Raw. El Torito pinned Natalya for the victory, but this match stunk and that is pretty much all I can say about it. It is a bummer just how unimportant the tag-team titles have become in the WWE.
4 Rusev the Ruthless Russian
Rusev faced Jack Swagger and entered the ring without Lana by his side, so naturally the crowd chanted "we want Lana" throughout the match. Swagger is another in a seemingly endless list of superstars that the WWE has done nothing with recently. Rusev easily beat Swagger, as expected. After the match, Cena came out and brawled with Rusev. Eventually, Rusev got the upper-hand and dismantled Cena. It is hard for me to fully buy Cena as an underdog at WrestleMania, but at the very least it showed how ruthless Rusev can be. I hope Rusev leaves WrestleMania victorious, as Cena is already hugely popular and doesn't need the victory. However, this seems like a forgotten sequel to the Rocky franchise and Cena will most likely win at WrestleMania, before having the American flag draped across him.
3 Insert Useless Wyatt Promo Here
Yet again, Bray Wyatt cut another promo directed towards The Undertaker. At this point, I could care less. Don't get me wrong, I think Bray Wyatt has a great future with the WWE, but I could care less about this match. The Undertaker no longer has the streak and there are no stakes at all in this match. Get ready for the battle of cool entrances at WrestleMania, followed by a subpar wrestling match. To be clear, I'm not referring to the match between Sting and Triple H when I say that, I'm talking about Wyatt versus The Undertaker.
2 Ziggler Versus Bryan
Daniel Bryan faced Dolph Ziggler this week. Many had hoped that this would be a match at WrestleMania, since it would give both superstars a chance to showcase the obvious talent they both have in the ring. The WWE Universe was once again able to vote for something via the WWE app and Dean Ambrose was voted to be the special guest referee. The announcers during the match were really trying to build up the Intercontinental Championship. This really was the only positive to takeaway from the position both Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler are in. Many feel that they should be in the WWE title picture, but if the WWE is trying to bring the Intercontinental Title back into relevancy, I can get behind this. I just think it would make more sense to have Roman Reigns fighting it rather than Ziggler or Bryan. This was a good match where Ziggler defeated Daniel Bryan. After the match, Ambrose took out Ziggler and set up the ladder in the ring. Eventually everyone involved in the ladder match at WrestleMania came out and brawled with each other. In other words, buy the PPV to see an actual match between all of these superstars.
1 WWE Fails to Deliver
Rumors have been circulating that the WWE set a deadline for themselves that if they did not sign Brock Lesnar to a new contract by the end of Monday evening, they would not resign him. If word comes out that they didn't get a contract done, then I guess we know who will win between Lesnar and Reigns at WrestleMania. Anyway, Paul Heyman once again cut an absolutely amazing promo. If Heyman wasn't involved in this feud, I honestly believe this main-event would be doomed. I still think the only way this main-event works is if Lesnar walks out victorious, or Paul Heyman turns on Lesnar and becomes the manager of Roman Reigns. I seriously hope WWE doesn't decide to just ignore the consistent negative reaction Reigns receives, but at this point I have no idea what they are doing. For example, this episode of Monday Night Raw went off the air with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns having a tug of war with the WWE Title. Roman Reigns didn't say a word, he simply came out and grabbed the title. Then, Lesnar grabbed it back. Then, the two both grabbed it. Then, the show ended with them tugging on a title belt. All I could picture was two little kids fighting over who gets to play a video game. Aside from Heyman, this promo was bad and it is really unfortunate.
WrestleMania 31 is this Sunday and I don't think WWE did enough to capture the casual audience. Most likely everyone that is reading this article will be watching on Sunday. However, the goal of the WWE right now is to get more people to subscribe to the WWE Network. While I'm sure they will gain many subscribers, I don't think they convinced nearly as much people as they had hoped to subscribe to the network.