ATLANTA — After a shocking conclusion to last week’s Raw in Las Vegas, the Road to WrestleMania made a stop in Atlanta tonight further setting up possible matchups in both the Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania 29.
For the first time since Hell in a Cell, Philips Arena was packed with members of the WWE Universe. While Atlanta does not get to host any WWE pay-per-views this calendar year, the rowdy crowd made sure to give the WWE incentive to book one for 2014.
This was the first three-hour episode of Monday Night Raw I was able to see in person and despite the lengthy breaks in between matches, I was very pleased with the show. I can’t remember the last time an entire WWE show ended with every single match being won cleanly and without controversy (including the two matches on Superstars).
On Superstars, Damien Sandow said that Team Rhodes Scholars was no more because both men wanted to pursue success in singles competition. If that’s the case, adding both Cody and Damien to one of the Elimination Chamber matches could be in the works and would certainly add to the intrigue of which man might stab his former partner in the back.
After CM Punk’s lengthy diatribe about him being with collusion with The Shield and why he still is the champion, we finally get our first match of the night featuring Ryback against Antonio Cesaro. Maybe it’s just me, but Ryback looked even more muscular tonight than last October at Hell in a Cell. The crowd reaction was interesting with Antonio because while there were the occasional cheers for the US Champ, there wasn’t an overwhelming number of boos. Antonio might be turning into a tweener soon.
After a quick match between Santino Marella and Jack Swagger, we have our “sign of the night” contest, showcasing some of the more creative fan signs. While a winner wasn’t actually crowned, my favorite was one done by a little girl featuring two stick figures in a tree with the sign reading “AJ & Dolph, sitting in a tree…”
Next up is Alberto Del Rio. It’s amazing how quickly the fans have taken to him as a babyface. Giving his towel to a young fan in the front row, he seems poised to take over Rey Mysterio’s spot as far as fan interaction.
I’m curious if ADR’s discussion with Big Show was bleeped out at all. I grew up in New Mexico so when ADR questioned if Big Show had any “cajones” I knew exactly what he was talking about, but not sure if the WWE brass or fans in attendance know.
As always, Daniel Bryan put forth a great effort in his match against Rey. The big shocker came after the match when Mark Henry’s music hit. Up to that point, Henry got the biggest pop of the night. With his destruction of Rey, Sin Cara and Bryan, it’ll be interesting to see if any combination of these wrestlers will take on Henry at one of the next two PPVs.
Miz TV was entertaining if nothing more than a slight swerve with Vickie Guerrero. With Vickie claiming responsibility for the re-hiring of Brock Lesnar, not Paul Heyman, the chances of Brock, the Shield and CM Punk joining forces gets a little less likely now. Of course, when Brock’s music hit, his pop was near deafening and clearly the loudest ovation that anyone got that night.
As great as the match between Y2J and CM Punk was near the end of the show, WWE saved the best for last. After Raw went off the air, Punk, along with Dolph Ziggler, Big E Langston and AJ came down to the ring and challenged Cena and Ryback to an “Austrian rules” tag team match. What made the match “Australian” I have no idea, although I don’t believe Big E was a legal participant.
However, rather than a simple and quick win, these five men (including Big E) went almost 20 minutes, with Ryback actually taking the brunt of the workload for his team even though he had already wrestled earlier in the night. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a great sign to see Ryback doing more than simply using his overpowering strength in matches. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, people might not question him being in the Main Event of WrestleMania 30 next year.