BUFFALO, NY – Finally, Raw has come back to Buffalo, NY. As the WWE production trucks roll up alongside the Niagara River, the Wrestlemania machine kicks into high gear. As you know by now, the First Niagara Center welcomed enough Wrestlemania main-eventers and Hall of Famers to pack the Peace Bridge, and the fans themselves packed the arena to happily host a very good show.

Nick Tylwalk’s Monday Night Raw report hit the nail on the head: sometimes you just have to give the fans what they want, and starting the show with The Undertaker’s deathly bell set the tone for the whole evening. The crowd was popping right out of the gate.

Proving no slouch himself in the eyes of the working people’s crowd, CM Punk’s challenge to Taker got almost as big a reaction as the Dead Man’s cameo. Again, for many fans, neither of these developments were surprises, but that didn’t diminish the excitement of the possibility of these two in the ring. Honestly, the momentary swerve of teasing Randy Orton, Big Show, or Sheamus as the potential Streakbuster didn’t get the cheers from the crowd that Punk’s challenge did, as the fans probably saw it for the episode-filler that it was.

On the topic of hit/miss, The Rock fared much better in terms of a love-in for his visit, appearing in Buffalo to talk about how cold it is, than the Raw in 2011 when he did his satellite special. It’s old news to talk about the cheers and boos that rain down on John Cena in (mostly) equal number, but I did put my finger on something about the crowd when Cena shows up: the TV audience gets a slightly skewed version of his support, as the sound of the boos are disproportionately loud compared to the number of signs and shirts supporting him. In other words, to look around, Cena is still much more popular than he sounds on TV.

However, the crowd seemed to be in agreement that the upcoming Twice in a Lifetime match was missing something. The Point/Counterpoint debate was cold and far from electric. Obviously, Rock and Cena were underselling it, and probably hoping that their names would alone carry the weight of their feud, but I think there was another reason that the fans tuned out a bit during this segment and weren’t quite the same from then on, either: three hours is a looong show. From kids sleeping in their parents’ arms to a general drop in enthusiasm, the weight of the show’s length became more and more obvious.

There were exceptions, of course. There were two young kids, probably 7 or 8 years old, that seemed to come out of their stupor during the Fatal 4-Way. Why then, and not for the whole show beforehand, I have no idea, but Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show were the targets of their pre-pubescent battle cries. They even hurled their trash talk at The Undertaker when he returned, and that takes some guts.

Back in the beginning of the show, when more people were full of high energy, there were “Wooos” from all corners of the arena long before The Miz introduced Flair, and an appreciative ovation greeted one of many old school guests. As for the others, bless Sgt. Slaughter, Dusty Rhodes, and Jim Duggan, but it seems that they have been used too many times as returning legends and the buzz was gone for their returns.

Not so The Honkytonk Man. Referring earlier to the wisdom of giving people what they want, the tag match between 3MB and Clay/Tensai was brilliantly short to get to the guitar smashing as soon as possible. DiBiase has also shown up quite a few times already, but his laugh doesn’t get old and he was received well. Maybe part of the bloom was off these returns because most of them, if not all of them, were featured in the opening video montage, so there really weren’t any surprises.

There were a couple of noteworthy items in The Undertaker’s video, too. The first was a cat. Not a mean, black, warlock’s cat, but a tabby. Is that The Undertaker’s pet? Did it just accidentally get in the camera shot and escaped the editor’s attention? Hadn’t thought of The Undertaker as a “cat guy”.

Secondly, after Raw went off the air and Taker’s video wound its way down, a really brief image appeared that looked like a hand-written note on the end of a film reel. It was a reversed image of text that read at least “of the will” and may have been “Triumph of the will”. Now, his video wouldn’t be shot or edited on a filmstrip, would it? Besides, it still doesn’t explain the cat.

As for what you’ve really all come to find out, what was the sign of the night: there was one confusing poster that just said “Yes Si Yes No”; I think I knew what they were going for, but like Zack Ryder against Mark Henry, they just couldn’t seal the deal.

After the cameras shut down, The Shield made their way to the ring for a little payback on Big Show, and they got it with their triple-powerbomb. Naturally, this offended Cena, Ryback, and Sheamus, and they came out to the start an impromptu dark match. Buffalonians really didn’t see this coming, as about a quarter of the seats were empty while people scrambled to beat the traffic as soon as they thought the show was done.

Cena wrestled the lion’s share of the match, which ended up in a disqualification as The Shield introduced a chair into the equation. Sheamus nailed a post-match Brogue Kick on Roman Reigns while Cena and Ryback did a stereo AA/SS on Rollins and Ambrose, finally sending the rest of the crowd home happy.