WWE Raw: April 2, 2012

Crazy comebacks, shocking promos, and the births of some sweet, sweet rivalries: post-Wrestlemania Raw is probably the best of the year so far.

Raw opened up with a promo from The Rock. The Miami crowd was looking forward to hearing what the hometown hero had to say about his match with John Cena the previous night. The Rock began by thanking Cena for a great match as well as the WWE Universe for their support. However, he made sure to note that this isn’t “the end; it is just the beginning.” He continued to tell The People about a vision of winning the WWE Championship again. The thought is definitely tantalizing, but is this really what is best for The Rock after a year-long feud like he had with John Cena? We all know he is still on top but is it smart for WWE to switch gears so quickly?

Following this stunning announcement, the United States Champion, Santino Marella, defended his title in a Triple Threat Match against Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger (pronounced “Thwagger”), who just so happens to be buddies of new permanent GM of Raw and SmackDown, John Laurinaitis. Swagger and Ziggler worked together against the champ throughout. Though this is typical in a heel-heel-face Triple Threat Match, Swagger turned on Ziggler when Dolph tried to steal the win. Santino took advantage of his opponents’ bickering and gave Jack Swagger the Cobra and the pin to retain the title! Although Santino was very over, the obviously internet-savvy crowd was heavily supportive of Ziggler as well. After the match, the disgruntled challengers chased Santino up the ramp. At the top, help arrived in a big way in the form of “The Funkasaurus,” Brodus Clay. Dolph tried to take on the ‘Saurus by himself, but his leaping attack was cut short, by a headbutt to the chest from Brodus, causing Ziggler to take a brutal bump on the steel ramp. Are we seeing the beginning of Team Funk-tino?

Then came the debut of Lord Tensai (aka A-Train/Prince Albert). The back of his head has been featured in promo videos for a few weeks. WWE has chosen to acknowledge his past with the company instead of ignoring it. He was greeted warmly with “welcome back” chants as he wrestled a standard squash match against Alex Riley.

Next we were treated to a surprise WWE Championship match as CM Punk put his title on the line against Mark Henry (another buddy of the new GM). Despite the standard David-versus-Goliath formula, Punk and Henry’s chemistry kept the match alive and the crowd hot. No matter how hard Punk fought, Henry fought twice as hard. Just as Punk was mounting a comeback, Henry threw him out of the ring and forced a countout.

Although CM Punk retained, John Laurinaitis and David Otunga made an appearance to tell Punk that he will be defending his title much more frequently from now on. The terms of said frequency were not specified, but that should be the least of Punk’s worries; out of nowhere, Chris Jericho, humiliated by his loss to CM Punk at Wrestlemania, appeared and decided he had to keep his promise to CM Punk and force the Straight-edged Superstar to take his first drink of alcohol. Jericho mocked Punk’s family as he poured liquor all over his exhausted body. Jericho even broke a large bottle over Punk’s head knocking him out cold. This attack was refreshingly brutal in the midst of WWE’s PG standards, and CM Punk did a great job of selling it. It looks like this rivalry is not over and with such intensity, why would fans want it to be?

World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus arrived to a hostile welcome from the crowd. Since his ultra-brief squash match at Wrestlemania with Daniel Bryan was considered a bad call by booking (understatement of the century), the audience was understandably very pro-Bryan and anti-Sheamus. The champ attempted to celebrate his win when he was interrupted by a returning Alberto Del Rio, who informed Sheamus that they would be going head to head that Friday on SmackDown. This segment fell flat due to the crowd’s dislike for Sheamus and disinterest in Alberto Del Rio. Maybe Ricardo could give them a few tips on mic skills!

Next we saw match between Kofi Kingston and Cody Rhodes. Big Show appeared and presented a video of the previous night when Big Show defeated Rhodes to become the new Intercontinental Champion. Of course this distracted Cody, leaving him vulnerable to Kofi’s Trouble in Paradise for the pinfall. This was a pretty predictable scenario, and the fact that Cody Rhodes was on his way to squashing Kofi is disappointing; despite the amount of talent and crowd support Kofi has, he never has the chance to do anything special.

Next was a backstage segment involving Mark Henry destroying the locker room until he was soothed by a persuasive Abraham Washington. Washington asked Henry to hire him as a manager. Though Henry gave no final answer it is obvious we haven’t seen the last of this pair. It’s nice to see A.W. back on TV and it will be interesting to see where his character goes from here.

The last match of the night was between the self-proclaimed Internet Champion, Zack Ryder, and The Miz. They had a good back and forth match but nothing special, with Miz going over. It’s good to see that Miz isn’t getting buried anymore as he has potential (and the same goes for Ryder). However, there currently isn’t any solid plan for either man going forward.

In the last segment of the night, John Cena finally appeared to give his comments on his loss to the Rock at Wrestlemania. He wanted to admit his loss and move on with a clean slate and continue to be the best he can. He invited The Rock to join him for a respectful handshake. But plans changed when John Cena and the entire WWE Universe was rocked with the appearance of Brock Lesnar! There had been internet speculation that Lesnar had been re-signed after his eight-year absence, but he was not expected for Raw tonight. Cena remained in the ring, waiting. Lesnar did his signature entrance before getting in and giving Cena the infamous F-5! The show went off the air with Brock Lesnar posing for the crowd.

Overall Raw-stlemania was outstanding. The audience was still very pumped from the night before. Nothing felt out of place and the end of the show left everyone hot. The crowd added a lot of energy with their continuous Daniel Bryan “Yes!” chants. The night was filled with returns and debuts and allowed for intense feuds to grow more interesting. WWE should keep this intensity up because it was definitely an A+ night.