2/4/13 Raw Review:

The February 4th edition of RAW is in the books. This was supposed to be an episode where we got answers, and a clearer picture of what's to come heading towards the Elimination Chamber PPV. What we got, however, was 3 hours bookended by great television, with a huge grey area in the middle.

There were some hits, and some misses. Lets take a closer look, shall we?

Highlights

Wow, what a start to the show! CM Punk delivered a captivating heel promo that drew major heat. I thought he did a great job conveying exactly how he feels about his current status within WWE, using true emotions that Steve Austin would appreciate. This guy is one of the best in the business, and his epic title reign had to come to an end because a part-time Superstar needed to take the strap and drive up PPV buys for Wrestlemania. Listen, I completely understand the reasoning behind it, but appreciate Punk's frustration. He verbalized that sentiment beautifully and made us believe that he is taking back what he deserves at the Elimination Chamber. Great hook, I'm buying it. It came through terrifically on TV, and was one of his best on-air segments in recent memory.

I wasn't exactly impressed by Miz TV (Heyman was gold, however), and didn't find the introduction of Vickie Guerrero to be necessary. The dialogue between Miz and Heyman was awkward, and never really got to the pointů You know, where we were supposed to find out what the deal was with him and The Shield?

Enter, Brock Lesnar to save the segment! I'll be honestů I completely forgot why everyone was even out there once his music hit. They have once again positioned Lesnar to be a powerhouse that cannot be stopped. Whether it is Triple H, or someone else, I am excited for his build to Mania, and I think the WWE is doing a good job so far. Props to Miz for taking that beating, by the way.

But once again, we are left with nothing to latch onto coming out of this bit other than to wonder if Vickie and Heyman get fired. I don't think I am taking too much of a leap here when I say I don't think that will happen. This ended up being a trend which I will get to laterů

The Punk vs. Jericho match was outstanding. Without The Rock there, the WWE needed to have a solid main event that would get people to stick around for the 3rd hour. This match certainly delivered. I really enjoyed Punk calling he fans Marks, and mocking Jericho by screaming "ask him!" over and over while he had him in a front face lock. He is so good at the little things. This bout gave us an array of false finishes that ultimately lead to a Punk victory while allowing Jericho to look very strong. I just hope Punk didn't hurt himself at the end of the match.

What followed was Brad Maddox, not John Cena, calling out The Shield. Maddox is fantastic (and different) on the mic, and is being positioned to be an important figure in the months to come. I was glad to hear The Shield speak when they arrived. WWE really needs to start developing their characters a bit more rather than just having them assault people week in and week out. The end of RAW (which ran awfully long, no?) planted the seeds for what could be a match between The Shield and the team of Cena, Ryback, and Shaemus for the Elimination Chamber PPV very nicely.

Also, we saw an exciting return for the World's Strongest Man! I wasn't exactly sure what direction the WWE would take with Mark Henry when he came back, but this was a great start. Even though it was a shame Henry got hurt, the break he took was much needed for his on-air character. He absolutely destroyed Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio and made a believer out of me. The question is, who will step up to stop him?

Who would you like to see Mark Henry feud with upon his return?

Lowlights

Following a glorified squash match with an undeserving Cody Rhodes, Alberto Del Rio began to apologize to the WWE Universe and beg for the fans to like him. The WWE was doing a decent job turning him face so far, but this was the wrong way to go. The fans in Atlanta seemed to agree, and I think I heard a pin drop in the 3rd row during his promo.

Cut to another snooze-fest confrontation between Del Rio and Big Show. This one delivered live, via satellite. We are hardly a full month into this program, and I am already bored out of my mind. This hotel charade did absolutely nothing to further the story-line, and I feel like the same scenario plays out each week, just in a different setting.

In the grand scheme of things, none of this really matters. Shaemus will most likely face Randy Orton at WM29 for the World Heavyweight Championship, and this angle will fizzle out. While I respect Big Show for what he has done in this business, any time he is on TV now he puts me to sleep. Hopefully this is all over at Elimination Chamber.

Something I found terribly wrong with this week's RAW was that it exposed the irrelevancy each mid-card title has at the current moment. Last night, we saw Antonio Cesaro and Wade Barrett lose. Daniel Bryan barely scraped by Rey Mysterio, while agitating his partner Kaneů Who also lost.

Folks, we are just about two months away from the biggest night in WWE's calander year, and there are no contenders for the US Title, the Intercontinental Title, or the Tag Team Championships. The multiple main events that will be showcased on the Wrestlemania 29 card will sell tickets and drive PPV buys, but that should not lead to a complete ignorance towards the mid-card and building talent for the future. WWE is missing the boat on highlighting its current champions, and establishing Superstars like Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, Tyson Kidd (before he got injured), Zack Ryder, etc. Not to mention keeping the Tag Division relevant! The WWE needs to book these belts in strong programs leading to Mania, or it will be hard to establish them afterwards.

And wait just one secondů You mean to tell me that you have 3 hours of television time, The Rock isn't even in Atlanta, and you leave the guy who is carrying a briefcase that leads to a championship run in the dressing room? I truly hope I find a legitimate reason as to why Dolph Ziggler was left off camera last night. The guy is one of the best workers in the game today, and there is an outside shot at squaring off with Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania. Other than that, we have nothing to go on with Ziggler right now. If WWE is planning on letting him cash in soon, he has to start winning matches and get quality TV time to make him a believable champion.

Most of my issues with this episode of RAW stem from what didn't happen, and not what actually didů

Quick Hits
-It's amazing how Punk finds new ways to insult the crowd each week.
-Big botch by Booker T in the open, he handled it graciously.
-The WWE App got more air-time than the Divas did. #Priorities
-Fandango vignettes are back! I hope Johnny Curtis has the chops to get this gimmick over.
-Although Jack Swagger wasn't fully repackaged like most thought he would be, his newfound intensity caught my attention. It should be interesting to see where the Creative Team takes him in the coming weeks.
-Not exactly sure why WWE broke Team Rhodes Scholars up. The Tag Division is already thin, and Rhodes looked weak against Del Rio last night.
-Did anyone else see that new face-buster from Daniel Bryan?
-Antonio Cesaro put on another great performance against Ryback. He is one of the most talented superstars in the WWE today, and the company better keep his momentum going. I see him being a big player in the months to come.
-Its fantastic to see Bruno Sanmartino is being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He is without a doubt one of the greatest of all time.

That's all for me ladies and gentleman! Thanks so much for reading. Please let me know what you think about last night's RAW!

Tweet me your questions and comments at @MikeSouzaJT.

Have a great week all!

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