Nostalgia can be a double-edged sword.
There's a time and a place for the past in professional wrestling. The "nostalgia pop" garnered by superstars like "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and "Road Dogg" Jesse James during the Royal Rumble are one example.
The return of Shawn Michaels to Raw this Monday is another. Michaels and Triple H had the crowd eating out of their hands during a segment on the show, in which Michaels pleaded with Triple H to accept the Undertaker's challenge for a rematch at WrestleMania.
These two are veterans who know each other well. I've gone on record saying that while I don't expect the imminent rematch to be appealing, the build should be fantastic. The former DX brethren proved that again Monday night.
Michaels called "The Game" a coward for backing down, while Triple H cited business reasons for his decision. The Undertaker's streak is a brand, he said, and ending it would hurt the WWE overall, which, as he pointed out, is his to inherit.
Through it all, the crowd clamored for "one more match" and chanted "H-B-K." When Michaels left the ring, the Deadman's gong elicited yet another pop from the crowd, and the viewers were treated to another excellent video package.
These three men know how to tell a story, and they're knocking it out of the park with this effort. I know somewhere backstage, this blog's patriarch Kevin Eck was trying his best not to "mark out" in front of his colleagues.
But therein lies the problem. Triple H and Undertaker are both working very reduced schedules, in the twilight of their careers. Michaels is retired, only making a series of special appearances to promote and advance this story.
Add to that the prominence of The Rock's role in WrestleMania, and the issues of that nostalgia presence becomes obvious. The "old guard" can help tell stories now and advance toward WrestleMania, but what happens in May?
When the smoke of WrestleMania has cleared, and the WWE landscape looks to a new horizon, these legends will return to their off-screen roles, but where does that leave the WWE?
One can't deny the benefits of these nostalgic presences, but we must also hope that the company will continue to simultaneously build new stars for the future. A series of matches between the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match for Sunday's pay per view showed promise in that regard, but the necessary building of stars will take much more time than just a few shows.
In the meantime, though, it's best to just enjoy the ride and take in the nostalgia while we can. Eventually these guys will be gone for good, so it's best to cherish the memories while we can.
- The show opened with a debate featuring the six Elimination Chamber WWE Championship match participants. Yes, a debate. No, this wasn't NXT. R-Truth's promo had some humorous lines, but it quickly ran its course. Chris Jericho and Kofi Kingston actually took advantage of the opportunity to cut a short-but-solid promo. Dolph Ziggler stole CM Punk's "voice of the people" gimmick when he confidently declared, "This debate is a joke." Can't say I disagree.
The real winner of the debate was Kingston, who not only cut a decent little promo about being overlooked, but also jumped Jericho, his opponent for the night, from behind. Kingston showed more fire in this segment than he has in a while. He then put on a solid little match with Jericho that made him look good, as he managed to get in more offense than most viewers likely expected. Kingston has no chance of winning Sunday's Elimination Chamber match, but maybe there is life after Air Boom.
- In the second of three matches featuring Elimination Chamber participants, R-Truth defeated Ziggler. Some people were immediately upset by this booking, as they said it buried Ziggler. I disagree, looking it from the standpoint that it at least makes another contender look somewhat strong going into the pay-per-view. As for the match itself, it was pretty basic. R-Truth showed off some great athleticism in the beginning, but it wasn't anything special overall.
The final contest of the series saw Punk defeat the Miz in a short main event match. There was nothing actively bad about the match, but much like R-Truth vs. Ziggler, there wasn't much that made it stand out. It was still better than a lot of what was broadcast last week and made Punk look strong heading into his title defense. The Raw Elimination Chamber really boils down to Punk and Jericho, so this helps advance that story.
- Randy Orton and Big Show met in a one-on-one match in wake of their Smackdown-ending brawl last week. The match wasn't bad, and Orton hitting his patented top-rope DDT on Show was an impressive feat. The ending looked rough, as the duo botched an RKO, leaving Orton to hit the move a second time. Daniel Bryan ran in and laid out both men with the title belt, leaving him standing tall. Despite the presence of The Great Khali, the World Heavyweight Championship match is shaping up to be the most anticipated match of Sunday's pay-per-view.
- The Kane-John Cena angle took another sharp turn, as Cena saved Eve from Kane's grasp, only to be rewarded with a deep kiss. Of course, Zack Ryder rolled up in his wheelchair, armed with flowers for Eve, right as it happened. It was hard to believe this feud could get worse, but Arthur Fonzarelli has ramped that lake once again (Google it if you don't understand). Unfortunately, the angle continued in the final minutes of Raw, as Ryder confronted Cena in the ring, slapping his hero. Cena teased hitting Ryder. Kane appeared, saying Cena had embraced the hate (how, I'm not quite sure), and then shoved Ryder off the ramp. Cena and officials rushed to his aid, with Cena even throwing up the X, signifying a legitimate injury. I hate when that sign is used in storyline purposes, as legitimate injuries should be treated as a serious issue.
- Tamina scored a dominant victory over Brie Bella in an average divas match. I appreciate the fact they've actually built Tamina as a challenger heading into her pay-per-view match with Divas Champion Beth Phoenix rather than just have the "diva of the week" get a title shot. Tamina is one of the women - along with Phoenix, Natalya, Kharma and, to a lesser extent, Eve - who could really breathe new life into the divas' division.
Chris Jericho d. Kofi Kingston
Big Show d. Randy Orton by disqualification
R-Truth d. Dolph Ziggler
Tamina d. Brie Bella
CM Punk d. The Miz
Tonight's Raw was a tremendous rebound from last week's disappointment. The opening debate segment and the Cena-Kane angles were the low points of the show, but the actual wrestling was a step up, and the rest of the show came together well. The Triple H-Michaels promo was extremely well done and has me more interested in the build to the match than before. Sunday's pay-per-view will be the epitome of a two-match pay-per-view, but those two matches are least looking poised to deliver.
Comment of the Night
"CM Punk with the TV-M. Naked pictures of bestiality? A lot of kids are asking their parents a real tough question right now." - Scott Sudikoff @SudikoffCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times