Here’s what I took away from the 3/3 Raw.
Punk is not coming back. I can’t come up with a single reason to save him for next week or the week after. If it could be done, this was the time to make it happen, and it didn’t. I have to assume that, short of a miracle, he’s gone through Wrestlemania. And after Mania, I don’t see much point in bringing him back just to have him leave again in July.
WWE is set on Bryan vs. Triple H, but the fans aren’t. The crowds have gotten good at using “YES” and “NO” to be very specific about their intentions. They support Daniel Bryan and they despise Triple H, but they do not want to see Bryan fight HHH at Mania, even when Bryan demands it. Bryan fans want to see him in a world title match, and they know that this is less likely to happen if he’s booked elsewhere on the card. It’s going to be interesting to see how that affects the storyline, as fans try to support their hero while advocating against his wishes.
The best defense against hijacking is to put on a good show. WWE knew going in this was going to be a tough crowd, and clearly made an active effort to reduce the problems they’ve had at recent events. I was really expecting a lot of pointless skits and meandering filler matches, but other than Sheamus vs. Christian they kept the show flowing with lots of stuff that felt like it mattered. Other than the Punk chants (unavoidable under the circumstances), the fans didn’t need to turn on the show very much, because the show *gasp* didn’t suck.
But that doesn’t mean the hijack movement was in vain. I think the whole Twitter thing didn’t matter one way or the other. But the recent pattern of fans going into business for themselves on Raw and PPV finally forced WWE to blink, if only for this one show. This show was designed to soothe disgruntled fans, which wouldn’t have happened if the fans hadn’t been acting so disgruntled over the past few months. It may not last, but at least for one week it felt like the fans and WWE were almost on the same page. I’d call that a small victory.
The Heyman promo was perfect. Given that they didn’t have Punk, whoever came up with the idea to start the show with Heyman deserves a raise. He managed to acknowledge the issue, tie it into his own storyline, and even create a motivation for Lesnar/Taker that was sorely lacking last week. Heyman blames last year’s Punk/Taker match for everything that happened to Punk in the past year, so now he’s going to have Brock get revenge on Taker. It’s astonishingly elegant.
The Mania main event is still Batista vs. Orton. I’m surprised about this, because I figured somebody would get added to the match by the end of the night. Apparently it won’t be Bryan and it can’t be Punk. So we’re left with the same basic problem we’ve had since the Rumble: How can you headline Wrestlemania with a match between two guys everyone hates? I assume WWE wouldn’t have officially turned Batista heel without some kind of plan, but it’s no closer to unfolding than it was a week ago, or five weeks ago.