WWE Raw 2/14/11 Recap

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The Feb. 14, 2011 episode of Raw was full of speculation over who Vince McMahon would announce as the host of this year’s WrestleMania. It also involved some storyline crossover with SmackDown, including a new development in that show’s key plot: the attack on general manager Theodore Long.

The show began with hype for the announcement of the WrestleMania host, and a rundown of the matches set for the evening: Randy Orton vs. Sheamus, John Morrison vs. R-Truth, and John Cena vs. CM Punk. For the last of these, the other members of Nexus were banned from ringside, and the GM stipulated there must be a winner (their match the previous week ended with Cena being disqualified).

John Cena vs. CM Punk

Cena then came to the ring and talked at length about who might host WrestleMania, making several jokes at Michael Cole’s expense. Once he reached the subject of his tortured history with The Nexus, CM Punk came out from backstage and bragged that he didn’t need the other members of The Nexus to beat Cena.

His self-aggrandizement led straight into their match. Punk dominated the early stretch but was unable to successfully pin Cena. He had better luck reversing Cena’s attempts to pull off the STF and the Attitude Adjustment. But Cena was equally successful at escaping Punk’s holds and reversing the Go To Sleep.

Ultimately, it was The Nexus that helped Punk win, but not in the usual way. A hand wearing a Nexus armband emerged from under the ring and handed Punk a chair and a wrench. As the ref moved to take the chair from the ring, Punk hit Cena in the head and pulled off a successful GTS, pinning Cena for the victory.

The match was followed by a more serious note, as Cole explained that SmackDown’s Josh Matthews was filling for Jerry “The King” Lawler because Lawler’s mother died the previous day. It was one of those rare moments where Cole broke from his heel character to show his genuine respect for Lawler.

Edge Confronts Alberto del Rio and Vicki Guerrero

After a commercial break, Alberto del Rio arrived in yet another new vehicle, a 2009 Bentley Continental convertible that Cole valued at $150,000. He launched into yet another speech about his destiny, and was interrupted by Edge.

Edge savagely beat del Rio, and after whipping his jacket off Ric Flair-style, started to set up a Spear. He was temporarily stymied by del Rio’s ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez, but once Edge knocked Rodriguez out of the ring, he was able to take del Rio down.

But he was interrupted by Vicki Guerrero, who claimed that Dolph Ziggler was now World Champion because Edge illegally used the Spear in their match on SmackDown (where Vicki was referee, but incapacitated when he did the move). She also claimed to have proof that Edge was responsible for the attack on Long.

Divas Championship Match: Natalya vs. Eve

That cliffhanger was followed by the Divas Championship Match between Natalya and Eve. It was a lumberjack match, with the rest of the Divas roster surrounding the ring. While they were supposed to toss the contenders back in the ring, Eve used their rivalries to her advantage by sending Natalya out of the ring towards the Bella twins.

They kicked Natalya repeatedly, and when the other Divas tried to stop them, Eve leaped out of the ring and knocked them all down. Back in the ring, Natalya tried to get Eve in a submission hold, but Eve reversed it and successfully pinned her.

But evidently the Bellas acted more out of dislike for Natalya than any allegiance to Eve. Backstage, they told her she only won because she wasn’t facing them. The confrontation became an all-out brawl, as Gail Kim and Natalya rushed to Eve’s assistance.

Sheamus Attacks Mark Henry

After a brief ad for Triple H’s film The Chaperone, Mark Henry started to walk to the ring. He was attacked from behind by Sheamus, still angry after Henry’s alleged remarks about him the previous week. Sheamus said his intent was to remind his Elimination Chamber opponents of his capabilities, and that he’d provide an even bigger reminder in his match against Orton.

The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan

As The Miz came out to the ring for his match against Daniel Bryan, his sidekick Alex Riley joined Cole and Matthews at the announcers’ table. This meant the commentary deck was stacked against Bryan, even though the first part of the match proved that he’s the superior wrestler.

Despite Cole’s claims that The Miz was “dominating” Bryan, it was clearly the other way around for most of the match. While The Miz was able to kick out of all of Bryan’s pin attempts, Bryan was in control when it came to reversals and spectacular athletic maneuvers. But the WWE has too much invested in The Miz for him to lose, and so he didn’t.

After the match, The Miz offered his condolences to Lawler for the loss of his mother, but went on to say he hoped Lawler wouldn’t use it as excuse when he loses at the Elimination Chamber. It wasn’t as good an insensitive remark as anything Andy Kaufman or Jimmy Hart said during their feud with Lawler, but it was a start.

R-Truth and John Morrison vs. David Otunga and Mike McGillicutty

The match between R-Truth and John Morrison was changed to a tag team match pitting the two of them against David Otunga and Mike McGillicutty. As with all matches involving The Nexus, there was an attempt at interference, as Mason Ryan pulled R-Truth out of the ring and kicked him in the ribs.

But once Morrison entered the match, it was all over for The Nexus. Substituting sheer agression for his usual balletic grace, he savagely beat Otunga down, then demolished McGillicutty and kicked Ryan away from the ropes. His victory sent a clear message to CM Punk that the attack on him the previous week had done nothing to weaken him.

Sheamus vs. Randy Orton

The match between Sheamus and Randy Orton was dominated by Orton’s mobility as he RKO’ed Sheamus for the win. He was attacked by The Nexus, but then John Morrison, R-Truth, and John Cena came out to assist him in turn. Orton RKO’ed most of The Nexus, and Cena landed the Attitude Adjustment to take out Punk.

WrestleMania XXVII Host: The Rock

But the highlight of the night was the announcement of the host of WrestleMania XXVII. After much suspense and a red herring suggesting it might be a woman, it turned out to be The Rock. He brought out all of his classic catchphrases and electrified the audience. He also suggested he might take on either The Miz or John Cena at WrestleMania.

It was a dramatic end to the evening, as The Rock put Michael Cole in his place and seemingly marked an end to the PG-era of the WWE- he was occasionally censored, but was able to say his threat to stick the Raw GM’s computer up a certain part of Michael Cole’s anatomy without any interference whatsoever. The crowd loved it, and especially loved his negative comparison of Cena to himself and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Some of what The Rock said was ambiguous. When he told the crowd he was never going to go away, was that a hint that he might make a longer-term return to wrestling? Judging from the dramatic difference between the audience’s enthusiasm for most of the night and the rapturous reception The Rock received, it’s likely everyone in the auditorium would be happy to see him stick around.

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