'WWE Raw': Brock Lesnar vs. the World

The Beast is unleashed, NXT makes a big impact and Sheamus returns (with a braided beard?!?) on the post-'Mania show

Brock Lesnar is gunning for new WWE champion Seth Rollins. Credit: WWE

Typically, when Brock Lesnar's music hits to kick off Monday night, it's a cause for anticipation. When the newly re-signed, former WWE World Heavyweight Champion emerges in his fight gear ready to avenge his loss at WrestleMania, it's virtually unprecedented. Which is why, naturally, we were never really going to see he and new title-holder Seth Rollins go at it on broadcast cable. The only person more adamant about Brock Lesnar being a prized pay-per-view fighter than Brock Lesnar is Vince McMahon. That doesn't mean we went home dissatisfied, as the Beast would eventually get his hands on Rollins (albeit briefly and not without an enziguri for his troubles) and victimize more or less the entire ringside crew.

But Lesnar wasn't the only one causing a stir. The newest wave of NXT arrivals whipped up quite a frenzy, while several top superstars and new champions put on world-class pro-wrestling clinics for a crowd whose "This is awesome" reflex was on endless loop.

So without suspending this recap anymore indefinitely than Brock's gamely employment, here are five key things I took away (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) from the March 30 edition of Raw.

5. Where's a Production Assistant When You Need One?
Or whomever typically uprights and re-equips the announcer's table after its ritual, weekly deconstruction at the hands of some enterprising hero or villain. I get we're supposed to believe that Brock Lesnar leaves irreparable, incomparable wreckage in his wake, and that his presence needed to be felt even after Stephanie McMahon booted him from the SAP Center for knocking out Booker T (no, not that one) and JBL and F5-ing Michael Cole straight to the ER. But it was pretty hard to reconcile fill-ins Byron Saxton and Jerry Lawler being forced to call the episode on their feet as a result of Brock's destruction when we see ringside get torn up and reconstituted just about every Monday night. Unless there's footage of Lesnar laying waste to literally the entire road crew on his way to the limo that's only accessible if you download an app or subscribe to a network or try one of Sonic's 477 new smoothie combinations.

4. Love the Headbutts of Doom
And, actually, if you invert that to read Buttheads of Doom, it could be an amazing alternate gimmick for the lumbering Ascension. Although, in this instance, I am of course referencing Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan's new go-to spot of crashing into one other's craniums like charging rhinos until (apparently) perpetually concussed Ziggler finally falls back. Each of these guys is in the market for some new and exciting offense, and both the climactic headbutting atop that ladder at WrestleMania and last night's primal skull-bashing helped conjure something feral that nicely balanced their signature quickness. We'll see how the crowded Intercontinental Championship landscape develops between now and Extreme Rules, but if it involves more of these two playing bumper cars with their foreheads, I'm in.

3. Yes, Sheamus Looks Stupid
But so did Cody Rhodes when he fashioned his infamous trash-stache, and that led to merchandising royalties. It's not as if a returning Sheamus' Mohawk and braided beard combo is any more woeful than whatever the Ascension are trying to pull off (sorry, Konnor and Viktor). Not to mention that after Brogue Kicking Daniel Bryan back to Aberdeen, the Great White's already incited more heat than half the locker room. Looking like a post-apocalyptic warrior whose facial hair was accessorized by a teenage girl merely gives his haters an unforgettable target.

2. Screw 'Em, Roman
You've done everything you've been asked to do, whether it's go out and orate poorly scripted promos; return from injury and reclaim a throne millions had already pre-assigned to others; weather the consequential twister of antagonism and doubt; speak with passion and honesty to the press; put your neck quite literally on the line in one bloody confrontation after another; and, finally, absolutely deliver on what you promised in an epic clash of wills at WrestleMania that, at minimum, should have merited some appreciation of the man behind the character. The booing Roman Reigns received in San Jose last night wasn't affectionate. It was excessive, and it also exposed how a certain segment of contemporary fan confuses Web-forum fluency with comprehension of wrestling tradition. So if I'm Roman, I'd be taking my cues from the man who welcomed me to Suplex City and single-mindedly pursue undisputed dominance over anyone else's approval.

1. Future Shock
I, too, might be caught up in all the excitement generated from a truly thrilling WrestleMania, but with Monday Night Wars put to bed and the Dead Man having risen to resume his winning ways, it feels as if we've all been given permission to move on from the Attitude Era and embrace tomorrow. There also seem to be the right individuals rising up at the perfect time. Lucha Dragons charged the tag-team division with new life in their official main-roster debut, with Kalisto scoring the pinfall in an eight-participant bout also featuring New Day, Ascension and Kidd and Cesaro.

Elsewhere, the man now simply called Neville dazzled camera-flashers with his blink-and-you-missed it cutting down of Curtis Axel. And even though Seth Rollins and his Authority teammates fell to main-event adversaries Reigns, Randy Orton and Ryback (sweet Shell Shock on Big Show, Big Guy), Rollins is the jewel atop WWE's crown of young showstoppers.

There have been plenty of false starts over the past few years as Triple H and his fellow brass have attempted to transform NXT and the Performance Center into a fertile, fluid territory of promotable talent (Adam Rose, among others, comes to mind). But as evidenced by crowd response (and has been clear to those taking the pulse of industry buzz), NXT has come into its own on its own, making it the perfect moment to become more synonymous with Monday night. Then again, the atmosphere is always hot 24 hours removed from 'Mania, so this could all be a temporary delirium dulled by predictability and tedium in six days. Either way, I'm in.

Below the Belt: 

  • A really nice showing from Dean Ambrose against John Cena, but where does he go from here?
  • My guess re: Rusev is he no longer values our stupid U.S. Championship.
  • What, if anything, can save New Day?
  • Loved Brock hocking a loogie at Steph.
  • Can they stop asking Cesaro to sell Hurricanranas?
  • My wife, re: Naomi: "Was that a face twerk?"
  • Move of the Night: Lots to choose from, though damn, that was a nice-looking German suplex from Natalya.
  • Line of the Night: Now if only we had more original, spirited chants like, "You look stupid."
  • In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: How have I never seen that Mentos nod to Monty Python? This romance between UFC and WWE, down to advertising on each other's broadcasts, is very interesting. And, no thanks, Taco Bell: Cereal's fine.
  • Noticeable In Their Absence: Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Usos, Triple H.