After a string of good to great shows, WWE presented Raw from the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY for the last time. It was also the Memorial Day special, which is always full of all the jingoism one can handle in one three hour broadcast, and it was ALSO the go-home for the upcoming Elimination Chamber PPV Network special. So, of course, with all that riding on it, the show turned out to be a steaming pile of meh. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything good to come out of it, though.
The Dean Ambrose Show
Raw opened the same way it ended (and started…) last week: the Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins saga. After threatening to bash Rollins’ head in between a steel chair and a pile of cinder blocks, Ambrose had extorted himself into a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Elimination Chamber. All he had to do was show up this week and sign the contract. Of course, the Authority wasn’t about to make that easy for Ambrose, and threw any number of obstacles in his way, including staging a situation where Ambrose lashed out at an innocent cameraman, which, even though happening on a show where nearly every conflict is solved with unspeakable violence, was apparently enough to send him directly to jail.
This put Ambrose’s championship dreams in jeopardy, because everybody knows official business can only be conducted in WWE on Monday nights between the hours of 8:00pm and about 11:15pm EST. But just as the Authority was getting ready to gloat over their apparent dodging of having to give Ambrose a championship match (because as the bosses they couldn’t fire him or just…say no), a rogue backstage employee uploaded damning evidence of Rollins causing the mishap with the cameraman, which immediately exonerated Ambrose, who must have had a conversation with the police officer (who must have been watching Raw at work) that went something like “welp, that’s all the evidence I need. You’re cleared, kid. Here, borrow my paddy wagon and get back to that arena to sign your contract. Take my hat, jacket and billy club too because hell, why not?”
Ambrose gets there during the overrun via stolen paddy wagon as some hokey clone of Stone Cold Steve Austin and signs the contract while JBL yells “quick, end the show!” Which is a good point when you think about it. If, in this crazy world, this contract could only legally be signed during Monday Night Raw, why didn’t the Authority just force the production team to fade to black before Ambrose could sign the contract? They were already over on time. So, the Authority could have a) fired Ambrose, b) flat out refused to give into his extortion, or c) end the show before he could sign the contract since they were well over time anyway, but chose to do none of them. Alrighty then.
Needless to say this week’s main story arc required a lot of leaps in logic and disbelief. But that’s okay; as Max Landis said in his amazing Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling, “these are the types of questions you don’t have to ask yourself, because wrestling isn’t real.” Sometimes wrestling is truly, unironically badass, but a lot of the time most of the fun comes from just how cheesy and ridiculous it is. This night exmplified the latter, and that’s okay. It was the kind of goofy fun Ambrose is typically saddled with, and even though they could do a lot with a gritty, violent bloodfeud between Rollins and Ambrose because it definitely as the backstory for it, we can enjoy this for what it is. At least the main event scene is looking fresh, and Ambrose vs. Rollins at Elimination Chamber should be nothing short of fantastic.
Lana Crush!(es Rusev’s Heart)
The other major focus this week was surrounding the Rusev/Lana breakup storyline. Rusev got some solid mic time this week, an area he’s deceptively good in. Rusev pleaded for Lana to come out so they could talk about their failing relationship (which, again, the perfect time to do that is in front of millions of people on primetime television), and asked her to just say those three magic words and all would be forgiven: “I was wrong.” Obviously that didn’t happen because, well, Lana wasn’t wrong. Rusev did say I Quit in his native tongue and she did the right thing. This is some good heeling by Rusev, because even though he did quit he refuses to face reality and is instead opting to blame everything on his woman. Ziggler comes out, he and Lana share a kiss, which eventually lands him in the Accolade while Rusev screams what I really hope is his new catchphrase, “KISS HIM NOW!”
Rusev was hilarious in this segment. His mic skills as I said are very underrated, and he and Lana managed to get through a segment that seemed like it went way too long on paper without having the crowd turn on it. That’s some good acting. Also, he seems to be repping Bulgaria instead of Russia again. I guess he was only down with Putin for the poo-say. I’m glad he is, though, since, y’know, he’s actually Bulgarian and him being all about Russia made about as much sense as someone from Venezuela clad in the Stars and Stripes revering President Obama.
I’m not entirely sure where Ziggler fits into all of this, but so far I’m enjoying it. On Smackdown last week he said he knows he’s just the rebound and he’s totally cool with that, which fits his character. Some free nookie while getting into the mind of one of his opponents this Sunday? Perfect! I’m actually enjoying how well they are intertwining most of the storylines in the Elimination Chamber. Too often the Chamber participants are just kind of thrown in there and the story is that they want [the championship/#1 contendership/WrestleMania spot/whatever]. In the upcoming Intercontinental Championship Elimination Chamber match, though, we have this Ziggler/Rusev/Lana love triangle. We have Ziggler’s remaining issues with Sheamus and his never ending quest to squash all the vanilla midgets in the company. Hell, we even had a small thing with Ryback and Sheamus last week where Ryback came to the verbal defense of Daniel Bryan, and effectively telling Sheamus to pick on someone his own size. We have King Barrett, who has been shown to have some kind of alliance with Sheamus, and has had his fair share of issues with Dolph Ziggler in the past.
…And then R-Truth is there, because of course he is.
John Cena held his usual United States Championship Open Challenge, which in a move that is both not surprising and very surprising, was answered by the Long Island Iced Z, Zack Ryder. It’s not surprising because they were in Long Island in the final WWE show ever to be held there, and no one reps the LI like the Woo Woo Woo Kid. But it’s very surprising because WWE doesn’t usually go for things that make perfect sense like that, especially when it comes to Zack Ryder. Nonetheless, Ryder got his moment in front of a ZACKed hometown crowd (albeit flanked by the cast of Entourage, which lessened the pop Ryder would have gotten if he had just come in fresh, but whatever) in a damn good match. Ryder pulled out all the stops, including a Killswitch and a goddamn 450 splash! Why is this man not involved in storylines again?
I’m really happy (and frankly, more than a little surprised) that they gave Ryder a big moment like this in an arena that means so much to him. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an actual, competitive Zack Ryder match, but he looks better than he ever has in the ring, and he has clearly been working on his body; dude looks great. Keep in mind that he’s only 30, too—I’m not exactly holding my breath, but I could see some type of a career resurgence for Zack Ryder the likes of Tyson Kidd for sure.
Of course, outside of the feel-good moment, there weren’t many implications for Ryder facing Cena, and the real story here was that Kevin Owens once again attacked John Cena after the match in basically a rehash of what he did last week. I’ve been waiting for Owens to be on Raw for years now, and to say I’m excited for his match with Cena at Elimination Chamber would be an understatement. Between this and last week’s stellar performance at Takeover, Owens is firing on all cylinders.
The Rest of the Card
- The Divas match was another match that was straight out of WWE 2K15’s Universe Mode’s randomly generated storylines. A guest commentator here, a distraction there, that’s a wrap. It’s a shame, because Paige and Nikki are good wrestlers and Naomi has potential, but the writers just don’t put any thought into it. Compare this to Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch absolutely tearing the house down last week on NXT and prepare to get depressed.
- The Tag Team title hunt seemed to be an afterthought this week, which is a pity because it’s been one of the most entertaining segments on the card for weeks now. I can kind of see the logic in what they did—they didn’t have a hell of a lot of time, and they still managed to have a New Day promo and feature every team and get their shit in, but much like the Divas segment, it just felt very paint-by-numbers.
- No Bray Wyatt this week? It might be for the best; there isn’t a lot of room on the card for him right now, and messing around in the midcard isn’t doing him any favors. Best to just keep him om the backburner until a good storyline opportunity comes along, hopefully before Summerslam.
- The Bo victory lap returns! I’m really digging Bo/Neville: It’s a good, solid midcard storyline that plays on existing history between the two and adds a new wrinkle to Bo Dallas’ character. I knew we’d get there eventually with Bo, all we had to do was…well, you know.
- How many times has Cole mistakenly called Wasteland the Winds of Change and vice versa? And what exactly are they doing with Barrett? When I think of “missed potential” he’s the first guy that comes to mind. He has all the tools, but every angle he’s in is just…blah.
- Sign of the week: “When it Reigns it bores.”
- Bookerism of the week: “IT JUST GOT BUSY!” The closest thing to JR’s classic “business has just picked up!” we’re gonna get.
And that’s the show. A rather ho-hum go-home show, and a bit of a disappointment after a string of very good shows. There were nuggets of greatness, but you had to be looking for it, and willing to suspend more than a little of your disbelief. Still, far from the worst show I’ve seen.