After a stellar Elimination Chamber Network special, Monday Night Raw came to us live last night from San Antonio, TX, looking to answer some of the questions posed at the Chamber: How will John Cena react to his loss to Kevin Owens? Where did Dean Ambrose abscond off to with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Did he really buy the beers for he and Roman Reigns all night?! Let’s dive in:
The One Where Roman Reigns Fights a Bunch of Guys He’s Obviously Gonna Beat
Sunday and the two or so Raws preceding it were all about Dean Ambrose, but this week we saw first hand another plan they have concerning the Ambrose push: get Roman Reigns over by proxy. And I’m not even saying that angrily or sarcastically—I actually think they’ve been doing a great job of elevating both Ambrose and Reigns in this Shield-centric program. Last night’s storyline focus was based around The Authority punishing Reigns for his aiding Ambrose in stealing the World Heavyweight Championship, forcing him to put up his newly announced Money in the Bank Ladder Match spot against not one, not two, but three competitors!
Three competitors that have absolutely no shot of beating Roman Reigns. Barrett has the ability of course, but he has seemingly pissed in someone’s Cheerios backstage because all he does is job lately, despite being our current King of the Ring. Mark Henry is a former World Champ in his own right, but he’s old, and he has lost to Reigns so badly in the past that he actually put him over as a better man than he on the mic. And Bray has just completely lost his way. Here’s a guy who fancies himself The New Face of Fear, but isn’t scaring anybody. The amonut of wasted potential with Bray is extremely disheartening, as here he was just taking orders from the Authority for no real reason, and he couldn’t even beat a Roman Reigns who had two (!) matches earlier in the night! Wyatt can bounce back—look at where Ambrose was six months ago compared to now—but I’d honestly rather he stay off TV entirely rather than jobbing in matches that are completely meaningless to him. It kills a lot of his mystique.
I said they have been doing a good job pushing Reigns at a proper speed lately, but that doesn’t mean I want to see three Reigns matches in one night, especially ones as plodding as vs. King Barrett, Mark Henry and Bray Wyatt. Don’t get me wrong, I like all three of those guys, but Reigns performs best when he’s working with someone a little quicker than he is and can dictate the pace. None of these matches were particularly good, but at the end of the day Reigns’ spot in the MITB Ladder Match is safe (oh thank god). Ambrose made an appearance to, once again, just an insane pop. He’s really just getting over like gangbusters lately. Them Shield Boys get the better of Rollins once again, leaving Rollins even more frustrated than before.
Focusing on Rollins for a minute, despite the fact that Raw opened with yet another 20 minute Authority promo, we saw some really good character development from The Architect at the top of the show. He’s starting to crack, and even though he’s WWE World Heavyweight Champion he feels as though he has a lot to prove. And he’s right: Kane helped him win the Money in the Bank briefcase way back when, that allowed him to prey on a wounded Reigns and Lesnar to win a championship that he’s held largely through mass interference and other assorted crookery. The pressure of being at the top is getting to him, and it’s that need to prove he belongs there that lead him to agreeing to Ambrose’s terms once again for a championship rematch, this time in the form of a ladder match at the upcoming Money in the Bank event. The dynamic between Rollins and the Authority is interesting, and coupled with his deep rooted rivalries with Ambrose and Reigns, this is one of the more compelling main event storylines in some time.
The question is of course what happens from here. Best case scenario, in my opinion: Ambrose leaves the ladder with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, only to be immediately cashed in on by Roman Reigns, who won the Money in the Bank Ladder Match earlier in the evening. Who knows whether he does so in a heelish manner or a friendly competition type of manner, but either way could work. I’ve been loving the dynamic between Ambrose and Reigns. So rarely does a team break up amicably, so it’s always nice to see something deviate from the standard “okay everyone hates each other now” kind of situation. On the other hand, a face Ambrose/heel Reigns feud would be money; my only concern would be what Rollins does in the meantime. He kinda needs the championship, or at least to be in the hunt for the championship right now. I’m not sure anything less would be great for his perception.
Push Owens Push
I still can’t believe my eyes that one of (if not the) premiere feuds in WWE right now is John Cena vs. Kevin Owens. I saw Owens, then Kevin Steen, in a hotel convention room in front of 100 people in Providence, RI four years ago, and now I’m watching him on Monday Night Raw verbally sparring with the biggest name in wrestling since The Rock—it’s quite the trip. Owens’ whole thing down in NXT is that what he’s done to Sami Zayn is nothing personal, but last night, he managed to make his feud with Cena quite personal. You see, Owens’ kid (whose kayfabe name I guess is Owen Owens?) idolizes John Cena, and on what should have been the greatest night of KO’s night, all his kid could think about was if John was okay. Owens went into a whole thing about how this is thanks to the WWE marketing machine, shoving Hustle, Loyalty and Respect down our children’s collective throats, not because of the quality of Cena’s character, because Cena talks a big game and doesn’t back it up, while Kevin Owens delivers on every single thing he says he’s going to.
Cena’s retort: shut up jerk, you’re not a real man, this kid has cancer, brrrrrrapado! Seriously though, Cena got the crowd on his side largely by weaving a child in the audience holding a sign saying “I’m beating cancer” into his promo about never giving up. It was genuinely touching and obviously meant a lot to the child. But I can’t help but feel like that kind of thing is pretty pandering, or at least the cheapest of cheap pops. Whatever; that’s Cena. I’m ambivalent about that. The real weird thing here is that Cena made claims that Owens isn’t a real man, but provided zero explanation for that. Owens has been in WWE, including NXT, for five months. He won the NXT Championship in what, his second match in the company? Then he beat Cena clean in the middle of the ring in his first match on the main roster. What else does he have to do to be considered a real man?! No one has those types of credentials. Owens’ debut has honestly been the most shocking and memorable in recent memory, but that’s not good enough for Cena. It reminds me of when Cena was feuding with Punk right after Punk’s heel turn, and Cena’s main argument was “you think you deserve respect just because you’ve held the most coveted prize in pro wrestling for over a year?! No, you don’t deserve respect until you beat me! (Never mind the fact that you have beat me multiple times, including for that very championship twice!)” Cena is one of the best talkers in history, but he just warps the narrative to fit these bite-sized points so much that it is barely coherent.
Either way, I could listen to Owens talk for days on end and not get bored, and if their rematch is half as good as what they did at Elimination Chamber, it’ll be one to remember.
The Rest of the Card
- Really not much else of note happened, and it was even difficult to pluck progression out of the previous two storylines. Overall, this was a Raw that didn’t catastrophically screw anything up, but it also didn’t really give us much.
- At first, Rusev’s injury seems like terrible timing, given that they just went ahead with the big breakup angle between he and Ziggler, but the backstage promo he cut last night definitely made the most of it. Selling himself as a man who has lost everything, Rusev is a man out for revenge on multiple fronts. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep him off television or not while he recovers, and it’ll also be interesting to see how far they take the Lana/Ziggler story now that they have a lot more time to fill.
- I was lukewarm on Ryback’s Intercontinental Championship win at Elimination Chamber to begin with; they went from using a guy who basically can’t possibly get any more popular to elevate the IC belt to that level, to doing what they normally do and strap it to a midcarder and hope that somehow elevates them. It hasn’t worked for the past five plus years, and it probably isn’t going to work now. My fears were realized when Ryback’s first opponent for his new belt was revealed as none other than Big Show.
Whoever keeps suggesting that a new champ or hot new babyface’s first feud be against Big Show should just be fired. Big Show sucks any heat out of the room the second his stupid music hits. He also just plain sucks. And punking out The Miz, one of your top five heels who just returned to television, so quickly for another one of Big Show’s ambiguous “did he or didn’t he turn” moments is just such a waste. Thumbs down on this whole segment.
- The Divas match was okay for what it was, but are we really giving Divas a chance by resorting to the same tired antics that ran rampant during the absolute nadir of the division? Twin magic doesn’t even make any sense anymore because one is clearly…ahem…bigger than the other. Both Nikki and Paige seemed to turn heel to face and back again between the backstage promo and the match itself, too. The division is such a mess at this point. Save_us.sa$ha!
- Speaking of antics from 2010, here’s Randy Orton vs. Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston. Yawn.
- At least the six man tag between New Day and Prime Time Players/Ziggler was good, and got to show off the fact that man, the Prime Time Players are over as hell. At least Titus is. I really hope the Pump Handle doesn’t become his finisher though…Clash of the Titus is a great move. I’ve loved it ever since it was D’Lo’s Sky High, and I’ve been missing it pretty much since then. Don’t get rid of it!
That’s the show. Not a bad show, just not a particularly great show either. Not a lot of developments, but the small ones we did get were satisfying enough.