Man, it feels like it’s only been a couple weeks since the last PPV go-home Raw….oh wait, it was. We’re in unchartered territory here with a near nonstop barrage of special events. Time will tell how Raw holds up; so far they’ve ranged from surprisingly focused to sitting in a holding pattern. Raw emanated from the site of WrestleMania XXX, New Orleans, last night. Let’s see what kinda show we ended up with.
‘Shield 2.0’ Implodes
The main story, once again, centered around growing tension between WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and his lackeys, Kane and J&J Security. Rollins was given the opportunity to choose his own opponent(s) for the main event to prove what he’s been saying lately: that he doesn’t need anyone to protect him. And what better way to prove that than to take on two long retired former wrestlers whom he towers over?
The entire show was littered with segments involving Rollins freaking out over the location of Dean Ambrose and his WWE World Heavyweight Championship via updates from WWE’s Instagram account. So, somehow a WWE employee not only knew where Ambrose was, but was actively following him and chronicling his night for the world to see, but The Authority was seemingly in the dark about it. To be fair though I thought it was a good use of integrating social media into the show—at least he wasn’t Touting his whereabouts. The pictures were for the most part pretty funny, and Seth’s cartoonish overreaction to everything is awesome. Some people might think that the show was saturated with Authority shenanigans, but I think they did a pretty good job keeping the main story thread going throughout the three hour show without going overboard with it.
Then we got to the main event (which started at 11:02pm, for the record. Thanks guys, not like any of us have jobs to wake up for in the morning), which was surprisingly a lot of fun. During the match I was doing some Wikipedia-ing, and Noble and Mercury are only 38 and 35 respectively, and that showed in the ring—they can both still go. That made for a deceptively competitive match, but once again the man who is sold as the genius who architected The Shield and pulled the “heist of the century” at WrestleMania is made to look like one of the dumbest motherfuckers on the planet by being so distracted and drawn to the belt in the ring that he loses to Joey Mercury via rollup. It’s just like pre-WrestleMania when he was so idiotically trusting of Randy Orton even though Orton came out every week and basically said “I’m going to turn on you and kick your ass because I hate you. Haha jk!” and Rollins just took that at face value for some stupid reason. You can’t have it both ways: You can’t tell me Rollins is one of the most conniving, manipulative wrestlers this side of Triple H and then have him fall victim to gaffes Wile E. Coyote would scoff at. You think The Game would have fallen for anything that moronic in the early 2000s? No chance.
Either way, it’s hard to complain about the main storyline for the title being Rollins vs. Ambrose, and the upcoming ladder match between Rollins and Ambrose is all but guaranteed to be a classic. Expect some kind of a schmozz or silly finish though, because, well, it’s a WWE Championship match that isn’t taking place at WrestleMania or SummerSlam.
Who Got NXT?
The bad news: Raw opened with yet another long-winded promo. The good news: at least it wasn’t an Authority promo. Instead we got Cena, with his usual Cena promo, but lately where there’s Cena there’s Owens, and lo and behold, Owens interrupted Cena’s preamble to the US Championship Open Challenge with a challenge of his own: An NXT Championship Open Challenge! We got one on Smackdown, where this kind of thing is sometimes test run, but that was more or less a squash against Zack Ryder. Last night marked the first time the NXT Championship has ever been defended under the bright lights (hype crowd, everybody get down, etc.) of Monday Night Raw, and it was against Neville.
The crowd was hot for this match and both guys are over like gangbusters, which should be taken as a clear indication that NXT is working. But with workers like Owens and Neville, it’d be impossible to consider yourself a wrestling fan and not be really into this match. Both guys have such differing styles, but they blended together beautifully here. I think what made it work is that Owens is deceptively agile and Neville is deceptively strong (dat deadlift into a bridging German suplex though!), which allowed them to complement one another quite nicely. It was a match that Neville was never going to win with the way storylines are going now, but there was genuinely a moment when he went up for the third Red Arrow attempt that I thought for a second we might see the major upset, but Owens ended up nipping that in the bud with a pop-up powerbomb, all while Cena watched from the commentary table, consistently saying Cena things.
It’ll be interesting to see which way they end up going on Sunday for Cena/Owens 2. Cena famously almost never loses twice in a row to the same person, and it would be wishful thinking to think that could happen here, but with how much Cena has been slumming it in the midcard lately to elevate new talent, who knows what to expect? It’s that faint unpredictability that makes this the best program on the card right now by a long shot, and one of the best overall in recent memory. Owens is basically standing in for CM Punk here: a brash upstart, fueled by his desire to dethrone the status quo and expose Cena for the complacent fraud that he is. And opinions of Cena are so varied that even people who weren’t familiar with Owens before are quickly jumping on the bandwagon, which is nothing but great news for WWE, a company who can’t print new Fight Owens Fight shirts fast enough.
Money in the Bank
It’s kind of funny that the Money in the Bank ladder match itself, the namesake for the whole PPV and one of the most important storylines every year is almost an afterthought with the rest of the goings-on on Raw, but here we are. Kane has been inserted into the match ostensibly to ensure Roman doesn’t win, so he cuts a promo exercising his authority as Director of Operations to put every member of the match in competition. He and Roman get into a back and forth which hopefully shows to everybody that Roman is getting a lot more comfortable on the mic. He seems to be finding his character and is probably not being fed silly nursery rhymes to spout. Add that to him seeming to find his groove in the ring as well, and you have a pretty solid top of the card guy. I’m really glad they didn’t blow their load too early with him and go through with his coronation at ‘Mania, because with a little more time to marinate I’m really starting to come around on him. Believe that.
The whole setup for the series of matches featuring Money in the Bank Ladder Match entrants was fun and pretty well done, but—and how often do I really get to say this—R-Truth absolutely stole the show. I don’t know who’s idea it was to have R-Truth come out and talk about winning the match despite not even being in and and not realizing that, but it was hilarious. “Oh, that’s on me. Well, be good y’all” as he leaves. Too good.
Other than that though it was mostly just a normal “we have a multi-man match coming up we have to promote, so everyone’s going to come out in this one segment and say their piece” kind of thing that we see all the time. Also, Kane thinking Roman has no shot is just absolutely brain-dead. The guy just won the Royal Rumble and main evented WrestleMania and kayfabe had a legitimate shot of winning if Rollins didn’t cash in and hit the move-that-shall-not-be-named to steal the belt. That is also to my knowledge his only singles PPV loss, and he set a record in the previous year’s Royal Rumble. So why exactly is Roman’s resume disappointing, Kane?
When My Hand Goes Up, Your Mouth Goes Shut
Maybe this is more a “The Rest of the Card” thing, but I wanted to specifically call out how hilarious The Miz is, and how much I missed him not being on my television screen when he was away filming his latest movie, Santa’s Little Helper. I mean, as JBL says, between The Miz and The Rock they have grossed over a billion dollars at the box office!
Miz TV was once again on Raw this week, with recent Intercontinental Championship winner Ryback as guest. Miz’s outfits are getting more and more ridiculous by the week and at this point are teetering on batshit insane, and I couldn’t love it more, and Miz TV this week did a great job putting Ryback over. Ryback’s character has been pretty muddled as of late, as he seems to flip a switch to go from the ass-kicking, ever hungry Big Guy of yore and this weird Sylvia Browne acolyte who preaches the power of positivity and seems like he’d be more at home hanging out with New Day or Bo Dallas than anyone else. The Miz is just so goddamn hateable, though, that this segment worked out great.
My only question is, why does the Big Show have to be involved?! Miz vs. Ryback for the Intercontinental Championship is a fine program, and could do wonders for both of them. But as soon as you involve Big Show in just about anything I just start tuning out. Stone Cold Steve Austin could return and demand a match with CM Punk and if Big Show was inserted into the feud as even a guest referee or something I’d probably start channel surfing to see what else is on. I respect everything he’s done for the business and how long he’s been at it, but it’s 2015, not 1996. There is no reason for Big Show to be involved in anything when we have such a talented crop of younger wrestlers chomping at the bit. Hell, if it has to be a triple threat feud for whatever reason, why not Cesaro? He’s in the unfortunate position of having an injured tag team partner, leaving his obvious talents to be criminally wasted. But no, we need Big Show on TV for some reason. Sigh.
The Rest of the Card
- At least Summer Rae actually had a match, but it was another ho-hum three minute Divas match this week (a decision that apparently Nikki herself also disagrees with). I liked Cole explaining Twin Magic from last week by saying that Brie was smart to keep her head down so the ref couldn’t see her “face.” Yeah, that’s the identifying difference between the two Bellas. Right…
- They are doing a surprisingly good job keeping Rusev in storylines even though he is unfortunately injured, but it does seem like they’re in kind of a holding pattern with him. This week kind of just continued the strange turn of sympathy for the Bulgarian Brute, but further complicated things when he very obviously accidentally led Lana off the entrance ramp. I hope they keep this going into a Ziggler/Rusev feud when Rusev is healthy; it’d be something fresh for both of them to do and could lead to some great matches.
- There will be no Bookerism of the Week because there was no Booker this week! WUT DA HALE?! #FREEBOOKER!
- Kofi being placed in a competitive match with Roman did a decent job elevating both himself and New Day as a whole, I think, but I’m still having a hard time figuring out why Kofi is in the briefcase ladder match. The rumors of him facing Brock Lesnar in the upcoming Japan tour makes me even more uneasy…could an upset of insane proportions be coming our way thanks to the Power of Positivity?
- I’m super into Harper and Rowan reuniting, and think they are a valuable asset to the tag team division. Once the New Day/Prime Time Players program (which is also great) wraps up, they should be next in line for a shot at the straps that they somehow never won against the Usos way back when they were still known as The Wyatt Family. I have mixed feelings about them using the 3D, though. It’s such a recognizable move, and the Dudley Boyz are still fresh in fans’ minds as evidenced by the fact that you could hear everyone clamoring “3D!” as they were setting up the move, followed by a “we want tables” chant. There are rumors this is going to lead to a Harper/Rowan vs. Dudley Boyz match at SummerSlam, which would be absolutely amazing, but I won’t be holding my breath.
- Is Dean Ambrose returning with all those beads from Bourbon Street further evidence that he is, in fact, the Titty Master?
That’s the show. Another one that didn’t really progress all that much, but wasn’t a badly put together show, and was actually genuinely funnier than it had any right to be. Onward to one of the most fun events of the year, Money in the Bank!