Raw came to us last night from Baltimore, after a pretty sucky show that followed a surprisingly amazing show. Hopefully, this edition can at least be somewhere in the middle.
Seth Rollins and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Seth Rollins’ life is hard, man. He proves time and time again that he belongs in the upper echelon of WWE Superstars—he slayed Brock Lesnar, beat John Cena, and generally does everything The Authority throws his way. Now not only is he in the unenviable position of having to defend both his championships at Night of Champions (though, you had to see that coming, Seth—”every title must be defended” is kinda the whole point of Night of Champions), but one of his challengers, the iconic first ballot Hall of Famer Sting, has absconded with the statue made in his likeness!
And to make matters worse, Triple H put Rollins in two matches last night as a prelude to Night of Champions: a one on one match against Ryback, and a six man tag with the New Day against John Cena and the Prime Time Players.
The storyline is kind of silly, but in the fun wrestling kinda way. And it made me feel a lot better about Sting brown nosing Triple H so much last week—this week solidified that it was simply just trying to get into Seth’s head, because the thing Rollins is most paranoid about is making sure everyone thinks he’s on Triple H’s level and not just a fluke champion. Which is pretty similar to Triple H’s “I’m better than Shawn” arc that lasted many years (shout out to Max Landis’ excellent retrospective Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling). Sting ended up destroying the statue in the back of a garbage truck, incensing Seth Rollins after Rollins lost both matches (Ryback won with a rollup after Sting distracted Rollins from the TitanTron, and Cena pinned Kofi in the six man tag main event).
Weirdly, Cena has been largely a non-factor in programming in the past few weeks besides the promo last week announcing his intention to use his rematch clause at Night of Champions, but it’s probably for the best. The best thing WWE can do here is let Cena vs. Rollins be a formality—something required both because of the nature of the PPV and the existence of that pesky rematch clause—and let Rollins vs. Sting take center stage. It’s good that they aren’t just typecasting Sting as silent avenger, 1997 Sting, because the Sting who can poke a little fun and raise a little hell is a lot more entertaining.
Heyyyyy, We Want Some New Day
The New Day are nothing short of a god damn national treasure at this point. The backstage segment with them, Edge and Christian and the Dudley Boyz was absolute gold and hit on so many levels. These guys are genuinely funny and it comes across well in wrestling segments—a rare combination, but when it happens it’s amazing. It reminds me a lot of early Edge and Christian, actually. Substitute a pair of kazoos for a trombone playing Final Fantasy victory music and you’ve got the 2015 version of tag team comedy.
The greatest part about the New Day is that all three of these guys were pretty much considered dead in the water. Kofi hasn’t been especially relevant in years (or, depending on your definition of “relevant,” ever), Big E was having a hell of a time trying to connect to the audience with what generic storylines/character he was given, and Xavier was basically written off by a lot of people (myself included) as DOA after his inaugural angle involved inheriting the Funkadactyls entrance music. Then, they are given a stereotypical preacher gimmick that fails to connect to the crowd in any meaningful way. Thankfully, they got “Die Rocky Die” heat, though, which WWE did the right thing with and made them full-on obnoxious heels, where all three are absolutely killing it. Big E and Xavier should be made men from here on out, and Kofi is undergoing a career renaissance I don’t think any of us saw coming.
It speaks volumes that the tag team title picture was featured prominently in the main event of Raw. Sure, it could be argued the real story of that match was Rollins, but between New Day getting over like gangbusters and the Dudley Boyz returning in a huge way, the tag division may actually be taken off life support. Edge and Christian spoke of their love for the format on the Stone Cold Podcast after Raw, and I can’t agree more—tag team matches with actual tag teams that do actual tag team moves are highly entertaining and can offer things that one on one matches simply cannot. It’s been the launching pad for dozens of wrestlers over the years who have become household names—the aforementioned Edge and Christian, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, and Booker T immediately come to mind—so to see it used effectively here is exciting.
The Diva Revolution slowly, ploddingly marched forward last night, but it made some important steps. First, one of the now two segments women get on the card (viva la revolución!) was a straight singles match between two talented women—Sasha Banks and Paige. None of the pointless tag team nonsense we’ve been getting for weeks on end. This was a good match. Not excellent, but it showcased that both girls can work and put together a compelling match (the crowd even chanted ‘this is awesome,’ if halfheartedly and honestly undeserved, but hey, at least they were somewhat into it and not chanting for somebody completely unrelated to the match).
It was a good match bell to bell, until sadly the ending, where WWE resorted to usual Diva shenanigans, e.g. a distraction/rollup combination. What does this do for either the winner, Sasha, or the loser, Paige? Sasha got another tally in the W column, sure, but it didn’t exactly prove her dominance, and while Paige lost it was under heavy interference and she even has a legitimate claim that Sasha’s shoulders were also down and the referee simply didn’t notice. So all in all, this match was a frustrating one. There were glimmers of good psychology and athleticism, and it was proved that even a so-so crowd can get behind the Divas when the matches make sense and are given time. But on the other hand, the booking of it rendered it largely pointless.
The other Divas segment involved the countdown to the “Bellabration” of the century, Nikki Bella beating AJ Lee’s record of longest reigning Divas Champion of all time, which will happen at the end of next week’s Raw. Charlotte, flanked by the rest of Team PCB interrupted the gloat-fest to announce that the petition she submitted to the Authority last week on SmackDown (yes, things with actual story implications happened on Smackdown last week) was granted, and Charlotte’s Championship match against Nikki Bella will take place next week on Raw, meaning while Nikki will definitely tie AJ Lee’s record, she may not beat it.
This is sort of strange booking and smells like there’ll be some sort of schmozz on Raw that leads to a rematch taking place at Night of Champions anyway, but I’m willing to see where this goes. Nikki honestly ain’t bad—nowhere near the level of skill of Charlotte, Becky, Paige or Sasha, but she’s done very well for herself in recent years, so her match with Charlotte should be pretty good.
The Rest of the Card
- As the WWE Universe Turns continued this week, sans Lana who is apparently out with a real-life wrist injury, which is extremely unfortunate as they had to be building to a mixed tag match. Instead, it was announced we’ll get a rematch between Rusev and Dolph at the pay-per-view, amidst more crying from Summer Rae. Again, say what you want about this storyline, but at least it’s episodic, consistent, and obviously building toward something. I’d take goofy melodrama over pointless Randy Orton vs. Sheamus matches with no impetus or goal any day.
- Ugh. Speaking of which, Randy Orton vs. Sheamus had another completely pointless match. Post-match, the Wyatts attacked Orton, which was a little strange considering there was not much of a connection between Orton and Ambrose/Reigns, but I guess the direction they’re going is that Orton will seek revenge for this completely unprovoked, out of the blue attack by teaming up with the remnants of The Shield.
- Ambrose and Reigns, for their part, had a decent match with the Ascension who sadly made no mention of Stardust and their potentially awesome alliance formed on Smackdown. Hopefully that wasn’t just a one-off or something that’s going to be quickly scrapped, because it could be seriously awesome. And for real—where the hell was Stardust (or Neville) tonight?!
- The one interesting thing that came out of the Dudley Boyz squashing Los Matadores is that there seems to be some dissent between the matadors and their bull. There are rumors of a repackaging in Los Matadores’ future, so hopefully this is the start of it. Both guys are talented members of the legendary Colon family. That should be enough to make them a staple in the tag team division. Don’t overthink it with silly gimmicks that would have fallen flat in 1994, let alone 2015.
- Miz and Cesaro had a so-so match and Big Show turned heel, then face, then heel again in the span of 30 seconds. Yeeeppp.
Another Raw where not a lot mattered and I was itching for it to be over around 10:00. There was some greatness here, and it was a huge step up from last week, but that isn’t exactly showering it with praise. I know the period between Summerslam and Royal Rumble is usually a lull, but yeesh.