Desperate times call for desperate measures.
In the realm of WWE, those ‘desperate times’ refer to the ratings of their flagship show, Raw, which have been on a downward slope for months now thanks to stale writing (and yes, the return of the NFL season and baseball playoffs certainly haven’t helped matters). Last night we saw what WWE came up with for “desperate measures”: trotting out a new beloved Hall of Famer at the top of every hour, and teasing the reuniting of the most over stable of the past decade to close the show.
WWE basically pulled out all their trump cards and slapped them down on the table, hoping for a spike in ratings. Was it enough to correct the course?
Raw came to us from Dallas, Texas, and featured appearances by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, The Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar. Austin was originally advertised for the show, then wasn’t, but he ended up kicking it off to a monster pop that only Stone Cold can elicit.
Unfortunately, Austin wasn’t there for much, really only plugging his podcast and introducing The Undertaker before pulling an Irish goodbye and disappearing from sight while ‘Taker made his way to the ring. Undertaker cut his usual 2010s Undertaker promo, which is to say it was about as engaging as a root canal. Add in Brock and Heyman, with Paul E hitting the usual notes, and you have your garden variety Lesnar/Undertaker segment. They did do a decent job getting Lesnar some heat, both by of course harping on the fact that he broke the streak, and by teasing a physical altercation but having The Beast renege at the last second.
Outside of that though, it’s amazing that a segment that featured “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman could fall so flat. Oops, did I say amazing? I meant really, really discouraging.
Hour 2 kicked off with Shawn Michaels hitting the ring to put over the upcoming Hell in a Cell matches at the eponymous Special Event. He was quickly interrupted by Seth Rollins in what ended up being the best segment of the show. I might be a little biased, as HBK is my all-time favorite wrestler and I’d probably consider Rollins my favorite currently, but this was a fun segment.
However, while it was fun, I don’t necessarily see the point of someone who hasn’t wrestled in over five years absolutely dismantling the World Heavyweight Champion’s character like he did. I’d have to imagine it’d make more sense for Rollins to get the rub from a legend like Michaels. It made for an entertaining segment, but it doesn’t do anybody any favors in the long run, which can be said about a lot of the better segments in WWE lately. Missing the forest for the trees is basically a corporate mantra at this point.
Oh, and WWE? DON’T TEASE A SHAWN MICHAELS/SETH ROLLINS MATCH UNLESS YOU REALLY MEAN IT MY HEART CAN’T TAKE THAT KIND OF TEASE!
Saving the best (woo!) for last, Ric Flair kicked off hour 3 by not really doing much outside of attempting and failing to try to transfer some of his over-ness to Roman Reigns, who once again got battered by “What?” chants during his (admittedly boring) soliloquy.
The Michaels/Rollins segment was entertaining, but left a lot to be desired in terms of building up someone who is actually on the active roster. Austin and Flair, however, provided nearly nothing besides the definition of “cheap pops.”
Sierra, Hotel, Alpha, Mike, SHAM
The final ploy for ratings came just prior to the main event, when a now Orton-less (who apparently suffered a legitimate shoulder injury—the kayfabe reason was it’s implied that Luke Harper is currently torturing him in some closed-off alley or something) Team Am-Bros needed a third to compete against the Wyatt Family (swap Erick Rowan in for Luke Harper, who inexplicably returned with absolutely no fanfare or explanation). The Authority and Shawn Michaels were discussing it backstage with Rollins, when Shawn Michaels said if Rollins really is the man around here he’d be able to take care of it, goading him by implying he was a second-rate Shawn Michaels. Rollins eventually accepts the challenge.
Of course, this means an impromptu Shield reunion, which should be enough to sell tickets by its own right, but it was announced about a half an hour before a meaningless-in-the-big-picture six man tag match, so there was roughly zero way this was going to materialize into anything resembling importance.
It was a thrill to see Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins back together, to be sure, but Rollins quickly left the team high and dry, leaving the audience to wonder what exactly the point of it was. It did nothing to sell Rollins as legitimate vs. THE DEMON KANE (oh yeah, I should explain that the number 1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was nowhere to be found on the go-home show before his title match, explained away by a screenshot of WWE.com citing his one-day suspension as a result of “closed door meetings”), as he ditched his former Shield brethren and was nowhere to be found for the rest of the match.
Reigns vs. Wyatt is compelling enough though, and I am still looking forward to their encounter at Hell in a Cell. Whether or not that’s enough to sell Network subscriptions is another conversation entirely, but at least the main event wasn’t a complete waste. It does leave a huge question as to Ambrose’s role at HiaC with Orton out of commission. It would be criminal to leave one of the most over faces in the company off the card entirely, so here’s hoping they figure something out for the Lunatic Fringe.
As 2015 Raw main events go, I’ve certainly seen worse. But being the first time The Shield has reconvened in any fashion since their breakup last May, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect much, much more from this. Unfortunately, the reality is that this was likely a last-minute decision based on the fact that Randy couldn’t go.
The Rest of the Card
- The New Day was really funny. Also, water is wet and the sun rises in the east. There was an image floating around the internet prior to Raw showing the New Day’s hilarious new shirt featuring a unicorn, which was explained dutifully in their promo today. No word yet on why the unicorn is blind. As far as their match against the Dudleyz and Cena, it was a match. To be perfectly honest I was frantically trying to buy Star Wars tickets during this match (got ’em, second showing of the night!), but I can safely say I did not miss anything.
- No advancement whatsoever with what they are going to do with Rusev, who treaded water in a six man tag match with Sheamus and King Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro and Neville, otherwise known as the group creative forgot. Pity, too, since the Rusev angle in and out of the ring is one of the only interesting story threads WWE has going right now. And if you’re hoping for some advancement at Hell in a Cell, best to squash that hope now—they are re-doing this exact same match in the pre-show Sunday. Maybe Rusev burial rumors are true after all.
- Sasha Banks got SOME time this week, but sadly it was in yet another tag team match that did nothing to build anything in the so-called Divas revolution. For god sake, just let her win a match, or at least hit her finisher! You can tell they know the crowd wants Sasha more than any other diva currently and are trying to prolong it to make it that much sweeter when she does break away from the pack, but unfortunately the far more likely scenario is that everyone assumes they’ve given up on her and the crowd becomes deflated and moves on (see: Cesaro).
- The World Heavyweight Champion beat Ryback. Alert the presses! The world champ beat a mid carder! He CAN win matches!
- Charlotte vs. Brie happened for some reason. I watched the Star Wars trailer instead. I’m happy with my choice.
- Kevin Owens hit a nasty pop-up powerbomb on Mark Henry, who continues his descent into complete irrelevance. At least Ryback actually came out and there was some interaction between the Intercontinental Champion and the man challenging for the title on Sunday, so that at least passed a basic logic test—which in recent months is high praise.
This show was highly discouraging—better than last week, but with all the guest star power it would be literally impossible to produce a worse show than last week. They threw absolutely everything at the wall, including three of the hands-down greatest wrestlers of all time and a Shield reunion tease, and almost none of it stuck. And the parts that did won’t matter at all come next week. If this is WWE’s idea of correcting course, we’re in for a rough ride.