Promo Time: Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, Kane & The Big Show
Why do WWE think Rollins-Orton is the WrestleMania main event? It gets more TV time than anything else. I guess that is the price you pay for promoting part-time guys in all of the show's top matches. Shame, because it's probably one of the worst booked storylines in the company. Randy came back as a babyface to a huge pop, beat up the guys that put him on the shelf and then... turned back heel to align with those very same assailants. The purpose of which is only to turn him back babyface anyway! "It's WrestleMania season! You can feel it in the air!" Whatever, Cole. Nobody cares this year. The card is all wrong and the build up has been farcical.
Kane and Big Show both welcome Randy back to the Authority, which is a laugh because he has been back for two weeks. Jamie Noble can't get through his speech, because he thinks Orton is a snake. He is the only one who can see the big picture. Seth wants to address the elephant in the room - no, not the Big Show - the supposed heat between he and Randy. Apparently there is none. Oh good, can't wait for the subsequent match then. "You people must all feel like the stupidest people in the world," Seth tells the crowd. Well, they paid to attend Raw so, y'know. Rollins and Orton shake hands, as Seth plays the role of snivelling sycophant to a tee. Orton calls them all out on kissing his ass, asking what happened to the Authority since he left. He goes the comedy route, as everyone in WWE does, mocking Kane for becoming the Authority barrista, Show for being a disappointment, Noble for being a shortarse (hey, it's WWE, being short is a crime) and Rollins for being blinded by his ego. He lays out what we all know already; that he is in the Authority to get close to him so he can take him out. Well, he sure threw that plan out there in the open...
Oh, he is just "screwing with them". It is a double swerve of course, because he is telling them the truth, playing it off as messing with them, but by saying he is messing with them he really is messing with them. Or something. Okay, I have a headache already. Just do a fucking RKO you meme inspiring cretinous shit!
Daniel Bryan vs. Bad News Barrett
According to Cole, there is a lot of speculation about whether Bryan will be in the WrestleMania ladder match for the IC title. Well, there is a ladder on the stage, so that is a pretty big goddamn clue. Subtly is not their best trait in WWE. Cole reminds us that Barrett is the IC champ, which is goddamn staggering considering how he jobs every single week without fail. When did the guy last win a match on this show? In what universe is the champion losing every week the right way to build both the belt and the champion? Hey, remember when Hulk Hogan was WWF Champion for four years and he lost every week in non title matches? No? That's because it never happened! Vince has tied himself up in so many idiomatic knots inside of his self-created bubble that is the WWE Universe, that he has lost all semblance of understanding about what wrestling even is. He used to be the master at long-term storytelling, but now there is the feel every week of throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks, and then, if the wrong shit sticks, wiping it off and starting again. You know, the wrong shit like Daniel Bryan, the man who should be working with Lesnar for the title at WrestleMania, stuck in a dangerous midcard stunt bout fresh off surgery, reduced to working the opening match of the TV show in a nothing match with a guy who should be booked as unbeatable but conversely, never wins. It is a WCW-like level of stupidity and it results in this: utter apathy from the crowd. The match is nothing, just an excuse for R-Truth to join the commentary team again and make idiotic jokes with JBL. Predictable moment of the night: Bryan pins Barrett clean. It doesn't matter though, because he lays Bryan out after the match with the bull hammer. Ah, hello even steven booking. "The Lunatic Fringe" (of a group that disbanded a year ago) runs down to take out Barrett, causing Truth to scream indecipherably. What a total farce. The thing is, this will likely be the best match on the entire WrestleMania card, and nobody cares at all.
Final Rating: *
Dean Ambrose vs. Stardust
This insipidly booked drek continues into a second match, with current IC title "holder" Stardust heading out wearing the belt. Truth remains on commentary, as he and Cole try to get over a hashtag which I am not even going to justify in print, relating to the big mystery of the evening: what's in R-Truth's bag. If I were a betting man, I would suggest it was green and smokeable. Hey, remember when Dean Ambrose was getting really over organically, so WWE started over-scripting him by making him pull wacky pranks and then had him lose on pay-per-view after pay-per-view? The result? A heatless match, like this. He is just another meandering midcarder who is used at a level far below his ability. Another nothing match, same moves, same order, same outcome. Ambrose reclaims the belt after the bout, so Barrett comes out to deck him. Everyone involved in the ladder match, and Daniel Bryan who is still "not announced", heads to the ring for a rumble. Everyone takes turns hitting their moves, R-Truth acts like a cartoon sidekick and steals the title, but gives Barrett it back in his mystery sack when he threatens him. But laugh out loud moment alert: it's a joke! He only gave Barrett a miniature replica of the belt! The writers here get paid. Paid actually money to come up with this stuff.
Final Rating: 3/4*
Michael Cole announces that a new award has been created for the Hall of Fame, the Warrior Award, something the man himself campaigned for during his speech last year. He asked for WWE to recognise non-wrestlers who have played an important role in the company, so WWE has taken that to heart. The first inductee: Connor Michalek, the kid who sadly died last year a month after WrestleMania from paediatric brain cancer. He was a close friend of WWE due to his spirit, passion and positivity, so this is a nice gesture. Connor's wrestling nickname was "The Crusher", so I would be remiss to point out that the wrestler The Crusher is in the WON Hall of Fame, the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and the WCW Hall of Fame, but not WWE's...
Promo Time: Paul Heyman
Is Brock Lesnar here? That is the big question, of course. But first, we have to sit through a Roman Reigns video. The crowd is as enthused as they ever are by anything to do with Reigns, and Heyman looks bored too. He breaks the silence by bringing out Lesnar, thus answering the question. Heyman mocks the Reigns video, dismissing it as mere WWE propaganda. The irony of that being it is entirely true! It is WWE propaganda, a means to make Reigns seem like a legitimate threat to an unbeatable bad ass, despite having jobbed to a goddamn cradle pin last week on this very show. Reigns should have been Goldberging his was to WrestleMania, he might even have got over approaching the level he needs to be, but of course, the curse of WWE booking struck again. Heyman is a master salesman, the best possible man to be building this program, but even he can't shine shit. Hey, Reigns is not bad, he just isn't "the guy" like WWE want him to be, and WrestleMania is going to be one colossal fart in church when he wins that belt. Heyman tries to build the apparent real life tensions between WWE and Lesnar into the storyline, warning that any "Montreal" shenanigans will be met with Lesnar killing them. In the first genuinely amusing moment of the night, Heyman's mic gets cut off, an homage to last week's disastrous production screw ups. "If Brock Lesnar wants to spend his summer unifying the WWE Title with the UFC Title, that's what he's gonna do!" Line of the year! Heyman tells anyone who wants the belt, to come and get the belt. Cue... no one. Instead, Heyman continues putting over Lesnar, but all that does is remind everyone how great he is, and how out of his league Roman Reigns is being in the ring with him. As usual, Lesnar doesn't say a damn word and doesn't do a damn thing. Why even bother flying him in? He should be murdering Reign's family members with F5's! Why was Reigns not out here either? They didn't have to do anything physical, but surely a confrontation at least? Matches with personal tension and intensity sell tickets, whereas this is built around Lesnar's contract status and fans turning on Reign's entitled position as unwanted top dog. Is this the worst build for a WrestleMania main event ever? It's rhetorical; it is.
Bray Wyatt, with the urn, cuts a brief promo telling Undertaker to find him tonight...
Kane & The Big Show vs. Ryback & Erik Rowan
I actively despise three of the four guys in this. When Ryback is my favourite guy to watch out of four, there are problems. The match is the usual teeth-pulling Big Show & Kane experience, with the sensitive giant upset with the crowd chanting at him. He then makes a faux pas, punching Kane in the head for Erik friggin' Rowan to score the pin! Wow. The heels argue after the match, so here comes Principal Stephanie to reprimand them. "Turn around right now!" she bellows. Oh Jesus, did Patricia Arquette's Oscar speech ever go to Steph's head. The emasculator bollocks them both for not being monsters anymore, and tells them to leave. If this results in Kane coming back as 97-circa Kane then I will be delighted. It won't though. This was all horrific.
Final Rating: DUD
Backstage, Miz brown noses some rapper who I have no interest in, then Mizdow turns up dressed like said rapper. He throws out some rhymes, revealing his participation in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Hey, rapping worked for John Cena.
Said terrible rapper then does a set. What has gone wrong in my life? How is this guy a millionaire when I am not? I can rap better than this! And believe me, I can't wrap. "Holla. We dem boyz" Repeat, vomit. This is the worst Raw segment of the year. Hey, do you remember the good old days when Big Show and Kane were wrestling on the show?...
... This is still going on. Come on Wrestling Gods, give me anything! Even an Eva Marie vs. Rosa Mendes iron woman match! "Black and yellow..." What does it even mean? This is not music!
A THIRD "SONG"! Hey, guys, you know there is a big wrestling show in three weeks right? Perhaps you should spend some time devoting television to building that? This is the worst excuse for music I have ever heard in my life. The guy cannot rap, he cannot hold a note, there is no tune, there is no sense to any of the lyrics. I wish I was deaf. I want to stick hot needles into my ears so I never have to risk hearing that every again.
AJ Lee vs. Summer Rae
Summer Rae... Hey, bring the rapper back! The point of #GiveDivasAChance was not to give the terrible ones a chance. Fire Summer Rae. Fire Eva. Fire Cameron. They all suck. Those pathetic excuses for "wrestlers" are why the Divas division is such a joke. Summer's timing would make Giant Gonzalez wince. She is about a mile off on every single move. A neckbreaker? She bumps about thirty seconds before AJ even hits it. It's embarrassing. Business exposing, actually. It doesn't help that she appears to be having a facial spasm after every single move. AJ wins with the black widow, and we have a new frontrunner in the worst match of the night stakes. The last few segments have been among the worst things I have seen in the past decade.
Final Rating: -**
In a promo video, a fairly good one actually, Sting speaks with a brand new voice. It's bizarre. It's also not his voice, but reports of Ole Anderson's involvement are merely rumour... At WrestleMania, "game over". Erm, a video is nice and all but I think it is about time we had Sting on Raw. WWE know WrestleMania is in a few weeks right?
Backstage, Rusev bumps into John Cena on his way to the ring. Cena plays the pro-America card, telling Rusev he has no right to go out and run down the US every week. "You have the right to free speech, but I have the right to shut your mouth". Well, that statement is WWE all over.
Rusev vs. Curtis Axel
What's that I detect? An actual pop for Curtis Axel? Careful now, don't get too over or you will be given the Zack Ryder treatment. Axelmania runs wild for all of a minute before Rusev squashes him. The strange thing about this is, I actually think that Rusev should be mashing Hulk Hogan as part of the build towards WrestleMania. Killing Axelmania is one thing, but destroying Hulkamania would make him a real top guy. Strangely enough, as I write that, Rusev mentions Hulkamania, saying Americans are living in the past. "If America had a soul, God would spit on it." That brings out Cena, who warned Rusev that if he said anything about America, he would beat the shit out of him. He locks Rusev in the STF and thrusts, looking for all the world like he is trying to forcibly penetrate him. Rusev passes out, to the delight of Michel Cole, so Cena revives him with water and locks it on again. Lana begs for Cena to release him and promises him the WrestleMania title match he has been begging for. There's your message kids: if you want something from someone, beat them up until you get it from them. That's the American way. "John Cena is going to WrestleMania," barks JBL. Yeah, it sure was touch and go for a minute there.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Backstage, Bray Wyatt says he raises the dead. Tonight. Will it be like Weekend At Bernie's 2? He might need to enlist Papa Shango and The Boogeyman for assistance.
The New Day vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd
Just when you thought this show couldn't get any better, we return from commercial and The New Day are in the ring! What's wrong with Big E. Langston? I think he is having a religious experience. He appears to be speaking in tongues and spasming. The lord is in him! It is perhaps worse even than Summer Rae's selling. Big E and Woods are the pairing tonight, which is the least used of the possible combos. If you thought this crowd was dead before, they are pin drop silent for this. Unbelievably, the tag champs do the job for the joke tandem. Are they out of their fucking minds?
Final Rating: 1/4*
Natalya vs. Naomi
The Usos and Naomi head straight out while Natalya and the champs are still in the ring, making it the second time this evening that they have transitioned straight into a match like that. On paper this is one of the strongest main roster women's matches they could do, but we miss most of it because of commercial. After a brief, but technically competent contest, Naomi hits Natalya in the face with her ass to score the win. It ties for best match on the show, remarkably.
Final Rating: *
Los Matadores vs. The Usos
They are not fucking around tonight! Los Matadores head straight to the ring for a match with the Usos, making this the third match on the show to do that now. Are they just trying to cram as much into the show as possible? I don't mind, it cuts out a lot of faffing on. Shame the Usos treat this as a joke and don't even bother to take their shirts off. "Again, the big news tonight has been the New Day knocking off Tyson Kidd & Cesaro," says Cole. Not only is he the worst kind of arrogant, condescending know it all, he is now adding delusional statements of complete idiocy to his repertoire. "CM Punk, CM Punk" - the audience. Hey, at this point I don't blame them. This show has been a dog, the matches horrible, the segments crap, the writing predictable and/or lame, the special guest a crime against music. And to compound the misery, Los Matadores, the joke team, defeat the Usos via WWE's ever popular distraction roll up finish. Tonight, Raw is Tropes! Did Brock Lesnar knock Vince silly backstage before he signed off on this?
Final Rating: DUD
Backstage, Jamie Noble tells Seth Rollins he has "a bad feeling" about things. Listen to Han, Luke! Amusingly, Rollins is stood in front of the WrestleMania poster, which features both John Cena and The Undertaker. A little quality control? At least an ATTEMPT to preserve suspension of disbelief that this is not just one big joke?
Promo Time: Bray Wyatt
And now for the only well-booked WrestleMania program. Bray does his usual solid promo, with Undertaker's urn in tow, telling the 'Dead Man' he won't be his redemption. Wyatt calls Taker out, the urn starts smoking, and the lights go off. Then the bell dongs, to a HUGE pop, but no Taker. Instead, a spotlight hits the ring, and the urn is gone, replaced with Wyatt's rocking chair. "WrestleMania: The Man Comes Around" says the big screen, as an old recording of Taker saying "rest in peace" echoes around the building. Lightning hits the ring, setting the chair on fire, causing Wyatt to both laugh and recoil in fear. The crowd are upset that Taker is not there, but I am glad. He is the one man who does need saving for WrestleMania before he is seen again. If he is clad in his 1990 gear, all the better! Okay, the reality of this was a guy sat in a ring staring at a burning chair, but I love the silly pyrotechnical magic show, and I thought this was very effective. Even if it was really corny and silly. At least it was interesting.
Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins & Randy Orton
This needs a full Randy Orton turn to heat up the program with Rollins beyond its current Arctic apathy, and Lesnar to square off with Reigns. It's all storyline of course, with Seth sending J&J Security away because they are distracting Orton. He has set himself up for a fall, of course. As soon as he goes for a tag, Randy pulls a Sid Justice and refuses. Randy throws up a Steve Austin double digit salute, shown from the wrists down by the PG cameras, and Reigns hits a spear for the win. In short order too.
Final Rating: 1/2*
Randy slaps the piss out of Rollins post match and then beats the living hell out of him. It's so vicious, it's practically a heel beat down. The babyfaces are all assholes on this show. At least there is logic to this, with Show and Kane having been ejected so no one can help Seth. Randy pounds on him for a good five minutes, leathering him in the back with a chair repeatedly, causing Rollins to cry. Yes, cry. The hangman DDT from the barricade to the concrete finishes the job, with the crowd now silent due to the viciousness of the assault. It turns out he is not finished. Randy lawn-darts Seth over the announce table and into a chair, then drills him with an RKO through the table. A sweet one too. Helluva way to cement a babyface turn with a violent heel attack... There you go then folks, your main event for WrestleMania (judged purely on TV time and focus), one that is really a seven minute undercard match. Why was there no mention of John Stewart tonight? And on that note, where did the future WWE Champion disappear to? Why was he not involved with Brock in any way? WWE should put Reign's match on first at WrestleMania to get it out of the way, and put Undertaker in the main event. At least fans will care about that.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Bray Wyatt. His promo was the only really good thing on the show. In truth, not everyone will have enjoyed it because it was so theatrical and silly, but I loved it.
Least Entertaining: Oh man, I am spoilt for choice. I rarely split the award, but many deserve it. Let's go with Summer Rae, Big E, Michael Cole, Big Show and that atrocious rapper. Each one of them reminded me why I love wrestling and hate sports entertainment.
Quote of the Night: "If Brock Lesnar wants to spend his summer unifying the WWE Title with the UFC Title, that's what he's gonna do!" - Paul Heyman. Like I said, line of the night.
Match of the Night: As Stupid Sexy Flanders once said, "Nothing at all, nothing at all, nothing at all"
I have sat through every episode of this show since it started in 1993, and I can safely say that this is among the worst broadcasts they have ever done. At least in the past they had direction, even if the content around it sucked. Here, WWE were lacking both in content and direction, throwing together slapdash nonsense that would be weak for a B-show during a free Network month, never mind the biggest show of the year and the card that drives the business. It is too late now, but after WrestleMania the WWE needs to push the reset button and push it hard. It is time for a spring clean. There are probably about two dozen guys that could be released and half as many girls, all of whom have outstayed their welcome and will never be anything other than laughing stocks. There is a roster full of far superior talent in NXT, all of whom could make WWE must-see TV if used right. The entire mentality of this company needs to change, because if they don't they might be in more trouble than they realise. Sure, business looks good on paper, but so did WCW's in 1998. Before the fall, the problems are not apparent to the bottom line. But they will be. This show summed up everything that is wrong with WWE. From start to finish, it was a meandering piece of shit. Sorry Vince, this one didn't stick.