We’re in Des Moines, Iowa. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL & Booker T.
Promo Time: Seth Rollins
He’s not best pleased about Randy Orton’s attack on him last week. He must have been the only man in the world who didn’t see it coming. Rollins points out he did the same thing to the Shield but that was a “sound business decision”. Seth is accompanied by his cronies and Big Show offers an apology, calling Rollins the “best damn talent in the WWE” and calls Orton “cruel”. Show calls Orton a “snake” and offers to crush him. Kane offers backhanded support. “I wasn’t as gullible as Big Show”. All of this leads to Seth accepting Randy Orton’s challenge to a Wrestlemania31 match on the proviso that they also clash tonight. Orton strolls out to accept the challenge and that’s Raw’s main event set. It didn’t need to take up 10 minutes of talking but the show is so long they seem to think they need these segments. It’s a pity really that they’re so creatively null as there is more than one way to set up a match.
AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella
Paige has AJ’s back. Nikki’s Divas strap isn’t on the line here. Nor will it be at Wrestlemania31 as it’ll be tag action, which means both Bellas will be on the ‘Mania card. I hope Sasha Banks or Charlotte gets called up the night after Wrestlemania to win the title. My desire to see a women’s division without the Bellas in it is unlikely due to their celebrity status but hey, that’s the WWE for you. Nikki Bella is probably my least favourite diva, largely because of her incompetence in the ring but combined with the push she’s received. AJ’s campaign to #givedivasachance probably didn’t involve getting time against one of the Bella Twins as the match is garbage. AJ tries so hard to get Nikki to actually wrestle a match but it’s just beyond her. The announcers get bored and start chatting about Twitter. AJ tries hard to get the match over, as it’s basically her idea to get the divas more exposure and as the match progresses it becomes more about AJ Lee’s ideas rather than Nikki’s boring moves. Nikki is so sloppy AJ can’t get anything going although the crowd does respond to some of it. Nikki gets in a cheap shot punch that JBL compares to Wayne Rooney getting knocked out in his kitchen. He loves the footy! So Nikki wins and having #giventhedivasachance they stink the joint out. Nikki Bella is a terrible wrestler with no timing.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control takes us back to Smackdown! Mark Henry made a surprise return to confront Roman Reigns. “You young bucks, you think you know it all” he says. Were the WWE trying to bury a tag team from New Japan here? I know they have an issue with the Wolfie hand sign that the Bucks, and the rest of Bullet Club, use. To the point of trying to copyright a hand sign. Americans and their lawyers. It’s a hand sign, stop being jerks. Incidentally I own more NJPW merchandise than WWE stuff at the moment. Why could that be? Is it because they have a far superior wrestling product and I feel the need to support it?
Backstage: Kane & Big Show argue about Kane announcing Show will be in Rollins’ corner tonight. Show pointing out how Kane could have just told him without announcing it on TV. Acknowledging flaws in the writing? Super. Seth Rollins turns up to call them both stupid so Kane calls him a “spoiled brat”. The crux of this is Rollins’ boys not wanting to be at ringside to back him up tonight.
Ryback vs. The Miz
Ryback beat Miz on Smackdown! Mizdow was not required to be at ringside and found the whole thing amusing. Another promo from Miz confirms his desire to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. If Mizdow doesn’t help him achieve that he’ll be fired. Ryback manhandles Miz with ease. Hey, remember when Miz headlined Wrestlemania 27? Dark days. Ryback finishes Miz off quickly with the Meathook and the Shellshock. Even taking the time to try and get Mizdow to punch Miz, which doesn’t happen. Post match Mizdow hops in to help Miz up, which earns him a Skull Crushing Finale. Surely Mizdow is turning full-on face at Wrestlemania. It’s the only logical conclusion in all of this. The Miz’s stunt double angle is played out.
Final Rating: ½*
Contract Signing: John Cena vs. Rusev
This is the contract signing for the US title match at Wrestlemania. Cena tries to sell the importance of this contract calling it the “most important he’s ever signed”. I seriously doubt that. Cena moans about Rusev being the US champion despite enjoying the perks of the USA and running it down simultaneously. Cena taking the “USA, USA, USA” route stops people booing him, in America anyway but come Wrestlemania and the eclectic and smarter fanbase he’ll just get booed anyway. I’d certainly boo him for running this patriotic drivel. At least it creates the ‘right’ crowd reactions here in the good old US of A. Rusev arrives without Lana causing a “we want Lana” chant and instead with a bespectacled goof. He’s Rusev’s attorney. Urgh, lawyers. At least Rusev is embracing American culture! The lawyer points out that Rusev didn’t agree to the match, it was Lana. The commentators bury the whole thing, claiming the lawyer was working community theatre in Des Moines earlier today. Rusev reads a lengthy statement calling Americans “failures”. It’s good heel work but the segment is really long unless you like chanting “USA” a lot. Rusev flips the table over and legs it. The WWE are trying to make this feel important but it’s not really working. Unless you’re American.
Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. The New Day
New Day is represented by Big E & Kofi Kingston. Before we get underway Los Matadores come out here. This tag division is weak. Jay Uso looks to be out injured now as well, which makes the division even weaker. Cesaro vs. Kofi is pretty good as Kingston can bump Cesaro’s cool spots. Cesaro blindsides Kofi with a forearm to the back of the head for the win with Kingston distracted by Tyson Kidd. This division is a joke. At least they switched the belts before Jay got injured. Can Cesaro carry the whole division by himself? He tries hard here by destroying Xavier Woods and selling for El Torito in the post match antics.
Final Rating: ½*
Video Control takes us backstage to see Jamie Noble pointing out that Seth Rollins should have been listening to him the whole time. “I quit, you can’t fire me”. After Noble walks out Joey Mercury shrugs his shoulders and walks out too, leaving Rollins alone. Is it me or would Rollins vs. Noble be a better match than Rollins vs. Orton?
Video Control goes from there to Brock Lesnar cutting a pre-recorded interview about his career. “I was put on this Earth to hurt people”. “It’s what I do, it’s why I’m here”. From there we get clips of Lesnar murdering the Streak last year. “I don’t care. Disappointment? Surprise? I loved every minute of it”. Lesnar points out how he sent Rock packing to Hollywood as a rookie, ended the Streak and ended John Cena as a main eventer at Summerslam. Roman Reigns can’t beat him. “At Wrestlemania, Brock Lesnar is gonna kick your ass…this isn’t a fairy tale”. “At Wrestlemania I am gonna BEEP up Roman Reigns. The End”. Great stuff from Brock, in UFC big fight shill mode.
The Big Show vs. Erik Rowan
I don’t know what they’re trying to do with Rowan but he’s been fairly worthless since parting company with Bray Wyatt. Show beats the crap out of Rowan before the bell, resulting in a no-contest.
Final Rating: NR
Video Control confirms Larry Zbyszko is going into the Hall of Fame. This is something that irked me from WWE’s Twitter feed today. First off they do one of their classic “breaking news” things confirming Larry is going into the Hall of Fame then literally 40 minutes later they tell us to watch Raw to find out who’s the next Hall of Fame inductee for 2015. But…you just told us. It’s Corporate incompetence of the highest level. Either there’s more than one guy working the Twitter feed or the one guy has severe short-term memory loss and/or it’s just total stupidity. This is WCW levels of incompetence. I dread to think what WCW’s Twitter would have been like in 2000 if such a thing existed then.
The ring is mostly filled with jobbers (Heath Slater, Alex Riley etc) apart from Kane and Mark Henry. Kane points out this is a “preview of the Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal”. Henry announces he’ll be in it, which is exactly what Stephanie said shouldn’t happen when Cena did the same thing a few weeks ago. Kane and Henry clear out all the jobbers (the best of which was either Swagger or Goldust, real low card guys). Henry goes to throw Kane out but gets jumped by AXELMANIA! Henry throws Axel out as well to win. This was pointless and really short.
Final Rating: ¼*
Promo Time: Paul Heyman
Heyman’s role as Brock Lesnar’s advocate reminds me of the Silver Surfer. “Galactus is coming! Y’all about to get killed”. “Brock Lesnar is coming to Wrestlemania to make WAR. WAAAAAR on Roman Reigns”. Heyman suggests that Brock Lesnar might not stick to the rules at Wrestlemania. “Are they cut Wrestlemania off? Give you all your money back? It’s an impossibility”. Heyman implies that Lesnar might “do what he’s not supposed to do”. In other words, if Brock wants to ‘beat’ Roman Reigns, given his shoot background, then he will. Heyman’s suggestion that Reigns will take a “prison beating” makes me laugh. “YOU CAN’T BEAT BROCK LESNAR”. Eventually Heyman pisses Roman Reigns off enough for him to come out here. Reigns respects Paul and says he’s the “best talker in the business”. Roman is expecting a fight, not a fairytale at Wrestlemania. The crowd, still not won over, chants “Daniel Bryan”. It doesn’t matter if you win the title Roman Reigns, you’re still not The Man. This was a convincing promo from Roman though. He stuck to the point and kept it short and confident.
Video Control takes us backstage where Paul Heyman is leaving. Renee Young asks him about Roman Reigns. “He wants to play chess with the chessmaster”. Heyman promises Brock Lesnar will be on Raw to confront Roman next week.
Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose & Dolph Ziggler vs. Wade Barrett, Stardust & Luke Harper
R-Truth, the other guy in the Wrestlemania ladder match, is out here to watch complete with the IC title strapped to his back. I’m still confused as to why Daniel Bryan is wasting away in a 7-man match for the IC title, a title the WWE doesn’t care about in the slightest. What’s more ludicrous is they’re trying to kill him by having his colleagues call him a turd. It’s ridiculous. Small guy gets over. How dare he? Bury him! At least the guys in this match are aiming to steal the show. They’re the only ones who are. Ziggler in particular has bags of energy. The announcers get distracted by R-Truth denying stealing the IC title and adding –izzle to the ends of words, completely ignoring the match. If they were paying attention they’d notice Ziggler, the hardest working wrestler in the promotion, busting his ass. It’s a solid 6-man tag with genuinely exciting false finishes and a drawn-out finale that includes an ad break. Meanwhile the commentators continue to bicker over semantics. Cole & JBL on the same team is a DISASTER. Ziggler accidentally kicks Bryan in the face to establish heat between the babyfaces. Barrett runs into Dirty Deeds and Ambrose picks up the win. Of all the guys they had out there, guess who lost? The damn IC champion AGAIN! Good match though. One we desperately needed after a bad show. Everyone lays each other with finishers after the match and Barrett reclaims the strap. It’s remarkable how they’re trying to do 50-50 booking with 7 guys.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Seth Rollins moans about his back-up all quitting to Triple H & Steph. The latter blames Seth for causing all the problems he faces. Hunter gives him the “who the hell do you think you’re talking to?” speech so Rollins cuts him down for “playing hide and seek with Sting”. The bottom line of this is that Rollins will face Orton alone tonight.
From there we go to Bray Wyatt’s pre-recorded thoughts on the Undertaker match. Wyatt’s promos are always good. He almost makes me care about the beaten up old man that is the Undertaker. His main point is telling us the Undertaker is afraid to even show up before Wrestlemania.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
You know that plot they’ve been running all night about Seth alienating all of the Authority? Yeah, it’s a swerve. Then everyone stands around for ages until Sting’s crow noise kicks in and he suddenly appears in the ring to clean house. Sting & Orton hit finishers on J & J as Cole calls this “an incredible moment”, twice, as Hunter stands on the floor doing nothing. Yeah, incredible. At least Sting turned up though.
Final Rating: N/R
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Paul Heyman. For putting seeds of doubt in the minds of everyone expecting a Reigns victory at Wrestlemania.
Least Entertaining: Nikki Bella
Quote of the Night: “If I stay I’ll be WWE champion. If I go I’ll be WWE champion” – Brock Lesnar talks about his contractual situation.
Match of the Night: Bryan, Ambrose & Ziggler vs. Barrett, Stardust & Harper.
What We Said: The two best segments on the show were Lesnar & Heyman talking. I think that says quite a lot about the programming as a whole. This was a slight step-up on recent ‘Road to Wrestlemania’ programming though and things actually happened and at times I was even entertained. There was some dreadful wrestling on display though and until Paul Heyman walked to the ring, the actual venue saw nothing of note. Luckily the 6-man delivered and the arrival of Sting perked up the main event (even if there was no match). Up to the battle royal we were witnessing an absolute dog of a show though. Dreadful first half tonight and a fine example of Raw being too long at 3 hours.