We’re in San Jose, California. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL & Booker T. Tonight is the Raw after Wrestlemania 31, which means fall-out from what was a surprisingly good show.
Promo Time: Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar
The crowd is massively pro-Lesnar after his demolition of Roman Reigns. Heyman recalls last night’s events where Lesnar destroyed Reigns, which gets a “Suplex City” chant going. Brock is laughing! “Suplex City, bitch” – Heyman. Brock was getting bored killing Roman but out came Seth Rollins to steal a pin on “the challenger, not the champion”. Heyman threatens legal action and getting the title held up but Lesnar thinks “all lawyers are scumbags” so they’re not doing that. Brock wants a re-match and he wants it…right now. This brings out Stephanie McMahon. Of course it does. The crowd do not want to see her, do not want to hear from her and jeer loudly over everything she says. Even Brock thinks she’s full of shit after Steph suggests that Roman got his shots in. Steph points out Seth Rollins was out in New York for the Today Show so he’s not here, yet. Heyman gets to close the segment out. “Spoiler…my client is going to wrestle on Monday Night Raw…and pin or tap out Seth Rollins”. I could have lived without Stephanie dragging this segment down but otherwise it was a hot opening.
Video Control shows us John Cena has offered an open challenge for anyone who wants a shot at his title. Meanwhile Bryan defends his IC title against Dolph Ziggler.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler has a shot courtesy of being on the ladder at the end of the match last night. As opposed to beating Bryan last week. Bit of a logic gap there. At least they can’t job the IC champion in a non-title match tonight. Bad News Barrett joins commentary to claim Bryan is a “paper champion” because he never beat Barrett. Dude, everybody beat you when you were champion. Sin Cara beat you! Bryan & Ziggler start competitive with mat countering until Dolph gets a little too frisky and Bryan kicks him in the face. From there Ziggler hits a crazy, outta control crossbody on the ropes, sending them both toppling to the floor. It’s top action. The match goes along at a belting pace, which only slows when Bryan tentatively checks his neck. The match is so strong that the fans start chanting “this is awesome”, which it is. Them fighting over a backslide is incredible. They make spots mean something. Bryan goes for the Busaiku Knee Kick but runs into a superkick and after the near fall the crowd ERUPT into a standing ovation. Damn straight. HEADBUTTS! This time Ziggler wins but Bryan fires right back with the Busaiku Knee Kick to retain. Great match. Phenomenal for Raw. Better than the ladder match mess from Wrestlemania.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Bad News Barrett goes after Daniel Bryan but the returning Sheamus runs him off. BROGUE KICK FOR BRYAN. Sheamus’ face run lasted about 20 seconds there. White Noise for Ziggler and the crowd are not happy. Sheamus even gets the legendary “asshole” chant that used to be reserved for Vince McMahon. Then a cracking chant of “you look stupid” to go with his Mohawk and braided ginger beard. “Oim back”.
Video Control gives us clips from the Hall of Fame. It’s a long, long show but if you’ve not seen it I heartily recommend watching at least the Madusa speech and Shawn Michaels’ introduction of Kevin Nash, which they will not show highlights of anywhere else because he said a lot of things he shouldn’t have.
Cesaro & Tyson Kidd & The Ascension vs. The Lucha Dragons & The New Day
The Lucha Dragons are met with a huge “NXT” chant (reminiscent of the old “ECW” chants when a former ECW talent showed up elsewhere). They’ve been called up thanks to a weak tag division that seems to have entertaining matches but isn’t going anywhere. Cesaro vs. Kalisto is really good with insane lucha-libre popping the hell out of the crowd and Cesaro countering as best as he can. This crowd is rampant, by the way. They’re all over everything but especially fond of “NXT”. “Any reaction is a good reaction” says JBL as a “New Day suck” chant gets going. It’s really interesting to see the crowd pop the hell out of every Kalisto spot, the ones that were getting love from the NXT crowd. Hey, if they love that wait until Adrian Neville comes out here! Salina del sol puts Konnor away and the crowd goes nuts. “We need to get every talent from NXT on this roster” – Booker T. Maybe not “all” of them Book.
Final Rating: **3/4
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
This is Brock’s first match on Raw since his pre-UFC/Vikings run. In fact, due to Lesnar working ‘exclusively’ for Smackdown after winning his first WWE title in 2002 his last Raw match was against Tommy Dreamer in July 2002. It was the same show that RVD unified the IC and European titles. 13 years ago! The new champion gets a decent response but the crowd smell shenanigans as this is nowhere near the main event. Seth rather predictably pussies out by saying he’s a bit jetlagged and his foot hurts from Curb Stomping Brock. This gets Lesnar really pissed off but before he can destroy Rollins, the new champ hops into the crowd and legs it. Lesnar goes absolutely NUTS. He pushes the announce table over, crushing Booker & JBL. Then Lesnar grabs poor little Michael Cole; F-5, MAGGLE! YES! Brock has murdered Michael Cole. This the greatest Raw in history. The cameraman gets a bit too close and he’s grabbed too. Everybody should run away now. Brock is pissed and he’s going to kill everyone. This brings out Stephanie McMahon and Brock has murderous eyes. F-5 for the cameraman. Steph suspends Lesnar “indefinitely” and screeches like some sort of harpy. This was awesome. Brock the murderous psychopath is a joy to behold.
Final Rating: N/R
Tangent: I can only assume Brock’s “suspension” has something to do with prior commitments before inking a new WWE deal right before Wrestlemania. Once Lesnar has sorted everything out, gotten his ducks in a row, he’ll be back and might even take on something more closely resembling a wrestler’s schedule with the company. Even if he doesn’t, I’m cool with him being a special attraction. Any show he’s on benefits from his path of rage.
Video Control takes us backstage where Renee Young quizzes Steph on why she did what she did. Steph says Brock can have his rematch when she says so and she’ll be bringing the fines. Lesnar just signed a contract with the WWE and that means “I own that son of a bitch”. Damn. Lesnar vs. Authority then. Why can’t Brock just destroy everybody? Why does everything come down to Authority vs. people. I hope Brock F-5’s Michael Cole again for getting him into trouble. At ringside Byron Saxton takes over on commentary because all the other commentators are dead. Well, that’s one way of sorting out their weak commentary team. Byron sounds completely lost but it does sell how destructive Lesnar’s rampage was.
Damien Mizdow vs. Stardust
Mizdow just does the Miz’s act and the fans still love him, even though he’s not with Miz anymore. It’s almost a squash as Mizdow routinely outworks Stardust and beats him with Skull Crushing Finale. Well, damn! The Miz runs in to hit his own finisher on Mizdow. Miz spends a while arguing with the fans and that’s the segment. Not really selling the feud there. Plus it made Mizdow and Stardust look weak.
Final Rating: ¾*
Promo Time: Curtis Axel
He points out it 29 guys to throw him out of the Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. He tears the shirt with the support of all his Axelmaniacs. But he’s interrupted by… Adrian Neville!
Neville vs. Curtis Axel
It sounds suspiciously like Neville has lost his "Adrian" as Lilian Garcia (and the onscreen graphic) just introduce him as “Neville”. This crowd is big on him immediately because they’re fans of NXT. Neville flips around, kicks Axel a lot and finishes with the Red Arrow. This was a total squash, which is great news for Adrian Neville because they put him over big. The Red Arrow gets two slow motion replays and looks phenomenal. Let’s hope the freshening up of the roster won’t result in burials of the new guys in order that they ‘pay dues’ like with the Ascension. But hey, on this, Neville looks to be quids in.
Final Rating: *1/2
Video Control gives us another replay of Brock smashing stuff. I’m tempted to boost the show’s rating up again for a replay of the F-5 on Cole.
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. X
This is an open challenge. Cena comes out to singing, not chanting, of “John Cena sucks” and proceeds to suck up to the audience calling it the best crowd the WWE has all year. If every crowd was as hot as the post-Mania crowd the WWE would be flat-out awesome. Everyone expects Rusev to come out here but instead we get…Dean Ambrose. Oh my god, what happened to the WWE Creative team? They’re doing unpredictable stuff! And it’s good. I’m actually flabbergasted.
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
On an unrelated note, I’m glad Ambrose is healthy after taking that sick powerbomb last night. Cena works like a smart veteran and slows it down, taking all the anger and enthusiasm out of Ambrose before he even gets going. Hell, when Ambrose gets a move in, Cena bails to give himself a moment. Who is this guy? What’s happening? Ambrose basically gives Cena a kicking. It’s not until Cena counters into a Protobomb that he gets anything big. Dean even kicks him in the face after the ‘You Can’t See Me’ taunt. It’s bizarre. Bizarroworld Cena finds the STFU countered and he’s clocked by the rebound lariat. Dirty Deeds is countered but Ambrose escapes the FU and I’m wondering if Cena has been told his job as US champion is to get other people over. It’s about damn time. FU can’t put Ambrose away but the story of the match has been Cena looking human. They botch a powerbomb out of the corner, which is unfortunate as it leads right into Cena hooking the STFU. “John Cena SUUUUUUUCCCKS”. I love that tune. Ambrose gets out and hooks his own STF and it’s clean as a whistle. FU is countered right into Dirty Deeds…for 2. They rock some terrific counters after that, both looking for the finish until Cena rolls through a crossbody into the FU to retain. Expected outcome, not the expected match. If Cena wrestles a match like that every week, against different guys, he could make the entire roster in a year. If his role as champion is to be ‘Ric Flair’ I’d be thrilled, frankly. Surprisingly great match. The second great match on the show.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Seth Rollins is ready to cut his first promo as champion. He’s asked about Lesnar, who he thinks is “an animal” and his conduct is “unbecoming of a WWE superstar”. Seth promises to keep the title for a “very long time” but in comes Randy Orton, to remind Seth he beat him at Wrestlemania. He also makes a fine point about not getting a rematch from last year’s Wrestlemania (in singles anyway, he was in the Money in the Bank match for the vacant strap after Bryan’s injury and Battleground). Seth’s backup, Kane & Big Show turn up, and Rollins challenges Orton to find two people who don’t hate him to tag against them. Which he should have no trouble doing because he has “so many friends” says Seth. That made me chuckle.
AJ Lee, Paige & Naomi vs. Natalya, Nikki & Brie Bella
Nattie has her Wrestlemania gear on. Unfortunately her stuff with Naomi is slow and stilted. There’s nothing technically embarrassing about anyone out there. There’s no Jackie Gayda out there or Shaniqua but it feels like wrestling academy kids work. I’ve seen enough trainee matches to recognise one when I see it. Paige & AJ have a little more intensity but even if you’re the best wrestler in the world, you still need someone to work with. This is the first dead spot on the entire show and it drags and drags and drags. Seriously though, everything else has been brilliant so it makes one dead match acceptable. I know there’s a movement to #givedivasachance but I just wish that didn’t mean the Bellas. The crowd supportively chants “let’s go divas”, showing love for the division rather than anyone in particular. AJ takes a brutal looking Oriental Crossbow from Nikki in the best spot of the match. There’s another cool moment when the cameraman jumps onto the babyface corner and is shooting right next to Naomi when they run the hot tag. Amazing footage. The Bellas collide and Naomi hits the Rear View for the win. This picked up down the stretch after a poor start. The more time they get to tell stories the better they’ll get. This wasn’t good but it was better than the usual crap.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Orton is hanging out with Ryback. He offers his support. “Feed. Me. More”. So that’s one volunteer. Meanwhile Bryan & Ziggler vs. Barrett & Sheamus is signed for Smackdown. Hey, that sounds good. Two big yet mobile heavy hitters against two smaller guys who can take a mean bump but are also fun on offence.
Goldust vs. Rusev
Saxton points out Rusev has been here all along, so why didn’t he go after Cena earlier? There’s no Lana so that might play into matters. This is a massacre. Rusev is mad about losing his US title and Goldust has nothing to stop him. The ‘Dust Brothers have had an unfortunate couple of weeks with their feud imploding after a bad match at Fastlane and now both guys have been turned into jobbers. Rusev wins in about three minutes with the Accolade.
Final Rating: ¾*
Seth Rollins, Kane & The Big Show vs. Randy Orton, Ryback & Roman Reigns
Roman is the surprise third guy, which is surprising because he took a PRISON YARD BEATING last night but not really surprising because Seth cost him a potential title win and stole his opportunity. This could potentially become the third good match of the night…if Kane & Big Show never tag in. Sadly they do and the crowd chant for all manner of crap when they tire of the big boys. They want Lesnar back, Sami Zayn, DX! Show tags in and the crowd chant “please retire”. Ouch. Kane even has the temerity to throw in a chinlock. Nobody wants to see Kane & Show. Nobody. The crowd get bored and start a Mexican wave, which is a nightmare scenario for the wrestlers. Seth just stops to watch the crowd. This show has been hijacked! It’s like watching ECW. No, an ECW crowd that’s shitting over a mediocre WWE product. I wish we had this crowd every week because they would force the WWE to do better. Roman tags in and the crowd hate him. The WWE did a phenomenal job in ruining Roman Reigns, to the point where he was fucking great last night and he’s still being booed. He’s beating up Kane and Big Show, who everybody hates and he’s still being booed. SHELLSHOCK ON BIG SHOW! That was impressive. RKO on Kane and Roman hits the spear for the babyface win, met by a chorus of boos. Seth Rollins having legged it up the ramp to avoid a spear of his own. This was really dull until the last minute or so of finishers. It is a pity Roman Reigns didn’t win many people over last night. I actually thought he had a great showing against Lesnar.
Final Rating: *
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Brock Lesnar. Tough call too with great title defences from new champs Daniel Bryan and John Cena. But neither of those two hit Michael Cole with the F-5. That moment will be remembered for some considerable time.
Least Entertaining: Kane and Big Show
Quote of the Night: “The most non-PG ass-kicker of the PG Era; Brock Lesnar” – Paul Heyman
Match of the Night: Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler
What We Said: Easily the best Raw I’ve seen in 2015. A great follow-on from a surprisingly strong Wrestlemania. Two great matches on the show and Brock Lesnar’s decimation of the entire announce team has to be one of the great spots in Raw history. Plus the WWE called up Lucha Dragons and Adrian Neville, thus freshening up the stale tag division and midcard. For once it felt like anything could happen and Raw was exciting again. I hope it’s not a one-off. I hope it’s not just Wrestlemania energy hanging in the air as this was a lot of fun to watch. Up until the divas match the show was one of the best Raw’s ever. Major improvement on the Road to Wrestlemania shows. Let’s hope they can keep it up.