We’re in Uniondale, New York at the Nassau Coliseum. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Booker T. Video Control gives us a few clips from last week where Dean Ambrose threatened his way into a title shot. They’ll be going at it this weekend at the Elimination Chamber special on the WWE Network (just $9.99!)
Promo Time: The Authority
Seth Rollins gets to kick this off, allowing him to bask in the heat. The crowd tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he sold out. Seth points out Dean Ambrose ‘earned’ his title shot last week under duress. Seth also points out Hunter could have fired Dean for his actions last week but Rollins asked Hunter not to. “He’s not a threat to me” – Seth Rollins. Hunter invites Ambrose out here to sign a contract for that match. Ambrose has gotten over recently, which is what happens when you book wrestlers as relevant and dangerous. Ambrose calls J & J “Hobbits”, Kane a “lapdog” and Seth “Justin Bieber”. Seth points out Bieber is rich, famous and has to beat girls off with a stick. Just like him, so he’s not insulted. Seth’s retort is to call Ambrose a “cockroach” and tells him that cockroaches never win. “I’d rather be a cockroach than the wrong end of the Authority’s Human Centipede”. Dean calls himself “crazy and stupid” and opts to come to the ring to face the entire Authority by himself but he’s got back up…Roman Reigns. Steph, who’d been nicely quiet, chirps up to say Dean must sign the contract tonight or he loses the shot and books Ambrose & Reigns vs. Rollins & Kane. Another main event with Kane. Wonderful.
Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins & Kane
The commentators largely ignore the action to yack about an assortment of things most notably that this is the final WWE event to be held in the Nassau Coliseum. It’s about to be “renovated” so this is the final time the building will be used for wrestling, until after the work is done, presumably. It’s a good venue but like all WWE events nowadays you can’t tell it apart from every other venue because every show looks the same. In the entertainment business, Kevin Dunn, we call this “boring”. I get that a different looking building might distract from the action but it also gives shows specific atmospheres. Which is why Wrestlemania is always special because they actually make it look different. Raw is just…dull. The match itself is patchy with the odd high spot and Roman continuing his healing process by backing Ambrose up rather than overwhelming proceedings. They get a nice hot streak going and Ambrose picks Seth off with a backslide for the win. I wish they’d stop treating Rollins like a complete bitch. Kane was right there, is completely job proof and could easily have taken the fall. The idea is to create the possibility that Ambrose can win but all it really does is telegraph that Rollins will retain. I’m glad this got ten minutes as it means less filler elsewhere on the show. It wasn’t a great match though.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us backstage where J & J Security accidentally forget to bring Dean Ambrose the contract to sign. He lays them out and manages to punch out a cameraman too.
Rusev vs. R-Truth
Rusev has put his name forward for the Money in the Bank ladder match. That nugget of information is the highlight of this match, which lasts a matter of seconds before the Accolade finishes. Having finished that piece of business Rusev calls out Lana. When she turns up Rusev rants at her for costing him two matches and kissing Dolph Ziggler. He claims it’s Lana using her feminine wiles to gain his manly attention. Rusev’s hopes and dreams are on the line here but he hopes they can crush the American dream together. It’s sort of romantic. They hug it out and it seems all is forgiven until Rusev demands an apology to go with the embrace. Rusev is beside himself but Lana stands her ground. “I was not wrong. You said I quit”. “You need to know your place woman. I own you!” Lana calls Rusev a “liar and a quitter” before calling him a “moronic caveman” and walking out. And that’s the end of that. Good performance from Rusev here. He felt genuine, which is a big plus for his continued presence on the main roster.
Final Rating: SQUASH!
Video Control takes us backstage where the Authority bully the cameraman into pressing charges against Dean Ambrose. NYPD haul him off in a riot van while Seth celebrates, having dodged that particular bullet.
King Barrett vs. Ryback
Both these guys are in the running for the IC title and the forthcoming Elimination Chamber match for the vacant belt. Barrett has five IC titles while Ryback has none. Ryback also has bad ribs, thanks to Bray Wyatt and spends the entire match selling but still wins, courtesy of Shellshock. That doesn’t say much for Barrett who couldn’t beat an injured Ryback. It about sums up his place on the totem pole and how little the King of the Ring victory actually meant.
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control surmise that Dean Ambrose won’t get back in time to sign his contract. This leads to the Authority introducing the cast of Entourage. Turtle’s line about “you know what it’s like getting your ass kicked by Ronda Rousey” is terrific stuff. Keep getting mileage out of the stars. I used to love Entourage until the series went off the rails during the cocaine/porn star year. Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) was great in this segment. VICTORY!
Stardust vs. Neville
Stardust brings the tactics here, going after the already injured knee of Neville. The one Neville hurt at Payback. Because Neville is an able seller of injuries it works as the focus of the match. Neville switches to defensive moves like a tornado DDT to stop a move out of the corner. That’s enough to set up the Red Arrow and Neville wins. This brings out squeaky voiced jobber Bo Dallas to urge Neville to stand on his bad leg before kicking it out.
Final Rating: ¾*
Video Control takes us to the Entourage guys who are big diva fans and invite a load of divas to hang out. E introduces everyone to Zack Ryder, who he tries to pump up for a big Nassau Coliseum thing. Broskis! I like how the Entourage guys are basically playing their characters off the show tonight. It’s times like these when the TV writers the WWE have actually pay off. It’s a rarity so we might as well bask in it.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
This feud has been showcased on two PPV’s. The Payback match was pretty good, although the accidental blood capped off the contest. However Ziggler has moved on to Rusev, after taking Lana from him, and Sheamus’ issues with Dolph were more relating to how much of a dick Sheamus is. So he can do that with anyone. I do like his “are you not entertained” tip of the hat to Gladiator. It sums up his character. He’s dominant but the crowd are virtually bored by him because of that. The story they tell is the power vs. speed one, which is tried and tested. Ziggler is good at his underdog role and Sheamus fine as the big bully. They get a nice hot streak going with finisher counters until Rusev just strolls down here. Dolph catches him with the superkick but that gives Sheamus the opening for the Brogue Kick, game over. Tidy little match. Rusev gets his revenge by destroying Ziggler with the Accolade right in front of Lana. “Kiss him now” yells Rusev in his second solid piece of character work tonight.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control gives us some clips from last week’s showdown between John Cena and Kevin Owens. It was a potential star-making turn for Owens but as long as he’s booked like the badass he is in NXT on the main roster there won’t be any issues and Triple H is certainly leaning towards pushing his NXT super-workers.
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Zack Ryder
Cena once again addresses the conflicting crowd reactions to his every appearance. The manly contingent in the crowd chant “we want Owens”, almost derailing Cena’s positivity. Cena is eager to point out that no matter who’s stepped up to face him nobody has ever kept him down. This is basically an extended shill for Elimination Chamber and a strange determination to get the fans to not chant “Cena sucks” but instead chant “Fight Owens Fight”. You cannot tell the fans what to do. With that business over and done with John Cena puts the strap on the line with his customary open challenge. It’s answered by the cast of Entourage who introduce Long Island local Zack Ryder.
This one is going by the numbers until Johnny Drama jumps in there and chickens out to give Ryder an opening. You have to love Johnny Drama, he’s such a perfect character. He was always the best part of Entourage. Him and Mr Summerfest Jeremy Piven. Zack drops Cena on his head with the Unprettier and connects with all his trademark stuff but there’s a feeling we’re just going through the motions here due to Ryder’s long standing position as company jobber. Rough Ryder doesn’t get it done. 450 Splash misses and Cena finishes with the AA. Cena did his usual work to help out Ryder but the brevity of the match didn’t help Zack like the Cena matches helped Sami Zayn or Neville. With the celebrations over Kevin Owens runs in, hits Cena with the pop up powerbomb and stands tall over the US champ for a second consecutive week. He’s got a new t-shirt too with “Fight Owens Fight” on the front instead of that lame generic KO shirt.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control takes us backstage where the Authority put Kevin Owens over, apart from Seth who is only thinking about himself. They reiterate that Dean Ambrose has until the end of the show to sign the contract and he’s still in police custody.
Tamina vs. Paige
The WWE’s insistence at surnames disappearing, or forenames in Mr Neville’s case, is deeply disturbing. Do they think people struggle to remember that many names? Paige and Naomi both have title shots at the forthcoming Elimination Chamber against the incumbent champion Nikki Bella. Speaking of whom both Bellas join commentary. They’re both irritating as heels and unbelievably irritating as faces. The divas division sucks and will always suck with those two no-talents wrecking it from on top. Here they just wreck the commentary with an assortment of vapid nonsense. For some reason Tamina wins here, despite it being Paige who’s getting the title shot but with this shit division who really cares? Sasha Banks is better than every diva put together.
Final Rating: DUD
Promo Time: The New Day
The New Day’s promos are getting worse. This one is so incredibly generic it’s painful. Your sports teams suck, you are all losers. This angle started out as a disaster and it’s somehow getting worse. They’re interrupted by Kane who books the New Day against a bunch of terrible tag teams tonight in a ten on three handicap match. As if he’s some sort of babyface. I don’t really understand his role in this promotion but it seems to change by the segment.
The New Day vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd & The Prime Time Players & Los Matadores & The Ascension & The Lucha Dragons
This is as awful as it is pointless. Xavier Woods mouths off at all the others and they all run in so the ref calls it a DQ in less than a minute. Well, that was a complete waste of everybody’s time. It took longer for me to type out the names of the participants.
Final Rating: DUD
Main Event Promo Time: The Authority
Rollins, Steph and Hunter yack for a bit until Roman Reigns comes out here to kick everybody’s ass. Because of the numbers game he gets beaten down while the crowd chant for Ambrose and on cue he manages to drive into the arena having nicked the riot van from earlier. Dean Ambrose makes a half-decent Steve Austin. If he drank (onscreen) it might be a bit too obvious but he’s that guy. The guy that shouldn’t be a star but just connects with the fans regardless. It’s sometimes a bit disappointing the crowd don’t like him more but I honestly blame the booking for having him treated like crap while Roman was pushed to the moon. Just because you’re pushing one guy doesn’t mean you can’t push another too. Ambrose and Reigns clear the Authority out and Dean signs his contract to ensure he gets a title match at Elimination Chamber. They tried to build a show around the idea that he somehow might not sign the contract but it was fairly obvious he would to anyone who’s seen a wrestling show before.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Rusev. Fantastic character work from the big Bulgarian. He’s been so emotionless that it was great to see some tiny little cracks in his façade but without changing the character. He still hates America but he’s not a robot.
Least Entertaining: Nikki Bella. Her commentary is torturous. I wish they’d stop putting her on camera.
Quote of the Night: “Instead of counting sheep…I count punching Seth Rollins in the face” – Dean Ambrose’s cure for insomnia.
Match of the Night: Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus. Not a great match but both guys usually work hard so they deserve a mention.
Summary: A real mixed bag tonight. Some decent segments, making good use of the celebrity guests and improving on a few existing characters but a serious lack of good in-ring entertainment. At least the predictable tag main event was thrown out early in the show but the ongoing theme of whether Dean Ambrose would be able to sign his contract was a no-brainer. I like that he’s getting bits of Steve Austin’s persona because he is this generation’s Stonecold. I would be worried about them copying the concept wholesale but he’s getting nicely over on lifting bits and pieces of the gimmick while staying himself. The divas and the tag team division still suck something fierce but surely the WWE are aware that’s the case? I saw Stephanie McMahon at NXT Unstoppable. I saw her gushing over the NXT women’s division, so why are all the main roster divas so useless? They let themselves get into that situation. Women can draw in the fight game, Ronda Rousey is evidence of this. The WWE need to get away from women who just exist to be boyfriends of wrestlers (hello Bellas!) and book their entire division around Sasha Banks. She is that once in a generation star. The one they can’t seem to find in the men’s division. Bank on it.