I really hated Money in the Bank last night. I thought the main event was overly long, and the excess of spots borderline ridiculous. The lame finish where both Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins fell holding the belt, only for Seth to wrest it from Ambrose as they hit the mat was like something out of TNA at its Russo-led worst. Seth had destroyed him, there was no reason for him not to win decisively. He is the WWE Champion, after all. The MITB match itself was a real letdown, with an overabundance of lying around selling nothing, and a baffling choice of victor. Sheamus is a midcarder, he has had a run at the top and it didn't work. There is zero appeal to any program he is involved in. It’s not that he is bad, he has just wrestled everyone in the company a thousand times. Frankly, I would be more than content to never see him in a WWE ring ever again. There were other things that bothered be about Money in the Bank too. How about R-Truth, a man booked as a thieving pre-schooler, going over Bad News Barrett, the reigning King of the Ring. So much for that push. How about the utterly worthless Nikki Bella dominating the women’s division even though she is one of the most one-dimensional, unnatural in-ring performers ever to set foot inside a WWE ring. Don’t think for a second she will be losing that Diva’s Title until she has broken AJ Lee’s record reign, just to make sure WWE can erase her from their record books entirely. Then there was Kevin Owens vs. John Cena, a match I thought was even better than their Elimination Chamber epic two weeks ago, clocking in at ****3/4. It was almost perfect, apart from the utterly predictable conclusion of John Cena going over. What did that achieve? Owens victory over him is now rendered almost meaningless by the even steven booking. If Owens had won again it wouldn't have hurt Cena, but it sure as hell would have cemented Owens as a main event player. Sure, they did the post-match angle, but that was plastering over the cracks. He should have won and then done that. Cena could lose every week on TV for a year and it wouldn't hurt him at this stage, because he has been booked as invincible for a decade. WWE, one step forward, ten steps back every time.
Promo Time: Seth Rollins
Rollins is here alone to brag, and brings his usual Wario-esque snarly smugness. He declared Raw to be his show, and rechristens it Monday Night Rollins. Hardly original, but it does roll(ins) off the tongue. He gives a mock acceptance speech where he thanks himself, a lot, but tellingly doesn't thank Hunter and Steph. It’s because we are at the start of a slow burn program between them, you see. Seth can be the next big shot for Hunter to cut the legs off. Rollins burying the Authority is almost a babyface turn, though he is a great weasel-like heel, so that makes no sense. It makes far more sense than the Authority turning face though. Jesus, can you imagine that? Babyface authority figures; that would be something. Rollins gets great cheap heat for burying Cleveland and their local sports teams, which is fine for the 10,000 fans there but doesn't translate well overseas. That kind of thing should be saved for non-televised house shows.
‘Stone Cold’ Dean Ambrose has heard enough and heads out to confront Seth, looking entirely fine despite having taken multiple powerbombs into barricades, ladders, chairs and what not last night. He remembers he is supposed to be hurt and drags his leg along, briefly, but frequently forgets about it as they brawl. Rollins bails, so Ambrose decides to stage a sit down protest until he returns to finish the fight.
After the commercial break, Ambrose is still in the ring. We cut backstage to Hunter and Steph, where Seth barges in demanding to know what is going to be done about Dean. Mum and Dad tell him it is taken care of, but Seth questions them. His disrespect is further seeds being planted for the eventual program with Hunter. Hunter and Steph talk down to Seth like an insolent child, and Hunter yells at him for implying that Steph is a liar. Yeah, McMahons never lie...
Back to the ring, Sheamus and his bafflingly-won MITB briefcase turn up for some further talking. No one gives a fucking shit about you Sheamus. No one ever has. Will this infernal segment ever end? We have had thirty minutes of Raw, and not a match in sight. That changes when Sheamus decides he wants to fight, and Ambrose is happy to oblige.
Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus
Like every Sheamus match, this is mostly boring. They just meander around doing little of note, certainly not enough to erase the memory of that three hour long opening segment. I have noticed of late that Sheamus can barely hit his Brogue Kick anymore. He connects with chest rather than face more often than not nowadays. I don't know if he has bad hips or if it is some newfangled McMahonian decree that kicking in the face is no longer allowed, due to the ongoing class action concussion lawsuit against WWE. Dean keeps fighting, showing fire with punch/chop combos, but Sheamus cuts him off. The lame Irishman does win a brownie point for stopping midway through his forearms in the ropes spot because the crowd count along with it, thus drawing him heat. A heel who wants to be booed, there’s a rarity in 2015. That plays nicely into the match too, with Dean turning the tables and hitting the same move on Sheamus. It’s a nice, organic spot. Ambrose rallies, and I assume the deal is that the adrenaline has nullified the pain in his leg, because he doesn't sell it anymore. Sheamus decides to leave, for whatever reason, but the arrival of Randy Orton with music prevents him. Oh, Jesus, do not feud these two! I can’t take any more of their awful matches. Orton’s presence leads to WWE’s favourite finish - and I shouldn't have to spell out what that is by now - which was a result I would have bet a fortune on before the bell rang. Dean lost last night, Sheamus won something important, so the guy who lost needs his win back on someone in WWE world. It’s everyone’s favourite even steven nonsense again. Orton gives Sheamus a beating after the match, but Sheamus avoids the RKO and bails. Somehow in the fracas he has managed to cut his head. This was really drab.
Final Rating: *1/2
Backstage, Jamie Noble thinks Seth should defend his title at Battleground against Joey Mercury, since he beat him last week. Yeah, that really happened. Rollins laughs it off, so Mercury goads him, playing him like a fiddle.
R-Truth vs. Bad News Barrett
Isn't this just the rematch we have all been waiting for? Truth walks out dressed like a “king”, clad in a burger king crown, a bed sheet for a cape and with a toilet plunger as a sceptre. What is the acronym for this infantile promotion again? WCW? Underneath his toddler fancy dress garb he is wearing a suit, apparently thinking he is doing commentary. He is so dumb, he doesn't realise he has a match, you see. After almost amusing me by calling Byron Saxton “Coach” and quoting Diff’rent Strokes, he gets in the ring. Cole says Barrett was “humiliated and embarrassed” losing to Truth last night, practically flat out saying that Truth is a joke and he sucks. Which is all true, of course, but if they know that, why don't they just cut him? Barrett loses to another fluke pin after mere seconds, as I began to question why I even put up with this nonsense anymore. Seriously, what is wrong with this company? Why does winning a title or accolade guarantee defeat week after week. Barrett must have one of the poorest win-loss records of anyone this year, yet for the majority he has been either the Intercontinental Champion or the King of the Ring. It’s nonsense. Everyone is the same, everyone is the same, everyone is the same, everyone is the same.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Promo Time: Kevin Owens
Finally, someone worth watching. Owen justifies why he attacked Cena after the match last night, claiming when Cena condescendingly gave him his approval and said “you belong here”, it was the most disrespectful thing he has ever heard in his career. He already knows he belongs here, he doesn't want Cena’s endorsement. It’s a superb character promo from easily the best natural heel on the roster. It looks like they are going with Cena-Owens #3, which might be over-egging the proverbial pudding, even if their matches together have been unbelievable. The problem is it risks killing the program by going too far, like they always do. If Cena wins again that is it for Owens; he becomes the next Rusev, Bray Wyatt, Bobby Lashley, Rob Van Damn, Nexus, Umaga, Alberto Del Rio or countless others. Owens wants the US Title next time they meet, which is all well and good but wasn't their program about more than belts? Because Cena isn't here due to “severe bruising” (ouch, eh?) he throws out an open challenge of his own. Dolph Ziggler accepts. His denim jacket is straight out of the eighties. He reckons he knows about sacrifice, but Owens is nonplussed and smiles dismissively. Owens accepts the challenge, but it turns out the belt is not on the line. Good. Nor should it be. The NXT title shouldn't ever be held by anyone on the main roster who isn't an NXT regular.
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
Why, oh why, did they turn Lana and stick her with Dolph? She has done absolutely nothing since splitting from Rusev. Okay, Rusev got injured, killing any program between Lana’s latest charge and her ex, but surely they could rebook and come up with something for her to do. I expect big things going in with Ziggler’s top notch selling perfect for Owens’ high-impact moves, but it’s actually all rather underwhelming. There are nice spots here and there, such as a dangerous Owens German and a sack of shit into the barricade, but an awful lot of it is chinlocks and grinding beatdown offence. Ziggler barely does anything, he just gets his ass kicked. The finish sees Ziggler avoid the pop up powerbomb and hit the Zig Zag, but Owens kicks out at two. The crowd finally begin to really bite, but right as they do, Owens hits the powerbomb for the win. Wow, they actually booked something right. A clean finish with no shenanigans. I didn't enjoy this all that much. It was okay, but the ad breaks and rest holds rather killed it for me.
Final Rating: **1/2
Backstage, Paige gives a motivational speech stood atop a chair, trying to rally the random non-wrestling girls against the Bellas tyranny. Layla still works here? Fuck. I don't quite get what the Bellas have supposedly done wrong in Paige’s mind. If she wants Nikki to lose the title and not dominate the division, she should beat her. In kayfabe terms, that’s what it boils down to. The Bellas turn up and tell all the voiceless girls to side with Paige if they want too. They all walk off. Paige has a point about the Bellas running the show, but it is in a strictly creative sense and makes no sense in storylines. None of these other girls ever do anything on Raw. Surely they should side with her if the problem is levels of exposure? Whatever, my brain is fried now. This whole ordeal was utter shat.
Randy Orton vs. Kane
Oh come on, what is this now!? Who wants to see this match in 2015? Fiver says Sheamus gets involved in the finish... Oh look, here he comes now. Kane changes the match to no holds barred, Sheamus kicks Orton in the chest, and Kane wins. Terrible.
Final Rating: DUD
Seth and Kane argue backstage. Seth brings up Paul Bearer and Undertaker, which pisses Kane off to the point that he grabs him and threatens evisceration. Seth gets cross. They are really going with this as a PPV match down the line aren’t they?
Miz vs. Show
What better to follow a bad Kane match that a Big Show match? Ryback does commentary and calls Big Show the best big man in history. What an idiot. “Miz is awful,” chants Cleveland. Well, at least someone knows what they are talking about. Show plays possum with his leg and Miz falls for it like a chump, and gets chopped to hell as a result. Miz ends up on the outside and Show daintily follows, moving at around the same pace as the Iron Sheik at WrestleMania X-7. Show throws Miz into Ryback, who without missing a beat says, “I’ve got Miz all over me.” I thought this was a PG show? Miz wins on count out and celebrates like he just won the WWE Championship. It has been brought to my attention that Big Show never actually wins. It hardly matters if you win when you are seven foot tall though; you are still guaranteed top billing in this company. Ryback is shirtless and ripped like a mofo in the afters. He should always wrestle topless, rather than covering up his remarkable physique with an RVD-esque singlet.
Final Rating: ¼*
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
Reigns says he didn't get much sleep last night after Money in the Bank because of what Bray Wyatt did to him, and he is so pissed off that he doesn't want to wait for Battleground to throw down. Wyatt turns up on the screen and starts rambling. Reigns tells him to shut up and come out to fight, but Wyatt laughs his impudence off. He says last night’s attack was because Reigns beat him to get into the MITB match, costing him a place in the bout and robbing him of his destiny. Hmm. Reigns was already in the match, he had to beat Wyatt to retain his spot. If Wyatt should be pissed off with anyone it is the Authority, who are the ones that booked it in the first place. Why doesn't he have heat with Sheamus for winning the thing? Wyatt says a whole lot of nothing for a while, but then suddenly the promo goes from mundane to several shades of great when Wyatt reveals he is holding a picture of Reigns and his daughter. He stares at it creepily, then starts singing ‘My Little Teapot’, a reference to a brief VT aired earlier showing Reigns singing the same song to his little girl. It’s delightfully sinister stuff.
Paige vs. The Bellas
This feud has been going on since before the concept of time was invented. You can add all of the star ratings of their matches together and would struggle to get a good match out of it. Nikki’s frequent exercising during spots is deeply irritating, as if she has even the vaguest hint of talent to think she can get away with such arrogant posturing. Mind, she needs the exercise. Seeing the Bellas together makes one thing quite clear; they look nothing alike. They barely look like sisters, never mind twins. The match is the shits of course, and Brie is even worse than Nikki. Her attempts at selling are hilarious. “Paige is going to knock off the Bella twins” says Cole, who obviously doesn't know what that really means. They deserve it for their crimes against wrestling. “We saw this last night,” says the gibbering imbecile as Nikki uses a punch, of all things. Fake tit slam from Nikki, and the Bellas win again. The women’s division will never, ever prosper while these two talentless phonies are on top.
Final rating: DUD
Concert: Machine Gun Kelly
My ears! My motherfucking ears!
Thank the Wrestling Gods for Kevin Owens. He appears on stage after that aural atrocity and sarcastically applauds. MGK gets all dickish and up in Owens’ face, so the wonderful bastard powerbombs him off the stage. Clever camera work hides the massive cardboard box and crash pad that he landed on.
The New Day vs. The Prime Time Players & Neville
I was very pleased to see PTPs recent good performances get rewarded last night. I am increasingly a big fan of Titus, who will likely feature highly in my year end award for Guilty Pleasure. I am not sure what business Neville has being out there with these guys, but I am sure it says something about where WWE consider his place on the card to be. Let’s put it another way: you wouldn't see Randy Orton or Roman Reigns slumming it in this spot. This is your standard Raw tag match, with the faces hitting their trademark spots before commercial and the heels controlling with a chinlock afterwards, which has now become so commonplace that it is almost an in joke. Wouldn't it be nice to just once return from commercial mid spot? It would definitely feel more natural. Once Neville gets the hot tag, things turn up a few notches. He is a veritable jumping bean, bouncing around all over the ring and completely evading the clutches of the New Day. The next few minutes are all Neville and they are so full of energy that it is great to watch. Darren Young heads back in to hit Kofi in his injured ribs with the Gut Check, then Neville finishes with the Red Arrow. That move is really getting over. Fun match in the end.
Final Rating: **1/4
Backstage, Dean Ambrose throws darts at a picture of Seth Rollins, then Kane appears for a chat. Ambrose starts laughing, explaining to the confused Kane that he is laughing at the prospect of him being WWE Champion. He implores him to go back to his old ways, because he “kinda liked that guy”. I would probably be more tolerant of him as a performer if he was circa 1998 Kane. I kinda liked that guy too.
Battleground Main Event Announcement
The Authority come down for the main event promo, and Hunter immediately dismisses the notion of Rollins’ Battleground opponent being Jamie Noble, Joey Mercury, Kane or Dean Ambrose. That brings out Seth, who wears a large grin. He is amused, because he can’t work out who else it could possibly be. His character is a bit dim. Hunter says Seth needs to prove himself one more time so he can determine if he is a piece of coal dust or a diamond. He likes the metaphors. The place goes nuts when Brock Lesnar arrives, and Seth looks like he has just seen a ghost. The two square off, and Seth starts to visibly shake. Crikey. He stops short of shitting his pants, but does bail out of the ring and practically runs away. The Authority have protected Seth so far, but now the beast is out of the cage and this is Seth’s real test. It’s like the trials of Lion’o in Thundercats. I am thrilled to see Brock back, his presence is untouchable. Nobody else comes close.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Kevin Owens. Great promo, decent match, great murdering of worthless “singer” Machine Gun Kelly.
Least Entertaining: Brie Bella. Most sucked tonight, she was the worst.
Quote of the Night: “I’ve got Miz all over me” - Ooh err, Ryback.
Match of the Night: Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler, though it was only okay.
Summary: There was some good on the show thanks to Brock Lesnar, Kevin Owens and Bray Wyatt, but the rest was a chore. We have said this countless times and will surely say it again, but three hours is far too long. It is impossible to do a good three hour broadcast, and WWE proves that week after week with mundane show after mundane show. Recently there has been a lot of very good wrestling to offset the terrible comedy, fake-sounding promos and samey booking, but not tonight. The angles and segments were the strongest part of the show, while the wrestling was severely lacking. The whole show needs a refresh from top to bottom, from the look to the mentality to the way feuds play out. Something must change, or WWE will remain in the stagnant state for years to come.