We’re in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Promo Time: Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar
Might as well get right into the meat of the situation; Brrrrrrrock Lesnar is back! He now hails from Suplex City, bitch. Heyman addresses the fact that Brock is back, despite being “suspended indefinitely”. So the deal for Brock to return included an apology for his actions on the Raw the night after Wrestlemania. The crowd heel all over Cole and JBL and start chanting “Suplex City” again. It’d be great if Brock apologised for giving Maggle the F5 and then gave him another one. JBL looks about ready to shit himself when Brock offers a handshake. If JBL looks scared it’s nothing on Cole who stutters and stumbles and apologises himself. Brock’s apology is to put Michael in a headlock and ruffle his hair. That is an apology by Lesnar’s standards! Heyman gives it a lung full to tell us that Seth is a spoiled, pampered child that Brock Lesnar is going to destroy.
Kane vs. Dean Ambrose
The first of many things that are wrong with the WWE; the continued insistence at putting big man veterans in long, repetitious TV matches. Does anyone really want to see Kane work an 11 minute match in 2015? I didn’t want to see it in 1997. Kane should be a special attraction guy who only ever works short matches or tags. At most he should be working three minutes on Raw against people who he can squash. Speaking of which; with Kane getting so much time on Raw where is the time for the up and comers? And another question; considering the three hour run-time of Raw, how come the same wrestlers are filling that time every single week? Given the WWE’s massive roster you’d think that fresh matches would be easy to come by. They don’t even have a good finish here where Seth Rollins just walks out for the distraction, with his music playing and everything, and Kane beats the distracted Ambrose with a chokeslam. It’s a match that helps no one and achieves nothing. Rollins is working Lesnar at Battleground. Kane should not be going over main eventers. Even if Ambrose lost his main events.
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control take us backstage where Seth sucks up to Kane. Would that be because he needs everyone in his corner when he faces Brock Lesnar? Kane sees through the ploy and walks off. Why did Seth bitch and moan about Kane over the past couple of months? Why create that dissention among people who run the company? It just makes them look like a bunch of kids.
The Prime Time Players vs. The Ascension
The WWE’s tag team division, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t see why they can’t build a division, seeing as they’ve got a massive number of wrestlers on the books. Make the tag titles mean something, like the US strap means something now John Cena has it. If Cena and a random guy were tag champs they could build something like that. It’d be a much better use of Kane if he was tagging with someone regularly. And I don’t mean the bloody Big Show. The tag division means nothing because everyone in it either doesn’t want to be there, or isn’t good enough to be a big singles star. That all said Titus O’Neil is growing on the History of Wrestling scribes. He’s rapidly becoming a favourite in the office. The Prime Time Players are a prime example of taking two singles guys and making them into a worthwhile team. I know I keep moaning about Cesaro being too good for the tag team division but that’s because I know they won’t give him any singles work while he’s stuck there. Just because you’re in a tag team, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a top singles wrestler too. The tag team thing needs completely rebuilding from the ground up. Prime Time Players win here, over the useless Ascension, as well they should do. I’m glad to see the tag champs weren’t jobbed out in a non-title match. The IC title curse doesn’t seem to extend to them. At least at the moment.
Final Rating: *
Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns
Sheamus is another example of things the WWE consistently do wrong. He’s getting pushed because he’s tall and muscular. He’s boring in the ring and has been in the company for too long without significant character change. What is Sheamus’ character? He’s a tall Irish man with big muscles and a ginger Mohawk. He’s one of dozens of WWE wrestlers that desperately need the Jim Ross sit-down interview treatment. Although, credit the WWE for something, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing with Finn Balor on NXT, giving him detailed historical video packages to round the man out. Now the fans know who he is. Not just what moves he does. Roman on the other hand has been nicely developed through interviews and video packages and I know who he is and I like him because of it. Without those interviews he’d just be another big powerhouse guy, like Sheamus, who I’ve got no investment in. The weird thing is I’ve seen Sheamus work since Irish Whip Wrestling back in 2005. I’ve watched him develop for ten years and the only thing that’s changed is his muscles. The weird thing is he’s got a colourful past. He used to be a bodyguard and worked with U2 (there’s a promo that writes itself; Mr Money in the Bank “still hasn’t found what he’s looking for”). He played Gaelic football and rugby. He’s a tough, manly man but is this, or any other aspect of his personality put across on TV? No. Increasingly Raw is just so dry that it’s hard to invest in anyone. The level of expectation on Raw to deliver an in-ring program is so great that we get the same thing every single week. I know it’s hard to write TV, especially when the WWE has way too much TV, but nobody is thinking outside the box. We’re so stuck in the box here that Schrödinger isn’t sure if we’re still alive.
With all that said, this isn’t even a bad match as Roman is working hard at the moment, trying to rebuild his shattered reputation. One destroyed before Wrestlemania by Vince McMahon’s clumsy writing. Sheamus works over Roman’s back in punishing fashion. As the match continues my thought processes start to switch to the possible legitimising of Sheamus here. A win over an already ‘injured’ Reigns would do wonders for his reputation. The trouble Sheamus has got is that he’s been trading wins with people who are genuinely midcarders trapped under the glass ceiling. It makes his Money in the Bank win all the more curious. As if there’s a bigger plan that we’re not privy to just yet. Seeing as Reigns is in a feud with Bray Wyatt part of me spends the entire contest waiting for the inevitable Wyatt distraction finish. It’s a pity that hangs over the match as it becomes a solid contest. The inevitable distraction comes in the form of Bray Wyatt having a tea party with Roman Reigns’ daughter, or it’s implied anyway as she’s not shown on camera. It’s really creepy. Roman runs to the back and gets counted out.
Final Rating: **3/4
Video Control follows Reigns to the back where Bray Wyatt has assembled a freaky little shrine to Roman Reigns and his family. It’s borderline psychotic. If Wyatt could back his character up in the ring he’d be one of the best characters in the company. He needs feuds though and the likes or Ryback don’t suit him. Reigns is potentially better. It’s been good so far. Elsewhere Seth Rollins attempts his second apology of the evening by sucking up to J&J Security.
Neville vs. Kofi Kingston
Xavier Woods continues to grate at me with his juvenile screaming at ringside, which are so loud they drown out the commentary. “I’m gonna call gravity Neville”. The story of the match is that New Day outnumber Neville three to one so the Prime Time Players come down to back Neville up. The referee gets sick of the match being all about numbers and throws everyone out, which makes you wonder why the referee’s ever let New Day come down in numbers. Neville takes Kofi out with the Red Arrow for the win.
Final Rating: *1/2
King Barrett vs. Zack Ryder
Cole is even scoring points off Barrett’s pathetic win/loss record comparing him to Dudley Moore’s Arthur when JBL compares the King to King Arthur. Given that’s it’s Cole I’m surprised he didn’t reference the Russell Brand version. The match is three minutes long and Barrett manages to hook a chinlock in it. And that’s why he’s not getting pushed. Speaking of which; Zack Ryder is still over and the WWE still don’t care. Is it because he got himself over? Isn’t that what Vince McMahon complained about? Nobody reaching that brass ring? Barrett finishes with the Bull Hammer.
Final Rating: ½*
Video Control gives us Michael Cole’s chat with Kevin Owens recorded this week on WWE.com. Now this is more like it. It gives Owens the chance to put himself over and get his personality across. He particularly gets upset with John Cena’s offered handshake at Money in the Bank.
Promo Time: John Cena
Michael Cole calls the Money in the Bank match between Cena and Owens a “match of the year candidate”. Are the WWE actually acknowledging things like match quality now? Because they should. The Match of the Year should be a genuine WWE thing about the best wrestling matches. I know they tried to do that on WWE.com but mentioning stuff like that on TV can only help match quality. Cena addresses Owens attack on Machine Gun Kelly last week saying that “nobody knows” why he did it. I do. It’s because Kevin Owens is a wrestler and he hates non-wrestlers getting exposure on a wrestling show. Cena goes on to call Owens a “garbage human being” and shills their third encounter at Battleground. I would have been quite happy with Owens winning one match and then putting the feud on the back-burner but hey, the WWE loves flogging a good horse until it’s dead. With this feud they’ve taken what could have been an epic year-long feud and spooged it into two months. Cena calls out Owens and Kevin responds. He points out that Cena cares about the fans but Owens only cares about winning titles. Owens decides to heel himself up as an “evil foreigner” by speaking French. Cena responds by speaking French and Chinese. Who knew he was a cunning linguist? Despite this feud being rushed it’s still the best thing on WWE TV.
Video Control takes us backstage where Seth Rollins continues his campaign of sucking up by talking to Triple H and Stephanie. The Tripper has an interesting take on the Kane and J&J situation. “Screw ‘em. You don’t need them. You never did” – Hunter. “You’re scared, you’re scared of Brock Lesnar because you’re smart” – Hunter, again. Despite the bagging on Triple H that we frequently do in the HoW offices he knows how to tell a story. I just wish he did it in small doses like this more often.
The Bella Twins vs. Naomi & Tamina
Tamina continues to look clumsy here and seems to have issues with Brie. She seems to move in too close to her opponents before taking a bump. It always looks weird. Byron points out the Bellas are the “Kardashian’s of the WWE” and doesn’t seem to realise it’s an insult and one the Bella’s completely deserve. Naomi tries to hold this together but has nothing to work with. Also, who’s the babyface here? I’ll tell you; no one. Everyone is heel, nobody cares. Nikki gets a ‘hot tag’ after some heat on Brie and it confuses me. Have they flipped the Bella’s face again? What the hell is going on? There’s one amazing botch in this where Tamina falls over the referee. It’s as hilarious as it is embarrassing. Nikki finishes Naomi with the Rack Attack. This match was an abortion.
Final Rating: -*
Mark Henry vs. Ryback
The Big Show joins commentary, which is unwelcome. It serves to remind me the WWE is going ahead with Ryback vs. Show vs. Miz at Battleground. Because Show needs protecting, in 2015, and Miz is there for Ryback to pin. Some genius gives this six minutes and it’s basically two big guys lifting each other or attempting to. It’s The Gym: The Wrestling Match. Ryback wins with a splash off the top, in an attempt to diversify his move set. If he picked Henry up one more time he’d probably give himself a hernia.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control gives us a Tough Enough shill before Ryback makes a few comments about the match he just wrestled. “Don’t go calling me Flyback” jokes the Big Guy. He goes on to say his parents hadn’t spoken for fifteen years and got together to watch him wrestle recently, something he’s very proud of. Big Show turns up and Ryback gives him a beating.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Adam Rose
Rose calls everyone “mouth-breathing dullards” who don’t “get it”. Then he makes out with Rosa Mendes to show Dolph and Lana what love is about. “Are we going to have a wrestling match?” – Ziggler calls Rose on his nonsense. I’m actually pleased to see Rose because it’s nice to get a different match even if he’s a bland act who’s gotten less interesting since he ditched the Rosebuds. Now he’s just another guy. The more interesting man is Ziggler, someone who has been rumoured to be unhappy with his WWE role of late. If there’s any truth to his imminent departure it’s not evident in the match where he flies around, looking in decent shape and finishes with a superkick on the airborne Rose. Dolph makes out with Lana after the match and Rusev is shown looking very angry in the back about it. So much so he throws his crutches away and falls over. In an interesting moment Summer Rae hands the crutch back saying “Lana’s not worth it”. I’d rather they picked someone more useful for this role and ultimately I’d rather they’d not split Rusev and Lana to begin with but hey, at least things are happening here and we’re moving forward.
Final Rating: *3/4
Promo Time: Seth Rollins
This is the main event. Twenty minutes of talking. Seth basically wants to apologise to Kane and J&J as Triple H suggested he do in an earlier backstage segment. It drags quite a lot and the crowd spend most of it bagging on “Justin Bieber”. After about ten minutes of yacking Brock Lesnar shows up and stalks all four guys. Seth’s buddies leave but, like several other times they’ve done this, it’s a fake-out so they can jump Lesnar. I’m surprised Lesnar is dumb enough to take his eye off the threat. He overpowers everyone and the throw on poor Jamie Noble into the rail leaves him lying with broken ribs. It looked fairly innocuous but that’s wrestling for you. It’s a dangerous game. The crowd loves Lesnar throwing Rollins around but somehow Kane manages to chokeslam Brock. Why is Kane overpowering Brock Lesnar? This shouldn’t have happened when Kane was young and relevant but it certainly shouldn’t be happening now. Thanks to Kane giving Seth a numbers advantage Rollins is able to hit the Pedigree and stand tall. Honestly, I’d rather they’d not done that but the logic behind Lesnar getting beaten down is a numbers game. Personally I don’t think Lesnar should be beaten down by Kane and Seth Rollins, ever, as he’s an untouchable special attraction and the WWE doesn’t have many of those left. It’s pretty much just Lesnar and the Undertaker and the Dead Man only shows up once a year.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Kevin Owens
Least Entertaining: Xavier Woods
Quote of the Night: “I offer a public apology in advance for what Brock Lesnar is going to do to…Seth Rollins” – Paul Heyman.
Match of the Night: Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus
Summary: I’ve said this before but Raw is just too long at three hours. Trying to fill it is becoming increasingly tiresome. And yet nobody is getting time for their matches apart from Kane and Sheamus. Two guys you don’t want to see in protracted matches. It’s madness. Oh well, maybe next week they’ll do something to try and improve the tag division, divas division and the undercard in general to try and make this show less awful. Nice to see Brock Lesnar and Kevin Owens. They’re both worth tuning in for. Everything else is a pass at the moment.