After five weeks straight of up and down shows, Arnold Furious took the reins back last week, and WWE put on one of its most entertaining episodes of the year. It’s typical. Tonight promises much in what has been an interesting week for WWE to say the least, with a series of odd incidents including attempted stabbings, shootings, Nazism, and a couple of their Hall of Famers losing the plot. More on most of these things later.
We are live in Tampa, Florida, just a few hours following an unpleasant incident at the WWE Performance Center across the state. A twenty-nine year-old stalker called Armando Montalvo who had been pestering an unnamed female talent at the facility, and had been arrested and removed a few times already over the month, was caught hanging around again today. He was well-known to WWE and local police, due to a series of videos he had shot of himself mixing his shit with milk with the intention of pouring it on the building (Who does that!?), posting videos detailing his obsession with A.J. Lee, and pissing on the building. He turned up again earlier today, and made like he was going to attack Cpl. Steve Wahl. Worried that he had a knife, Wahl shot him in the stomach from one hundred feet away, leaving him in a life threatening condition at a local hospital.
Promo Time: Sting
Sting starts out by putting over Triple H, whom he says he has nothing but respect for. They just had to get that in, huh? Sting rips into Seth Rollins, calling him good, but not as good as Triple H, then criticises him for the way he has held onto the WWE Championship. It seems Sting is offended by Seth wanting to be held in the same regard as the three WWE legends that WWE has statues of, and it is so amusing to me that names like Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and Ric Flair are not on that list. “I’m going to prove that on his best day, Seth Rollins is not half the man that Triple H is.” This is a weird promo. All of a sudden the promo is over, without Sting having really said a great deal. It seems like they cut him off early, because he didn't appear to be expecting it to end. He looks grumpy about it. I guess WWE don’t trust him to stick to the script for more than five minutes at a time.
Backstage, Seth whines to Stephanie about what Sting has just said. She tells him that beating a legend like Sting will only help improve his standing. What is his problem anyway? He should be confident going against an old man like Sting after having beaten guys in their prime over the past few months. Steph brings up what Sting said about Hunter, and agrees with him, irking Rollins further. Why does this have to be about Triple H? Seth wants to know where his statue is, so Steph tells him to ask Sting. I guess she is a babyface tonight.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev
I am not exactly hankering to see this after suffering through their useless match at SummerSlam. I do like Dolph’s new long tights though, even if they do make him look like more of an eighties midcarder than ever. Lana is dressed as the dolled-up girl next door tonight, as she becomes more and more generic with each passing week. I suspect WWE have realised the error of their ways and will reunite her with Rusev eventually, though it is sad to see how far a once successful, top-end act has fallen. It will be near enough impossible to get the aura back for Rusev now. It might help if he didn't have snoozefest matches like this one. It’s another drab encounter between two guys capable of so much more. Their hearts are not into this program, and I don't blame them. The creative has hardly been on fire in making anyone care about their issue either. After running through the motions, Rusev loses his temper because he fails to win on a count out. Ziggler skips out of the Accolade into the ZigZag, bringing Summer Rae in for the DQ. The crowd enjoy seeing Summer and Lana fight after the match, but they leave a real mess in the ring from either their make-up, fake tan, or the dye in Summer’s cheap clothing running. Please, no more matches between these two.
Final Rating: *1/4
Backstage, Dolph Ziggler talks with Renee Young, then disappears into his private locker room (yeah, right) which is handily located right behind where the interview is taking place. While Young is talking about what’s coming up on the show, Summer sneaks into Dolph’s room. The plot, as they say, thickens.
Promo Time: Nikki Bella
The next sight I am greeted with is that of the three most unlikeable faces on WWE television, Team Bella. Two of the talentless pouty bitches are all involved in singles matches tonight against members of PCB, which sounds like hell. Absolute hell. Nikki speaks, which is even more awful, and introduces the Bellatron, which shows how many days are remaining before WWE can right a perceived wrong and erase AJ Lee from their record books. Fourteen days, then we can be rid of this Bella nonsense forever. If only.
Beat The Clock Challenge
Alicia Fox vs. Becky Lynch
All three members of PCB are against Team Bella members, and whoever wins in the least amount of time faces Nikki Bella at Night of Champions. Becky uses some nice submission holds early on, causing a cry of “Owww” from Alicia. She is subtle in her selling. Alicia, one of the worst workers I have seen in a WWE ring, shows her abilities, or rather lack thereof, with a Liu Kang dropkick that misses by a mile. Even the cut-happy production crew can’t hide that one. The match plays out to near silence, with the crowd only reacting when Becky taps Alicia in 3:21. Becky tried, but she can’t mould shit into gold.
Final Rating: ½*
Ryback does a promo about nothing being able to keep him down, which is broken up by the sound of cats dying. No, wait, it is Summer Rae cackling like a witch and running down the corridor. The camera cuts to Dolph Ziggler, wearing only a towel. Where are they going with this? I am not sure I even want to know.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Ryback (c) vs. The Big Show
As with the Ziggler-Rusev match, this is another bout I have no interest in seeing. This program has been rumbling along for what seems like years now. WWE Creative hits another one out of the park, having Miz sit ringside to do... yes, commentary. Again! He talks extensively about himself, rendering the match secondary. Not that it’s a bad thing, because the match is expectedly awful. The silence was bad for Fox vs. Lynch, but they are even quieter for this. The crowd decide they want Show to retire, so he grabs a mic and repeats his sentiments from a couple of weeks ago, telling them if they can find someone to do it, he will. Please, Florida, do it for me. Find someone, anyone, to get this fat piece of worthless shit off my screens for good. Twenty years I have had to suffer through his awful matches, I cannot take any more of it. Show is so out of shape and useless that he sweats profusely while applying a chinlock, dripping it into Ryback’s mouth. How vile. The match is painful to watch, and made even worse by the dead crowd. Show in an act of desperation, climbs to the top rope and lets Ryback throw him off with a slam, which he takes on his side. Nasty looking bump for a guy that size. Show comes back right away with a spear, showing no ill-effects from his big bump. Show looks to finish, but a distraction by Miz leaves him prone to Shellshock, and Ryback pick up the win. Someone’s signature move should be the distraction finish, because it is the most effective way to beat an opponent in WWE. Big bumps at the end aside, this was horrid. Fans in 2015 do not want to see big lummoxes go at it anymore. The only person in the world who does is Vince McMahon.
Final Rating: ¼*
Beat The Clock Challenge
Charlotte vs. Brie Bella
Not only do we have to endure the sight of the Bellas again, but Charlotte’s PCB teammates, the very ones she is competing against in this challenge, accompany her to ringside. Why does WWE insist on this cheerleading nonsense? Are they scared of dead crowds? It didn't exactly help in the earlier match, did it? Charlotte, like many in WWE, has had an interesting week, with her estranged husband Bram (formerly Kenneth Cameron in the first incarnation of The Ascension) arrested for holding his new girlfriend down by her neck in his apartment, and keeping there against her will. Has everyone gone wappy over the summer or something? Brie decides to stall, then points at the clock on the tron repeatedly to hammer home the point of what she is doing. Yeah, we got it thanks. The stalling proves to be useless, because Charlotte finishes her off in 1:40, halving Becky’s time. Becky gives a little shrug of disappointment. So much for this Divalution and the longer matches that were being championed. I will say this though, they have been far less prone to shouting “DIVAS REVOLUTION” tonight than usual. It hasn't felt like a marketing campaign as much as it has over the past few weeks. Mind you, that could just be because they have lost all faith in the project and have decided to go back to what they were doing before.
Final Rating: DUD
Backstage, the Dudleys do a promo. They are back to win the tag belts, and to put everyone in the company through tables. Sounds good. I am absolutely ecstatic about the return of the Dudleys, for the record.
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens
Another SummerSlam retread next, only I am not complaining in the slightest about this one. I do fully expect Even Steven booking to play a part though, because that is how WWE do things. Everyone beats everyone, no one gets over beyond the midcard. That is the way it goes. I really hope this gets plenty of time, because this show is dying so far. “Cesaro will let his fists do the talking,” says the ever idiotic Cole, as Cesaro unloads with European uppercuts. Not his fists. Cesaro impresses early on with a long delayed stalling suplex, following up with a double foot stomp. Owens, who is popular in Florida, decides to take a walk to buy some time. He gets met with Cesaro’s always-impressive running uppercut into the barricade. They work hard, but the crowd is really terrible. They have been quiet all night, and it hurts the show. Miserable Florida bastards. Maybe they are still worried about the tropical storm that was due to hit the state tonight, which thankfully dissipated. Owens tries to play heel, but the crowd keep cheering for him, so he shuts them up with a chinlock. Smart wrestling, though not exactly riveting viewing. After commercial they jockey for position on the top rope, and Cesaro wins out with a dropkick and his impressive deadlift gutwrench suplex. Even after that, the crowd are docile. They do pop for a potential giant swing, but Owens escapes and hits a superkick for a near fall. “Cole, Cole! Watch this you little jerk.” Good one, Owens. Shame he misses with a cannonball in the corner immediately afterwards. With Cesaro still selling the superkick, Owens begins slapping him around and telling him to stay down. All that does is wake him up. He blocks a tornado DDT using his ridiculous strength, then hoists him into a reverse urinage into a crossface. Owens escapes, then tries for a sick suplex to the outside, which Owens blocks. Cesaro ends up tackled from the apron into the announce table, but he breaks the count. The injury to his ribs has left him weak, too weak to hit the giant swing, and Owens takes advantage by drilling him with the pop-up powerbomb for the win. Well done, WWE, keep his momentum going. As with SummerSlam, it is a shame Cesaro is the victim, but the guy is so good that it almost doesn't matter if he wins or loses. Good match, which would have been even better had the shitty crowd reacted to it better.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Backstage, Dolph and Lana have a conversation about what happened with Summer. He claims she came in and saw him in the shower, then left when he told her to. He denies anything happening. Lana is furious that she saw him naked, which makes her seem like a bit of a twat because Dolph did nothing wrong. She storms off despite Dolph’s attempts to explain himself. It’s nice to have an angle on this show, because we almost never get them, it is just a shame it’s such a naff one.
Braun Stroman vs. Dean Ambrose
Speaking of interesting weeks, Dean Ambrose had quite the ordeal a few days ago on a WWE live event, when an idiot in the crowd jumped the barricade and came at him with what onlookers described as a sharp object, and at least one said was a knife. Luckily the security team were on the ball and tackled the guy before he reached Ambrose, but it sounded and looked like a close call. Ambrose laughed it off, but that is the second incident of its kind in the last few weeks against former Shield members, with Roman Reigns having suffered a fan throwing a briefcase at his head during a match a few weeks ago. Pre match, Bray Wyatt talks, and because he is now white noise, I don't hear a word he says. Braun gets a few words, and he has a delightfully manly voice. He reckons this is the apocalypse. It would certainly explain a lot of the odd behaviour going on around these parts of late. As for this match, it seems like a bad idea. Stroman is greener than grass and needs protecting. On TV he should be a cornerman who aids Bray and Harper, while he is picking up experience in live matches on the road. WWE cannot help themselves but to splurge him off the bat, and they run the risk of exposing him by doing so. Ambrose is flanked by Roman Reigns, which is no surprise. They are still outnumbered significantly (Stroman counts as two) and need a third member to keep this program going. “One of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory,” says Cole of Stroman. Yeah? What about Sting at WrestleMania? Ambrose does everything he can to make Stroman look impressive, hurling himself around the ring from his throws and tackles. Stroman no-sells Ambrose, then sends him flying with a punch to the stomach, before kicking him out of the ring. If they keep booking him like this, he might do alright. When Stroman takes the fight to the outside, Michael Cole gushes about how big he is, and you can practically hear Vince McMahon’s voice in his headset. Roman Reigns cannot take anymore and punches Stroman, leading to the DQ. Stroman manhandles him, hurling him into the barricade and the timekeepers area, and hoying Ambrose over the announce table. Stroman throws Reigns into the ring, but Ambrose saves with a chair shot to the back. All that does is irritate Stroman, who pulls the same sort of expression as Hulk when he gets shot. Stroman mauls Ambrose some more, then Harper jumps in to prevent a further Reigns rally with a superkick. Okay, I was wrong. Braun Stroman is awesome! I hope to hell he isn't jobbing in nothing matches to other midcarders in a few months time. This entire presentation, post-match included, was the best thing on the show so far. Even more so than Owens-Cesaro, because the crowd was actually into this.
Final Rating: **
Backstage, Renee Young asks Seth Rollins about his statue, but the grin on her face angers Rollins. He says Sting stealing it disrespects everyone, and that he is going to call him out and demand his statue back. It’s like a playground rivalry.
A note on Seth Rollins, while we are at it. He has also had a tough few days, thanks to the shenanigans of his girlfriend Zahra Schreiber. She made her debut on NXT over the weekend, and immediately that prompted a number of people to point out some rather unsavoury things she had said and done on social media a few years back. Among other things she insulted fat women, posted pictures of Swastikas, and insulted anyone who disagreed with her. Even though it was a few years back, like they did with the Hulk Hogan racism situation, WWE reacted. Schreiber was fired immediately, with WWE terrified of being associated with her Nazi-loving ways. She has caused nothing but chew for poor Seth. I am sure everyone remembers earlier in the year when pictures of her appeared online via Seth’s social media, which was a scandal because he had a fiancé at the time. Said jilted now-ex posted pictures of Seth with his tail out in response, prompting much embarrassment for him and a slap on the wrist from management. He has nothing to do with this and is unlikely to suffer as a result of the fallout, though I don't suppose he is particularly happy that his girlfriend has been released. It is her own fault though. She should have been such a dumb, ignorant, asshole.
Beat The Clock Challenge
Paige vs. Sasha Banks
Okay then, this is more like it. As boring as Paige can be, I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and concede that it is down to the low level of opponents she has been working with. There is no one better for her to work with in WWE that Sasha, though the Beat The Clock concept may hurt the bout. If Paige wins this in 1:40 or under to tie Charlotte, I will riot. Paige desperately tries to put Sasha away early with a number of different pinfall attempts, but her psychology is patchy. It generally helps if you do something first before going for a win. Paige hits RamPaige and might win, but Sasha rolls out of the ring with the help of her bad, sorry, B.A.D. teammates. Paige is unable to get her in the ring and lock on the PTO before the time runs out and the buzzer sounds, leaving her collapsed in a sad heap on the mat. Why is she so upset? She has had dozen of title shots this year, more than anyone else by far. Can she not just be happy for her new BFF? And anyway, why the hell does the buzzer signal the end of this match? What a crock! Surely they should carry on and produce a winner at the very least? Oh, that’s right. As Nikki Bella outlined oh so clearly last week, wins and losses don't matter a jot. The three Bella bints turn up on the stage after the match, and stand on the stage pouting. It is all they have in their locker, it really is. Nikki’s eyes look like she has been crying. I wonder what that is about? Hopefully she just learned she would be losing her title before beating AJ’s record. Wouldn't that be hilarious after all of this bullshit.
Final Rating: N/R
Backstage, Summer tells lies about Dolph, claiming he asked her into his locker room to smooth things over. She spins a yarn about Dolph stripping off and inviting her into the shower. She admits to having been captivated by him, but says she didn't go through with any sexy time acts because of her relationship with Rusev. It is actually a really good bitchy promo from Summer, dripping with such insincerity and delivered with such malicious conviction, that for the first time ever, I appreciate something Summer has done. Lana buys the obvious lies, and storms away from an interview with Renee. Thank god they are actually doing the right thing and splitting her from Dolph.
The New Day vs. The Dudley Boys
They have been hyping this all night: the return of the Dudley Boys to Raw after a decade absence. Like I said earlier, I am thrilled that they are back. Immediately the waning tag division is stronger for it. Xavier Woods has his hair straightened tonight, and he looks outstanding. It instantly makes him look like a smug dickhead, which is exactly the idea. The trio bring out a table covered in bubble wrap, which seems a little like poking the bear, and get the crowd to chant “save the tables”. I would call this odd, but it really isn't even on the same page as the wacky stuff that has been going on this week is it? Guess what Creative thought was needed to improve this match? Yes, guest commentary from the Prime Time Players. I like the PTP, and they are good on commentary, but come on. It’s getting silly now. D-Von looks really good for a forty-three year-old guy, moving just as he did a decade ago. Bubba, who is a year older, is even better now than he ever was. One of the things I enjoy the most about Bubba is the way he commentates on his matches while he is in them. He is the most vocal wrestler since Mike Sharpe. After commercial, New Day take over on D-Von, with Big E ramming him into the barricade. Meanwhile, Xavier combs his hair. The match is nothing special, and the heat is a little too long, especially in front of this crowd. The hot tag to Bubba wakes them up, and the match becomes a lot more fun. Kofi prevents the Wazzup Drop, but immediately falls victim to 3-D, giving the returning icons the win over the tag champs. D-Von brings “the last table” into the ring, and the Dudleys remove the bubble wrap before trying to put Big E through it. His partners save his ass.
Final Rating: *3/4
Seth Rollins calls out Sting
Rollins starts out by saying he has no problem with Sting. Great. Can’t wait for the match. Seth uses the WCW card, saying Sting’s actions in stealing his statue showed him exactly why WCW went out of business. That’s nearly as bad as JBL’s comment about Starrcade. (See: The Raw Recap). Seth wants Sting to take back what he said about not being as good as Triple H, because it is not true. I guess that long-mooted Rollins-Triple H program is going ahead soon after all. Instead of Sting, Rollins gets an annoyed Stephanie, who warns him not to insult her husband ever again. Can the guy not fight his own battles? Seth defends what he said, saying he is simply comparing himself to a great, much like Hunter did with Ric Flair when he was in Evolution. Steph chastises him for letting Sting get into his head, telling him it is the oldest trick in the book and that he is smarter than that. Evidently he is not. Next to arrive is John Cena, who I half suspected wasn't even going to be on the show given the late hour. “It’s time to have that little talk we were going to have last week,” he says on his way to the ring. Cena says Steph isn't going to throw him out like last week, and instead is going to make Seth’s life a misery. Cena calls him an idiot for thinking The Authority are his friends, and that he was only chosen by them because he is expendable and malleable. Like Randy Orton, Batista, Kane, etc. He has a point. “Lot of hardware you got there Seth Rollins,” observes Cena, before calling Steph out for saying all titles will be on the line at Night of Champions. He plans to invoke his rematch clause for the United States Championship at the show, and asks Steph for an answer. With little choice in the matter lest she be outed as a liar, she says yes. Seth Rollins is not amused. Before we go off the air, Sting turns up on the stage so WWE can spell out the situation for those slow in keeping up. Two matches, two titles, one night. Should be good.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Braun Stroman. WWE are trying to make a new monster heel, that much is obvious. If they keep booking him like they did tonight, they will succeed.
Least Entertaining: Brie Bella and Alicia Fox. They were both awful, so they can share the award.
Quote of the Night: “The man who put Starrcade on the map.” - JBL about Sting, which is an absolutely moronic statement.
Match of the Night: Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro. A good match, hampered by the worst crowd of the year. They didn't have much in the way of competition, mind you.
Summary: I guess the Brock Lesnar-Undertaker situation is currently on extended pause. It is frustrating that WWE builds to something for so long, then ignores it completely for a few months until its part-time performers return. There were other notable absentees tonight too, such as Neville, Stardust, Randy Orton, and Sheamus. I wasn't sad about at least half of those being away. Of those that were there, the women were the worst thing on the show by some distance. They couldn't muster a single snowflake between them over three matches, which is shameful. Mind you, the collective run time of the bouts was around six minutes, so it wasn't all their fault. Only the strong Cesaro-Owens match, and the massacre handed out by Braun Stroman saved this show from a much lower score. In the end it was painfully average.