We’re in Baltimore, Maryland. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Promo Time: Seth Rollins
Triple H and Stephanie are rumoured to be missing from this Labor Day weekend show as they’re taking the weekend off. So instead of them yacking for 15-20 minutes we get the champ instead. Rollins recounts his achievements; winning everything, cashing in at ‘Mania and knocking John Cena off his perch. Seth calls Sting’s title shot a chance for him to “validate his legacy” but Rollins intends to crush that legacy. The crowd get bored and chant “boring”, which all of these droning opening promos are. This one goes on waaaaay too long. Once Seth has gotten his initial points across he starts rambling about his statue. This leads to Sting revealing he’s still got Seth’s statue. Before Seth can go after it Sheamus interrupts. “Do you realise how stupid you sound?” – Sheamus. “Do you realise how stupid you look?” “You look like Ronald McDonald with a bad haircut”. Sheamus implies he might cash in at Night of Champions, seeing as Seth already has two matches on that card. If they put the belt on Sheamus, I’m seriously not reviewing these shows anymore.
Video Control takes us backstage where Seth chats with Steph and Hunter, so it looks like the McMahon-Helmsley’s got back from their holiday early. The droning continues unabated. Why don’t they just rename the promotion World Talking Entertainment then Triple H can stand in the ring talking for three hours. Hunter books some matches to properly prepare Seth for Night of Champions and Rollins is doing double duty tonight. Vs. Ryback and tagging with New Day vs. Cena and the Prime Time Players. The real agonising moment of this chat was Hunter booking Sheamus vs. Randy Orton for tonight. For the love of God, they’ve run this match into the ground and it wasn’t good to start with. There is an audible groan from Baltimore. They’ve seen this match before too.
Paige vs. Sasha Banks
A diva’s match without a Bella involved! Hallelujah! Paige starts the match badly by doing diva crap like hair mares. As Sasha completely outclasses Paige it makes me wonder if Paige’s run on the main roster has turned her soft. Sasha has better ideas, better structure to her offence and generally wrestles a far superior match. Paige has more experience but it takes her a while to become adjusted to how good Sasha is. The first few minutes are grotesque. Paige’s weakness doesn’t stop there as she hits a weak looking senton onto Tamina. At least the in-ring action picks up with Banks taking a wonderfully sick bump off the wheelbarrow suplex. The crowd are into it, thanks to Sasha’s skill, and Banks scores the pin by countering the PTO into a cradle. Both girls shoulders were down incidentally so if Paige wants a way out of that job it’s there. Ok match but there’s a feeling the Divas Revolution has gone badly thus far and they need a big match at some point to convince the fans the corner has been turned. I have no doubt that one of Sasha, Charlotte or Becky will be involved but they need that match to come quickly.
Final Rating: **1/2
The Ascension vs. Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose
Am I the only one who wants Reigns & Ambrose to team up with Rollins again as a heel SHIELD? A unit designed to protect Seth’s title would make sense, especially if the current angle is leading to a turn for either Seth or Hunter to set up a match between them. Both Roman and Ambrose seem to be drifting at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see who their third man is against the Wyatt Family at Night of Champions. If it’s Erik Rowan then I’ll be disappointed. If it’s someone good, setting up a SHIELD 2.0 I’d be onboard. The Ascension are lambs to the slaughter here, getting beaten up throughout until a series of finishers ends it.
Final Rating: ½*
Video Control takes us backstage where a happy, cartoonish Ryback calls himself a fighting champion. It looks like he’s reading off an autocue but when the camera goes wide there’s nothing there. Ryback is such a goof. Kevin Owens arrives, eating an apple in sinister fashion to warn the IC champ to not bite off more than he can chew. From there we get a saucy gossipy TMZ-style recap of the Dolph-Lana-Summer Rae angle.
Champion vs. Champion
Ryback vs. Seth Rollins
The IC, US and WWE titles are all represented here, making it a little odd to do this as the throwaway midcard match while Seth tagging with New Day is the main event. You’d think this was more important but I guess that shows how highly the IC title is regarded. Ryback has a decent opening shine, even if he’s a little unorthodox. He’s such a goofy character. It obviously suits the guy though so at least they’re working to his strengths. Considering the WWE champion is in this match it’s strangely heatless. Baltimore only getting excited enough to chant “where’s your statue?” for a bit. Ryback starts to get the crowd invested with near falls and Seth is really generous in the match, making Ryback look like a monster. The only thing Seth lauds over the IC champ is his superior intelligence, but Ryback is widely regarded as being a bit of a dummy so that’s ok. Rollins is tactically astute, avoiding Ryback’s aerial offence (Flyback!) and attempting to win via countout, knowing Ryback has more power than him. The match owes a lot to Seth’s intelligence and the way he sets Ryback up for his comebacks. Plus his counters are slick and the way he baits Ryback into them is great. Sting distracts via Titantron and Ryback gets the distraction roll up pinfall win. What is with that finish? I guess Seth really likes that statue. Decent match though, Rollins showed he could be the Flair to Ryback’s Nikita Koloff.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control takes us backstage where the New Day try to cheer up Seth by playing trombone for him and clapping it out. They’re interrupted by Edge & Christian, in town to do Steve Austin’s podcast. They’re both looking skinny, even next to Seth Rollins. Edge basically challenges Seth to a fight so Rollins heads off. Xavier trombones his way into a battle with Christian who produces the KAZOO! Which Big E eats…and the Dudley Boyz turn up! They’ve got the Prime Time Players a rematch next week on Raw and whoever wins that match has the Dudleys at Night of Champions. “NOW, you can leave” – Bubba Ray Dudley.
Tangent: I’ve been told that Xavier’s music of choice was the victory music from Final Fantasy. Which goes to show I don’t play as many video games as my fellow wrestling nerds.
Promo Time: Summer Rae
She’s out here to publicly apologise to Rusev for shagging Dolph Ziggler. Apparently the story grabbed “the entire planet” last week (Cole). Rusev accepts the apology but Dolph arrives to call the whole thing BS. The storyline isn’t doing much for me because they’ve already run Ziggler-Rusev into the ground. The whole thing just screams “MIDCARD”. You know how you can tell the WWE has no plans to make you into a top tier guy? You’re secondary to a valet in an angle. Rusev’s delivery is actually exceptional, constantly making derogatory comments toward Ziggler (“skinny American”) and putting over the storyline as a whole. Ziggler, who increasingly feels like the heel in this feud, superkicks Rusev out of the ring. Hopefully they’ve got a plan for this feud before it does damage to poor Rusev, already badly derailed by a slew of defeats to John Cena this year and injuries.
Video Control picks up Randy Orton chatting to Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. I could probably get onboard with a Wyatt vs. Orton feud.
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Oh for the love of sweet baby Jesus, not this match AGAIN. How many wrestlers does the WWE currently employ and yet Raw seems to recycle the same matches over and over again to the point where nobody wants to see them. Especially these two goons who wrestle the same tedious match over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. This is the same tedious match as always, with nothing new added and it goes sixteen coma inducing minutes. Skip to any moment in this match and you’re likely to catch them in a fucking chinlock or stalling. Baltimore must not have been paying attention to the million other Orton-Sheamus matches and get into it down the stretch. The familiar finisher countering and other such business just about saves this from negative stars but even at the match’s dramatic conclusion the spots look contrived because they’re the same recycled spots over and over again. Orton is incapable of making near misses look realistic. The only thing he has going for him now is the RKO and he clocks Sheamus with that to end the pain. Post match business finally picks up as the Wyatt Family destroy Orton suspecting he’s the third man. Remind me never to stop off and chat with Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose in a hallway!
Final Rating: ½*
The Dudley Boyz vs. Los Matadores
Los Matadores have been doing nothing worthwhile for an eternity, despite there being dead time on Raw every single week that could be filled by the tag team division. Torito gets himself slapped by Diego who then turns into the 3D. Los Matadores are allegedly getting repackaged, which is bad news for the midget in the bull costume. Maybe the Dudley Boyz could adopt him as foot stool or something. The Duds table Fernando to stop him bullying El Torito. I would not have any faith in the WWE to repackage Los Matadores as anything worthwhile. Maybe they’ll just unmask them and have them wrestle as the Colon Brothers. If that happens they’ll probably get future endeavoured by years end.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Cesaro vs. The Miz
I know Cesaro is generally considered to be job-proof but would it kill the WWE to put him over someone once in a while? It grates at me that Miz used to be part of one of the most entertaining acts on Raw at the start of the year and the interesting part of it, Damien Sandow, is no longer on TV and yet Miz seems to be on this show every goddamn week. Sandow hasn’t wrestled on Raw since May. Cesaro on the other hand is on rare form, mocking Miz’s spots before borrowing JBL’s hat for a few spots. “Who says he doesn’t have a personality” – Cole. NOBODY, you odious little cretin! Nobody! Everyone loves this guy apart from the goddamn bookers. He’s one of the best wrestlers in the promotion, one of the most enigmatic performers they have and one of the most inventive wrestlers in the business. Miz takes over on the floor but Big Show runs down and it’s a double count out. Jesus, they couldn’t even put Cesaro over Miz on count out! Come on, guys. Give him *something*. They even have Show KO punch Cesaro on the way out, treating him like absolute garbage. All to further a feud between Big Show and Miz that NOBODY wants to see, ever. Fuck this promotion.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Team Bella
Nikki has a week left before she beats AJ Lee for the longest reign in divas history so the WWE can wipe that record off their books, seeing as AJ is married to black-listed CM Punk. Nikki has all of seven days until she breaks the record so she’s got a celebration planned for next week’s Raw. This brings out PCB and Charlotte has a title shot next week on Raw, right before Nikki breaks the record. At least that should give next week’s Raw a little drama. PCB clean the ring and Charlotte hooks the Figure Eight. I don’t care one way or the other if Nikki beats the record as long as she drops the belt soon. There’s a revolution happening and she’s the queen. If a revolution is successful, that means the queen gets booted out. Just so we’re clear on that.
John Cena & The Prime Time Players vs. Seth Rollins & The New Day
I appreciate the WWE actually incorporating the tag titles into the hottest angle they’ve got. Oh no, wait, that’s Lesnar vs. Undertaker. Seth is selling the effects of the earlier match and a fan jumps the barricade to walk to the ring with him. Seth’s calm indifference is pretty spectacular. At least the guy didn’t attack Rollins and the incident was fairly uneventful. JBL tries to do his “Chief Jay Trombone” gag again and again the other commentators completely ignore him. Big E and his “tricep meat” take over on Cena and the New Day’s whole act is working so well now it’s actually shocking to me. Because a couple of months ago I hated them and the gimmick and they’ve completely turned it around. Xavier times the trombone perfectly to Kofi hitting a corner dropkick. It’s hilarious. That trombone is a life-saver. If anyone ever breaks it they’re the biggest heel in the company. New Day work over Cena for heat, for ages and are totally convincing doing it. Not to mention entertaining, largely because of Xavier Woods trombone but also because of the other two dancing. What I like best about the whole thing is the way the tag teams tag teaming is superior to a singles star singles shtick. Super Cena recovers from his lengthy heat segment to hit the AA on Kofi for the win. This was all about the New Day and how wildly entertaining they’ve become during the course of the year. They certainly stole the show here although Cena gets a decent chuckle doing the Millions of Dollars dance with PTP. This match was so much fun it felt like a house show where they can get away with goofing off. Sometimes it’s nice to just take the pressure off the main event and have a laugh instead.
Final Rating: ***
Post Match: Sting turns the lights on at his location, revealing himself in front of a garbage truck and throws Seth’s statue into the truck. It’s a damn shame, that was a nice looking statue but this was always its destiny. I’m amazed it lived for three weeks. RIP Statuesque Seth. Sting’s weird Joker-esque approach to this segment made it work.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Xavier Woods’ trombone.
Least Entertaining: Miz, Big Show, Orton, Sheamus
Quote of the Night: “He can catch John Cena no matter the circumstances, because he’s SO STRONG” – Xavier Woods, in between playing the trombone
Match of the Night: Cena & PTP vs. Seth Rollins & New Day
Summary: A pretty dreadful show on the whole. That Orton-Sheamus match just destroyed any joy that existed in the universe. Segments and matches like that one just drag down the enjoyment of professional wrestling. You know it’ll be bad, the WWE must surely know people aren’t that into it and fifteen minutes later it’s all confirmed. At least some of the WWE’s acts are enjoying themselves. The New Day owned the main event, Seth Rollins looked like a pro in putting Ryback over (even though I’d have gone with Seth cheating to win as he’s jobbing too much), Cesaro was great and Sasha Banks looked decent in the opener. The problem they have is programming their best talents in with people who are worthwhile, which at the moment isn’t happening.
The biggest frustration regarding the WWE is their repetitious nature (despite a big roster), which is why NXT is always a more interesting show because their show is shorter and the wrestler turnover is greater. Also that so many deserving workers keep butting heads with the glass ceiling. How long is the WWE going to carry on pretending that certain workers aren’t over when they get big pops every night and other wrestlers are over despite crowd reactions that suggest the opposite. Also the constant 50/50 booking of most of the roster helps no one (the divas, the tag guys, even Rollins, Owens, Cena, Taker, Lesnar) and three hours is too long for Raw. The complaints are constantly being recycled because the WWE never learn and keep making the same mistakes week in, week out. Triple H told us to wait for the next chapter because we might like it better but all the chapters have the same ending.