This is the time of year where the WWE hits the proverbial doldrums (although it’s not as if the rest of the year has been this shining beacon of hope*). At the moment everything is on a holding pattern until Survivor Series. Seth Rollins is in a program with Kane. Nothing exciting appears to be on the radar. When a show is routinely highlighted by Xavier Woods playing the trombone, your company is in a creative funk. Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker will be headlining the next PPV and neither is appearing on Raw tonight. Hell, the only worthwhile concept, other than the New Day, that’s going on is the John Cena open challenge…
John Cena’s US Open Challenge
So we kick the night off with the one thing that won’t suck. Which is a major bonus because it means no waffling 20 minute promo from Seth Rollins, Kane or the Authority.
WWE US Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Xavier Woods
Speaking of starting strong; it’s Xavier Woods playing Cena’s entrance music on his trombone! Kofi makes a Scrooge McDuck reference, which Xavier explains and makes me laugh. John Cena is all “you need to take me seriously” blah, blah, blah. Yes, how dare the New Day be more entertaining than Big Johnny? “Cena, you about to get lost in the Woods!” If Xavier plays the trombone while he’s got Serious Cena in a hold this is MOTY. Cena’s treatment of Xavier in this match is nothing short of bullying, much like his treatment of Jon Stewart. John Cena can’t ever see another person’s point of view. He’s so wooden and inflexible, which is why people hate him. I’ve got no problem with John Cena the wrestler and he’s had a brilliant 2015 in the ring, changing his move set and working hard but as a person he’s gone from being one of the biggest entertainers in the world to a one-dimensional asshole. I’d personally have no problem with him being a surly veteran who can’t come to terms with a younger generation and their punk-ass attitude but it’s the opposite of what he preaches, changing with the times. The crowd is dead for this, because Woods isn’t a pure heel anymore he’s an anti-face and Cena bores people. His approach to wrestling is so underwhelming at times. He’s just this guy who nothing important ever happens to and he just shrugs everything off and gets back on the horse. It’s a boring character. He has no arcs and he’s the centre of everything. New Day run in for the DQ. Dudley Boyz run in for the save and we ECW-esque our way into a tag.
Final Rating: *3/4
John Cena & The Dudley Boyz vs. The New Day
I would love for this to end with the Dudley Boyz beating the shit out of Cena and New Day clapping along while it happens. Not that it will. I do prefer the Dudley Boyz as heels, in a smaller company. New Day work heat on Cena, which is meaningless because he never sells, not really. He just sells fatigue briefly, way too early in the match too, and then pops up like nothing happened. It’s a massive frustration, amplified when he’s not working a workrate freak (like Kevin Owens or Cesaro in other challenge matches). D-Von gets the hot tag but Kofi floors him with Trouble in Paradise while New Day play a numbers game, enabled by Cena lying around on the floor. The Dudley Boyz should definitely blame him for that.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us backstage where mild-mannered Kane, who’s owning this gimmick by the way, is introduced to Ashley from HR. An anonymous complaint has been filed against Kane. Gee, I wonder who filed that complaint? Seth Rollins storms in, outraged at the situation, calling the accuser a “spineless coward”. “Who doesn’t love a good, old fashioned performance evaluation?” – Kane. It’s a stupid angle but Kane is delivering on it. That’s all you can ask from the onscreen talent. Elsewhere the rest of the Shield have a chat about Bray Wyatt. Dean Ambrose is all weird and off. His voice fluctuating for no apparent reason, placing emphasis where it doesn’t belong. And not in an entertaining Christopher Walken kind of way, but rather in a ‘what’s he doing?’ manner. Randy Orton arrives and blah, blah, blah. White noise. I don’t think I’ve digested a single word Randy Orton has said since 2006. He could have been cutting promos about how much he enjoys smoking crack and getting hummers off Martians and it wouldn’t sink in.
The Big Show vs. Mark Henry
This is the kind of match that gives Vince McMahon a raging erection of big man on big man flesh contact. Even speaking the words “Mark Henry” gives him a semi. Why else would he hire the man for twenty years? The match is worthless, as you’d expect, as Mark’s body has had it and Show is boring. No prizes for guessing the winner as Show is being fed to Lesnar at MSG so until then we have to suffer him winning on TV all the damn time.
Final Rating: DUD
Remember when an absolute car crash occurred the last time they had all the divas from NXT on Miz’s show? Terrible idea, dreadful execution…so let’s do that again! At least they show Paige’s devastating heel turn promo from last week to set it up. The guests this evening are Charlotte and Becky Lynch, now just CB, I guess, like the radio. Miz is gratingly awful as the host and might as well not be there as Charlotte calls Paige out…and the Bellas answer. No one asked you to be here, no one wants you to be here. Please go away. “This isn’t about you” points out Charlotte and yet Nikki continues to rant so Charlotte tells her to piss off before she gets tapped out again. Charlotte tries to explain what the diva’s revolution is about, which completely goes over the heads of all of Team Bella.
Paige shows up to claim she’s responsible for everything. Nikki continues to interfere so Paige shuts her down with “if you have boyfriends like yours, who needs ambition?” That results in a massive brawl, which is what nobody wanted from this angle, having routinely shit on those issues and matches in the past. Nobody wants PCB vs. Team Bella. Speaking of which…
PCB vs. Team Bella
The crowd instantly die when they realise they’re getting presented with this lame duck angle, AGAIN. Are the WWE genuinely so blissfully unaware that nobody wants this? Or are they deliberately booking shit in the diva’s division so they can bury the Diva’s Revolution where they want it to be? Predictably the match is bad, thanks to heat on Becky. None of the heels can work a lick. Maybe that’s an approach to make Nikki look better than she is, by partnering her with two useless workers. In Paige vs. Charlotte they have an actual feud that people want to see so we get the Bellas again. It’s typical blinkered Vince McMahon thinking. “We don’t like this” (Cena, Orton, Big Show, Kane, Miz, Nikki Bella). “YOU WILL LIKE IT, BECAUSE I SAID YOU WOULD” – Vince. It’s the same mentality that killed Roman Reigns’ push and now it’s wrecking an entire division. Paige causes problems on the floor and Nikki beats Charlotte with the Rack Attack. Match was awful. If there’s ever a shot to show how useless Alicia Fox is it’s the post match where she does the “L” sign for loser on her forehead and does it the wrong way around. I know I bag on Nikki for being a crap wrestler but Foxy literally has zero worth.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control gives us a shill for the new WWE video game, which has Steve Austin beating up Seth Rollins. The champ gets buried once again! From there we get an even more depressing shill for Lesnar vs. Big Show, detailing their 2002 feud. Elsewhere Seth chats to Ashley from HR. Does Kane not watch this show? Actually he probably does, which is why he’s come after Seth as a demon. Kane has a present for Seth, which freaks Rollins out and it’s the head from his statue. “It’s your severed head” cheeps Kane. “How considerate” says Ashley. If Ashley’s smart she keeps that head and sells it on eBay.
The Prime Time Players vs. The Wyatt Family
Lots of people doing the Millions of Dollars dance so naturally PTP are out here as jobber fodder for Braun Strowman. They’re pushing Braun strong but no one seems to care. It’s hard to connect to the poor simpleton. I wished they’d had him like Masterblaster from Beyond Thunderdome, as a child-like monster. At the moment there’s nothing to distinguish him from other big monsters and he’s pretty dull. This was a squash and Titus takes the job to the choke.
Final Rating: DUD
Stardust vs. Neville
We all thought this would be a placeholder feud for Neville to introduce him to the fans but it’s rumbled on for weeks and Cody Rhodes is being wasted. The poor guys dad died this year and he’s still stuck in this gimmick. That’d be like Chavo retaining the Kerwin White gimmick after Eddie died. It’s almost offensive. The action is passable but there’s no reason to care. Stardust is about ready to job to the Red Arrow when King Barrett just turns up and Neville stops. A decision that makes no sense and gets no one over. Bull Hammer causes the DQ. More worryingly is that Barrett is out here for Stardust and Neville, the actual star of the three, is treated like an afterthought.
Final Rating: DUD
Tangent: Bringing up the Kerwin White gimmick reminded me that his caddy was Nick Nemeth. A dude now known as Dolph Ziggler. Another pointer that having a crap gimmick might not be the death of you as a wrestler in the WWE. Hell, it wasn’t his last bad gimmick as he returned with the Spirit Squad. Same as Kane, who started off life in the WWE as a dentist and then a Kevin Nash impersonator before lucking into the gimmick as Undertaker’s demonic brother.
Kane’s Performance Evaluation
Yes, this is a real thing and it’s happening in the ring. Who thought that was a good idea? Ashley can’t deliver the report because she’s immediately interrupted by Seth Rollins, who buries Kane as a nightmare to work with. Seth Rollins has a weird story where he claims he had an audience with the Pope (D’Angelo Dinero?), who told him he’d go to heaven. Great facials from Kane here, he’s owning this gimmick. While I don’t want the Kane-Rollins match the slow burn on their feud is finally paying off, thanks mainly to Kane’s performance as a creepy babyface in a suit. Ashley passes Kane for work but calls Seth nihilistic, paranoid and unprofessional. Because even Ashley from HR scores points on Rollins, he’s that much of a dork. Seth gets pissy and lays Kane out with a Pedigree and then Pillmanizes the ankle. Kane gets loaded into an ambulance while Seth Rollins runs his mouth, at great length. The ambulance suddenly stops though and red smoke billows out of it. It’s the DEMON KANE! He stops selling the leg and then no sells a Seth chair shot. It’s surprisingly great. This was cheesy as hell but Kane’s performance turned it into a guilty pleasure. However I’m very aware they must wrestle a match at the end of all this and Kane’s matches are boring as hell.
Video Control gives us a promo from Bray Wyatt. There’s something about the Roman Reigns feud that just doesn’t click with me but Bray’s promos are, as always, great. At ringside are the Buffalo Bills, or some of them anyway, so squeaky-voiced geek Bo Dallas comes out to give them a pep talk.
Bo Dallas vs. Randy Orton
Bo gets nothing. RKO.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Kevin Owens vs. Rusev
Ryback joins commentary as he’s still feuding with Owens. One would hope they don’t do 50-50 booking and just switch the belt back to Ryback. Someone in this midcard needs to get strong and Owens is, by some distance, the best candidate as a) he’s not been tainted by the main card booking yet and b) he’s fucking great. There’s nothing doing here as Owens throws Rusev into Ryback, the heels beat Ryback down and the match is thrown out. Dolph Ziggler makes the save. Why couldn’t they turn this match into a tag? It might actually be quite good! Even though I’d rather Owens was left by himself, as he excels on his own.
Final Rating: N/R
Video Control gives us clips of WWE wrestlers dancing for Connor’s Cure. The New Day and Sasha Banks one is magical. Team them up!
Promo Time: Paul Heyman
He’s out here to shill Brock Lesnar’s month of Hell because someone needs to get the crowd excited for Lesnar vs. Big Show. The Big Show ends up taking exception to some of Paul’s comments. Show’s arrival derails the whole segment, bores the crowd and urgh, it’s just rubbish. Heyman looks borderline offended for having to sit through it. This was a colossally stupid idea. Just let Paul Heyman sell the damn show! It’s what he does. I ended up spending the segment trying to think of an excuse as to why I wasn’t going to watch the MSG show.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
This is supposed to be the feud ending match, which would be nice because the feud hasn’t worked for me in the slightest. The crowd seem to be of the same opinion as the match is largely heatless. It’s frustrating really because this is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping the WWE would do. Get a feud that’s not about the title and get it over enough to main event a show. Like they did with Taker vs. Lesnar. And yet this hasn’t paid off at all and it’s mostly because of how badly both men were booked going into it. Wyatt lost a lot of momentum at the start of the year, losing in a boring match to Undertaker at Wrestlemania. The “New Face of Fear” wasn’t intimidating anyone and by himself he was drowning. So they went backwards and re-formed the Wyatt Family, something they never should have broken up to begin with. Roman has been forcibly re-built since Vince McMahon personally wrecked him at the start of the year. Two guys being rebuilt shouldn’t work each other because the crowd need a reason to care about it happening. So instead of having an epic feud, they’ve had a placeholder feud, which has gone on for months. The crowd apathy is the result of the WWE’s own foolishness, taking hot acts and just booking them into oblivion.
The match doesn’t do itself any favours with Bray controlling the pace with his methodical work. It’s an enormous bore and the crowd aren’t into it at all. Even worse is the ‘feud ending’ contest ends in a double count out. This word you keep using, I don’t think it means what you think it means. They continue to fight after the match and Wyatt drives Roman through the rail, finally doing something worthy of a double count out. The crowd seem to forget it’s actually over and chant “this is awesome”. Roman comes back with a spear, destroying the announce table in the process, and that’s how the show ends.
Final Rating: *1/2
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: The New Day
Least Entertaining: The Big Show
Quote of the Night: “That’s an old school cartoon reference. Duck Tales” – Xavier Woods schools John Cena.
Match of the Night: No.
Summary: Another gratingly awful three hours that you’ll never get back. The WWE persist at doing the same thing and expecting different results. Eat. Sleep. Put on the same fucking TV show every week. Repeat.