The show opens with Kane talking to Steph and Hunter, who are both stuck on their flight and are going to be late getting to the show. In the background a flight attendant gives Steph a bollocking for ignoring air travel regulations and using her mobile while they are in the air. Don't they know who she is? She is Stephanie McMahon, dammit, the rules don't apply to her. Kane books himself in the main event with Seth Rollins in a lumberjack match. We are live in Chicago, C.M. Punk territory, so if anything sucks tonight (which it will), you can expect to hear his name yelled angrily and vociferously.
Promo Time: Dean Ambrose
A show-opening promo from Dean Ambrose? That’s something different at least. Ambrose is pleasingly succinct, and he doesn't want to spend an age prattling on (like his ex-Shield ally), he wants to fight. Randy Orton comes out immediately and tries to win some fans in Chicago, then he goes right into his usual overly-quick promo stream. Randy reveals he is teaming with Ambrose at Hell in a Cell against Luke Harper and Braun Strowman, which sounds horrible. Not that it will be a bad match, but how much more of a flogging can this particular dead horse take? After some dull banter about which of them is the biggest loner that completely kills the crowd, New Day come out to spice up the segment. They gloat about the show-ending beating they delivered to John Cena, Dolph Ziggler and the Dudley Boyz last week, a frankly baffling angle but one which did make the trio look badass. It was probably needed because they were on the road to being comedy goofs, but it was right out of leftfield. New Day cut a fantastic promo burying the Shield, the Authority, Evolution, and Legacy, mock Randy Orton and make him crack (see The Raw Recap) then make themselves hated in Chicago with cheap heat. Cue Korporate Kane on the Tron, who incredibly politely reminds everyone that the inmates are not running the asylum tonight, he is. “If you play with fire... you get burned! It’s a fire safety poster, but it applies here,” says Kane, before making the inevitable tag match. Randy and Dean added nothing, but New Day and Kane were excellent in their roles here. Kane’s ridiculous split personality gimmick is idiotic yet entertaining. I cannot fathom why none of the four guys that New Day beat up last week wanted to get revenge on them. That’s annoying. If there is no follow up to anything, then angles become meaningless.
The New Day vs. Dean Ambrose & Randy Orton
The crowd, who were into the promo, are strangely unenthusiastic about this at first. The announcers are typically half-assed too, treating the bout like the throwaway match that it really is. How can anyone watching ever get enthusiastic about a product when the people employed to sell it are so disinterested? Cole’s problem is that he never shuts up. It is just one long mindless drone of run-on sentences that blend into one another. He has so many things he feels he has to mention at one time that it becomes nonsense. One minute he is pointlessly reminding us who Dean Ambrose is and what he has done, then he will pay lip service to the match by calling a kickout, before moving directly on without a pause to discussion about something else happening on the show later, only to schizophrenically flit to telling viewers what has already happened on the broadcast. WWE’s whole approach to how their commentators do their job needs to change. Truth be told, I have actually seen Cole do a reasonable job in the past when he wasn't so over-produced. His performance alongside Tazz on the Global Warning Tour: Melbourne springs to mind. He is still an odious little twerp, but at least when let loose he is borderline tolerable. This is in no way a defence of Cole ignoring the action, but the match is pretty boring. It goes through two commercial breaks, which is irritating as well. As per usual, the antics of Xavier Woods are the best part of the match. When the crowd starts chanting, “New Day sucks”, he plays his trombone along with them. Much of the contest is Orton taking heat, but it is tired formula wrestling and Chicago isn't into it. The pops are customary and quiet until Ambrose gets in there and starts throwing himself around. They go lukewarm immediately when Randy comes back in, so he does the most overblown set-up in the world for his draping DDT to get them onside. As Randy goes for the RKO he gets shoved into Ambrose and rolled up by Kofi for the win. I am actually surprised WWE didn't have New Day lose after having been booked so strong last week. “Mass confusion!” yells Cole, desperately trying to defend Randy getting beat.
Final Rating: *1/2
You know what I find amusing? That WWE are claiming the Brock Lesnar-Undertaker feud is thirteen years in the making, then show a video that proclaims “chapter one” as WrestleMania less than two years ago. Now, I have some experience writing books, granted, but I am sure even the most inept simpleton is aware that chapter one comes at the start, not in the middle. WWE are trying to build this showdown as an enduring epic rivalry coming to a head, but at the same time they are loathe to show anything of their prior program in 2002 because Undertaker was the American Badass. Not to mention that it would call attention to the fact they have already had a brutally bloody Hell in a Cell match before, one which will likely be better than their impending one due to the insane bloodshed on display. Funny company, this one.
Nikki Bella vs. Naomi
Well golly gee, if it isn't Nikki Bella wrestling on Raw again! She had nearly a year of being in the spotlight, can she not now kindly fuck off and let someone else have the chance to actually wrestle a competent match? If Nikki was alone it would be a slight improvement, because her entourage are the shits. Alicia Fox swaggers down the aisle with her spastic strut and a sense of self-importance that brings about a violent rage swelling inside of me. Then there is Brie, with her ridiculous voice, her smug expression and a permanent arm held aloft in the air because she cannot think of anything better to do. Nikki is just as bad of course, doing the same women-objectifying sexy ass dance, random winking, and intolerable pouting in the same order week after week. They are collectively the worst thing I have ever seen in professional wrestling. To cap it all off they are wearing Susan G. Komen shirts. They are heels, they should WANT people to have cancer. Okay, perhaps I am being (intentionally) over the top, but I am on a tirade now. I want heels to be heels and babyfaces to be likeable with occasional vulnerability. I am sick and tired of this wishy-washy half-pregnant bullshit that gets fed to me every week. Why should I like anyone? Why should I dislike anyone? Why should I care? I don't care. WWE is fucking AWFUL week after week. The only saving graces are NXT and the occasional strong pay-per-view.
What makes the whole thing even more sickening is that WWE then show a highlight video of the Bayley-Sasha Iron Woman match from NXT Takeover Respect last Wednesday, as if these two gomers in the ring could ever hope to even come close to matching them. They are not even in the same sport, never mind the same league. To try and associate that classic match with this Diva tripe is a joke. The crowd applauds Sasha, who is at ringside, then loudly chant, “We want Sasha!” They don't give a shit about this through-the-motions match. Other than that, the crowd are utterly silent. Brie seems unfazed; she continues to stand there with her arm in the air. Nikki is obviously bothered by it though, she is so easy to read when things go wrong for her, and her pout is getting noticeably larger. All of a sudden, a thousand cats get murdered, the sound of which is transmitted into the arena. Oh no, it is actually Brie, who has decided in her infinite wisdom to stand on the announce table and chant, “We want Sasha” in her retarded voice. What is she trying to achieve? NOTHING! She doesn't have a goddamn clue what she is doing. Last week she didn't even know where she was when she arrived at the building. Sasha pushes her off the table and Brie takes a dreadful uncoordinated bump, and naturally that is a distraction and it allows Tits McGhee to score the win. Again. “They know how to play the game” - Cole. Don't they just. Go away with your #DivasRevolution, WWE, it is the same old shit we have seen for years. There is a WOMEN’S revolution going on in NXT, let’s all enjoy that while we can instead.
Final Rating: -**
John Cena US Open Challenge
“What a reception right here in Chicago” - JBL, as EVERYONE chants, “John Cena sucks” along to his music. He takes it in good spirits though, even dancing along with a fan in the front row. Cena is taking some time off from WWE after Hell in a Cell for “personal reasons” which have not yet been explained, but have got the gossipmongers in the locker room gums-a-flapping. What that means is he could well lose the title on any given Raw prior to that, and to be honest that should happen, because he has never lost one of these Open Challenges, and he really should to keep the gimmick going. He has come close, sure, but now is the time. Cena puts over Chicago, calls himself the man to beat, then makes the call out. And it is... C.M. PUNK! Ha, yeah right. It’s actually Dolph Ziggler, which takes the award for most predictable moment of the night, but is not an altogether unwelcome one. Dolph tried to answer the call last week until New Day interfered, and he has been booked to try and shag Nikki Bella on Total Divas recently, so this program was inevitable.
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
In an interesting twist, Rusev and Lana announced their real-life engagement a couple of days ago, and because WWE is obsessed with being a reality show and gaining mainstream media approval, they confirmed the story despite it royally screwing their Rusev/Summer-Ziggler/Lana storyline of the past few months. I am thrilled about it, because Lane and Rusev were a great team, and the pairings they were forced into, well, weren’t. I can only assume Rusev and Lana had both done their research into wrestling onscreen couples that resulted in real life relationships, and decided to publicly nip the risk of WWE breaking them up in the bud. Good on them. Speaking of marriages, one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen occurs in this match. While Cena and Ziggler are working a rest hold, the crowd gets excited and starts looking over at something going on in the stands and chanting “YES! YES! YES!” loudly. It turns out a guy actually proposed to his girlfriend during the middle of the match! Cena throws Ziggler out of the ring, grabs a mic, and acknowledges it! Shame he didn't add, “And she wasn't the only one who said yes this week...” to Dolph, to rub in the fact that Lana has left him in TV world. Ziggler could have countered by ragging on Cena for refusing to marrying Nikki Bella, and we have a storyline with reality laced into Total Divas “reality” and tied into a real life organic occurrence, all in one fell swoop. None of that happens.
The distraction does ruin the match of course, and all JBL’s talk of “deep Ricky Steamboat armdrags” and Pat O’Connor can’t bring it back, so we cut to commercial instead. The action goes pick up once the furore dies down, but it is merely good, not great. Ziggler seems tired and Cena appears to be going through the motions. As with most Cena matches this year, the home stretch is strong. One high spot sees Ziggler scoot out of the AA right into a Fameasser for a near fall that many bought as the finish. Cena comes back with the STFU, but Ziggler makes the ropes. He tries for a crossbody, but clearly he hasn't been paying attention recently because that doesn't work on Big Match John, who counters into an AA attempt. Dolph knows how to counter that and rakes the eyes, which is Kevin Owens’ current finisher, and hits a superkick for a two count. Fisticuffs follow, and they counter each other’s finishers again before Ziggler hits a headbutt and the ZigZag for an even closer two. Then normality kicks in when Ziggler gets overly rambunctious and runs into the AA for the Cena win. “You can’t take anything away from John” pipes Cole immediately. Who was? He won, you cretin!
Final Rating: ***
In a case of remarkable timing, Triple H calls Kane immediately after the US Title match for an update on the show. “It’s going swimmingly” says Kane. In the background, Steph continues to act like a royal bitch to the flight attendant. She is a heel this week. Next week she will be championing some charitable causes, starting “revolutions” and booking fan-friendly matches.
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Ascension
Generic TV squash, nothing to see here.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Neville & Cesaro vs. King Barrett & Sheamus
Team Underutilised against Team Undervalued & Over-pushed. That match Cesaro had with Cena a few months back seems like a lifetime ago now. He is back to where Vince believes he belongs: in a nothing match, working for less than five minutes. Neville has been treated like shit recently, and that continues here as he does yet another job for Sheamus after a Bullhammer from Barrett. What purpose did this serve? Cesaro and Neville would be smart to pitch teaming regularly, because WWE are never going to use their to their fullest in singles competition.
Final Rating: ¾*
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
Roman wastes little time going into his fake-sounding scripted promo, focusing on Bray Wyatt. He always struggles with these because they are so unnatural, and he isn't helped by the crowd yelling, “WHAT?” at him. “What, you can’t hear me or something?” Now now, don't provoke them. Roman goes back to the script and tries to paint a picture of his feud with Bray, but this isn't helping their program at all. Chicago gets fed up and chant “Boring”, causing Roman to react again. “No this isn't boring baby, this is real life”. The crowd turning on him does at least bring a little bit of much-needed passion out of Reigns, and a few subtle hints of an impending heel turn as well. Bray and his posse arrive to cut Roman off, and Bray questions whether he is trying to convince the crowd or himself, before promising a massacre at HIAC. Reigns counters by telling Bray that once the cage is locked, he will wish he was in there with “anyone but me”. I bet one of the writers was doing giddy cartwheels of delight about getting that one in. It’s oh so clever. This is the kind of promo that murders the Roman Reigns character and will guarantee he never gets over anywhere near the level they want him to be.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
How on earth are they going to get themselves out of this one? They can’t beat Roman prior to HIAC, and Strowman has been built as an invincible monster who hasn't even been taken off his feet (hmm, that’s not true). They opt for Strowman dominance, with plenty of selling from Reigns as the big guy slowly dismantles him. Very slowly. He even uses a nerve hold, like a modern-day Yokozuna. Roman counters with a beard pull. I cannot remember the last time I saw a match with so little heat in Chicago. Strowman sells like Typhoon, with lots of blinking and head shaking, then goes back to controlling the match. It’s very, very, dull. Reigns hits the Drive By then goes for another, only to get flattened with a clothesline. Strowman follows him outside, but Reigns sees him coming and decks him with a punch. Luke Harper tries to assist but gets floored with a Superman punch, then Strowman takes one that sends him careening over the announce desk. Roman beats the count, and wins the match in the cheapest way possible. The Wyatts jump into the ring afterwards, but Reigns scoots out and flees. Heel turn, I’m telling ya. Horrible match, of course. Who thought eight minutes would be a good idea for this? Who thought the match would be a good idea full stop? It hurt Roman and it hurt Strowman. Reigns is a guy WWE are actively trying to protect in the booking and get over as their next John Cena, and this is how they thought fit to use him.
Final Rating: DUD
Hunter’s timing continues to be impeccable, as he calls right after the match finishes. The reception is poor (cue bad broken sentence acting from Hunter) and Hunter doesn't get the message that Kane has booked himself against Seth tonight.
Rusev vs. Ryback
Inexplicably, Summer Rae is at ringside with Rusev. At the onset of Raw we were promised “the whole story” about what had happened with Rusev, Lana, and Summer. Instead they have opted to ignore it completely, despite mentioning it frequently. This is perhaps the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. It just screams “this is all bullshit”. To punish Rusev for getting engaged and destroying a bad storyline, he has to job to Ryback in less than three minutes. Cleanly, no less.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Promo Time: Summer Rae
Summer finally addresses the elephant in the room, showing the pictures of Rusev and Lana’s engagement from TMZ, and yelling at Rusev for not having the balls to tell her that he was back with Lana. “Everyone here thinks you are a strong, dominant, force to be reckoned with,” she shouts, which is funny considering he just got squashed, “but you are just a whipped little boy.” She slaps him and walks off, as JBL claims she just exposed Rusev. None of this made any sense. They have had two days to come up with something, and this is the best they could do? Another homerun for the WWE writing team.
Kevin Owen vs. Kalisto
Non-title again, and quite right too. Kalisto tries to fly, but Owens is too big and powerful and frequently cuts him down. They do a spot on the outside which goes wrong when Kalisto attempts a silly springboard rana and botches it then lands on his head. Kalisto tries to fire back with a few needlessly-flashy moves, but Owens soon puts him away with a powerbomb after blocking a rana. Routine stuff, but better than most of the wrestling we have seen tonight.
Final Rating: *1/2
Brie Bella & Alicia Fox vs. Charlotte & Becky Lynch
I am not watching Brie Bella and Alicia Fox wrestle. Brie pins Charlotte with a missile dropkick, and I feel so drained by this show and the result that I cannot even muster the words to express my anger and disbelief at that decision.
Final Rating: -*
Trips gets hold of Kane again and asks again what the main event is, so Kane tells him. Steph has to be the one to shoot him down, even over the phone. She tells him he is ridiculous and that in no uncertain terms can he do that. Hunter agrees, warning Kane not to screw things up, and to replace himself with literally anyone in the match. Handy he has a split personality, really. In the next segment Seth Rollins and Kane bump into each other. Seth is spooked by him but Kane is totally pleasant. He promises to provide a suitable replacement to replace himself in the match.
Because three hours is too long and WWE are creatively bankrupt, they show the Lesnar-Undertaker video again.
Seth Rollins vs. Kane
Shock of shocks, Demon Kane is the replacement for Korporate Kane. I was sort of looking forward to the pay-per-view match between these two, purely for the fact that it is a fresh match and there has been a long term storyline to build it. Of course the key was that Kane hadn't actually been wrestling, which is important, because once he gets in the ring in 2015 the illusion is shattered. The pair working a ten minute match has not helped Hell in a Cell. Granted, nobody is buying that show to see this anyway, but still. The aura of Demon Kane manages to get shattered during this when Big Show hits him with his knockout punch, leaving him out cold. Don't even dare. Don't even DARE try and present me with Kane-Big Show in a match ever again! Kane kicks out, things get out of control with the lumberjacks, and a melee occurs. Inexplicably there is no DQ. Instead, Seth Rollins does the job, cleanly to the Tombstone, for his NINETEENTH loss in his last twenty matches. Jim Ross recently defended WWE’s booking of Rollins, lambasting us marks for not understanding the difference between being booked weak and being booked as a pussy heel. Defend that stat, JR. Never in history has a WWE Champion, or any World Champion, been booked to look that inept. Dave Meltzer summarised, “Seth Rollins is playing the role of a wimp heel manager,” and he is right. Harvey Wippleman is your WWE Champion, everybody.
Final Rating: *
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: John Cena. Good match, nice moment with the fans who got engaged, amusing dance with an anti-Cena fan. That was enough on his show.
Least Entertaining: Team Bella.
Quote of the Night: “Damn Randy, how many groups have you been in? You give new definition to the meaning of the word groupie” - Xavier Woods to Randy Orton
Match of the Night: John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler
Summary: Another horror show. Nothing was achieved on this broadcast. The only people who came out stronger were John Cena and the Bellas, and god knows they don't need the help. The treatment or utilisation of Neville, Cesaro, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Roman Reigns, Rusev and Dean Ambrose was beyond comprehension. WWE are a rudderless ship, with dozens of would-be sailors who have never been at sea desperately flocking to grab the wheel and steer away from the choppy waters they are in. Every one of them gets thwarted by the crusty old half-blind captain, who refuses to cede control, yet encourages the commotion around him. The way WWE do things and their endless list of idiomatic tropes means nothing will ever change. Albert Einstein is credited with having once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think that sums up every single one of us who tune into this show week after week, hoping they might get it right this time.