There has been a lot of soul searching around the History of Wrestling offices over the past twenty-four hours. Both myself and James Dixon had made bold proclamations ever since Sheamus won Money in the Bank stating that if he cashed in and won the title, we were done with this whole reviewing malarkey. It made no sense to go back to a performer who’d been given a shot at being the top guy and had failed, several times. The circumstances behind Sheamus’ victory were even stranger as it completely cut the legs off Roman Reigns after months of rehabbing him after a disastrous aborted push at the start of the year. Roman was finally ready to claim the title, which he did and WWE immediately pulled the rug out from under him. Seeing as there were no other options the belt has found its way to Sheamus.
But wait, no other options? Here are a list of things WWE could have done instead.
So there were more options on the table than the one WWE went with. What’s even stranger is the way Sheamus was treated during the Survivor Series PPV. If he was going to be the champion by the end of the night why treat him as a joke in the Survivor match? He was laughed at by the New Day pre-match and pinned clean by another midcarder in Ryback. Speaking of midcarders; Sheamus is one and has been all year. He’s been in midcard feuds and has done nothing of note since winning the Money in the Bank match. If WWE knew he was cashing in, which they did because it’s Vince McMahon’s company and the booking buck stops with him, why not use him more effectively in between and establish him as a threat?
Anyway, this whole creative disaster is what caused a minor mutiny in the HoW office. The short of it is that we’ve done eleven months of 2015’s RAW shows. To give up now would be like WWE giving up on Roman Reigns like they did. We’ve come so far. We can’t just stop. Another way of looking at it is that wrestling is an addiction and once it’s in your blood you’re screwed. We’re all screwed. Welcome to RAW!
We’re in Nashville, Tennessee. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Promo Time: The Authority
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. A new era of WWE begins with another droning promo from Hunter and Steph as to why they screwed Roman Reigns. At least Sheamus looks happy as WWE champion, which he should do seeing as it came completely from left field and probably surprised him. His heat isn’t quite ‘X-Pac heat’ but it’s not far off. Sheamus’ droning promo is the perfect length for me to watch the Minions Mini-Movie “Competition”, streaming for free on IMDB.com. A far better use of your time than listening to that Irish windbag. Roman turns up to ask for his rematch tonight and call Hunter a pussy for hiding behind his emasculating wife. In a way WWE has been a bit cute because they took the crowd’s “anyone but Roman” mentality and said “oh, really? Anyone?” and put the belt on someone that the crowd won’t cheer over Reigns. So now Roman has a far greater percentage of crowd support. Not that I agree with that decision, you understand, but I can see why they’ve done it, which is a half-step up. Things take a weird swerve though as Rusev jumps Reigns to end the segment, leaving the former champion laid out like a punk. Again. Hunter books the Sheamus-Reigns match at TLC in a TLC match and Reigns vs. Rusev tonight.
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper & Braun Strowman)
“Last night may have made the Wyatt Family even more dangerous” says Cole. Or it could have turned them into jobbers to the stars, says I. The Wyatt’s complete inability to beat anyone, ever, even with a numbers advantage has turned them into an utterly heatless group. Albeit with the best entrance in the company (bar Finn Balor…and Bayley). Harper, like against the Brothers of Destruction, takes the bulk of the match because he can bump around for the Dudleys. At least he gets the win tonight, pinning Bubba with a discus lariat. This was a Dudley Boyz squash until a distraction finish. Notice how WWE keeps having to rehab people? Maybe if they didn’t cock up their push in the first place they wouldn’t have to.
Final Rating: ¾*
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Interesting that Sasha comes out to her own music, not Team BAD’s, as she’s blatantly the star of those three and indeed the entire division. Sasha vs. Becky on NXT earlier in the year was ****1/4-****1/2 territory and they have a lot of background. Interesting also to note a chant of “Sasha’s ratchet”/”no she’s not” making it over from NXT. The crowd respond to Sasha in a way that the rest of the NXT girls can only dream of. The reason why she’s not in the Charlotte role is because she’s far better as a heel. The story in this one is that Sasha is too cocky and gets caught in the Disarmer only for the numbers game to help Sasha win. It keeps in line with Sasha’s character. She’s not afraid to look weak to be a star because ultimately everyone knows she’s money. Short match but solid action.
As we conclude Paige jumps in from the Titantron to proclaim herself number one contender, despite losing clean last night. Paige’s reasoning is that Charlotte’s tits were touching the ropes last night so her submission doesn’t count.
Final Rating: **
New Day Open Challenge and Country Music Jamboree
You’re reading that title correctly! The New Day have been a group for a year so they celebrate by riding pink unicorn horseys to the ring and bringing a New Day twist to the world of country music, which they cannot stand. As per usual the New Day are effortlessly entertaining, mocking the locals in such a way that they still get cheered. Their assault on country music is fabulous. The result is an open challenge, answered by the Lucha Dragons, who had solid chemistry with New Day last night so that’s a good move. New Day go to leave but the Usos join in too. “You have ruined our Jamboree” yells Big E. These guys are gold. Xavier cancels the open challenge and the faces clear the ring. Bait and switch aside this was marvellous. Presumably we’ll get a three-way dance at TLC.
Mark Henry vs. Neville
This goes onto a long list of terrible WWE ideas. Henry barely works here anymore and can’t take any of Neville’s moves bar the flippity top rope stuff and kicks. The result is a completely unrealistic match with Neville hitting one kick and the Red Arrow for the win. Henry making a point of kicking out anyway to make Neville look like shit. Cheers, pal.
Final Rating: DUD
Video Control takes us backstage where Titus O’Neil accidentally walks into Stardust’s galaxy. Weird ticks make it a fairly fun segment. “What was that we just saw?” asks Cole.
Stardust & The Ascension vs. Goldust & The Prime Time Players
Goldust has been drafted back in because WWE is running short on babyfaces. The whole Star-Goldust feud went nowhere earlier in the year but Stardust has done nothing since so we’re back to that old chestnut. Titus is the star here, bossing the action with his power offence and charisma. It makes you wonder why he doesn’t get more opportunities. Across the ring the Ascension are in the rebuilding process after WWE called them up to the main roster and promptly buried them completely. It probably would have been easier to rehab them without the pointless burial. That said Titus wins out on this particular night. Not everyone can win. This felt like filler but as far as filler goes it was ok.
Final Rating: *1/4
Promo Time: The Mex-Americans
Zeb Coulter and Alberto Del Rio talk a lot and I’m still not sure why they’re together. The crux of their chat is that the borders of Mex-America are closed and they’re not accepting new Mex-Americans. This goes on and on until Jack Swagger appears. Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, who’s next? Heath Slater? Damien Sandow? Curtis Axel? Some talent will find TV time with an assortment of main card guys going down injured. Del Rio has returned as a Latino icon and has been turned into another anti-American foreigner. This was dull.
WWE Divas Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Paige
This flopped last night but that was a PPV so I’m hopeful a free TV title match will get a better response. Paige plays the chicken heel and Charlotte gets to put more of a beating on her. A theory I’ve heard is that people aren’t connecting with Charlotte and that’s evident in this match. She’s too big, too dominant to be a babyface. Paige can’t get the crowd to turn on her regardless of how strong her promos are. Although she should probably realise when she yells stuff like “this is my house” she’s eliciting babyface reactions. Paige decides to take a page out of Nikki Bella’s book and work the knee. Somehow this ends up even more lifeless and heatless than the Survivor Series match. The finish is rubbish too with Paige causing a double count out instead of having a definitive finish to end this feud. They even tease an announce table spot, which is just Paige doing her PTO on the table. Is it more painful if executed on a table? Match lost me about halfway through and then snoozed to a non-finish.
Final Rating: *3/4
Promo Time: Heath Slater
Oh my God! He still has a job too. The over/under on Sandow appearing before the end of the show is looking good. I’m still confused as to why Damien Sandow has been de-pushed to the degree that he has. Apparently Slater doesn’t like country music either. Who does? Well, Brock Lesnar actually. This would have been an interesting spot for him but Brock’s stunt double is Ryback. He clears Slater out. That’s the segment. Thanks for coming, Heath. Now you can go back to jobbing to Fandango on Superstars.
Dean Ambrose & Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens & Tyler Breeze
Two matches from last night condensed into one. Everyone is good in the ring but the match exists on a dead show in a dead spot ahead of tonight’s main event. Both Ambrose and Owens still get big reactions, suggesting either one of them could have been given the ball. Although the comparison on this show is silence and indifference so it’s hard to say how over they are. The action is decent but the match is five minutes so they can’t get any stories going, just continuing existing issues. Like with earlier someone has to take the fall and Tyler isn’t on Ambrose’s level so he loses to Dirty Deeds. Owens again makes for a poor tag team partner as he ignores the pinfall, only interested in himself and his own wellbeing.
Final Rating: **
Video Control gives a weird backstage bit where Mark Henry imagines El Torito doing the JBL gimmick. Mark eats a burger to shill Hardees menu. Is that a fat joke? Also two Mark Henry segments on RAW? What year is this?
Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
Rusev hasn’t wrestled on RAW in a month, not since teaming with Sheamus and King Barrett against the Dudley Boyz at the end of October. He’s been injured and on punishment duties for daring to get engaged to his real life girlfriend, Lana, and tanking WWE’s idea of having him ‘marry’ Summer Rae. Lana has also been punished and hasn’t been on TV. The logic of this makes no sense. When Triple H and Stephanie got married, after having been married and divorced onscreen, were they punished? Was it addressed on TV at all? No. So why even bring up Rusev and Lana’s engagement? Anyway, his in-ring hasn’t deteriorated during his absence and Rusev works fairly effectively opposite Reigns. The match only exists to give Sheamus a way to cheap shot Reigns from ringside thus promoting their TLC title match. Until he gets booted, proving he’s so completely useless that he can’t even stand at ringside properly. King Barrett runs in for the DQ at the finish, thus ensuring some continuity with Sheamus, Rusev and Barrett forming a European Union of sorts a month back.
Final Rating: **1/2
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: The New Day
Least Entertaining: Alberto Del Rio
Quote of the Night: “Country music sucks. This is me saying this, not my character, country music sucks” – Kofi Kingston.
Match of the Night: Roman Reigns vs. Rusev. Not much competition.
Summary: After a dire PPV came a decidedly dull episode of RAW. Yes, they really are going with Sheamus as champion at least until the next PPV. Yes, the midcard is a wasteland with so many injuries to the point where Jack Swagger, Mark Henry and Heath Slater made their way onto RAW. I often complain WWE don’t use the depth of their roster but injuries have forced them into doing so. The result is a bunch of guys who can’t get over because normally they’re not even allowed on TV. There are a few positives for WWE; Roman was backed by the fans tonight. Owens and Ambrose look to have some legitimate chemistry, which could lead to a good match at some point. The New Day are still hugely entertaining regardless of what’s happening around them and they have a few entertaining opponents lined up. Sasha Banks got the kind of reaction they’ve been hoping for from Charlotte for the past three-four months. The injuries and absences are starting to mount up though and WrestleMania has to sell a lot of tickets and might struggle with the roster they’ve got. We might be in for a run of shows like this while WWE get their ducks in a row. One thing is for certain, they need new stars and they need them as soon as possible.