I wouldn't go so far as to say that last week’s RAW rekindled my interest in WWE’s current product, because there are still significant issues with the way the company does things almost too numerous to mention, but it certainly went some way towards reaffirming my faith in them and their ability to get someone over. They did a tremendous job with Roman Reigns – the standard Stephanie McMahon emasculation aside – and the show ended on a feel-good moment for both the audience and the new WWE Champion. The ratings too reflected the quality of the show-long storytelling, with the third hour actually gaining viewers for the first time in a long while. But WWE’s problem is often knowing how to follow up. As is seen by their annual post-WrestleMania slump, the company struggles to know how to continue their momentum once that ball is rolling. With ‘Mania season looming, let’s hope they can figure it out and go into the hottest period of the year on fire. Tonight is the annual faux-important awards the Slammys, which should be good for a few unintentional laughs.
Promo Time: Stephanie McMahon
We start the Roman Reigns era with... the same old Stephanie McMahon shit. And she is doing a cracking job of selling her recent family woes at the hands of Reigns by smiling throughout her walk to the ring. She delivers her verbiage with the passionless authority of a newsreader, declaring that she won’t be upset about what happened to her husband and her father, because she is a McMahon and it is a night of celebration. If the heel doesn't sell their suffering, why should we care when the babyface gets one over on them? Oh that’s right; nobody is allowed to get one over on Stephanie. Reigns comes out for what I assume will be a weekly tete-a-tete with the omnipotent one, and declares that he thinks her presence is a set-up for an attack. That logic is flawed, given she was out there first and nobody invited him to join her. He changes his tune on a dime, decided that he is not worried about being attacked, especially by Triple H, who he hasn't seen since kicking his ass at TLC. I guess he didn't watch TakeOver: London where Triple H completely no-sold his beating. Steph yells at Roman to get out of her ring, which amuses Roman. It amuses me too because the delivery is appalling. “You sound like a little kid right now,” he laughs. “You get out of this ring before I make you get out of this ring!” she bellows. Reigns has some more fun mocking her, turns his back on her, then walks off. “Don't you turn your back on me! Get back in this ring now.” He disappears through the crowd, leaving her bawling and yelling in her phony angry McMahon voice. She just doesn't stop talking! She tries to coax him back by putting his cousins the Usos in a handicap match against New Day. That doesn't work, so she books Dean Ambrose against Sheamus in a cage match. Roman just laughs. “Because of you Roman, there’s gonna be hell to pay!” she snarls, before throwing the mic and stomping away like a little spoilt brat. Far too much Stephanie, again, though Roman came off pretty well here.
Slammy: Breakout Star of the Year
Presenter: Dolph Ziggler
The nominees are: Kevin Owens, who famously beat John Cena in his first WWE main roster match before jobbing to him multiple times in a row. Neville who has had some good matches but has been cursed with the usual 50/50 booking. Charlotte who has got much worse since coming to the main roster. Tyler Breeze who won once then became a midcard nobody almost immediately. Braun Strowman who is talentless but huge, so will likely continue to get pushed long after it is obvious to everyone else that he is a no-hoper.
I am quite surprised about that result, though I don't disagree with it. Neville stares at his Slammy with a look of shock and awe. He might as well be saying, “Ooh, shiny!” Neville plays the “Wow, what an honour” card, then Kevin Owens wanders out to moan about the result. He tells Neville to take a little walk and get out of here, so he does! Way to make him look like a total chump. Owens yells at Dolph Ziggler for laughing at his misfortune, and inevitably that leads to a brawl.
Bray Wyatt vs. Kane
So, Kane is back. Didn't this feud end at Survivor Series? In order to retain the aura they are trying to build for Wyatt, he shouldn't be wrestling on TV. They should save his in-ring performances for PPV and live events. Overexposure will be the death of the character. The bout is a non-event anyway mind, with the Wyatt Family interfering early, causing the Dudleys and Tommy Dreamer to run down for a brawl. If you know anything about WWE booking, then you know this turns into an eight-man tag.
Final Rating: N/R
The Wyatt Family vs. Kane, Tommy Dreamer & The Dudley Boyz
So much for Tommy’s little run with WWE being over. Last week the Wyatts and Team Extreme were involved in a cracking hardcore brawl, yet replacing just one element (Rhyno) and swapping him out for Kane makes for a much worse match. Actually that isn't fair, because Kane barely doesn't anything. Nobody does really, as the match only goes a few minutes. The Dudleys take out Rowan with 3-D, Strowman double clotheslines them both, then Harper finishes D-Von with a lariat. It’s nice to see someone (the Wyatts) actually getting a push without 50/50 booking killing their momentum. Long may that sort of thing continue.
Final Rating: *
Slammy: LOL! Moment of the Year
Presenter: Santino Marella
“HAHAHA HE IS SO MUCH FUN” laughs Cole in that fake manner that he does, as Santino dances around on the stage. Yeah, he is a hoot. The nominees are: the Kazoo vs. Sax battle between New Day and Edge & Christian, which was so LOL-tastic I had forgotten about it. The Bushwhackers’ Hall of Fame induction speech, which was very entertaining. The world premiere of The Miz’s erectile dysfunction advert, which was your typical low-brow WWE comedy fare. Those nasty, despicable heels Triple H and Stephanie McMahon dancing with New Day. R-Truth cutting a promo about what he is going to do at Money in the Bank, a match he is not even in. Hell, what a category! From a company that exclusively writes lame comedy skits, that is pretty appalling.
Okay then. Sure it was. Santino accepts on Truth’s behalf because he thinks he deserves it more, which naturally draws out Truth. Didn't we just see this angle?
In a brief VT, Mick Foley – dressed as Santa - turns up for a quick cheap pop and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
Slammy: OMG Moment of the Year
Presenter: Paul Heyman
Heyman thinks that every Slammy – except Diva of the Year and LOL Moment of the Year - should be awarded to Brock Lesnar. Actually, he could make a strong case for the latter. Brock mauling Michael Cole the night after WrestleMania was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. The nominees: Seth Rollins cashing in his MITB briefcase at WrestleMania. Brock Lesnar destroying the announcers, cameramen, and everyone else in his way the next night when Seth reneged on a rematch. Kalisto last week at TLC for his insane Salida del Sol off the top of the ladder. That really was impressive. The Wyatt Family battering The Undertaker after Hell in a Cell. Sheamus cashing in MITB on Roman Reigns at Survivor Series. That wasn't shocking as much as predictable. Actually, I guess it was shocking that WWE were crazy enough to book it.
I can get behind that. I have not seen a spot as impressive as that Salida del Sol for many years. Heyman hands him the award without any complaint, even though Brock Lesnar was one of the options.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens
In an odd moment, they replay the confrontation between the pair from earlier a couple of minutes after the match has started, which is distracting. Michael Cole is distracted throughout the match, using it to plug a variety of things including tomorrow night’s live SmackDown!, which reminds me of something pertinent Jim Ross wrote on his blog this week:
“Broadcasters who are forced to speak on loosely connected topics such as what's trending on Twitter even though it's graphically displayed on the TV screen and don't stay true to the talent are on course to not get the talents over. If I'm watching TV and am visually seeing physicality and athleticism but I'm hearing yet another train of thought what of it am I supposed to process? Exactly.”
That sums my thoughts up exactly. Hopefully the recent hire of Mauro Ranallo will help to address that. The match goes through commercial, another increasing trend which I am not a fan of because of how it takes you out of the moment. When we return the intensity increases, and Dolph connects with a superkick that sends Owens careening to the outside. Dolph makes the mistake of following him and eats the announce desk. From nowhere Dolph hits the Fameasser, but Owens kicks out, hits the pop-up powerbomb, and wins the bout. Standard TV match fare.
Final Rating: *3/4
Slammy: Superstar of the Year
Presenter: Stephanie McMahon
Why wouldn't she present this? I would have thought they might have saved this for the end of the show, with it being the most “prestigious” award. It’s placement on the show is telling. For the record this is a non-kayfabed award, one which has caught out WWE before. I remember when Daniel Bryan won it a couple of years ago and totally threw them for a loop. The nominees are everyone on the roster, though WWE obviously have their favourites. Roman Reigns is the most heavily featured and clearly the man they want to win it. Sheamus being considered a genuine candidate is a joke. He got pushed to the title because they had no options, but he was a loser all year prior to that. Others with video packages include John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, Kane, Seth Rollins, and Sting.
Winner: Seth Rollins
I thought Brock Lesnar was a lock for this. Seth is actually here, on crutches, and very popular. I was getting somewhat fed up with Rollins because of the terrible way he was booked, but I have missed him since he has been gone. For all his sneering character is grating, his in-ring work is phenomenal. I hope he makes a swift and full recovery, because WWE needs someone like him at the moment. Seth is as cocksure as ever, pointing out that he was really the only option to win the award. He then promises that in 2016 he will rebuild himself and come back stronger than ever. Here’s hoping.
In other news, John Cena returns next week to take on Alberto Del Rio. He is another one who has been sorely missed these past few weeks. I am genuinely pleased he is coming back.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger
Can they beat this program into the ground any further? Even though Del Rio has handily beaten Swagger every time they have squared off, he still enlists the Union-esque League of Nations to stand in his corner, including the returning King Barrett, who went missing for a few shows due to a secret injury. There was no explanation, nothing, he was just there one minute and gone the next. The match is nothing, merely a heatless extended squash which Del Rio wins with the double foot stomp. Del Rio is routinely one of the dullest parts of RAW. Post match the LON do a fairly tame number on Swagger and pose as if they just did something notable. The nWo they ain’t.
Final Rating: ¾*
Slammy: The Hero in All of Us Award
Presenter: Mark Henry
Henry, for those keeping track of his flip-flopping this year, is a babyface for this segment. The nominees are: Natalya for her various charitable works. Roman Reigns for his various charitable works. The Big Show for yelling at a security guard. Erm, I meant his various charitable works. Titus O’Neil for his various charitable works. John Cena for his various charitable works. Y’know, I have said it before but doing charity work is much more honourable when you don't seek public approval and recognition for it. Henry says, “Let’s find out who it is,” then looks at the Titantron waiting for the winner to be revealed. Even though he is holding the card with the name of the winner in his hand! What a dumbass!
Winner: John Cena.
Who isn't here. The crowd don't care for that much. Henry accepts on his behalf and quickly mutters something about the guys not needing approval or thanks for doing what they do, and the irony of the statement given the award he just presented is too much for me.
Other Slammy winners announced earlier today include Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker for Rivalry of the Year, which was the only realistic winner. Every other rivalry has been drawn out long after anyone stopped caring. The Best WWE Network Original Show is The Stone Cold Podcast, which is funny because it has been around for years before WWE got their hands on it. Double Cross of the Year is Damien Mizdow for... I have no idea. The Extreme Moment of the Year is Roman Reigns battering Triple H at TLC.
Slammy: Surprise Return of the Year
Presenter: Santa Claus
Not Mick Foley, but some dork in a suit who stands on the ramp and pretends to throw gifts from his sack. Behind the beard is the man-child known as Bo Dallas, who is more over than I can comprehend. I am surprised he is willing to show his face in public after last week’s humiliation at the hands of Vince McMahon. The nominees are The Dudley Boyz, who returned with a bang in an awesome moment, but have been treading water ever since. Chris Jericho, who came back to TV at Night of Champions to team with Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, cost them the match, then no mention was ever made of it again. Alberto Del Rio, which was a genuine surprise, and an interesting one, but as noted earlier has turned into a real chore. WWE have no clue how to book this guy. At least he wins with some regularity. Kane for returning as Demon Kane, even though he was on TV every week as Corporate Kane. Sting, who ate Seth Rollins’ chocolate statue and took its place behind a big reveal curtain. Then, in his second WWE PPV match, he jobbed out for a second time. Great.
Who also isn't here. What a washout this show is.
New Day vs. The Usos
Before this handicap match gets underway, New Day complain about not winning the Slammy for Tag Team of the Year, an award which went to the Usos earlier on in the day. I don't get it either. The Usos have missed most of the year due to Jey’s injury! New Day threaten to ruin Star Wars: The Force Awakens but hold back because Kofi hasn't seen it yet. This is yet another match to go through commercial, and indeed a chinlock is applied when we come back. Jimmy takes the heat, but with Xavier on the apron rather than cheerleading the match lacks the fun aspect that most New Day outings have. Jey’s hot tag is fiery enough, and the Usos pull off the upset over the champs despite the numbers disadvantage. Like the rest of the wrestling tonight, this was nothing much.
Final Rating: *1/2
Slammy: Diva of the Year
Two Truth segments on one show! “My name is R-Truth, allow me to speak the truth: 2015 has been the year of the Divas.” Credibility: shattered. The nominees are Nikki Bella. No. Naomi. Which is an hilarious prospect, even if she is “amay-ay-ay-ay-zing”. Paige who manages to stay popular due to smoke and mirrors, even though her matches tend to suck. Sasha Banks, who is the clear winner. Charlotte, who has done okay since being called up to the main roster, but has not had a genuinely good match like the ones she had in NXT yet.
I cannot even fathom that result. At least it wasn't Nikki Bella. Oh wait, Truth returns and says he made a mistake and Paige was the runner up, and the real winner is:
Winner: Nikki Bella
Oh fuck off. This is clearly a worked result. Inexplicably Paige and Nikki are all pally-pally and share a hug. Truth leaves his own Slammy on the stage, because he, like everyone else, doesn't give a shit about this farce of an awards show.
Neville vs. Rusev
Miz joins commentary to continue his role of Neville’s unwanted advisor. Lana is conspicuous by her absence, with no explanation as to where she is. The LON are ringside for this though, so you know the finish. The story of the match is power versus speed, as you would expect, with Neville throwing himself at Rusev but getting caught on the outside and sent flying with a belly-to-belly onto the mats. Brutal. We take a commercial break, again, as this recent trend becomes an epidemic. Pace your frigging shows better! After break Neville rallies with a moonsault to the outside, right in front of the hapless LON, who merely look on and do nothing. Neville goes for Red Arrow but Rusev moves, so Neville just jumps across the ring anyway and into a superkick, then taps to the Accolade. Post match, LON take out Neville and do some more celebrating. “They could be unstoppable,” says JBL. Okay, whatever.
Final Rating: *1/2
Slammy: This is Awesome Moment of the Year
Presenter: The Miz
Man I am bored. The nominees, if anyone is even still awake (with videos set to the worst music in history; a peppy tune punctuated by a “this is awesome” chorus): Brock Lesnar murdering a hapless car. Randy Orton hitting the best RKO of all time on Seth Rollins at WrestleMania. The Divas Revolution, which is too funny. WWE genuinely think they did a good job with this! The Shield reunion, which was great fun while it lasted. The Rock and Ronda Rousey bitching out Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania, which was one of my favourite moments of the year, but ultimately will lead to nothing due to Rock and Ronda being unable to work WrestleMania 32 as WWE originally hoped.
Winner: The Rock and Ronda Rousey
Naturally, neither is there. This award show is so bad it is almost funny how useless it is.
Brie Bella vs. Becky Lynch
To compound the misery, I now have to watch Brie Bella’s attempts at putting together something akin to a wrestling match. Oh, the horror. The three guys in the audience chanting “Brie Mode” should be shot. Brie played babyface last week, but the crowd chant (quietly) “Let’s go Becky” so Brie turns on them immediately and snarls, “Yeah, is that what you want?” as she is kicking her. Charlotte is at ringside for this, but Alicia Fox and Nikki Bella are not, which is weird. This Divas division is all over the damn place. They flip-flop from face to heel not just week after week, but within matches! Brie uses an armbar forever, not because of anything resembling psychology but because she doesn't have the foggiest what to do. Becky sells it for a moment, shrugs it off, then locks on the Disarm-Her for the win. She wins points after the match for selling her arm when Charlotte tries to raise it in victory, which I like. Match sucked though. Obviously.
Final Rating: ¼*
Slammy: Match of the Year
Presenter: Ric Flair
Here is a match who knows a thing or two about having the Match of the Year. He says as much too. The nominees are: John Cena vs. Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar from Royal Rumble (****3/4), which should win. Sting vs. Triple H from WrestleMania (**) which had some great moments, but wasn't much as a contest. The finish was a joke too. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens at Elimination Chamber (****1/2) which was glorious. As were the rematches. Roman Reigns vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens vs. Alberto Del Rio from RAW (***1/2) which wasn't even the best match on RAW this year. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker at Hell in a Cell (****) which was very good, though perhaps not as good as their first HIAC encounter back in 2002. I guess NXT matches don't count because Sasha Banks vs. Bayley from Brooklyn (*****) pisses all over every one of these. I am outraged that Cesaro vs. John Cena (****1/2) doesn't get a mention either.
Winner: The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
Brock is... not here. My god! Paul Heyman collects the award to boos, as the building chant for Lesnar. Heyman says Brock has no desire to collect awards, he wants to fight, but no one in the locker room dares face him. That sounds like a cue line for someone to come out and challenge him, but no. Nothing. This show reminds me of Raw X from 2003 when WWE built up a big awards event but had nobody of any worth there. It’s similarly deflating.
Backstage, the LOL, I mean LON, attack the Usos. So, there is your future madcap four-on-four match-up booked. I can barely wait.
Steel Cage Match
Sheamus vs. Dean Ambrose
There is not much time left on the show, so mercifully this won’t last long. The LON thugs jump Ambrose prior to the match, leaving him prone for Sheamus to pick apart. Unanswered heat, great, just what this show needed. According to Cole, Sheamus is in a foul mood after losing the WWE Title “eight nights ago”, which was TLC, a show where Sheamus retained his title. How can he not remember that the title change took place on RAW one week ago. Seven days. Maybe he doesn't know how many days there are in a week. He is dumb enough. A few in the crowd chant, “This is boring,” and they are right. Michael Cole doles out another of his useless trinkets of nonsense, declaring, “The steel cage is being turned into the Ambrose asylum,” he says, despite Ambrose having just been beaten up for the duration. Sheamus hits a dangerous-looking White Noise from the top, and Ambrose ridiculously kicks out. Way to kill that move. It’s only Sheamus so who cares? But still. I fail to see the point of this match. In what way does it punish Roman Reigns, as Steph was intending? Surely putting Reigns in this match with the title on the line would be more fitting. Plus, Ambrose was conspicuous by his absence at both TLC and on RAW last week when Roman was getting his ass kicked. Hell, he hasn't even congratulated him on his win. Some friend. Ambrose hits his vertical flying elbow off the case, but – because it is Christmas – the LON slam the cage door on his head. Reigns finally turns up and batters the LON on the outside, sending them scurrying with their tails between their legs. What a faction! Roman climbs the cage to prevent Sheamus escaping, then throws Dean a chair. Ambrose uses it to leather Sheamus but fails to escape. They brawl on top of the cage, brawl down the cage, then Sheamus knocks Ambrose off and loses. What a fool. Roman spears Sheamus for good measure afterwards. This was odd, and not very good. After the match Stephanie slaps the fuck out of interviewer Tom Phillips and leaves him out cold. WWE needed a new top heel to work with Roman, and apparently they are going with Stephanie!
Final Rating: *3/4
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Roman Reigns. He did well despite Stephanie trolling him in the opening segment, and he made the cage match tolerable when he interjected himself.
Least Entertaining: Jesus it could be dozens of people. The most infuriating was Stephanie McMahon, whose promo on Reigns at the start was dreadful. She needs to disappear from WWE programming so someone else can get over in that top heel role.
Quote of the Night: “My name is R-Truth, allow me to speak the truth: 2015 has been the year of the Divas.” – Perhaps the biggest lie ever uttered on RAW, by the ever-incompetent R-Truth.
Match of the Night: Pass.
Summary: What went wrong? Seriously, how can WWE go from putting on the best RAW of the entire year to one of the worst in one single, solitary week? Nothing worked tonight. The matches were all half-assed, laboured, and heatless. The Slammy Awards were a complete washout, with inexplicable winners and the majority of them not even in attendance. There was some horrid stuff from Stephanie McMahon, Brie Bella, the LON, and, well, everyone to be honest. Nobody did anything of note, no storylines were really furthered, nothing was set up for Royal Rumble, it was a mess. The Slammy edition of RAW always sucks, and this broadcast continues that unwanted trend. An utterly tedious slog to endure.