Due to Christmas business this is my first RAW review since November 23. It’s also the final RAW of 2015, which is interesting to me as I reviewed the first RAW of 2015 as well. It normally doesn’t fall that way so as the night goes on I shall be looking at the guys and gals involved in tonight’s show and comparing them to their same selves at years start.
We’re in Brooklyn, New York. Hosts are Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and JBL. John Cena is back tonight to get his return match with Alberto Del Rio. I figured Cena would be held off until the Royal Rumble but here he is. Intended to boost ratings, no doubt. Speaking of boosting ratings…
Promo Time: Vince McMahon
Dragging the old bastard out of his office to appear on TV is a fairly cheap ratings ploy but seeing as it worked last time, here he is again. Vince decides to have a chat with Roman Reigns, his current champion, and seeing as the company belongs to Vince nobody tells him he can’t waste valuable TV time telling us how much money he made off the backs of the Wild Samoans back in the day. Incidentally Roman, sired by a Wild Samoan, was struggling like hell at the start of the year. Stuck in a dead end feud with The Big Show and winning the Royal Rumble against the wishes of the masses because he wasn’t Daniel Bryan. Fortune is smiling upon him nowadays as he’s managed to locate his pop. He looks supremely pleased with himself. However Brooklyn suddenly remembers how much they like Daniel Bryan and we get back to square one. The McMahon family attempt to run a fake arrest angle, with Vince selling a shove like an old man who’s “fallen and can’t get up”. Despite the attempts of the Emasculator (Mrs Helmsley) to get Roman arrested the cops take umbrage with Vince’s ploy and lock him up instead. A babyface cop in New York! What a time to be alive.
Kevin Owens vs. Neville
At the start of the year both these guys were in developmental NXT. Owens has risen to the top a lot quicker and has had greater success on the main roster. Both guys go after their finishers immediately only for Neville to score a fluke roll up on Owens in a matter of seconds. Owens then destroys Neville to complete the 50-50 booking of the whole angle, Slammy Award included. If this ends up with a good-great PPV match I’d be ok with the angle. Unfortunately Dean Ambrose runs in to save poor little Neville, leaving the Geordie looking like a punk. In the process Ambrose manages a ridiculously terrible rebound lariat on the floor. What does Ambrose care about Owens anyway? Dean already took his title. A pity this didn’t get a chance as on paper it was a great match. Neville being used an afterthought like this doesn’t bode well for him but at least he’s on TV.
Final Rating: N/R
Video Control takes us a special video recorded by the Rock on Instagram earlier in the day, stating he’s on his way to WrestleMania. He is most welcome. Elsewhere Becky Lynch cuts a solid promo, with no goofiness, pointing out she had a tough route to the big time including a spell of bartending in Hell’s Kitchen. All I ever wanted from Becky was to be herself, this was a step in the right direction.
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
On paper this is another fantastic match and indeed they worked a match over **** for an NXT TakeOver earlier in the year. Sasha is over in Brooklyn until she points out she’s from Boston. Sasha is so terrific as a heel that she needs to push herself away from the babyface ranks to stay there. Sasha will always be over in Brooklyn for her big match with Bayley in NXT TakeOver Brooklyn. Sasha spends a lot of the match trying to stay heel by not doing much, which is probably the coaching rather than her own ideas as her work in NXT shows how capable she is. The one plus is that Sasha isn’t put off by the slightly quiet crowd and paces herself. She won’t rush into mistakes and WWE clearly want her to stick with Naomi and Tamina so they run that whole numbers game angle. The match ends up being slow, thanks to WWE’s main roster agents, and contains a few glaring botches. It’s probably not what WWE was hoping for. Sasha fortunately retains her presence, even during a poor match and comes across as a star regardless. However the crowd turn on the match in a big way and chant “boring” during a methodical contest. It’s strange how deliberate they are and how few spots are inserted. Naomi interferes to set up the Bank Statement even though Sasha basically had the same spot landed clean earlier and opted for a rest hold instead of the finish. They do manage a quick switcheroo where Becky tries for a Disarmer only for Sasha to pin her with a grab of the tights. I have no idea what went wrong here but there’s no way these two women wanted to go out there and have that match. The last sequence was pretty cool but that was about it.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control shows us Mr McMahon’s “mug shot”, which apparently doesn’t happen in front of a height chart anymore. Props to the company for mentioning Jerry McDevitt, McMahon’s actual power attorney.
Kofi Kingston vs. Kalisto
New Day are over huge as they seem to be everywhere now, having perverted WWE’s initial intentions for a black babyface group (as they were back in January, channelling the power of positivity and getting booed for it) and turning it into the most entertaining thing on TV. I’m amazed Vince McMahon didn’t split them up immediately for daring to get over when they weren’t supposed to. New Day refuse to be entertaining because they didn’t win any Slammys. You people deserve everything you get. New Day are effortlessly the best thing on RAW every single week. Could it be because WWE just gave up on them and let them be themselves? Maybe there’s something in that. Anyway, this would be the third consecutive ‘great on paper’ match of the evening. This one fails like the rest though as it’s really short and Kalisto wins with a rana.
Final Rating: *1/2
Big E vs. Sin Cara
Luckily this follow up match gives us the continued presence of the New Day and Xavier Woods’ terrific trombone skills. The kids erupt into a bizarre “we want Cena” chant, offset by sensible people chanting “no we don’t”. Sin Cara lands hard on his shoulder and that turns the match into a struggle for the luchadore as he’s seriously hurt. It makes a mess of the match and Big E finishes with the Big Ending after New Day shenanigans. Hopefully Sin Cara isn’t too badly hurt as the Lucha Dragons had started getting some traction.
Final Rating: ¾*
At the start of the year Miz was in an entertaining angle with Damien Sandow. The entertaining part (Sandow) hasn’t been on TV since the angle finished and Miz is still boring everyone with his awfulness. Ryback cuts him off quickly to remind us what a dull year he’s had by ordering us to focus on the future. We’re then joined by some other undercard talent like Goldust and Zack Ryder. Even R-Truth and Heath Slater make an appearance. Where’s Sandow? Ryder is pretty popular but otherwise it seems like an attempt to fill the ring with guys nobody cares about (only Goldust had an angle at the start of the year, with Stardust, and none of them have mattered during 2015). R-Truth is fun although it’s largely because he’s got nothing to lose. The Big Show comes down to clear out the jobbers and ends up brawling with Ryback in a battle of big boring guys who should have been given the boot by now. Hey Show, when the crowd chant “please retire” it’s not heel heat it’s “get the fuck out of the ring” heat. Ring up Sean Waltman and ask him what that’s about. Show enters himself in the Royal Rumble. Nobody cares. Nobody at all. What was the point of this?
The Big Show vs. Ryback
Apparently this wonderful impromptu match is the point of all that talking. Show dominates for a bit and then takes a count out when Ryback goes after the Meathook. “Well done Big Show” says JBL, congratulating the giant on not only wasting two segments but accomplishing nothing in the process.
Final Rating: DUD
Dean Ambrose & The Usos vs. The League of Nations (Sheamus, Rusev & King Barrett)
At the start of the year Ambrose was buddying around with Roman Reigns and feuding with Bray Wyatt. Not much has changed but he’s at least won the IC title. The Usos card position remains the same, although injuries have hampered their year. Sheamus was injured in January although his card position seems static aside from his brief flirtation with main events this month. Sheamus tries to get cheap heat before the match but you could hear a pin drop during it. The crowd maintains that silence as the match starts and the crowd only get feisty to chant “this is boring” while Sheamus plods through his offence. Honestly, the League of Nations isn’t a bad idea but is it any better than what Rusev had going with Lana at the start of the year? It isn’t even better than what Barrett was doing as Bad News Barrett. Hopefully, in time, the group will be allowed to do something useful, like the New Day. The crowd gets a wave going out of boredom so the League, magnificent heels that they are, join in. Sheamus finishes with the Brogue Kick and the League mock the Mexican Wave some more in celebrating. Some decent heel work there from those three gentlemen. The faces provided a few reasons to cheer for them, which made the match passable but not very interesting. The post match is where things get interesting as the pissed off Kevin Owens returns to powerbomb Ambrose through the announce table. Owens’ angry and relentless actions during tonight’s show have been reminiscent of Steve Austin in 1996. If they follow this through to the logical conclusion there’s your next main event megastar. It really is a ‘can’t miss’ opportunity so watch the booking go peculiar before WrestleMania.
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control gives us an update on Vince McMahon, who has posted bail. I’m saddened he isn’t picked up by an out of date limousine that he loves so much or a vehicle that’s so inappropriate he can sell disdain.
Before we hit the main event there’s time to pay tribute to Lemmy Kilmister who died at the age of 70 this week. His life was a marked contrast to Vince McMahon’s, who is the same age. He didn’t care about fitness and abused his body as much as humanly possible. He lived the rock n’ roll life. I’m sure he died with absolutely no regrets. “Born to lose, lived to win”. RIP Lemmy.
WWE United States Championship Match
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. John Cena
Cena returns after a lengthy two month absence. To quote Jerry Lawler’s old country music gag “how can we miss you if you won’t go away?” Cena does spew truth as he comes out here saying the US championship used to be fun. Del Rio’s US title run has been a big load of nothing. The pre-match talking is long and stupid as Cena tries to bait Del Rio into putting the title on the line. This title re-match is about as flat as the match where the title switched. Del Rio does get in a tidy counter out of the AA into the armbar but the lack of crowd noise is notable. Del Rio gets tapped while the ref is bumped to allow Cena to score the old ‘visual win’. 50-50 booking is running wild! The overbooking continues with League of Nations run in’s and a frankly idiotic sell from the ref where he briefly recovers to count a near fall and then magically passes out again. That could be a serious head injury, get a medic down there! Despite all the nonsense Cena has it won again with the AA but the League runs in for the inevitable DQ.
Final Rating: **1/2
Post Match: The League of Nations put a beating on Cena and the crowd respond by…doing nothing whatsoever. Roman Reigns ends up making the save after the Usos fail to do so. Like with Ambrose, I don’t know why Roman is still pissed off with Sheamus. He’s got the title, he needs nothing else. Vince McMahon turns up to book Roman vs. Sheamus for the title next week and he’ll referee the match himself. Happy New Year! Here’s the new year, same as the old year.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: The New Day
Least Entertaining: The Big Show
Quote of the Night: “You’re just one generation away from a bone through the nose” – Vince McMahon of Roman Reigns, referencing the Wild Samoans and being mildly racist about it.
Match of the Night: Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena.
Summary: Great wrestlers, terrible promoter. That also counts as my year in review.