For a moment last night I thought I was getting out of this, because Sheamus nearly cashed in his MITB contract. When he does, I am done with WWE! Probably... Anyway, I was “saved” from that by the antics of Kane, who returned wearing his mask, looking podgy, and gave both Seth Rollins and Sheamus a kicking. So now we can look forward to that three way feud. Yey.
Promo Time: The Wyatt Family
Hold the phone, we are starting Raw with a promo that isn't by Seth Rollins or The Authority!? Right, what are they up to? Bray gets a minute into his rant about how he tried to warn Roman, which brings out the man himself. “Apparently Roman Reigns is hard of hearing.” - Mackle. Swell, anymore random facts about the deficiencies of guys on the roster to spill? Roman wants to finish the feud with Bray, and god knows it has been going on long enough. Bray is unsure, so Roman goads him by calling him scared. Bray sends his heavies away and they go at it, but there is no referee so it is not a match. Just a good old fashioned donnybrook. When Reigns gets on top the other two Wyatts return, so Dean Ambrose (“the calvary (sic)”) runs down to help. One Dean Ambrose against two Wyatts, not his best idea. A big brawl erupts all over the ringside area, and the numbers advantage gives the Wyatts the upper hand. After Roman and Dean are both battered on the mat, Randy Orton decides to get off his ass and make the save. Where was he five minutes ago? Randy, being a superstar, turns the tide and collective the faces manage to bump Strowman out of the ring. Interesting way to start the show, but it does mean these guys are going to almost certainly do a six-man at Hell in a Cell.
Backstage, Seth Rollins confronts an unmasked Korporate Kane about what happened last night. Kane plays dumb and pretends like he has no idea what Seth is talking about. Seth is pitched as the dumbest wrestler on the roster. Kane announces Rollins-Cena for the U.S. Title tonight, which should be good.
Stardust & The Ascension vs. Neville & The Lucha Dragons
This is a rematch from last night’s pre-show match, so Even Steven booking dictates Neville and friends will go over tonight to get everyone back to where they started. You know, I like the concept behind this Stardust-Neville superhero/villain rivalry, but it might help if anyone gave a damn about it. Nobody cares, and it is sad to see. It takes less than thirty seconds for Sin Cara to botch a spot, and the way he favours his knee afterwards suggests he may have tweaked it. While little is going on, Cole goes off on one of his nonsensical spiels, within which he notes that Steven Amell “plays Arrow on television.” The announcers spend the whole match talking about Korporate Kane and Demon Kane, ignoring the action completely. Not that it is particularly good mind. Generic heat on Neville, a muted crowd. The usual throwaway Raw match. Kalisto flips all over the place when Neville gets the hot tag, but none of his offence looks like anything resembling a wrestling move. Including the finish, which sees Kalisto pin Viktor after a move where you couldn't tell who did what.
Final Rating: *
Seth cries to his mummy and daddy about Kane, and they act like they don't know what he is talking about. He whines about having a title shot against Cena tonight, because he is not ready after last night’s pair of matches. Hunter tells him to focus on the match and they will take care of Kane. It seems The Authority didn't know Kane was back in his Director of Operations role. Oh, the plot thickens.
Ryback vs. Bo Dallas
Kevin Owens does commentary, because, well that’s what they do around here. You can hear a pin drop when this starts, because Ryback isn't particularly over, and Dallas is a total geek. He is a waste of TV time. This gets three minutes tops, then Ryback wins with the Shellshock. Owens attacks him afterwards, because for whatever reason he wants to keep fighting Ryback even though he has beaten him and got the title he wanted. Ryback sends him scurrying, as Cole warns us that Ryback has a mandatory rematch clause. Yippee.
Final Rating: ½*
Ric Flair comes out first and tells us he is proud, then reminisces some about the partying he has done in Laredo. There isn't a city on the planet he hasn't partied in. The crowd break into a “thank you Ric,” chant, so he reciprocates before getting back on track. Flair says Charlotte’s win last night was the proudest moment of his career, and points out she did it all by herself with blood, sweat and tears. He brings Charlotte out for her title celebration, and she immediately starts weeping as she says how much she wants to make her dad proud. Ric, emotional bear that he is, does some crying of his own. It’s all very touching. Charlotte puts Paige and Becky over for being such good friends to her, telling them both how much they mean to her. Oh this is screaming for a heel turn from one of these girls. And we get one! Paige rips on Charlotte for patronising her and for basically giving a Hall of Fame speech, then goes on an AMAZING rant at Charlotte. The gist is whoop-de-do, because she won the title on her first night. She then turns on the rest of the women, referring to Brie Bella and Alicia Fox as Nikki’s “hippy sister and third wheel”. Then she calls Becky Lynch “the least relevant of all of us.” But, Tamina! After basically calling Summer Rae and Lana whores, and alluding to the real reason the Bellas get their push (who they are banging), she asks, “Where is Nattie? Do you even work here anymore?” After that, Paige storms off. Amazing segment! Oh, but then the Bella twats come out to say a few words. Nikki basically renders Charlotte’s title win pointless because she doesn't sell having lost it, instead mocking her and promising she will be humiliated. And here I was hoping the Bellas would fuck off for a while. What was I thinking?
Charlotte vs. Brie Bella
I assume this is non title because no announcement is made otherwise. Brie is far worse in the ring than Nikki, even if she is a modicum less irritating. Although, that horrific banshee wail she does makes it a pretty close run thing. Brie works over Charlotte’s injured leg, so at least there s some psychology on display, but like last night it is a whole lot of Charlotte selling and not doing a great deal else. Quite frankly the best part of the match is seeing Brie’s pants slowly come down a little further with each move. Like a builder. Charlotte wins with the Figure Eight, and I am still waiting for this Diva’s revolution. Charlotte should have came out and denounced the term Divas, then got into it with Paige and gone into a program with her. But no, instead we had to suffer more of the vapid Bellas. How awful.
Final Rating: *
Sheamus vs. Mark Henry
Ah, Sheamus needs a win after weeks of doing jobs. Mark Henry doesn't win matches any more you see. Plus, this is his home state, and you always lose in your home state in the WWF. I want to see this match like I want a hole in the head. This goes two minutes before Sheamus wins. Pointless filler. Post match, Sheamus claims to be WWE Champion. Pray the day never comes.
Final Rating: SQUASH
The Authority talk with Kane, who acts like the nicest guy in the world. They are surprised that he is here after having not heard from him since he got injured, then question his actions last night. Again, Kane pretends he had nothing to do with it. Steph wants him to cut the bullshit and give him the mask back, so she holds out her hand. He gives her “five”. She gets a little cross and demands the mask, but he tells her he doesn't know where it is, but that he will help her find it. Intriguing! Kane has been really great in these segments. Honestly.
Elsewhere Paige spots Nattie backstage and expects a lecture. She gets one. Nattie reminds Paige that she does still work here, and that she has a match tonight! Well, it’s about time.
The New Day & Rusev vs. The Dudley Boyz & Dolph Ziggler
Ah, this old chestnut. Throwing two matches from the prior night’s pay-per-view into one quick and easy segment. We have Rollins-Cena later too, rendering Night of Champions almost pointless. New Day were the best thing on the show last night, especially the genius Xavier Woods. He has gone from one of my least favourite performers on the show to the most entertaining. He brings out a piece of table in a zip lock back, which he claims the medical team had to remove from his ass last night. Kofi calls the Dudleys a menace to society, while Big E thinks the solution is to build a wall around Dudleyville for their protection. I really hope they start bringing a wall to the ring with them. It’s a shame Jerry Tuite is dead. Rusev comes out with Summer, despite her costing him the match with Dolph last night. I am not sure why a character like Rusev would team with these goofs mind you. Necessity, I guess. Dolph and Kofi do some nice sequences to start, then the Dudleys come in and bring the smash mouth. When we return from commercial, Dolph is mid-dropkick, and nobody is doing a chinlock! Progress. He soon gets grinded down into heat, which means the joy of Xavier and his trombone. As I am thinking to myself, “Wouldn't it be cool if he played some of the guys’ entrance themes on that thing?” he only goes and does it! Busting out a tremendous rendition of Rusev’s tune as he takes over on Dolph. Best moment ever. This goes on far too long, with the only notable moment being Rusev screaming, “Lana is mine!” at Dolph. Summer Rae doesn't sell that at all. Bubba cleans house on the hot tag, Ziggler partakes in the Wazzup Drop, then Xavier’s trombone causes the distraction and allows Rusev to superkick Dolph for the win. More Even Steven booking!
Final Rating: **
Naomi vs. Natalya
Anyone who watches Total Divas will be hoping Nattie doesn't piss herself tonight. Nattie is wearing a full body PVC suit, which looks warm. It makes a change from the revealing attire that the other girls wear, because it makes her seem like a wrestler rather than a sex object. It’s a shame the crowd is mainly indifferent to the action, which is perfectly solid but hardly thrilling. The finish is annoying though. Nattie, in her big comeback match, gets beaten after a distraction from Sasha.
Final Rating: *
Mom and Dad decide that Kane got all of his rage out of his system last night, so he won’t cause Seth any more problems. Poor frightened Seth is still afraid of being disembowelled, but the Authority tell him to focus on his match and not Kane.
The Big Show vs. Cesaro
In the worst booking decision of the year so far, Big Shite beat Cesaro on SmackDown. Thankfully that is in another universe and no one watches that show, so hopefully it won’t have hurt Cesaro too much. Show spends much of the match jawing with the crowd, hilariously calling someone “fat boy”. He dominates the bout, and the announcers talk about Brock Lesnar, who is wrestling Show at MSG in a few weeks. Oh no, they are going to put Show over her to build him for a house show match with Lesnar, aren’t they!? Again, the crowd is absolutely dead because they don't want to see the fucking Big Show. Nobody in the world wants to see him in 2015. Cesaro mounts a little offence and tries to suplex Show back into the ring from the apron, but he can’t do it. He won’t be deterred though, and eventually connects with the move. That’s his big spot for the match, then Show punches him and pins him clean. This company is a joke. Never mind this bullshit about keeping him strong for Brock. We have seen that match a hundred times, both in Brock’s first run and his current one. We know how it goes. And anyway, the problem in the first place is that they have even booked the match. Brock vs. Cesaro, now that would be worth seeing. After the match, Show claims to be the greatest big man of all time. I feel sick. He then reminds us that he beat Brock Lesnar as Survivor Series 2002, but all that does is remind us of just how insipid WWE’s booking now is that they are dredging up matches for over a decade ago. Show calls Brock a “vanilla gorilla” then says he won’t be going to Suplex City. Sure he will.
Final Rating: DUD
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Seth Rollins
Well, we have seen this on the last two pay-per-views, and a match on Raw a few weeks back, so what more is there to see? The crowd clearly feel the same way and bust out the Mexican wave, just like they did last night. What a fun new way to turn on a match. Even though it’s a battle between two of the biggest stars on the show, the heat is nowhere near what it should be. Nor is the match, which is fairly boring and struggles to hold my attention. As usual, WWE ruins something good with overkill. It’s the same moves, the same story, the same everything. Cena goes over clean after powering out of a frogsplash and pin into the AA. Strange to beat the WWE Champion twice in two consecutive nights. Cena makes a sharp exit so that Korporate Kane can appear on the screen and frighten Seth with threats. As he does, Demon Kane bursts through the ring and drags Seth into “His own personal hell”. Hokey and silly, but mildly amusing because of how much Seth oversells it. Look, I don't actually mind Seth working Kane on the Hell in a Cell undercard, because that show is built on the Lesnar-Taker HIAC match (which I am not even sure they really mentioned tonight) and they have a long-term storyline there, plus Seth is running out of fresh opponents.
Final Rating: **1/4
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Xavier Woods. Paul Heyman aside, he is the best annoying heel manager to come along in nearly twenty years.
Least Entertaining: The Big Show.
Quote of the Night: Take your pick from every single word of Paige’s promo. It wasn't quite a “pipe bomb”, but it was pretty awesome.
Match of the Night: Nothing doing.
Summary: Another drab Raw, with the usual post-PPV nonsense going on, with a bunch of rematches and reruns of the same programs we have seen for weeks on end. Nothing new happened, nothing was developed, it was just the same old elongated programs being stretched out beyond their points of being interesting. It’s a typically tough to endure three hour show, with nothing particularly bad (Big Show and Sheamus aside), terrible commentary, and nothing really worth seeing outside of a brief promo from Paige. Raw is going to continue to get battered in the ratings until it becomes a more vibrant and less predictable show.
20th September 2015.
During a conversation with fellow 2015 Raw reviewer extraordinaire James Dixon, we agreed that I’d cover Night of Champions this week while he volunteered to do Raw. Which is a show we both seem to detest in equal measure. It occurred to me after this arrangement had come to pass; what did he know about Night of Champions that I didn’t? Had he caught wind of foul occurrences? Had I been saddled with a duff PPV, caught unawares thanks to my gleeful ignorance of PPV cards ahead of time? I say that but I know most of this card; it’s the show where all the titles are defended so it’s hard not to know what’s happening. Oh well, once more into the breach…
We’re in Houston, Texas. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Ryback (c) vs. Kevin Owens
The Ryback is popular but Owens is REALLY popular. As in his pop dwarfs Ryback’s and the crowd start into the “Fight Owens Fight” chants and then start booing Ryback’s offence. Ryback does a lot of power business but Owens takes his arm. The brilliance of Kevin Owens is he always manages to retain his heel status, even when the crowd love him because he’s such a dick. Unfortunately that means he has to grind away at holds that nobody is going to cheer, which is dull. You just can’t win with the heel/face alignment. When he was working with Cena it was a lot easier as the crowd were inclined to cheer him anyway but you can’t do that with poor Ryback. He’s fragile. The arm psychology pays off with Ryback struggling to get into offensive positions with it and Owens continuing the assault. When Ryback fights through the pain Owens just rakes the eyes, because screw the rules, and rolls Ryback up for the belt. Owens controlled this one and definitely deserves the IC title. His biggest problem will be how he’s portrayed as IC champion as others have suffered in the role. Wade Barrett immediately springs to mind. Hopefully the forward planning with Owens is better than Barrett.
Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control shills Brock Lesnar’s “Go To Hell Tour” with a match against Big Show at MSG, Podcast with Steve Austin and Taker-Lesnar at Hell in a Cell. From there we get another recap of the Rusev-Ziggler ‘TMZ’ feud. Summer Rae is now wearing Ziggler’s “peace offering” earrings from last week. Is sweet, submissive Summer also in danger of being stolen away by the Show Off? Ziggler is building a harem.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev
No belts on the line in this one, unless Summer Rae is some sort of locker room championship. The commentators ignore this one and talk about diaries and Twitter instead. That about sums the feud up. It’s not about wrestling. Partly because of this, and partly because they don’t do anything, the match struggles to gain my concentration. The crowd gets bored too and chants for Lana, who’s the only person who’s gotten over through all of this. Rusev dominates much of the match, even though that means nothing against Ziggler as he gets beaten up by everyone. That’s his gimmick. He’s a punching bag. He’s probably hoping for some serious throwback love from the ladies in the audience, like Ricky Morton in the 1980s, but most wrestling crowd’s are sausagefests nowadays. You have to cater to your audience. Pretty babyfaces getting their asses kicked doesn’t get the same reaction as it used to. Although, oddly enough, the “USA” chants still ring out to greet an anti-American heel like Rusev. Both gimmicks are throwbacks but Rusev’s is still over. The match is actually solid with good back and forth action until Summer jumps in there and gets thrown out. Good grief, she’s got a screechy voice. She goes nuts and starts throwing shoes everywhere and a distracted Rusev is planted with the Zigzag for the loss. I feel bad for Rusev, who was pure gold at the start of the year but has found a John Cena feud hard to recover from.
Final Rating: **1/4
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
The New Day might be the greatest turnaround in wrestling history. Saddled with a craptastic positivity gimmick, they were roundly hated and turned heel only to become a phenomenally entertaining act, one of the best in the promotion. It’s a prime example of taking what you’re given and making it worthwhile. New Day run through a list of guys who’ve signed their #Savethetables petition. D-Von is a bit of a throwback too. His move set is rooted firmly in the Attitude Era. All punches and the like. Bubba upgraded himself somewhat by becoming a main eventer in TNA. They do some great trash talking in this match, even outside of Xavier Woods’ ranting. “GO HOME OLD MAN, THIS IS OUR TIME” – Big E. “FUCK YOU” – Bubba. I find Big E’s headlocks entertaining, for crying out loud. When did that happen? Xavier running through his scales while Bubba gets stomped in the corner is AMAZING. That trombone is a godsend. Big E splashes Bubba on the apron and it genuinely looks like it knocks poor Bubba stupid. The ref is obviously worried. Kofi breaks out some boxing and Xavier plays the Rocky theme; “Gonna Fly Now”. When you’re hot, you’re hot. If he can coordinate more with Big E and Kofi about doing spots like that this could be one of the greatest tag team units of all time. That’s how friggin’ great that trombone is. 3D on Kofi but Xavier runs in for the timely DQ so the New Day retain. The New Day go to table the Duds and the crowd chant “save the tables”, showing the New Day can get just about anything over. The Duds recover, kick everyone out of the ring and 3D Xavier through a table. Xavier Woods made everything happen in this match. A glorious display of awesomeness.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control shills “Breaking Ground”, an inside the company look at getting into wrestling. It’ll be on the Network. That sounds pretty cool, actually. From there we get clips from the 301 day reign of Nikki Bella as Divas champion. She’s broken AJ Lee’s record.
WWE Divas Championship
Nikki Bella (c) vs. Charlotte
I think most people are hoping for a title change here although it’s a bit weird how they’ve stacked the deck against the champion. If Nikki gets disqualified she loses the title. Nikki’s biggest problem as champion is that while she does have a smoking hot bikini bod, she’s still not very good in the ring, despite a record title run. My biggest issue with the Divas Revolution, is that the Queen is still the Queen. When the French had a revolution, they cut the Queen’s head off. The commentators build up Charlotte as being Ric Flair’s daughter, to the point where you wonder why they dropped her surname? Initially they wanted her to get over on her own but now she has, now they want her to piggyback her old man’s glory? To be fair, they did the same thing with Randy Orton and it didn’t hurt him any. They establish an early injury to Charlotte’s knee and it’s really awkward. It takes all the steam out of the match and the contest has to rely on the ring skills of the champ. It’s not a good role for Charlotte either, who’s far better at dominating the ring with her superior size and athleticism. Nikki does have some better ideas than usual, like suplexing Charlotte into the ropes so her leg lands on the bottom strand. Nikki is still a clumsy fucking mess at times. She manages to punch Charlotte square in the vag at one point, missing her target (the knee) by a quarter of Charlotte’s entire body and then can’t decide which leg is injured for a half crab. But then again, she does use the Ringpost Figure Four. It’s a fairly competent, for the most part, performance from Nikki. But that’s it…competent. The ladies on NXT were doing far better than that.
I might like Nikki more if I start referring to her bossing a match as “Nikki Heat”. I love me some Castle. The match struggles, thanks to the total lack of chemistry between the two girls. Charlotte looks like a rampaging horse and Nikki comes across as more calm and composed by comparison. Too many spots look rough around the edges and they’re not on the same page often enough. The match has a weird ending too, after all that leg work (the entire match) Charlotte just hooks the Figure Eight for the belt and that’s it. It’s strangely anticlimactic. Actually a half decent showing from Nikki, there’s hope for her yet. Even if she made too many mistakes for someone of her experience. Hopefully Charlotte can work with Becky or Sasha now. A tearful Ric Flair can’t help himself and joins in the celebrations, crying like a baby. And that makes it feel a lot more special. Hopefully they can make this belt mean something because Nikki’s run means one thing at least, they actually made the title change mean something. Even if it took a blubbing Nature Boy to push it. In a world where Ronda Rousey is headlining for UFC, there’s potential for the WWE to have the women as a major alternative to the men.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where the new IC champion Kevin Owens puts over his string of big achievements since signing for the WWE. He’s once again a prize-fighter with a prize to fight for. “It’s no secret just how great I am”. From there we get clips from the pre-show where Neville & the Lucha Dragons lost to Stardust & the Ascension. Another curious piece of 50-50 booking would be a reversal of the same result on Raw the next night. What purpose does any of that really serve? From there we go backstage where Ric Flair and PCB celebrate Charlotte’s title win.
The Wyatt Family vs. Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Mystery Partner
There’s been a lot of debate about who the third man in the Shield team will be. I’d love for Seth Rollins to team up with the guys again but he’s already wrestling twice so that would be overkill. Bray’s entrance, as per usual, is super cool and the crowd love it only to start booing when he poses on the corner. Why does Roman still come in through the crowd when Ambrose doesn’t anymore? A fan tries to run in before they announce the mystery partner drawing a great improv from Wyatt. “That’s your guy?” Anyway, the third man is Chris Jericho, as he’s got history with Bray Wyatt and has been working for the WWE on house shows so he’s available. He’s only wrestled once on TV so far this year, despite thirty house show dates, working the Network special “Beast in the East”. Before that his last TV appearance was losing at last year’s Night of the Champions to Randy Orton.
Jericho’s presence perks the contest up a bit as the others have been working together for a while, without much interest. The WWE seem intent at getting Braun over as a killer, even if the crowd really don’t give a crap about him. He looks like a gigantic man-baby with enough forehead for two people. I don’t get sacrificing genuine talents to him. There is a need for new stars on the roster but Braun is completely inexperienced and not gifted, nor threatening. So why pick him? Because he’s big. Luke Harper is actually scary, even if he’s smaller, because he has the look of a serial killer but they’ve already cocked his booking up. When Braun shows weakness it’s because he’s standing on the apron in place for Jericho to dropkick. All that work they’ve already done on Strowman to get decked by Jericho? The guy jobs to everyone. Ambrose and Wyatt have the best sequence of the match, both attempting finishers only for them to be countered in inventive fashion. Braun gets a shoeing from Roman and Ambrose, with Reigns having the match won only for Jericho to tag in blind. As per usual poor Chris gets overpowered and is used as fodder for Strowman. The crowd’s “urgh” reaction is palpable. The match was ‘there’ with a decent final third. I don’t really care about the storyline I’m presented with here. Maybe it’s partially because I wanted someone better as the third man, and maybe it’s because I was hoping this was heading to a Shield reunion. As heels. But hey, that might still happen.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us backstage where the Authority big up Seth Rollins, who’s up against two first ballot Hall of Famers tonight. I wonder if that means Sting will go in next year then? Sheamus walks in to hint at cashing in tonight.
WWE United States Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena
As with Ryback-Owens, the crowd hate the babyface and cheer the heel. It’s perhaps less obvious here as Seth has his White Power Ranger gear on again. Maybe he considers it a good look charm, having bested Cena for the US title while wearing it. These two had a thrilling, outstanding match at Summerslam…until the finish. It’s still a contender for WWE MOTY. That’s what they have to live up to and Seth is wrestling again after this match. Like the Summerslam contest, they establish a quick pace, determined to be the showstealer. Seth has a lot of clever counters for Cena’s rather predictable move set. It shows how good Rollins is, confirming his status at the top end of the card. When Rollins tries the same counter twice, Big Match John finds a switch in tactics and busts out the Code Red. JBL makes a fair point that Cena changed with the times, as an in-ring competitor, which is why he’s been so successful for so long. Cena again surprises by countering the Bucklebomb into a rana into the corner. Indy Spot-Monkey Cena is the best Cena!
The match exists on a higher plane than most of the night, with the action fast-paced, inventive and loaded with high spots. Not just ridiculous moves but effective moves and counters thereof. For instance, Seth manages a roll through out of a superplex into another suplex. It’s ridiculous and wonderful. Cena does rely on his old finishing holds, frequently going after the AA and the Struggle Snuggle. I’m surprised, given how many times both have been escaped from, that when Cena started doing the springboard Stunner and the Code Red, that they didn’t supplant the normal moves as Cena’s finishers. Diving Rocker Dropper sets up the AA and Cena wins his title back. Thrilling contest, loaded with effective big spots and the kind of chemistry that makes me hope for a third match between them. Preferably without it burying Seth Rollins back into midcard obscurity like long feuds do for every Cena opponent.
Final Rating: ****1/2
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Sting
This would be far more effective if Sting hadn’t lost to Triple H at Wrestlemania. It didn’t make any sense at the time and it doesn’t make any sense now. Although, and I have to say this, I did call it at the time. The ‘spoiler Triple H wins’ meme overpowers all. Kudos to Seth Rollins for working two PPV matches back to back to headline the show. It sets him apart as a workhorse, something the WWE haven’t had since Daniel Bryan went down injured in April. The pressure is on him as Sting doesn’t need to do anything to cement his own legend. His advanced years have not altered his technique or in-ring and unlike a lot of exciting power wrestlers he’s not deteriorated with age. Hell, he’s well into his 50s and is wrestling almost exactly the same as he did 17 years ago, in his prime. Maybe slightly passed his prime at that point. Nevertheless he’s not deteriorated like a lot of other workers and Rollins doesn’t need to carry the match. It’s a decent back and forth, although much, much slower than the Cena match. Sting suffers a head injury when taking the Spanish table spot and that slows him right down.
Seth takes some silly bumps during the two main events. A couple of monster ones against Sting especially. A massive backdrop over the top near the start and another where he takes a nasty spill to the floor. Sting is no slouch and is keen to cement that damn legacy by busting his ass. A crossbody to the floor and the Scorpion Deathdrop have Seth grabbing at the ropes. Sting takes a horrific bump on the Bucklebomb, legitimately destroying his neck in the process and you can tell something is wrong as he just drops to the canvas. It’s a really, really bad injury. Sting twice collapses without contact and, because this is wrestling, the match must continue! If it was any other sport Sting would have been carted to the back. They hurriedly go to a Scorpion Deathlock with Sting still wobbly legged. They try that again only with Rollins blocking it into a pin and that’s the match done. Sting’s neck injury was described as “significant”, which at his age (56 years old, if you recall) probably means he’s now retired. An unfortunate end to an incredible career. If only they’d done the real dream match vs. the Undertaker.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Sheamus runs out here. BROGUE KICK. Sheamus is cashing in…only he’s not because OLD SCHOOL KANE is back. Complete with mask and “hair”. Kane quite happily chokeslams Rollins and Sheamus is eager to cash in again. Until Kane chokeslams him and Tombstones Seth. So, Kane is in line for a title shot? Super.
Summary: Pretty solid show, with Cena vs. Rollins being the star attraction. The injury to Sting is a bad one and what the show may ultimately be remembered for, depending on whether he makes a full recovery. Seth Rollins comes out of the show looking extremely good as he wrestled two main event matches and looked great in both. He dropped the less important belt in a phenomenal match and retained his title in difficult circumstances. Nothing on the undercard was actively bad and two title changes put hardcore fanbase favourites Kevin Owens and Charlotte into plum positions. I have very few complaints about the show as a whole but the only match worth going out of your way for is Rollins vs. Cena, which was on a par with the Summerslam match.
We are less than a week way from Night of Champions, a show I am rather looking forward to, mainly to see how WWE is going to approach its World and United States title pictures. Surely John Cena is a lock to defeat Seth and bring back his excellent weekly Open Challenge to Raw. The main event is less predictable. I cannot see Sting walking away with the WWE Championship, but stranger things have happened. If he doesn't, then the question is how do they beat him? That ridiculous job to Triple H at WrestleMania looks more and more ridiculous with each passing week. Let’s just hope that the woeful Sheamus is nowhere near any of this. They need to get the briefcase off him immediately and put him back where he belongs in the middle of the card.
This is the “season premiere” of Raw, which means football has started and they are worried about what the impact will be on the ratings after last week’s horror show in the Nielsens. Thus we have two big title matches tonight, and WWE will, in theory, be making a concerted effort to put on a memorable show.
Promo Time: The Authority
The resident WWE Big Bad show their heelish nature immediately by pointing to a huge “Connor’s Cure” logo emblazoned on the ramp, just in case you forgot that WWE are doing something charitable and needed reminding of that. They waffle on about nothing in particular for a few minutes, reminding us of some names on the roster, then running through the cards tonight and at Night of Champions. They both promise we will see history courtesy of the Nikki Bella vs. Charlotte match that will either break AJ Lee’s pointless record, or will crown a new champion. In addition, Sting will be wrestling on Raw for the first time ever, which shows how desperate WWE are to prevent this show from flopping. The prospect of Sting wrestling on Raw does sound pretty great, until Hunter reveals his opponent: The Big Show. The motherfucking Big Show! What is this, Nitro? Oh my god, what is wrong with them? Why does everyone you might want to watch have to work with the frigging Big Show?
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Prime Time Players
The champs are wearing new gear which is so good it makes me do a little dance. Apparently the feeling is shared by Steph and Triple H, who boogie in the ring with New Day before the match. I admit it, I was wrong about New Day. Well actually no, I wasn't, because they did suck, but they have evolved into one of the best acts on the roster. Much to my delight, Xavier has his trolling trombone with him. That thing is to him what the megaphone was to Jimmy Hart. The winners of this face the Dudleys for the belts at Night of Champions, so it is an important match. A shame then, that the announcers treat it as an afterthought and spend most of the contest talking about Sting. The match is the same bout these guys always have, only with the addition of a Xavier Woods soundtrack. He is so good that he babyfaces himself, and the crowd start chanting “New Day rocks” along with his playing. Xavier is a brilliant dick manager, and uses his trombone to distract the referee and give New Day the advantage back after some Darren Young fire. “OH NO! WHAT HAPPENED TO DARREN?” yells Woods in his most obnoxious voice. He will rank in this year’s Guilty Pleasure award for sure. After commercial, Michael Cole reminds us for the tenth time already on this show that this is the season premiere of Raw, then Xavier immediately takes me from annoyed to amused by playing the Pink Panther theme on his trombone as Big E stalks Young. “Let’s go New Day, New Day suck.” Only this time the older fans are doing the first part, and the kids are doing the latter. Welcome to bizzaro world. A hot tag to Titus gets the fans back behind the PTP, because he is so charismatic and likeable that he wins everyone over. Unfortunately he gets distracted by the trombone, and the distraction leads to him getting pinned because, of course it does. The distraction finish is the most deadly in the business. “Nighty nighty Titus” bellows Cole as Titus succumbs to defeat. What a nerd.
Final Rating: **
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the season premiere of Monday Night Raw” - Cole. I am beginning to lose my patience, and we are not even half an hour in.
Backstage, Steph marks out over Triple H’s dancing. Seth Rollins walks in and praises his mom and dad for booking Sting on tonight’s show, then moans about his two other problems: John Cena and Sheamus. Trips says he has solved his own problem, and books them against each other tonight. Well, I could live without seeing Sheamus, but at least he isn't wrestling Randy Orton again.
In a moment of growth, WWE show a highlight video of Charlotte challenging Nikki Bella last week. Yes, they are actually hyping and building to a Divas match! Charlotte does a promo with Renee Young, and she has her famous father Ric Flair there with her. I wonder if Nikki will bring out her soon to be father-in-law John Laurinitis in her corner. Flair tries to talk them into the armchairs by building up tonight’s match in a manner that only he can, and to my horror, I am almost looking forward to a Nikki Bella match!
Paige vs. Sasha Banks
Cole feels the need to explain why Charlotte isn't here with Paige and Becky Lynch. I wish he didn't feel the need to point out the ins and outs of every single minute detail. Let people read between the lines themselves and draw their own conclusions. It is bad enough that WWE micro manage themselves to such excessive degrees, they don't need to do it to the audience too. Is there any good reason why this couldn't have been Becky vs. Sasha? It is almost as if they are afraid of putting on a good women’s match on the main roster. We have seen Paige-Sasha for the past few weeks, and they have been nothing special. Paige is too WWE-ized now to be capable of having the kind of matches she used to have in NXT. Credit where it is due though, they certainly try hard. Sasha works over Paige’s arm, and the psychology is solid. Paige returns fire with a flurry of hard kicks, then nearly kicks Sasha with a dangerous German suplex that Sasha takes right on her head. You can tell that the referee, announcers and Paige are worried that she is hurt, but Sasha is a tough girl and gets right back up. Paige goes for a cannonball off the apron, but Tamina (no longer Snuka) pulls Sasha out of the way, causing Paige to crash and burn. Back inside Sasha hits the Backstabber followed by the Bank Statement for the win. Good match by Raw women’s standards, but too short to be anything special.
Final Rating: **1/4
We get a recap of the recent attempts of Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns to find a partner to go against the Wyatt Family, and the subsequent beatings that their potential teammates have suffered as a result of their name’s being mentioned. Last week on Raw it was Randy Orton, then on SmackDown Dean brought Roman’s family into it by suggesting Jimmy Uso. He got a kicking from the Wyatts as well. That little family detail could yet prove important. I suspect it will be the start of Roman’s heel turn, a move he desperately needs to make because he has floundered since WrestleMania.
MizTV: The Wyatt Family
If I haven't said it before, I will now: I adore the little touch of making the Wyatt’s name graphic a collection of lights which spell out their name then disperse. They do a similarly gimmicked nameplate for Rusev too. More of this, please! Miz appreciates the ambiance that the Wyatts bring to his set, with the ring shrouded in darkness and only a spotlight highlighting them. If you think about it too much it doesn't make any sense of course. Do the Wyatts employ their own lighting technicians? Maybe they do, I don't know, I am merely asking. Bray warns Miz not to sit down because he is not safe, to which Miz responds by assuring him that he is not Reigns and Ambrose’s partner at... Hell in a Cell! Oh dear. Miz doesn't realise his error, and carried on with his interview, asking, “Who is Braun Strowman?” Bray tells him to ask Braun himself, which Miz does. Braun takes off his black sheep mask, and says nothing. Bray mocks Miz for putting himself in danger to get a scoop, then tells him he wants to see him suffer. Don't we all. Shield minus one arrive to take care of business, which prompts Cole to ask, “Are they alone?” Do you see anyone else!? Dumbass. Ambrose immediately lays waste to Miz, leading to a stare down between the two rival groups. Reigns addresses Bray, who he says makes him sick, and criticises him for not being able to beat him one-on-one. Interesting thing to say, given Bray beat him at Battleground two months ago. Roman says they have found a third man, and that it is going to be a war on Sunday. Then the Wyatt family noise hits, the lights go dark, and that is the end of the segment. That would be fine, but then we go straight to the announce team. What happened to the guys in the ring? Did they just magically disappear? Good segment though, that made me want to see this match. A minor miracle actually, as I was sick of this program months ago. Knowing WWE, it will turn out to be Erik Rowan. If he comes out as the mystery partner to that ridiculous music of his, it will go down like a big wet shart in white y-fronts.
“This is the season premiere...” I swear, I want to punch him in the mouth so hard.
John Cena vs. Sheamus
These days, I look forward to John Cena matches. Not this one. Sheamus is my least favourite male wrestler to watch in the entire company. The match is pretty heatless because nobody will cheer for Cena other than a few high-pitched kids, and nobody in the building gives a shit about Sheamus. Nobody. They run through their trademark spots with little variation, passion, or feeling. There is no soul to the match, and it is ultimately meaningless. They shoot for epic with extended selling and big hits, but they don't reach it. Or even come close. I don't enjoy criticising John Cena after the excellent year he has had, but this is one of his weakest outings in a while. The match isn't terrible or anything, there is just nothing to it that we haven't seen a million times. In a move that further panics me knowing how WWE book, Cena picks up the clean win following the AA, after completely no-selling a rolling senton. Often when the briefcase holder loses to handily, they are about to get the title. I know, it doesn't make sense, but, y‘know, WWE. Robot Saxton notes in monotone that, “The match surely delivered”. It surely did no such thing. Painfully average.
Final Rating: **
* Feel free to add a snowflake if you have never seen a Sheamus or John Cena match before.
Backstage, Nikki Bella warms up while Team Bella randomly clap. An onscreen graphic reminds us that Nikki breaks in the record in just over two hours. What amuses me is that even if Nikki does beat the record, AJ will still be clear at the top of the pile for cumulative reigns by over one hundred days. Of course, we all know the record means nothing anyway, but even more so when you consider that Nikki hasn't actually defended the title since Beast in the East, which was over two months ago. What happened to that old chestnut the thirty day rule? They could have actually built drama with this storyline by having her defend it week after week, rather than just holding onto it to keep a record. It means as much as Curtis Axel’s record amount of time in the Royal Rumble. It is a meaningless title, with a meaningless champion, going for a meaningless record. The whole thing is a farce.
Promo Time: Ryback
Ryback does the worst promo in the history of promos, noting that it is fitting they are in Memphis because apparently Kevin Owens has him, “All shook up, uh hu hu.” Oh man. When that goes down like a lead balloon, Ryback smiles blankly and carries on. Owens comes out and brings up Ryback’s promo on Raw a few months back where he put over the book The Secret as having helped him overcome obstacles in his life. Owens is clutching a copy of said tome, and he rips it to shreds. “I feel sorry for you and all of the other people who believe this garbage.” So is this the program now then? Ryback is going to defend the honour of his favourite book against that nasty Kevin Owens? Maybe Rhonda Byrne, scribe of said book, can serve as the referee. Owens destroys Ryback in this promo battle, just absolutely mauls him. Owens is articulate, believable and natural, whereas Ryback is all twitches, nervous energy and scripted lines. It is like night and day. The crux is that Ryback will defend the Intercontinental Championship against Owens at Night of Champions. That will be... interesting.
Stardust vs. Neville
Stardust is flanked by The Ascension, who are now serving as his “henchmen”. Neville is flanked by the Lucha Dragons after a comical segment on SmackDown where the new cosmic faction beat up the Dragons, and Neville chased all three of them off on his own. What a heel unit! This doesn't even happen, presumably down to time constraints, with Neville and the Dragons hitting the ring and taking out the face-painted trio in seconds, then Neville’s music playing for no apparent reason, without any finish having been called. A waste of time. I would suspect this six-man tag will be your pre-show match at the PPV. Neville is being utterly wasted on the main roster.
Final Rating: N/R
WWE Diva’s Championship
Nikki Bella (c) vs. Charlotte
They have done a very good job building this up as a big deal, but there is a big problem still to overcome: Nikki is one of the participants. I suspect shenanigans will cost Charlotte here, allowing Nikki to break the record, before Charlotte wins a rematch at Night of Champions and finally (hopefully) kick starts this supposed revolution. The story doing the rounds at the moment is that Nikki’s title reign was supposed to end months ago, but John Cena stepped in and used his considerable political stroke to keep the belt on his gal, presumably to prevent her incessant pouting. It is also said that he was rather vocal about her keeping the belt tonight and breaking the record, but I find it hard to believe. Unless Nikki really is that much of a mark that she really cares about breaking it. JBL, ever the idiot, points out that Charlotte’s dad was in one of the greatest factions of all time: Evolution! Not the Four Horsemen, then? Charlotte does an interesting rolling head scissor early on, but Nikki comes back with arm work. Didn't she watch Sasha and Paige run the exact same play earlier on? Poor agenting. Charlotte breaks a Nikki submission by powering out with a powerbomb, as her PCB cheerleaders on the outside try and get the crowd going. They don't really buy into it, and then things fall apart when they take forever over a sunset flip, during which Nikki’s pants come down a little. That distracts her so much that she runs the ropes a couple of times more than needed while trying to pull them up, before walking into a spear. Cue the nonsense then, with Brie switching places with Nikki for the old “twin magic” deal, and Charlotte pinning her to win the title. But not so fast. We have a Dusty Finish on our hands, because mom (Stephanie) comes onto the stage to sort things out. She declares Charlotte the winner via DQ, then books the rematch at NOC. Told you! The crowd is deflated about that ruling. You have to wonder though, why didn't Nikki just get herself intentionally disqualified from the start? So there you go ladies and gentleman, Nikki Bella is the undisputed longest reigning Divas Champion of all time. Let’s all have a big petty celebration now that AJ Lee’s record has been wiped out. I don't expect we will ever hear her name on WWE programming ever again.
Final Rating: **1/4
Rusev vs. Cesaro
I notice no mention has been made of the retarded booking last week that saw Big Show knock out Cesaro in the aisle for no other reason than because he was there. It made him look like a chump. The Cesaro Section is out in force, but until they start turning on the product like the fans did to support Daniel Bryan, they won’t get anywhere. There is no reason for the match going in, so the fans are not really all that bothered about it. They do at least amuse themselves by chanting, “Ce-Sa-Ro SECTION” to the cadence of “New Day rocks”. A couple of minutes in, Dolph Ziggler heads to the ring and tries to give Summer Rae a gift, which given how it is boxed and wrapped appears to be jewellery. She refuses to open it, so Dolph leaves it on the announce desk. The distraction is deadly for Rusev of course, who gets caught with a swanky hammerlock roll up and pinned. Cesaro won a match! Dolph gives Rusev a superkick after the match, and Summer grabs the mystery gift and leaves with her man.
Final Rating: *
After commercial, Summer opens her gift in secret, and it is indeed jewellery. Rusev screams and hits the locker room door, demanding she come inside. Trouble is brewing.
Low and behold, the six man tag I predicted earlier has been added to the Night of Champions pre-show. Not that they are predictable, or anything.
Sting vs. The Big Show
This is their first meeting since October 1998, seventeen years ago. The last time they met on pay-per-view was at Great American Bash 1998, where they headlined in a real shitfest of a match. The Authority are at ringside for the match, guaranteeing silliness. It bothers me that Sting no longer wears a leather jacket for his entrance. It feels half-assed. I do get a kick out of Lillian Garcia doing the “This is Sting!” bit to announce him. Michael Cole drops another beauty, declaring that this match, “show how far we have come in Sports Entertainment”. Oh yes, there’s nothing like recycling crap main events from a rival promotion twenty years later. Sting wrestles in his t-shirt, which is another bugbear of mine. Sting dominates for a couple of minutes, then Seth Rollins runs down for the DQ, pissing the crowd off beyond belief. “Welcome to Monday Night Raw,” bellows JBL. Yeah, that says it all doesn't it. Nothing turns fans off like building to a match for three hours and then delivering two minutes worth of action before going to a crap non finish. Thankfully, Triple H is the voice of the people, and rebooks the main event into a tag match. Well, thank god for that.
Final Rating: N/R
Sting & John Cena vs. The Big Show & Seth Rollins
I actually would have preferred Seth and Sting to not touch until the pay-per-view, but I will take this over a lame DQ. To no surprise, Cena does the bulk of the work for his team, taking a beating from Show and Seth. Show, who has done almost nothing, is sweating like Brock Lesnar. This man needs to be away from wrestling rings yesterday. The pace is snail-like when Show is in there, and it is fucking tedious. I would have preferred the non finish to this! Seth keeps the tempo glacial when he finally tags in, then when Show gets in the ring again he uses a STOMACH CLAW OF DEATH to immobilise Cena. Show follows with a Vader Bomb, but he is sweating so much and is so blown up that it looks atrocious. “SPLAT!” yells Mackle. “He missed by a good foot,” responds I. A long, slow, formulaic tag match is not what the doctor ordered for this besmirched audience. The match kills them dead. Show goes for his useless Vader Bomb again, and this time misses. Sting finally gets the hot tag and goes to town on Rollins, only to get tackles down by Show. Cena takes out the giant sweaty beast with an impressive AA, only to turn into a Pedigree attempt by Rollins. Sting is there to save the day with a Scorpion Death Drop, then finishes Rollins with the Scorpion Deathlock. And now we know who is going over at NOC. Sting has won a match now, and pinned the WWE Champion, so in WWE’s skewed mind that is enough to justify beating him on pay-per-view again. Horrible, horrible match. The Big Show is the worst wrestler in the company. I take back what I said about Sheamus earlier. Show is far worse.
Final Rating: DUD
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Xavier Woods and his trombone.
Least Entertaining: The Big Show.
Quote of the Night: “I have to uphold the integrity of the Diva’s division!” - Stephanie McMahon. Insert your own joke her.
Match of the Night: It might have been Nikki vs. Charlotte if not for the copout finish. But it isn't, because I cannot praise a Dusty Finish in 2015. Nothing else stood out. The wrestling was serviceable but mainly mundane tonight.
Summary: It was a show that promised much, but delivered precious little. The strongest segments were probably the talking ones, or the bouts that featured outside shenanigans such as the opener. The rest felt like a bunch of performers going through the motions, and it certainly didn't feel like the special show it was supposed to be. At least WWE realised that there was far too much Seth Rollins last week, and countered that by barely featuring him tonight. The problem was, they replaced him with garbage. A real let down, and I will be amazed if they managed to hold interest throughout the football game for the duration of the laborious three hours.
We’re in Baltimore, Maryland. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Promo Time: Seth Rollins
Triple H and Stephanie are rumoured to be missing from this Labor Day weekend show as they’re taking the weekend off. So instead of them yacking for 15-20 minutes we get the champ instead. Rollins recounts his achievements; winning everything, cashing in at ‘Mania and knocking John Cena off his perch. Seth calls Sting’s title shot a chance for him to “validate his legacy” but Rollins intends to crush that legacy. The crowd get bored and chant “boring”, which all of these droning opening promos are. This one goes on waaaaay too long. Once Seth has gotten his initial points across he starts rambling about his statue. This leads to Sting revealing he’s still got Seth’s statue. Before Seth can go after it Sheamus interrupts. “Do you realise how stupid you sound?” – Sheamus. “Do you realise how stupid you look?” “You look like Ronald McDonald with a bad haircut”. Sheamus implies he might cash in at Night of Champions, seeing as Seth already has two matches on that card. If they put the belt on Sheamus, I’m seriously not reviewing these shows anymore.
Video Control takes us backstage where Seth chats with Steph and Hunter, so it looks like the McMahon-Helmsley’s got back from their holiday early. The droning continues unabated. Why don’t they just rename the promotion World Talking Entertainment then Triple H can stand in the ring talking for three hours. Hunter books some matches to properly prepare Seth for Night of Champions and Rollins is doing double duty tonight. Vs. Ryback and tagging with New Day vs. Cena and the Prime Time Players. The real agonising moment of this chat was Hunter booking Sheamus vs. Randy Orton for tonight. For the love of God, they’ve run this match into the ground and it wasn’t good to start with. There is an audible groan from Baltimore. They’ve seen this match before too.
Paige vs. Sasha Banks
A diva’s match without a Bella involved! Hallelujah! Paige starts the match badly by doing diva crap like hair mares. As Sasha completely outclasses Paige it makes me wonder if Paige’s run on the main roster has turned her soft. Sasha has better ideas, better structure to her offence and generally wrestles a far superior match. Paige has more experience but it takes her a while to become adjusted to how good Sasha is. The first few minutes are grotesque. Paige’s weakness doesn’t stop there as she hits a weak looking senton onto Tamina. At least the in-ring action picks up with Banks taking a wonderfully sick bump off the wheelbarrow suplex. The crowd are into it, thanks to Sasha’s skill, and Banks scores the pin by countering the PTO into a cradle. Both girls shoulders were down incidentally so if Paige wants a way out of that job it’s there. Ok match but there’s a feeling the Divas Revolution has gone badly thus far and they need a big match at some point to convince the fans the corner has been turned. I have no doubt that one of Sasha, Charlotte or Becky will be involved but they need that match to come quickly.
Final Rating: **1/2
The Ascension vs. Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose
Am I the only one who wants Reigns & Ambrose to team up with Rollins again as a heel SHIELD? A unit designed to protect Seth’s title would make sense, especially if the current angle is leading to a turn for either Seth or Hunter to set up a match between them. Both Roman and Ambrose seem to be drifting at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see who their third man is against the Wyatt Family at Night of Champions. If it’s Erik Rowan then I’ll be disappointed. If it’s someone good, setting up a SHIELD 2.0 I’d be onboard. The Ascension are lambs to the slaughter here, getting beaten up throughout until a series of finishers ends it.
Final Rating: ½*
Video Control takes us backstage where a happy, cartoonish Ryback calls himself a fighting champion. It looks like he’s reading off an autocue but when the camera goes wide there’s nothing there. Ryback is such a goof. Kevin Owens arrives, eating an apple in sinister fashion to warn the IC champ to not bite off more than he can chew. From there we get a saucy gossipy TMZ-style recap of the Dolph-Lana-Summer Rae angle.
Champion vs. Champion
Ryback vs. Seth Rollins
The IC, US and WWE titles are all represented here, making it a little odd to do this as the throwaway midcard match while Seth tagging with New Day is the main event. You’d think this was more important but I guess that shows how highly the IC title is regarded. Ryback has a decent opening shine, even if he’s a little unorthodox. He’s such a goofy character. It obviously suits the guy though so at least they’re working to his strengths. Considering the WWE champion is in this match it’s strangely heatless. Baltimore only getting excited enough to chant “where’s your statue?” for a bit. Ryback starts to get the crowd invested with near falls and Seth is really generous in the match, making Ryback look like a monster. The only thing Seth lauds over the IC champ is his superior intelligence, but Ryback is widely regarded as being a bit of a dummy so that’s ok. Rollins is tactically astute, avoiding Ryback’s aerial offence (Flyback!) and attempting to win via countout, knowing Ryback has more power than him. The match owes a lot to Seth’s intelligence and the way he sets Ryback up for his comebacks. Plus his counters are slick and the way he baits Ryback into them is great. Sting distracts via Titantron and Ryback gets the distraction roll up pinfall win. What is with that finish? I guess Seth really likes that statue. Decent match though, Rollins showed he could be the Flair to Ryback’s Nikita Koloff.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control takes us backstage where the New Day try to cheer up Seth by playing trombone for him and clapping it out. They’re interrupted by Edge & Christian, in town to do Steve Austin’s podcast. They’re both looking skinny, even next to Seth Rollins. Edge basically challenges Seth to a fight so Rollins heads off. Xavier trombones his way into a battle with Christian who produces the KAZOO! Which Big E eats…and the Dudley Boyz turn up! They’ve got the Prime Time Players a rematch next week on Raw and whoever wins that match has the Dudleys at Night of Champions. “NOW, you can leave” – Bubba Ray Dudley.
Tangent: I’ve been told that Xavier’s music of choice was the victory music from Final Fantasy. Which goes to show I don’t play as many video games as my fellow wrestling nerds.
Promo Time: Summer Rae
She’s out here to publicly apologise to Rusev for shagging Dolph Ziggler. Apparently the story grabbed “the entire planet” last week (Cole). Rusev accepts the apology but Dolph arrives to call the whole thing BS. The storyline isn’t doing much for me because they’ve already run Ziggler-Rusev into the ground. The whole thing just screams “MIDCARD”. You know how you can tell the WWE has no plans to make you into a top tier guy? You’re secondary to a valet in an angle. Rusev’s delivery is actually exceptional, constantly making derogatory comments toward Ziggler (“skinny American”) and putting over the storyline as a whole. Ziggler, who increasingly feels like the heel in this feud, superkicks Rusev out of the ring. Hopefully they’ve got a plan for this feud before it does damage to poor Rusev, already badly derailed by a slew of defeats to John Cena this year and injuries.
Video Control picks up Randy Orton chatting to Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. I could probably get onboard with a Wyatt vs. Orton feud.
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Oh for the love of sweet baby Jesus, not this match AGAIN. How many wrestlers does the WWE currently employ and yet Raw seems to recycle the same matches over and over again to the point where nobody wants to see them. Especially these two goons who wrestle the same tedious match over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. This is the same tedious match as always, with nothing new added and it goes sixteen coma inducing minutes. Skip to any moment in this match and you’re likely to catch them in a fucking chinlock or stalling. Baltimore must not have been paying attention to the million other Orton-Sheamus matches and get into it down the stretch. The familiar finisher countering and other such business just about saves this from negative stars but even at the match’s dramatic conclusion the spots look contrived because they’re the same recycled spots over and over again. Orton is incapable of making near misses look realistic. The only thing he has going for him now is the RKO and he clocks Sheamus with that to end the pain. Post match business finally picks up as the Wyatt Family destroy Orton suspecting he’s the third man. Remind me never to stop off and chat with Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose in a hallway!
Final Rating: ½*
The Dudley Boyz vs. Los Matadores
Los Matadores have been doing nothing worthwhile for an eternity, despite there being dead time on Raw every single week that could be filled by the tag team division. Torito gets himself slapped by Diego who then turns into the 3D. Los Matadores are allegedly getting repackaged, which is bad news for the midget in the bull costume. Maybe the Dudley Boyz could adopt him as foot stool or something. The Duds table Fernando to stop him bullying El Torito. I would not have any faith in the WWE to repackage Los Matadores as anything worthwhile. Maybe they’ll just unmask them and have them wrestle as the Colon Brothers. If that happens they’ll probably get future endeavoured by years end.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Cesaro vs. The Miz
I know Cesaro is generally considered to be job-proof but would it kill the WWE to put him over someone once in a while? It grates at me that Miz used to be part of one of the most entertaining acts on Raw at the start of the year and the interesting part of it, Damien Sandow, is no longer on TV and yet Miz seems to be on this show every goddamn week. Sandow hasn’t wrestled on Raw since May. Cesaro on the other hand is on rare form, mocking Miz’s spots before borrowing JBL’s hat for a few spots. “Who says he doesn’t have a personality” – Cole. NOBODY, you odious little cretin! Nobody! Everyone loves this guy apart from the goddamn bookers. He’s one of the best wrestlers in the promotion, one of the most enigmatic performers they have and one of the most inventive wrestlers in the business. Miz takes over on the floor but Big Show runs down and it’s a double count out. Jesus, they couldn’t even put Cesaro over Miz on count out! Come on, guys. Give him *something*. They even have Show KO punch Cesaro on the way out, treating him like absolute garbage. All to further a feud between Big Show and Miz that NOBODY wants to see, ever. Fuck this promotion.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Team Bella
Nikki has a week left before she beats AJ Lee for the longest reign in divas history so the WWE can wipe that record off their books, seeing as AJ is married to black-listed CM Punk. Nikki has all of seven days until she breaks the record so she’s got a celebration planned for next week’s Raw. This brings out PCB and Charlotte has a title shot next week on Raw, right before Nikki breaks the record. At least that should give next week’s Raw a little drama. PCB clean the ring and Charlotte hooks the Figure Eight. I don’t care one way or the other if Nikki beats the record as long as she drops the belt soon. There’s a revolution happening and she’s the queen. If a revolution is successful, that means the queen gets booted out. Just so we’re clear on that.
John Cena & The Prime Time Players vs. Seth Rollins & The New Day
I appreciate the WWE actually incorporating the tag titles into the hottest angle they’ve got. Oh no, wait, that’s Lesnar vs. Undertaker. Seth is selling the effects of the earlier match and a fan jumps the barricade to walk to the ring with him. Seth’s calm indifference is pretty spectacular. At least the guy didn’t attack Rollins and the incident was fairly uneventful. JBL tries to do his “Chief Jay Trombone” gag again and again the other commentators completely ignore him. Big E and his “tricep meat” take over on Cena and the New Day’s whole act is working so well now it’s actually shocking to me. Because a couple of months ago I hated them and the gimmick and they’ve completely turned it around. Xavier times the trombone perfectly to Kofi hitting a corner dropkick. It’s hilarious. That trombone is a life-saver. If anyone ever breaks it they’re the biggest heel in the company. New Day work over Cena for heat, for ages and are totally convincing doing it. Not to mention entertaining, largely because of Xavier Woods trombone but also because of the other two dancing. What I like best about the whole thing is the way the tag teams tag teaming is superior to a singles star singles shtick. Super Cena recovers from his lengthy heat segment to hit the AA on Kofi for the win. This was all about the New Day and how wildly entertaining they’ve become during the course of the year. They certainly stole the show here although Cena gets a decent chuckle doing the Millions of Dollars dance with PTP. This match was so much fun it felt like a house show where they can get away with goofing off. Sometimes it’s nice to just take the pressure off the main event and have a laugh instead.
Final Rating: ***
Post Match: Sting turns the lights on at his location, revealing himself in front of a garbage truck and throws Seth’s statue into the truck. It’s a damn shame, that was a nice looking statue but this was always its destiny. I’m amazed it lived for three weeks. RIP Statuesque Seth. Sting’s weird Joker-esque approach to this segment made it work.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Xavier Woods’ trombone.
Least Entertaining: Miz, Big Show, Orton, Sheamus
Quote of the Night: “He can catch John Cena no matter the circumstances, because he’s SO STRONG” – Xavier Woods, in between playing the trombone
Match of the Night: Cena & PTP vs. Seth Rollins & New Day
Summary: A pretty dreadful show on the whole. That Orton-Sheamus match just destroyed any joy that existed in the universe. Segments and matches like that one just drag down the enjoyment of professional wrestling. You know it’ll be bad, the WWE must surely know people aren’t that into it and fifteen minutes later it’s all confirmed. At least some of the WWE’s acts are enjoying themselves. The New Day owned the main event, Seth Rollins looked like a pro in putting Ryback over (even though I’d have gone with Seth cheating to win as he’s jobbing too much), Cesaro was great and Sasha Banks looked decent in the opener. The problem they have is programming their best talents in with people who are worthwhile, which at the moment isn’t happening.
The biggest frustration regarding the WWE is their repetitious nature (despite a big roster), which is why NXT is always a more interesting show because their show is shorter and the wrestler turnover is greater. Also that so many deserving workers keep butting heads with the glass ceiling. How long is the WWE going to carry on pretending that certain workers aren’t over when they get big pops every night and other wrestlers are over despite crowd reactions that suggest the opposite. Also the constant 50/50 booking of most of the roster helps no one (the divas, the tag guys, even Rollins, Owens, Cena, Taker, Lesnar) and three hours is too long for Raw. The complaints are constantly being recycled because the WWE never learn and keep making the same mistakes week in, week out. Triple H told us to wait for the next chapter because we might like it better but all the chapters have the same ending.
After five weeks straight of up and down shows, Arnold Furious took the reins back last week, and WWE put on one of its most entertaining episodes of the year. It’s typical. Tonight promises much in what has been an interesting week for WWE to say the least, with a series of odd incidents including attempted stabbings, shootings, Nazism, and a couple of their Hall of Famers losing the plot. More on most of these things later.
We are live in Tampa, Florida, just a few hours following an unpleasant incident at the WWE Performance Center across the state. A twenty-nine year-old stalker called Armando Montalvo who had been pestering an unnamed female talent at the facility, and had been arrested and removed a few times already over the month, was caught hanging around again today. He was well-known to WWE and local police, due to a series of videos he had shot of himself mixing his shit with milk with the intention of pouring it on the building (Who does that!?), posting videos detailing his obsession with A.J. Lee, and pissing on the building. He turned up again earlier today, and made like he was going to attack Cpl. Steve Wahl. Worried that he had a knife, Wahl shot him in the stomach from one hundred feet away, leaving him in a life threatening condition at a local hospital.
Promo Time: Sting
Sting starts out by putting over Triple H, whom he says he has nothing but respect for. They just had to get that in, huh? Sting rips into Seth Rollins, calling him good, but not as good as Triple H, then criticises him for the way he has held onto the WWE Championship. It seems Sting is offended by Seth wanting to be held in the same regard as the three WWE legends that WWE has statues of, and it is so amusing to me that names like Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and Ric Flair are not on that list. “I’m going to prove that on his best day, Seth Rollins is not half the man that Triple H is.” This is a weird promo. All of a sudden the promo is over, without Sting having really said a great deal. It seems like they cut him off early, because he didn't appear to be expecting it to end. He looks grumpy about it. I guess WWE don’t trust him to stick to the script for more than five minutes at a time.
Backstage, Seth whines to Stephanie about what Sting has just said. She tells him that beating a legend like Sting will only help improve his standing. What is his problem anyway? He should be confident going against an old man like Sting after having beaten guys in their prime over the past few months. Steph brings up what Sting said about Hunter, and agrees with him, irking Rollins further. Why does this have to be about Triple H? Seth wants to know where his statue is, so Steph tells him to ask Sting. I guess she is a babyface tonight.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev
I am not exactly hankering to see this after suffering through their useless match at SummerSlam. I do like Dolph’s new long tights though, even if they do make him look like more of an eighties midcarder than ever. Lana is dressed as the dolled-up girl next door tonight, as she becomes more and more generic with each passing week. I suspect WWE have realised the error of their ways and will reunite her with Rusev eventually, though it is sad to see how far a once successful, top-end act has fallen. It will be near enough impossible to get the aura back for Rusev now. It might help if he didn't have snoozefest matches like this one. It’s another drab encounter between two guys capable of so much more. Their hearts are not into this program, and I don't blame them. The creative has hardly been on fire in making anyone care about their issue either. After running through the motions, Rusev loses his temper because he fails to win on a count out. Ziggler skips out of the Accolade into the ZigZag, bringing Summer Rae in for the DQ. The crowd enjoy seeing Summer and Lana fight after the match, but they leave a real mess in the ring from either their make-up, fake tan, or the dye in Summer’s cheap clothing running. Please, no more matches between these two.
Final Rating: *1/4
Backstage, Dolph Ziggler talks with Renee Young, then disappears into his private locker room (yeah, right) which is handily located right behind where the interview is taking place. While Young is talking about what’s coming up on the show, Summer sneaks into Dolph’s room. The plot, as they say, thickens.
Promo Time: Nikki Bella
The next sight I am greeted with is that of the three most unlikeable faces on WWE television, Team Bella. Two of the talentless pouty bitches are all involved in singles matches tonight against members of PCB, which sounds like hell. Absolute hell. Nikki speaks, which is even more awful, and introduces the Bellatron, which shows how many days are remaining before WWE can right a perceived wrong and erase AJ Lee from their record books. Fourteen days, then we can be rid of this Bella nonsense forever. If only.
Beat The Clock Challenge
Alicia Fox vs. Becky Lynch
All three members of PCB are against Team Bella members, and whoever wins in the least amount of time faces Nikki Bella at Night of Champions. Becky uses some nice submission holds early on, causing a cry of “Owww” from Alicia. She is subtle in her selling. Alicia, one of the worst workers I have seen in a WWE ring, shows her abilities, or rather lack thereof, with a Liu Kang dropkick that misses by a mile. Even the cut-happy production crew can’t hide that one. The match plays out to near silence, with the crowd only reacting when Becky taps Alicia in 3:21. Becky tried, but she can’t mould shit into gold.
Final Rating: ½*
Ryback does a promo about nothing being able to keep him down, which is broken up by the sound of cats dying. No, wait, it is Summer Rae cackling like a witch and running down the corridor. The camera cuts to Dolph Ziggler, wearing only a towel. Where are they going with this? I am not sure I even want to know.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Ryback (c) vs. The Big Show
As with the Ziggler-Rusev match, this is another bout I have no interest in seeing. This program has been rumbling along for what seems like years now. WWE Creative hits another one out of the park, having Miz sit ringside to do... yes, commentary. Again! He talks extensively about himself, rendering the match secondary. Not that it’s a bad thing, because the match is expectedly awful. The silence was bad for Fox vs. Lynch, but they are even quieter for this. The crowd decide they want Show to retire, so he grabs a mic and repeats his sentiments from a couple of weeks ago, telling them if they can find someone to do it, he will. Please, Florida, do it for me. Find someone, anyone, to get this fat piece of worthless shit off my screens for good. Twenty years I have had to suffer through his awful matches, I cannot take any more of it. Show is so out of shape and useless that he sweats profusely while applying a chinlock, dripping it into Ryback’s mouth. How vile. The match is painful to watch, and made even worse by the dead crowd. Show in an act of desperation, climbs to the top rope and lets Ryback throw him off with a slam, which he takes on his side. Nasty looking bump for a guy that size. Show comes back right away with a spear, showing no ill-effects from his big bump. Show looks to finish, but a distraction by Miz leaves him prone to Shellshock, and Ryback pick up the win. Someone’s signature move should be the distraction finish, because it is the most effective way to beat an opponent in WWE. Big bumps at the end aside, this was horrid. Fans in 2015 do not want to see big lummoxes go at it anymore. The only person in the world who does is Vince McMahon.
Final Rating: ¼*
Beat The Clock Challenge
Charlotte vs. Brie Bella
Not only do we have to endure the sight of the Bellas again, but Charlotte’s PCB teammates, the very ones she is competing against in this challenge, accompany her to ringside. Why does WWE insist on this cheerleading nonsense? Are they scared of dead crowds? It didn't exactly help in the earlier match, did it? Charlotte, like many in WWE, has had an interesting week, with her estranged husband Bram (formerly Kenneth Cameron in the first incarnation of The Ascension) arrested for holding his new girlfriend down by her neck in his apartment, and keeping there against her will. Has everyone gone wappy over the summer or something? Brie decides to stall, then points at the clock on the tron repeatedly to hammer home the point of what she is doing. Yeah, we got it thanks. The stalling proves to be useless, because Charlotte finishes her off in 1:40, halving Becky’s time. Becky gives a little shrug of disappointment. So much for this Divalution and the longer matches that were being championed. I will say this though, they have been far less prone to shouting “DIVAS REVOLUTION” tonight than usual. It hasn't felt like a marketing campaign as much as it has over the past few weeks. Mind you, that could just be because they have lost all faith in the project and have decided to go back to what they were doing before.
Final Rating: DUD
Backstage, the Dudleys do a promo. They are back to win the tag belts, and to put everyone in the company through tables. Sounds good. I am absolutely ecstatic about the return of the Dudleys, for the record.
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens
Another SummerSlam retread next, only I am not complaining in the slightest about this one. I do fully expect Even Steven booking to play a part though, because that is how WWE do things. Everyone beats everyone, no one gets over beyond the midcard. That is the way it goes. I really hope this gets plenty of time, because this show is dying so far. “Cesaro will let his fists do the talking,” says the ever idiotic Cole, as Cesaro unloads with European uppercuts. Not his fists. Cesaro impresses early on with a long delayed stalling suplex, following up with a double foot stomp. Owens, who is popular in Florida, decides to take a walk to buy some time. He gets met with Cesaro’s always-impressive running uppercut into the barricade. They work hard, but the crowd is really terrible. They have been quiet all night, and it hurts the show. Miserable Florida bastards. Maybe they are still worried about the tropical storm that was due to hit the state tonight, which thankfully dissipated. Owens tries to play heel, but the crowd keep cheering for him, so he shuts them up with a chinlock. Smart wrestling, though not exactly riveting viewing. After commercial they jockey for position on the top rope, and Cesaro wins out with a dropkick and his impressive deadlift gutwrench suplex. Even after that, the crowd are docile. They do pop for a potential giant swing, but Owens escapes and hits a superkick for a near fall. “Cole, Cole! Watch this you little jerk.” Good one, Owens. Shame he misses with a cannonball in the corner immediately afterwards. With Cesaro still selling the superkick, Owens begins slapping him around and telling him to stay down. All that does is wake him up. He blocks a tornado DDT using his ridiculous strength, then hoists him into a reverse urinage into a crossface. Owens escapes, then tries for a sick suplex to the outside, which Owens blocks. Cesaro ends up tackled from the apron into the announce table, but he breaks the count. The injury to his ribs has left him weak, too weak to hit the giant swing, and Owens takes advantage by drilling him with the pop-up powerbomb for the win. Well done, WWE, keep his momentum going. As with SummerSlam, it is a shame Cesaro is the victim, but the guy is so good that it almost doesn't matter if he wins or loses. Good match, which would have been even better had the shitty crowd reacted to it better.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Backstage, Dolph and Lana have a conversation about what happened with Summer. He claims she came in and saw him in the shower, then left when he told her to. He denies anything happening. Lana is furious that she saw him naked, which makes her seem like a bit of a twat because Dolph did nothing wrong. She storms off despite Dolph’s attempts to explain himself. It’s nice to have an angle on this show, because we almost never get them, it is just a shame it’s such a naff one.
Braun Stroman vs. Dean Ambrose
Speaking of interesting weeks, Dean Ambrose had quite the ordeal a few days ago on a WWE live event, when an idiot in the crowd jumped the barricade and came at him with what onlookers described as a sharp object, and at least one said was a knife. Luckily the security team were on the ball and tackled the guy before he reached Ambrose, but it sounded and looked like a close call. Ambrose laughed it off, but that is the second incident of its kind in the last few weeks against former Shield members, with Roman Reigns having suffered a fan throwing a briefcase at his head during a match a few weeks ago. Pre match, Bray Wyatt talks, and because he is now white noise, I don't hear a word he says. Braun gets a few words, and he has a delightfully manly voice. He reckons this is the apocalypse. It would certainly explain a lot of the odd behaviour going on around these parts of late. As for this match, it seems like a bad idea. Stroman is greener than grass and needs protecting. On TV he should be a cornerman who aids Bray and Harper, while he is picking up experience in live matches on the road. WWE cannot help themselves but to splurge him off the bat, and they run the risk of exposing him by doing so. Ambrose is flanked by Roman Reigns, which is no surprise. They are still outnumbered significantly (Stroman counts as two) and need a third member to keep this program going. “One of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory,” says Cole of Stroman. Yeah? What about Sting at WrestleMania? Ambrose does everything he can to make Stroman look impressive, hurling himself around the ring from his throws and tackles. Stroman no-sells Ambrose, then sends him flying with a punch to the stomach, before kicking him out of the ring. If they keep booking him like this, he might do alright. When Stroman takes the fight to the outside, Michael Cole gushes about how big he is, and you can practically hear Vince McMahon’s voice in his headset. Roman Reigns cannot take anymore and punches Stroman, leading to the DQ. Stroman manhandles him, hurling him into the barricade and the timekeepers area, and hoying Ambrose over the announce table. Stroman throws Reigns into the ring, but Ambrose saves with a chair shot to the back. All that does is irritate Stroman, who pulls the same sort of expression as Hulk when he gets shot. Stroman mauls Ambrose some more, then Harper jumps in to prevent a further Reigns rally with a superkick. Okay, I was wrong. Braun Stroman is awesome! I hope to hell he isn't jobbing in nothing matches to other midcarders in a few months time. This entire presentation, post-match included, was the best thing on the show so far. Even more so than Owens-Cesaro, because the crowd was actually into this.
Final Rating: **
Backstage, Renee Young asks Seth Rollins about his statue, but the grin on her face angers Rollins. He says Sting stealing it disrespects everyone, and that he is going to call him out and demand his statue back. It’s like a playground rivalry.
A note on Seth Rollins, while we are at it. He has also had a tough few days, thanks to the shenanigans of his girlfriend Zahra Schreiber. She made her debut on NXT over the weekend, and immediately that prompted a number of people to point out some rather unsavoury things she had said and done on social media a few years back. Among other things she insulted fat women, posted pictures of Swastikas, and insulted anyone who disagreed with her. Even though it was a few years back, like they did with the Hulk Hogan racism situation, WWE reacted. Schreiber was fired immediately, with WWE terrified of being associated with her Nazi-loving ways. She has caused nothing but chew for poor Seth. I am sure everyone remembers earlier in the year when pictures of her appeared online via Seth’s social media, which was a scandal because he had a fiancé at the time. Said jilted now-ex posted pictures of Seth with his tail out in response, prompting much embarrassment for him and a slap on the wrist from management. He has nothing to do with this and is unlikely to suffer as a result of the fallout, though I don't suppose he is particularly happy that his girlfriend has been released. It is her own fault though. She should have been such a dumb, ignorant, asshole.
Beat The Clock Challenge
Paige vs. Sasha Banks
Okay then, this is more like it. As boring as Paige can be, I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and concede that it is down to the low level of opponents she has been working with. There is no one better for her to work with in WWE that Sasha, though the Beat The Clock concept may hurt the bout. If Paige wins this in 1:40 or under to tie Charlotte, I will riot. Paige desperately tries to put Sasha away early with a number of different pinfall attempts, but her psychology is patchy. It generally helps if you do something first before going for a win. Paige hits RamPaige and might win, but Sasha rolls out of the ring with the help of her bad, sorry, B.A.D. teammates. Paige is unable to get her in the ring and lock on the PTO before the time runs out and the buzzer sounds, leaving her collapsed in a sad heap on the mat. Why is she so upset? She has had dozen of title shots this year, more than anyone else by far. Can she not just be happy for her new BFF? And anyway, why the hell does the buzzer signal the end of this match? What a crock! Surely they should carry on and produce a winner at the very least? Oh, that’s right. As Nikki Bella outlined oh so clearly last week, wins and losses don't matter a jot. The three Bella bints turn up on the stage after the match, and stand on the stage pouting. It is all they have in their locker, it really is. Nikki’s eyes look like she has been crying. I wonder what that is about? Hopefully she just learned she would be losing her title before beating AJ’s record. Wouldn't that be hilarious after all of this bullshit.
Final Rating: N/R
Backstage, Summer tells lies about Dolph, claiming he asked her into his locker room to smooth things over. She spins a yarn about Dolph stripping off and inviting her into the shower. She admits to having been captivated by him, but says she didn't go through with any sexy time acts because of her relationship with Rusev. It is actually a really good bitchy promo from Summer, dripping with such insincerity and delivered with such malicious conviction, that for the first time ever, I appreciate something Summer has done. Lana buys the obvious lies, and storms away from an interview with Renee. Thank god they are actually doing the right thing and splitting her from Dolph.
The New Day vs. The Dudley Boys
They have been hyping this all night: the return of the Dudley Boys to Raw after a decade absence. Like I said earlier, I am thrilled that they are back. Immediately the waning tag division is stronger for it. Xavier Woods has his hair straightened tonight, and he looks outstanding. It instantly makes him look like a smug dickhead, which is exactly the idea. The trio bring out a table covered in bubble wrap, which seems a little like poking the bear, and get the crowd to chant “save the tables”. I would call this odd, but it really isn't even on the same page as the wacky stuff that has been going on this week is it? Guess what Creative thought was needed to improve this match? Yes, guest commentary from the Prime Time Players. I like the PTP, and they are good on commentary, but come on. It’s getting silly now. D-Von looks really good for a forty-three year-old guy, moving just as he did a decade ago. Bubba, who is a year older, is even better now than he ever was. One of the things I enjoy the most about Bubba is the way he commentates on his matches while he is in them. He is the most vocal wrestler since Mike Sharpe. After commercial, New Day take over on D-Von, with Big E ramming him into the barricade. Meanwhile, Xavier combs his hair. The match is nothing special, and the heat is a little too long, especially in front of this crowd. The hot tag to Bubba wakes them up, and the match becomes a lot more fun. Kofi prevents the Wazzup Drop, but immediately falls victim to 3-D, giving the returning icons the win over the tag champs. D-Von brings “the last table” into the ring, and the Dudleys remove the bubble wrap before trying to put Big E through it. His partners save his ass.
Final Rating: *3/4
Seth Rollins calls out Sting
Rollins starts out by saying he has no problem with Sting. Great. Can’t wait for the match. Seth uses the WCW card, saying Sting’s actions in stealing his statue showed him exactly why WCW went out of business. That’s nearly as bad as JBL’s comment about Starrcade. (See: The Raw Recap). Seth wants Sting to take back what he said about not being as good as Triple H, because it is not true. I guess that long-mooted Rollins-Triple H program is going ahead soon after all. Instead of Sting, Rollins gets an annoyed Stephanie, who warns him not to insult her husband ever again. Can the guy not fight his own battles? Seth defends what he said, saying he is simply comparing himself to a great, much like Hunter did with Ric Flair when he was in Evolution. Steph chastises him for letting Sting get into his head, telling him it is the oldest trick in the book and that he is smarter than that. Evidently he is not. Next to arrive is John Cena, who I half suspected wasn't even going to be on the show given the late hour. “It’s time to have that little talk we were going to have last week,” he says on his way to the ring. Cena says Steph isn't going to throw him out like last week, and instead is going to make Seth’s life a misery. Cena calls him an idiot for thinking The Authority are his friends, and that he was only chosen by them because he is expendable and malleable. Like Randy Orton, Batista, Kane, etc. He has a point. “Lot of hardware you got there Seth Rollins,” observes Cena, before calling Steph out for saying all titles will be on the line at Night of Champions. He plans to invoke his rematch clause for the United States Championship at the show, and asks Steph for an answer. With little choice in the matter lest she be outed as a liar, she says yes. Seth Rollins is not amused. Before we go off the air, Sting turns up on the stage so WWE can spell out the situation for those slow in keeping up. Two matches, two titles, one night. Should be good.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Braun Stroman. WWE are trying to make a new monster heel, that much is obvious. If they keep booking him like they did tonight, they will succeed.
Least Entertaining: Brie Bella and Alicia Fox. They were both awful, so they can share the award.
Quote of the Night: “The man who put Starrcade on the map.” - JBL about Sting, which is an absolutely moronic statement.
Match of the Night: Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro. A good match, hampered by the worst crowd of the year. They didn't have much in the way of competition, mind you.
Summary: I guess the Brock Lesnar-Undertaker situation is currently on extended pause. It is frustrating that WWE builds to something for so long, then ignores it completely for a few months until its part-time performers return. There were other notable absentees tonight too, such as Neville, Stardust, Randy Orton, and Sheamus. I wasn't sad about at least half of those being away. Of those that were there, the women were the worst thing on the show by some distance. They couldn't muster a single snowflake between them over three matches, which is shameful. Mind you, the collective run time of the bouts was around six minutes, so it wasn't all their fault. Only the strong Cesaro-Owens match, and the massacre handed out by Braun Stroman saved this show from a much lower score. In the end it was painfully average.