We’re in San Diego, California. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Promo Time: The Authority
Oh great, so a droning twenty minute opening promo? I had NOT missed these. They put over how good Hell in a Cell was, which I agree with but somehow their highlight of the show was Seth Rollins beating Kane. That I don’t agree with. Nobody agrees with that. It’s like they came out here and were faces and then suddenly became heels during the same sentence. They bring Seth out and act like proud parents. Rollins hugs it out with Mommy and Daddy. When Seth asks the crowd to cheer for the Authority they get an actual pop and that’s because they keep acting as faces, half the time, and Hunter is a total babyface for NXT. Hunter points out there’s no more challengers for Seth so someone has to earn that spot in a tournament tonight for the #1 contender’s spot. Matches between last night’s winners, culminating in a four-way to main event. Oh, that’s pretty cool. Themed Raw. However we’ve only been yapping for ten minutes so out comes…Roman Reigns. He’s a local boy and gets a better reception than usual. He promises to come for that belt. “Let the games begin” yells Steph. Do you think Roman might win? Seeing as he’s the only guy who got to come out here?
#1 Contender’s Qualifying Match
Roman Reigns vs. Kofi Kingston
The New Day, minus Xavier Woods, are on form and run Roman down in hilarious fashion. “Call me Harry Potter because I’m about to go in the ring and make some magic, baby” – Kofi Kingston. These guys are so great and it feels like they’ve just been unleashed and they’re being themselves and it works. New Day suggest they’re going to “get their Ultimo Dragon on” by capturing multiple titles, which is brilliant. The difficulty this match faces is making people think Roman is in any kind of danger, even against potential distractions from Big E. The story the announcers tell is that Roman is tired from his punishing match against Bray Wyatt yesterday. He certainly looks sluggish. One would think saving energy for a second match. Kofi carries the majority of the action until Roman’s comeback. Superman Punch takes care of Big E and the spear finishes. To absolutely no one’s surprise Roman advances to the final match.
Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where The Miz shills WWE 2K16.
#1 Contender’s Qualifying Match
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens
Either of these guys has potential to be world champion but not in San Diego where the crowd don’t seem interested. It’s a disappointment. Cesaro’s mat skills are almost boundless. Meanwhile Owens seems more focused on arguing with Michael Cole to make himself different. What would be nice would treating the good wrestlers like they’re special and not having them trade wins in the midcard. The WWE’s theory is they don’t want to annoy anyone’s fanbase by having them lose too often so instead they’re annoying everyone with the 50-50 booking. The guys get the crowd onside by being excellent and the familiar “this is awesome” chant kicks in. Some of Cesaro’s offence is breathtaking. He manages a springboard uppercut and has to twist in mid-air. It’s gorgeous. Owens suckers Cesaro in by hiding in the ropes and finishes with the Pop Up Powerbomb. Again Cesaro looked great in defeat. When is he ever going to get a push in this promotion? The only positive is that at least Owens is being booked strong as IC champion, compared to other heels who’ve been cursed by the belt.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control take us to Team PCB where Paige puts herself over at great length. The whole Paige angle is a bit odd because she’s already turned but now PCB is back together. Maybe it’s just me but I want her to full on wallop Charlotte and feud with her.
Team PCB vs. Team Bella
Not this shit again. Is it not completely redundant yet? Last night saw the first really competitive and hard-hitting divas revolution match, where Nikki finally stepped it up. So they immediately go back to the six-woman tags they’ve been doing for months which the crowd hate. At least there’s a bit of good will attached after last night’s bout. As per usual Team Bella isolate someone, this time Charlotte with her bad back, and work heat until the crowd falls asleep. Or in this case chants for Becky! She gets a surprisingly hot tag out of it. Nikki has pleasingly learned how to throw an elbow smash, which knocks Becky loopy and the Rack Attack finishes. This is not what you’d call ‘in line’ with the fan reactions but I guess they have to keep Nikki strong because of Total Divas. Even more pleasingly Paige goes nuts and destroys Charlotte and Becky after the match, slapping Charlotte in the PTO to set up a title match that I want to see. Match was the same old, same old, but at least they went full bore on the Paige turn.
Final Rating: *1/2
Video Control takes us to a stat about Forbes top ten sporting events and they’ve got Wrestlemania at #5, making the list completely ridiculous as professional wrestling, as much as we love it, is not a sport. The list is probably designed for Americans as the Superbowl comes out top and the NCAA Men’s Final Four (I have no idea what that is and had to look it up, it has something to do with basketball, the sport where scoring is boring) comes in at #6.
Elsewhere Rene Young interviews Zeb Coulter and Alberto Del Rio to ask about their relationship. Coulter cites John Lennon’s “Imagine” and forms a new country Mex-America. They’re currently the only two citizens. Del Rio calls Neville “an entitled immigrant”. Interesting comments. Coulter debuts a new flat that’s half Star Spangled Banner and Bandera de Mexico.
#1 Contender’s Qualifying Match
Neville vs. Alberto Del Rio
The crowd chant “El Patron”, which was Del Rio’s name on the Indies. Neville shows Del Rio some flashy counters, a couple of which come straight out of lucha-libre. Cole references JBL being managed by Coulter earlier in his career, stepping way back to 1996 and Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw. I like it when the WWE reference their past but they only ever seem to do it when it suits them. In the match Del Rio is largely out-shone by Neville, who seems determined to make the most of a singles contest on Raw. Del Rio still doesn’t look up to speed and it’s Neville who bumps to make him look better and more aggressive than he is. One of Neville’s biggest problems in the WWE is that he makes his opponents look good, which means he’s largely stuck being enhancement or a JTTS. But then Shawn Michaels had that spot at one point in time so there’s always hope. They have a tasty spot where Neville gets caught in the corner and Del Rio stomps him off the top rope. That’s enough to finish. Interesting to see that Del Rio has won two matches with two different moves since coming back and neither are his recognised finish; the armbar. This was a much better showing from Del Rio, compared to the Cena match, and Neville has to take most of the credit for it.
Final Rating: ***
Ryback & The Dudley Boyz vs. Rusev, King Barrett & Sheamus
These are all the losers from last night, stuck together in a dead spot. Apart from poor Rusev, being buried for daring to get engaged to his real life girlfriend, there’s nobody to care about. You can see why they all lost last night, as they’re less interesting than the winners. Generic heat on D-Von eats up most of the match. The Triple Meathook is a fun spot and the Dudley Boyz have a bit of a laugh with their spots. They get too carried away with finding tables though and Bubba gets rolled up by Barrett. The King looks absolutely thrilled to have actually won a match. Even if it was house show-esque filler.
Final Rating: **
Promo Time: Bray Wyatt
He’s out here to explain why the Wyatt Family attacked Taker after the main event last night. The crowd disrupt proceedings by yelling “what” after every line. Damn you, Steve Austin. This shit has been ruining heel promos for 14 years. Having been bested by Roman Reigns, Bray wants to resurrect his career by “feasting on the soul of the Undertaker”. This brings out Demon Kane but the Wyatt Family voodoo allows them to all appear surrounding Taker’s baby brother. The Wyatts beat Kane down and carry him out, the same way they did with Taker yesterday.
#1 Contender’s Qualifying Match
Big E vs. Dolph Ziggler
This is the final #1 contenders qualifier. The winner will join Roman Reigns, Alberto Del Rio and Kevin Owens in tonight’s main event. Ziggler is somewhat distracted as Tyler Breeze and Summer Rae come out here to watch. Breeze doesn’t care about Summer, he only cares about himself. He has set up a ringside VIP section though complete with velvet ropes. I’m really pleased for Tyler, who seemed destined to stay in NXT forever, as he’s a very solid wrestler and the kind of guy the main roster needed. He’s different and he’s talented. Big E amuses himself by clapping the “New Day rocks” chant on Dolph’s ribcage. As per usual Ziggler takes heat for most of the match and it drags, big time. The crowd enjoy it more than me and Cole yells “what a match” at one point. Big E misses in the corner and Zigzag sends Dolph into the final match. As much as I like Ziggler’s selling his matches are very samey. This was no exception with him getting beaten up all match and hitting flash hope spots sporadically.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Dean Ambrose gives Roman a pep talk. They had words last night about their future and there seems to be more going on than we’re seeing on the surface. What they’re actually building toward? No idea.
Elsewhere The Miz continues to pretend to be Steve Austin and in walks Stonecold himself to drum that “what” promo into the conscience again.
#1 Contender’s Match
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
Roman is the clear crowd favourite and the most logical choice. Owens is currently IC champion, and a heel. Del Rio is a bit of a tweener but he’s US champion. So they’re both occupied with secondary belts and Rollins has already had an issue with Cena over the US title so that feels like a backwards step. Ziggler has lost all the momentum he had from the end of 2014 and his most recent midcard feud was aborted in mid-flow because of Vince McMahon believing everyone knows about TMZ. That whole thing is just weird to me because the first I heard about the angle being dropped was on WWE TV. It’s an angle! This is the same company that ran a Triple H and Stephanie wedding and divorce angle before they’d married in real life. The Internet has everything covered anyway so just run your angles and have fun. Nobody is going to stop watching because Rusev isn’t really with Summer Rae. Nobody believed that in the first damn place.
Anyway, the match is a competitive piece of business with them taking it in turns to shine. One would hope the WWE look at these four gentlemen as their main event scene, thanks to a dwindling number of actual full time stars. They can all go and Roman apart can all talk the talk too. Personally I rate Owens above the other three and would have pulled the trigger on him harder when he first came up, as he was being booked as something special until a string of losses to John Cena killed that momentum. As I said at the top, the obvious choice is Roman Reigns and he pulls out the win in fifteen exciting minutes. It helped that they teased Owens maybe winning in the closing moments as those two are slightly above Del Rio and Ziggler in terms of talent and card position. The match had a vibe to it that suggested it was important and would mean something in the long run.
Final Rating: ***1/2
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Kevin Owens
Least Entertaining: Nobody really deserved it.
Quote of the Night: “His greasy hair is booty” – Big E. “He’s been wearing the same colours for the past three years” – Kofi. New Day mock Roman Reigns.
Match of the Night: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
Summary: Having a themed Raw really helped the flow of the show. I was impressed with most of the matches in the mini-#1 contenders tournament and it culminated in a very good main event. If it was me, I’d totally pull the trigger on Owens as a top guy but he’s doing ok with the IC belt so I can understand the rehabbed Roman getting a shot at Seth Rollins. I’d be more down for a SHIELD reunion though. They should do these one night tournaments more frequently but perhaps make it less obvious as to who’s going to win. Having Reigns come out and jaw with Rollins at the top of the show made him the obvious choice throughout and the WWE couldn’t get the tension going because of that. Although that’s their own fault for not building enough legitimate contenders in their own midcard. However you slice it this was one of the most consistently watchable Raw’s all year long. The three hours flew by and only the losers six-man tag felt like filler. Are the WWE starting to get hot again? This Raw on the back of a good Hell in a Cell PPV could suggest so.
25th October 2015.
You’ll have to excuse the lack of attention I pay to this show to begin with as time is tight, I’m way overworked and I need to eat. Food is more important than wrestling. Most of the time.
We’re in Los Angeles, California. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler. It could be worse, it could be Mark Madden, Stevie Ray and Tony Schiavone.
US Championship Open Challenge
The “John Cena sucks” chants drown out his music, which takes some doing. This is a rarity; an actual PPV surprise where a match is anticipated because we don’t know what it’ll be. The challenge is answered by…Zeb Coulter? He introduces the opponent for Cena…Alberto Del Rio! Shit, that was a surprise. What’s Del Rio doing hanging around with Coulter anyway? They’ve got nothing in common.
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
This being LA, half the crowd are of Hispanic descent and Del Rio is a big favourite. The fact he’s returning after being AWOL, almost on a break slumming it on the Indies, makes him even more popular. Del Rio is a guy I basically missed during my WWE boycott. I did see him work in Japan during his time off though and he sucked. Big Match John starts to actually get effected by the crowd, selling the importance of the moment. Del Rio looks out of sorts and mistimes a few moves off the ropes where he seems to switch to a safer spot in mid-move. Plus he throws in a lengthy chinlock. It’s not the best of performances. The crowd amuse themselves anyway by doing the “boo”, “yay” business for the back and forth punches. Del Rio wins the belt out of nowhere with the First Flash. I might be in the minority but I wasn’t keen on this match.
Final Rating: *1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where the Authority mug for the cameras. The ever reliable, and peppy, Korporate Kane owns the segment. He’s been so good in the role, it makes the stipulation tonight make zero sense. Why would you want to get rid of something that’s working? The cracks in that façade here are completely unwelcome and shows the WWE on their way to abandoning everything good about that angle. It’s almost like they don’t know what they’re doing.
Hell in a Cell
Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns
This feud hasn’t done a lot for me but the last few minutes of their ‘feud ending’ match on Raw were terrific. If they can hit those levels throughout this definitive feud-ending contest, we could be on to a winner. For the past year the best thing about Bray Wyatt has been his entrance. Gotta love those fireflies. I wish he wouldn’t wear his t-shirt during matches, and that goes for anybody. Sure, you’ll sell more merchandise but you look like an asshole, wearing a t-shirt with your own slogans on it while you compete. Compare that to his awesome all-white trousers, with the flock of buzzards flying up the one leg. That’s ring gear. Some of the early pre-planned spots look REALLY pre-planned. Bray isn’t quite in place for a few either and they look super awkward. Bray picks the pace up by wailing on Roman with a kendo stick. The Cell needs that brutality. It’s a pity we’re in a bloodless PG era (main event aside) as a Hell in a Cell with no blood barely makes sense. Bray must wear himself out because he pulls out a chair so he can sit down and wail on Roman with the kendo stick some more.
Credit Wyatt with the creative juices to use the cage differently, setting up a chair and the stick between the links. Roman’s response is just punches and lots of them. Credit to both guys for just beating the shit out of each other. No holding back, just intense, no nonsense beatings. They step it up with tables and Bray destroys Roman with a Rock Bottom off the apron through a table. It’s a pity the WWE tried this big Roman Reigns push earlier in the year because he’s still paying for it among the men-folk and may never recover. Unless they turn him. I would. Have him as Seth Rollins’ bodyguard. Instant heat. Then they could slow burn him back face and do it properly, without trying to make him Cena 2.0 (Sufferin’ Suckatash!) as that doesn’t suit him at all. They pull out another table and Bray tries for a superplex only to get creamed through the table with a powerbomb. That totally feels like the finish but Bray leisurely kicks out. Where do you go from there? They go to finishers with Sister Abigail being countered into a slick roll up…for 2. Superman Punch…for 2. Not sure I really dig all the finisher kick-outs. Unless they’re leading to something amazing. Spear off the apron through a table! That’s pretty amazing. Not to mention dangerous! They both struggle back up. Roman tries for a Spear and it’s countered, beautifully, into Sister Abigail’s Kiss. I do love that move but Roman just kicks out. They do a little business with the kendo sticks in the corner and Roman finishes with a spear. The ending is a little deflating but this was easily the best match of the feud. By a country mile.
Final Rating: ***3/4
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
No Xavier Woods, thanks to a table spot from Raw. That’s a bad thing. In the real world he’s off getting married so was unavailable to entertain the people of Los Angeles and got written off the show. The “Magic Unicorns” get way too much crowd support so stop off to get some cheap heat. Kofi is upset at the loss of the trombone so promises to play the bongos on D-Von’s head. Big E will be playing the bass drum on Bubba’s belly “like a Caucasian Kamala”. When we get going the match is by-the-numbers because there’s no Xavier Woods to play trombone and the New Day seem less creative without him. The Dudley Boyz attempt a double team, which goes horribly wrong and JBL calls it “butt ugly”. This is the problem with an old tag team trying to do new things. New Day get their chuckles by stealing Dudley Boyz spots and breaking up the Dudley’s attempts to get tables. Kofi even breaks out a sensational Eddie Guerrero spot by throwing the trombone to Bubba and pretending to be hurt. The ref buys it but can’t make the call because he didn’t see it. Big E then waffles Bubba with the trombone and Kofi hits Trouble in Paradise to retain. I’m surprised they didn’t switch the belts here, with Xavier not around, but I’m pleased they’ve kept the red hot New Day in the prime position in the tag division. They’re the best right now so they deserve the straps.
Final Rating: **1/2
WWE Divas Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Nikki Bella
In losing her title Nikki finally looked like a champion, dismantling Charlotte’s leg. Unfortunately the psychology disappeared in the conclusion with Charlotte just winning with the Figure Eight anyway. Everyone is banned from ringside, guaranteeing a one-on-one match. Nikki once again picks a body part (the back) and dissects it, surprising the crowd, especially with her improved mat work. They leather each other with strikes too. It’s like Nikki has finally realised she needs to bust her ass to compete in the division she was coasting through for so many years. Her pretzel style half crab is devastating. Are we sure that’s Nikki Bella? She wimps out on taking some chops but Charlotte doesn’t care and just chops whatever is in front of her, whether it’s chest, arms or whatever. Poor Nikki attempts two things way beyond her skill level. One of which is dropping off the top rope and landing on her head. Figure Eight doesn’t finish because Charlotte can’t hold it with her bad back. Psychology! Nikki gets back on the spine with an ALABAMASLAM ON THE APRON! Holy crap! Nikki tries for the Rack Attack but Charlotte hauls her down into the Figure Eight, just barely holding on for the submission. This was more like it. Best divas match since the NXT girls (Charlotte, Sasha and Becky) moved up to the main roster. In losing her title Nikki Bella has actually shown a lot more class and skill than during her entire run with the strap. If only she’d tried this hard while she was champion.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Dean Ambrose congratulates Roman Reigns for getting the big win. Dean teases “what happens next” but Reigns doesn’t want to talk about that…yet. Intrigue!
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Kane
I don’t particularly want to see Kane getting a title shot but the angle with Korporate Kane and Demon Kane being dissociated characters has worked so well that I’m looking forward to this. Seth gets a pretty decent pop. Since when was LA such an edgy crowd? Kane might be great at playing the director of operations but he’s still a big, old guy that’s not been good in the ring for ages. The match therefore rests on Seth’s shoulders. He has to bounce around to make Kane’s dominance entertaining. Rollins is totally game for that and his offence is wild too. All fearless dives and high impact. There are a pleasing lack of rest holds and Kane looks to be in decent shape. Kane is too powerful and big to get caught in most of Seth’s potential finishing holds. When Seth attempts a Pedigree it looks ridiculous. Likewise Seth is too athletic and agile to get caught in Kane’s bigger spots, although he does eat a chokeslam. They have a pretty cool announce table spot where Rollins slips out of death by table and powerbombs Kane into the Spanish table, which refuses to break. I expect a cackling table to make an appearance on the next Botchamania. Rollins bizarrely uses the First Flash, twice, the move that pinned Cena earlier. Big Match John won’t be best pleased about that. Seth even adds in a frogsplash and can’t get the pin. Lots of love for Eddie Guerrero tonight. Pedigree finally puts Kane away and sends Korporate Kane packing from his Director of Operations job. Boo! Still this was one of Kane’s best matches in ages (since the Daniel Bryan one at Extreme Rules 2014), courtesy of Super Seth.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us to Rene Young, Corey Graves, Booker T and Byron Saxton to chat about the show so far. I’d take any and all of them over Jerry Lawler right now. There’s been some serious blowing off of stuff tonight, providing they don’t just carry on with all the feuds ignoring their obvious conclusions. We get clips from the Kickoff show where Cesaro, Ziggler & Neville won against Barrett, Rusev and Sheamus. Cesaro & Neville are a cracking tag team. Neville is like a better Tyson Kidd. Although I still want Cesaro to get pushed to the moon in singles. It’s long, long overdue.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Ryback
Big pop for Owens. The Ryback brings a load of power, combined with blind charges and stupidity. He’s never going to change but I don’t mind. He’s a niche guy. The two trading on power moves gets over with LA. It’s lots of meaty back bumps and a war of attrition. Owens tries for an assortment of cheap finishes like count-outs, roll ups and outright cheating. Owens sneaky eyerake isn’t even spotted by the commentators, nor the referee, and the Pop Up Powerbomb finishes in spritely fashion. Total filler. Owens looked like the star coming in and going out.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control gives us a quick shill for Breaking Ground. I watched episode #1 and it’s a surprisingly intriguing show. I found myself drawn in to the struggles of Tino Sabbatini and Nhooph (Jasmin Areebi). I didn’t like the cliff-hanger finish but as far as reality TV goes, this worked perfectly well. I can see it going into my NXT-based viewing rotation on the Network.
Hell in a Cell
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
This is billed as the “final” meeting of Taker and Lesnar, a story that goes back to 2002. Although the hype video has “chapter one” as Lesnar ending Taker’s streak at Wrestlemania XXX. I suppose they don’t want to remind people that these guys have a) already had a long feud and b) blown it off in a Hell in a Cell. I guarantee far less blood this time around. They even mention Lesnar is 1-0 in Hell in a Cell but don’t mention it was against the Undertaker. How is that not relevant? You have to give both guys credit, this immediately has a big match atmosphere. But then all of both men’s matches have felt that way for a while as they’re such special attractions.
The match gets special treatment too regarding blood as Brock bleeds off the ring post. He doesn't blade, but the way he deliberately headbutts the post makes it fairly clear it was intentional. He did the same thing against Roman Reings at Wrestlemania. They send a doctor in to clean the blood off Lesnar’s head, which is just odd and the crowd hate it. Brock takes out his frustrations on Taker and batters him with a chair to the side of the face. The noise of the impact is deeply unsettling. Taker bleeds too and the match has been absolutely brutal for the opening ten minutes or so. And then Brock Lesnar takes the Undertaker to Suplex City. “Suplex City, bitch” as the crowd count along. Lesnar feels a cheeky quick finish coming on but the F-5 only gets 2. The doctor comes in to treat Lesnar, so Brock throws him out of the ring. F-5…for 2 again.
This pisses Brock off and he takes it to the next level; destruction via ring steps. This leads to an awkward spot where Taker is supposed to kick the steps into Brock’s face but Lesnar gets nervous about Taker’s reaction time and pauses in an odd place. This baits Lesnar into Hell’s Gate, the Summerslam finish. Lesnar fucking HAMMERFISTS HIS WAY OUT. UFC, motherfucker! Lesnar then changes tack again by destroying the ring, giving us a rare look at the boards under the padding. Taker does the zombie sit up and chokeslams Lesnar on the exposed boards. The crowd chant “holy shit” but it’s basically just a normal bump with an inch less padding than usual. Tombstone…gets 2. Taker moves in for the kill but Brock, looking for some Summerslam revenge, punches him in the balls. F-5 finishes and Brock The Conqueror wins the feud! Second cracking Hell in a Cell match tonight.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Taker gets a standing ovation for his 25 years of in-ring effort but he’s interrupted by the Wyatt Family. Bray’s still pissed he lost at Wrestlemania earlier in the year. “I don’t want to see this” says JBL. That’s a shoot, brother! The crowd do not care for the Wyatt Family beating Taker down and the whole thing feels pretty weak.
Summary: Both the Cell matches delivered. The Taker-Lesnar match is easily my favourite match from their recent three bout series, blowing Wrestlemania and Summerslam out of the water (although other people enjoyed Summerslam way more than I did). Bray-Roman is a feud I didn’t enjoy at all but they capped it off in fine fashion. I don’t like the ending to their match because it was so flat after the big table spots but the match was good. Also delivering were a few surprise contests. Rollins-Kane was better than expected and Nikki Bella proved a few doubters wrong, despite the odd mistake, with a very solid match against Charlotte. One of the best main roster ladies matches in a long time. Albeit not a patch on Sasha Banks vs. Bayley but it shows the promise in the division. All in all it was probably the best non-big four PPV of the year. An easy recommendation.
Promo Time: Steve Austin
We have been transported back to a better time! Steve Austin opens Monday Night Raw! Oh hell yeah! Dallas goes nuts for Austin, as well they should. WWE needs a shot in the arm, and while you can say whatever you want about the state of the group when they are relying on guys from the Attitude Era fifteen years ago to do that, there is no doubt that Austin is the man for the job. It might help if they plug these things for longer than a couple of hours before the show, mind you. Austin gives a quick history lesson about his time wrestling in Dallas at the Sportatorium, and that gets a pleasing pop, then he plugs his podcast tonight with Brock Lesnar. As if Austin alone wasn't enough, he then brings out The Undertaker for a chat about Sunday’s match with Brock. As he is walking to the ring, Michael Cole claims HIAC is a chance for Undertaker to avenge his loss to Brock at WrestleMania XXX, but didn't he already do that at SummerSlam?
Promo Time: The Undertaker
Taker promises to take Brock to a place worse than hell on Sunday, which immediately brings out Lesnar. Are they just going for a massive first hour rating here to balance out the inevitably terrible second and third hours? Not a bad strategy actually given how the last few weeks have gone for them in the ratings. Brock and Paul Heyman stay on the ramp so Paul can do his promo. Heyman promises that Undertaker’s legacy will end up trained after Sunday, but Taker says he has nothing to lose, takes off his jacket, and calls Brock to the ring. Heyman tries to talk Brock out of it, screaming at him, “He is in your head!” Brock eventually listens and walk away. “Now you are in his head.” That’s it then. Where the fuck did Austin go? No Stunner for anyone? No brawling between Taker and Brock? Bah. Like no doubt everyone else, I was hoping Austin’s appearance on the show might lead to the start of a program between he and Lesnar, or anyone, for one last match at WrestleMania 32. I know, I know, he has said he won’t do it, but this is wrestling. Never say never. Hell, they would fill the stadium putting on an Austin match in Texas, no doubt about it. It could still happen, but if it was I expected more seeds to be sewn here. Instead he just served as a glorified pitchman for the HIAC main event. Boo.
John Cena & The Dudley Boyz vs. The New Day
No John Cena US Open Challenge tonight then, so there goes any chance of Tyler Breeze making his debut tonight with an immediate impact. I’m not saying they should have done that, just that they could have. This match comes about after the show-closing angle two weeks ago where New Day destroyed tonight’s opponents and Dolph Ziggler. Why the Dudleys and Cena made no mention of it at all last week remains a mystery. Maybe the writers are on fortnightly rotation booking cycles. It’s almost a shame that Xavier has to work tonight, because I would rather see him and his Trolling Trombone causing mayhem at ringside. They do their now customary pre-match promo burying the host city, but as usual it is pretty funny. Kofi stops short of saying the word “ass” by his teammates reminding him it is a PG show, then declares, “So what, we are New Day” and goes ahead and says it anyway. Yeah, fuck PG! The match follows the same formula as every New Day-Dudleys match, even with Cena out there. By the way, the fact that Cena is on in the first hour again suggests WWE are stacking this first third before viewers tune out due to boredom/fatigue/football. It will be interesting to see what they put on in the final segment knowing it will likely get mauled. If it is the Authority then they can and will justify the drop with “football”, but if it is anyone else, they can use it as an excuse why they cannot draw. What, you think that sounds too petty for a billion dollar corporation to do? Come on now. New Day pick up the win here by catching a sneaky pin on D-Von, giving them the mental advantage going into HIAC. Naturally, that makes them favourites to lose the belts at the big show. Boy, do I not want to see that match after having watched it every week for the past few months. And I like both teams! Post match, Bubba calls for tables and Dallas goes mental at the prospect. Xavier is the poor recipient again, getting drilled through the wood courtesy of a Bubba Bomb. He gets folded in half!
Final Rating: **
Michael Cole reveals that Randy Orton missed WWE’s Mexico tour this weekend and is not at Raw tonight either, blaming the Wyatts, leading to speculation as to whether he will be at HIAC. They show Dean Ambrose backstage talking to agents Dean Malenko and Fit Finlay, and immediately panic sets in: this means the return of Erick Rowan, almost certainly! Oh, spare us. If Rowan does come back as Dean’s partner it makes zero sense, for the record. I know it was blink and you missed it, but Rowan and Luke Harper had reunited. If anything, Rowan should be coming back with the Wyatts.
Backstage after commercial, Dean Ambrose gets interviewed by his girlfriend and cuts an angry promo about the Wyatts. He is sick of their crap, dammit!
Nikki Bella & Alicia Fox vs. Sasha Banks & Naomi
Money says they job Sasha to Nikki. Why wouldn't they? I think I made my feelings about Team Bella perfectly clear last week, and I do not want to go into that again. I would just be repeating myself because it is the same problems as ever. Sasha and Naomi control proceedings (against Alicia, obviously) as we go to commercial, and when we return Naomi is fighting out of a chinlock. Here’s an interesting thing I have noticed about Sasha. On NXT she looks like a serious wrestler, with a well-defined character and a realistic demeanour. On Raw she looks like someone trying to act like a WWE Diva. Nikki comes in and works over Naomi for a while, throwing in her random frowning glances to the crowd between every move as usual. God that’s irritating. Sasha eventually gets the hot tag, and Nikki shows her worth by flying at Sasha with an outstretched arm, rather than running into Sasha’s clothesline like she is supposed to. The result is a mess, with Sasha realising and desperately trying to swat Nikki’s arm away because it is too late to duck it, and Nikki in her infinite wisdom taking a half-assed bump from it. Shite. Naomi comes back in and reverses Nikki reverses a crossbody into a pin, because that’s what JC does, then they do a messy sequence involving miscommunication and Alicia. The Bellas are invincible though, so unlike everyone else on the roster that doesn't affect them. The usual follows, with Nikki’s waps giving her the win over Naomi with the Fake Tit Shock Treatment. Not an abortive mess like last week’s Bella matches, but it was still soulless and predictable.
Final Rating: *
Breaking news! Corporate Kane is suspended for putting himself in the main event last week against Seth Rollins. I cannot understand the logic behind why that would be the case, but that is what they are going with. Shame, Corporate Kane was amusing last week. Elsewhere, Shawn Michaels is shown talking backstage with Triple H. So, Trips is a babyface tonight then, right?
Meanwhile, WWE supports charities! Just in case you forgot and needed reminding about what a wholesome, wonderful company they are...
Promo Time: Shawn Michaels
We kick off the second hour with the ‘Heartbreak Kid’, as WWE desperately tries to retain its audience. On his way to the ring, he eats a fan in the front row’s pizza! Shawn is looking slightly less hobo-like than usual tonight. Not un-hobo-like, just slightly less. Shawn is here to talk about HIAC, and reminds everyone that he was in the very first -and still the greatest- Hell in a Cell match. He finds it amazing that The Undertaker is going to compete in HIAC again eighteen years later, which it is. It is amazing that WWE has barely made any bona fide stars in that time... Shawn gives brief mention to the Bray Wyatt-Roman Reigns HIAC match, which for some reason brings out Seth Rollins. Wow, what a great match these two could have. Make it happen, McMahon! Dallas agrees and chant, “One more match!” which brings a wry smile to Shawn’s face.
Seth tells Shawn his job tonight was to kick off the second hour by introducing Seth Rollins. “You have to understand, for the past twenty years I have been back there getting instructions, then when I come out here, poof, it’s gone.” I wish everyone adopted that attitude. Seth reminds Shawn that Hunter gave him the instructions, not him, then calls Taker-Lesnar “old news”. Dumb thing to say. Seth claims he is the champion who has taken on all-comers and “destroyed them all”. Yeah, that win-loss record proves that, right? Seth then refers to himself as “Shawn Michaels Version 2... only better than the original.” Stop teasing me with a match that will never happen! Shawn quite rightly points out that Seth wanting to be version two is what makes them different, because he only wanted to be an original. Then he reminds him about Kane. Seth doesn't want to hear it, and tells Shawn he is jealous because he had a “WrestleMania moment” that eclipsed anything Shawn ever did. STOP TEASING ME! Seth asks for the sound guy to hit his music, but nothing plays. Shawn mocks him, saying version two guys don't get to dictate things like that, informs him that he is wrestling Ryback next, then asks for his music and gets it. Strange segment. It made Rollins come across as second rate. Shawn was playing shill man, just like Austin, and just like Austin it made me want to see him wrestle at the big show one last time. Steve Austin vs. Brock Lesnar, Shawn Michaels vs. Seth Rollins, The Undertaker vs. Sting (don’t hold your breath) and The Rock vs. Triple H (which is surely happening)? What about that for a card!
Seth Rollins vs. Ryback
Last time these guys worked on Raw, they did fifteen minutes and Ryback went over. Nope, it wasn't a dream. Rollins looks to get the job done a little quicker this time, hurling himself at Ryback with a tope early on. As he hits it, Ryback makes a mess of catching him and pops him in the face with an errant flailing arm. He is comically useless. Rollins is cerebral and Ryback is a dumb lunk of shit, so Seth is able to use Ryback rallying the crowd as a signal that the Meathook is coming, and he rolls to the outside. A kick to the gut and a Pedigree later, and this is over inside of a few minutes. The perfect length of time for a Ryback match.
Final Rating: *
Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro & Neville vs. Rusev, King Barrett & Sheamus
They really do know how to book original, compelling matches don't they? The babyface team is a workrate fan’s dream team, but all three are cemented at a certain level with zero chance of upwards mobility. The guys on the heel team haven't fared much better, apart from one of them of course. The least talented guy -by a mile- in the whole match, Sheamus. His push continues to confound and annoy me. Neville appears to be in the doghouse for whatever reason based on the fact that he loses week after week. Perhaps he looked at someone the wrong way or something equally spurious. I would expect him to lose, but then there is Rusev, who is definitely in trouble with higher-ups for having the gall to do something so dastardly as... getting engaged. That cunt. Rusev gets thrown around by Neville and Cesaro for a while with nothing in return, then Sheamus comes in and my interest drops immediately. As he might say, “shoyte”. Neville ends up taking the head courtesy of a Sheamus distraction that allows Rusev to send him flying off the apron into the announce desk. After commercial Neville is getting worked over, but he soon makes the hot tag to Cesaro, who goes to town on Sheamus. Is Dolph hurt or something? He has done nothing in this. He eventually does get in with Barrett, who has also done little, but the crowd is barely into him. It doesn't help that he has been made to look like a chump by the Lana-Rusev-Summer situation. For some reason all of Dolph’s ring work comes against Barrett rather than his rival Rusev. Is he finally moving on!? The finish of the match is electric, with kicks, bumps and excitement aplenty, including a majestic somersault dive from Neville. But then Sheamus rears his ugly head and kicks Dolph in the face with a Brogue Kick, and Barrett is allowed to get a rare win. Barrett! Winning on Raw! Wild night. Good match by the end, thanks to the work of Neville and Cesaro. Like I said last week, let them be a regular team. They could be one of the all-time greats.
Final Rating: ***
Promo Time: Ric Flair
Hour number three, legend number three. Flair doesn't get an entrance though, he is already in the ring. Flair gets confused about whether we are rolling before going into his promo. He mentions the Von Erichs and the Freebirds, then says the biggest thing to happen in wrestling in the city is yet to come, of course referring to WrestleMania. Flair’s other purpose is to introduce Roman Reigns, who is going to be Dean Ambrose’s tag partner against Luke Harper and Braun Strowman tonight. Wow, we have never seen that before. What, did they think Reigns-Strowman was so good last week that they had to do it again? Roman being Dean’s partner tonight is random, because earlier it was announced that Dean was going to go one-on-two with the Wyatt clan. I guess he chickened out.
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
Roman wants to do things a little differently tonight, so grabs a pair of chairs and invites Bray into the ring to converse with him under the spotlight. That’s the spirit, talk it out. How very John Lennon of them. Roman lays his opinion of Bray on the table, claiming he surrounds himself with giants because he is scared of being alone. It’s a million times better than his disaster on the mic last week. Roman tells him to be afraid then decks him. Suddenly, ERICK ROWAN is there, back on the side of Bray Wyatt. Wow, they sure value him. “We haven't seen him in months,” says Cole. I didn't even see him tonight and he was there the whole time! He gets decked once then bails. Welcome back! Good segment. One of Roman’s best in a while.
Backstage, Triple H, Stephanie and Seth Rollins are watching the altercation, and Hunter says they need a partner for Reigns and Ambrose to go against the Wyatts tonight in a six-man. Since when was that a thing!? Earlier it was announces as Ambrose vs. Harper & Strowman, yet Harper wasn't even at ringside for the previous segment. What is going on? Shawn Michaels turns up and somehow manages to talk Seth into teaming with Roman and Ambrose tonight, meaning for the first time in years we have a Shield reunion! The crowd strongly approve of that announcement. They really are pulling out all the stops tonight. Old-timers would likely call it hotshotting, and it is, but it has been entertaining.
Charlotte vs. Brie Bella
Oh goodie, more Bellas. The worst Bella working in a singles match, no less. Charlotte does some weird shit in this. First she throws Brie out of the ring and yells, “Get out of here,” then she holds the ropes open for her to come back in and tells her to get a move on. After that she starts chanting, “Let’s go Nikki” for no discernible reason. Cole thinks a win for Brie would be huge, forgetting that she bafflingly beat Charlotte last week. When Brie takes over the match falls apart, because Brie is dreadful. Every time she shouts, “Brie Mode,” I want to cut off my arm so I have something to throw at her. She only has one move too, a bulldog, which she uses repeatedly. She goes to a chinlock and even Nikki looks bored. Becky tries to play cheerleader but the fans aren’t going to react to this after the cool shit they have seen tonight. Brie uses her husband’s kicks, and the crowd don’t like it. Charlotte comes back with a spear and the Figure Eight, and scores a clean win! The champion actually won a match. Okay, whoever wrote tonight’s show is allowed to do so again. Shame the match wants pants.
Final Rating: ¼*
Backstage, Renee Young gets pissed off with Paige for avoiding the subject when she accuses Paige of attacking Nattie on SmackDown last week. Now a SmackDown crossover on Raw! What is this!? Paige says it could have been anyone, bringing up past names from the Divas division, including Alundra Blayze, who she buries for talking trash online. Excellent. Paige was phenomenal here. She is the only one of the women on the roster who has been given a personality.
Mark Henry vs. Kevin Owens
We are in Texas, Mark Henry is from Texas, so he has to lose. As good as tonight as been, as much as it has been a departure from the norm in many respects, some things never change. We are short on time with thirty minutes of the broadcast left and an epic main event coming up, and the show has to finish on time so we can get to the Austin podcast, so this is fairly short. Owens wins with an impressive pop-up powerbomb, then Ryback comes out afterwards to smash Owens with a powerbomb of his own. Ryback standing tall on Raw means he loses at Hell in a Cell. Bet on it.
Final Rating: ¾*
Renee Young grabs a word with Seth Rollins as he is heading to the ring and asks him about tonight’s “Shield reunion”. He denies that’s what it is (it is) then warns Roman and Dean that if they want to relive the past he will destroy them again.
The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family
Screw you Seth, this is a Shield reunion and it will be called as such! And by golly, if it isn't a Raw main event that I am actually looking forward to! WWE is doing its best impressing of Chikara tonight, presenting its third trios match of the evening. There is obvious dissention between Seth and his partners, as there should be. They are not exactly thrilled to have him as their partner. The announcers finally notice that Luke Harper is not there and try to tie it in with the Randy Orton deal, but there is something fishy going on here. Harper was advertised for a match earlier in the show, why would they do that if he is not there? As for Randy, I have no idea where he is. The crowd chant, “This is awesome,” before we even get going, because they are so thrilled about seeing The Shield standing on the same side of the ring together. There’s a cool moment early on where Roman and Ambrose go nose to nose (ish) with Bray and Strowman, and Seth doesn't join them. Then after a few seconds of contemplation he does, which gets a big pop. Cole amuses me by putting over Rowan as some sort of threat to the WWE Champion, which is a comical notion. Even though this match has been done in one form or another dozens of times, the added element of Seth, and the return or Rowan, gives it a different, fresher feel. Ambrose takes a pasting and Reigns gets knocked off the apron, leaving Seth alone on the apron waiting for the tag. When Ambrose goes to tag him, Seth jumps off claiming a knee injury. Well, that ends that one then. We didn't even get the triple powerbomb spot. Gah. Roman recovers and gets the tag instead, but the crowd are underwhelmed by it. He ends up getting caught in Strowman’s submission hold, so Dean brings in a kendo stick to take him out. That’s a DQ but it doesn't stop the action. Dean whales away on Strowman, who ignores it and snaps the kendo stick in half over his knee. Ambrose is undeterred and keeps brawling, but gets caught going for a dive with a spinebuster on the outside. Roman responds with an impressive plancha of his own, then takes out Wyatt and Rowan with spears as we go off the air.
Final Rating: **
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Steve Austin. He didn't do much, but just the sound of the glass shattering, the ridiculous pop and hearing his voice again was enough. Like almost everyone else I am a Steve Austin mark and not ashamed to admit it. There were a lot of contenders tonight who did more and deserve it more, but Austin was my favourite part of the show.
Least Entertaining: Brie Bella. Useless.
Quote of the Night: “This is like a Premier League game” - Michael Cole on the kick-happy six-man tag match. “Wayne Rooney never did that!” - JBL in response after a Neville dive
Match of the Night: Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro & Neville vs. King Barrett, Sheamus & Rusev
Summary: This was a really good show, but also a bit of a false dawn. What happens next week when there is no Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker and Ric Flair? It is easy to put on an entertaining Raw when you have five all-time legends at your disposal, but the underlying issues are still there, and they will return after the hotshotting. However, let’s be positive: no Kane (a little strange given he is in the PPV title match next week), no Big Show, no Randy Orton, very few dead or boring segments, and plenty of things worth seeing make this a real winner. One of the best episodes of Raw this year.
The show opens with Kane talking to Steph and Hunter, who are both stuck on their flight and are going to be late getting to the show. In the background a flight attendant gives Steph a bollocking for ignoring air travel regulations and using her mobile while they are in the air. Don't they know who she is? She is Stephanie McMahon, dammit, the rules don't apply to her. Kane books himself in the main event with Seth Rollins in a lumberjack match. We are live in Chicago, C.M. Punk territory, so if anything sucks tonight (which it will), you can expect to hear his name yelled angrily and vociferously.
Promo Time: Dean Ambrose
A show-opening promo from Dean Ambrose? That’s something different at least. Ambrose is pleasingly succinct, and he doesn't want to spend an age prattling on (like his ex-Shield ally), he wants to fight. Randy Orton comes out immediately and tries to win some fans in Chicago, then he goes right into his usual overly-quick promo stream. Randy reveals he is teaming with Ambrose at Hell in a Cell against Luke Harper and Braun Strowman, which sounds horrible. Not that it will be a bad match, but how much more of a flogging can this particular dead horse take? After some dull banter about which of them is the biggest loner that completely kills the crowd, New Day come out to spice up the segment. They gloat about the show-ending beating they delivered to John Cena, Dolph Ziggler and the Dudley Boyz last week, a frankly baffling angle but one which did make the trio look badass. It was probably needed because they were on the road to being comedy goofs, but it was right out of leftfield. New Day cut a fantastic promo burying the Shield, the Authority, Evolution, and Legacy, mock Randy Orton and make him crack (see The Raw Recap) then make themselves hated in Chicago with cheap heat. Cue Korporate Kane on the Tron, who incredibly politely reminds everyone that the inmates are not running the asylum tonight, he is. “If you play with fire... you get burned! It’s a fire safety poster, but it applies here,” says Kane, before making the inevitable tag match. Randy and Dean added nothing, but New Day and Kane were excellent in their roles here. Kane’s ridiculous split personality gimmick is idiotic yet entertaining. I cannot fathom why none of the four guys that New Day beat up last week wanted to get revenge on them. That’s annoying. If there is no follow up to anything, then angles become meaningless.
The New Day vs. Dean Ambrose & Randy Orton
The crowd, who were into the promo, are strangely unenthusiastic about this at first. The announcers are typically half-assed too, treating the bout like the throwaway match that it really is. How can anyone watching ever get enthusiastic about a product when the people employed to sell it are so disinterested? Cole’s problem is that he never shuts up. It is just one long mindless drone of run-on sentences that blend into one another. He has so many things he feels he has to mention at one time that it becomes nonsense. One minute he is pointlessly reminding us who Dean Ambrose is and what he has done, then he will pay lip service to the match by calling a kickout, before moving directly on without a pause to discussion about something else happening on the show later, only to schizophrenically flit to telling viewers what has already happened on the broadcast. WWE’s whole approach to how their commentators do their job needs to change. Truth be told, I have actually seen Cole do a reasonable job in the past when he wasn't so over-produced. His performance alongside Tazz on the Global Warning Tour: Melbourne springs to mind. He is still an odious little twerp, but at least when let loose he is borderline tolerable. This is in no way a defence of Cole ignoring the action, but the match is pretty boring. It goes through two commercial breaks, which is irritating as well. As per usual, the antics of Xavier Woods are the best part of the match. When the crowd starts chanting, “New Day sucks”, he plays his trombone along with them. Much of the contest is Orton taking heat, but it is tired formula wrestling and Chicago isn't into it. The pops are customary and quiet until Ambrose gets in there and starts throwing himself around. They go lukewarm immediately when Randy comes back in, so he does the most overblown set-up in the world for his draping DDT to get them onside. As Randy goes for the RKO he gets shoved into Ambrose and rolled up by Kofi for the win. I am actually surprised WWE didn't have New Day lose after having been booked so strong last week. “Mass confusion!” yells Cole, desperately trying to defend Randy getting beat.
Final Rating: *1/2
You know what I find amusing? That WWE are claiming the Brock Lesnar-Undertaker feud is thirteen years in the making, then show a video that proclaims “chapter one” as WrestleMania less than two years ago. Now, I have some experience writing books, granted, but I am sure even the most inept simpleton is aware that chapter one comes at the start, not in the middle. WWE are trying to build this showdown as an enduring epic rivalry coming to a head, but at the same time they are loathe to show anything of their prior program in 2002 because Undertaker was the American Badass. Not to mention that it would call attention to the fact they have already had a brutally bloody Hell in a Cell match before, one which will likely be better than their impending one due to the insane bloodshed on display. Funny company, this one.
Nikki Bella vs. Naomi
Well golly gee, if it isn't Nikki Bella wrestling on Raw again! She had nearly a year of being in the spotlight, can she not now kindly fuck off and let someone else have the chance to actually wrestle a competent match? If Nikki was alone it would be a slight improvement, because her entourage are the shits. Alicia Fox swaggers down the aisle with her spastic strut and a sense of self-importance that brings about a violent rage swelling inside of me. Then there is Brie, with her ridiculous voice, her smug expression and a permanent arm held aloft in the air because she cannot think of anything better to do. Nikki is just as bad of course, doing the same women-objectifying sexy ass dance, random winking, and intolerable pouting in the same order week after week. They are collectively the worst thing I have ever seen in professional wrestling. To cap it all off they are wearing Susan G. Komen shirts. They are heels, they should WANT people to have cancer. Okay, perhaps I am being (intentionally) over the top, but I am on a tirade now. I want heels to be heels and babyfaces to be likeable with occasional vulnerability. I am sick and tired of this wishy-washy half-pregnant bullshit that gets fed to me every week. Why should I like anyone? Why should I dislike anyone? Why should I care? I don't care. WWE is fucking AWFUL week after week. The only saving graces are NXT and the occasional strong pay-per-view.
What makes the whole thing even more sickening is that WWE then show a highlight video of the Bayley-Sasha Iron Woman match from NXT Takeover Respect last Wednesday, as if these two gomers in the ring could ever hope to even come close to matching them. They are not even in the same sport, never mind the same league. To try and associate that classic match with this Diva tripe is a joke. The crowd applauds Sasha, who is at ringside, then loudly chant, “We want Sasha!” They don't give a shit about this through-the-motions match. Other than that, the crowd are utterly silent. Brie seems unfazed; she continues to stand there with her arm in the air. Nikki is obviously bothered by it though, she is so easy to read when things go wrong for her, and her pout is getting noticeably larger. All of a sudden, a thousand cats get murdered, the sound of which is transmitted into the arena. Oh no, it is actually Brie, who has decided in her infinite wisdom to stand on the announce table and chant, “We want Sasha” in her retarded voice. What is she trying to achieve? NOTHING! She doesn't have a goddamn clue what she is doing. Last week she didn't even know where she was when she arrived at the building. Sasha pushes her off the table and Brie takes a dreadful uncoordinated bump, and naturally that is a distraction and it allows Tits McGhee to score the win. Again. “They know how to play the game” - Cole. Don't they just. Go away with your #DivasRevolution, WWE, it is the same old shit we have seen for years. There is a WOMEN’S revolution going on in NXT, let’s all enjoy that while we can instead.
Final Rating: -**
John Cena US Open Challenge
“What a reception right here in Chicago” - JBL, as EVERYONE chants, “John Cena sucks” along to his music. He takes it in good spirits though, even dancing along with a fan in the front row. Cena is taking some time off from WWE after Hell in a Cell for “personal reasons” which have not yet been explained, but have got the gossipmongers in the locker room gums-a-flapping. What that means is he could well lose the title on any given Raw prior to that, and to be honest that should happen, because he has never lost one of these Open Challenges, and he really should to keep the gimmick going. He has come close, sure, but now is the time. Cena puts over Chicago, calls himself the man to beat, then makes the call out. And it is... C.M. PUNK! Ha, yeah right. It’s actually Dolph Ziggler, which takes the award for most predictable moment of the night, but is not an altogether unwelcome one. Dolph tried to answer the call last week until New Day interfered, and he has been booked to try and shag Nikki Bella on Total Divas recently, so this program was inevitable.
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
In an interesting twist, Rusev and Lana announced their real-life engagement a couple of days ago, and because WWE is obsessed with being a reality show and gaining mainstream media approval, they confirmed the story despite it royally screwing their Rusev/Summer-Ziggler/Lana storyline of the past few months. I am thrilled about it, because Lane and Rusev were a great team, and the pairings they were forced into, well, weren’t. I can only assume Rusev and Lana had both done their research into wrestling onscreen couples that resulted in real life relationships, and decided to publicly nip the risk of WWE breaking them up in the bud. Good on them. Speaking of marriages, one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen occurs in this match. While Cena and Ziggler are working a rest hold, the crowd gets excited and starts looking over at something going on in the stands and chanting “YES! YES! YES!” loudly. It turns out a guy actually proposed to his girlfriend during the middle of the match! Cena throws Ziggler out of the ring, grabs a mic, and acknowledges it! Shame he didn't add, “And she wasn't the only one who said yes this week...” to Dolph, to rub in the fact that Lana has left him in TV world. Ziggler could have countered by ragging on Cena for refusing to marrying Nikki Bella, and we have a storyline with reality laced into Total Divas “reality” and tied into a real life organic occurrence, all in one fell swoop. None of that happens.
The distraction does ruin the match of course, and all JBL’s talk of “deep Ricky Steamboat armdrags” and Pat O’Connor can’t bring it back, so we cut to commercial instead. The action goes pick up once the furore dies down, but it is merely good, not great. Ziggler seems tired and Cena appears to be going through the motions. As with most Cena matches this year, the home stretch is strong. One high spot sees Ziggler scoot out of the AA right into a Fameasser for a near fall that many bought as the finish. Cena comes back with the STFU, but Ziggler makes the ropes. He tries for a crossbody, but clearly he hasn't been paying attention recently because that doesn't work on Big Match John, who counters into an AA attempt. Dolph knows how to counter that and rakes the eyes, which is Kevin Owens’ current finisher, and hits a superkick for a two count. Fisticuffs follow, and they counter each other’s finishers again before Ziggler hits a headbutt and the ZigZag for an even closer two. Then normality kicks in when Ziggler gets overly rambunctious and runs into the AA for the Cena win. “You can’t take anything away from John” pipes Cole immediately. Who was? He won, you cretin!
Final Rating: ***
In a case of remarkable timing, Triple H calls Kane immediately after the US Title match for an update on the show. “It’s going swimmingly” says Kane. In the background, Steph continues to act like a royal bitch to the flight attendant. She is a heel this week. Next week she will be championing some charitable causes, starting “revolutions” and booking fan-friendly matches.
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Ascension
Generic TV squash, nothing to see here.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Neville & Cesaro vs. King Barrett & Sheamus
Team Underutilised against Team Undervalued & Over-pushed. That match Cesaro had with Cena a few months back seems like a lifetime ago now. He is back to where Vince believes he belongs: in a nothing match, working for less than five minutes. Neville has been treated like shit recently, and that continues here as he does yet another job for Sheamus after a Bullhammer from Barrett. What purpose did this serve? Cesaro and Neville would be smart to pitch teaming regularly, because WWE are never going to use their to their fullest in singles competition.
Final Rating: ¾*
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
Roman wastes little time going into his fake-sounding scripted promo, focusing on Bray Wyatt. He always struggles with these because they are so unnatural, and he isn't helped by the crowd yelling, “WHAT?” at him. “What, you can’t hear me or something?” Now now, don't provoke them. Roman goes back to the script and tries to paint a picture of his feud with Bray, but this isn't helping their program at all. Chicago gets fed up and chant “Boring”, causing Roman to react again. “No this isn't boring baby, this is real life”. The crowd turning on him does at least bring a little bit of much-needed passion out of Reigns, and a few subtle hints of an impending heel turn as well. Bray and his posse arrive to cut Roman off, and Bray questions whether he is trying to convince the crowd or himself, before promising a massacre at HIAC. Reigns counters by telling Bray that once the cage is locked, he will wish he was in there with “anyone but me”. I bet one of the writers was doing giddy cartwheels of delight about getting that one in. It’s oh so clever. This is the kind of promo that murders the Roman Reigns character and will guarantee he never gets over anywhere near the level they want him to be.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
How on earth are they going to get themselves out of this one? They can’t beat Roman prior to HIAC, and Strowman has been built as an invincible monster who hasn't even been taken off his feet (hmm, that’s not true). They opt for Strowman dominance, with plenty of selling from Reigns as the big guy slowly dismantles him. Very slowly. He even uses a nerve hold, like a modern-day Yokozuna. Roman counters with a beard pull. I cannot remember the last time I saw a match with so little heat in Chicago. Strowman sells like Typhoon, with lots of blinking and head shaking, then goes back to controlling the match. It’s very, very, dull. Reigns hits the Drive By then goes for another, only to get flattened with a clothesline. Strowman follows him outside, but Reigns sees him coming and decks him with a punch. Luke Harper tries to assist but gets floored with a Superman punch, then Strowman takes one that sends him careening over the announce desk. Roman beats the count, and wins the match in the cheapest way possible. The Wyatts jump into the ring afterwards, but Reigns scoots out and flees. Heel turn, I’m telling ya. Horrible match, of course. Who thought eight minutes would be a good idea for this? Who thought the match would be a good idea full stop? It hurt Roman and it hurt Strowman. Reigns is a guy WWE are actively trying to protect in the booking and get over as their next John Cena, and this is how they thought fit to use him.
Final Rating: DUD
Hunter’s timing continues to be impeccable, as he calls right after the match finishes. The reception is poor (cue bad broken sentence acting from Hunter) and Hunter doesn't get the message that Kane has booked himself against Seth tonight.
Rusev vs. Ryback
Inexplicably, Summer Rae is at ringside with Rusev. At the onset of Raw we were promised “the whole story” about what had happened with Rusev, Lana, and Summer. Instead they have opted to ignore it completely, despite mentioning it frequently. This is perhaps the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. It just screams “this is all bullshit”. To punish Rusev for getting engaged and destroying a bad storyline, he has to job to Ryback in less than three minutes. Cleanly, no less.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Promo Time: Summer Rae
Summer finally addresses the elephant in the room, showing the pictures of Rusev and Lana’s engagement from TMZ, and yelling at Rusev for not having the balls to tell her that he was back with Lana. “Everyone here thinks you are a strong, dominant, force to be reckoned with,” she shouts, which is funny considering he just got squashed, “but you are just a whipped little boy.” She slaps him and walks off, as JBL claims she just exposed Rusev. None of this made any sense. They have had two days to come up with something, and this is the best they could do? Another homerun for the WWE writing team.
Kevin Owen vs. Kalisto
Non-title again, and quite right too. Kalisto tries to fly, but Owens is too big and powerful and frequently cuts him down. They do a spot on the outside which goes wrong when Kalisto attempts a silly springboard rana and botches it then lands on his head. Kalisto tries to fire back with a few needlessly-flashy moves, but Owens soon puts him away with a powerbomb after blocking a rana. Routine stuff, but better than most of the wrestling we have seen tonight.
Final Rating: *1/2
Brie Bella & Alicia Fox vs. Charlotte & Becky Lynch
I am not watching Brie Bella and Alicia Fox wrestle. Brie pins Charlotte with a missile dropkick, and I feel so drained by this show and the result that I cannot even muster the words to express my anger and disbelief at that decision.
Final Rating: -*
Trips gets hold of Kane again and asks again what the main event is, so Kane tells him. Steph has to be the one to shoot him down, even over the phone. She tells him he is ridiculous and that in no uncertain terms can he do that. Hunter agrees, warning Kane not to screw things up, and to replace himself with literally anyone in the match. Handy he has a split personality, really. In the next segment Seth Rollins and Kane bump into each other. Seth is spooked by him but Kane is totally pleasant. He promises to provide a suitable replacement to replace himself in the match.
Because three hours is too long and WWE are creatively bankrupt, they show the Lesnar-Undertaker video again.
Seth Rollins vs. Kane
Shock of shocks, Demon Kane is the replacement for Korporate Kane. I was sort of looking forward to the pay-per-view match between these two, purely for the fact that it is a fresh match and there has been a long term storyline to build it. Of course the key was that Kane hadn't actually been wrestling, which is important, because once he gets in the ring in 2015 the illusion is shattered. The pair working a ten minute match has not helped Hell in a Cell. Granted, nobody is buying that show to see this anyway, but still. The aura of Demon Kane manages to get shattered during this when Big Show hits him with his knockout punch, leaving him out cold. Don't even dare. Don't even DARE try and present me with Kane-Big Show in a match ever again! Kane kicks out, things get out of control with the lumberjacks, and a melee occurs. Inexplicably there is no DQ. Instead, Seth Rollins does the job, cleanly to the Tombstone, for his NINETEENTH loss in his last twenty matches. Jim Ross recently defended WWE’s booking of Rollins, lambasting us marks for not understanding the difference between being booked weak and being booked as a pussy heel. Defend that stat, JR. Never in history has a WWE Champion, or any World Champion, been booked to look that inept. Dave Meltzer summarised, “Seth Rollins is playing the role of a wimp heel manager,” and he is right. Harvey Wippleman is your WWE Champion, everybody.
Final Rating: *
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: John Cena. Good match, nice moment with the fans who got engaged, amusing dance with an anti-Cena fan. That was enough on his show.
Least Entertaining: Team Bella.
Quote of the Night: “Damn Randy, how many groups have you been in? You give new definition to the meaning of the word groupie” - Xavier Woods to Randy Orton
Match of the Night: John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler
Summary: Another horror show. Nothing was achieved on this broadcast. The only people who came out stronger were John Cena and the Bellas, and god knows they don't need the help. The treatment or utilisation of Neville, Cesaro, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Roman Reigns, Rusev and Dean Ambrose was beyond comprehension. WWE are a rudderless ship, with dozens of would-be sailors who have never been at sea desperately flocking to grab the wheel and steer away from the choppy waters they are in. Every one of them gets thwarted by the crusty old half-blind captain, who refuses to cede control, yet encourages the commotion around him. The way WWE do things and their endless list of idiomatic tropes means nothing will ever change. Albert Einstein is credited with having once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think that sums up every single one of us who tune into this show week after week, hoping they might get it right this time.
7th October 2015.
We’re in Orlando, Florida at Full Sail University. Hosts are Rich Brennan, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. NXT specials have a tendency to be just that. It really helps the feeder promotion that big events are so far apart as it allows wrestlers to plan out big matches. I imagine Sasha Banks and Bayley have been working on their 30 minute match tonight for some considerable time. Probably since Takeover Brooklyn, over a month ago.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final
Finn Balor & Samoa Joe vs. Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson
It makes sense to open with the tag tournament as the winners will need time to prepare for a second match. Also it allows a massive opening pop by having Finn and Joe in the opener. Dash & Dawson are upset merchants, having overturned a few crowd favourites to get here (including the tag champs the Vaudevillians), which makes them defacto heels. What they are is a tag team, whereas Balor & Joe are just two excellent singles guys paired up. If you’re following wrestling logic, the tag team wins but WWE logic has always been that star power wins so it’ll be interesting to see where NXT goes with it. Dash & Dawson are a classic team too, cutting the ring off finding ways to dominate Joe. Balor gets a comeback but then Dash & Dawson work heat on him too, working the leg especially. It’s competent tag-teaming. I’m not sure I ever really buy heat but Dash & Dawson are good at it. Balor’s babyface in peril routine is quite fantastic, which makes the heat better. The crowd are into it, which is good news for all involved. Joe is perfect at cleaning house too, with great intensity. Musclebuster/Coup de Grace finishes but Finn hurts his leg on the last spot, thus giving them an ‘out’ when they lose in the finals. Good showing from Dash & Dawson, as the classic tag team.
Final Rating: ***
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final
Jason Jordan & Chad Gable vs. Rhyno & Baron Corbin
Jordan had a story a while back where he couldn’t find a worthwhile tag team partner. Gable is it and he’s over huge in Full Sail. This is another team vs. two singles guys match up. I can’t help but feel both superteams are heading towards singles feuds. Due to this my pre-show pick was JJ & Gable to win the whole thing. Corbin is more of a main roster guy. I’m surprised he’s not been called up to work as a monster heel against someone. He’s very basic but he’s a lot better and more seasoned than Braun Strowman. Crowd love Gable so much they bring back Kurt Angle’s “you suck” chant to sing his name. JJ & Gable use the same tactics as Dash & Wilder to isolate Rhyno and work his arm, only as babyfaces not heels. They swap around and Gable eats heat to the same positive reactions that Balor had in the opener. “Save the Gable” is a brilliant chant by the way, Full Sail. Jason Jordan reminds me of Rocky Maivia. He’s got that slight edge where you can tell there’s more about him than the happy babyface he’s playing and he’s got a lot of a natural athletic ability. The sky’s the limit for him. The ending of the match is seriously hot as the fans get rapidly into Jordan & Gable and all the guys hit big spots. Gable hitting Chaos Theory on Corbin has me marking out like crazy. Gable goes for a satellite DDT but it’s countered in mid-air into the End of Days for the deflating heel win. My pre-show pick might have been wrong but honestly, it’s a little disappointing they went this way. Corbin and Rhyno don’t need to be in the finals, the crowd didn’t want them to be there and now a tag team tournament features precisely zero tag teams in the final. Good match though. Jordan & Gable looked great.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Dana Brooke vs. Asuka
This is Asuka’s in-ring debut for NXT. She brings a big reputation with her and generally Hunter’s hand-picked stars-of-the-future tend to get that respect in the Takeover matches. Dana Brooke is not as bad as some people have suggested but she looks really poor when put against Asuka. She’s completely outclassed. Asuka’s basics are phenomenal. Her switches and transitions are on point. Dana slaps Asuka and the crowd chants “you fucked up”. Awesome stuff. Asuka beats the piss out of Dana and stops off to do Brooke’s entire entrance as a taunt. Amazing work. Asuka is so smooth and her moves are so pretty that she just goes from one approach to another and the crowd eat it all up. From the strikes to the counters to the submissions. It’s a near flawless debut. It’s almost a pity it’s wasted on Dana, who is pretty much beaten from the first Asuka strike sequence. Asukalock finishes. Asuka was HUGELY impressive here. She made Dana look borderline useless and, as I said at the top, Dana isn’t that bad. For an extended squash this worked. The prospect of Asuka vs. Bayley, Sasha, Charlotte or Becky is mouth-watering. I sense she’s going to become the NXT women’s division.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control tells us that Nia Jax is debuting next week. The women’s division is hotting up, despite Sasha leaving tonight.
Tyler Breeze vs. Apollo Crews
Tyler’s record on NXT specials is not good (he did beat Sami Zayn once, to be fair to him) but he’s constantly been a solid attraction on the shows. The failure train may be stopping again here, with the outstanding Apollo opposite Breeze. An unfortunate downside of Tyler Breeze is his whole persona screams ‘midcard’, regardless of how good he is. It’s very hard to get invested in someone who’s never going to hit that top level of the business. With Apollo you feel he’s capable of so much more, even if his all-round game isn’t at Breeze’s level yet. Prince Pretty’s character is better defined. The crowd seems less interested in this and I must admit, for reasons I can’t clearly define, I’m not that into it either. Breeze works the back to slow Apollo down and that’s the story of the match. Crews does some good selling of his discomfort. Back injuries are hard to sell because if you’ve got a bad back, you really can’t move or do anything. The story makes me believe that Tyler can actually get a win as Apollo can’t get any of his big spots together, thanks to the back problem. Tyler ends up lying down for a powerbomb, because he (almost) never wins on these things. Even with a cavalcade of teases.
Final Rating: **1/4
Ringside is a miserable looking Hideo Itami and his buddy Funaki. Itami is not enjoying being injured. Hopefully he’s been working on his promos.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final
Rhyno & Baron Corbin vs. Finn Balor & Samoa Joe
As I said earlier, it’s a shade disappointing that a tag team tournament ends up with four singles guys working together. It shows that the tag division in NXT isn’t quite where they want it to be. A more logical final, for me at least, would have been Enzo & Big Cass vs. Balor & Joe. Then an actual tag team could win and you don’t lose the star power. In fact, you’d probably have better reactions. The storyline here is Finn’s bad knee, which makes it strange that Joe allows him to start. Joe seems to bring the best out of Corbin, which gives me hope that the Baron can compete against the bigger and better wrestlers when his time comes. Like the two earlier matches there’s a heat segment with Joe picked off. It’s fairly uninspired stuff. Finn soon suffers a similar fate, thanks to his bad knee. Joe gets the second hot tag only to fall to the Gore. Finn saves on that and shows genuine star power in clearing out Corbin. Joe punts Rhyno to avoid a second Gore. Musclebuster/Coup de Grace with the bad leg and Balor wins for his team. That’s a bit of a surprise. I had Balor & Joe teaming to set Joe up as the number one contender but instead we get two top singles guys crushing the NXT tag division and standing triumphant. Odd.
Final Rating: **3/4
Post Match: The Rhodes Family get in there, including Cody (not Stardust) to pass their congratulations on to Balor and Joe. “There are some things a man can’t run from” – Cody. “But we can remember, we can respect”. “Tonight, we are all Rhodes”. Dusty Rhodes has left one hell of a legacy. He has dozens of NXT kids that will continue his legacy for years to come.
Video Control takes us to a shill for Steve Austin’s next podcast; Brock Lesnar and the Hell in a Cell PPV. Ringside: Stephanie McMahon, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Lita. This draws a “women’s wrestling” chant and there’s Steph clapping along like a mark! Wonderful.
30 Minute Iron(wo)man match
NXT Women’s Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks
I’ve seen video packages for this feud all over the Network for the past week or so and they never get old. I’ve seen the one in particular from this show a good three-four times and I’m still riveted to it every time. That’s how good the Takeover Brooklyn match was and how important it was. It’s strange to say, because it’s never been true in North America before, but this is the most important feud in North America this year. Bayley’s entrance is special by itself. The arm-waving tubemen, hugging Izzy, flashing the four horsewomen signal at Becky and Charlotte. Everything she does is so perfect for her character. I never thought I’d see the day where a WWE crowd would be chanting “women’s wrestling” for two women main eventing a show. We’ve come a long way, baby. “You deserve it”.
The two ladies take a deliberate pace because thirty minutes is tough to do full pelt, even for the guys with the best cardio. Despite this there’s bags of effort when they hit the mat, both looking for a quick pin. It’s an interesting tactic as they’re both attempting the same thing. Things start to go wrong when Sasha takes a bump on her neck and shoulder off a whiffed armdrag but they turn that into a positive. It adds to the drama. From there it’s finisher countering before a stand off so we can see Sasha get dumped on her neck again. That could have been very nasty. Bayley does, sort of, target that area with strikes. This draws the despicable side out of Sasha and she starts trying to take shortcuts. First getting her feet on the ropes before raking the eyes behind the ref’s back to get a roll up for 1-0 inside 9 minutes. It’s a good storyline as Sasha was content to go back and forth with Bayley on the mat until it looked like she might lose. Then she turned back into the nefarious heel she’s outstanding as.
Sasha’s control of the pacing and her ring awareness is uncanny. It’s the work of a veteran grappler. They do some nice stuff in the corner before Bayley hauls Sasha off the ropes into a Bayley to Belly for the equalising pin around 11 minutes. 1-1. That’s a wee bit disappointing as the first two falls were too close together to create any drama behind Bayley chasing the match.
To buy some time Bayley takes a nasty spot into the ring steps, head first into the corner. The execution on this stuff isn’t quite where it was in Brooklyn but the personalities are still strong enough to cover for that. Bayley gets run into the LED board and gets counted out. Sasha is meanwhile rocking the GREATEST FUCKING HEEL HEAT, EVER by stealing Izzy’s head-gear, wearing it in the ring, pretending to cry and Izzy bursts into tears. Making children cry makes you the best in my book. Total heel dickery from Sasha on a level that would make Chuck Taylor jealous. 2-1 Sasha. 15 minutes left.
Sasha gets in some more hand stamping in a Boston crab, which is appropriate because she’s from Boston. Then she stomps on Bayley’s head too. It’s sensationally evil stuff. With Sasha focusing on her heel persona Bayley gets a fluke pin for 2-2. Again, it’s a touch disappointing that Bayley hardly spends any time chasing the lead and they’re back level almost immediately for the second time in the match.
They manage to work some nice familiarity spots like Bayley slipping out of Sasha’s double knees. As we hit the 20 minute mark both ladies are looking a little tired. This is foreign territory and until you wrestle for 20+ minutes you don’t really know how it’ll effect you. Bayley changes tactics, gets nasty, and goes after Sasha’s hand in a call-back to Brooklyn. They do some fun stuff with the ring steps, again a call-back to Brooklyn. Sasha goes for a tope but Bayley catches her; BAYLEY TO BELLY! That’s just a great spot. This leads to an “Iron Woman” chant. The early signs of fatigue have not gotten worse and both ladies look tired but capable. Sasha tries to get something going off the top but gets caught in a super Bayley to Belly only for a sensational rope break to stop the count. They didn’t land anywhere near the ropes but the double roll from Banks was entirely believable. Another call-back to Brooklyn follows with the super rana but Sasha flips right over onto her feet. BAYLEY TO BELLY! She took the whole sequence off Bayley! BANK STATEMENT! Two minutes on the clock, Bayley can’t just hang on. Sasha’s hand injury is what saves Bayley as Sasha has to reapply and they counter and COUNTER BACK AGAIN. Sasha’s selling in the hold is genius and Bayley is able to go after the hand to get out. As the clock runs out Bayley has a submission and is STAMPING ON SASHA’S HEAD and with seconds left the ref calls for the bell. Sasha submitted! 3-2 Bayley! What a match! They’ve done it again!
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post Match: the whole roster is out here to show their respect for that match. Sasha gets presented with a bunch of flowers, on what’s probably her final NXT match, and breaks down in tears, just collapsing exhausted between Triple H and Stephanie. The crowd again launch into a chant of “you deserve it”. The story these women have told over these two title matches has been special beyond belief. I’m tempted to boost the rating for intangibles, like I did in Brooklyn, but the post match wasn’t quite so special here as it was last time. Although I must admit I got a bit misty eyed at the sight of Sasha breaking down. I doubt little Izzy feels the same way. Phenomenal heel work from Sasha in the match. Best heel work all year long, outside of Kevin Owens.
Tangent: Sasha is slightly nicer than Kevin and went over to Izzy after the show to give her the bouquet of flowers she was presented with. They made up with a fist bump. Seeing as Sasha is leaving the territory she needs to finish up all her storylines.
Summary: NXT does not disappoint. This is one of their mantras. They want people to remember these shows and go home happy. I’m certain everyone will be, at the very least, pleased with how this panned out. I was thrilled with how the main event developed. Perhaps 30 minutes was too long for the story they were telling but everything about the match worked and there was no dead time. You can’t ask for much more than that. All the call-backs to Brooklyn were appreciated and it’s a pity they’ve moved Sasha on because a title change and a rubber match would have been interesting. At least Sasha has done the time-honoured tradition of putting someone over on her way out. Bayley is set, thanks to her. The emotion that I’ve felt watching these two Bayley-Sasha matches is a cut above anything else the WWE have done in 2015. When I’m really feeling the emotion of a feud it makes everything seem better. The in-ring for this second match wasn’t quite clean enough to be a MOTYC but it’s still very much worth your time for the story alone.
I actually volunteered for this show, because James is a bit busy editing stuff. I must be mad. We’re in Boston. Massachusetts. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton. Video Control starts us out with a recap of the Kane-Seth Rollins deal from last week. The new split personality approach to Kane is beautiful, in a weird way, as Korporate Kane was getting to be a bit of a drag. Taking all his anger away and putting it into the Demon Kane allows Korporate Kane to be a far superior character. One that only sees positivity.
Promo Time: Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar
Lesnar vanquished the ‘threat’ of the Big Show at MSG so he’s looking forward to Undertaker now at Hell in a Cell. Heyman points out that anyone who’s ever wronged the Undertaker, since his debut in 1990, has gotten their comeuppance but that won’t happen with Brock Lesnar. “This is a fight he (Undertaker) cannot win”. Heyman gets some more mileage out of the conquering of the streak, which is still the core of this feud. Taker wants a measure of revenge for that defeat. Getting a dodgy ‘submission’ win at SummerSlam hasn’t sated his appetite. Heyman criticises Taker’s tactics at SummerSlam, including the low blow. Heyman ups the ante by saying Hell in a Cell will be the final ever Lesnar-Undertaker match. Heyman thinks Lesnar will win. “That’s not a prediction, it’s a spoiler. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of my lord!” – Heyman turns the screws. And then Big Show ambles out here.
Jesus, man, you’re done. Get over it. Boston suggests he should just retire. Show offers Brock a handshake but Lesnar just laughs that off and walks past him. Show throws down a punk card by saying he hopes Taker beats Lesnar…again. So Lesnar takes Show to Suplex City…again! You just don’t learn, do ya? This was a decent use of the opening twenty minute chat. I have no problem with Heyman getting twenty minutes to plug stuff.
Video Control takes us backstage where Seth Rollins moans about losing Big Show as his tag team partner tonight and Steph refuses to call the match against the Dudley Boyz off. Why are the Authority suddenly acting like twats toward Rollins? Have they gotten bored of their new toy already?
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Randy Orton vs. The Wyatt Family
When Roman and Bray ‘end’ their feud at Hell in a Cell, what happens to all these hangers on? Do they all just shake hands and walk away? One thing that I’ve taken from this whole feud is that I really like Roman Reigns…as a midcard guy. Maybe there’s hope for him yet. If he stops being given horrible promos and maybe drops some of the goofier aspects of his offence (Superman Punch, I’m looking at you) he could win me over as a main event. Sad to see Orton is still doing the Garvin Stomp. He really is the worst. The Wyatts run heat on Ambrose for a bit. It’s fairly uninspired stuff. Strowman isn’t getting any better. Orton is massively over off the hot tag and I’m seriously confused by WWE crowds. Orton’s arrival onscreen just screams “piss break” at me. Guess I’m in the minority. Harper does the best work for the heels. He’s seriously underrated. Bray can’t get Sister Abigail on Orton and Harper gets hit with a bunch of finishers while Ambrose has the gigantic man-baby distracted on the floor. Bray can’t be bothered to save his family member and Reigns gets the pin. This feud hasn’t done much for me. I’ve really struggled to get into it as it just seems to be circling around, doing nothing. Hopefully the Hell in a Cell match is the end of it all and both guys can do something else.
Final Rating: *1/2
Video Control gives us a shill for NXT Takeover Respect this Wednesday. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks in a 30 minute Ironman match, for the title, in the main event. Sold! They’ve done a far better job of building that up than anything on the main roster.
Neville vs. Sheamus
King Barrett joins commentary, thus guaranteeing a run-in during this. Sheamus is another guy I just don’t get. How on Earth is he the Money in the Bank winner? He’s got no upside at all and is coasting on his way to being released. As best as I can see. He does nothing for me at all. Sheamus runs his mouth for a while so Neville attacks him and Barrett takes exception. Sheamus hits the distracted Neville with a Brogue Kick and then stands around, like a colossal prick, to completely bury Neville before pinning for the win. Fuck you, Sheamus, you selfish asshole.
Final Rating: DUD
Promo Time: Korporate Kane
Kane points out Seth Rollins is short a tag team partner tonight, so he books himself to tag with Seth. The champ comes out to object and Kane runs through some cheery office poster slogans to motivate Seth. Kane is, once again, excellent in the role but the storyline gets a bit stupid here. As in, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley comes out, sticks her nose in where it doesn’t belong and makes a few weird booking decisions. Namely if Demon Kane doesn’t beat Seth Rollins then Korporate Kane is fired as Director of Operations. Ok, whatever. You’ve booked that and you’ll never stick to the stipulations or try and work around them somehow because that’s what you always do.
Paige vs. Natalya
Paige ruined her heel turn with an asinine promo at the MSG show. Natalya has been doing nothing for ages, thanks to Tyson Kidd’s horrific neck injury. Nattie looks solid enough, as she’s been working on house shows but there’s a feeling around the WWE offices that, at the stately age of 33, she’s getting a bit long in the tooth to be an active worker. Did they not watch the Fabulous Moolah? She retired when she died. And she was 105 years old at the time. Nattie gets the surprise win by making Paige tap to the Sharpshooter, which is really odd booking as the women’s division is basically Charlotte vs. Nikki vs. Paige. Why would you job any of those ladies randomly like this? It’s almost as if they don’t care about the division, in the slightest. At least it wasn’t another six-woman tag.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control takes us to the upbeat, and hungry, Ryback. He’s getting ready for his re-match with Kevin Owens and beat Owens on count out on Smackdown.
Kevin Owens vs. Sin Cara
This is not for Owens’ prestigious Intercontinental Championship because Sin Cara doesn’t deserve a title shot. Owens brings some sensational trash-talking here, yelling “lucha, lucha, lucha” at Sin Cara before claiming everything is a three-count to the referee even when Cara kicks out at one. Nobody can talk trash like Kevin Owens. Pop Up Powerbomb finishes in short order. I really enjoyed this. Total squash but Owens squashing people is great fun. His NXT title win over Sami Zayn was basically a squash. Kalisto comes in to check on Sin Cara and Owens gives him a shoeing but Ryback runs in for the save.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us backstage where the New Day try to get Steph clapping along to the gimmick only for her to emasculate all three of them and book them against the Dudley Boyz at Hell in a Cell. “I thought she liked us” – Kofi Kingston. Steph has no idea who she likes. When one her toys get a bit old she gets bored and looks for another one. The New Day were wonderful here, Steph was awful as usual. I don’t know why she feels the urge to go around emasculating people on every single show she’s on. Not even Vince did that. From there the WWE show their support to Susan G. Komen and breast cancer research. It’s honourable work.
The Dudley Boyz vs. Seth Rollins & Kane
Kane is the Korporate version, wearing a suit and a cast on his leg. He should come in handy then! It ends up more like a handicap match only with loads of stalling from Seth, as if he’s been watching old Memphis tapes and saw a contest where Jerry Lawler spent an entire match stalling. “This is bullcrap” yells Rollins as Kane can’t do anything with his bad wheel. The whole match is just killing time until Kane gets helped to the back to have his leg fixed. Following that Bubba talks a lot of trash (“come on champ, come on champ, come on champ”) and Rollins gets worked over. The Dudley Boyz grab a table, Seth dropkicks it into their faces and that’s a DQ apparently. In order to get to this pointless non-finish we ate up THIRTEEN minutes of TV time. Astonishingly wasteful.
The Demon Kane shows up after the match but the Dudley Boyz hit the 3D on him. With Kane lying around Seth takes a second eternity to set up a table and predictably Kane recovers to chokeslam him through it. Are we sure that Seth Rollins is WWE champion? Because he’s being treated like a midcard nobody. Where are J&J? Rollins guys haven’t been seen for three months. They used to take all the crappy bumps for him.
Final Rating: ½*
Video Control takes us to the earlier arrival of Team Bella. Nikki makes a point of wearing a Yankees hat to get the standard Boston heat. Team BAD also shows up and Sasha gets some love from the crowd for tossing the Yankees hat away. Sasha is a home-town girl.
Sasha Banks, Naomi & Tamina vs. Nikki Bella, Brie Bella & Alicia Fox
Another six-woman tag that nobody asked for. It’s all about Sasha. “I put the Boss in Bos(s)ton”. Nikki and Sasha have a little back and forth, which includes Banks saying “whoever wins at Hell in a Cell, they’re just keeping the belt warm for me”. They talk for way too long and then the world is forced to watch a match too. Can Sasha carry three opponents and her own tag team partners? To be fair to Naomi, she’s probably the second best wrestler out there. It would help if someone on the Bellas team was good too. Brie at least is over for her Daniel Bryan kicks. All it does is remind me that Daniel Bryan isn’t wrestling in this match. As with all of these Bella tags they work heat for ages, this time on Naomi. The match picks up when Sasha gets a hot tag and just destroys everyone. Poor Foxy gets picked off with the Bank Statement. At least they put the right woman over but the match was long. Very, very long. I’m begging the Bellas to learn a match that isn’t 90% heat.
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control sees Charlotte big herself up. I’m really hoping this isn’t leading to a load of multiple person title matches as Paige, Sasha, Nikki and maybe Becky could all end up contending with Charlotte. Just line them up one at a time and see what works best.
Promo Time: Sweet Submissive Summer Rae
“I keep hearing these rumours that Summer is over”. That’s not true. You’re not over at all. She invites Rusev out here to put him over with a tribute video. It doesn’t show him repeatedly jobbing to John Cena so there’s no wrestling at all. Rusev is actually a very good character but he was a better character before the Cena program and the Lana split. “When this started I didn’t care about you at all” says Rusev, the old charmer. Summer breaks with tradition and proposes to Rusev. That’s not how they do it in Bulgaria, love! Rusev (“Ru-Ru”) responds positively but says only when he reclaims his missing waist-gold, which he needs to go with finger-gold. I’m not big on Summer but she’s doing decent work in this angle and Rusev owns all. I like the start of this angle as now Summer will be desperate to get Rusev gold to get married. Maybe a run of oddball partners in a run at the tag straps? I’d go for that. Thumbs up for doing something different. Sportz Entertaining.
John Cena’s US Championship Open Challenge
This is going on last. I find it odd that Cena is being positioned so strongly if it is true he’s going to take time off. Dolph Ziggler’s music kicks in and that’s the main event…but he’s a no-show because the New Day beat him up. They remind Cena he told them to get serious. “Is this serious enough for you?” New Day mention a lot of “Big” things before nominating Big E for the match.
WWE US Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Big E
I was never that keen on Big E but now his headlocks are great and I’m watching Table for Three on the Network because New Day are on it. That’s what we call a turnaround, folks. Big E manages to drop Cena on his head but it happens during the ad break so we only see it on a replay. Cena gives E a lot of the match, basically lying around and taking spots. Xavier Woods steals the show, as always, with his outstanding trombone work. Big E is perhaps still the most flawed of the three New Day members. His in-ring is perfect for tag team wrestling, where he can insert both spots and dominance before tagging out for someone else to do the legwork. Kofi and Xavier save E from the AA so they’re ejected and E walks into the AA for the loss. Match was ok but nowhere near the level of the better Cena challenges. After the match Dolph Ziggler runs in but accidentally superkicks Cena so the Dudley Boyz make the actual save only for the New Day to overwhelm them too. The New Day were working heel during this whole thing, definitely leaning towards being less fun and more dastardly. I would rather they stayed as oblivious heels rather than turn fully face so this is fine. Cena and Ziggler both do massive overselling after the match. Cena stays down for so long off Dolph’s superkick that Ziggler should probably be declared US champion.
Final Rating: **
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: The New Day.
Least Entertaining: Stephanie McMahon, Big Show, Sheamus.
Quote of the Night: “Hell in a Cell is his (Undertaker) match? My ass! WrestleMania was the Undertaker’s event until he stepped into the ring with Brock Lesnar” – Paul Heyman.
Match of the Night: Kevin Owens vs. Sin Cara
Summary: A mixed show, certainly. While both New Day and Kevin Owens continued to look good, the booking of Seth Rollins and Neville, for example, was completely mystifying. I’m not sure I understand half of what happened on Raw. The opening tag was a placeholder as the Reigns-Wyatt feud comes to a head at Hell in a Cell. Neville being jobbed out to Sheamus was beyond stupid. Paige jobbing to Natalya made very little sense as Paige is in one of the main diva angles and Nattie is doing nothing. Imagine them jobbing out Big Show right before his match with Lesnar. It’s a double standard. The Kane angle was fine but it took ages to come to fruition. New Day aside the best work on the show was from talking segments; Paul Heyman and Rusev. The wrestling on Raw was really poor this week. I was especially disappointed by yet another six woman tag featuring the Bellas. Any chance of having a big women’s match on Raw that doesn’t involve any of the Bellas? That would be nice. Some minor character work for New Day on this show and an interesting turn in the Rusev-Summer angle but otherwise nothing much going on. A typical Autumnal Raw.
This is the second ‘house show’ the WWE has slapped onto the Network, based on the name power of having Brock Lesnar wrestle. The first time was out in Japan where an appearance from Chris Jericho and an NXT title match between Finn Balor and Kevin Owens also sold the show. This time around; the emphasis is solely on Lesnar. He’s the focal point of the WWE Network over the coming weeks during his “Goes to Hell” series.
3rd October 2015.
It’s been a very wrestling heavy weekend for me as I attended both Rev Pro shows; Uprising in London and Global Wars UK in Reading, seeing a deluge of grappling contests including Kyle O’Reilly vs. KUSHIDA, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Big Damo, Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles vs. Jushin Liger! It’s been a real treat and if you live in England, this is a promotion that’s running sensational live shows at the moment. You’d be a fool to miss them. The cards are so strong I’ve not mentioned half the talent involved (which included Hiroshi Tanahashi, ACH, Gedo, Tetsuya Naito and a host of top British talent). So I hit this show somewhat exhausted after a long train journey back from down south. I haven’t seen much in the way of shills so I’m only aware of two matches. If nothing else, this card might present a few surprises. Although they’ll probably just end up doing Randy Orton vs. Sheamus…again.
So, stuff I didn’t know was happening tonight 1) Seth Rollins vs. John Cena in a cage for the US title. We’re in MSG, obviously. Hosts are Rich Brennan, JBL and Byron Saxton. Sweet, no Michael Cole. Bonus. JBL immediately misquotes Bret Hart. Bret actually said “MSG isn’t a church but it is holy ground”. You can use that one, properly, next time John.
Sheamus & Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler & Randy Orton
I suppose this is slightly better than Sheamus vs. Orton (or Rusev vs. Ziggler) but both tandems are extremely tired. The Rusev-Ziggler feud should have at least produced one good match by this point. The crowd seem into it but that’s mainly because of jingoistic hatred of Rusev’s evil foreigner gimmick and a love of Randy Orton that makes no sense to me. Plus it is the WWE’s spiritual home and MSG crowds are generally favourable towards Vince’s product. It’s when they’re not that things get changed. So maybe I could pay off a few New Yorkers to sit on their hands when Orton and Sheamus are wrestling?
You know what most irks me about this show? It looks like every other WWE show. It has the same boring lighting, the same boring ring set up where you can’t even tell that we’re in MSG and the same boring production, which haven’t changed since 1998 because Kevin Dunn is a freakishly obsessive knob-end. Keeping in mind the last WWE special, from Japan, was brilliant. Different lighting, different cameras, different feel. It felt so fresh and interesting. This show is just another show. The only difference is the addition of Rich Brennan but they still have JBL dragging everything down.
Oh, and Orton wins with an RKO. Match was white noise. Every time Orton steps into the ring, or onto camera, my brain switches off and refuses to acknowledge that anything is happening. I honestly can’t remember a single thing about this match just seconds after it’s finished.
Final Rating: *
Post Match: Something interesting happens as Rusev yells at Sheamus for being useless, even more useless than Lana. Sheamus lays him out with the Brogue Kick. Possible face turn for the big Irishman? It doesn’t really fit in with his position as Mr Money in the Bank. Not that I could see him winning a world title.
Video Control takes us backstage where Kane is recovering from Raw and his ankle injury. “I look at this as an opportunity for personal growth”. Positive Kane is positively great.
Stardust vs. Neville
Urgh, again? This is increasingly feeling extremely house showy. I know it’s supposed to be a televised house show but that doesn’t mean throwing out a bunch of repeat matches that no one is that interested in. Does it? I hear a few fans yelling “boring” so maybe I’m not in the minority. Or maybe I’ve just been spoiled this weekend. These two do lots of house show stuff like dancing and Stardust stealing Neville’s cape. Nothing of note really occurs and Neville wins with Red Arrow. Which he’s been doing for what seems like an eternity and yet the feud with Stardust keeps aimlessly rambling on. The boredom of this was such that I don’t remember things that happened in the replays. At what point did Neville do an Asai moonsault?
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Renee Young interviews Paul Heyman, who introduces himself as the crowd sings along. Luckily there’s no Big Show to ruin it, like on Raw, and Heyman nails all his points. A good Paul Heyman promo is stunning. A shill follows for the NXT based TV show, where they go behind the scenes at NXT Takeover Brooklyn. That airs on the Network after Raw. #Content.
Team Bella vs. PCB
Again? What in the hell is wrong with this company? No one wants to see this. No one. Seeing as Paige has turned heel all the former NXT girls come out separately. They shouldn’t have brought Becky Lynch up. She came up too early. So did Sasha, for that matter. They should have brought Charlotte up to take Nikki’s belt, then run a feud with heel turn Paige. Then brought up Sasha Banks to recreate the NXT feud they had, leaving Becky vs. Bayley to headline NXT. They’ve blown their booking wad and both Becky Lynch and the useless Alicia Fox are entirely superfluous to the story that’s being told here. In order to make Becky seem relevant they’ve got her acting like a spaz. I’m sure that will work wonders in getting her over. Like with the last worthless 6-woman tag this lot did, they work heat on Becky. It’s almost as if the Bellas can only work one match and just do it over and over again. Interesting to see that Charlotte absolutely destroys Nikki when she’s got two healthy legs. Paige, bitch heel that she’s become tags herself in when the match is already won with the Figure Eight. That makes no sense. Then the Bellas work heat on Paige, which doesn’t work IN THE SLIGHTEST because Paige just turned heel and shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be worked over for heat.
Whoever is booking the divas on the main roster…go away. Whoever is booking NXT’s women, you should be in line for a promotion.
The faces then refuse to tag in to Paige and she loses to the Rack Attack while the FACES stand around doing nothing and LOSING the match for themselves. Paige moans about the lack of assistance after the match, despite doing exactly that on Raw last week and bemoaning that she’d never do something like that, which pretty much ruins her whole turn because it makes her look like a blithering idiot. The divas revolution just committed suicide. Thank Christ for NXT.
Final Rating: -**
Well, this show has been a complete abortion. WWE are their own worst enemies at times.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Chris Jericho
SAVE_US.Y2J! (and Owens). Jericho points out this is his 25th anniversary as a wrestler, as he debuted on 3.10.90 against Lance Storm, who’s in the front row. Jericho talks about his youth, watching Ted Irvine, his Dad, play for the New York Rangers in this building. Don Callis is at ringside too. Jericho deliberately plays up his babyface legend status to ensure the crowd don’t feel inclined to cheer Owens…and they still do because Owens is brilliant and New York is his kind of crowd. Even before they start this immediately feels different and special, a polar opposite of everything on the card before this.
Owens is more interested in trash talk and keeping his beatings simplistic than having a blow-away showstealer. It allows Jericho to play his veteran card as a potential upset and, record breaking potential tenth IC title. A lot like the booking of AJ vs. Liger from Rev Pro. Jericho is definitely a sentimental, timeless favourite. They have some canny counters lined up with trademarks popping up and not connecting before they get into the business of teasing some near finishes. The commentary is pretty good too with JBL referencing history and Brennan gliding smoothly through the contest without irritating me in the slightest. The finish is classy with the Pop Up Powerbomb countered into a sunset flip, into the Walls of Jericho and during the set up Owens sneaks in a thumb to the eye and wins with an inside cradle. Not keen on Owens becoming such a cheap shot, roll up artist but they put on a fine contest here. Jericho is the king of the network specials. Shame it was so short, as a 12-15 minute contest could easily have cracked **** with how they were working.
Final Rating: ***1/2
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
The New Day mock the whole Dudley Boyz shtick before the match in hysterical fashion. The “Waazzzzzuuuupppp” bit had me in stitches. Also Big E waves like he’s in the royal family. That’s incredibly endearing. Despite the Dudleys being New York area favourites, since they stopped being assholes to the New York crowds (circa 2000), the crowd are really into New Day. Which shows how far they’ve come this year. It’s been an astonishing turnaround. Xavier Woods continues his Jimmy Hart-esque run of being irritating in hilarious fashion, using an implement to make himself louder and working as hard as the wrestlers. Big E vs. Bubba is a surprisingly good match too. With Bubba strong enough to throw the big man around and E fast enough to show his strength in depth. 3D on Kofi out of nowhere would switch the belts but Xavier jumps in for the DQ. “Nobody has ever kicked out of the 3D” chimes in JBL, wrong as ever. Masato Tanaka says hi. ECW is official WWE canon. New Day retain regardless and this was fun enough. Woods eats a post match table, in a reprise of the last time they ran this exact same angle.
Final Rating: **1/2
Brock Lesnar vs. The Big Show
Last time Lesnar was on a special it was to murder Kofi Kingston. The whole match was just a destruction. I would be fine with the same here. Big Show has little to no value in his current role. He’s just a gigantic gatekeeper and Lesnar is way above him and always has been. Even when Show beat him in 2002 it was an upset and Lesnar has legitimised himself in UFC since then and conquered the streak. Show has done nothing. Show gets a few early spots like throwing Lesnar out of the ring but Brock decides to completely no sell a TRIFECTA of chokeslams in a bizarre piece of work. Brock ducks the KO punch though and sends Show off to Suplex City where he belongs. German. German. German. Botched F5. German. F5. This is how I like my Big Show matches. Him getting thrown around like baggage and getting beaten swiftly.
Final Rating: SQUASH!
Post Match: Belly to belly. F5. Suplex City, bitch!
Steel Cage Match
WWE US Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Seth Rollins
I don’t understand the logic of extending this feud by having the WWE champion continually lose to the US champion. It’s not so much making the US title mean more, because it’s Cena, but rather making the WWE champion look like a chump. And they’ve been trying hard to steer Rollins away from that, only to end up jobbing him out again. Whatever happened to keeping the champ strong, Triple H style? Despite wrestling Cena the crowd still hate Rollins, which is good news for him…in a way. It means he’s doing his job as a heel. Cena gets what would politely be called a ‘mixed’ reaction but he’s definitely the more over face of the two. Could it be due to him asking for time off? In a way Cena not being around might actually be of benefit to the WWE because they (and by they I mean Vince McMahon) seem incapable of letting anything grow organically without sticking Cena into the mix. Like having him tag with the Dudley Boyz last week. He’s getting all the rubs and all the wins, which is another reason why the midcard is trampling all over itself and getting nowhere. You could argue that despite being champion for six months, Rollins is still seen as just another midcarder. Until the likes of Cena and Lesnar are out of the way, the guys underneath won’t get *that* over without promotional help. Lesnar impacts the undercard guys less because he’s a ‘special attraction’. Cena is on every single show.
The argument against is that the WWE has a severe lack of star power but then, that was the case when they made Steve Austin, The Rock and Mick Foley into stars. A top end void creates stars out of necessity. The one thing they can’t do is keep putting over the same old faces (Show, Kane, Orton etc). This is a perfectly acceptable match, they’ve had a few belters recently, but the repeat contests has made this somewhat less special. Also that it’s for a secondary title. They work really hard but unlike their past matches it never really clicks for me. It’s not that there’s anything technically wrong but it just feels like an anticlimax. All match long. The cage doesn’t help, as it’s supposed to be a brutal environment but it’s been superseded by the Hell in a Cell (which they’re doing this month too) and the Elimination Chamber and no one is ever going to bleed on a kiddie friendly show. It’s a pointless stipulation. It’s not like they’ve been having matches with dodgy finishes (Jon Stewart Summerslam run-in aside). What makes the match seem somewhat worse is Rich Brennan’s commentary deteriorating into the long contest, probably because he’s got Michael Cole feeding him terrible lines.
Rollins is good enough that despite the repetitious nature of the contest, and most of the spots, he’s still able to keep his escapes fresh and use the escape stipulation to make the match different. That includes both the walls and the door. Seth is great in this environment. It’s just a pity the booking didn’t lead into this. It’s a cage match for the sake of it. Despite this Rollins does good stuff with the cage door, including climbing over it while it’s open to kick it back in Cena’s face. The match gets over in spite of the booking and it gets good because of the guys involved. What’s weird is they play completely within the rules, even though the cage match is no DQ, until a very late Rollins low blow. This gives The Demon Kane sufficient justification to come out here. With Kane blocking the escape Seth goes for a splash off the cage, channelling Superfly Snuka, but misses and Cena hits the AA for the win. Like I said before; there was no purpose to the booking and it confuses me greatly. If Cena is taking time off (and asked for it in the summer apparently) why is he going over the WWE champion three times? Despite this it was a good match. Best of the night.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Summary: There’s a lot of early crap. The first hour is bad. But once Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho got underway the card picked up. Owens-Jericho, Lesnar-Show and Cena-Rollins all delivered for different reasons and with different approaches. After an hour I was ready to turn the show off, because it was like watching a rough house show, but business improved. They could have been better off just running the last four matches as they all delivered.
This is the time of year where the WWE hits the proverbial doldrums (although it’s not as if the rest of the year has been this shining beacon of hope*). At the moment everything is on a holding pattern until Survivor Series. Seth Rollins is in a program with Kane. Nothing exciting appears to be on the radar. When a show is routinely highlighted by Xavier Woods playing the trombone, your company is in a creative funk. Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker will be headlining the next PPV and neither is appearing on Raw tonight. Hell, the only worthwhile concept, other than the New Day, that’s going on is the John Cena open challenge…
John Cena’s US Open Challenge
So we kick the night off with the one thing that won’t suck. Which is a major bonus because it means no waffling 20 minute promo from Seth Rollins, Kane or the Authority.
WWE US Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Xavier Woods
Speaking of starting strong; it’s Xavier Woods playing Cena’s entrance music on his trombone! Kofi makes a Scrooge McDuck reference, which Xavier explains and makes me laugh. John Cena is all “you need to take me seriously” blah, blah, blah. Yes, how dare the New Day be more entertaining than Big Johnny? “Cena, you about to get lost in the Woods!” If Xavier plays the trombone while he’s got Serious Cena in a hold this is MOTY. Cena’s treatment of Xavier in this match is nothing short of bullying, much like his treatment of Jon Stewart. John Cena can’t ever see another person’s point of view. He’s so wooden and inflexible, which is why people hate him. I’ve got no problem with John Cena the wrestler and he’s had a brilliant 2015 in the ring, changing his move set and working hard but as a person he’s gone from being one of the biggest entertainers in the world to a one-dimensional asshole. I’d personally have no problem with him being a surly veteran who can’t come to terms with a younger generation and their punk-ass attitude but it’s the opposite of what he preaches, changing with the times. The crowd is dead for this, because Woods isn’t a pure heel anymore he’s an anti-face and Cena bores people. His approach to wrestling is so underwhelming at times. He’s just this guy who nothing important ever happens to and he just shrugs everything off and gets back on the horse. It’s a boring character. He has no arcs and he’s the centre of everything. New Day run in for the DQ. Dudley Boyz run in for the save and we ECW-esque our way into a tag.
Final Rating: *3/4
John Cena & The Dudley Boyz vs. The New Day
I would love for this to end with the Dudley Boyz beating the shit out of Cena and New Day clapping along while it happens. Not that it will. I do prefer the Dudley Boyz as heels, in a smaller company. New Day work heat on Cena, which is meaningless because he never sells, not really. He just sells fatigue briefly, way too early in the match too, and then pops up like nothing happened. It’s a massive frustration, amplified when he’s not working a workrate freak (like Kevin Owens or Cesaro in other challenge matches). D-Von gets the hot tag but Kofi floors him with Trouble in Paradise while New Day play a numbers game, enabled by Cena lying around on the floor. The Dudley Boyz should definitely blame him for that.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us backstage where mild-mannered Kane, who’s owning this gimmick by the way, is introduced to Ashley from HR. An anonymous complaint has been filed against Kane. Gee, I wonder who filed that complaint? Seth Rollins storms in, outraged at the situation, calling the accuser a “spineless coward”. “Who doesn’t love a good, old fashioned performance evaluation?” – Kane. It’s a stupid angle but Kane is delivering on it. That’s all you can ask from the onscreen talent. Elsewhere the rest of the Shield have a chat about Bray Wyatt. Dean Ambrose is all weird and off. His voice fluctuating for no apparent reason, placing emphasis where it doesn’t belong. And not in an entertaining Christopher Walken kind of way, but rather in a ‘what’s he doing?’ manner. Randy Orton arrives and blah, blah, blah. White noise. I don’t think I’ve digested a single word Randy Orton has said since 2006. He could have been cutting promos about how much he enjoys smoking crack and getting hummers off Martians and it wouldn’t sink in.
The Big Show vs. Mark Henry
This is the kind of match that gives Vince McMahon a raging erection of big man on big man flesh contact. Even speaking the words “Mark Henry” gives him a semi. Why else would he hire the man for twenty years? The match is worthless, as you’d expect, as Mark’s body has had it and Show is boring. No prizes for guessing the winner as Show is being fed to Lesnar at MSG so until then we have to suffer him winning on TV all the damn time.
Final Rating: DUD
Remember when an absolute car crash occurred the last time they had all the divas from NXT on Miz’s show? Terrible idea, dreadful execution…so let’s do that again! At least they show Paige’s devastating heel turn promo from last week to set it up. The guests this evening are Charlotte and Becky Lynch, now just CB, I guess, like the radio. Miz is gratingly awful as the host and might as well not be there as Charlotte calls Paige out…and the Bellas answer. No one asked you to be here, no one wants you to be here. Please go away. “This isn’t about you” points out Charlotte and yet Nikki continues to rant so Charlotte tells her to piss off before she gets tapped out again. Charlotte tries to explain what the diva’s revolution is about, which completely goes over the heads of all of Team Bella.
Paige shows up to claim she’s responsible for everything. Nikki continues to interfere so Paige shuts her down with “if you have boyfriends like yours, who needs ambition?” That results in a massive brawl, which is what nobody wanted from this angle, having routinely shit on those issues and matches in the past. Nobody wants PCB vs. Team Bella. Speaking of which…
PCB vs. Team Bella
The crowd instantly die when they realise they’re getting presented with this lame duck angle, AGAIN. Are the WWE genuinely so blissfully unaware that nobody wants this? Or are they deliberately booking shit in the diva’s division so they can bury the Diva’s Revolution where they want it to be? Predictably the match is bad, thanks to heat on Becky. None of the heels can work a lick. Maybe that’s an approach to make Nikki look better than she is, by partnering her with two useless workers. In Paige vs. Charlotte they have an actual feud that people want to see so we get the Bellas again. It’s typical blinkered Vince McMahon thinking. “We don’t like this” (Cena, Orton, Big Show, Kane, Miz, Nikki Bella). “YOU WILL LIKE IT, BECAUSE I SAID YOU WOULD” – Vince. It’s the same mentality that killed Roman Reigns’ push and now it’s wrecking an entire division. Paige causes problems on the floor and Nikki beats Charlotte with the Rack Attack. Match was awful. If there’s ever a shot to show how useless Alicia Fox is it’s the post match where she does the “L” sign for loser on her forehead and does it the wrong way around. I know I bag on Nikki for being a crap wrestler but Foxy literally has zero worth.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control gives us a shill for the new WWE video game, which has Steve Austin beating up Seth Rollins. The champ gets buried once again! From there we get an even more depressing shill for Lesnar vs. Big Show, detailing their 2002 feud. Elsewhere Seth chats to Ashley from HR. Does Kane not watch this show? Actually he probably does, which is why he’s come after Seth as a demon. Kane has a present for Seth, which freaks Rollins out and it’s the head from his statue. “It’s your severed head” cheeps Kane. “How considerate” says Ashley. If Ashley’s smart she keeps that head and sells it on eBay.
The Prime Time Players vs. The Wyatt Family
Lots of people doing the Millions of Dollars dance so naturally PTP are out here as jobber fodder for Braun Strowman. They’re pushing Braun strong but no one seems to care. It’s hard to connect to the poor simpleton. I wished they’d had him like Masterblaster from Beyond Thunderdome, as a child-like monster. At the moment there’s nothing to distinguish him from other big monsters and he’s pretty dull. This was a squash and Titus takes the job to the choke.
Final Rating: DUD
Stardust vs. Neville
We all thought this would be a placeholder feud for Neville to introduce him to the fans but it’s rumbled on for weeks and Cody Rhodes is being wasted. The poor guys dad died this year and he’s still stuck in this gimmick. That’d be like Chavo retaining the Kerwin White gimmick after Eddie died. It’s almost offensive. The action is passable but there’s no reason to care. Stardust is about ready to job to the Red Arrow when King Barrett just turns up and Neville stops. A decision that makes no sense and gets no one over. Bull Hammer causes the DQ. More worryingly is that Barrett is out here for Stardust and Neville, the actual star of the three, is treated like an afterthought.
Final Rating: DUD
Tangent: Bringing up the Kerwin White gimmick reminded me that his caddy was Nick Nemeth. A dude now known as Dolph Ziggler. Another pointer that having a crap gimmick might not be the death of you as a wrestler in the WWE. Hell, it wasn’t his last bad gimmick as he returned with the Spirit Squad. Same as Kane, who started off life in the WWE as a dentist and then a Kevin Nash impersonator before lucking into the gimmick as Undertaker’s demonic brother.
Kane’s Performance Evaluation
Yes, this is a real thing and it’s happening in the ring. Who thought that was a good idea? Ashley can’t deliver the report because she’s immediately interrupted by Seth Rollins, who buries Kane as a nightmare to work with. Seth Rollins has a weird story where he claims he had an audience with the Pope (D’Angelo Dinero?), who told him he’d go to heaven. Great facials from Kane here, he’s owning this gimmick. While I don’t want the Kane-Rollins match the slow burn on their feud is finally paying off, thanks mainly to Kane’s performance as a creepy babyface in a suit. Ashley passes Kane for work but calls Seth nihilistic, paranoid and unprofessional. Because even Ashley from HR scores points on Rollins, he’s that much of a dork. Seth gets pissy and lays Kane out with a Pedigree and then Pillmanizes the ankle. Kane gets loaded into an ambulance while Seth Rollins runs his mouth, at great length. The ambulance suddenly stops though and red smoke billows out of it. It’s the DEMON KANE! He stops selling the leg and then no sells a Seth chair shot. It’s surprisingly great. This was cheesy as hell but Kane’s performance turned it into a guilty pleasure. However I’m very aware they must wrestle a match at the end of all this and Kane’s matches are boring as hell.
Video Control gives us a promo from Bray Wyatt. There’s something about the Roman Reigns feud that just doesn’t click with me but Bray’s promos are, as always, great. At ringside are the Buffalo Bills, or some of them anyway, so squeaky-voiced geek Bo Dallas comes out to give them a pep talk.
Bo Dallas vs. Randy Orton
Bo gets nothing. RKO.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Kevin Owens vs. Rusev
Ryback joins commentary as he’s still feuding with Owens. One would hope they don’t do 50-50 booking and just switch the belt back to Ryback. Someone in this midcard needs to get strong and Owens is, by some distance, the best candidate as a) he’s not been tainted by the main card booking yet and b) he’s fucking great. There’s nothing doing here as Owens throws Rusev into Ryback, the heels beat Ryback down and the match is thrown out. Dolph Ziggler makes the save. Why couldn’t they turn this match into a tag? It might actually be quite good! Even though I’d rather Owens was left by himself, as he excels on his own.
Final Rating: N/R
Video Control gives us clips of WWE wrestlers dancing for Connor’s Cure. The New Day and Sasha Banks one is magical. Team them up!
Promo Time: Paul Heyman
He’s out here to shill Brock Lesnar’s month of Hell because someone needs to get the crowd excited for Lesnar vs. Big Show. The Big Show ends up taking exception to some of Paul’s comments. Show’s arrival derails the whole segment, bores the crowd and urgh, it’s just rubbish. Heyman looks borderline offended for having to sit through it. This was a colossally stupid idea. Just let Paul Heyman sell the damn show! It’s what he does. I ended up spending the segment trying to think of an excuse as to why I wasn’t going to watch the MSG show.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
This is supposed to be the feud ending match, which would be nice because the feud hasn’t worked for me in the slightest. The crowd seem to be of the same opinion as the match is largely heatless. It’s frustrating really because this is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping the WWE would do. Get a feud that’s not about the title and get it over enough to main event a show. Like they did with Taker vs. Lesnar. And yet this hasn’t paid off at all and it’s mostly because of how badly both men were booked going into it. Wyatt lost a lot of momentum at the start of the year, losing in a boring match to Undertaker at Wrestlemania. The “New Face of Fear” wasn’t intimidating anyone and by himself he was drowning. So they went backwards and re-formed the Wyatt Family, something they never should have broken up to begin with. Roman has been forcibly re-built since Vince McMahon personally wrecked him at the start of the year. Two guys being rebuilt shouldn’t work each other because the crowd need a reason to care about it happening. So instead of having an epic feud, they’ve had a placeholder feud, which has gone on for months. The crowd apathy is the result of the WWE’s own foolishness, taking hot acts and just booking them into oblivion.
The match doesn’t do itself any favours with Bray controlling the pace with his methodical work. It’s an enormous bore and the crowd aren’t into it at all. Even worse is the ‘feud ending’ contest ends in a double count out. This word you keep using, I don’t think it means what you think it means. They continue to fight after the match and Wyatt drives Roman through the rail, finally doing something worthy of a double count out. The crowd seem to forget it’s actually over and chant “this is awesome”. Roman comes back with a spear, destroying the announce table in the process, and that’s how the show ends.
Final Rating: *1/2
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: The New Day
Least Entertaining: The Big Show
Quote of the Night: “That’s an old school cartoon reference. Duck Tales” – Xavier Woods schools John Cena.
Match of the Night: No.
Summary: Another gratingly awful three hours that you’ll never get back. The WWE persist at doing the same thing and expecting different results. Eat. Sleep. Put on the same fucking TV show every week. Repeat.