There has been a lot of soul searching around the History of Wrestling offices over the past twenty-four hours. Both myself and James Dixon had made bold proclamations ever since Sheamus won Money in the Bank stating that if he cashed in and won the title, we were done with this whole reviewing malarkey. It made no sense to go back to a performer who’d been given a shot at being the top guy and had failed, several times. The circumstances behind Sheamus’ victory were even stranger as it completely cut the legs off Roman Reigns after months of rehabbing him after a disastrous aborted push at the start of the year. Roman was finally ready to claim the title, which he did and WWE immediately pulled the rug out from under him. Seeing as there were no other options the belt has found its way to Sheamus.
But wait, no other options? Here are a list of things WWE could have done instead.
So there were more options on the table than the one WWE went with. What’s even stranger is the way Sheamus was treated during the Survivor Series PPV. If he was going to be the champion by the end of the night why treat him as a joke in the Survivor match? He was laughed at by the New Day pre-match and pinned clean by another midcarder in Ryback. Speaking of midcarders; Sheamus is one and has been all year. He’s been in midcard feuds and has done nothing of note since winning the Money in the Bank match. If WWE knew he was cashing in, which they did because it’s Vince McMahon’s company and the booking buck stops with him, why not use him more effectively in between and establish him as a threat?
Anyway, this whole creative disaster is what caused a minor mutiny in the HoW office. The short of it is that we’ve done eleven months of 2015’s RAW shows. To give up now would be like WWE giving up on Roman Reigns like they did. We’ve come so far. We can’t just stop. Another way of looking at it is that wrestling is an addiction and once it’s in your blood you’re screwed. We’re all screwed. Welcome to RAW!
We’re in Nashville, Tennessee. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Promo Time: The Authority
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. A new era of WWE begins with another droning promo from Hunter and Steph as to why they screwed Roman Reigns. At least Sheamus looks happy as WWE champion, which he should do seeing as it came completely from left field and probably surprised him. His heat isn’t quite ‘X-Pac heat’ but it’s not far off. Sheamus’ droning promo is the perfect length for me to watch the Minions Mini-Movie “Competition”, streaming for free on IMDB.com. A far better use of your time than listening to that Irish windbag. Roman turns up to ask for his rematch tonight and call Hunter a pussy for hiding behind his emasculating wife. In a way WWE has been a bit cute because they took the crowd’s “anyone but Roman” mentality and said “oh, really? Anyone?” and put the belt on someone that the crowd won’t cheer over Reigns. So now Roman has a far greater percentage of crowd support. Not that I agree with that decision, you understand, but I can see why they’ve done it, which is a half-step up. Things take a weird swerve though as Rusev jumps Reigns to end the segment, leaving the former champion laid out like a punk. Again. Hunter books the Sheamus-Reigns match at TLC in a TLC match and Reigns vs. Rusev tonight.
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper & Braun Strowman)
“Last night may have made the Wyatt Family even more dangerous” says Cole. Or it could have turned them into jobbers to the stars, says I. The Wyatt’s complete inability to beat anyone, ever, even with a numbers advantage has turned them into an utterly heatless group. Albeit with the best entrance in the company (bar Finn Balor…and Bayley). Harper, like against the Brothers of Destruction, takes the bulk of the match because he can bump around for the Dudleys. At least he gets the win tonight, pinning Bubba with a discus lariat. This was a Dudley Boyz squash until a distraction finish. Notice how WWE keeps having to rehab people? Maybe if they didn’t cock up their push in the first place they wouldn’t have to.
Final Rating: ¾*
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Interesting that Sasha comes out to her own music, not Team BAD’s, as she’s blatantly the star of those three and indeed the entire division. Sasha vs. Becky on NXT earlier in the year was ****1/4-****1/2 territory and they have a lot of background. Interesting also to note a chant of “Sasha’s ratchet”/”no she’s not” making it over from NXT. The crowd respond to Sasha in a way that the rest of the NXT girls can only dream of. The reason why she’s not in the Charlotte role is because she’s far better as a heel. The story in this one is that Sasha is too cocky and gets caught in the Disarmer only for the numbers game to help Sasha win. It keeps in line with Sasha’s character. She’s not afraid to look weak to be a star because ultimately everyone knows she’s money. Short match but solid action.
As we conclude Paige jumps in from the Titantron to proclaim herself number one contender, despite losing clean last night. Paige’s reasoning is that Charlotte’s tits were touching the ropes last night so her submission doesn’t count.
Final Rating: **
New Day Open Challenge and Country Music Jamboree
You’re reading that title correctly! The New Day have been a group for a year so they celebrate by riding pink unicorn horseys to the ring and bringing a New Day twist to the world of country music, which they cannot stand. As per usual the New Day are effortlessly entertaining, mocking the locals in such a way that they still get cheered. Their assault on country music is fabulous. The result is an open challenge, answered by the Lucha Dragons, who had solid chemistry with New Day last night so that’s a good move. New Day go to leave but the Usos join in too. “You have ruined our Jamboree” yells Big E. These guys are gold. Xavier cancels the open challenge and the faces clear the ring. Bait and switch aside this was marvellous. Presumably we’ll get a three-way dance at TLC.
Mark Henry vs. Neville
This goes onto a long list of terrible WWE ideas. Henry barely works here anymore and can’t take any of Neville’s moves bar the flippity top rope stuff and kicks. The result is a completely unrealistic match with Neville hitting one kick and the Red Arrow for the win. Henry making a point of kicking out anyway to make Neville look like shit. Cheers, pal.
Final Rating: DUD
Video Control takes us backstage where Titus O’Neil accidentally walks into Stardust’s galaxy. Weird ticks make it a fairly fun segment. “What was that we just saw?” asks Cole.
Stardust & The Ascension vs. Goldust & The Prime Time Players
Goldust has been drafted back in because WWE is running short on babyfaces. The whole Star-Goldust feud went nowhere earlier in the year but Stardust has done nothing since so we’re back to that old chestnut. Titus is the star here, bossing the action with his power offence and charisma. It makes you wonder why he doesn’t get more opportunities. Across the ring the Ascension are in the rebuilding process after WWE called them up to the main roster and promptly buried them completely. It probably would have been easier to rehab them without the pointless burial. That said Titus wins out on this particular night. Not everyone can win. This felt like filler but as far as filler goes it was ok.
Final Rating: *1/4
Promo Time: The Mex-Americans
Zeb Coulter and Alberto Del Rio talk a lot and I’m still not sure why they’re together. The crux of their chat is that the borders of Mex-America are closed and they’re not accepting new Mex-Americans. This goes on and on until Jack Swagger appears. Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, who’s next? Heath Slater? Damien Sandow? Curtis Axel? Some talent will find TV time with an assortment of main card guys going down injured. Del Rio has returned as a Latino icon and has been turned into another anti-American foreigner. This was dull.
WWE Divas Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Paige
This flopped last night but that was a PPV so I’m hopeful a free TV title match will get a better response. Paige plays the chicken heel and Charlotte gets to put more of a beating on her. A theory I’ve heard is that people aren’t connecting with Charlotte and that’s evident in this match. She’s too big, too dominant to be a babyface. Paige can’t get the crowd to turn on her regardless of how strong her promos are. Although she should probably realise when she yells stuff like “this is my house” she’s eliciting babyface reactions. Paige decides to take a page out of Nikki Bella’s book and work the knee. Somehow this ends up even more lifeless and heatless than the Survivor Series match. The finish is rubbish too with Paige causing a double count out instead of having a definitive finish to end this feud. They even tease an announce table spot, which is just Paige doing her PTO on the table. Is it more painful if executed on a table? Match lost me about halfway through and then snoozed to a non-finish.
Final Rating: *3/4
Promo Time: Heath Slater
Oh my God! He still has a job too. The over/under on Sandow appearing before the end of the show is looking good. I’m still confused as to why Damien Sandow has been de-pushed to the degree that he has. Apparently Slater doesn’t like country music either. Who does? Well, Brock Lesnar actually. This would have been an interesting spot for him but Brock’s stunt double is Ryback. He clears Slater out. That’s the segment. Thanks for coming, Heath. Now you can go back to jobbing to Fandango on Superstars.
Dean Ambrose & Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens & Tyler Breeze
Two matches from last night condensed into one. Everyone is good in the ring but the match exists on a dead show in a dead spot ahead of tonight’s main event. Both Ambrose and Owens still get big reactions, suggesting either one of them could have been given the ball. Although the comparison on this show is silence and indifference so it’s hard to say how over they are. The action is decent but the match is five minutes so they can’t get any stories going, just continuing existing issues. Like with earlier someone has to take the fall and Tyler isn’t on Ambrose’s level so he loses to Dirty Deeds. Owens again makes for a poor tag team partner as he ignores the pinfall, only interested in himself and his own wellbeing.
Final Rating: **
Video Control gives a weird backstage bit where Mark Henry imagines El Torito doing the JBL gimmick. Mark eats a burger to shill Hardees menu. Is that a fat joke? Also two Mark Henry segments on RAW? What year is this?
Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
Rusev hasn’t wrestled on RAW in a month, not since teaming with Sheamus and King Barrett against the Dudley Boyz at the end of October. He’s been injured and on punishment duties for daring to get engaged to his real life girlfriend, Lana, and tanking WWE’s idea of having him ‘marry’ Summer Rae. Lana has also been punished and hasn’t been on TV. The logic of this makes no sense. When Triple H and Stephanie got married, after having been married and divorced onscreen, were they punished? Was it addressed on TV at all? No. So why even bring up Rusev and Lana’s engagement? Anyway, his in-ring hasn’t deteriorated during his absence and Rusev works fairly effectively opposite Reigns. The match only exists to give Sheamus a way to cheap shot Reigns from ringside thus promoting their TLC title match. Until he gets booted, proving he’s so completely useless that he can’t even stand at ringside properly. King Barrett runs in for the DQ at the finish, thus ensuring some continuity with Sheamus, Rusev and Barrett forming a European Union of sorts a month back.
Final Rating: **1/2
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: The New Day
Least Entertaining: Alberto Del Rio
Quote of the Night: “Country music sucks. This is me saying this, not my character, country music sucks” – Kofi Kingston.
Match of the Night: Roman Reigns vs. Rusev. Not much competition.
Summary: After a dire PPV came a decidedly dull episode of RAW. Yes, they really are going with Sheamus as champion at least until the next PPV. Yes, the midcard is a wasteland with so many injuries to the point where Jack Swagger, Mark Henry and Heath Slater made their way onto RAW. I often complain WWE don’t use the depth of their roster but injuries have forced them into doing so. The result is a bunch of guys who can’t get over because normally they’re not even allowed on TV. There are a few positives for WWE; Roman was backed by the fans tonight. Owens and Ambrose look to have some legitimate chemistry, which could lead to a good match at some point. The New Day are still hugely entertaining regardless of what’s happening around them and they have a few entertaining opponents lined up. Sasha Banks got the kind of reaction they’ve been hoping for from Charlotte for the past three-four months. The injuries and absences are starting to mount up though and WrestleMania has to sell a lot of tickets and might struggle with the roster they’ve got. We might be in for a run of shows like this while WWE get their ducks in a row. One thing is for certain, they need new stars and they need them as soon as possible.
22nd November 2015.
We’re in Atlanta, Georgia for the 25th Anniversary of the Undertaker show. WWE has been hyping Taker all week on the Network, aiming to get across the importance of his career and his influence on the WWF landscape over the years. A quarter of a century is a long time for any character but a WWE one? It’s almost unheard of. Longevity in wrestling is nothing new but the way in which the Undertaker has achieved what he’s achieved has been nothing short of amazing.
On a completely different note; Survivor Series was placed on a threat list this week, with ISIS rumoured to be targeting the event for a terrorist attack. In typical blusterous Vince McMahon fashion the show always goes on. WWE have been in contact with various law enforcement branches of the American government, thus making this one of the safest major wrestling events in the history of the pseudo sport. Even more so than the bomb-scare threatened WrestleMania VII.
Almost lost in all this hoopla is the WWE championship, vacant for the first time since Daniel Bryan’s 2014 injury necessitated a ladder match to crown a new champion. The tournament to crown the champion was an obvious one but with Undertaker, Kane, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, John Cena and Brock Lesnar all missing. The resultant field was a competitive one but one lacking in star power, considering the prize at the end of the rainbow. The resulting tournament has been Roman Reigns dominating one side of the bracket and Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens the obvious semi-final on the other side. From there is where WWE can take us on a story. Will Reigns overcome the odds and triumph against the Authority’s wishes? Will He join forces with Triple H and become a corporate champion? Will the Authority pick any of the four remaining participants to replace Seth Rollins? Will Sheamus cash in his Money in the Bank shot? All will be revealed at Survivor Series. Expect screwjobs.
WWE Championship Tournament Semi-Final
Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio
I’m pleased to see both United States and Intercontinental champions being represented in the tournament to the semi-final stage. Even if the bigger story seems to involve the Authority and the former Shield members. Del Rio’s return has been an odd one. The partnership with Zeb Coulter doesn’t make sense and the storyline has, so far, felt forced. Like any chosen champion of Vince McMahon, Roman Reigns gets a heavily mixed reaction from the crowd. Unlike John Cena, he doesn’t have to stay babyface though and that’s what makes him more interesting as a personality. Will he stay true to his beliefs? We are increasingly in an era where the traditional babyface doesn’t exist anymore. Cena is as close to that out there and he’s roundly booed every time he wrestles. Even Triple H, shown watching on a monitor backstage, gets a mixed reaction. Fans view him as a heel for his onscreen persona but also love him for NXT and his headline career. The storyline in this match is one established on Raw last week where Roman has a bad shoulder. The idea being that it eliminates the Spear and the Superman Punch, Roman’s main two offensive weapons. Not that it stops Roman from using his arm. He just grimaces afterwards and not even that when it comes to the Superman Punch. There’s also a mind-bogglingly stupid spot where he hauls Del Rio up into a one-arm powerbomb with the injured arm. So the entire match is rendered pointless, albeit with a big-match atmosphere. Especially on the near falls like Roman getting suckered into the First Flash. The other aspect of the arm work is Del Rio getting the armbar on that injured limb. Reigns hits the Spear with the bad arm to win. Bags of effort but the storytelling and psychology was all over the place in this match. Could Roman have not found another way to win? It makes him look like a poor worker for not being able to think of a Plan B to overcome Del Rio’s Plan A.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us to Roman for a live interview, which he botches horribly, forgetting his lines. Kevin Owens comes in to save him. Owens assertion that he’ll stop Reigns tonight gets a raucous pop.
WWE Championship Tournament Semi-Final
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
Ambrose gets a big pop but Owens gets a bigger pop. He’s rapidly becoming the people’s choice to carry the company forward. Ambrose has the whole Steve Austin gimmick going for him, which is referenced quite often. He’s a guy that has an anti-authority persona that people connect to. What’s clear is either one of these guys would be a more interesting champion than Roman Reigns. The best thing about Owens is that he’s not afraid to be a heel. He’ll quite happily put a match in the cooler and coast through on hate. As much as I appreciate work-rate there’s something about a guy who can control the crowd without any sizzle. That’s the stuff champions are made of. The work is fairly basic with the odd quality counter. It’s designed to give both men an easy route through to the final. It’s a smarter worked match than the Reigns-Del Rio one, albeit not as interesting. Owens litters the match with fun spots like a missed moonsault or the Avalanche Fisherman Buster. Their spots click together at times too like the Popup Powerbomb being countered into the Rebound Lariat. Ambrose goes to the well and runs into a superkick but then the Popup is countered into a rana. It’s great counter wrestling. Ambrose ends up catching Owens with Dirty Deeds to make it an all Shield final. Owens proved he belonged on the top rung here, putting together a far superior match to the preceding one and making Ambrose look as good as he has all year.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Survivor Series Elimination Match
Ryback, The Lucha Dragons (Kalisto & Sin Cara) & The Usos vs. The New Day (Xavier Woods, Big E & Kofi Kingston), Sheamus & King Barrett
Xavier Woods has outstanding hair this evening, channelling The Cat from Red Dwarf. As per usual the New Day entertain with their mic skills and even Sheamus amuses by claiming they’re about to “get jiggy on these posers”. Even Michael Cole is scoring points off Sheamus. “Sheamus should cash in his Money in the Bank to get a new personality”. Oh, it’s a deep burn. The match is pretty entertaining too, with the faces coordinating a stereo four-man dive. JBL finds a number of entertaining sources to riff off during the match including Jerry Lawler’s Survivor match with the midgets, mocking Cole’s “referees, technicians, EMTS down” line replacing it with “Irishmen and Unicorns” and comparing Ryback to the Hindenburg. Oh the humanity! I’ve never been that into JBL as a commentator but when his references start clicking he’s really entertaining. Especially compared to Lawler who has completely lost the plot. Barrett is first man out, dumped by Sin Cara’s Swanton off the middle of the top rope. 5-4 faces.
Traditionally you don’t want your heels chasing the odds. Xavier double stomps Jimmy Uso to square things up. 4-4.
The New Day and Lucha Dragons interaction is so good that it wouldn’t hurt WWE to build the Dragons up as challengers for the tag championships. It’s not like they have a stream of potential champions in the tag ranks. Brogue Kick puts Sin Cara out, thus allowing the New Day to escape the Dragons and it creates tension between Big E and Sheamus over who scored the pin. 4-3 heels.
The miscommunication is enough for Big E to eat a Superfly Splash off Jay Uso to leave the New Day a man down. 3-3.
The New Day determine this ‘injury’ to be so severe that they need to tend to Big E and all leave. This leaves Sheamus against Jay, Kalisto and Ryback. With the New Day departing it’s like the air is sucked out of the arena and there’s not much investment in the remaining characters. The only reason for doing this is to tire Sheamus out to insure he’s not able to cash in his Money in the Bank later. To show how interested he is in the match Jerry Lawler is on Twitter. I get WWE likes social media but shouldn’t it be encouraging people to watch the product? Lawler is terrible at the best of times but talking about his re-tweets during a match is unbearable. The faces do some nice tagging during a triple team sequence and Shellshock finishes for the faces. Survivors: Ryback, Jay Uso & Kalisto. This whole match was odd and as soon as the New Day left it lost all crowd interest.
Final Rating: **1/4
WWE Divas Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Paige
This has been coming since Charlotte and Becky Lynch got called up to the main roster and paired up with Paige. The veteran, Paige, is content to play the heel role. She moans and complains and makes Charlotte look bigger and stronger than her without turning Charlotte heel. Like with the men, there’s no real clear cut babyfaces in the divas division and they all get mixed reactions. That’s just how wrestling is nowadays. The crowd don’t really respond thanks to Paige taking a methodical pace and the storyline not drawing people in. The ending segment to Raw last week did not help matters. It was supposed to make this personal, turn it into a blood feud but instead it turned people off and Charlotte’s lack of aggression demonstrates how the whole angle has failed. The intensity picks up with a battling Figure Four and Charlotte starts channelling her Dad. Paige seems a bit put-off by the lack of crowd reaction and starts doing small arena stuff like yelling at the fans. There’s nothing worse than working in front of a dead crowd. The crowd finally makes itself heard by chanting “we want Sasha”. That about sums up the apathy toward long-term established divas like Paige as she’s been in this dead division for years. Paige showboats a bit, which costs her and Charlotte taps her with the Figure Eight. The crowd hurt this as they didn’t care at all and it definitely effected the wrestlers.
Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control gives us a chatty showdown between Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. Neither man gives anything away. Nobody says the patented “I’ll do anything to win the title” line that gives away a heel turn.
Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler
“Look everyone, it’s Tyler!” I honestly didn’t realise how highly I rated Tyler Breeze and enjoyed his shtick until he arrived on the main roster and fitted right in. There’s a telling moment pre-match where Tyler is doing the selfie thing and Summer tries to pose with him and he raises the camera over her head. I doubt Tyler’s character is even aware Summer Rae is there. This is an odd contest as neither man is that interested in the woman they’re supposedly fighting over and they both usually work from the bottom. They tend to get beaten up a lot. In facing each other they have a chance to show something more. Although that dynamic doesn’t always work (see Shawn Michaels vs. Mr Perfect for proof). They do click quite well but the crowd doesn’t respond much, although not to the degree of the last match. The finish is sudden with Tyler Breeze hitting the Unprettier as JBL makes Shawn Michaels references. I’m glad they had Tyler go over here as Dolph is job proof and Breeze needed a win to establish himself.
Final Rating: **1/2
The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper) vs. The Brothers of Destruction
This whole Wyatt vs. BOD angle seems to be forgetting that Wyatt tried to crush the spirit of the Undertaker earlier in the year, at WrestleMania, and failed. A lot of the crowd are here for Taker and he gets a big reaction as he’s such a special attraction. He’s coming off a solid feud against Brock Lesnar too so even the newer fans have fresh memories of excellence. My personal favourite Undertaker is the Phantom of the Opera one from 1996 after Mabel broke his face. The Wyatt’s select their two best wrestlers for this venture, beforehand having suggested it’d be any two of their four members. Luckily this leaves Braun Strowman at ringside and the more capable Harper takes the bumps. It’s harsh on Harper, as he’s the only one who can make Taker and Kane look good, that he has to take all the abuse. It makes his character look like a punk and Strowman look strong, when he’s actually garbage. Harper has the better offence too. They try some weird creepy psychology from the Wyatts only for the Brothers to zombie sit up. Seeing as Bray is the money man in the Wyatt Family poor Harper has to take the Tombstone as well. Match was mostly a nostalgia trip and was rarely any good as a contest.
Final Rating: *1/4
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose
Poor Roman Reigns, he’s been booked to be the top babyface in the company all year and can’t catch a break. Mainly because Vince McMahon wanted to turn him into a goofy babyface like John Cena, which turned half the crowd on the poor guy. As a result his push has been truncated several times and he’s been forced into rebuilding programs. Meanwhile Ambrose hasn’t been up to the top and been booked wrong, he’s always been bubbling under and not given the push when he was hot. Now they’re both in the final match because of circumstance. Roman had this title shot anyway and, from a storytelling perspective, was likely to overcome Seth Rollins in the original booking of Survivor Series. Instead he finds himself opposite his ‘brother’ in a babyface match. Ambrose takes a cerebral approach, using the existing arm injury to his benefit and being less afraid to take it to his ‘brother’. It subtly makes him the heel, turning the neutrals and kids into Roman fans to even out the crowd. The crowd is again on the quiet side so Roman hits early big spots like the Superman Punch and the Spear for near falls. It’s a little odd that Ambrose didn’t see either one coming, although the Punch is at least out of mid-air. When Roman kicks out of the Dirty Deeds it feels like they’ve blown their wad inside ten minutes. When it’s feeling underwhelming Roman hits another Spear for the belt and that’s it. They shot for epic and came up a bit short but it was a decent sprint.
Final Rating: **1/2
Tangent: WWE’s insistence at firing off a shit-load of pyro after the match is over is not a particularly good idea. The ISIS threat must have had a few of the audience members on edge and the timing of the explosions is unnecessary. Especially with a million tonnes of confetti falling into the ring.
Post Match: Triple H joins us to offer a handshake to Roman Reigns as the new champion and Roman hits the Spear! It’s not winning the belt that defines Roman here, it’s defying Triple H!
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Sheamus
And God damn it, Sheamus is cashing in. Brogue Kick and Sheamus pins Roman in the confetti to win the belt. “Are you kidding me?” yells Cole. Well, there was a load of debate as to how the WWE would book a difficult Survivor Series and they went for the most predictable and worst possible booking route. Sheamus is the least deserving heavyweight champion since Randy Orton’s rotten Daniel Bryan blocking run a few years ago, and putting him with Triple H is even worse as it means the Authority endorses their second duff champion in three attempts. Congratulations, guys, another creative disaster.
Final Rating: DUD
Summary: It was a mediocre show with only a few bouts really delivering. The conclusion of the show was a total bummer and I’m pretty sure, in line with our various declarations of late, no one will be covering Raw tomorrow because no one at History of Wrestling actually wants to watch a product with Sheamus on top of it. The Sheamus thing makes no sense. Why him? Why didn’t Ambrose stick around to stop him? Did nobody think this might happen? Worst major show of the year. Most disappointing booking decision of the year. I was fairly hyped to watch this show, wondering what booking direction WWE would go in, and it fell horribly flat. One can only hope Sheamus loses the belt swiftly and we can forget this event ever happened. The worst part of all this is that WWE had the opportunity to do something drastically new and exciting and they opted to avoid that completely. Wouldn’t an Authority backed Kevin Owens have been a better move here? Thumbs down and let’s hope someone backstage has the grapefruits to sort this out as quickly as possible.
We start with (most of) the roster on the ramp, showing solidarity with France after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris this past Friday evening. They share a moment of silent reflection with the crowd, as the now iconic Paris peace sign by Jean Jullien adorns the big screen. A classy move from WWE, who actually had performers in the city during the attacks. The Bella Twins were both there on vacation, and had been walking distance away from where some of the attacks took place only an hour earlier in the day.
We are only one week away from Survivor Series, a card which has suffered a tumultuous build due to the injuries to Seth Rollins and Randy Orton, the absence of John Cena, and the general fan apathy towards to product in general. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament is in full swing, with the first round having been completed on television last week, in a largely underwhelming set of matches. They were disappointing because of the lack of effort WWE put into the tournament. It didn't feel special, important, or really anything other than a series of thrown together matches. It wasn't helped by the participants being a ragtag bunch of midcarders, jobbers, comedy acts, and tired acts. Splurging the bracket immediately took the excitement out of everybody too, because immediately it was evident that Brock Lesnar hadn't been convinced to do some extra dates, that John Cena hadn't been talked into cancelling his long-planned time off, that Vince McMahon was willing to roll the dice with Daniel Bryan and have him come back, concussion concerns or not, or that WWE would take the opportunity to call up someone from NXT such as Finn Balor, Samoa Joe or Apollo Crews. Hell, they didn’t even cancel pre-booked matches featuring The Undertaker, Kane (who wanted the title desperately last month and worked in the title match on pay-per-view), or Bray Wyatt (whose whole feud with Roman Reigns revolved around the title). Why wouldn't those guys be in it? Also, on that note, why is Wyatt allowing Reigns to progress through the bracket, given his promise for the past six months of “anyone but you, Roman”. It’s all nonsense, slap-dash, half-assed booking, with WWE proving that when they get backed to the fences they wilt and take the beating. There is no fight in them. Satisfyingly, WWE’s apathy towards the tournament for its supposed richest prize was reflected in the ratings, with RAW dropping below three million viewers in its third hour for the first time since the days of Nitro whipping its ass, and the show overall scoring one of the lowest ratings in the last two decades. In another era you might expect a reaction tonight, but there is nothing that can shake this company out of its creative lull. Thank god for the primo workers they have up and down the card, keeping the place afloat.
Promo time: The Brothers of Destruction
Undertaker and Kane are given a protracted, dramatic entrance, with druids, chanting, darkness, lightning, the works. It takes them ten minutes to get to the ring, giving folk at home tuning in late time to get comfortable and make a quick brew. You know, it strikes me, wouldn't the demonic pairing’s entrance be that much cooler if they coordinated their magic and had the lights come on at the same time that Kane makes the posts explode?
With Undertaker’s “twenty-fifth” anniversary coming up at Survivor Series, a fact that has been heavily promoted by WWE, you could be forgiven for thinking he would be involved in something monumental. But alas, no, instead he is teaming with his storyline brother for a tag team match against two random members of the Wyatt Family. That’s right, a generic tag bout, not a traditional Survivor Series elimination match, nor even a 2-on-4 encounter with the odds stacked against he and his sibling, but a bog standard, throwaway tag team encounter. Which begs the question, why would anyone want to see that now after Taker and Kane already destroyed all four of the Wyatts last week on RAW, exacting their revenge in full for the attacks they suffered at the hands of the clan? In kayfabe world, having already beat them up do Undertaker and Kane now feel the need to score a pinfall victory over one of them in order to fully move on and get over the ordeal? The character motivation doesn't make sense.
Even worse, Bray himself challenged the BoD to the straight up tag match, stacking the odds against himself and halving his resources after having already seen the duo smash through his entire clan. Sometimes I think WWE don't give its fans any credit and assume they are all so dumb that they won’t pick up on things like that, but they do, of course they do, and that is just one of the many reasons why nobody is invested in any of the characters on this show. None of them are consistent, none of them do logical things, they just do whatever random nonsense they are scripted to do that particular week, with nothing holding over and running on into the future. So the result is a tag match that nobody wants to see, a complete waste of Undertaker on his “special night”, and another feeling of being completely underwhelmed by WWE’s directionless creative.
The one positive I can say about this opening segment is that the staging, for once, is very good. As the brothers discuss their feelings in an unintentionally tongue-in-cheek Addams Family manner (darkness, hell, evil, demons, etc), they are bathed in an eerie blue light while the rest of the arena is in darkness, which makes for a rather satisfying eerie surrealist effect. The Wyatts predictably show up to retort, but refrain from entering the ring immediately, and instead wait around at the stage while Bray sits in his rocking chair and rocks back and forth, explaining that he is the new Big Bad in WWE, before commanding the forces of thunder and lightning with the power of his mind. He makes the lights go out, and when they come back on the druids from earlier, who I had forgotten about, are now surrounding the ring clad in sheep masks. Creepy as hell, but probably could have been even cooler if they had already been surrounding them in the ring. Bray seems quite satisfied with himself, but like Wile E. Coyote, his master plan turns out to be a bust. Taker and Kane handily destroy the tiny druids, with Taker planting one of them so hard with a chokeslam that his mask comes off with the impact. The Wyatt disciples head to the ring, but Bray calls them off and instructs them to wait until Sunday. Why would he do that? Why would the Bray Wyatt character care about saving the fight for a Network special? This was standard WWE match building fare really, with a whole lot of empty threats but little actually happening.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Quarter Final
Neville vs. Kevin Owens
This could be a television classic, and indeed it was on the indies a couple of times. Kevin Owens is so good because he is blessed with that rare combination of having exciting, variant offence, much of it unique -in WWE at least- but he can also take everyone else’s spots, and he moves around incredibly well for a big guy. He is one of the best bumpers in the company, which is impressive for someone his size. Neville is similar in that his work is always smooth, exciting, and occasionally jaw-dropping, plus his bumping and selling is almost second to none. It makes for a great match up on paper, and indeed tonight. But of course, in the eyes of WWE Owens in tubby and Neville is short, so they will never be allowed to get over past a certain level. They will always be the guys that the top guys beat on their way up, they are not top guys.
The action is as solid as you would expect, with the excitement levels increasing after a gentle start when Neville cuts it real close breaking a ten count, causing Michael Cole to get flustered and declare that the close nature of the near win “infu-ree-a-rated” Owens. Neville brings some nice stuff such as a snap German in the corner after ducking a charge, and a corkscrew moonsault which gets a near fall and has the fans right into it. He makes a few attempts at the Red Arrow, but Owens knows his game and finds ways to prevent it. Neville avoids Owens’ pop-up powerbomb with a superkick right on the money, followed with a sick reverse rana. Owens takes it beautifully, perhaps better than anyone I have seen take that move. Neville tries to follow up off the top again, but Owens sees it coming and moves, but Neville sees that and changes in mid air. Nice. Unfortunately for him, he isn't quick enough to avoid a brutal wild bomb version of the pop-up powerbomb for the Owens win. An exciting, high impact match, with plenty to enjoy from bell to bell. It probably needed another five or ten minutes to really be something special though.
Final Rating: ***½
Backstage, Triple H has an unheard conversation with Owens, and they shake hands. Is he Authority bound? It would certainly be a huge boost to his career if he was.
Tyler Breeze vs. R-Truth
Truth continues is his role of jobber to the midcarders, and he has been such a terribly written character this year that nobody cares one iota about him anymore. It wasn't all that long ago that he was main eventing Survivor Series at Madison Square Garden opposite John Cena and The Rock. Breeze takes far too much of a kicking for a new guy who should be booked strong and getting a push. Especially from a no-hoper like Truth. When he takes a shot to the face, he collapses in the corner so his valet Summer Rae can put lip balm on him, which draws uproarious laughter from the announcers. Yeah, let’s all bury the NXT grad, just like with poor Adam Rose and The Ascension. Hell, just like Cole did with Daniel Bryan for years, until he got over and Cole had to shut his gormless mouth. Breeze gets aggressive after that and targets Truth’s leg, going to work on it with vigour. After a brief Truth flurry, in which he does at least remember to sell the leg, Breeze puts him away with his Beauty Shot finisher. It is already quite apparent that Breeze is going to suffer on the show from the usual problems. His gimmick doesn't translate to the main roster, partially because Vince McMahon has no damn clue what a selfie even is, plus Breeze is a little guy. He looks so generic and lifeless on this show compared to NXT that it is sad. I bet he would rather be back down in Florida. I cannot fathom for a moment why anyone would want to move from NXT to RAW right now
Final Rating: ¾*
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Quarter Final
Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler
This is another good match-up on paper, though it is an all-babyface affair so it could split the crowd. The winner will face Kevin Owens at Survivor Series, and frankly either would be a strong choice. Ziggler can take his moves well, whereas Ambrose would bring the smash-mouth brawler side out of Owens. They can also both talk up a storm, so it is a shame there will be almost no TV time prior to the card to promote the bout.
They start out with some solid mat work, giving Ambrose a rare chance to display his technical wrestling acumen. They look like they are having a lot of fun out there and being given the chance to work. Ambrose is by nature more aggressive, which comes into play when Ziggler starts avoiding his offence and frustrating him, then outwrestling him with snazzy submission holds. It’s good wrestling. Ziggler tags Ambrose on a dropkick and knocks him daft, but he regains his bearings and returns the favour from earlier by going for submissions. Resident wrestling philistine Byron Saxton is bored, calling it “methodical” because he doesn't understand slow-burning wrestling and intelligent match pacing. Nobody establishes a period of control at any stage, which makes for a really well-worked back and forth contest. Not in the typical WWE big match style where everyone involved just hits finisher after finisher either, but rather with intelligent wrestling.
They have some nice sequences such as a series of pin switches, and a double crossbody that puts them both down, not to mention a bout of fisticuffs on the top rope that both men take a spill to the outside from. There is plenty to like about this, with both guys countering each other’s more well-known spots, and ramping up the volume of the big moves as the bout progresses. The counters and transitions into their bigger moves are excellent. A turning point comes when Ziggler hits an X-Factor off the top and tweaks his knee, so Ambrose rolls to the outside knowing Ziggler can’t follow him, buying himself some time to recover from the move and saving the match. More smart wrestling.
Back inside they exchange near falls again, then any remaining niceties cease as they engage in a good old fashioned fist fight. They switch and switch again into the Dirty Deeds, and Ambrose wins it clean in the middle. Corking match. Far different from what I was expecting, and executed at a high level throughout. There wasn't a single dead spot or dull moment, and it was a real showcase of what two talented guys can do when they are allowed to just go out there and wrestle. Dean promises to turn WWE upside-down if he wins the belt, and guarantees more action and less talking. Suddenly, based on that tantalising statement, every wrestling fan in the world wants him to win.
Final Rating: ****
The New Day vs. The Usos & Ryback
This is filler. We do get a pre-match promo from New Day where they mock Jey Uso’s shoulder injury and change the Uso chant to, “When we say uce, y’all say oww”. Excellent. Considering Jey is just back from that injury, one which has had him on the shelf since WrestleMania, his decision to hit a wild dive over the ropes -which he overshoots and goes crashing into the barricade- is a fairly boneheaded one. It leads to heat, as tag formula takes over. The announcers get bored and start talking about Dirty Dancing. Big E amuses me at least by mocking Ryback throughout, repeatedly slapping his own head and yelling “stupid”, just like the big lunk himself does. They run the old fake tag spot that the ref misses, and the ever-intelligent Ryback takes an age arguing the toss about it, with Jey taking more of a kicking with each second that passes. Seeing Ryback as an easy target, New Day rile him further when Big E slaps him, leading to the big guy coming in all angry and full of bluster, and in his exuberance he shoves the referee and gets his team disqualified. Duh. To compound the idiocy, Ryback and his partners celebrate the loss afterwards. Good to know that wins and losses mean absolutely nothing.
Final Rating: *½
Backstage, Triple H gives Cesaro a pep talk. “Very few guys can do what you can do in that ring,” says Hunter, before suggesting that he might need that little something extra to take him to the next level and grab that brass ring. Oh, insider comments. In this context he means The Authority. This merely serves as a ploy to take a little of Cesaro’s popularity away from him prior to his match with the chosen one, Roman Reigns, sewing seeds of doubt in the minds of fans on the fence with the suggestion that Cesaro might turn heel and side with the WWE powers that be. Like Owens, it wouldn't be the worst move for his career if he did.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Quarter Final
Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro
As pleased as I was to see Cesaro defeat Sheamus last week, if I was WWE I maybe wouldn't have done it. They want Reigns as their guy, there is no doubt about it, so putting him in with the always-popular Cesaro when he is already struggling for fan approval seems detrimental to his growth. Roman struggles through some scripted lines before the match, reminding everyone that he turned down the chance to take the easy route to the title when he rejected The Authority. Pandering. My suspicions that the fans may turn on Roman turn out to be incorrect, thanks to a primo carry job from the incredible Cesaro. Watching him lead Roman through intricate spots with the greatest of ease reminds me of guys like Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Bret Hart in their pomp. Like Ambrose-Ziggler, this is another triumph in the ring, with two babyfaces not confined by the shackles of bad script writing going out and working for twenty minutes. The match is a total throwback in the sense that they tell a story in the ring, with Cesaro targeting Reigns’ arm, and at the same time favouring his own after a few weeks of having it worked over. It’s simple, but effective. Cesaro turns things up a few notches with a series of incredible feats of athleticism, including a majestic cartwheel from the top rope, and a sequence where he evades the Drive By, pulls Roman right into the giant swing, turns it into a Sharpshooter, then counters Roman’s attempts to reverse it by hooking a crossface. The man is a machine, and there is nobody in the company working at his level. Of course JBL, the proxy voice of Vince McMahon don't forget, is more interested in the impressive power displays from Reigns, such as a one-armed powerbomb with the injured arm, a move that by rights he shouldn't be able to do after the hammering the appendage has taken. JBL then comes out with a corking line, “That is impossible to do! Try it at home and see for yourself!” Michael Cole quickly chimes in, recommending that nobody should try this at home, but rather should leave the moves they see in the ring to the professionals. What a goof JBL is. The bout concludes with a series of well-timed, believable counters, ending with a Reigns Superman punch followed by the spear for the inevitable victory. Predictable result or not, this was another awesome match on what has been the strongest RAW of the year as far as in-ring goes. Every bit as good as the Ambrose-Ziggler match, but worked in an entirely different fashion, this is probably Reigns’ finest singles performance since WrestleMania.
Final Rating: ****¼
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Ascension
It’s matches like this which serve as a reminder that no matter how good RAW is, it is still far too long and needs too much filler to pad it out. This match-up is completely worthless, with the Ascension long past the point of no return, and the initial excitement that greeted the return of the Dudleys having long since died down. They are just another badly used act in a promotion filled to the brim with them. They have been off TV for a couple of weeks since failing to get the job done against New Day, which was the right thing to do because they had been immediately overexposed and grew quickly tiresome. Bringing them back to beat the Ascension in a nothing match does little for them, and literally the only purpose this served was to eat up time.
Final Rating: ½*
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Quarter Final
Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto
This is a foregone conclusion, as indeed all of these quarter final matches have been, but this more so than the others. Del Rio’s return so far has been a total bust. He has gone from one of the hottest guys on the Indy scene to someone working without any passion for what he is doing. It is hardly a surprise given how he has been booked since coming back, with his wacky pairing with Zeb Coulter failing on all fronts, and his work having the feel of someone phoning it in. There is no intensity to anything he does. Things go from bad to worse for Del Rio when he accidentally rips off Kalisto’s mask during a spot on the top rope, which draws an audible “ooh” from the crowd and a “Woah!” from JBL, ever one to channel Bobby Heenan in WCW and point out a botch. The next thirty seconds see the pair desperately try and put the mask back on, which gets them booed out of the building, and the rest of the match is played in front of total silence. Del Rio scores the win with a messy double foot stomp off the top for the win, to end another Del Rio disaster.
Final Rating: ¾*
Contract Signing: Paige and Charlotte
There is no women’s match on the show, but we do get a Main Event Contract Signing, which I guess is a first for the female folk on RAW. Clearly WWE saw Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm draw a record crowd for UFC in Australia and thought, “Well golly gee, we can do that too!” Only, they can’t, because Mmes. Rousey and Holm had genuine real-life stories to tell, and an intense professional dislike. They also won, all of the time, which made a showdown between them a tantalising prospect. Paige lost last week to Becky Lynch in her home country, for no other reason than... well, I cannot even give an explanation as to why that was a good idea. WWE thinks that my shoehorning its female talent into main event spots then they will become de facto main eventers, but that is not the case. You can put anyone in the main event slot, but that doesn't make them a draw. Just ask Diesel. This is as transparent an attempt to piggyback off UFC’s success with its female fighters as WWE have tried, and the results are part pretty good, and part revolting.
The segment is hosted by Michael Cole, who plays question master as Charlotte and Paige stare holes in each other from either side of a table. Charlotte gets emotional delivering her obviously scripted verbiage, struggling to juggle the task of remembering her lines while having to “act” on national television. The results are mixed, and her shaking hand betrays the fact that she is nervous as hell up there on the main stage. Charlotte makes the claim that she doesn't care about anything in wrestling except having a successful career in tribute of her late brother Reid Flair’s memory. Oh no. Paige in turn throws barbs, mocks Ric Flair for his silly jacket-attacking promos, then utters a line that is sure to help WWE win the “Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic” award in this year’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards; “Your little brother didn't have much fight in him, did he?”
And so, after a few weeks of terrible ratings, WWE reverted to what is known as the Vince Russo Tactic: shock TV. They did the same thing in 2002 with the infamous Katie Vick angle, in which Triple H accused Kane of accidentally murdering his high school sweetheart. If that wasn't bad enough, he then shot a skit wearing a Kane mask where he simulated coitus with Vick’s long-mangled corpse. The outrage was such that simple questions like, “Why was she still in a funeral home decades after her death?” were not asked. It turned out to be a Triple H laugh-fest anyway, because he was really screwing a blow-up doll. Oh, that cad. This happened around the same time as Al Wilson, Torrie Wilson’s father, was introduced to viewers. Dawn Marie ended up entrapping Torrie and engaging in a lesbian tryst with her in a desperate effort from Torrie to keep Dawn away from her father. It didn't work, and Dawn married Al, oversexed him on their honeymoon, and caused him to have a heart attack and die. At Al’s wake, the two had a cat fight and the casket containing poor Al came tumbling to the ground. It was vile. Paige mocking Reid, who tragically died in 2013 from an accidental heroin overdose at the age of just twenty-five, was every bit as bad.
You cannot blame Paige. She was given the line, Charlotte knew about the line, and they delivered it. They did what they had been written to do. In Vince McMahon’s world it is perfectly fine to make light of the death of the young son of a wrestling legend, because in his world the news, and real life, is all just another form of “entertainment”. He has showed similar levels of crass before, allowing C.M. Punk and Paul Heyman to mock Paul Bearer just weeks after his death in order to sell a program between Punk and The Undertaker. And let’s not forget how WWE exploited the death of beloved star Eddie Guerrero for years after he died as they desperately tried to get Rey Mysterio over as a main eventer. Why should Reid be any different? In the twisted logic of WWE’s mindset, anything and anyone is fair game.
Evidently Reid and Charlotte’s mother Elizabeth was outraged by the use of Reid’s death as a storyline plot point in an effort to build heat for a wrestling match. Taking to Twitter, she slammed WWE for “lazy” writing, which it is, and called it “cheap heat”, “disgusting”, “disrespectful”, “cruel” and “sad”. And looking at the bigger picture for a moment, is this of all weeks the right time to be using real-life death as a means to sell tickets? Yes, the post-comment brawl that follows the comment is pretty damn good, and it does give a match that few cared about a dose of real heat, but was it worth it? A really sour end to an otherwise excellent night of wrestling.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Cesaro. Give that man a raise. He achieved in one night what WWE have failed to do for eleven months; he made Roman Reigns look like a star.
Least Entertaining: Paige. While not in any way to blame for the line she delivered, the fact is she did deliver it, and someone has to take the heat for it.
Quote of the Night: “If you had chapped lips Byron, you wouldn't have a job.” - JBL sheds some light on the reason for Byron Saxton’s continued employment.
Match of the Night: Cesaro vs. Roman Reigns, though the competition tonight was fierce.
Summary: It was a great show in the ring, the filler matches aside, but the great wrestling action on the broadcast was sandwiched between two rancid slices of sports entertainment. The opening segment with the Wyatts and the Brothers of Destruction achieved nothing at all, while the main event chat was one of the most disgusting things that WWE have done in the PG Era. It is hard to be positive about a show that ends in such an unsavoury manner. Still though, let’s take the positives, which were three excellent TV matches, and a star-making turn from the criminally undervalued Cesaro. This night belonged to him. At a time when WWE are desperate for guys to step up and grab one of Vince’s brass rings, he has as good a chance as ever of breaking through the glass ceiling and getting the headline billing he so richly deserves. Unfortunately, we have written the same thing many times before.
We’re in Manchester, England for a rare taped episode of Raw and we’re in for big news seeing as Seth Rollins buggered his knee up (ACL, MCL and meniscus) earlier on the tour in Dublin and is out for 6-9 months. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Promo Time: Triple H
The situation gives the WWE a fine opportunity to try something different. Not that they will. I got really excited at the prospect of a tournament but it all depends on how ambitious they get regarding the brackets. Triple H officially strips the injured Seth Rollins of the title before pointing out Roman Reigns was already the number one contender and they kinda tease handing the belt to him. Not that Hunter would ever condone just handing the belt over to someone. That wouldn’t be in the spirit of competition. 2002 says hi. Although Hunter points out Roman could get a bye to the final…if he becomes the Authority’s guy, pointing out he scouted Roman for Seth’s spot but Rollins was more pliable. “If you want to be the man, you have to be MY man” – Triple H. I would have turned Roman heel here, personally, although I can see the exact same sell-out occurring at Survivor Series. Like they did with the Rock at Survivor Series: The Deadly Game in 1998. Especially if the final match is Reigns vs. Ambrose (they must have been planning something with those two otherwise Dean wouldn’t have made cryptic comments about a mystery plan at the last PPV). Hunter talks about criticism being the reality of main eventing and “you will never be liked by everyone”. It’s good advice. The crowd even chant “YES” at Roman. They want him to turn heel. He declines. “Thank you for reminding me why I didn’t choose you in the first place”. Decent opening to the show, albeit long-winded, as Hunter offering Roman to turn to the darkside gives the tournament a little bit of tension. Both as Roman going against the odds and the potential of Reigns eventually accepting the Authority’s offer. Or someone else taking that spot.
WWE Championship Tournament
Roman Reigns vs. The Big Show
The point of an opening match is usually to get the crowd warmed up and it doesn’t matter how much star power you have (a former multiple time world champion vs. the top guy in the promotion at the moment, Beelee-Dat) if the action is drab, the crowd will snooze. And that’s bad for business. The crowd, bored, decide to amuse themselves by chanting “please retire” at Show. They have a hot finish at least with the Superman Punch being countered into a chokeslam. For some reason Show’s previous finisher, for many years, is now completely worthless even though he doesn’t bother dropping to his knees like he used to. It’s a much harsher landing. Roman hits the Superman Punch and the Spear to progress. Bad match that killed the crowd.
Final Rating: ½*
Ok, with that done here’s the bracket for the title tournament. On Roman’s side:
Reigns beat Big Show
Cesaro vs. Sheamus
Alberto Del Rio vs. Stardust
Kalisto vs. Ryback
Reigns over Del Rio in the semi. Authority teasing Del Rio is their guy. He’s not. The other side of the bracket is slightly more open:
Titus O’Neil vs. Kevin Owens
Neville vs. King Barrett
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
Dean Ambrose vs. Tyler Breeze
It screams Roman vs. Ambrose in the finals, especially if they do go through with a heel turn. If not then Roman vs. Owens for Roman’s magical fairy princess victory. Other possibilities? On Roman’s side virtually none. Unless they actually pull the trigger on Cesaro, finally, which is highly unlikely. Especially as he’s bracketed in with Reigns. On the other side Breeze is feuding with Ziggler so they might have that as a quarter final but surely Ambrose is a key player so that’s unlikely. There’s also the possibility of Ziggler doing something, although it’d be a year overdue to capitalise on the popularity of him twelve months ago. A few weird anomalies in there like Kalisto, Stardust, Miz and Titus. They seem almost randomly selected. No Lesnar, so he’s busy but that shows the lack of star power. No Bray Wyatt. Doesn’t he want the damn title? No Sting. No Undertaker. No Kane. No Cena. So a lack of star power but a lot of decent workers involved. There is no explanation as to where these brackets came from or who was responsible for picking these particular 16 men. No mention of anyone who’s not in the tournament and why that is. It’s not a disaster or anything but it doesn’t make much sense.
Ringside: Wayne Rooney. Also Darren Fletcher but nobody cares about him.
WWE Championship Tournament
Kevin Owens vs. Titus O’Neil
Owens cuts a pre-match promo suggesting the WWE needs “change”. “The WWE fans have been cheering the same old garbage for years now”. Owens gets the crowd onside before rounding on the Brits calling them the “dumbest fans in the world”. Titus is a lovely chap but he’s not on Owens’ level and the match feels drawn out due to this disparity. Owens does a fine job bumping around and making Titus look like a threat but it’s hard to buy into. Having given Titus the whole match Owens just hits the Pop Up Powerbomb to advance.
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control takes us backstage for an interview with Paige, who’s popular in her home country. Paige calls Becky Lynch a “rat” and Charlotte “baby Flair”.
Becky Lynch vs. Paige
This is Paige getting warmed up for her Survivor Series title shot. She’s the heel but is naturally loved by the locals, due to her British identity. Paige won the number one contenders match by pinning Becky last week in a fatal fourway match. I was personally rooting for Sasha but then, I almost always do. I still persist that Becky got called up too early and has been a third wheel in the WWE since she got there. Not that she’s unskilled or unprepared for the opportunity but rather the booking had no room for her. As a result they’ve tried to make her into this space merchant nutbar to try and make her stand out, instead of just letting Becky be Becky. She’s a really likeable person, her character is an idiot. It must be a pain for her as she’d just figured out that whole redhead Steampunk look. They try for a little mini-epic here with Becky surviving the Rampaige thanks to her ring position. Paige tries to pull the tights for the win but Becky reverses it and gets the pin herself in a somewhat unexpected conclusion. Way to keep Paige strong ahead of her title shot! What really grinds my gears is they feel the urge to job the Brit in Britain. The one place where nobody wants her to lose. At least Lynch wasn’t an afterthought but the booking is mightily strange. I guess they figure Paige has enough heat already.
Final Rating: **
WWE Championship Tournament
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
It’s weird that Miz was once a world champion and now he’s filling out a bracket as a jobber. Maybe he wasn’t the man to be world champion in the first place. Crowd wants Mizdow. That’s another angle that died. I don’t understand how someone as entertaining and consistent as Damien Sandow has gone from being the best thing on Raw, earlier in the year, to never appearing on the show. Why do the WWE insist on keeping guys under contract and never using them and yet putting on stale matches on TV over and over again (Sheamus vs. Orton, I’m looking at you). Rather predictably the match is all Miz heat as that’s all Ziggler does, ever. That’s fine if you’re wrestling bigger and better opponents but it’s the Miz. The finish sees Miz walk into a superkick and that’s it. I appreciate Ziggler using the superkick for pins as he does it well and it’s more devastating than the Zigzag. Interesting to see Ziggler hold the WWE title up after the match. I can’t see that happening.
Final Rating: *
Promo Time: The Mex-Americans
They flew Zeb over to cut a promo against England. Alberto Del Rio calls the Brits “haters” and that’s it. Del Rio is wrestling his tournament match on Smackdown. Hey, thanks for coming Zeb!
Natalya vs. Naomi
Two women’s matches on one show! Singles matches, too. What are the odds? Nattie called out the ‘leader’ of Team B.A.D. They continue to claim Team B.A.D. has no leader. Sasha Banks is RIGHT THERE! If anyone is under the illusion that Team B.A.D. is anything other than a vehicle to keep Sasha busy, you’re just wrong. “We want Sasha” chants the crowd and Nattie encourages it to try and sew seeds of dissention. Sasha runs Nattie face first into the ring post to an enormous pop. The WWE might not be quite as stupid as they sometimes seem as they’re making the crowd want Sasha more by not giving her any matches. Natalya gets the win with a fluke roll up and Sasha lays Natalya out, having built up to Natalya vs. Sasha over the past couple of weeks. Naturally Nattie straps Sasha in the Sharpshooter and Banks taps out. Forget what I said earlier, the WWE are stupid.
Final Rating: ¼*
WWE Championship Tournament
Sheamus vs. Cesaro
Sheamus brings fellow European Wade Barrett with him. It’s a gaggle of Europeans! You’d think Sheamus would be over, seeing as he’s from nearby Ireland, but you’d be wrong. Sheamus isn’t over anywhere. Barrett has an ongoing Twitter issue with Wayne Rooney, as Barrett’s a Preston fan and Rooney dived against Preston earlier in the year. Barrett has words for Rooney before the match, calling him a failure, which, seen from a certain POV, is entirely accurate. JBL points out Rooney is England’s all-time leading scorer but that has more to do with longevity than talent. Sheamus does his best to ruin the match by being lazy under the cover of being a heel. How can you have a boring match with fucking Cesaro? Sheamus could wrestle Jesus Christ and it’d be dull as ditchwater, all bloody chinlocks and bearhugs. Cesaro outwrestles Sheamus, has ideas way beyond anything that’s ever trickled through Sheamus’ Irish brain and charisma to spare. They do manage one tremendous spot with Sheamus suplexing Cesaro to the floor and they barely beat the count. It’s terrific timing from the Swiss Superman to come in after Sheamus has rolled in at the nine count.
In my mind, the WWE want Sheamus to get a big run to justify his idiotically booked Money in the Bank win, but Cesaro dominates the crowd support and carries the match. Cesaro batters Sheamus with a pleasing number of forearm uppercuts (or “lifters” if you’d rather). Wayne Rooney slaps Barrett allowing a distraction roll up win for Cesaro. I love how Cesaro switched to his good left arm midway through the match due to an arm injury to his right, and even slaps hands with Rooney and Fletcher with his good arm, even though it looks awkward. You have to commit to selling. This match should have been way better and would have been if Sheamus hadn’t dragged it down. Top work from Cesaro though, he was outstanding here.
Final Rating: ***
WWE Championship Tournament
Dean Ambrose vs. Tyler Breeze
Here’s Tyler Breeze, four wins away from becoming the most super good looking world champion of all time. Tyler has adjusted to the main roster with consummate ease, getting his character across in a few interviews and looking like he’s been working here for years. Which he has…in NXT. How long before Tyler dumps Summer Rae (like everyone does)? Actually scratch that, he’s probably not aware she’s the same girl coming out with him every show. His character is so wonderfully oblivious to anything that’s not his own reflection. Where Tyler differs to Sheamus is that he brings the character and personality but doesn’t let his jerkish heel distractions drag the match down. Mainly because he wants to work hard and prove himself. His bumping is absolutely frantic. If he was aiming to make an impact, he’s there. He clicks well with Ambrose, a brawler and you get the feeling Breeze could do wonders to the midcard with his selling heavy antics. The difference between him and Ziggler is he’s competitive and litters his selling with offensive moves. His bump off the rebound lariat is wonderful. Dean hurts his shoulder on a missile dropkick and Tyler gets all over it, giving us two matches in a row with coherent injury storytelling. Ambrose pulls an inside cradle out of his ass to advance. Tyler looked great here. Push him hard and push him quick. He’s earned it in NXT.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control shills the remaining title first round matches, which are going down on Smackdown this week.
The New Day vs. Neville & The Usos
The New Day are over HUGE in England. Kofi addresses the title tournament and how New Day aren’t in it at all. “This is OUTRAGEOUS” says Big E. I quite agree. Big E doing a Dolph Ziggler impression is perfect. They try and get heat by pointing out all the faces they’ve laid out, drawing increasingly large pops from the crowd until they hit Cena for a bigger one. “They don’t like him either” – Big E. I love these guys as they start fake-laughing at their own jokes. UNICORN MAGIC for the fallen captain Seth Rollins. The crowd all join in so Kofi tries one last gasp attempt at heeldom; “Harry Potter sucks”. Why don’t the New Day just have their own reality show on the Network. Speaking of shows on the Network; the Table for 3 episode with Neville on it, chatting with Samoa Joe and Bo Dallas, was fantastic. I chuckled throughout.
Despite being in the match Xavier still finds time to get his trombone on the go. “They’re like a happy Freebirds. The Gleebirds” – Saxton finally saying something worth me quoting. Neville seems to be enjoying his return to England and I wish he got his personality over more often. Too frequently the WWE just see him as a flippity guy who can’t talk. Neville does great work in this match, not caring who he wipes out with his dives, twice taking out the Usos accidentally. This being the WWE and the UK being Neville’s “hometown” he jobs to the numbers game. Because everyone loves the New Day it’s not a major issue. The pre-match yacking was better than the contest itself but it was a fun enough short TV match. Neville’s loss rather sums up what the WWE think of him, considering he’s in the WWE title tournament but still can’t pin Xavier Woods.
Final Rating: **
The Wyatt Family’s Tribute to the Brothers of Destruction
Yay, main event chat. The crowd get a nice “he’s got the whole world in his hands” chant going. Bray laughs at the possibility of the Brothers of Destruction doing anything in terms of retribution. Then they turn up! I thought for sure this was a psyche out as the entire Wyatt Family weren’t in the ring but hey, they actually flew Taker out for the show. “You can’t kill what won’t die” says JBL. Well, duh…uh, huh? The Wyatt Family try to do the four on two beatdown on the old time dead but the BOD clear them all out, because that’s what they do. The trouble with this is that Bray taunted Taker and Kane so they came back and destroyed him and his entire faction. In terms of storytelling, that’s what we call a ‘resolution’. So this feud is over. Bray got buried again. Survivor Series is a four on two? Which Taker has already won.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: The New Day
Least Entertaining: Sheamus
Quote of the Night: “You can buy my entrance theme on iTunes and put a little extra change in my pockets. And yes, I actually have pockets in my ring gear, that’s how great I am” – Kevin Owens.
Match of the Night: Cesaro vs. Sheamus. Cesaro worked his Swiss magic tonight.
Summary: Interesting to see some of the newer talent looking all energised with a few spots opening up high on the card. Kevin Owens, New Day, Neville, Tyler and Cesaro all looked eager to grab those spots and I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Shame they can’t generate interest in the title tournament because there are literally only two guys out of the entire roster that can win it. Some surprises wouldn’t go amiss. Tyler over Ambrose would have been pretty cool, even if it would screw with the Shield opposing each other angle they’re working on. Thumbs slightly up as I felt the effort involved here, from the talent at least, made the show easy to watch.
Last week’s RAW was really rather decent, as was the legend-filled nostalgia fest from the week before. Arnold Furious pointed this out to me when I moaned about it being my turn to cover the show this week. I countered back that consistency was hardly WWE’s strong point, and that it tends to be the case that the first episode of the show following a blowoff pay-per-view is often a good one because WWE are resetting and starting fresh programs. It is sustaining interest in those programs that they struggle with. Their usual tactic is to beat everything into the ground until the viewer pleads for mercy, and I have little reason to suspect anything different tonight. After all, it has been that way for years. Why should it suddenly be any different?
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
Here comes the number one contender to Seth Rollins, and he gets a fairly decent response from the Denver faithful. Shame WWE insist on making the guy talk. He is a talented performer and a good talker when unscripted, but he is made to look bad by the dreadful writing. He only gets a minute to recite his generic lines before the champ heads out to retort. That’s grand, because I have often complained that Seth Rollins doesn't get enough mic time on this show... Oh, right. They put each other over a little, before Seth tells Roman that for all he is good, he will always be second to him in the history books. Well, Seth was already established as second to Shawn Michaels two weeks ago, so I guess that makes Roman third-rate. Roman wants to fight now, Seth fancies it, but before he gets to the ring the Authority come out to make it official. Steph is especially screechy and unbearable tonight as she announces the match... for Survivor Series. “You think we’re gonna give away a match of this calibre here in Denver?” mocks Steph. Maybe you should. The ratings are in the toilet and RAW is the same missable formulaic dross nearly every week. A shock title change in a big main event could help rectify that. Because Survivor Series is imminent, Seth and Roman will each captain a team of five tonight in a traditional five-on-five Survivor Series match... on RAW. No doubt Reigns and Rollins will meet again at the December PPV, so why not do the five-on-five at Survivor Series, put Roman over strong then have the big singles bout at that show instead? That seems more logical to me. This segment served its purpose in setting up the main event of tonight’s show and the PPV, and it was satisfyingly brief too. For once!
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
Why this match-up? Why the hell not? It should be good. Owens has great offence and Ziggler is the second best bumper on the main roster. The match is non title, so you should know already who the winner is based on how WWE ham-fistedly go into their programs. In other news, forty-three days is “a long time” in the world of JBL, which he says in reference to the length of Owens’s title reign. Just before commercial Tyler Breeze heads to the ring complete with music and the albatross of Summer Rae by his side, presumably to engage in shenanigans with Dolph. When we return he is sat in his own custom VIP section at ringside, catching a piece of the action up close. I am surprised Kevin Owens hasn't smashed his face in already. He doesn't strike me as someone who would take kindly to that sort of interruption. Breeze’s presence rather distracts from the match, as any additional bodies at ringside tend to do, and in truth it doesn't really matter because the action is fairly pedestrian. Ziggler mounts a comeback after a series of rest holds, so Owens responds by throwing him across the ring with a big German suplex. Man, how great would Owens vs. Lesnar be? Owens goes for another but gets his clock cleaned with a superkick, and it would be a believable near fall if the camera didn't inexplicably switch to Tyler Breeze for half a second during the middle of the ref’s count, before schizophrenically going back to the match after the kickout. The production of WWE’s shows is bush league at times. From the staging, to the camera work, to the announcers, to the sets, it could and should all be much better. Breeze takes a selfie by the ring with Dolph and Owens down, which of course results in the deadly Distraction Finish and Owens scoring the win with the pop-up powerbomb. I am shocked that the Intercontinental Champion won a non title match. Genuinely shocked. Post match, Ziggler and Breeze get into a skirmish, which will hopefully lead to them being on opposite teams at Survivor Series, a show they could do so many interesting things with, but will more than likely lead to a singles match. That will be good too, but not as fun.
Final Rating: *3/4
WWE shocks me for the second time in a minute, using their own history to promote a current show. They show a couple of minutes from the Team Savage vs. Team Honky match at the inaugural Survivor Series in 1987, and it is glorious. It is not the main event like they claim it to be, but they cannot show Hogan can they, so, whatever. Inexplicably, they do not then note that the show is available on the WWE Network. Equally baffling, they do not even use to footage to promote Survivor Series, rather to hype tonight’s main event! Come on, WWE, get your shit together!
Backstage, Seth Rollins butters up Kevin Owens by promising him a title versus title match at WrestleMania. Yeah, Owens will not be the IC champ by then. The idea is to get Owens onside so he will be on his team tonight, which Owens agrees to. Would it not make more sense for Seth to enlist someone fresher who hasn't already wrestled? It means Owens is pulling double duty for the second week running, and it also means he is dumb. Because he should know, like everyone else knows, that the only way to get a title shot at WrestleMania is by winning the Royal Rumble. Doy.
Backstage, the awfully presented Becky Lynch does a dreadful interview with Renee Young. It’s drastically bad, and does nothing for Lynch. It is a real shame, because she is a tremendous worker and has a really interesting personality behind the forced zaniness. Brie Bella interrupts, but Becky puts her in her place by calling her Nikki’s doormat. Oh, snap.
Cesaro vs. The Miz
The Cesaro Section is back! They are out in force tonight in Denver. Yeah, fuck you Vince, this guy is over whether you want him to be or not. Now, how about giving him a goddamn push! His opponent is The Miz, which is great. Just great. As for that infinity scarf he wears? There are no words to aptly describe it. Even better is the presence of the guys involved in Cesaro’s next program: The Cosmic Wasteland? Who? Oh, you know, that wacky union of the Ascension and Stardust of course. Cesaro wins over the few in the crowd not already behind him by nipping up repeatedly back and forth out of a Miz wristlock, which is an amazing feat of athleticism. When Miz takes over the match becomes a chore and the crowd goes silent. Deathly silent. “You forget Miz is a former WWE Champion,” says Michael Cole. Yeah, because we have all repressed it. Cesaro comes back with a twenty-five revolution giant swing, then finishes Miz off with the Sharpshooter. Hey, he won! “How does Cesaro not get dizzy when he does that?” asks Byron Saxton, just as Cesaro sells the effects of the move. What a complete goon. Some great stuff from the ever-wonderful Cesaro here, and a welcome victory to boot.
Final Rating: **
Promo Time: The Wyatt Family
Bray promises to give us something special tonight, but first he reminds everyone what he and his posse did to The Undertaker and Kane last week. He says he didn't want their bodies, he wanted their souls, then declares himself “the higher power”. Corporate Ministry flashbacks! Corporate Ministry flashbacks! Bray makes fantastical claims of having harvested the power of Undertaker and Kane’s souls, BY EATING THEM, and says their power has been transferred over to him. He then demonstrates the newfound super-villain powers that he has absorbed, making lightning hit the ring, fire explode from the posts, and pyro go off in the aisle. I am not kidding. The post production on the lightning effect when it hits the ring is absolutely hilarious. 1980s b-movie hilarious. However, I thought this was awesome. I love magic in wrestling, because even though it is hokey and ridiculous, so is wrestling in general for the most part. The theatre aspect of it amuses me and reminds me of a different time. If Bray starts doing Undertaker and Kane’s moves, or incorporates voodoo like Papa Shango, I am sold on him for life. He can never lose a match again, of course, ever.
The Lucha Dragons vs. King Barrett & Sheamus
If Sheamus’s regular spot on the card was in a tag team union with fellow European Barrett, I would have no problem with him at all. This is where he fits in. Sheamus and Barrett could be a great smash mouth team. No doubt it is a fleeting pairing due to Sheamus carrying the MITB briefcase, which is a shame. It should be noted that the Denver crowd couldn't care less about this, probably because they realise that the babyfaces have no chance. The Dragons are wearing awesome new gear tonight, and bust out a few flashy spots, but they struggle to get much going against their far bigger foes. The bout comes alive once Sin Cara gets the hot tag and goes berserk with an excitable flurry, and it looks every bit like the finish is imminent, but instead they go to a second heat on Sin Cara after Sheamus gets his knees up to block a flip senton. The period of second heat is not so exciting, but when Kalisto heads in for the second hot tag of the match they begin to react. Remarkably, Kalisto scores the pinfall victory over Barrett, cleanly with no fannying around, in what has to be one of the most surprising results on the show in ages. The victory gets a great response from the crowd too, who have been totally into the Lucha Dragons tonight. It looks a certainty that they are been built for a New Day program, which should produce some good matches. I enjoyed this, and I was pleased to see a long tag match on RAW rather than a fluky quick win that does nothing for either team, because the manner of the victory will have done the flippy-floppy Mexican duo the world of good. I didn't love it or anything because of the dull periods of Sheamus and Barrett control, but it was a strong outing from everyone involved overall. Sheamus and Barrett were in the right place for everything, and they took the flying spots believably and well. A pleasant surprise!
Final Rating: ***
Backstage, Zeb Coulter is sat in his motorised scooter, minding his own business, when his former charge Jack Swagger turns up for a quiet word. Yes, he really does still work here. Swagger questions what is going on with Zeb, asking him if he feels alright because the union with Alberto Del Rio doesn't make any sense to him. It doesn't make any sense to anyone. They have zero chemistry together. It has become impossible to take Zeb seriously because he has flipped his ideals entirely, which is a sure-fire way to kill a character. Can you imagine if Batman suddenly changed his tune and started killing folk after always having preached that he wouldn't? No, because he is a well-written character, penned by people who have a clue about the product they are writing. Zeb tells him he is trying to unite two nations, Mexico and America, to make MexAmerica. I think Amexico would be a better name, personally. Del Rio turns up and calls Swagger out for being a trouble causer, adding, “Viva MexAmerica.” WWE really are trying to smooth things over with their Hispanic audience after their treatment of their Mexican wrestlers over the years. If this leads to Swagger vs. Del Rio then Alberto is in trouble. He came back to be the Hispanic face of WWE, on a huge contract with favourable dates no less, so for him to regress to a program he already did years ago would be ridiculous and a complete waste of time and money.
R-Truth vs. Alberto Del Rio
Speaking of guys who still work here, it’s R-Truth! I was kinda hoping he had been quietly let go. I will never forgive him for that gimmick he was doing during WrestleMania season where he was scared of spiders and playing a cartoon cat burglar. Del Rio is hardly over at all, because nobody knows how to react to him. He is supposed to be a babyface, but the mixing of the flags and the whole MexAmerica thing seems forced. Americans don't like their flag being fucked with like that. Subsequently the audience go silent. It doesn't help that the match is a plodding bag of shite that inexplicably goes for longer than the two minutes it should. The crowd begin to rebel with “JBL” chants, but they don't get to do it long because Del Rio finishes off Truth with a foot stomp from the top. Welcome back to the same midcard spot as before, Alberto.
Final Rating: ¼*
We get more footage from a previous Survivor Series event, this time the RAW vs. SmackDown! contest from 2005, in which Randy Orton was the sole survivor after defeating Shawn Michaels. I think I can already guess who will be in the respective teams tonight. For sure it will be Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Ryback and the Dudley Boyz against Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and New Day. Maybe throw Big Show in there if Xavier Woods doesn't wrestle.
Indeed, in the very next segment Rollins encounters Big E and Kofi Kingston, who ask to be on his team. Seth agrees but points out he still only has four guys. Big E and Kofi summon a third man, Xavier, using the power of their unicorn sign. Xavier plays “Team Rollins” to the cadence of “New Day Sucks” on his trombone, and Seth does a dance. I don't even know what is going on anymore.
Elsewhere, JoJo grabs a word with Sasha Banks, and asks her about the pressure on her tonight because of the crowd’s recent reactions to her. Sasha dismisses that and says a few scripted lines, which make her sound like every other catchphrase spouting performer on this roster. Vince McMahon and his crack writing staff do not “get” Sasha’s character at all.
Fatal Four Way
Becky Lynch vs. Paige vs. Sasha Banks vs. Brie Bella
As Sesame Street once put it:
One of these things is not like the others / One of these things just doesn't belong / Can you tell which thing is not like the others / By the time I finish my song? / Three of these things belong together / Three of these things are kind of the same / Can you guess which one of these doesn't belong here? / Now it’s time to play our game
This could be the best women’s match on RAW in some time if Brie Bella fucks off and stays out of the way. Oh my GOD that music! The winner of this gets Charlotte at Survivor Series, which could be awesome if it is Sasha or Becky. If it is Brie? Revolution over. Paige and Brie stay out of the way and let Becky and Sasha do their thing, with Becky throwing in plenty of moves but struggling to get the crowd to bite because of her naff character. Brie ruins it, so Paige wipes her out. Becky is supposed to shitcan Paige immediately but she either forgets the spot of thinks Paige is out of position, so instead takes her down and starts pounding on her. Paige kicks her off and yells that she is a, “STUPID COW” very obviously, then positions herself by the ropes so Becky can take her out. Paige needs to sort out her attitude. When she visibly loses her rag in matches like that she comes across as incredibly unprofessional. She won’t win many friends in the back or in the office with that sort of behaviour. She immediately starts working again after that and lets Becky throw her into the barricade before switching things around and hurling Becky into the steps to take her out of the match for a moment. Brie knocks Paige off the apron, leaving us with Sasha vs. Brie. It’s not too good. Meanwhile on the outside, Paige continues to cuss out Becky, though this time it may be in character. Following commercial, Brie is in control, kicking both Sasha and Becky as the crowd inexplicably chant “Yes”. What is wrong with these people? “Brie looks great!” - Cole. What is wrong with HIM!? Becky gets dumped and Sasha is on the outside selling, leaving the seriously overplayed matchup of Brie vs. Paige. There has been far too much Brie Bella in this match, but why am I even surprised? They do a four way tower of doom spot with Sasha taking the double superplex, and that wakes up the crowd and prompts a ridiculous “This is awesome” chant. Low fucking standards tonight in Denver. The response energises the participants and the announcers, momentarily at least. Becky throws out some suplexes, which Brie is baffled by, but Sasha makes the save. Back to Sasha vs. Becky and the Bank Statement nearly gets it, but Paige breaks it up, hits RamPaige on Paige and wins the match. Oh fuck me, do we really need to see Paige getting yet another title shot? She already had dozens before this “revolution” began. It’s the same old tired shit week after week after week. Post match Paige calls everyone losers and declares, “This is moy house!” Worst. Catchphrase. Ever.
Final Rating: **
We get footage from last year’s Survivor Series next, the main event of which Cole claims had more at stake in than any other bout because of the stipulation that would see The Authority fired if they lost. They did, and they were back within a few weeks. You might think they wouldn't want to remind viewers how they ripped everyone off like that. Inexplicably, the arrival of Sting has been erased from history, as his involvement in the finish of the match isn't shown. It is clearly a deliberate tactic, so who knows what is going on there. Has he pissed them off? Are they trying to make fans forget about him so they don't pester for Sting-Undertaker? Or are they trying to make us forget about Sting so he can return again at this year’s Survivor Series in Undertaker’s match? With WWE’s skewered logic, it could be any of those.
Backstage, Charlotte cuts a promo on Paige, struggling with some of her lines but delivering the verbiage better than most generally manage it.
Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens & The New Day
vs. Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Ryback & The Usos
This is going on with over thirty minutes of the show remaining, plus the overrun, so it could be really amazing, or really tough to sit through, depending on how motivated everyone is. Most of them have a long-haul flight to Dublin to look forward to immediately after the show, which could well be a factor in that. The surprise on Team Reigns in the return of the Usos, his real life cousins, who it makes sense for him to be palling around with. I am glad to see them back. Ryback comes out wearing a blue beanie hat, looking like a bigger pillock than The Miz did earlier. New Day are sporting gear that makes them look like a trio of Red Bull cans. It looks great. “I got this, I got this I got this, I got this, I got his” declares Woods, which of course means he gets superkicked and splashed by the Usos immediately and eliminated. That will teach him for getting married! They battle through commercial and when we return the Usos remain in the thick of things, and eliminated Kofi soon afterwards. That makes it 5-3 in favour of the babyfaces, which is ass backwards booking. The returning Jay follows soon after that thanks to Big E and the Big Ending, and Jimmy falls right after that courtesy of Kevin Owens, evening the score at 3-3. That is better. Reigns and Owens go at it, and they are a relatively fresh match up outside of their participation in the four way last week, so it’s interesting to watch. Everything breaks down, with Ambrose hitting a dive and Ryback wiping out Big E in his usual clumsy, oafish manner, and we go to another commercial with everyone taking a breather.
When we return a preview of the Survivor Series title match is in full flow, with each move ebbing away the intrigue of a match that is otherwise fairly fresh. Reigns takes a three way beating from the heels, putting him in a position to sell at length that frankly does little to help his cause on the quest to usurp John Cena as WWE’s leading babyface. Reigns is not Shawn Michaels, he cannot get by on selling. He needs to be more akin to Goldberg or Brock Lesnar and run through guys, he should be the one getting the hot tag rather than making it. Ryback gets the tag eventually and excites the crowd, but Owens prevents him pinning Big E by hitting a senton. Ryback doesn't get out of the way when Ambrose hits Owens with a missile dropkick, resulting in Owens landing awkwardly on Ryback’s leg. “Shit, are you okay!?” asks Owens, to which Ryback assures him he is. Learn ring positioning you useless lunk of meat. Any wrestler worth his salt knows to bump and roll during a hot tag/big move sequence. Ambrose does another dive, this time on Owens, then follows with his 619 clothesline on the outside. In the ring Big E and Ryback play out a Vince McMahon wet dream, and Ryback, the bigger of the two, emerges victorious from that following the Shellshock. Rollins immediately puts him down with a Pedigree, leaving us with a straight tag bout featuring the Shield and Kevin Owens.
Seth tries to Pedigree Ambrose, who back drops out and reaches for the tag, only for Seth to knock Roman off the apron. Ambrose decides to just do his own fire sequence and scores a super close near fall from a top rope elbow. Seth comes back with a kick to the face, so Reigns breaks up the pin. Owens comes in to work over Ambrose some more, and this has been going on for a long time now so the crowd are not in the mood for another long heat sequence. Ambrose doesn't even need to make the tag, making his own comeback again and pinning Owens with Dirty Deeds, which may lead to an Ambrose-Owens program over the IC title, which would be a lot of fun. It’s a Shield handicap match to finish, with the heel at a disadvantage. If he wins, you might as well forget putting Roman Reigns in the Survivor Series title match. Seth realises the numbers game is against him and tries to leave, but Reigns prevents him and starts throwing him around on the outside. Seth manages to evade a Doomsday Device and in his desperation he brings a chair into play and decks Ambrose with it to draw the DQ. After forty minutes (including entrances), we end like that. Seth uses the chair to take out Ambrose and Reigns after the match, but before he can scoop all of his heat back he gets floored by Reigns. Seth rolls out of the ring and escapes with the title, and that’s the match. Your winners: Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. This was long, and just because it was long doesn't make it good. It certainly wasn't bad, but there was too much of the same formula repeated throughout, with a series of quick eliminations followed by a grinding heat, rinse and repeat.
Final Rating: **1/2
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Bray “god of thunder” Wyatt
Least Entertaining: R-Truth
Quote of the Night: “You know we are gonna talk, so just shhh!” - Xavier Woods
Match of the Night: The Lucha Dragons vs. Sheamus & King Barrett
Summary: I was expecting a disaster going in, and while it dragged at times -like it always does- this turned out to be a fairly decent show. The wrestling was generally solid, R-Truth aside, and there were some positive steps in the booking of Cesaro and Kevin Owens, plus how can anyone not enjoy the sheer ridiculousness of the Bray Wyatt interview? There are some intriguing match-ups set up for Survivor Series, which on paper looks like a potentially good show. They only have a few weeks until the event so they don't have to drag things out quite as much, which is to their benefit. It is also notable that a show without Randy Orton, John Cena, The Big Show and Kane was again fairly solid. It has forced WWE to get (slightly) creative, and god knows they need to. The streak of decent RAW shows continues. Just!