Sheamus vs. Randy Orton
Ten seconds. That is how long it took for my interest in this pay-per-view to diminish significantly. It’s the proverbial kick in the crotch of show-opening matches. Randy is over big, because we are in his hometown, though as usual Sheamus invokes only apathy. What can this match offer that we haven't seen from them dozens of times already? Even the best match I have seen between these two was boring. What is the issue between these two anyway? It’s one of the programmes where they supposedly dislike each other, but there is no reason as to why. They don't like one another because they are booked in a feud, that’s it. “Now it’s at a pace Sheamus likes,” says Mackle. He means slow. After an age of mundane Sheamus offence, they have a lethargic slugfest that Randy gets the better of, then spill to the outside to carry on the fight. Randy dumps Sheamus on the announce table, which doesn't break, and I’m glad. A table bump in the match would be silly. The pace ups a little as they both attempt to hit trademarks and finishers, which Sheamus comes out on top of with White Noise. Is that a finisher? It is hard to tell with Sheamus because he has half a dozen generic moves with unnecessary gimmicky names attached. Randy kicks out anyway. After some more uninspiring exchanges, Orton hits a superplex and his draping DDT, then whips the crowd into a frenzy hot-dogging to set up the RKO. He dicks around for so long that Sheamus nearly catches him with a roll up, then gets knocked silly with the Brogue Kick. For once, he hits it in the mush. Sheamus doesn't cover, instead locking the Texas Cloverleaf to try and get the submission. Poor psychology. Orton fights the hold for a while before reaching the ropes, then connects with the RKO... outta nowhere for the win. Sheamus has the MITB briefcase remember, so of course it makes sense to beat him week in, week out. “What a match tonight,” reckons Cole. I thought it was shit. I mean, the action was fine if you had never seen a Sheamus-Orton match before. I have seen around a hundred, so it was more of the same, repetitive sequences I have seen them do countless times before. Tough one to rate really.
Final Rating: *1/2
“You are tiny, I feel like the Big Show,” says Stephanie to her interviewer Jo-Jo. You sort of look like him too! Steph gets herself over in St. Louis with cheap pops, even referencing Sam Muchnik’s Wrestling at the Chase. I wonder who fed her that line. After that she promises more from the women’s revolution, and reveals there will be a triple threat match between a member each of the respective gangs that she assigned on Raw. Hell, that means at least one Bella will be wrestling. What if they do Brie Bella vs. Tamina vs. Paige? Oh, the humanity.
WWE Tag Team Championship
The Prime Time Players (c) vs. The New Day
Based on the booking from Raw the past five weeks, the challengers should be going over here because they have been getting their asses routinely handed to them. In WWE mentality, they are due a win to even things up. PTP are wearing their shiny pay-per-view pants tonight, and they look ridiculous but brilliant. Much like the opener, I have seen this match repeatedly over the past few weeks, so it holds little appeal. Kofi seems eager to get the match over, bumping around in an animated fashion in the early going. He gets too cocky for his own good and starts slapping Titus across the head, so the massive Titus responds with some delightfully vicious chops. Pretty soon it descends into standard tag formula, with Young on the receiving end of New Day double teams. Big E hits a painful looking splash on the apron followed by an abdominal stretch, using Young’s exposed chest to clap with and start a “New Day sucks” chant. In theory at least. St. Louis don't play along. Titus is a runaway train on the hot tag, running through New Day like they are not even there. He gets the audience right behind him, only to get cut off by Kofi. Young comes back in and hits a sweet belly-to-belly on Kofi, then decks Woods on the outside for good measure. He runs a smooth sequence that sees Big E crash into the post, Kofi miss Trouble in Paradise, and Young hit his reverse lung blower gimmick, then Titus finishes off Big E. Well, that makes all of the booking on Raw confusing. Maybe WWE have turned a corner with the even steven bullshit.
Final Rating: **
Backstage, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Paige share a moment. Lynch wants to rebuild the entire Diva’s division, but that’s a pipedream. While Total Divas exists, the Bellas and their ilk will always be around.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
There is little I despise more than Michael Cole reading out gimmicked wrestler tweets. When he does it for a character like Wyatt, it’s all the more galling. Despite having been almost ignored since WrestleMania, and certainly not forced down people’s throats like he was prior to the supercard, Reigns remains unpopular with the crowd. They start out with the protracted lock-up spot that Goldberg and Brock Lesnar made so infamous at WrestleMania XX, then take turns clobbering each other. When Wyatt gets on top it’s a bit bland, because he doesn't have particularly interesting offence. Reigns counters with an impressive Samoan drop which sends Wyatt rolling to the outside, then he does something dumb: he runs around the ring attempting a spear or something on Wyatt, who moves, and he crashes into the stairs. It doesn't sound all that dumb, but the way they executed it made it seem like Roman charged himself up like a rhino, then got stuck on rails and ran slowly into some steps. It wasn't good. Back to Wyatt control, and again it is cumbersome. Bray does a lot of walking around between moves, and then a lot of stomping before he does anything else interesting. Wyatt takes a page out of his father’s playbook and sits with a chinlock applied for an age. It’s like watching paint dry. Reigns finally escapes with a backdrop, then mounts his comeback. Nobody cares. He goes for his Drive By dropkick, but Wyatt counters with a vicious clothesline while Reigns is in mid-air. Wyatt follows with a senton on the outside, but the useless director manages to miss it. The camerawork in WWE these days is awful. Back in the ring, Wyatt goes for a superplex, only for Reigns to escape and hit a powerbomb. “Roman Reigns just won’t go away,” says Cole. Indeed. Wyatt blocks the Superman punch and they both jockey for position, then end up on the outside again where Reigns this time manages to hit a version of the Drive By. Back inside he tries for the Superman punch again, but once more gets blocked, this time into Sister Abigail. Reigns won’t learn. The match rumbles on, with Reigns hitting Superman punch for the near fall. “This is awesome,” chant a handful of retards in the crowd. How I wish that overused, now-meaningless chant would just fuck off. Wyatt returns fire by avoiding a spear and hitting his dad’s old Write Off clothesline, but Roman kicks out again. Wyatt tries for Sister Abigail and plants Roman with a kiss, which raises his homophobic ire and he gives Bray a shoeing. He can’t finish him though, and Wyatt ends up in possession of some chairs. He intends to use them on Roman, but gets stopped. Then suddenly Reigns loses his temper and starts throwing chairs into the ring. While he is dicking around doing that, Luke Harper turns up under a hoodie and hurls Roman into the post, then follows with a superkick. Wyatt takes him back in the ring and finishes him with Sister Abigail., because Roman Reigns is the modern day Lex Luger and always loses the big matches. The announcers play it off like they don't recognise Harper, though the big fucking beard rather gives it away. When he takes his hood off, the crowd strongly approve of the Wyatt Family reunion. As do I. This was very, very long.
Final Rating: **
Backstage, Team B.A.D. have had a slight name change, and rather than the acronym standing for “Best at Dominating”, which is a terrible name, it is now “Beautiful and Dangerous”. Much better, though it doesn't apply to Tamina.
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte vs. Brie Bella
Two super workers in here, then the ongoing shit-fest that is Brie Bella. Oh Jesus, she is the worst option on that horrible team. Couldn't the Bellas team have just decided to sit this one out? “Man, things have changed in the matter of just six nights in the Divas decision, haven't they?” - Cole. Not really. They have simply plugged good workers into the same tired formula. The problem with this match is that every time it looks like Charlotte and Sasha might do something interesting, Brie is there to ruin it with her awful offence, awful selling, awful voice and awful psychology. Sasha gets plenty of the match, and spends a good portion of it mocking Charlotte. She does some cool stuff, and Brie actually stays away for a while “selling”, or in other words, leaving the wrestlers to wrestle. Charlotte hits her suplex neckbreaker on Sasha for a near fall, but Brie breaks it up and starts firing off moves of her own. She throws in a Daniel Bryan tribute with kicks while both opponents are on their knees, but gets taken out with a Charlotte spear that was intended for Sasha. The real wrestlers do an overly complex spot leading to a neckbreaker, then get caught by a Brie double dropkick. She goes to down with running knees, then starts screaming like an irritating banshee. She gets dumped, then a dive sequence follows, starting with Brie getting dropkicked off the apron and completely overshooting Alicia and Nikki, who fail to catch her. She head spikes it on the outside, and she is lucky not to be injured. Sasha and Charlotte do dives, then back inside Sasha locks Charlotte in the Bank Statement. Brie breaks it up, but Charlotte blocks her crappy X-Factor into the Figure Eight for the win. I’m thrilled that Brie didn't win, and she had a few moments of competence in there against all the odds. Maybe the good workers can drag the appalling Bellas to some good matches. This was much better than any Nikki Bella match from the past, oh I dunno, year, but that is a low benchmark to surpass. A reasonable start, though hardly revolutionary. It’s a step in the right direction at least.
Final Rating: **
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Kevin Owens
The burning question then: will WWE do something bold and make a new star, or will the phenomenal Kevin Owens be just another Cena victim? Of note is that this is the fourth match on the show that we have seen a couple of times before, though the standard of their last two bouts was remarkable. It gives them a tough act to follow because they have set the bar so high, and I worry that there is little else they can do to differentiate this from the others. One notable difference is that St. Louis is majorly into this, far more so than the crowds were for their previous two bouts. Don't get me wrong, the previous PPV matches they had were very well received, but this crowd is raucous from the off, and totally behind Owens. Jerry Lawler gets all worked up about the “Cena sucks” chants that have now been commonplace for a decade, and starts into a rant that he has no idea how to finish. The end result is something that sounds like a sentence falling down a flight of stairs. “He’s a good person,” stammers Lawler. Owens hits a bunch of stuff early, such as a spinning DVD neckbreaker and a senton, then Cena responds with a dropkick. JBL buries it, even though it wasn't that bad, saying it was, “not very high, but effective.” Why would you say that? A “not very high” dropkick is a bad dropkick. Cena hits his top rope Rocker Dropper and gets amazing height, then Owens counters with the most vicious DDT I have seen in years. Cena bumps it squarely on his, erm, square head. They continue to forgo a slow build of typical match pacing and throw in big move after big move, which is great but might leave them with nowhere to go later on if this goes for a long time. Owens starts hitting Cena moves, better than Cena, then “big match John” fires back with a sitout face buster. Into the STF, but Owens escapes and hits a backbreaker. Wait, are we still allowed to call it that? The pace of this has been frantic. It is already far better than everything else on the show.
The first German suplex of the night comes courtesy of Owens, though I have a sneaky suspicion it won’t be the last. Owens follows with a cannonball, then turns to Michael Cole and shouts, “Are you calling this like you should, Cole?” Ooh, dangerous. He is leaving himself susceptible to the deadly distraction roll-up finish there. Cole showers himself in glory by referring to Cena as having an “innovative style” when he hits the Code Red, which is hilarious after a decade of him doing the same act. He has been great in 2015, but that’s still a dumbass thing to claim. Cena hits the AA “for the win”, but Owens kicks out. This whole match has been one long finish sequence. Y’know, that’s fine. There is no need for a feeling-out process in a rubber match. To the top where Cena goes for a superplex, only for Owens to counter with his terrifying fisherman’s brainbuster. Cena counters the pop-up powerbomb into a rana, but Owens counters back again by hitting the AA and STF. Wonderful. Cena makes the ropes, then hits a tornado DDT out of nowhere for another close fall. The “this is awesome” chants rain down again, and for once they are probably accurate. He follows up with the still-hilarious springboard Stunner, which Owens doesn't even bother to sell because it is so rubbish, and immediately hits a fighting spirit clothesline. More head drop goodness from Owens with a fisherman buster onto the knee, then Cena comes back immediately with an AA out of the blue for a two count. There should probably be more selling for some of these vicious moves, but it is so entertaining that it barely matters.
Owens hits the pop-up powerbomb, and now it is Cena’s turn to kick out of a finisher. These guys are going to need some new finishing moves at this rate. Cena ups his game with a frankly insane AA from the top, and Owens kicks out! Holy shit, that looked like the finish. Cena sells the kick out with a look of utter disbelief. I am not surprised. Cena doesn't know what do to, and his procrastinating nearly costs him when Owens catches him in a cradle. Cena kicks out and puts on the STF, then pulls Owens back centre ring when he nearly makes the ropes. This time it gets the job done when Owens taps. Hmm. That’s a really flat ending. Congratulations WWE, you’ve done it again. Kevin Owens has got over quicker than anyone in recent memory and has put in a series of world class performances, and he should have been rewarded for it. I don't blame Cena, he does what he is booked to do, but how can Vince McMahon not see that the time was right to pull the trigger on Kevin Owens? Classic match though, which lived up to the expectations and then some. It was probably my favourite of their series.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Promo Time: The Miz
What is this mind-numbing twat here for? I thought we had been spared having to suffer through this pathetic excuse for a wrestler. Worse than seeing him wrestle, we have to hear him ramble on like a whining little dick. He does say two things I agree with though, the first that Big Show “has been missing since the Attitude Era”, and that he should do what everyone wants him to do and retire. It is interesting to me that WWE are willing to acknowledge that their fan base are so fed up of one of their performers that they want him to quit the business. When someone has X-Pac heat like that, it is time to put them on the shelf. In the most predictable piece of booking of the year, Show turns up, knocks out Miz, then leaves. This was as worthless as any segment you will ever see.
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
Seth’s tactic from the off is avoidance and picking his shots, but all he does is annoy Lesnar. It takes over a minute for the first German to come, then it turns to a downpour. Jerry Lawler shows his senile side by trying to sing a little ditty about Suplex City, which is completely inappropriate for a main event. The guy needs putting out to pasture. Seth takes five Germans then decides he has had enough and tries to bail through the crowd, but he forgets that Brock is a goddamn horse, hurdling the barricade and bringing him straight back to the ring. Brock hits a sixth German, but Seth flips out of a seventh and hits a flurry of quick offence. Five superkicks gets him nowhere, and Lesnar easily prevents the Pedigree with an F5 attempt. Brock tumbles to the outside where Seth hits a brace of dives, but Lesnar counters a third by scooting into the ring and hitting a belly-to-belly. Rolling Germans from Brock now, as the count reaches ten, then eleven. Brock is dripping with sweat as he slaps Rollins and hits a twelfth suplex. Rollins slaps him back, but Brock ignores it and powers him into the F5. That would be it, but then the lights go off and the unmistakeable opening strains of Undertaker’s theme hit. When the lights come back on, Taker is stood in the ring with Rollins and the referee both having magically disappeared. He gets an immense reaction, and the crowd fully support him destroying Lesnar with a chokeslam and a pair of Tombstones. It’s about time Undertaker addressed losing to Lesnar at WrestleMania. No finish here, then, just Taker walking away as the show fades to black. A non-finish in the main event of a pay-per-view isn't really acceptable, but I am pleased that Lesnar didn't actually lose.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Summary: It’s a very run-of-the mill show aside from two bouts. Once again, just as every week on Raw, John Cena’s match carried the wrestling side of things. Remarkable really, given the abuse he receives from the fan base. There were other positives in the slight progress in the women’s division, and the surprise appearance of the Undertaker was a memorable one. Make no mistake though, his early return is down to either Vince reacting to terrible Raw ratings, or Vince reacting to disappointing Network numbers. Lesnar-Undertaker II will probably be a horrible match, but I am sure it will do strong business. With regards to this show, it is a thumbs up because of the Owens-Cena contest and the fun main event, but you can skip the rest. You have likely seen on Raw every week for months on end anyway.