February 22 2016
We’re one night removed from WWE’s February filler PPV Fastlane, where Roman Reigns once again captured the number one contendership for the WWE Championship. A query: does WWE still have a mandatory 30 day title defence period? They used to and Hunter is clearly going to exceed that. I’m sure Brock Lesnar did too during his part-time run with the belt. We’re in Detroit, Michigan. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton. Tonight is the awarding of the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award. I predict BS.
Video Control takes us to earlier tonight where an arriving Dean Ambrose is mashed by a clearly upset Brock Lesnar. This culminates in a glorious powerslam on a limousine. Ambrose has been taken to a medical facility because there are no hospitals in the WWE Universe.
Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award Ceremony
Vince McMahon Jr. (mockingly called “junior” by some of the boys back in the day, Roddy Piper included) is here to announce the recipient. My mind doesn’t race into odd places and instead suspects Vince will either give it to himself as a self masturbatory segment designed to provoke some legend into fighting him at WrestleMania. Or Triple H, to give Roman the opportunity to jump the champ. Instead the award goes to Daddy’s Little Girl, Stephanie McMahon. The nepotism is strong in this one. Speaking of nepotism the shock twist in the tale is that Shane McMahon is back after a six year hiatus. His arrival is a genuine shock, one that rarely occurs in WWE land. Even AJ Styles arrival at the Royal Rumble was all over the internet and I watched AJ suggest he might be in the Rumble while at Rev Pro’s High Stakes show. Shane’s return leaves me torn over the outcome of this storyline before it’s even hit a high gear. The basics of Shane’s return are to run off Steph, point out cryptically that Vince owes him and actually be the first guy since Hunter to not be emasculated by Stephanie on WWE TV. The storyline sees Shane request the chance to run RAW, using some fine examples of how badly run WWE is including declining stock value, poor TV ratings and an injury bug that has claimed several top line talent (thus buggering up the ‘Mania card). Vince rather surprisingly agrees…if Shane can beat the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania. To begin with my mind started to unravel at this, thinking it’d be a fantastic car crash to draw a few more eyes to ‘Mania. But then I remembered that I don’t like Shane as an in-ring performer and this booking isn’t quite what I was hoping for when Shane walked into the venue to shake things up. I was hoping more for a seismic change in the booking of WrestleMania and the RAW’s that lead up to it. Instead I get another match added to WrestleMania that I’m not bothered about. Apart from the outcome, where I now bizarrely crave a Shane victory over Undertaker at WrestleMania. My initial thought process is; “what’s wrong with me?” but that should actually be “what’s wrong with WWE?” Anyway, this was different, a total curveball and a thrilling promo to watch. The nagging concerns about McMahonamania are slightly offset by the promise of genuine change. For starters a babyface authority figure hasn’t been done in sixteen years. How hard would it be to just give the fans what they want for a change?
The Lucha Dragons & Neville vs. The New Day
The one thing that opening segment has done has got the crowd seriously worked up. It now feels like an important show. Plus this match should be fun as everyone involved is entertaining for various reasons. The New Day rock, as per usual, with Unicorn Stampede’s and Francesca II getting involved. This ends up being less fun than imagined due to the New Day working heat on Neville for most of the contest. Luckily they’re entertaining working on top but the match didn’t need a long heat segment when it’s not a long match. Neville knows how to have fun and both him and Kalisto hit ridiculous 450 Splashes on the floor. Trouble in Paradise takes out Sin Cara though and the tag champs win.
Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control takes us Roman Reigns, who talks WrestleMania while the crowd gleefully chant “we want Ambrose” over his promo. This is a fine example of lightning striking twice where Vince wanted to have Roman run into ‘Mania and get the big babyface win only for it to blow up in his face. Unlike with Batista, he’s not learned with Roman. The crowd could have been receptive of him if it didn’t feel like Vince had hand-picked him as the new top guy. Which is exactly what it feels like.
Promo Time: Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar
It seems Brock is not best pleased about the outcome of the Fastlane main event. Him and me both. Paul points out that Lesnar took everyone to Suplex City. Heyman blames Ambrose for wrecking WrestleMania and pissing Brock Lesnar off so Brock, “the God of violent retribution”, took out Dean Ambrose. Heyman goes on to offer the spot of working Brock at WrestleMania to absolutely anyone who wants to get destroyed. This brings Dean Ambrose back out here in an ambulance he’s acquired. He crawls back to the ring. You have to admire his chutzpah. Brock simply steps on Dean’s head while walking to the back. Damn. Ambrose grabs a microphone and demands Brock at ‘Mania in a street fight. That gets him an F5 on the floor. “My client accepts your challenge” adds Heyman. Better go get a plan Dean!
The Usos vs. The Ascension
Because no one cares about the Ascension, the Dudley Boyz come out here to remind the Usos that the Dudleys are the most decorated tag team in the history of WWE. The crowd want tables but the Dudley Boyz don’t do that anymore. This provokes JBL to go off on another anti-internet rant about how the Dudley Boyz were hardcore before the term was “cool on the internet”, which is as ridiculous as it is wrong. The Ascension get beaten in short order. Nothing to see here. The Ascension have very little to look forward to.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Chris Jericho
Cole talks about Jericho’s “incredible” match with AJ from last night. It was incredible alright. I can’t believe Jericho can botch that many times in a match either. Jericho talks a load of nonsense about AJ offending him by calling himself “phenomenal” when he’d never even been in WWE (which is rich coming from someone who made his name wrestling all over the world and can’t even pronounce “WWE”). Does he even hear himself talking at this point? Jericho calls his match last night “phenomenal”, which would certainly be one word for it, and calls out AJ Styles for a chat. They’re interrupted by the Social Outcasts (jobbers) to run scripted crap. This leads to Jericho and AJ becoming a team.
Chris Jericho & AJ Styles vs. Social Outcasts (Heath Slater & Curtis Axel)
I admire how hard the Social Outcasts are working to try and get their terrible gimmick over. It worked for New Day so you never know. It’s not clicking with me yet though. AJ wrestles circles around the “Red Dragon” or “Crimson Werewolf” or whatever Heath is calling himself this week. AJ murdering him with a springboard forearm and then taking out everyone else with a pescado allows Jericho to win with the Walls of Jericho. This was a squash but that’s what the Social Outcasts are for.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us backstage where Steph gets bent out of shape about her award ceremony getting interrupted. Even though the award only existed since yesterday and nobody outside of the McMahon Family gives a monkeys about it. Elsewhere Roman is walking so Steph takes it out on him and books Reigns against Sheamus. Elsewhere Goldust brings R-Truth a cake to apologise for costing Truth his match last night. This naturally results in cake hitting the face of the golden one. This angle is so forced. It doesn’t have the natural chemistry of Goldust and Booker T. Plus in that angle Goldust was the weird babyface and Booker was not. In this angle Goldust and R-Truth are weird babyfaces. They’re not coming together because opposites attract, they’re not working because they’re too similar.
The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper & Erik Rowan) vs. The Big Show, Kane & Ryback
It’s almost a re-match from the most worthless match on last night’s PPV card with the exception of Bray replacing Braun Strowman. The crowd chose to ignore Ryback’s resemblance to Goldberg last night but certainly don’t in Detroit. They go even further by chanting “Gillberg” at the poor bastard but if he’s going to wear knock-off Goldberg gear to go with his knock-off Goldberg act he has to expect that. Changing his gear was a mind-bogglingly bad decision. Big Show is far more over in Detroit and he responds by bringing a lot of energy. I guess more Detroit locals saw his pod with Austin. Clearly Ryback gets upset with everyone hating him and he just walks off. This allows Wyatt to floor Kane with Sister Abigail. Hey, the Wyatt Family won! It only took a heel turn from someone they were working to get the duke. Ryback left “for some crazy reason” according to JBL. Because there was literally no reason for him to do so.
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control picks up Ryback backstage who points out he has nothing to prove and is “done with tag teams”. He coins an interesting phrase; “that glass ceiling. That brass ring? Break it. Take it”. It’s odd how the crowd were responding quite well to Ryback until his change of gear. It almost felt like a calculated attempt to make people hate him again and then they turned him heel. Was it Ryback’s decision and he wanted to go heel or creative’s decision? Either way he’s lost the niche spot he had and has become a dull heel. His character is in desperate need of something new.
Sasha Banks vs. Naomi
This is weird but Sasha’s music makes me more excited than anyone else’s in WWE. I am a Sasha super-mark. Sasha works slightly heel on Naomi, which is odd considering Team BAD are the heels. Sasha is ultimately a better heel and knows it. It’s a decent match but the crowd sleep on it until Becky Lynch runs down to stop Tamina from interfering. Banks Statement finishes.
Final Rating: **
Post-Match: Sasha and Becky are standing tall and Charlotte arrives. Charlotte does tremendous heel work, being dismissive of Brie Bella, and sowing seeds of dissent between the duo of potential challengers. Ric Flair has been reduced to the role of cheerleader for his daughter, indiscriminately WOOOing while he does it. I want that triple threat match at WrestleMania. It could be a show stealer, considering how the card is shaping up so far.
Video Control lets us know that The Godfather is going into WWE’s Hall of Fame. Damn, they’ll let anyone in that thing. So far the class is him and Sting. They need to pick that one up but generally they name a big name, then a load of smaller names building up to the biggest.
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus
These two have a decent understanding based on having worked together a lot over the past couple of months. It doesn’t make Sheamus any more interesting working an armbar for the entire match. Nor does it make Roman any more popular as the crowd round on his comebacks. It makes me wonder how hard Michael Cole must work on getting excited about the Superman Punch every time. Maybe he’s just a really big Roman Reigns fan but I would find it impossible to get excited about one of those. Sheamus gets himself counted out and Triple H strolls down here for a ‘Mania headlining brawl and the crowd boo Roman even more for that. Triple H absolutely mangles Roman and busts his face open hardway to try and sell their match. The crowd get a delightful “YES” chant going for Hunter hitting the Pedigree on the ring steps and then “one more time”. WrestleMania is going to be an absolute car wreck.
Final Rating: **
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: AJ Styles. At the moment he’s the freshest, most exciting thing about the programming. Hopefully this will continue and he won’t become ‘just another guy’ like everybody else. I’m already leaning toward this happening.
Least Entertaining: Sheamus. He plodded through tonight’s main event and felt out of place. Already disposable two months after his brief title run ended.
Quote of the Night: “Your brother always has been and always will be a failure” – Triple H of Shane McMahon, via Steph.
Match of the Night: The Lucha Dragons & Neville vs. The New Day.
Summary: The opening segment obviously worked for a number of reasons. It was truthful, perhaps even painful for WWE fanboys to listen to, and it was a shock. When Shane left WWE six years ago it was also a shock but him suddenly reappearing the month before WrestleMania is even more startling. That segment obviously opening the show in spectacular and unexpected fashion. Then it was a slow downward cycle throughout the rest of the three hours. The New Day and Lesnar stuff was good. The AJ and Jericho piece was ok. The pointless Wyatt Family vs. big men trios match was a low point and the crowd’s disdain for WWE’s booking was incredibly prevalent in the main event. Roman Reigns is going to get booed out of Texas at ‘Mania. One can only hope they find something to go on last. If they’re hoping for Taker vs. Shane to be that match I would probably think again. Shane is 46 years old, hasn’t been in the ring for seven years and wasn’t that good to begin with.