The go home show before WrestleMania, the biggest event in WWE’s calendar, yet possibly the most underwhelming ‘Mania season on record. I have complete and total apathy toward it this year. Let’s see if RAW can change my outlook.
Promo Time: The Undertaker
The show starts with a bong! Truth be told, I once vowed never to watch WWE again if ‘Taker lost at WrestleMania. I went back on my word for the following reasons: a) I feel that he should’ve rode off into the sunset along with Triple H after going 20-0; b) when he chose not to do the above, he should’ve put CM Punk over the following year; c) his match in which he lost the streak to Brock Lesnar was so bad that it wasn’t worth sticking to my original principles for. Add to this the burial of Bray Wyatt last year and I no longer care about ‘Taker’sWrestleMania legacy. The Dead (Old) Man talks about it not being his last WrestleMania, though maybe it should be, and then says that though Shane’s blood is on Vince’s hands, Vince’s blood may very well be on his. Nice line. He is of course interrupted by Shane, who points out that ‘Taker’s legacy died out two years ago (true, though arguably three). Shane goads ‘Taker into giving him a pasting but manages to escape a Last Ride though the announce table. After knocking ‘Taker silly with a TV camera, Shane hits his big elbow through said announce table. The “you’ve still got it” chants might be premature; Shane is sweating profusely. ‘Taker even pops out a zombie sit up. It’s on! A good segment, to be fair, but my interest levels are still pretty low.
Zack Ryder vs. Chris Jericho
Given that I have been given no reason to invest in Ryder for around four years, I couldn’t care a jot about his involvement in the Intercontinental Championship ladder match on Sunday. Same goes for everyone else but Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Ryder’s entrance isn’t even televised, showing where he truly stands in the grand scheme of things. Jericho treats him like a jobber, too, and he even gets slapped around with JBL’s hat. He does, of course, win via the patented distraction roll up after AJ Styles shows up and chants, “Y2 jackass.” It doesn’t have the same creepy inflection as the one Jericho’s been doing these past few weeks. Jericho, who initially refused a match with Styles, opting instead to sit this‘Mania out, has now been goaded into accepting the match. It didn’t take much to change his mind. Jericho is very old and tubby in 2016.
Final Rating: ¾*
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte
Sasha is on guest commentary, and there’s no chance of us forgetting that she’s there, as the camera cuts to her every few seconds. It really detracts from the actual match, though it’s not that long anyway. As JBL waffles on and on like the pompous blowhard that he is, Ric Flair distracts Becky long enough for her to job to Natural Selection.
Final Rating: *
Backstage, Renee Young gets a word with Vince McMahon. Vinnie Mac points out that Shane is willing to do whatever it takes to win, but it ultimately won’t make a difference. Shane turns up to call his dad out over his God complex. I once heard that God had a Mr. McMahon complex. This Sunday, Shane says, he will let lose over forty years of hostility and take the company from his old man.
Kane & Big Show vs. The Social Outcasts (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel)
Kane and Show have been presented as the only two viable winners of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which guarantees zero interest in it from me. It seemed like a big thing in its inaugural year when Cesaro went over. All four outcasts get involved virtually straight away, so the match is instantly thrown out. A selection of other jobbers apparently in the match on Sunday run in for the customary symbolic elimination, leaving Kane and Show standing tall.
Final Rating: N/R
Promo Time: The Authority
Or in other words, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Triple H lies about how everybody will be tuning in for the championship match on Sunday (when the truth is that nobody cares) and how the title is the most important thing in the company’s history (it should be, but WWE has regularly devalued it for well over a decade). Triple H puts Roman Reigns over as a credible opponent, but says that he lacks the same “obsession” as does the current champ (read: booking stroke / ego). Steph chips in by belittling the rest of the ‘Mania card until she is interrupted by Reigns. He gets a few digs in on Triple H, forcing him to retreat. His reward is to be mercilessly booed by the crowd. This match will tank on Sunday.
Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio
Pre-match, The New Day announce that Booty-O’s are the official cereal of WrestleMania before wondering what cereal the League of Nations might endorse. Rusev’s Bulgaria Brute Flakes don’t sound quite so appetizing or nutritious. “They’re grrrrrross!” Xavier playing ‘La Cucaracha’ on Francesca II is a thing of beauty. The match is mostly in Del Rio’s favour, but Kofi looks good when given chance to shine. It should be an interesting bout on Sunday, what with the four vs. three rule, though I’m still not convinced that the L.O.N. are the right fit for New Day. Del Rio goes for the cross arm breaker but gets caught out for a three count with a roll up. Does this mean that the League are going over for the titles on Sunday? After the match, Jonathan ‘Coach’ Coachman makes a surprise appearance (to absolutely no reaction) to get down with The New Day. He throws shapes like an embarrassing uncle at a wedding.
Final Rating: **1/2
Renee is on hand backstage again, this time for a word with Roman Reigns. He is immediately approached by The Dudley Boyz, who act as a decoy so that Triple H can attack him from behind. He takes a three on one beating, with no sign of his cousins and Dudley enemies, The Usos.
Kalisto vs. Konnor
Konnor’s offence consists of a side headlock before he jobs to the Salida Del Sol. That’s it. The ‘match’ exists as a way to prove that Kalisto can hang with bigger guys. Ryback heads to the ring because nobody can wait until Sunday. He bellows “feed me more” at his diminutive opponent.
Final Rating: N/R
Backstage, Paul Heyman calls upon Brock Lesnar. “My beast, your public awaits.”
Promo Time: Brock Lesnar
Heymans sells his beast as a once in a lifetime athlete who is at his peak. Dean Ambrose, offers Heyman by way of contrast, is the “one banana,” the “one lunatic” who thinks that he can take down said beast. Ambrose is given credit for being smarter than he looks; for example, coaxing Lesnar into agreeing to a match outside of his usual comfort zone. Apparently, the word weapon is politically incorrect, so Heyman makes a point of saying it. Good old controversial Paul. He states bluntly that Lesnar will take so-called politically incorrect weapons and perform an in-ring colonoscopy on his opponent. Then the real magic happens. Ambrose’s music hits, but instead of heading out for a confrontation with his ‘Mania opponent, he wheels a shopping cart down the aisle so that he can select himself a small arsenal from under the ring. Then he leaves. He even takes the ring steps. All the while his music still plays and he makes no eye contact with the bemused looking beast and advocate in the ring. I don’t know if it was meant to be this funny, but it had me creased up.
Paige vs. Emma
Paige is accompanied by Natalya, Nikki Bella, and Alicia Fox, a.k.a. Team Total Diva. Emma has Summer Rae, Lana, Naomi, and Tamina, a.k.a. Team Bad and Blonde. This is now a WrestleMania match. For those counting or caring, Paige’s team is a person light. Their mystery partner will be announced soon. If it’s Asuka or Bayley, my interest might be piqued. It’s not, it’s Eva Marie. The worse possible option. It goes down like the proverbial fart in church. The Bella looks at her with utter contempt, and she’s on the same side. The match was nothing. Lana distracted Paige and Emma won.
Final Rating: DUD
Backstage, the Goldust – R-Truth saga rumbles on. Truth lets it be known that they won’t be partners in the battle royal come Sunday. Goldust, like me, doesn’t care.
The latest inductee to the Hall of Fame Celebrity Wing is announced. It’s Snoop Dogg. Words are beginning to fail me.
The Miz, Stardust & Kevin Owens vs. Sin Cara, Sami Zayn & Dolph Ziggler
The Intercontinental Championship picture minus Ryder. The money match is clearly Owens vs. Zayn; however, WWE seem intent on persisting with a multiple person match despite the roster being so thin that they can only just about muster up five more perennial losers to make up the numbers. Had the bout included the likes of Cesaro, Neville, and Luke Harper (sadly all injured) or AJ Styles and Chris Jericho (preferable to another match between the two), then I might be more invested in the outcome. As it goes it must surely be a case of Owens retaining or Zayn capturing. Any other booking seems frankly ludicrous.
The match is structured around Owens not wanting to tag in, especially if it means him having to lock horns with his nemesis, Zayn. It’s smart heel work from Owens, even if it means not getting the only combination that anyone cares about. Save it for the big time! Owens also has history of walking out on his tag partners, a theme which comes back to bite him on the ass, as Miz and Stardust leave him hanging later on when he does get in on the action. Right up until that point, the match is an absolute drag. It seems to go on for ages, but then they do have three hours to fill and not enough talent to fill it. The Brooklyn crowd agree and chant for Punk throughout. The Helluva kick puts the champ away after Zayn evades the pop-up powerbomb.
Final Rating: *
Promo Time: The Authority
I have the worst feeling of déjà vu. No, it really is a second Authority promo. The excuse is that they want to finish their earlier promo uninterrupted now that Reigns has been taken out of the equation. Steph really captures the mood when she observes that “all of you look at us with hatred and loathing in your eyes.” How astute of you to notice, Steph. They bleat on about success and longevity, but I couldn’t give a crap. Two Authority promos, with one being the main event, is an utter insult to WWE fans. I have good mind to put my foot through the screen and send Triple H the bill. Also, they haven’t even managed to keep Reigns out of the picture, as he shows up AGAIN to scrap with Hunter AGAIN. Various superstars from both locker rooms interject to set up an incredibly contrived Reigns dive on Hunter and the heels. Worthless filler and utter garbage.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Dean Ambrose
Least Entertaining: Eva Marie, Stephanie McMahon, Konnor
Quote of the Night: “Vince’s blood may well be on mine.” A chilling message from The Undertaker.
Match of the Night: Del Rio vs. Kingston
Summary: WWE will definitely be putting on a top quality wrestling show this weekend. Its name is NXT Takeover: Dallas. Nothing on this episode of RAW makes me want to watch WrestleMania on Sunday. Looking at it objectively, the proposed ‘Mania card has been panned beforehand for the previous two years, but on both occasions it turned out alright on the night. Well, they’ve got their hands full to make this the case for a third year on the bounce. I’ve absolutely no doubt that Vince and co.’s judgement has become clouded by their own hubris and delusion. It seems as if they’ve opted for throwing any old shit and hoping it comes out smelling of roses just because it’s WrestleMania. Ambrose’s comedy gold aside, this RAW was an unpolishable turd.