Raw Ramblings – March 2nd 2015
Prudential Centre: Newark, NJ.
I watched this week’s show after the ROH 13th Anniversary PPV and in the 20 minutes or so that I had to spare before Raw started I was dreading having to sit through 3 hours of unbearable WWE nonsense. I was even considering just giving up on the show altogether and watching in the morning with my finger on the fast-forward button. Nevertheless I sat down in front of the TV, not expecting anything other than the usual tripe, and I was honestly pleasantly surprised at what I saw. That’s right, shockingly, after months of horrendously booked, worthless TV, WWE finally turned in a half-decent episode of Raw. I can’t even remember the last time I said this, but a distinct lack of filler prevented the show from dragging and being torturous to get through. Now let’s not get carried away, the show wasn’t an all-time classic or anything and there were a handful of the usual booking flaws that are inescapable in WWE TV land. However, lazy finishes and emasculation of the top babyface aside, some solid angles in front of a hot North East crowd made the WrestleMania direction feel more focused than at any other point this year, which, to be honest, you would expect just 4 weeks out from the biggest show of the year.
It was an angle-heavy show, and as a result none of the matches were given much time; apart from the Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns main event which did nothing to help Reigns look like a guy who is ready to wrestle long singles matches. Rollins opened the show with a promo on Jon Stewart and they showed the angle from The Daily Show. Seth said this wasn’t a Jerry Lawler/Andy Kaufman deal and claimed he could do Stewart’s job better than him. Roman Reigns came out, playing the smiling babyface which he is incapable of pulling off, and delivered his lines in a typically wooden manner. They blathered about Seth cashing in the briefcase then Reigns punched Rollins and took out J&J Security. Backstage, Randy Orton told Rollins to go ask the Authority for a match with Reigns; they didn’t bother shooting a pre-tape and Cole just announced the match as the main event. So, at the top of the third hour, Rollins hosted a mock Daily Show segment in the ring. Jon Stewart showed up and was so clearly in a different league to EVERYONE in the company at delivering lines in front of a live crowd it wasn’t even funny. Stewart made some jokes about Rollins then told him he would never have the respect that he had and pointed out that Rollins wasn’t in the main event of WrestleMania. Seth got hot and put his hands on Stewart, but Randy Orton’s music hit and Rollins was distracted, allowing Stewart to land a low-blow and escape. It was the best use of a celebrity in years. Backstage, Orton told Rollins he was trying to stop him from committing career suicide; Big Show & Kane appeared and told Rollins they all had his back in the main event, however Jamie Noble said they didn’t need “everybody” and Orton walked out. Match went 15:30 and wasn’t particularly very good. Rollins pinned Reigns with a roll-up after Orton grabbed Reigns’ foot from the floor. Even the chosen one has to do jobs on TV before winning the title. They did a great job with the post-match angle, however as Reigns did a plancha onto all the heels, while Orton looked on from the stage. Reigns speared Big Show & Kane then did the same to Rollins as he dove off the top rope. Reigns got a decent reaction, as short explosive bursts from big guys almost always work, but his promo earlier and the match itself made it painfully clear that he is just not ready to be the top babyface. I’m still not high on the slow burn of Orton turning on Rollins; he had his skull crushed against the steps, so it makes zero sense for Orton pretending to be all buddy-buddy with him.
Since Vince McMahon and the creative clowns can’t get Reigns over to save their lives, Paul Heyman tried his best with a promo that once again put everybody on the roster to shame. He put over Reigns as a bad-ass Samoan and said all the legends he mentioned last week all believed that Reigns could beat Lesnar at WrestleMania. Heyman said it was going to go down one of two ways at Mania: One, Lesnar destroys Reigns like he did Cena or Two, “Brock Lesnar simply Ronda Rouseys your ass.” Paul’s mic cut out a couple of times, however he was a true pro and didn’t panic at all and even used it to get some heat, which all the guys in the back should have been taking notes on. Heyman is normally cool and calm during his promos, but he was all worked up here which made the whole thing even better.
Because Rusev refused to give him a rematch and he doesn’t care enough to do anything about it, John Cena tried to enter himself into the Andre Battle Royal, which I’m sure he tried last year too. Stephanie McMahon showed up and was a total babyface to the New Jersey crowd. She did her “My Giant” shtick and showed a picture of her with Andre and said Cena would not disrespect the memory of her, “friend.” Steph completely buried Cena and told him WrestleMania would go on even without him; the fans popped big for the idea of Cena not being on Mania and chanted, “Yes!” She also said it’s not where would WWE be without John Cena, it’s where would John Cena be without the WWE. Again, the brainwashed WWE fans cheered for WWE’s Orwellian idea about the perception of itself and its so-called, “superstars.” FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. Curtis Axel came out and did his AxelMania gimmick then said he would beat Cena at WrestleMania; the fans loved him here too. Steph booked them in a match and told Cena he would have to make Rusev change his mind if he wanted a match at Mania. Cena squashed Axel in 2:00. Rusev showed up with Lana. He said his answer was, “No” and the Russian flag dropped behind Cena in the ring. Rusev was good at playing the crowd and even got some of them to want him to accept the match, however I have no clue why WWE feels the need to heap mounds of earth on top of absolutely everybody. Even John Cena isn’t safe from being castrated by Stephanie. It was a weird segment.
Triple H cut another, “I’m WWE for life” promo on Sting. Just before this segment, Booker T said on commentary that every time Sting tried to come to the WWE he faced a “locked door” and speculated that HHH had something to do with it. Trips called Booker into the ring and said Book knew about as much as the kids on the internet. Sick burn, bro. Book put over Sting, saying that Flair, Hogan, the NWO and Eric Bischoff couldn’t control him. HHH thanked Book for his opinion then “fired” him; I was ecstatic, thinking that we wouldn’t have to hear Booker on commentary anymore, but alas it was a swerve. Book headed to the back but HHH told him he was only joking then finished his, “I will kill the last vestige of WCW” promo.
Bray Wyatt cut another promo on the Undertaker on the stage. It was more of the same, calling Taker out and telling him to come find him. There was a casket behind Wyatt, presumably the same one he was building during one of those pre-tapes, and after his promo he set it on fire. Cool visual, but without the streak this match feels so irreverent.
There was more goofiness with the IC title. Opener saw Dean Ambrose beat Bad News Barrett in a non-title match in 9:20. Truth was on commentary again and stole the belt like on SmackDown, only this time Luke Harper came out and walked off with the belt. This distracted Barrett and Ambrose won with his DDT. Much later, during the third hour, Daniel Bryan tapped-out Harper in 6:19. Barrett appeared and tried to take back his worthless belt, but Ambrose attacked him and took the belt. Harper gave Ambrose a big boot and he picked up the belt then Truth showed up and took the belt, but handed back over to Harper when threatened with an ass-kicking, which he got anyway. Harper walked to the back with the strap, but Dolph Ziggler came out and superkicked him then climbed a ladder on the stage and posed with the belt. Daniel Bryan was stood on the announce table the whole time; he chanted, “Yes” and stared down Ziggler. It was an action packed angle and the visual of Bryan and Ziggler staring each other down was cool, however if the WWE thinks putting Bryan in the IC title match is a consolation prize then they are stupider than I thought. It’s also a little silly that all these men are trying to steal a worthless geek title that means nothing, instead of just challenging Barrett and declaring they want to be in the ladder match.
Filler: Miz gathered the entire mid-card in the back to watch his commercial they were shooting on SmackDown. Mizdow told him it was a bad idea, but Miz ignored him and everybody saw a commercial for erectile dysfunction and a little blue pill called, “Niagara”. The mid-carders died with laughter and Summer Rae, in a moment of genius, took a sneaky look down at Miz’s crotch area. Miz was furious and slapped Mizdow, who teased firing back, but instead he apologised to Miz. It may sound like typical unfunny WWE humour, but it was actually more amusing than you would have thought and they are doing a better job at telling the Mizdow turning on Miz story than they are with any of the main event programs. The Usos & Naomi beat Tyson Kidd, Cesaro & Natalya in 2:55: Kidd tagged Nattie in when she was “hurt” and Naomi pinned her. Nattie yelled at Kidd and cried, so clearly Creative has no idea what they are doing with these two. Sheamus vignette. Paige beat Nikki Bella by DQ in a Diva’s title match when Brie interfered. AJ Lee returned and got the biggest pop of the night and she helped Paige fight off the Bellas. Renee interviewed AJ & Paige later and AJ said she was back to “Give Divas a chance”.
I appreciated the effort they put into shooting a bunch of angles for WrestleMania and I thought most of them were effective for what they were trying to achieve. At least they have a direction now and are not just aimlessly killing time. With only 42 minutes of actual wrestling (far less if you take time away for commercial breaks) and no air-time wasted on guys like Fandango and Adam Rose or the obligatory Big Show/Kane vs. Ryback/Rowan match, Raw was definitely more watchable and streamlined this week. Well, as streamlined as a 3 hour TV show can be.