RAW Ramblings – February 22nd 2016
Joe Louis Arena: Detroit, MI.
Not 24 hours ago did I criticise FastLane for barely doing anything to get us excited for WrestleMania. Well, they certainly have a direction now. As ridiculous and utterly dumbfounding as it may sound, Shane McMahon will be facing the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match for control of Monday Night RAW. Just typing such a sentence seems so surreal, but that is in fact the semi-main event of the biggest WrestleMania of all-time.
Rumours of a big surprise kicking off RAW were going around a couple of hours before the show started and word got out about the format board backstage leaving the opening segment blank, so even a lot of people in the company were kept in the dark about the prodigal son’s return. Vince McMahon opened the show and presented the Vince McMahon Sr Award to Stephanie and told her she was “born into the business” and had all of Vince Sr’s virtues. Steph was about to make her acceptance speech when Shane McMahon’s music hit and he appeared to an absolutely enormous reaction. The crowd just lost their minds and Shane was visibly moved to the point of tears by the response he got. Shane shunned a hug and a handshake from Vince then told Vince & Steph that this was the final straw and he had to show up to do something about it. Shane launched into a shoot-style promo and talked about how HHH & Steph had run the company into the ground and he brought up the declining ratings, the falling stock and all the talent injuries. Steph called Shane a “quitter” and told him to get the hell out of her ring. Shane was playing up that he and Vince knew something Stephanie didn’t then explained that Vince had messed up big time several years ago and he had to step in to save his dad’s ass. Shane explained that he stepped away to conduct some business but noted he “never lost [his] place in line.” Steph demanded to know if this was all true and Vince replied with a great Vince line, “there is some truth to it” and Shane told her it was “best for business” at the time. Steph told Shane she would never forgive him for this and indignantly left the ring.
Vince asked Shane what this was all about and offered to get out his chequebook to send Shane on his way. Shane said it wasn’t about money and stated it was about legacy then talked about his three sons he had at home who would be able to carry on the McMahon legacy for a fifth generation. Vince asked Shane what he wanted and Shane replied, “Simple, I want control of Monday Night RAW,” and the fans lost their minds again. Shane appeared to lose his train of thought at one point, although you can’t really blame him as this segment was almost 25 minutes long at this point, so Vince went into crazy Vince mode and started yelling at all the fans for cheering such a preposterous idea. Vince even dropped an “F” bomb at one point which the USA Network has to censor. There was also a bizarre line about Shane having some “lock box” that Vince wanted the keys to. Eventually, Vince agreed to Shane’s idea however he said Shane would have to wrestle one match on one night and if he won then he would indeed get control of RAW. Vince then booked Shane vs. Undertaker in Hell in a Cell and the fans chanted, “Holy Sh*t.” Presumably, if Undertaker wins Vince gets Shane’s keys to the deposit box, although they didn’t explain that part of the story. – Okay, first things first. This segment was absolutely outstanding; everybody played their part perfectly and the art imitating life stuff made it really easy to buy into what was going on. They had me right up until the part about Shane fighting Undertaker in Hell in a Cell for control of RAW. I don’t even object to Shane coming back to work a match, but having the Undertaker fighting for the survival of the Authority is something I just cannot abide. Why would Taker want to help Steph & HHH, especially when for two years the story was that HHH was trying to end the streak and went so far as to hatch a secret plan with Shawn Michaels to make sure it happened? It literally makes no sense whatsoever. With that said, they certainly pulled a rabbit out of their hat and without a doubt they did more in this segment to build interest in WrestleMania than any other over the last couple of years; maybe even as far back as Mania 28 when Rock faced Cena for the first time. Whether Shane is back full-time remains to be seen. If he is, you would think he has to beat Undertaker and take control of RAW, but how the hell do you have a 46 year-old non-wrestler pin the Undertaker at WrestleMania without making the whole thing seem completely stupid? So maybe Taker wins and we get 10 more years of the Authority in charge, but then what would be the point in teasing the fans with a babyface GM and not delivering? Perhaps even more interesting than what they will do at Mania is the real life ramifications of Shane returning. He left in 2010 after it was made clear that Stephanie & HHH had overtaken him as successors to Vince’s empire, something that Shane had been brought up to believe he would inherit since the day he was born. If he sticks around long-term then were will he fit into the current corporate structure? One thing is certain though; WrestleMania, and the rest of 2016, just got a whole lot more interesting than it was 24 hours ago.
If you are wondering where HHH was during all of this, well he kept himself away from the McMahon drama for the most part. He appeared in a backstage segment with Steph and told her to “let it go” and said the night would end in a better way than it started for them. Boy was he right…or wrong, I can’t really tell. There was also another backstage segment with Vince & Steph, where Vince told Steph that he had manipulated Shane and had put together another big main event for WrestleMania. So, the main event was Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus, which Steph booked to mess with Reigns, who wanted to go visit Ambrose in hospital however he couldn’t be bothered to show up and help when Lesnar was killing him. Reigns & Sheamus went to a no-contest when HHH came out like Ares and obliterated Reigns in a fair fight, leaving him lying in a pool of his own blood. While all this was going on, the crowd cheered Trips on like the biggest hero in the world. The more HHH kicked Reigns‘ ass, the more the people cheered. Huntor finished Reigns off with a Pedigree on the steps and gave him a crotch chop for good measure. Cole was yelling about this being a disgusting and sickening scene, however the crowd completely disagreed and to them HHH was the ultimate babyface here. – I’ve never really bought into the HHH “political hit” theory that Dylan Hales has been talking about for months, although what they did here would certainly lead one to believe such a thing is in fact more than just wacky internet speculation. Still, to me at least, I firmly believe that in Creative’s mind, and especially Vince McMahon’s, that they were just shooting the old heel bloodies up the babyface angle to try and get some sympathy on Reigns and set him up for a big redemption deal down the line. They were just blissfully unaware that it was almost destined to fail. Now, could HHH have said something about how maybe he shouldn’t just destroy Reigns in a fair fight and come up with something different? Probably. Does HHH know enough about how the business works in 2016 that he shouldn’t have acted like a babyface and not have played to the crowd with poses and crotch chops? Definitely. I don’t believe that this angle was set up to make Reigns look like a total loser. All you have to do is look at the company’s track record over the last few years to see how completely out of touch they truly are. Although, I will say that HHH probably knew that this wouldn’t do Reigns any favours and he kept his mouth shut so he could have his big moment and look like the biggest badass in the world. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, however I still tend to lean towards the idea that company is simply incapable of making new stars, instead of them destroying the guy they have been setting up to be the next face of the promotion over the last two years.
Believe it or not, there was some other great stuff on this show too. Earlier in the afternoon, WWE posted a video on their Facebook of Dean Ambrose arriving at the building and Brock Lesnar jumping him in the parking lot. Brock kicked the hell out of Ambrose and slammed him onto the hood of a limo while a bunch of plain clothed referees acted like they were in the ring and were gesticulating at Brock to knock it off. They also showed Ambrose being put on a stretcher and taken to hospital. It was an angle straight out of the 1980’s and it was absolutely beautiful. Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar were out at the top of the second hour and Heyman cut one of his better proms in a while and talked about how Lesnar should be in the main event of WrestleMania because he is Brock Lesnar. Paul said “no shield could protect” Ambrose from Lesnar’s wrath and reiterated again that Brock was THE main event, no matter what HHH or Roman Reigns may think. Ambrose, still in his neck-brace, returned and drove the ambulance into the arena then stumbled out and crawled his way down to ringside. Lesnar went to the floor, where Ambrose was selling death, and stepped on Dean as he walked to the back. Ambrose got on the mic and challenged Brock to a street fight at Mania. Lesnar came back down the ramp and gave Ambrose an F5 on the floor then Heyman said that his client accepted his challenge. – This was great. Heyman was on top form and Ambrose vs. Lesnar is so much better than Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt. Maybe they could have kept Ambrose off TV for a week to sell the attack, but Ambrose doing the Steve Austin comeback was fun, however I don’t recall Austin ever getting his ass kicked after driving one of his vehicles into the arena.
Chris Jericho called out AJ Styles and congratulated him on his victory at FastLane then the two became best buds and shook hands. The Social Outcasts showed up and were their usual uber geek selves. Styles & Jericho teamed up to beat Heath Slater & Curtis Axel in a nothing 4 minute match when Styles took out Slater with a Springboard elbow and Jercho tapped Axel with the Walls. – I have no idea if AJ & Jericho will be a regular tag team, but I seriously hope not. Kevin Owens wasn’t on the show at all, so we may not be getting Owens/Styles at Mania.
Sundry Segments: New Day beat The Lucha Dragons & Neville in a fun 15:25 match which had to follow the Shane McMahon return. Neville looked really good and hit a couple of big dives. Kofi pinned Sin Cara with the Trouble in Paradise. Usos over the Ascension in a 2 minute throwaway match. Beforehand, the Dudley Boyz came out and cut heel promos on the Usos. Bubba was great and reiterated that their legacy will not be defined by tables. Goldust made R-Truth a cake to apologise for costing him his match at FastLane; the cake ended up going in Goldie’s face. Why is this story still running?! In an epic rematch from FastLane, The Wyatt Family Classic beat Big Show, Kane & Ryback in 12:30 when Bray pinned Kane with Sister Abigail. Strowman was on the outside and he pulled Big Show over the top at one point. Finish of the match saw Ryback walk out on his partners and later he cut a promo in the back about smashing the “glass ceiling” and grabbing the “brass ring.” So Ryback’s new heel character is basically that he is CM Punk; what irony! Sasha Banks downed Naomi in 6:40 with the Banks Statement. Becky Lynch ran down to help fight of Tamina then Charlotte appeared wearing Nikki Bella’s red “champion” crop top. Charlotte cut an abysmal promo and shouted every single word, because that’s all she knows what to do. The point of her promo was that she was going to have fun messing with Becky & Sasha over the next few weeks. The also announced the Godfather for the Hall of Fame and hyped HHH for SmackDown this week.