I have to say that this episode of RAW was rather lackluster. There were a few beautiful and shining moments, but beyond those, this was not a Road to WrestleMania worthy episode of RAW. I'm sad to see the direction of things right now. It seems as though the WWE loses Punk – hopefully not permanently – and everything falls apart. It wouldn't seem to me that Punk would have that much weight on so much going on in the WWE, but him taking his ball and going home seems to have sent everything into some sort of turmoil. The one thing that hasn't seemed to fall apart is AJ, and I give her huge props for continuing as though nothing has happened – at least on screen.
On a more personal note, we'd discovered why I've had so much pain and been so ill recently. I spent the weekend in the hospital with a 12mm kidney stone. Things are not right yet, but we're working toward that direction, and hopefully that means I won't be as behind with the RIB going forward. But, as I'm still kind of wonky from all the meds and anesthesia, I'm going to keep this week's RIB short like last week. I expect this to be resolved in the next month or so, therefore things should be getting better here. I also want to mention that there's going to be a very special week coming up as Jesse will be coming up to visit me, and that week's RIB is going to include a lot more than just my thoughts.
In Ring Segment > B
I'm a huge Betty White fan, so I was excited to see what she would be doing on this episode of RAW. I was also interested in seeing how hardened wrestling fans (those of the WNW Nation who hang out each week for the Open Threads) were looking forward to seeing Betty as well. I, like most fans, have been not at all thrilled with the Special Guest Stars on RAW. There have been a few I've loved, but on a personal level. Freddie Prinze Jr. was fun because he worked creative and has always loved the industry. To me he was a fantastic Special Guest Host because he loves the industry and the WWE so much that he works for them. I loved Seth Green on RAW, but I've been a fan of his since he was on The Byrds of Paradise in the early 90s. There's Hugh Jackman, but how can you not love a man who is as talented and looks like him? Bob Barker brought Jericho down and RAW to life. Lastly, there's The Muppets, but I grew up watching The Muppet Show as a young child, and they fit into the show wonderfully.
All that being said, I was excited to see what Betty would do, and was in awe when I saw her come out on Big Show's arm. I know Betty is a petite woman, even when she was young and healthy, she was never tall, but seeing her with Big Show was so sweet and endearing. She handled herself well, and came across wonderfully. I was glad she didn't go all the way to the ring, as she didn't look as stable on her feet as I'd hoped, and that ramp can be treacherous. Even Steph and Trip came across as welcoming and sweet toward Betty on stage, as they should, no matter how nasty they can get in character.
Orton kissing bum was hysterical, but not at all believable. The more I see of Orton lately, the more it seems as though his character works so well because it's who he is, but amplified. We all know that the best characters in wrestling are the amplification of the person behind the character. Austin being the one I always run back to in this case, but Cena really is as well – minus all that OCD we've seen from him on Total Divas. Anyway, this segment didn't really pick up until Bryan came out. Bryan has more than blossomed in a way I never thought possible, and each week when the fans go crazy for him, he can't hide how much it touches him. I think that's one of my favorite parts of watching Bryan, he just glows when the "YES!" "YES!" "YES!" starts, or the fans chant his name when they should be focusing on something else – like Cena and Orton in that segment before TLC. I know many members of the IWC dislike Bryan, but I find him endearing and a beautiful person, something he's not been able to hide since the fans have started going wild for him.
Rey & The Brotherhood vs The Wyatt Family > B
I thought Goldust looked really solid in this match. That man just keeps going like he's not 44 and hasn't had the problems he's had in the past. I hope his contract continues after his run with Cody is over, because I think he's a great addition to the roster. Beyond Goldust, I though everyone looked solid, but not as great as he did. And I have to mention that I thought Bray looked a little rough and reckless with his finisher on Rey. I think that wrestlers who haven't worked with Rey just don't realize how little he really is, and he gets tossed around a bit more than he should sometimes. Rey looked like a doll getting tossed around by Bray at the end of this match, and it made me cringe.
Winners – The Wyatt Family (10:36)
Backstage Segment > B+
I'm becoming a huge fan of Renee's. I've not been impressed with a lot of the backstage interviewers since Coach, and I think that's because Coach was such a character in his own right. Josh is solid, but he's that little boy who's cheeks I want to pinch, and I think he's better on announce than backstage. Byron Saxton really dropped the ball later in the show, but I'll get there. Renee is strong, and handles herself well without being overtly sexual, annoyingly in the know, or too dumb to be effective. I hope she's able to grow as a character as well as a reporter, because I think they have something very special in her. All that being said, I don't know how she didn't melt when Reigns called her 'Baby girl' when he started speaking. That man oozes sexuality when he speaks, and he knows how to work it. He's come so far in the past year, and he's going places in a big way. His mic work in this segment widened the cracks in The Shield and made things that much more interesting without taking a big chunk of time. This segment was well executed, and further pushed Reigns on mic, a place that people are realizing that he's not lacking like they thought. This man is the total package, and it's so much fun watching him grow from word go. In ten years when he's the face of the WWE, Cena will be returning to have a match with him.
Backstage Segment > D+
Betty was solid with the Divas, but the segment was so plastic and contrived. From Eva Marie standing behind them, to the way Vickie came in and acted, and the way Nattie explained everything, it was just lame!
Santino vs Fandango > C
I wasn't overly impressed with this match, even though the actual moves were quite solid. Santino knows how to work that ring better than most. His technical abilities are quite strong, and it's obvious that he thinks of them as technical skills when you see him hit the moves. He's someone who I'd love to see given free reign to work a match with another technical wrestler. I know it's not part of his character, but it would be a lot of fun to see.
The biggest problem I had with this match was Miz. I know they're trying to build him as a disgruntled Superstar, but the distraction he makes during these matches is more annoying than interesting. I will give him props for calling Fandango 'twinkletoes' and saying that Santino's schtick is older than Betty White, but mentioning that his comments were funny does not mean that I was at all impressed with his appearance, or at all care about him being disgruntled. Personally, I thought he was great on announce with JBL and think that's a much better fit for him at this point.
Winner – Fandango (2:17)
Backstage Segment > B
While Sheamus was strong in this interview, Byron Saxton was a flop. I just don't see anything in the man. He's almost more boring than Otunga, and that's saying something. I loved Sheamus' comment about an Irishman and a Canadian walking into a bar sounds like the start of a joke, and then how he went on about the Elimination Chamber being no joke. While he can be a bit corny as a face, he didn't come off terribly corny here, though he a heel turn could be good for him going forward.
Christian & Sheamus vs The Real Americans > B+
There were parts of this match that I really enjoyed. I hadn't much thought of a feud between Sheamus and Cesaro, but the hard hitting work they gave us in this match makes me think that we need to see this feud. Further, we need to see this feud with Sheamus as the heel and Cesaro as the face. When Zeb handed that mic to Cesaro, the fans went wild. All he said was, "Hey, hey, hey," and the fans went wild for him. The little smile of recognition of them reminded me of the endearing looks from Bryan. Finally Cesaro is getting some of the recognition he deserves, and I'm thrilled.
I enjoyed a lot about this match, but I still think Christian looks a bit off his game. I cannot put my finger on it, but he's not the Christian I know and love. He's still solid, just not up to what I expect from him – though I loved his comment about his mother thinking he could be the face of the WWE. Then there's Swagger who just isn't up to par lately. I know I'm biased, but I'm not a fan of Swagger's in the least.
Then there's Sheamus and Cesaro and they were fantastic! They were hard hitting, and didn't hold anything back when in the ring together. I was very impressed with their work, and I want to see them feud. This could be a solid next step for Cesaro in the right direction, and good for Sheamus returning and looking for his place on the roster. I was blown away by their work together, and I can't wait to see them in the Elimination Chamber! It would be the perfect place for them to start a feud going into WrestleMania.
Winners – Sheamus & Christian (14:35)
Backstage Segment > B
Again, Renee was solid, and Cena was good, but it was that he gave props to Cesaro as well as Bryan and The Wyatt Family that made me smile. Bryan and The Wyatt Family made sense, but it was great that he added Cesaro into that mix. Gives me even more hope for Cesaro.
Ziggler vs ADR > C-
What a mess! Ziggler looked solid, then ADR had the win. It made little sense in the grand scheme of things, and killed the fans who were really behind Ziggler from when his music hit. I know this match was just a way for them to set up the attack by Batista, but it further hurt a Superstar who the fans want to see succeed. Using Ziggler for this didn't make the fans happy. To me this would have been the spot to use Ryder.
Winner – ADR (1:34)
Ringside Segment > B
Batista looked quite solid in this segment, and really came across how I think they've wanted him to look. I like him in basic black, and without any extra adornment. Not that Batista usually was adorned, but the way he's been dressing lately, I was a bit worried. Batista looked strong, and ADR sold well. My only worry, the same worry I had last week, was that Batista seemed really over-the-top when he ripped apart announce. It was the way he was so riled up last week, when things seemed to be cooling down, but he picked up the mic and spiked it on the mat. He did the same in the way he ripped the monitors off announce and tossed them. Most people are somewhat careful about them, as they're not exactly cheap, but Batista was so rough that when he was yanking them out the cables were popping out and flying in all directions. It just seemed a little excessive compared to most, but then again, Batista is returning as a throwback. He said he wouldn't return during the PG Era, and he's back, so he has to stay in character somehow.
Video > C
I'm honestly not sure how I feel about the Bellas playing flight attendants. It was a cute idea, but I'm not sure it quite worked out the way they had hoped.
Backstage Segment > B-
Batista telling Trip he's changed – shocker! Which of Trip's former cohorts haven't told him that since he started wearing a suit? It is a smart way to get Batista more of a face pop when he's not been getting as much as they had expected. Wonder if anything will come of it.
HOF > A
I love that Lita is being inducted into the WWE HOF, especially the year after Trish. I hope Trish inducts Lita. As per usual, the video for Lita was just lovely.
Backstage Segment > B+
This segment was perfect for Dogg and Gunn with Betty. This was absolutely a throw back to their era, and I loved it. They all played it off so perfectly, and it was a great way to use the New Age Outlaws outside the ring.
Usos vs RybAxel > B
I cannot say this was a fantastic match, but it was solid. I thought the Usos really shone in this match, and carried it all the way through. Honestly, while Axel had a couple of strong moments, for me this was all the Usos, and they sealed the deal with that final tag as Jimmy flew out of the ring onto Ryback.
While I don't think of this as part of the match, I don't want to split it off because I'd give it the same grade. I thought the work by the New Age Outlaws on announce was great. They all rode Gunn hard, and Dogg handled himself wonderfully. This is the type of thing that Dogg and Gunn did back in the day, so it was perfect that they were the ones flinging the potty humor again. It's nothing they haven't embarrassed themselves with before. It just felt right that they were the ones dealing with the poo.
Winners – Usos (4:22)
US Championship Match > B+
I was really wondering if Reigns was going to challenge Ambrose for the strap there for a moment. Not that it's quite time for them to break up, but it would have been interesting to see. It made perfect sense to bring Henry out here. Ambrose is a fantastic competitor, and he made Henry look great in the ring while selling his own insecurities. Of course Rollins and Reigns couldn't let Ambrose lose his strap, but at least he had to defend it, because I think the fans were getting more than very annoyed at Ambrose not defending for so very long. I expect we'll see him defending it more and more, until finally Rollins and Reigns won't help him out of the mess he's gotten himself into, and let him lose it. Or he'll lose it to Reigns.
Winner – Henry via DQ (8:08)
In Ring Segment > A-
I separated this off from the match last night, and I think I did the right thing in doing that, because The Shield and The Wyatt Family facing off across the ring deserved its own grade. They all looked great out there, and they pushed the tension hard with the fans. I found it interesting that Reigns was really the leader of The Shield here, and he wasn't going to be the one to back down. Of course it was Bray who did back down, but he plays mind games, so it made perfect sense. This was a great way to continue building toward Elimination Chamber.
Video > A
I have to admit I'm loving these Black History Month videos, and I think the WWE is doing a beautiful job with them. They told the story of Bobo Brazil beautifully, and I learned a lot. I can't wait to see what they have to say about Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson being the first African American Tag Team Champs. I adore Tony, and have spent some quality time with him, and I just can't get past what a beautiful human being he is.
Cameron & Bellas vs AJ & Fox & Aksana > C
I have to say that Cameron looked stronger in this match than I've ever seen her. It's like she's made a huge leap recently. Maybe her partner being injured lit a fire under her, but she looked much better. The Bellas have made such leaps lately that they looked solid as well. It was Aksana and Fox who, as usual, looked off. AJ wasn't in the match long, and didn't even seem to be up on the corner at the end of the match. JBL made a comment, wondering if AJ was okay out front of them, and she was already over to the ramp with Tamina when the match ended. Made me wonder if she was okay, and if I might have missed something in the match. One thing I didn't miss was Aksana dropping knees, something I'd be worried about from her after the knee she dropped in Naomi's eye.
Winners – Cameron & Bellas (5:08)
Video > D
I was not at all impressed with this promo from Rusev. As with many fans, a heel wrestler trying to get heat just because he doesn't speak English just doesn't fly these days.
In Ring Segment > B+
Kane seems to be able to sell, no matter what his character is. That man is one of the best, and he just keeps plugging along as if he wasn't almost 47 years old. After his work with Bryan in Team Hell No, we have all expected to see them feud, and it looks like we're finally getting exactly that. I'd rather not have it happening on Road to WrestleMania, but they are trying to lure Punk back. I loved the work between these two when they were together, and hope for as much, if not more from them feuding.
Backstage Segment > B
Betty was cute, and her sending off to the main event was a nice way to end her run on RAW without anything too strenuous, or over-the-top for her.
Orton vs Cena > B+
For a long time it seemed as though when the WWE was at a loss for what to do with Cena or Orton, then put them into a feud of some sort, and we were more than burnt out by it. The last thing we wanted to see was Cena vs Orton, yet again. This match didn't have any of that. Orton went into it the way Orton does, but Cena was more upbeat than normal, and I found it infectious. I really thought both of these guys worked hard in that ring and gave us something special. It might not have been as creative as the work between Bryan and Orton last week, but it was a lot better than many of the matches we've seen between Cena and Orton through the years.
My one huge issue with this match is my big issue with Cena in almost every decent match he has, he's Super Cena. The man goes from selling like he's almost dead to bouncing back and being able to do anything to win. Then, after the match, he acts as if nothing bad happened to him at all in the match. It's one of my biggest problems with Cena's wrestling, and something he just seems to not be willing, or able, to get past. Then again, he's been the face of the WWE for so many years, why would he bother to change at this point?
Beyond that, I thought this was a much better match than we've seen from these two together in a long time – other than PPV matches. It was a solid main event, and a great way to continue on toward Elimination Chamber.
Winner – Cena (20:45)
As I said at the start, this episode of RAW just wasn't up to what I expected for this time of the year, other than a few shining moments. Those moments for me were – Betty White, Lita being announced for the HOF, The Wyatt Family facing The Shield across the ring, Sheamus and Cesaro working the ring together, the Usos' diving tag, and Bryan with Kane in the ring. Those were all great, but those things were not enough to carry the show for a full three hours.
Queen of WNW