I know that the title sounds horrible, but hear me out. When JR was on Raw on a regular basis, he was McMahon's whipping boy. If it was mean, or demeaning, and not aimed at a wrestler, it was JR who was the butt of the joke. Well, McMahon did his best to get rid of the AE's voice of the WWF/WWE, but that left him without someone to abuse. Okay, I know it wasn't only JR who caught the flying crap, but he was the only one who had never been a wrestler. The stooges were once wrestlers, so they don't count, even though they caught their share of flying poo. While I have to say seeing someone in that position does bring back the AE in some ways, there was some great craziness back then, but much of this type of craziness can be done without. Wrestlers dumping poo on each other in a big feud is one thing – ask Ziggler about his cheering days – but making a jackass of someone on a whim, with little to do with storyline is another. I wasn't a fan of JR's 'colonoscopy' and I wasn't a fan of Vickie being doused in vomit.
In Ring Segment > B+
I've watched Steph's choice of clothing for years, even back to her early days in the WWF. At first she was sweet, innocent, and dressed demurely in girly colors. At Armageddon 1999, Steph was still claiming she didn't want to be with Triple H, but she came to her ringside seat wearing a black leather jacket of her pastel top. That was the night Steph turned on her father, turned heel and joined with Trip. It was the start of the black leather means heel Steph. During the McMahon/Helmsley Era Steph dressed much more provocatively, quite often in leather and pleather. Her most recent heel turn with Trip was marked by Steph wearing a black leather skirt to the ring, and I stated that she would be turning heel because of it. This week on RAW Steph was dressed much more provocatively, with a wider and lower neckline than usual, and a red skirt with black leather accents at the hips, so I knew that we were in for a more heelish Steph than normal, and she didn't disappoint.
Steph and Trip worked the crowd hard, putting down Bryan, and putting Cena into a treacherous (for this era) match against Kane. They did a great job of setting the stage for the night by forcing all of the Superstars and Divas to the stage to start the show – making sure they all got appearance bonuses – but stating things in such a way that I wonder what the plan for MITB really is. "...because standing on that stage could very well be the next WWE WHC." Basically Trip said absolutely nothing here, and left the door open for anything to happen. He didn't say the new Champion is on the stage, but that whoever is going to be Champion might be on that stage. That really leads me to wonder if there's going to be a Brock or a Trip walking out of MITB strapped. I'm sure that wording was well thought out, as was the way they worded the way Cena has been helping people, and will be helping them by being in the Stretcher Match with Kane. The wording as well as how Steph, Trip, Rollins and Cena handled themselves made this segment really solid, though in a creatively subtly way.
Ziggler vs Rollins > B+
A number of people in the Open Thread Discussion were annoyed that the WWE was giving us this match for the third time in the course of a week. As I didn't see MainEvent, and I was enjoying myself hanging out in the Smackdown Open Thread Discussion, I wasn't watching closely, so I thought this was great. Two wonderful competitors in a lovely back and forth match that showed a lot of their best. Seeing these two take it to a whole new level at a PPV could be a show stealer. They both have it in them, and both give so much all the time in the ring and on mic.
All their greatness, but I still want to see Rollins and Ambrose leave it all in the ring at MITB. Even with the MITBLM, this could steal the show and bring the house down.
Winner – Rollins via DQ(11:14)
Ambrose vs Barrett > B+
While this match gets as good of a grade, I don't think that the work between Barrett and Ambrose was as good as the work between Rollins and Ziggler. I could be completely wrong, but maybe Ziggler wants it more, so he's putting more out than Barrett? I don't know, I'm grasping here. It was the action between Ambrose and Rollins that really brought this match to the grade I gave it. I'm not saying anything negative about Barrett, he's really proved himself, and his character is over in a way I never expected, but he doesn't scream need to me the way Ziggler does.
Winner – Barrett via Count Out (15:01)
Backstage Segment > B
Reigns struggled through his first line and I was really worried about where this segment was going, and how bad it might be. In the end, Reigns came off as cool and absolutely looking like a star, and Vickie looked a little off. Maybe she was dreading what she knew was coming. In this segment I got a great mix of Trip, The Rock, and something even cooler and sexier. I loved it, and while I wasn't sure he'd be able to handle something like this on his own, this went off better than I thought possible, and he showed that he has what it takes on mic with being able to talk, charisma, timing, and showing who he is beyond being part of The Shield. As long as they don't push him too hard too fast, and let him evolve organically, this man is the future – him, and his little teapot.
DEP! > B+
While I really enjoyed this segment, something in it killed part of my hope for the MITBLM. I really hoped we'd see Bray at the top of the ladder not taking the strap, because he's better than that, and keeping the rest from getting the straps, at least for a little bit. That he stated that the straps would take him to a whole new level, and bring about change is great, except it felt a little too much like Cena's rhetoric, and that's a shot in the heart after all Bray has built since debuting. Hopefully they're not pulling back on his character after all the greatness we've seen.
Much of the time I struggle to catch at least part of Bray's speech, as he doesn't enunciate much of the time. I have no problem with it, because it's part of the character, though it annoys the in the moment I'm trying to write his words. But this week I struggled with a bit of Sheamus' speech. I've never had an issue with his accent, but he was mumbling this week! Honestly, Sheamus' tiny bit brought this whole segment down a little.
Sheamus vs Bray > B
I was expecting so much from this match, but much of the fun came after the DQ. I'm not saying the match wasn't good, it just wasn't as good as I expected it to be. I loved that the Usos came out to the ring to back Sheamus, and that it ended in a brawl between them all. They did a lovely job of showing us some solid work, especially after the DQ, but even better was they set up for MITB in a great way. If I didn't already have the WWE Network, this would drive me to it.
Winner – Sheamus via DQ (11:19)
Backstage Segments > B
Dang, was Steph obnoxious here! She was mean and catty in a way that really worked. She didn't have a lot of sadness, or happiness, or real emotion to show, and she sold being the obnoxious bitch boss in a huge way.
Then, when she was sucking down that coffee when talking to Renee, you knew it was going to hit. Steph made it quick and to the point. Having Heyman step in with Renee after Steph fled was also great. After this segment I was honestly believing that Cesaro was going to win the MITBLM and be the WWE WHC.
Slater vs Rusev > D+
The only reason I didn't fail this is not because of Lana, but because of Slater. They fire his backup singers, then throw him at Rusev, whose Cheerios did he pee in? I love Slater, and I hope this isn't the beginning of the end for him. Slater seems to be going back to his roots of leading up to RAW 1,000, and I hope they keep working him that way – a bit on the mic, then maybe losing, but selling all he is the whole way. It could work for him, it did that summer.
Winner – Rusev (0:34)
Backstage Segment >68
Honestly, I thought it was going to be the other end, but I don't think they could have had Steph projectile... Okay, I'm not going to say another word about this, I think I said it all in the opening paragraph.
Backstage Segment > B+
I thought that Reigns really pulled it off in this segment. He worked over Vickie, and got what he wanted. He seemed more comfortable with this segment, and he was more natural for it.
Backstage Segment > B
So much backstage in this show, but I understand why they did it this way with Kevin Hart, and I think it worked quite well for what it was, and set up for what was to come.
Fandango & Layla vs Adam Rose & Summer Rae > B-
I actually have to admit that Hart added a lot to this match. It wasn't much of a match, but it was a great way to get Hart seen by the fans, remind them of why he was there, and give Adam Rose a little push. Personally, my favorite parts of this match were JBL screaming about the rabbit, and the way Hart and Rose held hands to fall back on the Exotic Express to get carried around. That doesn't say much for the match, but the match wasn't really meant to be a match, so I am giving it props for what it was.
Winners – Rose & Summer Rae (1:25)
MITBLM Qualifying Battle Royal > A-
I thought that the gimmick to get Trip and Steph out of the arena was a bit 5th grade, but it worked, and I have to admit that I like some silliness now and then – just wish it wasn't at the expense of Vickie.
I really enjoyed this Battle Royal because the characters were really in their characters through the whole thing. Rusev was probably the worst of the characters through it, and seeing him get taken out shows that he is stoppable. Actually, I found this great shot of Reigns' superman punch on Rusev that I can't help but stick in here.
Again, I'm thrilled with the way they worked the Reigns thing, now I just hope they don't push him too fast. He's had a great build, grown so much since his debut, but I'm still really worried about him being pushed too fast. It's a wait and see game, so until then, let's enjoy this great shot of Rusev taking his first fall while Reigns shows off his flowing locks.
Winner – Reigns (17:10)
Backstage Segment > C-
I'm not saying Cena was bad on mic, but the corny lack of the middle finger killed all he did to get there. That really hurt anything good that came from his feud with Bray, and if Cena wins at MITB, we riot!
Paige vs Cameron > C+
I actually enjoyed this match a lot more than Paige facing Fox. While Cameron isn't as strong in the ring as Fox, she worked really well with Paige, and they told a story. Even Naomi outside the ring had a huge part in it all, even though she never said a word, or threw a move. I love Paige and hope she doesn't get screwed out of her push before she can run with it, and I think it's TPTB who are screwing her by not letting her really work with the best Divas in the ring.
Winner – Paige (3:12)
Backstage Segment > B
And more backstage! Okay, I don't know who has the boner for Byron (and yes, I'm only saying it that way because Richard is on vacation), but they need to get over it! Byron isn't bad on NXT, but any personality he has filters away when he's on RAW, and he just needs to go away. Goldust, on the other hand, sold this as only Goldust can. Between this segment, and Jesse tweaking out at me through IM (because I was behind with RAW Results because my cat kept dragging in mice she caught, through the entire show), I was giddy and excited to see who was tagging with Goldust.
Stardust & Goldust vs RybAxel > B+
Before you beat me up, hear me out. I love characters, and love when someone throws themselves completely into their character, the way Windham does with Bray. I really thought Cody threw himself into Stardust, and for that they get the grade and the props. I don't want to see Cody as Stardust for his whole career, but he proved something huge to us all with this, that he can play almost any character and make it work. It was all in the eyes, and I don't mean the contacts. Cody was all the way vested in his character, and because of that, I was floored, and impressed. It also proved that his brother and father are not the only ones who can be absolutely over the top in the ring, and have fun doing it. So no, not forever, the way Goldust is, but for a time to show his versatility could be a great thing.
Winners – Goldust & Stardust (0:58)
Video > A+
Special Olympics and the WWE, what a great pairing!
Stretcher Match > C-
After watching all I have on the WWE Network, I'm ruined for anything 'hardcore' that the WWE wants to throw at us these days. These matches just are not cutting it. I'm not saying I want unprotected head shots, or even protected head shots for the match to be great. I'm not saying I need color for the match to be great. What's missing is the unexpected, the unusual, the gritty. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the WWE is too polished and shiny. It's time that they look back at what made some of these matches interesting and exciting, and reintroduce them to the fans. It has been long enough, there's a lot of new fans who haven't seen it, and a lot of kids who are new to the fandom. They're recycling certain storylines right now, specifically McMahon keeping Austin down into McMahon/Helmsley keeping Bryan down, abusing Vickie as if she was JR, and Reigns pulling DX-esque pranks to get what he needs, so why not bring back a lot of what made gimmick matches fun?
Storylines and characters are getting better by recycling the best, hopefully they will do the same with matches very soon because this just didn't cut it. Honestly, I don't think this would pass muster as a traditional match, never mind trying to make it into something that really should be hardcore. I know both of these men are better than this, especially Kane, yet it was terribly watered down. I understand that this is a PG Era, but there's ways to make these matches interesting while still keeping them PG. It's not like I want Cena running around with Head, sucking face with a mop, or wearing some of those outfits Torrie used to wear, I just want a gimmick match that should have a hardcore bent to it to be more than vanilla ice milk boring!
Winner – Cena (16:47
So we have Reigns growing into something great before our eyes, as much as a character as his is as a wrestler. There's Bray who is a character who blows me away every time we see him. Ambrose is just crazy and continues to prove himself as he grows and changes. Bo held his character all the way through that Battle Royal without flinching, or looking like anyone but Bo. And then there's Stardust, who has caught a lot of flack, but I was blown away by Cody's conviction and how he ran with the character in such a huge way. Cody didn't hold anything back, and he's proving that he can be another character in the future, even if he doesn't follow in his brother's glittery footsteps. There was so much character shown in this episode of RAW that I'm so excited to see where these guys will go. It's really feeling as though the WWE is on an upswing with fantastic talent, rather than the same boring lack of characters. Finally!
Queen of WNW