She's back! Honestly, it almost feels like coming home again. After a full month off, I was almost itching to get back to my regular routine. I don't miss writing live results, but I really miss getting in there and analyzing what's going on in the WWE. It's like a friend I didn't realize I'd been missing.
I will fully admit that I didn't watch Raw during November. I spent the time on my novel, making more progress than I thought possible. Five out of seven days I was out of the writing with friends and other WriMos, and late night I'd sit in bed and write by hand, watching the WWE Network to get my wrestling fix. I watched approximately a Raw or PPV a night, continued to work my way through 1997 and into 1998. I'm watching the start of the feud between Austin and McMahon, mirroring what is starting with Reigns right now.
I'm lucky and thrilled to be able to write this particular RIB, as November was such an awful mess. While I might not have been watching, I'm always talking to Jesse, CJ, Zack, and Moose about backstage stuff here at WNW, and how the WWE is doing. It was really time for the WWE to put up or shut up, and they had a great start at TLC with a couple of the matches, but it was the end of the show and the final beat down on Trip that really turned the tide. From there they NEEDED to make Raw something AMAZING, or TLC would have been called a fluke and the ratings would have dropped that much lower. Lucky for the WWE, they pulled out all the stops and gave us the best Raw of the year, by far!
Rather than rambling on here, let's get to the show.
In Ring Segment > A
If Triple H had appeared on Raw this week, it would have destroyed all they built at TLC on Sunday night. He had to be kept off TV to sell his injuries, but with all the sheer stupidity the WWE had been throwing at us, many thought they would mess this up as well, but they were smart and sent Steph, the raging bitch to the ring to stand up for her husband. Not only did Steph stand up for Trip, and her whole family after Reigns called her whole family a disgrace, she almost took Reigns' head off with those slaps. Those slaps were evil! I knew that Steph wasn't one to hold back in the ring, but Reigns' face look like someone had slammed a heated iron into it after those eight slaps.
A couple things I found odd about this segment is that Steph wasn't in black leather, which is her signature for when she's uber heel. Also, stating that Trip wouldn't let her fire Reigns bothered me, because since when does she take orders from Trip? She's the McMahon, and if she wants to fire someone, I'm willing to bet that the only one who could stop her would be her father.
Beyond those little things, this was the PERFECT way to start Raw. Not only was Steph all over Reigns, she stated that VKM would be there live, something he's not done in over a year. That promise had to keep the fans watching, because who doesn't like VKM's rare appearances? Because his appearances are so rare, we get that much more excited for them. Further, we all wanted to see how healthy VKM looks at 70.
Ambrose vs Ziggler > A-
This was a pretty sweet match. Ambrose is very much the man to watch in the WWE, for me anyway. I really think Ambrose has all it takes to be Austin to Reigns' Rocky. I usually don't like saying that so-and-so is the next so-and-so, but Ambrose is such an amalgamation of Austin, Foley, and even a little Al Snow, who puts absolutely everything into his character and ring work, and should be in the running for the WWE WHC – soon. I'm just so frustrated with how he's been booked since The Shield broke up. Holding the Intercontinental Championship is a step in the right direction, it just feels like his push is so slow compared to Rollins and Reigns, even though he has the experience, the look, the charisma, and that man can really work the ring. Work the ring is exactly what he did here with Ziggler. Normally I think a face vs face match needs a build of some sort, but this one was for pure enjoyment for the fans. Okay, okay, it was a way to set up for KO to attack, but until that point, it was a great match to watch.
I have to admit that I'm getting annoyed with the comments from announce about Owens' weight. Some of the best were bigger men who could move around the ring as if they were half the size they were. Bam Bam, Vader, Umaga, even Big Show were able to have great careers despite their size. I understand McMahon has a thing for a certain physique, but most wrestlers don't have that physique. Heck, Rollins is smaller than McMahon's prime, but he's done quite well for himself. Not everyone is going to be Kane, Taker, Cena, etc, and it's about time they back off Owens for his weight, as he's one of the best heels on their roster!
One last impressive thing I have to mention about this match. Few heels attack the opponent facing the one they hate and therefore, make it so the one they're feuding with ends up with the win, via DQ. Owens actually had the attention to forethought to attack Ziggler first, costing Ambrose the win. It's something I've never understood about attacks like this. It seems to me that the last thing a heel would want is for the person they're feuding with to win a match, any match, even through DQ. So bravo to Owens for going about this the right way – finally!
Winner via DQ – Ziggler
Backstage Segment > A+
WOW! I love short backstage segments that push the limits and make more of a few minutes than ten minutes of wishy-washy fluff. KO was on point, scary, and full on heel. It helps that JoJo is so tiny compared to KO (not an attack on his weight, just a comment on size difference), so when he loomed over her and spoke in that dark, creepy voice, it made so much more of the segment than it would have otherwise. I knew KO was great, but this was above and beyond. Maybe it's time they push him to the top too. Okay, I know he deserves to be pushed to the top, and that's going to become quite a crowded place soon, but there are so many top Superstars in the making right now! Again I'm reminded of another great time in the WWE, when there was Taker, Kane, Foley, Rocky, Trip, and Stone Cold Steve Austin all passing the WWF Championship around. The Title was not at all devalued by the way the Championship was used in that time, and I don't think it would be a bad way to handle things right now. There are enough guys for enough feuds, they could go all out for ratings, the way they needed to back in 1997-2001. I see no reason not to use all these guys to the best of their abilities.
Backstage Segment > A-
This was another solid segment backstage. All four of Team ECW gave us passion and really worked it for their hometown crowd. Being in Philly meant that they needed to give their loyal fans a treat. They started with mic work, and the extra video clips added that much more. This was a great mix of mic work and production work. It was great!
Backstage Segment > B
I found this very interesting and confusing. Why wasn't VKM's limo there? Was there a glitch here? Or, was this how this segment was supposed to go? Definitely odd.
Bo Dallas vs R-Truth > A- & C-
Honestly, I didn't think much of it really until these two were brought to the ring for a match. In the Live Discussion, we had no idea why both R-Truth and Bo would get entrance music after all this time with them off TV, or entering during commercial breaks. Things seemed off, and a bit pathetic, and then the limo pulled in and things only got stranger. VKM telling Steph to stay in the back wasn't at all unexpected, but the way Bo and R-Truth acted when VKM came out was. I'd have thought that if this was scripted, they'd have left the ring and scrapped the match without being asked. Instead, they stood there looking like dolts.
McMahon handled the whole thing better than everyone else, but at times he still didn't look as thought he had complete control of the situation. It was strange to see him slightly out of sorts and not sure how to handle things completely. I have worried that the Superstars have become too dependent on the scripts, but it seems as though VKM might be depending on them too much as well. That being said, when speaking, McMahon was the all-powerful McMahon who ruled as Evil Mr. McMahon.
As for McMahon himself, he definitely looks older. He's lost a lot of body mass, his shoulders look quite a bit narrower, even though his upper arms are still bulky. His wrists are thin, his hands look old, as does the turkey skin on his neck. McMahon also has that look older men get that their ears look too big for their heads, and his were VERY red. His eyes looked clear if a bit droopy. One of the worst things that stuck out to me is that his egotistical strut looked more like he had something shoved up his bum, more so than usual. In some ways it was a little sad to see McMahon at seventy trying to carry on as if he was still forty, but beyond that, it was the moments that he appeared a bit lost – possibly because the timing of this whole segment was so far off – that he looked more like a doddering old man than the vibrant and vicious Vincent Kennedy McMahon who captured our hearts and souls when he left announce to become the most hated boss in America. It's sad to see, but time does go on.
With Reigns in the ring, I was shocked to see that McMahon was willing to make like he was willing to get down and dirty with Reigns. I didn't expect it to happen, but McMahon made a great show of it. McMahon kicking Reigns in the slats when Reigns wouldn't get on his knees and apologize, and to put Reigns in his place, was fantastic.
The worst thing about this segment, other than McMahon appearing a bit lost due to the timing, was Sheamus. Reigns is so natural as this character, in this storyline, but Sheamus seemed so forced. I've been a Sheamus fan from word go, but the man is not a main event championship guy. They've tried numerous things with him, and they all fall flat. He's not strong enough to be a great heel, not believable enough to be a top face, and his personality comes across just blah enough that he's not a completely plausible WHC. League of Nations can only help him, which is what factions are for, and while I'm excited for LoN, I worry that none of the members are strong enough to get the group over as a whole. Only time will tell with Sheamus, but here he seemed whiny and somewhat lame.
Swagger & Ryback vs ADR & Rusev > B-
This match was nothing special. Sometimes when things are so ratcheted up, you need a breather before more excitement. This match and the following segment were just that, the breather the fans needed before getting back to the good stuff. My original notes that I wrote during the match last night to remind me of what the match was like said – Back and forth, quite solid, if a bit sad. And that's what it was, a solid match, but not really anything memorable, and that's quite sad in my book.
I'm hoping that Swagger, Ryback, and a few other faces come together as their own faction to go after LoN. Watching WWF 1997-1998, there were so many factions, and they were all inter-feuding at the same time. It makes for a lot of interesting matches and creative attacks – something the WWE really could use right now.
Winners – ADR & Rusev
Rosebush > F
I had only caught a tiny bit of this previously, and the guys in the Live Discussion said this was the best RoseTrash so far. Personally, I think this is lame idea, even though I had noticed Dreamer's orange skin and thinning hair last week. This reeks too much of Miz ripping people apart, and is another horrible role for Rose. The man is getting screwed six ways sto Sunday with everything he's done since coming up to the main WWE roster. I want to see something interesting and creative – this isn't it!
Neville (w/ Miz) vs Tyler Breeze (w/ Summer Rae) > B+
I will admit that I'm new to Breeze, and probably should be watching NXT as much as I've been watching 1998, but I'm so sucked into what I'm watching and comparing it to now that it won't happen anytime soon. Other than Miz's screaming through that megaphone through the whole match, it actually was great. I've missed a lot by not seeing Breeze in the ring. That young man is solid in the ring and looked great working with Neville, who is a fave of mine. I'm sure Breeze puts me off mostly because he's hanging out with morale gear, but his ring work shows that he's much more than the company he keeps. And speaking of that company, what has Summer Rae done that she's getting so much air time? She's out there with a new sugar daddy each week, and even when she's tossed over for a true relationship, she finds someone to fawn over within a week. I really don't understand why she gets the air time she does. Wonder what her contract looks like. Anyone know if she's dating someone important in the WWE? Yes, I went there.
Miz did help Neville get the win in this match, but it was that red arrow that really sealed the deal. Further, I loved that slo-mo of the red arrow after the three, it really showed how amazing the move really is.
Winner – Neville
Backstage Segment > B
I'd been confused by Miz being out there with Neville while Neville is a face and didn't seem to want Miz out there. Well, this segment explained it all for me. It's amazing that you can miss a month, yet still easily find out what's going on. WWE lives up to its potential as a soap opera in that way.
It was nice to see Miz a little vulnerable, even though he'd never admit it. And, I love Neville's ears. I think his ears are adorable and make him that much cuter, which is hard as that accent is just amazing.
Backstage Segment > B+
All of They Wyatt Family can work the mic pretty well, but in the short sentences they used, the way this segment was created – much the way Team ECW's was created – made them all look very strong going into their match. I'm quite impressed and actually glad they're back together as a group.
Team ECW vs They Wyatt Family > A
This match was so much better than their match Sunday night at TLC. They left it all out there that much more than they did at TLC. It's almost as though they held back a bit on Sunday so they could give their beloved and longest standing Philly fans a reminder of why they loved ECW so much. While there was nothing to be done to save ECW back in the day, I think a big part of it is because the time for such things has passed. We know that Heyman would have evolved ECW if he had the money and business acumen, but because he didn't have those things, ECW will forever be frozen as what it was when it huge and had their cult following. That Bubba Ray, D-Von, Dreamer, and Rhyno put their bodies on the line with a much younger, and bigger, group of men, shows just how much they love the fans and all the fans did for them when they were ECW.
There were some jaw-dropping moves in this match. Bubba Ray's back body drop on Harper was beautiful! I never thought a man that size could get such air. Dreamer being, as announce called, the Hindenberg, into the trash can lid, playing at being RVD. Again, announce hit the nail on the head when Braum was a 'flying bus' across announce. But I think the best comment from announce during this match was when Braun was being beaten by kendo sticks and announce started singing, Bye Bye Black Sheep… I know that's not the song, but still, it's close enough to be funny.
This was a great match with lots of kissing, but the people who needed the win got it. Team ECW did a great job of putting They Wyatt Family over two nights in a row, exactly as they needed to be put over. If the WWE wants these young bucks to make it, they need to be using these legendary hardcore wrestlers to help get them over. I thought it all was very well played, and hope Dreamer was selling more than he was actually injured last night, because while Dreamer is great, he looked to be doing more than selling after he went through that barricade last night.
Winners – They Wyatt Family
In Ring Segment > A-
For newer wrestling fans, this was quite confusing. Some people needed to be told about the night Edge and Christian came to the ring and gave The Hardy Boyz huge props and handshakes after an epic match they'd had the night before. This really appeared to be a moment like that, and the fans really got the feels from it. In many ways New Day is very similar to Edge and Christian. They play around all the time, make sure everyone else is the butt of their jokes, and do everything they can at their opponents' expense. I wasn't thrilled with New Day to start, but they've grown on me. Now, I still feel strong about how New Day were early on, but they've really found their groove and are allowed to be silly and show their personalities. Big E is the one who has really come out of his shell. He has a quirky personality and is able to show it. Kofi is so much more than I ever expected he could be. It's nice that he found his niche. And while some people are annoyed by Wood's trombone, Sam is twelve and plays the trumpet – so Wood is delightful to listen to!
New Day did a lovely job of selling their props for the other two teams, even after the other two teams didn't want to believe them. The Usos don't get enough air time, and I thought this was solid for them. It was also great to hear from Kalisto! I didn't know how thick his accent might be, but he kind of reminded me of Rey Rey. I don't mean to lump him in with Rey, but there was a similarity there, and I'm not the only one who saw it. This was good for all seven in the ring and on mic.
That the Lucha Dragons and the Usos didn't take the crap from New Day after things went so well in the ring. It shows that the feud is going to continue and that we're going to get more great matches like at TLC. I want you to think about how lucky we are right now. Who would think that there would be another three teams that came along at the same time to continue what E&C, The Hardy Boyz, and The Dudley Boyz created? We are lucky, and these seven men are going to continue destroying their bodies for our entertainment. They deserve all our love and support, as Sunday night won't be the last time they do this for us.
Charlotte & Becky Lynch vs Foxy & Brie > B
It's never been any secret that I'm not a Ric Flair fan, and I've not come to like him better as his daughter uses him as a crutch that she doesn't need. Charlotte's mic work still really sucks, but I think some time without Flair there to talk for her, she will loosen up and be more fully rounded. She's fantastic in the ring, has a great look, and is great at emoting without saying anything, so all she needs to control is how she speaks. She's a very impressive young woman.
I don't know what I missed as to why Team BAD was in the audience with tickets, but with them out there, Sasha forgot that a camera could be on her at any moment, and she completely broke kayfabe. Brie pulled Charlotte's foot out from under her in the corner, and it appeared that Charlotte slammed her head hard on the top buckle. In reality, it was her shoulders that hit, but that she didn't get whiplash out of it is shocking. But out in the audience, Sasha really looked worried for her friend. Her mouth was open wide, holding the back of her own head, and looked quite worried for Charlotte. While breaking kayfabe isn't great, seeing her care for her friend in such a way was so sweet. Actually, I'll be focusing more on Sasha soon – either in an RIB, or in a separate article – because she's so impressive, and I have to throw my own personal reasons why out there. I also have a lot to say about Tamina and Lynch but again, later.
Brie has grown so much in the ring and works quite well with almost anyone she face, to me, she's really the star of Team Bella, leaving both Nikki and Foxy in the dust by leaps and bounds. She would do great going out on her own and getting her own push, but with such a stacked Divas roster – at least half of them strong enough to be Divas Champion right now – she's being held back by the other two.
And then there's Lynch who is getting screwed (storyline), from all angles, and soon could be the only face Diva left, other than Nattie who is never around. There's such a HUGE following for Lynch that it's almost as if she's the only sexy female on the roster. I find it very interesting to see who the guys are falling all over themselves for because rarely do wrestling fans go for the Sable type these days, they want something more real, and Lynch is just that. As a female who's not built like Sable, I love seeing guys drooling over the quirky girl.
Winners – Charlotte & Lynch
WWE WHC Match – Sheamus (c) vs Reigns > A
All through Raw, I stood by my prediction that Reigns would win the strap. There were only 3-4 of us in the Live Discussion who thought Reigns would win, and all of us either work for WNW or have worked for WNW! I even said that if Reigns didn't win the strap that I'd eat my hat and post proof on YouTube. I was that sure of it! See, the wording was that Reigns would win the WWE WHC, not that he would simply beat Sheamus, so DQs were out for this one. Many WNW readers and commenters, and more lurkers than normal stepped up for this debate, thought that there would be some sort of screw job, Reigns would be fired and Trip would bring Reigns back for revenge at the Royal Rumble or WrestleMania. My problem with that is that Reigns is so hot right now that pulling him off TV would kill any momentum he has. Readers mentioned how Cena and Punk were 'fired' yet showed up almost every week. That's a common thing, even for the likes of DX who would sneak into shows after being tossed out, one time even buying tickets off Cryme Tyme, proving HBK can talk jive and that Trip is very much a northern New England white boy. DX also threw a huge BBQ in an arena parking lot one night that they were unable to get into the arena. All of these things showed that getting 'tossed out' or 'fired' means that a Superstar could get even more air time than a lot of other Superstars.
But that didn't feel right to me, so I stuck to my guns on this one. Trip likes the slow burn of a storyline/feud, as do I, whereas VKM pulls the trigger fast. I think this will be the best of both worlds. They might have pulled the trigger in strapping Reigns, his feud with The Authority, including VKM, will be a long slow burn.
I love that VKM tried almost everything short of an outright screw job. Something that I don't think would ever work out the way it did with Bret Hart for many reasons. The two biggest are the Internet and that the WWE really doesn't have the competition needed to make it believable. VKM still couldn't cost Reigns the strap and his job.
Through the entire night, I stated that there's no way VKM would bump. After King's heart attack VKM has been particularly cautious with older wrestlers, even if they wanted to bump. But I guess the boss can do whatever he wants to do, including bump. People in the Live Discussion were saying that VKM would bump until it was his last, and I get that. My father runs all the food stands in a small amusement park here in Maine. He walks from one end of the park to the other, all day, every day of the open season. Too many people have expressed their worry to me that he will pass away in the middle of the park. No matter what we say, and even though he's in his mid-seventies and on his third knee, he won't slow down. I see a huge similarity between my father and McMahon, and should have realized that McMahon would not stop entertaining and doing what he thinks he needs to do to get his boys over, no matter his age. Now, the superman punch Reigns hit on McMahon was much kinder than a spear would have been, though I'm sure Reigns was sweating that move a lot more than he was the rest of the match against Sheamus.
Being told that he had to punch out his boss to end the night, and not just Trip or Steph, but Mr. McMahon, that had to be an exciting and scary thought for Reigns at this point in his career. I give huge props for Reigns for not holding back working with Trip, Steph, and VKM. That an epic twenty-four hours for that young man! Further, he got strapped and is an integral part of the Road to WrestleMania. That's a lot for the man who really wasn't completely ready eight months ago at WrestleMania.
Winner & new WWE WHC – Roman Reigns
The WWE was on the edge of really being in deep crap and they did something I really didn't expect them to do at this point, they listened to the fans. Now, this is me, and I have to be at least a little cranky and pessimistic, especially after handing out all those top grades I gave out for this episode of Raw, I worry that this was a fluke, that they will not be able to keep this up going forward. What gives me a little hope is that next week is the Slammys, and the week after Christmas is usually a throw-away show, so they have a couple weeks to really get things in order and move forward down the Road To WrestleMania.
Now, I have to give huge and epic props to Botch here. He's the one who mentioned that the RIB had been silent, and then talked me up to a newer reader last night to the point I had tears in my eyes. Now, I'm not sure how often I will be writing the RIB, but this will NOT be the last. I didn't realize how much I would miss it, and I feel more energized for writing about the WWE than I have in a number of years. So thank you for re-introducing me to one of my best friends.
Queen of WNW