I have a confession to make – I slept through much of Raw last night. I was sitting here on the sofa, laptop on my knees, talking with everyone in the Open Thread Discussion, watching Raw, and then I was asleep! Now, I feel bad that I didn't say goodnight to everyone, or explain why I disappeared, but I was just done. I woke up for Rocky's segment, but otherwise, I remember the opening segment and little else. I'm not sure what that says about Raw, or how comfortable my new sofa is, but I missed most of it, and it's not all because I was drained after the Royal Rumble and was out to babysit at 6:30 AM Monday, but Raw couldn't do enough to keep me awake. I hope that's not setting the tone for the Road To WrestleMania because it will be a long 68 days if it is! Fingers crossed that the best of what we're going to see isn't from the veteran wrestlers, both long term Superstars, and the new Superstars who have been working in the industry for well over a decade themselves.
In Ring Segment > B+
Wow, McMahon was quite animated here! My father is in his mid-seventies and spends all summer walking from one end of a small amusement park to the other as he's part owner of all the concession stands, and has been since I was fourteen. (Funtown Splashtown USA, for anyone who really is that interested in knowing.) I honestly don't know how my father manages what he does at his age. We've all be known to nap at particularly quiet times, in specific spots, during the day, but there's still no way that I could keep up with him with my health issues, even though he has plenty of his own. When McMahon is like this on WWE TV I'm reminded of his age, and how much he impresses me, as does my father. While our family business is nothing to the size of McMahon's I see many similarities between my father and him, and will continue to be impressed with how spry they are when they need to be for work. It's a work ethic that isn't taught, I think it's intrinsic to who they are. Though I have to say McMahon has style my father could never pull off!
Speaking of style, Steph looked amazing in that black leather dress. It did pull a bit across the chest, so I'm a bit surprised that she didn't break the dress in – wear it a few times with a padded bra – before wearing it on TV, but still, she looked great. That being said, the dress is black leather, so I expected her to go over-the-top heel, as she always does when wearing black leather, right down to the oversized black leather blazer she wore in the front row when she first turned heel to side with Trip over McMahon. I guess her ending the show by telling Ambrose and Reigns that they would be in the main event of FastLand in a Triple Threat Match with Brock Lesnar was extremely heelish, but I expected more! If Steph is going to be wearing black leather, she needs to be downright evil in it!
The only major issue I had with this segment was that it was a typical twenty-minute Trip segment. There's a reason the fans trash those segments, and the reasons still hold true. I almost always prefer shorter segments as they don't lose the fans, and they're better written because they have to fit everything into a shorter time. This could have been cut in half, and then we wouldn't have had to watch commercials during the first match of the night. They really need to tighten up these segments, it would be better for all involved, especially the fans!
I admit that I love McMahon's way of thinking that he broke whoever he's feuding with at any particular moment. As if one loss would send Reigns to crying in his locker. So silly. That being said, the Raw I was watching this morning had Trip stating that nothing would change in the WWF, but he wanted to be the WWF Champion! Knowing Trip was in his 14th reign at the moment I was watching him say that made me a bit giddy. Further, Trip calling Reigns arrogant and conceit. Pot? Kettle, hello! Beyond that, I like how Trip talked about his time being passed, it's what so many people have said. Trip is great on the mic, as well as in the ring, so why not put one of the best talkers in the company against the one they want to get over? It makes perfect sense to me, and much more sense than McMahon being Champion did. This is them continuing to work their way through the storyline of The Corporation/The Corporate Ministry/Stone Cold Steve Austin, and I love it. They're picking and choosing the best of the best from then, and making it work for them. I think it's working quite well for them, and while I think they should use a few other aspects they've barely touched on – which would help Reigns as well as the overall storyline – they seem to know where they're going with this, and I won't be one to trash it until it's come to fruition and I've had time to both absorb it and analyze it all.
Lastly, what was up with the 'Vegan' sign? Had little to nothing to do with the WWE, and was just confusing.
Ziggler vs Owens > B+
KO really looked annoyed, and like he was hurting out there! Between opening the Royal Rumble with an MOTY, and then working the Royal Rumble Match, I'm shocked KO was still standing, never mind that he worked a solid little match with Ziggler here. We all know KO can go, and will do whatever he's asked, even at the expense of his own body, but unless he's going into a monster push – as he should be – there's no reason he should have been in this match. He was obviously not back to normal after the Royal Rumble, and could have used the night off. But, since he didn't, he killed it, as always.
Winner – Owens
Backstage Segment > B
JoJo is adorable, but I'm glad Reigns didn't get silly and get to her level like McMahon did at the Royal Rumble. Reigns was a bit too quiet for my taste (which might have been JoJo not holding the mic high enough), but beyond that, he was serious and to the point, staying in character, and not tucking tail. Reigns continues to prove his growth each week when we see him.
In Ring Segment > B+&D-
I really didn't like that they pushed Social Outcasts to be heels here. They're more tweeners, and beloved by the fans, because there's a lot of us who adore Axel, Slater, and sometimes even Rose and Bo. I think they were just pushed too hard to be heels when Flo Rida was supposed to be beloved by the locals. That being said, for being a professional rapper, Flo Rida had no flow or rhythm. Bo Rida smeared his ass all over that ring, and deserves serious props for what he did there! Much of the first grade is for Bo, but Axel had me laughing aloud. Axel not understanding the Red Dragon thing was hysterical! Axel is so literal, and it's a great addition to that group from the Island of Misfit Toys.
Dudley Boyz vs Social Outcasts (Slater & Axel) > C+
Putting Flo Rida in the Dudley's corner just hurt the over faces. This is a continuation of Social Outcasts being pushed as heels here. It makes little sense to me. The Bo Train about had me on the floor laughing as I've always been a fan of Papa Shango. No, wait, the Goodfather, no, Kama, no Kama Mustafa. No, the Godfather! Talking about a big guy who never reached the top spot for all his character changes and silliness. But really, reliving the Godfather and his Ho Train watching 1999 is fun, but the way they're reminding us with the Bo Train is more big smiles for the WWE bringing things back in a creative way. Yes, I said that WWE Creative has been working the creativity lately!
This match was more humor and possibly setting up for stuff coming down the Road To WrestleMania. With Flo Rida spending too much time with the WWE, and possibly singing at WrestleMania, this could be setting up for the One Man Band to get into it with Flo in a huge way!
Winners – Dudley Boyz
Backstage Segment > B+
I'm a little put out by this backstage segment. For those who have watched AJ Styles' career through the years, we know AJ isn't the best talker, but we also know that he can be quite solid on the mic when he's given solid scripting and direction that makes sense. After AJ left TNA I was lucky enough to see him locally, and his mic work was solid. I know the WWE wanted to be careful about handing AJ a live mic on a live show, and I get that, but I hope they get him on mic by himself soon. All that being said, Jericho was fantastic giving AJ props in this segment and setting up for their impending match.
AJ Styles vs Jericho > A
I marked out when Styles came to the ring in the Royal Rumble Match though bummed as I thought he was the only person who could debut in the WWE in the Royal Rumble Match, win the Royal Rumble Match, and win the WWE WHC. I cannot think of anyone else who has the following and ring work to pull that off. And, this is me, I have to go absurd for my Royal Rumble Match prediction. Beyond that, I marked out when Styles came to the ring in the Royal Rumble Match, but I marked out that much more when I saw Jericho and Styles working the ring in the Royal Rumble Match. This is a PPV dream match for many of us, and we got it on Raw. That's kick ass from the WWE. The fans knew what they were seeing before they even started throwing moves.
All the greatness of this match, but imagine what these two could have done in the ring together ten years ago? TNA has really screwed us out of so much though I wonder how long it would have taken Styles to make it in the WWE without TNA. It's a catch 22. Speaking of moves, I think they were both a bit off their games, but the WWE style of wrestling is a little different than any other company Styles has worked for, so it will take him a few matches to get into the groove. Further, these two have never worked the ring together, other than the night before Raw, and the Royal Rumble Match isn't the norm for any wrestler. For those reasons I give these two great leeway in the work they did. They're two really great wrestlers, and this match needed to be hit early in AJ's career in the WWE, as Jericho is actually around right now. This is something we wanted to see, and it was a good way for Styles to go over a big name like Jericho in his first singles match in the WWE. Not that Styles needed to go over a big name, but it will help him in the short run, and shows how much respect is there in that Jericho jobbed to AJ. I know Jericho is all about helping the young guys get over, but Styles doesn't quite fit into that grouping. Jericho gets huge props from me for going under here, as it shows me that he thinks Styles is worth it. Speaking of worth it, KO was the BEST person to eliminate Styles in the Royal Rumble Match, there is a huge agreement on that from many WNW readers.
I didn't like that Jericho was called the veteran in this match. Jericho is only six and a half years older than Styles though he started in the ring in 1990. Styles debuted in wrestling in 1998, that was before Jericho was even signed into the WWE. I know Jericho was in WCW for a number of years before jumping the sinking ship to the WWE, but he didn't reach the pinnacle of his career until he was in the WWE. And talking about similarities between the two, they both worked hard to keep their respective ships from sinking, both ended up in the WWE, both beloved by fans, and both (hopefully) having long and fruitful careers in the WWE.
A couple people were upset that we didn't get the Styles clash, but here're two schools of thought on that move. Maybe Jericho just didn't feel as comfortable taking it, as he's not as young and spry as he used to be. Or, maybe, they are using the announcers to build up the Styles clash into something that's unbeatable. So when AJ does finally hit the Styles clash, whoever takes the move will automatically lose the match to AJ. I think there might be part of both ideas here, but only time will tell.
Styles is used to working all over the world, ROH being one of those companies. For those who haven't seen ROH (there's what, three of you, maybe?), they are big on pushing the handshake before and after their matches. It's a show of good sportsmanship and something I like to see, but only when it's most deserved and believable. The handshake between Styles and Jericho was perfect! Jericho didn't want to, didn't want to, but Styles talked to him, worked on him, then finally the shake, but the pull in to show that Jericho isn't completely done with Styles. That's how to sell a moment!
Winner – AJ Styles
Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch > A-
Back when I started dying my hair funky colors, the strangest things you saw Divas doing was screwing over the tag team she was managing. Then there was Luna who made things more interesting, but it wasn't until Nattie added in the pink to differentiate herself from Beth did the Divas start going crazy with the hair dye. Now there's nary an undyed strand in the ring! Seeing all that orange and pink hair flying around the ring does a heart good.
While I know it's storyline, it about killed me to see this solid match get pulled apart by Charlotte, but I'm happy that the old man wasn't out there with her. She can stand on her own two feet, and should be doing so. Okay, he was on the ramp, but at least, he wasn't ringside ogling Sasha and Becky! After this, I'm hoping that Becky will still be in the running for the strap, and they'll be setting up for a Triple Threat Divas Championship Match for WrestleMania. Keep your fingers crossed that the WWE does right by these three (add in Bayley or Naomi for a Fatal Four Way?) Divas going into, and at WrestleMania! This little bit between Becky and Sasha makes the technical wrestling fan in me scream for more!
Backstage Segment > A
Holy smokes, these two as a tag team would have me in tears each week. Also, I love this version of Goldust! Goldust working with Booker T was one of my favorite times for him, them both. Goldust, when he's clean, is so fantastic, and it's when he's clean that his comedy is at its best. I've just watched some of the worst of Goldust (1997-1998) and I would love to see him back to being silly again. Further, that version of Goldust working with crazy R-Truth, it could be painfully funny! Again, this is WWE creative looking at the best of what worked (stuttering Goldust who nibbles his toes on a daily basis) and bringing it back in a fresh way. R-Truth has had a resurgence with his confused craziness – the ladder in the Royal Rumble Match about brought the house down and made even greater by almost every Superstar in the ring stopping to watch the hilarity ensue. The look on his face when he got up there and couldn't find a hanging belts brought tears of laughter to my eyes. These two together is better than I could have hoped for the Tag Division, though they must be kept away from Social Outcasts at all costs, only to be brought together on shows when it's been proven that the building is physically stable enough to withstand that type of humor and the reactions it could get.
Kane vs Bray Wyatt > B-
JBL said this is a scene that has to be seen in person, and while I've seen Wyatt work the ring, it was at a small house show, well before the fireflies took off the way they have. I need to get back to a WWE show, preferably a televised show, but anything will work at this point. I'm having a bit of WWE withdrawal these days.
I'm glad they're back to working Kane against Wyatt, as he needs big guys to work against so he can continue pushing forward and upward in his career. There's been a tiny bit of evolution from Bray and They Wyatt Family, so they're working for the fans more than they had been. Pulling this faction apart when they did was the wrong thing for them. They need to continue as a grouping until one or more of them are so over that they absolutely don't need the others. They're not there yet. That's what usually rips factions apart, so they should wait for the same. The big question is, what's the plans for Bray going forward. I've heard a number of things, but nothing perfectly concrete yet. If it is Brock, then Bray needs to go over to get to that next level.
I thought they'd moved the fans dressed as original Taker, Savage, stoned Hogan, and Rocky from where they were sitting on the camera side after the opening segment, but they were on that side really taunting Bray and Harper through this match. That there were “Randy Savage” chants showed how much reaction those fans were garnering.
Winner – Bray Wyatt
Rocky Segment > Petunia+
Why did I give this segment the grade I did? I honestly couldn't mark it down, as the fans were all into it, and I've been screaming for someone to go off script and show the younger Superstars how to do it right. I've been begging for something to be unusual, unscripted, gritty even, and this segment had some of that grit I've been pleading for! So I couldn't mark it down, but I also couldn't give him an A+ for going out there and running roughshod over the fans while looking more like a movie star than the Superstar he claimed he'd always be. Rocky is one of the best talkers, ever, and what he did on Raw was like nothing for him, but much of the backstage work was still too glossy. Big Show made it grittier with his facial expressions, which completely won me over, and why I adore Big Show as I do – but as a comedic face, not as a monster jerk. Acknowledging Pat Patterson the way he did was lovely, and Patterson looked pretty good for his age. He wasn't a spring chicken when he was one of McMahon's Stooges!
Just before Rocky came through that curtain, I really had to wonder if he was in the correct auditorium. Something screamed that he wasn't going to be in the correct place until he got a bit misty about being back...Home. He always gets a bit misty back in Miami, and for good reason. The thing that I found interesting was that Rocky obviously wasn't getting the reaction he expected to get, but I do understand that. Rocky worked during the loudest time in the WWE history. Those fans showed an insanity that's rarely seen from WWE fans these days, other than at a few PPVs a year, and Raw after WrestleMania. It used to be that he'd go out on a Monday night and not be able to hear himself over the fans. Even more recently, much of his work has been on PPVs, especially WrestleMania, where he gets insane reaction, but everyone gets insane reaction, it's WrestleMania!
That Rocky said he was going off script was interesting, as I know anyone else would get in serious trouble for say that, never mind doing it, but Rocky holds his own better than most of the Superstars on mic these days, and he's one they should be learning from. Yes, having Rocky there to teach would be good, but even watching tapes, seeing how Rocky moves, facial expressions, how he works the fans to get what he wants from them. I'm not saying the Superstars should imitate Rocky, just that they can learn how to work the fans, and how to get the reactions they're after. I truly have to wonder how much the guys watch tapes the way generations before did. With the WWE Network, it's at their fingertips.
Speaking of anyone else getting in trouble for doing things, I love that Rocky went to the dressed up fans and gave them their moment, stoned as Hogan's doppelganger was.
I don't think anyone but Rocky could get away with calling Byron that other black guy. Then, the way Wood came out as the other black guys Rocky does know… I found their wording of that great. They were great with Rocky, and he was great with them, giving them their due, all the while picking on the llama penises on their heads. It's almost as if the Incredible Hulk banged Urkel. While I see where Rocky was going, I always see tons of Alfonso Ribiero in Big E. I know it has to be the dancing, but I still can't get the thought of them as twerking cousins out of my head.
I expected that Rocky would call on family when he came to the ring, but I expected to see Reigns. That it was the Usos was fun. They obviously had a great time out there with Rocky, and sold it really well actually, this was great for all six involved.
Nattie & Paige vs Foxy & Brie > C+
What happened to Foxy's hair? It seems as though she has a seven-head going on, as he hairline has slid back by inches! Beyond that, this match was nothing compared to what we saw earlier, and I feel bad for Paige being stuck in the ring with Brie and Foxy who just are not up to her speed, and sometimes extremely dangerous (Foxy). It wasn't a bad little match to fill in after Rocky taking more time than he was allotted because that's what Rocky does, but it wasn't anything worth talking about either. The only thing from the match that I remember, and I just watched it, was Paige's submission, then finisher on Brie. That's really sad.
Winners – Nattie & Paige
Miz vs Kalisto > B+
Lucky us, the blind nun, I mean Miz. While, as I said, I slept through much of Raw, I do remember that Kalisto was pretty decent, or what I heard from the announcers, he did pretty well. Watching it again, I was rather impressed to see Miz work as hard as he did in this match. I know Miz can work the ring when he puts his mind to it, and Kalisto is stellar in the ring, so this should have been a good match, but I've not put much stock in Miz's ring work or a very long time. I'm thrilled to admit that my lackadaisical behavior toward Miz was blown out of the water by this match. If Miz can work the ring like this, why has he been phoning it in for the past year or more?
Winner – Kalisto
Reigns & Ambrose vs League of Nations (Rusev & Sheamus) > A-
They tell us who will be on Jericho's Highlight Reel on SD before we even see them in the main event. If I'd had two wits about me when I sorta watched this the first time, I'd call that a spoiler for what's to come. Maybe it's a cryptic spoiler, but still it's visible. Speaking about visibility, Barrett was ringside for most of this match, but managed to keep out of the reach of Ambrose and Reigns through the whole match!
Ambrose works every match like it could be his last. That man puts everything into each and every match, and Reigns is learning from that. Though sadly guys like ADR will never get it. But I was quite impressed with most of this match and all they put into it. It's what you'd expect from these four, and they delivered though some (Ambrose and Reigns) with more personality and finesse than others (League of Nations). It's just how it is with these guys, and that's what makes Steph's announce so unexpected. How better to make Reigns weaker, putting him in a #1 Contender Match with his 'brother' in action? I'm thrilled and excited to see what issues they will try to build between Ambrose and Reigns leading up to FastLane. Obviously, if they were smart, they'd take out Brock and then work it out between them, but as we saw at WrestleManiaXX, that plan doesn't always work out.
I'm all for fans having fun, bringing signs, dressing as they'd like, but stealing the show away from wrestlers who are giving their all in the ring goes over that line. I really loath that this is the fifth time I've mentioned the fans at a show since I returned to the RIB. The fans should not be controlling the shows as much as they have been. Though I have to say that I want louder reactions from fans, and I'm really missing the insanity that was the late 90s in the WWE, I'm not bummed that there are fewer signs making it easier for many fans to see than it was back in the day.
Queen of WNW