This was not all I'd hoped it would be, and I hope things don't fall apart at Payback, but only time will tell if the direction they take things makes any sense, or if it's #WWELogic.
I hadn't thought much about where Raw was from, even when Steph mentioned that they were in the city she was born until someone in the Open Thread Discussion mentioned that the Hartford fans were quiet. The thing is that I had noticed that Hartford fans were quiet during the Attitude Era. I was shocked at how few signs there were, how quiet the fans were compared to most of the rest of the shows had been, and it was obviously a big thing, because I've watched so many episodes of Raw lately that I didn't realize that I missed Survivor Series until they showed video of Angle's brother coming out from under the ring and trying to take the three from Taker, but Hebner wouldn't count. So, I've watched a lot of AE lately (1996 – Survivor Series 2000 so far), but Hartford stood out as a very quiet city during one of the loudest eras in wrestling. To me, that means that the WWE should never have a go-home Raw in Hartford and that Hartford fans are not the norm, and therefore, nothing to be worried about after the way they reacted to this Raw. Now I really want to go to a WWE show in Hartford, but that's another couple hours past Boston, and that's a bit far, even for as wild as I am about wrestling.
I went into a bit of a rant during the first match, and rather than move it here and re-work it, I left it there because it's so much about one of the men in that match, and therefore should be left there, but please know that I'm not only looking at the specific Superstar named there, it's for almost every Superstar on the roster.
In Ring Segment > A-
I had been wondering when Triple H would be coming in on Shane and messing with HIS show. I think it was even better that it was Steph because as sibs they have such charisma! Shane was so obviously having a blast with this segment, doing all he could to keep the fans involved and loving him over all else. Between the hand over his and Steph's to get reactions, and then singing Steph out, he had the fans eating out of the palm of his hands. That there's question about Shane's tenure ending in six days has me worried, but as so many people I've been talking to have been hoping for, a brand split would be a great way to do things. Further, do you remember the ratings for the Raw Draft shows? They were more than solid, and always a blast to watch. My only worry about a brand split is for the female Superstars, so I hope they are kept on Raw with something more cruiserweight on SmackDown.
AJ Styles vs Sheamus > C+
The first match of the night being AJ is a great thing, but against Sheamus? Who are they trying to fool? This is still the WWE, and League of Nations still really sucks. Shane has done a lot to make Raw better each week, but putting the likes of Sheamus in the ring with anyone, even the #1 Contender still means that Sheamus – lack of personality, character, storyline, direction, or care about having any of those because he's Trip's boy – is in the ring doing what he thinks is fantastic, but is only marginally better than completely boring.
I've said this over and over, but Sheamus needs to be pulled and repackaged into something that the fans care about. I don't care if he's a heel or a face, though he is a better face, just as long as he has a character, a reason to care about him, something for him to be working toward. AJ is new to the WWE, has his time in TNA, NJPW, Bullet Club, etc. All those things have built a character around AJ beyond anything he needs to do on TV at the moment. AJ is interesting because of who he is and what he's done in his career, but that will only carry him for so long. Owens had similar storyline and character coming into the WWE and NXT, but he took it and ran with it. Owens has created so much more than he started out with, and because of that, he's got one of the best characters in the WWE right now. AJ will need to do the same, but Sheamus has done none of that in a very long time, and while I do blame his lack of charisma as a heel as part of it, the rest of it is creative being too lazy. The storylines, characters, reasons behind the feuds have been too few and far between, and while I don't want to see everyone with a career character, the way it was back in the day, it's time the Superstars have any sort of character so we will actually give a flying fog for any of them! The WWE wants the fans to care? Watching the WWF during the AE showed me how much the fans cared for the Superstars, and that's because they cared about the Superstars. The fans now don't really care because of things such as the lack of characters to care about, feuds that never end, Superstars that are untouchable (Cena and Orton), Superstars who are pushed so obviously against what the fans want (Reigns), Superstars who are screwed at every turn even though the fans want to see them going for gold (Ambrose and Bray), and worst of all, #WWELogic! There're so many things that are off right now, and TPB is not listening to the fans, to the point that I wonder some weeks about why I'm watching Raw because I can get all my wrestling enjoyment from the WWE Network, and spend many hours a week doing just that.
Winner – AJ Styles
Backstage Segment > D-
The fans couldn't hear Reigns and the Usos from backstage and chanted as much. Beyond that, and as much as Reigns wants to do this alone, we all know that the Usos will be out there to help Reigns at Payback against the Bullet Club.
In Ring Segment > A
I love the Vaudevillains, but Enzo and Cass are so great on mic and so over right now. That being said, and the fans being right there with Enzo and Cass on mic, I loved the shout-out to Prince with the party like it's 1899 comment by English. I knew we'd hear at least one, if not more, Prince comments dropped, but that one came out of nowhere and made me smile. I'd have graded this segment high because of the great mic work, but English brought it over the top for me, so he brought the grade even higher.
Usos vs Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows > A-
I honestly thought that Anderson and Gallows were going to trash the Usos quickly, but they actually put together a really great match. The Usos have been delegated to such crap lately, but since they're going to have to help their cousin on Sunday night, I guess they need to look stronger in this match. Honestly, they're stronger than they've been booked to be in a very long time, but Gallows was rarely booked to the best of his abilities in both WWE and TNA, so it's nice to see that he's really in a great position to push his career forward. NJPW really has a way of pushing wrestlers to a whole new level, pulling the greatness out of them that has been hampered in the USA.
Wow! There was a referral to Umaga in this match! The WWE didn't even give Umaga a placard opening the Raw after his passing, but his name is mentioned now. I know he's family, but it's still a surprise to hear his name used in the WWE.
Of course, Gallows and Anderson won, but I'm thrilled with how the Usos looked for a good part of the match. I hope they move on from the Usos quickly, not staying focused on them, because it will be boring quickly, but only time will tell who will be able to stand with them. And I wasn't shocked that the match went after the bell and Reigns came to the ring to help his cousins because they're further setting up for Payback.
Winners – Anderson & Gallows
Video > A
I love this video of the history of KO and Sami. They have a true friendship and a long history, and it's turning reality into kayfabe. Most of the best feuds are between the best of friends, and I always have to look back to the feud with Trip when HBK returned to the ring in 2002. They tore the house down through quite a few matches, segments, and PPV matches that stole shows. Sami and KO are and will continue to do the same.
Sami Zayn vs Rusev w/ Lana > A-
Wait, this is the second League of Nations match where the competitor comes out without the rest of the team. I know that they are each scheduled to wrestle on this Raw (YAWN), but that rarely stopped them from joining their teammates before. Add in that Lana is out there with Rusev and I think things might be looking up for Rusev! He's the only one I thought was truly suffering from League of Nations. Sheamus is boring, no matter who he's with or what he's doing. He's Trip's boy and doesn't seem to have to put in the extra work to get over with the fans. Barrett's WWE career is basically over, and the writing was on the wall when the best talker of the group never did any of the talking. ADR will never be over with the fans, and McMahon was delusional bringing him back and treating Kalisto's run the way he has. That leaves Rusev who was struggling without the eye candy. Yes, Lana has helped him get over from the start, but it's more than that. Seeing someone as beautiful come to the ring with someone like Rusev gives all the guys hope that they might find a stone cold fox like Lana for themselves. Except when she's screeching like that, then she's a bit scary.
Sami was the real underdog in this match, but it was booked well and he got to hit some solid moves without looking like too much of a spot monkey. I adore Sami, and have hoped the best for him since his hooded days in ROH, but have been floored by his heart and drive in the WWE. That man really has all it takes to be a WWE Superstar, and I cannot help but love him. This back and forth between them has made this match so much fun. Right up to the end when it looked like Rusev had this match, but Sami pulled off the win to continue to push toward Payback.
Of course, KO attacked Sami on the stage! I thought KO's involvement with Sami here was obligatory. It gets more heat on KO, and Sami is left laid out and looking the underdog.
Winner – Sami Zayn
Backstage Segment > D-
Was I the only one who went Battlestar Galactica when Cody said something about Apollo being in the stars? I know there's a huge wrestling/sci-fi crossover, so I cannot be the only one!
I hope Apollo loosens up, because while he delivered well, it was so obvious that he's scripted, and that's the last thing we want to see. Certain Superstars shouldn't be overly scripted, and while Apollo is new, too many Superstars come off as too scripted when they'd be better with talking points and going, like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rocky, Trip, Foley, etc.
Stardust vs Apollo > C
This was exactly as I expected it to be. Stardust looked decent, but Apollo took him out in a couple minutes. He's not being pushed like Goldberg, but if they're not careful, the fans will see it that way and turn on Apollo. At this point, they need to give the boy character and personality beyond Dusty giving him the name Apollo. He needs a lot more building into something other than a cute guy who is built the way McMahon likes and looks strong in the ring. The fans demand more than that these days, and it's more than time the WWE steps the heck up!
Winner – Apollo
In Ring Segment > A
Jericho is solid on mic, better than he's been in the ring lately, but it was Ambrose who stole this segment and ran with it. He had the fans in the palm of his hands from the start and kept them in his hands even through Jericho was berating him. Further, Ambrose said all the right things while he apologized to Jericho. I got a very Eddie Guererro vibe from Ambrose in this segment. He was great for apologizing for everything while trashing the other person in the process, but I almost thing Ambrose brought it to the next level. Ambrose then sold the fight after the verbal altercation wonderfully. Great segment for the go-home to Payback.
Emma vs Nattie > C-
Nattie gets the jobber entrance as #1 Contender? Emma gets a full entrance. This makes no sense. I have to say I feel bad for Emma in that she didn't have a chance against Nattie. Of course Charlotte had to trash on Nattie bringing Bret into things, but Flair is her coach, so it's okay for him to be saving every match she's ever been in. It's time for Nattie to be strapped, and if her match with Charlotte on Sunday is anything like her NXT match with Charlotte, they will steal the show. I also hope that Flair is taken out at Charlotte's coach ringside for the foreseeable future, because no one wants to see him!
Winner – Nattie
Video > A+
I honestly didn't think the WWE would step up and do what's right by Chyna, but they did. The opening placard was expected, but this video was just lovely. I've been watching much of Chyna's career recently, as she debuted by Trip's side not long after where I started watching (WrestleMania 13), all the way through DX, then her 'relationship' with Eddie. I've not reached the point where Chyna stopped wearing black all the time, but I will get there, and have a blast doing it. I loved that they showed Chyna from when she was very masculine, straight through to the sexy, curvy Chyna who made us smile right along with her each time she did. She was an amazing woman who got dealt a lot of negativity and didn't handle it very well. Not saying anything negative about that amazing woman, just stating the facts. Chyna inspired and paved the way for many young women, within the wrestling industry, and outside the industry. She was an amazing woman and should be remembered for the great things she did, not the troubles she had to deal with in her life.
Corbin vs Sandow > A&F-
I finally get Sandow on Raw, but he has a jobber entrance, and Corbin never even makes it to the ring because of Ziggler? I'm calling total bullshit on this. I try not to cuss here because WNW is PG, but I've been calling for Sandow on Raw, and have been saying that he needs a solid character, feud and push, but we get this load of crap? I truly feel as though someone is messing with my head, on purpose. The first grade is for Sandow actually being seen on Raw, the other is for how he was treated. May 11, 2015 was Sandow's last match on Raw. How does THAT make any sense?
In Ring Segment > B
I loved the movie references in this segment between Miz and Cesaro. That helped a lot, but the best part was that Maryse actually covered her ass and wasn't hanging out everywhere. The coat she wore was very flattering on her and covered up the nooks and crannies she was too fond of showing off previously – if you catch my insinuation.
Cesaro stole the show here, and I adore him for it. He's really stepped up his game, and has been given the chance to run with this character – finally. He has what it takes, and Miz is helping him look that much better.
Reigns vs ADR > C-
I honestly don't understand why they would end Raw with Reigns versus ADR. They were quieter enough that I noticed while watching the WWE Network, so I was shocked to hear so much heat for Reigns. Yes, Reigns can get seriously loud heat underwater, but Hartford was so quiet leading up to this, so I was surprised.
Now, I was called out by a member of the WNW family for possibly trashing this match worse because of my long-standing abhorrence for ADR, but I feel as though I was as pissy about Sheamus' match. We all know AJ can put on a great match, but with Sheamus, he was screwed. (X, you see the grade I gave Sheamus vs AJ, I'm not holding this match against ADR because of my feelings, I'm holding this match against both ADR and Reigns because it wasn't very good.) I will say the match was better than I expected it to be, and ADR looked solid in the ring, but he usually pulls it out when it's a big match (PPV, gimmick match, facing #1 Contender), so it makes sense that he actually looked like he cared about this match, and didn't just phone it in.
Reigns, on the other hand, struggled. He did what he needed to do, but doing what's needed to do (what he knows what to do), looks better in the ring when he's with someone amazing. Trip might be old (born the summer of '69), but he's still better than so many, and can work his ass off in the ring, making whoever he's working with look that much better. Jericho is a year and four months younger than Trip, but he's really showing his age. I think my brain is still with how solid Reigns looked in the ring at WrestleMania, but this was nothing up to that, and I worry that AJ will not be able to make Reigns look as good as the WWE WHC should look in the ring. ADR actually working didn't help, and while I have a lot more faith in AJ, I'm worried about Payback.
Winner – Reigns
In Ring Segment > B
In some ways, even though AJ is a consummate professional, it has to irk him that he's worked in the industry for so long, yet he's fighting against someone who is so green for the WWE WHC. Then again, I'm irked that Reigns is the WWE WHC when Ambrose is right there and could really run with it. And there's KO, and he would be fantastic. And then there's Cesaro who needs to work his way up, but so much better in the ring than Reigns is. What about Bray? Rusev? It wouldn't be the first time a new wrestler won the strap, so why not my beloved Sami? Honestly, in reality, Ambrose or KO would have been much better choices going forward, but McMahon just couldn't back down off his son (in-law) and the 'face' they've been pushing for so long. It was daft all the way around, and any of them could do well in the ring with AJ.
Now, I get that this is about more than AJ and Reigns at this point, it's family against Club, and it's not going to come to any sort of fruition at Payback because it will end up in DQ over the Usos and Bulletproof. All that being said, I liked AJ in this segment. He came off as strong, focused, and knowing what he wants. Now, it might all be a hoax going into Payback, but honestly, I'll be shocked if AJ turns heel at Payback.
While people continued to complain that Anderson and Gallows were getting destroyed in the eyes of the fans, I have to disagree. The WWE WHC needs to look strong, no matter who he is, so Reigns needed to gain the upper hand here, and it was more of them fleeing Reigns, than Reigns destroying them. I have no issue with what went down, and think Bulletproof looks as bulletproof as ever.
I think I said all I really needed to say, especially since my rant came together in the middle of the first match. I did state my feelings about Sandow, but this is the end of the RIB, and I'm going to end each week with a plea for Sandow to be on Raw with a solid character, good storyline, and a feud that makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Sandow is being screwed by not being on Raw, getting pushed as far as he can handle, and I think that's the top. So, bring back Sandow!
Queen of WNW