I always think of the holiday shows as throwaways, but this Raw was right between the two big holidays, and there wasn't Monday Night Football to go up against. This was really a hit or miss show, because it's hard to predict who will be sitting home watching Raw, and who might be on vacation, or doing something else during this holiday week, and either DVR, or skip the show all together. All I have to say is that the WWE did a great job of stacking the show, and gave us a lot of what I wish we could see every week. Between the drama, the emotion, and the serious ring work, I was blown away by much of Raw, and wish we could see more of what they gave us last night. To me it felt as though maybe Triple H and Steph were calling the show, and maybe McMahon had the night off? It just felt so much more fresh and honest than what we've been seeing from the WWE recently.
Video > A
With the way Bryan put out his elusive tweet, and then the WWE starting Raw this way, I was all verklempt. This was beautiful foreshadowing for what was never going to happen, but the WWE knew that we were all worried about Bryan's health, so they used this to continue to bait us. Bryan didn't elude to anything bad coming about, but knowing what we know, and since he's been out so long, we were all a mass of emotion over this. How better to bank on that than add the feels we went through when Edge retired through that speech that ripped out our hearts. I normally don't comment on these opening videos, but I have to give WWE a huge bravo for this one.
In Ring Segment > B+
I know they needed to set up the show, but I wanted more of the banter between E&C. They have been such good friends for so long, and each have their own flow, strengths, and weaknesses in their charismas, and how they interact, that they're so much fun to watch. I just didn't feel we got enough of that from them. I also would have preferred they were interrupted during their pose, not before. I understand leaving the fans wanting more, but sometimes you really need to give the fans what they want. Yes, much of Raw gave the fans what they wanted, but this was something they didn't give that they should have
While Brock didn't say a word, and barely did anything in the ring, it was nice to see that he remembered to bring the WWE WHC with him this time! Actually, talking to Stacy as Brock came to the ring this time, I'm not sure Brock is the only person to blame for him coming to the ring without the strap previously. McMahon and/or Trip are always at gorilla, why did they allow Brock to go to the ring without it? I have to say that a big part of the blame lands on Heyman and whoever was at gorilla at the time. During this conversation, Sam asked what gorilla was, and had a great time explaining what the position is, and why it's called gorilla. Just thinking about it now brings a smile to my face. It's so much fun to impart this information to someone so young and excited about the industry as a whole, not just her favorite wrestlers.
I will admit that I liked how covertly E&C left the ring, and how Cena went after Heyman rather than Brock, but all in all, I enjoyed the start of the segment more than the end. We can always have Cena, and Heyman anytime, and this felt like a huge waste of a Brock appearance, but even worse, it took away from E&C, who were who I really tuned in to see. I know that the Special Guest GMs only have bit parts in the show, but this is E&C! They're fantastic on camera, no matter what they're doing, and they were a huge draw for this Raw, they should have given them more time.
Ziggler vs Rusev > A-
When I saw these two come to the ring, I said that this would be a short match without a clean ending. I was shocked to see Ziggler and Rusev have a solid back and forth match that could have easily gone either way. This was a really solid match, better than I thought the WWE would book, even though we know the two of them can go wonderfully in the ring. Ziggler is just amazing, and has really been allowed to shine lately. Rusev hasn't been given as much of a chance to show his ring skills, but the few times he's worked matches longer than squashes, he's proven that he's not a Goldberg. I honestly hadn't thought of these two in the ring together, but they left me excited and smiling after what I thought was going to be the best wrestled match of the night, by far. I have to say I was thrilled that this wasn't the only solid match on the show, though it was a lovely and unexpected gem.
As I said, there was no way either of these guys could go over clean, as they're both champions. Rather than making one look weak, they made both of these champions look strong, and help both championships in the process. I have to say that the PTB in the WWE did right by Ziggler, Rusev, the IC and US Championships. It's nice to see things go in a direction that makes absolute sense!
Winner via DQ – Ziggler (10:19)
In Ring Segment > B+
This was unexpected, and kind of beautiful in its simplicity. It was great to see Ryback getting this time, and he came across as endearing and honest. He seemed to speak from the heart, tell us the facts we knew, but added his heart and feeling to it all. I will admit that while I loved Ryback's positivity, when he looked into the camera and called out Rusev, it felt as though he was talking directly to Punk. Maybe I'm reading too much into the online issues between Punk and Ryback, but it felt as though Ryback was using that to fuel his segment
Nikki vs Nattie > F+
What a mess! Between Nikki's lackluster ring work, Nattie being off her game, and Kidd almost dropping Nikki, this was a total curfuffle. I'm so over the Divas not being able to handle themselves in the ring, and those who can being delegated to not being in the ring. It's time McMahon realize that we want to see serious Divas matches. They say they listen to the fans, but they sure haven't been listening to what the fans have been saying about the Divas and what we want to see from them in the ring.
Winner – Nikki (1:04)
Backstage Segment > B+
Miz's money maker paid off here. He had no clue what Naomi was talking about, but tried to make it look like he did. This was fantastic, and left me questioning everything I knew about the storyline so far. Wonderfully acted all the way around, especially by Mizdow.
Tag Team Championship Match – Usos vs Miz & Mizdow (c) > B+
It has felt as though the Usos and Miz's matches have become a bit boring as of late. I've liked how they have split up the Usos to face Miz in singles matches, but even that has seemed old hat, but this match felt as though they were coming back from that. Maybe the Usos were rejuvenated knowing that they would be winning the TTCs again, but they looked great out there again.
Further, I loved that Naomi was screwing with Miz the whole time, and threw him off his game so that the Usos could come back and win the TTCs again. I have to give Jimmy props for bringing up JR and his BBQ sauce. It's been too long since we've seen JR, and he's gone in other directions. McMahon really dropped the ball with JR, and looks like an ass for it in my eyes.
Winners & new Tag Team Champs – Usos (13:11)
Cesaro vs Barrett > B+&B
The B+ is for Cesaro and Barrett on mic. First off, I have to mention that Cesaro sitting in the corner the way he was, with the towel over his head like that, I was quickly reminded of Raven, and Taz. It was an image I couldn't get past, until Cesaro started talking. It was so nice to see Cesaro on mic, and addressing the issues that seem to have held him back. Personally it seems as though just when Cesaro is connecting with the fans is when the WWE pulls him back and changes his direction. Cesaro could have gotten over as King of Swing, yet they killed it just as the ball was really starting to roll. The fans loves Cesaro with Heyman, then they pulled it back. He was right, Cesaro was poised to have a huge year after winning the Andre The Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania, then they pulled him back! No clue why they keep changing his direction, but that's exactly why he isn't getting over! Then, they give him this moment to get it out on mic, start building something, but they they feed him to Barrett who finishes him in less than four minutes. What type of sense does that make? Nothing like a worked shoot, and then proving the point so heartily!
It's nice to see Bad News Barrett back, but I was a bit shocked when he went all DDP on us. Stacy, being rather new to wrestling, didn't understand why I was roaring with laughter over Barrett saying it, but I will admit it was interesting. I do love Barrett as a really edgy face. It's a role he can do well, and really ride the fence between face and heel. The problem I have is that it seems as though Barrett has a glass jaw. Every time he returns from injury, he's right back up on the shelf, and very quickly. I have to admit I'm a bit shocked that the WWE is still investing so much in a man who is injured more often than not. I have my fingers crossed for Barrett, but if he's back on the shelf again soon, maybe he should think about a job with a mic in his hand, rather than working the ring between continuous injuries.
Winner – Barrett (3:37)
Backstage Segment > B
Harper seems to have more of a southern accent now, than he did as part of The Wyatt Family. No clue why, but I like it, and I think it works for him. This week I was looking at some pictures of him from the past, and I was floored at how different he looked as a clean cut guy! That being said, he's doing a solid job with this character. I love the way he looks off to the side when he talks, then turns those eyes on the camera and really looks deep into your soul. He's growing and becoming quite an all around force to be reckoned with.
Swagger vs Harper > B
No clue why Harper was facing Swagger, seemed kind of out of the blue, with no real direction, but that's what happens when storylines are blown off without any real resolution. Both Harper and Swagger were left out in the ether without someone to feud with, so I guess they were thrown together to fill a hole. While I think a feud between them would be great, I'd like a reason to give a flying fig about it, a reason for them to be fighting in the first place. At this point Swagger giving Harper a new shirt, or a stick of deodorant for Yule would have satisfied that need, yet there's nothing. So while the work in this match was really solid, I was left needing more.
One last thing. While I know JBL's clothesline from smell was a joke, he's very obviously impressed with Harper and his clothesline. Since the clothesline from hell was JBL's signature, he seems to hold a special place in his heart for a good clothesline, which Harper sure can execute.
Winner – Harper (9:52)
Backstage Segment > B
Christian is great at sticking his foot in his mouth. He's a man after my own heart in that respect. I really enjoyed the back and forth between Edge and Cena, being reminded of their history together. I loved what Cena said about Edge being what few in the industry are, a decent human being. I'm sure that people like Matt Hardy might have different feelings about Edge, but for the most part, it seems as though Edge is loved by most, and worked hard to make amends to those he's hurt. He really seems to have realized his mortality and settled down with one of the sweetest Divas I've been lucky enough to meet.
Reigns vs Rollins w/ Big Show > B+
Big Show on announce was rather annoying, in other words, he was doing his job perfectly. Between calling Reigns a flash in the pan, and talking up Rollins in such a huge way, he did exactly what he needed to do as a veteran heel wrestler. I wanted to hit the mute button, so Big Show was on!
As much as I love Reigns, and thinks he looks more bright eyed and vibrant than ever, he seemed a bit off here. No clue if he's working off some ring rust, or what, but he seemed slightly off last night. Working with Rollins, almost anyone can look good, and they know each other well enough through The Shield that they put on a really great match, I guess I'm just expecting more from Reigns as all of The Shield have grown so much since coming up together. Reigns starting the closest to the bottom, and has made the greatest leaps, but he still has so far to go before he's a main event guy. I just hope they don't push him too far too fast.
The big hubbub about announce being rolled over onto Reigns' legs. I'm sorry, but announce isn't THAT heavy, and wouldn't do much of anything unless it was actually dropped on his legs from fairly high up. I know it's their job to make things seem so much bigger and scarier than it really is, but this was a bit ridiculous.
Winner via DQ – Reigns (16:20)
Backstage Segment > C-
I know this was used to set up what was to come, but it felt really plastic and off. It wasn't Rollins' best segment, nor was it Big Show's best. It felt forced and fake, only there to further the storyline, and didn't do a great job of it.
Video > C+
I've said this over and over lately, but Bray on mic has been struggling. I want more from him, and from his character. He laid a good base, now it's time to build on it. I know I cannot blame it all on Bray, as he's not the one who has complete control over his character, but he can control his diction. Bray has gotten to this level, I just hope this isn't as far as he goes with this character, as I know he's capable of so much more.
In Ring Segment > A
I have very specifically not read WNW, because I don't want to be biased in any way. I'm sure there's a lot of negativity about Bryan coming back into the main event picture after being out for eight months, and I'm sure people are complaining about how it was announced, and I'm sure there's a thousand other complaints. Yes, I can see many things that could go wrong, and I know a lot of people will find a reason to hate on Bryan, and this could screw up the directions of Ziggler, Rollins, Ambrose, Bray, Rusev, Swagger, and the list goes on and on, but in reality, can't we just be happy that Bryan is healthy enough to return to the ring?
The WWE so brilliantly foretold that Bryan was going to be retiring, they pushed it from Bryan's tweet, to the opening video, to the announcers worrying about doom and gloom through the whole night, honestly, they foretold so much that I was both neurotic about Bryan's future, and sure he wasn't retiring, because they spread it on so thick!
Bryan did a lovely job of setting it all up, bringing us up with him on his best week of his life, to the horrible lows of losing his father and being injured. I know how hard it is when the doctors don't have answers, and you're stuck in limbo in so much pain, unable to live your life the way you need to. It takes a serious toll on your mental health when your physical health is in question without answers. So Bryan really gave us all the great, then all the bad, and really made it into something huge.
He laid it all out there and really had everyone in the palm of his hand. The fans in attendance were hanging on his every word, and Bryan sold it. He gave the fans their props, as so many of us have stood with Bryan through it all, have loved Bryan long before he came to the WWE, and he really seems to appreciate how the fans love him.
He strung us all along, then did what few can do, he used one word to turn it all around. Only Austin has been able to take a single word and make it into a signature, but Bryan did that with of the two simplest words in the world, and will forever be known for making them into something greater than simply yes, and no.
I'm thrilled Bryan isn't done, loved seeing him on Raw, even with that strange ballerina bun. In the past he seemed to be babying his arm when leading the chant, but there wasn't any of that last night, so I'm excited to see him looking so healthy, even if he looks like a lumberjack with a ballerina bun.
Backstage Segment > B+
E&C being silly is fun. Even better was Edge with that puppet mimicking him, and Mizdow taking offense to it. I say it each week, but Mizdow is money.
Miz & Mizdow vs The Ascension > B
Miz and Mizdow in the ring. The Ascension debut to face them.
Not much of a match, and honestly a pretty cruddy way for The Ascension to debut. I'd have rather waited until 2015 to see them if it meant we got to see them in a decent match. Further, it pisses me off to see Mizdow squashed after all we haven't seen him in the ring. I know it will start the issues within the team, but it just really annoyed me. The only reason I gave the decent grade I did was for Mizdow in the ring, and that Konnor and Viktor looked solid in the ring – if a bit rushed – but that's not a surprised for the first match on WWE TV.
Winners – The Ascension (1:16)
Backstage Segment > B-
More of Rollins being rushed and things not working well for him. Honestly, the best part of this was the disgusted look Renee gave after Rollins headed off. She's really growing into a force to be reckoned with, and someone to watch out for.
The Cutting Edge Peep Show > A-
This segment went from fun to not very pretty all too quickly. The one thing that bothered me about this segment, early on, was talking about how Christian was retired from too many concussions. As far as I knew, Christian hadn't formally retired, and didn't get his moment in the sun from formally retiring. Do I think it's time? Hells yes! Do I think he deserves to go out with a bang? Hells yes! I know many would say that Edge had a much grander career, but Christian deserves his due because while Edge was basking in bed in the ring with Lita, Christian was working his ass off through a lot of serious storylines and feuds with a lot of great people – Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, William Regal, Tommy Dreamer, Booker T, Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, Bill Goldberg, Hulk Hogan, DDP, HBK, and put his tongue down Trish's throat! That's nothing to shake a hissy fit at in my book! I'd pay more than one dollar, Canadian, to meet him.
Beyond that, I have little issue with what happened to E&C. First off, that was a wimpy blow to the gut that Christian took, and I wasn't impressed that he was never seen again. Secondly, it was Big Show who had a hold of Edge's neck. If there's anyone on the roster to have his big mitts around Edge's neck, I think Big Show was the man to do it. Edge and Big Show have worked together for years, know each other quite well, and wouldn't let anything happen to Edge out there. I was quite comfortable with Big Show's hands on Edge, and Edge wouldn't have been out there being held down the way he was if he wasn't being held down by someone he completely trusted. I will admit that if I was Beth, I'd have been totally freaked out, but we have to remember that we saw Edge spear Kurrgan on Haven (HAVEN! - That's for you David Jr.) last season. Yes, Edge will never be cleared to work the ring again, but he's not being so careful so he won't trip over a curb and end up in a wheelchair. Yes, he needs to be careful, but Big Show's monstrous mitt on Edge's neck won't do anything major.
As soon as Raw was over I received an IM from my friend, and WNW regular, Patrick, who was quite upset about what they did to Edge. Basically that Rollins was threatening to paralyze someone if he didn't get his way, and how that's a bad image to give children. I completely agree with him on that regard, and if Sam was at all impressionable in that way, I wouldn't have her watching wrestling with me in the first place! I think anyone who is impressionable in that way shouldn't be watching wrestling, and that's something that should be handled in the home. I could go off on a rampage about this, but that's not what the RIB is all about.
I do appreciate Patrick's ire over this segment, but as someone who analyzes wrestling for a living, I have to look at it from both sides. When the WWE went so overboard with the PG initiative, the shows were corny and boring, most fans were screaming to go back to the way things were during the Attitude Era. It seems as though most who are screaming about going back to the Attitude Era have forgotten how much crap got thrown at the wall before something good stuck. There was a lot of horrible in the Attitude Era, and I'm not talking about the last couple years of WCW, I'm talking about a lot of the crap WWE did. Do you remember some of Goldust's personas? Anyway, back to the Attitude Era, there were some wonderful edgy things that happened that toed that line, and some things that left that line in the ditch and jumped off a cliff miles away. I'm thinking specifically of Katie Vick, but that's always considered to be one of the worst storylines in WWE history. Personally, I think Big Boss Man fed Al Snow his chihuahua is right up there, but I love dogs, even little yappy, bug eyed, shaking bundles of nerves.
What I'm trying to say is that there's been a lot of crappy edgy things, especially during the Attitude Era, and while they got away from doing these for a while, I think they did a solid job of this one. I know some will say they went too far, as Patrick did to me after Raw last night, but I think they did a solid job of forcing Cena's hand to get The Authority back. Heels are great at being assholes, so of course Rollins will be an underhanded jerk to get what he wants from the one man who can give it to him. I love that they stepped things up and really worked it hard. This is the grit I've been missing from the WWE for so long, and it (along with some of Ambrose's recent matches) gives me hope that the WWE isn't completely lost to the polished glitz of Hollywood.
I loved how Rollins kept Cena under his thumb, and really worked him. Cena worked well with Rollins, and made this segment that much better because of it. Everyone involved worked well together, and made for an exciting and entertaining segment. The same can't be said for after Cena was knocked out. Okay, backup, Cena got in that ring dang fast to rescue Edge when Rollins was about to curb stomp him, but beyond that, it fell apart. I'm not sure how I feel about The Authority returning, but I am sure that Brock shouldn't have even been booked on this episode of Raw. It was bad enough when he started Raw by not saying a word, and other than being lifted for an AA he never took, Brock did nothing. Nothing was bad to start the show, but him on stage to end the show was downright painful to watch. I know they wanted to get as much out of his appearance as they could, but Brock looked less comfortable than someone going in for a colonoscopy.
As I said, I'm not going to comment on The Authority returning so quickly, yet. I want to see what they do. With Bryan back on the same night, I think they hit the best time to do it. When better to screw with Trip's favorite B+ player? And Cena will catch a lot of crap, as will Ziggler. This will be interesting, I just hope it doesn't hurt Ziggler's push.
I was impressed with Bryan, Ryback, and Cesaro on mic, being more honest and real than we've seen from the WWE in a long time. I've been saying bring back the grit, and this is great grit, because it's not too edgy or too over the line. It's the reality that helped the nWo get over, so why not try it again? And I have to comment on the solid ring work we saw in this episode. Not all the matches were fantastic, but a couple of them were so much more than I expected, and really entertained. Hopefully they continue this feel and vibe into the new year.
Queen of WNW