This episode had so many inspired moments, specifically Foley, Trip, and Jericho – all Superstars who were in the WWE in 1999-2000 together – and it's so late, that I'm just going to jump into the RIB so I can go to bed! I love you all and won't bore you with my sleepy babbling, and for that, you should all be grateful.
New Day vs League of Nations > C-
Woohoo, Raw started with something other than a McMahon ranting for twenty minutes! I include Trip in the McMahon family at this point. I know New Day talked a bit, but it wasn't long. I've been saying they need to shake up the opening of Raw, but they really get stuck in a rut with that. Even back in the AE and into the McMahon/Helmsley Era, Raw started with too many talking segments. They seem to think if it works to get the fans riled up a couple shows in a row, then they need to run with it for six months. It's refreshing that they broke up this Raw with a different opening.
All that being said about how refreshing it is that Raw started with a match, it would have been so much better if it hadn't been League of Nations! I know McMahon has a hard on for the big guys, and really seems to have a need to push these four onto us no matter how much we resist, no matter how much X-Pac heat they get! It's extremely frustrating as a long-term hardcore wrestling fan to see these four pushed as hard as they have been.
I know why League of Nations beat down New Day after the match – to cement New Day as heels as League of Nations as the most over heel faction. The problem being that no one cares! When the guys in the Open Thread Discussion are calling League of Nations the worst heel faction ever, saying they led the biggest viewership drop for an opening segment because of this match, Jesse saying that they're in the top three of worst heel factions ever, and someone else saying they hope all four contracts are up soon. To me, that says that there's a large cross-section of fans who want nothing to do with League of Nations and wish them gone. Yes, they're a heel faction, and, therefore, should be hated, but this is X-Pac heat, and we all know X-Pac heat is the worst type of heat there is. The fans don't hate League of Nations because they're over as heels, they hate them because they're boring, uninteresting, and so lackluster that we forget about them when they're not on screen. League of Nations is a travesty and proof that the wrong people are being pushed within the WWE right now.
Winners – New Day
In Ring Segment > B+
Hearing the pop that Ambrose gets when his music hits, and how the pop grows when he comes to the ring, should show TPB in the WWE who the fans really want to see, and how they react to Superstars who are truly over! It kills me that he's not in a role that showcases his strengths and talents, but it took a while for Austin, Rocky, Jericho, even Angle to get to the top in the WWE, even though they were looking like they should have been there for a while. Yes, there were a lot of great talent then, but there's as much great talent now that's not getting used. Heck, they've silenced Sandow for no obvious reason, and he's the Superstars we've been screaming to see. Bad booking for so many in the WWE. Now, I knew Ambrose wouldn't walk out of Roadblock as the Champ, and the false win was right what I thought could happen, but I had hoped it would lead to a better WrestleMania WWE WHC Match, but no, we still get to see Ambrose face Brock Lesnar.
No one is happy about the direction of this build though I have to say it's nice to see a solid build, something few of the WrestleMania matches have gotten this WrestleMania season. So much disappointment, and while I know Brock doesn't fight on Raw much, the fact that he didn't get into it with Ambrose was a bit lame. Yes, Ambrose had a weapon, but when has that stopped Brock? Hopefully, this isn't the last we see between these too on this episode of Raw, but as little as Brock cares about his job in the WWE, it wouldn't shock me if he left right after this segment ended.
Ryback vs Sin Cara > C+
That was possibly the best entrance to the ring I've seen from Kalisto, then the US strap goes flying and kills it all. I'm loving that we have Sin Cara Negro again. He looks good in the black ring gear, and it makes them look a little less like a team. Okay, I will admit that this has been another slow build toward WrestleMania. Ryback talking down Kalisto has been a nice way to start this feud and move them forward. And putting Ryback in the ring with Sin Cara is a solid way to continue the build. I wonder about the black ring gear if Kalisto faces Ryback at WrestleMania. Will Sin Cara turn on Kalisto? I will say that I like how Ryback brought up the challenge to Kalisto. It was perfectly timed and executed.
Winner – Ryback
In Ring Segment > B+
And here's our 20-minute opening segment! I had to know it was going to happen, but I've been watching so much older WWF where they broke up these segments into smaller bits and some of them even happened backstage. Raw has become so formulaic that I can barely stand it some weeks. We get the same segments, just rearranged differently. If there's one backstage segment, there will be another to fill out the block between commercials. It's too clean cut, I want some GRIT!
Trip trashed the fans and all we have is hope in this world, but he mentioned Reigns' name, and got more heat for that than anything! They've built Reigns up, put so much stock in him, and the fans don't want it. The fans want almost anything other than Reigns facing Trip at WrestleMania for the WWE WHC. Actually, the fans want to see Ambrose win the WWE WHC. Or how about Owens? Ziggler? Almost anyone, because there's so many on the roster who are so great that I cannot even imagine that just a couple years ago the roster was so bare that it was painful to watch. Now WWE TV is painful to watch because the best of the best are not getting the pushes that they've proven themselves to deserve.
Ziggler was not at all who I expected to come out, but that was a worked shoot from him if I ever saw one. Not only about getting beaten down, threats of being fired over a tweet, and then really rip Trip and Steph a new one. Steph really seemed to believe what she was saying, and Ziggler sold it well, so obviously because it's his reality within the company. They took everything surrounding Ziggler and turned it into storyline, which makes perfect sense since he's been so screwed within the WWE.
Wow, Steph actually got a YES chant going by making that match between Trip and Ziggler. Though I have to say, Trip's character seemed a bit shocked by the announcement. It appeared as though his face fell just a little when Steph said Ziggler would face Trip tonight. I was expecting Trip to fall back into his McMahon/Helmsley Era Trip and not be happy about the match, or maybe I've been watching too much of WWF 2000 and have learned Trip's facial expressions from then too well.
Sami Zayn vs Miz > B+
Having Owens on announce for this was perfect! I was a HUGE El Generico fan, and love Zayn that much more because he's just adorable, and a ginger. I thought this match was solid, entertaining, and left us with more questions than answers. While I'd love to see Neville join a match between Owens and Sami at WrestleMania, I don't want to see Miz added in unless Neville is also added. Miz has more than proved recently that he can run with AJ, Sami, Jericho, Owens, and so I forget that he really can go in the ring. I'm loving this build, and I'm loving Sami in the ring on WWE TV. Sami more than deserves to be called up and is easily proving himself every time we see him. So excited for Sami, and cannot wait to see what he gives us next.
Winner – Sami
Backstage Segment > D-
Lots of yelling, but little actual content. At least, Ultimate Warrior was entertaining when he threw a promo that didn't mean anything, this was just bad.
Brie & Fox vs Naomi & Tamina > B
Holy smokes, Naomi was on fire and all over Foxy in that ring! I thought she was going to snatch Foxy's weave off her head, then kick her head off with that enzi. Then Tamina in and made the whole thing look like a sloppy mess. Brie in and she look strong and on-point as well. Brie looked great, and her little comment to Lana was great. While not the best of matches, because of Tamina, I was thrilled with Naomi and Brie. Naomi was amazing to watch, and Brie was on point. They are both better in singles matches, but at this point, we should take what Brie has as I'm not sure she's going to be around much longer.
I have to say Lana looked HOT! That new look on her is amazing. It's very 80s, but with her curves, it works, especially the high waisted skirt that whittles in her waist, but shows off her fanny and those long legs. She's not top-heavy, so the short jacket cut the way it is (I have one in bright lime green suede that I got in 93) balances out her figure. She looks amazing, but sadly her action figure makes her look like a linebacker.
Winners – Naomi & Tamina
Backstage Segment > B+
Social Outcasts are fantastic! All four of them together are so much better than the sum of the parts. I loved the BK hot dog commercial, and not sure who was the best of the group because they work so well together and off each other. Axel ends up being the butt of it all, but now that he's purchased a personality, he's great in that role.
Backstage Segment > B
Paige looks better than ever! I love how she took her goth look to a whole new level with the gray tips. I'm looking forward to more Paige on mic because she's just that good. And then there's Paige in the ring. Fingers crossed that she's getting into the Lana/Brie/etc match at WrestleMania.
Backstage Segment > D-
Charlotte cannot talk and needs a mouthpiece other than her father who is gross, scary, and always looks as though he's had way too much to drink. He takes so much away from his daughter. This is her time, and she should be allowed to cut the apron strings and go hard in her own career.
Usos vs Social Outcasts > C-
The Bo Train! It's a great homage to The Godfather, especially since he's being inducted this year. The Usos looked to be able to take out all four of the Social Outcasts, but I thought the Dudleys were going to mess that up. That they didn't mess that up made the Social Outcasts look that much lamer. The Usos took out all four like it was nothing, and that completely pissed me off. Social Outcasts have a lot more to them than all of them jobbing out to the Usos in one match! What's the plan for the Social Outcasts long term? If they're only going to be jobbers, I'm going to have a lot of complaining, kvetching, and possibly screaming coming very soon.
Winner - Usos
Backstage Segment > A+
I was wondering if we'd ever see Foley and Ambrose in a segment like this. Sadly their feud never came to fruition, and for good reason, on both sides, but I'm also glad they didn't. Foley was fantastic in this segment and showed exactly why I've been loving watching him on the WWE Network (other than the head shots he took, I cringe away from every single one of those). And then there's Ambrose who has been compared to the best of the top names, though I always compare him to a cross between Austin and Foley, possibly because they're two of my faves. That Foley passed a Barbie to Ambrose, specifically said he was passing the torch, brought a tear to my eye. This was one of those special moments that was made better for me by when I immediately went to tweet to Foley, I couldn't keep up with all the wonderful tweets that were flying by on my screen for Foley and the segment we'd all just seen him on. This is a beautiful moment that I will always carry in my heart about Foley, but also about Ambrose, because he's the one who will be putting smiles on our faces for years to come.
Ziggler vs Trip > A
I have to agree with our newest writer, Big M, that seeing Trip come to the ring as Champ is a thing of beauty. He exudes Champion, and that hasn't changed in any way in the past 16 years though the lack of hair and addition of gray in his face fur is a bit unnerving. The issue I had with this match is that Trip was keeping the match at his speed, and that didn't give Ziggler a chance to shine as much as he should in a big match like this. That being said, Trip can build a match that tells a story like almost anyone else on the roster. The fact that I've been watching so many Trip matches lately means that I'm used to seeing him work the ring, and he's improved since then, but it was watching him with this roster that I realized that he's improved, but (most of) the roster isn't anywhere near his level. This was a fantastic match between two strong Superstars, one of which might want to think about stepping back some and teaching these younger wrestlers about ring psychology and how to build a story. Heck, bring in Bryan, Bret Hart, and a couple others and have them really work with the roster so they know where they're lacking. It seems as though most of the young Divas, and the Superstars who have come up through NXT, get it, but the guys who have been on the roster for years and didn't go through NXT as it is now – Sheamus, Barrett, Ziggler, Kofi, Axel, O'Neil, and even Reigns who didn't get enough time before coming up so green. I honestly didn't realize how bad things had gotten, because I expect PPVs to be that much better, but seeing this on Raw showed me so much of what we've been missing in the WWE. Fingers crossed that someone other than me saw the difference (specifically Shane) and does something about it going forward.
Winner – Trip
In Ring Segment > A-
Quite the fight. I wasn't expecting Reigns to come back in this way, but I loved it! This is the type of grit I've been wanting to see in the WWE. They fought all over the place, they fought through people, made a mess, caused a lot of havoc, busted Trip open, and got J&J out there on camera. They had to get the Usos to pull their cousin off Trip, and that it was Reigns who had to be backed off made me that much more impressed with the sexy young man. He looked good working with Trip, someone I just gave some of the hugest props of the RIB (right behind Jericho and Foley), so that mean a lot coming from me at this point in my love/hate relationship with the WWE and the Road To WrestleMania.
Backstage Segment > B
That 17-year-old pigeon with a limp was great, but it was Goldust's facial expressions that stole my heart here. Even behind all the paint, Goldust emotes like few others on the roster.
Jericho vs Neville > A+&F
Obvious the F is for Neville's injury, but also for the ref not realizing that Neville was injured. The ref is in there for many reasons, but one of them is to protect the wrestlers if they're injured and take care of that injured person any way they can. If Neville was in the ring with someone else, someone who isn't a consummate professional, Neville could have been hurt so much worse.
I'm so glad Jericho was in the ring with Neville last night. That A+ is for Jericho holding Neville down for three, even though the ref didn't get it and wouldn't count the three. I couldn't figure out why Jericho kept calling the ref a fucking bastard, but Jesse told me today that Neville is broken, and that Jericho was cussing out the ref so the ref would disqualify him from the match. Further, Jericho screamed for a mic and worked with the cameraman to keep the camera tight on himself so they could get Neville out of there off-camera. Jericho deserves the biggest props for what he did for Neville in this match, and I hope the ref caught a ration of shit backstage for not being clued in enough to know what was going on in this match.
Winner via DQ – Neville
In Ring Segment > B
McMahon didn't like his pop, so he tried again. He was trying, but just wasn't getting it. Same could be said for Shane here. He seemed really off his mark. He worked well with Taker, but not as well as he could have if he had been on his mark. I expected so much from this segment, but instead of it coming off great, Taker looked like an old, old man with his hair grown out and dyed, but so much missing and stringy on the top. McMahon wasn't quite on his mark here, and then Shane seemed like a half a step behind, or to the left. It just didn't work. I will say that Shane looked strong, better than I expected against Taker, but not right in this segment. And then there's McMahon who is a known klutz who couldn't get away from Taker without falling on his ass and rolling from the ring to flop to the floor. It was quite impressive move for an old man, the problem is that we know it's not because he's old, because he's done these thing since he first left the announce table in the late 90s.
Well, there were some solid high points in this show, but the low points were so glaringly obvious. Some of the worst moments (League of Nations) were so bad that I'm left pining for Sandow to come back and Shane to beat Taker so things will hopefully upswing, but sadly it will happen during the lowest time in the WWE year. I still have high hopes and fingers crossed going into WrestleMania.
Queen of WNW