This Raw felt very Triple H heavy episode. I'm not saying that this episode had too much Trip, but that he had more of a hand in the creation of this episode. There was a lot of wrestling on the show 55:50 in the three hours, which isn't bad for what we've been seeing lately. Also, the storylines were pushed strongly, and well executed by the characters. So much good in this episode, and things felt like they flowed better than they had been flowing recently. Hopefully things continue on this track in the future.
I thought it was lovely that Paige remembered her trainer, and wrestling legend Drew McDonald by writing his name on her arms when she went to the ring on Raw. He had just passed on, and I thought it was a lovely thing for her to do, following in the footsteps of some of the best who did the same to remember others close who have passed.
Music & Pyro > A
I normally don't comment on the opening of Raw, right down to the video, but recently the opening has changed. They've gone back to their opening music and pyro routine, which they'd stopped when Raw when to HD. Obviously their cameras, set up and everything else involved in making the opening look right are in place, because it's really looking like the opening of Raw to me again. I truly had missed the opening into pyro, and hadn't realized how much I'd missed it until it returned. I say bravo to the WWE to going back to what worked so well for them for so long, and giving me something to start RIB on a high note this week.
In Ring Segment > B
On the other hand, I'm bored with the same setup in the opening segment. Someone comes out – gladly it wasn't The Authority this week, as that's how it's happening too often – bitches and complains, and it leads to The Authority making some big change, or some big match, that totally screws over the person in question. I know that the shows are very formulaic, but they need to change things up now and then, so it doesn't look like they're cookie cuttering the opening segment each week. Hello, Big Show and Kane coming out to the stage with Trip and Steph was so terribly obvious!
I have to mention that I thought the way Steph treated Bryan for putting Kane in a casket was hysterical, since he was in a casket match, but it was Bryan's comeback for it that about had me on the floor laughing. It was quite a different time in the WWE when Trip could fake having sex with a Katie Vick doll in a casket. Honestly, it was one of the more horrific storylines in the WWE, possibly only to be beaten by Big Bossman feeding Al Snow his own dog for supper, and Mae Young giving birth to a hand, but that was the WWE at the time. It's good that they bring back these moments and rib those involved, hopefully keeping those things from happening again.
I will say that whether by plan, or by running with the direction the fans seem to want, they really have Reigns garnering some serious mixed reaction, and at points some serious heat. I think it was obvious that Reigns was going to start getting more heat with him going against Bryan at Fast Lane, and only one of them – if they don't cave and go Triple Threat Match – going to WrestleMania against Brock Lesnar. With the growing tweener reaction Brock had been getting going into Royal Rumble, mostly because of working against Rollins as an uber heel, and Cena who is an uber face with serious heat, it only made sense. Now, if they're going with Reigns against Brock, and Brock is more of a tweener, it would make sense to have Reigns being a bit more heelish. It does raise the question about Rollins cashing in on Reigns after Reigns beats Brock at WrestleMania, but that's still too far ahead, and there's too many variables between now and then. Either way, Reigns is doing a solid job of pushing his weight around and getting heat from the fans. I have to admit that I think Reigns is doing a solid job of it, and pitting him against Bryan further pushes Bryan as a face, and gives him someone else to work against than just The Authority.
Bryan & Reigns vs Kane & Big Show > B
I hadn't really expected much from this match, but I sure hoped for more. The issue for me is how quickly the ref called for a DQ here, but at other points in the night, DQ wasn't as quickly called. I know it's all scripted, but I would like some continuity and dependability to when a DQ is called, and when it isn't. It's one of those little things that has bothered me for as long as I've been a wrestling fan, and while I know it won't change, I won't let it slide without comment.
To continue with what I said about Reigns and Bryan in the previous segment, they are working quite well together, and garnering really great reactions from the fans. Rather than things being cut and dry, they're making the Road to WrestleMania more interesting. I think it's about time most of the naysayers sit back and enjoy, rather than nit-picking every little thing THEY think is wrong, even before we've seen things through. Yes, I know I do that one a weekly basis, but I always try to look at the good with the bad, and try to celebrate the wonderful things as much, if not more than I bash the crap. I have my pet peeves, but I'm willing to hear the other side of the story before I completely destroy something, and I'm seeing a lot of the other side of the story in the work of Reigns and Bryan. They are telling a story, and it's time we sit back and watch, rather than destroy at every turn.
Winners – Bryan & Reigns via DQ (12:06)
Rollins vs Ryback > B-
Okay, this was an obvious DQ, but I have to admit it was a bit of a surprise, as J&J Security usually all they can to help their boy, but without causing the DQ. Obviously The Authority is out to destroy six men on the roster, and one who's never been on the roster. That's there focus right now, and they're doing everything in their power to make that happen. That being said, I found this quite disappointing. I know that I said last week that Ryback should work the ring against bigger guys, as his work looks more deliberate and realistic against bigger guys, but that doesn't mean he should work against three guys to make up for it. Honestly, this was a squash, had nothing to do with an actual match.
I do have to mention one move that left me impressed. Ryback hit a body drop on Rollins, and Rollins got some serious air! It might go back to what I've been saying about Ryback working with bigger guys, and he sent Rollins flying more than he should have, but dang it looked lovely.
Winner – Ryback via DQ (2:56)
Video - D-
I thought this was a lame attempt for the WWE to gloss over the accusations that came out about Big Show earlier in the day.
Videos > B+
I have to say that the WWE did a great job of making Sheamus look dominant in these promo videos, and it's a great way to gauge the fans to see their reactions and what they expect of Sheamus upon his return. I've read that they want Sheamus to be heel upon his return, and that makes sense as he's usually better as a heel, but the WWE seems knee deep in heels at the moment.
Paige vs Brie > B
There were a couple of solid moves in this match, but I was distracted by Brie's screaming. I understand that you're riled up working the ring, but it seems as though too many female wrestlers, and usually the ones who are not the top couple in the company, rely on screaming more than actual moves. Brie is leaps and bounds better than she was when she and Nikki were working their twin magic, but compared to some others on the roster, she's not one of the best.
There were a couple of solid moves in this match, better than a lot of other Divas matches we've seen of late. I do have to mention Brie's head scissors hold on the mat. She worked it well with Paige, and it looked like one of the best submission holds we've seen from the Divas in a long time – other than what Paige and Nattie use.
Now, because this is me, I have to mention two things about Nikki. First being that her ponytail extension looked better than I would have thought on her. Also, in the video where the Bellas attacked Paige with 'spray tan' last week, I didn't see that while Brie sprayed Paige's belly, Nikki was completely focused on Paige's crotch. What was that about?
Winner – Paige (3:15)
In Ring Segment > B
I know that they still get serious heat, and the "USA!" chants fill every arena when they are in the ring, but that's to be expected. Lana is strong on mic, and I see a great future ahead of her. Rusev is fantastic in the ring, especially the times he's worked real matches, and not just squashes. They are great together, but it's time to change things up, to evolve. I do like how they talked about Cena being beaten up, and not as young as he used to be. That's been the way many have been talking about Cena lately, seeing Cena out there, and how delicately Rusev was working with Cena's body, it appears to be the truth. Cena's eye looks horrible, and he seems quite out of sorts with it, but he's also limping. His hip really seems to be bothering him more and more. While it seems as though Cena will go until he can no longer go, and that's because it's the type of person he is, and he loves what he does, the WWE and the fans, it appears as though his time in the ring is getting shorter. But who else has been at the top of their game in the WWE for thirteen years straight through? No one, and Cena would be good to remember that when he looks to his future.
I have to admit that Rusev impressed me with how delicate he was with Cena's body. The way Cena was slammed to the ramp, and then the way he stomped Cena. It looked decently, but looking at it really closely, Rusev barely ruffled Cena's shirt. And the eye poke looked great, even though I'm sure he was nowhere near Cena's eye. I think Rusev is really underrated, and all because he's been pushed like Goldberg, who really didn't have the ring skills to match his look.
Oh, and Rusev was great at working on the fly with the fans and their ("What?"). Too many wrestlers don't know how to handle it when the fans don't act the way they're expected to (Orton), or just talk louder over their reaction (Henry), so it's nice to see a younger wrestler work the fans well, all the while staying in character.
Ziggler vs Wyatt > A-
These two left it all out there, and hit some amazing moves in that ring. They worked it hard and hit some moves that left me breathless, all the while working their characters, and telling a story. This was a jewel of a match nestled into the middle of the show. The fans were so into this match that they added a lot to it for those watching at home, and pushed the wrestlers to work that much harder. Ziggler's DDT, famouser, and superkick were fantastic! Wyatt's back bend in the corner was above and beyond, as was his Sister Abigail. Then there's the way they worked so hard back and forth, it was amazing, and shows that maybe they should have a feud in the spring, or maybe the summer going into SummerSlam?
Winner – Wyatt (11:43)
Video > A
I loved Junkyard Dog, and think the WWE did a lovely video for him
In Ring Segment A-&D-
If you haven't watched Paul Heyman's 'Breaking News' segment on the WWE Network for Brian Williams was just fantastic, and this expanded on that segment. Heyman has a golden tongue, and is amazing 99% of the time. This was one of his best moments in a very long time. He talked up Brock, and down Bryan and Reigns, all the while sounding magnanimous about it.
Hey, Brock remembered his strap! Sorry, he will never live that down in my eyes. The more older WWE I watch, the more lacking Brock Lesnar of today seems to be. He stood there, didn't say anything, didn't do anything other than collect a paycheck.
Stardust & Goldust vs A New Day > B-
A New Day was just there to give the Dusts a basis to continue their storyline. While A New Day are interesting together, they need to do something to make them more than enhancement workers. I know it's the Road to WrestleMania, but too many wrestlers are getting quite ignored right now.
On the other hand, the Rhodes brothers are not being ignored, and their storyline is progressing quite well. I find their issues quite compelling to watch, as much while they're in the ring as when they're backstage. They can sell emotion through all that paint, and that takes serious talent.
Winner – A New Day (1:37)
Backstage Segment > B
I know I'm being all girly, but Bryan is so cute when he's on mic, listening to the fans, even from backstage. He has this smile that says he's still in shock at how they react to him. It's really adorable.
Then there's Reigns who seemed to turn himself around, and said he'd be there for Bryan as they have a mutual enemy in The Authority. We all knew it wasn't going to last, but Reigns sold it well.
Backstage Segment > B+
Okay, so he's so wrapped up in his Stardust character that he doesn't want to called Cody any longer, and Goldust just wants his brother back. I know it looked as though they were setting up the brothers fighting previously, then they changed Cody to Stardust. I have to admit that I feel a lot stronger about this storyline between the brothers, and look forward to their grudge match at WrestleMania. They're selling this so well, and leaving Goldust as the face, something I think is quite important right now.
In Ring Segment >A
I have so much to say about this segment! To start, Trip was fantastic on mic. He went out there and talked about being a part of the company that put WCW out of business, and that he never jumped ship, even though Trip was in WCW 1994-1995, and only left because he couldn't get pushed into singles competition. That was a bit of a slap to the rest of the Kliq, other than HBK, who did jump. Further, he's lucky he was able to stay with the WWE after the curtain call incident, but after all that, he ends up being one of the two slated to run the company in the future! I further liked how Trip talked about how Sting stayed away for 14 years, then only suddenly decided to take his shot, but as a coward would. Trip sold everything he said beautifully, and you believed that he believed what he was saying. That's the proof in the pudding of a great segment.
I loved what the WWE did with the lighting, and the crow cawing. Everything was orchestrated beautifully, and while some will complain that Sting wasn't actually there, I think that added to the whole thing, rather than take away from it. Trip was scared of the vision of something that looked like Sting, and didn't even need to be Sting. There's a long and beautiful history of fake wrestlers. Taker, Diesel, Razor, and Sting, have all been played by someone who isn't the actual wrestler for some storyline or another. That Trip just got a glimpse of someone who looked a little like Sting, and he threw himself back in shock and fear was great, and because of the history, they didn't need to get Sting in for this one little moment.
And then there's the graphics on the tron. They did a beautiful of creating the logo of the trees with Trip's King of King's face in the branches. Even the way the block letters at the top appeared worked wonderfully. But that they took that idea and made it work for Sting's face, and then added in 'I accept' made it that much greater. All of this, questions answered and a splendid show for the fans, and they didn't need to bring Sting in for it. I think that's smart, because the more he appears, the more he dilutes the excitement of Sting being on Raw. Yes, they will have to ramp it up a bit more in the coming weeks, as he will be at Fast Lane, and will have to appear at least once, if not more before WrestleMania, but to dilute it by showing Sting here when they could go old school with a fake, I thought it was brilliant.
Usos w/ Naomi vs Kidd & Cesaro w/ Nattie > B
When are we finally going to see the Divas get involved with their husbands in these matches? I know Nattie is face, and the storyline is that she's being treated like crap by Kidd, and Cesaro by extension, but when is she going to break out of her little hole and go heel with them? I know they're after the Usos TTCs, but the Usos will not be dropping until WrestleMania, because they should be Champs as they induct their father into the WWE Hall of Fame. Because of that, it seems like a natural for Nattie to join up with the guys and go heel, and it would be great to see some serious matches between the likes of Nattie and Naomi. If allowed to go at it, the way Nattie and Charlotte were in NXT, they could tear down the house for the WWE, and show that the Divas really do have the chops people claim they lost when Lita and Trish retired.
Much of this match didn't impress me, until right at the end when they really worked it back and forth between the four. There were some very interesting blocks and creative moves that blew me away. I know these four have it, and while I'm not thrilled that Cesaro is tagging with Kidd, if they keep up working like this with the Usos, I'll be more excited. It seems to me that they're finally getting to know each other in the ring, and it's showing in how their work is improving.
Winners – Kidd & Cesaro (10:08)
Video > A
I love Rikishi, and have never said anything otherwise. I hope Too Cool will be there to support their partner. I'd love to see them dance on the stage together, with the Usos. This was a lovely video, and I found Rikishi so endearing talking about his ass earning him notoriety.
Mizdow vs Sin Cara > B+
Sin Cara is playing enhancement talent, but it's nice to see him on Raw. Finally the feud between Miz and Sandow is coming to fruition, and I'm loving the storyline behind it. Both Miz and Sandow are playing things perfectly, and selling it in all they do. I have to say that it must feel sucky to Miz that most of the people he's worked with in some way have gone on to look better than him. JoMo didn't get there, but I blame Melina for that. But Miz was Bryan's pro in NXT. He had Alex Riley who's proving himself on mic. And now Sandow. While it has to feel good to help others, it has to suck to be the stepping stone for others to get well ahead of him.
I have to say that the majority of that grade is for the work between Miz and Sandow, and not the actual match, even though Sin Cara has been looking quite solid in the ring.
Winner – Sin Cara (3:57)
DEP > B-
While the setup for this segment was solid, and what I could hear of Wyatt really continued to push his possible feud with Taker, I had troubles hearing a lot of what he said. Wyatt has the it factor, and if Taker is up for this, I'm excited, but Wyatt needs elocution and diction lessons in a huge way. I have to admit that I'm really annoyed by this. Wyatt is so good, has so many things going for him, but when you cannot understand half of his promo, there's a serious issue.
Ambrose vs Axel > B
I'm loving petulant Axel on mic. He's struggling to find his place, and all these complaints about the Royal Rumble Match, and how he could have won it, I am really liking it. He's finally showing some chops. What I'm not liking is that Ambrose has such little direction in the WWE right now that he's working opposite Axel! Further, the work is quickly over.
Having BNB backstage, never where Ambrose can get his hands on him, makes me wonder if they know Barrett is snake bit and they're trying to keep him safe from Ambrose until they're finally in the ring together at Fast Lane, and that's where Barrett can risk injury again. Honestly, I'll be shocked if their match doesn't end in injury, or BNB weaseling out of it so they continue to WrestleMania. If that's the case, I hope WrestleMania 32 will be better for Ambrose.
Winner – Ambrose (2:30)
Reigns & Bryan vs Rollins & Kane & Big Show & J&J Security > A-
I wasn't at all surprised with the start of this match, as it makes perfect sense to take Reigns out of the match and then beat the heck out of Bryan, who pulls more miracles out of his tuchus than anyone should be able to. It's just the way it is, so you work with what you know. What wasn't expected was the cavalry. While I didn't see it coming, it made perfect sense. Who better than the three fired by The Authority to come to the aid of Bryan and Reigns?
The timing of this match was perfect, and worked wonderfully, but I have to admit that Noble and Mercury taking the "YES!" kicks again, like they did previously, was a bit predictable. Now, Mercury sold those kicks like few others I've ever seen, and I was blown away by his work. I wasn't ever a big Mercury fan, but loved Noble, but in these matches with Bryan, I'm really loving Mercury a lot more than Noble. The double missile drop kick from Bryan is a beautiful move that I cannot am impressed each time I see it, but I feel that about Bryan most of the time.
The ending of this match is what made it so exciting, and continued to tell the story. Between Trip and Steph watching it on the monitor backstage to how Reigns stole the tag from Bryan in a really gruff way, and stole the win of the match. Reigns took a bump from Bryan in the opening match, and Bryan took a bump from Reigns in the ending match. It all ties together neatly, and continues to build the Road to WrestleMania, making it more interesting than just someone winning the Royal Rumble Match. Characters are evolving, the story is changing, and we're all leaning in a little closer to see what will happen next. Isn't that exactly what the WWE should be doing with every show, every storyline, every feud, every character?
Winners – Bryan & Reigns (7:38)
I was doing so well keeping up with the Raw Results, then Rollins' pics came flying out to the Internet and it all fell apart for me. I'm very proud of Jesse for taking the news and running with it, getting it posted on WNW when it was fresh, only minutes into the pics starting to circulate. I was so shocked by it all that I will admit that I had to go look. I'm not going to say anything about the actual pics, because it's not my place to judge what I saw, but I will say that after what happened to him, I hope people think twice about sharing passwords, and taking pics that they don't want the world to see. While I'm worried that this will hurt Rollins' career in some way, and think that if this hadn't been the Road to WrestleMania it could have been much worse for him, even though he's being groomed to be a top guy in the WWE. Fingers crossed that what we saw was the end of it.
Queen of WNW