This episode of Raw was both good and bad, but I'm not sure the great moments outweigh the issues going on within the WWE with creative direction and storylines. It's not like they don't have greatness on their roster, they have a lot of guys on their way up, but the creative just isn't there. Heck, the WWE WHC isn't there either, and that's more than hurting them. That Cena actually said if Rowan, Ryback and Ziggler were not rehired, and he won at Royal Rumble, he'd be taking the WWE WHC and go home with it, effectively taking the biggest prize in the WWE off TV. What the heck, that's exactly what Brock Lesnar did for a big chunk of 2014! That whole thing turned me off from Raw early in the show, and it took a lot to get me back to where I was loving certain points through the night. Read on to see what Seth and I thought of Raw this week.
In Ring Segment > C
Everyone complains about The Authority doing all these horrible things to people they 'don't like.' Everyone complained about the McMahon/Helmsley Era when Trip and Steph did all they did to whoever they 'didn't like' at the time. Yet, it seems as though few people got pissy when McMahon did all those horrible things to people he 'didn't like' through all of his incarnations as Evil Mr. McMahon. Honestly, I don't get this. Being an evil jerk to everyone who disagrees with you is a raunchy thing to do, no matter who you are, or who you're doing it to. All that being said, things always seem to run better with a bad guy in control in some way. As much as I love Teddy Long, and some of hit tag matches were great, because it got more guys on TV, so more guys got TV bonuses, and I'm all for that. It's just been proven that the better storylines come from heels in charge. That being said, Steph and Trip are both great heels. I'm not thrilled with all they do, but I would rather have them in charge than Brad Maddox!
Okay, the #AuthoritySucks was juvenile, but I'll admit to doing it. I didn't look to see what the numbers behind it were, but it was fun to get it off my chest. But back to the juvenile thing, that's the best word to describe Cena's character, and his promos. I'm so overly bored by him and his kicked puppy routine. I know I've said it over and over, I don't want Cena to turn heel, but I do want him to grow a set.
Lumberjack Match – John Cena vs Seth Rollins > B-
Shocker, a Lumberjack Match. Woohoo! There was no way Cena was going to win this match. I will say that Rollins played his character beautifully. I liked Rollins in ROH, enjoyed him in The Shield, but he's taken all he does – character building, staying in character, taking his character to a whole new level, his mic work, and his ring work – to a level that is so beyond what we ever saw from him, and proving that he really is a top guy for the WWE. For me, it was watching Rollins that made this match bearable. Cena continued his kicked puppy feel here, but Rollins really sold his character, and even brought it to a whole new level. The future of the WWE? I have no trouble agreeing with that.
Winner – Rollins (14:07)
Backstage Segment > C
All that I said about Steph earlier, I thought she really dropped the ball with this segment. While some of her lines were solid, they were rather flat on delivery. I love Steph, but it was only Ambrose who saved this segment, and he didn't really say anything. Then again, Ambrose is always so physically expressive that he's a joy to watch, even when he's not the focus of the segment.
Backstage Segment > D+
Like Ambrose, Mizdow is a joy to watch, even when he's not supposed to be the focus of a segment. Then again, Mizdow is usually the focus, even when Miz is talking. Sadly, Miz was talking in this segment and blew chunks all over the place. I'm so over Miz's big movie star character. It was cute when he was on Real World acting like he was a big wrestling star, but the more he does in the entertainment industry, the less I want to see of him. Miz's win against Cena at WrestleMania was the high of his career, sadly the fans have been paying for it ever since with Miz's mic work and figure 4 leg locks. It's more than time these two feud and give the fans what we want. Okay, Royal Rumble makes the most sense for it to start, I'm just so annoyed with Miz speaking!
Backstage Segment > B+
Ambrose zoning in on that clock, I really didn't know what might happen from there. He almost seemed to be hypnotized by it, so I expected fun to follow, I really didn't expect what we got.
A New Day vs Cesaro & Kidd w/ Rose & Nattie > C-
Some might think that I've suddenly started grading a lot harder, but I don't think so. This match wasn't very good, and I think I'm going light on it. Kofi botched a couple times, Kidd didn't look great, Woods really didn't get much work in this match, and Cesaro is being dragged down by being in a tag team, but not going after the TTC. Even some of the biggest names have been part of tag teams, but those teams usually end up being champs pretty quickly, and then end up feuding quickly after. This is not a good spot for Cesaro, and will only continue to hurt him long term. I completely disagree that it's Cesaro's problem that he's not connecting. Just when he's starting to connect in some way, they drastically change his character, and he has to start from zero again. They're not letting him use who he is dialed up to 11, which would most likely get him over with the fans. I've been saying the same about Big E, and that's because he has a great personality, and a quirky sense of humor that I think the fans would love if they were exposed to it.
Winners – A New Day (3:47)
Video > A-
I love seeing the Superstars give Savage's catchphrases, especially Reigns who showed that much more of himself, and his personality. I thought it was a lovely tribute to Savage.
In Ring Segment > D&B
I don't know why they keep sending Big Show out there as this heel character to give these long monologues. The fans hate them, show their hate, and they really are downright boring. That's not the type of heat they really want their giant to be getting. Things really are not working for Big Show at this point, and if they want him to continue to be a believable character, they need to do something, and I mean something more than flip-flopping him back and forth from being heel and face every couple months.
Also, to what Big Show did on his debut in WCW at Halloween Havoc in 1995. Yes, he beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW Heavyweight Championship, but that was after some serious and strange monster truck craziness on the roof of a building, which ended in Big Show falling off the side of the building. They were on the 5th floor. This caused all sorts of issues within the building, as Tony Schiavone and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan argued on announce and stalled for way too minutes without a clue what was going on, or what was going to end up in the main event match. And this was a major PPV! From there Big Show ended up beating Hogan in the ring, but only after Jimmy Hart had a 'botched interference' and cost Hogan the match. The thing is that there was a 'clause in the contract' that made it so that the strap could change hands on DQ. Much craziness ensued in the weeks to follow, but what I'm saying here is that Big Show's revisionist history looks good now, but you really need to go back and watch Halloween Havoc 1995 to see how it all went down. I'll be doing that after this is finished.
Reigns really stole my heart with this segment. The look on his face when he said that he remembered Big Show winning the WCW Championship against Hogan, because he was all of 12. I just went to look, Reigns was closer to ten and a half. Gee, I don't feel old!
Further, Reigns was sweet, endearing, adorable, sexy, and the most important, Reigns was real in this segment. This is exactly what Reigns needs to do to get over with the fans. Yes, his story was a little long, and he stumbled a couple times, but he laughed off his mistakes and kept going. Further, Reigns' cadence matched his facial expressions, and body language, and that's something very telling. Too many performers forget inflection, or facial expressions, or body language. Too many wrestlers cannot play these things off completely, and because of that, they are not believable, Reigns was finally believable in this segment, and I'm thrilled for him. More of this, and I think Reigns could get where the WWE seem to be pushing him toward.
Harper vs Reigns > B+
I made one note during Raw, one thing that I wanted to make sure I didn't forget going into the RIB. That one note was to mention how hard these two men worked in this match, and that they worked this match as if they had something to prove. Of course, they do, because they're not the top guys in the company. That being said, it's nice to see that these two worked so hard, because coming off an Cena match, and that tag match with A New Day, I needed to see a couple of wrestlers really work their asses off for us, even through a rather lackluster episode of Raw. I wish it had been longer.
Winner – Reigns (10:19)
Backstage Segment > B-
Mizdow saved this segment in a huge way. I loved the way her really worked over Miz, made him uncomfortable, and questioning everything he knew about his life, and Mizdow.
Naomi vs Fox > B-
One arm tied behind her back, and she still looked better than more than half the Divas on the roster, and I'm no just talking about her physique! Naomi hit more, better, and safer moves than most the Divas do on a regular basis. Emphasis on safer, because she was in the ring with Fox, who only impresses upon me that she's more dangerous with less personality, and really should have gotten so much further than she has after seven years with the WWE. Heck, she's been with the company longer than Nattie has! The only reason I gave this the grade I did is for how well Naomi handled herself with her arm tied back. That girl is gold, and they're not cashing in.
Winner – Fox
Backstage Segment > A
Dean Ambrose has the ability to take chicken crap and turn it into chicken salad right now. You can give him some of the most ridiculous material...and here they did with him doing the picture analysis with a psychologist who corpsed by the end of that segment...but the way he delivered his words(even starting with Thursday as a rib) and then I lost my mind when he said Kane reminded him of toothpaste. Then it continued with Hacksaw and that old joke and then Steph at the end. The fact that he did the thumbs up for BOTH when he said it just put it over the top. I haven’t laughed this hard at something that is supposed to be funny in WWE programming since Team Hell No.
This was great.
In Ring Segment > B
Disneyfied? While Heyman is always good, and his edge of insanity in this segment worked well, I wasn't completely feeling it. Okay, Heyman was on, he hit all the right things, the 282 days, being in New Orleans, fantasy and reality, Rollins, Cena, and all the proof that he's one of the best managers ever (I said one of), and one of the biggest wrestling geniuses ever, but something huge really dragged him down. I'd say about 286lbs of dragging him down. I used to love Brock Lesnar, I knew he was going to be amazing for a very long time. He was a beast, exciting to watch – both in the ring, and expressively – and he had a fire in him that made me want to see more. Then he pussed out. Honestly, I am quite understanding about him hating it on the road, it was how Brock pussed out that pissed me off. Telling McMahon on Friday that WrestleMania would be his last match, that's just not professional! You don't do that shit! Follow all of that up with Brock living with a leaking gut for a year because he was more worried about fighting than taking care of his body. What little respect I did have for him at that point was gone.
Since Brock returned to the WWE, he's more than proven himself in the ring, but the rest of the time, it's obvious that he's only there for the paycheck, and doesn't really care about the show. Sometimes he smirks at the right times, but usually it's a vacant stare. When you have a show with guys like Ambrose, Reigns, and even Miz, and someone's face is dead fish, it's a glaring issue. Brock took so much away from this segment because he just doesn't care to put anything into the production other than ring work, and getting his paycheck. Gone is the fire Brock used to have, and I'm over it. We haven't seen the WHC on TV regularly in too long, and he's even been to the ring without it when he should have had it in hand. Brock doesn't bloody care, I really hope he leaves after WrestleMania!
Video > A-
Kane refusing to act like Savage was Korporate Kane's character, but I have to admit that it's more than time to mask him. Kane in a suit isn't really Kane, no matter how evil he is. Beyond that, this was another great video, showing respect for a true legend by today's Superstars.
Miz vs Jey > C-
It's gotten to the point that they're looking for anything to make these four interesting in the ring together, and playing tug-o-war with Miz and Mizdow just isn't enough to do it. Mizdow was cute, but even he wasn't enough for this one. They have entered the realm of Cena and Orton, it's time to move on!
Winner – Miz (2:09)
In Ring Segment > B
Bryan was getting the "YES!" "YES!" "YES!" but he wasn't getting the reaction he had been getting last year at this time. He really needed Steph out there with him to get the ball rolling again. We love Bryan, but he does need a career kick start again. Bryan is the man, and he had a really rough 2014, so I really hope his momentum hasn't been destroyed. I know Bryan can be right back at the top, it all depends on how he's booked, and how the fans react.
As I said, Steph really helped Bryan get over, and did a great job with her DX-esque cheap plug of her fitness DVD. It's at the top of my personal DVD need list. As soon as it was announced, I knew I wanted to check it out, but I loved the way Bryan wanted nothing to do with it!
But then things fell apart. I will say that Bryan really tried, but the ring rust was wrapped so thickly around his lumberjack body that he fumbled through most of his moves. I loves me some Bryan, as I've said over and over, but it was painful to watch him get caught up in the ropes in his first move, and land badly after barely touching Kane with his running drop kick. His suicide dive worked, but that was making sure he made it through the ropes, and that Kane was there to catch him. I know Bryan has been out for a long while, and he was bound to have ring rust, but it hurt to see. I'm just glad he's starting back in the ring with Kane, someone I trust to take care of Bryan.
Backstage Segment > B
I know I complained about Brock earlier, and he redeemed himself a bit here, but I still don't buy it. He had a good moment, and I loved the tension between him and Rollins, but Brock is great at tension. Even further than Rollins and Brock, who were strong, Heyman's eyes bugging out of his head, his hand between them the whole time, he added that much more to this segment. Honestly, I caught myself watching Heyman as I listened to the two wrestlers whip out the tape measure. I also have to say that this plays into what I've already written up for my Royal Rumble Predicts, but you will have to wait for WNW Predicts to be released.
Brie vs Paige > C-
Brie might be a lot better, but she still isn't in Paige's league. I want to see Paige in the ring with Naomi, and let them really show the fans what we want to see, yet the two were in matches with Divas who just cannot measure up to them.
The only reason I used to watch Total Divas was to see Bryan and Naomi. I'd stopped watching it, but with Paige on, I stepped back in, and I'm loving it. I love seeing Paige being herself, or as much as herself as we will get from a reality show, but I'm not sure how I feel about her being all buddy buddy with Nattie. They just don't seem of an ilk. The slap to Kidd was great, but even better was Nattie's reaction to it all. I just hope the friendship with Nattie doesn't kill Paige's character.
Winner – Brie (2:09)
Backstage Segment > F!
Normally I wouldn't comment on a segment with absolutely no talking, but I couldn't leave Cena looking forlorn and pensive. He looked like a kicked puppy, and because it was Cena and not an actual puppy, I actually wanted to kick him.
DEP! > B
Just not feeling Wyatt lately. He's not moving forward enough for my taste. I did like the way he talked about the souls falling in the Royal Rumble Match, and the caged animal will be set free. "Please, run!" was a great way to end this. Okay, it was better than we've seen from Wyatt lately, but I want to see more than him talk. Working against Ambrose is guaranteed money, but where is he going from here. Maybe I'm sounding harsh, but I really thought he'd be further along than he is by now.
Hall of Fame > A+
It's well past time Savage is being inducted into the WWE HOF. Hogan inducting him makes sense, I really hope Lanny does the acceptance. This video was beautiful, and I'm excited to see him inducted – finally. I also hope the real story comes out someday, but right now is time to celebrate the man. Make sure you keep checking WWENews.net, as there will be a number of Savage articles coming soon!
The Ascension vs Baba Ganoushes > F
Watching the start of Raw in 1993, a number of the matches were bigger names against nameless guys. I even saw Scotty 2 Hottie when he was Scott Taylor on one of the first episodes, and he got smeared across the mat by Bam Bam Bigelow. But they don't do it now, and they haven't done it in a long time. They're just making The Ascension look like idiots. I cannot believe I'm going to say this, but TNA did a better job with this when EC3 was beating up the two skinny guys from backstage each week! Further, The Ascension looked dang sloppy in the ring. You'd think they would want to look their best being called up to the main roster, but they're making asses of themselves.
Winner – The Ascension (2:09)
Backstage Segment > A
Corbet was good, I mean, the man was bright red and wailing, sobbing, on the sofa, but it was Ambrose that had me snorting and laughing so hard I had to stop the show a couple times to regroup. Ambrose is gold, in a totally different way from Rollins, but he is gold! Rock and Austin were huge stars at the same time, and very different men. Rollins and Ambrose are amazing for a whole new generation, and I'm thrilled to be a wrestling fan to see these two, and a couple others, come up and blossom into something amazing. If only the storytelling could keep up with these Superstars, then there would be no stopping them and the WWE.
In Ring Segment > C+
I'm thrilled we didn't hear about Putin this week, and that they focused on the issues at hand – Ryback and Royal Rumble Match – but it's time to move these two forward in some way. Yes, Lana's hair has changed a bit, and Rusev is talking more, but that's not character progression in my book. It's really time to move forward with them, but like too many others I've mentioned in this RIB, they're not progressing.
Ambrose vs Rusev > B+
I love that Ambrose looked so strong here. It put question to Rusev's undefeated streak. What I didn't like was Ambrose's 'knee injury' coming back from last week. Yes, it's great to carry through with things like that, but we are two weeks out from Royal Rumble, and that's not the time for anyone who is hugely pushing forward to be dealing with any injuries – fake or not. Like Reigns and Harper, these two left it out there for the fans. It was short, but they worked it hard, and not just the moves and the bumps, but with their characters within the match. I was more impressed by Rusev in this match than I have since the start, and that shows exactly who Ambrose is.
Winner – Rusev (4:30)
Contract Signing > A-
This came off so much better than I'd expected, or hoped. With Heyman and Rollins taking the lead, something I wasn't expecting at all, they shifted the whole dichotomy of the segment, and turned it into something new and fresh. The more I think about it, the more impressed I get. Be interesting to see if I scale up the grade from a B+ before I post this.
Normally it's Trip, Steph, and Cena out there spouting off. Yes, Trip and Steph got their shots in early, but Cena sat back until the end, and really let the wrestling genius and the young buck go at it verbally. That Rollins can hang with Heyman verbally is so impressive to me. He was good in ROH, and The Shield, as I said before, but this is a guy who is all of five months older than my daughter Ellie, and while she's grown and blossomed from someone who could barely speak to people she didn't know, to being willing to present herself and her creativity to anyone, but I can't imagine her stepping up to the equivalent of Heyman, in her industry, and throw down the way Rollins did here. Not just that, but to cut him off, then rip him down for doing the same, this was brilliant! There's been few times I wished ECW was still around, but Rollins would fit perfectly in a Heyman led and evolved ECW. Actually, I can rattle off at least a half-dozen younger guys in the WWE who would be sick in exactly what I said, a Heyman led and evolved ECW. Maybe watching Heyman being so open and honest with Joey Styles on the WWE Network has stuck in my craw, but I feel it in my bones. The problem is, that I'd want these young guys working with guys like Dreamer, Raven, the three major Dudley Boyz, Public Enemy, Eddie, Benoit, Malenko, Sabu, and even Taz. Okay, going off on a tangent, sorry!
The tension in this ring was sick! That made this segment so much more than the sum of its parts, and it was a thrill to watch. The back and forth between Heyman and Rollins was fantastic, and throwing Brock's accomplishments around was great, but Rollins was brilliant to remind everyone that Brock doesn't have Rollins' accomplishments. Brock worked hard, but with his size, it was pretty much there for him to take, Rollins is not a big guy for this industry, and he worked hard for everything he's accomplished, and that says a lot. Not to be a royal bitch, but I don't see Rollins ever stepping away from the industry as casually as Brock did.
Anyway, as I said, the mic work was great between Heyman and Rollins, and Brock really needed to talk, but he sure didn't say much, and he spent much of the segment with that same vacant stare on his face. My close friend Tracie always says that she has what she calls, 'resting bitch face,' because if she's not doing anything specific, her natural facial expression is really bitchy and unapproachable. I have since realized that I make strange facial expressions, no matter what I'm doing, and am quite often asked what is going on, because I make faces all the time (though CJ Blaze takes the prize for continually strange facial expressions). Brock, on the other hand, has 'resting vacant face.' It would work if he had 'resting bitch face,' but he really doesn't. Through almost this whole segment, Brock had 'resting vacant face,' as if he either didn't care what was going on around him, wasn't even tuned in to what was going on around him until Heyman handed him the mic, or he really doesn't give a crap about anything but the money, so why should he do anything but stand there like a vacant faced boulder.
Before I wrap up the RIB, I have to give Cena props for his mic work here. Yes, I spent the whole RIB verbally abusing Cena's character, and his lack of growth, and blah, blah, blah, but he actually hit it much harder here than he usually does. Or, more than he has lately. Cena used the word hell once, and ass twice, and he showed some serious passion. Further, this was short, hard, and to the point.
One last thing! While the bumps mostly looked good, and made total sense, Cena having to scurry around after hitting the mat, just so he could be in the ring spot to take the curb stomp really looked terrible. On the other hand, Brock made the carpet in the ring look like thick 70s shag, because his face went deep and hard in with the curb stomp he took. Brock actually had a bit of blood on his forehead after, but it just really impressed me how solid that curb stomp looked. I'm hoping for their match at Royal Rumble to be really hard hitting.
So much of this show was bad, but those shining moments were nothing short of beautiful. Ambrose was hysterical backstage, and great in the ring with Rusev. Reigns showed that he has a personality that will draw in the fans, and make us love him, and then worked hard with Harper. Then, that contract signing was very unique, and that's what made it a reason to watch it, if you haven't already. And yes, the contract signing also fell right into what I've already written up for my prediction for the WWE WHC at the Royal Rumble.
Queen of WNW