How to go from A+ to F- in three hours! Bravo WWE for completely screwing up eight weeks of build to the WWE WHC main event at WrestleMania. So much of this episode of Raw had so much greatness, and so much crap. The mix should build for a solid WrestleMania, but I worry that after some of the things we saw last night, WrestleMania won't live up to even a B+ no-name PPV.
In Ring Segment > A+
What an epic start to Raw! Cole said it was 14 years after WWE bought out WCW, and it was three days shy of the final episode of Nitro – March 26, 2001. Sting, on mic, doing what he does so wonderfully, and saying all the right things. I'm so happy that he said, "And yes, I may be the last soldier standing for some forgotten war, I'm not here to fight for WCW, that would be ridiculous at this point." He was short, sweet, and to the point, not at all drawn out, something that would absolutely kill who Sting is, and what he's created, and recreated since joining the WWE.
Further, I loved the interaction between Steph and Sting. They worked beautifully together, and because Sting's career isn't dependent on the McMahon family, he was able to block and grab Steph more realistically than many other Superstars would dare do. While Steph might have been rubbing her arm after she left the ring, she wasn't really rubbing where Sting had grabbed her, that tells me that Sting made it look great, but didn't at all leave any memory of his hand holding her arm. That's a professional in a way few are these days.
I commented on Sting not having his famous black bat in his hand as he came to the ring, but I forgot how great Sting was at concealing his bat within his coat. Knowing Trip would be involved in some way, it made sense for Sting to bring his famous bat, but I have to admit that the look on Steph's face when she came up from next to the apron with the sledge in her hand, she about stole the segment. But then Sting took it right back from them with the bat in hand. This was an absolutely perfect segment to start the go-home to WrestleMania, I just wish the show ended half as well.
I have to make one last comment about Steph, and what she was wearing. I love the dress she had on, so much so that I bought one almost identical to it last week, though I know mine was much less expensive. I thought the dress looked great on her, and in LA it makes sense to wear sandals, but medium brown sandals with a black dress? I think she should have worn a splash of color, not mixing neutrals which looks dated on her. Thanks for understanding my fashion issues, as I never achieved my dream of working for the WWE creating ring gear and making some of these decisions, due to my health. That's one of the reasons I love my job at WNW, and WWENews so much.
Harper & Stardust vs R-Truth & Ambrose > B+
This was a solid match, but not as much as I'd hoped for going into WrestleMania, and I know why I have this issue. R-Truth is really the weakest link of this chain, and while he's entertaining on mic, and action, his ring work just isn't what it used to be. He's added a lot to this storyline, but not to the actual ring work. I don't expect him to take away from the Ladder Match at WrestleMania, but he took away from this match for me. Also, R-Truth's been the one on announce lately, and Barrett just doesn't have the same spark that R-Truth does.
I'm not saying this match was bad, in fact some of the moves brought an actual smile to my face. It seems like it's been years since we saw Hardcore Holly in the WWE – June 28, 2008 was the last we saw of him – but Stardust's Alabama Slam really brought me back to that time. Yes, Nikki Bella hits the same move, but I remember Cody and Holly running together, and how even then I knew Cody was going to be something huge if given the right push.
As always, Ambrose was insanely good in this match, and should be so far ahead of where he's working right now, but not everyone who should be at the top are at the top at all times. Look at Cena! Oh, I have to say that while Ambrose was cute after the match, he dances like a white boy.
Winners – Ambrose & R-Truth (10:42)
Stage Segment > A+
I love that the WWE is working with Special Olympics, and Renee is so endearing that she's the perfect person to announce this segment. It had to be very cool for those kids to be on the stage during WWE Raw.
Video > B
I know that I'm going to sound biased here, but I thought Reigns was better than Brock was in this same spot last week. Reigns really seems to have found his groove on mic, and while he's not as charismatic as Rocky, he's still really strong, and so much better than a lot of guys who have made it to the top. He will grow into his character, gather more charisma, and will really shine. Some will say that makes him not ready, but a lot of wrestlers got their first top Championship before many fans thought they were ready, and some of them turned into some of the biggest Champions in the world. Yes, others, Swagger and Sheamus, to name two of late, never reached the heights expected of them, but then there's others who never make it who should have been top guys, like Piper. You never can tell, and if it means getting the strap off Brock, and getting him the heck out of the WWE, I'm all for Roman Reigns to be Champion!
Announce Segments > F
I normally don't comment on announce segments, but I need to get this off my chest! The way the WWE is trashing those who pay for the PPV and not buy the WWE Network really pisses me off. Living in Maine, I have friends who are still on dial up, because they live so far out that there's really no decent internet service to their homes yet. Now, if those people were wrestling fans and wanted to watch WrestleMania, they'd have to buy the PPV at full price. I normally keep things clean here, but I really think it's rather horrible how the announcers keep shitting on the people who don't have a choice about how to watch a PPV. They will get there, but the whole world isn't on fiber optics, and not everyone has a device to play the WWE Network on. Honestly, much of the time I watch the Network on my phone, and then hook up my old laptop to my TV to watch PPVs so that my daughters can watch with me. I'm just over the way the WWE is trashing fans who have limitations on how they watch PPVs.
Video > A
I love Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, but this took the cake! Selling their latest movie and trashing Miz in the process was wonderful! I still feel as though they've pushed the Mizdow thing too far and lost much of what they could have done with it, but I'm hoping it's salvageable in some way.
10 Man Tag Team Match > B+
I really enjoyed Bill Simmons on announce. He made the match much more enjoyable than JBL's made things. He's quick, knows what he's talking about, and quite entertaining. I wish he'd been on announce for more than just one match.
I really enjoyed seeing some of these guys in the ring, some we haven't seen much of in a while. I will have to completely rewrite my Tag Title Match predictions for WrestleMania, but seeing that Prime Time Players are back together, I have to wonder why they're in the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, and not the Tag Team Championship Match at WrestleMania. Either way, it was great to see Young looking so strong in the ring, even if his partner still makes me nervous.
But then there's Viktor and Konnor who still look like train wrecks in the ring. I honestly wonder why they're still on the main roster with how badly they've bombed! Ryder worked well, but still just doesn't do it for me in the ring. And then there's Rose. I was hoping the Rosebuds would be out there as I was trying to spot someone a good friend of mine mentioned might be on the show, and where better to put local wrestlers from the dark match than in as a Rosebud? But the Rosebuds weren't there, so shouldn't Rose have really been showing off how great he truly is in the ring? We know he's better than the joke he's been cast as, so when better to show it off than when he's Rosebudless?
Honestly, the whole heel team was a mess – other than Mizdow, who wasn't allowed to really work – and it was Ryback who carried his team (even with Rowan, one of my faves), the only one the fans really wanted to see. Going on this match, you'd think Ryback would have a great chance to win the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, and it would make sense, as he's over like Rover, but I don't think it will be him this year. I do hope they find the right roles for Rowan and Ryback after WrestleMania, as it's a great time to play with feuds and wrestlers who got lost in the WrestleMania shuffle.
Winners – PTP, Ryder, Rowan & Ryback (5:46)
Video > A
I loved this video about giving back, and how there's a hero in all of us. Honestly, during Raw last night, I was in serious pain, not sure how I was going to get through Raw, never mind this whole WrestleMania week with all the articles I feel I need to get out on WNW and WWENews. I have that admit that while it sounded corny, this little video picked me up a bit and pushed me along through Raw. I'm still struggling through the pain, but most of my Predicts are done (was done until I realized I have to change the TTC Match), more than half of my US Championship Match article is done, and I have the drive to get my last article out. This video was perfectly timed, and so well executed that I had to mention it, and give it this solid grade.
Orton vs Rollins & J&J Security > B+
Of course it was going to be Rollins and J&J Security to face Orton. And, of course, it was going to be Orton coming out on top when Rollins wouldn't get involved in this match. All that being said, that everything that happened here was expected, it's exactly what we wanted to see these four do going into WrestleMania. Sometimes the thing we want to see is exactly what we need to see to help the storyline along. I'm so excited for this match at WrestleMania, and hope they do it justice, as both these wrestlers need it to be great moving forward.
Winner – Orton (3:18)
Video > C
Cena went back to being the cliché and boring mess he's been for way too long. Cena needs to elevate, change, do something to be something different. The fans actually popped for Cena getting a bit evil, and that's all he needs. He doesn't need to go all out heel, just evolve, as he had seemed to be doing, but then slid right back to what is comfortable and easy.
Backstage Segment > B+
This was better mic work from the Divas than we've seen in quite a while, and that's because the Bellas are so epically bad on mic. AJ is the great crazy chick (it was Punk who said, you gotta love a crazy chick, then married her), and Paige is fantastic at being anti-establishment, pushing the rules, doing what she wants. Put them together and they can be great, or they can fight like beta fish. This was the perfect way to put issues between the two going into WrestleMania. Just from this, we knew there would be issues in the match, no matter who faced Nikki. It's so nice to see storylines that makes sense, and work well with solid people on mic. Finally the Divas are not being led by the Bellas on mic, and the Divas Division is so much better because of it.
Divas Championship Match – Nikki (c) w/ Brie vs Paige w/ AJ > B+
The Bellas have really been stepping up their games in the ring, specifically Nikki. Do I think she should be Divas Champion? Probably not, but it doesn't mean she shouldn't be. The Bellas have their fans, and should, as they've continued to prove that they're students of the game, not just pretty faces and sexy curves. I've been called out recently by a former WWENews writer for being anti-Bellas, when in reality, I'm pro-Divas Division. There's others that are better ring technicians, and I feel that the Divas Championship should be contended more often, but there's better ring technicians, and I feel the WWE WHC should be contended more – so it's a constant battle in the WWE to please the fans and please the top talent who have contracts deciding who should be Champion and for how long, along with how much they're getting paid. The Bellas are shrewd businesswomen, and should be recognized for that, as well as how they've grown in the ring.
Paige and AJ had to have issues by the end of this match, and I thought they did a solid job of creating that. They're both hotheads, and really worked that here. Leaves us wondering what's going to happen at WrestleMania in the Divas Match.
Many of the moves in this match were really solid. Maybe I should have given it an A-, but I've been so burnt by the Divas Division over the past couple years that I'm wary to give it as much of my heart as I did when Lita, Trish, Victoria, Molly, and Chyna were in the WWE. I quite enjoyed this match and the actual ring work involved, but I'm holding tight until this is a regular thing on Raw, and we see more than these four Divas working it hard on a regular basis.
Winner – Nikki
In Ring Segment > B+
Against my better judgment, I had to give this a solid grade. First off, I loved how Hogan talked about what Axel was smoking, and how Snoop Dogg would know. I'm sure it's a throwback to Wiz being stoned off his ass when he was on Raw, but coming from Hogan, I was almost on the floor laughing. Hogan, while admitting to having used steroids back in the 70s, has really loosened up on vitamins and prayers talking like that.
I loved seeing Axelmania and Hulkamania in the ring together last night. They sold it really well, and made it look realistic. I love Axel right now, and I hope they continue pushing him in this way, because he's finally showing that he has personality and charisma, something I'd wondered might have missed his DNA coming from his father.
But quite possibly the best moment of it all was Snoop Dogg throwing off his shirt to show his scrawny arms and body in that snipped Hulkamania shirt, and posing with Hogan. That had to be so much fun for Snoop Dogg, and I'm impressed with his self esteem that he had no problems showing off next to someone with such a built body. I love that #SnoopMania was trending after this.
Los Matadores & El Torito vs Kidd & Cesaro & Nattie > > D
What a Kerfuffle! This match is a throwback to the Attitude Era, and was much of what was bad about the AE. While everyone in this match sold it as well as they could, seeing Nattie, one of the best in-ring technicians in the Divas Division, working against El Torito as a joke, really burns my biscuits. She is so much better than this, looked fantastic going out there, but then made into a complete joke. She even caught more crap from Kidd for it. The whole thing just reeks of the exact opposite of awesomeness!
I will admit that some of the work in this short match was strong, but it was so overshadowed by the crap in this match. Not the best way to be setting up for their WrestleMania match.
Winners – Los Matadores & El Torito (4:15)
Backstage Segment > B+
Barrett really has been crapped upon since he won the IC Championship. Between the way he's lost most of his matches, has rarely had possession of his IC Championship belt, and the way he's been made a fool of through it all, he's been a total joke. Then, watching Kane belittle Barrett the way he did in this segment was the icing on the cupcake. I loved it. Kane's top lip quiver as he spoke down to Barrett was fantastic, and not something he could have done from behind his mask, but I still think Kane needs to go back to who he once was.
What I didn't understand was why they needed the IC Championship belt for this match when they didn't use it for the earlier Tag Team Match when Barrett was on announce. It's little inconsistencies that drive me absolutely batty! Plot holes people! And they could be avoided if the scripts and storylines had been created and polished well before the night of the show. It's a serious issue within the WWE, and something they need to fix before they continue alienating fans.
Rusev vs Swagger > B
Swagger looked stronger than ever in this match against Rusev, and I have an issue with that. If Rusev is getting weaker in the ring, then of course Cena will be able to beat him. They needed this to be another squash match to continue making Rusev look strong, and make him tapping out to the STF look like a fluke. I think the tapping out, and Swagger looking so strong here, are serious flaws in the storyline. Further, these flaws are popping up too close to WrestleMania, and giving the fans that much more reason to be disgruntled.
Rusev made up for some of this in the way he beat down Cena outside the ring. Rusev looked strong, too strong, for Cena to possibly beat at WrestleMania, and that's what we needed to see heading toward Sunday. My biggest worry is that Cena will make easy work of Rusev at WrestleMania, and everything built will be destroyed. Further, they need to get Lana to the ring with Rusev at WrestleMania, as the fans might riot without her there. I know she's filming a movie with Edge, but the chants for Lana are showing why the fans really care about Rusev, and she'd better be there for the eye candy on Sunday. If she cannot take those couple hours to be there, then someone really screwed up. It's Wrestle-bloody-Mania!
Winner – Rusev (4:36)
In Ring Segment > B+
I wanted more from this segment. It felt as though Wyatt was being held back, not allowed to go full out. The thunder claps and lightning flashes were perfectly executed, hit and flashed at the perfect moments, but it wasn't enough. The build for this match at WrestleMania had a lot more supernatural aspects, and big moments, but they didn't do them here, when they absolutely should have. Now, I know the ending was the big moment to it all, and Wyatt posing on one knee, hand extended, and it was unnerving and almost not cool, but it wasn't enough. There felt as though there was one piece missing to the whole equation. I cannot put my finger on what it was, possibly the urn, but I'm not sure. It just needed more to make me completely sure I am going to tune in to WrestleMania. Yes, we all know I will be tuning in, I'll be working the Open Thread Discussion, and even if I wasn't, I would be watching WrestleMania, but I still feel that they should have done more with this segment to seal the deal.
Hall of Fame Video > A+
I'm so excited that Kevin Nash will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. We've all read on WNW that McMahon wanted Nash to grow out his hair, dye it black, and be inducted into the WWE HOF as Diesel. Nash wanted none of this. The one time I met Nash I said that while I loved his long hair (lighter color) when he was in WCW, but thought he looked great with it short and naturally gray. Nash told me that it was terribly difficult for him to keep up with dying his hair black when he played Diesel, because his hair grows so fast. He had to have his hair dyed weekly and was a terrible pain. He went on to say that this is how he's meant to look at this point in his life, and it feels right. I really respected Nash for his openness about his personal feelings toward his hair, and that he enjoys being a gray haired older man. I told him that he looks sexy, no matter what his hair looks like, but the silver fox look really works on him.
While this video showed a lot of Nash as Diesel, and Stacy and I were talking about it through the video, they did focus quite a bit on his time in WCW as nWo. The video was fantastic, and seemed quite a bit longer than other videos, but I'm going to chalk that up to them having tons of great video of Nash. Okay, the fact that he's one of Trip's besties couldn't have hurt either!
Backstage Segment > B
While I wanted to be annoyed by this, I had to laugh. They did a solid job of doing a DX-esque bit, pushing BK chicken fries. It was a cheap plug, and I thought they both handled it quite well, and were cute doing it. When they were on the sofa together, they really came across as an adorable married couple, something they rarely show on WWE TV. And who hasn't spoken to their food at one point or another?
Bryan vs Ziggler > A-
While Ambrose does make the most sense, I really wanted to see Stardust as the Special Guest Ref. Could you imagine Stardust as a Special Guest Ref? It could be fantastically farcical! Ambrose was really great, and what this match needed, but I voted for Stardust for just how great it could have been.
Speaking about what could have been, looking at Bryan and Ziggler in the ring together shows us just how greatly the WWE dropped the ball by not putting these two in a face vs face singles match at WrestleMania. I know why they didn't do it, but the fans would have loved it. And that reason why? You know these two would have stolen the show, taken a lot of the focus off Brock vs Reigns, Cena vs Rusev, and who knows how many other matches. Yes, they could have the chance at stealing the show in the IC Championship Ladder Match, but not as much as they could have in a singles match. At least with the match they're in, there's five other wrestlers to balance out their greatness. Not saying that some of the others in this match are not great, and won't be WWE WHC at some point – Ambrose, Stardust, Harper – it's these two who the fans are so heavily behind right now. Okay, Ambrose has the fans as deeply absorbed, and a Triple Threat Match between these three (Bryan, Ziggler and Ambrose) would be EPIC!
I'm getting off track here. This match was really great, and because the wrestlers in this match are so great, even the mistakes were easily covered and made to look solid. I'm speaking specifically of the time Bryan rolled up Ziggler for two, and Ambrose was slow getting there for the count, but all three made it work. That shows just how great they all are together – if the dueling chants hadn't shown what love the fans have for these guys.
I'll admit I was shocked that Ziggler got the win here, but Bryan cannot always win, and shouldn't always win. That's what's making the match they're going into so much more interesting and exciting.
What went down in the ring after this match was over only whetted our appetites for what's to come on Sunday, and that's what a go-home Raw should do. This is exactly what we needed to see on this episode of Raw to bring us in that much closer, to make us want to see WrestleMania that much more. It used to be that each show was a way to build toward the next PPV, but we've lost some of that with the WWE Network. The WWE really seems to have lost some of that push, but this storyline, and these wrestlers have built and created something solid and fresh heading into their big WrestleMania match, and should all be applauded for the way they started slow, created, built brick upon brick, bringing us to the fury of all they did here, leasing to the crescendo at WrestleMania. This is how things should be done!
Winner – Ziggler (10:52)
Backstage Segment > A
Simple, to the point, and really gave the fans a perfect moment as they were heading into the main event segment of the night. The segment that should make everyone want to watch WrestleMania!
In Ring Segment > F-
Richard is always the diplomat when posting about segments on WWE TV. Saying that this segment felt very $9.99, and that it's not a good thing, was very kind, and much kinder than I will be here.
First, I'm going to give Heyman props for his mic work. His "Yak, yak, yak..." worked really well for what it was doing, and the way he talked up the match that's to be the main event at WrestleMania, but then he fell into the same rhetoric that he doesn't even seem to believe at this point. Heyman's been charged with carrying a man who should be stepping up and doing his own damn work, not relying on a 49 year old man who rarely takes a bump, and while an undeniable genius, there's only so much Heyman can do when he's fronting for a money hungry whiner who cannot be bothered to do anything to get himself over. Brock does nothing but stand there, try to look menacing, and smirk at certain times, and, at this point, I'm so over it. That the fans were luke warm, giving Heyman a little pop, shows just how over we are with this mess.
At least Reigns got some reaction with pop on his way to the ring, and heat once he got there, but all in all, the fans were not at all impressed, or even cared about this segment. Putting it after Bryan vs Ziggler, something the fans really wanted to see at WrestleMania, could have been the worst place on the Raw card to put this segment. More booking on the fly that screws up everything.
Reigns was solid on mic, continuing to grow, but at that point, everything was over, the fans didn't much care. Everything had been said, they did all the could since Juno when Raw was snowed out, built all the could for for this main event; then with one really stupid move, eight weeks of building, layer upon layer, all the work done by Heyman and Reigns, was completely destroyed. Most people say it's nine weeks of work, but I think it was eight weeks, because it was at the Juno Raw that Heyman started talking about the Anoa'i family, how Brock defeated Rock at SummerSlam 2002 for the WWE WHC. Heyman started making it into more than the WWE is pushing this one guy and the fans are not sure about him, into a storyline that makes a lot of sense, and is truly viable. Yes, there's things they could have done with this build to help it more, things they really dropped the ball with; like bringing Rocky back in, even if for just a taped moment here or there, or having Brock actually show up and do more than just smirk and try to look like he gives a flying fig. There's a number of things they could have done beyond having Heyman and Reigns carry this whole thing through mic work alone, but they didn't.
Further, the last moments of Raw threw everything strong and vicious in these two men out the window, and made them look like childish fools. Reigns grabbing the strap from Brock who was mocking him with it worked really well for me. But then when Brock grabbed at the strap and they both pulled on it, struggled for it, they looked daft. Brock turned purple he was exerting so much energy holding onto the WWE WHC, trying to pull it from Reigns. Reigns was exerting just as much. Rather than throw some punches, make it look at all realistic, they stood there and pulled on the strap like two little boys fighting over a toy they both want. How to kill your WrestleMania main event! Proof that booking on the fly can destroy everything, and they did just that. The WWE royally fucked up in three seconds what they've taken years to build, and 8 weeks to lay out for the fans. Bravo WWE!
After Raw last night Jesse told me a couple of very interesting stats about Rollins and his MITB case. As of April 6th, Rollins will be the longest MITB case holder. Edge cashed in after 280 days. April 6th will be day 281. As of last night on Raw, Rollins passed Ziggler for #2 longest holder of a MITB case. Hearing all of this, I truly hope that Rollins doesn't cash in at WrestleMania. Okay, I have more than one reason why I don't want Rollins to cash in at WrestleMania, or the next night, but I still think it would be great for Rollins to hold the case longer, possibly much longer, heading closer to the MITB PPV. I think it would put an extra interesting spin on things. People expect everyone to cash in ASAP, but that he hasn't could continue adding to his character, and something that extends through the years of his career.
Queen of WNW