I was running late at the start of Raw, trying to eat a bowl of Cheerios and strawberries before the show started. I didn't make it, and, of course, they had to start the show with talking. I was typing one handed as I ate, and pausing the show to finish eating. Sam, sitting next to me, said, "That shirt is so tacky." I asked if she meant Cena's? She said she did. Both the white and black versions are really tacky. It's like he knew he was going to be US Champion, so he had it made. I reminded her that it was the WWE who made up the shirts, and they did know that he was going to be US Champion. She said she knew that, but looking at it all as if it wasn't already written, it looks tacky. Now, Sam has impressed me with how she doesn't believe much she sees in the WWE, and it's because she's been living with me through her formative years, but she can still look at things as if she doesn't know Lana and Rusev are not living together, Ambrose and Renee are not dating, and that things like R-Truth not knowing he wasn't in the MITBLM are actually true. She has such a great way of looking at the characters, the wrestling, the relationships, and the shows, and won't let them get away with anything. While she is still young enough to like Cena much of the time, she won't let him get away with things like stupid shirts, and I think she still likes Cena Sr. better, because he's accessible, and someone she's talked to in person a couple times. I think he's truly more real to her for that reason.
The post show segment of the RIB has been taken over by Jesse Sherwood this week. If nothing else, please read what he's written, it shows both the ego and the heart behind the scenes in the WWE.
In Ring Segment > B-
I don't know if it's because nothing will compare to WrestleMania XXX, but those fans were not at all impressed with Cena starting Raw. They sang with Cena's music, but beyond that, they didn't give a flying fig. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't thrilled either, but was a bit shocked at how dead the fans were for this. They started warming up when Owens came out, but even then, not as much as I would have expected.
I did like that Owens and Cena had more back and forth interaction here, though I did think they both got a big monologue-y, but it happens. Owens calling Cena delusional, and continuing to go back to that word was well executed. Owens is a creative breath of fresh air for the WWE, and can add a lot to the roster going forward, no matter who is bent out of shape over him being pushed up to WWE TV.
I loved that Neville came out, and how he handled being on mic. We've heard very little from Neville, but when we do, his soft spoken way says a lot more than if he was either loud and brash, or silly and goofy. He feels very real, and that's something we need more of in the WWE – and luckily are with the likes of Reigns and Ziggler.
NXT Championship Match – Kevin Owens (c) vs Neville > B
Not sure how you will like this, but I have to go with my heart. I was expecting a fantastic NXT match from these two, instead they gave us a slowed down sterilized version of what we could have seen from them. It was as if McMahon took all that was great about Neville, Owens, and NXT, and scrubbed it away to make a match for the casual WWE fan. The problem being is that more and more fans are tuning in to see these NXT Superstars make it big in the WWE for what made them great in NXT. Further, the ring work was obviously slowed down, and that messed with their spots and timing. Neville's moonsault off the top rope looked great, but because these two were not working the way they normally do, Owens was not in the correct spot to catch Neville, but he did a great job of getting his arm out to slow Neville's landing, and then sold the move well.
Personally, I think it's dangerous to mess with the timing these guys know so well, just so that the casual fan gets something McMahon thinks they want. These two are great wrestlers and could have given us an A+ match given the opportunity to do what they do best.
Winner – Kevin Owens (14:00)
Backstage Segment > B+
Now, I have to admit that I'm marking this up a bit because of the pics they were talking about. They did a fantastic job of getting pics of Ambrose in New Orleans with the WWE WHC. While I can see why they were tweaking over the pink saxophone pic, but there were others that I liked a lot better. It was great creative to take those pics of Ambrose, post them throughout the night on IG, and have The Authority and Rollins commenting on the pics. It was a great way to bring social media into the show, but not force the fans to jump through hoops in the process, the way they did with the first Taboo Tuesday. If you get a chance, check out Ambrose's Instagram.
Backstage Segment > D
Well, that was a short run as faces for the Bellas! Obviously feuding with Naomi and Tamina is out, and working with Paige is in, so they have to be heels again. Maybe they should talk to Big Show about how to deal with all these turns. While the Bellas are better as heels, turning them so fast does nothing to help the Divas Division. Hopefully the WWE pulls their heads out and focuses on the Divas in a way that makes sense, as there are some very talented Divas, but they're being squandered, and have been for way too long. Putting Nikki on mic is absolutely not the way to push the Divas forward. The Bellas are just horrid on mic.
Summer Rae vs Nikki Bella > B
Dang, those women were working that ring hard, and hitting each other with some force behind their blows. I won't say the work was the cleanest, but many of the moves were quite solid, and some of the blows even stiff – in a good way. They both worked it hard, and while it was a short match without anything really special, the work was better than much of we've seen from most of the Divas. Nikki has been getting stronger and stronger, but it was Summer Rae who really stepped up to the plate with this one.
Winner – Nikki (2:20)
In Ring Segment > B
I'm really starting to enjoy Reigns on announce. He's getting comfortable with it, relaxing into his character, and learning how to pace better. He's not rushing, letting the fans react, and working off them. I knew he had it in him, but that it was going to take a while. Bit by bit he's turning into a true Superstar.
Ziggler is so cute on announce, and also really relaxed into his character. Seeing him on mic always makes me smile, but in the ring with Reigns was really fun. They were obviously enjoying themselves, especially when R-Truth came out thinking he was scheduled for the MITBLM this Sunday.
Speaking of R-Truth, I loved his bit of this segment! R-Truth played it off beautifully, and I cannot remember anyone else doing something like that. Honestly, the only other person I could see playing off being mistaken about being in a match like this would have been Al Snow. Maybe it's because their forms of crazy are somewhat similar.
New Day and Sheamus were as annoying as ever, but they're all over for being that annoying. I was shocked that Orton, who has finally learned to talk, didn't speak in this segment, but thinking about it, I can't think of what Orton might have had to add to all of this. 'Oh, I'm going to win the MITB too!' At that point I guess silence was better for him.
In all of this Kane sold his frustration and ire beautifully. Kane is turning into such a curmudgeon, and the way he reacts to the crazy of other people, visually, makes me laugh that much harder. While I believe he needs to be re-masked, his facial expressions when he reacting to crazy, the absolute awe of it all makes me laugh aloud. He made this segment that much better in his frustration and expressions.
Orton vs Sheamus > B-
Maybe I'm just burnt out on seeing these two face off, the way we were all annoyed with how many times we saw Orton face Cena. There's so many other guys on the roster who could be facing either of these two, and putting on a better match with them. I know they were having all the MITBLM wrestlers facing off on this go-home to MITB, but to put these two together, yet again, is enough to put any wrestling fan into a coma.
That they thought, for the second week in a row, that these two couldn't go to a clean win bothers me, as there's no way Sheamus is on Orton's level in the company, no matter what either of them do. It's just silly. Time to move on!
Winner via DQ – Sheamus (13:16)
Backstage Segment > B+
I had forgotten how great Mercury's voice is. For a man with such a small stature, he has quite the deep and sexy voice. I don't recall him being very good on mic back in the MNM days, but it's obvious that he's come into his own over his years working behind the scenes. I loved that Noble had been doing all the talking, and Mercury was the silent one – until now. It worked really well for this segment. The long build, something the WWE so rarely does these days, but Mercury proved that it can work really well if set up and worked with over time.
Kane vs Ziggler > B+
Ziggler and Kane worked this match really well together. Kane can still go well, the man, while a curmudgeon, is quite the workhorse. While Ziggler has a much different ring styles, and physical sizes, they work the ring rather well together.
They worked the match back and forth, and while it could have gone either way, the ending is what made the match. Lana was clad in a satin Pepto pink suit, keeping a lot of the attention of the fans. But it was Rusev who cost Ziggler this match. Well, Rusev and Ziggler's kind heart toward Lana. Rusev actually did a good job of crowding Lana off the ramp, and she did a solid job of selling an ankle injury in those stilettos she had on. I'm enjoying this storyline, and how they're not rushing it.
Winner – Kane (10:50)
Backstage Segment > B+
Noble is always a goober, but Mercury really put on his wrestling game face for the match to come, and it felt as though he had only been gone a couple weeks from the ring, not almost five years. He sounded like a wrestler, and right on about Rollins' ego. This was a solid little segment.
Backstage Segment > A
Normally I wouldn't say anything about a backstage segment without words, but Ziggler was so sweet tending to Lana that I cannot help but comment on it. Putting his manky black hoodie over Lana's shoulders was sweet, but looked so silly over that suit.
Miz TV > B+
Goodness, Miz is a jerk! He got too big too fast, and has paid for it since. I'm glad he's not getting pushed as much other than minor matches, and on Miz TV. He's such a raging jackass, but that worked well against Ryback's jovial ego. Actually, I thought Ryback's ego was a bit much here, but it still worked. I worry that his ego might take over again, but the level he had here worked quite well against Miz, and Big Show. It was great to see Ryback steal the fans out from under Miz, even though the fans were only giving Miz hatred, as always. Ryback was full of himself, but in a fun way, not letting Miz get the best of him, and even went as far as letting Miz know that Ryback knew that Miz was trying to play him.
Big Show's intimidation of Miz was a lot of fun, even though it was heel on heel. Just thinking back to the fact that Big Show and Miz were a team makes me laugh. Some of the things the WWE does! That being said, I am interested to see how Big Show and Ryback work in the ring together. Ryback lifted Big Show and hit shellshocked in a most lovely way. Big Show wasn't easy to lift, but Ryback wasn't killing himself to do it. They could be a match to watch on Sunday!
Los Matadores vs Harper & Rowan > B
Los Matadores didn't stand a chance against Harper and Rowan! The length of this match showed just how out-classed they were. And then there's Harper and Rowan's new finisher. It was very similar to the 3D, but not as clean. With the Twitter comments that have been flying between them (reported on by CJ here), I have to wonder if maybe the whole thing is a work. Yes, I can see Bubba Ray Dudley getting pissed at someone in the WWE using the finisher he and Devon have used for almost twenty years now, but I know that the fans would love to see Bubba Ray and Devon get one more run in the WWE, even if it was only one more match, and who better to go against than Harper and Rowan? I know there's a lot of tag teams who are better, but these two are the biggest (physically), and the most hardcore of the Division. I'm really hoping that this is a work, and that we see something big come of this for SummerSlam.
Winners – Harper & Rowan (2:16)
Backstage Segment > B
I love Kane's devious manner. He might not be masked, but he still has a black heart. It appears as though screwing with Rollins has been his favorite sport lately, and he's so good at it. Further, using Rollins' words, calling his own face, "Ugly, smug, sweating, disgusting."
Big E vs Titus O'Neil > B-
As expected, this match came down to outside interference. There was no way that this was going to be a clean match for anyone involved. I will say that I'm impressed with how over the Prime Time Players are right now, but they've always been a more fun team, and they've been playing on that recently. O'Neil's ring work seems to be getting better, but putting him in the ring with Big E will only show any issues there might be in either wrestlers' game. It wasn't sloppy, but it sure wasn't a clean match. While Big E and O'Neil are very differently looking, there's something in their builds that bring up some sort of similarity – beyond the obvious. They work quite well together, but I think they both need taggers to keep their work cleaner.
Winner – Big E (3:09)
Kofi vs Reigns > B-
After some of the bigger matches Reigns has been in lately, I cannot buy that he was at all beaten down by Kofi! It's beyond my realm of believability. Reigns getting beaten down by Brock? I get it. Reigns getting beaten down by Henry, after already being in another match? I get it. But getting beaten down by Kofi the way he was? NOPE! I will say that Reigns sold well, but that's picking out the best parts of a lame situation.
I understand that they wanted Kofi to look viable going into the MITBLM, but he's been in five of them and hasn't won any. Kofi is in these matches because of his great spots, not because he's going to be getting the push – ever! I feel bad for Kofi, but not everyone can be the top guy. He's had, and continues to have a solid career in the WWE, and that's nothing to turn your nose at. So while I get that they were trying to make Kofi look good, it made the match absolutely laughable.
Winner – Reigns (12:17)
In Ring Segment > A
Okay, Ambrose coming to the front row wasn't an in ring segment, but I thought it needed its own grade. Watching Ambrose come through the fans the way he did was hysterical, but it was that little blonde girl who wanted nothing but to take Ambrose's popcorn really stole my heart. Young children are, if nothing else, extremely honest about what they want, and she wanted Ambrose's popcorn!
When Ambrose got to the front row and settled in, he was so fun to watch. The facial expressions, how he reacted to things, and hammed for the camera brought a smile to my face then, and brought a smile to my face now, as I write this.
Backstage Segment > B+
All Rollins had to do was be humble and ask for some help. Trip and Steph gave Rollins more chances to come clean and do the right thing than I give Sam, yet he still didn't get it. Yes, I'm saying that my 11y/o daughter is smarter than Rollins' character.
2 On 1 Handicap Match – Rollins vs Noble & Mercury > A-
I was thrilled to see Noble and Mercury in the ring again. Neither were huge when they were WWE Superstars, but are names that are remembered, and both have done a lot as producers backstage. Their work as the newest generation of stooges has been fun, and they're much younger than Patterson and Brisco were when they did it, so they've been able to get more involved in the ring – leading to this match. Of course they're not in the ring all the time, so they were not as up to snuff as they used to be, but both Noble and Mercury hit some solid moves, and while they sold the bumps from Rollins, they gave as good as they got. Further, it was perfect that Mercury was the one who got the pinfall over Rollins. It might not have been the best wrestled match, but for the storyline in front of the scene, and the one Jesse describes below, these guys deserve the grade.
Winners – Jamie Noble & Joey Mercury! (8:58)
Most of you, I know, aren't quite as into "nerd"or comic culture as someone like me, but I follow the Wizard World and Comic Cons fairly religiously. And as the culture has become more and more mainstream, WWE has implanted itself further and further into it. I know this seems an odd tangent to go on at the end of Kendra's RIB, but there's a good reason for it. This past weekend at Wizard World St Louis, Seth Rollins made some interesting comments that, after Raw, hits home just a little more than it would have otherwise. When Rollins was asked about how he made the transition from the Indies to WWE, he said that he had a difficult time with it thanks to the fact that he had an attitude problem down in FCW/NXT. He felt like he was better than everyone else thanks to the massive success he had in Ring of Honor as Tyler Black. And that he was on a fast track to being fired until Joey Mercury saved his career. Yes, the same man that has been a mute stooge up until last night was the one that turned his career around! And I find it only fitting that thanks to that, and as the current WWE Champion, that he did the honors to Mercury last night. It is an immense level of respect to the man that is credited as the invisible fourth man of the Shield, and arguably one of the greatest Producers WWE has had.
Queen of WNW
KB & Jesse