Going into this Raw, we all knew it was going to be a great episode. The Raw after WrestleMania is traditionally one of the best of the year, and normally chalk full of too much talking to explain things and set up for what's to come. But, last night, the WWE went in a totally different direction by giving us some fantastic matches, none of them exact rematches from the night before, and spent 1:05:11 of the show on actual ring work. While Raw is a three hour show, once you remove all the commercials, that means almost half of Raw was ring work, and I'm all for that!
Further, as anyone involved with the WrestleMania Open Thread Discussion knows, Disqus was having issues, and the chat was nowhere near as good as we had expected, or hoped for, but WNW readers rallied and broke records! Last night's Raw Open Thread Discussion rounded out at 2087 comments. They broke the 2000 mark and kept going. I'm so proud of Jesse Sherwood for how far he's taken the Raw OTD, but also have to give shout outs to CJ Blaze, Jamie Welton, Zack Krasney, and all the regulars who rallied together to break that record and do it together. I'm so proud of you all!
In Ring Segment > B+
I'm just waiting for the 'suplex city bitch' shirts to be released. While I really don't like putting even a penny in Brock Lesnar's pocket, I want one of those shirts. It's a great line, and so very wrestling. Heyman did a great job of working the best crowd of the year, and making them work for every bit from him. Heyman had them truly believing a Championship match was going to happen between Brock and Rollins on Raw. I didn't believe it, because there's no way wormy Rollins would get in the ring with Brock unless he had to, no way Rollins could retain against Brock as he is right now, and no way Brock would work a live show – he's all about the PPV money, as is McMahon.
Steph came out in a black leather jacket, so I really expected her to be the uber-heel of the night, and was shocked that she didn't live up to her norm when wearing black leather. Yes, she was quite dominant later in the night, but not as much as I expect to see from her when she's wearing black leather. She started the black leather with a blazer for her first heel turn when she joined her 'husband' Triple H to turn against her father in the main event of Armageddon in 1999. Since then she's stuck with the black leather for her biggest heel moments, and you can almost guarantee that she will be an uber-heel when you see her in black leather. Though, I have to say that her comment that if the fans pissed her off with a "Ronda Rousey!" chant, they wouldn't get what they wanted, the WWE WHC Match. I thought that was great off-the-cuff work.
IC Championship Match – Bryan (c) vs Ziggler > A
What a fantastic match! These two should have been given a chance to face off one on one at WrestleMania, but they took what they were given and made it into something special. That they booked their WrestleMania match to end with the two of them at the top of the ladder the way they did was wonderful to watch, and the head butts were great, and kind of hysterical. It's obvious that they're not really head butting each other, but hitting more of each other's shoulders, but with their long hair flying the way it does, it looks so much grander than the reality, and isn't that part of what makes WWE and sports entertainment so much more than just wrasslin'?
The fans added that much more to this match. Bryan and Ziggler are so over with the fans, which is why they could have pulled off a singles face vs face match at WrestleMania, but I'm glad they got this time here. Even as beaten up they were from WrestleMania, they left it all in the ring for this match. I was a bit shocked when Bryan went over Ziggler clean here, but there's obviously so much more to come from these two, and hopefully we will continue seeing them fight things out, because they're just that great in the ring together.
Winner – Bryan (11:44)
In Ring Segment > B+
I broke this off from the match because it deserved its own grade. Of course Barrett attacked Bryan after the match, he's still pissed that he lost the Championship, even though he did almost nothing with it but lose and lose the belt while he had it, so that made sense. It was also a great way to bring Sheamus back. It was a guarantee that he was going to get a face reaction upon his return, it's just the way things work within the WWE when an wrestler who is injured, or on hiatus returns. We knew it was pretty much guaranteed that Sheamus was going to be a heel upon his return, but trying to execute that can be quite difficult. When the fans love you and you're freshly back, you have to do something huge to turn all the fans on you, and Sheamus did just that. From the start he looked the part of the heel with the new mohawk and the braided and beaded beard – something I love as I'm cultivating both my Celtic and Viking personas within the SCA. Sheamus looked the heel, but the fans were so excited to see him after so long, they cheered. Sheamus played it to the tee, and worked it hard, right up until he hit that brogue kick on Bryan, and his whole face and body language changed. He handled the chants of, "You look stupid!" terrifically as a heel. Not sure the, "I'm back." was really needed, but it flashes back to all the Terminator cross-promotion, and that can only help everyone in the long run.
8 Man Tag Team Action – Cesaro & Kidd & The Ascension vs A New Day & Lucha Dragons > B+
I was thrilled to see Hideo Itami in the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, but I honestly thought that might be the end of the NXT debuts for right now. Last year it was Paige on Raw after WrestleMania, so I wasn't expecting a lot, but then we got Sin Cara back and Kalisto! I've been excited to see Kalisto. All the times I've said I need to really start watching NXT, and then I don't because I'm still so stuck in watching all the old PPVs and shows on the WWE Network that I never get there. NXT is on Wednesday night, the one night of the week that I'm out with my Nomadic Guild of Scripturians (writing group), as I will skip out of Sundays for PPVs, so just don't get to see NXT. In some ways I know I'm missing some of the best wrestling out there right now, but, on the other hand, I get the beautiful surprise when someone is called up to the WWE roster. I adore Jorge Arias under the Sin Cara mask, and have been hoping to see him back on the roster, but it was Kalisto who stole this match. That little man can fly! The WWE tried to push Alberto Del Rio as the new Rey Mysterio,and it never worked. ADR just didn't care enough to put on good matches, or put enough into what he was doing to get over with the fans. But I think Kalisto has that in the bag, and already has a huge following.
I love that there's a lot more going on with tag teams right now, and think that Ryback and Rowan need to officially get together as a tag team, at least for a while, as they work so well together, and could really be a dominant team. Them working against #Truth could be a lot of fun. Then there's A New Day. I don't know what's going to happen to them, but they'd better figure it out, and dang soon! They seemed to enjoy playing along with the chants of, "A New Day sucks!" but at this point, the three of them are Cena. They are faces that the fans absolutely hate. I agree, it's not working, and it's time for them to do something with them and soon, before they getting no reaction at all.
Winners – A New Day & Lucha Dragons (10:17)
In Ring Segment > A
Jesse and I agreed to write this segment together, because while I'm almost always fairly confident in my knowledge and feeling about the WWE and wrestling as a whole, sometimes I'm very much a female and react as one. This is one segment that also needs a male point of view.
I looked at this segment, the carnage, and it really bothered me. During the Attitude Era when things like this happened, I didn't bat an eye at these things, but now I'm quite bothered. Maybe because I'm a mother now? Maybe I'm just not used to seeing these things, even though I've been watching a lot of old PPVs and shows on the Network? Maybe because I really don't trust Brock, and expect him to fly off the handle at any time and destroy everything around him because I think he absolutely has that in him? Whatever the reason, I really didn't like this segment. It felt too realistic, not at all like a character going off the deep end. I will take my shots from the readers for this, but that's my feeling about Brock most of the time, and why Jesse is also writing about this segment.
The only really great part of this segment was Steph losing her shit at Brock and suspending him indefinitely. Yes, I know it's storyline, a reason for him to be off TV until they're ready to use him again, or they strong arm him into trying to actually earn part of the insane amount of money he's earning for doing virtually nothing.
Lesnar segment: A Wow. We have seen Lesnar go on rampages before. We have seen him destroy the announce desks, break people, and leave with a smile over the carnage, but this has to be the most brutal display of pure violence we have seen from him since his return. Kicking Rollins' ass until he jets through the crowd? CHECK! J&J Security tossed into and over Spanish Announce? CHECK! But then he flips the main announce on top of Booker and JBL, incapacitating them! And granted, at first I thought it was Noble that Lesnar had grabbed and threw into the ring, but when I realized it was Michael FREAKING Cole... I popped so loud, I woke my kids up! I have to give huge kudos to Cole for taking such a hard bump that his shoe popped off. Not many guys who aren't trained would do that. And then he got a "cameraman" and proceeded to keep going! Steph, of course, played her part beautifully, and we got Lesnar written off until at least SummerSlam, but if this is the Brock Lesnar we are getting as a face, I'm all for it. The man, in ten minutes, not only caused our readers in the Raw Open Thread Party to post over 300 comments in the time frame, but he made me, someone that just three nights ago was wishing would NEVER, EVER step foot in a WWE ring again into a fan. My only complaint in the whole segment was that Rollins got away. I would have loved to have seen Reigns hidden in the crowd as Rollins fled Suplex City. Reigns then would have grabbed Rollins and tossed him back to The Beast to be devoured. Alas, it wasn't in the cards. Here's to WWE resetting their product!
Backstage Segment > A
Steph still reeling from going off on Brock, and getting right up in Renee's face was great. Renee really handles these things well, and Steph went all out. I really enjoyed this short segment because it showed so much, and tied up the knots with Brock and Steph.
Stardust vs Mizdow > B+
It seems like so long since we've seen Sandow in the ring in a singles match. I really don't like calling him Mizdow, and it's time for him to go back to being Sandow. Yes, he will need to feud with Miz, that's a given, but he really needs to work on his own character, and building who he is going forward, more than just a Miz clone.
It was fun to see him work with Stardust. I think it was a decently little match for both of them, though nothing spectacular. It was Miz after the match who added so much to all this. Miz was off his rocker and sold every little bit of his ire. Miz is kind of underrated in how he helps elevate other wrestlers. I think he's still paying off his WrestleMania win over Cena, something that came too soon, and he's since proven that he's not that level of Superstar, and helping these other wrestler to get over is something he's great at doing. I'm really starting to enjoy what Miz can do in the WWE.
Winner – Mizdow (2:22)
Announce Segment > F
Okay, whose grand idea was it to send Byron Saxton to announce by himself? He can barely hold up his side of an interview, who thought he could handle being on announce by himself? They could have put Corey Graves out there and things would have been so much better. What about Renee? Or the two of them together? Or, how about putting Corey, Renee, and King out there and see what happens? Okay, so maybe not Renee, as she had more to do backstage, but in reality, couldn't have Byron done that and put Renee out at the over-turned table? Any, is it really that hard to put the table back upright? Or, how about giving Byron and King chairs to the side? The whole thing left me with more questions than answers, the biggest question is why they released Josh Matthews and Justin Roberts, but kept Byron Saxton. Normally I try not to put people out of their jobs when I'm talking WWE, but I've not seen anything redeemable about Byron since the first time I saw him. The man hasn't earned a D+ from me, ever, and I'm just one of the millions who don't understand Byron. He's more boring than watching paint dry, watching grass grow, watching the pool drain, and waiting for the water to boil.
Axel vs Neville > A
I think Axel is adorable, and has grown so much since he started Axelmania. Now he needs to move forward and continue evolving to keep himself fresh, and into more than the jobber to everyone.
I have to say that much of this grade is for Neville. Going back to me not seeing enough NXT. I knew that they said Neville was 'The man gravity forgot' but I didn't realize just how perfect that phrase is for him. That man literally looks as though gravity doesn't affect him in any way. He flies as if it's nothing, and makes it look ever easier than that. He very well could be the best high flier ever, and I don't think I'm stretching anything by saying that.
This match was short, to the point, and quite the teaser for what's to come from Neville. I love that they dropped his first name, and that they let him show of some of his best his first time out. More of WWE's marvelous booking has leaked over from WrestleMania, and rubbed all over this short match.
Winner – Neville (1:12)
US Championship Match – John Cena (c) vs Ambrose > A-
They really let Cena have it with the singing of, "John Cena sucks!" to his music. And I understand their need for Cena to talk, but if they cut out about half of it, the fans would be much happier. And what would have made me happier would have been Byron not on announce. His calling that it was Rusev, then Rusev didn't appear just made him look like that much more of a fool. King joining after the commercial during this match made listening to things so much better, but it was still hard. Byron really couldn't seem to find much to say through most of the show. Even when the camera was obviously on them, Byron couldn't seem to come up with anything to say. What happened to McMahon screaming in the announcers' ears?
I really enjoyed the work between Cena and Ambrose. I was shocked to see Ambrose come out for this match. I was really worried about Ambrose after the way he fell at WrestleMania, and the fact that they never showed that side of the ring, or Ambrose again through that match made me think that Ambrose really was injured. I had a text in to Richard to find out anything he might hear, and nothing came through the pipe. So either it looked bad at the time, but was nothing, or it was scripted.
Ambrose and Cena went all out here, hitting interesting and unusual moves. They gave us all they had, as if they hadn't done the same 24 hours earlier. I honestly expected this to be broken up by Rusev, or it coming to a doubt DQ, or draw of some sort, as they were so evenly matched, and it seemed a shame that one go over the other, but I forgot this was the WWE and Cena is still the golden boy. In all honesty, I'd have put Ambrose slightly over Cena in work, but that's because of Ambrose's character and how he works the ring in that character that makes him so much greater than the whole of John Cena.
The display of sportsmanship and camaraderie between the two after the match was something we don't see enough of. I saw what people said was Rollins thanking Reigns when he pinned him to with the WWE WHC at WrestleMania. I didn't actually hear anything in the clip, but if Rollins actually did that, that shows something beautiful between the two men.
Winner – Cena (14:19)
Cena celebrates, but is winded. Ambrose, on the mat, holding his head. The camera on King and Byron, King talks, but Byron seems to forget what he's supposed to say. Ambrose to his feet, holding the side of his head, looking annoyed. Ambrose points to the Title, talking. They slap hands to show respect. Ambrose looks a bit crushed when Cena leaves with the strap.
Backstage Segment > B+
Rollins is such an arrogant young prick, and plays it perfectly. He oozes slimeball in all he does, says, even how he looks. While Rollins started on the WWE roster as a heel, as part of The Shield, that character was nothing compared to what he's turn into since turning on his brothers. He's taken the fans being worried that he would be lost in the shuffle as the other two members of the group were being pushed, to being the first of the group to win the WWE WHC. Not bad for that kid from ROH who really doesn't seem physically big enough, or showing enough over-the-top character to be Champion!
I will admit that I'm a bit shocked Big Show and Kane are still backing him, but others did the same for them, so it's now their turns to be the veteran wrestlers to help the young guy get over and step into the Championship shoes.
Orton was just great here. He was on point, reminded us that he beat Rollins, and he's not done beating Rollins. And, as for friends? He didn't need real friends, he needed others who were enemies of The Authority. I knew it would be Ryback and Reigns, but Rowan could have been there just as easily.
AJ & Paige & Naomi vs Nattie & Bellas > B
First off, I'm so happy to see Naomi working the ring! Further, I love that her new ring gear matches the Usos in style and colors. It would be fun to see what she and her husband might do while Jey is out due to injury. I loved her in the red at WrestleMania, but as the Bellas were in red in this match, it made sense for her to go with the light blue, and it was stunning with her skin tone. And, since I'm on their ring gear, Nattie looks amazing, and her new outfit is a slamming way to show off her curves! Lastly, AJ's Bayley shirt was great. Shows her supporting another young wrestler who could be great if her character translates to the WWE roster – though I have to admit that it didn't click that it was a Bayley shirt until Jesse said something about it.
All that being said, I thought this match was a bit sloppier than their WrestleMania match. I cannot put my finger on it, but it just didn't feel as crisp as the night before. I can't put my finger on any one person who might have been off, and it sure wasn't Naomi. I do wonder about when Paige and Brie went through the ropes to the outside. It didn't look planned, and as though both landed pretty hard out there, on their heads. Neither looked like they were really selling, but actually hurting.
I loved that it was Naomi who got the win. She's so underrated and really deserves to be pushed. She would be a great Divas Champion, though there's also AJ and Paige who are after it at this point. But I've wanted to see her strapped for quite a long time.
Winners – AJ & Paige & Naomi (10:02)
Backstage Segment > B+
I love Ryback as The Big Guy. He's simple and to the point. Orton didn't have to say anything, Ryback said little, yet it was a great segment.
Goldust vs Rusev > B
When I realized what this match was, I didn't want to see it happen. Goldust is too good to be jobbing like this, even at his age. It's not that I don't want to see Goldust lose, or even really job to someone, it's that I didn't want to see him take a solid beating for something he had nothing to do with. He looked solid, and fought well, but we all knew how this would end.
On the other hand, I cannot wait for Lana to be back and watch Rusev get into it and see where that storyline goes. It should be a lot of fun. Further, I liked Rusev's new red jacket. It's a good look for him. My biggest worry is that he's going to be running without a storyline, and that could really hurt his character, and his career.
Winner – Rusev (2:17)
Rollins & Big Show & Kane vs Orton & Ryback & Reigns > A-
The fans knew this was the last match of the night, and they went all out for it. The wrestlers really seemed to soak up the chants – good and bad. But for me, the best moment of this match was when Rollins completely dropped kayfabe and watched the wave go round and round. He was very obviously in awe of what was going on around him, and played with it. I have no problem with him dropping kayfabe in that moment because it shows he's human, and can be taken over with emotion in the ring. Rollins quickly got back into character and yelled at the fans that it was all about him, not them! He was spewing venom, and looking every bit the slimy prick he's been building toward for the past year.
I was pretty impressed with how over Ryback was with the fans. Yes, he was fairly close to his hometown, but it still was a bigger reaction than I expected. See what happens when he's not being slammed down our throats? He's really growing into someone worth watching, and that shellshocked on Big Show was serious stuff! Brought me back to Cena's first FU on Big Show at WrestleMania XX!
The end of this match was a bit confusing to follow, but going back to watch the moves, they were all solid and looked great. Of course Reigns needed to get the pinfall going forward, even though the majority of the fans hate him for no obvious reason, as he didn't actually win at WrestleMania. But that's my own pet peeve to deal with.
Winners – Orton & Ryback & Reigns (12:58)
WWE Network > A
I know this is not technically part of Raw, but I know most of you have either seen this video clip – either on the WWE Network, or here on WNW – so it makes sense that I wrap up Raw with it.
First off, I love Renee. She came up through the industry I work in today, and is in an enviable role. Not a role I'd ever want, as I always wanted to be working backstage, making ring gear, but I absolutely appreciate and respect Renee in all she does, and how she got where she is today. All that being said, Sting's red coat is possibly the most beautiful his character has ever worn, and I'm inspired to make myself an amazing trench that's perfectly me.
Renee had to be giddy interviewing Sting, because he really is, well, epic. I thought Sting sold this segment well, said what needed to be said, and really opened up things for the future. Personally, I think he should work a couple more matches, winning them, then put over someone young for the future. I automatically go back to my list of eight – Ziggler, Bryan, Ambrose, Rollins, Reigns, Wyatt, Cesaro, or Stardust – and any of them could benefit from it. Further, after last night, I have to add Neville to that list. Anyway, back to Sting in the ring, while he was quieter than normal, it worked for what happened at WrestleMania.
While Bo can be terribly annoying, I think he was the right jobber to send out to Sting. I can absolutely see Sting painting a young Taylor Rotunda backstage at a WCW show when he was like seven years old (let's say 1997, as Taylor was born in 1990), right in the middle of Sting's big run as his crow character. Mike Rotunda (IRS, Mr. Wallstreet) was with WCW 1995-2000, so all the numbers jive for this to have truly happened. Further, Bo took the scorpion death drop beautifully, and that he was screaming into the mic right up into the move made it that much more fun. What a great moment for the crappy character of Bo Dallas. I thought it all worked well, right down to Sting shrugging after hitting the move. It was great, and I cannot wait for the next shocking moment we get to see Sting return to the WWE ring.
What a fabby Raw. The took most of the great booking they had at WrestleMania and carried it over. WrestleMania was so well booked that it shows me that they do know what they're doing, if given the time to do it right. So, if they mapped out the storylines ahead of time, like they used to, and as they should, I think things would go so much better, as WrestleMania and the following Raw did. I'm impressed and hope they continue with the good booking and storylines, but I'm not holding my breath.
Queen of WNW
KB & Jesse