I loved the chaining of matches on this episode of Raw. Between the IC Title and the matches around the storyline, and the TTCs and the matches and storylines revolving around that, the continuation of people and matches, they built something bigger and better than just having these matches happen. They were interesting, and the way they were announced and executed brought a whole new flavor to the show. I know it's not something they can do every week, but I loved it here. Hopefully the WWE keeps throwing interesting things like this at us.
Please welcome Jesse Sherwood for a segment this week. As always, his segment will be clearly marked and in italics.
In Ring Segment > A
I've been so greatly against these opening segments lately, but this was bloody fantastic! I rip on Orton, as so many do, for being robotic on mic, but here he was relaxed, and obviously having so much fun with it all. Orton continued to play The Authority, and especially Rollins, building toward what we all had hoped would happen. I thought it was fantastic that neither Noble or Mercury believed Orton, and couldn't bring themselves to say that they did. Noble was fun, but it was Mercury' thumbs up that brought me back to Trip turning on Orton in Evo. This was well executed all the way around.
I do have to mention that I completely disagree with Richard about Orton's slow burn. I thought it brought more interest to the storyline, and like the whole Miz/Mizdow thing, the slow burn heightens excitement and adds to the storyline. If Orton had been robotic Orton in all of this, I would have agree with Richard, but I think a huge problem the WWE has is popping all the storylines and feuds at once as they head into WrestleMania. This has continued the storyline, and made things more exciting on the Road to WrestleMania. If he had popped this from day one, we'd have missed some solid matches of Rollins', and we wouldn't have had these fun questions floating around.
Bryan vs Barrett > B
With three minutes taken out for commercials, we only got over four minutes of this match on Raw. I know they play much of the segments on the WWE Network, but when writing the results I don't have the time to watch the Network, so I miss chunks of these matches, and it burns my britches! Bryan and Barrett worked fairly well together here, and continued to push the storyline, between their work, R-Truth on announce, and all that went down after the match. As much as I love Bryan, this wasn't the best match, though there were a couple of lovely moves, including the finishing knees to take out Barrett.
Winner – Bryan (7:11)
Ambrose vs Stardust > B+
R-Truth continuing on announce was a blast. He's a lot of fun to listen to, even though I only catch part of what he's saying, because I'm so focused on recording the results of the actual match. I really enjoyed the dynamics of Ambrose and Stardust in the ring together. I think at a later date, they could have quite the impressive feud. They're both main event material who just haven't reached that pinnacle yet, but baring injury, they will both be top players.
I loved the selling in this match. Ambrose selling his injury from his ambulance match, the one that keeps popping back up when the WWE needs it to. It made the back and forth between them that much more interesting. I was a bit shocked that Ambrose won this match, but it looked great, so I'm not questioning it in any way.
The continuation of the thieving and deceit between all in the IC Championship Ladder Match at WrestleMania that's happening with each match that any of them are involved with continue to add so much to the storyline. Barrett, the actual Champion, has held the strap very little time since he won it. R-Truth is very much the instigator in most of this, but has done little in the ring through it all. The whole thing is making the Road to WrestleMania more fun, and building more interest for the IC Championship Ladder Match at WrestleMania.
Winner – Ambrose (7:38)
Video > A++
The WWE is really stepping up with this new Warrior 'wing' to the WWE Hall of Fame. Connor 'The Crusher 'Michalek touched so many hearts, both in and out of the WWE. Watching the video compilation for Connor brought back a lot of touching memories of that special little boy. I remember these moments from WrestleMania last year, but I was also transported back to the terminal pediatrics ward where I spent the better part of a year when I was eight years old. I lost a lot of friends that year, and we all would have cheered on one of us being involved in such a huge thing as he was last year at WrestleMania. He did a lot of things in his short life, and will always be remembered in the WWE Hall of Fame.
In Ring Segment > A-&F
I really enjoyed the Reigns video. The WWE production crew is almost always on point, and they hit a solid triple on this video. It showed the fans more of Reigns and his family, reminding us of how big the family is, and how many of them have been huge names in wrestling. They didn't show all of them who have been in the WWE, but that's the WWE for you.
Heyman on mic here was grand. He took everything that's been happening and twisted it in a way only Heyman can. Talking down Reigns' family as savages from Samoa wasn't at all unexpected from Heyman, because he's supposed to be destroying the challenger verbally, not talking about his own wrestler's savagery, other than in a good way. I love the continuation of Heyman's mic cutting out, and he sold it even better last night than he did last week. The only reason Brock is anywhere in the WWE is because of Heyman – now, and originally. I'm sure Brock wouldn't look at it that way, but he owes Heyman more than he'd ever willingly admit.
The fans didn't seem at all impressed with Brock when he came to the ring. I did notice that he got full on pyro this week. Was that because the WWE wants to impress upon him how much he's wanted in the company, or was it because the WWE wants us to think they're doing it to impress Brock into staying around? The only real emotion Brock showed in this segment was the smirk when Heyman mentioned that Mayweather and Pacquiao together top out at ten pounds less than Brock. At the end of the segment Brock looked up at the WrestleMania sign and seemed to glare at it a bit, and Cole talked about the intensity in Brock's eyes. I thought that was total crap. Brock couldn't have looked more bored, or, well, he could have, and did through this entire segment. It's obvious that Brock is only there for the money, and his short term excitement for being in the WWE has long since run out.
DEP! > A-
Short, creepy, and to the point. Wyatt is growing so much during this one sided feud. His mic work is stronger, more to the point, and he's coming across as a stronger character, as he had when he first debuted, but had waned over the past six months or so.
Kane & Big Show vs Rowan & Ryback > B
I really enjoyed much of this match. The back and forth work was solid, making Rowan and Ryback both look solid. It really could have gone either way, but that Kane slipped, and Big Show ended up nailing him with the KO punch, just continued to open up that chasm between them. I stated in my article about how many turns Big Show has had through his entire wrestling career, I was looking forward to the growing issues between him and Kane. That Steph had to come out screaming at the two of them shows that they're really going to continue in this direction. I wonder if they're going to cause each other issues in the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, or if they're going to end up in their own match. Honestly, I'd love to see them in in singles competition at WrestleMania, but I think the Andre The Giant Battle Royal needs their star power to make viable.
Winners – Ryback & Rowan (3:25)
Backstage Segment > B+
Not sure what I think about Mizdow in fake loks, but as always, he sold it! He wasn't great with his rap either, but this is Mizdow, and he can make anything work. Also, I loved Miz being speechless. He sold that wonderfully as well. He's doing great work helping to elevate Mizdow.
Concert > N/A
I will fully admit that I didn't want Wiz Khalifa perform. I'm not really into his type of music, and I was behind on time. While I feel I'm able to do a solid job of reviewing wrestling, I'm not one to review music, especially when it's not a genre I know little about.
As I fast forwarded through the song, and was impressed with how Wiz Khalifa worked his way down the ramp, around the ring, and back up, interacting with the fans as he sang. Few singers do that type of thing when they're performing at a WWE show. On the other hand, I was surprised that the WWE brought him in to perform. From what I've read, Wiz Khalifa is no stranger to pot, and the fact that he posted what he did on Twitter about performing in front of how many fans on WEED is a black eye to WWE with their Wellness Policy and PG Era. I know that it doesn't pertain to Wiz Khalifa, but it's still not the outward appearance the WWE wants the world to see.
Backstage Segment > D+
I have to admit that I'd love to have one of the Bellas pink Flintstone's outfit. Not that it would fit, or I could wear it with all my scars, but it was adorable!
Further Byron flatness worked really well against the Bellas who are normally horrible on mic, but compared to him, looked pretty decent.
AJ vs Summer Rae> D-
What an epic fail of a Divas Match!
- Head scissors on Summer Rae was horrible. AJ's legs didn't appear to be together at all, and Summer Rae was way off her mark.
- Summer Rae is not Stacey Keibler, doesn't have those legs, and can't make the splitting choke with her foot in the corner work.
- The neck breaker from AJ was executed well, but Summer Rae was so off her mark that she hit the mat well ahead of AJ!
- Summer Rae's swinging leg kick looked like it was in slo-mo, yet it wasn't supposed to look that way.
- Even AJ locking on her black widow looked confused and sloppy.
What a horrible mess of a match, and while I am blaming most of the issues on Summer Rae, because they were pretty obviously mostly her fault. On announce they were talking about how Summer Rae has been in the industry for quite a while, but just hasn't made it to that next level, and watching this match, I think we can all see why! I've not been a fan of her's from the start, but looking at this, I think it's lucky that she's never seriously hurt anyone in the ring. Yes, she's a leggy blonde and physically looks right with the Divas, but with work like this, why is she still around?
Winner – AJ (3:17)
Video > F!
I was so excited to see this video when it started. The production looked solid, and I wasn't annoyed like I normally am for these recap videos, but then "Sting" started talking, and it wasn't really Sting. This wasn't just a fail, it was an epic fail. If they didn't want Sting to speak on Raw, then don't have it as a narrated video. If they did want the video to be narrated, then get bleeping Sting in to do it! I honestly cannot think of anything they've done that's this stupid in a long time...Wait, Wiz Khalifa and his pot! For a show with so much great, they really screwed up in such a huge way.
Rusev vs Axel > B+
Now, I'm lumping the backstage, match, post-match, and trainer segments all into one grade, as in reality, it was one continual segment. First of all, how refreshing is it to have a no-nonsense, dead serious Cena? Cena's words backstage were crisp, straight to the point, and much darker than we have seen him in years. Not having to be a perfect paragon of virtue atop the baby face portion of the card is giving Cena's stagnant career some new life. I have to say I'm disappointed that Axel was buried as hard as he was here. Yes, I know he was a vessel for the promo by Rusev and brawl between Cena and Rusev, but come on WWE! Throw the kid a bone! Axel has managed to finally show some charisma and personality, has managed to get himself over against CENA of all people, and is doing it all while in what most might consider a joke of a character. You could have let Axel have a somewhat competitive match. But instead, he gets squashed and verbally buried. Way to sacrifice an up and coming talent. But Rusev and Lana absolutely stole the show with Rusev's promo! Rusev was absolutely perfect with his words and with selling his disdain for America, and Lana was brilliant in her role of trying to get Rusev to not disparage America and draw the wrath of a volatile Cena. And when Cena came out without any music and rushed the ring to punish Rusev for his actions, I'll admit I popped for it! And I have to give credit where it is due. Cena locked in his best STF in 10 years on Rusev. While I have to say that I hate that Rusev tapped out, the story told outweighed that one hiccup. Rusev is vulnerable. He's mortal. And Lana's despair over Cena tapping into his ruthless aggression on Rusev and giving into his demands was great. While Heyman may be better on the mic than she is, Lana is easily the best manager in the WWE. And that was further shown in the trainer's room segment between her and Rusev. While not a luck of English was spoken, they told a story better than anything sans Bray Wyatt did in the rest of the last hour.
Winner – Rusev (0:25)
DEP! > A-
Another short, creepy, and to the point segment. I love that he said he was going to raise the dead, meaning Taker.
A New Day vs Kidd & Cesaro > C-
I really wasn't at all impressed with this match. I thought Woods looked wimpy, and Big E ineffectual. Cesaro looked great, as he always does, but Kidd didn't impress me much. I love that Nattie was involved in the ending, and cost her husband the match. She was just trying to help, but it backfired, further showing the growing issues within the team.
Winners – A New Day (3:43)
Naomi vs Nattie > B-
I love how the Usos and Naomi came out right on the tail of the last match. It flowed well together. I also really enjoyed certain parts of this match. Personally, I wish the WWE would let these two book and run a real match. I know they could leave us in a heap of chanting for more, because they're both amazing in the ring. Not that I'm expecting them to get booked in a great match at WrestleMania, but I have to say it would make bladders burst of the two of them were to put on a clinic, rather than AJ and Paige vs Bellas. Nothing against AJ and Paige, but the Bellas just cannot go as strongly as they can, but Naomi and Nattie can.
This match was too short for me to be happy, even though they hit some lovely moves in the less than two minutes. Naomi's rear view is always impressive, as the view of her rear impresses almost everyone.
Lastly, the way Nattie stood up to Kidd and took his strap from him, telling him that it's her's, left me with a big smile on my face.
Winner – Naomi (1:44)
Usos vs Los Matadores > B
I'm not an Los Matadores fan. I preferred when the cousins weren't masked. They weren't getting far, but how far have they really gone under the hoods? At this point I cannot tell which is which, and spend much of the match trying to figure out which cousin is which. They look almost as much like twins as the Usos, so putting them in the ring against the Usos completely messes with who I think is who the entire time. I can tell the Usos apart at a glance by what side of their face the paint is on, but not Los Matadores. Maybe it's time to give them signature colors? It's not like they're playing any twin magic in their matches.
There was a lot of fast moving fun here, and the intricate moves on and around Jimmy before hitting a DDT on Jimmy looked wonderful, but I don't know which cousin hit the move. Unlike Nattie, El Torito actually helped his team win this match.
Winners – Los Matadores (7:43)
Backstage Segment > B+
I love that J&J Security are still so sure that Orton's a bad guy and playing Rollins. They've been around a lot longer, have watched Orton for longer than Rollins has been with the WWE. Rollins debuted with The Shield in 2012, but has been in the indies since 2003. Mercury debuted in WWE in 2004. Noble debuted in WWE in 2001, lasted until 2004. Noble left for a year, then returned to work the ring until 2009 when he retired and started working backstage. Orton debuted in the WWE in 2002, so Noble, specifically, has seen Orton from his start, and really knows who he is. Then again, all of us who have been watching all along, know what Orton does best, and double-crossing is one of his best moves.
In Ring Segment > A
I'd been asked by many readers as to whether Taker would be appearing this week on Raw. I said no, while there might be something on the tron, there will be lightening to the ring in this episode. I thought the lightening would be hitting a corner, or the urn, so I was off there, but that's all I was off with. I have to admit that I feel really great about that prediction. It just felt like the right thing for the WWE to do at this point, that way Taker wouldn't have to be there live, but still work against Wyatt.
I loved Wyatt on mic in this segment, but it was his reactions to the smoking urn and then the lightening that made the segment worthy of an A. Wyatt sold every bit of everything that happened visually, and the crew made sure everything else came off without a hitch. I really don't think I gave this an A because it was Taker and what it symbolizes for WrestleMania, but I'm willing to admit that I might still be surrounded by that glow of GONG, knowing that Taker will be back for WrestleMania, and it could be affecting my state of mind.
Reigns vs Rollins & Orton > A-
During the opening segment I said to Stacy that Orton would be turning on Rollins in the main event. Stacy hadn't been paying attention to Orton's character recently, so he didn't know what was coming, but was quite impressed when he actually saw it go down.
This was the perfect time for Orton to turn on Rollins. It gives them time to build for their WrestleMania match, yet not too much time that it will fizzle out before WrestleMania comes around.
I loved how Orton managed to get Rollins to kick his own security out from ringside. What I didn't understand was why J&J Security didn't return to help Orton. I know Big Show and Kane had been tossed out earlier in the night by Steph – fortuitous for Orton, but not for Rollins!
While this was really Reigns' match, I remember very little of him in the ring because of all that came after the match. I will say that Reigns' spear on Rollins to win the match looked great, but it's a signature move of his, so it better look great.
Now, for after-the-match stuff. I loved how Orton yelled at Rollins loud enough to be heard. Beyond telling a story with their work, Orton added that extra spice to it all with the smack he was yelling. It fit perfectly to the storyline, the feud, and Orton's character at this time.
Orton did a great job beating down Rollins all over the place, working the whole area, and punctuating his words with viciousness. But the icing on the cake was that RKO. Orton hit the move perfectly, and they went through that table without a hitch. I don't know how many times it looked as though one or more of the wrestlers hit the edge of the table wrong, but this looked like it was perfectly executed.
Winner – Reigns (4:08)
I want to give a shout out to the WNW reader and commenter who goes by the name Eddie Edwards. He was at Raw last night, and told us who to look for. He said he was along the stairs Reigns would be coming down, and I saw him with his Pirates hat on as Reigns came down. I have to say I'm uber jealous, but hope you had a most fantastic time at the show.
Queen of WNW
KB & Jesse