I went into RAW last night with high hopes. JR said in his Blog that the WWE had to really give us a great go home to the Royal Rumble on RAW, but I think they dropped the ball in a big way. There were some real shining moments in this RAW, but as a whole, it wasn't anywhere near as great as I expected it to be, and I think it needed to be. At this point it looks as though the buy rate for the Royal Rumble is resting almost solely on The Rock and Punk's backs. Okay, people want to know what will happen in the Royal Rumble Match, but the WWE Title Match is what will bring in a great man fans. The Rock might not have shown much in the ring over the past couple years, but he sure has star power behind him, and people will pay to see him.
RAW left us with more questions than answers, and was one of the few segments that worked wonderfully, but I want to talk about numbers right now. The WWE has announced that Cena, Sheamus, Orton, Ziggler, Cesaro, Barrett and the members of 3MB are all entrants in the Royal Rumble Match this Sunday. That's all well and good, but then they implied that the Prime Time Players, Miz and Team Hell No would also be involved in the match. Now, I don't know what the Prime Time Players would be in the match, other than as fillers, but the other three make some sense. Miz has main evented WrestleMania previously and his star is rising. Bryan is also someone who's more than proved himself in the WWE and will continue to be a top Superstar for many year to come. Kane holds more interesting stats for the Royal Rumble than anyone else.
Kane has been in more Royal Rumble Matches than anyone else at 14 (soon to be 15?) from 1999 to 2011.
Kane holds the record for the most eliminations in one match. He eliminated 11 Superstars in 2001.
Kane holds the record for most appearances in the Royal Rumble Match without winning – lucky him.
Kane holds the record for fastest elimination. In 2009 Kane eliminated Santino in just one second!
Kane holds the record for entering the Royal Rumble at the highest entry number. Kane was the #40 entrant in the 2011 Royal Rumble, the only Rumble with 40 entrants.
Even though Team Hell No is scheduled to defend their Tag Team Championship at the Royal Rumble, I don't see any reason they can't be in the Royal Rumble Match as well. In fact, it could do a lot to push their characters forward, and possibly give Kane more interesting records to hold, beyond being in 15 Royal Rumble Matches without winning any of them.
Beyond the names mentioned above, there's a few who joined in the locker room clearing fray at the end of RAW who absolutely should be in the Royal Rumble Match. First off, I think Kofi should be in the match as he's a very strong mid-card worker who would add a lot to the match. Brodus Clay would also be a natural for the match as he's a lot of fun. He'd be good to break up the match when it gets to serious, and it will be fun to see how he's eliminated. Seeing McGillicutty in the ring last night makes me wonder if he might be returning as a more regularly scheduled Superstar, and the Royal Rumble would be a great place for him to get noticed again. The same could be said for Hawkins, and maybe even Riley and Yoshi. It would be sad if Ryder wasn't in the Royal Rumble, but he's been passed over so much recently that I'll be shocked if he's actually seen on the PPV. It also would be sad if Khali was in the match, but as much as we've seen him on Smackdown, I'm willing to bet he'll be there.
That leaves just a few Superstars who were in the ring at the end of RAW, and sadly I don't think a couple of them will be missed. I don't think anyone would bat an eye if Primo, JTG, Gabriel and the Usos were not in the Royal Rumble. That leaves Sandow and Rhodes, who are hit or miss. They'd be great in the match, or they might not be in it due to their TTC Match. That leaves Ryback. I'll be absolutely shocked if Ryback doesn't come out and clear the ring at some point when things get too congested in there, as they always do.
Videos > A
I have to admit I was shocked at how short the opening Martin Luther King Jr. video was, but they made up for it later in the show. I will say that the narrator and the flashing buzz words on the screen were a bit much, but the thought was there, and that's the important thing.
In Ring Segment > B+
I still cannot get over the heat that Vickie gets. It's so much more than her husband garnered, even in his heeliest days. Who knew that both Eddie and his wife were such Superstars? She's continuing to do a beautiful job working the fans with her attitude and screech voice. It's even better when Heyman is with her. The fans love to hate them, and they milk it for all it's worth. The fact that Vickie actually had the guts to pull The Rock's catchphrase was impressive. I know it was scripted, but using such a big catchphrase takes a lot of intestinal fortitude, and Vickie sure has that!
Backstage Segment > B+
I couldn't help but split the opening of RAW into two segments because they really were two very different segment. The Rock, as always, handled himself quite well, and really set up for much to come later in the show. A very smart way to build for the big moment. This is something the WWE used to do a lot, back in the AE, but have let it slip by the wayside in recent years. It makes a lot of sense to bring it back with The Rock, but also to keep around, even when The Rock is back in Hollywood.
Beat The Clock Challenge Match – Orton vs Cesaro > B
The start of this match was a bit sloppy. Orton's Thesz Press looked really ungainly, and they seemed to fumble around a bit. If it wasn't these two, I wouldn't mention it, but they're both usually pretty spot on in the ring. It wasn't a terrible start, but enough that I noticed. They cleaned things up pretty quickly and got into a groove and gave a pretty solid match.
It was nice to see these two work the ring the way they did. I know I say it every week, but Cesaro impresses me more and more. No matter who he's in the ring with, he looks strong, and helps his opponent look strong. There's few wrestlers who can make almost everyone they face look better, and that's a wonderful skill. I'm kind of bummed that we didn't get to see Cesaro hit his finisher on Orton, as he's proven he can hit it on absolutely anyone and make it look like a viable and strong move.
They didn't do a very good job of keeping the match short, but that's the way it was booked. I will say it was nice to see Orton hit the RKO without pounding the mat. He's going to end his own career while slamming his own arms on the mat.
Winner – Orton (11:36)
HOF Video > A
I've said many times that Foley is one of my top five favorite wrestlers of all time. He's sexy, quirky, creative and downright crazy. He's done things with his body that no sane man would even fathom, and made a career out of doing it, because he loves it I'm thrilled that Foley is being inducted into the WWE HOF. If anyone wants to bring me to the ceremony as their guest, I'm not at all adverse to that. While going to WrestleMania would be fun, this year's HOF ceremony is something I'd rather attend.
Video > B
This was a really solid recap video for The Shield. It didn't make a lot of sense me why they showed this when they did, but I held out hope that there was something behind it. Since it was the go home to the Royal Rumble, obviously they wanted to remind us of The Shield and the destruction they've caused over the past couple months and why they're doing what they're doing. I think it was a well executed video that made all three members look strong, and make us wonder what they might be up to in the coming week.
Big Show vs Ryder > C-
This match did help set up for the WHC Match between Big Show and ADR at the Royal Rumble, but it was also a terrible distraction with Maddox. I'll fully admit that I haven't watched last week's Main Event yet, so I didn't know that Maddox interfered on announce, so I was confused about this. I'm hoping they have a plan for Maddox because right now he's more annoying than anything. I know he's supposed to be annoying, but this isn't heel annoying, it's go the heck away annoying. Maddox has overstepped that fine line, and I'm disgusted by his appearance on WWE TV in any way, shape or form.
Of course Big Show was going to destroy Ryder, and quickly. I feel bad for Ryder and the direction his career has taken. I honestly don't know what he can do at this point to help himself out, but matches like this only continue to hurt him. In reality, the best part of this match was the fans cutting in on Big Show's counting ("What?") and pissing him off enough that he left the ring. Thank you SCSA!
Winner – Big Show (0:50)
Backstage Segment > C
While Heyman is suddenly all about Maddox, the whole thing has the feel that they've been in kahoots all along. I'm wondering how this is all going to play out, and I'm hoping they don't go in the obvious directions, but only time will tell.
Slater vs Ryback > B-
Showing Ryback looking so strong on the go home RAW was great booking. Of course Ryback is a top name going into the Royal Rumble Match, so making him look so strong, by taking out all of 3MB, keeps him on our mind. I have to say that I think Ryback is a top contender in the Royal Rumble Match. Not saying I'm picking him to win, just that he's been booked strong on TV, but he keeps getting screwed on PPVs. When better for Ryback to turn around his PPV losses by winning the Royal Rumble? Personally, I think winning in an Elimination Chamber Match would make more sense, but that's just me.
Winner – Ryback (1:20)
Backstage Segment > B+
The Rock and Vickie work so well together. It was fun to watch Vickie keep The Rock on his toes, and even seemed to throw him off kilter when she said, "Damn right!" about him apologizing to her. I just think it's great that The Rock isn't the only one who's dropping the PG initiative. Not that what Vickie said was so horrible, but it's something we wouldn't have heard two years ago. Thankfully times are changing, and for the better.
Video > C
Ugh, RAW Roulette? Why are they taking my favorite PPV and following it up with the worst idea the WWE has ever had shy of the Gobbledy Gooker? I'd rather see Braden Walker on RAW than RAW Roulette!
In Ring Segment > A-
Punk was really strong on mic. I like how they changed things up with Punk holding his belt and Heyman holding the mic for him. It's little things like that that change the whole feel of a segment. Punk has a way with words and continued to heighten the coming match on Sunday. While he might not have the flash of The Rock, he sure manages to get the fans riled up. It's Punk's way of doing things, and I think he does a wonderful job of it, and it's a nice dichotomy to The Rock's over-the-top mic work. I know some people just don't understand why people love Punk, but I think he's fantastic.
Beat The Clock Challenge Match – Ziggler vs Miz > B+
Both of these guys went into this match with the right idea. The early and often pinfall attempts made much more sense than the way Orton and Cesaro worked the ring. Miz and Ziggler have an interesting in-ring chemistry. I hope that later, when one of them is Champ, they have a solid feud over the Championship, because I think they could give us something very special.
The fan reaction to Miz using the figure 4 was great to hear. I'm wondering if there's going to be more interaction between him and Flair in coming weeks, and if that was the plan for Flair when he was scheduled to be on RAW. Either way, it's a great addition to Miz's arsenal. Ziggler also has some new additions to his arsenal, but they are in the form of Big E and AJ. Those two have been winning Ziggler's matches for him since they got together, and while it works for Ziggler being a heel, I worry that it will get old very quickly – the way it did for the nWo, and for Trip when Steph was helping him win. It works for a while, but too much of it is not a good thing. I think it would work better if Ziggler was Champ and they were doing this, but at the rate he's going, he will be Champ and they will continue doing it.
Winner – Ziggler (10:56)
WWE Slam of the Week > B
The segment between Team Rhodes Scholars and Team Hell No with Shelby was wonderful last week, and it set up really well for the following segment.
Anger Management Graduation > B+
I loved how most of the graduation was handled. Kane was silly, Bryan volatile, and Shelby brainless – as they always are. They stayed in character and all pushed it all a little further. Some might say it took up too much time and was too kitchy, but I thought it did a great job of bringing the fans into the love while pushing the characters of Bryan and Kane – Kane and Bryan telling everyone to hug and getting so excited about it almost had me on the floor laughing. Kane especially had me giggling, and I don't think this would have worked for him if he was unmasked. I think this was perfectly timed, and another step in the evolution of the characters. Depending on what happens in their match at Royal Rumble, their characters could be in for a huge change, so this could have been closure in some ways. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I enjoy their little backstage segments. That Dr. Shelby had the fans chanting for him should show just how much the fans have enjoyed this story arch.
Fox vs Kaitlyn > C
I've never been a fan of Fox's. She's suffered from a severe case of Matt Morgan Syndrome during her time in the WWE. We never know from one week whether she will be heel or face, or what her character might be up to. She might actually be a Diva worth reckoning if she worked on her ring skills and had a character that was at all cohesive.
All women despise each other? King said it, and I'm shocked there hasn't been more ire thrown at him for this one. I know it was an offhanded comment, but Cole latched onto it and I see it growing into something bigger.
I have to admit that I like that Kaitlyn has adopted the spear as her finisher. She hits it well and looks good doing it. She's a very strong woman who makes that move look fantastic every time she hits it. The question is will she be able to hit it on Tamina? With Tamina watching the match backstage, it looks as though she might be Kaitlyn's next big feud. Hopefully it will actually be a big feud with a storyline, not just two Divas in the ring fighting over the belt because the WWE needs Divas fighting over the belt. Sad to see how far the Divas Division has fallen, and this match wasn't at all the worst of it.
Winner – Kaitlyn (2:06)
Backstage Segment > C+
Heyman and Punk basically did nothing of interest, so I can't really give them anything more than average for that little segment.
In Ring Segment > A
So, Heyman needs to dumb it down for the fans? I loved Heyman use of fait accompli, and calling The Rock the flavor of the month. He actually did a wonderful job in this segment, but Pauly has always been great on mic and at ripping down whoever is the subject of his ire at that particular moment. But he was also smart at fleeing the ring when The Rock told him to.
As I said earlier, The Rock is much flashier than Punk on mic. It is what it is, as that's who The Rock is. It seems as though The Rock's always on, and in character. I'm actually wondering what he's like when he's not The Rock, and not playing one character or another. Beyond that, he did a really solid job of talking up to Punk's purple glowing sky box. It was nice to hear him say he'll rip Punk's face off, losing what could have been the perfect time for a catchphrase. I have to admit that I didn't like the use of Martin Luther King's speech, but I understand why he did it.
It was nice that The Rock's segment was kept short and to the point. I said that last week about The Rock Concert, and how they reigned The Rock in this time, not giving him endless time. It worked last week and it worked here for The Rock. I was bummed that The Rock didn't step into the ring for an actual match before the Royal Rumble, but the attack by The Shield helped that a bit. The Rock solid the attack well, right down to the drooling blood. Internal injuries from the attack? The Rock knows how to play the fans. The Rock especially knows how to use social media to get the fans riled up, and he did that today talking about internal injuries. I don't know a lot about genealogy, but would The Rock and Reigns be cousins?
Punk sealed up this segment with poignant words that were even stronger than what he spoke in the ring. This entire segment was greatness tied up with a little bow. This was probably the best segment for building for the Royal Rumble – just sucks that it wasn't a build for the Royal Rumble Match.
Beat The Clock Challenge Match – Barrett vs Sheamus > A-
Timed matches like this one, when they have to make everything work down to the second, always impress me. It takes everyone involved to make it work out the right way, and one false move will make the whole thing crumble. While all involved had to play their roles at the right time, it was Sheamus who really had to make sure he hit his brogue kick at the right time, but not have the time to pin Barrett. I will say that the brogue kick was one of the crappier ones I've seen, and it was a bit rushed, but I don't think it was all Sheamus' fault. I think it's just the way things went down when they got close on time.
Leading up to the timed ending was a solid match between two men who have grown and changed so much over the past couple years. I wasn't a fan of either of them from word go, but they both worked hard and grew on me. Barrett has, especially since returning from his dislocated shoulder, really shown me that he's worth watching and could be a top Superstar on the roster for years to come, along with Sheamus. The two of them work the ring together so well, and went back and forth in a wonderful way in this match. It's great to see two strong competitors really let it all out in the ring, as they did in this match. This was not at all one sided, and the two of them really earned this grade.
Winner – N/A
Backstage Segment > B+
Now that's a swerve! I didn't expect that Vickie would make the winner of the Beat The Clock Challenge to pick #1 or #2, but I also didn't expect Ziggler to win dirty and rub it all in Vickie's face when his ego took over. It really was a great swerve, and the type of thing than makes the WWE worth watching. It's a little thing, but it makes watching so much more entertaining.
Backstage Segment > B
The question is did VKM make this stip for the WWE Championship Match at the Royal Rumble a swerve so we will think that Punk will cheat and retain only to be stripped of the belt and The Rock will have to earn it later, or just something to make us not quite sure that The Rock will be winning the WWE Title on Sunday? Either way it's an interesting idea. I have to admit that I was spending so much time mulling it over that I missed VKM's slip of the tongue.
ADR vs Tensai > B-
I wonder what the future plans for Albert are. He's turned into more of a joke now than he was when he came to the ring in his fur sweater. It's actually kind of sad.
On the other hand ADR is blossoming! I have been one of his biggest detractors this past year, and for good reason. ADR stopped phoning it in way back, and really hadn't even been that good, but this face turn has turned him into a new man. I know he was a face most of his time in Mexico, and it obviously agrees with him. For the first time in quite a while ADR is believable, and seems to actually care about working for the WWE. Since he stopped talking about his destiny and started caring about Ricardo, his mic work has grown by leaps and bounds. And then there's his ring work! Okay, so the moonsault he hit in this match was way off its mark, but it's the fact that he's going back to his roots and starting to fly in the ring. That he's actually doing more than attacking his opponent's left arm and locking on the cross arm breaker until they tap out, actually makes his matches worth watching. While facing big guys like Albert and Big Show are not very conducive to the changes in his ring work, he's made it work. Further, I'm sure his ring work will be off the hook when he's in the ring with Superstars of a size. Personally, it's the fact that he hit that sick hurricanranna on Big Show, and then flying head scissors on Albert, and how well they were executed, gives me hope that ADR has a big future in the WWE – something that I didn't want to see only a couple months ago. I know that those two moves were mostly the work of Big Show and Albert, but it's the fact that ADR's changing up his ring work that means the most to me. I must admit that I'm shocked that Albert worked that move the way he did after the way he'd been sandbagging people in the ring. I guess someone spoke to him about it.
Winner – ADR (1:31)
In Ring Segment > D- + B
I'm completely at a loss with this last segment of RAW. This needed to be something that made the fans want to tune in on Sunday, instead Cena rambled on and on while talking to various fans in attendance and did nothing but bore and confuse the fans. Cena really stunk up the place, and that's after they advertised his little speech through the entire episode of RAW. Hopefully VKM learned something from this segment and how badly it flopped. The next time VKM wants Cena to have way too much time to talk to the fans about nothing important, or even if it is important, I hope he remembers this horrible segment and put the kibosh on it. Please, please put the kibosh on it!
I actually really enjoyed the way different Superstars kept coming out and stating that they would be the one to win the Royal Rumble. As per usual, I thought Bryan and Kane were the best as this fell right into their hands as a great thing for them to argue about.
The brawl in the ring either gave away too many people for the Royal Rumble Match, so I'm willing to bet that they won't all be involved in the match. Gone are the days that we know all the entrants and their numbers before the PPV even starts and I'm very happy about that because I'm excited to see who could be surprise entrants in the match.
While this was mostly a piss poor go home to the Royal Rumble, I'm still all atwitter about the Royal Rumble this weekend. It's not just because The Rock will finally be facing Punk after six months of us having to wait around and wonder if Punk was going to retain through each PPV. If it hadn't been for so much talk and so little action, especially Cena's talking, RAW might not have been that bad, but sadly they really screwed up and left the fans with quite a mess of three hours to watch. The Royal Rumble is my absolute favorite PPV, so I'm very excited, despite the RAW they gave us last night.