Hear me out! In the fashion industry when the designs on a runway show absolutely suck it, but the designer wants to hear something great about their work, you tell them that the fabric is beautiful. That's code for, 'Your design work sucks!' Watching Jericho's podcast with Cena brought me back to that. Cena talked about how after a truly terrible match, quite early in his career, he asked William Regal what he thought of the match. Regal told him to get boots to look like a wrestler. Cena took it that all Cena had to do was get boots, but Regal really mean that both Cena and the match sucked.
Going for the brass ring is exactly right. Cena knows that people are annoyed hearing McMahon say that, and so many people talk about how things are so overly scripted, so the Superstars don't have a chance to stretch and show that they really are something special. But there's so much you can do with a scripted piece to make it interesting, exciting, your own. There's serious, silly, sorry, sad. Hells, you could go out there and deliver the lines in Grover's voice! (Sesame Street) Look at what Jay Lethal can do on the stick. He carried TNA on his back by being Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair, and others. That's how to take something and truly run with it!
Cena says they need to take the chance, push the limits. Cena wasn't the top guy from word one, he put his ass on the line to be different, push boundaries, and I remember those days. The problem is that Cena hasn't evolved in so long, even though he claimed he does. He says that what the haters want is intangible, and he doesn't know what they want. In reality, I think what most (not all) want is for Cena to evolve, be interesting and creative, be edgier. He can still be that face that kids love, but he said that he loved both heels and faces when he was a child. I'm not saying Cena has to turn heel, that would be horrible for the kids. Yes, he's already catching heat from some, but it's the kids he loves, and I get that, but there's so much that he could do, above and beyond what he's doing now. He says he's not afraid to take a chance, yet he's been too safe and not taking the chances he's claiming he is.
Announce Segment > D-
I'm so over Byron, and was mortified when I saw him sitting in Cole's seat. There were years that we cut on Cole on announce, but much of that changed when he stopped trying to be more of a heel than he could ever pull off with his goofiness, and he was there for King when he had his heart attack on announce. Since then the fans have been much more accepting. It hasn't hurt that JBL is playing the heel and the fans have turned their ire on his annoying work on announce.
Last week when Byron couldn't handle announce, and needed King to rescue him, and then it came out that McMahon was really unhappy with Byron's pathetic showing on announce. I figured that meant there would be a two man announce team on Raw, or, maybe, they would take the intuitive leap and put Corey Graves out there. But there was Byron, in Cole's seat, looking like a deer in headlights, unable to even speak half the time the camera was on him. I will admit that toward the later end of the three hours, Byron wasn't horrible. But that doesn't mean that Booker T looked at all thrilled to be out there sitting next to the most boring announcer ever in the WWE!
In Ring Segment > B+
I really enjoyed just how much heat Rollins got in this segment. That young man was loathed more than most have been in a very long time. This wasn't X-Pac heat, this was Vickie Guerrero heat! I'm most impressed with Rollins' work on mic, and how he's more over as a heel than anyone else on the roster. Even more than Trip and Steph these days, and that's saying something!
Talking up The Authority and their accolades from WrestleMania was fun, especially when they got to Kane, and how, "He was there!" I was wondering what they were going to do with Kane when they got to that point after WrestleMania, and they're handling it better than I thought they would. But honestly, it was Kane on mic that made it work that much better. He did what he should do, not toe the party line, and it made for some good matches on Raw.
I have to give props to Orton too. He was less robotic than I think I've ever seen him on the stick. He really seemed to flow, and be more natural than I remember seeing him. We get these little glimpses of beauty from him, but he's never reached his full potential, and has already past that time that he could be the next Cena. So sad.
Orton vs Kane > B
This may sound strange, but I liked the placement of the commercial in this match. Usually they're about three minutes into the match, and we lose the next three minutes to commercials, or the WWE App. This was a breath of fresh air, and a lovely change.
I wasn't shocked that this dropped to DQ, but I really expected more of an attack on Orton, or more attacks backstage. It really felt as though creative dropped the ball in their abuse of Orton before the main event. If they'd done more, he really could have played the coming back from adversity. The creativity felt light, and therefore the show and some matches suffered for it.
Winner – Orton via DQ (9:01)
Backstage Segment > B
Wait! What was Maddox doing there? He got out of the cave? Further, he got out of the cave, then disappeared right back in! So very strange how he's been handled within the WWE.
I loved how Kane continued to handle Rollins here. He's standing up to the yapping chihuahua who wants to be BMOC, but thinks he needs everyone around him to do the work for him. The thing is that Rollins can do it all on his own, if he only stopped acting like a yapping chihuahua. Kane standing up to Rollins makes me think, and hope, that they're going somewhere with this, and it wasn't just one episode with Trip and Steph away.
Rollins vs Neville > A-
Rollins trying to intimidate Neville was great, and so obviously not going to work. The fans have been excitedly waiting for him to come up to the main roster, and I don't think anyone has been disappointed in what he's given us so far in the ring, though I'd really hoped this one would go to DQ, or something of the sort, as Neville absolutely deserves it. It's interesting to look at Neville and Rollins and their careers. Rollins was the inaugural NXT Champion. Neville was part of the team that were the inaugural NXT Tag Team Champions. Neville moved on to be NXT Champion himself. Rollins is the first, and so far only, Superstar to have won the NXT Championship and the WWE WHC. Looking at these two physically, and what they can do in the ring, they're more than matched. The only problem is that Rollins has a couple years ahead of Neville on the main WWE roster, so it will take a bit for Neville to catch up. I still wish this had gone to DQ, or something other than a clean win, but I think Neville more than showed that he can go toe to toe with the WWE WHC, and will continue to do so until he's WWE WHC.
Each time Neville has worked the ring on Raw, I've been almost crying at the end of the matches. I used to loath writing Rey Mysterio's matches, not because he wasn't amazing, but because he works the ring so quickly, he's so much faster than most of the other wrestlers. Now, on the main roster we have Kalisto and Neville, both of which are going to make my arms fall off and my brain implode.
Winner – Rollins (11:59)
US Championship Match – John Cena (c) vs Stardust > B+
This was a really solid match between these two, much better than I expected. I know what I expect from Cena's matches, but Stardust is so off the wall that I never know what he might do. Have you seen Stardust's promo after his match with Cena? The one on the WWE App? You should go check it out! If they could show THAT Stardust on a regular basis, he'd be over like Rover, something he could easily do if given the chance to do so. Cody Rhodes is one of the top eight talented young Superstars who should be getting pushed to the top.
I will fully admit that Cena and Stardust botched early in the match, but then they picked things up and the ball got rolling in a HUGE way. And not that I wanted to see Stardust win, as Cena really has come full circle, as I said in my recent article about Cena coming full circle by facing an unstoppable wall for the US Championship at WrestleMania, the way he did facing Big Show for the US Title at WrestleMania XX, but this Open Challenge takes that full circle go that much further, as his first appearance on WWE TV was facing Angle in his Open Challenge, and coming so close to beating him. The more they do these things with Cena, the more I wonder how close to the end Cena really is. What he said on Jericho's podcast further makes me wonder about his future in the WWE. He said that the kids didn't need to pop like that for John Cena, but they do need someone to pop for like that – and I agree.
Winner – Cena (13:15)
Paige & Naomi vs Bellas > B+
This was a very solid match. I said in the Raw Open Thread Discussion before Raw that I wondered about Naomi and Nattie being brought into the Divas Match last week as a way to make it look more natural for Naomi to be tagging with Paige going forward. Though, looking at the Divas Division right now, they all seem to be heels, except Naomi and Paige – so they really need to be able to team together.
I really enjoyed the work in this match. There were a few moves that were botched, but otherwise, I thought the four Divas in this match looked strong, beautiful, and harder hitting than normal. It's almost as if with the knowledge that AJ Lee is gone from the ring, they're all stepping up their game. If they make tiny mistakes because they are working so hard to get over and are pushing themselves and the others in the ring with them – as long as they're not pushing so hard that they're being dangerous to themselves and those in the ring with them – I'm thrilled. I'd rather see that than botches due to not caring, being lazy, or not working hard enough to learn and do things right. So, while this match wasn't perfect, these Divas were working their tatas off to give us a great match, and that's a drive we haven't see enough of from the Divas Division in quite a while.
Winners – Paige & Naomi (5:14)
Backstage Segment > B
I'll give Prime Time Players props for trying, but I've never been a fan of them as a team. They were funny, and seem to be getting back into their groove. Maybe things will work out better for them this time around. I will keep an open mind, and hope with the Tag Division being pushed the way it is, things will be good for these two. They're talented, and together so much better than the sum of their parts.
Harper vs Ryback > B
Well, any push Harper might have been on definitely got slowed down with this short defeat. Not saying the match wasn't solid, just that it was short, shorter than it should have been for a guy the size and of the skills Harper has. Ryback has grown so much since he debuted, stunk everything up, was busted down, and then brought up in a much more organic way. The fans are really behind Ryback, and love him now, and that's because he's believable.
Winner – Ryback (2:46)
Backstage Segment > B
Wow, I loved Woods in this segment. He sold better saying almost nothing than he ever has before. Kofi was solid, but not spectacular. Then there's Big E. I'm so glad he's getting a chance to be his goofy self. Big E was so over the top, and silly, I couldn't help but giggle and snort. They're moving in the right way, just too slowly for the team. I think they got lost in the WrestleMania shuffle, but it looks as though they're getting back on track now.
A New Day vs Lucha Dragons > B+
A New Day is taking steps in the right direction, but they need to get there faster if they're going to make this work. Hopefully it doesn't crash and burn with so many other teams in the Tag Division right now. Honestly, it's starting to feel like some of the best of times for the Tag Division.
On the other hand, Lucha Dragons are so much fun! I am a huge fan of this Sin Cara, and not just because he hasn't called the end to a match because his finger was bent back a tiny bit. Boohoo! But putting him with Kalisto, they're a jaw dropping team. I don't like writing Kalisto's move for move, mostly because I cannot keep up with him, but I love the team, and I love their name. My service dog's name is Dragon, and he's made it so I have freedoms I hadn't had for a number of years. Watching the Lucha Dragons in the ring remind me of how Dragon freed up my life so I can go out by myself without fear of something happening. So they already hold a special place in my heart.
Winners – Lucha Dragons (2:59)
Reigns vs Big Show > B+
While expected, I really enjoyed this match. Big Show played the giant better than he has on most days lately, and really pushed Reigns in a way that looked similar to WrestleMania, but less vicious. Reigns really can take a beating and keep going, but I have to say that it was specific moves of his that impressed me. I loved how he changed up his running double kick on the apron, with Big Show on the outside, rather than on the inside hanging out. Further, that he hit Big Show with three superman punches, then a spear to be able to take Big Show down shows just how hard Reigns will work to get there, and how much Big Show really still does have in the tank. I've been defending Reigns all along, and I'm enjoying him even more since he lost at WrestleMania. He really brings a smile to my face when he's in the ring, trying to prove that he really does belong there.
Winner – Reigns (10:43)
Backstage Segment > C+
#GiveDivasAChance? I needed Tylenol after this segment. Heck, my head is throbbing now, just thinking about the screeching and squealing. I will say that the segment worked, but the way certain Divas worked Kane – specifically Summer Rae – really disgusted me. I know sex sells, but the way she was rubbing all over him made me gag.
Backstage Segment > B+
Renee with Reigns was short, sweet, to the point, and really worked quite well. Reigns translated quite well on mic here, and showed that he has the charisma and mic skills to get over, even if he is polarizing.
Sheamus vs Henry > B-
Sheamus sure can talk the talk, and did a solid job of it here. Sheamus on mic might not be the best, but he's always interesting – whether heel or face. He's visually expressive, and his new look adds a lot to that. I know a lot of people really loath Sheamus' look, but I love it. The wild girl in me loves the mohawk, and the medieval wench loves the beard braids. He's the total package looking like that – and can wrestle better than The Total Package ever could!
I really thought that Henry was going to flatten Sheamus, but upon realizing that they were close to Henry's hometown, I knew he didn't have a chance to win this. It looked decent for a short match, but I'm not a fan of these two working the ring together, so I thought Sheamus' mic work was the strongest part of this segment.
Winner – Sheamus (2:34)
DEP! > A-
Okay, what's Wyatt up to now? I really enjoyed how he built to WrestleMania, and enjoyed watching him work the ring with Taker, even though Taker is looking older and older each year. I wonder if Wyatt is still on Taker, or if he's moving on to someone else. I like that we don't know what's going on with Wyatt until everything comes together, and that's a great way for his character to create and build storylines. I'm excited to see what's next, and so thrilled that his mic work was all caught really well and delivered in a way that was completely audible and well expressed.
Backstage Segment > B+
I like Ryback as The Big Guy. As I said about his match earlier, now that he's being built and pushed organically, things are working for Ryback. His mic work is so different from anyone else, but it works for him, and adds so much to his character. I'm loving it, and really think that Ryback could go far. I knew he could before, but things were working so badly for him that I never thought this would come to fruition. It's beautiful to see.
Miz vs Mizdow > C
This wasn't enough of anything, and just shoved into this show without much forethought. They really screwed up on this feud, didn't pull the trigger fast enough, and didn't give them as much time and push as they should have. Sandow is another one on my list of eight guys who could be at the top if creative pushed things just slightly differently. As I said before, Stardust needs more mic time to talk about other wrestlers the way he did after his Cena match. Sandow should have been pushed against Miz, and have moved on to grander things by now. I just hope they don't completely drop the ball with Sandow, as he deserves so much better than this, as he's proven that he really does have the IT factor. Sadly, this match showed little of that.
Winner – Miz (4:56)
Backstage Segment > B
While Orton was decent here, he wasn't as relaxed and as fluid as he was during the opening segment. His speech was peppered with 'Um' and a bit of nervousness. He was endearing and honest about not having anything against Reigns and Ryback, but would go through them to get Rollins. He was good, better than normal, but nothing compared to how solid he was in the opening segment.
Reigns vs Orton vs Ryback > B+
Since I was touting Reigns' moves earlier, I have to mention that a man that big should not be able to fly the way he does. That he can fly over the top rope and the distances he achieves, it's shocking! Yes, Neville can fly like no one I've ever seen, but he's also a lot smaller than Reigns. He floored me when he flew out onto The Authority the way he did, and absolutely added credence to him being in this match.
I loved the back and forth work between all three in the ring, though I have to admit that seeing Ryback bounce Noble and Mercury the way he did, made me both laugh and worry if they might be dead.
Of course Orton was going to win this match, it was obvious, especially since I'm not sure they could get Reigns over enough as a face to work a PPV main event with what he is getting for reactions at the moment.
Winner – Orton (5:12)
WWE Network > A
I know I didn't review the actual podcast, but I did watch it before I started the RIB, as Jesse told me I needed to, and he was right. This was the best one yet.
Okay, so it wasn't a jaw dropping, awe inspiring show, but it was strong, and still better than a lot of the crap we had last summer and fall. Not every night can be the night after WrestleMania, and we have to remember that. What they did well was pick up the ball, continue storylines and bring about new ones. Only time will tell where they will go from here, but with Brock Lesnar gone for a while, and a number of WWE's strongest young wrestlers pushing hard, we could have a great year – though not everything will be perfect, and being a fan means taking the bad with the good.
Queen of WNW