Looking at Raw this week, I think this was a really strong episode for storylines, but not great for actual wrestling. The numbers really don't add up. 43:24 in actual wrestling out of a three hour show truly sucks. Further, the main event was about sixteen minutes long, so without that, there was only about twenty-seven minutes of wrestling. I really wish I'd timed the six big segments in the ring: Rollins/Reigns, Steph/Cena/Axel, Wyatt, The Daily Show, Trip/Booker, and Heyman. I think looking at those numbers, most of them were as long, if not longer than the main event. That's really not a good thing. Six matches, and six major mic segments, and the storytelling took so much more time than the storytellling in the ring. If they had pushed the matches more, and made sure they were really great matches, I think this would have been an episode long talked about. Instead, we will be talking about Stewart kicking Rollins in the slats.
In Ring Segment > B
Every year the WWE tries to bring in someone interesting from mainstream media to up the anti for WrestleMania. In years past there's been Cindy Lauper, Donald Trump, Pete Rose, Snookie, Mike Tyson, Maria Menounos, and so many more. Some worked well, some flopped worse than we thought possible, and some just left us shaking our heads. And while many of them are true wrestling fans, not all of them translated well to the WWE or WrestleMania. Heck, look at the heat Flo Rida got for singing at WrestleMania! The WWE isn't for everyone, but I have to say I'm loving Rollins' feud with Jon Stewart. I'm a huge The Daily Show fan, and I know what a huge WWE mark he is. Further, being in New Jersey, Stewart's home state that he's been so open about his allegiance to, it was perfect timing. I also have to say that Rollins dropped kayfabe when Stewart was climbing all over him on The Daily Show, but it was because he was obviously having so much fun with it all.
With Brock Lesnar being such a question mark right now, and his work with Bryan being over, Reigns really needed something to keep him in front of the fans heading into WrestleMania. I loved him on mic here because he seems so much more natural than when he was being forced into a character he wasn't ready to portray. Reigns will get there, but he's still learning. Again, I say, go back and look at how back Rocky was early on, it wasn't pretty. I'm enjoying Reigns more and more, and thought he was quite endearing here. Okay, I'll fully admit that his caramel Samoan skin, dark hair, brows, and lashes framing those startling blue eyes makes me melt, and I'm biased by seeing this sexy young man, but he's barely older than my daughter, and I feel like a dirty old lady. I will say that it's okay to appreciate beauty, no matter the age, and I am swayed by his beauty, and the juxtaposition of him being Samoan with those blue eyes. Basically, I'm willing to admit my bias, based on his looks, but I'm working hard to look at all he does objectively. Personally, with Rollins holding the MITB case, and their history, it makes sense that they work this angle going into WrestleMania. Further, I love that he offered to make it a Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania, which, of course, Rollins would never hand over his case for an actual match; we all knew that.
Backstage Segment > B+
I'm loving how Orton is playing that edge, where you know he's still pissed at Rollins, playing with him in a huge way; really questioning whether he's heel and toying with Rollins to get the strap from him when he wins it, or if he's a face and just biding his time, toying with him, to get the strap from him when he wins it. This is a creative evolution of Orton's character, and great to see.
Ambrose vs Barrett > B+
I know people are criticizing the way the IC Title is being handed around and stolen the way it is, but I love it! While it doesn't add to the credibility of the strap, it does get the interest going for the Championship heading into WrestleMania. I will hold back my feelings about the actual match they're building to at WrestleMania, as I'm not quite sure where I stand on the IC Ladder Match along with the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, but they will work to get every Superstar a show bonus at WrestleMania, if at all possible.
I love watching Ambrose in the ring, he's one of my favorite's right now, because he's so creative and unexpected in there, but I have to admit that what was going on outside the ring with R-Truth and Harper was also quite interesting. R-Truth on announce has been fun, and an unusual way of doing things, as he's not been in the ring much through this. He's entertaining to listen to, and a blast to watch when things go down out there. He's one who just keeps going and going, and has translated well to the PG Era after getting his start in the AE. I think a big part of it is because his character keeps evolving, but maybe I'm completely wrong.
That Barrett keeps losing, and that it usually has something to do with his missing belt is just furthering the storyline heading into WrestleMania. I have to admit that WWE creative is doing a solid job with building toward this match, and using all the men involved to make the build that much more interesting. They might be dropping the ball in other places, but this is working quite well for me so far.
Winner – Ambrose (9:30)
Backstage Segment > B+
On Smackdown, as soon as Miz stole Mizdow's commercial and didn't care what the commercial was for, Stacy and I both knew it was going to be an erectile dysfunction pill, it just had to be. They did a monumental job of taking Miz's comments and turning them around to look as damning as possible, and Mizdow played it off perfectly.
That slap from Miz was harsh, and I thought we were going to see Mizdow snap, but, yet again, it was pushed off again. I have to admit that I love how they're drawing this out, it makes the tension grow, and we will be that much more ecstatic when Mizdow snaps – as long as they don't wait too long.
Stage Segment > A
I noticed something with this segment – I could understand every word from Wyatt. This leads me to think his problems in the backstage segments are one of two basic things. The first being that maybe Wyatt talks louder when he's actually in front of the fans, which makes sense as he would be feeding off their excitement. Or, the mic backstage just isn't set up to catch all that Wyatt says clearly. I'm interested in knowing which it is, because while Wyatt does need to learn to enunciate better, and his diction is lacking, I'd be really annoyed if a lot of the crap I've been throwing at him for his segments were beyond his control.
I LOVED this segment! First off, that casket was beautiful! I'm sure it didn't look half as good in person, but on TV it was lovely. The wood appeared to be buffed and polished to a a golden sheen. I was mortified when he doused it in acceleration, but it only seemed to burn off the top, not really injure the casket. I thought it was a fantastic display, worthy of taunting Taker.
I was really expecting to see something from Taker this week on Raw, even if it was just a bolt of lightening, or the lights going out. I didn't expect to actually see the Phenom, but some sort of mysticism from his arsenal of tricks. Maybe next week.
6 Person Mixed Tag Match > B-
Each week they keep going back and forth with this Nattie thing. Is she happy with Kidd, or isn't she? She did pretty well selling her ire, and her 'injury' during the match, but as soon as it was over, she seemed to forget she had an injury, other than yelling at her husband and Cesaro about it.
There were a couple of solid moves in this match. Jimmy's corkscrew was great, and Naomi looked amazing no matter what she did in there. Beyond that, I honestly don't know what they're trying to do with these six. They've been going back and forth, not really progressing in any direction that makes much sense, and it's turning stagnant. Time to pick a direction and head that way for WrestleMania – good, bad, or indifferent.
Winners – Usos & Naomi (2:53)
In Ring Segment > B&A+
Jesse thought this segment should get an A+. I agreed with him, part way. I thought certain people really carried this segment, but one person brought it down. The same banter from Cena that we've been hearing for years, and that was possibly one of the loudest crowds I've heard against Cena in years, absolutely in the past couple months – and I don't blame them. I make little comments about how certain Superstars have evolved through the years, kept themselves relevant and loved, or hated, by the fans, but Cena has been the same Cena for so long without variation that I can barely remember how he evolved into this boring mass of smile, muscles, and bad marketing of his own quarterly changing merch. I'm not saying that Cena needs to change and evolve with each merch change, but the fans are showing just how pissed off they are that Cena is exactly the same goody-goody character that he's been for so long, and they're well over the candy coated boredom of it all. I know I am, and I've tried to support Cena more than most.
Steph was as professional and The Authority as usual, but she showed her heart, and one of my favorite picture of Andre, the one with Steph when she was 8. They were very good friends, and she has been quite vocal about her love for Andre, so this was the perfect in for her in this segment. She carried herself well, playing The Authority, but ripping down Cena in a much different way from normal. It looked as though art was imitating life here, and Steph was giving Cena, who they always thought was a company man, but might not be as much of one as they thought, the McMahon feelings on what's going on with Cena. I really liked how Steph said, "It's not where would WWE be without John Cena? It's where would John Cena be without WWE?" I think that's a very good point, and either Cena wasn't expecting it, or he's selling even better than usual, because he looked a little green over that comment.
But then came the greatness. I've said since that first night that Axel came out ranting about how long he's been in the Royal Rumble Match. He's selling it well, and has more charisma than I ever thought he could possibly have. I said to Jesse that it's almost as if he was looking at the end of his run in the WWE if he didn't do something great, and fast – so he's loosened up and is running with this. I love the way he starts each time with, "Don't change the channel!" and has been screwing up the length of time since the Royal Rumble Match. I'm sure the first time was an accident, but it's working for him. And, "Your words is inspiration to me." about had me on the floor laughing.
The look on Axel's face when the "Axelmania!" chants started running wild in that arena was priceless. It was almost as if he finally understood what all the fuss was about; why Superstars say that fan reaction can be like a drug. I think it's the first time an entire arena was chanting just for him, and it was a whole new feeling for him. Axel was absolutely glowing, and it wasn't just his spray tan. I really hope this takes hold and Axel runs with it. I've been interested in Axel since I first saw him inducting his father into the WWE Hall of Fame, and he's shown he has everything needed but the charisma, and he seems to have found that with this new gimmick. Fingers crossed.
Axel vs Cena > B+
Hear me out! I cannot say the grade is for the ring work in this match, but for the personalities in this match. Axel spent half the time of this match selling his new character, playing at being Hogan, and that worked, because we all knew that this was going to be a very short match. But it's the second half of the match that really caught my attention. Cena exploded out of the corner with a seriously sick clothesline, and then a right on Axel. The icy glare in Cena's eyes is something we've not seen in many years, if at all. He looked like he might be evolving in some way, but I'm going to reserve judgment as it was just one match, not enough to say that Cena is finally changing. Again, fingers crossed!
Winner – Cena (1:52)
Stage Segment > B
Lana is still strong, but it's Rusev who seems to be growing. He's good on the stick, and reacts well to fans who jeer and chant. Superstars who just don't handle chants, or don't react well to them, like Orton, always seem just slightly out of step with the fans, but Rusev, with his grasp of the English being much better than they wanted us to believe, is great at snapping back at the fans, no matter what they might yell at him.
In Ring Segment B
I knew they were going to do something with Booker T, as his life story was debuting on the WWE Network last night, but I didn't expect Trip could 'fire' him, even just joking. Further, Sting has been quite open about why he didn't come to the WWE after WCW was bought out. There was little question behind that. He's stated numerous times that he wanted a lighter schedule, and McMahon didn't do those things back then, but has obviously changed his tune with the part-time wrestlers who have worked over the past five years or so. But, it wouldn't be the WWE, and Trip wouldn't have a storyline, if they didn't completely disregard the truth and everything the fans know to be true. How many years did they deny on TV that Trip and Steph were married? They joked around, skirting the issue, but acted as if it wasn't true. It goes back to McMahon thinking the fans are morons with no memories for anything that's never happened in the company.
I have to admit that I giggled at Trip calling me and mine out in this segment. I've never claimed to know the ins and outs of the wrestling industry, and I'm surely no kid at this point, but I am banging around on the Internet, and I do claim to know what moves should look like, what is dangerous, and the ins and outs of good fiction and acting. While I know a lot of sites cut and paste, steal information from each other, here at WNW we do know a few damn things, and we don't run like a newz site, though I know the WWE hates us anyway. Not really worried about it. Doesn't keep me awake at night.
The other things that jumped out at me were how much WCW was named. I don't think I've heard it mentioned that often since 2001. And, it seems as though Booker T is the next in the role filled by JR, then King. He's the announcer who will be abused whenever they need an announcer to abuse. At least he's a former wrestler, and can take the abuse better than JR could, and better than King has been able to in recent years.
Divas Championship Match – Paige vs Nikki (c) > A-
Hear me out! Paige is great, really worked it hard, but it was Nikki who impressed me here. She hit a couple of kicks that looked really solid, and her spinebuster was better than I thought she had in her. She also sold above and beyond.
Then there's the post match with with Brie on Paige, and especially AJ on both Bellas. I don't know if AJ was really pissed when she headed to that ring, but she looked it, and appeared to be working fairly stiff. AJ worked it HARD! Further, the Bellas were as hard hitting back on AJ! This is what I expect to see from the Divas, them actually going out there and working hard, not running around and screaming before they hit each move so they can show how hard they're working. I won't say that they were Lita and Trish, but this is much closer than we've seen in a very long time!
Winner via DQ – Paige (6:46)
Backstage Segment >B+
Paige selling her confusion was fantastic, and the way AJ explained it was perfect. While I was hoping to see AJ vs Steph at WrestleMania, it looks like it might be AJ and Paige vs the Bellas. Big question is whether the strap will be on the line in some way.
The Daily Show w/ Seth Rollins > A
Jesse was planning on writing this segment, but he's spent the day at the hospital with a friend, the way I did last Tuesday, so I'm going to try to do it justice for him.
This was a fantastic segment. Between Rollins trying to host The Daily Show, and the way Stewart totally shot on Rollins the way he did, I was blown away. As I said earlier (when I thought Jesse was going to be writing this), Stewart is really playing this well, and Rollins has been working well with this mainstream star. I loved the back and forth between them, and the names that Stewart called J&J Security when they were looking as though they were getting too riled up. I will admit he went a big old school with Katzenjammers. I didn't know what it was myself, but Stacy had heard of it. It's the longest running comic strip which started in 1897, and is still published today. Further, the originator is the man who created the speech bubble! I know this is supposed to be about wrestling, but I'm a trivia nut, and Stewart brought the comic up in his speech, so I had to check it out.
I really enjoyed the dichotomy between the two men. Stewart with his Jersey accent, being an older man who has worked in comedy, but also behind a desk for so many years, to Rollins who is a young buck, extremely physical, and running with a character that has almost no sense of humor. I think it works well and will only continue to elevate Rollins in the long and short run. He keeps this up, and he could become a household name, like Rocky.
Lastly, I have to mention that I thought Rollins was going to shake Stewart right out of his loafers. Stewart is a smaller guy than I thought, but in the end, he got the last kick in! Of course, it goes back to Orton's involvement, and I love that because in the middle of all of this with Stewart, Orton stuck his nose in again and Rollins was screwed. Fantastic!
Backstage Segment > B
Stewart was wonderful in his worry than Rollins might be after him, and while selling himself, he wasn't sticking around to get abused even more by Rollins and his boys.
Harper vs Bryan > B-
Back to the ever traveling IC strap! It's just hysterical to me. Beyond that, I would have given this a better grade had Bryan not been left holding his neck and unable to move his right arm for a few minutes after taking a rushed and terribly rough release German supex from Harper. The last thing you want to do to someone who is just back from a neck injury is drop him like that, and that's why I'm so glad Bryan will not be facing Brock at WrestleMania. I'm sure that Bryan wouldn't have been walking out of there in one piece, because Brock is dangerous. I said it before and caught crap for it, but I stand by my words. I just wish Harper had more control of that move, and hope Bryan is not hurt in any way that will continue to follow him through his wrestling career. When Bryan was starting the "YES!" "YES!" "YES!" after the match, he was only using one arm for the chant. It was after the belt had been stolen by R-Truth, and then Harper took him out to get it back did Bryan show that he actually could move his right arm in any way.
Beyond the danger and bad landing, this match was fun and continued the storyline for the IC Title. All of the guys involved are really selling the stealing and passing of the belt through attacks – and Ziggler's superkick on stage was sick – making the build one of the best heading into WrestleMania.
Winner – Bryan (6:30)
Video > A+
I'll fully admit that I was never an Aundra Blayze, or Madusa fan, but I realize what she did for and to the industry, as well as the women's championships. I'm very happy that she's being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and I'm excited to see how she looks and what she has to say in her acceptance speech. But I do have to say, like with every WWE Hall of Fame Inductee, this video was terrific.
Backstage Segment > B+
Orton continues to play his games with Rollins, and it's so much fun to watch. They should be facing off at WrestleMania, and I cannot wait to see what the turning point for them will be.
In Ring Segment > B
Was it just me, or did Heyman seem rattled from the start? Yes, the mics pissed him off, as they should have, but he really seemed pissed off, above and beyond – but this is Heyman, and he's a master of character, and a wrestling genius. Honestly, I wouldn't blame him for the games Brock is playing. I don't know what their relationship is these days, as he and Brock had a falling out just before Brock returned to the WWE, but I don't know if they're still on the outs these days. Either way, there's no way he's not pissed and Brock's pettiness, and inability to see further than that paycheck. Talking to different people about this, it seems like Brock will never be happy anywhere, doing any specific thing for very long in his life, and just expects wherever he wants to be at a given time to pay him exorbitant amounts of money for whatever he decides he wants to do at a given time. I hope McMahon has learned from working with Brock, and doesn't dish out serious money like this again for Brock, or anyone else who would demand serious money for little work, and an unrealistic contract. I have a full article about Brock in me, but I'm stopping here, because I want to go to bed before I have to get up in the morning.
I have to mention Heyman's slams in this segment before I move on. Between his nastiness at Lilian, and that the sound guys must be from New Jersey, and lastly attacking that fan for Andre being dead, he seemed really over the top for the PG Era. No complaining, but willing to admit I was shocked that Heyman's mic troubles weren't on purpose to cut him off a couple times.
Rollins vs Reigns > B+
I have to admit that I'm starting to get annoyed by the, "You can't wrestle!" chants for Reigns. He's more than proven that he knows what he's doing in the ring, and if he hadn't before, his work at Fast Lane more than proved that he can hold his own and make it look good. All that being said, certain audiences still chant that at Cena, and while he can be formulaic, and Super Cena, he really does know what he's doing in the ring, and looks good much of the time that he's doing it. Fans will be fastidious and fickle when it comes to wrestling, and that's something that will never change.
I love that Reigns came out strong, but I have to admit I'm starting to get annoyed with Rollins leaving the ring every two minutes to get pep talks from J&J Security, Kane and Big Show. I know this is part of his character right now, but Rollins is one of the best wrestlers out there, so knowing what he can do, I want to see him do it, not be a pussy fleeing the ring at every turn. I'm excited for his future when we get to see him really working the ring straight through again. He's wonderfully talented and entertaining, it just feels like every time we start getting into the match, he leaves the ring. When he gets past that point in this character, I'm going to cheer.
And again Orton made this that much more interesting. That Orton actually helped Rollins win his match by tripping up Reigns further messes with Rollins' head, and thickens the plot. I love this for so many reasons. I said that the IC Championship storyline is the best going into WrestleMania, but this Orton/Rollins thing is right close, and honestly, Rollins/Stewart is better than both. That Rollins is involved in two big storylines right now, or three if you're including the MITB/WHC direction with Reigns and Brock, or four if you include anything to do with The Authority. That's almost epic for a young Superstar.
Lastly, I have to comment on Reigns' work after the match was over. A suicide dive from the ring by a guy of Reigns' size is insane, and it looked great! Further, the superman punch and following spear on Big Show looked wonderful, and was sold beautifully by Big Show. I cannot say that the spear on flying Rollins was the best, but I give them huge props for trying it after how great Orton is at hitting his RKO on a flying Superstar. And then there's the fact that Orton didn't stick around for any of this just rounds out the whole storyline with him for the night. The overrunning arch of Orton in this episode was just lovely.
Winner – Rollins (15:53)
I am always the first to say that the fans bought the tickets to be at the event, they can chant what they want as long as it's not abusive or truly bullying, but I couldn't get over the "CM Punk!" chants Monday night! That's more than we've heard the past two months. It was ridiculous how much they fell back to chanting at this event, but that's just one woman's opinion.
Queen of wmw