Another week, another Raw. This week is my mini #AMA, so please enjoy the ride.

First though, three questions for this week’s Raw:

  1. Will things return to normal this week? Last week was a show where most everything broke from the usual routine. This week I expect to see the IC champ lose a non-title bout, a match won because someone else’s music played and paralyzed someone in the ring, and an announce crew that gleefully shits all over everything to talk about twerking and having fun.
  2. Will the debuts from last week get another week of being well treated? Vince has had time to see how short Neville and Kalisto are. Generally I assume that means that it is about time that they start jobbing the way midgets are supposed to.
  3. Is Roman Reigns being moved into a feud with Big Show and Kane? I almost feel bad for Roman. He did all he could at Mania to hold up his end of an awesome match, and now it looks like he is going into the purgatory that is a feud with the lumbering oafs. Not quite how Roman expected to be spending the weeks after Mania.

Monday Night Raw
April 6, 2015
Frank Erwin Center
Austin, TX

If you’ve been a longtime wrestling fan, you too have likely seen the words “Executive Producer Donald Bellisario” a few million or so times.

Cole is not here. Booker and JBL are here. JBL seems in great spirits despite being nearly murdered last week.

Something that may not be important, but I didn’t see discussed in the Mania aftermath, is whether or not Shawn Michaels is now a heel for good. His last few appearances have seen him superkicking Daniel Bryan and Sting. If they do decide to wheel him out for Mania 32 will they have to put him in a heel capacity, or at least rehabilitate him with the crowds? Like I said, probably doesn’t mean anything but still something I think about.

Seth Rollins and the Geek Squad: I’m not sure I’m excited about watching the 20 minute heel promo to open the show every week.

“The final nail in the coffin of WCW.” The ability of the McMahons to hold a grudge is staggering. These people make Terry Benedict in Ocean’s 11 seem like a let bygones be bygones sort of guy.

It isn’t a bad story that Kane, having been mocked by Rollins previously, sets up a scenario that can put Rollins in a bad situation yet still allows him to make it seem like he’s trying to help Seth by fighting Orton first.

Randy Orton vs. Kane: It’s Randy Orton vs. Kane. There’s not a whole lot to say here.

The one tiny touch I noticed in this that was good was the way Orton is always making tiny movements to make it seem like he’s constantly on edge. The shoulder shimmy just before the snap powerslam was a good example. It goes a long way to making it seem like he’s doing something rather than just moving from move to move. When the movements are organic to the character instead of just being a choreographed sequence there’s more chance for connection. Winner: Randy Orton

AMA #1 – From @AndrewTRich: What are your favorite Black Sabbath songs?

One advantage to having very young parents (Mom was barely 20, Dad was 22 when I was born) is that their music taste was always the best in the neighborhood. While all the other kids had parents listening to old crooners or country albums, my folks had a record collection full of Sabbath, Zep, Beatles, Who, Ozzy, Def Leppard, etc. Suffice it say the other parents did not much care for these albums being played around their children. Oh well, old people gonna old. The album covers alone were mind-blowing to an eight year old. Their favorite album, the one that got played every weekend, was Paranoid. I listened to that album as much as I did my 45 of We Are The World. Ozzy’s voice sounded straight from every nightmare a child ever had and I loved and feared it. And “Iron Man” was always the highlight. This slow, booming tale full of vengeance and hatred told by a mad man was a defining part of my childhood. This probably explains a few things about me. So while I wish my answer was some obscure track from the Ronnie James Dio years, between my parents and the impact of the Road Warriors I have to go with “Iron Man” as my favorite, and pretty much the whole Paranoid album as runners up. Those songs traumatized the most children and annoyed the most parents on my block.

Surprised to see the mention of AJ Lee’s retirement. Nice to have the announcers who called her a crazy slut for years give her a classy sendoff.

The Kane/Rollins tension continues to the point where Kane puts Rollins into a match. I hope this doesn’t mean the end of the Authority. Because I totally believe in this.

Seth Rollins vs. ???: I’m calling Brad Maddox. Or the Brooklyn Brawler. Or maybe Dean Ambrose. Definitely a big jobber should be the plan here.

It’s Neville. My statement about facing a jobber is not yet proven wrong. Glad he’s at least getting respect from the announce crew. Given his size and look it would not be difficult for these idiots to bury him without even meaning to.

Crowd chanting for NXT. In Texas. This isn’t some smark stronghold or something. There’s some significant undercurrent in the fanbase, and it’s starting to bubble. (Editor’s Note: To be fair, it is in Austin)

As this match is going on I’m growing less afraid for Neville. The announcers don’t give a guy this kind of praise unless someone high up likes him. Plus he got to use his special speed power to dart between J&J Security, making him look extra slick.

Seriously, give him back his first name. He’s not some weird British cartoon character. He’s a man and would be well served to be treated as such.

Watching Rollins get to be the bigger, stronger, more veteran guy is a change of pace. He’s been dealing with some hosses the last few months.

Even though he had to eat some curb stomps, Neville has made major strides tonight. He was trusted to do a lengthy Raw match against the champion. Hell, it was Seth’s first tv singles match as champ. I’m not quite ready to get out the streamers and cake, but I’m cautiously optimistic that Neville may get a fair chance to succeed. Winner: Seth Rollins. And Neville. And all of us.

Newhart Update: Plowing through season 5. Up to S5/E17. More and more often the plots are outlandish and cartoony. Every once in a while a quieter episode based on what we know of these people sneaks through, like when Dick’s ex-girlfriend from college comes to stay at the inn. But for every one of those there’s one with Dick serving as Larry, Darryl, and Darryl’s lawyer, or the always absurd episodes at Vanderkellen Manor. I keep watching because it’s familiar and the people involved are very good at what they do. Enough so that I’m not unhappy watching it. But I know what to expect, and I look for no more than that.

John Cena Open Challenge vs. Stardust: I watch this show every week. So you can guess my opinion on something that makes me listen to John Cena talk about being America’s American. But I hope he does this every week for months on end. Turn this belt into the Cenaweight Championship of the Cenaverse. Have some great matches, some squashes, and by Survivor Series he might just Nakamura this belt after all.

One benefit of this gimmick is that Cena is getting to be the thing that people bounce off of. Every week he just be grumpy as hell and murder people due to him being the strongest person in the world.

The crowd actually bought that nearfall with Stardust hitting the roll of the dice or whatever he’s calling it. DO THIS every week until the snow starts falling again.

So Vince gets mad at Austin, and suddenly John Cena has a springboard stunner in his weekly arsenal. Coincidence?

I want this segment weekly. 12-20 minutes each week of John Cena throwing people around, bouncing off into springboard stunners that make no damn sense, and people caring about the US title. Winner: John LOLCENAWINS

AMA #2 – From @the_mosayat: Did Shimmer release the show where the 5 on 5 tag main event you said was your #1 match of 2014 took place already?

The answer to this one is easy. No, they haven’t yet. Vols. 66&67 are the next ones coming up at http://shimmerwrestling.com. But this gives me a good reason to flash back to the Match of the Year voting at VoW. I voted for the main event tag match at SHIMMER 70 as my #1 match of the year (Sorry Honma/Shibata) and I regret nothing. My thoughts on this match:

“This year was absolutely packed with high quality in-ring work. Hell, the G1 alone probably had more four stars matches than WWE had in the entirety of the 1990s. Just being awesome in the ring is not enough for me to think of a match as being the Match Of The Year~! There has to be some real storytelling involved with the excellent wrestling. And in the best of all worlds, a definitive conclusion to a story that has been told for a while now. This match, starting as a SHIMMER title match between champion Nicole Matthews and Tomoka Nakagawa kept building and building as interlocked feuds crashed the match until it became an eight person tag. The ending of the match was at least two years in the making with Portia Perez finally facing all of the people she had antagonized for so long. As the last SHIMMER match of 2014 it felt like a very long chapter was finished, and new stories for 2015, some already in progress, some yet to begin, were ready to take shape. When one match can nearly wipe the slate clean for a promotion, make the fans lose their minds, have some excellent ring work, and still be easily recalled months later in great detail…chant it with me…MATCH OF THE YEAR! MATCH OF THE YEAR!” Go back and check out all of the VoW Match of the Year results for a good time.

Bellas vs. Paige and ???: Right now the TV is paused as Paige is entering. I have read no spoilers or tweets or anything. I’m so hoping for Charlotte. I’m getting Alicia Fox aren’t I?

Oh hell, I forgot that we’re in the middle of the Naomi push.

“Naomi may be the most athletic diva in WWE.” Naomi proceeds to almost fall off the rope and then slip on her ass after she lands.

This seems a good time to remind everyone that this weekend is SHIMMER Volumes 72-75 taping at the Eagles Club in Berwyn, IL.  Winners: Paige and Naomi.

AMA #3 – From @IamMedellin: Canadian money, worthless or not even worth acknowledging?

Excellent question. Our questioner made what at the time seemed like a smart bet that I would not make it to WrestleMania given the mental strain reviewing Raw has on people. Honestly I don’t know how I did it, because nearly every week I wanted to quit. But the fact that some of you have told me very nice things about enjoying the Report gets me excited to write each week, even if the show sucks. So in answer to the question, how about double or nothing on my making it to Summerslam?

“We’re the Ascension, and WE CAN’T READ!” I need more Prime Time Players in my life. Badly. Best non-Heyman promo of the year.

Ryback vs. Luke Harper: I have but one request here. Five minutes, non-stop, nothing but bombs being thrown.

Ryback seemed subdued in his entrance. This worries me.

I did not sign up to watch Luke Harper doing submission holds to Ryback. This is incorrect and inappropriate.

This was a very back and forth match, and Ryback took some significant damage. And by the end Ryback was too damaged to do the usual Ryback mannerisms. No hyping up the crowd before moves. No talking to himself. No marching his way into Shellshock. He did what you would expect his character to do in this situation. Ryback is doing some damn work, and people do not give him appropriate credit. Winner: Ryback

Watch this: “Going Clear” the HBO documentary on Scientology. I found it interesting when attempting to parse out the difference between a religion, a cult, and a scam. There were answers given, but the only one that really made sense was that a religion has been around a long time. Fun thought experiment: What world religions, if they were introduced today, would have the best shot at gaining a critical mass of followers?

So does the New Day heel turn begin tonight, or does it get slow burnt until no one cares?

New Day vs. Lucha Dragons: Lucha Dragons are brilliant. They have a chant that is similar to the “Yes” chant, complete with arm movement.

Getting upset at the fans disliking you, and then slapping on a chinlock is either excellent trolling or not really reading the crowds well.

Kofi Kingston interfering behind the ref’s back. And it still isn’t enough for New Day to win. Good to see that they are full of fail no matter their alignment.

Kalisto looked great for a second week in a row. And was given respect by the announce team. They really are giving the debut guys a chance so far. Winners: Lucha Dragons

AMA#4 – From @lob_3 Will we have a week without a 6 man tag?

This comes from the excellent VOW reviewer for Lucha Underground. Once you’re done here definitely check him out: http://www.voicesofwrestling.com/2015/04/02/lucha-underground-april-1-review/ This week we had a 6 woman tag, so I guess so? I understand that it is hard to not fall into a formula when booking 3 hours every week, along with all the other shows. That’s why I try to be a little more gentle on Raw than I would be on a show that had 1 hour per week, or a major show every few months. Nothing can be great every single week. All I ask for is a moment or two of greatness each week. Give me that and just try to make sense of the show. I demand excellence from SHIMMER, or NJPW main shows. But for Raw each week, my baseline is please don’t make me actively hate watching.

Big Show vs. Roman Reigns: Hi Roman! Welcome to your post-Mania nightmare. I’m Big Show, and I’ll be your companion for the next 3 months. Rest assured there will be many chances to admire my skillet-like hands up close.

Show needs to always bring the ARMBAR trophy with him and do the pose. Only he needs to extend the length of the pose every time. By Summerslam I want entire segments of the show to just be Big Show standing with his arms crossed.

Camera angles are everything. The camera angle that showed us Show never touching Reigns with that Vader Bomb was a bad angle. That said, Show is looking spry tonight. He’s throwing sliding dropkicks and coming off the ropes. Not bad there Show.

Since Mania Reigns has added a touch of Mick Foley into his character. He is smiling as he suffers.

The crowd wasn’t super excited for Reigns winning, but they weren’t booing at least. I think WWE will take that right now. Winner: Roman Reigns

Kane has become the exasperated dad dealing with his demanding bosses and now his crazy daughters are ganging up on him at once. The Devil’s Favorite Sitcom Dad.

Roman Reigns meanwhile has become a living internet ad. “Roman Reigns defeated the Big Show. You won’t believe what he does next!”

Sheamus vs. Mark Henry: I kind of like the new entrance music, despite the glaring lack of limes being mentioned in the song.

Sheamus is now calling himself a Real Man. Perhaps the only one. I’d like to point out that Silas Young is not going to be having any of this nonsense.

I missed the fella. We need as many people who like to hit other people really hard as possible in this company.

Appreciate the in-match story. Sheamus knows that he cannot match strength with Henry. So he worked on Henry’s leg. Not for a submission, but just enough to slow Henry down and take away his base. He only needed a little bit of an advantage to hit his big shot on Henry. Everyone is seemingly using logic and character nuance tonight. I heart it. Winner; Sheamus

AMA #5 – From @PlayerTypeZero Wanna talk about CM Punk?

Why yes, that sounds marvelous! But let’s not talk about how he was involved in my two favorite wrestling matches of all time. Or the Pipe Bomb.Or even his ugly exit from WWE. Let’s talk about a guy named Doug, and why he hates CM Punk.

Doug was a friend of my sister’s, about 7 years younger than I am. A relatively happy-go-lucky pothead who loved wrestling of all types. I was not living there when these events occurred. Being from the Chicago suburbs though I heard about the Lunatic Wrestling Federation back in 1999-2000. A lot of my sister’s friends were into wrestling, so whenever I would visit my family to watch a PPV show, they’d come by and talk wrestling. All of them were abuzz about the LWF, which I have to be honest sounded like the dumbest dumbshit backyarding possible. So when I heard about them actually doing spot shows, instead of just setting up a ring next to the toolshed, I was confused. The one thing almost everyone agreed on was that the main draw was some skinny kid calling himself Chick Magnet Punk, CM Punk for short. The reason for the almost was because Doug was unimpressed.

Time went by. Doug kept smoking weed. I found myself getting into ROH, particularly due to the Punk/Raven feud. As an old ECW fan I was sucked into any angle with Raven, and even a cameo by Tommy Dreamer. When ROH came to the Chicago market I was there and telling everyone I knew to come with me. I assumed Doug, as a big wrestling fan, would be an obvious fan and come with. But he shot it down without a second thought. I asked him why and he mumbled about “that asshole Punk” being there and screw that guy.

The seasons came and went. Doug got married and had a kid. I got married and had fun not having kids. I think Doug went to Africa for a while. We didn’t see each other much, but Thanksgiving was a time when we almost always crossed paths. Thanksgiving 2011 was one of those times. Finally we got to talking wrestling, and I was still gushing months later about Money in the Bank. How I’d never enjoyed a wrestling event more, and left every shred of my voice in the Allstate Arena. Doug responded with disinterest, saying friends of his went to the show but he didn’t want to. Why? Why would you deny this to yourself? Because Punk’s an asshole that’s why. His baby started to cry and fuss and I didn’t get to say anymore to him about it. Until Thanksgiving 2013. I had only two things on my mind that year. Stealing all the turkey skin before it reached the table, and finding out why Doug hated Punk so much through all these years.

“He was a dick to me at a LWF show. He hit on my girlfriend with me standing right next to her. I got in his face, and said let’s go. Finally I was pulled away, but I’ve never forgiven him for that.” And that’s why I want to talk about CM Punk. Because I think I can sell Dana White on the prospect of Chick Magnet Punk vs. Doug as Punk’s first UFC match. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS! MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!

Hey, it’s the guy who couldn’t beat the 2,000 year old man. What does he have to say? Who really cares? Bray has turned into the heel version of Dean Ambrose. Not quite as low as Dean, but close.

Miz vs. Damien Mizdow: I can totally see why you would save this for a Raw in Austin as opposed to that show you had in Santa Clara. As always WWE, you know best.

Unless the plan is to let Mizdow actually take over Miz’s life like James Woods stealing Peter Griffin’s identity this should really be the last night where Mizdow uses the Miz entrance theme.

I confess to smiling at the mention of Clarence Mason. Possibly the best legal mind in wrestling history. I am not however sure that the Tom Mix and Johnny Weissmuller references are really connection with the under-60 crowd. Or the film nerd crowd.

This match really should have had counter after counter after counter-counter. They hinted a little at this, but really that was where the story of the match and their relationship needed to be told.

Mizdow’s post-breakup time is not going well. It’s like WWE can’t help themselves when it comes to making Sandow look like a geek. Winner: The Miz

AMA #6 From @_InYourCase Very intrigued by this Konerko story. Please enlighten us.

I will definitely do that. But you’ll have to go to the Off-Topic section of the VOW Forums. Tonight. Otherwise this report is never making it online!

Ryback vs. Reigns vs. Orton: Randy Orton being a 12 time world champion is even more awful sounding than John Cena being a 15 time world champion.

This match is just not clicking. Everyone was moving slowly Just going through the motions.

The ending picked up a bit, but not enough to rescue things.

John Cena apparently wears Chive shirts when not wearing his own merch. I’m not sure this is in any way and improvement. Winner: Randy Orton

What answers did we get from this episode of Raw?

  1. Will things return to normal this week? Things weren’t quite as bad as I feared. Not having Cole in the booth seemed to be a big help. The announcers were mostly on point, none of the results seemed to make no sense, and while not a spectacular show, most things felt like they had some reason for being there.
  2. Will the debuts from last week get another week of being well treated? They did! Neville was put into a huge spot and had an exciting back and forth match with the champ. Sin Cara did a swanton and mostly stayed out of the way. Kalisto flew around and was actually given respect by the announce team. Maybe HHH/Steph and Vince really were on vacation.
  3. Is Roman Reigns being moved into a feud with Big Show and Kane? It sure looks like it. Can I call this the Fall of the Roman Empire? Is that too on the nose? Funny thing is I don’t mind it that much. Let Roman have some time working with Show, let him rebuild his rapport with the fans and tweak his character to be more engaging, and maybe by the fall he’ll be ready for the big push. The worst thing that could have happened to Reigns would have been going right after Rollins. The crowd would shit on it and him.

The awards from tonight’s show:

  • Ugh:  Somehow #GiveDivasAChance became “let a bunch of jobbers clumsily manipulate an overworked middle manager into giving them a non-opportunity opportunity.” This hashtag. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • Honorable mention: Neville for hanging with the champ. AJ Lee for getting out intact and being given a few seconds of respect on a show where that was rarely the case for her. Kalisto for again looking ridiculously smooth flying around the ring.  Prime Time Players for just being amazing.
  • MVP: Seth Rollins. He anchored the show tonight, from his smarmy opening promo, to his quality match with Neville, to teasing dissension in the ranks, and then laying out his enemy at the end of the show. Get used to seeing a lot of Seth Rollins people. Heel champs are harder to avoid than snow in Buffalo.

Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @spiffie6123. Check out the VOW forums to read the Konerko story. And if you like this…please share it. My delicate ego cries out in pain when the hit count is too low!