WWE Monday Night Raw
Detroit, Michigan
February 22, 2016

Are you ready for six weeks of necessary WrestleMania sign pointing!?

Raw opened with a recap of the Fastlane main event and a view of the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award.  Breaking News from the Facebook page as Brock attacked Dean in the parking garage.  Dean got slammed through the windshield of a limousine and gets a trip out in an ambulance wearing a neckbrace.  Brock will be here later.

The Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award

The award is supposed to capture Vincent K. McMahon’s father’s mind for business and his heart… so naturally the award’s going to Stephanie McMahon.  The surprise of the evening came in the form of Shane McMahon.  Shane is back for the family legacy.  There’s a secret about the company.

The story is Vince got in trouble, Shane bailed him out and while he got to do things he liked, he never lost his place in line.  He let Steph get to where she is.  Steph doesn’t believe it, but there’s truth to it – it was BEST FOR BUSINESS. Vince tried to make a deal, but Shane’s not here for money.  This is about legacy.  He wants control of Monday Night Raw and the crowd loved it.  Vince laughs, then gets indignant but he’ll give Shane what he wants so long as he has a match and wins.  If he loses, Vince gets a key to a lockbox Shane has that contains all the dirt.   The match isn’t with Vince, it’s going to be Wrestlemania.  It’s going to be Undertaker.  Oh and it’s Hell in the Cell.  Welcome back.

Later in the show Stephanie is shown being upset, and Vince congratulates himself for getting another Wrestlemania main event through manipulation

My thoughts: I’m not a fan of McMahon vs. McMahon angles since the first one and I have said that the worst thing to happen to wrestling was the McMahons becoming equal to talent.   They put more care into them than stories for wrestlers. Shane was great here, but I don’t expect him to be the one in the match.  I think someone’s watching Game of Thrones and it will be a proxy war.  The lockbox with “dirt” is a terrible plot device that will probably be played for laughs.

But for now, I’ll go along for the ride, so long as Linda isn’t involved.  I realize I’m in the minority re: McMahons on TV.

Neville & Lucha Dragons vs. The New Day

An inset promo set up a feud between New Day and the League of Nations.  They have a cereal called Booty-O’s  No, they have a cereal box that says Booty-O’s with the New Day’s animated likenesses.  At the end interesting ariel spots as Big E misses his dive, Neville does a 450 off the apron and Kalisto does a 450 off of Neville’s back on Woods.  Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise in the ring after messing up Sin Cara’s sight by adjusting the mask.

My thoughts:  I didn’t care for the miraculous recovery by Neville after sitting through two segments of heat, but the aerial spots got the crowd excited.  They’re not making the New Day faces, but they’re not heels either.  They’re B villains who have fun.  It’s a minor risk, but I think everyone’s in on the New Day act by now and will play along depending on the opponent.

JoJo w/ Roman Reigns

Roman still cares for his buddy but this is the moment he’s been waiting for just him and HHH.

My thoughts: He’s still every kind of hero.  This promo was supposed to be sentimental for his friend but still a lone wolf (“No family”).  All things to all people.  Continues in the Main Event segment as he becomes an underdog against huge odds.  The switching gears are making him seem more inauthentic to crowds.

Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman and Dean Ambrose

Heyman tells us Brock took Dean and Roman to Suplex City.  Roman was seconds away from tapping.  But then there was Dean.  Dean took a wrestling match and turned it into a street fight.  Brock is pissed because he was taken out of the main event.  Dean took himself out main event by not paying attention and losing.  Brock is out of WM main event, so Dean is out of WM.  Brock’s going to destroy the locker room until he gets a big match.

As if on cue, Dean is back in the ambulance.  Brock is annoyed and amused as Dean tears off the brace and stumbles to the ring, selling the injury.  He falls and drags himself down the ramp as Brock goes outside the ring to wait.  Dean is in pain and can’t move.  Brock steps on Dean’s head as Brock leaves.

Dean had a microphone and berated Lesnar with a challenge for a No Holds Barred Street Fight at Wrestlemania.  Brock gives him an F5 outside and Heyman accepts on behalf of Brock.

My thoughts:  Heyman was fine until he got to the parkour/BMX comparison.  I like that Brock is so enraged at losing the main event, but I wanted to see a locker room rampage before bringing Dean back.  You have the time.  Dean is still a bit too close to the prop comic of old, we saw a similar ambulance spot with the Bray Wyatt build.    A lot of stipulation matches makes it feel almost like a Starrcade, and I like the stipulation here, fits the build.  Overall, I like Dean as a “Cool Hand Luke” type who is too dumb to quit.

The Usos vs.  The Ascension

The Dudleys come out pre-match and say they don’t want to be a nostalgia act, so no more tables.  Usos win a quick one.

My thoughts: Match was nothing special, but I like this version of the Dudleys doing the old Mick Foley anti-hardcore shtick.   Promo fit the legacy theme and I appreciate that thematic continuity.

Y2J & AJ Styles vs. Social Outcasts

Jericho had heard for years about AJ Styles.  At first he didn’t like him, but he proved himself in 3 matches to be phenomenal.  He’s been stewing for 24 hours, he said before he didn’t like or respect him, but there’s a few more things he’d like to say to him.    AJ obliges.  Jericho admits pressure was on AJ but AJ beat him.  Jericho says congratulations.  AJ’s proved something, he proved he belongs.  They shake and the Social Outcasts are out.  They mock it all and say Jericho’s faking it.  No one’s buying Y2AJ.  They are a team.  Y2J wasn’t planning on being a team, but now they are.

The match saw Jericho get the hot tag after Slater and Axel get the heat on AJ.    AJ gets the diving forearm on Heath as Y2J has the Walls of Jericho on Axel.  AJ dives to the outside on the 3 Social Outcasts as Jericho gets the tapout win.

My thoughts: I think we’re getting this program through Mania.  To me it was inexplicable that Jericho gets the hot tag if they want to build AJ, unless the plan is to go back and forth that way until Jericho’s familiarity breeds some contempt about them being too equal.  Heath looked good here, but is where he is.  I hate the “he belongs here now” line, but this is how they do things.  The Y2AJ name is a bad idea I hope they drop quick, and hopefully they don’t merge the themes.

Goldust and R-Truth: Goldust got a cake to the face.

My thoughts: They’re building the uneasiness to eventually have Golddust save the day.  No one will care.

Big Show & Ryback & Kane vs. Bray Wyatt & Erick Rowan & Luke Harper

Goldberg chant for Ryback turns to Gillberg and Big Show corpse but the chant continued.  Ryback left at the moment of truth and Kane’s problem with imaginary women continued as he loses to Sister Abigail.  Ryback had a promo with Rich Brennan’s Earth-2 doppleganger he’s done being in tag teams, it’s time to break the glass ceiling, it’s not personal.

My thoughts:  The promo was trying to have it both ways.  I was left uncertain if Ryback was a heel or just a determined babyface as he apologized while also justifying his actions.  The timing of his leaving was dumb and didn’t feel earned.  The match wasn’t nearly as good as the PPV affair and bordered on bad at times as Ryback and Rowan have little chemistry together and they were the majority of the match.  Ryback’s CM Punk knees interest me from a “homage or animus” standpoint.  I’m very happy Luke Harper wasn’t hurt too bad last night as I find him endlessly watchable and we was pretty darn good in the match.

Sasha Banks vs. Naomi

A short match with Tamina interference leading to Becky coming out to even things up.   Sasha won with a Banks Statement and Charlotte, dressed as a Bella comes out and says she’ll be facing Sasha or Becky.  A really great “Becky watch out!” fake out by Charlotte to tease the dissension.   Charlotte’s going to play mind games the next couple weeks.

My thoughts: A fun match for the time it was given.  I really liked the Charlotte promo and the fake concern for Becky’s well being.  The problem is we now have 3 pairings (A2J, Golden Truth, Team BAE) that don’t trust each other.   It becomes a question of audience fatigue with similar angles.

Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus

Commentary putting over hard the odds being against Roman.  During a break, the League is thrown out and they obey, Roman comes back and spears Sheamus on the outside.  As Roman rolls back on 9, HHH’s music hits and  HHH has taped fists and is ready to fight.

HHH bloodies Roman and beats on him,  hits him in the throat with the ring bell and ends the beatdown with a pedigree on the steps, a Roman cock of the fist, and a DX “suck it.”  The crowd cheered every shot on Roman.

My thoughts:  Roman as scrappy underdog is the play, and the crowd is telling them what they think.  They have six weeks to either do better or change it up.  I thought the anti-Roman crowd was far more vocal than I expected.  I thought it would be a vocal minority, but it was the entire crowd.

The beatdown itself was a lot of fun, unfortunately the way it was presented with HHH turning out to be the hero of the crowd is a conundrum going forward  especially given his on camera love due to NXT.

Overall: Plenty of movement for Wrestlemania and they’re going to build it around McMahon family drama.  We’ll see if the plan is really Shane/Undertaker in the coming weeks.  A nice build on the main event and Divas programs and some baby steps for the other programs.  No Kevin Owens, and Ziggler and Miz had a promo on the Pre-Show that led to nothing.