Overall: In the first hour, the League of Nations shows there is a difference between bad and evil and Dean Ambrose starts a fight with a Beast. After that, plenty of the top two angles heading into WrestleMania 32.
3 Things You Need to Watch if You DVR:
- 1) New Day vs. The League of Nations (0:00)
- 2) Dolph Ziggler vs. HHH (2:00)
- 3) (TIE) Vince/Shane/Undertaker: (2:56) and Ambrose/Brock (0:28)
RAW is live from Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania.
The New Day (Xavier Woods & Big E) def. The League of Nations (Rusev & Alberto Del Rio)
Awwww Pittsburgh! The New Day’s comedy is becoming “how many butt jokes can we fit in a three minute promo.” Booty-Os is a thing (someone’s reading me), Big E has a butt workout tape, and somewhere down the line we’re sure to get the punchline “Rectum? Damn near killed them.”
After the initial juvenile humor, this becomes awesome.
Since we only have three hours of national television, angles must be set up on social media. The story is that the League of Nations insulted Xavier Woods as a mere cheerleader, so Xavier stepped up to enter the match. Xavier is the Buddy Jack Roberts of the New Day, taking beatings, but here, he is both conniving B level heel and scrappy underdog babyface. It works for him. Rusev’s knack for comedy can’t be overstated as in the course of the match he cheers for Lana, audibly yells “Booty-O’ss my ass” and towards the end of the match gives a disdainful point to Kofi when the latter tries to interfere. In said spot, Kofi takes out Sheamus and Barrett but as Rusev grabs Kofi, he’s rolled up by Woods with a pull of the tights for the three count.
The League of Nations gains some much needed personality and toughness. The four “Lads” beats on the New Day. The beatings continue until Jeff’s morale improves. A somewhat lackluster Pittsburgh crowd wakes up to boo at the extended beatdown. It is vicious, humiliating and great. All four hit their finishers on various members of the New Day, and the power of positivity cannot stop it. This is the whole point of forming a faction.
It lasts so long that as it was dying down I said “all this needs is an Accolade.” Sure enough, Woods takes one to end it and the League celebrates. As do I, a solid half hour to open the show.
Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar
Kudos to the WWE for trying to clarify a muddy situation with the use of technology regarding Dean and the bottom rope. Even though it made a convoluted plot point more convoluted, it used resources heretofore unseen in a “NFL” kind of way. A fun promo as Dean recounts his loss at WWE RoadBlock but he takes it as a victory that he got to teach HHH to respect him. Denial is a River in Egypt. Brock and Paul Heyman come out and Paul begs brock to let him handle it. Paul begs Dean to stop provoking Brock, Dean asks Paul to take Brock off the leash. Paul runs down Brock’s athletic accomplishments, leaving out that he beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania so as to protect the co-main event. Satisfied, Paul leaves but Brock lingers in a great little touch. Brock walks down to the ring and Prop Comic Dean is back as he pulls out a crowbar. Paul gets Brock to stand down. I tend to think they misfired here a bit with the crowbar as the intent to make Dean seem like a man with a plan or put over the Street Fight stipulation never resonated with me.
Ryback def. Sin Cara
Absolute squash with the exception of an outside dive by Sin Cara to set up getting caught coming back, which in turn led to a Shellshock. It sets up the Kalisto challenge for WrestleMania 32 which Ryback audibly gives on a promo post-match. This feels like Vince talking to fans with lines like “Big guy beats little guy.” The problem is, in these types of stories, typically David beats Goliath. In Vince McMahon’s Bible, God overthinks it up until right before the battle, swoops down and deflects the stone, remembering how much he loved Goliath’s size and promo ability. The Philistines then become the lords and masters of Israel. Vince McMahon’s Bible, 1 Samuel “And the readers asked what the point was of that story, and the Lord looked at them and said `Shut Up, I’m Vince McMahon dammit’”
The Authority and Dolph Ziggler
Since Shane’s return when Stephanie McMahon shows up onscreen it is for only two purposes:
- 1) To get TV time to make sure we know she’s still here
- 2) Emasculate someone
Right now it’s the former, as she introduces HHH. HHH transcribes my Monday afternoon inner monologue: that my job sucks, I can’t keep a woman, my only hope is the lottery and it’s all downhill from here. HHH draws this out and you can point to the moment the crowd stops being angry and starts shouting “Enough already.”
Then, out to “save” us is…Dolph Ziggler? Dolph won’t quit even though he gets screwed by the system. This is Vince McMahon at his best meta commentary—the talent work for jerks, but they love the WWE (not wrestling) so much that Stockholm Syndrome compels them to stay and take it. Stephanie slaps Dolph, which fulfills the emasculating quota, and says if Dolph can beat HHH that Dolph will get his choice of WrestleMania 32 match except the title match. Intriguing.
Dolph shows more passion and personality in the go home part of this promo than possibly any other time in his career to the point where Stephanie was really getting into it as well. When everyone’s “into it” these promos are fun to watch.
Sami Zayn def. The Miz
Now begins our run of matches that begin with “someone’s enemy is out here to do commentary/distract.” Here, it’s Owens about to distract Zayn when Miz decides to get payback for Owens walking out on him on SmackDown. Points for continuity. Owens distracts Miz in-ring as Zayn hits the Helluva Kick for the three. That said, we need a moratorium on Miz catching guys on the outside. Terrell Owens would be proud of the alligator arms Miz gets when a high flyer is coming towards him. I know it’s not easy, and can be painful, but you can’t have a guy trusting you to be there while putting his body on the line and you don’t hold up your end. Either don’t agree or suggest an alternative. That’s not to badmouth Miz, that’s to make everyone involved look good.
Renee and the League of Nations is significant only for the fact that angry Rusev is entertaining.
Team BAD def. Brie Bella & Alicia Fox
Winger Groupie Lana is out to “watch” at commentary. Embarrassing that both she and Tamina wore almost the same outfit to the party, it’s a shame none of these ladies have a social media presence to alert them of the other’s style choices. The match ends with Lana casually walking up the ring steps which distracts the referee and Team BAD hit a combination gutwrench suplex and suplex. After the match, outside, Alicia then plays dumb babyface, turns her back on Team BAD to talk to Lana and gets a double superkick for her troubles.
Later, JoJo is with Paige—who is here to plug Total Divas—as Lana appears and reminds Paige that Paige was better when she was European and being an American made Paige soft. Paige reminds Lana (through the voice of Vince) that Lana’s a slut. Team BAD show up to back down Paige, so it appears a six-woman match is forthcoming.
Charlotte, creepy old man Ric Flair and Renee round out the Divas portion of the show as Charlotte o.ver.e.nun.ci.ates. that she knew Sasha and Becky before they were stars, that Charlotte held Sasha’s hair prior to the latter’s first match when Sasha was puking due to nerves. Becky was awkward trying to find a workout partner, which I chalk up to intimidating delts. They’re going to talk about it in a verbal debate on SmackDown.
The Usos def. The Social Outcasts (Adam Rose & Bo Dallas):
It’s a match, and the Dudleys are here, whatever could they be up to? Turns out they’re there to call Rikishi a fatass and distract The Usos which then leads to the Social Outcasts distracting the Usos, which then leads to The Usos winning easily. Short, sweet, nothing to see here.
Dean Ambrose and Mick Foley
A nice segment which draws on Foley’s history with the Hell in the Cell match in Pittsburgh and Ambrose’s hardcore past which has never really been brought up. Also never brought up: the aborted program between these two in FCW. Foley gets rid of the crowbar and leaves Dean with the barbed wire baseball bat.
HHH def. Dolph Ziggler
The match is to set up the return of Roman Reigns, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the match itself, as Dolph sells for a preening HHH until a run of hope spots, through which Ziggler ultimately comes up short but is “valiant” in the effort. But so is the older champion. I did like the tease of the Dean finish from WWE RoadBlock with Dolph barely beating the countout and getting out of the Pedigree.
Here is where planning and asking questions in a writers’ room, and the ability to criticize, would have come in handy. The endgame here is to get Roman Reigns cheered upon his return. Pittsburgh and Roman Reigns already have a love/hate relationship as it is the site of one of Roman’s great failures, Royal Rumble 2014, and one of his greatest successes, the Superman Punch to Vince McMahon.
You can put Dolph *ANYWHERE* on the WrestleMania 32 card if he wins, including multi-man midcard title matches. This is not a title match. Why not have Dolph win, and irony of ironies, this is the match to have your distraction finish when we’ve had them all show long. Roman comes out, distracts HHH or throws him back in the ring, Dolph gets a superkick and a pin would be optimal here. Then Roman can beat on HHH to massive pops after screwing the Authority, Dolph beats the Authority for a second time and is on WrestleMania 32.
Instead, Roman comes out seconds after Dolph loses, thus looking like a selfish dick. The crowd isn’t happy to see him, booing his attack, and I would not put it past them that the idea here will be to “suspend” Roman to take him off television AGAIN when these absences aren’t making the hearts of fans grow fonder.
The next two segments were a WWE Hall of Fame Announcement for Jackie/Jacqueline/Miss Texas. Great. This was followed by yet another R-Truth/Goldust interaction. R-Truth doesn’t know geography. Goldust doesn’t want a partner. Nobody wants these sketches to continue, not even R-Truth and Goldust.
Neville def. Y2J
Bratty Y2J is great. Neville comes out and quickly injures his ankle and shin (this is my mea culpa from Shake Them Ropes last night in which I thought it was part of the match). Jericho shoves the referee for a DQ finish. Y2J berates the crowd some more as AJ Styles comes down and hits a Phenomenal Phorearm.
When Vince McMahon started taking bumps, it was then and only then that he decided he needed a softer ring. Perhaps after three weeks of Shane getting so tongue tied on overproduced scripting Vince will decide to just let people say things in their natural verbiage. Shane is doing what inexperienced actors do, especially under constricting demands: he’s more concerned with getting the words than the feel right and when he shifts to compensate, he forgets his lines. You can see the wheels turning as he goes through a promo. The Pittsburgh crowd jumps all over it as Shane monologues Undertaker of the plan to beat the dead man and how he’s “Going to swing at Undertaker and miss him.”
Prior to that, Vince does the meek to chesty bipolar thing he does so well when speaking to Undertaker one on one. Undertaker has so much (American) badass credibility at this point he captivates a crowd just be disrobing in slow motion.
Shane gets the swear word emotional reaction this week when he calls Undertaker “Vince’s bitch” but the punches and shuffling are clownish. As Shane has Undertaker on the ropes, or at least has an out, Vince shoves Shane into an Undertaker chokeslam and quickly escapes with a nasty fall to the outside that no 70-year-old should be taking. I wondered if he tore his quad again.
Next Week: Nothing announced, but it will probably be the “equal and opposite” reaction as most matches for WrestleMania are coming together even if they’re not official. If there were changes to be had, they needed to be done at Roadblock and since the status quo remains, it’s full speed ahead.