With Raw up against the Grammys this week, it seems like WWE threw in the towel and are content to just take their bad ratings on the chin. There was some good stuff at the start of the show and some build to Fastlane, although we still only know a handful of matches. Ultimately, Raw left me with a bad taste in my mouth as the third hour looked like they just completely gave up.
Dean Ambrose and Stephanie McMahon opening segment: Botch
I like Ambrose’s mic work, he’s got a great character and I like the Mick Foley-ish route they’re going with him as someone who won’t back down from a beatdown. But I just find that my patience for Stephanie and the entire Authority gimmick as a whole is wearing really thin. She plays her character great, but she spends too much time berating the babyfaces and seldom sees repercussions. She’s a heel that never gets her comeuppance, and if she does get put in her place somehow, she usually gets her heat back in short order. She’s started doing this thing where she points out a major weak point in someone that they should be going out of their way to hide, but she brings it out into the open. Like a few weeks back when a crowd was failing to get a “Roman” chant going and she openly mocked the poor reaction Roman Reigns was receiving. Isn’t that the sort of thing they would want to avoid referencing? And here, she rallied the crowd and asked them if they wanted to see Dean Ambrose get F5’d, to which they enthusiastically cheered. This would be fine if Dean Ambrose wasn’t a babyface and Stephanie wasn’t a heel. It just exposes the fact that they have no really over stars at top of the roster at the moment except for Brock Lesnar, who is a part-timer.
Fatal Five-Way: Hit
At least the opening segment led to a really fun match. It was very sudden and impromptu but it was good. I was surprised that Tyler Breeze was included as well given that he’s very much been a lower card jobber over the last few months. It gives me hope that they might have plans for him in the future. Or he could just be in a spot that was originally intended for Titus O’Neil or something… Anyway the match was good. Taking the belt off of Ambrose is an interesting choice but I have no complaints about Owens being the Intercontinental Champion, just so long as they don’t make a habit out of playing hot potato with the belt.
Big E vs. Mark Henry: Botch
A short and not great match with a very messy botched finish. The New Day’s pre-match promo wasn’t their best stuff. They really don’t have a team feuding with them at the moment. The talk show segment at Fastlane should be entertaining at least, but I hope it leads into a storyline of some sort since the tag champs really should have a team chasing them. Maybe this could be a good opportunity for Edge & Christian to introduce some new challengers from NXT? If not, then I don’t see the point in The New Day just having a promo on the show and not a match.
Brie Bella and Charlotte segment: Hit
The fans appreciated Brie, largely coming off of Bryan’s farewell segment last week, and Charlotte did some great heel work on the mic. She got some solid heat by taking shots at Brie and Bryan and their “goat faced vegan babies” and Brie actually got a good reaction with her typically bad “yes” kicks. Good stuff! You know it would be kind of cool if they had Bryan in Brie’s corner at Fastlane to even the score with Flair in Charlotte’s corner. I’m not sure that they’ll do that, but it’d add more interest in the match if anything.
AJ Styles vs. The Miz: Hit
Another good AJ match and The Miz more than holds his own in the ring. I like that the announce team often have to remind us that Miz is a former world champion and a former Wrestlemania main eventer, because it sounds so outlandish to think that just by looking at the way he’s booked and portrayed. Good work by Jericho on the mic as well, I liked the typical heel thing of making AJ wait for an answer to his challenge. Jericho had a rocky few weeks upon his return, going through all of his cheesy nostalgia lines, but he’s starting to seem like a relevant member of the roster again.
The Dudley Boyz promo: Hit
Didn’t they do this on SmackDown? I guess they realise half their audience only watches Raw so they had to do this again. Still, this was good and I’m glad that they aren’t just going to relegate the Dudleyz as an opening match nostalgia act.
Paige vs. Summer Rae: Botch
The crowd was dead for this match, and I can’t really blame them. Paige and Summer haven’t even been an afterthought on TV for the last few months, especially Summer. The match was okay for what it was, but that finish was very clunky. I’m not sure what this is leading to. Cole mentioned that this might put Summer on the map for the Diva’s title. I hope not, between Brie, Sasha and Becky, there are already enough contenders. I think there should be multiple stories going on with the women since they have a deeper women’s roster now than they maybe ever have. But they shouldn’t all always be gunning for the belt. There’s nothing stopping Paige and Summer having their own feud, or doing something with Natalya or something in the meantime.
Paul Heyman promo and The Dudleyz attack: Hit
Heyman can do no wrong. Although I found it very telling that they had him address Roman Reigns one on one, making it very clear that the two big players in the Fastlane main event are Lesnar and Reigns – not Ambrose. It was weird that Reigns was the main subject all of a sudden when it had been Ambrose seeking out Lesnar the last few weeks. Reigns held his own here and I didn’t find his dialogue to be as bad as it has been in the past. The Dudley Boyz beating down Reigns is fine and Ambrose of course made the save (eventually). The highlight of this segment though, was Ambrose making a quick attempt at Dirty Deeds on Reigns. It’s smart in that it can absolutely lead into a heel turn in the near future, or it could it simply just be there to create tension for the triple threat. Ambrose jumping on Reigns is probably the hottest the crowd got all show, that should tell you something.
Heath Slater vs. Zack Ryder: Botch
I had to double check and make sure I was watching Raw and not Superstars. If you want to build up the Social Outcasts as a legit group, then that’s fine, but a win over Zack Ryder isn’t really going to push anyone. Filler material at its most meaningless.
Goldust & R-Truth restaurant segment: Botch
This whole thing just isn’t working and the slow build into them working together, they just need to stop it. It worked on NXT when you had Jordan reluctantly tagging with Gable and gradually becoming best buds, but in this case you have two whacky characters with terrible lines. The chemistry isn’t there to me and the writing is awful. R-Truth should not be playing the straight man in a duo either.
The League of Nations vs. Neville & The Lucha Dragons: Botch
After the initial big dives onto the heels, the crowd just stopped caring. The League of Nations are so far from being over, and I find myself almost forgetting that Kalisto is the US Champion. I think as long as he holds the title, they should maybe distance him from Kalisto. Del Rio gets another win, but at least it wasn’t Kalisto that he pinned this time. I’m feeling like Del Rio may get his title back at Fastlane, given how weak of a champion Kalisto has been booked as.
Naomi vs. Becky Lynch: Botch
I am botching this because this match featured the worst run-in save in history. Becky wins by submission, but then gets beat down after the match. The crowd is waiting for Sasha to make the run in. Her music finally hits and everyone pops. Out walks Sasha, slowly to the ring, I guess not wanting to run in heels. She takes the time to take off her earrings while Tamina slaughters Becky in the ring. Sasha finally gets in the ring and the heels walk away, having accomplished what they wanted, yet the babyfaces still try to stand like they somehow achieved anything here. With such a slow and reluctant run in, I almost expected Sasha to turn on Becky once she was in the ring, but no such thing happened. It was just the most unenthusiastic run-in ever done.
Big Show vs. Braun Strowman: Botch
This was your main event for the Fastlane go home show. Big Show vs. Braun Strowman. I couldn’t have thought of a worse way to end Raw if I tried. The plus side is that it didn’t go for very long, but I’m unsure why WWE felt like a 2-minute Strowman vs Big Show match that ends in a stupid DQ should be the main event for the last Raw before Fastlane. Ryback came in with another bizarre run in that saw a sunset flip outside of the ring, for some reason. Kane then burst through the ring to attack the Wyatt family for some reason. I don’t understand why he needed to break through the ring. Sometimes that gimmick kind of works, but it didn’t make sense here when he could simply run in like a normal person. I also don’t understand the DQ finish. Why do you feel the need to protect Big Show (in 2016) from losing to a man that you’re trying build as a major monster anyway? I don’t get it.
Featured image via WWE.com