Raw was actually pretty good. Hands down, the best Raw of 2016 so far (see what I did there HUR HUR HUR). But really, it was a decent show, again with an emphasis on matches and very few angles or bad interview segments. It feels like WWE is starting to plan ahead now, which makes sense since we’re entering Mania season. No John Cena, strangely enough, but I get the feeling next week’s Raw will be pretty noteworthy, especially with Brock Lesnar in town.
Roman and Stephanie open the show: Botch
Eh, it’s another Stephanie and Roman Reigns opener. I liked that he cut her entrance short, and I liked his last line about picking Vince up from a hospital instead of jail, but this wasn’t exactly a fresh angle and it didn’t feel overly necessary.
Kevin Owens vs. Neville: Hit
A great match that made Owens look strong and Neville was just awesome to watch. Neville reminds me a bit of RVD in the way that even when he loses, he’s still fun to watch and he really goes out of his way to put over his opponent’s offense in a big way. Good match and I liked Dean Ambrose on commentary as well. The post match elbow through the table was a good spot too.
Stardust vs. Titus O’Neil: Botch
It was just a nothing match. I’m not sure what’s going on. Are these guys feuding? Are the Prime Time Players even together any more? I don’t feel like I need to see this again, not that it was particularly bad. I just have no interest in this “storyline”.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte: Hit
They’re finally pushing this storyline ahead. I’m glad to see Charlotte has now completed her heel turn. She works a lot better as a heel if you ask me, and having Flair in her corner makes the act so much better. Becky Lynch is great as the underdog babyface as well. This match was solid, the crowd was into it and I’m keen to see who comes out of this as the champion.
The Wyatt Family attack Ryback and Big Show: Hit
I’m glad we were spared seeing another Ryback vs. Big Show match. The Wyatt Family are being built up as a force in the Royal Rumble, and they should be. Especially now that they have a behemoth like Strowman, who might not be great in the ring but his size alone should be enough to make him a big deal in the Rumble. Simple angle but still good.
Alberto Del Rio & Rusev vs. The Usos: Hit
I’m not sure if there was much meaning to this match, and it felt a bit like time filler, but it was good time filler material. Match was enjoyable and The Usos still looked strong in doing the job. Does this mean they’re hyping up a League of Nations tag title shot? I’m not sure if that’s a great idea, but in the mean time, The Usos are good opponents for them.
HEATH SLATER DEFEATS DOLPH ZIGGLER: Hit
I love Slater, he’s been in WWE for ages now and has pretty much been a job guy for the duration of his run, despite being good in the ring and confident on the mic. It’s nice to see him occasionally get thrown a bone here and there, but the ceiling’s been placed really low for him as a comedy character. This win over Ziggler is great, his biggest win in ages and Ziggler doesn’t take that much of a hit given the amount of distractions he had. I like this whole #SocialOutcast group they’ve put together. Really it’s four talented guys that have had nothing going for them forever, why not put them together and see what happens? It might not last long, but I’m glad to see WWE giving their undercard guys something to do. My only disappointment is that they didn’t include Sandow in their group.
Chris Jericho returns: Hit
It was your stock standard Chris Jericho return as he went through his usual catchphrases, started a few chants and made fun of the heels. But it’s always refreshing when he comes back and a Jericho vs. New Day feud could be really fun, although I doubt they’d do it unless they put Jericho in with a couple of other guys. Otherwise it’ll just be a series of handicap matches. A fun spot nonetheless and I like them announcing Jericho in the Rumble too.
The New Day vs. Kalisto & The Dudley Boyz: Hit
Another really fun tag match. It was lengthy but still good. With Sin Cara sidelined, I was afraid that Kalisto might be forgotten about, but I’m glad to see him still being featured here in the mix. In fact it felt more like The Dudleyz were just there as the fill-in team and Kalisto was the real star of the babyface side of things. He sells really well, especially to Big E’s power moves. The champs win, like they should, but Kalisto still didn’t eat the pin.
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match: Hit
It was an overbooked sloppy mess. Vince’s counts looked terrible and moments where he had to get physical really made you realise that he is, in fact, a 70-year-old man. Part of me thinks that he just booked himself as the guest referee as an excuse to show off his biceps on TV. The match was fine but we’ve seen Reigns vs. Sheamus a lot over the last month or so. Still, when I ignored all the nagging little questions like: “why doesn’t Vince just let the League of Nations interfere?” I was able to enjoy the silliness of the main event. At one point I actually got suckered into a near fall where I thought Sheamus might actually win the belt back. Reigns retained though. I was fully expecting a Triple H run-in, but didn’t get it. Still, a stupid yet kind of fun main event. See how good things can be when they’re booked and planned in advance?
Royal Rumble announcement: Botch
And what a way to leave me with a bad taste in my mouth after a surprisingly good Raw. Man I HATE this new announcement for the Royal Rumble match. Maybe it’s because I’m stuck in my ways and I don’t like change, but they have essentially turned the Royal Rumble into a 1-on-29 handicap match to put Roman Reigns over. Mark my words too, I guarantee Roman will be #1 or #2 so we can marvel at how “strong” he is when he makes it to the end. I think this will mark the third year in a row that WWE completely botches the Rumble. MAYBE they give us a good swerve, and we’ll perhaps see Brock Lesnar win the whole thing, or maybe they give it to someone completely unexpected. But the company is all about getting Reigns over right now, even if 29 other wrestlers and the Royal Rumble pay-per-view has to suffer for it. After the last two Rumbles, I hold little faith that they won’t botch it again. And given the complete non-reaction from fans to the announcement, I don’t think anyone else really wants to see Reigns vs. The Roster happen.
All photos via WWE.com