The mission of this week’s Raw seemed to be to build up Dean Ambrose and get Triple H over as a heel. And the fans do view him as a heel, except for when he’s in the ring with Roman Reigns. The next four weeks or so of Raw is going to be all about getting the fans to cheer Reigns and boo Triple H. They have no back up plan this year. They need it to work, but I don’t think it will. The week long hyped Undertaker segment ended up being a major letdown and it just seemed like a half-assed show for the most part. No Reigns, no Shane, no Lesnar. Three guys from the three key Mania matches didn’t appear tonight, so it was a bit of a disappointing show. The flat crowd reflected the disappointment, and hey, on a Road to Wrestlemania show with a bunch of key players missing, I’d have been disappointed too.
Triple H opening promo: Botch
It’s pretty much every 20-minute opening promo that Triple H has ever done. Things picked up when Ambrose came out, and I actually found Ambrose to be really entertaining throughout this show. Ambrose challenging Triple H is an okay hook I guess, the thing is, everyone knows the answer is almost certainly going to be yes – they wouldn’t do it if the answer’s no, and it’s almost certainly going to lead to an Ambrose loss. I also had no excitement for Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio later in the show.
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks: Hit
This was a really good match! Obviously building to a triple threat match at Mania, which I think is the right way to go. I found the finish to be stupid though. We only just saw the double pin happen on NXT the other week and it was done in a manner that was much less ridiculous. The sunset flip spot where Sasha inexplicably lays down just looked too contrived to me. But it wasn’t enough to take away from the quality of the match. Evidently they’ll be having a rematch on SmackDown, which I assume ends in another draw. Probably a double count out, or a no contest from a Charlotte run-in. I think they need to give the double pin spot a rest for a good long while.
The Wyatt Family weekly reminder that they’re still here: Botch
Another backstage vignette with Bray rambling on and on. It’s clear that they have nothing planned for them and at this stage I would expect them all to either be in the Andre the Giant battle royal, or in some kind of big tag match.
Ziggler vs. Miz: Botch
I liked the backstage stuff with Ziggler firing up Miz, telling him how his only Wrestlemania main event was 5-years-ago and he’s done nothing since then. It’s just rich coming from Ziggler, who also hasn’t really done anything since his super brief world title run 3-years-ago. The match was very short, it was over before I could get into it. Why do I feel like Ziggler is just going to beat Miz clean in a rematch on the next show?
Stephanie McMahon promo: Hit
I can’t believe it but I actually liked this promo a lot. It was a great wrestling promo from Stephanie, a character that generally makes me want to tune out the second her music hits. It was a disappointment that Shane wasn’t there, and I don’t understand why, whether it was a scheduling conflict or they just decided his presence wasn’t needed. The crowd was disappointed too, clearly. But that was still a hell of a promo from Stephanie, better than her husband’s, that’s for sure.
The League of Nations vs. The Lucha Dragons: Botch
I understand that the LoN should win if they’re going to end up challenging the New Day for the tag titles at Mania (which does seem like the current plan), but does it have to be at the expense of the United States Champion? You mean to tell me they couldn’t have pinned Sin Cara?
Adam Rose vs. Ryback: Hit
It was short and painless. While I don’t expect heel Ryback to go very far, I think it’s at least a direction for him to go in. His character hasn’t had a direction in a long time. And these short quasi-squash matches will actually probably be the best way to get him going as a heel.
The New Day vs. Y2AJ: Hit
It was a solid enough match, I’m hoping Y2AJ isn’t a long term tag team though. I’m glad that this win is actually going to lead to a title match though, otherwise it’s a meaningless loss for The New Day. With all the tag team building they’ve been doing lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do some kind of big multi-team thing at Wrestlemania. Alternatively, I could see Jericho turning full heel next week and we get Jericho vs. AJ part IV.
Undertaker and Vince segment: Botch
I feel like I would have been more okay with this segment had they not been hyping Undertaker’s appearance all week. If his appearance was unexpected, and he came out, said his line and left, it would have been a cool surprise moment. But given the hype, fans were expecting an actual promo or an interaction with Shane, or just something to explain more about this match we’re going to see. And all we got was a random threat. I guess we at least know that Taker is going through with the match, and I think the direction they’re going in is that Vince may begin regretting sending Shane to his inevitable destruction against Taker. But also, maybe not.
Bubba Ray Dudley vs. Jey Uso: Botch
The one good thing I can say is that at least this hasn’t been your typical 50/50 feud so far. Dudleyz have beaten the Usos at just about every turn. The feud has yet to grab me though and neither has the in-ring work. I do love how quickly The Dudleyz have resorted to pulling the tables out after multiple promos staunchly refusing to use them, but I think that’s obviously intentional and not just a matter of forgetful and incompetent writing. I hope.
Big Show vs. Kevin Owens: Botch
Ooh yay, a Big Show/Owens feud. Why not, I guess. Pointless match, 50/50, resulting in a count out. I am counting on this program not culminating in a Mania match, but more likely a match at the Toronto special, if not just on Raw next week. I really hope they have a decent feud in the works for the IC title. We really have no idea where the Mania undercard stands as of yet, but there’s still time for them to put Owens with a strong opponent. Maybe even a Phenomenal opponent?
Brie Bella vs. Naomi: Botch
Average match, the fans are still behind Brie to an extent because of the Bryan love. But I’m not sure where this whole Lana thing is coming from. Brie vs. Lana is a match I have zero interest in. Lana’s character has been so damaged over the last 12-months with terrible booking, terrible storylines and just complete inconsistency. The fans still chant for her when Rusev is in the ring, I don’t know why she isn’t allowed to manage him during League of Nations matches. And there was no Rusev here either, so it almost seems like they’re just doing their own thing. I’m not sure I want to see Lana wrestle, and if she does wrestle, I don’t think it should be against Brie.
Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio: Botch
Hey, the match was solid, mostly. Del Rio and Ambrose are both solid wrestlers. The thing is, we so often have these “main events” that no one cares about involving guys like Del Rio or Sheamus or the Wyatt Family or something. It’s not that any of them are all that bad, it’s just that they lose so often that I don’t actively look forward to seeing them wrestle and their characters are so bland and the storylines around them are so poor. Del Rio should be near the top of the ladder, but he feels like another midcarder in a sea of midcarders. And dear god, that double foot stomp has to go. I’ve only seen him do it once where it looked convincing. Every other time it’s looked so stupid and so contrived, and tonight it was the worst. He placed Dean Ambrose on top of the barricade, and then Ambrose basically had to hold himself in place on this wall for like 30-seconds while Del Rio got into position. It’s not like there were ropes there where they could make it seem like his feet were tangled up – there was literally NOTHING holding Dean there except his own sheer will. This move sucks. SUCKS. And the DQ finish… You mean to tell me that the guy that’s both going into a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, and a major grudge match with Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania isn’t even allowed to score a clean win over Alberto Del Rio? What are they protecting Del Rio from? He isn’t a champion or in any major storyline. He’s just there. This booking also sucks.
Triple H accepts Ambrose’s challenge: Hit (sort of)
I am tired of seeing the heels almost always walk away victorious. And the top heels of this show are Triple H and Stephanie. When’s the last time they ended up putting someone over? Probably when Reigns beat down Trips at TLC? If not, then probably not since Daniel Bryan in 2014. So it exhausts me to almost never see them get their comeuppance. I guess at least this time Ambrose has the excuse of being injured by Lesnar and beaten down by League of Nations so it wasn’t exactly a fair fight. Ultimately, I do understand the need to have Triple H do this sort of thing, and Ambrose is a guy that can take a beating and still get cheered. It almost feeds into his character, as long as he can get wins when it counts. I also think that Ambrose needs to have a big moment over Triple H next week on Raw though. Remember, he is going into a Lesnar match in a matter of weeks and he shouldn’t look completely broken down and beaten just for the sake of getting Triple H over as a heel so he won’t be cheered against their Chosen One at Wrestlemania.
As it stands, we’re getting Triple H vs. Ambrose for the title at the Toronto network show. It’s entirely a vehicle to try and get Reigns over before Wrestlemania. They know that Triple H beating on Reigns only gets Triple H more over as a face, but the fans boo when he attacks a legitimate fan favourite like Ambrose – which is so incredibly telling of the stubbornness of Reigns’ push. ANYWAY. It’s incredibly unlikely that Ambrose wins the title, I imagine that we’ll see him either lose clean, or the match end in some kind of DQ, which is why I think Ambrose needs to look strong going into the show, because he sure as hell won’t look strong at the show. Reigns will come out and save Ambrose from getting beaten down with the idea that a returning Roman Reigns that’s been off TV for two weeks, rescuing super popular babyface Dean Ambrose will actually get the fans to like him. It’ll almost certainly backfire, but that’s my prediction for what we’ll see over the next two weeks.
All photos via WWE.com