The Wrestlemania hype train continues. This was a fairly noteworth Raw as we got a few new Mania matches, we saw the return of Reigns and appearances from Brock, Shane and Undertaker. The Mania card is being fleshed out a bit more in terms of the undercard. We can now look forward to Kalisto vs. Ryback and a tag match between New Day and The League of Nations. The main event storylines are still staying the course, whether we like it or not. Not a terrible Raw, but a fairly dead live crowd did it no favours.
The New Day vs. The League of Nations: Hit
What? A wrestling match opening Raw? I don’t believe it. I don’t think I even cared about the quality of this match, I was just glad to see them start the show with an actual match and not another 20-minute Authority promo. The match was pretty good though, and it’s nice to see Xavier get some in-ring time for a change, although I think he does make a great corner man for Kofi and Big E. The post match beatdown was a bit drawn out, but totally necessary if they want to make The League of Nations a legitimate heel threat to the New Day.
Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar segment: Hit
A good back and forth between Ambrose and Heyman on the mic. I liked the mind games going on with Lesnar sizing up Ambrose and teasing at a fight, but then backing off, and Ambrose actually looked like a threat in the ring with a crowbar. You could maybe argue that it’s weak for Ambrose to need a weapon against Lesnar, but it just makes Lesnar look like a more formidable enemy, and it’s not out of character for Ambrose to do something like this. You have to at least create the illusion that Ambrose could win at Wrestlemania, and having weapons and no disqualifications helps make that seem like a possibility. Otherwise a month of Lesnar beating on Ambrose, and then beating him at Mania (which I think is the likely outcome), does nothing for anyone. I also really liked the back and forth between Ambrose and Foley later in the show, even if it was just a short segment. But Ambrose bringing the barbwire bat to Wrestlemania could be a fun throwback. I’m not sure how they’ll get away with using that under a no blood rule though.
Ryback vs. Sin Cara: Botch
The crowd just died at this point. It’s unfortunate because they were into the show for the first two segments. This match gave them no reason to really care though. I might be in the minority, but I actually like this new heel Ryback character, but this match just didn’t do anything for anyone. And his post match promo and challenge to Kalisto was just awkward. It was almost like he did a mic drop after the challenge, expecting a big reaction, but not only did we not get to hear a response from Kalisto, the live crowd didn’t even react to it. Apparently no one cares about Kalisto vs. Ryback, what a shocker.
The Authority and Dolph Ziggler segment: Botch
It started off with the same long, boring authority promo we’ve heard 6000 times already. Ziggler coming out and getting 30-seconds in the spotlight was at least kind of fresh, but it didn’t last long. I’m not sure if it was his delivery or just the lines he was given, he came off as an incredibly corny and naive babyface. I liked that the Authority berated him and called him a failure and basically made a joke out of him, only to then basically invite him into the Authority. Why would they have any interest in such a failure? This whole angle was basically just a device to get Triple H over.
The Miz vs. Sami Zayn: Hit
It was better than the Stardust match at Roadblock, in my opinion. And I like the gradual build of this Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens feud and that they didn’t go all out with a beat down or anything this week. The staredown was good enough. I’m interested to see where this goes. I’m just afraid that they won’t get as much decent mic time as they deserve, considering they’re both great talkers.
Team BAD vs. Brie Bella & Alicia Fox: Botch
The match was meh. I don’t care about this. It looks like we’re getting a six-person tag with Lana and Team BAD taking on Brie, Paige and Alicia Fox. If that’s the case, it sucks to be Summer and Natalya, who seem to have been left out of the picture for some reason. But yes, I don’t care about this. This Brie/Lana feud started just out of nowhere for seemingly no reason, people don’t really want to boo Lana, and I just have this bad feeling that this is going to lead to an awful match.
The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts: Botch
The Dudley Boyz were out there too. I forgot that this was a feud, it probably has something to do with them not really promoting it and the fact that this segment lasted like 3 minutes, max. It was super rushed and I almost forgot that this match even happened on this show. I think Usos vs. Dudleys would have been a fine match for the Roadblock special, but I’m really not sure about it being a Mania match, unless it’s on the preshow.
Triple H vs. Dolph Ziggler: Hit
Ughh I feel dirty that I’m praising a match in 2016, where Triple H beats a current superstar that’s more or less in his prime. It occurred to me during this match that Triple H is a more relevant wrestler in 2016 than Dolph Ziggler is. Something is just not right with that. But this match was good, the best match on the entire show. It had a nice slow build into some believable near falls. Ultimately it felt kind of pointless though. Did they need to do this? Maybe this leads into Ziggler eventually turning heel and joining The Authority, which could be great, but I have a feeling that it just won’t.
Roman Reigns returns: Botch
Roman Reigns made his triumphant return to a chorus of boos and apathy, with the occasional cheer here and there. There is a sick part of me that kind of looks forward to the reaction that he’ll get at Wrestlemania. They have tried literally everything with this guy to get him over as a face, and it’s just not meant to be. It’s now too late to turn him heel or make any changes. We are headed for a main event where the top heel in the company gets cheered and the top babyface, who is meant to be crowned as the new face of the company, gets ripped to shreds by the crowd. And you can’t say that they didn’t see it coming. There will be no sympathy come Wrestlemania time, just angry fans. I hope they have an ace up their sleeve, maybe a double turn? Otherwise WWE will end up with egg on their face, lots of it. This beatdown was fine and pretty intense, but I actually didn’t like that Roman was able to be talked out of continuing the attack considering that this is his nemesis and the guy that took his belt and shattered his face a few weeks ago.
Chris Jericho vs. Neville: Botch
This was an unfortunate segment. I was excited when Neville came out, since Jericho and Neville had a great match last time they were in the ring together. But it seems that Neville injured himself in the opening minutes of the match, which led to an awkward and sudden DQ for Jericho. The fans were confused, then it was just a little bit awkward when AJ came out and laid out Jericho. He had reason to do so, but I feel like there was likely more planned for this segment and Styles had to be rushed out since the match had to end early. This has to suck for Neville.
Vince, Shane and Undertaker face off: Hit
It furthered the feud and we at least got to see Taker and Shane in the ring together. Some of the mic work was okay, except for Shane who stumbled over his lines, and that seems to be a recurring theme for the last few weeks when it comes to Shane’s promos. I really liked Taker’s few short lines, and Vince was solid here. I do struggle to take Shane seriously when his offense looks so god damn ridiculous. The guy should not be dancing around The Undertaker like he does every other opponent he’s ever faced. He should be taking it seriously. I am very interested to see where this feud goes, but I’m also very concerned that this match may be a trainwreck.
All photos via WWE.com