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WWE Raw preview (January 5, 2015): Now I dialed 9 - 1 - 1 a long time ago

What you need to know

Letting their lawyers do their jobs, Edge & Christian decided the show must go on, and the pair did their part to make that happen one more time before The Authority take back the reins tonight.  Jaime Noble & Joey Mercury were on hand to get things ready for Triple H & Stephanie McMahon's return, and to make sure the tag team Legends didn't do anything too wacky.  Other than defacing a Muscle & Fitness cover, they didn't, mostly sticking to making matches...

Matches that advanced individual feuds without having the participants of said feuds directly face-off.  Like Ryback vs. Big Show, with timely interference by Rusev's Russian flag prop providing an opening for a KO punch and countout victory for the World's Largest Athlete.  And the United States champ vs. Roman Reigns, with timely interference from Show protecting the Bulgarian Brute from a pinfall or submission loss.  Reigns also got to stand tall by beating up the Giant after the bell.

And like the one where Bray Wyatt demanded Erick Rowan lay down for him, and squashed him via a Sister Abigail when he refused, as a segue into cutting a promo on how he would do worse to Dean Ambrose.  The Lunatic Fringe got a similar opportunity, albeit not against a Family member, when he destroyed Curtis Axel and then talked about all the crazy things he would do to the Eater of Worlds with and in an ambulance tonight on Raw.

Some bouts signified acts in transition.  For instance, Adam Rose is definitely a heel based on his being teamed with Gold & Stardust against tag champs The Usos & R-Truth.  And he is definitely on his way down the card, eating the pin and even having his entourage punked out after the bell.

The Ascension are going to get a chance to head up the card.  Squashing some local talent was a good start, but it remains to be seen if overtly comparing themselves to The Road Warriors and Demolition will be a good idea.  Cesaro & Tyson Kidd are angling for a similar boost - their ring work is pretty far ahead of Ax & Smash Konnor & Viktor's and we'll see if their ties to Total Divas' storyline about Kidd & Natalya's marriage connect to the wrestling audience.

Unfortunately, we weren't made privy to J & J Security's report.  Our own Geno Mrosko wasn't blown away by Edge & Christian's work on Smackdown, though.

What to look out for

Tonight's show comes to us from Corpus Christi, Texas.  Which means the Gulf of Mexico.  Which means The Usos, Rusev, Dolph and Seth better watch their belts/briefcases.  I seriously doubt anyone will have the cajones to try to throw Lesnar's title into the drink.

Kind of surprising that Ambrose and Wyatt's latest gimmick contest won't involve the nearby body of water, but maybe the ambulance will get wet before the night is over.  Whether it's Dean or Bray who gets the door shut on them tonight, the bigger question is whether or not the first ever Raw ambulance match will be the blow-off to their feud.

The Authority's return is probably bad for most of the babyfaces on the roster, in a kayfabe sense.  John Cena will undoubtedly have issues with Seth Rollins manipulating him into bringing back the COO and Principal Owner - especially now that the faction is officially aligned to his Royal Rumble opponent, WWE World Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar.   The two men most responsible for Mr. & Mrs. Game's ouster at Survivor Series, Dolph Ziggler and Sting, should probably watch their backs.

Who knows, THE VIGILANTE Sting might even make his second on-screen WWE appearance tonight.

Out of kayfabe, someone else's return might be bad for the babyfaces on the roster.  Daniel Bryan announced his return to active duty last week, and the crowd's reaction confirmed that he is still a pretty big deal.  We'll find out over the couple of weeks what the impact of his presence will be on guys like Ambrose and the Intercontinental champ.

One person whose push is probably safe regardless is also the only other person to announce that he'll be in the 30-man Royal Rumble match to determine who the #1 challenger for the WWE title will be at WrestleMania 31.  Roman Reigns is also tied up with The Authority, as the program taking up his time before his Mania opponent is decided by the powers-that-be is another new member of the stable.  Whether or not Big Show is the right guy to assist the Big Dog in reaching his full potential is up for debate.

What they should do

Maybe it's counter-intuitive to rail against match stipulations heading into one of the most successful concepts in pro wrestling history with the Rumble match at the next WWE pay-per-view (PPV).  It's worth examining why the over-the-top rope elimination match is so universally beloved, however.

The title shot at Mania is a large part of it, and something that can't be easily replicated.  Even so, it's a reminder of what a difference having something at stake makes to what can otherwise be a run of the mill part of just another show.

Another thing that separates the Royal Rumble from other gimmicks is that everyone knows it only happens once a year.  There may be other multi-man matches or battle royal set-ups, but there's only one staggered entry, elimination bout.

Issues that plague Survivor Series matches, the Elimination Chamber and Hell in a Cell can all be seen in the current Dean Ambrose/Bray Wyatt program.  Like a team elimination in November or an October contest within an enclosed cage, their feud has felt like a placeholder from the jump.  More than two months after Bray beamed into the steel structure to help Rollins defeat his former stable mate, I still don't have a firm grasp on why I should care about their beef.  What changes for either man based on who loses tonight's ambulance match?

The best reason we can guess at for why they're fighting is because someone in the back thinks it's a hoot to see Ambrose use props.  That's the other issue...I've lost count of how many of these gimmick matches we've seen from the pair.  TLC, Boot Camp, Santa's Little Helper (was that Dean & Bray or the Divas?) - all in a little over sixty days.  Why should we believe that the use of a paramedic vehicle will end anything - especially with President's Day and an excuse to let the Lunatic Fringe attack with some wooden teeth right around the corner?

Both men should be fine in the long run, but their program has been a time filler at best and hasn't helped either one of them in the eyes of most fans.  Getting back to basics and away from meaningless gadgetry would be a good way to start getting them both back on track.

What we're afraid they will do

Ambrose is totally going to accidentally electrocute himself with a defibrillator, isn't he?

Can WWE ring in the new year, and kickstart the road to WrestleMania, tonight?

Before you call 9 - 1 - 1, check out our live blog of the show with your fellow Cagesiders!

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