WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Jan. 26, 2015) from Stamford, Connecticut with a special show that was forced upon them by a raging storm that hit the city they were supposed to hold the show in. Instead, the Royal Rumble fallout edition emanated from WWE headquarters and featured a toned down show that, surprisingly enough, may have been best for business.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
WWE had a few clear goals with this show, as toned down as it had to be considering the circumstances (best wishes to anyone caught in the awful storm blanketing the northeast). One of the biggest goals was to kill off whatever heat was left for the decision to have Roman Reigns win the Royal Rumble over Daniel Bryan.
There was no way Reigns was going to be able to do it on his own, so Bryan did a five minute interview with Renee Young that established a few important points:
- He made clear that the fans were the reason he was in the WrestleMania main event last year, that they created the opportunity for him as opposed to him earning it in the Royal Rumble.
- This year, he didn't need that because he was given the opportunity in the Royal Rumble and he failed to capitalize on it.
- Roman Reigns was given the same opportunity and he did capitalize on it, and not only is that not a knock against him it should be a high mark for him.
Within the confines of kayfabe, that explanation works. "I had the chance and I failed, I'm sorry, I'll come back from this." This would have been perfect, actually, had he not taken the shot he did saying that WWE had a perfect opportunity to book a David vs. Goliath match between himself and Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 while making mention that The Rock assisted Reigns in his Rumble win but oh, no, he still totally earned it.
The reality is Vince McMahon saw two choices for his WrestleMania 31 main event:
1. David vs. Goliath
2. Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object
Considering his history, it's no surprise he went with option 2. This interview with Bryan was an attempt to make fans understand that option 1 is dead and buried but it's not because of the Unstoppable Force.
The question now is if it worked. We won't have an answer for that for a few more weeks now.
Respecting respect of respect
Somewhere along the line, lost in all the hoopla surrounding Bryan and Reigns struggling through his promos, a key piece of the puzzle in a potential Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns WrestleMania 31 main event feud was forgotten.
Paul Heyman would be there every step of the way.
The importance of this cannot be overstated, and the artist formerly known as Paul E. Dangerously showed us exactly why in the first face-to-face confrontation between the two mammoth men last night.
His storytelling abilities are second to none. Where WWE may fail in the script, Heyman will succeed in front of the audience in interviews exactly like this.
Reigns got here with help from The Rock, and both of them pushed a message of family above all. So Heyman took that and turned it around, reminding Roman that Rock himself once tried and failed to defeat "The Beast" and not only did he fail, he never asked for a rematch.
And with all that respect for family, how is it going to feel to disappoint them?
"I know who you are. I know what you are. I know exactly what I've signed up for. I don't think you do. I'm going to beat you at WrestleMania. I'm going to take that title. You know it, I know it. And if I can't, I'm going to take a piece of you with me. I believe that, and so should you."
That reads well and Reigns did well enough delivering his lines, though they were preceded by a super awkward squeak of his chair as he turned to face a mildly amused Lesnar.
What happens next is what establishes the entire basis of what's to come.
Brock, with cat-like quickness, jumps to his feet. Reigns, not intimidated in the slightest, rises to meet him. They shake hands, both quite obviously asserting dominance with the tighter grip.
This is all great.
Lesnar finally speaks: "Unlike him (Heyman), I don't respect you."
Reigns: "But you will."
There's a very fine line here between two big badass dudes trying to out-badass each other and straight up Steven Seagal action movie level cheesiness. They were toeing that line with expert precision but, depending on your perspective, either came dangerously close to crossing it with Roman's response or outright ran over it.
This reminded me of a scene late in The Dark Knight Rises. There's a war raging in the streets and Batman makes his way through the crowd to find Bane, who was doing the same. Once they reach each other, Bane stops to say "So, you came back to die with your city?" Batman also stops to respond with "No, I came back to stop you."
Bane's line is great while Batman is oozing cheese. There is no great delivery there. It's also entirely unnecessary dialogue. His coming back to fight Bane implies that he came back to do exactly what he said he was going to. There's no need to say it.
Bane, the villain, can stand in his arrogance and overinflated self confidence while Batman, the hero, is all action.
Brock doesn't need to respect Roman. Reigns, remember, is all about assessing and attacking, not gaining the respect of his opponent. There's no need for that.
If you let Lesnar's line hang, it's clear that while Reigns is confident he knows he is facing a formidable foe.
Still, that's just a hiccup. WWE needed to establish that this will be an epic encounter and it felt like it by the time this segment was all said and done.
I'm on board.
The quick hits
- The interview Reigns did before the confrontation with Lesnar was ... interesting. His explanation for not having experience? "My dad tried to drown me as a kid but it's how I learned how to swim, so that's what is happening now. I'm ready for this." Okay. His reaction to the Royal Rumble boos? "I was hoping for a warmer response but life isn't fair and nobody is worried about fair." What? His response to talk that he's been hand picked by higher ups? "If I was, I guess I would say 'thanks for the opportunity' but even if I was, I have to perform." Ouch. They did establish his family ties, and that would serve the story they're getting ready to tell. That's the good. The bad is that Reigns promos aren't much more than fodder for comedians dying to take the low hanging fruit. Hopefully that changes soon.
- Lesnar's interview before the confrontation wasn't much better. He's still awkward as hell when he talks but he's got Heyman to make up for that. Plus, his matches are something special. His freakish strength mixed with his unbelievable athleticism make it easy to forget when he trips over his words or says weird shit like "I'm on a roll, baby, I'm like a steamroller. I'm going to steamroll this guy look got momentum going get outta the way." That's the best transcript I could come up with for that passage. But, again, he's a monster who throws grown men around like they're children. It's easier to overlook.
- I don't know what they're doing with Dean Ambrose. He's quirky, he's a wild man, he's weird, he's a loose cannon, yeah, we get that. But it feels so generic. There are hints of what the character should be but it's just so obviously "Vince thinks this is what a loose cannon acts like" that it's nearly impossible to enjoy unless you're a huge Ambrose fan.
- Seth Rollins is perfect. "Oh, Brock's coming? Right here to this seat? Cool, I'm not getting up until he makes me." Brock shows up and says "You're in my seat." Seth immediately gets up. "Yeah, okay, here's your seat." Seth kicks it over and walks off. Rollins is that one friend you had who was always a smarmy little shit who constantly boasted like the baddest dude in the group but never delivered on it. Then one day that friend did deliver and he was a made man within the group, never to be doubted again. Here's to hoping that's in Rollins' future.
- I'm not the only one who enjoyed the hell out of JBL's weather report, am I? His commentary on WWE television is awful on most weeks but the dude is entertaining as hell in skits like this.
Considering what they had to work with here, this was an outstanding episode of Raw. They replayed what will probably be the best WWE match of the year (the triple threat from the Rumble) while setting up for the run to WrestleMania about as well as they could.
Overall grade: B+
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?