WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Feb. 23, 2015) from Nashville, Tennessee with a show that featured all the fallout from the Fastlane pay-per-view this past Sunday night as well as the true beginning on the road to WrestleMania 31 next month in Santa Clara.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Hot babyface? TURN! TURN! TURN!
Randy Orton was gone from WWE for almost four months, having been written off the show to go film a movie at a time when he was arguably at his hottest in years after turning on The Authority to set up a match with Seth Rollins. They had gone through all the motions of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon trying like hell to keep him on their side after he hit his breaking point but THE VIPER'S VENOM just wouldn't be contained and ol' Randall got RKO happy so they had to put him down for a while.
So he comes back at Fastlane to an admittedly reserved response, though you can likely blame Memphis for that. Sure enough, he was given a thunderous ovation when he walked out in Nashville to kick off the show, all hot under the collar and eager to finish what he started with Rollins all that time ago.
Except the creative geniuses at WWE had other plans.
No, instead of Orton being even more pissed off because he lost almost four months of his career to The Authority and their backing Rollins, he was slightly less pissed off and almost immediately agreed to team up with the old crew once more.
I don't understand the thinking here.
Typically, you do this for a heel who is about to turn babyface to heat him up for said turn, to get the audience good and ready to jump on his side when it happens. We're long past that step.
This entire show was a total rehash of a story they already told us months ago.
There weren't any hints that Orton was playing some sort of mind games with his former allies turned enemies. He didn't appear to be plotting revenge while striking a temporary alliance. He was far too earnest in his acceptance of the very first proposal presented to him.
He couldn't go the full nine, though. They had to leave something back to let fans know that he wasn't selling out the whole way, of course. So what was the great idea to let us know as much?
An inopportune tag.
Orton was totally fine with selling out to rejoin The Authority all the way up until Rollins tagged himself into a match when Randy was about to deliver a DDT. That was his breaking point.
Actually, it was the start of his breaking point. He didn't actually break, he just got super upset about it, almost broke, and then slapped Rollins on the shoulder and walked off like everything is actually totally fine. Sure, Jamie Noble ate an RKO OUTTA NOWHERE but Seth escaped unscathed and all is well once more.
All of this would have been fine had they not already told this story. Orton came back as a huge babyface ready to get revenge, or at least that seemed to be the idea. They could barely contain him when we last saw him. He was brilliantly insane with anger and rage.
Now? He looks like a complete idiot and he's already cooled off considerably after just one show.
The more things change...
That's not thick enough, let's lay it on a lot more
I was generally happy with what WWE delivered in the Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan main event at Fastlane, apparently one of the few (at least in this neck of the woods).
But then they went and laid it on so thick I couldn't breathe.
Reigns defeated Bryan in a really good match that told a damn good story and even had the "YES" man endorse the Roman Empire on the way out with a handshake and a demand to beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. It wasn't subtle, but it wasn't over the top either.
That changed in the worst way on this show.
Instead of letting the match and that endorsement stand on it's own, they booked Bryan to come out and kiss Roman's feet right there in the ring. At one point, he even called Reigns "sir."
I could appreciate the sentiment. WWE is still hoping to take straggling Bryan supporters and make them realize it's totally okay to also like and support Reigns, so they had Bryan cut a promo they assumed would speak for them. "You're bigger and stronger but don't have my heart, or at least I thought you didn't. Then you beat me even when I dug deep and gave it everything I had, so now I know I was wrong and you're the man."
Just so damn thick.
And then Paul Heyman came out and did the same (also at one point calling Reigns "sir" before just flat out telling him he's the guy). He spent a number of minutes saying he would pick Reigns over the best of the best while they were in their prime, like Steve Austin in 1998, or The Rock in 1999, or Triple H in 2000.
By the way, I couldn't help but remember that CM Punk won a 3-on-1 handicap match against The Shield in late 2013. That was the infamous "make Roman look really strong" match.
But again, it was laid on so very thick by both Bryan and Heyman that Roman is definitely the guy and he's awesome and he's great and he's earned everything and so on and so forth.
So what does Reigns say immediately after all this? He claims "I've been hearing this a lot, that I can't do this, I can't do that..." In fairness, he said this after Heyman told him he wouldn't beat Brock at WrestleMania but come on.
Two guys literally just spent 10 minutes telling you how great you are and how you could totally beat pretty much anyone in the world at any given time. And has the argument ever been that he "can't" do it? Hasn't it always been that he can but maybe he just shouldn't be doing it right now?
I will say that his promo was better than usual and he didn't necessarily do anything to drive me away. The issues with his segments last night were more about the writing/booking than anything he did.
Actually, his response to Bryan tagging himself in during the main event to score the winning pinfall on Seth Rollins after Reigns hit the superman punch was so refreshing it was awesome, especially in the context of the match where the other side did the same and it caused great issue (even if that made little sense for that story).
All the rest
A Man Called Sting: Really, really enjoyed the special look at Sting and felt it was necessary considering the company is acting like he didn't exist for the past 15 years or so. It makes me feel like an old man, but there are a lot of younger fans today who probably don't have a clue why Sting is such a big deal. A simple four minute video helped change all that. Great call.
Intercontinental mix: I actually applaud WWE for pushing R-Truth like he's a real contender for the title because he beat Bad News Barrett on SmackDown last week, even if it felt odd and out of place because the blue brand is still lagging so far behind Raw that angles occurring on that show never seem to have any affect on anything. They also added Dolph Ziggler to the mix while Dean Ambrose is continuing to parade around like he's the actual champion simply because he's holding the strap. On top of that, Ziggler and Barrett had a fine TV match. This was all great, and I love the idea of Ambrose "defending" the title in a match against anyone other than Barrett and Bad News running in on it just to try to steal his belt back. The more I think about it, the more fun the Intercontinental title mix seems to be (or could become).
The Ascension vs. Prime Time Players: Congrats to all those who had "Darren Young and Titus O'Neil" as the first team to beat The Ascension on the main roster in their totally non-existant pool because why would anyone make a pool for such a thing.
Brass Belt Club: While the Tyson Kidd-Natayla split angle was moderately entertaining, I'm far happier with Nattie going full heel and aiding her husband in retaining the tag team titles with Cesaro. Naomi is so very underrated. We could be looking at a future six-person intergender tag team match that will absolutely tear the house down if given enough time. That should be super fun.
Follow up: Anyone else a bit disappointed in the follow up to Bray Wyatt revealing he was referring to Undertaker?
Stardust: WWE managed to book a distraction submission finish when Jack Swagger tapped Stardust with the Patriot Act. That's a real thing that happened, and I'm utterly blown away by it. That said, I'm choosing to focus on the fact that Stardust did something too few wrestlers seem to do these days: he interacted with the crowd in a meaningful way for his character. The crowd started chanting "Cody" and he acted like his head hurt, like the mere mention of that name was enough to give him a blinding headache and everyone just needed to cut it the hell out right now. That's the kind of thing that will make a fan want to pay to go to a show for. That's part of why the "YES" chant is such a big deal. As a kid, I badly wanted the WWF to come to town so I could buy a ticket just so Stone Cold could ask me to give him a hell yeah. Same idea. "I can't wait to chant 'Cody' at Stardust and watch him lose his mind." Simple but effective. Money.
No rematch for you: John Cena was who he is, essentially no selling that Rusev put him down at Fastlane because he needed help to do it and, remember kids, John Cena never gave up. But it took a turn for the best when Cena went all "I'll really show you in a rematch for the title at WrestleMania" and Rusev was all like "actually, I'm cool on that much, John." Then he just left. That was that. They're going to rematch, of course, but the initial refusal of it was exactly how Rusev should have played it. Also really loved Cena saying "don't you talk bad about America" and Lana responding with "or what?" Cena was his usual self but Rusev and Lana were outstanding in response to it.
#GiveTheDivasAChance: That's a hashtag that was the top trend on Twitter during the main event of the show last night in response to WWE booking Paige & Emma to job to the Bella twins in like 30 seconds with Brie pinning Emma after the X Factor. Paige then kicked Brie, Nikki laid out Paige before shouting "DON'T TOUCH MY SISTER, HUH," and that was that. They might as well have just had the ring announcer get on the mic and say "we couldn't give a shit less about women's wrestling, so we're just going to say that the Bella twins were booked to go over Paige and Emma, now on to other things."
AxelMania running mild: I suppose it's nice that Curtis Axel actually has a story on WWE television but are we really just going to ignore how unbelievably stupid his logic is?
There was a lot of good on this show but there were some serious issues with the writing, especially with the big angles.
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?