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WWE Raw results, recap, reactions (Mar. 16, 2015): SMOKIN' GOOD

WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Mar. 16, 2015) from Des Moines, Iowa with all the latest build to the upcoming WrestleMania 31 pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for later this month in Santa Clara. That included one hell of a show long angle that culminated in a perfect surprise.

Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.


The man called whatever he wants

One week after I was deriding WWE for what I felt was monumentally stupid storytelling, here they are running it back in my face and working me into a frenzy.

What a satisfying show long angle that was.

The Authority, seemingly in shambles after Orton's three week ploy, go back on the offensive. Orton wants a match at WrestleMania so they accept on the condition that Rollins gets a match tonight, which was somewhat silly, admittedly, but remember, Randy wants the match bad enough so he'll go along.

And that's the set up for a show long story that featured no stunning leaps of logic, no unnecessary attempts at fitting square pegs in round holes.

As each member of The Authority distanced themselves from Rollins you could buy into it because each character was responding in a way that each character believably would if presented with the situations said characters were presented with. They all acted exactly as you would expect them too, so you buy into the ruse.

That was always the problem with how they went about it with Orton.

So when they revealed the swerve it felt satisfying as all get out. Sure, you could argue it was predictable but that's no reason not to enjoy how they got there.

Then, because this was a WrestleMania season in dire need of a hot angle, they delivered a gorgeous surprise appearance from Sting, a variable The Authority's plan could not account for.

It was all in the execution. The Authority slowly surrounding the ring while a defiant Orton -- who looked the part of the conquering hero because of that defiance -- awaited. The coordinated rush to attack. The lights going out just as the enemy sprang forward. Those lights staying out for only five seconds or so. The lights coming back up to reveal Sting standing next to a baffled Orton. The ensuing beatdown the babyfaces handed out, punctuated by a deeply fulfilling Stinger Splash, a Scorpion Death Drop, and an RKO that didn't need to come from outta nowhere.

My god this felt sooooo good.

All my A+'s. All of them.


No hero here

Something about John Cena's tactics rubs me the wrong way. He operates more like a bully, an oppressor, than a guy who genuinely holds strong values.

I also feel like there came a point when WWE stopped understanding how to write its babyfaces to be sympathetic and its heels to be villains who deserve their comeuppance. I'm wondering if the Attitude Era isn't to blame for this, considering Steve Austin and The Rock were generally the worst offenders of the traditional "good vs. evil" dynamic and they got over in a way no one else could come close to matching.

At one point, being a dick who didn't care and doing whatever the hell you wanted was the order of the day.

But, really, I think I'm simply longing for a return to a simpler time, or at least my idea of what that simpler time was in my mind. I think I would love this feud if Rusev was actually evil, or at least presented that way to a much larger degree. Instead, he just speaks out against America and Cena responds with a psychotic rage normally reserved for the worst offenses.

If you didn't know better, you would think Rusev beat up Cena's old man.

What he actually did was repeatedly say "America sucks" and that's supposed to be enough to make me want to watch Cena take him out with all the fervor of a man possessed.

I want to like what they're doing, it just needs a few tweaks. Cena's motivation shouldn't be that someone said something bad about the country he loves. He should be doing something more along the lines of hammering the nail he lightly hit last night when he spoke of Rusev holding the US title and that being unacceptable.

Make it a personal quest to get the title back while acknowledging that, hey, free speech. "You can say what you want, but not while you're representing America by carrying that title around." That makes the belt mean something it hasn't in years. It gives a clear motivation beyond "he said things I don't like." It also helps him steer clear of saying silly things like "you can only push America so far before she kicks your ass" -- again, Rusev mostly just talks bad about America and wins matches he's booked in -- or "against all odds, American will overcome" -- sorry, John, but America is THE superpower. That's all nonsense.

At least the match should be good, right? And that weird guy with the awful Russian accent was great, wasn't he?


All the best to all the rest

AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella: I quite liked this. The match was good, and you know that because they had the crowd by the end of it. AJ hit the cross body off the top and they popped for the near fall just as planned. The expectations will always be lower because of how WWE has presented women's matches but this was good. The old distraction finish was also fine because it played up the story. And, hey, they actually told a good story! The Bellas, as sisters, are a better team than AJ Lee and Paige, who are on again, off again, and because of that will win at WrestleMania. Improvement!

Ryback vs. The Miz: We're still on schedule for Damien Mizdow breaking free from Miz and the small teases of it are just tantalizing enough to keep you wanting more. It's going to be sweet when it finally happens.

The New Day vs. The Brass Ring Club: Tyson Kidd and Cesaro as dorky dudes who amuse themselves but annoy everyone else in promos seems to work wonderfully, but something is missing from the matches of late. They're worth being patient for.

Brock Lesnar is the greatest and best thing in the world: I'll go into detail about it elsewhere on the site, but the pre-tape interview he did for this show was even better than the infamous "BLOOD and URINE and VOMIT" interview. WWE badly needs to re-sign this man.

Roman Reigns' response: I do not agree with the general idea of how they're getting us to Lesnar vs. Reigns but for what they were asking of him, Reigns did a bang up job in the face of quite a few fans who were trying to throw him off. Simple and to the point. As for the Paul Heyman bit, the "they cut my mic" stuff is played out. Once or twice was enough.

Big Show vs. Erick Rowan: I'm not really on board with the idea of this yearly tradition of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal equaling a yearly mini-push for Big Show just before the match because he kind of looked like him and was originally pushed as his son.

Battle Royal demonstration: I actually loved the idea here, to actually acknowledge the booking strategy they employ before big battle royal matches with Kane just coming out and saying it. "Hey, we've got a battle royal, let's give 'em a preview!" We also got Mark Henry officially getting in on it and Curtis Axel losing again (because Curtis Axel must always lose). We even got a Heath Slater sighting!

Intercontinental: I enjoy the work of everyone involved in this match, at least as far as the actual matches go. But for my money, R-Truth, seemingly the least relevant of the bunch, has been the most entertaining of the seven guys involved in all this. He's been so entertaining that, purely from a subjective fan perspective, I would love to see him win the title in earnest at WrestleMania. Your mileage will vary, however, and that's part of why this match works. You can pick a horse and ride and you're probably going to have a good time. That six-man tag last night was a ton of fun with plenty of great action. Barrett's BULLHAMMER EVERYONE routine was awesome.

The man doesn't come around: One week after some real progress with an actual angle, we went right back to "Bray Wyatt stands in dark smokey room and talks about Sister Abigail." It's not that it's bad, it's that you can only go so far building a WrestleMania with segments like this. Also, you're robbing the live crowds you're asking to pay tickets to go to Raw. Am I really going to spend money hard earned cash to go to an arena to watch the titantron?

The Cena segment was problematic but I'll be damned if they didn't turn the ship around in a hurry. My god that closing angle with Sting felt SMOKING GOOD.

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?

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