WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Mar. 23, 2015) from Los Angeles, California with the go home show to the upcoming WrestleMania 31 pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for this Sunday night in Santa Clara. That included an awesome open and how to do pro wrestling right, and a terrible close and how to do pro wrestling wrong.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Were there problems with this opening segment? Sure, you could find a few. But you know what? I don't even care. I just don't.
Sting opened Monday Night Raw.
Sting went full Sting and screamed at the crowd before yelling through his entire promo.
We can stop there and yours truly is a happy fan. There are so few characters who can move me to this degree, Sting showing up and simply existing as Sting in a WWE ring will blow my mind every time.
Then Stephanie McMahon showed up and started laying into him with that typical condescending rich entitled awfulness she's so good at representing.
Went full Tumblr fangirl and could not even.
This segment was a perfect illustration of why Stephanie is such a strong heel. She's a woman and I fancy myself a feminist but she was verbally swinging so hard I kinda really wanted the Stinger to Scorpion Death Drop her right then and there. She attempts a slap and when Sting stops her, she immediately plays the victim, like she cannot believe this man would have the audacity to put his hands on her. Then Triple H's music hits and she smiles while waving with that same hand, completely bouncing from emotion to emotion seamlessly.
For his part, Triple H played right into it. "He put his hands on you? I'm going in there!" Then, because these two are actually evil assholes, Stephanie finds the trusty old sledgehammer to give her husband the edge. She even paid homage to her dear old dad (via Wrestling With Text):
Naturally, Sting breaks out his trademark baseball bat and the heels back off.
I loved all of this so very, very much.
It was simple wrestling. Two awful people being awful to a good guy who wouldn't stand for it and welcomed a fight to put an end to it. This is exactly what I want my pro wrestling to be.
A tug of war
No, really, a tug of war.
WWE employs some 20 writers, give or take, to craft storylines for its programming. Monday Night Raw is the flagship show. The final episode of Monday Night Raw heading into WrestleMania 30, the biggest event of the year, is arguably the most important. The final angle for the main event of WrestleMania is even more important.
And they came up with a tug of war.
Brock Lesnar, the biggest badass in the promotion, both real and imagined, was reduced to a big kid tugging on a toy belt making mean faces at another big kid doing the same. That's the same Brock Lesnar who conquered the streak, who suplexed John Cena out of the main event, who destroys worlds.
And they booked him in a tug of war, a tug of war, by the way, that he did not win.
And I guess that's why we're supposed to buy into the idea that Roman Reigns can beat him at WrestleMania, right? Because they had a tug of war and Lesnar did not win.
I can't believe this is a real thing that actually happened.
Then again, this is absolutely the go home angle this program deserved. It looked so promising at first, with an electric staredown when the two were finally in the ring together. Lesnar's open defiance, holding up the belt and smiling in Roman's face, was downright orgasmic. Reigns responding by ripping the title away and holding it up himself was a perfectly played counter shot. Brock's shock at such a surprising turn of events was palpable. It was the perfect set up for a double leg takedown, and a pull apart brawl to kick start some action they could finish at WrestleMania.
Instead, they had a tug of war as they faded to black.
A tug of war.
All the best to all the rest
Dean Ambrose & R-Truth vs. Luke Harper & Stardust: This match was fine for what it was but watching Ambrose dance around with Truth after felt bad. It was entertaining enough in a "this is dumb, but I'll chuckle" kind of way, but it wasn't that long ago that Ambrose felt like the hottest act in the company and he's been booked into the ground for months now. He headlined Hell in a Cell last year over a John Cena vs. Randy Orton WWE world heavyweight title eliminator match and now he's dancing around with R-Truth and putting him over. That's a tough pill to swallow.
10 man tag match: Bill Simmons joined the commentary team for this one and while I don't necessarily have anything bad to say about Simmons here -- he's the guest, after all, and you couldn't possibly expect him to call the match proper -- the commentary got significantly worse than usual. It stopped being anything resembling wrestling commentary and became just four old guys talking while a wrestling match was happening close by. That match, by the way, was a lame preview for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. It, along with Simmons' guest spot, felt like a waste of time.
Illusion of choice: The WWE App vote has become nothing more than WWE attempting to trick fans into believing they have a say in anything that happens on this show. Randy Orton vs. J&J Security & Seth Rollins was always going to win that vote but the creative laziness that followed in the actual match -- Orton beating on Mercury and Noble while Rollins avoided confrontation -- felt like filler. I don't want filler on the go home show to WrestleMania. I want to get hyped for what was supposed to be a big match. They spent too much time in main event spots for too many weeks consecutively to short change it when it came time for that final tease.
Nikki Bella vs. Paige: Really, really fantastic work here, from making the title match feel like a big deal despite its placement and timing, to the booking of the match making complete sense, to exciting near falls, and a solid post-match pull apart brawl. The show had started to drag up to this point and this match made it easy to get invested in the show again.
SnoopMania: How did no one know Hulk Hogan was going to appear in this segment? How did they write Hogan to acknowledge that Snoop is a gigantic pothead? How was Snoop so damn good? How the hell was Curtis Axel actually entertaining? How was this so much fun?
Interspecies: This was a fun little match that I really enjoyed if only because of the ongoing back-and-forth battle between Natalya and El Torito. While the commentary team can't help but spew garbage, the story they've told as presented the two simply as competitors who are going back and forth and finding ways to defeat each other. First, Natalya pinned El Torito and here El Torito got one on Natalya. It's not about Natalya being a woman or El Torito being a little person. It's just two wrestlers wrestling, and trying their best to win, a match.
Rusev vs. Jack Swagger: I have a confession to make, Cagesiders: I've become a fan of Jack Swagger. No matter how many times this man fails to beat Rusev, and he's failed, sometimes spectacularly, like 70 times now, he always comes back to try again. He has not given up on his quest to beat Rusev. It's not about America vs. Russia anymore, it's not about "WE THE PEOPLE," it's about Swagger needing to score just that one win on Rusev. I now actively cheer for this man whenever he's making his latest attempt and I will continue to do so, even if Rusev loses to John Cena via pinfall and his "streak" is over. I just want Swagger's entire career to revolve around his inability to defeat Rusev until that one glorious night when he tries again and finally succeeds. I might be the only one who makes it a huge deal but damn it, that's going to be just underneath Brock Lesnar beating Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 for me. Go, Swagger, go!
Beat 'em down: John Cena's only appearance on this show was to run out, save Swagger, and then get decimated. I quite liked the idea here, and even feel like they should run with it in the form of a week long story centered around whether or not Cena will even be able to compete at WrestleMania. Then they announced he's in an eight-man tag on SmackDown and, yeah, this was just the babyface showing ass before he gets the win at the PPV, wasn't it? That's fine too, don't get me wrong, but it could be better.
Faces of fear: Bray Wyatt is a damn good promo and he delivered a fine message last night. That he did so with Undertaker's gimmicks working all around him was a nice touch. I'm still not sold on the match itself, but that's for other reasons than what Wyatt has done with what he's been given for the past month.
Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler: Another really enjoyable encounter between these two with yet another victory for Ziggler over a quality opponent. I can't help but wonder if it would have been more enjoyable if it were just these two fighting over the Intercontinental title but the ladder match should tear the house down. Meanwhile, referee Dean Ambrose was fun, even if the "let's get a ladder out and preview the match" bit was predictable and somewhat underwhelming.
This was actually a fun show, for the most part. The open was amazing (for me, I know your mileage may vary) but that Lesnar-Reigns angle was arguably the worst go home to a WrestleMania main event ever.
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?