WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Jan. 11, 2016) from New Orleans, Louisiana, and, if only for one night, we got the best male and female performers in the company (in this writer's humble opinion) at their best, out there destroying worlds on their way to the Royal Rumble pay-per-view (PPV) later this month in Orlando.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
What a stupid show
The idea of this show, essentially, was to drive home the fact that Roman Reigns is only one man, no matter how strong he may be, and when up against the machine he will lose. And he did.
That's ... not very compelling.
How they got there was worse. They opened the show with a typical "establish the story" segment and I don't know when it happened but everyone in the company is unbearable when doing promos like this. I can remember better times when they hyped WrestleMania with Steve Austin saying "if you're ready for WrestleMania, give me a hell yeah" and that being all it took. None of this "if you're ready for WrestleMania, which takes place in two weeks at this arena and this is the main event and it only costs this much on the WWE Network" nonsense.
So they book Reigns vs. damn near every bad guy on the roster for the main event and spend the opening segment establishing (and Vince McMahon making it known he doesn't know Dolph Ziggler's name, despite this being year eight of that character's existence), then booking Dean Ambrose into a match with Sheamus. You would think this would be done to make sure Ambrose wouldn't be around to help Roman later.
You would be wrong.
Instead, Stephanie McMahon just said "you won't be facing him because he's facing Sheamus." They have an actually entertaining match that no one will remember because of the awful double count out finish, and Kevin Owens shows up to attack Ambrose. Dean gets looked at in the trainer's room, is interviewed by Renee Young, and takes off looking for KO.
In between this and the main event, Paul Heyman attempts to negotiate a deal for Brock Lesnar to face the winner of the Royal Rumble at WrestleMania 32 in lieu of actually competing in the over-the-top-rope battle royal himself. Heyman fails, because you can't get over on Vince McMahon in a business situation.
We get to the main event and the ONE vs. ALL match and it's ... actually more like a one vs. one match because Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns went like 15 minutes without anyone else doing anything (including Ambrose, who had gone off in search of Owens some two hours before, and seemingly got lost in catering or something). They weren't even standing on the apron like a traditional tag match, they congregated outside and watched the action. This was the evil master plan, I guess. Vince McMahon is basically Dr. Evil at this point -- entertaining but wildly incompetent.
Reigns eventually gets the better of Owens and it's only then that Vince sends anyone else into the ring, like noted heavy hitters Konnor, Viktor, Stardust, and Tyler Breeze. When they all predictably failed, that's when Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, and The New Day got in to finish the job.
And they did. Reigns was overcome. The end.
The show went on, however, and Brock Lesnar made his way out to cap it all off by beating the tar out of everyone in the ring, including a downed Reigns. The message is clear: He did not get his way, and he's pissed. You do not want to be in the same ring with a pissed off Brock Lesnar.
That was that.
This was awful booking that did nothing to establish anything other than the fact that Lesnar's appearance is a spoiler, Roman Reigns isn't actually entering the Royal Rumble at number 1, so it's not really ONE vs. ALL anyway, and The Wyatt Family cared more about hitting a Denny's, probably, than getting involved in any of all this. Which makes them an unknown, sure, and that could be an angle, but seeing how they booked this gives no hope for all that. There are ways they can book this to a satisfactory conclusion in the Rumble itself -- the obvious implication is Reigns cannot overcome, so he'll find a way, but that's ignoring what it is that finally got him over and is an AWFUL idea if that's what they're going with -- but you watched the last two Royal Rumble matches.
We're headed for disaster. This was a disaster.
The main event booking may have been a disaster but Becky Lynch and Charlotte's story continues to be anything but.
Charlotte did an interview backstage claiming she was a victim and Becky was in the wrong, which is a really great angle to take because her character would actually believe such a thing and it's maddening to those on the right side, like Becky. It was enough to make someone snap.
And, finally, Lynch did just that.
Just before the Divas champion was set to wrestle Brie Bella, Becky hit the ring and put a beating on her. My only criticism would be that she wasn't stiff enough, and the camera work wasn't doing her any favors. She should have been in there going full Brock Lesnar but it looked like she was holding back a bit.
Still, that's nitpicking.
This was nailing the timing. Becky put up with Charlotte's bullshit for a long time and she was fed up before she got a title shot and was screwed out of a victory. But after?
This was the result. Righteous anger and furious vengeance.
I criticized the beating but she nailed the fade out by delivering a line I can't imagine anyone topping for a while, and maybe not in all of 2016. As she was being pulled away by referees, she screamed at Charlotte "I'm taking your championship and I'm taking your arm with me."
Having invested in this story so much, this was Brock Lesnar screaming "I'm going to kill you" at Undertaker and The Phenom responding "you're gonna have to." Just a perfectly delivered line at exactly the time it needed to be said.
It actually got better.
Ric jumped in the ring after Becky finally left and stopped the referee from starting the match with Brie because "she's in no condition, she's not wrestling tonight." Right as he was saying this, Charlotte, dramatically sold a leg injury.
It was incredible.
It got even better than that.
Becky was caught by JoJo backstage, who asked her if her emotions got the best of her. She responded by laying out exactly why her emotional response was proper, because they were family and made a promise not to sell out each other for success, that they would work to get it the right way. Charlotte gave that up but worse, she stabbed Becky in the back along the way. Even worse, she robbed her of a championship victory.
Now Becky, all alone, and in pain but motivated because of it, is coming to take Charlotte's championship because it's rightfully hers.
Oh, and she's taking that arm too.
All the best to all the rest
Titus O'Neil vs. Stardust: They won't quit on this despite the fact that it never got over and neither has a character anyone cares about. If that's the case, why can't they book another women's story in its place? Why allow these two to go out and fail every week but not afford any of the women not involved in the title story a chance to get over? Titus went over again and it was exactly what they did last week except Stardust paid tribute to David Bowie.
Rooty Tooty Booty: Not everything on this show is going to be for me, and it's in that spirit that I won't go too hard after Chris Jericho. He's been awful in his return, basically an old guy who is trying way too hard to convince everyone he's still cool. The New Day are actually worse off for having to get something out of him. All we're getting are gems like "rooty tooty booty," "my little pony jabronis," and "Big E has an E for a name." Hopefully someone somewhere is digging this, because it's awful for the rest of us. Meanwhile The Usos and New Day are still having relatively fun matches if you can get past all the rest of it. I couldn't. Not on this night.
The Wyatt Family vs. Social Outcasts: We learned that Social Outcasts is a double entendre but they were entertaining in their "we're awful but we know it" way. At one point Curtis Axel said "four chains, one link" and then just blanked out and we were treated to like five seconds of awkward silence before Bo Dallas kicked in with his schtick. That was fun. Speaking of Bo, this was the first time he was in the ring with his brother, Bray. The match went like a minute before Ryback showed up to fight The Wyatt Family. The Outcasts helped him out, so I guess they're good guys now? Or he's one of them? I don't now. This was dumb.
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio: This was a really good match, much better than what they've done before, and it looks like WWE is going ahead with pushing Kalisto now that Sin Cara is injured. The timing is weird, what with this Raw going up against the college football title game, but it's a step in the right direction. It may also be an admission that Del Rio simply doesn't fit in with what they want to do. In ring wise, it was great, and it's also fascinating to see where it goes for the implications outside the ring.
There were some really bright spots on this show, like Brock Lesnar showing up and doing literally anything, Becky Lynch at her absolute best since she's been on the main roster, and that Kalisto-Del Rio match. But my god, there was some awful booking and garbage storytelling for the main event story.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off.