WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Jan. 25, 2016) from Miami, Florida, and it was all about covering the fallout from Royal Rumble while starting the build to WrestleMania 32 proper. They covered their bases and it's clear the direction they seem to be heading but they're getting there in the worst way imaginable.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Vulgar display of power
If I didn't know better, I would think this show was all about killing the Roman Reigns character dead. The McMahon family opened by taking a dump all over him, including going all meta and making fun of fans for buying into their booking at Royal Rumble. Then, Triple H dropped bombs on his head in what was actually a solid promo, all things considered. "Hey, you're good but you disrespected a man I view as god and I'm greedy for the title, so I took it and there's nothing you can do about it."
The set up for the remainder of the show was that wrestlers would try to impress The Authority in an effort to be chosen for the main event of Fastlane with the winner going on to face Triple H for the WWE world heavyweight championship title at WrestleMania 32.
Yes, that's how they're going to get to the biggest match of the year. Impress The Authority and they'll give you a shot to earn a shot.
The main event features Reigns teaming with Dean Ambrose to take on Sheamus and Rusev. The babyface team won with a spear and they followed up by putting Rusev through a table. It should be noted that Reigns was in full on try hard mode for all of this. Remember, the story was "impress The Authority, earn your way into a number one contender match."
Think about how incredible it is that they would spend the opening segment dumping all over him and finish in the main event with him trying his hardest to impress them.
To top it off, Stephanie McMahon came out and announced that it would be a triple threat match: Reigns vs. Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar.
If they booked an entire Royal Rumble just to get the title off Reigns, why then IMMEDIATELY give him another opportunity to win it back at an even bigger event? Obviously they had to get there somehow but doing it this way sure makes it look like they wanted to make Reigns look as bad as possible and nothing like a hero we want to see conquer those oppressing him. They aren't even oppressing him anymore -- they're just giving him chance after chance.
They created the obstacle in the Rumble, knocking him back a few steps, and then, instead of booking a creative way for him to catch back up, they just put him right back where he was before.
The issue isn't that he's there, it's how they went about it.
Adding Lesnar to the match is a really strange decision too, all things considered. There's potential for story there, and the natural assumption is The Wyatt Family will interfere and he'll go on to wrestle Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 32, but, again, what a strange way to get to where they want to go.
And by "strange" I mean "stupid."
Impatient because time is shorter
I'm going to put over my partner in Cageside crime, Sean, here:
As cSs' designated Rock apologist, here's the deal. It was a mediocre SNL sketch (overexcited backstage guy) and a house show bit. (cont)— Sean (@s1rude) January 26, 2016
If he's not coming back for an angle, film the former in advance & spread it out, and leave the in-ring stuff for house shows (cont)— Sean (@s1rude) January 26, 2016
since its clearly for the crowd only and breaks up the flow of Raw. But he's the biggest star in the world and (cont)— Sean (@s1rude) January 26, 2016
if you think he doesn't move the needle (even charismatically playing an outdated character) you're fooling yourself.— Sean (@s1rude) January 26, 2016
That sounds about right.
My general feeling on The Rock is that I'm not a fan of the character and everything it represents but it is impossible to deny that this man is a straight up star with more charisma in his pinky than most of the roster has in their entire bodies. It's embarrassing, really, to such a degree you could argue it's harmful to bring him back to work with anyone because he casts such a long shadow no one else can possibly shine opposite him.
The rules also don't apply to him, so it isn't like whoever is trading punches in a promo can try their best to keep up and we find out if they can hang. They just end up getting trucked, as happened with almost everyone he came across throughout the program.
The New Day were great for calling him out on such things like the fact that he clearly no longer watches the product but they were there so Rock could smack them down verbally before The Usos smacked them down physically.
This wasn't for me but he's a star and WWE is smart for using him to promote its biggest show in history. By the way, did he ever get around to mentioning how he's going to be making history? Was this a set up to help get Usos over before he moves on to aligning with Reigns later to continue the "family" theme, what with Trips backing his family so heavily?
All the best to all the rest
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho: There were too many times the cameras focused on the two talking to each other in the ring but this was a very good outing in Styles' first singles match on Raw. Styles convinced me he was tapping to the Walls of Jericho at one point before making his comeback and scoring the pin on a reversal. It's entirely possible Jericho is being used to break Styles in to the WWE style and that would be a fantastic use of Jericho, who was great here playing the veteran who is pissed he didn't beat the new guy on his second day in. Also great, maybe the best part about all this: They're building to the first time AJ hits the Styles Clash. Can't wait.
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch: Not much of a match and it was really all about getting to Charlotte running in and beating down everyone. It looks like they could go triple threat at Fastlane leading to Charlotte vs. Sasha at WrestleMania and that's just fine indeed.
Bray Wyatt vs. Kane: If the idea is to have Brock Lesnar work with Wyatt, I'm baffled they thought it a good idea to have him work a seven minute match with Kane the night after the Rumble. The crowd was more interested in a dude cosplaying as Randy Savage. These are damaged goods, and that's not a good sign for what's to come.
Flo Rida: They actually booked Flo Rida, an honest to goodness Grammy award winning musician, to have a freestyle battle rap with Bo Dallas, and he lost. I can't even comprehend how this happened. Bo was as cheesy as possible with some of the lamest lines you'll ever hear but he's charming as all get out. Flo Rida looked lost. I'm no rap expert but this looked like a win for the the Outcasts. Naturally, they immediately did a job for the Dudley Boyz.
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler: These two always put on fun matches and this was no exception. Most notable was the fact that Owens was still selling the grueling matches he was in the night before and everyone thinking him a master of psychology for it. That says more about WWE than it does about Owens. Sadly, no Sami Zayn on this show.
Paige & Natayla vs. Team Bella: Paige is a babyface again and this was a nothing match that didn't matter and no one will remember.
Kalisto vs. The Miz: This was fine for what it was but exposed the bad booking that saw Kalisto win the US title, lose it immediately, and then win it back again. It just doesn't feel like it matters and it doesn't seem like they care about it enough to make it matter.
The main story was nonsense and Rock's appearance wasn't for me, but this wasn't a bad show otherwise.