WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Jan. 4, 2016) from San Antonio, Texas, and there can no longer be any complaints about the company failing to build interest in 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.
Dealing with the microphone crusher
It's really something that Roman Reigns has been given multiple segments now where he's been in the same ring with a microphone opposite the likes of Stephanie and Vince McMahon and never once has it felt like he hasn't gotten over on them. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen any wrestler get the better of Stephanie like this.
And it's every time they're in the ring together.
The opening segment was good for what it was, a set up for later. Stephanie was a perfectly fine heel, playing the spoiled rich asshole role as well as anyone, while Reigns more or less no sold everything she said, making clear this isn't even about her anymore.
To this point, it's hard to argue with how well they've booked this program post TLC.
Then the main event happened.
Vince McMahon gives fans the finger on Raw
The Attitude Era is alive and well any time Mr. McMahon is in the ring.
I am not, in any way, against overbooking a match. In fact, it can be a lot of fun if all the moving parts make sense. That was not the case in this match.
Vince works as special guest referee and does the expected: Slow counting for Roman, fast counting for Sheamus, and generally playing out the role of crooked ref. I should stop to say Vince was wearing the ref shirt with no sleeves so he could show off his arms and it was disgusting. I mean, fine, he's that guy, but this is a 70-year-old man, and it's just weird, okay?
The match is what it is until it comes time to get to the getting and that gives us an incredible moment where Roman Reigns goes full Kirk Cousins by hitting Vince with the Superman punch before spearing Sheamus and going for a pin.
I will repeat that, my gentle snowflakes.
This man knocked out the referee in the match, then attempted a pinfall. What's more, he acted despondent when no one counted the fall. Not a good look for a guy who has been booked so unbelievably well for the past few weeks.
This eventually turns into Reigns going after Vince, which is fine in some ways, but there's a point where it's not fine because, again, he's a 70-year-old man. The burly badass act is great and all but there's a line there. They really flirted with crossing it when Stephanie came out and Roman threw Vince into the ropes and she took a bump into the ring. It looked deliberate, which is a bit strange, and then he walked her down while she cowered in fear, which is even more strange.
It's a bit much to go that far with these two in this situation. That speaks to a larger problem with using Vince and Stephanie to get the heat to begin with, but there's a point where you no longer look like a badass when you're leaning in on an old man and a woman.
It really went south when they teased a near fall with Sheamus coming to and landing a really great Brogue Kick. The problem was Vince was right there, the referee, and Sheamus called for another ref to run in to count it. I guess the idea was Vince was selling and couldn't count? It was really dumb. Scott Armstrong, the crooked ref from the Daniel Bryan angle, ran in and counted and Reigns kicked out. Armstrong then tried to hold Reigns up for another Brogue Kick but Roman hit him with a Superman punch, then hit Sheamus with one and went for another pin.
Again, he knocked out the referee and went for a pin.
Only this time another ref showed up, this one clean, who counted the fall and Reigns retained the title. I have no idea how that makes sense with everything they did here, and Vince tossed said ref immediately after.
This was almost all complete nonsense.
Then Vince got on the mic and said Reigns would defend the WWE world heavyweight title in the Royal Rumble match, and all was immediately forgotten.
That's how you do that, I guess.
Amateurs fold under pressure
The New Day were arguably at their best last week when Kofi Kingston offered to fight your children if they get out of line. They were ridiculous, but in a really fun way you can both laugh at and use later in your own life.
That's what they are, really. They are what a meme would be as a pro wrestling crew. It makes sense, then, that their entire act has become about exploiting as many memes as possible in the name of good comedy.
Last night was not good comedy.
Chris Jericho returns to WWE
After an agonizing two months away, the former WWE Champion is finally back, and he's got business in the Royal Rumble.
Mike Tyson falling on his ass while riding a hoverboard is funny because it's a rich idiot, who is also Mike Tyson, injuring himself while playing with his ridiculous new toy. A reenactment of this is doomed to fail because it has none of that charm.
It was painfully bad, and San Antonio was so quiet it was downright eerie. This was like going to a stand up comedy show and feeling extreme second hand embarrassment for a first timer dying the worst death imaginable up on stage.
Somehow, it got worse.
Chris Jericho is back.
I don't know that there's another star who has spammed these "surprise" returns as hard as ol' Y2J but it's beyond tired at this point and, really, if you aren't a fan of his act I'm not sure I see any value in doing segments like this.
He insulted New Day by, I kid you not, telling them the unicorns they were wearing on their heads look stupid. I don't know about you, but I really needed those zingers back in my life.
Then it became about getting "rooty tooty booty" over, and Jericho even brought up "trap queens." This felt like he hit that "retired Shawn Michaels back for an appearance" point where he says things he heard that he thinks will make him sound cool but doesn't have any clue what they actually mean. At least Shawn has that old-timer charm where you feel like it might be on purpose, like he totally gets it and that's actually the point.
Jericho was earnest. He was also playing a shittier version of Attitude Era Jericho which was just a shittier version of Attitude Era The Rock. This was just really bad all around.
To cap it all off, they completely ignored the story they were running for him when he left a few months back.
Bruised but not broken
The best booked program on WWE television was in peak form last night. During the pre-show, they announced that Becky Lynch would challenge Charlotte in a non-title match, and they gave no reason for as much. Whatever, this happens all the time, it's a wrestling show, who else is she going to wrestle?
Charlotte, upset about this, approaches Becky backstage to ask if she set this up. Lynch reveals she did not, but it's a great opportunity and in the spirit of competition, let's go get it and all that. So the Divas champion goes along while Ric Flair shows up to say "in the spirit of competition, WOOOOO" and laugh his way off screen with Charlotte.
That's a great bit of foreshadowing. Not obvious enough to smack you across the face but clear enough that everyone paying attention would get the hint.
The worry, of course, was that Becky would not. There are those who would argue she's naive, dumb, even, and if she fell into the trap here that would more or less prove as much.
So they went out and had a good match. Then, Becky went to the ropes and came off with a leg drop. She went back to the ropes, presumably for another, when Ric grabbed her leg and Charlotte tried to sneak up from behind for a roll up. They've done this before but this time Becky was ready for it and escaped into a roll up of her own. She grabbed the tights and looked at Ric while pinning Charlotte.
Doing it with Flair and all that.
Charlotte, LIVID at her own tactics being used against her, completely turned on Becky and beat her down after, making clear that it isn't just about teaching Becky a lesson in how to win but that she's a selfish piece of shit who will turn on those close to her in the name of glory. Becky, forced to confront this fact once and for all, after knowing it but doing literally everything to avoid it, appeared to cry while selling the beating. WWE cameras didn't focus on her long enough to see as much, but it looked that way.
This is an outstanding story. The next stop is a Divas title match on SmackDown this week.
All the best to all the rest
Kevin Owens vs. Neville: We wondered if they were going to push Neville and that seemed to die out here, though it was in service of the greater good, which was to get Owens over in advance of his Intercontinental title match against Dean Ambrose on a big episode of SmackDown. Owens and Neville have really good matches together, and this was no exception.
Stardust vs. Titus O'Neil: It's never been any clearer that the Stardust character doesn't work for what WWE is willing to do with it and it's time for a fresh coat of paint.
The Usos vs. League of Nations: I'm not even entirely sure of the point of this match. It was fine for what it was, like most Usos matches, but, like most Usos matches, they gave us no reason to care about it going in. Really, it was just there, and what's more the crowd spent most of the match chanting "we want Lana," making it obvious she's just disappeared completely. Not bad, necessarily, just pointless.
You can't see him: Because he wasn't there. Seriously, what happened to John Cena?
Big Show vs. Ryback: This wasn't a match so much as a set up to get to another set up to tell us The Wyatt Family is in the Royal Rumble. Not good, not bad, just a thing that needed to happen.
JOB Squad: All that social media work paid off for Keith Slater and Curtis Axel in the form of throwing Adam Rose and Bo Dallas with them to form a supergroup of curtain jerkers whose careers are going nowhere. They cut a really awful promo, really dumb, but also kind of the best thing that's ever happened. They may get over more than any other group in WWE right now because it's just stupid enough to be entertaining for the few minutes of television time they'll be thrown each week. Also, they beat Dolph Ziggler, which is hilarious.
This was a really good show early on, then sort of fell apart with a whole lot of nothing segments and a really bad Chris Jericho return.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Your turn.