WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Feb. 15, 2016) from Anaheim, California, and it was all about taking us home to Fastlane this coming Sunday night in Cleveland. That meant everyone trying to break up best friends forever Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Once again, WWE did well telling its show long storyline. In this case, it was, quite simply, everyone directly or indirectly involved in the main event of Fastlane doing everything possible to drive a wedge between Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose.
That's the key point here. Stephanie McMahon booked Ambrose in a Fatal 5-Way for his Intercontinental title and added that if Reigns showed up for it, Dean would lose his spot in the triple threat number one contender match this weekend. There doesn't exist a more compelling reason for Reigns to do exactly that, and he could even blame it on trying to help his friend, disingenuous as it would be.
But he didn't.
Ambrose ended up losing his title, giving him that much more to prove this coming Sunday. And who does he have to prove it against, by the very nature of the match? You got it.
Later, it was Paul Heyman attempting to manipulate Reigns into the idea that he would have to decide between what's best for his daughter and what's best for his brother when they get to the match this Sunday. It's a solid strategy, enough to trip him up to make him not only vulnerable to Ambrose but easy pickings for Brock Lesnar.
Yet and still, Roman didn't take the bait. Heyman was visibly taken aback by this, knowing how dangerous a confident Reigns can be (as shown at WrestleMania 31 last year).
To top it all off, The Dudley Boyz, apparently looking to make a statement, attacked Reigns. Ambrose, good friend that he continues to be, made the save. Then, as they embraced after, Dean took the opportunity to set Roman up for Dirty Deeds. Initially, it looked like Reigns escaped but upon second viewing, Ambrose could have put him down with it.
He followed up by outright telling Roman "you better be faster than that on Sunday." The two then shook on it. The implication seemed clear: We're good, but I'm going to do what I have to do when I have to do it.
Whatever your feelings on Brie Bella and Charlotte as performers before last night, it shouldn't color your glasses on what they were able to pull off last night, which was an actually compelling story that got great heat from the same crowd who couldn't have cared less about the other Divas segments on this show (of which there were two more. Hey, progress!).
You also can't argue with the decision to put these two together. Charlotte took the Divas title from Nikki Bella, Brie's sister, and sympathy for Brie will never be higher than it is now after Daniel Bryan was forced to retire in one of the most emotional segments in the history of WWE. Of course you run with that. Of course you put her in the main event, give her a title shot, and have Charlotte get that sweet, sweet heat with expert shitheading.
Make no mistake about it, that's exactly what that was. "You should probably just forfeit and go be with him" sets up that Brie won't give up and will fight for her family. "Why are you fighting anyway, oh, that's right, you need the money now that he's done" makes Charlotte a complete shithead and but also actually puts Brie over as the breadwinner who won't back down from it.
That's powerful. Brie has become the primary in the house and she is stepping up to the challenge. She's about as down as one can get, considering, and Charlotte is piling on with passive aggressive trash talk that turned to outright shouting her down and Brie responded like a, dare I say it, hero.
Was the delivery on either side the greatest? No, but just because they aren't Steve Austin and The Rock doesn't mean it was bad. In fact, I would argue this was the best we could reasonably expect from these two as performers. Charlotte has really found herself as a shithead heel and Brie is taking advantage of the circumstances as best she can.
This was a fine way to lead in to the match at the PPV.
All the best to all the rest
Fatal 5-Way: Didn't mention it earlier but this was a really fun match that showed two things: 1) Kevin Owens is a star who should be booked as such and, 2) Tyler Breeze deserves another shot in another story.
Big E def. Mark Henry: It's great that Henry is so willing to put guys over at this point in his career but it's impossible to watch him without thinking of that magnificent "Hall of Pain" run when he was making crowds shit their pants in terror. This was sad because it certainly appeared Henry got hurt right at the finish and they rushed to the end. Here's to hoping the big man is okay and he can end his career on a much higher note.
AJ Styles def. The Miz: We're now on a consecutive streak of good-to-great matches from "The Phenomenal One," and while many bemoaned Miz's inclusion in the Styles vs. Chris Jericho feud, he's done nothing but enhance it. The man deserves an award for best supporting player here. Meanwhile, WWE should dump JBL and pay Jericho whatever he wants to do color commentary because he did more to get Styles over at the desk last night than anything anyone else has done other than AJ himself working these fire matches. Everyone has been fantastic here.
Dudley Boyz: All anyone cares about is that they get tables -- fine for what it is, but not much of a legacy, especially considering they've accomplished so much in their career. It's a great way to get heat to key on what fans love about them most and take it away while playing up how little they care about what fans want or think. But, as noted, they set up the larger story that they're good and pissed because it isn't just the fans who have forgotten how good they've been, it's everyone in the tag team division. This promo was all about giving them motivation, a reason to exist in the WWE Universe in 2016, and it did just that in an entertaining way. Can't ask for anything more from your wrestling.
Summer Rae def. Paige: This was a fine match, and a nice reminder that Summer is far more talented than just as a supporting act for a man, but the big mark against both ladies is they failed to make the crowd care about what they were doing. While you could argue they had no story or rhyme or reason to what they were doing, that simply doesn't cut it. Great performers get over even if you don't know a thing about them before you sit down to watch them perform. I'm not trying to let WWE totally off the hook for their creative here, but this is also very clearly a starting point and no matter the time or situation, they deserve the benefit of the doubt when that's the case.
Heath Slater def. Zack Ryder: A match that killed some time.
League of Nations def. Lucha Dragons & Neville: Another match that killed some time, only this one had an unforgivably bad finish. Alberto Del Rio's finish, entirely dependent on his opponents being dumb, was amped up to make Sin Cara look like the dumbest ass in the world. Easily the worst part of the show.
Becky Lynch def. Naomi: Really short, and nothing you can get from it because of that outside of Naomi doing a spot where she alternates kicks really quickly. It got over with the live crowd, so it has value, but it looks ridiculous, both because it clearly doesn't connect and relies on the person taking it to just stand there like a big dolt as opposed to just, you know, taking literally one step back to safety. Becky was attacked after the match because of THAT DAMN NUMBERS GAME and Sasha Banks made her way out to scare off the bad gals. She let Becky get beat up a little bit more first, though. She was booked like Brock Lesnar in a non-contact appearance, just walked to the ring looking like a total badass but never did anything, got her music played, and left.
Big Show def. Braun Strowman: They actually closed the show with this match and I'll be damned if it wasn't a total waste of time, done solely for the purposes of setting up The Wyatt Family vs. Show, Kane, and Ryback at Fastlane. The idea here, I think, is The Wyatt Fam will take out all big men leading to a challenge against the very best of all big men, Brock Lesnar. That's not a bad idea, necessarily, but the execution has been lacking. Show vs. Strowman could have been a lot of fun but they went with a collar-and-elbow tie up to start and it was doomed from there. Not a great close to what was otherwise a fun show.
Overall, I liked it!
Now you go.