WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Feb. 8, 2016) from Seattle, Washington, and it was all about saying goodbye to one of the greatest wrestlers of this generation, the American Dragon, Daniel Bryan. It was an emotional night, and he made it one of the most memorable main event segments in Raw history.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Daniel Bryan is one of the greatest wrestlers of our time, that much is certain. In his prime, at the peak of his powers, there aren't many who could climb between those ropes and keep up with him. He could wrestle circles around even the best talent this world has to offer, and, like so many greats who came before him, he made it look effortless.
But, like every great who came before him, his body failed him. It was an inevitability, as it is for us all. As we all live so shall we all die.
As he stood in the ring last night in Seattle, the crowd chanting his name and cheering their hearts out, I was reminded of a beautiful piece of writing from Tim Marchman at Deadspin. In it, Greg Jackson, who was being profiled, spoke to a fighter who had suffered a defeat and was being mocked for it.
From the post (please go read it all, it's an amazing piece of work):
In the Roman arena, he says, fighters weren't judged by what they did, but how they did it; their purpose wasn't to win, but to teach the public to die with honor. There may be crowds of thousands of people who can't tell a professional from an amateur and have no idea what it's like to be afraid and do something anyway; there may be people in the game who are so broken from watching men and women fight week after week that they lose all ability to appreciate what they're seeing, or to care about what it means, and there may be people who don't see a fighter as anything more than a blank, a representative of some desire or an avatar of some idea or just a whirling gear in an engine of hypercapitalism. Fuck them, he says. There always will be people who don't understand.
This is what I had in mind while Bryan stood there soaking up the cheers, before he ever spoke a word. I had no idea he would do exactly that, to tell us his story of fighting for success and always running into another obstacle but fighting again anyway. But at the end of it all it wasn't about the successes he did or did not have, it was about the relationships he built and maintained along the way.
He gave us, the fans, the credit.
This man, his dream having been taken from him, forced to confront the reality of our existence as ultimately weak, totally vulnerable beings, took no credit for the many years of blood, sweat, and tears he poured into his craft. He gave that credit to us. It wasn't about what he achieved, but who was there with him in all the glorious moments that came about only because of his blood, sweat, and tears.
He was not the hero. He was one of us, and he wanted us to know that. But I'll be damned if he gets away thinking anything other than what we know to be true, that he was the best of us, and he earned every "YES" chant we ever shouted at him, to him, and for him.
Thank you, Daniel Bryan, for letting us be there with you. The honor is still ours.
This show opened with a contract signing, a bit strange for a number one contender match, but it turned out to be one of the better contract signings in WWE history. There isn't much better in pro wrestling than a simple story featuring compelling characters with relatable motivations, and that's what we've got with Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns.
Lesnar is still the big ass bear who sees no threat in these puny humans who dare get in his cage with him. He still laughs like there aren't two grown men who fight for a living with visions of grandeur dancing in their heads and he is the only obstacle. His complete disregard for their abilities is a sight to behold, every time.
What's even better is they bothered to get this across in the best way possible. Ambrose, because his plan is dictated by punishment, just steps to the bear and gets MAULED. He was literally used as a weapon, thrown at his buddy Reigns before Brock took Roman out with a table and left Dean laying in the middle of the ring with an F-5.
All of this took a number of seconds. This man murdered everyone in sight while hardly breaking a sweat, and he left.
Ambrose, pissed, wanted some measure of redemption, or at least that's what he claimed. So he went out, baited the beast, and took some more punishment. Remember, this has been his plan all along, to take shot after shot after shot after shot and always get back up, always keep moving forward.
Here, he took the damage and, with an assist from Reigns, who distracted Lesnar, used a low blow to put Brock down. Again, this is perfectly in line with Dean's strategy all along, that he would take damage to dish it out, and he would take advantage of every opening to give him any edge he could get. This isn't a sanctioned MMA fight with rules and nothing on the line, you fight dirty in the streets. The title is on the line, and that's Brock Lesnar. This might as well be life and death.
You're damn right he blasted him in the balls.
Reigns is still a wildcard here, and there's a tension building regarding exactly how he's going to conduct himself once they get to the actual match. We've seen Lesnar and Ambrose engaged in a battle of wills while Roman has been on the outside looking in -- what happens when he's on the inside?
Again, everything is on the line. There are a million ways this could play out, all of them intriguing in their own right.
All the best to all the rest
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens: When WWE has no creative direction for a program two of its wrestlers are in, they just have them wrestle an endless number of matches until it's time to move on. What's baffling to me here is that fans were cheering for Ziggler when he cheated to win. Where is the line between "he cheated yeah, but that guy is a dick and he deserved it" and "he cheated, that's totally not cool"? That's a fascinating angle to what has so far been an underwhelming story. Owens is also inching closer to madness with each passing defeat, and that could be an interesting wrinkle.
Charlotte def. Alicia Fox: We know Foxy is a good wrestler but Charlotte has been improving enough that this was actually a decent little match. A fun watch.
Miz TV with Chris Jericho: It didn't hit me until watching this segment but we've reached a point where Miz is a significantly better promo than Jericho. He's also a more interesting character. Either way, this was yet another good segment for WWE to advance the idea that AJ Styles is a very real threat and none of these established veterans know how to deal with the fact that they can't seem to beat him. They're hiding AJ's weaknesses and accentuating his strengths. More of this, please!
Bray Wyatt def. Ryback: These two usually deliver fun matches and this was no different. Ryback's new look is better for the long term, even if some fans need to get some "Goldberg" chants out of their system, and Wyatt is in that now annual rehabilitation phase heading into WrestleMania season. I always think I won't get sucked in and then The Wyatt Family kills someone and he starts preaching over the dead body and I actually think he could convince me he is Satan. I'm back in again.
Adam Rose def. Titus O'Neil: The Social Outcasts are adorable idiots and they got a win on a distraction because they're not completely incompetent? I don't know, this didn't seem like much of anything worthwhile.
League of Nations def. Lucha Dragons: Sin Cara is back! It didn't matter, as his team lost and Alberto Del Rio once again established he can pin Kalisto, the man he will challenge for the US title at Fastlane. The match was okay.
Tamina def. Becky Lynch: There wasn't a lot to this other than more character work, with Sasha Banks on commentary playing up her attitude and Becky coming to her aid when a fight broke out. Lynch lost for her troubles. That's a theme, isn't it? The lesson continues.
Mark Henry unicorn: It happened. Mark Henry put a dick on his head. That is all.
Dudley Boyz & The Usos def. New Day & Mark Henry: They did a tables match and while it felt like they needed a lot more time, it was entertaining enough for what it was. It was really about getting to the Dudley Boyz turning heel, which didn't have much of an impact within storyline -- because there wasn't one -- but makes sense for stories going forward.
I really enjoyed this show!
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Your turn!