WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Feb. 29, 2016) from Nashville, Tennessee, and it was all about building to the hottest match the company could make right now, Dean Ambrose challenging Triple H for the WWE world heavyweight championship.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Have your cake and eat it too
I had completely forgotten but WWE has a Network special planned for Mar. 12 from Toronto. They need a main event for that special and, because this is WrestleMania season, they need something beyond "Brock Lesnar mauls a guy who doesn't matter."
I'll be damned if they didn't come up with arguably the best solution imaginable.
Most of us have been clamoring for Dean Ambrose to take Roman Reigns' spot in the main event opposite Triple H, for a number of reasons. WWE is taking advantage of the fact that they do have a full month until WrestleMania 32, a special to promote in the meantime, an injured Reigns, and an infrequent performer currently feuding with Ambrose.
They're going to give us both the Ambrose feud and the Reigns fued.
It's simple, really, but incredibly effective: Ambrose, who has become a beaten dog you can't help but cheer for, is being used to do what Reigns simply cannot: Make Triple H a heel. They ran the exact same angle this week as they did last week to close the show and while Detroit was cheering for Roman's blood, Nashville was 100-percent behind Ambrose.
Funny how fans tend to hate a guy when he's beating up someone we like.
Will this ultimately mean Triple H will be booed once Reigns comes back? Probably not, but it's worth at least attempting to establish "The Game" as the vicious monster he's supposed to be before Roman comes back to avenge the fate that surely awaits his best friend.
This works from all angles. We want the Ambrose match, so we're getting it, and WWE wants the Reigns match, so they're getting it. With the story they've set up for Ambrose, his loss will work toward the larger goal of getting him over as a man who refuses to die, even at his lowest moment. Triple H is going to hurt him. Brock Lesnar is going to hurt him. They will bend him and they will bruise him, but they will not break him.
And you can damn well bet that when Reigns wins the title, that version of Ambrose will be waiting for him.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls
I don't know what I expected from Undertaker's appearance. I think I expected a raspy, rambling promo that used up far too many words to get no point across, but I absolutely did not expect they wouldn't give us any concrete answer to the only question we had coming out of last week's show.
Why is Undertaker doing Vince McMahon's bidding?
All he said here was that when he cuts up Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32, the blood will be on Vince's hands. Which, okay, there are many ways to interpret that, but they didn't even give us a nudge in any direction to feel confident with any conclusion.
Is Undertaker a good guy fighting against his will? His he a good guy simply doing as his boss tells him but washing his hands of it? Is he indifferent and simply making that clear? Is he a bad guy who grabs his boss by the throat and basically tells him he's going to murder his son and it's all his fault?
It's not bad, necessarily, because it's never bad to leave a question hanging when there's more story to be told, it was just unsatisfying.
It was also disappointing that this was really just Nashville getting treated to an Undertaker entrance for maybe the last time. That doesn't do much for the viewers at home, though.
This is the best promo you're going to see all year, in any promotion, from any performer, and it's not going to be close. Stephanie McMahon is one of the very best performers in all of professional wrestling. Take the ego out of it, the booking, the writing, the political maneuvering, the entitlement, whatever else you want to come up with, when it gets down to it, just her in that ring with a microphone spitting hot fire on the fans and her brother getting over this storyline, there is no one who could have done a better job than she did.
Her delivery on every line is top notch. She is the exact opposite of Brie Bella, the result of the equation trying to balance itself out.
Bow to the queen.
All the best to all the rest
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks: What a hugely disappointing match, considering the stakes, although the end result shows it was always going to fail to live up to expectations. The finish fell flat, mostly because while it has an explanation, Raw doesn't have a commentary team capable of making it clear to fans at home who wouldn't think to piece together that a high impact move shortly after a series of vicious headbutts was enough to do Sasha in and lead to the double pin. These aren't just complaints from Jim Ross/Mauro Ranallo marks who hate Michael Cole -- they are legitimately hurting the product by not giving us the most story possible.
Y2AJ def. New Day: A good match between good wrestlers.
Bubba Ray Dudley def. Jey Uso: The Dudley Boyz are entertaining as heels, far more than they are as babyface legends. That they swore off tables and then immediately used one is exactly what I want out of my heels. Also, someone tell Jim Uso if your enemy is standing there with a table, it's a bad idea to go hauling ass into it.
Big Show def. Kevin Owens: Call me crazy, but this is a fun program. KO may be the only wrestler who treats Show like a GIANT and uses actual strategy to account for that fact in matches. Sure, they did the 50/50 booking with a receipt on the count out win Owens got by racking Show on the top rope on SmackDown last week but this was still fun. Owens deserves top billing if only because he can make stuff like this interesting.
Lana and Brie: This is not a drill, these two are actually having issues. Perhaps it's time Lana wrestles a match?
Ryback def. Adam Rose: The way they are building THE BIG GUY back up is to have him shoot on lower card dorks like Rose, apparently. It's not a bad strategy, actually, considering his size.
Miz def. Dolph Ziggler: It's difficult to invest in matches like this because WWE clearly threw it together with a super lame backstage segment that featured cringeworthy lines like Ziggler wondering if Miz even deserves to be on the roster. Even if you get lost in the kayfabe, that line sucks and makes no sense but it's especially bad when you're even somewhat knowledgeable about pro wrestling. Miz has elevated more talent in the past three weeks than Ziggler has in his entire life.
This show dragged. I didn't even talk about the main event match. It felt like a long movie that wasn't very good but you felt like you watched too much to cut bait before the credits. That was this show.