Seth Rollins turned heel folks. And it was masterfully done.
Rollins has been having issues for months now. He’s said some things that opened himself up to critique. Those comments he made allowed people to portray him as the poster boy of WWE at best and a corporate stooge at worst. And no matter how you slice it, he did damage to his reputation as the good guy “leading” one of WWE’s brands.
The solution? Allow the art to imitate life. Rollins opened the show by assembling the locker room and attempting to make a motivational speech - a “rah rah” speech, if you will. And instead of actually displaying traits that you’d ask for in a leader, he consistently stuck his foot in his mouth.
You know, like real life!
He blamed Randy Orton for losing the Men’s Survivor Series match, calling him the “weak link.” Orton walked out of the meeting, giving a jerking hand motion over his shoulder as he went. Rollins then ranted at Charlotte for not being a real leader; Charlotte, too, walked out.
He turned his ire to the Authors of Pain next. If they’re supposed to be so tough, Rollins claimed, where were they for Raw at Survivor Series? And to really turn that heel, Rollins berated Rey Mysterio for losing to Brock Lesnar despite having help from “your stupid kid.”
Everyone walked out, then. The entire locker room turned their backs on Rollins. And just as it happened, the right guy stepped up: Kevin Owens. Good decisions all around! Woohoo!
Owens had a promo that really delivered before these two fought in the main event as well. He called Rollins out for trying to please others all the time. It’s the PERFECT thing to say, if you’ll recall Rollins’ original face turn. He was ashamed of his behavior and obsessed with earning forgiveness, despite also claiming that he didn’t deserve it. It’s a great lens to view Rollins’ character through: A guy trying so hard to be everything for everyone that he fails at even being himself.
Some intrigue occured in the main event, as well. The AOP forced a disqualification after sliding into the ring and looking menacingly from Owens to Rollins for a moment. Owens struck first, and the AOP were all too happy to beat Owens up for the slight. But instead of turning that beating to Rollins, the AOP stared at him for a meaningful moment before leaving.
Was that a mind game like the ones AOP has mentioned in their promos the past few weeks? Was it the instructions of someone they’re working for? Were they merely considering Rollins’ words to them from earlier?
All I know is that this is the first time since before Saudi Arabia where it feels like things are progressing on Raw. I’ll happily take that.
Rey Mysterio wins the United States Championship
Randy Orton and Ricochet were having some compatibility problems in the lead up to Survivor Series. Ricochet - understandably - did not trust Orton. Orton, however, laid it out pretty simply: He does what he does because it’s in his best interest. We can always trust that Orton will do the right thing for Orton.
So with that in mind...Orton helped Rey Mysterio win the United States Championship. And that’s even after Mysterio beat Orton in a fatal four-way for the opportunity.
A U.S. Title match was scheduled on the show featuring Humberto Carrillo and the champion AJ Styles. The OC, however, took out Carrillo before he could even get to the ring. And as The OC started to gloat, Ricochet came out to tell them off for their cheating.
Ricochet wasn’t alone, either. Orton, Drew McIntyre, and Mysterio followed, each to tell off Styles and the OC in their own ways while trying to negotiate a title match for themselves. Styles was reluctant, but when Ricochet proposed a four-way to decide a contender, Styles figured he was a shoo-in to win, right?
Mysterio was able to roll up Ricochet in the four-way, and took some major punishment from Styles in a long match that eventually had Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows banned from ringside. But a 619 spot knocked the referee out, and the Good Brothers were quick to take advantage until Orton could have the final word. Mysterio hit a 619 to Styles, Orton followed up with an RKO, and Mysterio capped it off with a Frog Splash to win.
But again, I want to focus on Orton. I’m really interested to see how Orton makes this outcome suit his interests because he now has a livid Styles out for revenge.
Asuka mists Charlotte again
Second verse same as the first, Charlotte.
Charlotte was understandably annoyed by Asuka’s actions at Survivor Series, but we have to at least admit that they were both at fault, right? I think Charlotte was actually the first person to up the tensions at the PPV. Either way, she got a singles match against Asuka that didn’t exactly end how she’d like.
Charlotte ran Kairi Sane off for a portion of the match, but Sane reappeared when Asuka was in danger. Sane’s distractions allowed Askua to do the one thing that Charlotte was most incensed by in a promo early in the show: she hit her with the Green Mist again.
There aren’t too many huge takeaways from this match other than the fact that Asuka’s trolling Charlotte with the mist and that Charlotte desperately needs backup. Both of those things, however, could be really fun down the line.
Rusev Crushes a Restraining Order - Even THIS angle was better on the show! We’re apparently past all the embarrassingly trashy stuff - thank the wrestling gods - which allowed us to just bask in the fun that is a deranged Rusev in a blood-speckled t-shirt and sweats as he threw Lashley off the stage, kicked some scaffolding onto him, and got arrested for good measure.
If we can just stop with the really gross Lashley/Lana stuff and turn the attention to Rusev’s madman antics, this might actually be fun.
The Authors of Pain def. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder - The AOP didn’t just interfere in the main event - they wrestled, too! After Rollins whined that the AOP should have helped Raw at Survivor Series, the AOP responded by absolutely obliterating their first victims. I feel like they would really benefit from being “employed” by an established singles star, but I really don’t want it to be Rollins.
Andrade def. Akira Tozawa - I’m a huge fan of how much TV time Tozawa’s getting. I wish he would have gotten a better chance to shine on this show, but I can also see the logic in having Andrade comfortably beat one of the guys who represented Raw at the PPV.
It implies that he would have done better than the men picked for the show. Which, y’know...I see no lies.
Buddy Murphy def. Matt Hardy - That’s right; Matt freaking Hardy showed up outta nowhere to fight Murphy. It was a fairly short match, and basically was a set up for Aleister Black to back up his promise and confront Murphy at the end.
Turns out Black’s really serious about that “pick a fight with me” stuff. Who could have seen that coming?
Erick Rowan def. Local Talent - That cage is still covered, and Rowan is still deeply disturbing. Neat!
The show felt a little long there for that final hour, but I’ll chalk that up to just a long weekend of wrestling. I’m just happy that this show made huge strides for progressing stories on Raw. It feels like we’ve just been circling the wagons since before Saudi Arabia; now, at least, we can focus on this one show itself.