Jobber Report: Raw Re-cap & Reactions, Groundhog Day, 2015
A week later and the storm seems to have passed. Whether I’m referring to the blizzard that had superstars and crew alike snowed in at WWE HQ where they were forced to cobble together a patchwork edition of Raw last week, or whether I’m referring to the raging whirlwind of negative responses many fans expressed after the Royal Rumble match, it can be fair to say both have stabilized.
Let’s get to this week’s Raw.
OPENING SEGMENT: Roman’s Defining Moment
Triple H comes to the ring with Stephanie McMahon to deliver news that he promised on last Thursday’s Smackdown would shake the WWE Universe to its very core. As such, all the superstars on the roster were shown gathered around a television monitor eagerly awaiting what the boss had to say.
(Just a nick-pick here, but Ryback and Rusev were standing pretty close to one another, considering they were just involved in a heated feud – which still has yet to blow out, I think. Oh well, I guess if they got out of hand, Sin Cara was there to break it up.)
Before they get to the important news, Steph and Hunter talk about football. They talk about the Patriots winning despite controversy, and tie that to the controversy around the Rumble. Triple H says that The Rock was a legend in WWE but is not part of the active roster and had no business in the ring, just like Sting has no business in the ring. H brings up his calling out Sting at Fast Lane again.
The power couple hint at taking away Roman Reigns’ title shot at WM31, and Reigns comes down to a very warm reception – quite a change from a week ago. He sticks out his chin and steps to H, H puffs up and the bulls have a stare-down, even after Stephanie gets between them.
Stephanie does an amazing bit of swerve magic here: she brings up doubt as to whether or not reigns deserves his title shot, and asks the crowd what they think. This is brilliant. It makes all of the negative fan reaction the reaction shared by the Authority, so if any fans support it they will be siding with the enemy. It also creates sympathy for Reigns, something he needs right now.
Daniel Bryan interrupts the discussion, and rightfully brings up the fact that he was never beaten for the WWE Championship and deserves a rematch.
Seth Rollins interrupts and his mic doesn’t work at first. Wah wah. Even though he has a guaranteed title shot in a briefcase any time he wants, he still demands a title shot above Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns.
Triple H decides his earth-shattering news isn’t as cool as what’s happening in front of him, so he scraps whatever he was going to say and instead makes a number one contender to meet the number one contender match for later in the show.
Roman is pissed, and justifiably so. This will give him legitimate grief for weeks. He rightfully won the Royal Rumble match, he should not have to jeopardize his position as top contender. Thems the rules. But what the WWE had proved in the last year is that if the fans really, really don’t like an outcome, they will try their best to please everyone. It’s best for business.
Roman looks like a warrior scorn for a while, while H pressures him to accept the challenge. Stephanie says that this is the defining moment in Roman Reigns career… Really? Maybe his career so far. But I really hope for his sake he has many more adventures before his story’s over.
In the end, he shrugs and accepts and everybody’s happy. This segment was ten minutes too long but it wasn’t as boring as many Raw opening dramas, and there was some nice stuff in there. It’s very cool to watch the startlingly different personalities working together in Reigns, Bryan, Rollins, H and Steph. I especially like it when Stephanie and Daniel Bryan get into a “Oh, you again” routine. They could be unlikely roommates in a sitcom together.
ROMAN REIGNS vs THE BIG SHOW: This Feud is Still Going?
Yep. The Authority just loves throwing the angry giant at the superman.
This match was pretty good, as it should be after these two have plenty of experience working together. Missing was any new flashy moves from Reigns. He pulled off (barely) a head-scissor on Show last Thursday, and it showed us he was trying new things and upping his game. I would have liked to see something like that in this match, but hopefully next time.
The two traded big power moves, Show hit a couple rest-holds. Then, Seth Rollins cheap-shots Reigns in the back with his briefcase, allowing Show to hit a chokeslam and get the victory. A surprise, as this may be the first time Reigns has been pinned since returning.
This needed to happen. It would predictable on a “John Cena overcoming the odds” level to have Reigns suffer a set-back at the hands of the Authority just to punch and spear his way to victory once again. Doing the job this time sells his compromised head-space, his frailty and adds to the sympathy he must cultivate now going into Fast Lane.
Backstage, Triple H and Stephanie share a “private” moment while the crowd looks on. I love wrestling.
DEAN AMBROSE HAS AN AXEL TO GRIND
I was wondering if they were ever going to mention the fact that Curtis Axel never even made it to the ring at Royal Rumble (he was jumped by Eric Rowan, who took his place illegally) and so was never eliminated. The big angry teddy bear stormed down to the ring and addressed the crowd, huffing and puffing and demanding Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31, while pointing at the big sign.
Booker T sarcastically remarks, “A star is born,” while JBL wants to change the channel and prays for something else to happen. Everybody hates Curtis Axel. I almost feel bad for him, but at least he got a spot on Raw.
Dean Ambrose comes down and chucks Axel over the top rope to the floor, quipping “Now you’re eliminated.”
I’m a big Dean Ambrose mark, I love what he does. He is funny, and captivates the crowd in a very real way. He gives a short and pointed speech, saying that he was inspired while looking at photos of past champions, saying that he wanted a place among them. He brought up the fact that he legit pinned Bad News Barrett in a non-title match and that means he’s due for a championship match.
This is a nice storyline, for it’s utter simplicity. No personal grudge, no complicated battle of virtues or anything fancy like that. A spot like this reminds us that sometimes things can be as simple as “I want that title. Fight you for it.”
Axel comes in to regain some dignity and gets a Mick Foley DDT for his troubles.
What follows is a tribute to “The Cat” Ernie Ladd, because he’s black.
THE ASCENSION vs THE DISSENSION: A Stardust Is Born
Stardust starts off with some tricky evasive moves on Viktor. The rookie hits a nice clothesline into a sort of Bossman Slam, but can’t capitalize.
Goldust tags in and out-classes Viktor and then Konor with solid wrestling skills and signature moves. After a couple failed attempts to quell the elder Dust, Viktor distracts while Konor clips the gold own’s knee, leaving him open and the new pair hit their finisher, The Fall of Man.
After the match, Stardust wigs out on Goldust. It’s a reverse of what we saw on Thursday’s Smackdown. The dissension angle continues its course, and one is left with the impression that the character of Stardust is becoming more layered and complex. Backstage, the younger brother paces and mutters to himself, and Goldust tries to get through to him, even pulling out the name which has not been uttered in months. To this, Stardust hisses, “Don’t ever call me Cody again!” then he actually hisses.
It should be noted that during this entire match, JBL and Booker T argue and nobody calls a single move. JBL seems to have simply decided that he hates The Ascension and will be damned before he gives them one ounce of credit. Booker, on the other hand, is the only announcer who seems to be trying to get the young guys over.
CENA & CO. MEET THE BIG GIANT HEAD
John Cena comes out and says “Denver” to get a pop. He plugs the Steve Austin podcast on the WWE Network and says he will defeat Rusev at Fast Lane. He throws to a video clip before welcoming back Ryback, Eric Rowan and Dolph Ziggler.
Stephanie McMahon interrupts from the Titantron, informing the gents that tonight Rowan will face Rusev, Ziggler will face Bray Wyatt, and Ryback will face Luke Harper.
This was an unnecessary segment. But hey, gotta fill those 3 hours somehow, and we already showed clips re-capping the first half hour.
Gotta give it to Cena, he is a generous performer. For all the spotlight he gets, he doesn’t hog it all to himself. He freely gives heat to other deserving wrestlers in order to get them over.
LUKE HARPER vs RYBACK: The Big Guy and Another Big Guy
Another great showing from Luke Harper in what has become a consistently solid record. Ryback, in his own right, is showing us every week that he is growing as a performer. His matches, no longer simple squashes, are increasing in length and complexity. It is encouraging for Ryback fans – he may be destined for bigger things after all.
Power moves right off the bat. Ryback hits a beautiful, extended, one-armed suspension suplex – and Harper is a big man! Power moves, big clotheslines and slams dominate this match. What more do you need with such brute force in the ring.
Luke Harper has become a master at having what appears to be a limited move set. He comes across as a simpleton with no real skill, using strength and wild abandon to get the job done. The occasional perfect execution of a superkick, dropkick or powerbomb wake the audience up to the fact this guy has real skills. It’s always interesting watching him work, and he has the makings of a long-time upper mid-card heel.
Ryback wins the match after catching Harper in Shellshock. It is a good, solid win after an entertaining match. The question is: what is next for both of these men? Harper may be heading for a feud with Eric Rowan, but what about Ryback? John Cena’s taken over with Rusev, and Dean’s going for the IC belt, so what’s The Big Guy gunning for now? Hopefully creative’s got a plan, it would be a shame to waste the hot streak he’s building.
JIMMY USO vs CESARO: Why Have a Tag Match When We Can Just Not?
Natalya and Tyson Kidd accompany Cesaro to the ring, and Naomi and Jay Uso accompany Jimmy. While Natalya always looks stressed out and awkward with her husband, Naomi looks natural bouncing and dancing along with the tag champions.
Michael Cole mentions that Natalya had made a double date with Jimmy and Naomi for later tonight, and Tyson apparently got upset about this. Is this the PG Era equivalent of all those racy storylines involving marital relations we enjoyed fifteen years ago?
(Remember when Kurt Angle wanted to rape Booker T’s wife? Yeah. Times have changed, haven’t they?)
The match starts off scientifically with headlocks, go-behinds and armbars. Cesaro avoids one Uso crazy dive bomb before getting hit with another one. The Swiss lifter regroups, hits a double axe handle from the dreaded second rope, then pounds away on Jimmy before fish-hooking him into a rest-hold.
Was I the only one who giggled when you could hear Jimmy try to say the words, “He’s got his fingers in my mouth, ref!” ?
Cesaro’s swing gets cut short and he clamps on a half Boston Crab. He lets it go and stomps Jimmy in the chest. He then hits a beautiful double underhook power-bomb for a near fall.
Jimmy Uso comes back with a corkscrew moonsault and a superkick, followed by Rikishi’s running butt squash. He goes to the top rope for a big splash, but is distracted by his brother scrapping with Tyson Kidd on the apron. When he finally goes for the splash, Cesaro springs up and catches him with an uppercut, getting the pin.
Tyson dropkicks Jay Uso after the match to add insult, and the heel team celebrate.
I think I know why Natty looks stressed out: she’s a face Diva wrestler who is accompanying heel wrestlers. She is showing the inner crisis of a woman feeling compelled to stand by her man and his partner, even though she cannot abide their cruel actions. It’s actually quite compelling.
BRAY WYATT vs DOLPH ZIGGLER: Future Main Event Match
The crowds are so into both of these competitors, it makes the atmosphere electric having them bounce each other around the ring.
The match starts with lock-ups and exchanging punches. Bray pulls out a classic heel move; hitting a cheap shot during a referee break. Love it. What I appreciate even more is the technical way the move was discussed by the announcers. Wyatt dominates Ziggler, choking him with the ropes, crushing him with a body drop and applying a nerve hold.
Booker makes interesting observations. He comments on the people cheering for Ziggler, saying he’s got a nice look and new boots and has tremendous skill and passion, and that championships will follow him in his career. Bray Wyatt, conversely, gets crowd support but for other reasons entirely. He is unique.
Dolph rallies back but Wyatt takes away his steam by rolling to the outside. When Ziggler reaches for him through the ropes, Wyatt slams his head into the apron and suplexes him to the concrete floor.
Back in the ring, Wyatt dominates with a headlock and when Ziggler escapes, Wyatt throws his body into him to put him back down. Dolph plays up a hurt shoulder, but blocks two attempts by Wyatt at a corner charge and gets time to recharge. Ziggler is countered from a deadly second rope axe handle but Wyatt misses a second body drop, and both men are down.
Ziggler rallies: clothesline, corner splash, neck-breaker, elbow drop and a near fall. A swinging DDT and another near fall, as a “Ziggler” chant grows. He misses another corner splash, and Wyatt hits one of his own. Ziggler misses a Famous-er but hits a superkick. “This is awesome” says the crowd.
The two battered warriors go toe to toe for a bit. Dolph hits a Famous-er but Wyatt pops up a second later and hits Sister Abigail for the win.
This was a great match, but I wasn’t really expecting anything less. These two are ready to main event a big event anytime, as far as I’m concerned. Bray continues to look scary strong and mega over, and Dolph looks valiant and courageous in defeat. Neither man really lost in this exchange.
Later, Wyatt cuts another solo promo directed at… we all know who. While last Thursday he didn’t address anyone in particular, he did say he feared no man, “living or dead”. This time, he referred to a mysterious “He” that he has watched for a long time, who used to be feared but has turned to accepting adulation. Wyatt states that he is the no face of fear, the dragon. He says to come find him. If he is going to face the Undertaker at WrestleMania, I look forward to it being the darkest, most chilling and epically gothic showdown in WWE history.
ALICIA FOX vs PAIGE: The Bella Bullies Strike Again
As always, the Bella Twins help to make the ringside commentary electric. Ugh. Paige and Fox lock up and spill out onto the floor. To this, Nikki snidely remarks, “We all know Paige knows how to spill out.” What? Ew. Wait, what is she talking about? I’ll leave that one.
Fox has the majority of offense, Paige never really mounts much heat. Small package attempt, big knees and forearms, a Northern Lights bridge suplex, head-locks and a crucifix. Fox is great wrestler that produces good matches, and I find her much better without that weird “freak out” gimmick she was using for a while.
Paige is able to reverse and gets the pinfall on Alicia, which makes her mad as hell. She traps Paige in a submission, leaving her helpless as Nikki and Brie enter the ring and spray fake tan on the pale Brit.
The Bellas are very good at playing the “Mean Girls”, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for them. I wonder what John Cena and Daniel Bryan think of this behaviour. We never hear their thoughts at all. Someone should tell them what these evil bitches are up to.
Nikki actually said something in her ringside rant that I actually agree with. She said that she was sick of these girls who come in calling themselves “Anti-Divas”, only to wear fake eyelashes and pounds of make-up and get ready just like all the rest of the women on the roster. Thank you, Nikki. Paige came in as a stark contrast to the girlie girls on the roster, and so far she’s only shown conformity. She even joined the cast of Total Divas! The only true anti-Diva on the roster is A.J. Lee.
THE MIZ vs SIN CARA: Starring Damien Mizdow
In an earlier backstage segment, The Miz throws an awesome tantrum and fires Mizdow as his stunt double, but immediately hires him back as his personal assistant. When the pair make their ring entrance, Mizdow tries to mimic his protege but is berated and ordered not to. This let’s you know what’s going to happen later in the match.
Sin Cara gets a great crowd reaction, perhaps from folks who recognize his accomplishments in NXT as of late.
Cara starts with flashy offense, running the ropes and hitting cross body blocks and a fall-away slam, but misses a senton bomb, allowing Miz to take over. Miz repeatedly applies headlocks so he can heel out to the crowd and yell at Mizdow, who tries his best to remain still and not mimic anything.
The match is interesting enough, but it’s not the story. The crowd is so hot for Mizdow that the slightest move from him gets reaction. He fights a smile as the crowd cheers for him. This story is the most inconsequential, cartoonish and comical one going, but it has every fan totally engaged. Finally, Mizdow can’t help himself; he poses for the crowd and gets a huge pop. Miz is furious, Sin Cara rolls him up and steals the victory.
I thought this storyline would have run stale by now, but it is alive and well. I’m eager to see what happens next. No doubt a match at WrestleMania, but to up the ante I would love to see that match have some kind of kooky stipulation. Maybe a Hair Match? Or if Miz loses, he has to be Mizdow’s personal assistant, that would be great. Can’t you see Monday Night Raw after WM31, Mizdow signing autographs backstage while the Miz hands him a berry smoothy with extra strawberries? Gold.
RUSEV vs ERIC ROWAN: A Cintematic Treat
Eric Rowan shared a moment backstage with John Cena, thanking him for being on his side. They shake hands. This is good for Rowan. Having Cena as an ally elevates him, as having Cena competing in a US Championship match elevates the title itself.
There was no match here, officially. Rusev jumped the bell, smashing Rowan into the ring post. He put his knee into the ginger’s head, slammed him down and stomped his face. A couple of elbow drops to the lower spine and the Accolade was applied until Rowan went limp.
Like the announcers said, “This wasn’t a match, this was a message.” Lana addresses the crowd and introduces a video package showing Rusev’s domination over American heroes, including Sheamus, the Celtic Warrior (?).
As Rusev’s theme plays, the Russian flag fails to fall due to a technical difficulty. Rusev and Lana recover by becoming furious at the foul-up, and the announce teamed covered beautifully, chalking it up first as a bad omen for the heel and then postulating that John Cena has sabotaged the flag.
SETH ROLLINS vs DANIEL BRYAN: Back Flips and Big Kicks
Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan have a moment backstage. In it, Bryan extends respect only to have it met abrasively by a moody Reigns, who tells Bryan to get out of “his” locker room. This doesn’t set Roman up as a supreme baby-face, but it does sell his frustration at having to put up his title shot.
In what anyone would naturally expect to be a show-stopper, Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins stop the show. Arm locks, side head-locks, fancy escapes to start off. Bryan hits a very impressive double underhook suplex into an armbar submission. The tide turns when J&J Security slam Bryan to the barricade.
Big Show comes to ringside, probably to facilitate Roman Reigns coming down later.
The match goes back and forth. Bryan hits his big offense moves including a hurricurana from the top rope. Bryan hits a double dropkick on J&J followed by a suicide dive to all three of the Authority soldiers. A side suplex from the top rope receives a “This is awesome” from the crowd.
Rollins escapes a Yes! Lock by reaching the rope. Big Show helps Rollins, but Reigns rushes down the ramp and hits a huge spear on Show. He goes to spear Rollins but hits Jamie Noble instead. The ref is with Daniel Bryan when Reigns hits Rollins with a superman punch. Bryan hits a running knee and gets the pin on Rollins, and it is officially Daniel Bryan versus Roman Reigns at Fast Lane for the number one contender spot.
Good call, overall, if a bit obvious. Seth Rollins doesn’t need a match to be the top contender, he had a guaranteed title shot already. This serves a greater purpose: sending Roman to WrestleMania with a clear conscience. If he can beat Daniel Bryan, fair and square, and especially if Bryan can give him his personal respect, then Reigns will have earned the shot many don’t believe he has already.