The Jobber Run-Down: 09/02/15 Raw
You know those episodes of WWE Monday Night Raw that make you so happy you tuned in? This was not one of those episodes. I honestly would have watched last week’s Smackdown again instead, and in many ways that’s what it felt like. Nothing truly groundbreaking occurred, with the exception of one or two items, which we will cover along with all the rest of the sub-par action on this week’s Raw re-cap.
WELCOME TO MONDAY NIGHT RAW WITH ROMAN REIGNS
We knew this day was coming. If Reigns wants to be the face of the WWE, if he wants to wear the big man pants and carry the WWE Championship, he has to be able to do what John Cena does on a regular basis: open the show on his own. It’s a tough gig, going in front of a cold crowd with no one else to work off of or lean on. Daniel Bryan’s become quite good at it since being thrust into the spotlight a year and a half ago, and Triple H could do it in his sleep, but this is a new gig for Reigns, a man who has been ruthlessly criticized for his poor mic skills.
I was pleased by his effort on Raw. He appeared relaxed and composed, despite being met with more than a healthy spattering of boos from the Ohio University audience. The biggest negative responses came whenever he referred to Daniel Bryan, and he had to expect that. Bryan is the biggest face in the world right now, if you say anything against him you are by default an asshole. To his credit, Reigns didn’t shy away from this. However, he walks a very thin line between being solid in his character’s defiance, and being an unnecessarily confrontational prick to a fellow good guy.
Roman gets 95% of the way through his monologue and then flubs a line. Ah, shit. Almost made it. Oh well, better luck next time.
Daniel Bryan comes down and is ever the charming lad, calling Reigns “Big Dog”. The strength in Bryan’s character is his approachability, exemplified by the casual way he delivers promos, which makes all the growling and shouting and posturing of powerhouses like Reigns look over the top and silly. Bryan quips that when it comes to looks, he and Reigns “are about even”, which gets a sincere laugh from the big man. But then he follows it up with saying that when it comes to wrestling skills, he is far better. Ooh, that shoot stings, don’t it?
Daniel makes reference to Reigns helping him out against Seth Rollins last week on Raw, yet he neglects to say anything about Reigns allowing the Authority to beat him down on Smackdown. Why not? That is worth mentioning. It certainly comments on their present rivalry.
The Authority comes in, as you knew they would. Stephanie criticizes Daniel Bryan for putting Kane in a casket, and I’m glad that Bryan pointed out it was the Authority themselves who made the match a casket match in the first place. Also, very cool for all the throw-back folks was a comment Bryan made about “things” that Triple H has done in caskets. I wonder how many of today’s fans remember that one.
Anyway, as they’ve done in the past, the Authority plant seeds for further animosity between rival faces by putting Reigns and Bryan on the same team versus The Big Show and Kane (former Tag Team Champions, although they choose not to mention that).
The match itself is a bit flat, which sets a tone for the rest of the night. Bryan gets an early advantage on Kane and gives it over to Reigns, who falls victim to double-teaming and the heels slow the pace down. After punishing Reigns with a reverse chin lock, Reigns escapes and hits the hot tag to Bryan, who rallies but is caught in mid-air by the giants and loses the advantage.
Both Show and Kane put Bryan in bear hugs, which slow things down even more. Bryan gets some steam and goes for a submission but Show interferes and throws Bryan to the barricade, earning a disqualification. Did I miss something? Why is that a DQ?
Whatever the case, Reigns comes to help out his partner but gets battered with a chair by Show for his troubles. Reigns hit a Superman punch and smacks Show around with the chair in turn, while Kane and Bryan go at it. In all the confusion, Bryan hits Reigns with a dropkick in the corner. The heels high-tail it out of the way to let the faces argue.
Making faces fight Big Show and Kane just doesn’t have the same gravity to it that it once had. There was a time when these two were feared monsters, but they’ve become played out. Not to mention the face that they simply aren’t in the imposing physical shape they once were. As much as I love him as a face, the role of corporate enforcer would be much more effective on someone like Ryback. Maybe once Kane and Big Show move to pasture, that can be a direction they will consider.
RYBACK vs SETH ROLLINS:
Power-Lift vs Crossfit
While I am still wondering why this match is even occurring, Rollins jumps Ryback and works him over with boots in the corner. Ryback gets cheap shots from Jamie and Joey Security Squad on the outside, and Rollins slaps on a front face lock.
The Big Guy manages to gain the advantage and hits a couple of power moves on Rollins, but J&J jump in and force a DQ. Ryback tries to fight back, but is overcome and suffers a superkick and Curb Stomp from Mr Money in the Bank.
This was a non match, and I am left with the distinct impression the only reason this happened was to give Seth a match with Ryback at Fast Lane. I mean, with the faces going at it in the main event, what’s left for Seth to do? Might as well feud with Ryback. Maybe they’ll throw Dolph Ziggler in there as well and make it a handicap match. Ziggler needs something to do too, and he partnered with Ryback last week (for some reason).
PAIGE vs BRIE BELLA:
Paige starts off the match strong with an aggressive take down and flurry of punches, followed by a very nice stiff kick to the face. Brie takes control with a pair of lower case dropkicks and a running knee to the face of Paige while she sits against the ropes.
This attack comes after Brie’s war cry of “Brie mode!” So, we’re really running with this whole Brie Mode thing, are we? And we all remember that it originated as being code for “Brie is getting super smashed on girlie drinks and making an embarrassing mess of herself tonight”, right? That was the origins on Total Divas, right? I’m not missing something? Okay, good. As long as we’re clear.
Brie puts on a head scissor that I thought was one of Nikki’s moves, but I guess they share moves now and that’s cool I guess. I liked Brie’s execution of the move I must say, and not just because it gave her a chance to show off her CM Punk shin sleeves. She got nice extension that sold the move well, while at the same time using the hold to heel it up to the crowd and taunt Paige. Nicely done, but I felt the move went on a bit too long with Paige not looking to mount any kind of escape. I almost thought she would submit, but she eventually did make it out.
Paige lands with stiff forearms but can’t keep her head of steam, and Brie hits her ever-devastating dropkick from the second rope.
Stalemate as both competitors slap each other at the same time. From here, Paige launches a comeback, hitting short arm clotheslines and a Seth Rollins-style dropkick. Nikki jumps up on the apron, and instead of falling for the old face trap, Paige throws Brie into her sister, knocking the champ back down. Spot of the match, for sure, as Paige follows by executing the so-called Ram-Paige DDT for the win.
Nikki tries to jump Paige after the match, but Paige expertly rolls to safety and walks away with hand raised. This was a nice showing for Brie, and it made Paige look strong going into her title match with Nikki. I feel like Paige is finally starting to get booked appropriately after months of spinning her wheels. It sucks to say, because I love her as a wrestler, but AJ and Paige didn’t have the makings of a great rivalry, perhaps in part because they are similar in character. Paige can really sell her “anti-Diva” gimmick against the Bellas, who thrive in the role of evil, shallow bitches.
RUSEV AND LANA:
John Cena, This is Your Life!
Rusev and Lana address John Cena and the WWE Universe.
Is it just me, or did Lana sound like her Russian accent was slipping? She was sounding very American-ish while she talked about John Cena’s career.
The heels have been taking asshole lessons from Stephanie McMahon. They give praise to John Cena, talking up his accomplishments and introducing a video package dedicated to his epic career. The video starts out with images of Cena celebrating, overcoming the odds, winning championships. But then the footage goes glitchy and the rest of the package is nothing but footage of Cena taking abuse, getting hurt, being hauled away on stretchers – including the famous close-up of his disgusting elbow ball last year. It was a great idea, but I felt like the editors could have put more effort into it. It just seemed thrown together last minute, but that’s just my opinion.
Rusev and Lana describe Cena and avoid the over-used analogy of an old dog waiting to be put down (made famous by the Shawn Michaels / Ric Flair saga) and instead refer to him as “a man waiting for annihilation”. Nice. Rusev’s speech is interspersed with “What?” from the audience, and Rusev responds brilliantly with “You don’t ‘what’ me, I am a hero!” which gets him nice heat.
John Cena comes out and gets big love from the crowd. He cuts a typically emotional and passionate Cena promo, inserting some very literal threats upon Rusev. In pro wrestling, we get so accustomed to people using cliched expressions like, “I will destroy you” or “Rip you apart” or even something as casually figurative as “Beat the crap out of you.” John Cena brought it down to earth by telling Rusev “I’m gonna hit you in the mouth so hard your eyes will water.” Interesting. That is very specific. Maybe this will catch on.
Eventually the two charge each other and brawl on the entrance ramp, with Rusev ultimately attacking John Cena’s messed-up eyeball and standing tall.
I saw two things I liked in this segment. First, Rusev seems to really be progressing on the mic. He is becoming more verbose, more commanding and aggressive in his delivery, as well as becoming more comfortable to improvise and work off of other wrestler’s energy. Cena is a great partner to work off, as well, so this feud is very much to the Bulgarian’s benefit. Second, I enjoyed the fact that John Cena accepted and played off of the fact that he is, in fact, becoming an old dog in the game. He said something to the effect of “this old man’s gonna take you to school, son”. Good. Cena can wear all the ball caps and baby blue tee shirts he wants, but to claim he is still a spring chicken is just plain delusional. The best thing he can do is exactly what he’s doing: own his role and wear his age with confidence.
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs BRAY WYATT:
A Disappointing Sequel
These two fought a week ago, and this was the same match but somehow worse – probably because it was the same match.
Similar beginning, with decent amateurish wrestling moves in the opening tie-up followed by a cheap shot on the break. Once again, the crowd is divided between cheering for Ziggler and cheering for Wyatt. Ziggler gains advantage on Wyatt with a dropkick that bloodies his nose, but the bearded one gets the lead during the commercial break. Headlock is broken and Ziggler rallies off the ropes but is caught by an awkward-looking spear that was probably supposed to be something else but didn’t make it. Wyatt punishes with forearms to the back of the head, and the announcers talk about how that should be a disqualification. Where are these rules coming from? Does wrestling have rules? Get the book!
Ziggler counters offense from Wyatt with an elbow, evades a clothesline and hits a big DDT. Wyatt goes for Sister Abigail, Ziggler schoolboys out of it and hits a Fameasser and a superkick for the two-count. Wyatt rolls to the outside and Ziggler runs for him, but with unbelievable speed and power Wyatt spins around and hits a clothesline that looks like it literally kills the Show-Off. I mean it, I was worried that Ziggler got another concussion. It was vicious, and Dolph sold like death to the point where Bray literally picked him up and rolled him into the ring to hit Abigail for the victory.
After the match, Bray takes Dolph out to the floor and pulls up the protective floor mats, probably looking to Abigail him on the bare concrete. Before he can do anything, though, a second referee comes down and they put the mat back in place. Wyatt does nothing in response. Weird.
Either do a spot, or don’t. This was like when Dean Ambrose brought a ladder into the ring at the end of his Survivor Series match with Bray Wyatt, climbed to the top of the ladder, and then posed as his music played. Don’t climb a ladder unless you are gonna jump off of it, and don’t pull up the mat unless you’re planning to do something with it. This spot seemed improvised and awkward, unless there’s an eventual pay-off we haven’t seen yet.
Dolph looked good in their first match last week, he looked courageous and determined but just came up short. This match looked like a powerful and decisive win for Wyatt, leading me to think that Dolph is being punished for something. Maybe the brass didn’t appreciate Ziggler going around on social media, trying to book himself in a match with Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. Maybe it was a message to the Show Off, to leave the booking to the people in charge.
Either way, this match added to Wyatt’s recent push. Later on, Wyatt would cut another promo directed at the Undertaker. In it, he talked about mankind eternally looking for an answer to where we go when we die, iterating that for “men like us” there is no death and this world “is our hell.” He says they don’t belong, and that it is time to “come home”, and finally “find me.” They are certainly making it seem like this will be the Undertaker’s final match, and that his enigmatic torch will be passed to Bray Wyatt. I cannot really argue with that. In fact, I think it makes complete sense. Can’t wait for this to blow up.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH TRIBUTE:
Jay Why Dee
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Black History Month than by high-lighting the career of a black man who wore a dog collar and chain to perform in front of crowds of American audiences.
I’m not here to start a debate about whether Bill Watts, who originally gave JYD the dog collar gimmick, was a racist, because it’s a sticky and complicated issue. Some would say he pushed more black wrestlers to heights of fame than anyone else at the time and could not be a racist. Some would point out that exploiting black talent to make more money for the company is the hallmark of any racist. Some would point out that if a white wrestler had the pre-existing nickname of Junkyard Dog, that the dog collar would have been used on him as well, and it has nothing to do with race. Like I say, I’m not starting that debate here. Maybe later.
Here, I’m simply saying that showing images a black man in front of white audiences, dancing and barking while wearing a collar and chain might not be the best thing to be showing to honour Black History Month. Maybe I’m wrong.
BROCK LESNAR AND PAUL HEYMAN:
Lying is Bad
Paul Heyman mentions Brian Williams, and says that Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan are bigger liars than he ever could be in saying they have a chance against Brock Lesnar.
I love Paul Heyman, and he does wonderful things on the mic, and this segment had some nice stuff. But it was without purpose, it lacked real spark and intensity, and knowing that Brock has a limited amount of TV appearances in his contract I felt like it was a waste.
This is very disappointing because of the huge amount of heat and momentum that Lesnar had going into Royal Rumble. His beef with Seth Rollins had real energy, his presence was electric, and the intensity was palpable. This promo had none of that.
If you know your talent can only appear a small amount of times, make the most of every one of those appearances. Avoid these generic “I’m gonna win” promos, because they do nothing to advance the drama. Paul Heyman could have done this promo on his own and probably should have. That way, the people don’t feel cheated because Brock not only didn’t kick any ass or break anything, but he didn’t even say a word.
DUST BROTHERS vs BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Can a Brother Get a Pop, Please?
This is the same thing we saw last week as well, taking things forward by inches at a time.
The real story of this match is how little response New Day gets from the audience. Death. Silence. Nothing. Crickets. This wouldn’t matter if you had an entrance like Bray Wyatt or Luke Harper, but the trio have a gimmick that depends on audience involvement – and the audience is not involved. Getting a “New Day” chant going is like pulling teeth. The problem is that they have things backwards: they are trying to get people excited about them despite doing absolutely nothing of note in the ring. If they focused their energy on their matches and not their entrances and their message, they would get people on their side. Shameless pandering while lacking luster in the ring is what heels do. It’s what Bo Dallas does, and does so well it makes him entertaining. Either New Day better clue in and start making fun of the fact that they are so lame, or they better step up their game and give people a reason to cheer for them other than their positive attitude.
Anyway, the match was only a device to further the dissension between the Rhodes brothers. Cody walks off on Goldust again, throwing the match and causing a confrontation backstage. Goldust dramatically says “This isn’t Goldust talking, this is Dustin” and when he says his brother’s birth name, Stardust attacks fiercely. He snarls that “Cody is dead, there’s only Stardust.” As lame as their matches have been lately, these two performers have the acumen and commitment to make a complex drama like this really compelling. I look forward to these two finally splitting and going after each other in promos and matches. They will most likely involved Dusty as well, as I hope they do.
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
Triple H begins his address by cutting a promo that comes off quite face-ish, talking about his sacrifices and efforts for the sake of making the WWE better, bigger and stronger.
He talked about putting WCW out of business, and really built up the idea of Sting harbouring a grudge for fourteen years. It really sold the epic meeting of these two forces in pro wrestling. I’d like it even more if H talked about Sting being already an established main event draw when Terra Rizer first laced up his boots.
Sting never actually appeared. Instead, the lighting and sound crew decided to fuck with the boss. The lights went out, and spotlights would pick out Sting look-alikes poised far up in the stands. Then, a really bad-looking Sting look-alike popped into the ring and H fell on his bum. The words “I accept” bled on to the Titantron. Fin.
Nice use of special effects. They are really doing a nice job with this thing between H and Sting. It feels like even if the eventual match is shit, it won’t matter because the build-up and presentation will be so involved and extensive.
Still, those look-alikes were awful.
THE USOS vs CESARO AND TYSON KIDD:
So, No Date #2 I Guess?
The feud between Natalya and Naomi, I hope, is building toward a highly competitive match between the two talented Divas. What I don’t want to see is this whole thing culminating in a six-person tag match. That kind of thing is fine for a television offering, but it’s hardly the way to blow out a feud, especially considering the tag team gold is mixed into things.
The champions and the number one contenders gave very nice efforts this week, with Tyson pulling off some nice counters that kept the usual Uso offense struggling to stay fresh. Cesaro attacked with his usual barrage of forearm uppercuts and a gut-wrench suplex from a dead lift.
The match ended with Jimmy countering a springboard attack from Kidd with a superkick. Cesaro pulled off the innovative heel move of the night when he threw the other Uso into the ring, distracting the referee. Behind the ref’s back, Cesaro pushed Jimmy off the top as he set up for a frog splash and Kidd stole the pin for a non-title victory.
Big win for the team of Cesaro and Kidd, who now are positioned as major threats to the Samoan brothers’ belts.
Even though they lost, the Usos stay in the ring as the announce team throws to a video package introducing Rikishi Fatu as the newest inductee in the Hall of Fame. We are then treated to a series of close up images of Rikishi’s ass, as I wonder if they will ever mention the fact that he bailed on Jimmy and Naomi’s wedding, causing the young wrestler to weep tragically.
DAMIEN MIZDOW vs SIN CARA:
Lessons in Missing the Boat
I feel like they waited too long in blowing up this whole Miz/Mizdow thing. Mizdow reached the height of his popularity around Survivor Series time, when they were in the championship picture, and has been losing steam steadily since. Moreso now that he has been demoted to personal assistant, since he’s not featured as much. His connection with the crowd was built on his stunts of mimicry, and they’ve taken that away from him.
I know what they’re doing now. It’s a story that was played beautifully by Million Dollar Man and Virgil in the early nineties. But they need to step it up a bit.
Sin Cara lends his wealth of talent to facilitate someone else’s feud once more, as he goes against Mizdow while Miz sits at Ringside with a microphone and offers guest commentary. Okay, I have to give Miz proper recognition: he can be very funny. When the crowd jeers “You’re from Cleveland”, Miz shoots back, “Better than Columbus” which gets a great reaction.
Miz costs Mizdow the match when he orders him not to use the figure four leg-lock, the move he claims that he made famous, and Sin Cara rolls up Damien for the upset win.
This definitely serves the purpose of giving Mizdow more reasons to hate working for Miz, but they could have also worked the match another way: by allowing Mizdow to win. If Mizdow won against the man who pinned Miz previously, it would not only put Damien over with the crowd, it would re-enforce the idea that Mizdow is better than his protege.
Either way, I think they need to turn up the heat on this feud before the crowd starts getting bored.
DEAN AMBROSE vs BAD NEWS BARRETT:
With Special Guest Star, Curtis Axel
Axel starts with his new shtick of rallying people behind his movement to get a title shot at WrestleMania. Credit where credit’s due, he kept things fresh by referencing Kanye West, but still, this is getting very old very fast.
Dean Ambrose comes down and has a very basic, very quick match with Axel. Axel does his usual rough but polished offense, Dean punches and kicks and clotheslines off the rope catch and hits the Foley DDT for a quick win.
He addresses Bad News Barrett on the mic, demanding a title shot. Barrett beams in on the Titantron again from BNZ headquarters and says, “You don’t deserve a shot, nyah nyah” and Dean makes funny faces.
I love Ambrose, but I like him in one of two capacities: either having involved and creative matches, or giving involved and creative interviews. He gave a great promo shooting from the hip backstage on Raw Fall-Out, but this non-match and repeat promo on Raw had nothing new or interesting.
By the way, can Barrett refuse someone a title shot? Does he have that authority? Why isn’t there some official stepping in and forcing him to defend the IC belt? See, this is why Raw and Smackdown needs general managers. The Authority is so concerned with the main event picture, the mid-card inmates are running the asylum.
MAIN EVENT HANDICAP MATCH:
Big Show, Kane, Seth Rollins and J&J vs Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns
Before the bell officially rings, team Authority gangs up on the faces and beats them down. Roman Reigns is incapacitated and thrown to the outside, and Daniel Bryan is left to start the match in a weakened state. It’s too bad faces have so much pride. It’s really a tragic flaw. If Daniel Bryan wasn’t so proud, he’d tell the referee he needs a few minutes to re-group before the match can start. But no, let’s use the “if I can stand I can fight” philosophy of winning a match, that totally works.
So, while Roman takes a ringside snooze, Daniel Bryan gets punished by every member of the heel team. Seth Rollins hits his Lesnar suplex bit. Big Show shoves and slaps and scoop slams. Jamie Noble hits elbows and chokes Bryan out. Mercury taunts but gets caught in a Yes! Lock which is quickly broken up by Rollins. Kane clotheslines, chokeslams, but his pin is broken by a refreshed Roman Reigns.
Reigns is held in place by J&J and Kane while Big Show knocks him out with a punch and the hero goes back to sleep on the outside. No DQ this time, despite multiple interferences, making me question the existence of consistent officiating in WWE.
Rollins hits his running buckle bomb, and then J&J clear the announce table in preparation to do something bad. For the second time in the night, however, the spot never sees fruition. The face brigade (Dolph Ziggler, Eric Rowan and Ryback) come to the rescue and beat down the members of the Authority, except for J&J.
There is no reason why Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns should not have been disqualified for this interference, but the ref let’s it go because reasons.
J&J set up Bryan on the top rope, but he shoves them off and delivers a double missile dropkick, followed by a series of kicks to the chest and head. Bryan gets the “Yes” chant going, building to a running knee, but Reigns tags himself in and hits a spear, getting the pin and winning the match.
After the match, Reigns and Bryan square off. Bryan expresses how he had the match won, despite having to fight everyone without his help at all, and shoves the big man with real aggression. Reigns responds by hitting Bryan with a spear, laying him out and standing tall over him. The crowd shows its displeasure as Triple H and Stephanie smile happily backstage and we fade to black.
Okay, so this is interesting.
Roman and WWE Creative knew that putting Reigns against the biggest fan favourite on the roster would put him in line to potentially be thought of as a heel. So far, Roman has been teetering on that edge where the people still respect him and like the person he is, even though he’s going up against their boy. This Raw concluded with him making that leap over the edge. After already coming off as a bit dickish to Bryan in locker room chats and shooting in off-stage interviews, saying he doesn’t care what the fans think and that he’s “just a guy getting rich”, he finally made a dramatic statement against the company’s top face.
Maybe he’s afraid of being a vanilla goodie two-shoes like Cena, and he’s adding more lone wolf edge to his character. Maybe they’re teasing a heel turn and Reigns joining the Authority, making Rollins the new Orton – used and then replaced as the Golden Boy. Maybe Lesnar is gaining such support as a face they feel Reigns has to turn to go against him. Not sure yet, but it certainly is interesting.