WWE Raw – May 4th, 2015
Ole! Ole! Ole, ole-ole-ole! Raw goes international as WWE brings the action to Montreal, Quebec, a city steeped in wrestling tradition and home to some of the most passionate fans in the world.
In what would be a mixed bag of highs and lows, awkward moments and huge spots, the outspoken Canadian audience saw the main event picture for Payback undergo a re-adjustment, the tag team champions chalk up a big win, a Hall of Famer rub shoulders with a present and future star, and plastic spiders too.
- Randy Orton opens the show with a promo on Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins and the triple threat match at Payback. Reigns adds his two cents, before the pair are challenged to a handicap match by Tag Team Champions The New Day.
- The New Day (c) vs Randy Orton & Roman Reigns: Reigns goes for a spear on Kofi Kingston, but Kingston dodges and Reigns hits Orton instead. Kingston pins Orton for the win. Kane announces Reigns and Orton will face each other one on one in the main event.
- Rene Young interviews Ryback in the ring. Ryback restates his commitment to wrestling and to turning negativity into positivity. Bray Wyatt cuts promo from Titantron.
- Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs The Ascension: Cesaro hits series of uppercuts on Viktor before swinging him into a dropkick from Kidd, which gets a pinfall.
- Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins: J&J Security attempt to interfere but Ambrose fights them off, schoolboys Rollins in the confusion for the victory. Due to stipulation added before the match by Kane, Ambrose is added to the Payback main event and the match is now a Fatal Four-Way.
- Rusev vs Fandango: Lana dances with Fandango outside the ring, which angers Rusev. He sends her to the back, and after a brief back and forth he applies the Accolade on Fandango for the tap out win.
- R-Truth vs Stardust: Stardust brings a mysterious bag to the ring. R-Truth opens it during the match and finds a bunch of fake spiders, which frightens him and allows Stardust to roll him up for a pinfall victory.
- John Cena cuts a promo to the Montreal crowd. Bret Hart responds to Cena’s US Open Challenge. Hart attempts to introduce a challenger but is interrupted by Heath Slater, who gets knocked out by Hart. Sami Zayn is introduced as Cena’s challenger.
- US Championship Match – John Cena (c) vs Sami Zayn: Zayn’s shoulder appears injured, he is checked by doctors but is cleared to continue. The match ends when Cena hits a springboard stunner and an AA. The two men shake hands afterwards.
- Nikki Bella vs Naomi: Naomi and Tamina Snuka attack the Bellas before they get to the ring.
- King Barrett & Sheamus vs Neville & Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler and Sheamus brawl on the outside, while Neville is hit in mid-air by a Bull Hammer. Barrett pins Neville for the win.
- Roman Reigns vs Randy Orton: match ends in no contest after interference from Seth Rollins, Kane, and J&J Security. Dean Ambrose comes in and helps the faces clean house. Orton hits Reigns with RKO, and Ambrose hits Orton with Dirty Deeds. Ambrose stands tall to close the show.
- Randy Orton opening the show to a huge face pop still lands quite uneasily on me. It is amazing how quickly and seamlessly the man can go from hated to adulated with absolutely no character change on his part. Face Orton and heel Orton do very little differently, both in the manner they deliver promos to their in-ring style. But the fans in Montreal cheered him as vehemently as he was booed in New York or Chicago or Memphis this time last year.
- It was interesting to hear the reception Roman Reigns received. It appears that his firm acceptance from the WWE fans after his performance at Extreme Rules does not extend to Montreal, a city indelibly linked with the business of wrestling and the controversy which it tows in its wake. Although there was a warm acceptance, a vast majority of the people in attendance still greeted Reigns with the cold refusal he has battled for most of the early part of this year.
- The New Day’s challenge felt at first out of place and absolutely screamed “house show!” But the match ended up telling a good story. It would have been made all that much more intriguing if, like they did when they teamed together last week, they showed a bit more tension while working the match. As it was, the accidental spear which ended the match was the only bit of miscommunication between the two.
- Besides Orton and Reigns, The New Day benefit greatly from their victory. Although it was another cheap win stolen from technically far superior babyfaces, it matches the team’s MO and works to build on their pattern of being underestimated and ridiculed characters who nonetheless come out on top by hook or crook. They continue to earn credibility in their unique way and are more entertaining by the week.
- Rene Young being in the ring with Ryback was a bit pointless – this was a simple in-ring promo, and one that Ryback has given before. But it served its purpose of re-establishing for people who may have forgotten why Bray Wyatt and Ryback are good opposites for a rivalry. Ryback had a tough job contending with the crowd, who were in no mood to hear speeches, which may account for this segment feeling cut short. Even so, he got through it. Bray Wyatt’s speech fell a bit flat, though. It still feels like he could be speaking to anyone. His promos are becoming repetitive and generic, and I don’t see how he is making his feud with Ryback more personalized as of yet. This program has real potential, but it needs something more to make it compelling.
- The Ascension, who have been sparsely seen on television following their initial push, which did not go exactly well, may be showing signs of a re-birth. Cesaro and Kidd did a good job of making the rookies look strong, even though they lost the match. What fans will remember most from the match will be Cesaro’s flurry of running corner uppercuts, but despite that the potential for Konnor and Viktor as perennial contenders is not lost entirely on this writer.
- Sidenote: Does it seem as though The Ascension are complete throwbacks? Their promos feel like they are coming straight from the days of Demolition and Powers of Pain. For a nostalgia fan, it’s gold!
- Ambrose and Rollins gave a performance on raw that deserved main event billing, it was awesome. That being said, they are hard-pressed to deliver a bad match together. They continue to build on their wealth of experience together, giving a fresh take each time they meet.
- Dean Ambrose earning a place in the main event at Payback is intriguing and exciting, but it begins to feel like the championship picture is getting quite crowded, especially considering the presence of Kane and the currently suspended Brock Lesnar added to the equation. More on the four-way later. This was a great victory for Ambrose and is a sign that WWE thinks he has the potential to be a top-tier star – something the majority of fans have thought for a while now.
- Lana’s recent push is great. She deserves more of the spotlight, and is playing her part beautifully. It is nice to see that her encouragement and acceptance is coming not only from fans alone, but is spreading to the locker room as well. This will widen the emerging divide between her and Rusev.
- This match was also a major push for Fandango. Even though the match was short and amounted to not much more than simply another Rusev squash, the flamboyant dancer managed some hard offense against the brute. This was the most credible we have seen Fandango since his fluke victory over Chris Jericho in his WrestleMania debut. His recent face turn is connecting him to the crowd and hopefully he will continue to work programs – brief though they may end up being – with more prominent roster members.
- The match between Stardust and R-Truth reminded me that a large percentage of WWE’s target audience are children. The spot featuring plastic spiders makes me want to rant and rage, but in all fairness, I do not know what kind of response the younger members of the WWE Universe have been giving Truth over his recent “I hate spiders” shtick. The segment was not helped by Michael Cole on commentary, who didn’t try to sell at all and seemed like he was embarrassed by the whole thing. JBL tried to make a joke, at least. The audience died during this match and seemed at a loss as to what to make of it all. Will they build on this arachnophobia angle? Will Stardust become the villain who uses his opponents fears against them? Or will this be just another attempt at a cheap pop which will go nowhere?
- John Cena is the best in the world at winning over a crowd. It never ceases to amaze me. He can walk in front of an audience who are dead set on booing him out of the building, and in five minutes he will either get them on his side or trick them into cheering for something else. From pointing out a Nordiques jersey on an audience member, to mentioning the Habs, to appealing to the people’s fighting spirit, John Cena turned venom into victory yet again.
- Bret Hart got a huge reaction from the crowd and it was a great spot, although he seemed not that into it. One has to wonder if his late father Stu’s birthday had something to do with his mind being elsewhere. The segment would have been complete without the addition of Heath Slater, and in fact I feel it only detracted from it. But it kept him relevant, and although I doubt they are building towards Slater ultimately stealing the US Championship, nothing is impossible.
- The injection of Sami Zayn vs John Cena gave this edition of Raw its second main event match in less than two hours of programming. The crowd’s reaction was huge, utterly amazing. The match was awesome, Cena did an incredible job putting over the rookie, and Zayn did what he does best – give the crowd someone they want to cheer.
- The shoulder injury teased during the match appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be absolutely legit. The ref giving the big ‘X’ signal pushed it home that this was not a planned spot, and wwe.com released statements about an MRI the following day. But if there’s one thing Zayn has proven is that he is a master at garnering sympathy in the smartest and most effective ways imaginable. He blurs the lines between fiction and reality in a way reminiscent of Shawn Michaels, so I cannot help but think the shoulder was a well orchestrated angle. The magic of this sport is that we just don’t know for sure. Having Zayn kick out of the AA was the biggest push they could have given the man in his Raw debut. Now, more than ever, the WWE Universe will be anxiously awaiting his official move up to the main roster.
- Naomi allying herself with Tamina is not only a great way to introduce the second-generation diva back into action, it is a great move for Naomi’s character. It gives her more credibility as a dangerous heel and helps to even the playing field against the Bella sisters. This is a tag match that will be eagerly anticipated. The only concern is that the Divas Championship will get ignored in the process. Naomi’s look has been changing, little by little, piece by piece, as her persona has turned bad, and the final pieces of the puzzle were put in place on Raw. her hair in braids and Tamina by her side complete her transformation to the dark side – so to speak (May the 4th Be With You!).
- The tag match fused together the two most heated and entertaining non-title, mid-card rivalries active right now. The feud between Sheamus and Ziggler is so intense right now, it makes me nervous whenever I see these two go at it. Ziggler has been indicating a real-life grudge with Sheamus and the WWE, and Sheamus is known for his already stiff style. These two constantly appear to be shooting on each other, and the uncertainty of how much they really want to hurt one another adds a layer of danger and intrigue to their encounters.
- On the other end, Neville and Barrett’s matches continue to deliver well-constructed and executed contests, full of high spots and hard impacts. Barrett is riding the momentum of his King of the Ring victory at the same time Neville builds on his ambitious new run on the big stage. This program is serving to benefit both performers equally, which can be hard to come by at times.
- Roman Reigns and Randy Orton in the main event felt anticlimactic. The crowd was not into it, and having Seth Rollins on commentary was the most interesting element of the whole match. The expected shmoz, beat-down and Ambrose run-in was only a matter of time and par for the course in a text-book build to a multi-person championship Pay-Per-View match.
- The ending marked one of the first times that Ambrose has enjoyed the final spotlight, and one hopes it will not be the high-light of his championship run at Payback. His involvement adds some much-needed energy into the mix, because although Rollins and Orton have their rivalry well established, and Reigns and Rollins have yet to really have their blowout encounter teased for almost a year now, there is very little electricity between Reigns and Orton. These two are almost indifferent to one another, and the RKO delivered to Reigns after the shmoz simply felt compulsory. Ambrose, on the other hand, has an open and established friendship with Reigns, so his delivering of Dirty Deeds to Orton not only commented on his determination to win the Fatal Four-Way, but it spoke of his personal stake in the match as well. How will the bond between brothers that Reigns and Ambrose have enjoyed until now be affected going into the battle at Payback? Could we be seeing the beginnings of another feud between former Shield members developing? Or will the Fatal Four-Way set up an Orton/Ambrose rivalry? Could the championship change hands at Payback? Or, quite possibly, will Kane insert himself into the match in some way and bring his story to the next level?
Photos copyright WWE.COM