WWE Monday Night Raw – May 11th, 2015
The red brand comes to Cincinnati, Ohio, hometown of Dean Ambrose. Less than one week from the Payback Pay-Per-View, things are a-happening.
Triple H returns to Raw, and so does Daniel Bryan. Ziggler takes on King Barrett with Sheamus nearby, while Neville answers John Cena’s US Open Challenge. Brie Bella and Tamina go at it, as do Cesaro and Big E Langston. Fandango looks for revenge against Erick Rowan. The fatal four from the Payback main event are in action as well, and as if that`s not enough, The Mega Powers unite!
- Triple H opens the show, brings down Seth Rollins, J&J Security and Kane. If Rollins loses at Payback, Kane loses his job. Matches set for tonight: Kane vs Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton, and J&J vs Dean Ambrose.
- 2 on 1 Handicap Match – Dean Ambrose vs Jamie Noble & Joey Mercury: Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds on Noble for the pin.
- Dolph Ziggler vs King Barrett: Sheamus distracts Ziggler, Barrett hits Bull Hammer and wins. Post match, Sheamus bullies Ziggler and hits a Brogue Kick.
- Erick Rowan (with Luke Harper) vs Fandango: Rowan hits a Full Nelson Slam for the victory. Luke Harper hits discus clothesline after match on Fandango.
- John Cena cuts promo getting over US Championship, Rusev. Neville answers US Open Challenge.
- US Championship Match – John Cena (c) vs Neville: involved match, many near falls and high spots. Neville kicks out of AA, hits Red Arrow, Rusev interferes and calls for disqualification, applies Accolade on Cena after match.
- Kane vs Roman Reigns: Kane attacks before bell, batters him around the ring for a bit. Reigns comes back, hits Superman Punch and Spear over announce table, stands tall.
- Brie Bella (with Nikki) vs Tamina (with Naomi): Tamina hits superkick for the victory.
- Curtis Axel vs Macho Mandow: Damien Sandow, dressed as Macho Man Randy Savage, goes for the top rope elbow drop but Ascension interrupts. Axel hits leg drop on Viktor, Konnor and he leave while Axel and Mandow unite.
- Daniel Bryan in the ring: announces that he may never wrestle again and vacates the Intercontinental Championship.
- The New Day cuts promo, announces they will take on Cesaro & Tyson Kidd in a 2 out of 3 falls match at Payback.
- Cesaro vs Big E Langston: after brief shmoz involving teammates, Cesaro ties E up in a roll up for the win.
- The Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View is announced for May 31st in Corpus Christi, Texas, exclusively on the WWE Network.
- The Prime Time Players cut a funny promo.
- Bray Wyatt in the ring, cuts promo on Ryback. Ryback comes down and the two brawl briefly. Ryback hits a spinebuster and a meathook clothesline and Wyatt clears.
- Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins (c): J&J Security interfere and calls for disqualification. Beat down on Orton ensues, until Ambrose and Reigns come to clear house. As Kane watches, Rollins is hit with Dirty Deeds, a Spear, and an RKO. Then Reigns hits Spear on Orton, and Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds on Reigns. Ambrose stands tall to close the show.
- It was a nice change to have a few weeks without the presence of the Authority in our faces, but I have to say it’s great to have Triple H back. He’s so comfortable in his position, and that confidence and commitment comes through with everything he says, making him an awesome speaker. I must admit, I wanted him to come back with a bit more wrath and hellfire, though. When he began with the whole “Daddy’s home” angle, I thought we were going to see some real iron-fisted discipline being unleashed. What we got was more akin to a group therapy session. But I suppose that is what would technically be described as “best for business,” and in that respect it is true to character. Not unless H is personally offended or threatened will he lose his cool.
- The additional weight of consequence now placed on the outcome of Payback’s main event championship match is an interesting development, and one that perhaps was lacking before. Up until now, Kane has defended and protected Rollins on principle alone, believing it it what is best for the company which he serves and will ensure his future. Now, it is no longer a matter of principle. Rollins’ success is tied at the hip to Kane’s future employment with the company, and if he wants to help himself he must help Rollins. It almost guarantees what outcome we will witness unfold this coming Sunday, but it ups the drama nonetheless. One would argue, though, that a fatal four way match featuring four of the top talents on the roster does not require any additional drama to make it worth watching.
- Dean Ambrose was the night’s hometown hero, and the crowd was hungry for their boy from the very start. Putting him in a match in which he was guaranteed not only victory but easy victory seems like a cheap way to spotlight him. The people don’t love Ambrose because he dominates in squash matches and always wins, they love him because he’s a rebel and an outlaw continually fighting against forces of establishment which attempt to cut him off at the knees. WWE knew the crowd would want to see Ambrose and so they threw him out there right away and allowed him to perform for them. Maybe the smarter move would be to deny them Ambrose, tease his appearance but then take it away. Tell them he’d been banned from the building for, I don’t know, being too badass or something. Say he was locked out of the arena and he would not be appearing tonight. Imagine how big the reaction would be if roaming cameras caught him breaking into the building or sneaking in with a disguise, and the payoff it would be when he finally made his way to the ring to wreak havoc. Another missed opportunity, I guess.
- Sheamus being on commentary guaranteed his eventual involvement in the match, but it was nice to hear him intimidate Michael Cole and spout his heelish spoutings. The match was good, as it always is with Ziggler and Barrett, but the outcome like the match was something we have seen before. The post-match bullying and brutalizing from Sheamus was worth the predictable ending, however. These two are so convincing in their intensity, it pulls you in and makes you invested in their rivalry. I think when they finally have their blow-out match, I will look back on this program as being one of the hottest of the year on certain levels.
- The announce team during the Rowan/Fandango match were seriously getting to me. JBL is the heel colour commentator, I get that, he should exhibit behaviours which are unbecoming and unprofessional at times to add conflict on the broadcast team and create entertaining situations. So I forgive him to a certain extent when he began taking best on how long Fandango would last in the match. We get it, Rowan is a monster, he is dangerous, he dominates. That works fine for Rowan, JBL gave him a nice push there. But then Booker T chimed in with his wager. Ok, so now two members of the team don’t think Fandango’s got any chance at all. Michael Cole, who is supposed to be the neutral voice, the counterbalance to all of JBL’s absurdity, says not a word to defend the face. How does this help Fandango at all? It doesn’t. The entire announce team failed at their job, which is to enhance the talent. They turned Fandango, who is a talent attempting – like Rowan – to gain credibility, into a jobber. That is not talent enhancement. Shame on you. That’s all I can say about it.
- John Cena is doing the most a single wrestler has ever done for a single title since Ric Flair in 1992. Fact. When Flair came to WWE from WCW, he was still wearing the NWA Heavyweight Championship and claiming himself to be the “Real World’s Champion.” But when he won the 1992 Royal Rumble and became WWF Heavyweight Champion, he declared to the whole world that it was the greatest moment of his life. He claimed that you weren’t the best in the world until you won the WWF Title, that it was the only title that mattered in wrestling. Nobody since has done more to add meaning to a title in such definitive fashion, until John Cena and the US Championship. Until now, nobody had bothered really giving any special meaning to the belt, it was just floating around, ancillary and of lesser standing than the Intercontinental. Now it has meaning: it stands for enhancement of new talent, it stands for opportunity. John Cena took on the job of elevating the title to heart and is really hitting a home run here.
- Neville following in Sami Zayn footsteps is great, and the match he put on with Cena was phenomenal. Cena continues to put on great matches with a different superstar each week, something no one else in the company can presently boast. Neville looked great, Cena was protected, and Rusev’s involvement kept him relevant. There is even the possibility for Rusev to enter into a program with Neville after the blowout this Sunday at Payback. Rusev cost Neville the chance to win the US Title, that is grounds for a beef. I do have an issue with these matches, however: both Neville and Zayn kicked out of the AA. That is not cool. If I was brand new to wrestling or to John Cena in general, if I only started watching wrestling last Monday and saw two people kick out of the AA, I would have to conclude there is nothing significant about this move. The trivializing of certain moves (the superplex, the DDT, the piledriver, plus individual signature holds) is taking away from the suspense of matches. Now, such a dramatic escape doesn’t have to occur in the biggest match of the biggest card of the year by the most elite stars of the company, they can occur on an episode of Raw by a man new (relatively) to the roster. WWE needs to be careful in protecting moves, as well as stars.
- One last note on the segment: the crowd chanting “We want Lana,” while Rusev is punishing Cena with the Accolade submission shows how much investment they have in this feud.
- Kane did what he was expected to do, and he did it effectively. He has done a great job of looking determined to keep face within the Authority, even though he has a tendency of coming up short. That’s not his fault, he’s a heel and he’s not supposed to have the last laugh. Kane’s assault on Reigns was put over by excellent selling from the former Shield member. This segment went as well as it could have – I’m glad it was not a straight match, because nobody needs to see that again.
- Tamina returned to action, looking like a real force to be reckoned with. Brie could not get a foothold at all. Every time she attempted to create space or get a head of steam, Tamina would shoot out a body shot or grab a hand-full of hair and put a halt to whatever effort would follow. This was a squash, and a very convincing one at that. Tamina’s style is very stiff, and that is an element which has been absent from the diva’s division for some time. It will be interesting to see how Tamina and Naomi operate as a team, because in theory they compliment one another very well: Naomi adding the technique and flare to Tamina’s hard-edged intensity. The Bellas will either be pushed to their limits and eventually fall, or use this new challenge as an opportunity to elevate their game to match that of their new enemies.
- I don’t know quite what to make of Damien Sandow and Curtis Axel’s angle. All I can say is that I’m finding it difficult not to completely mark out. Sandow does such a good Macho Man impression it’s hard to get mad at it. To have the Ascension lecture the pair on ripping off legendary gimmicks on top of everything else is a clever nod to every savvy wrestling fan watching. It’s clever, it’s self-satirizing, and it’s just plain funny. I know it doesn’t do much to build credibility for anybody involved, but after hearing Damien Sandow’s speech to the WWE Universe the other week I’ve realized there’s no harm in doing something for the entertainment value alone. If it makes the people laugh, if it makes me mark out, what is the damage really inflicted?
- Daniel Bryan is making the right decision, no one can argue with that. There have been many voices from both inside the wrestling industry and outside which have expressed concern for the future of his career, and for the risks inherent in choosing to continue in the fashion that Daniel Bryan has. This was a segment heavy with real emotion, and for Bryan this was obviously no easy matter. I will miss his presence in the ring, and I will mourn the fact that we never had an opportunity to see what the man was capable of accomplishing as the face of the WWE. That being said, however, in a comforting way, he has become just that: the face of professional wrestling, in all of its vulnerability, fallibility and humanity.
- The New Day and Cesaro & Kidd gave what many consider to be the match of the night at Extreme Rules, and it comes as no surprise they are being given another stage, a bigger stage, on which to give the WWE Universe another great show. 2 out of 3 falls for the championship is a wonderful bit of old-school booking which serves both teams well, and I for one anticipate a masterwork.
- Big E can learn so much from Cesaro. The Swiss Superman uses his natural talents, that is his incredible power and strength, to captivate audiences and make his matches a spectacle to behold. Big E has muscle to burn, it’s astonishing to think the feats that he is able to perform. But he doesn’t show it. His move set is quite limited and unimaginative. Although he gets a nice power move in their every once in a while, he doesn’t wow crowds the way Cesaro does. Watching this match, you really hope that Big E was taking notes, because it was all Cesaro.
- The Elimination Chamber is back! Holy shit! It appears that occasional, impromptu Pay-Per-Views broadcast exclusively on the Network will become a regular occurrence. It also appears WWE is learning from the mistake it made with the King of the Ring tournament, and are giving the people at least a bit of notice ahead of time so they can purchase the event. They lost out on a payday with KoR, and I guess like they’ve done in the past they are testing the waters to see if this venture will bring in the viewers, or whether it proves to be too much for the invested public.
- I was a bit confused with Bray Wyatt’s rant this week, so maybe someone can help clarify things. He began by speaking about fear. He said that a message of fear is being beamed to us through newspapers and through television every day, fear of poverty and war, etc. He went on to say that “the man” tells you that you can overcome all odds and achieve happiness. So, which exactly is the false message being fed to us, Bray? Is it the fact that fear exists, or is it the fact we can overcome that fear. You seem to be presenting both as lies. I think he could have done without the first bit, because the last part of his speech, when he addressed the children of the crowd and told them the bad guy sometimes just wins, was very effective.
- I also appreciated that Wyatt addressed why he targeting Ryback. His simple reason, “He was in my way”, is all that I needed, and it adds a senseless malevolence to Wyatt’s manical genius.
- It was nice to see Ryback walk away strong from this segment.
- The main event seemed to drag, largely because of the massive pauses taken by both Rollins and especially Orton. It seemed sometimes like they playing to the crowd, but most of the time it seemed as though they just had no idea what the next spot was supposed to be. Also, I have an issue with Orton whipping out a superplex in the middle of the match for no reason whatsoever. It didn’t seem to serve the story of the match, especially when Rollins ended up getting to his feet before Orton did. This whole match didn’t start picking up until the last leg, and the talent of both did end up saving it, but the first two thirds were difficult to get through.
- Ambrose attacking Reigns is a huge moment, and one which could have landed in a couple of ways. If Ambrose was not so over, or possibly if he had been in front of a different crowd, it would have been easy to turn the Lunatic Fringe into a heel. The way Ambrose did it, and the way the announce team reacted to it, lead one to think that Ambrose and Reigns could conceivably remain friends after this fatal four-way is over. It was an interesting bit of booking that serves both faces and gets over the “every man for himself” nature of the contest, without getting mean about it. Ambrose got his moment in front of the home crowd, as well.
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