Raw Visits the Windy City
Everytime the Big Fed comes to the city of Chicago, they face a challenge: how to entertain one of the most die-hard sports entertainment audiences in America.
Like New York/New Jersey and St. Louis, Chicago has developed a reputation over the years of being a town that will either love you or hate you, shower you with praise or eat you alive. It is a town where, if you carry a big-time reputation like the WWE, you better bring your very best.
Unfortunately, despite some solid action from some of the company’s best superstars, the crowd was largely unimpressed.
Let’s take a bit of a closer look at Monday Night Raw, live from The Windy City.
AMBROSE AND ORTON BECAUSE… WHY NOT?
Dean Ambrose opened the show, getting the crowd fired up with the prospect of “the inmates running the asylum”. (The Authority was held up with flight delays and unable to attend Raw.)
Randy Orton then came down and the segment quickly died.
New Day made things interesting, and soon a tag match was made by Kane. The heel tag champs managed to score a sneaky pin after an accidental collision between Ambrose and Orton.
Seeds were planted for dissension between the faces, each claiming they “don’t play well with others”, on their way to face the Wyatt Family at HiaC.
This will do doubt lead to a program between The Viper and The Lunatic Fringe. It appears that like Sheamus, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins before him, Dean Ambrose is being treated with a Randy Orton feud in lieu of a shot at WWE gold.
The New Day ended last week’s edition of Raw standing tall, having laid to waste some of the company biggest heroes. They seemed to be adding a darker and more formidable edge to their shtick, which plays like comedy relief most of the time.
This week, however, they did not appear dominant. They barely came out victorious against two superstars with problems cooperating together, running off afterwards and celebrating in their typical cowardly manner. Whatever momentum they appeared to gain last week has seemingly been abandoned.
“WE WANT SASHA!”
Paige’s schism from PCB may soon be followed by another team breaking up.
The announce team spent a great deal of time during the match between Nikki Bella and Naomi commenting on the “We want Sasha” chants, and speculating on how such cheers might be affecting her Team BAD teammates.
Brie Bella even went so far as to create a spectacle of herself, standing on the announce table and mimicking the Chicago crowd’s chant.
If Sasha were to break away from Team BAD, it would give the former NXT Women’s Champion the opportunity to shine as a solo performer, as well as give the WWE Universe what it really wants: her.
It is a shame that in the course of the main roster’s Diva Revolution, Naomi has become a tragic casualty. She had worked her way to the number one contender spot and was making quite an impact with her new heel persona. Now, with the introduction of the latest NXT grads, the Paige turn, and the return of Natalya, she has been largely forgotten.
ZIGGLER ROBBED… AGAIN
Dolph Ziggler boldly took John Cena’s US Open Challenge yet again and came up short. Not only that, but he came up short in spectacular fashion.
After a main event-caliber contest, Ziggler hit Cena with a DDT from the top rope, a devastating elevated Fame-Asser, a solid superkick, and his signature Zig Zag maneuver, and the US Champion kicked out every time.
Ziggler, on the other hand, was pinned clean after taking an AA. Not a top rope AA, but the same, traditionally-executed AA which failed to gain victory over Sami Zayn, Neville and Kevin Owens – among others.
If the goal was to make it seem impossible that Dolph Ziggler could defeat John Cena, mission accomplished.
The key going forward, if a more prolonged program between these two is indeed desired, is to create hope that The Show-Off could actually achieve the impossible. If told correctly, and if WWE allowed Cena to do the job, such a story-line could be the biggest push Ziggler’s received thus far.
MISCELLANEOUS TAG MATCHES
The Ascension lost to The Dudleys in a match that lasted under three minutes. The boys from Dudleyville would have looked strong going into their championship match at HiaC if, that is, they were facing a team that was actually formidable. Beating Konnor and Viktor did very little for Bubba Ray and Devon here. They did, however, get to pay homage to Chicago’s favourite tag team, The Legion Of Doom, by performing a very safe-looking Doomsday Device.
King Barrett and Sheamus teamed together to face Cesaro and Neville in an all-Europe match. By this point, it’s surprising that Neville and Barrett are still feuding together, and one wonders if they will ever move on. Cesaro was massively over with the crowd, and he and the former NXT champ pulling off some unique tandem offense made the match entertaining.
ANYONE BUT YOU
Roman Reigns delivered a promo that quickly lost the crowd, inciting first “What?” and then the dreaded “Boring” chants. To the credit of Reigns, his delivery has improved one thousand-fold since last year. The speech wasn’t necessarily poorly performed, simply poorly conceived. It was too dull and went on too long, and by the time Reigns began hitting emotional beats designed to rally the crowd, most had already tuned out.
Braun Strowman is an impressive and rare competitor, both because of his immense physical size and his dramatic flare for performing. It may be that his biggest short-coming is his generosity in the ring.
Part of the draw for a man like Strowman is his sheer dominance. His invincibility adds to his mystique, much like it did for The Undertaker. If Strowman begins to show too many cracks in his armor, too much vulnerability too soon in his career, he runs the risk of losing much of what makes him such a compelling character.
RU-RU VS THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Ryback received a push as he makes his way into HiaC as number one contender to the Intercontinental Championship with a win over Rusev, but that wasn’t the real story. Unfortunately.
The real story was Summer Rae’s (and WWE’s) public acknowledgement of TMZ shattering kayfabe. The Summer-Rusev love affair came to a crashing end when it was revealed through posts on social media that Rusev and Lana were engaged.
Summer perhaps spoke for the higher-ups in WWE, slapping the Bulgarian across the face and declaring him a bastard in the middle of the ring.
So ends the horribly contrived and awkwardly performed love affair between Lana and Dolph Ziggler, while at the same time cancelling Summer Rae’s wedding plans.
How will the happy couple (meaning Rusev and Lana) play it from here? One can only imagine.
THANK GOD, IT’S KEVIN OWENS!
Kevin Owens was the one performer on Monday night who had the crowd with him the entire time and did not let them down.
He preened brashly, he boasted and bragged. He gave Michael Cole a hard time, which is always entertaining. He gave the crowd what they wanted, and the fans of Chicago loved him for it.
The match Owens had with Kalisto was fast, slightly messy at times but ultimately entertaining.
BRIE MODE ENGAGED
Becky Lynch and Divas Champion Charlotte faced Brie Bella and Alicia Fox in the second women’s match of the night where the in-ring action seemed merely a device to advance plot.
Lynch began the contest by schooling Bella with textbook wrestling. Charlotte tagged in and dominated with offense that seemed to race toward a the finish.
Meanwhile, Paige sat in on commentary which was mostly centered upon Natalya’s presence at ringside in support of Team PCB (now calling themselves NCB, or NBC). Eventually, Paige involved herself by getting physical with Natalya. This provided enough distraction for Bella to hit one of her signature dreaded dropkicks from the second turnbuckle and score the pin-fall.
Brie Bella pinned Charlotte, the new Diva’s Champion.
Even though the outcome was more about Paige’s grudge than about the title, it is still shocking booking considering Brie has been treated like the weak link of Team Bella and Charlotte as, well, as Charlotte.
LUMBER JACKS OF ALL TRADES
The mid-card roster surrounded the ring to stand witness (and, inevitably more) to Seth Rollins and a surprise opponent in a lumberjack match.
There was a pause as Rollins awaited his adversary. Having been ordered by the Authority not to wrestle the WWE Champion, Kane was charged with finding someone else to compete.
Chants of “CM Punk” echoed through the All State Arena in Chicago, and the disappointment must have been heavy for the hometown crowd as Kane came down to the ring after all.
If Rollins had perhaps cut a promo before the match, more tension may have existed for the “mystery opponent”, but considering Kane was only forbidden from competing moments earlier, there wasn’t a lot of time to build any tension over it anyway.
As it was, the match was brief and energetic, with Rollins repeatedly tossed to the outside so the lumberjack theme could get over. The New Day stuck out as heel ring-leaders, rallying an attack on Kane and acting hesitant to attack Rollins.
Two developments were pushed during this match, which ended the night with a visual we are becoming used to seeing, that of WWE Champion Seth Rollins on his back with Kane standing tall.
The first being Kane’s heavy-handed face turn. The other, more interesting, development is New Day perhaps setting themselves for an alignment with The Authority.
The night in Chicago culminated in a huge brawl involving many superstars. Sadly, it featured very little of Seth Rollins, either on the mic or in the ring, and in the end left him staring at the lights and eating a three.
Photographs copyright WWE.com