Monday, May 18, 2015
Cynical Monday Night Raw Review 5/18/15
-Well, I'd go as far as to say that Payback was your default second-best WWE PPV of the year thus far, a country mile behind WrestleMania, but up on Extreme Rules (a tad), Fast Lane (considerably), and Royal Rumble (another country mile) in that order. I actually had greater expectations, but the truncated Neville/Barrett and interminable Cena/Rusev matches brought the show down a smidgen. The World and Tag Team Title matches counterweighted those disappointments well enough that I would recommend checking it out if you haven't. Stock up on some Mountain Dew Kickstarter before the US Title match, though.
Also on the plug front, check out my interview with ECW original Danny Doring, now color commentator for Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore. Danny's a great interview, always a joy to speak with. Even if he is a misguided Cowboys fan.
-Live from Richmond, VA
-Your hosts are Cole, JBL, and Booker
-Hey, Stephanie's back. If the ratings rebound, Kinda hoping the rating dips lower than the nadir of two weeks ago, because if the numbers rebound, I'm sure she'll take credit. There's a table behind her and Trips, with what appears to be a championship belt beneath a velvet cloth. Extolling the virtues of Seth Rollins, they do. Stephanie informs us that Orton, Ambrose, and Reigns all go to the back of the line. Ambrose, as expected, gets the biggest pop of the three. Turns out the belt under the cloth is the Intercontinental Title. Stephanie insists that it's true that Bryan vacated the belt last week. Is she conceding that nobody watched last week's show? Stephanie mocks Bryan for not physically being up for the rigors of wrestling, which is probably Vince mocking his vegan lifestyle. Anyway, the reveal of the belt draws no reaction, neither does the video putting over the danger of the structure. This is a weird opening segment. Sheamus makes his way out, probably to finally take credit for once putting Hunter out for almost a year. Bet you forgot that. Sheamus takes credit for putting Bryan out, and the crowd doesn't react. Man, it's gonna be one of those nights. Finally, a video depicting Sheamus injuring him six weeks ago plays, and the crowd boos. Ahh, right, nobody watches Smackdown. Ryback, rib tape and all, makes his way out, either to discuss that Taylor Swift video, or to demand entry into the Chamber himself. Ryback spurs 'YES' chants by putting Bryan over. Stephanie: "You people are nothing if not predictable!" Pot calls the kettle hackneyed and replaceable. So they're both in the Chamber, and they're going one on one right now.
Ryback vs. Sheamus
If it goes longer than two minutes, Ryback wins the Harley Race Man of the Year Award. Usually, only Haku wins that. Sheamus runs around ringside and gets a crack at Ryback's ribs, but gets Thesz pressed and head-slammed a few times. Ryback ends a Sheamus comeback with a corner barrage and a powerslam for 2. Cole takes time to explain the Chamber rules, which could be done another day. That gives Booker a chance to say he made his debut in the Chamber, which he means to say he was in the very first Chamber match. This is the sort of insight we can't get on PPVs. Sheamus works the ribs outside, planting Ryback into the barricade, and we hit another commercial.
When we come back, both men are laying on the mat. Best I can figure, Ryback's in too much pain for the chinlock spot. Sheamus shoulders the ribs and lands the Ten Beats, and the fans actually count along. Guess sympathy's not an option. Ryback catches Sheamus in an impressive powerbomb, and both men are out. SELLING~! Never thought I'd see the day where Ryback is better at selling than Cena, but there you go. I know he's hurt, but still. Ryback drops Sheamus with a spinebuster for 2. Sheamus bails to avoid the Meat Hook, so Ryback follows and hits a scary-looking press slam onto the edge of the announce desk, and the fight continues outside. Sheamus' head cracks the ringpost. Sheamus avoids the Shell Shock, and manages to create separation by claiming to have something in his eye. The ref pulls Ryback away, allowing for the Brogue Kick to finish at 9:59. This was a fine character match, with both having a new lease in WWE. **1/2 Sheamus is especially revitalized in this role.
-Stephanie puts Kane in charge of Rollins' celebration ceremony, and Rollins' semi-drunken insolence annoys him. Let's see, Orton, Ambrose, and Reigns are supposedly out of the title picture, and Rollins is still annoying Kane. Connect the dots. Ambrose arrives, and wants a title match with Rollins at the Chamber in two weeks. Kane, playing diplomatic, won't grant the match, so Ambrose hits him where it hurts, declaring him neutered. "What would Paul Bearer think?" Ambrose gets Wyatt for his insubordination, and Ambrose responds by stealing Kane's champagne. Well, he *is* the master of the drunken deathmatch.
-Renee's out to interview Neville, knee wrapped up after the corkscrew plancha last night. Neville's here to prove doubters wrong. He's going to end all of the Kennedy conspiracies forever. Bo Dallas interrupts, and there's no chance the announcers mention their NXT Title match. And JBL was the commissioner! That's okay, because Neville brings it up instead. Bo goes after the injured knee, and this segues into Barrett coming out for a match. We get Bo on headset, which can only be an improvement, amazingly.
King Barrett vs. Neville
Bo claims he's making Neville a better person by giving him the chance to win on one leg. Bo sounds like Roland from Opie and Anthony. If he pronounces it "Metsican", it's him. Barrett works the knee as we hit commercial. We return with Barrett holding a heel hook, which is like a chinlock for the leg. Neville tries to handspring and collapses, getting clipped for 2. Barrett crotches himself in the corner and Neville kicks away before taking a blow to the knee. Neville tries for a dead-lift German, but the knee buckles again. Neville goes to springboard and collapses again. You'd think he'd notice a trend. Barrett finishes with the Bullhammer at 7:05. The selling was primo, but Neville falls into the same pitfalls that all dumb babyfaces do. *1/2. Dallas goes and attacks the leg, slamming it into the post. I hope the next two matches involve a babyface selling an injury, followed by a Cena match where he refuses to, just for contrast.
-Cena/Rusev highlights. Cole says Rusev was 'blathering and blubbering' in Bulgarian, which is alliterative, but seems condescending. Damn your old mother, Cole.
-The Russian images in Rusev's Titan Tron take kind of a Viewmaster effect. How can Rusev be a hero to the Russian Federation if he only speaks English and Bulgarian? Sounds fishy. Anyway, he's here to speak, and apparently there's no Lana tonight. Rusev: "THERE IS NO LANA". That was Wiseau-like. "YOU'RE TEARING ME APART, LANA." Rusev calls Lana weak, and demands that the match restart. Please, God, no. Actually, couldn't Rusev enter the Cena open challenge? He's not disqualified from it, right? Lana enters to Rusev's chagrin, appealing to Rusev's sensitive side, claiming that she's always believed in him. Rusev angrily rebukes her, and Lana drops in and out of her accent like she's in an elastic harness. Rusev tells Lana that she makes him weak. I can understand that. Rusev gets rid of Lana and kicks her out. When they reunite at WrestleMania 32, I hope we get a cameo from crying glasses kid.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt
Ambrose-Wyatt II: Panasonic Boogaloo. Wyatt slams Ambrose down but misses the Big Guy Killing Senton '15. People used to say Owen Driver '97 for the move that wrecked Austin, so this is less tasteless. Ambrose gets a hyper-extending armbar, then follows with a one-arm straitjacket and kick to the back. Wyatt flattens Ambrose with a Vader attack and a few running kicks while JBL bitches about the fatal four way that Rollins already won. We're telling stories, even ones that are already over! Wyatt prevents an Ambrose suicide dive, and then suplexes him through the ropes to the floor as we hit commercial. Wyatt works a modified head vice when we get back, quickly escaped when the producer gives them the all clear. Wyatt lands the throwing vertical suplex. A thought: is the Ryback/Wyatt feud already over? Five weeks of aimless pre-tapes and that's the payoff? Ambrose and Wyatt clothesline each other outside and barely beat the count back in. The crowd wants tables, which as far as I know won't explode in your face when pulled toward an opponent. A TV shouldn't either, but alas.
Ambrose comes back with a corner charge and bulldog, followed by a dropkick while Wyatt is wedged in the ropes, getting 2 with the decisive-pin pose. Ambrose pulls the ropes down to send Wyatt outside, and Ambrose gets the suicide dive, hitting his head against the barricade. Booker covers by suggesting that Wyatt redirected him toward the railing. Sister and Deeds are both countered, and Wyatt clotheslines Ambrose off of a rebound attempt for 2. Crowd's sinking their teeth into it, at least. Wyatt slugs Ambrose, who gets the rebound clothesline for 2. Ambrose sets Wyatt up top, but gets shoved off. Wyatt tries for the BGKS '15 off the middle rope but misses. Ambrose heads up, but the referee is distracted by Mercury. Noble shoves Ambrose off, and Wyatt hits Sister Abigail to win at 13:26. Started slow but got good by the end. *** There's almost no chance that Ambrose goes over Rollins at the Chamber, but I'll hold onto a thread of hope that Vince heard the Cincinnati reaction and is leaning toward a panic title change with ratings foundering.
WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. K-Swiss
Xavier Woods is banned from ringside, so expect him to get involved. Big E rails against this injustice with a voice so hilariously disbelieving, I'm amazed he doesn't break character. Cesaro and Big E begin, exchanging power posturing, and Cesaro is felled by a scary-looking press slam. With all the injuries last night, that would just be adding to the pile. Delayed vertical suplex on Big E leads to a tag to Kidd, who gets a sloppy rana off the apron onto Big E before commercial. Cesaro escapes an abdominal stretch but is belly-to-bellied for 2. Kidd gets the tag and lands a springboard elbow for 2. Cole announces that R-Truth, Rusev, and Barrett are added to the IC Chamber as Kidd locks Kofi into the Sharpshooter, broken up by Big E. The heels double team Kidd in the corner and it ends in a bullshit DQ at 5:53. Well, that's lame. Nothing match until then. * Lucha Dragons, Los Matadores, The Ascension, and the Prime Time Players all run in to prove that WWE does, in fact, have six active tag teams. Woods gets destroyed by the PTP to end the bit.
-Roman Reigns RETURNS on Smackdown. Pretty sure he wrestled on Smackdown last week, and we just saw him at Payback. Did he have jury duty today?
WWE United States: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens
Oh fuck yes. Owens tells Cena not to worry about Zayn's shoulder injury, because Owens did a number on him before he even got in the ring with Cena. If even half of this crowd watched NXT, that would've gotten a better reaction. Owens actually gets into a good heated argument with Cena, and the crowd seems to rally behind him a bit. Cena calls Owens a scared little kid, which goes fine with Owens' cowardly tendencies, but most fans will call it a burial. Owens ends up backing out of the challenge, though he promises that he'll cross paths with Cena one day. Then he kicks Cena in the gut and hits the pop-up powerbomb. Owens then stomps on the US Title and holds the NXT Championship high. I concur. AWESOME segment.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust
Gnarly stitches in Dolph's head. Unless it's a lobotomy scar. If his tweets are more corporate, we'll know. Stardust with some early offense, complete with Matt Hardy's Side Effect. Falling Runnels Punch hits, and Ziggler counters Cross Rhodes, immediately hitting the Zig Zag for the win at 1:25. Huh, how about that. Post-lobotomy show of faith? If he's smothered by a pillow-wielding Luke Harper, it's a story, at least. Cole informs Ziggler in a post-match promo that he's the sixth entrant in the Intercontinental Chamber. Alright, so it's coming down to him and Sheamus. Lana appears and kisses Dolph to many cheers. Okay, so it's coming down to Ziggler and Rusev in the Chamber then. Crowd wants another kiss, and like Sims characters, they're forced to oblige. Rusev hits the ring and mauls Ziggler in a blind rage. Rusev screams at her, so she slaps him to a sizable cheer. Ziggler immediately hits the Zig Zag. It's a new direction for Dolph at least.
-Kane tells the ring crew he wants the ceremony rug to be 'sparking', and the brief segment also confirms that Adam Rose indeed still exists.
Luke Harper/Erick Rowan vs. Fandango/Zack Ryder
This is a match. Harper kills Fandango and Rowan lands a big splash. Crowd's dead after a couple of very hot segments. Crowd is so interested that they're chanting for Lana. Fandango gets a tornado DDT on Harper, and I wonder: he and Ryder are geeks; why don't they just lose quickly here? Ryder gets a decent hot tag and and missile dropkicks Harper, but runs into a sidewalk slam. Combination superkick/full nelson slam finishes at 3:27. Mostly a squash, but effective I suppose. * That's seven active teams; eight if you count the Usos when Jey's healthy. If you call up The Realest Guys in the Room and Murphy/Blake, and we can do a 1987 Survivor Series match.
-Stephanie offers counseling to Brie. Hey, if it gets her off of TV.
WWE Divas: Nikki Bella vs. Naomi
The mere fact that Brie won't be out here to yell "COME. ON. NIKK. EE." is enough to canonize Stephanie for Sainthood. Tamina's knee-brace over $400 leather pants-look is unique, to say the least. Naomi outpops Nikki during the special intros. Are we surprised? Naomi stalls and gets thrown over the ropes by Nikki, who responds with a running knee to the face. Nikki returns with a forearm smash and clothesline to the outside. Nikki gets a nice suicide dive onto Naomi and Tamina headed into, yes, another mid-match commercial. We come back and Naomi pulls Nikki into a chinlock. TOO LATE, WE'RE ON, NAOMI. Turns out, Tamina might be legit hurt after the earlier dive. Aside: couldn't Brie just come to ringside on her own volition? I mean, Stephanie didn't outright ban her. Nikki makes the comeback with dropkicks and a backdrop. Tamina manages to slide in and break up the Rack Attack for the DQ at 6:28. Yeah, that commercial was totally worth it. DUD. Paige makes the save and does the mutual admiration deal with Nikki before hitting her with the RamPaige, which the fans don't mind one bit. Saved the segment from being a total waste.
-Triple H praises Kevin Owens backstage prior to an interview with Renee Young. It's Owens vs. Cena at Elimination Chamber. So Zayn wins Wednesday and Owens beats Cena at the Chamber? Sounds delightful.
-Main event talk with The Authority. Stephanie drops the phrase "brass ring", and amazingly, a hearty laugh isn't shared by the heels. Would've been the ideal time. Kane claps through gritted teeth at Rollins' entrance, which the cameraman zooms in on because the audience is fucking stupid, I guess. Triple H tells Rollins that he sees the reflection of himself in him. Curtain Call, Instagram, same difference, I guess. For the shitty actors on WWE's roster, study Kane's mannerisms while HHH talks, and you'll understand how subtlety is supposed to work. Kane somewhat begrudgingly says Rollins is 'best for business', and Rollins pushes his luck by asking for more graciousness. Kane bites his tongue and plays a special video highlighting Rollins' NXT/WWE career. Seems to be a more common trope, the pre-made video package directed to in interview segments, these days. They gloss over the Curb Stomp entirely during the video. Pesky pending litigation being what it is. Noble speaks to drag this bit on further, and the usually mute Mercury goes to speak before Ambrose interrupts and reiterates his demand for a title shot, allowing Ambrose to say "notorious line jumper". He's Dean Ambrose, bitch. Stephanie tries to sic Rollins on Ambrose, because he's a fighting champion. Ambrose gets the upper hand before J&J jump in. Ambrose kills all three of them, and Rollins is backdropped over the announce desk into a conveniently placed camera. Then Ambrose reveals a conveniently set pile of cinderblocks, threatening to concierto Rollins. Stephanie grants the title match if Ambrose lets him go. Mercury manages to wrestle the chair away, but Ambrose takes out J&J and Kane anyway. Rollins escapes and Kane goes to attack in the ring, falling victim to the rebound clothesline. Rollins returns and hits the Pedigree. That was certainly.....long. I'd put the belt on Ambrose to try and entice June subscriptions, since Rollins can always regain the belt at Money in the Bank. Of course, I'm a biased Ambrose fan anyway.
OVERALL: Some slow parts, but it genuinely felt like new things were happening. Ambrose-Rollins for the title, Owens-Cena, Ziggler-Rusev, shit being given about the tag team scene, all of these are good things. New is good.