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Monday, May 4, 2015

Cynical Monday Night Raw Review 5/4/15

-Just a reminder that after Raw, Jim Williams and I will get to work recording the fifth edition of The Blue Bar CageCast, offering our own takes and answering listener questions. If you'd like a question answered, use the hashtag #CageCast on Twitter, or respond in the comments below, and we'll happily give our best half-assed responses.

-Live from Montreal

-On the call, Michael Cole, JBL, and Booker T

-Randy Orton kicks us off, and I sense a promo where a wedge is driven between he and Reigns. We'll see if I'm right. We learn quickly that Montreal doesn't much care for Roman Reigns. This promo gives us lively, energetic Orton, at least until Reigns' music hits. Reigns rebuts Orton as succinctly as he can, and the crowd demands that Orton RKO him. I have to say, when Orton is the livelier speaker in the ring, that doesn't bode well for you. This tete-a-tete brings out The New Day, as the crowd is presented with a dilemma: cheer Reigns, or them. Xavier Woods kills it in this role, invoking the phrase, "Montreal Boo-Hoo Job", and the three display personality never before seen from any of them. And it's a handicap match next. Let's see, Tag Team Champions vs. Vince's Favorite Babyfaces. I think we can telegraph how this one ends.

Randy Orton/Roman Reigns vs. The New Day

Seems like a random match for Kane to give the off-camera okay to. Orton tags Reigns early, to a smattering of boos, and he suplexes Kofi off of the ropes. Woods tags in and works a headlock ("I'M GONNA BEAT ROMAN REIGNS!"), but it doesn't go well for him, Reigns catches Woods in a Samoan drop and tags Orton in as JBL tries to tie Orton's dislike of Reigns into the Shield beatdowns of the past. Doesn't explain other faces palling around with Dean Ambrose, but at least it's a backstory. Woods gets bullied for an eternity, with Orton stomping the abdomen methodically. JBL bitches about the triple threat rules. Shouldn't Cole or Booker be *reminding* JBL that's how Rollins won the belt? Big E gets the tag and Orton becomes face-in-peril. Crowd turns on the entire match and begins a small JBL chant. Woods takes Orton down with a dropkick for 2 as we hit commercial. Reigns is is a cravate when we come back, which is *like* a chinlock. Kofi gets a dropkick for 2. Big E tags in and gets an overhead belly to belly, and gives us some EVIL CLAPPING. Reigns continues getting beat down in the heel corner and a "CM Punk" chant kicks up. Well, Canada's easily dismissed as Bizarro World. Reigns drops Woods with a clothesline, and it's hot tag Orton who tees off on Kofi, but runs into a corner kick. Springboard flies into a powerslam, Big E eats a Superman punch, and Orton drops Kofi with the draping DDT. Woods runs in and eats the RKO. Reigns goes to spear Kofi, who moves, and Orton gets nailed. Kofi pins Orton, a receipt for the "YOU'RE STUPID" blowup, at 13:14. I'm amazed, I thought they were going to job the tag champs three-on-two. Match was dull, though. *1/2 Kane comes out and informs them that they're working double duty. Orton vs. Reigns is the main event. Wouldn't Kane want to keep Reigns and Orton healthy and let them crush bratty Rollins? They're telling (incoherent) stories!

-Kane brushes off the overjoyed New Day and bumps into Rollins, who isn't impressed with Kane's booking. Kane shares a story about incinerating Santa Claus, which loses its charm when he's in a business suit. Kane books Rollins vs. Ambrose, which ends the tradition of Cole being the one to announce Smackdown rematches on Raw.

-Renee Young (cheers) is here to interview Ryback (fade to boos). At least Ryback owns clothes other than a singlet and Meg Griffin's hat. Ryback doesn't know why he's Wyatt's target, nor does he know why the audience is chanting a Jewish surname at him, which he breaks stride to acknowledge. Ryback says he eats negativity and turns it into positives. Is New Day auditioning for a white guy? Ryback gives an off-story promo about overcoming injuries and doing what he loves to do before getting back on the Wyatt topic. Ryback promises to eat Wyatt, which leads to a Bray pretape. Just the usual riddle-speak, though Bray word-drops "Higher Power". I guess this means Vince is Sister Abigail, I dunno. Wyatt punctuates with "Run". And, scene! Literally, it's off to commercial.

K-Swiss vs. The Ascension

The Ascension actually gets an entrance AND an inset promo! Must be one of their birthdays. Viktor beats down on Kidd in a clash of Hart Dungeon trainees. Someone there sure has a sense of the moment. Konnor gets a 2 of a suplex, and then whips Kidd into a missile dropkick from Viktor for 2. Konnor misses an elbow drop, and Viktor tries to slam Kidd, who drops down and tags Cesaro. Cesaro gets an endless sequence of running European uppercuts on Viktor that wakes the crowd up, and gets 2 off a clothesline. Karelin lift leads to a Cesaro Swing on Viktor, into the Kidd basement dropkick at 4:07. Hey, an enjoyable formula tag match compressed into four minutes. The Ascension looked fine here; with some conviction behind their push, they can be salvaged. Match was enjoyable. **1/4

-Seth Rollins informs Renee Young that Kane is a moron. Ouch, cutting into the skin there.

Non Title Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

The best feud of 2014 becomes second-hour Raw fodder. Ambrose's vow to make sure Rollins never cashed in had a nice out: Ambrose was knocked out at WrestleMania. Feel free to use that, WWE. Kane enters before we can even get things going, and gets zero reaction. Crowd does erupt though when Kane says Ambrose will be added to the Payback main event if he wins here. Rollins is livid, but Ambrose is downright giddy. Ambrose gets 2 off a rolling reverse cradle. Rollins bails after some chops and Ambrose is on the prowl. Rollins tries to send Ambrose back into the ring, but a feint-twist clothesline is the counter. I agree with JBL; "Seth Ambrose" has decreased odds of winning at Payback. Dare I say that person won't be winning, period. Rollins snapmares Ambrose over and kicks him in the back. Rollins gets some corner punches, but Ambrose counters with his own and sends Rollins across with a hard Irish whip (w/ mini-Flair flip) and a hard chop. Twitter followers note that WWE *did* acknowledge Ambrose's inability to stop Rollins at WrestleMania, but since the announcers never broach it, it's moot. Ambrose backdrops Rollins to the floor as we hit commercial five minutes in.

We return and there's no chinlock applied, so Rollins quickly applies one. Seth ALMOST exposed the business there. Ambrose escapes and gets a wrist-drag, but Rollins STOs him face-first into the post. Rollins misses the springboard knee, and Ambrose comes back with a tornado DDT. Cole notes that Ambrose is unable to capitalize because of damage he sustained that can only be seen on the WWE App. There's your incentive to download it: sadistic voyeurism. Ambrose gets the head-first suicide dive outside, and Montreal's sure responding better to Ambrose than anyone else so far. Back-suplex into a face-first pancake gets 2 on Rollins. Crowd chants that is, indeed, awesome, as Rollins blocks Dirty Deeds. Rollins is backdropped, and Ambrose lands the standing elbow smash for 2. Rollins gets the high enzuigiri, followed by the springboard knee for 2. Not sure how kayfabed Ambrose's twitching tics are, to be honest. Rollins smacks Ambrose around, who responds in kind, but is superkicked in the mouth for 2. Ambrose punches his way out of the throwing powerbomb and a slugfest ensues. Cactus Clothesline from Ambrose sends both men over the top rope. Rollins sends Ambrose into the barricade with the throwing powerbomb in an effective spot. Crowd is digging all of this. Ambrose fighting the count and makes it in on 9. Forearms are exchanged and Rollins gets an enzuigiri, which Ambrose counters with the rebound clothesline. J&J run out, but they get neutralized quickly by Ambrose. Rollins charges, but Ambrose scrambles into a roll-up for the win at 16:30. Crowd explodes. Great, great match with the hot crowd and lots of realistic work. ****. JBL: "I can't imagine Dean Ambrose as WWE Champion!" Yep, Vince is still on headset. Still, that match shows that Ambrose can work as a credible babyface main eventer, as if we didn't know this already.

-Rollins is held back from going at Kane. who passively deflects his anger and threatens to add more opponents to the match.

-Lana has an interview disrupted by Fandango, and I'm seeing a squash match coming from miles away. Rusev arrives and is unhappy about his forth-coming midcard run Fandango macking on his girl.

Rusev vs. Fandango

Rusev and Lana are now officially Mero and Sable in 1998. If she marries Conor McGregor in ten years, that will be eerie. Rusev kills Fandango in the early going but misses a corner charge. Fandango's temporary flurry is halted and he's sent to the floor. He manages to get Lana to Fandango with him to a big pop, but Rusev attacks and sends Lana back to the locker room. Surprised nobody's written a 'forward-thinking' blog about the domestic abuse overtones of this, but it's not like I'd read it. Fandango dropkicks Rusev, giving Cole a chance to say, "The Russian is down!" Not for long, as the sidekick and Accolade finish at 2:13. Energetic enough. *

-We get a look at the NXT experiences and the trials and tribulations, via the E:60 piece. Then we get a bunch of geeks hoping to get hired based on homemade videos. Quite the juxtaposition.

Stardust vs. R-Truth

No Darth Maul paint for Cody on May the Fourth, sadly. Eden announcing her husband as hailing from "The Fifth Dimension" will be relayed to a marriage counselor one day. Stardust gets a front layout suplex and then goes over to some weird gift bag in the corner he brought to the ring. Think somebody in the crowd just got thrown out, because the crowd's preoccupied elsewhere, and whatever happens draws a "HOLY SHIT" chant. Truth goes to the bag and is horrified to find a bunch of rubber spiders, and gets rolled up by Stardust at 2:54. Well, that's a unique distraction finish. 1/2*

-Cena mock quitting before the match rivals Ambrose's win as the biggest pop of the show. He plays to the crowd a bit before we get Bret Mother Fuckin' Hart, who's apparently here to introduce Cena's opponent. We get Heath Slater instead, and Bret hits him with the mic in a hilarious spot. Because Bret lacks personality, his dryness into going back into the announcement was perfect. And here comes....

WWE United States: John Cena vs. Sami Zayn

Okay, this could rule. We sadly begin after commercial with the match in progress and Zayn dropkicks Cena to the outside. A feint dive into a backflip is messed up by Zayn, but eh. Cena gets a back suplex for 2, and works a chinlock. Not long after, Zayn appears to have suffered a legit injury off the back suplex, as we get the trainer. Match continues after the scare and Cena hammers away in the corner. You know if the match stopped, there'd be a million tweets claiming that Cena hurt him on purpose. Cena goes into the shoulder tackles and gets the spinout bomb, but Zayn cradles him on the Shuffle try for 2. A bodypress gets another 2, and Cena bails. Flipping senton follows and Zayn favors the arm once more. Cena gets a takedown and applies the STF, and Zayn makes the ropes after some drama. Zayn quickly gets the reverse STO and the Koji Clutch, which Cena manages to roll into an AA attempt, countered by Zayn into a German for 2. Cena lands a clothesline and goes for the AA, which Zayn lands on his ass in lieu of an escape, and they clotheline each other. Both roll to the floor, and Zayn gets the through-the-buckles DDT and the crowd is electric. Back inside, Cena gets the AA out of nowhere (Orton growls), but only gets 2. That may have caused a riot if he didn't kick out. Zayn gets a Blue Thunder Bomb (called as such by Cole) for 2. Cena gets some right hands and hits the springboard stunner and the AA for the anti-climactic finish at 10:38 shown. Good while it lasted, even with the early delay due to injury. ***1/4. Cena endorses Zayn afterward to a thunderous cheer. Zayn's going to make a helluva main eventer in WWE, provided Vince is in the home by then.

-New Day's still celebrating their two-hour-old win. Kofi's been given new life with this gimmick. K-Swiss disrupts and the teams browbeat each other. Feuds over the Tag Team Titles rule, FACT. And Natalya dancing to K-Swiss' claps is just as awesome, man.

WWE Divas: Nikki Bella vs. Naomi

Naomi and the returning Tamina Snuka attack before the match and lay out both Bellas. Naomi points out that Tamina is family, which is kinda/sorta true if you consider Jimmy Snuka an honorary Anoai. No match.

-King Barrett arrives to address us all. Given his injury history, he's an ideal king, since he can only safely move one space at a time.

King Barrett/Sheamus vs. Neville/Dolph Ziggler

Only Americans are allowed both a first and last name. Ziggler and Barrett open and Ziggler makes the mistake of swinging at Sheamus, and Barrett lowers the boom. Hard kick to the abdomen of Ziggler gets 2. Ziggler gets the stump DDT for 2 as I sense this will be compressed for time. And we actually get a commercial break! Sheamus works a chinlock on Ziggler when we return. The theory lives! Sheamus lands a powerslam, called an Irish Curse backbreaker by Cole, proving the Zayn match was a fluke. Sheamus gets cocky and winds up superkicked in the mouth. Tags to Barrett and Neville, and Neville gets a headscissors, followed by a round-off suicide dive. Back inside, springboard missile dropkick and standing shooting star get 2. Barrett rib-kicks Neville off a corner nip-up. Bullhammer misses and Neville gets a German suplex for 2. Ziggler and Sheamus take each other out through the ropes and Sheamus dumps him into the crowd. Neville drops Barrett with a high kick. A baseball slide takes out Sheamus. Neville springboards back into the ring and gets Bullhammered out of the air for the pin at 8:35. Decent, but the commercial ate up almost half the match. **1/4. Barrett yelling "BULL! BULL!" tells us that Neville isn't his favorite NXT star.

Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton

This will be short. After getting an Ambrose win, plus Zayn and Neville in the previous hour, I don't see the crowd being too into this. Kane arrives before the bell can ring, along with Rollins and J&J. It's literally 11 PM. Noble makes himself the ring announcer ("The secret weapon of The Authority!"), Mercury is timekeeper, Kane is outside enforcer, and Rollins is special commentator. It's now 11:02, and nothing here will top the awesome stuff that's already taken place. Rollins professes trust in Kane for some reason. Reigns blocks a quick RKO attempt and the two begin hammering away with most fans on Orton's side. Rollins rants against the Fatal Four Way and FINALLY a babyface announcer calls him out on it when he cashed in Money in the Bank. Generally, either Cole or Booker would be putting JBL in his place, but since JBL is Vince's avatar, I suppose not. To the floor, Orton gets the backdrop on the rail, but Reigns fights back and slugs Noble. Back inside, Reigns lays out Orton with a leaping clothesline. Slugfest develops and we go into kind of a half-assed finishing sequence as this show drags to a finish. Like, seriously, we're just waiting for the screwy finish. Reigns gets the apron dropkick. Orton avoids the Superman punch, and gets the snap-slam. Draping DDT connects, but Reigns avoids the RKO and gets the Superman punch. Kane hooks Reigns' leg and the match is thrown out around 6:21. No bell, because Mercury. The quartet beats on Orton outside and Reigns gets the crazy man dive onto the pile. Orton tries to fight everyone off and the crowd would rather Ambrose be the hero. Sure enough, we get Deano, who resumes his Ahab-like infatuation with trying to kill Rollins. The Authority is cleared out and the faces maul Rollins, complete with Reigns spear. They stand tall....then Orton RKOs Reigns. Dirty Deeds takes out Orton for the biggest pop. It's an RVD-in-2001 scenario, where the most over guy is the one the company's pushed the least. Match was maybe **, if you care.

OVERALL: Hey, can't beat this show. Ambrose/Rollins and Cena/Zayn are well worth going out of your way to find (or just wait a month until they're uploaded to the Network archives. K-Swiss vs. Ascension and the penultimate tag match were fun as well, and how can you not love New Day's antics now that they've embraced the fan hate? A home run tonight.

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