1/4/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Roman Reigns def. Sheamus to Retain the WWE Title
Even at 70, Vince McMahon maintains a workout regimen that allows him to referee title matches in his trademark sleeveless referee shirt. With McMahon once again at the center of Raw, that was my main takeaway from this week’s show. Of course, the reason he wore that referee shirt was that he inserted himself in the WWE Title rivalry between Roman Reigns and Sheamus in another title match in the main event of Raw.
Before Reigns defended his title against Sheamus, he faced off with Stephanie McMahon at the start of the show. He told her that the WWE Title his is life because holding it is the way he takes care of his family. Stephanie responded by saying that she would treat Reigns like her father treated his- she would send him up and down the road, make him wrestle until his body breaks down, and pay him next to nothing for his efforts. As always, Stephanie was a fantastic heel, but Reigns using essentially the same lines as Kevin Owens is a curious way to get fans to embrace him.
Once the match arrived, it was clear that McMahon would favor Sheamus. He did not count when the wrestlers spilled outside since a countout would not result in a title change. He turned a blind eye when Sheamus used the ring steps and the announce table to his advantage. Reigns eventually mounted a comeback with a drive-by dropkick and a Samoan drop that led to one of the slowest counts from McMahon that WWE has ever seen. When Reigns hit a powerbomb, McMahon pretended to lose a contact lens rather than making a three count.
Reigns hit a Superman Punch and McMahon refused to count altogether. That gave Reigns enough motivation to hit a Superman Punch on McMahon. He ducked a Brogue Kick and speared Sheamus, but there was no referee to make the three count. He assaulted Sheamus outside the ring and came back to continue beating on McMahon. Stephanie came to the ring to admonish him and Reigns hurled Vince into Stephanie.
Reigns set up to spear Vince, but Sheamus delivered a Brogue Kick to him instead. Crooked referee Scott Armstrong ran to the ring to make the count and Reigns kicked out at two. Reigns hit a Superman Punch on each of Sheamus and Armstrong and another spear on Sheamus. A third referee came to the ring to count three and Reigns retained his title in a silly, nutty, and relatively fun match. When he regained consciousness, McMahon announced that Reigns would next defend his title in the Royal Rumble match, putting the title on the line in the match for the first time since Ric Flair’s memorable win in 1992.
With a title match on the same day that NJPW aired Wrestle Kingdom 10, it’s easy to compare the madcap main event booking to the instant classics between Tanahashi and Okada or Styles and Nakamura. In the end, it’s not fair to compare the two because they are apples and oranges. Not only does NJPW market to a very different audience, Wrestle Kingdom is their biggest show of the year and this week’s Raw is one of 52 three-hour episodes that WWE has to fill for its TV contract.
Chris Jericho Returns to Challenge New Day
New Day promised to reveal a new year’s surprise for the WWE fans. When their Titantron countdown hit 3, it switched to a Y2J countdown and Jericho emerged. He insulted New Day and said that WWE needed him for the sake of entertainment. He stood toe to toe with New Day in a verbal sparring session and got the fans chanting “rooty tooty booty,” which was only funny because New Day sold it as a tremendous insult. Jericho announced his intention to enter the Royal Rumble. His inclusion is valuable because it adds another potential storyline, even if it doesn’t translate to another possible winner.
New Day def. Dudley Boys and Kalisto
After their interaction with Jericho, New Day faced off with the Dudleys and Kalisto in a six-man tag match. Kalisto dialed up the intensity in the match when he climbed on Bubba Ray’s shoulders on the top turnbuckle and delivered a senton. He followed it with a corkscrew cross-body, but Xavier Woods interfered to give New Day the advantage and Big E hit a splash on the apron.
New Day tagged quickly and isolated Kalisto until Big E missed a dive and went to the floor. Kalisto reached Devon for the hot tag. He gave way to Bubba, who hit a Bubba Bomb for a near fall on Woods. Big E caught a Kalisto plancha and drove him into the barricade. Meanwhile, the Dudleys set up for a Wassup Headbutt, only for New Day to break it up. Dudley chased Woods out of the ring and New Day hit their tandem finisher on Devon to get the victory. It was a hectic yet fun match. New Day is outstanding on the mic, but like their adversary earlier in the show Chris Jericho, they deliver in the ring to back it up.
Kevin Owens def. Neville
Neville looked goofy coming to the ring with taped ribs, a cape, and his Breakout Star Slammy for his rematch with Owens. He came out of the gates on fire like he did last week, but Owens turned the tide outside the ring when he threw Neville into the barricade. Owens hit a cannonball and Pop-Up Powerbomb to get the clean pin after a relatively short match. Dean Ambrose spent the match on commentary and effectively painted himself as a fighting champion opposite Owens, who ran from challengers. After the victor, Owens continued the assault on Neville and Owens intervened. Owens tried to put Owens through the announce table again, but Ambrose turned the momentum and elbow dropped Owens off of the barricade and through the table.
Becky Lynch def. Charlotte
Charlotte initially balked at a rematch with Becky, but agreed in the name of friendly competition. They went back and forth with impressive, rapid counters early in the match that showed their familiarity with one another. Ric Flair distracted Becky in an attempt to give Charlotte the advantage, but Becky turned the cover into her own rollup with a handful of tights. She got the win and smiled at Flair. While she celebrated, Charlotte kicked her in the back and put her down with a spear before she posed over Becky’s injured body. Charlotte’s heel turn has been too black and white for my tastes. Her heelish behavior is too close to her dad’s and her behavior is too far out of line with her previous character. Yet again, the WWE Divas Division has been reduced to a single, messianic babyface, and Becky isn’t even a particularly compelling version of that character.
Ryback and Big Show Wrestle to a No Contest
The match between Ryback and Big Show was thankfully cut short when the lights went out and the Wyatt Family appeared, encircling Ryback. They beat him down while Big Show watched from the ring, but they surrounded him once Ryback was laid out. He traded shots with Braun Strowman until the rest of the Family took him down and Luke Harper punctuated it with a superkick. I have no interest in Wyatt squaring off with either Ryback or Big Show, but the threat of the four of them setting their sights on the Royal Rumble is more intriguing.