2/23/15 Raw Review – Randy Orton Returns to Raw with a Vengeance

If fans needed any more evidence of the transitional nature of Fastlane, consider that the night’s Raw revolved around the third or fourth Wrestlemania match. There was no reset of most of the major programs and there was very little attention paid to the main event. Nonetheless, this episode of Raw did a great deal to reestablish Orton as a top-tier star and set the gears in motion for his eventual match with Seth Rollins.

At the start of Raw, an irate Orton got straight to the point and made it clear that he wanted to fight Rollins. The Authority, led by Stephanie McMahon, did everything they could to calm him down and try to get him back in the fold. They invited him to a meeting in which they pleaded with Rollins and Kane to see the big picture rather than their personal problems. Stephanie also convinced Orton to swallow his pride and align himself with the powerful group, at least temporarily.

Meanwhile, Roman Reigns assumed his spot as the main event rival for Brock Lesnar. Daniel Bryan conceded that he was a Reigns doubter and feared that he was all size and no heart. After they wrestled, though, Bryan admitted that Reigns proved that he has heart. He gave him another handshake to make sure that everyone knew that Bryan was giving Reigns the rub to the main event.

While Bryan walked away, Paul Heyman came to the ring to replace him. He said that he is a believer in Reigns and listed several superstar wrestlers he thought Reigns could beat. Of course, he excepted Brock Lesnar from that list because Lesnar is a beast rather than a man. Reigns said those doubts fuel him and he would use Heyman’s insults as bulletin board material. While Reigns was not notably great in the segment, he seemed more comfortable and natural in his speaking. He still has a long way to go, but every week that gets us further away from the winking, sufferin’-succotash Reigns makes me more comfortable with him.

The two biggest stars of the night collided in the main event, where Rollins and Orton teamed against Reigns and Bryan. The Authority waited outside the ring and Big Show humorously cheered for Orton to make him feel comfortable with The Authority. Bryan carried his team for most of the match until he finally tagged Reigns and Reigns put on a powerful rally. Orton started to mount a comeback and Rollins tagged himself in to Orton’s frustration. Reigns hit a Superman Punch, Bryan hit a running knee, and the face team got the pin.

Orton naturally reacted negatively to the loss as well as Rollins tagging himself in when their team was doing well. He went after J&J Security with an RKO to take out his aggression. It looked like he was about to go after Rollins, but he simply walked away instead.

The ending left plenty of lingering tension between Rollins and Orton. In fact, everyone watching could easily see the Orton double-cross coming from miles away. The obvious storyline is not a problem. It’s not such a bad thing to let the anger simmer between Orton and Rollins for a few weeks until it eventually spills over. With the fan support for Orton and the constant hatred for Rollins, this program will slot in nicely as one of the top matches at Wrestlemania.

Match of the Night – The Usos def. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd by DQ
The Usos invoked their Tag Team Title rematch clause the night after they lost the belts at Fastlane. They came out aggressively and controlled the first segment of the match with a focused double-team attack. Kidd tried a cannonball off of the apron only to be caught by the Usos and thrown into the barricade. The champions responded with a slingshot from Kidd into a Cesaro uppercut. When Jey hit an electric chair on Cesaro, Jimmy followed with a Superfly Splash and Kidd had to save him from the pin with an elbow drop. Kidd went for a rollup with his feet on the ropes, which Naomi broke up by grabbing Kidd’s feet. Natalya reacted to Naomi’s interference by pulling Jimmy off the top rope to cause the DQ and some disagreement with Naomi.

These teams have shown that they can work together and come up with inventive finishes. I also think the dimension of Natalya and Naomi feuding with one another adds a layer to the program. It serves as a reminder that women’s feuds can be serious, physical, and personal, and don’t have to rely on silly stereotypes about fashion or appearance.

Missing the Mark – A Strange Path for the Intercontinental Title
Bad News Barrett took on Dolph Ziggler in a non-title match with R-Truth sitting in on commentary. It was a visual reminder of all of Barrett’s failures since he won the title. As usual, Barrett and Ziggler wrestled a solid match. Barrett hit a Wasteland Slam and an impressive powerbomb to come close to a victory. Ziggler avoided a second Wasteland and delivered a Zig Zag to get the win. After the bell, Dean Ambrose sauntered to the ring with Barrett’s title belt.

He stared at Barrett and Ziggler without saying anything and walked away. Not only did Ambrose’s parade seem pointless, it hinted at a pretty uninspiring fatal-fourway at Wrestlemania. It does the Intercontinental Title no favors to be the crown of the jobber.

Developing Story – John Cena and Rusev Go Old School
After he overcame a flub in which he called the Accolade the “Acolyte,” Cena made a very good point that Rusev undermined his own proclamation that he is a hero by cheating to beat Cena. Rusev came to the ramp and demanded that Cena acknowledge that his win proves that Russia is better than America. Cena warned Rusev not to invoke his patriotism and said that he will always get back on his feet until the job is done. Rusev promptly refused a rematch. The whole exchange felt like it could have come from the 1960s- both the face and heel tropes were about as old as professional wrestling. Nonetheless, it basically worked. It was simple and clear enough that everyone got behind it.

Five Count
5. Prime Time Players def. The Ascension


The Ascension got their first loss on the main roster in a strange match. Titus O’Neil saved Darren Young from a pin, but never actually tagged into the match. Instead, Young got the pin in a short match via small package. Although the match was fine and the Ascension got some heat back with a post-match attack, and I understand the desire to make the reunited team look strong, it would seem that the Ascension’s first real loss would mean more.

Hall of Fame Update – The Bushwhackers to the HOF
Well, somebody has to keep Koko B. Ware company.

4. Jack Swagger def. Stardust
Back in his full bodysuit, Stardust reacted negatively to the crowd chants of “Cody.” Swagger caught an attempted Disaster Kick and turned it into a Patriot Lock, but Stardust reached the ropes. Goldust’s music hit and the distraction allowed Swagger to apply a second Patriot Lock and force Stardust to tap out. If the story is that Goldust wants to bring Stardust back into the family, I’m not sure why he would cause him to lose a match.

3. Bray Wyatt Addresses the Undertaker
After a video packaged recapped Wyatt’s casket prank at Fastlane, Wyatt returned with another promo hovering over a casket. He taunted Undertaker for his loss at last year’s Wrestlemania and reiterated his challenge for a match this year. The presentation of Wyatt’s promos is reminiscent of Undertaker’s early career vignettes. As long as Undertaker is not going to be on Raw from week to week, that’s a good way to maintain interest in the match.

Divas Division Update – The Bellas def. Paige and Emma


Paige tried to attack Nikki before the match, so when the bell rang, Brie knocked her off of the apron. Emma checked on her teammate and Brie hit her with a facebuster to end the match in less than a minute. Paige went after Brie with a side kick, but Nikki saved her and walked away standing tall. While I liked Paige’s intensity and aggression, this segment was too rushed to mean anything.

2. Ryback def. Curtis Axel


After both men entered the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, Ryback said, “As long as we’re here in Music City, why doesn’t the Big Guy take the Axe Man to Smashville!” He quickly hit a Meathook Clothesline and Shell-Shock to get an easy pin. Ryback is so much more entertaining when his intense weirdness is unchained.

1. Wrestlers Weigh in on Sting’s Legacy
A great retrospective ran through Sting’s career, from his early years in WCW to his long feud with the nWo. It was a great less for those who were not around to watch Sting’s prime and it was even a fun walk down memory lane for those who were. It is easy for lifelong fans to forget that Sting has been out of the spotlight for longer than many fans have even watched wrestling, so these reminders are essential to the program.




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