This week’s episode of Raw from London focused on two major storylines involving The Authority. First, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins each had a match to determine their stipulations for their title match at Extreme Rules. On a lesser note, Kane’s frustration with his teammates became more acute and almost drove him to betrayal. While both narratives were reasonably well-executed, their smaller magnitude served as a clear reminder that WWE scales back the grandeur after Wrestlemania.
Orton and Rollins each wrestled matches with their ability to set an Extreme Rules stipulation on the line. The confusing nature of the set-up came under a spotlight when Michael Cole could not explain what would happen if both wrestlers won their matches. Indeed, it was a silly stipulation that made it hard to suspend disbelief, especially because the results of the matches felt so telegraphed.
That was one of the reasons that the Orton-Cesaro matchup was not as thrilling as it should have been. To add to the lack of suspense, the match ended in a quick DQ due to interference from Tyson Kidd. Although Kane ordered the match restarted as a handicap match, Orton quickly won when he caught Kidd’s springboard into an RKO. An Orton-Cesaro match or even a handicap match involving these three could have been outstanding. It’s a shame there wasn’t enough time to see it through.
After Orton won his match, Rollins lashed out at Kane and demanded that he lay down for him to ensure that he would also get to set a stipulation. Kane was conflicted, and he got opposing lectures from Big Show and Daniel Bryan (who has apparently forgiven Kane for breaking his neck) that only made him less sure of himself.
Although he came to the ring in a full suit, he quickly stripped down to his business pants and teased a real fight. He laid down for Rollins, but kicked out of a lazy cover. He fought off J&J Security and gave Rollins a chokeslam, but settled himself down and draped Rollins’s arm over his chest to give the champion the cheap win. The look of fear on Rollins’s face when it appeared Kane would not let him win was good, but not necessary. Rollins seemingly forgot that Kane loses every match, whether he tries to win or not.
Finally, Rollins invited Orton to the ring to announce the stipulations that each chose for their title match. Rollins relaxed in the ring in a leather recliner and posed perfectly as the arrogant heel. He confidently told Orton that his stipulation would be to ban the RKO from their title match, and Orton answered by putting the match in a cage to keep The Authority out. Rollins went on to say that if the RKO was banned, he might as well get it out of his system and attacked Rollins and J&J Security. While Rollins ran away, J&J got RKOs and the challenger ended the show looking dominant.
Orton and Rollins are peaking at the right time. Their rivalry built steam to Wrestlemania and has taken another step forward since then. Even if Orton is not the pure anti-hero that he plays so well, the fact that he remains an aggressive loner keeps his edge.
Other than this main event story and the lively English crowd, Raw was a bit of a letdown. Unlike last week’s show with so many segments tied together, this one felt chopped into little pieces. Moreover, there were so many short matches and segments that did not get the time that they needed. The episode felt like the bad sort of breadth over depth. When WWE tries to do too many things at the same time, sometimes it can end up doing all of them poorly.
John Cena def. Bad News Barrett to Remain U.S. Champion
Cena opened the show with his traveling U.S. Title challenge and Barrett answered the call in his home country. He got a great reaction from the moment he appeared and had one of his better matches in recent memory. He controlled the early part of the match with knees and kicks until Cena answered with a dropkick, a cross-body, and a Five Knuckle Shuffle. Barrett recovered and hit the Winds of Change for a two count.
Cena almost won the match with an STF, only for Barrett to reach the ropes. He rallied with more kicks and a Wasteland slam for another two count. Cena ducked the Bullhammer and hit an AA, but Barrett surprisingly kicked out. He nailed the Bullhammer on his second attempt and got a near fall. Back on his feet, the champion hit the Cena Injection and a second AA to win the match.
After he retained his title, Lana appeared on the entrance ramp to address Cena. While he focused on her, Rusev jumped him from behind and attacked him with a chain. With Cena laid out, Lana announced that their U.S. Title rematch would be a Russian Chain match. The hallmark of chain matches is a copious amount of blood, so it will be curious to see if the match works on a PG PPV.
Big Show Annihilates Roman Reigns
Reigns sounded more comfortable on the mic as he moved on from Wrestlemania and called Big Show a “giant bitch.” Big Show appeared on the tron and said that his mission is to make Reigns into an epic failure. In response, Reigns dismissed Big Show because he would not come to the ring. On his way up the ramp, though, Big Show jumped Reigns and slammed him into the British taxi present for every WWE show in the UK. He used Reigns to smash a huge dent in the side of the taxi and then chokeslammed him on the roof of the car. It remains to be seen how the plan will work, but the strategy for Reigns has obviously shifted to the Tommy Dreamer philosophy- show him get beat up so often that the fans can’t help but feeling sorry for him.
Paige Wins Divas Battle Royale But Faces Challenge from Naomi
The hometown favorite Paige won an uninspired battle royal to become the #1 Contender to the Divas Title. The match itself was far down the list of noteworthy elements from the segment. The Bella twins were legitimately funny on commentary, particularly when Nikki explained her choice for who she wanted to win, “That’s easy, Rosa Mendes.”
After the victory, Paige gave a heartfelt speech to her hometown fans and seemed on the verge of tears. Before she could finish, Naomi jumped her and beat her stiffly around the outside of the ring. Later in the show, Naomi explained that she had to take matters into her own hands when her wins in the ring didn’t even get her a title shot. The rivalry could go in a number of directions- they could serve as a secondary feud in the Divas division while Charlotte goes after the Bellas, they could both vie for the title simultaneously, or Paige could be written off of TV briefly while she films her rumored upcoming movie.
Dolph Ziggler def. Neville.
Since Kane put himself in what was supposed to be Ziggler’s match, Ziggler issued an open challenge that Neville answered. The London fans had the appropriate reaction to the surprise matchup- they went completely insane. They traded headlocks and armbars to build anticipation to Neville’s first big move, which was a standing moonsault for two. Not to be outdone, Ziggler delivered a huge leaping DDT for a near fall of his own.
Neville threw Ziggler to the floor and joined him with a springboard moonsault. He walked the barricade and delivered a 450 splash to Ziggler on the floor (particularly impressive because he delivered the move from a much lower height than the top turnbuckle). Neville flipped out of a German suplex attempt and hit an eznuigiri, only for Ziggler to answer with a rough superkick to the jaw. After a sidekick, Neville went for the Red Arrow, but Ziggler got out of the way. He took advantage with a Zig Zag and got the victory. It was clever booking because Neville’s inexperience, rather than a lack of talent, cost him the win.
As Ziggler and Neville shook hands, Sheamus hit each of them with a Brogue Kick to continue his war against short wrestlers. Even if we didn’t get the Ziggler-Bryan program that many wanted, this match with Neville was of the same ilk. Neville’s competitiveness shows how highly WWE thinks of him, which is warranted given the reactions he has received so far.
Damien Mizdow def. The Miz
In addition to stealing Miz’s moves, Mizdow stole Summer Rae, his co-star from the new Marine movie. He hit Miz with a backbreaker/neckbreaker combo early in the match. He stole a pin with a roll-up very shortly into the match to even up their rivalry at one match apiece. As with many of the matches on the show, there simply was not enough time for the match to amount to much of anything. Miz and Mizdow were much better on Smackdown.
Dean Ambrose def. Adam Rose
Rose showed up for the match in Danny Davis-like zebra tights and looked good at the start of the match with his trademark spinebuster. Ambrose quickly rallied with a suicide dive, a rebound clothesline, and Dirty Deeds to get the easy win. In between major programs, it’s worthwhile for Ambrose to rehabilitate his record with some solid victories. Sure, it would be better if he was near the top of the card, but until that time comes, this result is better than more losses.
Ryback def. Luke Harper by DQ
Early in their rematch from last week, Harper almost eliminated Ryback with a superkick for a two count. Ryback recovered and caught Harper for a powerbomb. They wrestled to the floor, where Harper removed the cover from the announce table and got himself disqualified. Before the fight went any further, Ambrose returned to go after Harper as retribution for the huge powerbombs Harper gave him over the last couple of weeks. Harper and Ambrose is a match tailor-made for Extreme Rules, as long as they remember not to wear matching ring gear.
Stardust def. Fandango
Stardust won the match almost immediately with a Disaster Kick. After the bell, Fandango dumped Rosa Mendes and struck up the band to play his original “Fandangoing” music. He jumped on the announce table and danced for the giddy fans. As far as humorous face turns go, this one was extremely fun. It’s probably the high point of the Fandango resurgence, but it was amusing anyway.
Bray Wyatt Channels the Dark Side
Wyatt sounded like Vader- Darth, not Big Van- when he explained the superior power of fear over love. While the mystical promos are grating at times, they keep Wyatt in fans’ minds while he rehabilitates his ankle and prepares for this rivalry to actually begin.
Lucha Dragons def. The Ascension
The Dragons continued their run toward the top of the tag team division with an easy win over the out-of-favor Ascension. Kalisto’s SDS set up for Sin Cara’s Swanton for a quick victory. As much as I’m looking forward to their match against Kidd and Cesaro, this two-minute blip didn’t do much to add to that excitement.
Prime Time Players Continue Their Verbal Assault
After Titus O’Neil and Darren Young insulted New Day and The Ascension over the last two weeks, the returned with my favorite of their taped promos. This time, they took aim at Los Matadores. Young winked at his sexuality for the first time on air when he said his favorite colored matador cape was the rainbow one. They also made fun of the matador gimmick by saying, “who ever heard of a Puerto Rican matador, anyway?” The PTPers are witty, so it makes sense to highlight that strength.