Roman Reigns def. King Barrett, Mark Henry, and Bray Wyatt to Remain in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Elimination Chamber ended on a high note with Dean Ambrose taking the WWE Title after the match was stolen from him. The next night’s Raw from San Antonio was an emotional come-down that was disjointed and sometimes hard to watch. Everyone from the live crowd to the announce team sounded exhausted and disinterested in yet another post-PPV show building to another big event. It’s a problem embedded in the fact that there are so many PPVs that the hectic cycle is repeating itself faster than ever.
Another factor in the uninspired show was the fact that it revolved around The Authority threatening Roman Reigns’s place in the MITB match. He appeared at the start of the show as an emissary for Dean Ambrose and delivered the message that Ambrose would only return the WWE Title to Rollins if he agreed to a ladder match at Money in the Bank. An angry Rollins overrode Stephanie McMahon’s suggestion and accepted the match to prove himself. As retribution, HHH booked Reigns in a match with his MITB spot on the line. The chemistry between HHH and Reigns was instantly apparent and made me wonder whether there is a possible SummerSlam match in the cards.
Reigns first took on King Barrett, which could not have been much of a punishment in his mind, given Barrett’s recent run of utter failure. Barrett controlled the early part of the match after he threw Reigns into the ring steps. He stopped a Reigns rally with Winds of Change, but Reigns ducked his subsequent Bull Hammer attempt to hit a schoolboy powerbomb. He followed it with a spear to get the win in a decent opening match.
The Authority congratulated Reigns and told him that his night was not through; he would have to face Mark Henry to keep his spot later in the show. Reigns sold an eye injury early in that match which saw Henry work as a pure heel (I honestly don’t remember him turning heel, if it happened at all). Reigns overcame his injury to hit a Samoan Drop and take the action to the floor. He hit a Superman Punch outside the ring and barely made the count to win by count-out and maintain his spot. Henry nailed a World’s Strongest Slam after the loss to regain some heat and make Reigns’s road even tougher.
At last, Reigns took on Bray Wyatt in the main event. The Authority quickly emerged on the ramp for a close view of the action. Wyatt dominated the match, but an occasional big move kept Reigns alive, such as a DDT and an apron dropkick. Wyatt countered an attempted Superman Punch with a side slam.
A distraction by The Authority prevented Reigns from capitalizing immediately, but he managed to hit a Superman Punch. Another distraction let Wyatt set up Sister Abigail. Reigns fought free and the interference backfired as Reigns hit a spear and got the win in what was probably the best of the three matches for Reigns. Additionally, the finish was just flukey enough that Wyatt looks fine after the loss.
The end of the show finally got the crowd interested for one of the few times of the night. The Authority circled the ring and started to threaten Reigns. Ambrose’s music hit and nobody could find him until he suddenly appeared on the announce table (which created a hilarious moment in which Michael Cole screamed “Where is he?” while Ambrose stood directly in front of him). Ambrose and Reigns fought off The Authority and Ambrose hit Rollins with Dirty Deeds. He laid the title belt on Rollins, but took it back with Rollins passed out.
The Ambrose-Rollins rivalry remains hot. More of them together on this show might have made it better, but I prefer more time for it to develop, even if it left this episode in the lurch. The ladder match should be highly entertaining and it is a sensible booking decision. The fight over possession of the belt harkens back to the Shawn Michaels-Razor Ramon rivalry over the Intercontinental Title, and the ladder match creates a clear possessor.
John Cena Lectures Kevin Owens
Despite the career-defining victory for Owens at Elimination Chamber, he remained angry that his son was more concerned with Cena’s well-being. He blamed the WWE marketing machine for Cena’s superhero reputation and promised to expose the lie and crush Cena’s reputation. The promo was nearly perfect- it tapped into a very personal storyline for Owens and expertly navigated the face/heel divide inherent to Cena’s character such that the adult fans who despise Cena will side with Owens and the kids who love Cena will side with Cena. It was the best job anyone has done of drawing battle lines with Cena since CM Punk in 2011.
After Cena initially responded with some cartoony joke insults that reinforced Owens’s point, he eventually engaged on the same personal level. He said that his slogans are not marketing campaigns, but a way of life. He went on to say that even Owens has benefited by living the “Never Give Up” slogan. A fired-up Cena raised his fists to fight Owens right there, only for Owens to back away to a loud chorus of boos. A night after Owens and Cena stole the show at Elimination Chamber, their promo exchange was the highlight of Raw.
Randy Orton def. Sheamus by DQ
The crowd was unusually dead throughout this match despite some solid work by two skilled wrestlers. It probably didn’t help that Orton reemerged from his time away with no explanation or promo. Orton established himself early in the match with a side suplex onto the announce table, only for Sheamus to fight back and get a near fall off of a second-rope knee drop.
Orton responded with clotheslines, a powerslam, a t-bone suplex, and a hangman’s DDT. Before he could hit the RKO, Sheamus kneed him to the floor and got himself disqualified with a chair shot. He proceeded to hit a pair of Brogue Kicks and get some decent heat for a prolonged beating outside the ring. Despite the lackluster live reaction, it was a textbook way to build a mini-rivalry before these two collide as part of the MITB match.
Nikki Bella def. Paige to Remain Divas Champion
Paige challenged Nikki in a backstage interview to the singles title match she earned in the London battle royal. Nikki hesitated, but ultimately accepted. Nikki hit a slingshot suplex and put Paige in an inverted figure four early. Paige responded with a knee lift. The crowd remained totally silent while she fought out of the Rack Attack and nailed a Rampaige from the second rope. Before she could make a cover, Brie emerged from under the ring and switched places with her sister to get the easy pin.
The finish begs all sorts of questions. The most obvious is the fact that Twin Magic inherently makes no sense- why would a fresh wrestler perform a better small package? Also, what led the Bellas to turn heel after three weeks as faces? Did the initial turn happen at all? Does anyone on WWE’s creative team even what the Bellas are doing from week to week?
Rusev Vows Retribution
Byron Saxton interviewed on crutches and he started out sounding hopeless and defeated. He even said, “I have a broken ankle and a broken spirit.” His attitude changed at the end of the interview when he promised to get everything back and hinted that he knows who to target to do so. It was inopportune for Rusev to injure himself just as he started the second phase of his singles career, so it will be crucial for WWE to bring him back with a plan.
Big Show Challenges Ryback
The night after Ryback won his first title, he gave a very sincere promo that reiterated how much he values being the Intercontinental Champion. It was a little thing, but the little things that restore value in the belt add up. As Ryback prepared to face Miz, Big Show’s music hit and he joined them in the ring. He KO’d Miz as a warning to Ryback and said that Ryback knows nothing about being a “big guy.” As with most of Big Show’s programs, his job is to make his rival look good, but it’s hard for anyone to look good against him.
Dolph Ziggler and the Prime Time Players def. New Day
A MITB win for Kofi Kingston, according to New Day, would make them all “Mr. Money in the Bank,” so they worked together against Kingston’s MITB opponent Ziggler. Xavier Woods tried to help Kingston with a distraction, but Ziggler rolled through and got a quick pin of his own. As New Day ganged up on him, the Prime Time Players came to Ziggler’s aid.
The match restarted as a six-man tag and Woods got a rare extended run in the ring. Woods and his teammates isolated Darren Young until he made a hot tag to Titus O’Neil. He ran through all three members of New Day and Big E had to make a save for Woods off of a powerslam. Despite the broken pin, O’Neil followed with a pump-handle slam to get the pin. O’Neil seems to have found his niche as the monster who puts together a big run off of a hot tag. It has the PTPers on the best run of their partnership, and the win here was a good way to make the viable challengers.
Neville def. Bo Dallas
I thought Dallas might get a win over Neville at Elimination Chamber to prolong their rivalry. Instead, Neville won cleanly and Dallas came back on Monday with an angrier attitude and a more aggressive wrestling style. The aggression could not save him, though, and Neville hit the Red Arrow to get the win. Unless Dallas does something very quickly to get some heat back, I see no reason for these two to stay together.