10/19/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins def. The Wyatt Family
It felt during some parts of Raw that there were more WWE legends on the show than current wrestlers. Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Ric Flair joined special attractions Brock Lesnar and Undertaker on a loaded show. Meanwhile, mainstays like Kane, Randy Orton, and Luke Harper were all absent, which provided some interesting booking improvisation. For the most part, the on-the-fly stories worked and set up for an exciting Hell in a Cell on Sunday.
The main event of the show developed through the night. With the announcement of Orton’s absence, Ambrose attributed it to an attack by the Wyatts. It allowed him to regain his unchained attitude that makes his character interesting. Regardless of what happened to Orton (unknown at this time), it makes sense to give the heel Wyatts credit for it.
Later in the night, Flair introduced Reigns, who called out Bray Wyatt. Reigns set up chairs for himself and Wyatt and told his rival that he should be afraid of being in the cell where his Family members cannot rescue him. He jumped Wyatt with his chair and fought off Braun Strowman and the returning Erick Rowan a little too easily.
With Ambrose and Reigns slated to face the Wyatts, The Authority pondered whether they should add a third member to the former Shield members. Shawn Michaels, hanging out backstage, goaded Rollins into joining his former partners in the main event. It led to an awkward moment when Reigns and Ambrose stared down the Wyatts while Rollins stood behind.
The situation remained tense through the match. The Wyatts worked better as a team and cornered Ambrose. When he finally got close to his corner, Strowman pulled Reigns to the floor and Rollins backed away, feigning a knee injury to avoid the tag. Ambrose eventually reached Reigns, who ignited a rally. He plowed through Rowan, but couldn’t make a dent in Strowman. Ambrose retrieved a Kendo Stick and went after Strowman. It caused a DQ and a brawl broke out. The Wyatts controlled the fight until Reigns hit a huge plancha to the floor and followed it with spears on Wyatt and Rowan.
There were certainly some clumsy moments in the way this main event came together. The absence of Kane before the PPV was odd, and the lack of fanfare for Rowan’s return was probably outside of the plan. Nonetheless, the show was a step in the right direction from last week. It focused on some of the less ballyhooed programs for the PPV and had so much star power that it felt fresh and interesting.
Seth Rollins def. Ryback
The tension between Rollins and Michaels started much earlier in the night. Rollins interrupted Michaels and berated him for failing to promote his match with Kane at Hell in a Cell. Michaels responded that Rollins needs to stop trying to be HBK 2.0 and needs to chart his own path. The dispute led straight into a match with Ryback. He was too fast for Ryback early on and hit a suicide dive to the floor. Ryback recovered with a new spinning powerslam. He tried to set up for the Meat Hook, but Rollins rolled away and answered with a Pedigree for the win. Rollins has taken several losses lately, so it was appropriate to remind fans that he is a cut above even the Intercontinental Title challenger. Ryback got his heat back later in the night, anyway, so the booking was sound all around.
New Day def. Dudley Boys and John Cena
Complete with the trombone broken from last week’s attack on the Dudleys, New Day proclaimed themselves magical unicorns before the match. Big E added a new wrinkle with a gyrating dance while he held Cena up for a side slam. Devon eventually got the hot tag and launched an aggressive comeback. Cena splashed Big E and Kofi Kingston on the floor, but Xavier Woods used the diversion to roll up Cena with a schoolboy.
After the match, Cena hit an AA on Woods and the Dudleys powerbombed him through a table to take control of the rivalry going into their title rematch. Whether they retain the titles or not, New Day is on a great run. They remain funny because they come up with new material that fits their gimmick every week. The recent addition of a more violent side has only raised their ceilings.
Steve Austin Introduces Undertaker
With Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels announced for Raw, it served as a fun surprise to hear Austin’s glass shattering at the top of the show. He didn’t have to do much to get the fans fired up. He got the crowd red hot for Undertaker. As soon as Undertaker started to address Brock Lesnar, his adversary entered onto the ramp. Undertaker cut off Paul Heyman and both were ready to fight. They nearly threw down, but Heyamn talked Lesnar off of the ledge at the last second. It was easier for Lesnar to beg off of a fight when he was a pure heel. It was clever to have Heyman keep him from jumping into the fray. It was also just enough of a taste to remind fans of the magnitude of this match going into the PPV.
Nikki Bella and Alicia Fox def. Sasha Banks and Naomi
Two old truths resurfaced in this match- Alicia did great work and remains underrated, and Nikki’s character makes more sense when she works consistently as a heel. Despite having a hard time for much of the match, Team BAD came up with a couple of near falls. The finish became a little cumbersome when Nikki collided with Alicia on the apron and disrupted the timing of the match. Naomi fought out of one Rack Attack but took the second one and suffered the pin. Sasha’s time will come, and while Charlotte and Nikki work through their rematch, it makes sense for her to remain on the fringe.
Charlotte def. Brie Bella
An early distraction by Nikki with Charlotte’s belt gave her sister control of the match and she kept it for several minutes. Charlotte eventually strung together a spear and a Figure Eight to pick up the win. With Nikki’s dominant victory earlier in the night, it sets the stage for a title rematch with both wrestlers looking strong. My only gripe is that I thought that there was a missed opportunity to get some heat on the heels- they could have run in to break up the Figure Eight and evoked a negative reaction.
Sheamus, King Barrett, and Rusev def. Neville, Dolph Ziggler, and Cesaro
The mish-mash six-man tag is a maligned idea among most WWE fans. Nonetheless, these six wrestlers put together a match that actually worked. The heels dominated for most of the match, but the faces had enough hope spots and abbreviated comebacks to keep the fans engaged in the match. It was a nice counterpoint to the matches that have received such disdain in the past and showed that even matches without stakes can get fans engaged if booked well. Although Ziggler looked strong near the end, he took a Brogue Kick from Sheamus outside the ring and Barrett got the pin. That finish certainly won’t dispel the whispers of an imminent Ziggler heel turn.
Kevin Owens def. Mark Henry
Poor Henry had to serve as the jobber of the week for Owens. He fared much better than the likes of Kalisto and Zack Ryder. He controlled the balance of the match until Owens hoisted him for an impressive Pop-Up Powerbomb. After the bell, Ryback made his way to the ring. When Rollins tried to escape, Henry cornered him and fed him to Ryback for a thunderous powerbomb. It was the most classic go-home booking imaginable- the face challenger standing tall over the heel champion.
Paige Dodges Natalya Questions
Rene Young repeatedly asked Paige if she attacked Natalya at Smackdown and Paige refused to answer the question. She eventually became so annoyed at the questions that she lashed out at Rene and told her she’s, “not as cute as Erin Andrews.” Paige’s gradual heel turn has worked better than the back-and-forth booking of the Bellas because both her heelish and babyface tendencies feel consistent with an internal struggle. I’m at least moderately interested in what comes of Paige and Natalya, which is the most I can say for any #3 Divas feud I can remember.