2/1/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
When The Authority announced that Brock Lesnar would face Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose in a triple threat match at Fastlane to determine HHH’s Wrestlemania title challenger, it was exciting because it presented a logical matchup that wasn’t obvious or repetitive. While Reigns has had a history with each of the other two, Lesnar has become a more sympathetic babyface since last year and Ambrose is a more viable challenger (and more likely storyline catalyst) than ever before.
Those dynamics were on display throughout Raw. Ambrose stood up to Lesnar and begged him to take him to suplex city. HHH and Stephanie McMahon tried to drive a wedge between Ambrose and Reigns. HHH got under Lesnar’s skin and challenged him to show his Beast side after Ambrose stood up to him. Those interactions laid the groundwork for a fun main event that pitted Ambrose and Reigns against New Day. The Tag Team Champions held their own, but Ambrose eventually got the pin with Dirty Deeds. Lesnar hit the ring and isolated Ambrose with an F5 while Reigns continued to deal with New Day.
The wide-reaching main event worked in quite a few different ways. Lesnar is always an attraction when he shows his aggressive side. Reigns, who has been at risk of overexposure or redundancy, is essential to the angle but not the sole focus in the lead-up to Fastlane. Ambrose is the most exciting of the bunch. Anything from eating the pin at Fastlane to turning heel and emerging victorious is completely in play. That sort of anticipation is a big part of the excitement in wrestling and Ambrose can always provide it.
-Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler had another excellent match with one another that was a highlight of the show. Owens got several near falls with creative spots- like a cannonball with Ziggler in a tree of woe- before Ziggler countered a Pop-Up Powerbomb with a Zig Zag to win. Owens was previously 8-0 against Ziggler, so he can handle one loss. A PPV rematch would be a fun matchup that could get Owens ready for a bigger stage at Wrestlemania.
-WWE has kept AJ Styles conspicuously quiet for his first couple of weeks. Miz’s verbal tirade against Styles’s charisma and entertainment value on Miz TV was the most recent example, but Styles more than got his heat back with an intense assault. Chris Jericho offered his respect to Styles in a backstage interview that sets the stage for a slow burn feud between the two.
-It looks like the anticipated Charlotte-Sasha-Becky Divas Title match is on hold for a month. Charlotte lost to Brie Bella via roll-up and Team BAD turned on Sasha in a match against Becky. It looks like Charlotte will defend her title against Brie while Sasha and Becky will team together against Naomi and Tamina. I get that the idea is to hold off on the money match until the big show, but there had to be a less clumsy way to get there than pressing a big pause button.
-In the rematch no one wanted to see, Big Show and Erick Rowan had a follow-up to last year’s horrendous Stairs Match. It ended, as usual, with an assault from the Wyatt Family. I like that Bray was not present for this moment to keep him fresh, and I also like the idea of giving the Family something to do on their own. Whether Big Show is their best use is another question.
-Rusev looked very strong against Kalisto while Alberto Del Rio butchered his segment on guest commentary. Kalisto got an awkward count-out win that forced the referee to slow his count to a snail’s pace by the time he got to about seven. Even so, I like the idea of Kalisto getting an underdog-style win and Rusev getting some level of protection.
-Raw was chalk-full of segments that didn’t belong on a major show. The Social Outcasts gave a horrible promo before losing decisively to the Usos. Titus O’Neil continued Tyler Breeze’s nightmare main roster run with a Clash of the Titus and a fairly easy win. Goldust continued trying to recruit R-Truth as his tag team partner and the joke is officially worn out. I would have been perfectly happy with all three of these segments left on the cutting room floor.