Raw Review – New Rumble Contenders Emerge

1/19/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters


Roman Reigns def. Rusev

Raw opened with Reigns demanding a face-to-face with Brock Lesnar to address Lesnar’s attack last week. Instead, Chris Jericho joined him in the ring and offered him a spot on his Highlight Reel, which was also scheduled to feature Lesnar. Reigns was excited about the opportunity until the League of Nations interrupted and debuted one of the worst new entrance themes in ages. Jericho suggested a Reigns-Rusev match and somehow appointed himself as the guest referee.


Rusev dominated the match early on due in part to distractions and interference from his teammates. Jericho got himself heavily involved when he theatrically ejected Sheamus, Bad News Barrett, and Alberto Del Rio from ringside. The ejections let Reigns recover. He hit a Superman Punch and a Spear to get the win over Rusev. Despite the win, it was only the beginning of the night for Reigns.


Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar Appear on the Highlight Reel

Jericho traded his shirtless blazer look for a shirtless vest look in the show’s main event slot. The segment started with some verbal sparring between Jericho and Paul Heyman. The promo that Heyman delivered straddled the line between reality and kayfabe. He talked about how Lesnar versus anyone on the active roster is a must-see match for wrestling fans, which means that it doesn’t matter who he is booked to face.


Jericho started to talk trash about his chances of beating Lesnar and Lesnar made his way to the ring. As soon as he approached ringside, Reigns came through the crowd to confront him. Jericho stayed in the ring as the third corner of the triangle, albeit decidedly lower on the current pecking order. As soon as Lesnar stepped in the ring, Reigns put him down with a Spear beat him with forearms. The League of Nations hit the ring and started to assault Reigns, but Lesnar went after them, as well. Lesnar gave Sheamus an F5 and Reigns Speared Lesnar a second time. The lights in the arena went out and the Wyatt Family surrounded Lesnar and Reigns. A Luke Harper lariat and Sister Abigail’s Kiss put Reigns down. They cornered Lesnar and annihilated him, as well. Wyatt hit Sister Abigail on Lesnar as the show went off the air and the Wyatt Family stood tall.


The fans hardly reacted to Wyatt’s dominant finish, but I think the reaction had more to do with the timing than the content. WWE is at its best when there are about 4-6 realistic contenders for the top title. The losses of Seth Rollins, John Cena, and Randy Orton decreased that number to two for one of the biggest shows of the year. WWE is right to create other realistic contenders, even if the elevation is a bit rushed the week of the Rumble. On the positive side, at least it is far enough in advance of Wrestlemania that there is time to establish Wyatt and others before the biggest show.


Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio def. Dean Ambrose and Kalisto

Ambrose and Kalisto have a shared history with the League of Nations, which them to teaming for this match. They looked like old partners when Ambrose catapulted Kalisto to the outside for a big plancha on both Sheamus and Del Rio. Del Rio gradually took control of Ambrose and nearly put him away with his tree of woe stomp. Instead, Ambrose pulled him from the top rope and reached Kalisto for a hot tag. Kalisto swerved, ducked, and ran through both opponents and even hit the SDS on Sheamus. Del Rio used a superkick to break up Kalisto’s cover and fought Ambrose to the floor. Kalisto missed a second SDS and Sheamus answered with a Brogue Kick to get the win.


The booking for this match was curious. With Kevin Owens talking about his Intercontinental Title match on commentary, the upcoming US Title match between Del Rio and Kalisto felt less important. It was also odd for Kalisto to take such a conclusive defeat right before he challenges Del Rio for the US Title once again. Kalisto has now lost conclusively on consecutive TV shows in what is supposed to be his elevation up the card. What real damage would it have done to Sheamus or Del Rio if Kalisto had snuck another victory out of this match?


Wyatt Family def. Dudleys and Ryback

After a very cool, ECW-tinged video package that recapped the Dudleys’ struggles against the Wyatts, Ryback emerged to join them against Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan. Devon took the brunt of the beating from the Wyatts for the opening stretch of the match. He eventually tagged Ryback for a rapid comeback. Bubba also took part in the comeback, but a distraction from Braun Strowman turned things back in the Wyatts’ favor. Luke Harper hit a big boot and a lariat on Bubba to get the pin and another win for the Wyatts. There have been rumors that WWE has considered repackaging Bubba as a vicious heel. The Dudleys’ lack of success against the Wyatts is an argument in favor of a new direction. Of course, the purpose was to make Bray Wyatt look like a real challenger at the Royal Rumble, and it was at least functional in that respsect.


Becky Lynch def. Tamina

Tamina looked very good in a rare singles match. She used a superkick, a bodyslam, and a bulldog that connected with some real impact. When Becky made her comeback, she showed her typically good fire. She finally won the match when she rolled Tamina into the Disarmer and forced her to tap out. After the win, she once again challenged Charlotte for the Divas Title. Charlotte denied the request, but Becky invoked her father and insulted him. Ric Flair got a little over-exuberant and accepted the challenge on Charlotte’s behalf. I have often felt like this feud was missing some urgency, but Flair’s segment was very strong and made me more excited for the match on Sunday.


Big E def. Jey Uso

Mourning the untimely death of Franceska, New Day carried heavy hearts into their last confrontation with the Usos before their Tag Team Title defense at the Rumble. Jey avoided Big E’s powerful offense and used a variety of counter moves to keep Big E on the ropes. A Samoan Drop and a heel kick earned him a near fall. A plancha and a superkick set up for a Superfly splash, but Xavier Woods got in the way. Big E hit the Big Ending and got the win. I have no doubt that New Day and the Usos will put on a strong match at the Rumble, but they have already crossed paths so many times that this match felt irrelevant.


Other Notes

-R-Truth, Titus O’Neil, Mark Henry, and Neville formed one of the strangest tag teams in recent memory to take on the Cosmic Wasteland and Tyler Breeze.  A World’s Strongest Slam set up the Red Arrow on Breeze t mercifully end it. Neville, Henry, Stardust, and Breeze all have semi-main even talent, at least, so it’s a shame to see them in the “creative has nothing for you” match.


-Big Show hit a quick KO Punch to beat Heath Slater and he went on to beat down the rest of the Social Outcasts. Is Big Show a babyface again? Also, what is the point of the Social Outcasts if they are as inept as a team as they were individually?