9/28/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt Wrestle to a Double Count-Out
Amidst sinking TV ratings and questions about the development of young stars, WWE decided to do something interesting- it featured two of those fledgling stars in the unquestioned main event of Raw. Reigns and Wyatt made the most of the opportunity with some assistance from a focused commentary team. Reigns convinced Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton to stay away from the match and then insulted Wyatt’s manhood to bait him into sending his Family members away from the ring.
With no mystical theatrics or meandering promos, the two powerhouses were free to slug it out. They went back and forth with impressive power moves- a Wyatt side slam, a Reigns jackhammer, a Wyatt lariat, and a Reigns Superman Punch to take the action onto the floor. Reigns dove into the ring steps and they brawled so intensely that they got themselves counted out of the match. They fought into the crowd before Wyatt tossed a technician on Reigns and tackled him through a barricade. He celebrated atop the commentary table, but Reigns regrouped and speared him through the table. It was a standout image to punctuate a fun match. With an inconsistent story stripped away and the spotlight on their wrestling, Wyatt and Reigns dialed up the intensity and showed that they deserve to remain at the top of the card.
Seth Rollins Brings Out the Demon
An “anonymous” HR complaint filed against Kane resulted in a performance review by an HR rep named Ashley. Rollins made it clear that he filed the complaint and tried to taint the evaluation. Kane tried to make nice with Rollins by bringing him a gift, leading to a Fincher-esque, “what’s in the box, Kane?” exchange that brilliantly aped the final scene from Seven. When Ashley was ready to deliver her final results, Rollins showed a highlight package of Kane’s demonic side. Ashely was unconvinced and said that Kane is an exemplary executive while Rollins is truly unprofessional.
The angry Rollins attacked Kane with a Pedigree and several chair shots before he Pillmanized Kane’s recently healed ankle. Paramedics hauled Kane into an ambulance while Rollins gloated. As soon as Kane was locked in the ambulance, the lights turned red and he emerged as the Demon Kane. He hobbled back to the ring and attacked Rollins with a chokeslam and a Tombstone. I have been surprised at how enthusiastically fans have supported Kane in what appears to be his swan song. While I doubt anyone has any illusions about him taking the title from Rollins, but the rivalry between them is fun. I’m looking forward to their match at Hell in a Cell, even if it’s not the top of the card.
It wasn’t just the fun interplay between Rollins and Kane that helped make this a strong episode of Raw. It also helped that the show started and ended with entertaining matches rather than predictable promos. The announcers effectively made the main event match feel relevant. There were also interesting stories in the mid-card, from the tag team title program to the entire women’s division. Naturally, there were missteps in a three-hour show, but that strong foundation helps cover up for a lot of mistakes.
John Cena def. Xavier Woods by DQ
The return of the US Open Challenge brought all of New Day out to deliver a new Cena catchphrase- “Hustle. Loyalty. Booty.” Woods got the rare chance to step in the ring for his team and looked solid. His teammates were quickly ejected and he used an enzuigiri and a leaping DDT to staunch Cena’s early dominance. Cena caught Woods’s handspring to nail a powerbomb in response. Woods got a near fall off of a superkick and an inverted vertical suplex. Cena dropped Woods from an electric chair and locked in an STF. New Day ran in and broke up the hold to cause a DQ and the Dudleys ran in to make the save.
New Day def. John Cena and the Dudley Boys
After New Day’s run-in, the match became a six-man tag. Woods brought back his trombone when New Day took control and Big E hit a powerful splash on Cena. Devon got the hot tag from Cena and started to run through New Day. He tagged in Bubba, who hit a Bubba Bomb and set up the Wassup Headbutt on Kofi Kingston. When it looked like they were ready for the 3D, Woods lured Bubba away and Kingston hit Trouble in Paradise off of the distraction to pin Devon.
As likeable as New Day has become, cheating to win like they did in this match will help keep some heat on them as heels. Their rivalry with the Dudleys has worked exactly as was intended- it has given them a viable opponent in the tag division that lets them work on the top half of the card. They have made the most of the chance. It’s time to stop thinking about New Day as an effective comedy act and start thinking of them as main event stars on the verge of a breakthrough.
Team Bella def. Team PCB
Fans understandably complained that the first couple of months of the Divas Revolution felt uninspired. Fortunately, it appears that the opening salvo was just a way to set up a more compelling second act with interwoven feuds and multiple title challengers. Charlotte and Becky Lynch started this segment on Miz TV- a great use of the smarmy, loathsome Miz- and called out Paige for her angry speech last week. Instead, Nikki and Team Bella emerged and reiterated her primacy in the division. Charlotte responded that the Divas Revolution is about the fans and the entertainment value more than any individual wrestler. Paige entered and got in the middle of the argument, but when it got physical, she found herself aligned with Team PCB.
That led to a match that we have seen before, but with an interesting twist of internal discontent for the fan favorites. When Paige was inadvertently knocked off the apron, she walked out on her team. Natalya tried to replace her and Paige jumped Natalya. The fracas distracted Charlotte and Nikki hit the Rack Attack to pin the new champion. Although Sasha Banks remains disconcertingly absent from Raw, the criss-crossing tensions between Charlotte, Nikki, Paige, and Natalya are as compelling as any story WWE has told in its women’s division in some time.
Big Show def. Mark Henry, Confronts Paul Heyman
The mostly pointless rebuilding of Big Show before his MSG match with Brock Lesnar took Henry as its latest casualty. Big Show beat him with a spear, a body slam, and a KO Punch in a short, uninteresting match. Later in the show, Heyman logically sold the match by saying that Lesnar is the only wrestler who can snap Big Show out of his complacency. While I would have expected Big Show to embrace that excuse for his poor performance, he argued with Heyman instead. He said that he would end the Go to Hell Tour early and send Lesnar home. As usual, Heyman somehow found a selling point in the match.
Randy Orton def. Bo Dallas
Dallas played the role of an old-school wrestling heel to perfection. He insulted the Buffalo Bills players in the front row and even got in some token offense against Orton. Nonetheless, Orton threw him to the floor and slammed him on the barricade in front of the players he dissed. He followed that with a backbreaker, a hangman’s DDT, and an RKO for an easy win. Sometimes it’s fun to be reminded that the top wrestlers have that status for a reason. Even if Orton doesn’t have an obvious storyline, it’s entertaining to see him wrestle.
Wyatt Family def. Prime Time Players
Much like Orton’s match, the Wyatts wrestled outside of their ongoing storyline and got an impressive win. Titus O’Neil was able to offer more resistance than Darren Young, but only briefly. He ran into a Luke Harper superkick. That set up Braun Strowman to choke him out for a submission win. As expected, the PTPers have fallen quickly from the top of the tag division. On the other hand, an easy win over a team with some chops reminds fans that the Wyatts are positioned much higher on the depth chart.
Bad News Barrett Interrupts Neville and Stardust
After a month away, Barrett broke up another Neville-Stardust match just before Neville went for the Red Arrow. He hit his old rival (Neville) and his old teammate (Stardust) with Bullhammer elbows and said that he is back. As with his last several statement moments, I’ll believe that this one elevates Barrett when I see it.
Rusev and Kevin Owens Wrestled to a No Contest
Owens threw Rusev into Ryback at the commentary table moments into this match and it devolved into a brawl. Dolph Ziggler predictably made the save and they chased the heels to the back. This segment felt like an obligatory appearance by the four involved and neither accomplished anything in the narrative nor entertained on its own.