10/26/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Roman Reigns Becomes #1 Contender
The Authority introduced a gloating, self-satisfied Seth Rollins at the top of the show. They talked up his victory over Kane and his Hall of Fame credentials before they announced a sort of tournament to crown his next challenger. They announced that eight winners from Hell in a Cell would face each other in singles matches to qualify for a #1 Contender's Fatal Fourway main event. From the moment Reigns joined Rollins in the ring and declared himself the top contender, it was clear that the tournament was a path for him to get back to the main event.
Roman Reigns def. Kofi Kingston
The first qualifier match was highlighted, as usual, by a pre-match promo from New Day. Kingston needed a distraction from Big E to gain control in the match, but he did not relinquish the advantage easily once he had it. He repeatedly cut off attempted rallies from Reigns. Eventually, Reigns hit a schoolboy powerbomb, a Superman punch, and a spear to get the clean win and qualify for the fatal fourway.
Kevin Owens def. Cesaro
Despite Owens's wins over Cesaro in recent history, this match was probably the most evenly matched of the four qualifiers. With a need for a new top babyface on the roster, it seemed like a good time to give Cesaro a chance to move to the top. It looked like he was on that path when he held Owens up for a delayed vertical suplex despite Owens slipping. He had him on the run for much of the match and hit a perfect springboard uppercut for a near fall. Owens used a rope break to hit a sneaky superkick and followed it with a Pop-Up Powerbomb to get the victory. The idea of Owens challenging Rollins seemed far fetched, so this result functionally eliminated two potential breakthrough main eventers from the show.
Alberto Del Rio def. Neville
Zeb Colter announced that he and Del Rio would form a new country, known as MexAmerica. With Colter in his corner, Del Rio cut off the ring for Neville and limited his chances to show off his athleticism. Neville still found chances for offense, such as his corkscrew plancha an a beautiful hurricanrana into a pin. Nonetheless, Del Rio eventually hung him in the tree of woe and stomped him from the top rope. For the second night in a row, Del Rio used a former set-up move as a finisher. If Del Rio can keep fans guessing about how his matches will end, it will make every match involving him more entertaining.
As an aside, Colter's rascal scooter is a fantastic prop. I can't wait for the payoff when he miraculously rises out of the chair to help Del Rio with the referee's back turned. It's an updated version of the manager in a wheelchair, but much funnier.
Dolph Ziggler def. Big E
Ziggler's burgeoning rivalry with Tyler Breeze continued as Breeze and Summer Rae formed their own VIP section adjacent to the commentary table. Whether it was the outside distraction or his opponent's strength to blame, Ziggler had a great deal of trouble getting on track. Big E alternated between wearing Ziggler down with an abdominal stretches and crushing him with splashes and slams. When Big E tried a shoulder block in the corner, Ziggler got out of the way and let Big E hit the ring post. He followed it with a Zig Zag for a sudden comeback victory.
Roman Reigns def. Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, and Alberto Del Rio
All four wrestlers got through their qualifier matches and looked fresh for a fun main event. With so many different permutations of wrestlers, the action never slowed down. Del Rio and Owens worked together in the early part of the match until Del Rio hit him with a superkick. The wrestlers traded signature moves in the center of the ring until Ziggler hit a famouser for a near fall. Ziggler and Del Rio cleared out of the ring, which left Reigns and Owens faced off. Owens whipped Reigns into the ropes for a Pop-Up Powerbomb, but Reigns countered with a Superman Punch and finished Owens with a spear. Reigns stared down Rollins outside the ring after his win to foreshadow their rematch and his possible coronation as champion.
It was a stunning turnaround to see Reigns cheered by the fans only a few months after he was nearly booed out of Wrestlemania. WWE took a risk by having Reigns cleanly beat smarky favorite Owens and stand tall against similarly internet-friendly Rollins. This spring, that would have been death to Reigns, but this time he received supportive chants. It's a tribute to the work Reigns has done to improve himself in the ring and WWE's tweaks to deemphasize his clumsy storytelling.
Three hours of Raw can feel arduous, but anything that makes the show feel unified helps it pass more comfortably. The tournament qualifiers and the fourway main event gave the entire show focus. The positive reaction from the fans showed that no one in attendance was bored by the end.
Wyatt Family Takes Out Kane
Bray Wyatt came to the ring alone and explained that he attacked Undertaker as his own form of retribution. He said that he would redeem his loss to Reigns at Hell in a Cell by taking Undertaker's power from him. Kane came to the ring to avenge his brother, but the rest of the Wyatt Family appeared around him. He could not fight them off for long and they beat him into submission and carried him away like they did Undertaker. Wyatt needs a reason to fight at the core of his promos and revenge against Undertaker works. Whoever Undertaker and Kane add to their team, a four-on-four Survivor Series match should be outstanding.
Team Bella def. Team PCB
Paige apologized again and vowed allegiance to Charlotte and Becky Lynch before they headed to the ring. The Bellas showed better teamwork throughout and cornered Paige and then Charlotte. Becky finally got a hot tag from Charlotte and briefly swung the advantage back to her team. Nikki stopped the rally, though, and finished the match with the Rack Attack. After the bell, Paige attacked her former teammates. She hit a Rampage on each of them and locked Charlotte in the PTO. Whether Nikki is slated for time off or not, it is time for a new challenger to Charlotte. The conflict with Paige has built up gradually enough that this outburst felt earned. On the heels of an excellent title match at Hell in a Cell, Charlotte-Paige could continue to elevate the division.
Sheamus, King Barrett, and Rusev def. Ryback and the Dudley Boys
The odd trio of heels stuck together after their Hell in a Cell pre-show loss. They excelled through most of this consolation match with Devon stuck in the corner. When Ryback tagged in, he cleared out all three opponents. He and the Dudleys teamed up for a triple Meathook Clothesline and a Wassup Headbutt. Bubba sent Ryback and Devon to get tables, but Barrett rolled him up while his attention was elsewhere. It wouldn't take much to turn this match into another Survivor Series match. Conversely, Barrett and Sheamus could take on the Dudleys if they're serious about forming a tag team.