11/2/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Ryback, and the Usos def. Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and New Day
WWE put together an unusually good episode of Raw for the second straight week. Longer matches, unique match-ups, and some Survivor Series creativity all helped elevate the show. Reigns opened Raw with a mediocre (but short!) promo and tried to bait Rollins into a match on Raw. Instead, The Authority made each of them captains for a Survivor Series elimination-style main event.
Through the night, Rollins compiled his team while Reigns’s remained a secret. He solicited Owens and got him to join in exchange for a future favor. He added Kofi Kingston and Big E, and reluctantly brought a returning Xavier Woods along for the ride. Reigns brought back the Usos for the first time in six months, as well as two more obvious partners.
Woods was fired up to start the match, but ran straight into an Uso superkick and splash for immediate elimination. The Usos continued to look good for several minutes and took out Kofi Kingston next. They dominated until Jimmy ran into a Big Ending from Big E and Jey tried a suicide dive that ended up in a Pop-Up Powerbomb. With the Usos eliminated, the Rollins team took a 4-3 advantage.
Team Rollins started to target Reigns when they got him stuck in their corner. Rollins and Owens hit a double vertical suplex and Rollins taunted his challenger. Meanwhile, the Denver fans tellingly chanted “we want Ambrose” while the next PPV main event took place in the ring. Reigns finally reached Ryback and he plowed through Big E until the match became a brawl. Those two remained the legal men and Ryback countered a Big Ending into Shell-Shocked to get the win.
As soon as Ryback pinned Big E, Rollins came after Ryback and hit a Pedigree to even the match at 2-2. With Rollins and Owens against Reigns and Ambrose, four of the highest-ceiling and most entertaining young stars in the company shared the ring. Owens worked over Ambrose mercilessly and Rollins hit him with a flying knee for a near fall. Rollins spent so much time trash talking that Ambrose recovered. He ducked another flying knee that hit Owens instead. Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds to take out Owens.
That left the former members of The Shield in the ring together, though they did so in the form of a handicap match rather than the Triple Threat many fans hope to see one day. Reigns hit his Drive-by kick on the announce table. As Rollins became more desperate, he retrieved a chair and smashed bot Reigns and Ambrose with it. He disqualified himself, and tried to continue the attack. Instead, Reigns hit a sudden Superman Punch to send Rollins retreating before he suffered any more damage. Reigns and Ambrose stood together in the ring, once again hinting at a heel turn for the otherwise unoccupied Ambrose.
Altogether, it was a great central theme for a show. It was different from what Raw features so many other weeks. More importantly, the main event got enough time to draw fans into its own story. This match would not have worked as a 15-minute spot with rushed eliminations. Over nearly 40 minutes, it told several stories, developed new rivalries (New Day-Usos has lots of potential), and set the stage for a main event that is slowly gaining my interest.
Paige Becomes #1 Contender
A Fatal Fourway between Paige, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Brie Bella was announced as a #1 Contender Match at the start of the show. Paige was the obvious favorite given her ongoing story with Charlotte, so it made sense to focus on the other participants in backstage interviews through the show. Becky was the most compelling in her interview and acknowledged that she would focus on Paige due to their falling out.
Becky made good on her word and dominated the start of the match, focusing primarily on Paige. They fought to the outside while Brie and Sasha continued the match in the ring. All four came back in the ring for a double tower of doom spot that got the fans fired up. Becky came out of the move in the best shape and put a Disarmer on Brie until Sasha broke it up. Sasha showed the magnetism that has made fans chant for her so consistently. She hit the Banks Statement on Becky and appeared to be on track to win. Paige ran in and broke it up, and then hit a Rampaige on Becky to get the win.
It was clever to create some uncertainty about the challenge rather than simply anointing Paige as the #1 Contender. It was great to see extended action for Becky and Sasha. The post-match interview with Charlotte, in which she said that attributing her success to nepotism only motivates her more, was also effective.
Wyatt Family Buries Brothers of Destruction
Bray Wyatt came to the ring with all three of his family members in the same place at the same time. He said that he harvested the souls of Undertaker and Kane. He added that he can feel their power in his blood and he loves the feeling. He used some of their theatrics- diming the lights, summoning lightning effects- to show how powerful he has become. The segment was corny and defied belief, but that’s perfectly acceptable for an Undertaker storyline. The key to passing the torch from Undertaker to Wyatt will be making Wyatt’s mysticism worth accepting, too.
Lucha Dragons def. Sheamus and King Barrett
A pre-match video promo focused on the Dragons foreshadowed the result of the match. They looked good at the start with a monkey flip into a splash. Sin Cara went on an excellent run and looked to be on the verge of winning with a senton, but Barrett distracted him and he landed on Sheamus’s knees. They took turns bludgeoning Sin Cara without quite being able to put him away. Finally, Kalisto got a hot tag, ducked a Bullhammer, and hit the Salina Del Sol to win.
There was a lot to like in this match. The pacing was outstanding for a tag team match because there was just enough hope for the Dragons for their rallies to get the crowd fired up. In the bigger picture, it was a great way to start a feud further down the card because the higher-profile heels will seek revenge against the plucky underdogs who made them look bad. I frequently complain that WWE failing to fill three hours of Raw with interesting programming. Casting a wider net on the roster and developing more storylines is a great way to keep things interesting for a bigger piece of the show.
Kevin Owens def. Dolph Ziggler
Owens dominated Ziggler early by targeting his injured knee. Ziggler finally hit a jumping DDT, but his positive streak was cut short when Tyler Breeze and Summer Rae came to ringside. Owens stayed back on top until his cannonball ran into a super kick. A Breeze selfie distracted Ziggler so he couldn’t capitalize and Owens hit a Pop-Up Powerbomb to get the win. With Ziggler laid out, Breeze came into the ring and took more selfies with him.
If you look closely, Owens has been on quite a winning streak. The fact that he wins through nefarious means doesn’t count against him because it fits his persona. I also like that Breeze has been getting the upper-hand over Ziggler on a consistent basis because it makes fans who haven’t seen him in NXT view him as a threat and build up some animosity toward him. For all of Summer’s strange on-screen roles, this one feels the most natural.
Cesaro def. The Miz
Cesaro needs wins on TV to keep fans behind him. He got a nice one here and looked excellent doing it. He did a chain of kip-ups while in a wristlock early on. Miz rammed him into the ring post to turn the momentum. When he went for the Skull Crushing Finale, though, Cesaro countered into a 20+ revolution spin. He locked in the Sharpshooter and made Miz tap. The spin, when used sparingly, gets a great reaction. Cesaro has almost never been in an interesting storyline. The fact that he’s as popular as he is in spite of the narrative vacuum reinforces how amazing he is as a wrestler.
Alberto Del Rio def. R-Truth
Zeb Colter almost sounded like a babyface when he explained to Jack Swagger that he wanted to unite Mexicans and Americans. Del Rio dismissed Swagger, making it clear that his character isn’t meant to be cheered- at least not yet. He had some trouble with Truth in the first moments of their matchup, but quickly hit his tree of woe stomp for an easy victory.