WWE Raw: The Royal Rumble Go-Home
January 19, 2016 6:44 AM - Season 24, Episode 19 - Subscribe

Well... that happened.

They're really trying to sell that aaanything can happen at the Rumble, with Roman Reigns at the (gasp) #1 position (from which two people have already won, four if you count the #2 position, which is essentially the same), and the League of Nations and Wyatt Family and Brock Lesnar and Chris Jericho all representing at the end as legitimate threats.

(Yes, Chris Jericho. A guy who's never won a Rumble and who until this week was feuding with Xavier Woods' trombone.)

So we've got what is traditionally the most fun PPV of the year bogged down with the exact polar opposite of what it's supposed to be -- a chaotic festival of random violence, via the biggest push in wrestling history.

Royal Rumble match, Roman Reigns vs. 29 others for the World Championship -- Reigns enters at #1, no other numbers assigned yet. There's generally no way to call anything but the finish here, but the dirt sheets agree that the match has been written, the high spots practiced, and Reigns will walk out with the title. We can only hope that the 20-minute drive from Full Sail to the Amway Center won't be too high a bar to clear for some NXT stunt entries (or that the NXT-adjacent audience won't be mostly cheering for themselves).

Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch for the (sigh) Divas Championship -- Lynch is trying valiantly to save the Divas division from itself, but outsmarting the Nature Boy to do it? Eh. These two should be able to carry a good, hot match that the audience should appreciate.

The New Day vs. the Usos for the Tag Team Championship -- The Usos are back to be in every tag title match until one of them gets hurt. If the Rumble match needs the New Day to pep it up, this might be short and sweet; otherwise, it will presumably be a bog-standard face-in-peril-stretches-for-hot-tag match with Xavier Woods being entertaining on the sidelines.

Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship, Last Man Standing -- Brutality. Just... brutality, in a definite early Match of the Year candidate if they let these guys go (and if Ambrose wants it).

Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto for the United States Championship -- These two have worked well together when it wasn't a glorified squash (*cough*Smackdownrematch*cough*).

So that's it. Five title matches is your entire card (so far).
posted by Etrigan (37 comments total)
RIP "Iron" Mike Sharpe, Canada's greatest athlete. Cause of death was presumably forearm cancer.
posted by Etrigan at 6:48 AM on January 19, 2016

Iron Mike Sharpe was 12-year-old-me's favorite wrestler. Back then, my dad and I would sometimes play-act goofy "matches" during wrestling commercial breaks (my signature move: the Garvin stomp) and whenever he'd put me in a fake headlock or armlock or whatever, I'd let out a guttural Iron Mike "OHHH no-no-no-no-no!" and it never failed to crack him up.

I skipped Raw Monday but considered catching up with it. Then I saw Well... that happened. and chased it with Uproxx's this is one of those Raws that made me feel stupid for watching wrestling, so I opted to spare myself. Uproxx embedded a clip of Francesca's wake in the article, so that was all I needed to see. (Becky Lynch apparently fought Tamina, and all I could think of when I saw that was "Jordan and Gable vs The Ascension.")

the dirt sheets agree that ... Reigns will walk out with the title.

As we all expected.

There's generally no way to call anything but the finish here

I'll go so far as to call the finish being "We're down to three men! Lesnar's thrown over the top rope by the other two but lands on the apron! Lesnar grabs Third Guy and throws him up and over while still on the apron! Roman with a spear through the ropes to Lesnar! Roman didn't go over the top, so he's the winner!"

Things I'd like to see in the Rumble:
  • The match starts with Curtis Axel already in the ring, as "Entrant #0" since he's been in the match all year. Reigns eliminates him right away, but he comes back later as entrant #16 or something, announcing on the mic that "2015 Curtis Axel may have been eliminated, but 2016 Curtis Axel is now entering the match!"
  • Finn Balor is an early entrant. Luke Gallows, in a Balor Club shirt, is a mid-match entrant. A.J. Styles, in a Balor Club shirt, is a late match entrant.
  • Byron Saxton is in the match. He has no idea this was even possible. Michael Cole: "Yeah, I kinda maybe submitted your name."
  • Nia Jax enters and immediately tosses one or two guys. Everyone gets intimidated and gangs up to send her over the top. Big Show, flustered that everyone was more scared of Jax than him, bellows "HEY! WHAT ABOUT ME?" and everyone gangs up to send him over the top. As he and Jax angrily head up the ramp, they kinda catch each other's eye.
Things I expect to see:
  • Brock Lesnar shows up and immediately eliminates a third of the entrants while a grim Roman watches. Roman tries to one-up him and eliminates another third of the entrants while an amused Lesnar watches.
  • Kofi Kingston is double-booked just so he can do one of his patented elimination escapes.
  • Triple H comes out as #29.
  • Vince McMahon, full of swagger, comes out at #30 and is eliminated instantly by Roman.

posted by brianrobot at 1:52 AM on January 20, 2016

Oh gods, Triple H is the favorite to win the Rumble.
posted by Etrigan at 6:35 AM on January 21, 2016

I can't remember who, but someone on the internet complains every time the champ comes out first during intros to a title match. This Rumble will be their nightmare I guess, as the champ comes out then watch 29 competitors get slowly introduced over the course of 40 minutes.

Having the title on the line and having Roman be #1 ruins so many normal Royal Rumble possibilities that I can barely stand it. Also, Roman's entire thing is that he doesn't back down and always overcomes. How the shit is he going to do that? He won't roll out under the bottom rope and hang out with Saxton. He won't come down the ramp but refuse to enter the ring. He won't hide in a corner while 8 other men chaotically fight and seem to forget about him. They better never forget about him. If there isn't a competitor or 3 locked up with Roman literally all match it is going to strain my suspension of disbelief. He's the champ! Literally every entrant all match long should focus on him until he is eliminated. Ugh. I am so angry with the WWE for ruining what is my favorite match in my favorite ppv of the year.

All that said, if WWE booking decides to have everyone focus immediately on Roman and he's eliminated before entrant 10 comes down the ramp, I will eat so much crow and be amazed, and can you event imagine how great that would be?

I hope Owens and Ambrose are watching the Cactus Jack/HHH Streetfight from Royal Rumble 2000 for inspiration.
posted by jermsplan at 11:11 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't remember who, but someone on the internet complains every time the champ comes out first during intros to a title match.

May not be who you're thinking of, but I know Dave Scherer at PWInsider.com does this.

I hope Owens and Ambrose are watching the Cactus Jack/HHH Streetfight from Royal Rumble 2000 for inspiration.

I'm starting to wonder if Ambrose's weirdly out-of-nowhere, decidedly non-PG splitting open of Sheamus's head on the ringpost was actually meant to foreshadow the violence to come.

Given the actual build to the match between those two, I'm thinking that we're going to see Owens put Ambrose through the Spanish announce table, only for a recovered Ambrose to put Owens through the American announce table.
posted by brianrobot at 8:55 PM on January 22, 2016

sweet mother of god, the crowd has a "Heeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyy, we want some Saaaaaaandoooow!" cheer going during the preshow. Not that I disagree with their sentiment, but if the Full Sail crowd is in attendance tonight I'm concerned with how it will affect my overall enjoyment of the PPV. On the other hand, at least AJ will get a pop when he comes out.
posted by jermsplan at 4:40 PM on January 24, 2016

I can't remember who, but someone on the internet complains every time the champ comes out first during intros to a title match.

I don't complain, but I do seethe inwardly and wish some heel would call them out on it.
posted by Etrigan at 4:48 PM on January 24, 2016

Terrific curtain jerk match. KO might be the WWE's hardest working employee at this point. MVP for the match goes to either the luckiest random chair throw of all time or Ambrose's shirt (I promised Mrs. Jermsplan that his shirt would come off, going so far as to claim he must be buying tearaway shirts from somewhere...and then in a table filled match, it somehow stayed on)
posted by jermsplan at 5:33 PM on January 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am 100 percent over the Usos. They made a New Day match boring.
posted by Etrigan at 6:19 PM on January 24, 2016

I am 100% with you. They need to get out of the title picture for a bit. Let some other team be the face tag team of WWE.

For some reason I couldn't bring myself to get into the US Title match, though none of it looked particularly bad.

And now the Diva's match is the popcorn match? God damn it, WWE. Yay Diva's Revolution.
posted by jermsplan at 6:28 PM on January 24, 2016

(I'm watching alone at home, on the phone with long time WWE fan and best friend, and he told me he'd be back later, taking this match [the diva's match] to do some laundry, and "maybe I'll make myself some popcorn or hit the concession stand while I'm upstairs")
posted by jermsplan at 6:30 PM on January 24, 2016

I really enjoyed the Women's match. Rick was great. Charlotte and Becky were great. The future looks bright.
posted by jermsplan at 6:57 PM on January 24, 2016

And now the Diva's match is the popcorn match?

There was no popcorn match. The backstory package for the Divas match was like ten minutes long because that was the popcorn segment.

(Well, the actual popcorn match turned out to be Del Rio vs Kalisto, but it wasn't supposed to be.)

I am 100 percent over the Usos.

I will continue to be 100 percent over the Usos.
posted by brianrobot at 8:04 PM on January 24, 2016

BrianRobot, I will choose too believe you are right and the WWE put in long backstory packages to provide bathroom breaks. I'll have more thoughts tomorrow after I've slept on it (realistically, after I've watched the RAW fallout), but right now what I can say is that team Odd Entrants was significantly better than team Even Entrants, and yet I owe my buddy a bottle of Jack Daniels because #30 won. Damnit.
posted by jermsplan at 8:12 PM on January 24, 2016

Well, fuck that. I'm trying to think of a worse ending than Game Books Self As Champion, given the constraints they were under. All I can think of is "CM Punk and Daniel Bryan are #2 and #3, and Reigns eliminates them before #4 comes out", and that's not even an ending. I would have been happier with literally anyone else in the company, and that includes Jack Swagger.
posted by Etrigan at 8:14 PM on January 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lawler's relegated to the panel. Rich Brennan's promoted (?) to the social media lounge. Basically, Brennan and Tom Phillips have completely taken over each other's jobs. (Meanwhile, our two current backstage interviewers in NXT look EXACTLY ALIKE.)

The fatal four-way on the pre-show was nothing spectacular but was surprisingly fun, with Sandow way over as a face (with his inexplicable tag partner Darren Young reacting like Jordan for Gable during the heyyyyy we want some Sandow chants). The bit where Mark Henry showboated in response to chants and got yelled at by Bubba Ray for doing so was an amusing little highlight.

#SocialOutcasts were also amusing in the social media lounge. I love that Bo Dallas is the glue trying to hold the group together and keep everyone's egos in check. Also, when WWE replayed the finish to the 2015 Rumble, they left the chorus of boos for Reigns intact, which was a surprise.

Ambrose vs Owens was good, with a nice chaotic feel. Owens getting launched over the announce table into Cole and breaking his glasses was a unique way to start a match. The best bit was probably Owens getting thwacked with a steel chair and yelling "I hate you!" in response.

"The tag team division has become SO competitive here in WWE." If by that you mean the New Day and Usos keep competing with each other, yeah, I guess. Once again the replay left the booing in, this time for Francesca's murder. New Day's entrance was outstanding, of course, and the match was meh because Usos, of course. "All gold everything!" This plus the out-of-left-field focus on Eva Marie in the Fastlane promo were... ominous portents. One of the Usos MUMMIFIED HIS LEGS in an attempt to make it easier to tell them apart. Can the New Day's victory end this feud, please? It's clearly time to hotshot Young & Sandow; let's bring them in there!

Del Rio fought Kalisto and zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Charlotte vs Lynch was THE match I was excited about going in, and it rewarded my excitement. I loved Charlotte's literal shout-out to Owens with her cry of "that's why I'm the champ!" while having Lynch trapped in a headlock. And, of course, the post-match with Sasha Banks basically ensuring a triple threat at Fastlane (or, if they're smart, WrestleMania) was perfection. (The other possibility is Charlotte vs Banks one-on-one at Fast Lane with Lynch still in the story, leading to a triple-threat at Mania. Both scenarios are TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE.)

"People like change and they like to see a different winner in the Royal Rumble match every year!" Cole shouted early on, and it seemed at the time like him throwing a little truth to power at Vince. It ended up coming true, but not in the way anyone wanted. Those bookies turned out to be right. Ugh. "Triple H will main event WrestleMania" IS NOT A THING THAT SHOULD BE SAID IN 2016.

Anyway. GODDAMN I did not expect A. J. Styles to come out at #3. I assumed he'd appear, but I thought he'd be a later surprise entrant. Also, I love that he's keeping his name. I was hoping he would. He didn't get to show off a lot of his skills, but he was in the match for a long, long time, so that was something. Breeze's Beauty Shot never looked more beautiful than when A. J. took it.

The Great Roman Reigns Obliteration/Distraction had a cool spot with Rusev doing his best Dean Ambrose impression, but man, we kept missing other cool shit because of it. Kofi, Mr. Royal Rumble, got eliminated and they didn't even show it until later, and Neville was HANGING ON BY ONE HAND and we were cutting away to watch a wounded Roman walk up the ramp. Yeesh.

Kevin Owens limping out to the ring was so great. He was the absolute perfect person to eliminate A. J. Styles. "Welcome to the WWE!" The followup with Sami Zayn was a total surprise, and Zayn eliminating Owens from the Rumble was a beautiful little moment. I have no idea if this means Zayn's coming up or if Owens is going to take a trip back down to Full Sail for a day to have a revenge fight, but they're clearly being kept together as A Thing, and that's terrific.

Lesnar was, of course, tons of fun to watch, and having him get screwed out of the Rumble instead of legitimately eliminated was the right thing to do. Plus, he knocked down Strowman. MORE THAN ONCE. And eliminated him. TWICE.


Well, at least throwing out Reigns before Ambrose was a surprise. The other surprise was that Reigns and Ambrose NEVER WORKED TOGETHER. They weren't brawling with each other, either, but they didn't help each other out at all. Anyway, the point is, you can't book a WWE PPV these days without ending it on a note of deflation. That's the rule.
posted by brianrobot at 8:49 PM on January 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

So the baby woke up at 2 in the goddamn morning, giving me more time to fume about how not only did Triple Ego book himself to win (because he's the Final Boss?!?), but he booked himself to eliminate Reigns as well. Heaven forfend aaanyone else get any heat. Dean could have done it just as a test to see how over he really is (unless they've realized that he's so over he doesn't even need a title, in which case why keep the white belt on him?).

Also, Sami but not Finn, with no NXT booking to explain it? Bo Dallas was the only former NXT champion with two functioning legs who was not in this Rumble.
posted by Etrigan at 11:44 PM on January 24, 2016

Oh, and how THE HELL is the end of that R-Truth moment not Kane pushing the ladder over to spill Truth to the floor? HOW DO YOU NOT DO THAT, MAGGLE?!?
posted by Etrigan at 11:51 PM on January 24, 2016

"Tonight's Raw is going to be action-packed!" Stephanie said about fifteen minutes into the opening promo. What it actually was, was a weird time travel episode, with some segments feeling like they came from WWE's future while others were straight out of the past.

After a Triple H speech scientifically calibrated to freak out "smart fans" and a solid Owens match, we got a #SocialOutcasts segment that immediately disappointed me because #SocialOutcasts were full-on standard-issue comedy heels, essentially the 3MB reprise that they'd avoided being in their earlier appearances. Flo Rida hopped the rail and got in the ring because security was not doing its job, and he got into a rap battle with a deliberately awful Bo Dallas. Except, uh, Flo Rida's battle rap wasn't any better. It was one seriously awkward segment.

Styles vs Jericho was great. Jericho had all the energy and fire that had been completely missing from his recent appearances, and it was evident even in his brief promo. Where's this Jericho been? Surprisingly, they're still teasing the Styles Clash without actually letting him hit it. WWE's actually building anticipation for a move.

The French announce table is no longer PPV-only! Hat tip to my sister for suggesting that Owens should come out during someone else's match and join the French team on commentary.

Lynch vs Banks wasn't long enough to really get going but Charlotte's berserk run-in ensured we're getting a triple threat at Fastlane as I'd hoped. When Sasha did the knees to the midsection on Becky you could actually hear Cole stop himself from saying "vintage Sasha" and trying to work around it ("the... style... we've come to know...") because Sasha's too new to be vintage anything.

After visiting the future for the Styles and Divas Title segments, time started warping backwards. Goldust fully reverted to his Attitude Era character as he tried to interest R-Truth in being his partner, and Kane fought Bray Wyatt in a match from a year ago.The crowd turned on the match and decided to chant for Randy Savage, and a Savage cosplayer in the front row got a big cheer by acknowledging it. I'm guessing security ejected Savage to try to compensate for their failure with Flo Rida. The crowd was not happy about it, and obviously this whole situation was far more interesting than the match.

Savage was allowed back in time for The Rock's return, so Rock went over and talked to all the cosplayers, one of whom was dressed as Hogan. WWE had to be thrilled with that. Rock's pre-ring segment was really entertaining, largely because Rock decided to offer up yet another new spin on his character. (Plus we got to see Big Show bust out his comedy chops for the first time in years.) The New Day's interruption was TREMENDOUS ("His name is Byron Saxton! Watch the product!"), but once they came out, the Rock's new great-to-be-here-guys take on his character evaporated, leaving us with Attitude Era Rocky, and not in a good way. Really, Rock? Calling Big E a girl and the New Day "uni-bitches" is the best you've got? That's really the direction you wanted to go? Then the Usos came out and time went into a deja vu loop.

The Divas tag was a complete throwback, a thirty-second match that existed solely to promote Total Divas. I honestly can't believe they're still doing matches like this.

The main event of Reigns/Ambrose vs Sheamus/Rusev returned the show firmly to the present. I ended up fast-forwarding through it. At least Fastlane's main event looks promising. I'd actually be up for Lesnar vs HHH at Mania because it would at least feel special, and Ambrose vs HHH would be fascinating. So we'll probably end up with Reigns vs HHH, but who knows? The choice of the final two in the Rumble may prove to be foreshadowing.
posted by brianrobot at 2:44 AM on January 26, 2016

Who was the last person before AJ Styles to make a WWE debut with zero NXT time (not counting Sting)?
posted by Etrigan at 6:03 AM on January 26, 2016

Found a Reddit thread on the subject and the consensus seems to be that it's either Ambrose, Eva Marie or the original Sin Cara.
posted by brianrobot at 7:10 AM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ambrose vs Owens was good, with a nice chaotic feel. Owens getting launched over the announce table into Cole and breaking his glasses was a unique way to start a match. The best bit was probably Owens getting thwacked with a steel chair and yelling "I hate you!" in response.

That match had a lot of great bits, but my favorite was when Owens was setting up tables and a ringside fan yelled "I feel like you're wasting your time right now".

I think the HHH win is pretty lame but not as terrible as a Reigns victory would have been. He was gone for half the match, with a goofy rule that Cole had to constantly keep telling us about.
posted by graventy at 7:43 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

That match had a lot of great bits, but my favorite was when Owens was setting up tables and a ringside fan yelled "I feel like you're wasting your time right now".

That was literally the only thing my non-fan spouse (Rumble is the only PPV I have to watch live; mostly I catch up the next day at work) really reacted to all night. Mostly, just vague interest, but that line produced peals of laughter.
posted by Etrigan at 7:45 AM on January 28, 2016

unrelated to everything else, I had to buy one of these today: World's Greatest Director Of Operations Mug
posted by jermsplan at 9:05 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

"I feel like you're wasting your time right now"

That cracked me up as well. A fan managed to out-Owens Owens, to Owens.

If anyone didn't watch NXT this week, the opening match is American Alpha vs Blake & Murphy. I would be happy to see that match on the show every week, like ECW's wonderfully endless Rob Van Dam/Jerry Lynn series. There are points where the announcers can't even call the action because they're too busy laughing in disbelief at Gable's offense.
posted by brianrobot at 12:43 PM on January 30, 2016

Ok, so having had a week to watch all the shows and think about it, I'm not upset about HHH winning the Royal Rumble, though I think the whole story could be written better. Honestly it doesn't bother me at all that an old show runner made himself champ, no like it's the first time that's happened, and I've always been a huge HHH mark, so whatever I guess. The thing that's a little frustrating to me is that what I'd really like to see is the end of the current Roman Reigns story arc, and this move does nothing to end it and in fact probably indicates it will continue for several more months before we can hope it would end. I'd love to see younger or newer faces in the title picture, but if we're still going to be stuck in the "Roman overcomes everything put in front of him" story for a few more chapters, I really don't mind one of those chapters being "The guy in charge decides to do things himself." If nothing else, that's usually a good shot to be the last chapter, right? Then we can start a new story of "Roman defends the belt against a huge number of deserving guys, but finally as the favorite and not the completely unbelievable underdog"?

Was it just me, or was King trying REALLY HARD to be a heel on Smackdown? For god's sake, he was arguing against Kalisto as US Champ making really borderline comments about why a luchadore shouldn't be US Champ WHILE DEFENDING HIS PREFERED GUY ALBERTO DEL RIO AND KALISTO TOOK ON NEVILLE. I could barely handle it. Incidentally, this match made me wonder what the argument is against resurrecting the Cruiserweight Championship, particularly with the glut of talent on NXT which is generally viewed as too small for the main roster.

Speaking of NXT, brianrobot is totally right, that match was great. I'd be down for a 5 week series of grudge matches where they go through all the combinations of 1v1 those teams can create followed by a payoff tag match, with plenty of ringside shenanigans. Maybe throw in a few bonus matches by finding a valet for American Alpha and go mixed tag, or have the first tag match ruined by Alexa so then we get yet another tag match where she's banned from ringside.
posted by jermsplan at 2:03 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Didn't see Smackdown, mainly because I forgot that Kalisto vs Neville was going to be on it. Was it worth checking out? Or did they have a match where both guys somehow simultaneously wrestled as underdogs?

finding a valet for American Alpha

It'll never happen, but goddammit, Blue Pants is so dweebily eager that she'd be a perfect match. Team Happy To Be Here!
posted by brianrobot at 9:55 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ha, brianrobot, when you put it like that I guess I was damning with faint praise more than I realized.

The Kalisto vs Neville match was pretty good, but may just make you wish it had been better. My feeling was that the first minute or so was really fun, both guys going full speed, offensive, not playing the ultimate underdog. Then there was a huge out of ring spot, followed by a lengthy recovery and a commercial break, and after commercial everything was slow, big spots with a big buildup, then a pretty decent finish. Still, it seems like the bookers see them as big spot machines, and the match kind of reflected that, whereas I feel like a 5 minutes match that was fast and furious like the start of this match would have been better overall.
posted by jermsplan at 7:29 AM on February 2, 2016

Agreed. But alas, Vince hates speedsters and he loves smaller guys as underdogs -- there was a lot of that shit on this past Raw -- and that never ceases to tick me off. I miss NXT Kalisto, who went up against The Ascension (way back when they were The Unbeatable Tag Team instead of a bad joke) as an equal instead of a long shot. This is the guy I want to see, not the one who hits a fifteen second flurry of offense and then spends the next eight minutes getting planted before pulling his finisher out of nowhere for the come-behind victory. Byron Saxton actually said, "The 'Lucha Lucha' chant is all about fighting uphill battles" this week. NO IT FUCKING ISN'T. Then we had a Miz TV with A. J. Styles that was all about how he supposedly spent his entire career overcoming a size issue that DOESN'T EXIST outside of WWE. This, on an episode that gave us Big Show vs Erick Rowan -- a match that no one outside of Vince McMahon wanted to see -- and about a zillion lines on commentary about mosquitoes being swatted and big guy crushes little guy because that's just physics. Fucking awful.

Speaking of fucking awful, if Ambreigns (thanks for that, New Day) at any point start to doubt their unity, then it's official that they're the dumbest characters in WWE right now, because Steph told them TO THEIR FACE that that's what she's doing, and if they watch the tape of their match back, they'll hear Heyman saying he and Lesnar are up to the same thing. Everyone is broadcasting their intentions to play devious tricks on them. That is not how devious tricks work. They might as well have had Triple H walk on and say, "I'm the Game, and the game I'm playing with you is a mind game. You're about to be cerebrally assassinated by the Cerebral Assassin, and you'll never trust each other again, which is why you'll lose."

On the other hand, the brief walk-on HHH actually did made me more excited for a Triple H/Lesnar match at Mania than literally months of HHH/Roman storytelling has for their potential Mania match. Up until this Raw it seemed like Reigns/HHH at Mania was the obvious headliner, but this ep did get me wondering if we'd instead go HHH/Lesnar for the title and Reigns/Ambrose for the payoff of heartbreak and betrayal. I'd way rather watch the latter than the former. An Ambrose heel turn might give the character the juice he needs, since he's been kinda running on fumes for months now.

Brie Bella once again turned face because someone close to her suffered a serious injury in real life. Charlotte had to be thrilled that Cole invited everyone to use #totaldivas during her match. Her Owens homage has now become a part of her repertoire, which is great. Losing to Brie, maybe not so great, but the look on Ric's face when it happened almost made it worth it. The upside was that it was presented as a fluke loss due to an overly cocky attitude from the champ, which is the only way a Brie victory over Charlotte is even remotely workable.

I kind of love that we're now doing a running thing where Banks and Lynch get to have half of a great match and then some outside shenanigans derail it. They're actually building anticipation for Banks vs Lynch by giving us Banks vs Lynch. The ending with Lynch and Banks unexpectedly uniting against the remains of Team B.A.D. was probably my favorite thing on Raw. (Well, that or the dancing kid in the Bullet Club shirt who froze in surprise when The New Day said they were going to fight him.) I loved that Banks even acknowledged in her promo that she'd been placed in Team B.A.D. by management instead of joining it of her own volition. It felt like the nail in the coffin of the Divas Revolution storyline, and now we can move on to Women's Wrestling, please.

Jericho has decided that his new gimmick is quoting recently dead rock stars. That promo he cut was really heel-hinty. Dude, I've been waiting with bated breath for you to turn since you shoved the Shield. Do it.

Don't really have anything to say about Owens vs Ziggler other than, hey, that was really, really enjoyable.

posted by brianrobot at 1:35 AM on February 3, 2016

NXT was kind of interesting. I don't know if the normal crowd was out of town, or someone told them to STFU for once, or if they really were just too confused by the pacing of the matches to get into their normal obnoxious flow. Unknown Female vs Asuka was not the squash everyone was expecting, and the crowd sounded like a more typical small gym full of local wrestling fans. Then, Finn vs Creed opened with a long sequence of exchanged grapples and holds, and crowd again seemed unsure what to yell, if anything, and mostly sat in silence.

The Finn vs Creed match was really good, in my opinion, though it did annoy me in my (seemingly oldschool) view that they should protect Finishing Moves more than they do. Did Creed need to kick out of a top rope foot stomp to the back of the head? (On a technical note, was this move not a Coup de Gras because Creed wasn't lying on the mat? Is it actually a different move in the WWE's mind? Even the commentary team stumbled when calling that move.) Did Finn need to kick out of the gorilla press into standing moonsault? There wasn't even a title on the line, Creed isn't even #1 (or arguably 2 or 3) contender, why were these two kicking out of one another's signature moves?
posted by jermsplan at 7:35 AM on February 5, 2016

I don't know if the normal crowd was out of town, or someone told them to STFU for once, or if they really were just too confused by the pacing of the matches to get into their normal obnoxious flow.

That was apparently at the end of a long taping session.

Unknown Female vs Asuka was not the squash everyone was expecting

That was most-recent past NWA World Women's Champion Santana Garrett, who they really should just get around to signing.

There wasn't even a title on the line, Creed isn't even #1 (or arguably 2 or 3) contender, why were these two kicking out of one another's signature moves?

Agreed. This whole match was just weird, like Finn showed up at the tapings and they were like, "Oh, shit, you're here and we have nothing for you to do... um... I guess Apollo Crews isn't busy?" They had a few obvious options:
1) Crews wins, thereby tangling up the #1 contendership even more.
2) Baron Corbin runs in again to try to re-assert his contendership, thereby re-igniting a feud with Crews.
3) Bullet Club run-in, giving us weeks of "Is Finn Balor now a heel?" teasing.
4) Wreck two guys' finishers for no reason and end it like a midcard ROH match.
If it had been on Raw, I'd say "Of course, it'll be 4", but on NXT it was kind of the only surprising thing they could do.

American Alpha and Enzo & Cass are still so over I'm kind of surprised every time I get to the end of Raw and realize that I haven't seen them called up yet.
posted by Etrigan at 7:56 AM on February 5, 2016

(sheesh, I was really out to lunch, calling Crews Creed that many times)

Cool deal with Santana Garrett, meant no disrespect calling her Unknown Female. Hopefully we do get to see more of her after that performance.

I am also shocked that American Alpha, Enzo and Cass, and Blake and Murphy all haven't gotten called up yet. Particularly the two face teams, because for god's sake could that division use a new face team. I actually turned on MainEvent the other day, and Uso's music hit to open the show and I said "are you fucking kidding me!?" loudly enough that my wife asked what was wrong.
posted by jermsplan at 1:45 PM on February 5, 2016

And thus ends an era.
posted by Etrigan at 1:10 PM on February 8, 2016

This whole match was just weird

I've been finding a lot of NXT main events bizarrely lackluster lately, with my attention wandering all over the place during what should have been gripping matches like Balor/Crews and Zayn/Joe/Corbin. I can't put my finger on why those matches just didn't click, but thankfully this week's main broke that pattern. Bayley vs Carmella was booked just perfectly, from Carmella making the most of her showcase in what's far and away the best match of her career thusfar, to the complete avoidance of the "former friend turns heel following loss" misstep they could have made, to Eva Marie & Nia Jax's genuinely surprising post-match attack (made all the better by the camera "missing" the start of the attack, as though even the production team had been caught off guard), to Asuka playing off her staredown with Jax at London by making the save, to Asuka declaring her intentions to go after Bayley's title with a creepy little gesture instead of a sneak attack (another potential misstep avoided). Just great stuff.

Baron Corbin turned in a highly entertaining match with Johnny Gargano. Dude's basically become a walking sales pitch for the Performance Center. Had Corbin debuted in WWE proper, he would have been just another dull big man wrestler with a couple of power moves and not much else going for him. Instead we got to see him evolve and grow over time into a capable wrestler with an interesting character and a fun gimmick that involves him taking a common WWE viewpoint -- "a good big guy always beats a good little guy" -- to heart, resenting all the indie guys who resist that attitude. He's become one of those NXT characters who play like a critical commentary of what WWE proper is doing at the moment, which is something that continues to fascinate me about the show.

There were a couple of decent jobber matches. The Drifter had his first non-terrible match, which was still nothing special but at least had a pace you wouldn't refer to as "deliberate." It was like watching him on fast forward, only in real time. The Hype Bros seemed to find themselves when they decided to let Mojo Rawley go from being just a ball of energy to being full-on over-the-top ridiculous, his loopily amusing promos playing like the Ultimate Warrior with his dark side replaced by absurd bro-isms. They had a surprisingly terrific match against The Vaudevillains recently, and their match this week against Those Two Guys Who Seem Like They Should Be Getting Shell Shocked Simultaneously By Ryback was fast-paced and energetic, never once stopping for a rest hold or a breather.

The Bliss/Cameron match was, well, it was a thing. Cameron's clearly in rebuild-from-the-ground-up mode, with a completely different look and a few new moves (that splits kick was actually kinda neat) but she's definitely in the earliest stages of work-in-progress. I'm not going to write her off because Corbin and the Hype Bros are proving that NXT works-in-progress do actually progress, but boy, there's a lot of work ahead. While she at least didn't try to pin Bliss while she was face-down, she DID take a pinfall loss WITH HER FUCKING SHOULDER OFF THE MAT. On the upside, Bliss, Blake & Murphy were in their Freddy gear again. I do wish they'd do the crazy Blake & Murphy camerawork for Bliss's entrance; it REALLY adds a lot to it.

Oh, and we had an American Alpha/Enzo & Cass promo that was every bit as great as you'd expect. NXT had been having one of its periodic dry runs, and this week snapped it out of its doldrums. Plus, the crowd did HEY WE WANT SOME BAYLEY during her intro but not during the match itself, which is the correct and proper way to do it.

There was a WrestleMania promo that aired during the episode, and it seemed like a possible predictor of what matches would be on the show. The only people they showed on it were the people you'd expect to actually appear on Mania, so it was all Reigns, Ambrose, Ziggler, New Day, etc., with nary a lower/midcarder in sight. You know who else was in it? Charlotte, Banks and Lynch. Hmmmm.
posted by brianrobot at 1:27 AM on February 11, 2016

Not much to say about Raw this week; the Daniel Bryan retirement was perfectly handled, super-emotional, and elevated the shit out of what would have otherwise been a modest show. There was a fair amount of fast-forward fodder but nothing really awful (unless I fast-forwarded past it).

The best non-Bryan business was easily Brock Lesnar, who at last was back in full Beast mode. Once again the show did a better job of selling Lesnar/HHH at Mania than any of the alternatives, though the idea of Ambrose pinning Reigns at Fastlane is a pretty intriguing one. I loved Brock just up and throwing a table at Reigns so much. Steph, of course, started playing the mind games on Ambreigns that she told them to their faces she would, and Ambrose insisting on not having Reigns' help against Lesnar implied it might be working, which would be fucking silly. Reigns congratulating Ambrose on doing what he set out to do at least blunted that notion. "I don't think we've seen the last of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, or Brock Lesnar!" #WTFSaxton

Owens vs Ziggler XXIII-or-whatever was another fun match between the two, with Owens' fury at losing to a cheating Ziggler (which Saxton attempted to defend, of course, followed almost immediately by him haranguing Charlotte for doing the same thing) implying that we're heading into Ziggler/Owens No DQ at Fastlane. Fine by me, especially if it actually ends the feud, a strong finale that allows them both to move on to other things. Quotable Owens: "Hey, Cole! Shut up!" (to Cole while he was silently letting the color commentators yammer on), and the glorious, "Hey, Dolph! What's funnier than you? Everything!" When they did the crash-and-burn spot through the ropes that left them both laid out on the floor, someone in the crowd yelled "Aaand commercial!" right as they started fading to commercial. WWE has trained its audience too well.

Charlotte vs Brie Bella at Fastlane? That's... not super-promising on paper. On the other hand, I suspect the entire reason that match was booked was so that Daniel Bryan could be in Brie's corner. This may be the start of working Bryan into the show regularly in a non-wrestling role. All the news stories were saying he was resistant to the idea, but that was before the medical test that led to his retirement.

Speaking of news stories, Titus O'Neil got suspended.
posted by brianrobot at 1:36 AM on February 11, 2016

In re NXT, Brandon Stroud reminds me why he's one of the all-time great recappers: "Sometimes I watch Lucha Underground and wonder why I bother with anything else, and then a dorky Minnesotan wristlock wizard shows up to piss off the New Jersey Calvin and Hobbes by ruining their hip-hop references."
posted by Etrigan at 10:58 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Stardust crashes the Arrow panel at Dallas Comic Con. "Did you know Mercury and Venus have no moons? Did you know? That's the answer to your question. Next."
posted by brianrobot at 12:26 PM on February 14, 2016

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