WWE Raw: The Fastlane Go-Home
February 17, 2016 6:17 AM - Season 24, Episode 23 - Subscribe

Okay, so Raw has been on an upswing lately. And this one was pretty good too, with a hot Fatal Fiveway for the Intercontinental title to start, buildup for an Ambrose-Reigns schism, and the Wyatt Family weirdly ending the show by running away from Ryback, Kane, and the Big Show.

Fastlane (a.k.a. "That One Between The Rumble And Mania No Not The Elimination Chamber They Got Rid Of That One Remember") is upon us.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose in a #1 contender match -- Another year, another Fastlane featuring Reigns trying to establish himself as the top face in the company. Will we finally get the last Shield breakup? Will we see Lesnar annihilate everyone? Will we... okay, pretty much everyone agrees that it's Reigns to go to WrestleMania, but the combination of the top face, Brock Lesnar, and a good in-ring worker produced gold in the Royal Rumble last year, so maybe this will be good despite the lack of suspense.

Charlotte vs. Brie Bella for the *sigh* Divas Championship -- Brie has announced her retirement, probably for later this year. Will she get a valedictory title run?

Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship -- Can the nth iteration of this match steal the show? Can Owens finally parlay his belt into the main event? Can Ziggler sell every move like he's been shot?

Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship -- It's on the pre-show, but it's two out of three falls, so it might be worth the effort.

Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks vs. Naomi and Tamina -- Is it progress that a men's title match got bumped to the pre-show in favor of a fairly pointless women's match? We'll take what we can get if it means Lynch and Banks getting a chance to rip off some limbs.

The Wyatt Family (minus Bray) vs. Kane, the Big Show, and Ryback -- Nnnope. Can't be made to care anymore, WWE. You squandered the Eater of Worlds, and his backup band vs. two guys who were big in the '90s and one guy who only seems like he's been around for that long just ain't doin' it for us anymore.
posted by Etrigan (40 comments total)
In other Raw news, that weird-looking ending to the Big E-Mark Henry match was definitely because Henry got busted up, but he says "I'll live".

Wade Barrett will not be signing his next contract, after years of derailing injuries.

And rumor is that Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and Enzo & Cass will be called up very soon (possibly as early as this weekend, in the case of the New Jersey Calvin & Hobbes).
posted by Etrigan at 6:26 AM on February 17, 2016

I only watched the first hour or so, but man, that fatal five-way was refreshing. Even if it was ultimately a sort of cheap last-minute way to strip the title from Ambrose, it was fun as hell, especially the run up to the finish. And Miz and Styles put on a fun match, too. I even enjoyed Jericho on commentary putting Styles over, although once he picked up the mic to address the crowd he turned back into 2016 Jericho, and fuck that crowd sideways for Whatting all over them.

I'll probably watch Fastlane in fast-forward next Monday. Because I'm not staying up past bedtime to watch any of that.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:49 AM on February 17, 2016

Oh my goodness, super-excited: Premiering on Wednesday 7/13 on the WWE Network at 9 PM will be the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series, planned as a ten week series that will follow 32 Cruiserweight competitors striving to prove they are the best Cruiserweight in the world. The tournament will be populated by 32 competitors from all over the world seeking not just the chance to perform and win but to do what every pro wrestler dreams of doing - getting themselves over in the eyes of WWE as well as making a name for themselves in front of the biggest audience possible. Here's another interview with HHH about the announcement.

okay, pretty much everyone agrees that it's Reigns to go to WrestleMania

Weirdly enough, WWE's barely been pushing that idea, whereas they have been teasing HHH/Lesnar and HHH/Ambrose pretty heavily. I'm not sure if that's misguided misdirection ("Let's make you excited for these two cool possibilities before we take them away and put Roman in there instead, then wonder why you've started booing him again") or if that's WWE putting out some crowd response feelers. Here's hoping it's the latter.

Even if it was ultimately a sort of cheap last-minute way to strip the title from Ambrose

Of course, if Ambrose wasn't going to Mania to face HHH, there'd be no need to strip the title from him...

For a go-home show, Raw was shockingly not bad. It had its faults: the continued misuse of #SocialOutcasts as 4MB, a breathtakingly stupid finish to the League Of Nations match, and a main event of all big-men all the time that was seemingly booked with WWE's perpetual ratings-drop-in-hour-three in mind. But there was also a lot to like: the energizing fatal five-way (with Owens getting the title back! And Breeze being on TV!), Miz/Styles, Paige vs Summer Rae getting actual TV time (with Summer Rae getting the win! And Summer Rae being on TV!), Naomi's wonderfully bizarre kickdancing attack, the whole "Is Ambreigns stupid enough to let Steph and Paul get in their heads even though they told them that was their plan? Ugh, yes they are OH WAIT no they're not" thing (made even funnier by the clueless what-happy crowd booing it), and three unrelated Divas segments (is that a record for Raw?).

On the NXT front, last week felt like a return to form after several fairly lackluster shows, and this week's ep (from the same taping) maintained that feel. Riley/Dillinger was the only lull, and even that was at least functional. The eight-man-tag opener was every bit as energizing as that fatal five-way, with an opening Gable/Dawson grapplefest that was hilarious in its speed. The match got so chaotic that when Enzo blind-tagged Gable in the midst of a cluster-brawl, Gable didn't seem to realize what had happened and sold it like he'd gotten hit from behind. Another round of American Alpha vs Blake & Murphy was announced for next week! They're giving me what I asked for!

We also got the return of the woman whose gimmick is that she gets KO'd by Asuka and then tries to spin it into a positive (so she got KO'd by Asuka), the Rich Brennanalike whose name I've forgotten doing the best reactions to Dana Brooke's patronizing head pat (seriously, that guy's rapidly becoming the male Renee Young) and Zayn/Joe pulling off another great non-shenanigans non-finish. Plus, Baron Corbin said, "I'm the kind of person who believes in an eye for an eye... especially when it comes to stealing." So, yeah, don't steal Corbin's eye if you know what's good for you.
posted by brianrobot at 12:18 AM on February 18, 2016

Plus, Baron Corbin said, "I'm the kind of person who believes in an eye for an eye... especially when it comes to stealing." So, yeah, don't steal Corbin's eye if you know what's good for you.

Corbin has managed to make a dumb character good, which is something that even Hollywood can only do sporadically.

Of course, if Ambrose wasn't going to Mania to face HHH, there'd be no need to strip the title from him...

I think it was much more getting the title onto someone else without making Ambrose take a loss to some midcarder (which seems to be a theme with Ambrose and championships).
posted by Etrigan at 6:06 AM on February 18, 2016

Bayley does Finn's entrance (YouTube link)
Finn does Bayley's entrance (Facebook link)
posted by brianrobot at 1:09 PM on February 21, 2016

Lots of great matches on Fastlane (including what was easily a career-best performance by Brie Bella) until it suddenly stopped and turned into a Raw episode for half-an-hour. I love me some New Day, but that was just weird. (And really, Edge? Race-baiting? Wow. Way to make your comedy segment uncomfortable!) And I don't get what Truth vs Axel was even doing on the show. Nothing about either of those segments was PPV-worthy. It was like someone screwed up and swapped the New Day/#SocialOutcasts pre-show bits with the US title match that was supposed to be on the show, and then they were like, "Shit, too late, we just have to run with it."

On the upside, that meant Del Rio/Kalisto (which was far better than their TV matches) got to get called by Mauro Ranallo. I haven't seen Smackdown since he took over -- though I'd heard great things from you guys -- but I'll have to start watching if he's able to bring that much excitement (and analysis! And history! And fucking move-calling!) to the show. He really elevated that match, and seriously outclassed every other WWE announcer. He said "plancha." He said "Frankensteiner." He made the match sound legitimate and important. He even shifted JBL away from all his neon mosquito talk and into discussing Kalisto being Octagon's protege, for fuck's sake. Can we have Ranallo and Graves calling Raw? Please?

Every single match in the Ziggler/Owens feud's been better than the previous one, and the match here was spectacular. Even though this match seemed to put a period on the feud, I wouldn't mind if they kept it going, because at this rate, their WrestleMania match'll be Match Of The Year, and the PPV match after that'll be Match Of The Decade, and on and on until suddenly they've transcended wrestling and become immortal war gods. Also, Ziggler's hair suggested that he really wanted to join Blake & Murphy and make it a three-man team. At one point, JBL yelled "We've got a superkick party!" presumably because he wanted to rile up the internet.

The main event was absolutely terrific until Reigns won. Boy, did that suck the life out of the show. They set off all kinds of pyro and fireworks to try to build excitement for his road to WrestleMania, but all the booing drowned it out. I warned them this would happen if Roman won; they really need to start reading MetaFilter and listening to me because I am wise.

But yeah, other than the disappointing main event finish and the baffling Cutting Edge Peep Show/Comedy Match combo that seemed like an overlong bathroom break segment, this was a really strong, fun show with a lot of great wrestling. Del Rio swinging Kalisto into the ropes and double-stomping him before he had time to react, making that move look credible for the first time ever! Tamina throwing Becky Lynch halfway across the ring clean through the ropes to the floor! Sasha's vertical leap into double knees! Jericho hitting Styles with a dropkick from the floor while Styles was in mid-flight! Charlotte going all-out with a goddamn figure sixteen leglock! Suplex City! The look on Brock's face when Ambrose tried to suplex him! Brock fucking catching Ambrose flying through the ropes! Brock fucking catching Reigns flying off the stairs! Kamura lock out of nowhere! Roman wins LOL.

Was this the first WWE PPV where a women's match opened the show?
posted by brianrobot at 10:24 PM on February 21, 2016

Kimura lock. I knew I should've googled that before the edit window closed.
posted by brianrobot at 10:34 PM on February 21, 2016

How sad is it that Fastlane was basically a 3-star Raw?

Was this the first WWE PPV where a women's match opened the show?

I was thinking the same thing, and you have to admit, if you're looking for a hot match to start things off, that was a pretty good choice. Naomi elevated her game, and Tamina was used well for what she can do.

Owens-Ziggler reminds me of Bret Hart's programs against Ric Flair and Sting in WCW, which they and the announcers all sold as the men trying to determine who was the best wrestler in the world, except they never had any titles at the time because of the NWO, so we were forced to ignore the fact that the best wrestling parts of a wrestling show were being done in a vacuum while the big idiot soap opera plotlines got the main events and the championships.

So I guess the Wyatt experiment is officially over now? The best thing I can say about this match is that Ryback turned it the fuck up.

Charlotte can't carry a broomstick to a four-star match like her dad, but she can carry a mediocre wrestler to one, and that's good enough for now.

They buried the Styles Clash in its first PPV appearance. *sigh*

Gods, I miss Edge & Christian, but that segment was a clusterfuck of epic proportions (even "Where are you going? Barrett hasn't gotten to glare at anyone menacingly yet!" couldn't save it). Did we just see the New Day's official face turn?

I warned them this would happen if Roman won; they really need to start reading MetaFilter and listening to me because I am wise.

This is the second straight year that Roman Reigns takes on the actual most popular wrestler on the roster at Fastlane. Every Fastlane card has had that plotline. When will they realize that pushing Reigns as the ultimate babyface champion won't work if they keep putting him against other faces. Ambrose is one of the most popular guys on the roster, and Lesnar is over just because he's Brock Fucking Lesnar. The height of Reigns' post-Shield popularity was when he beat unalloyed heel Sheamus, and when he takes on (even by proxy) Daniel Bryan or Dean Ambrose, he is at best grudgingly accepted as That Guy They Want Us To Cheer For, Whatevah. The pop for Ambrose hitting Reigns with the chair was measurably louder than the pop for the finish.
posted by Etrigan at 8:37 AM on February 22, 2016

Ok, aside from 3 completely inexplicable segments, that PPV was far better than I expected. Etrigan, I'm not sure if your rating system has a max of 3 stars, or 5, but if you're saying that was a fantastic episode of RAW then I agree. Basically the best RAW in forever.

The Wyatts lose? An episode of the Cutting Edge Peep Show? An R-Truth v #SocialOutcasts match? What on earth was happening there? Part of me really badly hoped R-Truth was going to come down and get on the mic and say something ridiculous like he was ready for his Money In The Bank match or something, then do his "my bad, this is on me" thing, because he kills me with those, plus it would have been the only thing that made sense. I was trying to figure out which match on that card felt cut short or rushed, like they realized the PPV was going to end way early and wanted to pad it out, but I can't think of one, honestly. Maybe brianrobot is right, and that was supposed to be the kickoff show, but they decided to put something big on the preshow to try and actually get buyers? I have no idea.

Otherwise, minus the pin that ended the night, I thought the show was terrific. The absolute worst thing about the pin at the end (for me anyway) is that Ambrose hit Roman with the chair twice. I don't know if that's on the bookers, or on Ambrose, but all they had to do was have Ambrose lay into Brock, look to Roman, have an obvious crisis of friendship, decide not to hit Roman, go back to hitting Brock, and at least that way the "turn around into a spear from the brother he just decided to spare" works on so many levels that "turn around to get speared by the guy who just got hit in the back by a chair twice but I guess wasn't really hurt all that bad" doesn't. Oh well.

So speaking of commentary teams,
Byron Saxton said Brock is "built to destruct" and unfortunately it was the last thing said before the commentary team had to shut up to allow us to watch/hear Brock's pyros and whatnot, so it just hung in the air. In fairness, out of curiosity I googled it and it turns out that is actually a valid word, though not a particularly common usage, and I'm not just sure I'm willing to give Saxton's vocabulary that kind of credit.

jesus, no one cares so I just deleted a tremendously long rant, but here it is as short as I can make it: Show, Don't Tell. Like highschool creative writers learn. When the Diva's Title match ends and Cole says "Guys, I think when Brie tried to shift her grip her injured leg gave out and that allowed Charlotte to kick out" or whatever he said, WTF? I'm not listening to this on the radio. I just watched it happen. If I didn't pick up on that nuance from the on screen moving images, don't have Cole try to revise history 11 seconds after it happened.
posted by jermsplan at 12:54 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

oh, and randomly, I want to give the "subtle but excellent work that saved a botch" award to the ref of the AJ v Y2J match, who dropped to the mat and was ready to count the pin when Jericho came off the second rope a little awkwardly and fell over onto AJ, rather than step directly into a Walls like he clearly wanted to. Surely the ref knew that wasn't an intentional pinning situation, but he played it like a ref actually would in an unscripted wrestling match, and made that situation a lot better.
posted by jermsplan at 12:57 PM on February 22, 2016

I'm not sure if your rating system has a max of 3 stars, or 5, but if you're saying that was a fantastic episode of RAW then I agree.

Eh, I might go to 4 out of 5, but a great Raw has more of a throughline than Fastlane did.

And now, welcome to Detroit, motherfuckers.

SHANE. O. MAC. I'm not too enthused at the prospect of either Undertaker mauling Shane for 20 minutes or Shane somehow pulling out a win, but I am intrigued enough to be intrigued. Except that he's going to take on the ultimate face at the behest of the ultimate heel. Do we cheer for Shane? Don't make me cheer for Shane, WWE. Please.

Ambrose as truly unhinged is also good (but really, another ambulance return?), and this is a logical feud for both him and Lesnar that can elevate both -- Lesnar as monster heel, Ambrose as crazy-ass face who won't stay down. If they book the match right, this can set up years worth of plotlines.

Marking time with the Usos/Ascension... marking time with Jericho-Styles/Outcasts... marking time with the Wyatts/Kaneshowback...

Becky/Sasha #1 contender match? Yesplease.

And for our main event, as mentioned earlier, welcome to Detroit, motherfuckers. Where the Sheik reigned supreme for a blood-soaked generation.

So... is this leading to a Reigns heel turn? Are they starting a five-week bend toward someone else in the main event at WrestleMania? Did they just screw up again and not realize that A) people have once again tired of Reigns, and/or B) Detroit was going to cheer for blood?
posted by Etrigan at 6:20 AM on February 23, 2016

Freebirds confirmed for the Hall of Fame. I assume that Vince has already assigned a full-time handler to make sure Hayes doesn't go off on a racist rant in the next five weeks.
posted by Etrigan at 11:42 AM on February 29, 2016

I was too wiped from working crazy overtime last week to comment on a pretty eventful Raw, but my schedule's back to normal this week, so I have all kinds of time to talk about... um... Raw Is Filler. Great.

What was great was that post-endless-promo opening match for the #1 Divas Contender spot. Lynch and Banks tore it up (that reversal-happy grapplefest early on was tremendous), and the Nashville crowd was into it. When they did the Zayn/Joe NXT finish and the audience started chanting TRIPLE THREAT, I could not have been happier. Good on you, Nashville! The fact that the finish actually set up a rematch on Smackdown instead of the Mania triple threat was... weird? I guess they're going to go full Zayn/Joe with this heading into Mania, with them continually fighting to a tie. Given that Banks/Lynch is a match I would happily watch on a weekly basis, though, I can't complain. (And Banks/Lynch being called by Mauro Ranallo may well get me to finally tune back in to Smackdown, even if Lawler's presence makes me a little wary.)

The rest of the show was, yeah, well. I think the only other match I watched in full was Y2AJ vs New Day. The Team That Should Not Exist got the unsurprising win, with Y2AJ parlaying it into a title match at... oh, next week's Raw? It's like they're anti-pushing Mania. Styles, of course, got to look like a star by getting beat up for a while until Jericho got the win. Jesus Christ. On top of that, New Day's starting to worry me. Their act is feeling stale at this point. This CANNOT STAND.

They actually spent a segment on Renee Young asking Natalya her secret to looking good, like something out of an E! puff piece, and it was FACE VALUE. What.

I did like that the announcers were trying to figure out how Undertaker felt about being shoved into a match where a Taker victory would actually benefit the Authority, but his "explanation" turned out to be completely empty. I would be very pleasantly surprised if, at Mania, Taker simply laid down for Shane's pin, causing a furious Vince to send in all manner of undercard wrestlers and lackeys in an attempt to destroy the both of them, in turn leading to a chaotic all-over-the-cell brawl that decimates everyone involved. I don't expect anything like that; what I do expect is that at some point Shane's gonna drop an elbow off the top of the cell to his prone foe on the outside, because how can he not?

After all of last week's attempts to relive the Attitude Era, this week they thankfully limited the '90s nostalgia to Vince saying "Shane will no longer be my son... he'll just be a son of a bitch." Which I was surprised didn't bring an angry Linda out. It's just as well, though, seeing as how "anger" and "Linda McMahon" don't really work well together, and really, does anyone want to see the return of Linda "Cuttin' Promos Like Sy Sperling, President Of Hair Club For Men" McMahon?

Are they starting a five-week bend toward someone else in the main event at WrestleMania?

As curious as I am to see Lesnar vs Ambrose, I was disappointed when they announced it because I'd been hoping against hope that Ambrose would rile up HHH and end up taking his title, leading to Face Ambrose vs Heel Reigns at Mania, and Lesnar/Ambrose put the kibosh on that. And then this week they started leaning in that direction anyway! Curiosity: Piqued. ("Hey, Hunter. Thanks," may have also been my single favorite Ambrose line, period.)

no one cares so I just deleted a tremendously long rant

I for one am clearly opposed to lengthy comments in wrestling threads.
posted by brianrobot at 12:00 AM on March 1, 2016

I actually was so into Steph's promo that I caught myself thinking "Shit, if ever a promo called for a mic-drop, this is it" about 60 seconds before she spiked it. On reflection, though, she was a little bit all over the map and really I think I was mostly hoping the middle of it was going to twist into a serious feminist Women's Revolution theme...on WWE RAW HAHAHHA I must have been drinking.

I'm also looking forward to seeing how many ways Joe/Samy and Becky/Sasha can wrestle to a draw in the coming weeks. Unfortunately it doesn't make much sense to throw a third person in with the women to replay the double-submission, but maybe they think they can save that for WM? Hm, I feel like they avoid Dusty finishes at WM. Maybe on Smackdown this week the two of them will take the physicality up a notch and result in a double countout or something.

In case you missed it, Barrett actually competed on Smackdown last week, both landing and receiving wrestling moves. Is there any hope that the League of Booty disbands in the near enough future to give him a big enough singles push to get him to reconsider his announced retirement from the WWE? I'd assumed we'd just never see him wrestle again, merely play the LoN member who hangs out ringside, but now I have probably misplaced hope.
posted by jermsplan at 12:57 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

When they did the Zayn/Joe NXT finish and the audience started chanting TRIPLE THREAT, I could not have been happier.

That even managed to get me to stop laughing at Lilian for announcing the result as "Therefore, the following contest is a draw." But, man, did they need to not replay it quite so many times so we could see how blatantly Sasha had to set it up -- legs over arms, then flop more than 90 degrees back and throw her arms out to take the pin.
posted by Etrigan at 1:45 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

The New Day have a positivity box.
posted by brianrobot at 11:08 PM on March 1, 2016

The dope freshness that is Chad Gable got the ultimate stamp of approval.
posted by Etrigan at 6:09 AM on March 2, 2016

Rhyno announced he's running for Michigan state representative, and did so by posting one of the greatest pictures in the history of Twitter.
posted by brianrobot at 10:33 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

None of the articles I can find say which party he's in, but that's a pretty safe Dem seat -- after the last round of redistricting, the guy he'd like to replace won by 50 and 45 points.
posted by Etrigan at 7:23 AM on March 4, 2016

Oh, damn, he's a Republican.
posted by Etrigan at 3:44 PM on March 4, 2016

The Big Bossman gets his due. I have written before of my unalloyed fandom of Ray Traylor.
posted by Etrigan at 12:21 PM on March 7, 2016

Holy shitballs was that an NXT. I had a feeling that when they started with what was clearly the main event, that even though they were claiming there would be Bayley-and-Asuka and Alpha/Vaudevillains action, this thing might go the distance. I kinda wish they'd admitted it up front just so we were ready for forty-three goddamn glorious minutes of Sami Zayn getting his ass kicked. Probably won't end up being on any Match of the Year shortlists, but what a war.
posted by Etrigan at 7:37 AM on March 10, 2016

Oh, and also: why is it that William Regal, an actual Brit, can't pronounce the word "Baron"? Is he just rebelling against the idea of some Yank having an aristocratic title as a name? Does he actually think that Corbin's first name is Byron?
posted by Etrigan at 7:47 AM on March 10, 2016

Going back to RAW:

Was it just me, or was every WM match Ambrose suggested in his tirade better sounding than what's actually on the card? Oh well.

That tag title match was terrific, top to bottom. And the AJ/Y2J story being told is really well done so far too. Though if I were a parent of a kid who had just shelled out the cash for the AJ/Y2J shirt, I'd be a little bitter.

To Diva's Title story right now is probably my favorite thing going. Honestly, the way they keep teasing us by having Sasha, Charlotte and Becky in matches, but those matches always getting ruined just has me so hyped to actually get to see it at WM.


Just awesome. I know it won't work every time, and especially a RAW crowd or whatever might not buy into it, but just the shear amount of time they spent at the start selling regular ass moves no fancier than a clothesline or stiff kick...wonderful.
posted by jermsplan at 7:26 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Though if I were a parent of a kid who had just shelled out the cash for the AJ/Y2J shirt, I'd be a little bitter.

Putting out Y2AJ shirts was the biggest heel move anyone in wrestling has pulled in years.

Honestly, the way they keep teasing us by having Sasha, Charlotte and Becky in matches, but those matches always getting ruined just has me so hyped to actually get to see it at WM.

I feel the same way, and I do not understand why that is working so well when the exact same formula has been so overused that it typically enrages me. Especially considering that we've seen virtually every possible configuration of those three in NXT within the last couple of years.
posted by Etrigan at 11:49 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

So, Roadblock, the show whose entire build was about the way it could CHANGE THE FACE OF WRESTLEMANIA, didn't change a damn thing. Which is bad enough, but it's even more irritating in the face of how good Roadblock was. If that show had ended with an Ambrose victory, if his feet hadn't been "under the ropes" when he got the pin, it would have capped off the best WWE special event, PPV or otherwise, in months. Instead, we got a bunch of spectacular matches that changed absolutely nothing. The next show after Mania should just be called WWE Stasis.

The closest thing to a change came with the first match, which was clearly an experiment in New Day turning face. It was alright, nothing near the level of that awesome recent match they had with Y2AJ, and it made the baffling decision of having New Day cheat to win as faces, but hey, that's the WWE Face for you. Smile, be friendly, bully your enemies and do anything you can to get ahead. Heroism! Meanwhile, Michael Cole referred to "the former brawler" Wade Barrett. Um, ouch. It was Let's Disrespect Barrett Night, apparently, as the crowd even hit him with a YOU CAN'T WRESTLE chant, to which he was all like, "Fuck you, here's a tornado suplex, which is actually a thing!"

Heyman called Toronto "the new capitol of Suplex City," which has to be right up there with "the following match is a draw."

Jericho had about as good a match with Jack Swagger as one could have with Jack Swagger. WWE apparently decided to test Jericho's heel promo abilities by putting him up against someone Canada should HATE. It was a weird choice, and the result was, at best, mixed? Y2J was left with a smallish pro-Jericho contingent but managed to successfully alienate the majority, who mustered a Pavlovian response to WE THE PEOPLE (of all things) but not much else. At one point, Cole started a line with, "Many say, Byron, that..." and I swear to god I thought he was going to finish with "...Chris Jericho started the Divas Revolution." On his way out, Jericho ripped in half a fan's GET WELL BRET sign, which has to be one of the great heel moves of all time. (Points to the fan for just holding up the two ripped halves, one in each hand, for the rest of the show.) JBL's unceasing chanting of YOU STILL GOT IT as Y2J left got weirdly unsettling the longer it went on.

Then we got the big NXT show-stealing block, as we got rematches of Revival vs Enzo & Cass and Charlotte vs Natalya that both not only knocked it out of the park, but actually topped the original NXT bouts. Those were two electrifying matches -- the women's match, in particular, being possibly the best match either of its competitors has ever had -- and the crowd rightly rewarded both with THIS IS AWESOME chants. If they let Charlotte, Lynch & Banks go at Mania the way they let Charlotte and Natalya go here, they're going to own the show, no question. The Revival retaining was a real surprise, given that Roadblock seemed like the perfect platform for a title change. JBL's utter enthusiasm for calling the Revival's moves was pretty endearing. Byron got in one of his patented fuck-ups, misinterpreting all the talk of the Revival being throwbacks as them being throwbacks to the days of Edge & Christian and the Hardys and the Dudleys. UH NO BYRON.

Brock destroying Harper was great fun in the way that all Brock Destroying Somebody matches are. He's well and truly inherited the Special Attraction aura from the Undertaker; he really was the right person to end the streak. I just adored the Harper attempts suplex/Lesnar drops between Harper's legs to come up behind him/SUPLEX sequence. The fact that Lesnar didn't fight Wyatt after all strongly suggested, in the moment, that WWE'd decided to put that match on reserve for WrestleMania with Ambrose vs Reigns in the main. But alas.

NXT Night continued with Sami Zayn, but holy shit, whoever booked that match needs to go. At first it was like, hey, it's nice to see Stardust get some offense, but good lord. I know Zayn's whole gimmick is always looking like he's on the verge of losing and yet gutting it out, but against Stardust? You've got the announcers heavily hinting that Zayn will face Owens at Mania for the IC title, and while that's happening, we're watching him get DESTROYED by a guy everyone else on the roster can beat in three minutes! This match absolutely should have been a showcase match, like the NXT debut where he wrestled twice in one show and won both times, immediately putting him over as a BFD, and instead Stardust killed him for what honestly felt like half-an-hour. Stardust even kicked out of the fucking Blue Thunder Bomb! The crowd turned on the match, because of course they did, why wouldn't they. It was a misfire that was preventing them from seeing the main event.

Ambrose vs HHH was just so fucking terrific until they blew it in the final moments, as we all feared they would. I can't even begin to get into how much I loved the story of the match, with HHH expecting to easily outwit the wild and undisciplined Ambrose, only to realize to his horror that Ambrose actually came into the match with a strategy. (Ambrose has been proving himself intriguingly devious of late, also manipulating Lesnar into a street fight stipulation that benefits Ambrose because the low blow -- Lesnar's kryptonite -- is legal. It's just, this time the announcers -- except for Byron, in epic fail fashion -- realized Ambrose had a strategy and analyzed it, whereas with Lesnar they just acted like Ambrose was crazy for wanting a streetfight.) The finish, though... Cole kept yelling that the story here was that Ambrose showed he could beat HHH, but the actual story was that Ambrose is shit at ring positioning. I've seen people on Twitter going the conspiracy route and saying Ambrose's feet weren't REALLY under the ropes -- WWE never showed us a good shot of it -- and I hope WWE doesn't take the story that way, because they've played that trope to death. (I don't expect them to, mainly because they've gone to such lengths in the last few months of TV to reestablish "you can't be under the ropes" as a thing.)

So, yeah, another show full of excellent ring work that got me all excited for the future until the closing moments put a big NOTHING CHANGES damper on it. They somehow managed to end a show with LOL ROMAN WINS even though he wasn't on the show. Then again, in a way, things are changing, just bubbling underneath where people aren't paying attention. Did anyone think, a few months ago, we'd be getting Charlotte vs Lynch vs Banks at Mania for the Divas title, and very possibly Owens vs Zayn for the IC? Things might not actually be as stagnant as they feel, after all. (That's another one they can use, though. WWE Stagnant!)
posted by brianrobot at 9:28 PM on March 13, 2016

The Revival retaining was a real surprise, given that Roadblock seemed like the perfect platform for a title change.

The New Jersey Calvin & Hobbes are getting called up within a month. I guess they coulda hotshotted them the belts and then taken them back at Takeover: Dallas, but it's pretty clear that they're going to move the belts to American Alpha at that point, and why waste your two biggest face teams when the Revival can hold their own, heat-wise?

Stardust even kicked out of the fucking Blue Thunder Bomb!

You know my possibly-favoritest thing about Sami Zayn? That hand on the opponent's chest after the Blue Thunder Bomb, like that is the thing that's going to keep someone from kicking out. (Has anyone not kicked out of the Blue Thunder Bomb? It's a setup move at this point.)
posted by Etrigan at 9:52 AM on March 14, 2016

I so badly want to be wrong, but my prediction is that the Roadblock main event was better than the Wrestlemania main event is going to be by a country mile. That match was just amazing. I don't really understand why they went the direction of Ambrose being under the ropes instead of HHH, since it plays into HHH's character better to know where he is. In fact, JBL claimed that HHH knew Ambrose was under the ropes and that's why he didn't waste energy kicking out because he knew the pin was illegal, or something, which, good lord.

I really really enjoyed Roadblock, though in fairness I only really listened to the Brock match and I skipped the Sami match entirely, so that may have helped keep the enjoyment factor up based on brianrobot's review. And on a completely tangential note, I watched HHH fight Ambrose for the World Heavyweight title in full HD on my phone while I walked my dog. Sometimes living in the future is pretty cool, and the WWE is finally killing it with this Network thing.

I'm really hoping that this Wrestlemania is some kind of farewell tour for the Vince way of doing things. A big nostalgic blowout, filled with legends, hype, attendance records, and over the top fanfare. I don't want it to bomb, I want it to be great. But I also want the reviews of NXT shows and of Roadblock to get put side by side with reviews of Wrestlemania. I want commentary on matches by Cesaro, Owens, and Ambrose to get put side by side with commentary on matches by Cena, Roman, and The Undertaker. Let's have everyone over the age of 40 get together after Mania and say "it's been a hell of a ride, boys. Let's go home." [says the biggest HHH mark ever who you wouldn't hear a cross word from if HHH held the title till Summerslam or even Survivor Series.]
posted by jermsplan at 10:54 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Booty-Os my ass!"

"Oh, pandering! How very Cenaesque of you, Dolph!"
    —Stephanie McMahon

"Good job, you landed on your feet, aren't you proud of yourself."
    —Kevin Owens

"We haven't seen Roman Reigns since Triple H destroyed his face!"
    —Michael Cole

"You're gonna go to hit me, and I'm gonna miss. You're gonna miss."
    —Shane McMahon
posted by brianrobot at 11:54 PM on March 14, 2016


Just... ugggh.

Cageside's recapper gave this Raw an M. Yes, on an A-to-F scale, Geno Mrosko went with an M. That's not just cycling through the next set of letters under F, that's cycling through the next set of letters and then starting over again and saying it's in the mediocre area of that. And I can't disagree.
posted by Etrigan at 5:59 AM on March 15, 2016

I bailed as soon as I caught up on the DVR and would have had to start watching commercials, but man ... first I thought the New Day beatdown went on forever, and then, as if to show me what "forever" really felt like, here come Stephanie and HHH and Dolph with an in-ring segment that was longer th...zzzzZZZZZ.

(That segment also gives a pretty good look at why Ziggler is one of those "good hand" midcarders, and not a main eventer. He just isn't that good on the mic.)
posted by uncleozzy at 8:53 AM on March 15, 2016

Neville will likely miss WrestleMania. Ironic, that The Man That Gravity Forgot got hurt on a basic baseball slide.
posted by Etrigan at 9:18 AM on March 15, 2016

yeah, that RAW felt unbelievably bad coming off of Roadblock.

I never expected a ton out of Shane or Dolph on the mic, but good lord were their bits terrible.
posted by jermsplan at 9:56 AM on March 16, 2016

NXT continues to outshine its big brother this week, even in a squashfest.

I couldn't hear what Shinsuke Nakamura said, but just seeing him on a WWE program was outstanding.

Psycho Tomasso Ciampa is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. And by the way, I've been watching his opponent, Jesse Sorenson, on Paragon Pro Wrestling out of Las Vegas lately (one of my local stations in Detroit is literally the only over-the-air source for it, go figure), and it's a pretty fun hour every week. Whoda thought that Gangrel can still go.

Gable throws an absolutely ill rollup into a German suplex on one of the 'Villains that is worth the price of admission alone. I am asquee with anticipation of what Alpha and the Revival are going to do to each other.

I agree with Sean Rueter's recap about Emma and Dana just treading water at this point, but the Bayley-defeats-the-next-big-thing story arc of 2016 is making it tough for them. We're capable of following more than one women's division plotline at a time -- they need to give someone (*cough*PeytonRoyce*cough*) a dark-horse win over Emma/Dana to liven things up.

Corey Graves: best heel commentator in the world right now, or best heel commentator of the 21st Century?
posted by Etrigan at 8:46 AM on March 17, 2016

I never expected a ton out of Shane or Dolph on the mic, but good lord were their bits terrible.

Poor Shane's stuck trying to sell a monumentally nonsensical storyline where he plays a heroic blackmailer trying to cheat his way into running the show, while being opposed by a monster who's willingly being puppeteered by his evil master, except he doesn't want to believe that about himself, and also, they're both faces? Meanwhile, Vince just swears a lot.

As for Dolph, following his "I'll NEVER join the Authority, NEVER NEVER NEVER!" promo, the only question is whether he'll join them before, during, or shortly after WrestleMania. The weird thing is that this storyline actually is sensical; the Authority's MO has always been to relentlessly browbeat promising potential allies as losers who can't get the job done themselves, so that they ultimately see no choice but to submit to the Authority and become their instruments. (When that technique backfires, you get Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns.) I always preferred Heel Ziggler to Face Ziggler, and Ziggler's plot has been so aimless and unfocused lately that it'll be nice to see him get something he can actually work with, if WWE plays it right. They could even retool the whole "showoff" aspect of his character as desperate attempts to impress The Authority. It might be interesting. Especially since it could lead to a feud with a returning face Seth Rollins ("Don't make the same mistake I did!").

I couldn't hear what Shinsuke Nakamura said

Could anybody? On the one hand, you'd think they'd have done some post-production wizardry to raise his volume, but on the other hand, one of my absolute favorite things about NXT is that it avoids post-production wizardry. The obvious canned audio and altered crowd reactions of Smackdown or any of the WWE B-shows often make them nigh-unwatchable.

Gable throws an absolutely ill rollup into a German suplex

I let out an "OHHHHHH!!!" so loud it probably shook the walls. With the heavy focus on teams like American Alpha, Blake & Murphy, the Vaudevillains, Enzo & Cass, and the Revival (RIP Mechanics) we're getting now, it's as if NXT said, "Okay, we've accomplished our mission in revitalizing women's wrestling. Time to do the same for tag team wrestling."

Corey Graves: best heel commentator in the world right now, or best heel commentator of the 21st Century?

posted by brianrobot at 2:57 PM on March 19, 2016

Corey Graves: best heel commentator in the world right now, or best heel commentator of the 21st Century?


It is clearly not worth it to me to rewatch old episodes to analyze commentary, so I will accept "both" as the correct answer. However, some part of me recalls JBL being a genuinely good heel announcer when he first moved into the position. So fresh from the ring he was calling more moves and being a genuine heel to Cole (probably influenced by so long cutting heel promos in ring). Perhaps it only felt that way and fresh because of how terrible commentary with King as a "heel" had become, but that's how I remember it.

Regardless of whether that memory is true or not, I almost want Graves to stay on NXT forever rather than risk he hit the big time and be told to tone down his current schtick and start selling more straight to dvd Miz releases and call more moves as "What a move!"
posted by jermsplan at 1:02 PM on March 21, 2016

The whole bit where Owens pulled a switcheroo on the triple threat competitors was pretty hilarious. The fact that all the replacements get to join into the IC Title Ladder Match is less awesome, but I guess it's nice for them to get WM paychecks.

Emma showed up on Main Event, which I did not expect. I really don't know what to think of the huge stables of Divas they are building for the Becky/Sasha/Charlotte undercard. It's like they literally can not fathom a divas segment which does not involve all the divas.
posted by jermsplan at 9:00 AM on March 24, 2016

I guess it's nice for them to get WM paychecks.

Any sources anywhere on what those are like these days? One of CM Punk's complaints was that there didn't appear to be a system in place to replace the relatively straightforward "bigger buy rate = more money" equation once the Network hacked into buy rates.
posted by Etrigan at 9:14 AM on March 24, 2016

NXT was again pretty good, but not great.

The Drifter went ham on Johnny Wrestling after his first loss, but Apollo Crews came out of nowhere to protect Gargano. I don't see either of those two being elevated (especially Samson, who's at X-Pac Heat levels at this point) by a feud, but NXT kinda wrote itself into a corner when they let Crews have his title shot so early.

The NXT Champion is in the second match against some new guy? Okay...

Alexa Bliss is a great, great manager whose only weakness is that Dana Brooke is better at essentially the same character. She is not near that level in the ring, though.

American Alpha rocks, as always. Jason Jordan has benefited more from being in a tag team than anyone I can think of.

Kind of weird how they ended up using Bull Dempsey more after his release than they ever had before.

Asuka/Emma was surprisingly back-and-forth, and really shows how good Emma can be (and Asuka, but duh). I legit thought they were going with a plotline where the #1 contender loses right before taking the title, so Emma could demand title shots forever.
posted by Etrigan at 9:32 AM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Drifter had go-away heat with me until this week when I finally got it. You can't get a heel over with the Full Sail crowd with just a dumb gimmick or a stupid look (see Tye Dillinger, or Bull Fit for chrissakes), because if they can have fun with it, they'll be into it. So what do you give them? Nothing. Samson is a 'drifter', but he doesn't do anything. I mean, sometimes he plays his guitar, but mostly he just stares at the crowd, and they hate it.

When he lost, the crowd genuinely loved it, just like they're supposed to when a babyface beats a heel. And the reaction Crews got when he came out for the save was the best he's gotten in a while, I think.

That being said, though, I agree that feuding with Elias Samson isn't going to help Crews much. NXT definitely needs somebody in the role that Tyler Breeze used to fill - a legit contender for the title who wouldn't be hurt by losing to someone a rung or two lower on the ladder.
posted by sporkwort at 9:14 PM on March 26, 2016

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