Raw opened strongly with Sting coming out and getting a chance to actually talk. The huge cheers he got were great and it hammered home how odd it is seeing WCW’s posterboy talking about his upcoming match at Wrestlemania. His writing has improved too. The idea that Sting’s motivation was due to resentment over WCW’s closure has been mercifully dropped in favour of a drive that actually makes sense. Sting doesn’t like Triple H because he’s a bad dude in power. That’s been his M.O. since he started dressing up like The Crow. Not sure why they brought Stephanie out before her husband though. Seemed like needless filler until HHH got out there and responded directly.
I enjoyed the tag match between Dean Ambrose, R-Truth, Luke Harper and Stardust. It had some decent spots and I thought all of the competitors got their moment to shine. Having Bad News Barrett on commentary sizing up his opponents for ‘Mania’s Ladder match was cool. I liked the fact that both Stardust and Harper approached BNB like jackals after a lion’s kill. Interested, but not willing to take it from him.
We then had a 10 man tag team match which struck me as a bit of a clusterfuck. It was an alright enough match, but the only reason for it being on the show was to promo the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale (or ARMBAR as its known colloquially). Nice to see Zack Ryder wrestling on Raw again. Also, more solid heel work by The Miz to Mizdow. That feud is so close to happening I can taste it.
Randy Orton had his fate decided by the WWE App voters who smartly decided that Seth Rollins and J&J Security were more interesting opponents than the boring Coporate Kane and the fucking boring Big Show. The match didn’t last long before Rollins cowardly jumped out of the ring and Orton RKOed and pinned Jamie Noble.
My favourite match of the night was the Divas title match between Paige and Nikki Bella, accompanied by AJ Lee and Brie Bella respectively. This was actual storytelling, a luxury not normally afforded to the women’s division. Every Raw Recap I’ve done I’ve mentioned Nikki Bella, but she gets better week after week. She wrestles like a brute and she did some amazing heel work. Her cocky push-ups as Paige was struggling to get to her feet is classic villainous behaviour and it was great to see. Paige and AJ are clearly going to have difficulties being on the same team at ‘Mania and that’s added a layer of interest to an already highly anticipated match-up. The crowd really reacted to it as well, with plenty of cheers for Paige and boos for Nikki. Good stuff.
Then we start to decline in quality. There was a bit involving Snoop Dogg, Curtis Axel and Hulk Hogan which just irked me. Curtis Axel has been doing his “Axelmania” bit for a while now, the whole joke gimmick spun from his non-entry into the Royal Rumble. It’s been surprisingly popular with people, but they seem to have put a stop to it by having Hulk Hogan come out and punch him. Then Hogan and a terrifyingly skinny Snoop flex in the ring for what seemed like an eternity. An odd and cringeworthy segment.
More tag team action with a 6 person “interspecies match” involving Cesaro, Tyson Kidd and Natalya versus Los Matadores and little bull man El Torito. Match wasn’t particularly interesting and it featured a dumb ending where Natalya was pinned by El Torito. Next.
Hey Jack Swagger’s back to lose against Rusev again! The match was alright, but Cena’s interference at the end was as telegraphed as anything. The idea of Rusev snapping since he hasn’t got Lana in his corner is a cool one, but I can’t help but feel that Cena’s mighty beatdown at the hands of Rusev is just setting Cena up to overcome the odds for the 5983rd time at Wrestlemania.
I’ve been talking for weeks about how much I’ve been enjoying Bray Wyatt‘s promo segments and tonight was the best one yet. Hearing Wyatt talk about vague stuff and about “following the buzzards” is all well and good, but it soon loses its shine when you realise that he hasn’t actually said anything of meaning. This run of him goading The Undertaker into a match has had his rambling monologue game on point. He seems to actually have a purpose and a proper motivation. Again, you may find the whole supernatural element a bit cheesy, but I love crap like that. The speech started off fairly standard but soon took a turn into awesome territory. You can hear the defiant Undertaker chants slowly die down as Wyatt takes it to a more intense level. It is disappointing that we won’t see Taker until Wrestlemania, as an appearance would have blown the roof off, but I’m happy with him saving that for the big PPV. The fact that Wyatt has hyped the match on his own is nothing short of brilliant. I’m really looking forward to it.
Daniel Bryan had a fun match with Dolph Ziggler. Both men are incredibly gifted athletes and the crowd love them. There may be hints at a possible rivalry between them sometime down the road and I’d be down for that. Dean Ambrose was voted as the special guest referee (which is bullshit because I voted for Stardust) and he had some good moments too. Ziggler won a clean victory over Bryan, which is unusual. After the match, everything devolved into chaos and all 7 men who will compete for the IC title got in the ring for an impromptu ladder match. I don’t know why Creative does this. Two of the matches tonight (the 10 man tag and this) have been the match we’re going to see at Wrestlemania, but shitter. Instead of building hype, it robs the big event of some of its spectacle. I mean, what’s so special about a battle royale at ‘Mania when you pretty much did it in the weeks leading up to it? Also, it looked like Luke Harper legitimately hurt his leg when the ladder crashed down on it. Hope he’s still in the match on Sunday.
More Heyman! Hooray! Although his speech wasn’t the best he’s done, it was still entertaining. Finally we got to see Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar stand toe-to-toe in the ring. Trouble is, it led to one of the dumbest endings to Raw I’ve ever seen. So, if you buy into the hype that Lesnar’s a beast and Reigns is the only badass able to stop him, what’s the last thing you want to see them doing? Is it squabbling over the title like schoolgirls fighting over a doll? Because it fucking should be because that’s what happened. The show ended really abruptly too which added to the WTF nature of it all. Can’t believe they ended the last Raw before Wrestlemania with a limp tug-of-war. Sigh.
I’m aware that I’ve given every Raw so far 3 stars. I really wanted this Raw to knock it out of the park so I could talk about how much I love wrestling when it’s good. The problem is that this has been a bit of a shaky road to Wrestlemania, full of mixed bag episodes. There were parts of this episode of Raw I lapped up and parts that made me question why the hell I’m watching. Here’s hoping Wrestlemania is a good one. See you on the other side.