WWE Raw Recap – 20th April, 2015

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After being off last week, imagine my annoyance when it transpired WWE did some actual storytelling on the one episode I wasn’t covering.

Randy Orton kicked things off, waxing lyrical about his stipulations match with Seth Rollins at Extreme Rules. Both men have their own stipulation, Randy made it a cage match to prevent interference and Seth banned Orton’s finishing move, the RKO. I think both are pretty weak sauce. I can take Orton making it a cage match, but banning a finisher is dumb. I’m liking babyface Orton. I had my doubts, as Orton does some stellar heel stuff, but it’s working for me. He’s an underrated mic talent too. Rollins came out and cut a decent smug promo about how he’s too busy and important to listen to Orton’s posturing. I hope the PPV match manages to overcome the lame rules put in place.

Dean Ambrose faced off against Luke Harper next. Don’t let commentary fool you. This rivalry has not really “been building for weeks and weeks”. Harper powerbombed Ambrose through a ladder at Wrestlemania and did it again through a table on Smackdown. Feud for the ages this one. To be fair, sometimes a simple rivalry can be just as entertaining as the more complicated ones. They had a pretty tame match that went outside the ring and involved a lot of weak punches and walk-fighting their way through the crowd. Harper escaped, leaving Dean to clench his fists and curse it all to heck. I’m sure you’ll get that dastardly Harper next week, Dean.

The New Day went against the Lucha Dragons in a tag match. The Dragons were as entertaining as ever, but the real growth came from New Day. They’ve been slowly turning to the dark side and I have to say I’m a fan. A faction with a slapped together gimmick is dumb, but a faction angry that the fans don’t accept them and cheat to win is a lot better. They walked out the number 1 contenders for the tag championship and I hope they get it. People hate New Day and it would be fantastic to have some heel champs for a change. Oh – and then Randy Orton came out and RKO’d people. Here’s the thing: it’s a damn cool move and its versatility is one of its great strengths. To go on and on about this one move makes it seem that there’s not much else to him other than the RKO. It’s silly that other people talk about the RKO like Orton’s carrying a shotgun. They’re only making a bit deal of it since it became a bit of a meme. It seems rather pandering to me.

Triple H returned to shill WWE’s newly revived Tough Enough reality show. I was ready to start checking Twitter when Kane came out, pissed that Triple H has been dodging his calls. After weeks of bitching about the limbo Kane and Big Show were in, they actually seem to be doing something with them, which is a nice change of pace. Kane has had enough of Seth’s attitude and tried to give HHH his two-week notice. Things took a turn for the awesome as Rollins, entitled douchebag that he is, interrupted and Kane gave him a righteous talking-to. Triple H remedied the situation by making Kane a “guardian of the gate” at the Steel Cage, No RKO, WHC fight at Extreme Rules. I’m hoping Kane finally has reached his limit of being a corporate stooge and snaps. Fingers crossed.

Naomi was in singles action with Brie Bella. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the bad guys, but I like Naomi’s heel turn as well. At first it seemed she was just a replacement partner for Paige, but she soon showed her mean streak, beating down Paige and forcing her out of action for a while. She’s tired of waiting for her turn as Divas champ and she’s forcefully making her own opportunities. I like that- shows fire in the belly. The match was pretty decent, although we had to endure Nikki Bella’s flat, robotic commentary. Naomi walked away the winner and good for her.

I mentioned before that both Kane and Big Show have been given actual stories and Big Show’s is the least compelling of the two. He beat down Roman Reigns, chokeslammed him on the top of a black cab and now wants to cement Reigns’ career as one of failure. I’m not sure this match-up does anything for either wrestler, but I’ll see where it goes. Reigns got on the mic, earning huge cheers by stating he wasn’t there to talk. He called out Big Show, but the “inspirational” Bo Dallas came out in his stead, stating that Roman was too angry and made me genuinely laugh when he quoted Yoda and called The Phantom Menace the “greatest Star Wars movie ever made”.

Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler are in a “Kiss Me Arse” match at Extreme Rules. Even that’s less stupid than the main event.

We got more from the John Cena United States Championship Open Challenge. Kane was the surprise opponent and it was a solid match. Of course Cena retained, but I hope we see more of the monster Kane that I loved when I was a kid. Cena was attacked backstage by Rusev. I’m looking forward to their match. Strap matches get a lot of flak, but I’ve always liked them.

We got a “Winner keeps the Miz brand” match between The Miz and Damien Mizdow. I’m really annoyed with how they’ve handled their rivalry. People loved the angle and it feels like they’ve copped out of giving us the PPV match we wanted. Mizdow got dicked over again and now The Miz has the rights back to his own name. I’m eager to see what they do with Sandow next. Return to his old theme and gimmick? Who knows.

The main event was Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler. Both Rollins and Ziggler are great in-ring workers and the match was pretty enjoyable. I think Rollins may have debuted his new finisher in lieu of the apparently controversial curb stomp. It’s a move that’s not nearly as impressive and it looks like Dean Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds. Shame. Sheamus cost Ziggler the match and Rollins got on the mic again to boast about how great he is. Triple H strode down the ramp with purpose, but that only seemed to be to congratulate Rollins. Kane also appeared, prompting Rollins to call for the steel cage to be brought down to protect him. When the metal clunked into place- shock- Randy Orton was in there! He hit an impressive RKO, wrenching Seth from climbing the cage wall and driving him into the mat. Good finish.

Overall, above average episode of Raw. Minor complaints, but mostly solid storytelling and interesting uses of certain superstars. See you at Extreme Rules.

Ben Browne