A business as usual Authority promo opened Raw, faces like thunder on all of them as they condemned Dean Ambrose for stealing the actual World Heavyweight belt (I forgot to mention the fact that Ambrose stole the belt at the end Elimination Chamber in my review. I’m a fool) Triple H reminded everyone that Seth Rollins is still champ despite being beltless and called Ambrose out to return the stolen property. After being met with nothing but empty ramp for his first few requests, his patience ran out and he raged, only to be cut off when Roman Reigns‘ music hit.
Reigns acted as Ambrose’s spokesman and informed Seth that he’d get his belt back if he agreed to apply Ambrose’s rematch clause to a ladder match at Money in the Bank. Reigns goaded Rollins until he lost it, agreeing to the terms in a fit of pissy egomaniacal rage and storming off. Triple H confronted Reigns and decreed that Roman had to fight for his spot in the Money in the Bank match by having a match next. He ordered Roman to stay put and left the ring to find an opponent for him. After the ad break, King Barrett made his way to the ring and we had our first fight.
I’m liking Roman Reigns more. I abandoned my straight-up animosity towards him after he put on a great show and graciously lost at Wrestlemania, but having him and Ambrose team up makes sense. It’s a part return to his powerhouse bodyguard role in The Shield. He’s seeming more natural on the mic too and he’s mercifully no longer being tethered to an awful script full of fairytale stuff and lines like “sufferin’ succotash”. I get the feeling Creative are getting impatient to pull the trigger on Reigns and make him a megastar champ, but they need to build the character first.
The actual Reigns/Barrett match was pretty solid, although the outcome was telegraphed beyond reasonable doubt. King Barrett put on a hard fought match, but Reigns eventually hit a Spear, giving him the win and assuring his place in the Money in the Bank match.
We caught up with a tired Roman backstage being told by the Authority that he still had more hoops to jump through. Apparently his first match didn’t count and it was his next match against Mark Henry that determined whether he still had a place in the Money in the Bank match.
More backstage stuff as Nikki Bella was interviewed. Nikki had a few words to say about her long reign as champion and how she was looking forward to “everything and anything” her continuing stint as champ would bring. As always, the interview was interrupted. This time it was Paige stepping up, testing Nikki’s “everything and anything” mentality by challenging her to a one-on-one title match. Nikki agreed, but went further by setting the match that night. Then they had a stare-off. I was enjoying the set-up, but having a catty, fake smiling stare off reminded me that all the women’s characters are just variations on the “crazy bitch” theme. It sucks.
New Intercontinental champ and botch-fest survivor Ryback came out to say how grateful he was and blah blah blah. The Miz returned to singles action for about 12 seconds before Big Show came down to the ring and KO punched him, taking him out of the equation. Show then set his sights on Ryback, asking for the mic to announce the fact that he wants a piece of the Intercontinental action. The two squared off, but nothing happened. I honestly can’t think of anything I care less about than a Ryback/Big Show feud. It made me sigh just typing those words.
Next up, Kevin Owens, flush from his victory over John Cena, came out to talk about how hollow his victory was when he spoke to his son, who only wanted to know if Cena was OK. Owens ranted about how he’s the better role model as a man of his word as opposed to Cena’s heavily marketed, catchphrase laden, superhero schtick. Owens is awesome on the mic and I hate to overhype him, but it had serious shades of C.M. Punk’s famous “pipebomb” promo. We’ve heard this anti-Cena, “not a role model” stuff before, but Owens’ unique delivery gave it some gravity. Not to be overshadowed, Cena made his way to the ring and did what he does best. He gave the best promo he’s given in a long time. It’s easy to be cynical when it comes to what he says, but when he made some poor kid holding a “I’m battling cancer” sign in the crowd cry with joy just by pointing them out, sometimes you have to say “fair enough”. Cena called Owens an “almost man” and promised he would win in their Money in the Bank rematch. Once the talking was done, the two squared off, but Owens left the ring to a chorus of boos. It was a promo masterclass by both men. What a fantastic segment all around.
Kofi Kingston and the rest of The New Day were next, with Kingston taking on Dolph Ziggler. The match didn’t last long and Ziggler reversed Kofi’s roll-up attempt for the win. The initial match wasn’t the important part and New Day slid in to stomp Ziggy en masse, leading to The Prime Time Players running out to even the odds. After the break, we learned that an impromptu 6 man tag match had been set up, with Ziggler and the PTP taking on all three members of New Day. This is where the match go interesting. Like many other people, I’m sick of the constant 6 man tag matches, but this was a good one. The New Day got to be jerks (I especially loved the rotating stomping of Darren Young in the corner, with each member tagging themselves in for another go) and The Prime Time Players got to be awesome, with Titus O’Neal flattening everybody and ragdolling the New Day left and right. Very enjoyable.
Roman Reigns‘ second fight of the night was up next. Despite nursing his eye from the last match, Reigns prevailed against Mark Henry by Superman Punching him outside the ring leading to Henry being counted out. Hooray for him, but the Authority weren’t done. They shifted the goalposts again, this time setting a match with Bray Wyatt which Roman would have to win to keep his Money in the Bank spot.
Paige and Nikki had their match for the Divas title. I liked the storytelling in this one, at least initially. Paige underestimated Nikki and didn’t expect her to fight so aggressively. Nikki wrestled cockily and her doing a few crunches on the outside of the ring at one point was a nice touch. The ending was terrible though. Brie Bella appearing from under the ring in place of Nikki to get counted for the pin by an unaware referee was dumb. This shit barely flew with the New Day thing a few weeks ago. Anyway, Paige lost and Nikki retained. Apparently we’re booing the Bellas again now.
Randy Orton took on Sheamus in a singles match. The fight was alright, but only turned interesting when Sheamus hit Orton with a chair, disqualifying himself from the match. Sheamus then went to town on Orton, hitting him with multiple Brogue Kicks and beating him down.
The injured Rusev was interviewed backstage. He was asked how he felt and he described himself as having lost everything and being “broken”. He’s a dick, but he had my sympathies. Subtle-as-a-sledgehammer heel commentator JBL saying that he didn’t feel sorry for him leads me to believe that that was the intention. Perhaps this is the start of a face turn for Rusev. I could dig it.
Bo Dallas went up against Neville. It was a fun match with some great spots. I’m glad they didn’t just drop their rivalry. The muted reaction they got at Elimination Chamber wasn’t their fault and both are seriously talented. Neville hit the Red Arrow and won and their feud rumbles on.
Our main event was Roman Reigns‘ third and final match for his Money in the Bank spot. It was a great match, but it was only going to go one way. When it looked like Wyatt had lost, the Authority steamed in to ensure he didn’t. Being the Authority, they screwed that up and Reigns won again, only to find his victory short-lived when he found himself surrounded by the corporate douches. Suddenly, Dean Ambrose‘s music hit and Ambrose appeared from the crowd with the stolen belt. Together, Reigns and Ambrose fought off J&J Security and Kane and stood tall in the ring as the show ended.
It was a Roman heavy episode this week. It’s pretty obvious Reigns will win at Money in the Bank, giving him a guaranteed shot at the title. I really don’t want to go back to hating the guy just because he’s being pushed when not ready. The period for the cash-in is long so it could be any time between when he totally wins it to next year some time. Many things could change in that period. Hell, he might not even win, but it sure seems like he will considering he went through three guys to just get his spot.
Overall, an alright episode of Raw. The Owens/Cena stuff was truly special, but I couldn’t shake the feeling we were just going through the motions.