Last night was the last Raw before Fastlane, meaning we’d be in store for some momentum, booking wise. Go home shows can be difficult to plan, because it’s usually the WWE’s last chance to persuade a major portion of the audience into buying a PPV. Luckily for WWE and fans, Fastlane is free if you subscribed to the Network. The major story going into last night was how Bryan and Reigns would feel about each other going into the PPV, and I can say with confidence, they’re going in hot.
Before I give my thoughts on Cena, I have to point out that the opening graphic made it look like Roman Reigns and Kane were facing Daniel Bryan and Big Show. This crowd was very hot for Cena, and it was probably because he brought the energy to this promo. Once Rusev came out, the exchange between the two was the exact same as last week, until they proceeded to get physical. To my surprise, Cena absolutely destroyed Rusev. The ending didn’t even leave Rusev looking strong, because he was pummeled so hard by the doctor of thuganomics. I feel some fans may not like how Cena came out on top, but it was nice to see a different side of him. Sometimes we fans need to see that Cena has different dimensions to his character. Once John held up the US title, I was sucked back into this feud. They only worked the opening segment, but was easily enough to get fans excited for Sunday.
Dean Ambrose vs Luke Harper/Ambrose taped promo
Say what you wanted about how Dean Ambrose is booked, but we can tell he gets substantial amount of time on TV and he is slowly being built up. This idea of Ambrose carrying a contract for Barrett to sign would have been better if he started two weeks ago. This way we’d be treated to the lunatic fringe chasing BNB around until he signed the match contract. Having the program set like that would have made this feud much more entertaining. The actual match between Ambrose and Harper was a great example on how explosive Ambrose can be. I couldn’t help but notice the lack of offense on Harper’s part, but I guess it was meant for Ambrose to look good going into the PPV.
Bray Wyatt Promos
While staying vague, it sounded like Bray was again calling for Undertaker. He did refer to him as a shell of his former self and talked about the tragedy (streak being broken) which made it all more clear who he was talking about. Also, he was holding a nail and hammer in the first two promos, and in the third promo we found out it was for a coffin, the one thing that symbolizes Taker more than anything else. My early prediction for Fastlane is that we’ll finally see the Deadman return.
Gold & Stardust vs New Day
Well, this was quite the disappointing segment. They could have given it more attention, but they decided to split this between a taped backstage segment and a rematch with New Day. This could have been executed a lot better by having Dusty speak in the ring before or after the match. Even if it was before the match, they could have kept Dusty ringside, so that there’s more importance put on the official Stardust heel turn. Maybe they could have had Cody take out both his brother and father, since they’re both by the ring. I just feel the backstage promo was a weak way of dealing with this program. On top of this, they go about the Dusty-Stardust interaction as a clip before the Reigns vs Kane match, which was even worse, considering what Stardust had to say. This was such an emotionally driven promo, and it was left in as filler during Bryan’s entrance.
Roman Reigns vs Kane
I’m starting to believe both Bryan and Reigns are turning heel, because they both had hints of heel in their personality last night. Roman openly insulted Bryan and Bryan was trying to distract Roman during his match, all heel tendencies. Kane might have actually clipped Reigns on the upwards thrust, because that was some great selling on Reigns’ part. The chants were apparent, and pretty interesting on how split the crowd is on the juggernaut. If you didn’t hear what they said, here was how it went “You can’t wrestle! Yes he can!” .The rest of the match wasn’t so bad, in fact both Kane and Reigns did a good job. I liked the finishing spot and how it ended in a count out. Usually we fans get upset about finishes that aren’t clean, but this one was effective. It made the spear look like a lethal move, and so devastating that it keeps you down past the count of 10.
Paige vs Summer Rae
To nobody’s surprise, this match was heavily dominated by Paige. Having Paige dress up as a rosebud was mildly funny. With the segment before the match and mic time afterwards, it looked like they finally gave these competitors more time to build on their current feud. Based on how they’ve been booked these past few weeks, I enjoyed what the divas showcased last night. Now only creative can add a match or two more on to the card.
Seth Rollins vs Dolph Ziggler
Their pre-match promo was very intense, both of these wrestlers did a convincing job at building hatred between each other. Since these two have been semi feuding since November, everything they said to each other was believable. I wouldn’t be shocked if these two squared off at Fastlane. As usual, these two absolutely stole the show in terms of in ring action. The end sequence was dramatic, but it was obvious Seth wasn’t going to lose clean, and Ziggler couldn’t afford another clean loss.
Triple H Promo
I wasn’t expecting Ric Flair to make an appearance, but it was the finishing touch that the Sting-Triple H feud needed heading into Fastlane. Flair has been close to both Sting and Hunter, so to have him involved to a small extent is smart. What makes Hunter so great is his ability to tell a story with his promos. He doesn’t really need Sting there week to week since he can easily express why he has a hatred towards him. We all know this is going to be a WWE vs WCW type feud, but last night was more about Hunter’s love for the company, which is why he pushed Flair.
The Ascension vs Darren Young & Unknown
This was the most pointless segment on the show. It was meant to get the Prime Time Players back together, but they could have accomplished this by just having them start the match together, there was no need for them to bring in an unknown wrestler as Young’s partner. All of this could have been accomplished during a backstage segment, and that way these men could have wrestled a proper match.
Mizdow vs Bad News Barrett
This match was funny on two levels, Mizdow being distracted, and the interference from Ambrose. The entire bout wasn’t even about the wrestling as it was just more of a modified promo to further these story lines. I liked how they went about it, because it was funny and effective for both programs occurring in this segment. Part of me had no idea how Barrett would ever sign that match contract, but Ambrose found a way. It would have been nice to see them physically engage, but I guess that will be the allure behind their match at Fastlane.
Jimmy Uso & Naomi vs Natalya & Tyson Kidd
Although it was short, the divas stole the show in this match. We often forget how great of a worker Naomi can be when she’s given time. I think this is a great way to promote Total Divas, but I can’t help but notice that Cesaro becomes the 5th wheel in this program, even when it the Usos vs Kidd & Cesaro.
Daniel Bryan vs Big Show
Orlando must be a John Cena crowd, because they didn’t show much of a reaction for either Roman or Daniel. Also, smart decision to have Roman just sit ringside and not have him on commentary. In fact, Reigns found an even better way to stay in character and remain effective without interfering in the match. Bryan and Big Show did a decent job, but it was tough to pay attention because their styles have never meshed well. There’s also a chance we couldn’t appreciate this match that much because the camera concentrated more on Reigns than the match. I did however notice that this was the strongest we’ve seen Big Show booked in a while. He also no sold the superman punch, which isn’t a common occurrence. I forgot everything that happened once the brawl ensued. I’m not one to exaggerate much, but this was one of the best brawls I’ve seen in quite some time. It looked like these two wanted the each other dead. From what looked like a good episode of Raw, the ending became great within a matter of seconds.
This episode of Raw went up and down, but was enjoyable for the most part. There will obviously be some matches and segments that don’t click, but not every show can be perfect. My recommendations would be to fixing the Rhodes brother story line, and give it some more time. Along with this, they could have put some more attention on the Prime Time Players, since they’re reuniting. Overall I give the show a 7.9/10 or a B+.