Wrestlemania is weeks away, and the WWE has a daunting task ahead of it: make us care. After Roadblock failed to change anything, we were left with a fairly stagnant card and main event. RAW this week proved to be good and entertaining, but the storytelling did not develop enough, leading to a disappointed step on the road to Wrestlemania.
The New Day vs. The League of Nations (WWE Tag Team Championship match)
Following their victory against Sheamus and Barrett Saturday at Roadblock, the New Day once again put their belts on the line against the other half of the League of Nations. Xavier Woods and Big E started strong against Rusev, unleashing the Unicorn Stampede on him joyfully.
But a tag from Del Rio moved things back in the League’s direction, with Mexico’s greatest export stealthily laying a firm beating on Big E. Woods tagged in hot, gaining some momentum, but a reversal by Del Rio once again changed things. He and Rusev laid a beating down on a struggling Woods. Woods managed to fight back enough to tag in Big E, who nearly took Rusev out.
Big E nearly had Rusev pinned, but Del Rio interfered, leading to a near-fall by Rusev on Woods. Rusev tried locking in the Accolade, but Kofi helped with a distraction allowing Woods to get the win.
After the match, the two teams brawled, with the League teaming up on one member at a time, much to the dismay of the crowd. And boy, it took forever and a day.
So, er, this is a thing. On the bright side, XAVIER WOODS WRESTLED!
The real main event
Dean Ambrose emerged, cutting a promo about just how close he was to achieving the impossible. But, he said, win or lose, Triple H learned not to underestimate him. However, Brock Lesnar emerged to cut him off.
Paul Heyman said he was the only thing keeping Ambrose safe from Lesnar, which instigated no fear from Ambrose, who dared Lesnar to let his beat loose on him. Heyman assured him that if he did, Ambrose would not make it to Wrestlemania. Heyman quickly wrapped things up and left hastily, but Lesnar made to go after Ambrose, who pulled out a crowbar.
Unfazed, Lesnar continued to stalk towards Ambrose, circling the ring as Ambrose taunted him fearlessly. Lesnar did fake a charge at Ambrose, but ultimately left him to his own devices.
Heyman has a point. THIS is going to be the best rivalry going into Wrestlemania, and will be the real main event, rivaled only by Shane vs. Taker. Ambrose is the most over, electric babyface in the entire company, and Brock Lesnar is, well, Brock Lesnar.
I can’t wait to see them steal the show of shows.
Ryback vs. Sin Cara
Sin Cara, dressed like Batman, emerged with Kalisto at his side to take on the heelish Ryback.
Ryback’s strategy was simple: ground the high flier. He wrestling strong and dominantly, using his brute force to keep Sin Cara from gaining momentum. However, Sin Cara used a reversal to find his footing, launching the Big Guy out of the ring.
However, once they got back in, Ryback hit Sin Cara with not one, but two Shell Shocks, all while looking directly at Kalisto, his intentions fairly clear. After, Ryback took the mic and challenged Kalisto to a match for the US Title at Wrestlemania.
First off, Sin Cara looked awesome. Secondly, the booking of this rivalry is actually pretty good. It’s a simple David and Goliath story. Unfortunately, I just can’t bring myself to love or hate Ryback enough to invest. My faith in Kalisto will have to do.
Hope is lost, maybe?
Stephanie McMahon strutted out, introducing her husband Triple H, who emerged smugly carrying the title he “successfully” defended Saturday. Triple H, mic in hand, talked about his victory over Dean Ambrose, saying that yes, the Authority always ends.
“Hope is not a strategy. Hope is a dangerous commodity.”
He heckled the crowd, calling them losers and detailing an amusingly tragic story about the crowd being a guy whose wife and kids hate him before being interrupted by-
Ziggler said he knew his place: in the ring, busting his ass every night for the WWE Universe. He said people like him and Dean are not losers, they’re just victims of the same system the Authority sat atop of.
Triple H cut him off, shrewdly offering him a place in the Authority, but Ziggler refused, calling Steph an egotistical tyrant while he was at it. In response, Stephanie put him in a match with Triple H for the right to any match he wants at Wrestlemania.
Sami Zayn vs. The Miz
With Kevin Owens at ringside, Zayn made his RAW redebut in singles competition. Zayn made an enthusiastic start to the match, clearly having fun as he took out the Miz with a moonsault off the barricade.
Zayn’s momentum continued throughout the match, as he kept bringing out the aerial maneuvers that made him famous. He launched himself at the Miz who was out of the ring, taking him out, and Owens tried distracting him. However, he failed, as Zayn picked up the win anyways.
Backstage, the League challenged the New Day to a match at Mania. And the crowd booed. Because WHY.
Brie Bella & Alicia Fox vs. Team BAD
Lana emerged before the match’s start, distracting Alicia Fox and allowing Naomi and Tamina to take an early lead. However, Brie tagged in hot, hitting Tamina with the Yes kicks and a dropkick, going into Brie Mode and hitting the bella Buster fromt he ropes.
Naomi looked to interfere but Alicia fought her off. However, a distraction by Lana allowed Tamina to pick up the win. After the match, Alicia looked to take on Lana, but was hit by a double Superkick from BAD.
Backstage, Lana confronted Paige, putting her down, with Naomi and Tamina at her side. Elsewhere, Renee Young interviewed Charlotte about facing Sasha and Becky at Wrestlemania. The Divas Champion mocked Sasha, calling her a scared little girl, and called Becky an awkward outsider.
So, we might be getting two Divas matches after all. It’s a shame to see Paige relegated to a tag match, but hey, at least she’s on the card, I think?
The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts
With the Dudleys on commentary, saying the Usos relied on their Samoan family legacy, the Usos put on a strong showing against the Social Outcasts. The Usos kept their focus on the Dudley Boyz as they picked up the quick pinfall with a splash.
After RAW, Renee Young announced the Usos vs. the Dudleys at Mania. Hello, kickoff show?
Passing the torch
Backstage, Mick Foley approached Dean Ambrose to ask him why he was putting himself in the hands of the Beast Incarnate. In response, Dean asked Foley if he was afraid in his legendary Hell in a Cell match. Foley responded yes, but he kept going because he was Mick Foley.
“And I’m Dean Ambrose, because that’s what I do,” Ambrose said in response. Foley, in response, gave Ambrose his wonderful barbed wire bat. I might have cried.
This was my favorite part of RAW. Mick Foley, a stellar human being in general, is the perfect legend to pass the torch on to Dean Ambrose. Both are unconventional performers who deserve to be at the top of the card, but are (or were) held back by not being cookie-cutter muscle men.
Ambrose is the everyman daredevil we all want to rally behind, just as Foley was. And it was great to see the WWE acknowledge it.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Triple H
Ziggler started off strong against Triple H with nothing to lose and a series of headlocks and arm drags. The crowd cheered half-heartedly for CM Punk, but that died off, thankfully. He continued to score nearfalls with a series of rollups and a dropkick, relentless in his offense.
A high elbow helped Triple H began mounting a comeback, sending Ziggler out of the ring and into the barricade, hard. He continued his punishment through a commercial break, even hitting Ziggler with a high knee when the Show Off looked to be mounting a comeback.
Once again, Reigns took Ziggler out of the ring and slammed him into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Ziggler stunned Triple H as he looked to hit a move off the ropes, building momentum into a swinging neckbreaker and elbow. He almost scored a rollup victory and then pinfall with the Famouser, but Triple H kicked out, stunned. He scored a third nearfall, but the Game once again kicked out.
He hit Ziggler with a desperate Spinebuster and kicked out of a nearfall from the Superkick, throwing Ziggler out of the ring viciously to buy recovery time. Ziggler returned, just barely beating the countout, but went right into a Pedigree. Triple H got the three-count.
Right after, Roman Reigns returned, going right after Triple H to a very mixed reaction. He unloaded on the Game, bashing him into the announce table. Officials tried to stop Reigns, but he attacked them too, only to right into an attack from Triple H.
However, his attack lost no momentum, going through all of ringside and through the production equipment, throwing a speaker into Triple H. The assault continued backstage, with Reigns tearing into a bloodied Triple H, beating him quite thoroughly. The Usos and Jack Swagger and Mark Henry tried to calm him, just barely keeping him from further decimating the Game.
Backstage, R-Truth approached Goldust in a penguin suit, because penguins stay together forever. Goldust refused.
Ziggler showed here how much he can deliver when given the platform to do so. He performed fantastically, with he and Triple H drawing the crowd in with excellent psychology. The loss was necessary, but Ziggler still looked great.
The same cannot be said for Roman Reigns. His return was less than spectacular, despite beating Triple H down in fun fashion. A few months ago, people would have eaten it up. But after the Royal Rumble, after months of being booked so clearly into a spot he is not ready for, it wasn’t enough to save the Wrestlemania main event.
Will it be a good match? Sure. But when we look back at Wrestlemania and the road to it, Reigns won’t be the true star, no matter what the WWE tries to shove down our throats.
Which really is a shame.
Chris Jericho vs. Neville
Neville started off strong, frustrated an already heated Jericho, who had started off the match by calling AJ Styles overrated and a shoddy wrestler. Jericho took his frustrations out on the cameraman and steel steps.
Neville looked to be getting beaten down by Jericho, but a shove to the ref got Neville the win by DQ. Furious, Jericho continued taunting the crowd, who cheered for AJ Styles.
Call and he shall come. Styles entered and promptly hit Jericho with the Phenomenal Forearm, a little bit of sweet revenge.
The segment was cut short by what seems to be a legitimate ankle injury for Neville, but Jericho’s heel work was stellar and Styles continues to be booked to perfection. If only the rest of RAW was this crisp and clear.
A Family Affair
McMahon emerged to tell the WWE Universe that their dreams of Shane leading the WWE would never come to fruition, and introduced “his” instrument of destruction: the Undertaker himself, whose entrance took forever and a day but was nonetheless chillingly cool to witness.
Vince told Taker to never lay hands on him again, which only prompted him to remove his coat, looking prepared for battle. Vince promptly apologized, saying Taker’s deal with the Devil was merely best for business.
Cue Shane O’Mac, who entered to the usual ovation, saying Vince was definitely not best for business, but gave him credit for the massive match against the Undertaker. He detailed his strategy against Taker, and said he was fighting for the future of the company and his children.
Taker responded that it wouldn’t be enough, and Shane called him a puppet.
“I have the misfortune of being Vince’s son,” Shane said, “But you’re Vince’s bitch.”
Undertaker attacked, and Shane fought back, only to fall to a Chokeslam due to Vince’s interference. The Undertaker looked horrified at Vince’s involvement, staring down the Chairman angrily as he beat a hasty retreat.
Huh, interesting. There’s a lot of places for this to go.
Shane was marvelous as expected, looking great even though he flubbed up a few lines. Undertaker showed a shade of remorse at yes, being used by Vince. The storyline now has a new layer to it, with Shane and Taker now having some legitimate beef with each other.
It still needs more, but it now has a direction, which is encouraging.