Don’t tip your hand
I’m not going to act like I had a huge problem with WWE making the main event “John Cena vs. a *mystery opponent*, and if he wins, Cena gets Ryback’s and Ziggler’s and Rowan’s jobs back.” That’s all fine, if anti-climatic. We knew those guys weren’t going to be gone for long, and if you need to shoehorn them back in for the Rumble with something like this? Fine.
Here’s my issue. Feasibly, Cena could’ve lost this match, and those three wouldn’t be back on the show next week. That is, until they added the “also Cena, if you lose, you won’t be in the title match at Rumble.”
Do you hear that? That’s the sound of all the air going out of the room. The public knows enough about wrestling that there’s no chance WWE would go forward with a Seth Rollins/Brock Lesnar title feud. That’s insane. That’s not how booking works. It just makes the audience say “ugh, they gave away the ending in the first five minutes of the show.”
And even that wouldn’t be so bad if it led to a legit Cena character moment where he has to decide to put his title chance on the line for the livelihood of three dudes he (ostensibly) barely cares about. It’d be cool to see Super Cena deal with the natural selfishness that comes when you’ve been on top for this long. Instead they put the match up to a WWE App vote, completely taking the decision out of The Most Important Guy’s hands, mangling that legitimate audience involvement into something even lower-stakes than it was before. There were a lot of great moments in this show. This wasn’t one of them.
Oh, by the way, here’s some grown-man wrestling
If you’re a member of the Internet Wrestling Community, you’re probably aware that during tonight’s Raw, a few indie promotions got together and put forth something they’re calling #RAWlternate! During the three-hours of Raw, you could tune in to an internet stream to find all the best matches the underground circuit has to offer. That’s a good idea!
That being said, it’s pretty funny that immediately after the #RAWlternate stream started, WWE shrugged and gave us a barn-burning, two-commercial-break, Bray Wyatt/Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan! Wrestling! Taking nasty top-rope bumps, too! It took about three seconds to remember just how much I missed that guy and his kicks and his savagery and his willingness to go harder than anyone else on the roster. I don’t even care that it ended with a Kane distraction into a Sister Abigail.
There are moments where WWE is unimaginably stupid, but there are also moments when it shows off profound moments of clarity. Leading off Raw with Bryan and Wyatt on the same night the rest of the wrestling universe threatens an insurrection is pretty genius. If only WWE had kept it up for the next three hours.
A backstage sketch that was neither depressing nor corny
Triple H is talking to Kevin Nash and a saggy Scott Hall about some business stuff. Shawn Michaels walks in and busts his chops, which leads Triple H to bust his chops. Then “X-Pac” cross-chops his way into the frame, looks confused, as the real X-Pac confronts him.
Yes. It was Damien Sandow dressed as X-Pac. It was pretty funny, okay? The WWE is far from comedy savants, but dueling X-Pacs is enough for me to pop.
The Legends Panel, because that went so well the first time
I love Shawn Michaels, so anytime I get to see Shawn Michaels do doofy nonsense in a wrestling ring, I’m going to like it at least a little bit. Shawn appears to be the only person who realizes just how meaningless it is to shove a bunch of “former legends” on TV so they can talk about the various times they’ve won Royal Rumbles. Obviously, guys like Hulk Hogan, Flair, and especially Shawn have plenty to say about surviving hour-long battles royale, but that’s generally at its best outside the realm of kayfabe and without Vince McMahon constantly screaming in your ear.
They’re all just out here to put over people who aren’t going to win. Shawn gets behind Bray Wyatt, Hogan throws it up for Bryan, and Flair’s got his eyes on Ambrose. Then Big Show runs out, talks his mess and decks Flair.
Flair sells it like a champ. I bet that dude could still have a great match if his body would let him. And you know? Props to guys like Edge and Flair who are willing to go out long after their heyday and put over working dudes. I don’t think Hogan would ever do that.
So Roman Reigns shows up after that, and much to everyone’s relief he doesn’t pick up a microphone. Let’s… not do this Legends Panel thing again, okay guys?
People didn’t care about Bad News vs. Ambrose as much as they should have
Like I said, this was a good show. Go-home Raws before legitimate pay-per-views like Royal Rumble generally are. It had Wyatt vs. Bryan, great! Cena vs. a truck full of bad guys, not bad but whatever! And of course, Ambrose vs. Bad News. Ambrose was doing his belly-flop shoulder drops, which I adore, and he’s still selling that knee! Which was injured by Bray like, three weeks ago. That’s proof that you’re watching someone who loves wrestling. Unfortunately the crowd wasn’t that into it. It got over, Ambrose got chants, but as soon as Barrett got his offense in, everything went dead. That’s a shame, because this could be a great feud for both of them. At WrestleMania. At the top of the card. Hey, we can dream.
Cesaro’s giant spin into Tyson Kidd’s dropkick is now officially the coolest tag-team move ever
First things first, giving The New Day microphones as they come out is essential. It maybe gives this gimmick some chance to live past March. Please let these guys get over, please. I know they’re guaranteed to lose against The New Day in their match at the Rumble, but I don’t want that to be the end. I want to believe!
Knock Knock, it’s burying time!
The Ascension have made a habit of entering the ring and talking yang about the storied tag-teams of the past. This has caused human rage-blackout JBL to get super huffy and do his best to bury them as hard as he possibly can on commentary. But this time, the jig was up! Because today The Ascension stomped out to the ring to call out this old-man nWo reunion! JBL, finally having enough, stands up and removes his blazer to take care of these guys himself. We were had! We thought they were just trying to bury The Ascension, but all that “these guys couldn’t shine The Road Warriors shoes!” stuff was a build to a legit storyline about them killing old guys on TV! Man, WWE is so smart and we should never question them!
Oh, now the New Age Outlaws are out here taking it to The Ascension. Oh JBL just hit a crazy clothesline. Now all these old guys are partying over the unconscious bodies of the tag-team, who, may I remind you, were called up as recently as this month. To be fair, there’s going to be a New Age Outlaws/Ascension match at the Rumble. And really, really hope that The Ascension are going over. Because otherwise, this was one of the most strident, pure-hearted buryings I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. They can’t be this tone-deaf, right?
John Cena won because Sting looked at the ring
No, seriously. John Cena is in a totally unfair handicap match against Big Show, Seth Rollins and Kane, which is something he’s only won like 500 times. Anyways, shenanigans happen, and Cena is about to get curb stomped. But then Sting shows on the giant TV and everyone stares at him. Then Sting walks onto the stage, and everyone stares at him. Then Cena scores a totally cheeky roll-up on Rollins to win, because Rollins is just listlessly staring at a 50-year-old man in facepaint.
It’s so dumb! But it’s still STING! So I don’t know if I can hate on it that much? Like, as long as Sting shows up once every three months, I don’t care about the logic of his appearance. His scarcity makes him a precious resource.
Anyways, that’s all for me. See you guys at the Rumble!