By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Roman Reigns Interrupted Stephanie McMahon
It was a refreshing change of pace to have Reigns angrier than usual coming off his loss at TLC instead of acting happy-go-luck as he tends to do from time to time. Meanwhile, Stephanie was in ultimate bitch mode and it was awesome. I could have done without her slapping him a million times over, though. It was a cool visual, but you know Reigns isn't going to hit her back (and he shouldn't have), going to show that she never gets her comeuppance. Anyway, her promise that Vince would show up for the first time in a year was a nice hook for the next hour. When the Raw ratings start to sink, call in Vince!
Dolph Ziggler def. Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose by Disqualification (Non-title)
I could have sworn as soon as Ziggler made his entrance that he was facing Tyler Breeze again, but I was ecstatic to discover his opponent was Ambrose. They contested a fun match and it was cool they were given an ample amount of time to have the match they were capable of. The non-finish was perfect in that it protected both babyfaces (as if Ziggler needs to be protected at this point) and put major heat on Kevin Owens. This new aggressive side to his character is exactly what he needs to get to the next level in WWE. Brock Lesnar WrestleMania match imminent?
R-Truth vs. Bo Dallas Went to a No Contest
I prepared for the worst when the bell rang for this match and part of me actually thought for a second that Dallas was going to get pushed again. Nah, what was I thinking? I actually loved how Vince McMahon came down to the ring during this match because it was an effective way of switching up the tired formula for Raw. Better yet, it didn't make either of the wrestlers look inferior because, well, they're losers anyway and they really can't get much lower on the card.
Mr. McMahon Called Out Roman Reigns
McMahon standing out in the ring for a few minutes before Reigns came out was awkward, but everything that followed was really well done. I could have done without Reigns making another testicles joke, but hey, at least it wasn't tater tots! Always look at the bright side. Again, this was the side of Reigns I've wanted to see all along: serious and sticking it to the man. The low blow from Vince to Reigns bothered me at first, but considering what happened to him at the end of the night, it made sense.
United States Champion Alberto Del Rio and Rusev def. Jack Swagger and Ryback
I know the crowd wasn't hot for this match whatsoever (and why should they have been?), but I have to commend Creative for giving us a logical tag team match for the first time in weeks. All of the Reigns' "family" vs. League of Nations matches we've seen a lot of lately didn't even feature people who were feuding with each other. This one did. If nothing else, it was fine for what it was and gave the heels another necessary win.
Neville def. Tyler Breeze
If you give these two time, they can have a kickass match, but I didn't mind what we got instead. It wasn't the exciting affair it had the potential to be, but if it was, what would have been the point? The Miz played his heel role well at ringside and now I'm getting invested in their program based off what we saw from them afterward backstage. At least they're finally doing something of note with Neville. The only gripe I had with this match was that Breeze lost, again. His main roster run has been a total bust so far. I probably should have seen that coming.
The Wyatt Family def. The ECW Originals in an Extreme Rules Match
As much as I enjoyed the Tables match from TLC, this match was significantly better. It might have been because it felt more chaotic or because it took place in ECW's home of Philadelphia, but either way, all eight men delivered an excellent hardcore match and they deserve props for it. I don't where either group goes from here, but I'd like for this to be the end of the feud. I'm not sure about Rhyno, but Tommy Dreamer is confirmed to be competing on the house show circuit going into the new year, so he might be sticking around for a while. As for The Wyatt Family, I'd keep them dominant going into the Royal Rumble match where they could have a major presence.
The Usos and The Lucha Dragons Attacked WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day
Did the first part of this segment remind anyone else of when Edge and Christian showed respect to The Hardy Boyz after their amazing Ladder match from the late '90s? I was questioning whether we were about to get a New Day face turn for a moment, but we might have gotten a heel turn from the Dragons and Usos instead. Seriously, what did New Day do that justified them getting attacked? They showed genuine respect for the two teams before doing their usual shtick. What sore losers!
Divas Champion Charlotte and Becky Lynch def. Team Bella
I guess Lynch got over Charlotte cheating to beat her two weeks ago on Raw, in addition to costing her a match on SmackDown that same week. Psh, women. Am I right? All right, I kid, I kid. The match was decent, but weren't Team Bella babyfaces last week when they faced Team B.A.D.? As I've said ad nauseam in recent weeks, the Divas division makes my head hurt. I'm holding out hope that Charlotte's officially going heel soon because cheating to win while a babyface isn't going to get her over.
Roman Reigns def. Sheamus to Win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Before I get to the match, I have to say WWE advertising Reigns for ESPN on Tuesday was stupid. Granted, they could have changed the guest if Reigns was in fact "fired," but it foreshadowed the finish a little too much. Nevertheless, the first half of the match was solid while they picked up the pace big time down the stretch. Mr. McMahon added an exciting element to the match by being at ringside and getting laid out by Reigns, leading to him kicking out of the Brogue Kick and capturing the championship. It truly was poetic justice for Reigns to get booed out of the building in Philly back in January when he won the Royal Rumble only for them to explode for him when he won the belt here. I'm happy Reigns finally got his just due, simply because we haven't had this heartfelt of a win (on Raw, no less) in seemingly forever. More importantly, Sheamus is no longer champion! Woo! I don't want to think about Sheamus winning it back before or at the Royal Rumble. Reigns' time is now and I'm excited to see what's in store for him going forward.
We were long overdue one of these editions of Raw that fires on all cylinders and features a hot crowd to make the night special. Following a pleasantly surprising TLC pay-per-view, this is exactly what WWE needed: a fantastic follow-up. I have zero idea what WWE has planned for the Royal Rumble and that's what makes it so exhilarating. Here's hoping WWE can continue with another two home run shows to close out 2015, though that might be easier said than done with the Slammy Awards next week. I always enjoy the annual award show, but it's traditionally known for being very light on wrestling, so we'll see what transpires.