By Graham "GSM" Matthews
John Cena Attacked United States Champion Rusev
It was nice to see an opening segment on Raw not feature The Authority for once, but why not kick off the night with in-ring action? That aside, the Cena-Rusev feud was properly spotlighted even though I still have no reason to care about it. Rusev is calling Cena old (when he's clearly not) and Cena looks to put an end to Rusev. What's there to be excited about? Cena showing aggression for once was somewhat refreshing, but how is it that he doesn't adhere to the referees' demands whereas Bray Wyatt does? Surely that doesn't paint WWE's biggest babyface in the best light.
Dean Ambrose def. Luke Harper
Ambrose, obviously, has seen his TV time curtailed a great deal since his feud with Bray Wyatt wrapped up earlier this year, but I'm glad they've found something for him to do in the meantime with his feud with Bad News Barrett. The fact it's over the Intercontinental Championship means nothing because that belt means nothing, but hey, it's something. As for the match itself, it was very good and I was glad it got some time. They worked well together and it was a nice win for Ambrose going into his inevitable title clash with Barrett.
The New Day def. Gold and Stardust
We've seen this match a handful of times in the past, so it was hardly anything new, but it served its purpose in teasing more tension between Gold and Stardust. It was obvious from the moment Gold and Stardust hugged backstage that Stardust was going to turn on him here, but it was still a cool moment and they've built it up well. All I hope for is that they don't rush their first match for Fastlane instead of saving it for WrestleMania. Also, is Stardust using the Cross Rhodes to attack Goldust a sign that Cody Rhodes is on his way back to TV?
Roman Reigns def. Kane by Count-out
While they didn't exactly light the world on fire, it was fine for what it was. At the very least, it was better than seeing Reigns face Big Show for the millionth time. Daniel Bryan played his role well on commentary, but in distracting Reigns countless times, doesn't that make him come off like a heel? The crowd seemed to be split on Reigns and I guess we'll see what the dynamic will be in his match against Bryan come Sunday. The only thing that bothered me about the bout was its ending. There is no use in protecting Kane at this point with a count-out loss and they might as well have had Reigns pin him instead.
Paige def. Summer Rae
It's encouraging the Divas actually have a story for once, but the issue is that... well, the story sucks. The Bella Twins have been doing their "Mean Girls" shtick for so long that it's gotten to the point where it doesn't draw real heat. It also doesn't help Paige hasn't had any character development since this whole thing started. Paige made sense of the fairy costume afterward by saying she didn't need an outfit to make her look good, but the current state of the Divas division looks even worse coming out of the amazing women's mach from NXT TakeOver last week, and Paige looking like a goof was how WWE looks at their women on the main roster: as a joke.
Dolph Ziggler def. Seth Rollins by Disqualification
Rollins and Ziggler both cut solid promos beforehand and it seemed like some of what they said could have been in reference to the Rollins scandal (or perhaps I was just overthinking it). These two have faced off so many times in the last year that you'd think it would've gotten old by now, but they are seemingly incapable of having a bad match together. It was especially exciting down the stretch, and while I booed the disqualification finish, it was logical in protecting Rollins in defeat. I assume everything involving Ziggler, Ryback, Erick Rowan, Rollins and J&J Security will lead to a six-man tag team match at the pay-per-view.
Ric Flair Confronted Triple H
Personally, I'm not a fan of the WWE vs. WCW narrative they're trying to tell with this feud. It may have worked coming out of The Invasion in 2001, not in 2015. It's not even that it won't work but rather they shouldn't focus their feud on the companies they worked for. They're two of the greatest of all-time; isn't that a simple enough story? Flair's involvement with this segment was a pleasant surprise given his history with both men and this was easily WWE's best use of him since he returned to the company back in 2012. Both HHH and Flair were great here and I look forward to the confrontation between HHH and Sting on Sunday.
The Ascension vs. Darren Young and a Local Athlete Went to a No Contest
This was the perfect place for them to reunite The Prime Time Players, and I couldn't be happier that they did. Granted, the crowd wasn't completely invested in the reunion on night one and it's hard to blame them. This was Young's first official televised appearance in nearly a year, and Titus O'Neil has been marginalized for so long that many fans stopped caring about them a while ago. Still, as I discussed in an article last week, The Prime Time Players means only positive things for the tag team division as well as for both Young and O'Neil.
Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett def. Damien Mizdow (Non-title)
I liked everything about this match; not because it was great or anything, but because it was a win-win for both parties involved. Barrett was able to score a win that he desperately needed and The Miz was able to further get under the skin of Mizdow, and you have to assume a split is coming sooner rather than later. The post-match stuff with Dean Ambrose forcing Barrett to sign the contract was lame, but I guess they had to get to the title match somehow.
WWE Tag Team Champion Jimmy Uso and Naomi def. Tyson Kidd and Natalya
Although it's a minor detail, I loved how they've actually pitted "best friends" Natalya and Naomi against each other in backstage segments and even on Total Divas, making this match meaningful in the process. It sure as hell beat them doing another uninspired singles match between the two teams. The continued tension between Natalya and Kidd is a lot of fun to watch unfold even if I don't know where it's headed.
Big Show def. Daniel Bryan by Disqualification
The match was an afterthought to what was going on at ringside with Roman Reigns, which was insanely stupid. After Bryan "distracted" Reigns earlier in the night, why would he get distracted by Reigns signing autographs? The booking of these two during his feud has been abysmal, but at least they made up for at the end of the show with the hot brawl. If they can capture that same magic during their encounter at Fastlane, the match may not be as big of a bust as the buildup has been in recent weeks.
Personally, I really enjoyed this show and found it to be successful in creating excitement for the pending pay-per-view. It wasn't an all-time classic edition of Raw by any means, but there were several segments and matches that made it an entertaining viewing experience on the whole. The Fastlane card has potential on paper, so here's hoping we're in for a noteworthy show on Sunday night as the road to WrestleMania 31 rolls on.