By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Triple H Made a Major Announcement
I honestly wasn't expecting much out of this announcement, but it ended up being as big as they were touting it as. It was nice to hear Daniel Bryan finally make mention of the championship rematch he deserves, and Seth Rollins played his part well. Maybe it was just me, but Reigns seemed to come off as a bit whiny to me with his mannerisms, which could be planting the seeds for a heel turn if they opt to go that route. They set the stage for Fast Lane, the main event and the subsequent match between Roman Reigns and Big Show, so even though the segment ran longer than it should have, it was successful in hooking the viewers.
Big Show def. Roman Reigns
Yes, you read that right: Show and Reigns had yet another match together, and Show won! There are so many things wrong with that sentence, I don't know where to even begin. As I've said time and time again, pairing Reigns with Show is a terrible move. If they really want people to rally behind Reigns, they need to start having him face people that the fans care about. It also came to my attention that this marked the first time in his near-three year run in WWE that Reigns had lost a singles match by pinfall, and it came at the hands of Big Show. I could rant for hours about that, but for now, I'll just say I was shaking my head big time at that.
Dean Ambrose Attacked Curtis Axel
How hilarious was it to hear Axel actually acknowledge that he never technically entered the Royal Rumble? Good on WWE for not forgetting all about that. Ambrose was the perfect guy to interrupt him and I'm glad he's not becoming an after thought. He's in desperate need of a big win. I don't know if a feud over the Intercontinental Championship will do the trick, especially since Bad News Barrett is also suffering from bad booking at the moment, but it's better than nothing.
The Ascension def. Gold and Stardust
The match itself was an expect repeat of what we saw on SmackDown last week, so nothing new there. The only difference was that Stardust was the one who was angry over the loss this time, not Goldust. It's nice to see them starting to break the team up, but we saw something similar last spring and nothing ever came out it. Here's hoping they actually go through the split this time, and Goldust referring to Stardust as Cody backstage afterward was encouraging.
John Cena Welcomed Back Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan
Did anyone else find it strange that the United States Championship is now apparently on the line for Rusev's upcoming match with Cena? I like the move, of course, but in that case it was completely pointless for Cena to say the belt was beneath him last week on SmackDown. I realize Cena was the one who got these guys their jobs back, but I'd be happy with them staying as far away from Cena as possible. Their actual careers might be in jeopardy! In all seriousness, the segment did a good job of setting up three fresh matches for the night.
Ryback def. Luke Harper
This was a surprisingly good match from two big guys. You'd expect a slow, plodding match given who was involved, but it was pretty solid and they kept the pace consistent. Ryback is so over with the audience at the moment that he held their interest and Harper was impressive here as well. It was a nice, clean win for Ryback and I hope they have a clear direction in mind for him as WrestleMania nears.
Cesaro def. WWE Tag Team Champion Jimmy Uso
It was your typical champion vs. challenger matchup, though it was enjoyable at points given their similar styles. It went a bit longer than I expected, but they worked well together so I had no complaints. Cesaro picking up the victory was smart as it builds up him and Tyson Kidd as credible challengers to the WWE Tag Team Championship. That tag team title match has all the tools to be fantastic, regardless of when it takes place.
Bray Wyatt def. Dolph Ziggler
I really liked that these two have hardly had any matches together, making this match mean something in the process. They produced a great matchup with a lot of back-and-forth action. Ziggler sold really well for Wyatt's offense and it made for an interesting clash of styles. The final few minutes were very fun and the finish out of nowhere was a refreshing change of pace. They're really building up Wyatt to look strong and it's starting to look like that rumored match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania might be becoming a reality.
Paige def. Alicia Fox
Remember when these two were feuding with Paige as the heel and Fox as the face? And that was only a few short months ago! It bothers me how they continue to misuse the women and not give them any storyline support at all. The Bella Twins were at leas somewhat bearable on commentary this week and they "spray tanned" Paige afterward, but it's a weak feud that I couldn't care less about.
Sin Cara def. The Miz
Miz and Damien Mizdow are flourishing in their respective roles right now and I love how WWE is taking their time with their inevitable split. This was a throwaway match and I questioned why they didn't put someone else in there against Miz who the fans care about. Zack Ryder? Darren Young maybe? Sin Cara is damaged goods and him picking up the victory did nothing for me, but I understand why that did it and I'm glad the tension between Miz and Mizdow was the focus of the bout.
United States Champion Rusev Attacked Erick Rowan
Rowan was the perfect fall guy for Rowan. He's not in the same category as Sin Cara I would reckon, and enough people care about him that Ryback attacking him packed a punch. It was a simple yet effective segment to put more heat on Rusev going into his title defense against Cena at Fast Lane. On a side note, props to Rusev and Lana for going with the flow after the flag botch and making the most of the situation.
Daniel Bryan def. Seth Rollins to Advance to Fast Lane to Face Roman Reigns
This is a match that could easily main event WrestleMania at some point. In fact, this could have been in the main event of WrestleMania 31 and wouldn't have felt out of place. It doesn't take an expert to see that these two have excellent chemistry together and I can only imagine what they're capable of doing when given more time. For the time they were allotted here, they had a very enjoyable matchup that definitely captured the big fight feel with everything that was on the line. The interference from Roman Reigns and Big Show only added to it, but I was left scratching my head as to why Randy Orton didn't return. Then again, he should've returned months ago, so I guess I should just stop expecting it at this point. Nevertheless, Bryan going over was the best way of closing the show.
From what I've seen, this show received mixed reviews from fans, but personally, I enjoyed it. At a time when we desperately need something to look forward to going into WrestleMania, this edition of Raw did a lot to restore some of my faith in WWE in terms of saving that event from being a disaster. There was solid progression toward Fast Lane in a few weeks in addition to a handful of fresh, entertaining matches. Here's hoping they can build off this momentum going into the next pay-per-view, which I am now much more interested in seeing than I was before this episode.