By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Dean Ambrose Interrupted WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H
Hopefully we're not in for a long road to WrestleMania with Triple H and/or Reigns kicking off Raw every week with long, drawn-out promos. What was the point of him appearing on SmackDown last Thursday if he was going to cut the same exact promo on Raw? The back-and-forth between him and Ambrose was decent, but it seemed to go a lot longer than it should have if the payoff was a match against Alberto Del Rio for Ambrose. I assume we will see Ambrose vs. Triple H at some point, and when better than at that March to WrestleMania special in a few weeks?
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch in a No. 1 Contender's Match for the Divas Championship Ended in a Draw
I really liked the idea of having this match kick off the wrestling portion of the show. If it wasn't going to main event the episode (like contributor RJ Marceau pitched over the weekend), you might as well have the match open it. The contest was what you would expect from the longtime rivals, meaning it was very good. I was pleased the crowd didn't sit on their hands for it and were actually engaged in the action, which is why it benefited from being placed so early in the show. I dig the non-finish (despite how it's been done to death this past month on NXT and Lucha Underground) because it sets up a logical Triple Threat match for WrestleMania, assuming the SmackDown rematch ends the same way. I would have been content with Charlotte vs. Banks one-on-one, but Lynch deserves to be a part of the match after successfully getting over with the audience as of late.
The Miz def. Dolph Ziggler
Although I like Miz and Ziggler, I likely wouldn't have cared about this match without any prior build, so I was glad to see them have some sort of interaction backstage last week on the Raw Pre-show and tie it into their match this week. It was fine while it lasted, but it was merely a sliver of what they're actually capable of producing given their past awesome encounters. Miz winning was a pleasant surpirse, and believe it or not, it marked Miz's first televised victory since last April.
Stephanie McMahon Addressed Shane McMahon
This felt like the type of promo that would normally open Raw, and it likely would have had Triple H and Ambrose not needed to build their match and the night's main event. In all honesty, I found myself zoning out at various points, but all in all, it was a standard heel response from Stephanie regarding Shane's shocking return. I don't know how wise it was to make it known that Shane wouldn't be there, but other than that, she did well. Then again, I would have saved this promo for next week since The Undertaker and Mr. McMahon also appeared on this show for the same reason.
League of Nations def. The Lucha Dragons
What's the reason for these never-ending matches between League of Nations and The Lucha Dragons? They're usually well-wrestled, so that's not the issue, but I fail to see what purpose they're supposed to serve. In all likelihood, WWE has nothing in mind for any of these guys right now, and I hope that isn't the case for Kalisto. A few singles matches against Rusev, Sheamus and King Barrett would feel fresh, but they need to get away from these tag team matches fast. As for Alberto Del Rio attacking Kalisto afterward, I believe it was designed to be a last minute attempt to get heat on Del Rio rather than resume their rivalry.
Ryback def. Adam Rose
Don't think just because Ryback went up against a member of The Social Outcasts that he's still babyface because they're always switching between babyface and heel. He didn't scream "Wake up! It's feeding time!" during his entrance like he usually does, so I'm going to go ahead and guess he's going heel if he isn't already. He came off extra aggressive in squashing Rose, but it all depends on whether this resurgence for Ryback will lead to anything significant for him at WrestleMania.
Chris Jericho and AJ Styles def. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day (Non-title)
As I have said multiple times in recent weeks, I would love nothing more than for the feud/angle between Jericho and Styles to carry on through WrestleMania. Even as a tag team, they have excellent chemistry together and they had an entertaining matchup with New Day. Y2AJ challenging the champs to a title match is a big hook for next week's Raw and I suspect it will lead to Jericho turning heel on Styles and another match at 'Mania, but I've been predicting that for a while now (along with everyone else), so I'm excited to see what unfolds.
Mr. McMahon Called Out The Undertaker
Well, this was a disappointment. Undertaker took longer to get to the ring than the time he spent in the ring! He had one line about beating the hell out of Shane at WrestleMania and that was it. Nothing about being put in a precarious position, doing it for The Authority, etc. What a waste. Vince's promo was what it was, but I was shocked the segment ran half the time the opening promo did.
Bubba Ray Dudley def. Jey Uso
We're three weeks into this feud and we still have yet to hear from The Usos on TV. That's absolutely ridiculous. As for the match, it was passable, but the real money with these two tandems is tag team action, and I'm happy they have held off on their first in-ring encounter and I'm hoping they wait until WrestleMania. I doubt that will be the case, and while the feud has been solid so far, more promo time could do wonders.
Big Show def. Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens by Count-out (Non-title)
Their match on SmackDown did little to impress me and I had the same reaction toward this match. It's not that they don't work well together but... yeah, that's exactly what it is: they don't work very well together. I won't lose my mind if it's nothing more than a filler program for TV, but if the plan is for this to wrap up at WrestleMania, I just might cry. Owens is so much better than that.
Naomi def. Brie Bella
Brie Bella's mic work in the pre-match backstage segment with Lana was better than usual, but I'm not sure what to make of their apparent program. It's great that we have a secondary rivalry than isn't over the Divas Championship and doesn't involve Total Divas, but what's the end-game? A match at 'Mania? I'll reserve further judgement until we see more from them. The match wasn't much of note, but Naomi continues to win me over with her amazing offense and I hope a Divas title run isn't in the distant future for her.
Dean Ambrose def. Alberto Del Rio by Disqualification
After a draining three hour show, it's hard to blame the crowd for sitting on their hands for this one. The match hasn't been done to death before, but League of Nations bore me to tears, so putting them in the main event slot was overkill. The post-match brawl between Ambrose and HHH, however, ended the show on a strong note with Ambrose putting up a hell of a fight and HHH looking as badass as ever. That's a match I'm looking forward to seeing and I'd imagine it will transpire at the aforementioned March to WrestleMania special on the WWE Network.
Coming off last week's hot edition of Raw, this show had the tough task of topping it, but it didn't even come close. The night started out nicely with Ambrose and HHH and the enjoyable women's match, but everything else that followed fell flat for this viewer, especially the underwhelming McMahon-Undertaker segment. With Shane McMahon back next week, hopefully we're in for a rebound episode for our first March show. Oh, and happy Leap Day! First time Raw has ever landed on February 29 and the last time until 2044. Thanks for being a part of history with me!