By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Authority Interrupted Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan
Reigns' promo was a bit shaky early on and it's a shame because he fared well for himself the last two weeks. The key to Reigns cutting a good promo is keeping it short and sweet, and he can't be relied on to open the show on his own. Bryan was good in his role, but you knew exactly where this was headed when The Authority came out (can we ever have an opening segment on Raw that doesn't involve them?). The plug for the pay-per-view (and the WWE Network) felt out of place from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, but at least viewers had the potential Sting appearance to look forward to.
Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns def. Big Show and Kane by Disqualification
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Show and Kane just aren't effective heels in 2015. That's what Reigns never got over in his feud with Show because no one cares about Show. That was essentially the case here, but thankfully the focus was more on how Reigns and Bryan would coexist than it was the match itself. The disqualification finish is done so much it's ridiculous. I understand why they did it (to keep Show and Kane unbeaten before the Handicap match), but it seems like a lost cause to protect Show and Kane at this point.
Ryback def. Seth Rollins by Disqualification
We've seen this match a handful of times in the past, but not enough where I didn't mind seeing it again. They had a decent outing in the time they were allotted, but it didn't take long at all for it to end in a disqualification. I love how Michael Cole said on commentary, "Typical Authority" when in reality it's "Typical WWE." Two disqualifications in a row? Seriously? Who booked this show? That's not exactly the best way to entice viewers to stay tuned. Ugh. What's worse is that the crowd groaned and didn't boo. That's indicative of how tired crowds are seeing these non-finishes.
Paige def. Brie Bella
My ears began bleeding when Brie Bella's entrance music hit. I thought they got rid of that in favor of the Bellas theme? Anyway, the match was passable and both ladies put forth a good effort, but no one in the crowd seemed to care. Can you really blame them given the lack of character development with Brie and Paige? They have a fine feud going with The Bella Twins and Paige, but I can't say I'm surprised more people aren't getting behind it; it just feels bland.
John Cena Interrupted United States Champion Rusev and Lana
Didn't we just have a "John Cena Appreciation Night" one month ago? This company apparently suffers from short term memory loss. Basically, the story they're trying to tell is Rusev feels Cena is a broken down vet and Cena is insulted. That's it. The content of the segment was okay but it's simply not clicking. Maybe because it's obvious that Cena will be the one to beat Rusev, which is a massive shame given he doesn't need the win.
Bray Wyatt def. Dolph Ziggler
After several mediocre matches and too much talking, this was the wrestling this show needed. As expected, Wyatt and Ziggler had another very good matchup and both were excellent here. Ziggler sold well for Wyatt's offense and they didn't do the same spots from their first encounter, instead adding a new twist on them. It was another big clean win for Wyatt, but I'm concerned for Ziggler's immediate future as I don't think they have a plan for him going into WrestleMania. The commentators strongly pushed the narrative Wyatt is on the roll of his career right now, meaning a match with Undertaker on the grand stage is all but confirmed.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman Addressed Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan
It was nice to hear from Lesnar and Heyman... well, mostly Heyman for the first time since the Royal Rumble to give his thoughts on the situation at FastLane. Nothing he said was groundbreaking and the segment might not have even been necessary to be honest with you; they may have put them out there to kill time. That said, Heyman made the most of the promo time by cutting a great promo on Bryan and Lesnar. His comments on Bryan were especially interesting, though I still don't think Bryan comes out of FastLane victorious. Either way, an effective use of Lesnar and Heyman.
The New Day def. Gold and Stardust
It's been apparent for weeks that Gold and Stardust are breaking up and nobody cares about The New Day, so I don't blame the crowd whatsoever for their lack of reaction. The match was throwaway, but at least it didn't take up a chunk of time by going longer than it needed to. In a perfect world, I'd have Cody Rhodes as the babyface, but as long as they break up and we get Cody back, I'm content.
Sting Accepted Triple H's Challenge to Appear at WWE FastLane
The crowd was dead silent for Triple H's promo, but I'm not sure if it was a case of it being too late in the evening or not caring for what he had to say (maybe a combination of both?). I didn't think Sting would show up, so I wasn't disappointed that he didn't, but I feel bad for the fans in attendance who thought he would be. Either way, the production of the segment with the Sting graphics and everything else was cool and well done. I'm excited to see what other production tricks they have in mind for Sting on the road to WrestleMania.
Cesaro and Tyson Kidd def. WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos (Non-title)
It's not often tag team matches are given good time, so I was glad to see this go as long as it did. They definitely maximized their team by having a fun matchup, especially down the stretch. Cesaro and Kidd are such a great tandem and they showed they have some sweet chemistry with The Usos. It was a logical win for Kidd and Cesaro to set up the tag team title match for FastLane which has the potential to steal the show.
Sin Cara def. Damien Mizdow
I realize many people aren't going to admit it, but Miz is so great in his current role and his work during his match at ringside was proof of that. The way he can manipulate a crowd is spot-on and Mizdow is perfect in making the crowd cheer for him. Much like last week, no one could have cared less about the match itself because it involved Sin Cara and you could hear a pin drop when he won, but the important thing is that the furthered the pending split between Miz and Mizdow nicely.
Dean Ambrose def. Curtis Axel
This was an exact repeat of what we saw on SmackDown from these two, so if you saw that, this was nothing new. For those who didn't, this was a glorified squash victory for Ambrose, and I was surprised how receptive the crowd was to Ambrose despite how late in the show it was. The post-match promo from Bad News Barrett was, again, the same stuff we saw from him on SmackDown with him denying Ambrose's challenge, even though we'll probably see them face each other at FastLane anyway. By the way, I don't find the BNZ shtick as atrocious as everyone else; it's not great, but I don't see the harm in it for now.
Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns def. Seth Rollins, Big Show, Kane and J&J Security in a 5-on-2 Handicap Match
I didn't care much for what went down during the match since we saw something similar in the tag match earlier in the evening, but it was fine for what it was. The interference from Ryback, Dolph Ziggler and Erick Rowan was welcome given their history with The Authority and it made sense of the stupid finish to Ryback vs. Rollins earlier on. The match also succeeded in teasing tension between Bryan and Reigns as their FastLane match draws near. Reigns technically didn't do anything "heelish" per se, but the negative crowd reaction indicates he might have to go heel sooner rather than later.
While the first hour was atrocious, they recovered nicely in the subsequent two hours with solid hype for FastLane, Wednesday's NXT TakeOver special and even Thursday's SmackDown. Nothing on this show was particularly great, but I enjoyed a few of the matches (Wyatt vs. Ziggler) and segments (Heyman's promo). On a side note, it's great to see Rikishi announced for the WE Hall of Fame as he's a worthy inductee after the decorated run he had with the company. The next few weeks of WWE TV have my interest for sure and I look forward to how many of this current programs develop.