By Graham "GSM" Matthews
John Cena Addressed The Authority
I got my hopes up a bit when I saw Cena kicking off the show for a change instead of The Authority, but I figured it was only a matter of time before they out. Cena was fine here and this was a solid tie-in to the subsequent match between Cena and Seth Rollins, but the biggest issue with these opening segments is that they felt like they consist of so much talking and nothing new is ever being said. What's worse is that Cena's plan to "leave" plan WWE (which was comical given that their current champion Brock Lesnar is never on the show) was essentially mocked by The Authority. How do they expect fans to take this storyline seriously when Cena's plan was turned into a joke?
Seth Rollins def. John Cena in a Lumberjack Match
As well wrestled as this match was, I've just grown tired of seeing them work together. I was hoping we saw the last of their matches late last month, but that was before I discovered they'd be in the same match in Royal Rumble. Despite the jobs of Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan being on the line, it never felt like anything of consequence was at stake and the lack of excitement on commentary played a major factor in that. Big Show getting involved elicited a groan from me since it was so predictable and the outcome was a lose-lose. I want the "fired" Superstars back, but they couldn't bring them back one week later. This whole angle is so convoluted right now.
The New Day def. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro
Kidd and Cesaro got a good match out of The New Day, and the problem wasn't even the match quality. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods are both excellent athletes, but as I've said countless times before, I couldn't care less about their characters right now. The New Day is such a bust and it's apparent to everyone except for WWE officials that it's just not clicking. I feel bad for Kidd and Cesaro because they have a lot of potential to be a top tag team and going after the WWE Tag Team Championship. They're both bright stars on their own, but if they're going to be put together, they might as well push them accordingly.
Roman Reigns Interrupted Big Show
Everything, and I mean everything, about this segment was absolutely atrocious. Perhaps it's personal bias, but I simply don't care for Big Show at this stage of his career. He hasn't meant anything in ages and it's obvious he's getting desperate for heat. His mic work is fine but he's getting more go-away heat than anything else. Dare I even talk about Reigns' promo? Whoever is writing his promos (who is rumored to be Vince McMahon) deserves to be fired. His fairytale promo was beyond bad isn't not even funny. They're not doing this guy any favors with the deplorable material he's being asked to work with and it's turning more fans against him as WrestleMania approaches. If this wasn't a sign that this guy isn't ready to be pushed toward the main event of WrestleMania, I don't know what is.
Roman Reigns def. Luke Harper
Nothing was going to be as bad as the promo Reigns cut before this bout, so maybe's that what made this match better in comparison. This was probably Reigns' best in-ring showing to date since returning and most of that had to do with how good Harper is. Above all else, it was something fresh and not a tired match (see: Cena vs. Rollins). It didn't erase the memory of that god awful promo, but it was a significant improvement.
Alicia Fox def. Naomi with One Arm Tied Behind Her Back
Anything involving someone having an arm tied behind their back is absolutely ridiculous before the match even begins. It's another tired gimmick from heel authority figures that I hate seeing being done. As if that wasn't bad enough, the commentators make it sound like it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. There was no sympathy for Naomi from the commentators whatsoever and isn't that supposed to be the whole point?
Paul Heyman Addressed John Cena and Seth Rollins
Similar to Rollins vs. Cena from earlier in the show, this was designed to kill time and it did it in an effective manner. They could have easily had Heyman say all of this during the contract signing, but I like how they gave him his own time to talk about Lesnar ending The Undertaker's WrestleMania undefeated streak in that same city (New Orleans) last April. It was a really cool tie-in and Heyman's promo, per usual, was very well done. Lesnar isn't on the show most weeks, but they definitely make the most of him whenever he is available.
The Miz def. WWE Tag Team Champion Jey Uso
We've seen this match so many times in the last month or so that it's gotten to the point where I just stopped caring. They're clearly headed toward a split between Miz and Mizdow and this was simply filler before they get to that point, presumably at the Royal Rumble. I'm just ready for The Usos to face a fresh batch challengers that aren't named Miz, Mizdow, Goldust or Stardust. We need new blood in the tag team division now more than ever, but I understand they're buying time before The Usos collide with The Ascension.
Stephanie McMahon Interrupted Daniel Bryan
Once again, Bryan cut an excellent promo that held the crowd's (and my) attention the entire time. It's pleasantly surprising to see how far he's come on the mic in the last year alone. He's never been the best promo guy, but this was earlier one of the better segments of the night due to Bryan's ability to switch from a happy-go-lucky guy to an intense competitor looking to exact revenge on an old foe. I don't know if I'm excited for yet another rekindling of the rivalry between Bryan and The Authority, but if it means Bryan will be headlining WrestleMania for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (again), I'm all for it.
Brie Bella def. Paige
It was surreal watching this match (not in a good way) seeing how undefined the characters of both women are. I've made my disdain for how Brie has yet to explain her actions from months ago very well established and it's ridiculous Paige turned face without any real reason aside from being "friends" with Natalya. She beat the Divas champion last week yet lost to her sister this week? This will make no sense in the long run unless Brie is added to the title match at Royal Rumble.
Macho Man Randy Savage Was Announced to Be Inducted in the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame
It was long overdue, but it's finally happened. We knew it was coming sooner or later, especially after the Poffo family made amends with WWE not too long ago when the Macho Man DVD was put out, but it brought me great joy to see it finally made official. He's been deserving of the honor forever and the only shame is that he won't be there in person. Regardless, it'll be great to see him go in at last and make the WWE Hall of Fame more legitimate as a result.
The Ascension def. Local Athletes
This wasn't different from any Ascension squash we've seen in the last two weeks, so there wasn't much to note about it. I still maintain that The Ascension shouldn't be comparing themselves to such as Legion of Doom or Demolition on a regular basis. I don't see it as "disrespectful" as some people have said, but it's definitely not doing them any favors seeing how they'll never, ever be on their level.
United States Champion Rusev def. Dean Ambrose by Referee Stoppage
The only thing I can say about this match is that it was new and different, like Reigns vs. Harper. The match itself wasn't anything out of the ordinary aside from it not serving a purpose. Of course, they'll both be in the Royal Rumble match in two weeks so there's that, but they never made that clear in the pre-match promo or on commentary, so that story wasn't told too well. The non-finish protected Ambrose, but it was done in lame fashion. Rusev is in a tough spot right now with Ryback "fired," so I hope that rivalry will resume sooner rather than later.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Seth Rollins Signed the Contract For Their Triple Threat Royal Rumble Match
On the topic of tired gimmicks, why are contract signings still a thing in wrestling? It's very cliche and I can't imagine they're big rating draws at this point, so why advertise it so heavily? That said, this was a very good segment to close the show on. Everyone involved was awesome and Rollins especially stood out. He didn't seem out of place at all and that's a real testament to how well he's been built up in the last year. His inclusion in the title match at Royal Rumble is intriguing to say the least and I loved how he was the last man standing to close the show. He was a star by the end of the night and I'm excited to see what the future holds for him going forward.
Last week's show was so horrendous that this show in comparison was a step in the right direction, but that's not saying much. There were a lot of things about this week's Raw that bothered me and while The Authority stuff still bothers me to no end, at least it was pulled back a bit this week. The WWE World Heavyweight title match means something, but where's the love for the Rumble match itself? I guess I shouldn't be surprised since they neglect the Rumble match every year, but it hardly got a mention on this episode. They have one week left to build it up, but even by then it will be too little too late.