By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Authority Addressed the WWE Roster
Ah, the long talking segments at the start of Raw. Who else missed these dearly (pardon the sarcasm)? I always hated how they brought out the entire locker room, it just makes them all look incompetent and inferior to The Authority. Seth Rollins being added to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Royal Rumble was a pleasant surprise. Will he be cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase as a result? The segment also set up the subsequent Intercontinental Championship match, so at least it wasn't a complete waste of time.
Bad News Barrett def. Dolph Ziggler in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match to Win the Intercontinental Championship
I was confused as to why the match ended so early, but it made sense once the match was restarted. These are the small nuances that I didn't miss about The Authority era. Ziggler and Barrett worked a very good match, but Kane's interference at ringside dragged it down a bit. Why give Barrett back the belt so quickly? Ziggler won it all of three weeks ago. It doesn't do anything for the title and it means less and less each time it changes hands. On a side note, I guess Barrett isn't a babyface after all despite teasing the turn last week on Raw.
The Ascension def. Local Athletes
It was nice to hear from The Ascension before their match, but is it really wise for them to compare themselves to The Road Warriors and Demolition? They already come across like cheap knock-offs and the promo didn't do them any favors. The squash match was straight out of NXT 2013/2014 and showcased The Ascension's dominance effectively.
Roman Reigns def. Big Show by Disqualification
The match was as slow and as plodding as you'd expect. The crowd came alive at times, but only when both men started busting out their signature manuevers. I can see why they did the disqualification finish, but all it did was make the live crowd groan. Reigns got the upper hand afterward anyway, but I assume this is leading to a clean finish either before the Royal Rumble or at Fast Lane.
Natalya def. Divas Champion Nikki Bella (Non-title)
I realize Natalya and Paige are apparently "friends" on Total Divas, but in storyline, Paige is a heel and Natalya is a face. Was this Paige's unofficial face turn? That's not even including Cameron checking up on Naomi later on in the night and Brie Bella having yet to explain her actions. The match was forgettable and while I suspect this will lead to a Divas Championship match at Royal Rumble, I'm sure there were better ways of getting to that point.
Luke Harper def. Erick Rowan with J&J Security as Special Guest Referees
This could have been a money match down the line, but WWE instead opted to waste it by giving it away on this show without any prior build. Obviously, The Authority have it out for anyone that was on Team Cena at Survivor Series, hence why they went after Rowan. The J&J Security was the epitome of everything I hate about heel authority figures. Welcome back, Authority. Sigh.
Bray Wyatt def. Dean Ambrose in an Ambulance Match
It sounds harsh to call this the worst match they've had in the series, but it kind of was. It was just boring. Most of it was brawling, but not the kind of brawling we've seen from them in recent months. I don't know if it was the lack of enthusiasm from the live crowd or what, but they didn't get invested until the very end. Ambrose's elbow from the top of the ambulance was a sweet spot, but that was the only memorable moment from the match. Wyatt winning was a real shocker to me. I still have my doubts he's facing Undertaker at WrestleMania and these constant losses are doing damage to Ambrose. I hold out hope this is all leading somewhere, but then again, this is WWE and very rarely do their utilize long term booking.
The Miz, Damien Mizdow and Alicia Fox def. WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos and Naomi
Is this feud really still going? The match was fine for what it was, but I am beyond ready for this rivalry to reach its end. I guess they still have the championship rematch, so hopefully that happens sooner rather than later. On a side note, what was the point in turning Fox heel for the millionth time? At the very least, they explained in during a backstage segment, but it diminishes the Divas division when everyone is always turning.
Seth Rollins and Kane def. Ryback in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match
You had to know The Authority was getting involved somehow given Ryback was also on Team Cena at Survivor Series. Handicap matches are hardly exciting, but they made the most of it and Ryback held his own against the two Authority members. I was surprised the match had an actual finish instead of ending in a disqualification, but Ryback was made to look in defeat after having to take not one but two Curb Stomps. Please don't let this mean we're in for these annoying Authority antics for the rest of the time they're around for.
Big E def. Adam Rose by Disqualification
The New Day still irks me to no end and Rose is still directionless as ever, so I was glad this match was kept relatively brief. The Rosebuds getting involved was a nice change of pace and I thought they would be revealed as rookies from NXT (The Vaudevillians, perhaps?) but it was in fact Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. I don't expect this to led anywhere other than maybe a mini feud with The New Day, but in all honesty they should be contending for the WWE Tag Team Championship.
The Authority Fired Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan
Much like last week, this segment was dragged out unnecessarily. It was beyond boring and with each passing moment, The Authority was sucking the life out of the arena (if there was any left to begin with). Why couldn't they have fast forwarded to the part where all three were fired? I hated the "you're fired" stipulations because as we saw at Survivor Series, they don't last long and fans have zero incentive to take them seriously. I'm interested to see how they write them back into storylines, but if they'll be back next week, why bother "firing" them in the first place?
I had high hopes going into the first show of 2015, especially after the excellent episode we were treated to last week. Unfortunately, I probably should have known better with The Authority back in power. This show was all about them and their annoying antics returning to prominence. There was much at all from this edition of Raw that was worth writing hope about and as down as I was on this show, there's nowhere to go but up in the weeks ahead... or so I hope. I am anticipating the Royal Rumble, but not every Raw during WrestleMania season can be bogged down with heel authority nonsense.