By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Roman Reigns Confronted The Authority
Does the whole story of Dean Ambrose taking the WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt and refusing to returning it remind anyone else of when CM Punk did something similar back in 2011? Perhaps I'm too fond of that summer storyline so it's the first thing that came to mind. That said, it's a nice way of setting up a rematch between the two for Money in the Bank, and a Ladder match at that. Remember, it was in a Ladder match last year that this feud started, so it's fitting that's where it will conclude (for now, anyway). I've grown numb to The Authority kicking off Raw, but at least it established the main event for the next pay-per-view right off the bat and lead into Reigns' subsequent match with a mystery opponent, a nice hook going into the commercial break.
Roman Reigns def. King Barrett
They contested a good match and I appreciated how it was something fresh, but did WWE honestly expect us to take Barrett seriously as a threat to Reigns only a night removed from when he got beat by R-Truth? I mean, the ending outcome of this match was never in doubt to begin with and they wanted to put Reigns up against someone who could absorb the loss, but that was flawed logic, despite how well wrestled the match was. If nothing else, Reigns' opponent wasn't a returning Big Show, so it could have been far worse.
Intercontinental Champion Ryback vs. The Miz Went to a No Contest
Miz wasn't even back for a full 24 hours and he was already made to look like a fool (as if the new sleeveless jacket didn't already accomplish that... I kid!). Was there no one else who could have been in that spot instead? Big Show's return was met with apathy from the crowd, and I cringed when he knocked out Miz fearing yet another face turn was on the horizon. Thankfully, that didn't appear to be the case, and I figured he'd be back eventually, but I just don't care about him anymore. A Ryback-Show feud, though, is at least something new, so we'll see how it goes.
United States Champion John Cena Interrupted NXT Champion Kevin Owens
Owen's promo, per usual, was great and I liked how he brought up how his son was a John Cena fan. That's what's most appealing about Owens: he's a genuine character that blurs the lines between storyline and reality. Cena's promo was well delivered, but I didn't quite understand the content. He said Owens didn't deserve the U.S. title, despite the fact he lost to him cleanly the night prior. He also said Owens "wasn't a man." Where did that come from? It didn't emasculate Owens too much and Owens fleeing the ring was in line with what he would do, but I felt like I missed something before that.
Dolph Ziggler def. WWE Tag Team Champion Kofi Kingston
Yes, we've seen this match a million times over the years, but what I loved about this was how it was the first time we've seen it with Kingston as a heel and Ziggler as a face. What's old is new again, I suppose. It was a fun match while it lasted, offered a preview of what to expect in the Money in the Bank Ladder match and led into the six-man tag team match after the commercial break. Also, was it ever really explained why Kingston is in the Money in the Bank Ladder match and how he earned his spot? He'll definitely make it more exciting, but as always, he has next to no chance of winning, especially while he's still WWE Tag Team Champion.
Dolph Ziggler and Prime Time Players def. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day
It was never officially announced before the commercial break, but you had to know it was headed in this direction based off the Prime Time Players making the save for Ziggler from The New Day. The in-ring action was entertaining and the live crowd was hot for Titus O'Neil comeback down the stretch. There's a lot of untapped potential with the Players and I hope more television time leads to them developing their characters a bit more so they can build a bigger fan following before they (hopefully) win the WWE Tag Team titles at some point.
Roman Reigns def. Mark Henry by Count-out
After seeing him in action earlier in the evening, I didn't have much desire to see another Reigns match on this show, and it was obviously even worse than his outing than Barrett. It wasn't a bad match per se, but it was rather standard and the end result was a foregone conclusion. Henry turning heel didn't do much for me if only because I have no idea what's next for him, even though he works better in the heel role.
Divas Champion Nikki Bella def. Paige
Throughout the match, Nikki was reverting back to her "mean girl" shtick by acting cocky and I questioned why. And then after The Bella Twins did their old "Twin Magic" crap, it became clear they were turning them heel again. Too bad it went over like a fart in church with this crowd. The Bella Twins were babyface for all of a month! WWE's booking of the women is disgusting. They really need to let Triple H start handling the Divas division going forward because this is getting beyond ridiculous.
Randy Orton def. Sheamus by Disqualification
Orton and Sheamus have always worked well together and produce solid matchups, but as was the case here, it's just hard to get invested because we've seen them square off so many times. Most of their matches feel like they blend together, and that obviously doesn't help matters. Neither guy should've been beaten, so the disqualification finish, albeit predictable, was logical. Here's hoping Sheamus' post-match attack on Orton doesn't mean they're feuding again but rather that it's building heat between them before Money in the Bank. By the way, no excuse as to why Orton has been gone the last two weeks? Was he just on vacation or something?
Neville def. Bo Dallas
As much as I get a kick out of the Dallas "inspirational" gimmick, his pre-match promo about wanting to hurt Neville was encouraging. The aggressive layer has been what's been missing from his character and with it, maybe fans will take him more seriously. The match was good, but it felt like a rehash of their Elimination Chamber match. Hopefully they have plans for Dallas beyond this feud with Neville, especially since he won't be involved in the Money in the Bank Ladder match.
Roman Reigns def. Bray Wyatt
I wanted to believe there was a chance Wyatt would win here and advance to the Money in the Bank Ladder match, so because of that, I bought into the nearfalls in the final few minutes. The live crowd was drained and was relatively quiet for most of the match, but I still thought it was solid and they sold well for each other's offense. Reigns surely earned his place in the Ladder match, but will it turn the hardcore fans against him again that he was given the "Super Cena" booking? Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose was met with a monster reaction when he showed up and made the save for Reigns and I like the idea of him holding possession of the belt going int othe pay-per-view.
Coming off a newsworthy Elimination Chamber event, this wasn't the hot show I thought it was going to be, but it surely did a lot to build toward the Money in the Bank pay-per-view and get me excited for it. There were a handful of questionable booking decisions on this show, but I enjoyed it on the whole. With the next event in less than two weeks, it was essential to make it meaningful and I'd certainly say they succeeded in doing that, so this edition of Raw gets a thumbs up from this viewer.