By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins Presented Kane and J&J Security with Gifts
It's bad enough to kick off the show with an Authority promo (no surprise there), but to have the segment go 20 minutes without any real pay-off felt like a complete waste. Rollins is an entertaining character, especially when he's in Oprah mode, but what was this supposed to accomplish? It was a whole lot of nothing that had me zoning out constantly because I never thought it would end. Worse yet, whose brilliant idea was it to promote Big Show vs. Mark Henry for after the commercial break? Just a terrible way of opening the show all around.
Big Show def. Mark Henry
I wasn't a fan of the Show vs. Henry feud back in 2011, so you could only imagine how empathetic I felt toward this match. Could it have been worse? Sure, but not by much. It's not that it was a terrible match, but we've seen it so many times before and also, there was no one for the crowd to cheer! Show and Henry were heels the last time I checked and The Miz (another heel) sat in on commentary. This, like the previous segment, was a total train wreck and beyond pointless.
Intercontinental Champion Ryback def. The Miz by Count-out (Non-title)
The match was decent while it lasted, but perhaps I enjoyed it more than I typically would have because it came after a terrible first half of this show. I like the dynamic that Ryback and Miz have together and I'd be all for them feuding one-on-one over the Intercontinental Championship after Battleground. The count-out finish put heat on Miz and gave Ryback a win, but again, the first half of this show didn't do the non-finish any favors because it came off as flat.
Paige def. Alicia Fox
Not to sound like a prick, but I was shocked this was the best part of Raw up to this point. Don't take that as me slighting the women, but it's because we have been given little reason to believe that WWE has any intention of taking the women seriously. However, if you put two exceptional athletes in Paige and Fox in the ring together and give them decent time, the result is the above average match we got here. The storylines for the Divas still suck right now, mind you, but this was a pleasantly surprising match for sure.
Cesaro def. United States Champion John Cena by Disqualification
Despite Kevin Owens coming down to the ring, you had to know he wasn't going to accept the open challenge with his title match against Cena coming up at Battleground. Initially, Owens naming Cesaro as his replacement didn't make sense to me because they recently had beef on an episode of SmackDown (then again, who would remember that?), but they filled in that logic gap at the end. As for the match, holy crap! It was absolutely incredible, but did you honestly expect anything less? I've been pulling for a Cena-Cesaro feud forever and I'm really hoping this match (and more importantly the conclusion) convinced backstage officials that they should pull the trigger on it after Cena is done with Owens. In a rare instance, I loved the non-finish because it protected Cesaro and left viewers wondering whether he would have won the strap had Owens not interfered and Owens explained afterward that he wanted to be the one to take the title from him.
WWE Tag Team Champions Prime Time Players and The Lucha Dragons def. The New Day and Bo Dallas
Essentially, this was the same match we got on SmackDown last week, I enjoyed it. They were given plenty of time and while most of it was pretty formulaic, but it was a nice showcase for the tag team division and the finishing sequence was fun. On a side note, I was shocked they didn't mention Kofi Kingston will be Brock Lesnar's at the Japan event this upcoming weekend. I'm looking forward to that one-sided assault, er, match, but it would have helped if they acknowledged Kingston was going to be his opponent.
Rusev and Summer Rae Confronted Dolph Ziggler and Lana
Man, this was super painful to watch. I was fine with Ziggler and Lana being a one-time thing last month given that Ziggler's character is a "player" so to speak, but they have next to no chemistry as a regular pairing. Meanwhile, Rusev and Summer have even less chemistry together, and while I'm glad the talented Summer is finally getting some television time, this angle isn't benefiting anyone involved. Rusev's character would be better off on the sidelines and off programming for a while than coming out every week and being made to look like a pathetic joke.
Sheamus def. Neville
I've liked the idea of a Sheamus-Neville feud for a while now and thought this was a good match, but it suffered from happening so late in the show. They crowd wasn't red hot for it (nor did I expect them to be), but at least they appreciated the in-ring action and the match gave Sheamus a good win. As I've been saying quite a bit lately, my fear is that they don't have any direction for Neville at the moment. I'd rather they drop the Sheamus-Orton feud and go with this as a rivalry instead.
King Barrett def. Jack Swagger
These two contested a very solid match not too long ago on Superstars, but I wasn't shocked to see them go only a few minutes on Raw. It was designed to give Barrett a quick, decisive win, but you could tell the crowd couldn't have cared less. It's nice they're giving him wins, but it appears it's too little too late. There was no sign of R-Truth on this show, but I assume they're still feuding, and as long as that's the case, he'll continue to be perceived as a joke by a majority of the audience. I don't know if even a repackaging could aid Barrett at this point, and I'm honestly not sure what would.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and Kane def. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in a No Disqualification Match
The No Disqualification stipulation certainly made the match more enjoyable, but not by much. It was your typical tag team match with some uncontrolled chaos thrown in, but they could have done more to make it special by incorporating weapons and fully take advantage of there being no disqualifications. I wish Kane's "vacation" meant he was being taken off TV for a few weeks, but I doubt it. Wyatt's interference was predictable, but I liked how he physically got involved this time instead of just appearing on the Titantron for the third straight week. The Authority attack afterward put good heat on the heels, but like last week, I wish these beatdowns were condensed a bit and weren't dragged out so much. If they really wanted to kill time, why not just have the match go longer?
This was a rather strange show from start to finish. It started off on an awful note with the first 30 minutes, but the next hour and a half that followed was great and filled with three exceptional matches. The final hour, per usual, dragged at various points and the conclusion of the show wasn't too hot, but it wasn't too bad, either. At the very least, there was plenty of hype for Battleground in a few weeks and I enjoyed this episode on the whole more than last week's. It wasn't a home run of a show, but it definitely delivered more than I thought it would, and the three above average bouts made it worth watching.