by Jason Howard Kelly
Last night marked the first episode of Monday Night Raw in the month of February as we continue to head down the road to the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania. Before we get to Wrestlemania, however, we must find out who will challenge the champion, Triple H, for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. With a triple threat match between Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Brock Lesnar looming at WWE’s next Pay-Per View event, Fastlane, it will be interesting to see how WWE officials attempt to build up that match in the coming weeks.
As with any of episode of Raw there were high points, and there were definitely some low points. Alas, such is the nature of the product these days. It’s hard to have a 3-hour show without some dull points. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
It’s never a bad idea to kick off your show with a Paul Heyman promo, and that’s exactly what we got last night. The crowd in Birmingham deserves a lot of credit, too. They were full of energy from the start, and immediately greeted Brock Lesnar with a resounding “Suplex City” chant that put a big smile on the face of the beast incarnate. Heyman’s promo was interrupted by Dean Ambrose, who claimed he wanted to stare down Brock Lesnar to, “see what all the fuss is about.” This was a decent move for Dean, who is booked as taking unnecessary risks and being unafraid of the consequences. What could be more risky than coming out to the ring by himself and taunting Brock Lesnar? This added some legitimacy to Dean’s character as someone who can stand toe-to-toe with the baddest man in WWE and not flinch.
Limited TV Time For “The Authority”
The Authority are the top villains in WWE right now, no question about it. It has almost become common practice for The Authority to start off Raw by strutting down to the ring and flexing their corporate muscles for all of us to see. That’s why it was so refreshing to get a break from that routine on this week’s Raw. In fact, throughout the entire 3-hour show, we only saw The Authority twice. Both were very brief segments and both involved the central figures in the triple threat match at Fastlane. That was all we needed. No need to have some long, drawn-out speech from Triple H about his legacy. No need for Stephanie to stand in the middle of the ring and wax poetic about the power she and her husband possess. The best way to keep The Authority as such a strong heel is to make sure the audience doesn’t get sick of them.
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
“NXT! NXT! NXT!”
That was the chant that rang through the crowd at The Legacy Arena last night as we were treated to a match-up between two of the WWE’s fastest-rising Diva prospects. Becky Lynch has been given an opportunity to shine by WWE officials with her most recent feud with the Divas Champion, Charlotte, and she has done exactly that. Becky has lass-kicked her way into the hearts of the WWE universe and has quickly become a fan favorite. Fans had also been clamoring for Sasha Banks to take her rightful place on WWE television, and last night they got exactly that. Before the match could get underway, however, Sasha was greeted by her former “Divas Revolution” teammates Naomi and Tamina (Remember them?). Sasha’s former comrades promised to support her despite her decision to pursue a solo career, and then the match began. The match itself was pretty good, which is par for the course for Becky and Sasha. Eventually Naomi and Tamina attempted to get involved on Sasha’s behalf, which lead to her angrily saying that she no longer needed them around. That is when things broke down, and Naomi and Tamina assaulted Sasha, causing the match to end via disqualification. Sasha was outnumbered until Becky stepped in to help her, and the two former NXT tag team partners drove Naomi and Tamina out of the ring. Could “Team Bae”, as they were called in NXT, be reuniting? Or was this just a temporary team-up between two Divas who are gunning for a shot at the Divas Championship? It will be interesting to see how the WWE books the Divas division as we get closer to Wrestlemania.
Okay, let’s get to the not-so-pleasant parts of last night’s show….
Miz TV Featuring AJ Styles
The WWE universe is buzzing about AJ Styles now being a part of the roster. Styles is arguably one of the biggest free agents that the WWE has ever been able to scoop up, and now is his chance to shine on the big stage. He was booked strongly last week by earning a victory over the 6-time WWE Champion, Chris Jericho. So what did WWE have in store for its most exciting free agent signing this week?
Miz Tv…. Are you sure, WWE? This is how you want to show off AJ Styles? A talk show with perhaps the most forgettable superstar in the WWE right now? Not only was this a weak booking for Styles, but the segment itself was dreadfully boring. Miz did his typical Miz shtick by not allowing Styles to talk throughout the whole show. Then, inevitably, he became aggravated with the crowd chanting Styles’ name and claimed he was a nobody who would never make it in the WWE. This resulted in Styles clocking Miz with a right hand and tossing him around the ring for a bit before Miz weaseled his way out of the ring. Let’s just hope this doesn’t turn into a Styles vs. Miz feud because, quite frankly, Styles deserves better than The Miz for his first real WWE feud.
The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts
One has to appreciate what the WWE is trying to do with The Social Outcasts. Taking four struggling superstars, teaming them up, and trying to create a unique faction to help bolster the tag team division. Clearly, the WWE is trying to catch the same lightning in a bottle that it did with The New Day, who are supremely entertaining.
The same cannot be said, sadly, for The Social Outcasts. So far they have been disappointing, to say the very least. But let’s be fair to The Social Outcasts. After all, The New Day started off slowly as well when they were first brought on the scene. Perhaps The Social Outcasts just need to more time to develop chemistry and find their niche in the WWE. Nevertheless, it is clear that they are not there yet. The match last night between them and the Usos was the perfect time to flip over and check the scores, or check on the Iowa Caucuses, if you wanted to. Total snooze-fest.
The Main Event
“Oh, cool! Another tag team main event match! I love these!” — Said NO ONE.
Why does the WWE keep doing this? They can’t come up with a more interesting main event than a tag team match? It’s understandable that they’d want to show off two of the three participants in the main event for Fastlane, but there has to have been a better way to do it. Why not put Ambrose and Reigns in a triple threat match against another top superstar, such as Bray Wyatt or Sheamus? Honestly, the only saving grace for this main event was The New Day, who were up to their usual antics. The promo they cut that referenced the recent Twitter war between Kanye West and Amber Rose was particularly on point. The match itself was… Bleh. Honestly, doing a breakdown of that match would be pointless. It was exactly like every other standard tag team match. Reigns and Ambrose won, and then, as one might expect, the celebration was cut short by Brock Lesnar coming down to the ring. The New Day pulled Reigns out of the ring, which left Lesnar to isolate Dean Ambrose and deliver an F5 in the middle of the ring. This achieved extremely minimal build-up for the main event for Fastlane, and left many viewers yawning as Raw drew to a close.
Please, WWE, for all that is good in this world, no more tag team main event matches!
Oh, yeah, and there were some parts of Raw that were just totally pointless. Let’s get to those.
Kalisto vs. Rusev with Alberto Del Rio on Commentary
Kalisto vs. Rusev was… A match. There’s really nothing else to say other than that. The title was not on the line, and it was clear going in that this was a match to help put over Kalisto as a legitimate champion. With the massive amount of heat on both Rusev and Lana, it was painfully obvious that he was not going to come out on top. The days of the dominating, super athlete from Bulgaria are gone for Rusev. Now he’s getting the Dolph Ziggler treatment from a year ago, where he’ll be sent out to drop matches to superstars that he should beat just because WWE officials are still ticked off at him and Lana. Additionally, Alberto Del Rio was at ringside doing commentary becausue… Well, who knows? He provided next to nothing on commentary, and he didn’t even try to interfere or get involved in the match. His only contribution was standing at the commentary table yelling at Rusev during the match.
This seemed to have less to do with enhancing the rivalry between Kalisto and Del Rio, and more to do with humiliating Rusev and Lana. Save that kind of stuff for Smackdown, don’t waste time on Raw for it.
Big Show vs. The Wyatt Family
Does anyone reading this right now remember who Big Show was even technically facing in that match? Probably not, and it doesn’t matter because the match quickly devolved into the Wyatt family mugging the Big Show in the middle of the ring. The beating would end with the Wyatt family slamming Big Show down onto the steel steps.
And the point of this was what exactly? To show off the dominance of the Wyatt family? The audience already knows how dangerous the Wyatts are, beating up a has-been like Big Show doesn’t suddenly make them more intimidating than they already are.
Also, where was Bray? Because it is incredibly challenging to buy into the Wyatt family without Bray leading the charge.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens
The match itself between these two was actually quite good. Both men are extremely entertaining in-ring competitors, no doubt about that… But why are they feuding? What is this feud meant to result in? Neither of them have a championship belt, and neither seem to be anywhere close to the WWE’s plans for the Championship. Other than just wanting to have a good match on the docket it’s hard to figure out why this match was necessary. Perhaps the idea is to build up both Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler to challenge Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania, assuming Dean does not win at Fastlane
(News flash: He won’t)
Overall, last night’s Raw was a shrug of the shoulders. Not horrible, not great. Just sort of… “Meh”.