Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Raw Review: Last Stop Before Fastlane

I looked at the RAW Five-Point Preview yesterday from WWE's site.  As usual it gave us some idea of what WWE had in mind for last night's Raw.  This was a pretty successful albeit unspectacular episode of Raw.  That's not a bad thing by any stretch, mind you.  This episode accomplished what it needed to accomplish and moved us right along to WWE Fastlane.

Looking first at the issues the Five-Point Preview mentioned, here is what I thought of Raw.
  • The Authority, Daniel Bryan, and Roman Reigns Situation--Other than Kane complaining about getting KOed last week they didn't focus on the beef between the two large Authority henchmen which was good.  The main focus was on Bryan distracting Reigns in his battle with Kane and then Reigns returning the favor in Bryan's match with Big Show.  The most important thing I got out of tonight was Roman Reigns seemed much more comfortable. His words and actions fit what I expected from him initially as a singles wrestler as opposed to the cutting room floor John Cena gimmick he was working at some point there.  The brawl at the end between Reigns and Bryan was oddly paced, but felt organic for the most part and really worked.  The highlight for me was Reigns no-selling the chairshot from Bryan.  Usually I don't care for that kind of stuff, but the way it was executed worked for me.  It definitely left me even more interested in their Fastlane match.  I still think they'll have to turn Reigns heel if they want to get him over big as a face, but this show left me a little hope that there was a way that both of these guys could be top faces heading into WrestleMania.  If they could pull that off then that would be a good thing.  This also showed me that Roman Reigns would probably excel in matches that were all out brawls instead of this slow-paced stuff they've had him doing.  If they were smart the match at Fastlane would be an extension of this post-match brawl tonight which was excellent.
  • The Dust Brothers Explode!--Good job out of all involved.  I don't recall who said it, but someone on Twitter pointed out that Cody Rhodes has dominated whatever material he has been given in his WWE tenure and that is absolutely correct.  Cody was the star of this show, it was good to see The American Dream try to talk sense into his sons and Goldust was solid as usual.  Like I already said though, Cody Rhodes as Stardust was the MVP of the Dust Brothers' destruction.  I fear my hopes will be dashed, but it seems like we have another opportunity for Cody Rhodes to be a big deal in WWE.  I hope Creative looks at him the same way.
  • Dean Ambrose and Bad News Barrett--First Ambrose had a great match with Luke Harper (who seems to be treading water until after Mania which is a shame) and then he finally convinced BNB to sign a contract for and IC Title shot at Fastlane.  OK, Dean Ambrose actually zip tied Barrett to the ring post and forged his signature on the contract Ambrose had brought out at the beginning of the show.  Now I'm certain this wouldn't hold up in a court of law as Barrett repeatedly mentioned, but I thought it was pretty funny.  It also fits what Dean Ambrose is all about which is a special kind of cunning chaos.  Should be an excellent IC Title match at Fastlane.
  • How will John Cena respond to Rusev?--We got the usual Cena to open the show.  He veered into territory where he was actually pretty good on the mic by the end of his promo not that I care any longer.  Lana and Rusev decided they heard enough and Cena and Rusev engaged in a really good brawl to kick off Raw.  Cena came out on top which made a lot of sense considering The Super Athlete Rusev dominated him last week.  Cena's emphasis on winning the US Title was an interesting aspect of his promo as well.  This really is an intriguing matchup for this show because it will be interesting to see how they juggle all these things (Cena is still a, if not the, top guy/Rusev has dominated everyone/WrestleMania is lurking/Cena as US champ?, etc.).
  • Triple H, Sting, and RIC FLAIR!--They were really driving home the whole WWE vs WCW thing here.  I liked that Triple H mentioned that Sting's mind game weren't affecting him.  Business picked up when "Nature Boy" Ric Flair came down to help his friend Triple H.  Business really picked up when you could tell both guys were getting frustrated with one another until it boiled over when Triple H shoved Flair down.  That was a great visual and illustrated how intense this showdown between Triple H and Sting would be.
  • Seth Rollins vs Dolph Ziggler--Excellent match, stupid non-finish especially after J&J Security caused the DQ after they had been ejected.  The Fired 3 are still sticking together to some degree apparently.  I liked Jamie Noble almost paying the price for not taking a powder after Rollins and Mercury had escaped.  Another cool thing was the visual of Mercury tossing Rollins out of the ring for his own safety. 
  • The Bellas steal Paige's clothes--This was comical because you had Paige walk around in a towel as if she was naked until she got the bright idea to grab a costume from one of the Rosebuds.  The comical part was that it seemed pretty clear that Paige had her regular gear on under the dress she borrowed.  The Bellas reunited for little to no reason, but I must admit they work best as a team.  As silly as all this was they really are excellent heels for that division.
  • Primetime Players Reunite--This kind of came out of nowhere, but Darren Young was threatened by The Ascension on the Raw Pre-Show.  He came out to face them with a partner who not even Dave Meltzer recognized and never got announced.  That didn't last long because the important thing was that Titus O'Neill arrived to save Darren Young and hopefully the two of them will be making "MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!" together.  I will lament the death of Slater Gator though.
  • Everything Else--Bray Wyatt had a series of promos which I enjoyed and which seem to point to the Undertaker's return.  We got an intergender match between Jimmy Uso/Naomi and Tyson Kidd/Natalya.  They continued to play up tension between The Kidds as Natalya lost the match and Tyson Kidd was hot about it.  They also played this thing up as the first meeting between two married couples on Raw.
Overall, it wasn't a Raw that will go down in history as one of the great shows, but it really was a good episode.  It kept my attention throughout, advanced the stories to get us to Fastlane, and the main event angle left me wanting to see this Reigns/Bryan match more than ever.  I give WWE a ton of credit for bouncing back this week after a bad Raw last week.  My hope is that next week's Raw is even better as we deal with Fastlane's fallout and it will be our first one leading directly to WrestleMania.