12/29 RAW: A step in the right direction

Mike Tedesco’s RAW Thoughts
December 30, 2014
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com

After weeks of insipid, banal, humdrum, and tedious television, WWE finished off 2014 with some big news angles. They like finishing off the year with a big angle it seems (remember Daniel Bryan turning heel for three weeks last year?), so they kept that tradition going. With the shows having been so pointless over the last few weeks (some can argue months), the fact that anything big happened on a show should automatically make it one of my favorites of the year. It really isn’t one of my favorites of the year (there were far better shows than this), but the fact that there were some relevant and exciting things on this show excited me. It’s been too long.

Edge and Christian avoid disaster with Brock Lesnar

It was nice to hear the good pop for Edge and Christian when they made their way to the ring. It was also a nice touch to have Tony Chimel do their entrance as he always seemed to get a kick out of doing the big “Rated R SUUUUPERSTAR” line for Edge. Chimel did not disappoint. They did some banter as they laid the framework for the show (some of the banter good and some not so much) before getting set to do a 5-second pose, which also got a nice reaction from the crowd.

Instead, they were interrupted by Brock Lesnar, which definitely perked me up. I knew he was there, but I wasn’t expecting him to come out in this segment. Paul Heyman started the promo and ran down Edge and Christian for swimming in the shark-infested waters that is Brock Lesnar’s world. Heyman then referred to both men as being retired, which was news to me since they never announced anything about Christian. I know it came out shortly after the show was over that he was officially done, but couldn’t they have at least given him a microphone at some point over this year and let him do a quick speech? The guy has been in the business for nearly twenty years and has been a very good mechanic (as Steve Austin would call it), so why not let him say goodbye properly? They have three hours to try and fill each week, so it would have made at least one episode easy to fill a top of the hour segment with that and get people talking. It would also be something positive for WWE to tout that they’re taking care of Christian after all those concussions. It would be a counter to the things CM Punk said on Colt Cabana’s podcast. Well that’s neither here nor there because it’s done now.

Eventually, John Cena came out to have a standoff with Lesnar and Heyman. Cena talked about beating Lesnar at the Royal Rumble before pretending to attack Heyman to sucker Lesnar in. That was a well done angle that got the fans buzzing. That certainly kicked the Rumble build into a higher gear. This was a good opener.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev ends poorly

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this match because through the years I’ve been conditioned to find that Champion vs. Champion matches are bad. They don’t want either guy to lose, so it’s always a crumby finish. It doesn’t help that in this one, one of the champions is undefeated, so they’re definitely not going to beat him in the 8:30 EST time slot. They worked hard, but I don’t think anyone thought Ziggler was really going to beat him. The crowd didn’t get going for them, and the match itself never really clicked. It went two segments (just one of a few matches they dragged out beyond where it should have gone because of the light crew), but it was largely dull. The finish was actually worse than I thought it would be. Rusev simply refused to stop stomping Ziggler in the corner, so the referee disqualified him. That… that’s bad (I can’t wait to see someone try to defend the finish). Rusev then tied him up in the ropes and applied the Accolade, which saw Ziggler tap out to it. Why do the disqualification then? In any event, Ryback made the save to a great pop from the crowd. Amazingly they got Ryback back on track after some shoddy booking for him over the last month or so.

Ryback gives us some backstory

This was ok to me. It took a lot of time to get to the point, so there were points where I was thinking, “Why the hell am I watching this?” After a few moments, it felt like it was a sort of retaliation shot at CM Punk. He was addressing his comments about negative people to Rusev, but it felt he was really throwing them toward CM Punk. One of the main criticisms of the product right now is that you have no reason to really care about the performers since their characters are so one dimensional. This fixes that as we now know a little more about Ryback. Some will be able to connect with that and now he’s more than just a guy who likes to give people meat hook clotheslines.

It also felt to me like they were letting him go out there and tell his story in his own words. It seems like they only gave him that line at the end, which didn’t really fit in. It felt forced. He said (not verbatim), “I take negative people and their thoughts and eat them.” Ok… whatever that means. Other than that I was ok with everything.

The Usos win back the WWE Tag Team Titles

After some pointless filler from the Divas (somewhere in Stanford, Connecticut they’re going to claim that what happened was hype for “Total Divas,” but when the match lasts barely a minute and nothing else is said, how is that hype?), it was time for The Miz and Damien Mizdow (both of whom I met on Sunday) to defend the Tag Titles against The Usos. This was a really fun match. My hat is off to The Miz for working that whole match and never tagging Mizdow in. Even though he was in the match the entire time, the crowd really got in to the end of it. Logic says that the team that tags in and out should dominate the team where only one guy competes, but they still got the crowd to come around. Make no mistake about it: Washington, DC was a tough crowd, but they perked up for this one at the end. There were a couple of near fall sequences that were really well done. When Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale on Jey Uso, I was going to get up to grab a drink thinking it was definitely over. This was a lot of fun to watch and recap, something that hasn’t happened in a while for me.

After the match, they did a post-match interview with Jerry Lawler, which I guess is becoming a thing since Dolph Ziggler did one last week. The Usos talked about how they played The Miz, so I’m guessing this feud and the teased problems with Naomi is over.

A couple of mismatches bring the show’s pace to a grinding halt

I was really excited when we came back from commercial to see Cesaro in the ring with a microphone. They were trying for a worked shoot with him where he talked about how silly it is that the decision makers in WWE think he can’t connect… and then he failed to connect. Not only did he fail to connect, he crashed and burned at the end of the promo. It was really sad to watch. I felt awful for him. It was like when I saw Roman Reigns freeze on live TV at WWE TLC. It’s awkward enough to watch. I can’t imagine how it is for the performer. Bad News Barrett made his return (looking noticeably skinnier), and he didn’t connect with the crowd either beyond his initial promo. They worked hard in the match, but it just never clicked. It’s nice to have Barrett back, though.

At least this match didn’t go two segments like the next one did with Luke Harper and Jack Swagger. Yikes, this was atrocious. There were moments where you could literally hear a pin drop because the crowd was so silent. This was awful and went way too long. I think everyone in the building knew that Swagger never stood a chance here against Harper. If the finish is never in doubt, why stretch it out like this? I get that the roster was light, but this was just embarrassing.

Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins disappoint

This was another two segment match that just never locked in, which is surprising considering Seth Rollins was in it. Big Show being at ringside certainly didn’t help because that completely telegraphed the DQ ending. On a side note, it was fantastic to hear Big Show calling the moves since the regular commentary team never, ever does. This felt like a match where they were just doing stuff for no real reason. Rollins would do something, and then Reigns would knock him down. Rollins would do more stuff, and Reigns would knock him down again. There was nothing to this at all. Watching this match and seeing Reigns try to sell as well as set up his moves showed me in crystal clear definition that he is not even close to being ready to main event WrestleMania against Brock Lesnar. I’m not saying ever. I’m just saying for this year’s WrestleMania he shouldn’t be in the last match. Luckily the solution for that problem was right around the corner.

YES! YES! Daniel Bryan is back!

After teasing a career-changing announcement the entire evening, Daniel Bryan finally came out. This was just fantastic. Bryan isn’t renown for his promo ability, but he had the crowd hanging on his every word. This didn’t seem like a scripted promo to me whatsoever. It sounded like he was speaking from the heart, and that made this moment just that much better. Amazing what can happen when you don’t have 25+ writers trying to control everything. The crowd hung on his every word, and by the end of it, they were at a full volume roar when he announced he was in the Royal Rumble. In my mind, this is the winner of the Royal Rumble. Bryan is a fantastic story and just his mere presence makes the show so much more enjoyable. I’m gearing up for the “But Mike, he’s overrated” complaints. Some people just can’t be happy. I’m psyched for him just knowing all he went through to get to this point. There were times I thought his career was finished. Bryan is the great underdog story and deserves another shot at the main event. He’s the only guy I’d trust to main event and put on a fantastic match not named John Cena.

The Ascension debuts – I almost forgot

The Ascension debuted against The Miz and Damien Mizdow as an amalgamation of The Road Warriors and Demolition (who were really a rip off of the Road Warriors). They had about a minute to get over and – surprise, surprise – failed to do so. On a three-hour show, why are some matches rushed to the point where they can barely go a minute? You’re that bad at pacing? I’m not a fan of giving guys a new sort of gimmick when the one they were using in developmental was working well. It’s kind of funny to me that with all the guys that are ready for the main roster in NXT that these two were the ones chosen. Well they fit right in with the tired tag team scene. Their debut match is about as high as I see them going.

The Authority is back after 36 days

Well my hope for a show void of any heel authority figures is once again ruined. I don’t think WWE’s creative staff knows how to book a show without heel authority figures. It’s literally been almost twenty years since the show hasn’t had some sort of heel authority figure on it. Still, The Authority coming back makes sense. They have a lot of unfinished business, particularly with Sting. It feels a little rushed to me, but I guess it’s now or never.

I liked the way they brought them back. There weren’t many options aside from the obvious of turning Cena heel (which they will never, ever do), so this is the next best thing. There were a few things I didn’t like about it, though. How long it took John Cena to finally respond to Seth Rollins’ threats over Edge, and how long they dragged out Rollins trying to get Cena to bring them back… both took way too long. They filmed a segment earlier in the show where Cena talked about how much he respected Edge. He respects Edge so much it took him a few minutes to come and help him out. Then Rollins went on and on telling Cena to do what he wants him to do. It was clear to me what Rollins wanted, but to a casual viewer it’d be confusing. Rollins never told him to bring The Authority back, so the commentators had to eventually chime in and say Rollins is talking about bringing The Authority back. Good golly. Still, Cena begrudingly doing it was done right. After that, then Triple H and Stephanie McMahon came out with glasses of champagne. The stipulation was they only had office jobs and pretty much had no business being there, so were they just hiding backstage waiting for this moment to happen?

The interesting part of this was the handshake with Paul Heyman and Seth Rollins while Brock Lesnar didn’t do a thing. Is Rollins going to eventually become a Paul Heyman guy? I don’t think they’d have Rollins cash in on Lesnar at the Rumble (why build Lesnar up all this time only to not get him to WrestleMania with the belt?), but this certainly makes me think this could be a big angle the night after the big show.

Overall impression

It was just nice to have a RAW with some big angles once again. I’m not going to say this was a fantastic show because it certainly had some flaws. It was just a nice change of pace and a step in the right direction. WWE is going to start really picking up after the Royal Rumble, so this show was a good way to lay some groundwork for that event.

Bump of the Night: Swagger clotheslining Harper at ringside?
Match of the Night: WWE Tag Team Championships Match ** 1/4

Final Rating: *** 1/4

E-Mail – MikeyT817@gmail.com
Twitter – @MikeTedescoWV

Check out my recap of this week’s RAW here.

Thanks for reading! Have a happy and safe New Year!

Mike Tedesco is the official recapper of WWE RAW and Smackdown for Wrestleview.com.