Mike Tedesco’s RAW Review
March 31, 2015
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com
I have to take my hat off to WWE. The build for WrestleMania 31 was spectacularly bad, but they pulled off one hell of a show this past Sunday. That WrestleMania from an excitement and surprise factor made it one of the top five of all time in my mind. I never, ever would have guessed that. The main event in particular was fantastic. The intrigue with Brock Lesnar having re-signed a three-year deal and what they would do with Roman Reigns made it very exciting. The vicious beat down Reigns and Lesnar inflicted upon each other was great as well. Then when Seth Rollins came out to cash in his Money in the Bank… forget it. I was going nuts. Major kudos to WWE!
Last night we had the second best (or third best if you’re really hard up on the Hall of Fame) part of the WrestleMania festivities: the RAW after the big show. Starting in 2013 in New Jersey (I was there), this has been a show as much about hearing the hilarious chants and huge reactions from the crowd than the actual show itself. Was it a good show? Was it average? Was it a disappointment? Let’s find out!
Brock Lesnar is one scary, scary individual
The crowd exploded when Brock Lesnar’s music hit to kick off the show. Lesnar came out dressed to fight alongside Paul Heyman. The look on Lesnar’s face was priceless. His face was all cut up and swollen from last night, and his intensity was absolutely off the charts. I can’t express enough how awesome Lesnar is for WWE. What a coup to keep him for another three years. What he brings to the table is completely different than anyone else on the roster. With some matches, you watch and you say, “Yeah, I know it’s fake.” When you watch a Lesnar match, you have to say, “Ok, what I watched before was fake. This guy is the real deal.” He’s that good. I think that feeling exists because he really is pounding the crap out of his opponent. That beating he gave Roman Reigns was unholy… and exactly what Reigns needed. The big mark against him aside from the promo work is that he hasn’t really done much to get the spot he’s been given. That beating was definitely an “earning your stripes” beating. I give him a lot of credit for getting annihilated at WrestleMania. That clothesline on the apron and the slap in the face in particular looked brutal.
Anyway, enough about that. Lesnar and Heyman were complete babyfaces in this promo. Heyman really got the crowd fired up with the idea of Lesnar invoking his rematch clause that night. He also did a good job of putting over Roman Reigns, even though that’s not what the crowd wanted to hear. Stephanie McMahon then came out and mentioned that Seth Rollins wasn’t in the building yet, but she said he was a fighting champion and would meet Lesnar in the ring. The crowd was great throughout this. They reacted huge to Lesnar, bigger than I can remember for any superstar in quite some time. They were 100% behind him.
Of course you had to figure this match was never going to happen. Rollins would later come out for the title match before getting out of the ring and saying he had jetlag. That led to the coolest angle they’ve done in some time. Lesnar just absolutely annihilated anything and everything in his path. Lesnar went after Rollins, and they had a neat little back and forth. I loved Lesnar no selling the enzuigiri and just staring at him. Rollins wound up escaping Lesnar. Lesnar then killed J&J Security and sent them flying over the commentary tables. Lesnar then tipped over the table on Booker T and JBL, immediately killing them. Booker looked like he took a good shot, but I don’t know how that knocked JBL unconscious. Lesnar then grabbed Michael Cole, and the place came unglued. Lesnar gave Cole an F-5, which was pretty neat. Later they said that Cole had cervical fractures, and that wasn’t so cool. Perro Aguayo just recently died from cervical fractures. Lesnar then went to F-5 a cameraman when Stephanie McMahon came out. She threatened Lesnar, who then gave the guy an F-5 and spat toward Stephanie. She suspended him indefinitely, so Lesnar gave the guy another F-5. My guess is we’ll see Lesnar back sometime around SummerSlam, but I don’t know how his suspension will finish up. The way I took it was The Authority has to allow him back. This was just a spectacular angle that was red hot. It reminded me of how the show used to be. It was also sobering because the show will probably go back to how it’s always been next week.
Bryan and Ziggler tear it up, and Sheamus tears them up
The Intercontinental Championship has been resurrected overnight, just like the US Championship (more on that in a few). I think the one thing we’ve learned from not having a World Champion on the show for the better part of the fall and winter is that there needs to be something for the superstars to compete for. Something about wrestling for the sake of wrestling isn’t that exciting. If the mid-card championships meant close to anything like they had in years past, those shows could have been halfway decent. Hopefully with this initiative to put some steam back behind these titles that won’t happen again. Of course, they have to stick with that. WWE has a bad tendency to start something and not see it through all the way (see the numerous start-stop pushes for guys through the years).
For now, the Intercontinental Championship is going to start to reclaim its tagline of being the worker’s championship. Traditionally it was always the best match on the card. Of course, things have changed and the heavyweights can go in the ring, but it shouldn’t be a throwaway title. Daniel Bryan holding the championship and making it seem like a big deal does wonders for it.
Bryan faced Dolph Ziggler for the third time in a week and a half, and they naturally tore the house down. The fans ate up what they gave them and gave them a standing ovation halfway through it. They went to town on each other. They started with some wrestling before turning it into a brawl. In the end, they smashed each other with head-butt after head-butt before Bryan stumbled back and exploded toward him with the Busaiku Knee Kick for the win. A great match and hopefully a sign of things to come with the Intercontinental Championship getting a lot of time on the show. Hopefully most of that time won’t be spent with the current champion on his back at the end of the match. That’s one aspect of the title that needs to completely go away.
After the match, Sheamus made his return with a new look. Sheamus has a big Mohawk and beads in his longer beard. It’s definitely… interesting. It’s fresh, that’s for sure. Sheamus chased Bad News Barrett off before giving Bryan and Ziggler Brogue Kicks to turn heel. I’ve been waiting for this for quite some time. If there’s someone who needed a heel turn in the worst way on that roster, it was Sheamus. I think you’re going to find that he is way, way better as a heel than a face. This was a great move, and it should lead to some great matches against Bryan and Ziggler.
NXT stars get the call up to the main roster
It seems like this could be a running thing going forward the night after WrestleMania: select NXT stars will make their debut. Last night saw the debuts of Kalisto and (Adrian) Neville. Kalisto was fantastic. I’ve seen him on NXT before, but he came off as such a superstar before this crowd. When he stood on Cesaro’s shoulders and backflipped off… that was awesome. I bet The Ascension wishes they got called up the night after WrestleMania because Kalisto and Neville got to keep their gimmicks somewhat. The Ascension are treading water with this lame 80’s knockoff gimmick. I got a kick out of the crowd completely turning on The New Day in that match as well. The New Day is such an awful gimmick and really needs to go. They’ve got three great guys in it and I wish for the best for them, but this is a bad gimmick and it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Still, it’s nice to have the Lucha Dragons on the main roster to fill out the anemic tag team division.
Neville’s debut against Curtis Axel was a lot of fun. For those that were fearful of him showing up in the heavily rumored Mighty Mouse gimmick, you can rest easy. I thought when they had him come out in a purple cape that it was the direction they were going, but it was just something to wear on the way to the ring. Neville made quick work of Axel and picked up a nice win. I’m not sure why they dropped his first name. I don’t think the name “Adrian” is that bad. It’s certainly stronger than just Neville. It’s kind of like when they dropped the “Alexander” from Rusev’s name. Rusev is actually a strong name. I’m not sure Neville on it’s own is that powerful.
I was really hoping for Charlotte and/or Sasha Banks to make their debut in the divas match, but I guess they figured they had too many debuts on one show already. Charlotte has been ready for a call up since the summer, and the crowd would have gone nuts for her debut, especially if her father accompanied her to the ring. I guess we’ll have to keep waiting.
Byron Saxton… woof
After the destruction of the current WWE commentary team, they sent out Byron Saxton, the Bryant Gumbel of WWE, to do one-man commentary for the night. I think at first he was supposed to act like he was shaken up and unprepared, but after a segment or two you realized that it wasn’t an act. Saxton was a mess and nearly killed the vibe of the show with his very vanilla delivery. He totally downplayed the segment where The Miz attacked Damien Mizdow. His “shocked voice” just doesn’t cut it. It was so bad they had to send out Jerry Lawler to help him out halfway through the Cena/Ambrose match. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to have Saxton attempt to do one-man commentary, but that was bad. With Michael Cole nursing a “broken cervix,” I hope this doesn’t mean more Saxton. I thought for sure they were going to send out Jim Ross as a surprise and make the crowd go insane. I bet they wished they retained his services at least just to teach these younger announcers how to sound passionate and prepare for a wrestling broadcast. At the end of the day, it’s still a wrestling show.
John Cena and Dean Ambrose have the Match of the Night
If there’s one thing I can say about John Cena, it’s that he’s persistent. No matter the crowd reaction, Cena stays right as rain and almost makes you love him. I remember in 2013 at the RAW after WrestleMania when he talked about a heel turn… and proceeded to turn his heel a few times. The crowd laughed at that before remembering they hated him. This year, Cena cut a promo and did his whole, “The Champ is here” thing to massive boos. Cena issued an open challenge earlier in the day with the title on the line. Everyone figured it would be Rusev, but it wound up being Dean Ambrose. They played it up that perhaps Rusev was away licking his wounds and regrouping.
Cena and Ambrose had an absolutely fantastic match. It was definitely the best Cena match I’ve seen in quite some time, and it was a great effort from Ambrose. Ambrose had a misstep toward the end where he went for a sunset flip powerbomb before losing his grip, but he recovered nicely and didn’t miss a step. The near falls in this were fantastic. There were a few times I thought they were putting Ambrose over. It got so good that the crowd had to do a “This is awesome” chant. In the end, Cena picked up the win. Even though they still booed the result, I have to think he earned their respect a little bit. That was a hell of a match. Just like that, the United States Championship is relevant and interesting. If Lesnar were to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship again and disappear for a while, the Intercontinental and United States Championships can headline any house show if they go the way they seem to be going.
The crowd goes into business for themselves during a tough third hour
As much fun as this crowd was, I’m not a huge fan of them being vulgar or attempting to hijack the show. No matter what criticisms I have about the show, I still respect the hell out of all the performers who sacrifice their time and bodies to entertain us. While I wasn’t happy to see them use Big Show and Kane in the main event because it really is more of the same, I don’t like seeing them get disrespected by the fans with them doing the wave and chanting really nasty things. I thought the crowd was exhausted and quiet during the third hour, but it turns out the WWE had to lower the crowd microphones significantly to cut out the things they were chanting.
I get that you paid for a ticket and feel like you can do whatever you want, but where is the line drawn? Was a “You suck Cena” chant toward Nikki Bella really necessary with children in the audience? I didn’t hear it come out on television, but I’ve read numerous reports that it was chanted. Also “You suck Bryan” and “You suck Tyson.” That just gives wrestling fans a bad name. The divas actually had a fine match that was given time, and the fans in turn completely disrespected them. They seemed to come around toward the end of the match when they realized it wasn’t the usual throwaway divas match (they haven’t had one in weeks, though), but that was just straight up wrong.
That being said, the third hour wasn’t all that great. It was like the show peaked with an awesome two hours. Those first two hours felt like an old school RAW. As usual, the third hour was just way too much. It felt like a different show. If the show ended with Cena/Ambrose, that’d have been great. Put the Rusev match on Smackdown and don’t have Seth Rollins wrestle when he already claimed jetlag to get out of one match. Also, they had to know that Roman Reigns was going to get massacred going out before that crowd. I’d have saved him for Smackdown and let him do a promo or run someone over in a quick match before a more controlled crowd. To have him compete in a pointless main event where the crowd was abusing him was pointless. Still, they’ve got to fill up that third hour… I know I’m preaching to the choir by this point. Extra revenue will always trump quality.
Sting’s post-RAW interview
I really got a kick out of how they promoted Sting’s appearance on the WWE Network immediately following RAW. They promoted that head-to-head with the shortened version WWE Hall of Fame ceremony on the USA Network. It was just weird to hear Jerry Lawler tell people to watch Sting on the WWE Network while there was a graphic advertising the WWE Hall of Fame at the same time.
I liked the Sting promo. Sting didn’t really say much and was cryptic about his future, but I sense the fact that he was happy when the fans were loudly chanting “Undertaker” at him. Speaking of Sting, there was no Triple H on this show, which I found strange. They didn’t even really mention him at all aside from the Ronda Rousey thing. Bo Dallas then came out to be a complete moron and get dropped by Sting. I really got a kick out of that. Dallas is such a great foil. Sting gave him a Scorpion Death Drop to send the crowd home happy.
Despite the negative crowd reactions and lame content in the third hour, this was a fantastic show. We had a red hot angle with Brock Lesnar that we’ll be seeing replays of for weeks probably and the mid-card titles are resurrected. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture is also interesting with Randy Orton throwing his name into it as well. Things are certainly looking up for WWE television. If they can just keep the Big Show and Kane out of the main event, I think it’ll be ok. Overall, this was a great show to cap off a great WrestleMania weekend.
Bump of the Night: The short piledriver Ziggler gave to Bryan!
Match of the Night: John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose *** 1/4
Final Rating: ****
Well those are my thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know by commenting or using one of these two other options to get in contact with me.
Check out my recap of this week’s RAW here. Be sure to check out my Smackdown recap this Thursday!
Thanks for reading!
Mike Tedesco is the official recapper of WWE RAW and Smackdown for Wrestleview.com.