January 30, 2014 by Joey Keogh
Following the, er, interesting display at Royal Rumble the night before, this week’s Raw was always going to be a strange one. However, as we open to cheers from the assembled, modest crowd in Cleveland, Ohio, the mood is notably more positive than it really should be.
First off, we are treated to screenshots and sound effects depicting key moments from last night’s PPV – because, if you didn’t pay for this shit, then you’re not getting to see it, bitch – before The Authority appears, as they are wont to do lately, to cause some trouble and piss us off some more.
Apparently we are already on the road to Wrestlemania and, indeed, Triple H and Stephanie Mc Mahon will point to the sign more times during this first little spot than they will actually say anything useful.
Michael Cole mentions they’re “on a high” from the success of the Rumble, which leads me to believe he was watching an entirely different show or, perhaps, lives under his very own, comfy Cole-shaped rock somewhere in the bowels of WWE HQ.
The crowd instantly turn, booing them out of it and yelling “Yes” which Steph casually turns into a positive, because she’s learned from the best and sees everything as a triumph, damn it. Just in case we didn’t get how “successful” the PPV apparently was, Trips is going to recap it, while trolling like a pro (their family dinners with Vince must be really fun).
Things liven up considerably when Daniel Bryan emerges to rapturous applause, demanding his inclusion in the upcoming Elimination Chamber (hey guys, there’s something else we need you to pay for really soon!).
But soon The Shield are called in to shut him up, which prompts newly-returned Sheamus (very well received) and John Cena (some kids are cheering for him somewhere in the back) to save the day once more – looks like we’re getting a six-man tag team match tonight! Shocking! The stakes are high, too, because the winners get to take part in the EC. Seriously, the tension is palpable.
Just when things were heating up, we are informed that Randy Orton is in the building and is going to be sleepwalking through a match or a promo or something a bit later on.
So, are we ever going to get to see some matches or..?
Oh, here we go. It’s…Rey fucking Mysterio!? Didn’t he get enough shit last night!?
Tag Team: The Real Americans -v- Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara (or that dude pretending to be Sin Cara, with the sizeable tattoo on his upper arm that shows he is not, in fact, Sin Cara)
A very blah first match, involving wrestlers nobody really gives a shit about – although poor ol’ Antonio Cesaro deserves better than this, bless him. The real draw of The Real Americans, quite sadly, is the racist banter from their leader, he of the fantastic, silent movie villain moustache, Zeb Coulter, who waves a giant sign about and seriously impresses during a spot in which he slaps Jack Swagger and tells him to pay more attention. What’s sad is that this spot itself is more interesting than the match – Zeb sells it like a big, racist champ, but it is otherwise unremarkable, and the winners obvious.
Winners: The Real Americans
Apparently tonight, aside from the six-man tag team match for inclusion in the EC, we can also look forward to a tag team rematch for the belt, which is great because the New Age Outlaws are definitely owed some airtime after being unceremoniously relegated to the pre-show at the Rumble.
A promo pops up with some made-up figures involving Smackdown viewership ratings, the crux of which is basically “Lots of people watch Smackdown, you guys! You should watch Smackdown too!”
That embarrassment aside, it’s on to one of the most ridiculous, yet totally awesome, segments in Raw right now, the rather brilliant, completely nonsensical, Bad News Barrett, which showcases Wade Barrett, who really should get to wrestle, you know, once a year.
Anyway, his bad news this week is that we have to watch a match between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler, because both of them are from Cleveland, which, as Barrett notes, is a shitty place to be from, and filled with idiots.
This “Cleveland sucks” joke hits really well, mostly because it’s directly in opposition to the usual bullshit that wrestlers patter out for whichever city they happen to be in, like “What’s up, Milton Keynes!” even though the place is clearly a shithole.
The first Network plug of the night (shockingly – is Cole’s mic not on or something?) is remarkably reserved, with the opportunity utilised to showcase a show called “The Monday Night War: WCW -v- WWE” which could actually be quite good. It also offers the only glimpse of CM Punk we’ll get tonight, but more on that later.
Fandango enters, along with his very game cohort Summer Rae – but wait! Before that! Did you know Wrestlemania is in Louisiana this year!? Well here’s a really odd promo for you, in case you didn’t! Hooray!
Oh, er, the match, right…
Fandango -v- R-Truth
Hopefully this one lasts longer than last week’s, right? Oh no wait, it’s already over. At least Summer Rae gets to showcase her talents for a moment, by blocking R-Truth and screaming like a Final Girl. She hasn’t wrestled much since her impressive debut at Hell In A Cell, but she really should because she’s great and really funny (better than the rest of the Divas combined – apart from the gloriously twisted AJ). Anyway, the match is over within a minute, but yet we still need to see a replay of it, just in case someone took a toilet break in the five seconds one of these jobbers was half-doing a move.
Winner: R-Truth (but really, are there any winners here?)
WWE thinks reading is cool, you guys! Especially Sheamo, because he’s had a lot of time off with nothing better to do so has been sitting around, wearing a Paddy hat and confusing his kids with his awesome Dub accent. Also, if you’re lucky enough, Rey Mysterio might come to your school! Woah! Only thing better than that would be an actual WWE Superstar!
General Manager Brad Maddox emerges to some serious booing, to remind us of his position in the company, and to introduce still-champ Randy Orton, who strolls out stupidly slowly as always – although in doing so, a Kelly Kelly sign is revealed in the crowd, so I guess it’s worth it in some, small way.
Orton apparently has a bone to pick or something, but because he gave up caring ages ago, he can’t even deliver his lines properly, and soon Batista turns up to shut him up, dressed and acting as though he’s wandered onto the wrong set and is trying to remain incognito to save himself from embarrassment.
As the two half-assedly trade pre-school barbs back and forth, the crowd chant louder and louder for Daniel Bryan, as Maddox stands alongside, trying to suppress a giggle. Funnily enough, in spite of his extensive film career, Batista has a really weird delivery that feels stagnated, like he’s. pausing. after. each. word. for. no. apparent. reason. He also puts EMPHASIS where there should BE no emphasis.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman then turn up to confuse things further, though Cole reckons this is an “incredible moment”, which makes me sad for the life he’s lived, and also leads me to believe he must’ve creamed his pants over the Rumble, because there were more than five men in the ring for that. Oo-er.
Another half-assed tête-à-tête begins because, apparently, Heyman wants Lesnar to fight Orton, or Batista, or really whoever will take him on. Lesnar is like the weird kid nobody will play with! Amazing!
Orton mocks fear, while Batista continues looking confused, as though he might have a line soon but can’t quite remember so doesn’t dare say anything until it’s absolutely necessary.
Next up, it’s the big Cleveland face-off that nobody really cares about, not even natives of the city itself. Both men enter the ring clad in Cleveland jerseys, for opposing sports teams, of some description, and yet only The Miz’s near-dead mother is excited to see him.
Dolph Ziggler -v- The Miz
This is a really nothing match, purely for show, with some decent moves from Ziggles, but not much effort on the part of the intolerable Miz – seriously, WWE, stop trying to make The Miz happen, it is not going to happen. Clearly, this is aimed at Cleveland obsessives (of which there are, apparently, many) but it’s not interesting and, even though it’s short, it lasts a bit too long.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler (phew)
Tag team: Ryback and Curtis Axel (apparently a tag team called Rybaxel!) -v- The Usos (woo?)
Another nothing match that goes nowhere, only this one involves Ryback putting one of the Usos in the corner of the ring over and over and over, possibly because he’s not sure what else to do when he’s not stomping around like a giant baby. This is truly the battle of who do we care less about, and it’s all for…nothing!
Winner: The Usos (woo)
Kofi Kingston -v- Alberto Del Rio
Hey, remember when ADR was a thing and he had a ring announcer and then he hit Santa with his car and suddenly everyone turned on him? Well he’s back! In Pog form! Not really, but he’s up against the happiest guy in the world, so we automatically hate him. Plus, he gives a sort-of bad guy promo half in English, half in Spanish, so that’s kind of annoying and unnecessary. Maybe he should guard the Spanish announcer table during the next PPV. That’d do more for the language than giving Bond villain-esque promos, while gurning a lot, and standing against a black background that does nothing to disguise the fact it was filmed in a hallway somewhere, possibly next to some chairs that won’t be used to beat someone up (aw). Anyway, Kofi is happy to be here, and thrilled to get a match because, let’s face it, anything is better than Staples, right? We are reminded of his triumphant jump into the ring last night, but the crowd are bored after about ten seconds and start cheering for JBL and King, both of whom stand up and wave like they’re the fucking Queen of England, though JBL notes that, if they start cheering for Cole, he’s out. The only thing truly noteworthy about this particular match is how long it lasts.
Winner: ADR (laughing maniacally)
Tag Team Championship re-match: The Rhodes Brothers -v- New Age Outlaws
Considering this is the first Raw after the Rumble, the outcome of this match is blindingly obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to see NAO back in action once again. They sell it better than any other tag team, even referencing Selena Gomez at one point to hilarious effect, and nobody gets the crowd going easier, or to better effect. Sadly, though, as the match is trundling along to its inevitable conclusion quite nicely, Lesnar turns up to wreck everything after, Heyman explains, not getting his way tonight. He beats the shit out of the Rhodes brothers, which elicits a scream of distress/arousal from some poor woman in the crowd – you know, the kind usually reserved for Orton? And, that’s it, really.
Winner: Er? DQ means New Age Outlaws, I’m guessing?
Divas Match: Some randomers nobody cares about like Aksana and the Funkadactyls -v- The Bellas -v- AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka
Let’s face it, nobody really gives a shit who’s involved in a Divas match, but in this case, it really is hard to tell who’s with who. Thank fuck the great AJ is involved. The longest running Divas champ of all time (shockingly), she may be an acquired taste, but she’s the only one of interest in the women’s division right now. That should make me sad, but it doesn’t because, for example, although getting training from her fiancée Daniel Bryan, Brie Bella still can’t manage to wrestle without screaming and grunting. If this is the best we get, I’ll take AJ. The match involves a Triple Suplex, which incorporates six different Divas. Sadly, they all make it out alive. Boo.
Winners: The Bella Twins and/or The Funkadactyls (were they together or not?)
The next inductee into the hallowed halls of the WWE Hall Of Fame is revealed to be…Jake The Snake! This is actually the best promo of the night by far; it’s poignant, exciting and informative, without being too cheesy or over the top. In a lot of ways, it’s representative of what we love about watching wrestling. No word on whether Damien is being inducted also, but one can only assume he is (or, at least, the current snake is – RIP Damien(s).
Another Network promo, this time showcasing an original programme entitled “Wrestlemania Rewind” which will feature all of the previous shows. This could be fun, and the Network is a really exciting prospect in general, but those of us on this side of the Atlantic won’t get to see it for possibly years so STOP RUBBING IT IN, WWE!
6-Man Tag Team Match for entry into the Elimination Chamber: Sheamus, John Cena and Daniel Bryan -v- The Shield
Somehow, the reaction to Daniel Bryan’s entrance this time around is even more ecstatic than when he entered the ring earlier. The Shield are booed, but everyone loves them really. How come they haven’t broken up, though? Roman Reigns betrayed them last night. Is it possible the WWE have forgotten one of their own storylines yet again? Cole outdoes himself by describing the match as “physical and emotional” which hints at the fact that he may actually be watching Total Divas instead – can one watch that on the app? Tell us, Cole! Otherwise we won’t know how to use it! After some extended, mildly diverting, fighting, it comes down to Seth Rollins’ fluffy hair versus Daniel Bryan’s majestic beard. But, of course, just as it’s about to get interesting, the lights cut out and the goddamned Wyatt Family turn up yet again to spoil the (sort of) fun.
Winners: As a result of a DQ, Cena, Sheamo and Bryan gain entry into the EC, shocking absolutely nobody
This week’s Raw ends with Reigns standing on the announcer table as Cole tries desperately to look up his trousers, while Bryan perches on the top rope, gazing out among his followers in quiet resignation to the fact that this probably isn’t as positive a development as it seems.
So, an interesting Raw all round, though maybe not for the right reasons. It’s great to see Bryan’s entry into the EC guaranteed, though I wouldn’t put it past The Authority to somehow manage to take it from him in the coming weeks. There were more matches than usual, which is great, but the quality wasn’t exactly top notch.
The most notable absence was, of course, CM Punk, who, rumour has it, has left the WWE for good after discovering he was scheduled to wrestle Trips at Wrestlemania (Bryan is now being lined up to take his place).
Nothing is for certain yet, but if this is how Punk has chosen to say goodbye, it couldn’t have come at a better time for him. He hasn’t looked happy in weeks (though he did seem to be having fun at the Rumble), and, after all, it’s only fitting that he ducks out in the same manner as his hero, Stone Cold.
This week’s Raw was reportedly re-written several times, either because of the negative reaction to the Rumble, or due to Punk’s unscheduled absence. It makes sense, then, that this instalment felt so disjointed and messy, with only Bryan acting as an anchor in the madness. Maybe it’ll all become clear in the coming weeks, but we won’t hold our breaths. For the moment, let’s just try to enjoy it for what it is (while buying all the stuff they’re selling us).