March 17, 2015 by Joey Keogh
It’s the penultimate episode of Raw before Wrestlemania. And what better way to kick things off in Des Moines, IA (home of Slipknot and, er, nobody else of interest) than with a replay of an “interview” Michael Cole did with Randy Orton last week, apparently scored by a poor man’s Linkin Park. The only question I want to know the answer to is; is Orton wearing pants for this? He challenges Seth Rollins to a Wrestlemania match and, when we cut back to the ring, the man himself is stood there, basking in the cheers from his home state. However, he quickly turns it into some cheap heat by referring to the crowd as “nobodies” and explaining how “important people like me made it out of Iowa” to go on to better things. The way he sees it, Orton betrayed him! How sad! Noble and Mercury nod sagely as Rollins explains what he did to The Shield was totally different, it was most definitely not the same! Why has he decided to start cutting the sleeves off his shirt all of a sudden? Who is he, Dean Ambrose?
A sign revealing that “Big Show Skips Leg Day” pops into view as he takes the mic to apologise and lick Rollins’ butt because he’s “the best damn talent in the WWE“. He kind of makes Rollins looks tiny in comparison to him, which is scary because Rollins is like six foot tall. But, as Cole is at pains to remind us, Show is a GIANT. And Reigns wants to climb his BEANSTALK. Orton is nothing but a snake in the grass, and although Kane is also sorry he got “sucked in” to his web of lies, he makes sure to advise he wasn’t quite as gullible as Show. Hey, stop trying to make this feud happen. Nobody cares. Noble, on the other hand, is sorry Rollins didn’t believe him. He thinks that when this is all over they should get an apartment together! Mercury is so cut up about the whole thing he can’t even speak, and he seeks refuge in Show’s massive bosom. Anyway, Rollins accepts Orton’s Wrestlemania offer but only on the condition that they face each other in the Main Event tonight.
Right on cue, Orton appears (no pants) to tell Rollins he’s just a guy, standing in front of another guy, asking him to love him. He accepts his offer and, with that, the Main Event for tonight is set with no Roman Reigns to put us all to sleep (on that note, kudos to whoever dreamed up that “When It Reigns, It Bores” sign because yes yes yes, a thousand times yes). But Rollins had better watch out because, at Wrestlemania, Orton is going to END the FUTURE. Also coming up tonight, there’s a contract signing between John Cena and Rusev, as well as some sort of interview with Brock Lesnar. But first, Divas! (no, really).
Divas Match: AJ Lee -v- Nikki Bella
We can look forward to a traditional little Goths v Bitches tag team match at WM, but first there’s a singles bout tonight, before which the Bellas cut a disgracefully bad promo in the little confessional box about how they suck at reading lines and can’t make anything sound natural, even when speaking in unison. Nikki is in baby blue ring gear, much like that old #Bluetista joke that won’t die except the word “blue” doesn’t really work with her name. She keeps fixing her hair throughout the match, and takes a moment to do three push-ups in the middle of the ring just to show off her supposed strength. It’s unclear whether this is character building or if they’re just trying to kill time before the “real” matches start. One lad chanting for Punk is silenced by a few others chanting for AJ, which is lovely to hear since that’s getting really, really, really old a whole goddamn year later. AJ should be dominating, but if she doesn’t make Nikki look kind of decent in the ring then we’ll care even less about their WM match-up so, when she gets stuck in an arm-lock, for example, it seems for a moment like she really might tap. However, she reverses it and sticks Nikki in the Black Widow, before getting chucked into the barricade but coming out fighting with some stiff uppercuts and a brutal neckbreaker. A crossbody from the top leads to a near fall, but Paige and Brie start brawling on the outside, giving Nikki just enough leeway to deliver a chop and then the still-funny Rack Attack to win.
Winner: Nikki Bella
Apparently, Reigns Speared Mark Henry on Smackdown last week and it was a thing so now we have to hear about it on Raw, too. LL Cool J shills Wrestlemania for a bit in the middle of the replay and, when we return to it, Henry is making references to The Young Bucks (not really, but that would’ve been cooler than this) and Reigns is all “Believe DAT” because he doesn’t have any more lines to read. Elsewhere, Kane and Show are bickering in front of Renee and it’s super awkward. Rollins shows up to warn them “y’all gon’ get sent home again” but this just makes them madder and they turn on him, telling him to remember which side his bread his buttered before refusing to back him up ringside tonight. This is partly building up their brewing feud too, but let’s just pretend otherwise.
Ryback -v- The Miz
In the little box again (it’s getting a lot of action tonight), Miz is arrogantly assuring everyone that he’s going to win the battle royal at WM because he’s got his PA on hand to make sure of it. Mizdow attempts to interrupt and is threatened with being fired. As they descend the ramp, Miz walks a few steps ahead, basking in the cheers aimed at his valet but never quite catching him in the act whenever he whips around to stop him stealing the attention for himself. Ryback, trying his best to be a face in spite of all evidence to the contrary, attempts to help Mizdow out by chucking Miz out and then holding him so his PA can take a shot. Of course, Miz uses the distraction to his advantage and decks Ryback. He then tells Mizdow firmly to “put it down” and waits impatiently for him to lower his raised fist. However, he eats a meathook clothesline once back in the ring as Ryback easily emerges victorious. Following the commencement of the match, Mizdow fans his boss with his jacket but, when he tries to help him up, Miz turns on him and delivers the skull-crushing finale. So, after all of that build-up it might actually be Miz who administers the first blow.
The contract signing is next and Cole is chairing it, which doesn’t bode well for those involved, or indeed for us at home. As the camera pans over the crowd, during Cena’s triumphant entrance, a sign reading “Cena Is OK…I guess” is revealed and it’s amazing. This is the most important signing of his life for some reason, because that is what ‘murica means to him god damn it. It ain’t about no foreigner coming up in here trying to make a name for himself. No, it’s all about John fucking Cena. Er, I mean, the United States of America. “To me, this is not a contract” Cena emphatically states, “this is a declaration of independence and Wrestlemania is our war of independence”. Woah woah woah, calm it down Cena. Maybe you should sit the next few rounds out, eh? Rusev shows up, clad in a suit and with an unknown man in tow so the crowd immediately start chanting for Lana, who has left to film a movie. Boo. His “attorney” cannot do the accent at all, but suffice to say that Rusev will not be signing the contract and he has video evidence to back up his claims that he never agreed to the match in the first place, rather Cena bullied him into it. Booker’s all like “that guy is from Texas” while JBL swears he saw him parking cars earlier. The “Russian” will only agree to a match if he can claim freedom of speech for a moment and read a statement during which he, naturally, throws shade at the US. Cena removes his hat, his shirt, his shoes and finally his pants in anger but Rusev signs and bolts out of the way, leaving him naked and alone and even more pissed off when that damn flag drops yet again.
Tag Team Match: Big E & Kofi Kingston (The New Day) -v- Tyson Kidd & Cesaro
Kidd and Cesaro point out, prior to the match, that they can clap better than The New Day and, you know, let’s face it, it wouldn’t be hard. They also chant “no way” in time to their little chant when asking rhetorically, aloud, whether those dudes will ever be champions. The matadors are here too, for some reason, but they don’t interfere until right at the end so that’s good, right? Kidd starts off jobbing to Kingston, but Cesaro soon tags in for the Swing before eating a crossbody as a result. He wins it for them, though, and in record time too meaning it’s the matadors’ moment to shine as they tussle with The New Day on the outside. They chuck Woods back in so Cesaro can hit the Neutraliser on him but then Torito chucks him out and I guess this is a thing now that we have to deal with.
Winners: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro
Backstage, Rollins is briefing his security team when Noble is all like “you should’ve listened to me in the first place and then none of this would’ve happened” so Rollins, in a totally rational reaction, hits him. Noble then lets rip about how he’s let the briefcase and the streak in his hair and the torn up shirt go to his head and, as a result, he’s quitting. Mercury soon follows suit, leaving Rollins to shout after them “Fine! I don’t need you anyway!” meaning, of course, that he totally does. A “candid and controversial” interview, as Cole sees it, with Lesnar follows, during which he swears and is bleeped a total of twice. Shocking. It’s pre-recorded, so everyone in the arena has to crane their necks and stare at a screen for five minutes while it’s on while wondering why the fuck they paid $400 each to do so when they could’ve been stretched out on sofas like the rest of us. Lesnar talks at length about how he loves hurting people (“Is that sadistic?”) and how he broke the streak and he doesn’t care about how us idiots feel about him doing that because he’s only in this for the money anyway. It’s all very revealing, as you can probably imagine, but it isn’t half as enjoyable as a Heyman sermon (luckily there’s one of those to come a bit later on) and also he says the word “rookie” weird because of his heavy Minnesota accent so that’s kind of distracting. Lesnar ends by saying that, if you think hunt mode is bad, wait till you see defence mode because you’re gonna die. And by you, he means Roman Reigns because obviously he doesn’t know where any of us live so we’re safe (for now).
Big Show -v- Erick Rowan
Show unloads on Rowan before he even gets over the ropes, meaning the match never technically starts. There’s a massive flying elbow from the second rope that leaves Rowan, er, dead. And then Show leaves. It’s not clear whether this actually counts for anything but whatever, it is what is is.
It’s more of the same next, as a load of jobbers crowd into the ring so that Director Of Operations Kane can give us a taste of what’s to come in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. He starts by chucking the likes of Heath Slater, Zack Ryder, etc. out and into the barricade before cutting a promo about how he’s definitely going to win at WM. Henry turns up to claim a shot too, for some reason, and he head-butts Kane out of the ring just to prove his point. Axel helps him but then gets himself kicked out too for his trouble. Luckily, Heyman is up next so we don’t have to dwell on whatever the hell that was supposed to be for too long. He further reiterates Lesnar’s comments from earlier about how he’s a beast who can’t be stopped, how relentless he is, how he is most definitely NOT a pacifist – was there ever any doubt!? He’s a conqueror! A beast, damn it! And he is not coming to Wrestlemania to make love to Roman Reigns, he’s coming to Wrestlemania to make war to Roman Reigns which sounds, by all accounts, much sexier. The way he sees it, we’re stuck with Lesnar as a champion and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it – apart from cut his mic for saying the word “damn” of course. Ever the pro, Heyman uses this to his advantage by advising we may be able to shut him up, but we’ll never stop Lesnar. Reigns shows up then, to interrupt him mid-speech and he’s sporting the creepiest ice-blue contact lenses imaginable. He refuses to address Heyman and instead speaks directly into the camera, explaining he doesn’t mind being carried out of WM, provided he’s got the belt with him. OH! BELIEVE DAT! Man, that “When It Reigns, It Bores” sign from earlier is hitting home even harder right now, huh? Renee tries to steal a quick interview with Heyman backstage, but he does most of the talking, continuing on with his awesome promo. Why can’t the whole show just be this?
6-Man Tag Team Match: Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler & Dean Ambrose -v- Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper & Stardust
As Cole unhelpfully explains, this match includes six of the seven competitors in the upcoming IC title ladder match at WM. Barrett’s entire team gets jobber entrances, while Ziggler mimes climbing a ladder midway through his and Truth (the seventh participant) strolls down the ramp slower than Orton, to reveal he’s got the belt strapped to his back, and takes his place on commentary. Ambrose and Stardust kick things off, before Bryan tags in and puts him in a Mexican surfboard. He clotheslines Stardust out as Harper tags in to tackle Ambrose, whom he strands in the corner. However, Harper eats an elbow and a DDT for his trouble, as Ziggler tags in to hit a neckbreaker, leading to a near fall. Stardust responds by dropkicking him clean off the apron, as Ziggler almost wins it with the Fame Asser but gets interrupted right at the crucial moment. There’s a tornado DDT to Barrett as Bryan aims out to tackle Harper, and Ambrose tags in to deliver a flying elbow to Barrett. Stardust tags in to eat a massive clothesline, before Barrett hits the Winds Of Change out so that Ziggler tackles everyone on the outside simultaneously. He lines up the Bullhammer but Ambrose hits the Dirty Deeds to win. Harper decks him once the bell has rung, throwing him over the announce table (kicking JBL in the process) and demanding the belt from Truth, who plays dumb at first before handing it over for Stardust to steal and leg it. Ambrose catches him and they brawl in the crowd. He grabs the belt, but Truth gets it again as Stardust tackles him from behind. Harper stops him, demands it once more and Ambrose splashes from the barricade to send it flying into the ring, where Ziggler and Bryan fight over it. Barrett Bullhammers everyone and grabs it himself, yelling “Anyone else!?” as he does so. He hits Truth on the ramp and then sits atop a ladder to bask in the glory of it all.
Winners: Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler & Dean Ambrose
Backstage, Steph is busy showing Trips Rollins’s nude pics on her phone when the man himself shows up to cry about how everyone has left him and he needs help. Ma and Pa refuse to help him, telling him he’s going to have to stand on his own two feet this time and to run along, now, so they can continue laughing at his indiscretion. Wyatt shows up in a pre-recorded promo next, boasting a brand new, red urn. He talks about chairs and dreams and Sister Abigail while ominous music plays. There’s lots of dry ice too. Hey, remember when Wyatt used to actually wrestle? He says he’s the new face of fear, but really he just looks like the anti-Santa.
Main Event: Seth Rollins -v- Randy Orton
Rollins looks scared as shit without his security team, which just makes Orton more smug (if that’s even possible). He hesitates at the top of the ramp so he can acknowledge how it took Orton three months to make a fool of him when, really, it only took him three hours to make a fool out of him. Out stroll The Authority as Rollins laughs maniacally onside, while Orton grabs a chair and prepares to bring the pain. However, just when they’ve all gathered in the ring and it seems like things are about to get interesting, the lights drop and Stinger appears, throwing off his jacket to reveal his Sunday-best Hot Topic leggings and teaming up with Orton to lay waste to everyone. Well, actually, “lay waste” may be a bit of a stretch, he launches at people and they fall a bit too hard – Trips, in particular, sells the scorpion death drop much better than it deserves. Orton RKOs Mercury and then The Authority stand outside looking annoyed while he stays put inside the ring as Stinger fixes his wig.
Considering we’ve only got one more Raw left until Wrestlemania, this was a pretty jam-packed episode. There were moments of mind-numbing stupidity, as always – Cena’s pro-America speech, that weird battle royal warm-up thing and the whole R-Truth comedy angle on the IC title match – but, for the most part, this was a fun week. Not an amazing week, but a fun one nonetheless.
The Orton/Rollins angle is great, even if Sting‘s inclusion in it makes my head hurt, the Divas tag should be interesting enough considering two, arguably three, of the participants are great, and the IC ladder match is shaping up to be nicely mental – if the pre-event tonight was anything to go by. At first, it was annoying to have everyone thrown in there, but now it kind of makes sense.
With just one more show to go, at least we’ve heard from both Lesnar and Sting, with Taker showing up in the form of a lightning strike. It could all go to hell again next week but, for the moment, the road isn’t quite as rocky.