Dot Net Members are listening to my 43-minute WWE Raw audio review and my 55-minute Q&A audio show from Monday. Join us on the ad-free version of the website and special section of our free iPhone and Android apps by signing up for membership today via the Dot Net Members’ Signup Page.
WWE Raw Hits
Vince McMahon: The arrest angle felt rushed and was something that fans of the Attitude Era have seen before. Still, it was refreshing to see Vince tone down the Mr. McMahon act. In recent years, the character became a parody of itself with Vince acting over the top at all times. The Mr. McMahon character we saw last night was closer to the one that worked so well during the company’s glory days. Vince spoke in a normal voice more frequently and hammed it up in key spots rather than simply going into “God” mode from start to finish. I was surprised to hear him boast about running Afa and Sika into the ground while paying them peanuts. It worked for this segment, yet it was a little more truthful than I expected from him even while in his evil promoter character. Still, it was a very a good night for Vince, who also displayed a quick wit when he went off script and responded to crowd chants. Roman Reigns wasn’t asked to do much during this segment and that’s a wise approach. This may be the latest spin on Austin vs. McMahon, but creative wisely isn’t asking Reigns to hold up his end the way Steve Austin did back in the day. Bonus points to WWE for finally advertising a big main event for the next show. I assume Reigns retains in the match against Sheamus even with Vince McMahon as special referee, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Triple H return on the first show of 2016.
Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena: A good television main event. I like the way Cena goaded Del Rio into giving him the title match. It was fun to watch him turn the Brooklyn crowd once a fan threw his t-shirt back at him by praising their toughness and then dropping some hometown lines regarding Notorious BIG and Jay Z. Del Rio was better on the mic here than he has been at any point since he returned to WWE, yet it still felt a little off compared to how good he was outside WWE. I don’t know if it’s simply because he is being asked to recite lines in WWE, but something isn’t clicking as well as it did for him everywhere he worked during his WWE hiatus. The match itself had some fun moments. I like the way they went back to the finishing sequence of their previous match only to have Cena kick out, and I really like the way Del Rio countered the Attitude Adjustment attempt with a Cross Arm Breaker. The DQ finish was expected, yet was also the right decision, as it keeps the feud going and didn’t do more damage to the struggling League of Nations faction.
Kevin Owens: When Owens’ match against Neville was announced on the pre-show, I assumed they would be asked to fill plenty of time given that WWE was shorthanded due to a house show taking place simultaneously in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Instead, the match lasted roughly 20 seconds, and Owens was able to make a bigger splash in the post-match attack than he would have had they been given 15 minutes to fill. Don’t get me wrong, Owens are Neville are certainly capable of having a great 15-minute match, but the post-match angle and the later powerbomb of Dean Ambrose through the broadcast table put real heat on Owens. By the way, I felt bad for Ambrose, who was doing a really good job of selling the powerbomb only to have it undercut by the wide shot camera view that showed fans making silly faces while watching themselves on the big screen, mocking his “injury”, smiling, and doing anything other than expressing concern. Take note, production team. I also felt bad for all of the babyfaces who had to carry their silly Slammy Awards to the ring with them.
New Day vs. The Lucha Dragons matches: The singles matches with Kalisto vs. Kofi Kinston, and Big E vs. Sin Cara held my interest. I was surprised that the first of those two matches didn’t get more time. Xavier Woods was really good in between the two matches when he teased wrestling Sin Cara. You could see it coming before he named Big E as Sin Cara’s opponent, but the fun was watching him get there. The Sin Cara injury was unfortunate and I was surprised to see him finish the match. New Day is doing a much better job of going for heat rather than laughs. The only real negative of these matches is that while they filled television time nicely, I wasn’t left anxious to see the Lucha Dragons get another title match. Some character development for the babyface tag teams would go a long way.
WWE Raw Misses
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks: They were put in the tough position of having to fill 15 minutes when their acts are not really over. Sure, the fans chant for Sasha at times, but that’s clearly the result of their fond memories of her in NXT, not because her main roster act or Team BAD are over. The casual fans who aren’t watching NXT have no connection with Sasha because her main roster push has been forgettable. Meanwhile, WWE has cast Lynch as the only true babyface of the division, but she just hasn’t connected with fans. And while she certainly impressed fans late in her NXT run, she doesn’t have the big body of NXT work that fans remember so fondly. She’s basically starting from scratch as a babyface on the main roster and the path they have taken with her has been awkward to say the least. She went from being the goofy member of PCB to being the zany sidekick of Charlotte to suddenly being thrust into the lead babyface role by default. It’s not going to work until she connects with the audience, and the responsibility to make that happen is on the creative team as much as it is her at this point.
Miz TV: I wonder how many viewers turned the channel when WWE hyped as Miz TV year-in-review going into the commercial break. I get a kick out of the Miz’s act (aside from what he’s been doing with Neville), but this would have been a good time to hype the main event or something else in addition to Miz TV. As much as the year-in-review teaser left me underwhelmed, I was actually begging for Miz to tell us in great detail about the first time he tried a new yoga workout once the heroes of WWE Superstars showed up. Listening to R-Truth tell the same joke again was painful, but at least the bit with him pretending to be punched out by Big Show got a laugh.
Big Show vs. Ryback: Big Show’s latest return featured him punching out the cast of WWE Superstars and then walking out on yet another match with Ryback. Why should viewers be excited about him announcing that he’s the first entrant in the Royal Rumble?
Dean Ambrose and The Uso Brothers vs. Sheamus, Rusev, and King Barrett: As previously noted, the post-match angle with Kevin Owens was strong. However, the actual match felt like the 17-minute filler that it was. The crowd chanted boring at Sheamus and I couldn’t really blame them given what was happening in the ring. League of Nations is a mess and now it appears they are trying to get the crowd to react to them throwing their hands in the air. That’s not exactly heat, but I suspect they will take whatever they can get right now because it’s just not clicking. Raw has taken a turn for the better in two of the last three weeks, but this company still has a desperate need for strong heels. They have a lot of upper mid-card heels, but they are lacking truly strong heels thanks largely to their past booking decisions. This would be a great time to introduce Samoa Joe as a badass heel.
We are looking for correspondents for tonight’s WWE Smackdown television taping in Washington, D.C. and the WWE live event in Providence, Rhode Island. If you are going to either show and want to help out with a report or the basic results, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org