By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live from San Antonio, Texas at AT&T Center
[Q1] Raw opened with a recap of Vince McMahon’s arrest and the eventual announcement of this week’s main event… Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton were on commentary…
Stephanie McMahon started to make her entrance, but her music was interrupted by Roman Reigns’ music, and he entered through the crowd. Steph was pissed. She met him at the barricade. They both entered the ring. Reigns called out Vince McMahon. Steph said Vince wasn’t at the building yet, but he would be there to referee the championship match.
Reigns took issue with Stephanie smirking as she spoke about the odds being stacked against him. Reigns said this is how he provides for his family and no one is going to take it away from him. Stephanie laughed while saying that was so passionate. She asked the fans if they thought he would win. The fans roared and started a “yes” chant.
Stephanie noted that all charges against her father were dropped because “you can’t keep a good billionaire down these days.” Steph said Reigns will break Reigns once he loses the title. She said she will run him into the ground until his body can’t take it anymore. She said the fans who chant for him now will forget about him. She said she is going to do to Reigns what her father did to his father. Reigns said that she should be more concerned with her own father. He said that if he gets screwed, she’ll be picking him up from the hospital rather than jail. Reigns dropped the mic and Steph showed concern…
Powell’s POV: A good segment that did not overstay its welcome. The live crowd was really hot for Reigns and they once again put him in a back and forth position with the person they can count on the fans booing. It’s smart booking. Reigns also held up his end nicely and the fans were hot for his threat at the end.
The broadcast team narrated highlights of Kevin Owens destroying Dean Ambrose and Neville last week… Dean Ambrose made his entrance and fist-bumped Reigns, who was heading up the ramp. Cole said Ambrose would join them on commentary for Owens vs. Neville after the break…
[Q2] [C] A commercial aired for Brock Lesnar returning on Raw next week. “At the end of the day, people are going to get hurt,” Lesnar said at the end of the clip…
Powell’s POV: It looks like WWE isn’t going to roll over and die while airing opposite the college football national championship game.
1. Kevin Owens vs. Neville. Ambrose was on commentary. Neville had his ribs taped and still had to carry that stupid Slammy award with him. Ambrose said Owens hits hard and you know you’re in a fight when you’re in a match with Owens, but he said he doesn’t think Owens likes to fight as much as he claims he does. [C]
Powell’s POV: A local add for the March 4 live event in Minneapolis hyped nothing in particular as far as talent or matches are concerned.
After the break, Ambrose spoke about how Owens had been taking it to Neville throughout the match. Owens threw Neville into the barricade at ringside, as Ambrose continued to talk about what a dangerous man Owens is. Neville ran Owens into the ring post as Cole questioned whether he had anything left in the tank. Ambrose said we’d find out whether Owens is the type of man who can take punishment. Neville flipped off the apron and onto Owens on the floor. Ambrose said that took guts.
Owens tied up Neville in the ropes and delivered a cannonball, then followed up with the Pop Up Powerbomb for the clean win.
Kevin Owens defeated Neville in 9:10.
[Q3] After the match, Owens was setting up for a move on the floor when Ambrose stopped him with a suicide dive (he overshot him a bit). Owens took control quickly and set up for another move on the broadcast table, but Ambrose fought him off and then ran off the barricade and dropped an elbow that drove Owens through the table. Ambrose grabbed Owens’ face and jawed at him…
Powell’s POV: A good match with Neville displaying some impressive offense despite giving Owens the bulk of the match. I really liked the way Ambrose put over Owens’ toughness while also questioning it at the same time. The post-match angle was solid too with Ambrose getting a measure of revenge for last week. I hope they give Owens do something to get a leg up on Ambrose again tonight. I’m not looking for even steven booking. Rather, I’d like to see the heel have the edge so that the babyface has a reason to seek revenge.
Backstage, Vince McMahon arrived in a limo. JoJo asked him for comments about last week. Vince pointed out that all charges were dropped and said that’s what happens when someone like him can afford a good attorney. Vince said the irony is that this week he is the law because he’s the special referee for the main event… [C]
2. Stardust vs. Titus O’Neil. Neither man received a televised entrance. Titus jumped out to the quick start. While in the ropes, Stardust barked to the referee, “I am Stardust, get him back.” Stardust performed a Disaster Kick, which apparently is a routine early match move these days. The crowd was quiet while Stardust was on the offensive, but a Cody chant broke out and he covered his ears. Titus came back with his powerbomb finisher and pinned Stardust…
Titus O’Neil defeated Stardust in 4:10.
Powell’s POV: Solid for a fairly random match that was just thrown out there. I know they’ve had their moments on the backstage set, but I couldn’t tell whether they were going to feud or become tag team partners. The fact that the crowds still chant “Cody” is something given how little they play that up. They should give Stardust some mic time to reestablish how much he hates that name.
The broadcast team hyped WWE Network and the Royal Rumble… Backstage, Charlotte asked Becky Lynch if she asked for their match. Becky said she didn’t ask for it, but she hopes Charlotte is as excited as she is. Charlotte said she’s not excited because she already beat Becky fair and square. Lynch said she remembers they had a great match and should go out there and do it again. They agreed to do it in the spirit of competition, though Charlotte didn’t exactly seem genuine. Ric Flair showed up and woooed before saying, “In the spirt of competition”…
[Q4] [C] An ad aired for Smackdown moving to USA Network on Thursday. Cole said Byron will be apart of it on the broadcast team…
Powell’s POV: It looks like it will be Mauro Ranallo, Jerry Lawler, and Byron Saxton. Lawler recently tweeted that he’ll be involved. Booker T was on the Raw Pre-Show tonight, so it looks like he may have been reassigned.
3. Divas Champion Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) vs. Becky Lynch in a non-title match. Charlotte was in control heading into the break. [C] Cole said Flair will be the guest on the Stone Cold Podcast after Raw next week. Charlotte remained the aggressor, but Lynch caught her in a sleeper. Charlotte broke it up with a jawjacker.
[Q5] Charlotte caught Lynch with a boot to the face and covered her for two. There was a small “Becky” chant. Lynch took control of the offense. Flair reached in and grabbed her leg. A short time later, Lynch rolled up Charlotte and held the tights while pinning her. Cole not only acknowledged it, but he said she was fighting fire with fire. Charlotte attacked Lynch afterward. Flair raised his daughter’s arm and the fans booed…
Becky Lynch pinned Charlotte in 10:45.
Powell’s POV: So the broadcast team will acknowledge when the babyfaces grab the tights? It’s a start. Anyway, it seems like the Charlotte vs. Becky feud may be turning the corner. The fans were more receptive to Lynch than usual, and they are definitely starting to react negatively to heel Charlotte. It’s just one crowd, but I think the Charlotte and Flair heel act has a lot of potential.
Backstage, Vince was talking with a man when Sheamus entered the room. Vince dismissed the man. Vince spoke about his role as the referee and said there would be no outside interference, biting, gouging, foreign objects, and Sheamus will obey his command. Sheamus looked concerned. Vince smiled and said may the luck of the Irish be with him. Sheamus smiled… [C]
4. Big Show vs. Ryback. Cole noted that Ryback and Show are both in the Royal Rumble match. Show chokeslammed Ryback and then shoved him to the floor. The Wyatt Family video flashed. When they cut back to the ring, the family surrounded Ryback on the floor. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman attacked Ryback while Bray Wyatt watched. Wyatt then shoved Ryback into Strowman, who applied his finisher.
Big Show fought Ryback to an apparent no-contest.
Once the Wyatt Family took care of Ryback, they turned their attention to Show and surrounded the ring. Show kneed Wyatt to the floor and knocked down Harper and Rowan. Show and Strowman had a staredown, but the other members recovered and attacked Show from behind.
[Q6] Wyatt took a bow and the family left the ring. Wyatt yelled at ringside that the Wyatt Family will rise in the Royal Rumble match and they will all fall down… [C]
Powell’s POV: The crowd reacted to the Show and Strowman confrontation, so I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of that. The attacks were pretty tame. However, I like the idea of all four Wyatt Family members working together in the Rumble match. None are favorites as individuals, but the four of them together is an interesting storyline heading into the Rumble match.
5. Alberto Del Rio and Rusev vs. The Uso Brothers. Lana did not accompany Rusev to ringside. Rusev and Del Rio were in control heading into the break. [C]
[Q7] The Uso Brothers had a nice run of offense after the break. One of the brothers performed a top rope splash on Del Rio and had him pinned, but Rusev broke up the pin. Rusev took out Jimmy on the floor, but Jey took him out with a suicide dive. Del Rio caught Jey with a kick as he tried to enter the ring. He followed up with his double stomp finisher moments later and got the pin…
Alberto Del Rio and Rusev defeated The Uso Brothers in 13:30.
A Royal Rumble commercial aired… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good match. I like that the regular tag team was made to look strong in defeat. The in-ring product has been good tonight. The show has light on sports entertainment silliness and delivering more straight forward matches. I hope I didn’t just jinx us. Either way, I enjoyed the competitive tag team match more than the weekly time filling six-man tag match. I looked at the clock a moment ago because I was merely curious to know what time it was, not because I was dreading the thought of how much time is left in the show. In other words, so far so good. I would like to see them do a little more with Reigns, Sheamus, and Vince to make the main event feel bigger.
A Dolph Ziggler pre-tape aired as he made his entrance. Ziggler is in the Rumble, and Cole noted that Curtis Axel is also in the match…
6. Dolph Ziggler vs. Heath Slater (w/Bo Dallas, Adam Rose, Curtis Axel). Cole noted that all four heels were tweeting about change throughout the day. Slater ducked an early superkick.
[Q8] Ziggler threw a dropkick and a splash in the corner, then dropped an elbow for a two count. Later, Rose stood on the apron and Ziggler went after him. Slater rolled up Ziggler for two. Rinse and repeat with Dallas on the apron, only this time Slater rolled up Ziggler and pinned him. Afterward, the heels took turns talking. Rose said they are four unique flowers. Axel yelled the chains are off. “Trending worldwide, hashtag social outcasts,” Slater said. “Bo-lieve,” Dallas said awkwardly…
Heath Slater pinned Dolph Ziggler in 4:35.
An ad aired for The Stone Cold Podcast with Ric Flair for next Monday after Raw… [C]
Powell’s POV: There was no real chemistry between the four men, but I like the idea of doing something with these guys. This wasn’t presented as silly undercard comedy. It may become that, but for tonight it seemed like the company was serious about doing at least a little something with these guys. I could be mistaken, but it sounded like Bo was spoofing his own “Bo-lieve” line at the end.
Cole hyped Ambrose vs. Owens for the Intercontinental Title, and Charlotte vs. Lynch for the Divas Championship for Thursday’s Smackdown television show…
Powell’s POV: I thought they were building up to Rumble matches with both feuds, so it looks like they are really loading up the first Smackdown on USA Network. We are looking for correspondents for the taping. If you are going to the show in Laredo, Texas and want to help us out with spoilers, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vince McMahon gave Reigns his pre-match instructions. They were similar to the ones he gave Sheamus, yet it was more tense between the two…
New Day made their entrance wearing unicorn horns. Big E said 2016 will be the most magical year of their lives. They did a spoof on Mike Tyson falling off a hoverboard that got no reaction from the live crowd. Kofi said they had a present. He set up a countdown clock on the big screen.
[Q9] The New Day clock turned into Chris Jericho’s countdown clock instead. New Day was not pleased. JBL said “Lionheart has returned to Monday Night Raw.” The fans roared after the music stopped and then they chanted Y2J. Jericho welcomed viewers to Raw is Jericho. He said he’s the party host and one of the most charismatic performers in WWE history.
Jericho said all the metrics such as live event attendance and television ratings need a boost, and said they all need a little Y2J. Jericho mocked New Day, then announced that he is entering the Royal Rumble match. Jericho said he’s going to throw out 29 men, including New Day if necessary. Jericho said he’s going to win the match and go on to the main event of WrestleMania. Jericho ran through some of his credentials and then dubbed himself the best in the world at what he does. Jericho said that now that the Y2J problem has returned, no one will ever be the same again…
Cole hyped New Day vs. Kalisto and The Dudley Boyz for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A nice surprise and the crowd was receptive. Jericho’s material was basically his “best of” lines. I’m not reading too much into it, because Jericho usually has something cool in mind for his returns and his game plan is rarely revealed on night one. Will he pick up where he left off as far as having tension with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns?
Cole hyped Dean Ambrose for the ESPNews segment on Tuesday night…
7. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E vs. Kalisto and The Dudley Boyz. Kalisto had to bring his stupid Slammy to the ring with him.
[Q10] The fans wanted tables. They always want tables. Bubba Ray pressed Kalisto over his head and then threw him onto all three New Day members at ringside. All three babyfaces celebrated in the ring going into the break. [C] New Day isolated Kalisto until he made a hot tag to D-Von, who worked over Woods and then performed a spilebuster on Kingston. Bubba checked in and had Woods pinned, but Big E broke it up.
E caught Kalisto and ran him into the barricade. In the ring, Bubba and Devon went for the Whassup spot on Kingston, but Woods shoved D-Von off the top rope. However, New Day came back and Big E and Kofi hit a two-man version of Big Ending on D-Von and pinned him…
New Day defeated The Dudley Boyz and Kalisto in 16:35.
[Q11] Cole said there was a big fight atmosphere because of the main event, which he said was coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: They must have a big show ending angle or something else planned because there’s still a lot of time left to fill despite the obligatory six-man tag filler match we just saw. That said, the teams filled the time nicely.
The Brock Lesnar teaser for next week’s Raw aired… The broadcast team hyped that WWE Network is available in Japan…
Powell’s POV: No, they did not confirm reports of WWE’s talent raid of New Japan Pro Wrestling talent.
A video package recapped the Roman Reigns and Vince McMahon drama from last week…
Ring entrances for the main event took place. Vince McMahon walked out wearing a sleeveless referee shirt. He flexed on the stage and then flexed again in front of a fan at ringside. Vince made it inside the ring without tearing his quads, so that’s good news. Vince also appeared to flip off someone in the crowd right before the break… [C] The broadcast team hyped the previously announced Smackdown matches…
[Q12] Sheamus and then Reigns made their entrances, then Lilian Garcia delivered in-ring introductions…
Powell’s POV: WWE filled nearly 15 minutes of time with a second airing of a video package, three ring entrances, ring introductions, and commercials. That’s impressive.
8. Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with Vince McMahon as special referee. Vince tried to take the title from Reigns before the bell. Reigns held on. Sheamus attacked Reigns and then Vince rang the bell to start the match. At 2:55, Sheamus threw the ring steps at Reigns on the floor. Cole said Sheamus was taking full advantage of having a biased official.
Sheamus remained in control and performed a rolling senton. Reigns fired back with punches, but Sheamus caught him in a sleeper. Reigns fought out of it quickly. Vince encouraged Sheamus to get up or to cover Reigns. Roman got the better of Sheamus and put him down with a Samoa drop and went for a cover. Vince counted slowly. Reigns got pissed, but he didn’t get physical with Vince.
Powell’s POV: Couldn’t Reigns just attack Vince and get himself disqualified to retain the title?
Reigns had another pin moments later, but this time Vince acted like he had something in his eye. Vince called for eyedrops. I hate when that happens.
[Overrun] Sheamus rolled up Reigns and got a quick count, but Reigns kicked out at two. Reigns threw a Superman punch and covered Sheamus. Vince didn’t count. Reigns set up for a spear, then stopped and Superman Punched Vince instead. Reigns speared Sheamus and had the visual pinfall. Reigns called for “another one” while looking at the entrance.
Reigns and Sheamus went to ringside. Reigns threw Sheamus over the broadcast table. Vince came to in the ring and he and Sheamus engaged in a staredown. Reigns climbed onto the apron and nodded his head. Vince tried to leave, but Reigns stopped him. Reigns picked up Vince, but he threw him down once Stephanie McMahon’s entrance music played.
Stephanie stood on the bottom rope and jawed at Reigns, who grabbed Vince and ran him into Stephanie’s legs, causing her to flip over the top rope and into the ring. Cole said Reigns stepped over the line. Stephanie slid away from Reigns as he walked toward her until she exited the ring. Stephanie told Reigns to stay away from her father. Reigns lined up and went to spear Vince, but Sheamus was there with a Brogue Kick. Sheamus delivered a second Brogue Kick and called for Vince, who was still loopy.
Referee Scott Armstrong entered the ring and counted, but Reigns kicked out at two. Sheamus barked at Armstrong like a dope. Sheamus had Armstrong pick up Reigns. Sheamus went for a Brogue Kick, but Reigns gave Superman Punches to both men. Reigns covered Sheamus, and a third official counted the pin…
Roman Reigns pinned Sheamus in 18:25 to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
After the match, Vince shoved the third referee to the mat. Vince took the mic and said that as chairman and CEO, it’s his duty to inform Reigns that the next time he defends the title will be at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Vince said it’s all against one in the Rumble. He announced that Reigns will have to defend his title against 29 men in the Royal Rumble match.
Powell’s POV: Dear lord, they’re going to have Triple H come out as No. 30 and take the title. I didn’t think they do it and maybe they won’t, but I’m beginning to fear that’s where this is going. Or maybe Reigns wins the Rumble (which no one wants to see) and then Vince books him against Brock Lesnar as punishment. There are some interesting fantasy booking scenarios, but I don’t like what it does to the Rumble match and I’m not sure how they determine who the challenger is at WrestleMania.
Overall, Raw was good for a couple hours. It dragged a bit, though not as bad as usual during the third hour. You had to turn your brain off during the main event. After all, if they really wanted Reigns to lose, then why didn’t Vince just completely stack the deck against him by allowing all three League of Nations members to get involved or give him a rapid fire three count that was even faster than his fast counts? I suspect most viewers just enjoy the ride and don’t spend too much time thinking about those things, but I must admit that they annoy me. Still, WWE is in a better place this week than they were a month ago, and Lesnar is back next week. Will he enter the Rumble too?
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