By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Shane McMahon return: The shocking return of Shane McMahon drew an insane crowd reaction. The Detroit fans treated Shane like he scored a Game 7 winning goal for the Red Wings. The reaction to Shane will rival any crowd pop we will hear in 2016. The angle between Shane, Vince McMahon, and Stephanie McMahon was filled with storyline holes and major logic gaps. And maybe you were among the fans so caught up in the moment that you didn’t even notice the massive flaws. Let’s start with Shane implying that he has total control to force his demands only to then agree to work a match to get his way. And then there’s Vince putting his control of the company in the hands of babyface Undertaker, who has opposed Vince way more often than not over the years. And then there’s Shane’s nonchalant reaction to the news that he will be facing Undertaker in the most feared match in all of WWE.
I could go on, but you get the picture. None of it mattered to the masses on this night, as the vast majority of fans simply ate the crap storyline that the McMahon family served them because they were so happy to see Shane again. Some fans are even excited by the thought of Shane wrestling Undertaker. Let’s stop be real about this. Middle aged father of three Shane would be a better fit on my beer league softball team than he is in a Hell in a Cell match against Undertaker. Sure, he can probably execute a Van Terminator and put his body through all sorts Taker inflicted hell, but he really has no business being in this match. And while I must confess that I am among those who have a perverse desire to see this spectacle match, my guess is that Shane won’t actually work the match. I have no idea how they get there, but I believe John Cena will become the stand-in for Shane, and we end up getting Taker vs. Cena after all. Either way, this was a shocking and newsworthy way to kick off the Road to WrestleMania.
Paul Heyman and Brock Lensar: This was an important promo in that Heyman’s goal was to establish that Lesnar isn’t in the main event, yet whatever he does is still main event worthy. Heyman succeeded by making Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose feel like one of the biggest matches at WrestleMania. I liked the pre-show angle, but it was strange to see Dean Ambrose selling a violent yet brief assault by Lesnar to the extent that he did. We’ve seen Ambrose crash and burn from ladders and fall through tables and do all sorts of insane stunts, yet a quick beating from Lesnar left him nearly as battered as Leonardo DiCaprio following his battle with a bear in The Revenant. I won’t lie, if Lesnar faced that bear and the odds were even, I’d probably put $20 on Brock. We’ve seen the way Ambrose bounces back from Lesnar beatings lately, so watching him crawl around like he did felt a bit schlocky. Despite all of this, I loved the way Lesnar walked over Dean’s face, and I am looking forward to their WrestleMania match.
Triple H attacks Roman Reigns: I am a bit torn on this because I really believe they still want to get Reigns over as the top babyface in the company, but that clearly wasn’t happening. The fans cheered for Triple H. They chanted “Yes!” after Hunter performed a Pedigree on the bloody Reigns (thanks, Byron) on the ring steps. Hell, they wanted him to do it again. And it’s not like Hunter did anything to discourage those cheers. It started with his leather jacket, jeans, and t-shirt look. When most guys his age bust out the rocker attire, it’s because they hung up their dad clothes for the one night of the year when they get together with their old high school buddies to see a heavy metal concert (you know, like I will when Guns N’ Roses comes to town). When Triple H changes into that attire, it’s a sign that he’s ready to kick some ass. And when heel Triple H delivers a crotch chop after beating down the unpopular babyface it means… well, I’m not sure what that means. Nor do I know what it means when Hunter stands on the ring steps and soaks up cheers from the crowd. Shouldn’t Hunter be working for heat if he’s the heel? Maybe something has changed. Maybe they’ve reached the point of acceptance when it comes to Roman or even just the reaction that the WrestleMania crowd will give him. Then again, Hunter did the same thing at the Royal Rumble. I don’t know what any of it means, but I know that it made for a stronger finish to Raw than watching Roman dish out spears and Superman Punches to the League of Nations members. By the way, Hunter’s entrance music is apparently so powerful that it prevented the referee from counting from nine to ten, which would have given Reigns the win over Sheamus. That’s the power of Lemmy.
AJ Styles and Chris Jericho vs. Heath Slater and Curtis Axel: This was solid use of the lousy Social Outcasts act. Styles and Jericho got a win and appear to be buddies coming out of their three match feud. I don’t think they will be challenging New Day for the tag titles at WrestleMania, but I could be wrong. My guess that this is somehow leading to another match between them. How about a match at the March to WrestleMania card with the winner getting the Intercontinental Title shot at WrestleMania?
Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch: A solid segment with Charlotte playing mind games and trying to drive a wedge between Sasha and Becky. I really wish they would do more to establish Sasha’s character. I’m still not sure whether we are supposed to like or dislike Sasha. I hope that becomes clear before WrestleMania, as I assume she will be in the title match whether it’s a singles match or they book a schmoz in the contender’s match to set up a Triple Threat.
WWE Raw Misses
New Day vs. The Lucha Dragons and Neville: This wasn’t just a time filler, it was a chance for WWE to catch up on commercial breaks they fell behind on due to the 30-minute opening segment. I take no issue with that approach. Rather, it was the lack of followup from WWE Fastlane. The last time we saw New Day they were shaking their asses with Edge and Christian and it appeared they might be turning babyface. Meanwhile, we saw Kalisto win a best of three falls match to retain the U.S. Title and now he’s back to being featured as part of the Lucha Dragons in a throwaway six-man tag match. Doesn’t he have anything to say about his win? And don’t even get me started on how wasted Neville is.
The Uso Brothers vs. The Ascension: The Uso Brothers big return after taking a week off to sell the beating the Dudley Boyz gave them consisted of their usual war cry and big cheesy grins as they headed to the ring. What in the hell are these two so happy about? Does anything bother them enough to stray from their usual entrance routine? I don’t blame Jimmy or Jey Uso simply because they are carrying out their marching orders, but I really wish someone in creative would get behind the idea of establishing their personalities. I did like D-Von abandoning the tired “testify” line in favor of taking the jab at Rikishi.
The Wyatt Family vs. Ryback, Big Show, and Kane: Let me get this straight, Ryback won the match for his team at Fastlane and then worked the majority of this match before suddenly deciding that he’s suddenly too good for tag team wrestling. What a clunky turn. The fans still enjoy chanting “Feed Me More” and playing along with Ryback regardless of what WWE does with him as a babyface. He is a dependable mid-card act. Remember how lost his character was the last time he was a heel? Remember Rybaxel? Meanwhile, I assumed this match was designed to give the Wyatt Family their heat back after losing the night before. They gained nothing from this because the finish was all about Ryback walking out on his partners. Why not have The Wyatt Family win both matches if Ryback was turning heel?