By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: Will Pruett actually watched the entire three hour episode of Raw last night. Things got a little weird.
As far as final hype for WrestleMania 32, this was a passable show with some great moments. As far as producing excitement for the WrestleMania’s (assumed) top match, Roman Reigns vs. Triple H, this show tried its best, but ultimately fell short. This go-home edition of Raw was the entire build to WrestleMania 32 in a microcosm.
Let’s start at the beginning with a great, if illogical, segment featuring Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. WWE gave us the highlights and lowlights of this feud all in one. Should Shane O’Mac (who saved this WrestleMania from complete apathy) be the physical equal to Undertaker? Of course not. Has he been presented this way? Yep, and the reason for doing so still isn’t clear. While WWE was spending their time kicking and punching logic itself in the face-parts, it was also creating a physical confrontation between Shane and Undertaker that made me wish it was Sunday already. Logic be damned, ‘Taker and Shane produced a compelling brawl and left me wanting more.
Compare wanting more of Undertaker and Shane McMahon to begging for less of Triple H and Roman Reigns. It wasn’t just one segment between them, but three, as WWE rushed to make Roman look both strong and sympathetic on one night. The problem? They failed at both. Roman Reigns didn’t look particularly strong while heel wrestlers were literally holding Triple H in place for Roman’s dive. Reigns also never seems sympathetic when destroyed by the evils of The Authority. Heck, Roman has yet to call out the Royal Rumble match as creating an unfair scenario for him to defend his title. If Roman can’t get upset about these things, why should I?
Further down the card, it seems like Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar finally decided to care about this match with Dean Ambrose and Heyman broke out the full catchphrase soundboard for his promo. Ambrose, as he has in the past few weeks, brandished weapons and attempted to look tough. Ambrose isn’t the most compelling opponent for Lesnar and this is far from the most compelling match at WrestleMania, so it fit to just have Ambrose circle the ring with a red wagon and load up on puzzling placed barbed-wire bats and chainsaws. While WWE attempted to create something compelling with this segment, they ultimately told us how wacky WrestleMania would be.
What about the online-favorites Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship? This may have been the most interesting thing we saw all night. WWE gave us a whole lot of time to spend with Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Stardust, and Sin Cara. They also didn’t give these six much of a story to tell. While the end of the match built up to Sami getting a big victory over Kevin Owens for the first time in WWE, the match (the least likely match on this show to lose an insider-filled crowd) somehow lost the crowd. This was an all-out rebellion from Brooklyn and it was not warranted. Am I satisfied with the story of these six men and Zack Ryder all climbing a ladder for the Intercontinental Championship? Nope. I’ve written about this extensively. Did I hate this six man tag? Nope. It was alright.
The crowd turned on the wrong match at the end of a five hour marathon taping of Superstars, Main Event, Smackdown, and a three hour Raw. I sat through a similar thing last year at Staples Center and I can confirm how tiring these tapings are (Why not just broadcast all of Smackdown live from Axxess on Thursday night and run clips for the entirety of Superstars and Main Event this week?).
Let’s talk about the Divas Championship match at WrestleMania. The build for this consisted of entrances, a random match between Charlotte and Becky Lynch, and a silent Sasha Banks at ringside. Here’s the problem: WWE still hasn’t established who Becky and Sasha truly are as characters. They are currently relying on the reputations all three women built up in NXT instead of building reputations for them on the main roster. WWE is frequently doing this with everyone from NXT (Sami Zayn), but it is especially glaring after these women have been on the main roster since July.
The other women’s match, the 10 women pre-show tag match, had a fine final segment with a hilarious result. Eva Marie was always going to get booed by this crowd and there is no way WWE didn’t realize this. Even the other women on “Team Total Divas” were suspicious of her. Let’s not pretend WWE wanted Eva to be a conquering hero.
WWE needs to get through this WrestleMania season and get to something new. The build to WrestleMania and the overall staleness of WWE right now tell me a major shakeup is coming on Sunday and next Monday. I can only hope this is true. WWE’s main roster has been stale for a long time and after three years of telling the same story (and almost 20 of similar stories), it’s time to do something different.
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