Raw was overseas last night and it was a solid show overall from the O2 arena in London. A few matches were finalized with ‘Extreme Rules’ stipulations, and is FANDANGO BACK? (no) Let’s get to the 5 Stars from last night’s Raw.
1. Home Field Advantage
One of my favorite things that happen on a wrestling show is wrestlers wrestling in front of a hometown or home country crowd. It’s not the 1980s anymore, and the days of wrestlers being billed from ‘Parts Unknown’ or ‘Hell’ are long gone. Wade Barrett and Paige are actual people from actual places. So when BNB comes out and gets cheered for his match against John Cena, the WWE should use that to their advantage. At this point in Cena’s title reign, it’s pretty much set in stone that he’s not going to lose to Barrett on Raw, but the crowd is into the near falls and it makes the match much more exciting. Same thing goes for Paige. She gets the biggest ovation out of any of the Divas, and get to cut a great post match promo talking about her journey for wrestling at carnivals to winning a match at WrestleMania. Naomi’s turn and attack on Paige is enhanced because Paige is in front of her home country crowd, and WWE addressing the fact that she’s from England helps that immensely.
2. The US Title Open Challenge
I also love the Open Challenge idea, because when Cena does lose, it will not only come as a shock, but it will immediately elevate whoever he loses to. Ambrose, Stardust and now BNB. Cena is elevating the title and making these guys look good in the process. One small complaint is that every match has had the same style so far, and after awhile people kicking out of the Attitude Adjustment might do more harm than good. It’s exciting for the false finish, but I’d like to see Cena switch it up and wrestle a different style of match that doesn’t involve him kicking out of a guy’s finisher and then in turn that same guy kicking out of the AA. In what is going to be a running theme in this write up, wins and losses don’t matter if it’s being booked correctly. BNB, Ambrose and Stardust losing to Cena help them out more than beating the bums of the WWE. Ambrose beat Adam Rose and Stardust beat Fandango, but both of them looked better in loses to Cena than in victory last night.
3. Rusev And His Russian Chain
A personal highlight from last night’s show was Rusev showing up with a RUSSIAN CHAIN and knocking John Cena out cold. I’ve mentioned it before, but I love when wrestling villains are actual villains. Cena is exhausted after a tough match against BNB, so Rusev sends Lana out on the ramp to distract Cena and attack him from behind with a chain. The Russian flag drops from the ceiling and Rusev stands over Cena’s crushed body. That’s what a villain SHOULD do, and I’m glad they’re going all the way with Rusev. It’s impossible for the smart audience not to cheer him against Cena, but adding some heel tendencies to his character will help him in the long run.
After Paige won the Battle Royal, Naomi attacked and mauled her outside the ring. Later during the show, she cut a promo on the entire Diva’s division that was one of the most logical statements made in a long time. Naomi was in the same rookie class as AJ Lee, yet AJ has had 3 Diva’s title reigns and now that she’s retired, she’s considered a legend. Naomi has pinned Nikki Bella numerous times over the past few weeks, yet had to enter a Battle Royal just to get a title shot. The WWE creative team is so screwy that they should take advantage of it and let the Divas or any other superstar call them out on it when things are being booked so idiotically. Naomi was finally given a personality and immediately sky rocketed up the Diva’s ranks in my opinion. Her athleticism was never a question, but when you give her something more than “Funkadactyl or Usos’ wife’ to work with from a character standpoint, she’s going to bring it home.
5. Dolph Ziggler v. Neville
So Neville has been on the main roster for three weeks, and he’s already progressed more than half of the roster who’ve been there for years. The internet wrestling community is obsessed with wins and losses, so naturally there’s already talk of how bad ‘Neville is being buried’. My only response to that is that I’d rather Neville lose back to back to weeks to Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler in competitive matches than have him beat the Curtis Axel’s or Fandango’s of the world. Let me ask a question: who looked better last night: Stardust or Neville? Stardust won over Fandango, Neville lost to Ziggler, but I guarantee most people don’t even remember the Stardust/Fandango match. Wins and losses don’t mean anything in the world of wrestling if the matches and feuds are booked right. Neville has proven he can hang against both Rollins and Ziggler, and he would’ve beat the WWE World Champion if it wasn’t for J and J Security. So yeah, Neville is fine, and he looked great again last night. That 450 splash from the ring barricade was insane, and there’s really no one like Neville on the WWE roster. He’s the total package, and pairing him with Ziggler was a great choice. Ziggler is the best seller on the roster, and that Brogue Kick on the outside from Sheamus was brutal. I can live in world where Sheamus/Ziggler/Neville are feuding with each other.
Well, the day is finally upon us. WrestleMania 31 is this Sunday from Levi’s Stadium in California, and we have four hours of wrestling/sports entertainment to look forward to. Kings vs. Icons, Beasts vs. Juggernauts, Adam Rose and Zack Ryder in a Battle Royal; WrestleMania 31 pretty much has something for everyone. Like I’ve been doing before every pay per view, I’ll be previewing each match on the Mania card then giving my expert* opinion on who I think will win. Let’s get to it!
Fatal 4 Way Tag Team Title Match: Cesaro/Kidd (C) vs. Los Matadores vs. New Day vs. The Usos
Preview: Cesaro and Kidd have been the lone bright spot on the tag team scene recently, but it’s clear WWE thinks of the division as a wasteland of sorts. Los Matadores and The New Day spent the last few months losing to everyone under the sun, but are in a tag team title match at WrestleMania because…? I really can’t answer that question, and as bad as Los Matadores and New Day have been, The Uso’s aren’t that much better. You can’t have a solid tag team division with one good team, so unless the WWE revamps it’s current teams or inserts new ones, the tag team matches will be relegated to the pre show match on pay per views for the foreseeable future. In a perfect world the bell would ring and Natalya would power bomb El Torito through a table, then Cesaro and Kidd would massacre all three teams with a combination of swings, dropkicks and uppercuts. While that probably won’t happen, Cesaro and Kidd are the only hope of a tag team renaissance, so I’m going with them.
Prediction: Kidd & Cesaro, maybe pinning the other six guys at the same time. The only benefit of having a shitty tag team division is that it’s impossible for anyone to look worse by taking a loss in this match.
AJ Lee & Paige vs. Nikki & Brie Bella
Preview: Paige and Nikki Bella had the match of the night on Raw (don’t adjust your computer screens, you read that correctly) and I was hoping the teased tension between AJ and Paige would lead to a Divas Title match at Mania instead of the tag team bout, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Ever since Give Diva’s A Chance started trending, it was clear that the WWE would be making the Diva’s division a priority, similar to how they are portrayed in NXT. It’s jarring sometimes to remember that NXT and WWE are pretty much the same company, and its sad that it took a worldwide hash tag for the higher ups to realize that women’s wrestling should be an important part of their show. This match is pretty much a battle of the internet’s darlings vs. WWE’s vision of women wrestlers. The Bella’s are pretty much models that have been trained to wrestle, while AJ and Paige are wrestling first Diva’s who most of the audience can get behind because the genuinely love what they do. While the Bella’s have made great strides (Nikki especially) in the last half year or so, they’ll never get the smart fans support over a Paige or AJ.
Prediction: I think AJ and Paige will continue to bicker which leads to a Bella’s WrestleMania win, and most likely a triple threat title scenario post Mania depending on NXT call ups.
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Preview: While last year’s Battle Royal became a welcome surprise with Cesaro’s impressive win, this year’s build was lacking in a lot of ways. The only storylines going into the match is the tension between Miz and Mizdow and the Twitter feud between Adam Rose and Zack Ryder. The rest of the match is filled up by teams who didn’t make it into the tag team pre show match and big guys that WWE loves to use in Battle Royal scenarios like Ryback, Mark Henry, Big Show and Kane. WWE also hurt themselves by not pushing the winner of last year’s match, thus making it seem like nothing really changes if you win the Battle Royal. If Cesaro had been pushed and made into an important player following his win, then the winner of this match would be looking forward to something more than just a trophy. It’ll be interesting to see which NXT star gets a slot in this match, as whoever wins the battle royal at tonight’s live event will be awarded the spot. My money is on Adrian Neville, and if it is him, I hope they give him a mini showcase because his athleticism is unmatched. Sheamus is definitely returning at Mania, and I think it’s in this match, and that he may appear later in the show as well (hopefully not), so at least we have that to look forward to.
Prediction: Sheamus returns and wins, and hopefully we get some kind of payoff between Miz and Mizdow, which leads to a pay per view match(s) down the line.
Ladder Match For The IC Title: Wade Barrett (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Stardust vs. Luke Harper vs. R-Truth
Preview: Up until Monday’s Raw, this was the match with the best lead up. I think WWE played all their cards before Monday’s Raw, including the gauntlet match and 6 man tag, so by the time Monday rolled around they didn’t really have anything new to do. With that said, this match seems like its can’t miss. You have seven of the best young guys on the roster with something to prove going for a mid card title that desperately needs validation. You have perennial show stealers in Daniel Bryan and Ziggler, incredibly underrated workhorse Luke Harper, crazy man Dean Ambrose and two solid yet under appreciated guys in Stardust and Barrett. R-Truth is R-Truth, but he’s surrounded by the seven other guys, so I imagine they’ll be able to cover for him. If the WWE is serious about elevating the mid card belts, then Bryan has to win here. Of the guys with an actual chance of winning, he’s the only one who hasn’t had a long reign with a mid card title. Ziggler and Barrett have had the IC belts before and couldn’t elevate, and Ambrose had the US belt FOREVER and couldn’t elevate that. Give the strap to Bryan, and use the next 6 months to a year feuding him with any of the other guys in this match and you’ll have a revitalized IC division.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan, as long as WWE conceals it’s hard on to feud Sheamus with DB and have him cost Bryan the match.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Previw: This is the only match on the card where I’m 100% certain the young up and comer will win against the veteran. With Cena/Rusev, Wyatt/Undertaker and Lesnar/Reigns, it’s not certain if any of the young guys will actually win their match, but I think Rollins does here. Orton already got his revenge on Rollins a few weeks ago with that long brawl to end Raw, but now he wants to ends ‘the future of the WWE’ for good. I just think Rollins has too many weapons at his disposal. He’s a superb wrestler, and all it takes is one distraction from J & J Security or any other member of The Authority and Orton will be eating a curb stomp. Rollins and Orton are pretty evenly matched, and I know this match is going to deliver, and it might not be the last time you see Seth Rollins make an appearance on the show.
Prediction: Rollins wins via some kind of distraction from The Authority.
United States Championship Match: Rusev (C) vs. John Cena
Preview: The internet is just waiting to explode after this match, but the way WWE has set it up, it’s almost impossible for John Cena to lose. I disagree with the build, and the result of their match at Fast Lane, but it’s time to face the facts: John Cena is winning the US title at WrestleMania. Before I get into whether this loss will crush Rusev, let’s look at the positives here. John Cena is not in the main event or the WWE championship picture, which is always a breath of fresh air. If he wins, Cena becomes the US Champ, and he elevates the title more than anyone else has in the recent past. Depending on how good Rusev looks, Cena beats an unbeatable villain, which is pretty much what his character has been about since he won his first title from JBL at WrestleMania 21. Cena got choked out at Fast Lane, choked out on Raw and has let down America while Rusev has continued to stand tall. In the world of pro wrestling, this feud has to culminate with the good guy winning on the biggest stage. Unfortunately for us, the good guy here is John Cena because America and little kids says so. As for Rusev, a loss here to the pretty much unbeatable Cena isn’t the worst thing IF the WWE handles it properly. If Rusev loses, he should destroy everyone in his path post Mania and beat Cena clean somewhere down the road to regain the title. If they handle Rusev like they did Wyatt last year, having him only settle the score with Cena by outside interference and children singing then he’s in trouble. I’ll wait and see what happens with Rusev before I judge this match, but I’d bet my house on Cena leaving Mania with the US title
Prediction: John Cena wins, the American flag is somehow involved and Rusev retreats to the back a broken man.
Sting vs. HHH
Preview: This is one of those weird matches that I can’t wait to see but at the same time don’t care about the outcome. Neither guy at this point in their career is going to be affected by a win or a loss, but it’s still going to be cool to see Sting have his WrestleMania moment. Besides Wyatt and The Undertaker, Sting’s entrance is the one I’m most looking forward to. The WWE is the king of revisionist history, and since they won the Monday Night Wars, what they say happened, happened. Sting was the franchise guy in WCW, but by the time the company was bought out in 2001, the ship had been sinking for a long time. HHH is pretty much the last guy standing from the Attitude Era guys of the mid to late 90s, so it makes sense to have him be the one to confront the outsider Sting. We know HHH can still go, as he had one of his best matches ever last year vs. Daniel Bryan, and from the little we’ve seen of Sting in a WWE ring, it looks like he’ll be just fine Sunday too. I can’t imagine this feud lasts longer than Sunday night, which makes it a little more interesting considering how serious WWE takes itself when it comes to beating WCW.
Prediction: As I said before, the outcome of this match should be an after thought; Sting is getting his WrestleMania moment, which he deserves. I think Sting wins, and HHH continues his losing streak at WrestleMania.
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
Preview: First off, holy hell what a promo video by the WWE. Even when they’re at their worst, they are the absolute best at hype videos. Now, onto the match. Win or lose, I think this is the feud that keeps Wyatt in the main event scene for years to come, which is funny because The Undertaker hasn’t even shown up yet. Wyatt has literally carried this feud with his promos, and capped it off Monday night on Raw with one of his best promos ever, seemingly summoning The Undertaker’s supernatural powers and once and for all declaring himself the New Face of Fear. I’ve written about this before, but this is unchartered territory for The Undertaker. He’s never re appeared in the WWE after a WrestleMania loss, so it almost makes this match impossible to predict. It’s anyone guess as to how he’ll look, and even though we’ve seen pictures of him training, it still remains to be seen how much he’ll be able to do in the ring. It says a lot about how the WWE views Wyatt that they’re putting him in a marquee matchup with ‘Taker, and I think this is where Wyatt gets the WrestleMania moment he should have gotten last year. I understand Cena winning this year, as you’ve got the built in storyline of America vs. Russia, and his win could actually do a lot of good for the mid card division, where as last year’s win vs. Wyatt did nothing for him. I think Wyatt becomes the modern day Undertaker, and his coronation ceremony will be Sunday night.
Prediction: The Undertaker passes the torch to Bray Wyatt, and we officially have a new face of fear.
WWE Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Roman Reigns
Preview: Ever since Brock announced on Sportscenter Tuesday night that he’d be staying with the WWE, I’ve been tossing this match around in my head. If Brock left, Reigns would win, and the WWE would be in a big mess. Reigns is a future star, but I don’t think the future is this Sunday. Now that Brock has re signed and actually come off as a likeable guy, he’s going to be immensely cheered on Sunday, which leaves only a swarm of boos to greet Roman Reigns as he enters from the crowd (or a helicopter, fingers crossed). There’s a few ways this could go down, and I’ll start with the least likely and end with the most likely. Brock eviscerating Reigns a la Cena at Summerslam, continuing to be the most dominant champion in modern history. I can’t see this happening because it wastes the build up of Reigns, and immediately knocks him way down the card. Same goes for Reigns murdering Lesnar. Having him cake walk through your most dominant champion of the modern era will not only make the fans turn on Reigns, but it discredits all those who Lesnar beat as well. Heyman turns on Brock to help Reigns win. As cool as that would be, with Brock sticking around for a few more years, I can’t see Heyman swerving Brock this early into his new contract, but it’s definitely a possibility. Brock wins clean, and Seth Rollins cashes in his MITB briefcase. Rollins has had his briefcase long enough, and unless they’re planning a Ziggler type cash in the next night on Raw, I think he does it Sunday night, which leads me to my prediction for the main event of WrestleMania 31:
Prediction: Reigns takes a beating, but ultimately beats Brock for the WWE Championship. Rollins cashes in and you have the built in feud of former Shield buddy’s duking it out for the world title. The loss sends Brock on a war path and creates new and exciting feuds for the Beast Incarnate. I think Rollins cashes in to end the show, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened to either Brock or Reigns, but for the sake of making a pick, I’m going with Reigns.
Every WrestleMania, our friend creates a special WrestleMania sheet that makes things a little more interesting. The gist of it is everyone puts in $5, and you pick who you think is going to win each match and how that person is going to win. 1 point is awarded for each correct answer, with two possible points available for each match (For the Battle Royal and Ladder match, you get 2 points for picking the winner, since there’s only one way to win). For example, if you pick Sting to win via pinfall, and Sting wins via pinfall, you get two points. At the end of the show you tally up the points and the person with the most points wins the money. If you’d like to play along, you can check out the sheet at this link: http://bit.ly/1EYx3sa
We’ll be tweeting along with all the action this Sunday @averagenobodies. Give us a follow and enjoy the best night of the year.
— Brazzers (@Brazzers) March 3, 2015
It’s not every day that two of your favorite things come together to try and make the world a better place, but that’s exactly what Brazzers is trying to do with the WWE. Brazzers is pretty much the mecca of the adult entertainment business, and Dolph Ziggler is the most porn star-esque superstar in the WWE, so this does make sense. As far as I know, we haven’t seen any design templates by Brazzers, but I have to imagine they’d be pretty obscene. Just horrifying images of graphic sex scenes on his booty shorts. It doesn’t technically mesh with the WWE’s PG product, but if Vince is going to make an exception, I think it should be for Brazzers. It’s what the people want, and it’s what I need.
P.S. How is Brazzers not verified? Get your act together, Twitter.
Last night was the first Raw to start the real build towards WrestleMania, and it wasn’t great. I enjoy the WWE, and for the most part try to rationalize their decision making, but last night’s Raw was a train wreck. WAY too many talking segments, a baffling booking decision on Randy Orton and more disrespect to the Divas that have fans voicing their disdain with the WWE rather than talking about the WrestleMania pay per view. The WWE only has four more Raw’s to get the casual viewer invested in WM, and they just dug themselves an unnecessary hole. Now, onto the 5 stars of last night’s Raw.
1. Dolph Ziggler
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Dolph Ziggler had the best match on the show. He took on Bad News Barrett, so you knew he was going to win before the match started, because the IC champ does not win non-title matches, but it was still a fun match. It looks like the WWE may be building to a Fatal Four Way match for the IC title at WM between R-Truth, Ziggler, Ambrose and Barrett, which I like. As much as a guy like R-Truth doesn’t deserve to be elevated the same way Ziggler does, it’s always fun to create different kind of matches for WM. A Fatal Four Way would be a lot more fun than a regular one on one match, so I’m all for it. As for last night, Ziggler proves once again that he’s one of, if not the best worker on the show, and if WWE ever decides to roll with him, they have a guy who will consistently upgrade their in ring product.
2. Daniel Bryan
Whether fans like it or not, Roman Reigns is going to WrestleMania to face Brock Lesnar for the World Heavyweight Championship, and Daniel Bryan is not. They both put on a great match at Fast Lane, but Reigns came out victorious, and he may be the Champion in four weeks. As for Bryan, he had a very good Raw, per usual, both on the microphone and in the ring. His promo on originally doubting Reigns then respecting him after their match at Fast Lane was great, and seemed to be planting the seeds to a more aggressive, edgier Daniel Bryan. The best thing about the WWE is that they don’t have an off season: if you’re favorite team loses in the Super Bowl, you have to wait all offseason to see who is going to stay on the team, what moves they’ll make and if they’ll ever be that good again. If you’re a Daniel Bryan fan and you’re upset he’s not in the main event of WrestleMania, guess what? The day after WrestleMania ends, the entire cycle starts up again. Daniel Bryan could be the #1 contender at Extreme Rules, or the next pay per view, or the next one; it’s a 12 month, 365 day cycle that the WWE has to write for. Just because he’s not the top dog for some of that cycle doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen somewhere down the line.
3. Bray Wyatt
Man, Bray Wyatt is on some other level with his promos right now. You had a feeling pairing him with The Undertaker would up his game, but his promo from the coffin at Fast Lane and the follow up promo last night were both awesome. This is what COULD have happened during the build to last year’s WM, but Cena thought it was more important to put Bray’s head on a baby body and call him a swamp hillbilly. While I’d love to see Bray win at Mania, at this point I’m just relishing in the fact that even being mentioned in the same sentence as The Undertaker is giving Bray some much needed wind in his sails. The first confrontation between the two, whenever that may be, should be epic. Speaking of The Undertaker, looks who’s training…
4. Lana & Rusev
I hope you’re noticing a theme here. Almost all my stars from last night have to do with promos, which is what happens when the WWE puts on a three hour show with 7 matches, with four of them going less than 4 minutes. Anyway, Lana and Rusev were great here. I didn’t like the finish to Cena/Rusev at Fast Lane, mainly because it seems like they’re setting Cena up for a big win at Mania, which he doesn’t need, but other than the unnecessary low blow, Rusev looked great. He was equally as great here, and Cena deserves some credit for avoiding the kiddie jokes and staying serious the whole time. That’s where we are at with John Cena: the WWE’s top guy and face of the company get’s credit for not being a jackass. The main thing I loved about Rusev’s promo was that he bucked the trend of title match losers immediately getting their rematch. It’s the dumbest stipulation WWE has and allows them to be extra lazy with their feuds. If the champion wins, they face the same person in a rematch. If the champ loses, they get their rematch. It’s especially lazy when so much of the roster isn’t being utilized. It’s inevitable that Cena will face Rusev for the title at WM, but I’m glad Rusev didn’t give in right away. He is a true hero, JOHN.
5. The WWE Production Team
What happens when your three hour show has one good match? You get a lot of talking, and a lot of video packages. With that said, the Sting video package was phenomenal. Whether the creative aspect of their show is good or not, you always know if a hype or tribute video package is being presented, it will be expertly done. Sting has had such a great career, and I’m so glad that the WWE Network exists, because I’m able to go back and watch the old NWA/WCW shows from the 80s and early 90s and watch Sting at his peak. He was so strong and charismatic, and was every bit an equal of HBK in his hey day. As I’ve said before, a lot of credit needs to be given to HHH and the WWE production team, as it can’t be easy building up a feud, especially one centered around a WM match, when one of the guys isn’t there. All in all, this video was great, and gives the casual fan a chance to see just how great Sting was, and give them some context for the WM showdown. My only problem with the HHH and Sting match is that it’s the third WM match being promoted that features one of the guys not being on Raw. Lesnar/Reigns, HHH/Sting and Wyatt/Undertaker are all going to be marquee matchups, but each feud is missing a participant. I think Lesnar/Reigns will be ok because of Heyman, but the other two would definitely be more intriguing if both guys were there full time.