I’m in a little bit of unchartered territory here, as I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the last two Raw’s, but luckily for me the WWE loves to run the same feuds and storylines for six months straight, so I still have a good grasp on what’s going on. Also, this is the second pay per event in the last two weeks, so most of the matches from Payback are staying the same or adding a few participants. WWE Elimination Chamber is live from Corpus Christi, TX this Sunday ONLY on the WWE Network, so if you haven’t signed up for it yet, what exactly are you waiting for? Let’s get to the preview and predictions.
WWE Divas Championship Match – Nikki Bella (C) vs. Paige vs. Naomi
Nikki Bella has more or less dominated the Diva’s division since winning the title at Survivor Series (over 6 months!). She is who the WWE wants to be the face of their Diva’s division and Total Divas, so I can’t see her losing Sunday. There have been reports that HHH/Steph want to change the way Diva’s are portrayed on television, but Vince McMahon is still in charge, and at 70 years old, I doubt he’s going to change the way he feels about how Diva’s fit into his company now. Paige is better than both Naomi and Nikki on the microphone and in the ring, but she doesn’t look like a supermodel, so until the status quo changes, the title won’t change hands. Paige has always been a fan favorite, and I like Naomi’s semi heel turn, but the Diva’s just don’t get enough time in the ring or a chance to build their characters to make anybody interested in this match.
Winner: Nikki Bella. And the Bella Twin split lives to see another day.
Neville vs. Bo Dallas
I think this should have been Neville’s first feud on the main roster, as he and Bo Dallas have history from NXT and work wonderfully together. The ‘inspirational’ Bo Dallas is one of the best characters WWE has. I can’t remember a time he came out to cut a promo or wrestle a match and I wasn’t entertained. He’s so insincere, and so self loathing, and matching him up with a guy who is clearly more confident and physically superior makes him so much better. You can see the insecurities seeping out of Bo Dallas when he works with Neville, and it’s great. As much as I’d love to see a red arrow, Neville is working with a bum leg, and Bo Dallas could use a big pay per view win, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins here. I expect this feud to continue over the summer, and I hope it exists in it’s own little bubble where the story gets to progress instead of stay stagnant like most other WWE stories. If WWE is serious about Dallas, then he’ll win here and keep fighting Neville. If they’re not, then Neville will hit the red arrow and Bo will head back to obscurity.
Champion vs. Champion Match: John Cena (US Champion) vs. Kevin Owens (NXT Champion)
This one is a tougher pick than it should be. Kevin Owens is the best thing going in the WWE right now. He’s the first reigning NXT champion they’ve featured on WWE TV, and not only is he on WWE TV, he’s getting promo time with Superman. He’s out talked and power bombed Cena two weeks in a row, which is John Cena lingo for ‘I’m beating you at the pay per view’, but I still have some reservations. I’m going to pick Cena to win, but I’m not 100% confident about it. NXT is a real thing now. It’s not developmental. It’s not some show on the WWE Network. It’s an organization that attracts everyone from Rhyno to Tommy Dreamer to Samoa Joe because people want to be apart of it. It’s special, and Kevin Owens is it’s crown jewel at the moment. During this US Championship open tournament Cena’s got going on, he’s given guys like Sami Zayn and Neville showcase matches on Raw, and everyone has said that even in defeat, those guys looked better. The difference here is those guys were baby faces. Cena could beat them and raise their hand and have the crowd cheer for them. I don’t think that’s the case here. Losing does not fit Kevin Owens character, and if he loses clean to Cena here then what happens next? He just goes back to NXT like nothing ever happened? Kevin Owens needs this win. It fits his character to have a showcase win against JOHN CENA. He can brag about it in promo’s until the end of time and it will make him even more insufferable/wonderful. It doesn’t hurt Cena either (because nothing does) and Cena keeps the US title because it’s a non title match. I just convinced myself to pick a guy who’s never fought a pay per view match for the WWE to beat John Cena at a pay per view.
Winner: Kevin Owens.
Tag Team Title Elimination Chamber Match: New Day (C) vs. Every Tag Team
You can eliminate (get it) the Prime Time Players, Ascension, Lucha Dragons & Los Matadores from this match, so it comes down to ‘will the New Day retain’ or ‘will Tyson Kidd & Cesaro win’. Both teams are great, but Cesaro is my guy, so I’m rooting for the Swinging Cats. I’ll be happy if either team wins, and I only have one request: give Cesaro enough time in the Chamber. He has the deepest bag of tricks on the WWE roster, and with the possibility of 10 other guys in the ring, I know he’ll put out some incredible moves. If Cesaro looks like a king and the Swinging Cats lose, I’m ok with that, because New Day is finally finding their footing and should remain a thing forever. If Los Matadores wins, I’ll probably set myself on fire.
Winner: heart > head: Cesaro & Kidd.
IC Title Elimination Chamber Match: King Barrett vs. Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. R-Truth vs. Rusev* vs. Ryback
I personally think this is the easiest match on the card to predict. You can automatically eliminate Barrett, Ziggler, Ryback and R-Truth from winning. Ryback and Truth are irrelevant, and Barrett and Ziggler lose. That’s their thing. I saw it coming down to Rusev and Sheamus, but now with Rusev possibly out, it could come down Sheamus and Wyatt. Either way, Sheamus has to win here. He debuted with a new look and an awesome entrance song and was finally a bad guy again, yet nothing has happened since he returned. He forced a guy to kiss his ass, then got forced to kiss that guy’s ass. That’s about it. If Daniel Bryan needs a new neck or head or whatever, and John Cena is going to hold the US title until the end of time, put the belt on a tough looking guy and have him matter. As great as most of the matches on this card will be, they’ll only be great because the individuals are so talented. If WWE actually let characters develop and had interesting mini feuds in these matches, they’d be amazing. The only semblance of a mini feud was Ziggler/Rusev, but now that’s not even a thing because my poor Russian hero is hurt. Sheamus wins, and the only other outcome I’ll accept is Wyatt murdering everyone one by one and burning the IC title in the middle of the ring.
WWE Championship Match: Seth Rollins (C) vs. Dean Ambrose
I’m so mad I didn’t think of this, but I hope it happens. If The Shield isn’t going to fully unite, other than that awesome triple bomb moment at Payback, then what’s the next best thing? Reuniting two of them. Ambrose is a lone wolf and honestly has too much personality to be part of a trio. He was great in the Shield, but he thrives on his own, and it actually works. Roman Reigns, on the other hand, was made to be apart of a group. He’s like an Arn Anderson if Arn Anderson never used a microphone before. I don’t think he should be the guy, but being the guy’s best friend and enforcer? That fits him perfectly. My friend predicted a Reigns heel turn, joining Rollins and the Authority and being their new enforcer figure. It makes sense on a couple levels. Reigns and Ambrose are buddies, but ever since Mania, Ambrose has gotten the opportunities while Reigns has played second fiddle. Reigns still hasn’t gotten his one on one match with Rollins but Ambrose has one? That wouldn’t sit well with me. The Authority needs a new ‘Kane’ because this version of Kane sucks and he should not be the focus of anything, especially not the main event. How long are you going to tease tension with Rollins and Kane before there’s a payoff? Wouldn’t the best possible payoff be Rollins reuniting with his SWAT team brother and Kane literally burning in hell? Ambrose and Reigns have been very buddy buddy lately, and Reigns even bailed him out of jail Monday night. It all makes too much sense and it might not happen, but I hope it does. As far as the match, these guys are great in the ring together, and while Ambrose’s character has been headed to wacky land again, there’s no doubt they’ll have a great match in the main event.
Winner: and still WWE Champion, Seth Rollins.
The final Raw before Payback was last night, and for the second week in a row, it was a solid show. The opening talking segment ran a little too long, but Cesaro got to do Cesaro things, Dean Ambrose performed in front of his hometown crowd and Damien Sandow is now the Macho Man. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Raw!
1. Dean Ambrose
I’ve written about this before, but billing WWE Superstars and Divas from their actual hometowns is always a plus. It worked for Barrett and Paige in the UK, it worked for Ryback once upon a time in Vegas, and it worked last night for Ambrose. Throughout the entire opening talking segment, the crowd was consistently chanting ‘We Want Ambrose’, and thankfully HHH pulled a Donny Donowitz and obliged them. Ambrose got to toss around J and J Security and get a clean win in front of his hometown crowd, but the best moment for him came at the end of the show, as for the second week in a row on Raw, he was the lone man standing tall to close out the show. For a split second I really thought The Shield might reunite when Ambrose and Reigns were behind Rollins, but alas, it is not meant to be yet. I don’t know if Ambrose has any real chance of winning the title Sunday, but throwing him in the main event mix accomplishes two things. 1. Ambrose is now being viewed as a main eventer, which is something he was lacking after his Rollin’s feud ended and 2. Ambrose brings a little bit of unpredictably to the main event scene that has been dominated by Rollins, Orton and Reigns, who aren’t exactly Mr. Personality’s. With Lesnar out until close to Summerslam, the WWE title picture needed a bit of a shakeup, and that’s exactly what Ambrose has brought to the table.
2. Harper & Rowan
Two things I’ll never forgive WWE for is breaking up The Shield and breaking up The Wyatt Family. The Shield I understand more, because they were three guys with unlimited potential who needed to be on their own to truly flourish. The Wyatt Family I’ll never understand. From day one on the main roster Harper & Rowan should have been the tag team champs who dismantle every team in their path, and Bray Wyatt should have been their psychological leader who preys on whoever gets in their way. Instead, Harper & Rowan lost every tag team title match they were in and Bray Wyatt got fed to Superman wearing a John Cena shirt. Now Wyatt is in a feud with Ryback and Harper & Rowan are taking turns mauling Fandango. With that said, I’m glad Harper & Rowan are back together. While Harper could easily survive on his own, I like them better as a team. You have two guys who look and act like monsters, so why not make them a monster tag team? Throw them in the mix with New Day and Cesaro/Kidd and you automatically have three solid tag teams that can fight over the titles. I hope this is the plan, and if it’s not, I hope Fandango joins them but it is ultimately kicked out because he can’t grow a beard.
So I don’t hear anyone talking about how the WWE is burying Neville anymore. Weird. Neville has consistently been the best part of Raw since his debut, and last night was his best night by far. Neville challenged John Cena for the US title, and he had the match won before that mother f&*^er Rusev came in and kicked the shit out of him and Cena. I love Rusev, but I was FURIOUS when he caused this DQ. Thinking back on it, I’d rather he cause the DQ than Cena kick out of the Red Arrow, which is 1000% what I thought was going to happen, but still. The second rope corkscrew splash, the backflip/corkscrew moon sault and the general energy Neville brings to the ring is impossible not to love. Neville looked awesome here, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
4. John Cena
As great as Neville looked, you have to give credit to John Cena. For the second week in a row he’s faced an NXT superstar or alumni and made them look like a million bucks. Win, lose or draw, putting guys like Sami Zayn and Neville in a championship match with John Cena is such a great move, and the fact that Cena is giving these guys 10-15 minutes to beat his ass makes it that much better. I still don’t like everyone kicking out of the AA, but when you’ve been around as long as Cena has, I guess it’s going to happen eventually. I really think he should find a new finishing move outside of the AA and STFU and start beating guys with that, as it will add an element of surprise to his matches that you usually don’t get. Other than that, it was a great match, and John Cena has as good a chance of losing to Rusev as I have with becoming best friends with George Clooney.
Cesaro got a couple minutes to wrestle in a singles match last night and predictably dominated like the absolute animal that he is. My only complaint with this match is that if Big E wants to go head to head with Cesaro, he better work on his conditioning, because Cesaro doesn’t mess around. Cesaro was suplexing and upper cutting Big E into oblivion, and at one point it looked like Big E might die in the ring. The two Germans into a belly to belly almost killed Big E because he couldn’t even jump off the ground, but thankfully Cesaro is superhuman and just tossed him over his head anyway. I will never get tired of seeing Cesaro throw guys around, and I will never understand why WWE doesn’t let him do it more often. Also, how about that rollup pin? I just want to find Cesaro and hug him for being so goddamn good.
While I would have loved to have Neville become the King of the Ring just a few months after debuting, Barrett is the guy who needs this right now. I’m still not sure what ‘this’ is, as the WWE hasn’t really said anything about the winner of the KOTR getting any special opportunities, but he won a tournament and he won it clean. Neville is on the fast track to success, but he lost to a more experienced competitor who just needed this win more. Pushing multiple guys at once should always be the main focus in the WWE, as the more guys that are seen as special in the eyes of the fans, the more successful the company will be. With Daniel Bryan out of action for awhile, there’s one less championship to chase, so WWE should be creating personal feuds for the mid carders not going after Cena’s US title. Barrett’s win and coronation is a step in the right direction.
RAW – Booker T took to Twitter to apologize for a comment he made in reference to Owen Hart on Raw. For those who missed it, Booker was talking about Neville in his match with Luke Harper. JBL said that Neville could be the first high-flying King of the Ring and then said, “Of course Owen [Hart] was a high-flyer, but not like this.” Booker T replied, “He couldn’t defy gravity.”
I would never say anything to disrespect the legacy of Owen Hart. If I did offend anyone, I apologize.
— Booker T. Huffman (@BookerT5x) April 28, 2015
I’m sure Booker T didn’t mean anything by it, but as far as jokes go, this one’s pretty terrible. Any Owen Hart joke is terrible, but one involving him not being able to defy gravity when he plummeted to his death is kind of idiotic. Booker T will never be mistaken for a smart man, and his commentary makes me wish I couldn’t hear words, but this is one of his lowest moment. I say one of because nothing will beat the time he called Hulk Hogan the N word live on air:
Never change, Booker. Actually, change everything.
Extreme Rules was last night and the first post WM pay per view was a solid show overall. Daniel Bryan’s precious bunny neck caused him to miss the show, but rising star Neville took his place. In a shocking twist, John Cena retained his US title and Sheamus made an unconscious Dolph Ziggler kiss his ass. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Extreme Rules show.
At this point, if I’m reviewing a show or pay per view that Neville is apart of, there’s a 100% chance he’s going to be one of my stars. I don’t want to jinx it, but I can’t compliment WWE enough for how they’ve booked Neville since his debut. After a quick first squash, he was put into a match with the WWE Champion, then Dolph Ziggler, and now Bad News Barrett. Although he lost to Rollins and Ziggler, he proved he can hang with them immediately, which I believe does more good than having him squash a bunch of low card guys. I also love that the mid card titles are now something guys of value are trying to attain. The WWE has this weird theory that whoever loses a title automatically becomes the new #1 contender. It’s fine, but my problem with that is that it delays the start of new feuds. Neville beating Barrett twice in the same week automatically puts him in either the #1 contender spot or somewhere close, so when Bryan returns there are going to be at least two people gunning for his title. Also, this was Neville’s first pay per view win since joining the main roster, and he won clean.
One of the things I wasn’t looking forward to last night was seeing either Sheamus’s or Dolph Ziggler’s ass, and luckily we didn’t see too much. Ziggler won the match, but Sheamus was the one who got the upper hand (cheek) on Ziggler. Dolph is not the brightest bulb in the world, and for some reason he thought the guy who returned from injury with a Mohawk and a newfound sense of hurting people was just going to pucker up and kiss his butt. Instead, he got a low blow and a boot to the face, and then had his unconscious face rubbed against Sheamus’s ass cheek. Not Ziggler’s finest moment, but bad guy Sheamus is a guy I can get behind. You’re not going to root for him because he’s an asshole, but I’m all for him having hoss fights with the likes of Ziggler and Bryan and Neville. Also, his new music is awesome and I’ll never get tired of typing that.
New Day won the tag titles, but Cesaro, per usual, was the star of the match. Slowly transitioning Cesaro and Kidd to good guys while simultaneously turning New Day heel is not as easy as WWE is making it look, but it’s working perfectly. They knew the Chicago crowd would be cheering for Cesaro and Kidd and they knew that the same crowd would be chanting ‘New Day Sucks’, so why not feed into that? Cesaro and Kidd haven’t been together long but they’re both excellent in the ring and have created some fun to watch tag team moves. The over the rope suplex followed by a top rope elbow drop and the swing into the dropkick are crowd pleasers, and just make a tag team match better. Cesaro snatching Big E and Kofi out of the air and throwing them around will always be impressive, and I’d be fine with watching him do that for every match until the end of time. The end of the match makes sense, too, as New Day is using their 3 on 2 advantage to distract teams and win matches. That’s what smart heel teams do, but I do hope that Cesaro and Kidd stay in the tag title hunt.
4. The Last Man Standing Match
I went into the Last Man Standing match last night with zero expectations, but Big Show deserves an ice cream cone or something for his performance. He and Reigns just basically beat the crap out of each other, and while the crowd was clamoring for tables throughout the night, I’m glad they saved it for this match. The WWE and it’s superstars/divas are over saturated because we see them so much. On a week that includes a pay per view, the WWE puts on 8 hours of television, plus Main Event, Superstars, Backstage Fallout videos and whatever else they have planned for that week. With so much TV time to produce, certain shows can feel monotonous and employ the same kind of matches. If Ambrose/Harper had put themselves through tables in the opening match, the Show and Reigns table spots wouldn’t have been as effective. Reigns looked great, and Big Show looked like a worthy adversary, which also helps out Reigns. The table spots were also really well done, especially Big Show choke slamming Reigns from the ring to the outside through two tables and Reigns spearing Show from on top of one table and through the next one.
5. Seth Rollins
What a slimy piece of shit Seth Rollins is. The ending of the main event cage match between Orton and Rollins for the WWE Championship saw Seth Rollins use the RKO on Randy Orton then weasel his way out of the cage. As Extreme Rules was going off the air, the announce team was arguing about whether or not that was legal, since Rollin’s own stipulation for the match was banning the RKO. I’m sure there will be a 20-200 minute talking session to open up Raw dissecting whether this was legal or not, but either way I loved it. How much of a dick do you have to be to ban a guy’s finishing move, then not only use that move during the match, but use it to beat him and retain your title? That’s next level heel work, and Rollins is the most exciting part of the show. One of the friends I was watching this with brought up a great point about the main event scene right now without John Cena – you don’t automatically know who’s going to win. With Rollins as the champion, there’s always that chance that he’s going to lose the title, and that makes for exciting, unpredictable TV.
While I don’t usually watch Smackdown on Thursday nights, I made an exception this week. Smackdown was taped in my hometown of Providence, RI, so obviously the Average Nobodies attended and as always, the WWE put on a great live show. The usual script for Raw reviews is 5 stars, but since Smackdown is only 2 hours, I decided to limit it to 3 stars. Smackdown featured a couple solid tag team matches, and I sat close enough to Roman Reigns to brush his soaking wet hair.
Neville has been extremely impressive since joining the main roster, and anyone who had concerns that he wouldn’t be utilized correctly should be breathing a sigh of relief so far. This was the first time I’ve seen him live, and holy hell is he quick. Neville is that rare superstar who can flip and jump with the best of them, but also understands the psychology of wrestling as well. He knows how to wrestle the bigger guys like Sheamus and he knows how to wrestle guys his size like Rollins and Ziggler. I love that he pinned Barrett, too, and I mentioned in my Extreme Rules preview that if Daniel Bryan can’t compete, I’d love to see Neville and Barrett take place and Neville secure another victory. If Neville can beat the #1 contender for the IC belt twice in the same week, he’d definitely be in the discussion for challengers to the title once Bryan returns. The highlight of the entire show was seeing Neville hit the Red Arrow live. If WWE is coming to a city near you and Neville is advertised, you owe it to yourself to go see him.
2. Prime Time Players
I’d be ok if the PTP never wrestled another match again, as long as I could get a Titus ‘OORAH’ once in awhile and as long as they keep doing these backstage promos every week. The tag team division is filled with entertaining and exciting teams, who are normally given about 2-3 minutes to have a match and tell a story. While the WWE is doing their best to elevate the US and IC belts, they’ve continually let the tag team division fall by the wayside. My suggestion would be to have the writing team ignore them, but give them at least 15-20 minutes per Raw to get themselves over. You’re telling me guys like Titus, Darren Young, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, New Day and Lucha Dragons can’t have solid matches and entertaining promos on their own if given enough time? The tag team division should be a lot more exciting, especially considering the teams that are in it. While I’ll never condone anyone making fun of Cesaro, Titus’s satchel and paper boy hat were a nice touch. Hopefully the PTP challenge for the tag titles soon, and hopefully the WWE realizes the diamonds they have in the tag division just waiting for their time to shine.
3. The Main Event
The main event of Smackdown was a tag team match featuring Ambrose and Reigns vs. Harper and Rollins, and it was fantastic. Ambrose and especially Reigns were incredibly over with the Providence crowd, and all four guys worked their tail off to close out the show. While you’d want to keep the champion getting pinned in non title matches to a minimum, I did like Reigns getting the clean pin here. He deserves much better than a Last Man Standing match with Big show at Extreme Rules, so hopefully after Sunday he’s back closer to the main event. I think Harper and Ambrose are going to have the best match Sunday, so I’m glad they got to give us a little preview of what to expect. The Authority continues to tease tension with it’s champion, and that was escalated last night with Kane throwing Rollins back in the ring just in time to eat a spear from Reigns. All in all it was a fun show with a really good main event to send the crowd home happy.
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.
A Monday Night Raw without Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Brock Lesnar, Rusev, Dean Ambrose and Bad News Barrett can’t possibly be WWE’s strongest show, and that’s what we got last night. Raw wasn’t bad, but when you’re missing most of the fan favorites, three hours can be an especially long show. With that said, there were some important storyline progressions, and we now have a new #1 contender for Seth Rollin’s title at Extreme Rules. Let’s get to the stars!
If you’ve ever seen NXT, then this should come as no surprise, but if you haven’t, you watched a big part of the future last night as Neville took on WWE Champion Seth Rollins. The best part about having a heel champion who isn’t Brock Lesnar is that they can realistically lose any match. Rollins is quick and explosive and freakishly athletic, but by WWE standards, he’s still a relatively small guy. While he dominated most of the match against Neville, all it took was one reversal and Rollins was in the kill zone for the Red Arrow. I also love that J & J Security interfered, which helped Rollins win the match. Around the time Stone Cold came around, it seemed like WWE was trying to make all heels these bad asses who would get cheered by the smart crowds, but from day one in wrestling heels have been chicken shit guys who cheat to win. As much as it seemed unnecessary for Rusev to low blow Cena at Fast Lane, that’s what he SHOULD be doing. He’s a bad guy. The bad guy can’t keep winning clean and fighting honorably or else there will be no distinction between good and bad. Getting back to Neville, it was great seeing him get a shot with the Champ in just his second match on Raw. He can go, and he’s had some of the best matches in wrestling over the past year, so giving him a spotlight was great to see. The announce team was actually pretty good here, too, as they didn’t just make fun of Neville like they do with most NXT call ups. Neville has a bright future, and I love how the WWE is handling him so far.
2. John Cena & The US Title Open Challenge
If you watched Chris Jericho’s live podcast on the WWE Network after Raw, you saw Cena talk about being the US Champion and giving all comers a chance at the title. He’s had the title for two weeks, and has fought two solid matches against Dean Ambrose and Stardust. He’s beaten both of them, but John Cena should beat both of those guys. Cena’s been around for awhile, but he’s still John Cena. It’s not like Kane or Big Show or Mark Henry who just show up to get beaten. He’s still the face of the company, and losing a contested match to John Cena is better than winning against most of the guys on the roster. If you’re in the ring with Cena and it’s not a squash, then you’re getting a spotlight on you that just doesn’t happen with most other guys. That he holds a secondary title and keeps defending it only makes this situation better. If Cena can leave the US title picture better than when he entered it, it will have been a job well done.
3. New Day ( Doesn’t Suck)
If you told me I’d be giving New Day one of the stars for last night’s Raw I would have called you crazy and slapped you across the face. But New Day is taking baby steps towards a heel turn and I absolutely love it. Big E is the best out of the three, and he followed up his tweets from last week with a promo about a fan telling him he sucks but also asking for an autograph at the same time. I also love that their clapping is the only thing that is keeping them sane while thousands of people tell them they suck. If you watched their match, at one point Kofi, who was not in the match, cheap-shotted Kalisto. When Xavier Woods gets up and realizes what Kofi did, he gives this sinister smile of approval, and the group is adding more depth to their characters each week. You’d think the WWE would know by now that a happy go lucky clapping group isn’t going to work, but at least they’re listening to the crowd and making New Day more interesting. I’m fine with Lucha Dragons feuding with Cesaro and Kidd and then a heel New Day swooping in as the next challengers to whomever has the belts.
Sheamus is another guy who should always be a heel, and I’m glad WWE recognized that and brought him back as this Celtic asshole. He came up as a heel, and although he might’ve been pushed too fast, turning him into a good guy was not the answer. Now he’s back as a heel, and he does all the little things that a good bad guy should do. He took out the two most popular guys on the show, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler, AFTER they fought a grueling match. When a fresh Mark Henry shows up, he wants nothing to do with him and tries to leave the ring. As I said with Rollins, there’s a huge benefit to having your bad guys be actual bad guys. When Sheamus and Mark Henry are on the outside of the ring, he uses the ring post to his advantage, and it’s clear from his pre match promo and antics during the match that he’s here to destroy our idols. Also, his new music is awesome, and although his hairstyle is kind of silly, he needed a change and a look that now identifies him as a bad guy.
5. Randy Orton
This is more of a “none of my favorite guys were on the show” star instead of a “he had a good showing” star. Most of the popular guys weren’t on Raw, and since Orton is the new #1 contender, I might as well have given him this slot. He fought Kane earlier on in the night, and I’m pretty sure the WWE is 0 for 100 when they have Kane and Big Show wrestle on the same show. I think Roman Reigns should’ve been given this slot, as it seems like the Orton/Rollins story has run it’s course, but they have great chemistry together, so their match at Extreme Rules should be good. It’ll be interesting to see where the story goes from here, and how Lesnar and Reigns fit into the WWE Championship picture in the future.