In the tag team division, what WWE lacks in depth, they made up for in quality in 2017. Most that credit goes to two teams: The Usos & New Day. These two teams have been fighting since New Day arrived on Smackdown, and almost all of their matches have been great. My favorite one happened at WWE Battleground in July.
New Day vs. The Usos – Battleground
This was the show opener at Battleground, and nothing that followed came close to it. Heading into 2017 my favorite New Day tag combo was Kofi & Big E, but this was the year of Xavier Woods. He shined during this feud, and easily had the best performance of the night at Battleground. With The Usos switching to their ‘day one’ characters, New Day finally had a heel team to play off of, and it was wonderful. Woods looked natural as the baby face in peril, and Kofi was equally as good with the high octane hot tags.
As great as Kofi and Xavier were, The Usos matched them beat for beat. The Usos adapted a more aggressive style that completely changed their matches. The crowd ate up everything these two teams did, and the title change at the end earned the pop of the night.
Here’s Big E Tweeting That He’ll Never Watch ‘Ballers’ Again, Because Big E & New Day Are The Greatest
.@BallersHBO You’ve lost a viewer for life. The lead actor is a dick.
— ShinigamE (@WWEBigE) January 26, 2016
ICYMI, The Rock returned to Raw last night to get everyone in the world ready for WrestleMania. He was predictably wonderful, but the highlight of the entire segment was his interaction with New Day. The Uso’s and The Rock got the upper hand on New Day, but not before Big E, Kofi and Xavier Woods got some verbal shots in of their own. After Raw, Big E took to Twitter to show just how great he really is, tweeting The Rock’s HBO show ‘Ballers’ & explaining to them that he’ll never watch the show because their lead actor is a dick. If this leads to more Rock/New Day segments, I am 1,000% in.
— Brazzers (@Brazzers) August 19, 2015
Brazzers, who is usually preoccupied with trying to lure Dolph Ziggler into the porn industry, took a break from that to send a little shout out to the most entertaining characters on WWE TV, New Day. Now Brazzers doesn’t exactly fit into WWE’s PG image, but hey, if one of the greatest porn companies in the world is going to shout you out on Twitter while making a ‘clap’ joke, you have to count that as a win. If the Attitude Era ever gets reignited, I know who the WWE’s main sponsor should be.
The WWE puts on 52 Raw’s a year, which makes it virtually impossible to have a great show every week. People have bad days, weeks, even months; with that said, the WWE does get stuck in a creative rut from time to time, but this week’s show from Montreal was not one of those times. WWE’s production team is unmatched, and when they combine that with great wrestling, it’s one of the most entertaining things in the world to watch. We saw the emergence of New Day, the Raw debut of a local wrestling hero and Tamina Snuka might have actually killed a Bella Twin. Let’s get to the 5 stars!
1. New Day
The only time I don’t mind Raw opening with a talking segment is when someone I’m not expecting comes out to join the conversation. If you’re watching Raw and it’s 8:05pm, there’s a 99% chance you’re going to see Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Kane, HHH or Seth Rollins talking in the ring. It’s not the most exciting way to start a show, and a lot of time it takes the crowd out of it before they even get a chance to get invested. Well this week, New Day came out to break up Randy Orton and Roman Reigns pissing contest and it was AWESOME. New Day are a mix between the Nation of Domination and Bo Dallas at the height of his ‘Bo-lieve’ movement. They’re so condescending, and inserting them into random backstage segments where they’re celebrating HOURS after they beat Reigns and Orton was so good. Big E and Xavier Woods are both money on the microphone, and while I’d rather see Kofi and Big E in the ring over Woods, they all looked good last night. I don’t know what triggered the WWE to move New Day into this position, but I’m so glad they did.
If you watched the first hour of Raw, you saw the tiny glimmers of hope for the tag team division in New Day and Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. The Ascension still aren’t going anywhere, but Cesaro got to deliver 100 European uppercuts in a row so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy. Cesaro and Kidd are one of the only tag teams that look like a team, and it’s not just the tag team moves either. All their movements inside and outside the ring are in sync, and they genuinely look like they’re enjoying each other’s company out there. I also love that the swing into the dropkick was the move that got them the victory in the match. Tag Team finishing moves are always the best.
3. Dean Ambrose
This is the Dean Ambrose that needs to stay and never leave us again. Goofy hot dog cart Dean Ambrose needs to die and never be seen from again. The match between Rollins and Ambrose will be a top 5 Raw match by the end of the year, and it was one of the most enjoyable non pay per view matches in a very long time. Rollins and Ambrose work beautifully together, and the crowd ate up every single minute of it. These guys were rolling inside and outside the ring, and the Ambrose dive between the top and middle rope and the Rollins power bomb into the barricade were awesome. The Shield was the best thing going in the WWE for a long time, and there’s a reason for that: all three guys brought something to the table that made the audience connect with them. Rollins and Reigns have found that special connection as singles stars, and I hope this is the start of that same thing for Ambrose. Also, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but technically The Shield will be main eventing Payback.
4. Sami Zayn
Potential shoulder injury aside, this was amazing. John Cena comes out and tells the crowd he never quits for the first time ever, and issues another open challenge for his US title. Bret Hart’s music hits and thankfully there are no steel chairs in sight. Heath Slater tries his best to finally challenge Cena for the US title but Bret Hart bops him on the head with a microphone and introduces the actual man who’s going to challenge Cena for the US title, and it’s Sami mother f’n Zayn. The match was great, which isn’t surprising since Cena’s been incredible in the ring since winning the US title and I’m pretty sure Zayn is incapable of having a bad match. Anyone worried Sami’s move set wouldn’t make the leap with him to the main roster can breathe a sight of relief, because they were all on display Monday night, including his always insane dive through the bottom and middle rope swinging DDT. Zayn didn’t win, obviously, but giving him that moment in his hometown against THE guy was really great.
5. King Barrett
This Raw was so good that there were a lot more than five stars. Orton, Reigns and even Tamina Snuka had a solid show. But Bad News Barrett is now King Barrett, and he’s winning matches clean, so he’s on the list. The WWE is full of guys who can start a mid card renaissance, and I think Barrett is one of the guys who can lead the charge. He’s great on the microphone, he’s got a great look and he’s very good in the ring. Pairing him with or against guys like Sheamus, Ziggler, Neville and a returning Daniel Bryan can only result in great storylines and even better matches. It’s also impossible not to root for a guy who comes to the ring wearing a crown and carrying a scepter. If Barrett goes Macho Man on somebody and smashes them in the head with the scepter I’ll be the happiest little boy in the world.
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.