“Vince McMahon is going to make money despite himself. He’s a millionaire who should be a billionaire.”
CM Punk said those words several years ago, in his infamous “Pipebomb” promo, and while it was almost certainly approved ahead of time, they seem to ring especially true right now. WWE is currently sitting at one of its lowest points from a creative standpoint, only two weeks removed from posting the worst TV ratings for Raw in nearly twenty years. Many fans are basically on the verge of open revolt. But the quarterly financial report stated that the company is seeing its highest profits in a long time, so why should they change what they’re doing? Keep that thought in mind when you read our summary of what actually happened this week on Raw.
10. What An Excellent Build For Survivor Series. Wait…
Three weeks after Survivor Series, somehow we now have four-man teams running around all over the place. The Wyatts, The League of Nations, Team ECW, Roman’s “Family”…maybe The New Day should find a fourth member. And stables can be a good thing, as legendary factions like D-Generation X, The Four Horsemen, and Evolution would attest. However, throwing sixteen people into a mess of a Fatal Four-Way Elimination match, with poorly explained rules and a structure that left the wrestlers themselves appearing completely confused and off-balance, was probably not the best way to highlight anything. WWE would have definitely been better served to keep The Wyatts and the ECW alumni away from this match and just done an eight-man tag (which would have also helped them make Rhyno’s addition to that feud seem slightly more important, and possibly replaced the terrible Dreamer-Strowman match which was, technically, the main event match of the show), because once is was done to that relatively manageable number, the match picked up and went far more smoothly. And, of course, Reigns pinned Sheamus, even though Wade Barrett is right there to take the loss for his increasingly inept faction.
9. Doubling Up
There are two additional problems to WWE opening Raw with a 16-man elimination match, one which is pretty obvious, and a second, far more troublesome one that should be. The first problem is that you’ve used 16 wrestlers, most of them your top guys (or, at least, involved in established feuds that are leading to matches at your Pay Per View on Sunday), and you still have two and a half hours of show left. So, since it’s already too late to have broken that matches up into two separate matches, one of which could have happened in the wasteland of the third hour, and your ability to showcase some of the lesser lights of the roster for situations such as this has been, to put it mildly, crap, the only possible solution is to have almost everyone from the opening match work double duty!
This leads us to the second issue, which is that there is a definite trend of WWE Superstars getting injured more frequently, and you have to think that things like three-hour Raws are contributing to them wearing down quicker. So, to fill all the spots vacated by the sizable chunk of currently injured Superstars, the relatively healthy ones are now working two, or even three matches in a single night! You know how in cartoons, if you roll a snowball down a hill it gradually gets larger and larger until it’s a gigantic ball of rolling death? Seems like a fitting metaphor, don’t you think?
8. This Just Keeps Going!
One thing that making Raw three hours has added is the ability to have much longer matches, which WWE often uses as a crutch to fill time. Such was the case of Kevin Owens facing Dolph Ziggler, a match which showed that just putting two excellent talents into a match and giving them lots of time isn’t always the best plan. Oh, both men worked hard, but this match dragged on so long that it became clear that they’d literally been sent out there to kill time in a match that actually meant nothing. Including breaks, this match went nearly twenty minutes. The previous match, which had, lest we forget, 16 competitors, only went two minutes more. Something about that seems wrong. And then Dean Ambrose wandered out, preventing Owens’ music from playing when he won, and threw popcorn and soda in Owens’ face, because WWE babyfaces are all jerks. Well, Kevin Owens is also a jerk, but he didn’t actually do anything this time!
At this point, it was necessary for the combination of Team B.A.D. and The New Day to attempt to save the show, and while neither quite managed to do so with their wrestling (the Divas match at least had some miscommunication spots that appear to be setting up a break-up down the road, but they were completely ignored by the commentary team), at least we finally got to see both groups interact in front of the live audience instead of just waiting every week to see their hilarious shenanigans on Instagram. Plus, somehow we ended up in a spot where The New Day acted out a sketch where they rescued a cat from a tree without using a ladder (in case you’re wondering, Big E was Oscar-worthy in his role as a tree). The fact that New Day clearly has enough input into their act that they get the freedom to come out and say crazy things that entertain the fans and make them more interesting as a team makes the events of the end of the night even more baffling, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
6. Do It With Flair
It’s fair (to Flair) to admit that Charlotte has been tanking as a babyface. Her limited promo abilities just don’t make her a sympathetic character, no matter how many dead relatives get thrown in her face. So, in a completely logical move that will likely refresh her character and get her back to what made her such a hot act in NXT, WWE has basically started turning Charlotte heel, and while it probably won’t be official until she blatantly attacks Becky Lynch at some point, it’s definitely not subtle after her gloriously self-serving promo on Miz TV. It’s a little awkward for Paige, because she’s been positioned as a terrible person up until this point, so it’s almost a heel-heel match this Sunday, but once the re-match is out of the way the road is clear for Charlotte to assert the best parts of her father’s legacy as a heel. What’s important to take away from this is that WWE saw a character floundering badly in a role, so they switched her to one that worked much better and might actually get over. Remember that for later.
5. Let Us Never Speak Of This Again
After Lana faked an injury to distract Ryback so that Rusev could destroy him, we are officially back to where we were when the year began with the Eastern European power couple. Not that that’s a bad thing, because 2015 has been ridiculously damaging for Rusev. He got destroyed multiple times by John Cena, broke up with him manager, feuded with Dolph Ziggler for far too long in a feud that is pretty much a shoe-in to win several “Worst of 2015” awards, and completely forgot how to win matches once his undefeated streak was broken. Now, while they haven’t moved all the way back to Russia just yet, by re-setting the entire act back to where it was before everything fell off a cliff, there’s a chance that Rusev can get his lost mojo back in 2016. On one hand, it’s a shame that WWE never went with the obvious face turn for Rusev, but any direction that leaves the ridiculous soap opera of the summer months in the past is fine with us.
4. The Wrong Person In This Match Is Getting Pushed
For some reason, Jack Swagger is apparently the #1 Contender for the United States title. So, you know, if you were wondering how fast the title lost prestige after John Cena stopped being champion, there you have it. Jack Swagger is so unimportant that his match with Stardust actually started while Raw was on a commercial break. We didn’t even get to see any entrances before the show went to break, Raw just came back on and the match was already happening. And despite Stardist having an incredible character that could go anywhere WWE wants it to, which he’s clearly thrown all his effort into getting over, and who has been killing it in backstage segments with Titus O’Neil, Jack Swagger is getting Pay Per View title matches and beating Stardust cleanly in under five minutes. For our reaction to being confronted by the reality of Jack Swagger getting yet another push, let’s go to Zeb Colter. Zeb?
Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
3. Worst. Fictional Country. Ever.
On the bright side, the country of MexAmerica apparently now has a population of zero, as Del Rio abandoned Zeb to put an end to one of the dumbest things WWE has tried in…okay, not actually that long, but it was still incredibly stupid. It’s pretty likely that Zeb will end up back with Swagger, although hopefully that will not make Swagger any more successful in his attempt to defeat Del Rio in a Chairs Match at TLC. It is somewhat comforting to see that WWE will be continuing the ongoing tradition of having a Chairs Match (which is a stupid idea for a gimmick match in the first place) that looks like it will almost certainly be terrible. Hey, let’s put Jack Swagger, who has a history of accidentally injuring people, into a match where he’s expected to freely use a weapon which has become a symbol of WWE’s concussion issues! What could possibly go wrong?
2. Everything Up Front
We’ve had a theory for a while now that WWE might be putting all their “big” Raw matches on during the first two hours of the show, while leaving all the stuff that might not be quite as good until the final hour, since ratings always go down over the show, and the third hour has traditionally had the fewest number of viewers anyway. Last night’s show added another example we could use of that fact, as the show put almost all of their (alleged) top stars in matches and segments in the first part of Raw, which actually moved along at a decent (if not spectacular) pace. Then, somewhere around Ryback’s intro, the night fell off a cliff into bad wrestling and terrible angles, and just limped to the finish on two broken ankles. You could argue that the show still closed with the WWE World Heavyweight title angle, but, well…
1. Make It Stop!
At every turn, WWE’s attempts to force Roman Reigns to be somebody he clearly isn’t has bitten them in the ass, and the main event segment of last night’s Raw might have been a new low. Not just for Reigns, or WWE, but possibly for the entire history of professional wrestling. Once again, Reigns is sent out to deliver one of those long promos to summarize his feud with Sheamus, and as usual, it’s just death (even Reigns knows it, as this footage, captured of him grimacing when he thinks the camera has cut away, shows).
— Nate (@Nate_Allbomb) December 8, 2015
Reigns is finally interrupted by Sheamus, and what follows is literally ten minutes of Reigns attempting to coax Sheamus into entering the ring through a combination of ridiculously polite invitations and repeatedly calling him “Tater Tots” (in reference to the small size of Sheamus’…you know what, we’re not going to talk about it), while Sheamus stands on the stage and repeatedly says “Nah”. Hopefully WWE got a nice check from Heinz for Reigns’ repeated product placement. Eventually, they brawl aimlessly around the arena for a few minutes before Reigns finally spears Sheamus through a table at ringside to end the show. This whole segment took twenty minutes, felt like it lasted for an eternity, and had the added bonus of the WWE World Heavyweight Champion getting destroyed in both the opening and ending segments of Raw. The best part? Despite looking so weak that Reigns should have no trouble reclaiming the title, Sheamus is probably going to win at TLC, because WWE can’t resist trying to shock the audience. This has hit a point where the problem isn’t that the crowd reaction for Reigns is mixed, it’s that they’ve basically stopped reacting to him at all.
And for the final word, we go to respected wrestling journalist Wade Keller:
Vince McMahon & Co. are going to go forward out of stubborn pride to prove they are right until there are no viewers left.
— Wade Keller (@thewadekeller) December 8, 2015
See you next week!