Coming off a fairly decent TLC Pay Per View, the stage seemed to be set for something different to happen on Raw. After Roman Reigns dismantled the League of Nations and Triple H when he failed to win the WWE World Heavyweight title, he experienced something that hadn’t happened for a long while: a positive crowd reaction. WWE, in a rare display of intelligence, decided that the time was right to cash in on the crowd’s sudden acceptance of Reigns and spent most of Raw building him up for yet another shot at the WWE World Heavyweight title. How did things turn out? Read on, and find out what happened on a surprisingly eventful Raw.
10. Slap Me Once, Shame On You, But…
Listen, hitting a woman is wrong, even in the messed-up world of pro wrestling. But that doesn’t mean you have to let Stephanie McMahon slap you a dozen times, walk away, and then come back and slap you once more for good measure. We get it, Stephanie’s a strong woman and a McMahon, and she doesn’t take crap from anyone because that’s a necessary thing when you’re in charge of a bunch of over-muscled Neanderthals. But Roman Reigns should have stood up to her. We can understand giving her one slap, hell, he deserved it for what he did to her husband at TLC. But he probably should have either blocked any further attempts, or just been intimidating enough that she thought better of trying again, and considered a tactical retreat. It would have been a good character moment to strengthen his position as a guy who’s taken enough crap up to now, and isn’t willing to take it anymore. Clearly, at no point should he have struck Stephanie back, but he’s under no obligation to let her continue to whack away at him with abandon, either.
9. Owens Smash!
As most people have figured out over his first year in WWE (that’s right, he’s only been here a year between NXT and the main roster), Kevin Owens with a title is a dangerous man. However, that’s nothing compared to Kevin Owens without a title, because now he wants one, and he’ll step over as many bodies as it takes to get what he wants. Last night showed the side of Kevin Owens that was willing to hospitalize his best friend in the world if it meant he could become NXT Champion. The most chilling part is that he’s not even mad, and it’s not actually personal. It’s just Kevin Owens doing what he has to do to get his hands on the title. There have been rumors that Owens would love to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania , and while we don’t think that’s going to end up being the case (he’s got an old friend who might have something to say about who Owens fights at Mania), the Kevin Owens that appeared on Raw last night is a man who could almost certainly give The Beast a run for his money.
8. We Bo-Lieve That This Sucks
Nothing like seeing two Superstars who are horribly under-utilized actually getting a match on Raw, which gives you hope that one or both of them might be getting a push in the near future…only to watch the match stop because Vince McMahon is here! And then he comes out to the ring and shoos the wrestlers away like chickens, so that he can talk about the fact that he might possibly be punishing Roman Reigns somehow. And then the show goes to commercial! Would it have been too much trouble to let Bo Dallas and R-Truth finish their match, since you actually weren’t going to announce anything until after the next commercial break anyway? We’re not saying either man is a future World Champion, but they’re two guys you’re paying to be on the roster, why not let them do something productive?
Oh well. At least R-Truth stole Vince’s limo.
7. Apparently Testicles Are PG
Seriously, why is Roman Reigns always talking about his opponents’ balls now? Last week we had the now-infamous “Tater Tots”, and this week we’re comparing Vince McMahon’s legendary “grapefruits” to dried prunes! Frankly, Roman has only himself to blame for putting the idea of testicles in Vince’s head, and he paid for it with a swift kick in the crotch. With that said, having the seventy-year-old owner of the company kicking your top babyface in the crotch, after he already let Stephanie slap the taste out of his mouth in the opening segment, really doesn’t do much to help Reigns’ credibility as a badass. In fact, had the night not ended as it did, we’d be here complaining about how WWE completely neutered Reigns, because we can recognize a running joke when we see one. The major hurdle Roman is going to have to overcome is being allowed to be his own person, which WWE is only making harder by portraying him as a mish-mash of every popular WWE Superstar ever. He’s anti-Authority, like Steve Austin! He’s getting screwed at every turn, like Daniel Bryan! He makes sassy comments about his opponent’s bathing suit area, like John Cena! Can’t he just be Roman Reigns, and succeed or fail on his own merits?
6. Two Great Tastes
Stay with us here. The Miz has a boatload of charisma and average wrestling ability. He’s being paired with Neville, who is an incredible wrestler, but hasn’t really got a personality beyond “Guy who does cool moves and gives gravity amnesia somehow”. The Miz would be over if he never wrestled again, which is good, because we’re not exactly begging him to get back into the ring. However, Neville is a newcomer in danger of becoming the next small high-flyer who gets lost in the shuffle because he’s a blank slate with a cool finisher. Hanging out with Miz could force him to adopt some sort of personality, even if it’s mostly based around being really annoyed by Miz. And hey, it’s something for two talented guys who aren’t even remotely involved in anything resembling a title hunt to do that will keep them on television semi-regularly, and isn’t that something we’ve been begging WWE to do more of?
5. Right Match, Right Place, Right Result
If you’re going to trot out the ghost of ECW one more time, you might as well have its final appearance (for now, anyway) happen in Philadelphia. Much like the Tables Match at TLC, this wasn’t a good wrestling match, but it was stupid, fun carnage that the crowd enjoyed. And most importantly, WWE didn’t just give Team ECW a win back after losing at TLC, which is the right move, both because 50/50 booking is a crutch they need to stop leaning on, and because The Wyatt Family is going to be on the full-time roster going forward, while Rhyno will probably head back to NXT and Tommy Dreamer will do a few more house shows and go back to his family. We said the same thing about Undertaker, of course, but in this case, The Wyatt Family really needed to decisively win this feud, and they did. Plus, Erick Rowan actually got to contribute, instead of being a sacrificial lamb (pun entirely intended).
4. The Faces Of The Tag Team Division
So, The New Day, in a very out-of-character move, invited The Usos and The Lucha Dragons to the ring in a display of respect for the awesome match they had at TLC, and put all their opponents over as tough competitors. Sure, they’re bad guys, but in this case, they were quiet, humble, and offered handshakes. After much deliberation, everyone shook hands, and The Usos and The Dragons left the ring unmolested. At that point, The New Day simply said that they were so happy and began celebrating for retaining the WWE Tag Team titles in that match. They didn’t taunt their opponents, or do anything untoward, they simply started dancing. Apparently that crossed some sort of line, however, as Usos and Dragons rushed back to the ring and beat the crap out of The New Day. The crowd booed these actions, and rightly so, because it was an unprovoked attack on an outnumbered foe that had done nothing wrong. Does WWE even know what it means to be a good guy anymore?
3. Every Flair Needs A Sting
So Becky Lynch hasn’t quite wised up to the fact that Charlotte is, at some point, going to suddenly but inevitably betray her, and that’s actually okay. After all, how many of us have seen friends go down a dark path and tried to follow them down out of misguided loyalty? To an outside observer, Becky’s being naive, but her devotion to Charlotte is a realistic portrayal of a good person, and that’s something the Divas division will need once Charlotte fully embraces her Flair side and begins ruling the division with an iron first. Hell, Flair and Sting made millions running an angle where Sting would trust Flair against his better instincts, ultimately get stabbed in the back, and then go on a roaring rampage of revenge. They did it multiple times over their career, and each time it was a great story, because Sting represented that bit of hope that maybe this time, that person who betrayed us in the past had finally seen the error of their ways, and we can be friends again. It’s something that actually happens to people every day in real life, so why is Becky any dumber than the rest of us for simply being human?
2. Down Goes McMahon!
Here’s the thing that people don’t understand about Vince McMahon. He’s 70 years old and almost certainly half-crazy. He’s occasionally worth a billion dollars, depending on what WWE’s financial report says in any particular quarter. Without him, it’s likely that professional wrestling doesn’t hit the heights that it has over the last three decades or so. But the thing that makes Vince McMahon great is that, even if he probably shouldn’t be handing out unobstructed kicks to the balls of the guy who you’re trying to make a big star, when the time comes, Vince McMahon will take the fall, both figuratively and literally, so that the babyface can give him his deserved comeuppance. There isn’t another billionaire senior citizen in the world who would be willing to get his ass kicked on national television just to potentially (and without a guarantee that it will) make his product better. Vince not only took a bump off a Superman Punch better than several wrestlers on his roster, he had Roman Reigns actually kick his lifeless carcass off the ring apron, forcing Vince to fall to the ground like a ragdoll. It may be just a catchphrase to The Authority, but when Vince believes in someone the way he clearly believes in Roman Reigns, he will always do what is best for business.
1. The Grand Experiment Begins
Here is the thing about Roman Reigns winning the WWE World Heavyweight Title last night on Raw. It was going to happen eventually. In fact, it probably should have happened at Survivor Series, but WWE couldn’t help themselves and booked an angle to screw him out of it. But from the second The Shield broke up, we all knew that one day Roman Reigns would be World Champion. However, WWE kept putting it off, because of bad crowd reactions. Well, last night they took the opportunity to capitalize on the audience momentarily being more willing to accept Reigns’ victory, and for better or worse, they pulled the trigger. We’re not going to say we like Reigns as Champion, at best, we’re just happy that it’s no longer Sheamus. Mostly, though, we’re happy that WWE has finally decided to let Reigns sink or swim, which means that he’ll either be a success, giving WWE a new big star, or he’ll be a failure, so WWE can finally move on and look at someone else on the roster. As long as Roman still hadn’t gotten that first real title reign, they were never going to consider a second option. Now that he has it, anything is possible.