Pro Wrestling

Year In Review: 10 Ways Raw Was A Microcosm of WWE in 2015

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/john-cena-vs.-alberto-del-rio---united-states-championship-match-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=3 Source: pl.wwe.com

Raw has been bad, or at best, mediocre, more than it’s been good for a long time. Ratings are down, complaints are up, and things just don’t seem to be changing. In a way, the final Raw of 2015 was a perfect example of WWE as a whole over the past year, its successes and failures, all wrapped up in a far too long and poorly booked three hour show. Sure, there were bright spots, but 2015 was definitely a tough time to be a fan of WWE, and last night’s Raw was definitely a difficult show to watch for the same reasons. Let’s take a look at how Raw mirrored the ups and downs of WWE in the past year.

10. Three Hour Show, Thirteen Second Match

In early 2015, on NXT, Kevin Owens defended the NXT Title against Neville in a pretty fantastic match. In the last Raw of 2015, Kevin Owens faced Neville on Raw in a match that lasted less than fifteen seconds. It’s worth noting that NXT only has one hour of programming per week, plus bi-monthly two hour specials that actually replace that week’s one hour show, while Raw is three hours long every week and is part of a TV package that includes two hours of Smackdown and monthly three hour Pay Per Views. Why is it, then, that NXT is the show that allowed two great wrestlers to have a great match that took up a good chunk of their show, while last night’s Raw, which also featured half the normal roster due to a live event occurring the same day in a different part of the country, didn’t give those same two wrestlers even a full minute? As the rest of the show would reveal, they clearly had the time available for them to fill. Yes, there was a hot angle post-match as Kevin Owens snapped and entered Rage Mode, but he could have still done that after a decent ten-minute match, which the crowd would have also enjoyed. We’d like to say that’s the first time this happened in 2015, but we all know that isn’t the case, as Raw in 2015 seemed to become a show that was, more than ever before, filled with time-wasting “replays of things we just saw”, at the expense of some very good wrestlers who could have used that time to have good matches.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/neville-vs.-kevin-owens-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=2 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/neville-vs.-kevin-owens-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=2 Source: pl.wwe.com

9. Women’s Wrestling

Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks had a good, long match that wasn’t anywhere near as good as their NXT encounter from earlier in the year, which you might recall we chose as one of WWE’s 10 Best Matches of 2015. That said, it was still a good sight better than anything we’d been getting out of the Divas division at the start of 2015, and an example of everything that has happened to women’s wrestling in WWE in the last year, both good and bad. The good news is, women are being treated as legitimate wrestlers capable of matches as good or better than the men, their matches are no longer guaranteed “bathroom break” spots on Pay Per Views or Raws, and yes, they even had some of the best matches of the year regardless of gender. That said, while making great strides, WWE still managed to fumble the ball in regards to the writing of the women’s division, where they can’t seem to get away from the “all women hate each other” stereotype that has dominated their booking strategy for that division for years. As a result, while a match like Becky vs Sasha was technically leaps and bounds ahead of the days of bra and panties matches and thirty-second embarrassments, the live audience hasn’t really been given a reason to care about what they’re watching. Of course, those creative failures have been an issue for WWE in general, and not just the women, it’s just become far more noticeable as the profile of women’s wrestling has risen.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/becky-lynch-vs.-sasha-banks-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=11 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/becky-lynch-vs.-sasha-banks-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=11 Source: pl.wwe.com

8. The New Day Does Indeed Rock

We basically have an entire library of New Day gifs from the last year that we were going to use to fill this space, but that probably would have been unkind to people with slower Internet speeds.

Maybe just one.

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/12/29/10682194/wwe-raw-results-recap-reactions-dec-28-2015-vince-mcmahon-arrest-roman-reigns-john-cena-return Source: cagesideseats.com

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/12/29/10682194/wwe-raw-results-recap-reactions-dec-28-2015-vince-mcmahon-arrest-roman-reigns-john-cena-return Source: cagesideseats.com

More and more, as the year went on, WWE would come to rely on filling at least one segment of every show by sending out The New Day to talk about whatever happened to be on their mind. Last night, it was celebrating the one year anniversary of the introduction of their trombone (which is apparently named “Francesca”), refusing to sing for an audience that didn’t vote them Tag Team of the Year, and Kofi Kingston offering to fight disobedient children. As usual, it was random, funny, and entertaining, involving three Superstars who have clearly earned some form of carte blanche to go out there and do whatever they want. That freedom has made them one of WWE’s hottest properties in 2015, even when they’re talking about nothing in particular, or don’t actually have an ongoing feud. Speaking of which…

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/kalisto-vs.-kofi-kingston-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=1 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/kalisto-vs.-kofi-kingston-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=1 Source: pl.wwe.com

7. Missing The Boat, Twice

The New Day continues to fight The Lucha Dragons, despite once again beating them to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles on the live Smackdown last week. Yes, if there’s one thing WWE over-did in 2015, it was continuing feuds to the point of ridiculousness. That’s why we got feuds like John Cena facing Rusev on four straight Pay Per Views and Kevin Owens on three, The New Day constantly outwitting The Dudley Boyz by DQ over several months, endless variations on Roman Reigns vs The Big Show, and The Wyatt Family endlessly beating up old ECW alumni. In this particular case, WWE had a perfect opportunity to give The New Day a hot new feud and debut an NXT tag team that’s been ready for months in Enzo Amore and Big Cass. After seeing the thunderous ovation that team got at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, it was widely assumed that the next time WWE returned to the Barclays Center would be the best time to debut the New York-based duo, especially when Enzo and Cass failed to win the NXT Tag Team titles at NXT TakeOver: UK, leaving them with basically nothing to do in developmental. And yet, it didn’t happen again last night. WWE has talked about not graduating NXT talent without a plan in place. Well, last night would have been a great plan. How much longer will they hold off? Hopefully not too much more.

http://www.todaysknockout.com/wrestling/wwe/nxt/enzo-amore-and-big-cass-could-be-transitioning-to-the-main-roster-soon/ Source: todaysknockout.com

http://www.todaysknockout.com/wrestling/wwe/nxt/enzo-amore-and-big-cass-could-be-transitioning-to-the-main-roster-soon/ Source: todaysknockout.com

6. Kevin Owns

That’s not a typo, by the way, and we’re not the first ones to use that line. We’ve talked a lot about Kevin Owens in 2015, and few have had as great a success, especially in their first year, as Owens. He only debuted for NXT in December of 2014, and hasn’t looked back since, becoming one of the biggest stars and best heels in the company in a single year. Which is why, while it’s incredibly frustrating that he only got to wrestle for a fraction of a second and lost, the future is still bright for Owens, especially now that he’s on another roaring path of rage against those he sees as inferior. Owens dismantled both alleged Breakout Superstar of the Year Neville and the Intercontinental Champion Dena Ambrose in dominating fashion, looking once more like the killer he resembled when he smashed his way onto the scene in late 2014. WWE has backed into one of the biggest, baddest, and meanest heels in the business, and it’s been glorious to watch Kevin Owens when he’s allowed to cut loose.

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/12/29/10682194/wwe-raw-results-recap-reactions-dec-28-2015-vince-mcmahon-arrest-roman-reigns-john-cena-return Source: cagesideseats.com

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/12/29/10682194/wwe-raw-results-recap-reactions-dec-28-2015-vince-mcmahon-arrest-roman-reigns-john-cena-return Source: cagesideseats.com

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/12/29/10682194/wwe-raw-results-recap-reactions-dec-28-2015-vince-mcmahon-arrest-roman-reigns-john-cena-return Source: cagesideseats.com

http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/12/29/10682194/wwe-raw-results-recap-reactions-dec-28-2015-vince-mcmahon-arrest-roman-reigns-john-cena-return Source: cagesideseats.com

5. Well, It’s The Big Show.

So, The Big Show has dragged down pretty much everything he’s been involved in over the past year. His involvement in the Royal Rumble was one of many things that ruined that match. He was a dead weight around the neck of Roman Reigns at a time where Reigns should have been running through everything in his path. He won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal instead of someone like Damien Mizdow, who could have used the push. He gave us a summer full of teased matches with Ryback, followed by actual matches with Ryback. He then quickly buried Cesaro six feet under, on his way to stinking up an MSG live event match with Brock Lesnar that aired on the WWE Network. And he returned last night to toss most of WWE’s lower card wrestlers around like garbage in preparation for another run at the Royal Rumble in 2016, where the announcers will question who can possibly eliminate The Big Show, despite the fact that it’s been done repeatedly over the years. And this even came with the added bonus of another bad Ryback match, that had an inconclusive finish, promising us more Ryback matches in the future! Show, we say this will all due respect. Please retire.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/big-show-returns-with-massive-royal-rumble-news-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=24 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/big-show-returns-with-massive-royal-rumble-news-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=24 Source: pl.wwe.com

4. The Rock Problem

So, The Rock will be making an appearance at WrestleMania 32, which we probably should have expected. He won’t be wrestling, of course, so if you were hoping for that you should probably stop right now. We all love The Rock, and we’ve got the box office receipts to prove it, but his hyped and advertised presence at WrestleMania is emblematic of the major problem in WWE, which is that absolutely nobody on the current roster not named John Cena is allowed to hold a candle to any Superstar from The Attitude Era or before, and in many cases, the potential stars of the future have been absolutely destroyed by the legends of yesterday. And while it’s great to venerate your history, it’s probably not a good idea to do it at the expense of your future. Whether it was The Ascension pinballing for gray-haired tag teams, Bray Wyatt being fed to the legend of the Undertaker, or Tommy Dreamer being portrayed as someone who can hang in modern WWE, every time a retired near-senior citizen gets the physical upper hand on the young, hungry Superstars of WWE, they’re creating a narrative that the current product sucks compared to the good old days. We’re not saying the greats weren’t great, but imagine how much good it would do if they were being used to promote the new generation of wrestlers, as opposed to constantly putting the boots to them.

http://tjrwrestling.net/the-john-report-wwe-wrestlemania-31-review/ Source: tjrwrestling.com

http://tjrwrestling.net/the-john-report-wwe-wrestlemania-31-review/ Source: tjrwrestling.com

3. We Don’t Need To Write A Show, We’ve Got Cena

Last night’s show, much like WWE in 2015 (and for several years), hinged on one thing: John Cena was returning. It’s like they put the show on auto-pilot and trusted that the promise of John Cena returning at the very end would keep viewers enticed. We’ll see how that translates in the ratings, but it is, of course, one of WWE’s biggest problems: John Cena is everything, and they’ve actively resisted building stars who might compete or surpass him out of fear of losing the merchandising and PR benefits that John Cena brings as the face of the company. It’s why Cena beat Rusev three times after losing to him in a tainted fashion a single time. It’s why he beat Kevin Owens several times after Owens beat him the first time. And it’s why WWE spent two and a half hours last night treading water while continuing to remind us that John Cena would be in action later that night. They’ve hitched their wagon so tightly to Cena, that they simply can’t envision a future where he isn’t there to prop up their main event, as well as their bottom line. Which is a big problem when you remember the guy who is, ostensibly, trying to become Cena’s successor…

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/john-cena-vs.-alberto-del-rio---united-states-championship-match-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=3 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/john-cena-vs.-alberto-del-rio—united-states-championship-match-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=3 Source: pl.wwe.com

2. Please Love Roman Reigns

2015 was going to be the Year of Roman Reigns whether we wanted it to be or not, and for a large portion of the year, we pretty clearly did not want it. Somehow, at the eleventh hour, WWE managed to find the formula that saw crowds at least willing to accept Roman Reigns as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and they pulled the trigger. And now, come hell or high water, they’re going to make sure that whatever they did to make Roman Reigns work, keeps working. That’s why Vince McMahon has now become Reigns’ primary antagonist, why the League of Nations was formed for the seeming purpose of being built up as a dominating faction every week only to have Reigns destroy them by the end of the night, and why the old tried-and-true heel trope of having the babyface arrested on specious charges failed last week, because Roman is now being portrayed as just too good for anyone to take down, no matter how little sense that whole segment made (while also containing an uncomfortable amount of casual racism). WWE finally got Reigns to the mountaintop, and they’re going to do their darnedest to keep him there, because in their eyes, there is no backup plan.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/mr.-mcmahon-gets-arrested-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=21 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2015/12/29/mr.-mcmahon-gets-arrested-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=21 Source: pl.wwe.com

1. Everyone Gets Hurt

There has to be some sort of cruel irony that Vince McMahon spent the first segment of Raw ranting about all the former wrestlers he worked into the ground without mercy, only to see two more Superstars go down with potential injuries in the course of the evening, as Sin Cara dislocated his shoulder, and Alberto Del Rio appeared to be seriously favoring his leg. That’s not even considering the fact that Wade Barrett took part in a match where he did absolutely nothing because he’s clearly still not medically cleared to compete. The injured list of WWE in 2015 seemed to grow larger by the week, with almost no one being spared, from the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins on down. This has led to serious discussion about the physical toll that three hour Raws may be adding to already over-worked wrestlers, and at this point, if the injury trends of 2015 continue, the big question may be if WWE, which at one point was thought to have the deepest and most talented roster in its history, can even field a competitive field of thirty wrestlers for the Royal Rumble in January.

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