Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, where we run down the hits and misses of last night's show. We're always up for discussion, so be sure to send in questions and comments either by posting on this article or by Twitter to @RingRap and @RingRapAudio so we can discuss them tomorrow on the flagship podcast, Ring Rap Audio.
1. A Repeat Performance…
Roman Reigns was dominant in the Royal Rumble, eliminating 12 men. Last night, he participated in another battle royale to get into the title match at Money in the Bank and was dominant again.
They really telegraphed what was going on with Reigns. The hype around the contest was focused on him getting in against the Authority’s wishes (more on that in a bit). Then he was the lone competitor that got a televised ring entrance. WWE may have well just posted the “victory” graphic for him right at the outset.
I am not a battle royale fan, but this was well done – telegraphed or not. The live crowd was into it throughout, and popped for Reigns and Rusev staring down at the end. Bo Dallas hung around until late, which made him look good. I would have preferred that Reigns and Rusev had more time, but Reigns came out looking strong for eliminating Rusev and even Rusev looked good for lasting til the final two.
2. Stretchered Out…
I hate the stretcher match gimmick almost as much as I hate John Cena’s character. There was little doubt that Cena was going to be the one to win that contest and move on to the title match at Money in the Bank. Finishing it with an AA onto a padded stretcher was probably as tame as it gets.
All that in mind, WWE did do a good job of selling the match throughout the night that made it seem like a big deal to casual fans and younger viewers. Even though the work itself wasn’t special, the match was well presented.
3. Off to a Good Start…
This show started off well. Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler had a good match to open the show. They work well together and the live crowd bought in to the action and responded. Ziggler is a tough guy to take seriously though given his track record of losses lately. I believe that these two could have a meaningful feud if Ziggler were better positioned than he is right now.
Dean Ambrose hit the ring and caused a cheap finish. That resulted in Triple H setting up Bad News Barrett vs. Ambrose, which was another good match that ended in a cheap finish. Ambrose sells so well, and sold the shoulder issues as Barrett logically worked the arm. The count-out worked here, as did Ambrose attacking Rollins in the first match, to continue their story. I was fine with how this worked into the Ambrose/Rollins story and look for them to have a match at the pay per view.
4. …but Stop Being Cheap…
When Sheamus and Bray Wyatt faced off, they got into an entertaining and physical affair. But then they went to the cheap DQ finish when Rowan and Harper got hold of Sheamus. That was a letdown. Three straight matches, three straight cheap finishes. This was bad and especially because it just didn’t seem like the match mattered at all. At least the first two meant something to a bigger story.
The big brawl between the Wyatts and Sheamus and The Usos though set up their match on Main Event, and it did overshadow the cheapness of the match finish. That made sense to move toward the tag title match between The Usos and Rowan and Harper.
5. Less Filler, Please…
I say it week in and week out, and will continue to say it until it changes: WWE has a woman to build around in Paige. If they took a fraction of the time they spent on milk and kitty litter skits for Layla and Summer Rae, they could truly get Paige over with fans. They continue to drop the ball here.
6. Stardust In My Eyes…
The jury is out on Cody Rhodes’ alter ego, Stardust. I am going to reserve full judgment until I see where this goes.
The debut look was creepy, and not in a good way really. I would have preferred he do something to make himself not appear too similar the Goldust character - different colors perhaps? Right now he looks like a smaller knockoff of Goldy.
It is night one, so let’s take a wait and see approach before calling this a hit or a miss. That said, I do think this is a short lived gimmick designed to get to the brotherly feud some have said they wanted to do for some time now.
7. Brace Yourselves, the Rage is Coming…
It’s often said that in WWE, you’re truly playing to an audience of one – Vince McMahon. Never was it more apparent than last night’s broadcast.
For all the good the show opening did, it was completely undone with the Vickie/Stephanie puking bit. This was just flat-out ridiculous and unnecessary. It was a low-rent, poorly executed series of segments that added nothing to the show nor forwarded any story other than possibly Vickie’s termination. I was actually embarrassed to be watching, and I live alone.
I like how Jason Powell at ProWrestling.net put it – “when you treat your audience like morons, you will eventually be left with an audience that consists only of morons.” Stephanie NEVER holds a drink during any backstage segment, yet there she was with her coffee in hand like a big flashing strobe light saying “something bad is about to happen to me!” I don’t care for my intelligence to be insulted like that!
And quite frankly, it pisses me off to no end that they used Roman Reigns – a guy who comes off as the coolest guy in the company right now – to get to that point. His story with the Authority could have been continued 100 different ways that were better than that and more fitting to his character. Spiking coffee and getting Stephanie sick was not how they should get there.
This stuff made Raw just completely “turn off” bad for me, but I soldiered on for the sake of the live report. I’ll have more on this in RingRap Audio. I promise, it will entertain.
8. Lemons, Rosebuds, and General Annoyances:
Was I the only one who took note that Kevin Hart and Renee Young were annoyed by Adam Rose and his posse showing up during their backstage interview? I guess by the end all was well, as Rose and his gang partied their way out with Hart after the short match with Fandango. But do you really want people rolling their eyes at Rose right now?
Also, I just don’t give two damns about Layla and Summer. Unless I missed a face turn, we have two heel divas feuding over a heel character (Fandango) who hasn’t won a match since who knows when. The whole thing was just generally annoying.
This is the second week in a row where the show just never got in gear for me. I thought it had good moments like the Battle Royale, and the opening pair of matches that continued the Ambrose/Rollins story. It all went downhill once the spiked coffee came into play and they trotted out more of the filler type material until they got to the main event segments.
As an aside, JBL is grating on my last nerve. You might say that he’s a heel and he’s supposed to, but this is go-away heat. I’ll have more to say on that in an Around the Ring audio later this evening.
The slump is definitely on. Let’s see if WWE can shake things up with the go-home show for Money in the Bank next Monday night.