This told me two things. One, people are still very keen to knock out a Nitro gag. Two, RAW was going to be a slog to sit through.
This was a show with very little going on. Most matches contributed something to continuing storylines but very few of them are actually worth paying attention to. Goldust and Stardust versus the Usos, for example, is not going to revolutionise the way we see WWE’s tag division. The worst offenders were Adam Rose v Titus O’Neil and Naomi, Summer Rae and Layla v Eva Marie, Cameron and Rosa Mendes.
Do people really need to see these matches? The performers involved in them, even the matches themselves, could mean more if they had interesting reasons to exist. Mid-card disputes and what have you. WWE has recently done good work transitioning Jack Swagger from a significant rivalry with Rusev into a decidedly less high profile one opposite Bo Dallas. It's not going to be the greatest thing ever but it's an easy enough story to follow, fits the characters of both men, gives them something to do, and gives reason to pretty much all of Swaggalag's matches: they exist so that Bo Dallas can mock and belittle him afterwards. Until more performers get this treatment WWE programming is going to continue to be uninspiring outside of the top of the card.
The show kicked off with a Highlight Reel. That was a sign: Jericho's "talk show" is rarely any good. The scheduled guest was Randy Orton, but 'Y2J' also got Triple H, Kane and Seth Rollins. The usual "amusing" bickering preceded 'The Game' musing about altering the Night of Champions main event, which brought number one contender John Cena down to the ring.
Cena told Trips that he'd sue if his NOC title match was taken away. Because threatening to sue is such a babyface thing to do. The other members of The Authority piped up one by one to express their desire to challenge Lesnar in Cena’s place. Orton said he's still owed a singles rematch from WrestleMania. Kane said he could put on a mask and unleash a demon (which made me cringe). Hometown boy Rollins was cheered when he said he was the future of the business, presumably indicating he should get a title match based on that. Jericho piped up and asked for a title match too. Because he’s Chris Jericho.
Then Orton talked some smack about Roman Reigns and 'The Empire' stomped down to the ring. After some more "amusing" bickering the predictable six man tag match of Cena, Jericho and Reigns v Orton, Rollins and Kane was announced as the main event. Triple H described it as an opportunity for people to prove themselves worthy of top spots. Which made sense but did kind of go against The Authority being a corrupt, nepotistic group. It was a generic opening segment which did nothing but set up the main event.
Before that there was the rest of the show to trawl through. The night's first match saw Cesaro and The Miz defeat their respective rivals Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler. Damien Sandow, who's currently being wasted as Miz's stunt double, caused a distraction which allowed 'The Awesome One' to sneak in an SCF on Ziggler. A Wyatt Family v Big Show and Mark Henry match ended in disqualification when Rusev interfered and struck Henners. The big lad got chased off by Show.
A short Paul Heyman promo started hour two. The gist was that Cena is foolhardy for going ahead with another match against Lesnar. It was good for what it was and the short amount of time it had but it wasn’t Heyman’s best work.
Rusev gave Zack Ryder a pasting in the next match of consequence. The man from Long Island tapped out to The Accolade. Mark Henry wandered back out and said he'd induct Rusev into the Hall of Pain. The creative team seemed keen to tease us with the prospect of Rusev and Henry having a match.
|Nikki Bella. Looking slinky.|
Then something promising happened. What started out as a standard segment featuring Stephanie McMahon and Nikki Bella (who'd been featured in some stiff and awkward videos putting down her sister throughout the night) morphed into something that might have been intended to enhance the Divas division. First Stephanie told Nikki she’s exactly the sort of figure the division should be built around. That brought out Brie, who wanted to know if her sister’s betrayal had been to earn a Divas title match. I'd love it if that were the case because the title's so worthless. It would make Nikki’s motives even more laughable than the bland hidden jealousy she’s currently lumbered with.
They were then joined by AJ Lee. She had just long enough to say she hadn't received her rematch (what is it with faces saying they’re entitled to rematches: it makes sense but it doesn’t really make them seem like noble characters) before Paige skipped down to the ring. The champ wasn't permitted to say anything. Instead Nikki piped again, demanding Brie quit her job for some reason. Possibly to demonstrate that she loves Nikki more than her job, although that could be wrong. Brie shoved her, natch. Nikki stumbled into Paige, sending the pair crashing to the ground. Brie left and AJ grabbed the title belt and skipped around a bit. Steph halted her and demanded the championship back. AJ handed it over, smiled, and left.
Yes the acting was atrocious. Yes the marginalisation of Paige, who as the newest roster member present needed the most protection, was bad. Yes it was the most ham-fisted way of incorporating the Bellas story into the Divas title picture imaginable. Yes it was poorly constructed and confusing. But it was at least a segment that seemed intended to achieve the right things. It actually makes sense to add the Bellas to the AJ and Paige feud because it's running out of steam and both Bellas are considered significant names thanks to their recent storylines and Total Divas. In kayfabe terms the sisters would want title shots. In non-kayfabe terms fresh names are needed. It's not as good as using Emma properly and calling up Sasha Banks and Bayley, but it's a start.
Backstage Bray Wyatt revealed he'd be facing Chris Jericho in a cage match on next week’s RAW. He told 'The Highlight of the Night' to run. Fingers crossed we see the return of the acolyte kid who hung out with the Wyatts for a while. He had a lot of potential.
Goldust and Jimmy Uso had a generic match designed to remind us that their respective teams are feuding. Stardust interfered at ringside and Goldust hit one of his many finisher type moves for the win. Interference: they're heels you know!
|There. Walls of Jericho. Happy now?|
Then came the main event. It was, by the standard of RAW main events, perfectly adequate. Everyone did the moves you'd want to see them do. The crowd were into it, which helped considerably. The faces won and then Cena taunted Triple H and Stephanie, who were hanging out at ringside. But that’s about it. Cena did his superman routine, a disappointment after his performance at SummerSlam. And there was no storyline progression for anyone else. We still don’t know what matches we’ll be seeing anyone from this match in, other than Cena. A Rollins and Orton versus Reigns and Dean "mystery partner" Ambrose match would be nice but we could see some singles matches instead. Unfortunately there’s a very real chance we might see Kane wrestle.
All told this episode of Monday Night RAW was a bit of a chore.