Wednesday 26 November 2014

That RAW Recap 24.11.14

Survivor Series was neither a good advert for the WWE Network or a satisfying experience in its own right. But it did leave me with the impression that good work had been done setting up the next few weeks of TV leading into December’s TLC pay-per-view. 

The main event featured a crowd-pleasing tussle between former teammates Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, saw Big Show betray John Cena when the chips were down, and ended with the debuting Sting playing a role in The Authority being banished forever (until they come back). Elsewhere on the show Miz and Damien Mizdow captured the tag team titles, Brie and Nikki Bella seemed to have reconciled, an assortment of babyface Divas scored a clean sweep over an assortment of heel Divas, and Adam Rose continued to have problems with a man he pays to follow him around in a bunny costume. There was stuff there that could have been built on.

Why has this reunion happened?
After Survivor Series it looked as though Big Show versus John Cena and Luke Harper versus Erick Rowan would join the already confirmed Dean Ambrose versus Bray Wyatt on the TLC card. It also seemed likely that Sting would be installed as the new on-screen authority figure. Show v Cena having yet another televised match didn’t seem appealing but there would have at least been logic behind it. Meanwhile Rowan v Harper, which I was initially sceptical about, actually held a bit of appeal after the response they got from the St Louis crowd.

While I’m not a fan of Sting I understand why he’s been hired. With plenty of WCW programming available via the Network and him being prominently featured in the advertising for the new WWE2K15 Sting’s actually more relevant to the company now than he would have been five years ago. And, for some reason, people still seem willing to pay to see him. At 55 he’s obviously not going to wrestle much so the obvious thing to do is put him in a GM spot that allows him to appear every week (or most weeks) and become involved enough in storylines to set up a match or two, probably for Royal Rumble and WrestleMania.

For some reason all of this was dropped on RAW. Cena seemed perfectly happy to let Show’s attack slide. ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ was confronted by Erick Rowan, while Rowan’s predicted dance partner for TLC clashed with Dean Ambrose. After that match Ambrose had a generic set to with Bray Wyatt, just to remind us that they don’t like each other and that we should all be very much looking forward to their needless Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at TLC.

Cena instead spent his evening teaming with Dolph Ziggler, arguably the standout performer of the previous evening, to face Seth Rollins, Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble. Because why not? In all honesty that match did make sense considering how long Rollins has been the protected, untouchable bad guy for but coming at the end of a show filled with blunders blunted its effectiveness.

And this was emphatically a show of blunders. In addition to the apparent abandonment of Rowan v Harper and Cena loling off Show’s KO punch to the face Kane was demoted from Corporate Kane to Concessions Kane, Nikki and Brie wholly failed to provide a reason as to how their feud (which, let’s not forget, started in the womb) had been settled, nothing noteworthy was done with the most popular undercard performer of the last three pay-per-views, Damien Mizdow, Adam Rose and The Bunny did the same thing they’d done at Survivor Series, nothing happened with the Divas division even though practically all of them had been involved in the same match the night before, and somebody, for some reason, thought it would be a good idea to bring back the Anonymous RAW GM gimmick rather than use Sting, who failed to appear at all.

The Concessions Kane gimmick had potential, mostly because ‘The Big Red Machine’ has such a bizarre history that they could have played up to the idea that he has to serve food for a living now without ruining the character. Instead of doing some genuinely amusing stuff with the idea they had Kane interacted with special guest Larry The Cable Guy and Santino in a series of painfully unfunny skits. They culminated with Ryback attacking Kane and Kane running away. That would indicate that we’ll be getting Ryback v Kane at TLC, a disappointment considering they could have been teasing Ryback v Rusev instead.

Proud to be from somewhere other than America? Then you're a heel.
The thing is, Rusev was busy participating in a segment in which he had to swear allegiance to the United States of America, despite being a hero of the Russian Federation. The idea here seemed to be that this was fair punishment for Rusev daring to join Team Authority and attempting to help them win the night before. He’s made a few negative comments about the USA, certainly, but that’s because he’s been getting booed on a weekly basis for nothing more than being a proud Russian (or possibly Bulgarian… it fluctuates). His anti-American feelings are, at this point, completely understandable.

So, yes, Rusev was booked as a babyface. Again. But because he’s committed the crime of not being born in the US he got treated like a heel by the crowd. He was confronted by Jack Swagger and the 66-year-old former Iraqi sympathiser Sergeant Slaughter. We’ve already seen Rusev face Swags on PPV twice. Hopefully this doesn’t mean he’ll be facing Slaughter at TLC.

The GM situation was the worst aspect of the programme.

The show opened with The Authority wandering out. This directly contradicted the stipulation of the Survivor Series main event: if they lost they would be gone forever (unless Cena decided they could return for some reason, which he hadn’t done here). They’d lost so they should have been gone. They certainly shouldn’t have been allowed to go to the ring. But they did anyway, and it once again reminded everyone that stipulations in WWE do not mean anything.

I understand why this was booked. Triple H and Stephanie had to go out and get humiliated one final time by surprise guest Daniel Bryan. Taking the Authority plot as a whole this made complete sense. The group was formed as a response to the popularity of D-Bry. Throughout its fifteen month lifespan he was their main foe. Bryan needed to be there at the faction’s downfall (and even if this doesn’t turn out to be the end of The Authority it was presented as if it were) to tie things together.

Bryan on promo duty is not best for business.
After kicking Tripper and Steph out Bryan spent the evening awkwardly participating in segments that required him to do a lot of talking. Which isn’t his strength. I love me some Bryan ‘Daniel Bryan’ Danielson but I don’t want to see him saying more than a few words. If he has to be used in a non-wrestling role he should appear sparingly. The best thing they could have done here was have Bryan chase off Triple H and Steph and then call it a night with him. Having him booking matches did him no favours. Vinnie Mac could have come out and done that instead.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Bryan being RAW’s special guest GM was a way of trying him out for the role longer term. That would explain why ‘The Stinger’ wasn’t revealed as the new matchmaker. The Anonymous GM could have been written in as one of two endings, the one used if Bryan didn’t perform well enough throughout the show. Unlikely I know, but not an impossibility.

I can’t understand WWE’s logic for this show. It wasn’t just that they seemed to be going in a different direction to the night before, it’s that they didn’t commit to this new direction. Nothing was announced for TLC. We’re now in a situation where they could theoretically pick up the Survivor Series plots next Monday. Whatever they end up doing for TLC they wasted a week here. Post-PPV RAWs typically get higher than average viewing numbers and with Survivor Series available for free there was a good chance that viewing number would be higher still. Putting on a compelling show should have been a priority. A good programme could have encouraged some new viewers (and I’m sure the free Network stunt meant there were some) to watch again next week and made TLC look like a can’t-miss event.

That they didn’t use Sting was probably the most puzzling thing of all. We all know he’s with the company now. We just don’t know why. Finding out isn’t enough to keep me hooked. I can’t imagine it will be for many others.

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