Wednesday 29 January 2014

That RAW Recap 27.01.14

The last year has taught us that the episodes of RAW that follow pay-per-views can be more important than the pay-per-view itself. The bigger events deliver the shocks and surprises but it’s on Monday nights that we find out what they mean and how they pertain to WWE’s plans. It’s not necessarily what WWE should be doing but it’s what they are doing, and it’s become the norm.

With this in mind I think the January 27th RAW has to be seen as a disappointment. Good opening segment, hour two opener, and main event match aside there was nothing of significance on the show. In fact there was an omission more significant than most of what was included.

That was CM Punk. He was apparently backstage but he didn’t appear in front of cameras at all. It was assumed that he would in order to further his feud with Authority member Corporate Kane. The reason he didn’t appear could be anything. It could a simple case of time constraints or it could be that Punk has given notice to the group. Whatever the cause he wasn’t on RAW and it was noticeable.

The show opened with Michael Cole saying “unpredictability” had reigned at the Royal Rumble. This after the number most regarded as the favourite had won the thirty man extravaganza and the most shocking thing about the show has been the lack of Daniel Bryan after his loss to Bray Wyatt. Still, he’s got to say something, I suppose. The Authority pointed at the ‘Mania sign and welcomed everybody to RAW. Triple H mocked the fans for liking Daniel Bryan and said the Rumble was incredible. There was no subtlety there.

They announced that Orton would defend the title in the Chamber. Then D-Bry came out. The audience went nuts for him, which was to be expected. Bryan said his match at Royal Rumble, win, lose or draw, was a highlight of the show. Trips said described it as “a good little effort.” Steph stepped in to say it was a great match. Bryan revealed he'd asked several times to be in the Rumble but had been told no every time.

Stephanie said they were looking out for him by not asking him to compete twice. When she asked if Bryan believed the fans had paid just to see him there was (predictably) a "Yes!" chant. The audience then answered “No!” as Bryan asked if they'd paid to see Randy Orton or Triple H. Bryan's message was basically for The Authority to listen to the fans and give him a push. At points he came dangerously close to coming off as a whiney heel. That’s something WWE should try to avoid in future: the basis of Bryan’s popularity is precarious.

Bryan announced he wanted to be a part of Elimination Chamber match. He went nose-to-nose with 'The Game' (impressive in its own way) before The Shield were called out. Even though he grabbed a chair ‘The Hounds of Justice’ still got the better of D-Bry. They do have over a year's experience of beating guys down. Sheamus lilted down to make the save, followed by Cena. The babyfaces stood tall as Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns retreated through the crowd. This was the setup for a six man tag main event, the three winners of which would be given slots in the Elimination Chamber match.

The sign gimmick makes its long-awaited return to wrestling
The first break was followed by the first match, Mysterio and Sin Cara v The Real Americans. Mysterio and Sin Cara got the "currently in the ring" treatment, perhaps because WWE were concerned about him getting booed as he had been the night before. It was a really match, probably the best on the show. Nothing of importance happened though, beyond Zeb Colter giving Swagger a motivational slap. Cesaro got the win after lamping Cara with an uppercut and the Neutraliser.

After that Bad News Barrett had some bad news. It was as awful as it usually is. This gimmick screams mid-card and won’t add anything to his matches, whenever his return to the ring occurs.

Match two was Fandango v R-Truth. It was most interesting for Xavier Woods complaining about his Rumble number being stolen and NXT Diva Emma wandering around in the audience. Truth won with his finisher, which is called Pay Dirt, Little Jimmy or Little Jimmy's Revenge depending on what Michael Cole prefers at any given moment.

Randy Orton was given his own personal introduction by Brad Maddox when he sauntered out for his promo. They've got to get Bradley on to the show somehow. 'The Viper' was annoyed about the planned WWE title Elimination Chamber. He'd barely said that before Batista interrupted him. He heard boos when he got to the ring just as Orton had. And they were not the right kind of boos. They were crowd sending a message of boredom and disapproval boos.

Chants of "Daniel Bryan" started up as ‘The Animal’ reminded Orty of his three goals (win the Rumble, headline WrestleMania, and leave as champ). He said he didn't care who he has to beat and listed Orton, The Shield and Bryan as potential WWE champs he’d be happy to steamroll. It was clearly a list given to him by management, delivered with very little enthusiasm. His proclamations were met with boos.

If Cena had been a part of this we'd have had a full OVW Class of 2002 reunion
Brock Lesnar's music struck up and 'The Beast' walked to the ring for something of an OVW reunion. He got the most positive reaction of the three stars. Heyman told Maddox (who'd hung out in the ring after introducing the champ) he had two choices. Choice one was to announce Orton v Lesnar for the championship(s). Choice two was to put Lesnar in the ring with Batista for the Rumble-earned title shot. Heyman said he wanted an answer by the end of the night "or else."

The three wrestlers deserve credit here. Orton flipped out as a top heel should when presented with the idea of facing a man like Lesnar, while Batista looked concerned as a fightin’ face (and that’s what he is for now)should. Lesnar looked intimidating, which isn’t hard for him, and stared holes through the other two wrestlers.

Hour two is what brought the quality of the show down so much. Miz and Ziggler's Battle of Cleveland was won by Ziggler with a Zig Zag. The Usos defeated RybAxel with a pair of super kicks and a Jimmy top rope splash. ADR v Kingston was most memorable for JBL and Lawler disregarding the match they were being paid to discuss to play up to the crowd, overshadowing the men that were wrestling as they did. ADR won with a double stomp and his low super kick. None of it will be referenced ever again. It was completely pointless and sapped the enthusiasm of the crowd.

The New Age Outlaws v Cody Rhodes and Goldust did as good a job of getting things back on track as it could. It was a title rematch from the Rumble pre-show. The Outlaws did their shtick then Road Dogg said they won the titles not because of who they knew but because they were better than the Rhodes boys. That earned him a punch from Cody which sent him sprawling to ringside. When it started the match was good but not as good as the Rumble meeting. The crowd weren't as hot, because they'd been sitting around for hours, and the pace was slower.

It ended in a double DQ when Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar returned to the ring. Lesnar F5’d both Goldust and Cody as the tag champs ran away. Heyman threw a chair to 'The Pain' and said this was happening because they hadn’t gotten what they wanted. Lesnar then bashed the brothers a few times with the chair.

The filler matches returned after that as the Bellas and the Funkadactyls united to face AJ Lee, Tamina, Aksana and Alicia Fox. Naomi pinned AJ after the Rear View. The girls danced to celebrate. If they’re to be taken seriously as wrestlers that needs to stop. Rock, Austin, Hogan and Cena wouldn’t have gotten to the top if they celebrated meaningless victories by dancing about.

After that we learned that Jake 'The Snake' Roberts would be joining The Ultimate Warrior in the 2014 Hall of Fame class. He definitely deserves to be in there.

Shield six man tags will soon be a thing of the past
Then it was main event time. Even Cena struggled to get a reaction from the crowd by this point. They'd quietness down considerably throughout the night. Bryan did better. The crowd came to life whenever either of them tagged into the match and fell silent whenever 'Great White' did. The audience weren't just giving their opinion on Bryan there, they were telling WWE something about babyface Sheamus too. Also worth noting is that the audience reacted to Reigns' taunt for the Superman punch, a move I really like by the way.

They also reacted to Reigns powering out of the STF, something which happened moments before the lights went out and the Wyatt Family appeared. The faces sent them packing and then it was announced they'd won by DQ, granting them entry to the Chamber match. The Shield flipped out at ringside. This was a clever way of setting up The Shield versus the Wyatt Family for the Chamber card. The programme went off the air with the faces celebrating to Bryan's music.

Elimination Chamber came out of this RAW looking promising. So did the potential for a renewed Daniel Bryan push. But if WWE are going to make people care about WrestleMania future episodes of RAW need to be significantly better than this one.

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