Saturday 19 December 2015

That RAW Recap 14.12.15

In hindsight TLC was a setup show for the following evening's RAW. It's never really made sense to me to use pay-per-views, which people pay to watch (clue's in the name), to set up free TV shows. It goes against what makes the PPV model work. But at least it's less of a problem now than it used to be, what with PPVs being less about being a money spinner for WWE and more a selling point of the Network.

Not that this is a big deal or anything. It's simply interesting to note how the "uses" of pay-per-views has changed over the years.

Roman wins the big one.
This RAW will go down in history as The One Where Roman Reigns Won The Big One. He'd claimed his first world title at Survivor Series a month earlier of course, but that first run had been cut short at five minutes and fifteen seconds by Sheamus (hence the T-shirt). His second win feels like it's the beginning of something far more significant.

With Roman pegged as the next leading man for WWE the start of his first title reign of significance, not to mention the culmination of the lengthy storyline in which he's been held down and kept from winning the strap, this RAW is obviously more significant than most. It's the show on which WWE finally pulled the trigger on Roman becoming The Guy, something they've been building towards since Royal Rumble in January and preparing for for even longer.

The show as a whole wasn't bad but really nothing but the stuff involving Reigns and the championship mattered. Thankfully everything involving Reigns and the championship was on point. The evening kicked off with a promo Stephanie McMahon in which she teased firing Roman Reigns before calling him a coward, a failure and a disgrac. When Roman responded by telling her her family was a disgrace she slapped him half a dozen times and revealed that Vinnie Mac was on his way to the building.

The scene played out as yet another tedious Authority scene. Steph and Roman were both fine but they didn't do anything we've not seen them do before. But in conjunction with the second segment of the evening in which Reigns was in the ring with a McMahon an interesting story was told.

Roman versus Vince in his prime would probably have been really good.
When Vince rocked up at the arena he told Roman to apologise. Roman refused. He also refused to apologise on his hands and knees, and he smirked when Vince threatened to beat an apology from him. As the boss readied himself for a fight Sheamus came out and challenged Roman to a match, stating that he was so confident he could beat him he'd put the title on the line.

Vince said there was no chance in hell that match would happen. Roman snatched the microphone from Vince's hands and called him an old man and insulted his legendary "grapefruits"1. Vince responded as he was always going to: rising to the bait and making the match, though he added a stipulation that Roman had to win or he'd be fired. He then kicked the challenger in the privates and strode up the ramp to pose with Shaymo.

The story told across these two segments was Reigns playing the McMahon family. He no-sold Steph's slapped and insulted Vince's manhood. The approach made perfect sense. They've been regulars on TV for over fifteen years. Every wrestler on the roster should know how to push their kayfabe buttons but nobody ever gets to because the McMahons are too well protected (obviously because they're the ones writing the show). Roman got to because someone involved in the scripting process was savvy enough to realise how satisfying it would be to see the McMahons get outplayed and that it would help solidify Roman's standing.

The show was rounded off with a world title match. It wasn't as great as their encounter under tables, ladders and chairs rules the night before but it was still very enjoyable. They had Vince (along with Rusev and Alberto Del Rio) on interference duty and Roman got to bleed, so it was a memorable match in its own right. After very convincing false finishes from a White Noise and the Brogue kick Reigns finally managed to drop Sheamus with a spear to win the WWE world title, for keeps, with a spear.

Michael Cole brought up a very good point as Reigns hugged the title belt to him: they were in the same arena in which Reigns had won the Royal Rumble in January. He was booed out of the building on that night, despite an endorsement from the ever-popular Rock. Eleven months later he heard nothing but cheers. That's both an endorsement for the WWE writing team and Reigns himself. The hardcore who were against him for so long were firmly won over. Now Reigns can get down to the serious business of preparing to take over from Cena.


1 New to WWE? That's not an exaggeration. There was a time where we'd got twenty promos from Vince about his sexual prowess.

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