Last week, WWE reinvigorated my interest in their product with a fantastic WrestleMania and week to follow. It was unpredictable and the match quality was high. From Mania to Raw to Smackdown it was all great stuff. The big question headed into this week's show was whether or not they could keep up the momentum. I, for one, was still hyped just off the fact that we would get to see Neville and Lucha Dragons compete. With the already stacked roster of Bryan, Cena, Rollins, Orton, Cesaro, Kidd, Ziggler, Harper, Ambrose, etc. The dream matches are endless. None the less, let's get into this week's episode of Monday Night Raw.
Opening Segment - Rollins/Orton confrontation and Announcements
The opening segment was basic, but pretty enjoyable. Rollins is solid enough on the mic to keep you interested and the humor with Kane & Show is something I've always found funny. Orton's involvement added to the interest as well. Then came the match announcements. I dug the idea of Orton/Ryback/Reigns as the main event with the winner becoming number one contender however I didn't like the idea of them all competing in singles matches prior to that. It just seems like overkill and all but guarantees a short main event. So, this accomplished what it set out do however it wasn't neccessarily exciting as it led to a match between Orton & Kane. I give it a C+.
Segment rating - C+
1) Randy Orton vs. Kane
This didn't last long at all thankfully. These two have had good matches in the past, such as at Extreme Rules in 2012, but in 2015, I have no interest in seeing them wrestle each other. Some complained at the DQ finish which baffled me considering they also bitched about this match taking place. Regardless of that, this was well booked and a good decision by WWE with deciding that this wasn't worthy of alot of time.
Match rating - **
2) Seth Rollins vs. Adrian Neville
When it was announced that Rollins had a match, I was dying for it to be Neville. I honestly couldn't think of anyone else that it could be aside from Dean Ambrose. While I wanted it to be Neville, I didn' expect it to be THEN his music hit and I marked out completely. It seems that WWE has FINALLY learned how to book NXT talents on RAW. You don't put them in squash after squash. You give them a chance to prove themselves. Neville wowed everyone last week and it's safe to say he did the same here. He went right after Rollins from the get go only to be shut down. This ended up being the main story of the match with Rollins gaining control, taking Neville lightly which led to a flurry, then Rollins went back on the offense. I thought this was booked extremely well because although I would have loved to see a big back & forth closing sequence, you don't need to make the champ look like easy pickens. They gave Neville just enough opportunity to make an impression. The counter out of the powerbomb was insane and his suck dive was as well. This was a great match for what it was and phenomenal way to follow up Neville's debut the previous week. I hope they continue to book he and all other debuting NXT talents this strongly.
Match rating - ***1/2
3) John Cena vs. Stardust - United States Championship Match
In a matter of two weeks, John Cena's US Title open challenge has become my favorite thing in wrestling. While I used to get bored with Cena always being in the title picture, I always enjoyed his matches because he's one of the best performers around. For people who share this view, the way they are booking Cena now is perfect. It's already provided us with one outstanding match against Ambrose last week and we got another solid defense this week against Stardust. I like the idea of putting Cena against unused talent and giving them a chance to shine. It keeps the title relevant, makes it feel important, and is just a nice change of pace. This wasn't anything that will blow you away, but it's certainly a good first-time contest and one of the only high points of Raw this week.
Match rating - ***
4) Paige & Naomi vs. The Bellas
Last week's six diva tag had potential so I hoped they could work out the kinks and deliver something better here. Sadly, it suffered from the same problem. That problem really depends on the eye of the beholder because myself and many others think it's the Bellas not having any clue on how to take Naomi's move set while others claim it's Naomi's fault. I respect others' opinions, but I don't see how it can be considered Naomi's fault when she delivered on her end as she got the hot tag and started rifling off her moves. It's like The Bellas went limp and took the worst bumps possible on everything from her hurricanrana to her finisher. I'm not saying I'm right because I don't know everything, but it's what I took away from this match as well as last week's. They did a solid build towards a big closing sequence however that sequence fell flat due to the aforementioned problems.
Match rating - *
Prime Time Players Promo
I'm LOVING the segments they are allowing Titus O'Neil and Darren Young to deliver backstage weekly now. It showcases why I've always thought they had a bright future in the tag divsion. They ooze charisma, have a good gimmick with a catchy phrase, and great in-ring presence. Plus they're actually funny because they're being themselves. I hope them making fun of The Ascension and The New Day leads to some sort of match between all three teams to put over PTP. After this, I'd like to see PTP face off with Cesaro & Kidd for the Tag Titles around Payback. This is the perfect time for Titus & Darren to do something memorable and I beg WWE not to waste this opportunity.
5) Ryback vs. Luke Harper
This didn't have time to develop into anything sadly. It was basically just the two guys trading power moves for several minutes. I feel like these two could have produced something slightly better although I wasn't dying to see it go long. This just felt like a waste of time more than anything.
Match rating - **1/4
6) Lucha Dragons (Kalisto & Sin Cara) vs. New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston)
Fun, Fun, and more fun. I admit that I'm a mark for the Lucha Dragons and I'm not ashamed because they're awesome. The tag divsion in WWE is heating up again and the past two times, WWE has found a way to screw it up. Example - Winter 2013-Early 2014. The Usos and the Rhodes Bros are the top teams delivering killer matches. PTP is still around. Cesaro & Swagger are extremely over. So what does WWE do? They make The New Age Outlaws tag team champions, split up PTP, and drop Cesaro & Swagger after Mania. They have an even more awesome divsion with alot of variety right now and it would kill me if they screwed it up. Big win for the Luchas here in this extremely enjoyable showcase.
Match rating - **1/2
7) Roman Reigns vs. The Big Show
Reigns/Show #12 takes place here and it's no more appealing than their previous encounters although it was just as surprising. While I'm tired of seeing this match, it DOES typically provide for some exciting moments. I liked the ending with Reigns hitting multiple superman punches on Big Show before finally nailing the spear. That was very well done. Other than that, there's nothing to see here.
Match rating - **1/4
8) Sheamus vs. Mark Henry
This wrote itself on paper however it's nothing something one would desire to see. In all honesty, I don't even remember what happened here. I'm just ready to see Sheamus back in there with all of his other IC Title picture buds. Speaking of that, none of them were featured on Raw which sucks, but atleast there's a reason as they were selling their injuries.
9) Miz vs. Damien Mizdow
This is a feud that I feel has lost some steam. Mizdow doesn't get quite the pop that he used to and this match didn't help. Miz's assault last week garnered some heat however I feel like they could have done something more vicious this week than a basic match with Miz cheating to win. I would have liked to seen Damien continue to get screwed over, jumped, and assaulted by The Miz which builds to a stipulation match at Extreme Rules. I hope this one can gain some steam in the coming weeks.
10) Randy Orton vs. Ryback vs. Roman Reigns
This was quick and to the point which I expected considering we had already seen all these men wrestle earlier in the evening. As mentioned before, that also made for little to no hype for this match which I think was a big mistake. I feel like something better could have been planned to fill the time that these three mens' singles match took. None the less, this featured some overbooking and interference and all in all wasn't anything worth checking out. Orton wins which was the somewhat expected, but wanted outcome. Looking forward to the Orton/Rollins feud continuing.
Match rating - **
Overall thoughts: You can probably figure this out for yourself, but the show definitely suffered with the absence of Bryan, Ambrose, & Ziggler. WWE deciding to place the main event participants in singles matches throughout the evening didn't help either. However there was some great stuff here in the form of Neville/Rollins and Cena/Stardust. That's all that's worth seeing here though. And to keep up with storylines, Orton/Ryback/Reigns is worth a look if you want to see how the Extreme Rules main event was set up. Lackluster show that didn't follow up last week's well although it did have one or two high points.