WWE knows what I want more than I know what I want, apparently. Did I want Batista to win the Rumble? Not really, but what do I know? Do I want to see Randy Orton as WWE Champion? Not at all, actually, but Triple H didn’t call me before making that decision. Do I enjoy seeing Betty White open Raw? While I may prefer seeing her over Orton or Batista, I can’t say that hearing Justin Roberts introduce Betty White got my too jazzed for this show.
She did receive a loud pop, until the crowd realized she was coming out with Big Show and instantly fell asleep. There were even “Betty White” chants. Big Show asked her what the plans were for the night, to which she replied “I’m going to kick some ass,” of course inciting another pop from the crowd, who again, for some reason were eating this segment up.
Things went from bad to ordinary as Triple H and Stephanie came out, exchanged pleasantries with Betty before moving on to much more pressing matters. Because wrestling is serious business. It didn’t take things long to go from ‘ordinary’ right back to ‘bad’ as only a few moments into Triple H’s promo (concerning the Elimination Chamber match) Randy Orton would grace us all with his presence. Is it too late to bring Betty White back?
As Orton casually drags his feet on the way to the ring, Cole is excited to inform us that tonight Orton will face John Cena 1 on 1! Oh boy! Cena vs Orton! Because that went over so well the last time, let’s do it again! Before Orton could speak, Steph got the chance to say what we were all thinking, telling him to go back to the locker room instead of ruining this happy couple mic time.
Orton put on his Orton face and used his Orton promo voice to tell Steph that he came down to apologize, and that he plans to “bring out the Viper” for the remainder of his championship reign (which if there is a god will end at Elimination Chamber). The crowd seemed really into what he was saying, as they predictably responded with a “Daniel Bryan” chant, and later “CM Punk” chants. Orton is the king of forcing a crowd to entertain itself.
Daniel Bryan’s theme mercifully cut off Orton, and he received a Betty White-esque pop. Even LA hipsters are fans of Daniel Bryan, although I doubt anyone is a fan of his new t-shirt that features a picture of a goat on the front. Almost as bad as the Daniel Bryan hats that have fuzzy bills that are supposed to look like beards. Who in God’s name is in charge of WWE merchandising?
Stephanie, the angel that she is, tries to remain patient, and politely informs Bryan, Orton and all of the others in the back that if they want to speak with The Authority that they should make an appointment with the Director of Operations, Kane. Bryan isn’t interested in decorum, however, and instead demands a match with Kane for attempting to interrupt his match with Orton on Raw last week.
Steph informs Bryan that Kane has been placed on administrative leave for a week as punishment for his actions the previous week. Daniel Bryan then goes completely out of line by calling The Authority a combination of arrogance (Stephanie) and stupidity (Triple H). Triple H responds with the one thing that can actually get under Daniel Bryan’s skin: giving him the night off. The crowd begins chanting “no” and Bryan isn’t pleased, getting in Triple H’s face, telling him “They want to see me wrestle!”. Triple H gives less than 1/2 of a shit, and makes his way out of the ring like a boss.
Rhodes Brothers and Rey Mysterio vs The Wyatt Family
The Wyatt Family seems to be quite popular in Los Angeles. They got a near-Betty White level face pop, and the crowd was clapping to the beat of their entrance theme (to be fair it is a catchy tune). On the other side of things, is Rey Mysterio’s lone purpose in WWE right now to be the 3rd random face to go up against the Wyatts or Shield in 6 man tag matches? Whatever happened to his tag team with Big Show? Didn’t they get a clean win over the tag champs? Can’t Rey just retire so I can stop asking all of these questions I really don’t care about?
The match follows a fairly typical Raw script early on, as the faces gain the upper hand before the commercial break and we come back to find the heels in complete control. The Wyatt Fam beat on Goldust a bit as they build toward a hot tag for Mysterio, who was definitely over with this crowd seeing as he is from Southern California. Rey finally got the tag and did his usual 40 year old Rey Mysterio moves on Harper and Rowan, and seemed to be in control until Wyatt countered a 619 attempt with the coolest Sister Abigail that I’ve seen to date, pinning Mysterio for the 3 count. The crowd didn’t seem to mind seeing Mysterio eat the pin, as they counted along with the ref and cheered on Bray’s victory. It will be interesting to see if the cheering on of Bray Wyatt becomes a trend.
I had expected this match to either involve the Shield in some capacity or for there to be some tension between the Rhodes Brothers, neither of which occurred as the Wyatts instead picked up the clean win. Perhaps this means we won’t see a Goldust vs Cody Rhodes match at Wrestlemania like many seemed to think was a forgone conclusion. I would still like to see the match happen, and WWE still has plenty of time to book a break up feud.
All in all a good match as the Wyatts look strong, the Rhodes Brothers don’t look bad and Rey eats the pin like he should at this point in his career. Wyatt cut a promo from his rocking chair after the match, telling the Shield that they are nothing more than tiny toy soldiers trying to get involved in a war that was never meant for them. He also said that The Shield will fall right in time for his next game to begin. I take this as his explanation for moving the Family’s attention off of Cena before likely redirecting his attention that way for the Wrestlemania feud.
Christian and Sheamus vs The Real Americans
Christian and Sheamus are set to face one another in the Elimination Chamber match, but seeing as they are both faces they of course are down to team up for a pointless tag match against the Real Americans. The Real Americans who oh by the way get more cheers as heels than either face Sheamus or Christian. People definitely love to yell out “We the People”. Zeb cut his usual “sneak across the border” promo, before handing the mic off to Cesaro, who received tons of cheers before he was able to declare that he will become the first “Real American” to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Cesaro starts the match against Christian to loud “We the People” chants. Cesaro is literally rag dolling Christian as he dead lift suplexes him from one end of the ring to the other. If you don’t like Cesaro, I don’t like you. Simple as that. Sheamus tags in and Cole informs us that Sheamus had a “great” week last week, defeating Axel on Raw and Ryback on Smackdown.
Man oh man. Impressive.
Sheamus and Cesaro begin fittingly exchanging European Uppercuts. The crowd “boos” when Sheamus connects and says “yay” when Cesaro connects. The back and forth continues, with Cesaro momentarily gaining the upper hand with a series of unanswered European uppercuts before Sheamus responds with clubbing blows of his own. I must say these two brawling is entertaining to watch, and I wouldn’t mind seeing the two of them in a pay per view match down the road at some point. Cesaro gains control with a big boot that sends Sheamus tumbling to the floor, and the crowd roars with “Ces-a-ro! Ces-a-ro!” chants.
Whether tossing Christian around like a child or brawling with the brute Sheamus, Cesaro is pure unadulterated entertainment when in the ring. No offense to Jack Swagger, but you can feel the level of the match go from A+ to B- when he tags in. His recent role in The Real Americans seems to be getting slapped by Zeb or simply watching Cesaro do work from his spot in the corner. While splitting up teams is all the rage these days with the Prime Time Players splitting and everyone wanting the Rhodes Bros split, a Real Americans split may not make a lot of sense timing wise, but with this Swagger “motivation” angle you can see the potential foundation for a break up being laid. Or perhaps this is just how they build the Real Americans up for a run with the tag belts, we all know they are long overdue for one of those.
Cesaro would tag back in and as Christian tried to leap over him to tag in Sheamus, Cesaro caught him and put him into position for the big swing, which I kid you not got the loudest pop of the night from the crowd. That is the most over move in the industry, folks. He spins him an even 10 times, the crowd counts along to make sure of it, and Christian rolls out of the ring after finally being released.
After returning to the ring, Christian tags in Sheamus who begins cleaning house. He hits his 10 clubs to the chest of Swagger and is ready to hit the brogue kick until Cesaro flew in from out of nowhere to nail Sheamus with a leaping back elbow. Cesaro’s distraction allows for Swagger to apply the Patriot Lock. Christian flies in with a cross body on Swagger to break the hold, and allows for Sheamus to nail Swagger with a stiff brogue kick securing the victory for the Canadian and Irishman.
They get the win in the record book, but Cesaro is the real winner of this match. He could be in line for a big push sooner rather than later, especially if the crowds continue to support him. He and Sheamus were both good during this fairly entertaining bout.
Dolph Ziggler vs Alberto Del Rio
Ziggler gets a fairly massive pop from the LA crowd, but that is to be expected. Remembering back to their feud last year, there is no doubt that these two have fantastic chemistry in the ring and any time they want to have a 1 on 1 match it is fine by me. Ziggler is definitely the #1 guy that is lost in the shuffle right now, perhaps the team with the Miz can materialize into something. Del Rio of course is beefing with Batista, and is likely to lose a match to him at Elimination Chamber.
Anyone who wanted a genuine match out of these two will be disappointed to find out that Del Rio dispatched of Ziggler with a single kick. Brooklyn Brawler style. Ziggler got the advantage early, getting in his 10 elbow spot and the crowd responded accordingly, but it took two moves from Del Rio: an arm breaker and a kick to the head, to get a 3 count.
As Ziggler was making his entrance, before he even made it to the ring his theme was cut and Del Rio’s began. Ziggler gave a look like “you’ve got to be kidding me” and looked back toward the entrance ramp in disgust. At first I thought nothing of it, but now I really think he is at his wits end with the company and WWE is simply not going to push him, and they will instead job him out to heels they want to get over because Ziggler is still so popular despite his crap treatment. Del Rio wins, but with such a pointless, shitty match nobody cares. These two could have put on a great 15 minute match that benefited both parties involved, instead we get a 3 minute squash that doesn’t even help ADR accomplish anything and makes Ziggler look like a complete jabroni.
To make matters worse, Batista came out and sent Del Rio through a table with a Batista bomb. Who is booking this feud with Del Rio? I get it WWE… Batista > Del Rio >>>>>>>>> Ziggler, but what is the point of the match at the Elimination Chamber? Batista has gotten the better of Del Rio every step of the way and in more and more decisive manners. It feels like the Henry/Lesnar feud, except WWE expects us to think Del Rio stands a snowballs chance in hell of winning, which even the most clueless fan knows he has 0% chance of going over. This feud, much like everything involved with Batista’s return, is a flop.
The Usos vs Rybaxel
The New Age Outlaws are guest commentators, and Cole wants to know why they won’t give the Usos a title shot. Road Dogg tells Cole that the Usos are simply one of many great teams, and that they aren’t simply going to be handed a shot. That would be the theme of this match, The Usos maintained control throughout in the ring and Road Dogg continued to doubt them from the commentary booth.
One would imagine that this will set up a match between the Outlaws and Usos at Elimination Chamber. I can’t picture the Outlaws coming back for a one month title reign, you have to think they will carry the belts into Mania. Then the question becomes are they still feuding with the Usos or are the Usos a filler feud until say someone like Antonio Cesaro is freed up to set up a Real Americans vs New Age Outlaws feud at Wrestlemania.
Dean Ambrose vs Mark Henry
Two segments I was looking forward to were the return of Mark Henry and the open challenge of Dean Ambrose. Turns out they were the same segment, as Henry is the man to answer the open challenge from Ambrose. As the “sexual chocolate” chants come down, I can’t help but think that WWE missed an opportunity somewhere for a Betty White/Mark Henry backstage interaction.
Henry dominates early on, but Ambrose would show his grit and intellect by targeting Henry’s injured elbow. Ambrose would remove Henry’s elbow brace and begin focusing all of his offensive attack on the injured arm of Henry. After seeming unsure early on, the suddenly confident Ambrose would climb to the top rope to attempt a high risk move, only for Henry to toss Ambrose halfway across the ring using only his right arm. Henry smashes Ambrose with the World’s Strongest Slam, but before he can pick up the victory Seth Rollins comes in to break up the pin and gets Dean Ambrose disqualified.
The Shield swarm, and while Henry is able to momentarily hold them off as the fight went to the outside, the inevitable Reigns spear put the big fella down for good. I thought this “open challenge” could have been a good way for Ambrose to prove himself a bit as a competitor, but as it worked out he definitely feels like the kayfabe weak link in the Shield this entire time. Reigns is the badass. Rollins is the workhorse. Ambrose is just the guy with weird facial expressions that will eat the pin.
As the Shield began to make their exit into the crowd, the Wyatt theme hit and Bray, Harper and Rowan made their way down for what will sound like a lame segment, but you just have to watch it and see because it was down incredibly well and made for the best part of the show.
First, Reigns hops over the barrier to show he is willing to fight, the crowd loves it. The Wyatts then move toward the ring, so the Shield respond by getting onto the ring apron. The Wyatts then get onto the ring apron on the opposite side and the tension is building, and we even get “This is awesome” chants just from a staredown. Reigns growls and gets into the ring, daring the Wyatts to do the same. Bray starts to get into the ring, but you know what happens next, he turns back at the last minute and the crowd erupts with boos, getting Bray an immense amount of heat. The segment was done perfectly, and it was the best build for any feud of the night. Bravo, WWE for a job well done on this Shield/Wyatt feud.
John Cena vs Randy Orton
Even with Orton’s proclamation to turn back into the Viper, Cena saying this would be the end of their rivalry and all of that, I simply can’t work up much give a damn for this match. I didn’t really care who won at the Royal Rumble when the title was on the line, so what would make WWE think anyone cares tonight?
The Staples Center crowd played along, did the usual “let’s go Cena/Cena sucks” and the like, unlike the Royal Rumble crowd in Pittsburgh that completely took the piss out of the championship match. Cena would go over cleanly just as he predicted in his backstage interview, meaning the WWE World Heavyweight Champion has lost on back to back Raws. Not a good look, but maybe I’m too much of a traditionalist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Orton jobbing, but why does he have the belt? And he is going to carry the belt into Mania? And drop it to Batista? What a disaster. Everything outside of the WWE Title picture is cool right now, but the main event scene is lame with Ortontista running wild. Cena’s presence is neither positive or negative, he’s just Cena.
Overall a solid episode of Raw if you can stomach the prevailing thought that we are probably driving down a road to Wrestlemania that concludes with seeing Batista reign supreme over Orton. Yippee.