Wednesday, 6 January 2016

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1180 (Sheamus vs. Reigns)

The first Monday Night RAW of 2016! This had to be great, yeah? Roman Reigns putting his WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line against Sheamus with Mr. McMahon as Guest Referee in the main event, the return of Chris Jericho, Charlotte and Becky Lynch going one on one...could WWE hit the ground running in 2016? Let's find out.

Fast-Forward...Things kicked off with a recap of the interactions between Mr. McMahon and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns throughout last week's show, beginning the push for the show's main event bout...

 The opening segment was traditionally wordy, but kept a strong pace and continued the push for the main event. I've said for a while that Roman Reigns is much stronger on the microphone when he has someone to bounce off of, and Stephanie McMahon definitely offered that here. Steph's viciousness on the microphone, pushing her Daddy's Little Girl gimmick that hasn't been seen for a while, and putting over the chances of their being a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion later on in the show, allowed Reigns to look intimidating, delvering a few short utterances and looking like a bad-ass in the process. It was a shame that challenger Sheamus wasn't featured in some way though. 

Fast-Forward...Neville and Kevin Owens made their entrances to begin the first bout of the show, with Dean Ambrose on commentary I was hoping for some shenanigans 

Whilst not reaching the heights we've seen from these two previously (WWE Monday Night RAW #1173 - 16th November 2015), this was still an entertaining clash that allowed both men to shine. There was plenty of Neville's "fun to watch, Maggle" offence, including a sweet 450 splash off the apron to the floor, whilst Owens looked strong when in control. WWE's Prize Fighter managing to get back into the contest by kicking Neville in his injured ribs (which of course were taped up) created an enjoyable narrative, that allowed the later half of the bout to switch gear and built Owens back up after his flash loss last week. Whilst it was clear that the two were holding back a bit, having Owens win decisevly with the Pop-Up Powerbomb was refreshing and set up the former Intercontinental Champion for a future shot at his old Gold. 

Fast-Forward...Owens and Ambrose going at it after the bout was superb, with the pair brawling around ringside, before the current IC Champ took control and delivered an impressive elbow drop through the announce table...Titus O'Neill went over Stardust in a poorly thought out contest...The relationship between Charlotte and Becky Lynch continued to show signs of strain in a backstage segment, with an added exclamation point from Ric Flair...The two would face off in a non-title bout next, we got a replay of their contest from November, I hadn't realised this storyline had been going on for so long...

I wouldn't say the crowd was hot, but they were definitely interested in the only Women's outing of the night. Charlotte and Becky Lynch put on a sound technical encounter that held my attention from start to finish. The two looked strong out there, stringing together some decent sequences, fitting of the exhibition style that one would expect from two supposed best friends. There were once again glimpses of Charlotte heeling it up, which perhaps could have been held off until the finish of the bout, as she slapped Becky whilst holding her in a Figure Four Neck Lock, shouting (something to the effect of) "This is what you wanted) Calling back to the finish off their previous bout was a cool little touch, with the commentary team quickly picking up on it, as Becky pulled out the upset after coming off a series of roll-ups with the upperhand. Not a contest that will stand long in the memory, but certainly entertaining whilst it lasted.

Fast-Forward...Things kicked up a gear with Charlotte attacking Becky after the bout, here's hoping their title contest on this week's Thursday Night Smackdown will be a cracker...Backstage, Mr. McMahon explained the rules of a match to Sheamus, riveting stuff...As Big Show made his way to the ring for a clash with Ryback, Lilian Garcia seemed to forget how many feet tall the former 2 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion was...Big Show and Ryback stumbled around for a little while, before the Wyatt Family interrupted them...Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper dismantled both Ryback and The Big Show before entering themselves into the Royal Rumble, can't the Wyatt's interrupt every Big Show match?...Why are The Usos still carrying around their Slammy Awards? Isn't that something a heel does?...

Man, this contest was so much better than I was expecting it to be. The crowd did take some time to warm to the action, with The League of Nations faction still struggling to get over, but as soon as the hot tag was in and The Usos took control the crowd got louder and louder. The clash built to a smashing near fall with the Usos hitting a Superkick and Splash combo on Del Rio, before Rusev managed to make the late save. There was a lot of fun stuff going on before the finish, with both Usos putting a shift in, and allowing the Del Rio and Rusev combo to look like a duo that had been teaming up for sometime. A rematch between these two wouldn't go a miss next week, with The Usos in dire need of a win after jobbing to the Wyatt Family on last week's Thursday Night Smackdown.

Fast-Forward...Rusev and Del Rio celebrated their victory, who knows where this is going...Dolph Ziggler cut an awkward in-vision promo, whilst his opponent Heath Slater came out with Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and Adam Rose, for reasons to be explained...SLATER WON! A bit of a lacklustre effort from Ziggler, but who cares, SLATER BABY!...Slater and his new pals all had a bit of time on the mic, what a time to be alive...In a mirror image of the backstage segment with Sheamus earlier, Vince McMahon explained the rules of wrestling to Roman Reigns in the lockeroom area...

I've mixed feelings about the New Day's segment with Chris Jericho. I'd imagine that Jericho had asked to work with the New Day, but I'm not sure that the two acts fully connected. It didn't help that The New Day's promo that lead into Jericho's return wasn't anywhere near their best. The stuff about Mike Tyson falling off his "hoverboard" was woefully painful to watch, and not in a "Man, I wanna see these guys get beaten up" kind of way, more a "This better stop soon, or I'm gonna change the channel" kind of way. The crickets from the crowd seemed to agree with this. The highlight of the segment was the New Day's countdown (who knows what it was actually going to be to) cutting into Jericho's video. Y2J's promo was decent, heavily relying on catchphrase, but delervered with enough energy to keep things entertaining. "Rooty Tooty Booty" better not catch on, because it's bloody annoying. What does it even mean? 

More New Day up next, as the trio took on The Dudley Boyz and Kalisto in a rematch from last week's Thursday Night Smackdown. Another fun, but essentially throw-away contest, that made Kalisto look like star. His offence was highlighted often, and he formed an odd-ball tandem with Bubba Ray Dudley to perform some funky manoevres. For me, the bout went a little bit too long for what it was, and could have easily had five or more minutes shaved off and actually been better off for it. That the finish was built to nicely with The New Day managing to turn the tide when it seemed like The Dudleyz had the match won, hitting their Midnight Hour finish for the win. 

Fast-Forward...A hype package for the main event aired, that happened to be exactly the same as the opening package from earlier in the show...

Ol Vinny Mac was really hamming it up as he headed down to the ring for the main event. Flexing his muscles and showing off his back, it was his facial that got to me. Vince seemed to be trying way too hard to come across as the Pantomime villain. Maybe this is what the kids want in 2016, but it didn't get over with me. Top marks for the "Cranky Vince" and "Mean Street Posse = Ratings" signs in the crowd though. 

The main event was silly. Very silly. It was pretty much paint by numbers, as McMahon made sure he didn't see Sheamus cheating, whilst counting slow (and sometimes not counting at all) for any Reigns pinfalls. If Sheamus hadn't looked like a chump heading into the bout, he certainly did here. Reigns clearly had The Celtic Warrior beat on three occasions (off of moves that wouldn't usually put anyone away) and then couldn't win the title even when allowed to do what he wanted and with the referee counting fast. Mainly a storyline bout with plenty of interference and a handful of great near falls, this was an entertaining contest that made Reigns look like a star. At times things did verge on the goofy, with Sheamus never looking like a believable threat to the title, the pacing of the booking could have been a little less "Wham, Bam" and made the contest much more interesting. I'd have liked to have seen Sheamus presented stronger and protected a bit more, but if WWE have no plans for the Irishman at WrestleMania then it's not too big of a problem for them.

Fast-Forward...Vince McMahon closing the show by putting Reigns' WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line in the Royal Rumble bout just three weeks away, allowed the show to finish on a shocking revelation that will hopefully drive viewers toward Smackdown on Thursday to find out more...


ATPW Scale Rating - 4.8 (Average to Good)

A solid outing for WWE, but with a distinct lack of urgency spread throughout the show as the promotion waddles towards the Royal Rumble. The main event presented an intriguing concept, but could have done with presenting Sheamus as a viable threat to the title, rather than just Mr. McMahon's special referee status. However, the main event was pushed well throughout the show, without ever becoming heavy handed. There was some decent storyline progression in the first hour with the Intercontinental and Diva's Championship feuds getting pushed, heading into title bouts on Thursday's Smackdown. However, past this the show lacked any real substance and whilst The Usos and League of Nations bout stood out, there was nothing to particular get your teeth into, with even The New Day's interaction with a returning Chris Jericho struggling. 

Not quite the home run WWE needed to start the year, but still a completely watch-able show, that built steadily towards both Smackdown's debut on USA and the Royal Rumble on 24th January.

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