Fast-Forward...Things kicked off with a recap of Roman Reigns and Sheamus' World Heavyweight Championship match from #1180...
It felt like something was always happening in the opening segment, as Vince and Stephanie McMahon ushered in the 1181th episode of Monday Night RAW, by highlighting popular superstars, like The New Day, Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler, who could potentially win the Royal Rumble match on 23rd January and take Roman Reigns' World Heavyweight Championship. Jumping from this nice little bit of promotion for the upcoming pay-per-view, to an appearance from The Wyatt Family at ringside, to Roman Reigns coming through the crowd to McMahon announcing a main event (Reigns in the "One vs. All match", that would further highlight the PPV) to Sheamus attacking Dean Ambrose and an opening contest being put together. I was both given a reason to watch the next segment, given a reason to watch the rest of the show to see the main event, given a reason to buy the upcoming PPV (or get the WWE Network) and if I wasn't completely sold I had the main event to sell it even more. Strong, solid booking that kept things happening, but also kept giving me reasons to watch more. One of the strongest opening segments on Monday Night RAW for sometime.
Things kept rolling on as Dean Ambrose and Sheamus put on a solid initial bout, that kept up a nice pace throughout. Ambrose worked well from underneath, being afforded a number of number of hope spots (A tornado DDT the most notable of these) that allowed the crowd to stay invested opposite a Sheamus who struggled to rebuild his heat after a lacklustre title reign. There wasn't much that will make this one live long in the memory of the fans, but it was certainly entertaining whilst it lasted and managed to hold me throughout. The finish was a little signposted, as Ambrose and Sheamus brawled at ringside for a double countout (with the camera making sure to pick up the referee's count), it's even more disappointing that it came less than a week after Ambrose had a similar finish with Kevin Owens on Smackdown. A little bit more imagination for the close would have elevated this to the next level.
Fast-Forward...Kevin Owens made the save for a bloody Sheamus (seemingly hardway after Ambrose smacked the Celtic Warrior's head into the ringpost twice) to continue his feud with Dean Ambrose, writing the Lunatic Fringe out from the main event...Paul Heyman made his return to TV, attempting to get Vince and Steph to put Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania...Titus O'Neil went over Stardust in another lacklustre squash bout...Stardust attacked Titus O'Neil and their feud continued to roll on for no reason whatsoever...
The return of The Highlight Reel was a bit of a flop for me. Chris Jericho saying "Rooty Tooty Booty" didn't do it for me the first time, and it clearly didn't do much for New Orleans crowd, as one guy decided to join in with Y2J in a pretty awkward moment. There was some nice stuff in there in the back and forth between Jericho and The New Day, but it needed the crowd to get involved for it to really take off. The most over anything got throughout the whole segments was The Usos saying "Woah" repeatedly as they interrupted proceedings. Whilst I found Jericho to be a little cringey throughout most of the promo, credit to him for fitting in some tributes to Lemmy and David Bowie into his (seemingly mostly ad-libbed) dialogue.
Whilst I was a little confused as to why we weren't getting a six man tag bout, once The Usos (with Chris Jericho still at ringside) and The New Day's Kofi Kingston and Big E got into things we got a pretty good tag team match. The build towards the Usos hot tag was sweet, with lots of nice little touches that kept things interesting whilst essentially just keeping whichever Uso it happened to be in the ring (Can they start wearing alternate Red and Blue attire again, please?). One major way that this was done was by involving Chris Jericho and Xavier Woods, with some clever booking that played off past New Day matches where Woods would give the advantage to his cohorts. Jericho destroying Woods' trombone (Francesca) could have been goofy, Xavier going completely over the top with it made it work. A speedy closing sequence, that saw both Big E and Kingston putting together some decent stuff with an Uso, leading to the brothers winning with roll up (thanks to the Jericho/Woods distraction) bought things to a close surprisingly cleanly. The Usos surely now get another a shot at the titles, but who knows how they're going to pay off the Jericho feud.
Fast-Forward...The on-going story between the McMahons and Paul Heyman continued, with Steph making it clear that Brock Lesnar would be in the Royal Rumble match...WWE got a whole host of stars, including Hall of Famers Ric Flair, Ron Simmons, Booker T & Bret Hart, current roster members; Triple H, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan & Paul Heyman, sports journalist Robert Flores & actor Kevin Hart to put over Sting for his WWE Hall of Fame announcement...Michael Cole pushed how much the media had been speaking about Sting's HOF induction, whilst pushing that tickets go on sale soon...The Social Outcasts (Heath Slater, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel) interrupted a Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper) promo and a wild match erupted...The bout was pretty quick, with a crowd that's yet to buy into the Social Outcasts stuff (although they weren't into much throughout the night), when Ryback caused the DQ...Ryback seemingly joined the Social Outcasts as he helped them to chuck the Wyatt Family out of the ring, what a time to be alive...Renee Young interviewed Kalisto about his United States Championship opportunity and considering he's not had a whole lot of mic time since coming to the main roster, I felt the King of Flight did himself proud here...
I have absolutely no idea why WWE thought it was a good idea to give Alberto Del Rio an in-ring promo before his United States Championship bout with Kalisto. I understand why someone had the idea, I just don't understand why they thought it was good and then why enough people thought it was good that it went ahead. Of course, unless it was Vince who had the idea and then I understand. Obviously, the idea was to have someone capitalise on John Cena's injury, but Del Rio talking about putting Cena out and how he was going to squash Kalisto like a mosquito was so basic and un-creative that I was willing something else to happen. I didn't want to see Del Rio get beat or lose his title, I just wanted anything that wasn't Del Rio on my television screen. In a show, that was featured plenty of pacy segments, this was one that dragged and dragged.
With so many injuries, WWE desperately needs to build new stars and they may have made on Kalisto. Maybe that's a little premature, but if they continue to book him correctly over the next few months, then the new United States Champion should be on course, thanks to this match. Whilst he was clearly popular beforehand, the crowd weren't into the early action of the bout that was mainly dominated by Alberto Del Rio, but as things went on they slowly came round to the Lucha Dragon, thanks to his exciting moveset and some quality structuring. Having Del Rio one step a head of Kalisto throughout (dodging a suicide dive, countering Salida del Sol etc.) provided a strong narrative, that drew me in and drew the New Orleans crowd in, meaning that when Kalisto ducked Del Rio's double stomp and heading towards the finish everyone was completely into the action and there was a big pop for the finish. However, for me, it was a little too long and could have been just as, if not more, effective if it had been four or five minutes shorter. Someone was just a tad too loud in there as well, but hey that never stopped John Cena from being a star.
Fast-Forward...The commentary team REALLY put over the "upset" nature of Kalisto's victory, despite the fact he beat the champion only a few days prior on Smackdown...Charlotte & Ric Flair were interviewed by Jo-Jo with the duo now fully morphed into a heel act...Brie Bella and Alicia Fox got an easy payday (and allowed Michael Cole to talk about Total Divas return) as Becky Lynch attacked Charlotte prior to the Diva's Champion's match with Brie...Becky cut her best promo since jumping to the main roster, in an interview with Jo-Jo...Mr. McMahon made his way to the ring, surrounded by THE ENTIRE HEEL ROSTER, making a great visual/aural combination as NO CHANCE, NO CHANCE IN HELL blared out...
I have absolutely no idea when the "One versus All" main event began and ended, but I think I liked what they did here. It was basically Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens, but with Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, The New Day, The Wyatt Family, The Cosmic Wasteland and Tyler Breeze standing at ringside (and apparently allowed to get involved without causing disqualification). Owens and Reigns put together a pretty physical bout, with Owens dominating the World Heavyweight Champion. The Prizefighter controlling the lengthy contest for so long was a bit surprising, but in a good way, allowing both Owens and Reigns to shine without particularly hurting either. Reigns looked a beast for being to take such a punishment, whilst Owens benefited from controlling the World Heavyweight Champion for such a long portion of the bout. It's difficult to say if the New Orleans crowd was into Owens' repeated headlock spots, because they were quiet all night, but they did seem to rally behind Reigns at points, and I liked the simple storytelling that they allowed for.
The beginning of the end of the show came when the match predictably broke down with the heels (minus Stardust, The Ascension and Tyler Breeze who Roman Reigns dispatched of earlier and The Wyatt Family who I'm pretty sure they just beamed themselves back to the woods) jumped Reigns. There was no DQ, because who the fuck knows what the rules of this match are, and the beatdown just continued for a little bit. Ahhhhhh, but things weren't gonna end like that! BROCK LESNAR closed the show by beating the shit out of everyone leaving him standing tall at the end of the show, with even Roman Reigns suffering an F5. The crowd loved it, Lesnar was exactly what they wanted to close the show and they got it. I was happy to see another element of intrigue added to the Royal Rumble main event and another reason to watch the show, but I'd have liked for something a little bit different between Reigns and Lesnar. I think not having the two fight each other here would have made me want to watch the Rumble even more to see how they interacted there, whilst keeping Lesnar's allegiance under wraps.
ATPW Rating: 5.4/10 (Good)
This was another hot and cold RAW for me, which is pretty much to be expected from a mainstream product that goes for three hours. I got a kick out of the opening segment, which I think was probably my favourite part of the show, because of the pacing and the way it managed to do a number of different jobs successfully at the same time. Ambrose/Sheamus, Usos/New Day, Kalisto/Del Rio and the main event all had their plus points, each offering something different, but perhaps having four bouts go around the 15 minute mark was a bit too much, especially when some of those matches had pre-amble segments heading into them. Despite, the pace slipping at points, I thought the show closed strongly with the popular Brock Lesnar closing things, as we head into next week's go home show for the Royal Rumble.
Wednesday - TV - Impact Wrestling #600
Drew Galloway vs. Kurt Angle
The Wolves & Tigre Uno vs. Eli Drake, DJ Zema & Jessie Godderz
King of the Mountain Championship - Bobby Roode (C) vs. Eric Young
Street Fight - The Dollshouse vs. The Beautiful People
Jeff Hardy vs. Shynron
Jeff Hardy vs. Shynron
Thursday - TV - WWE Thursday Night Smackdown #856
US Title - Kalisto (C) vs. Alberto Del Rio
Tag Team - Dean Ambrose & Neville vs. Sheamus & Kevin Owens
Tag Team Tables - The Dudley Boyz vs. The Wyatt Family (Braun Strowman & Luke Harper)
A week on Sunday - PPV - WWE Royal Rumble 2016
30 man Royal Rumble World Heavyweight Championship Match
Roman Reigns (C) vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Erick Rowan vs. Luke Harper vs. Braun Strowman vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Ryback vs. Big Show vs. Curtis Axel vs. ???