Wednesday, 16 March 2016

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1190 (Triple H vs. Ziggler plus Reigns returns)

On the 14th March 2016, WWE aired the 1190th episode of Monday Night RAW live from the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia, USA on the USA Network with . Dolph Ziggler clashed with The Authority, leading to the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H going one on one with The Show-Off later on in the show, before Roman Reigns made his WWE return and elsewhere, The New Day put their WWE Tag Team Championships on the line against The League of Nations' Alberto Del Rio & Rusev...but was it any good? Let's find out!

monday night raw #1190 match card

Match 1 - WWE Tag Team Championships - The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods) with Kofi Kingston vs. The League of Nations (Alberto Del Rio & Rusev) with King Barrett & Sheamus

Match 2 - Singles - Ryback vs. Sin Cara with WWE United States Champion Kalisto

Match 3 - Singles - Sami Zayn vs. The Miz

Match 4 - Tag Team - Team B.A.D. vs. Team Bella

Match 5 - Tag Team - The Social Outcasts (Adam Rose & Bo Dallas) with Curtis Axel & Heath Slater vs. The Usos

Match 6 - Singles - Dolph Ziggler vs. WWE World Heavyweight Champion "The Game" Triple H with Stephanie McMahon

Match 7 - Singles - "Y2J" Chris Jericho vs. Neville  

the new day defeat the league of nations to retain the wwe tag team championships 

A rematch from two days previous at Roadblock, I enjoyed this contest much more than it's Special Event counterpart. It was an interesting twist to see Xavier Woods partner with Big E for the first time since August 2015 (a losing effort to The Prime Time Players on Thursday Night Smackdown #834) and one that I feel paid off. Without Woods chatting away at ringside, The New Day instantly become more likeable and partnered with a stronger match structure than Saturday night, the main weakness of the Roadblock encounter was removed as the heel/face divide was much clearer throughout. The CONSOL Energy Center was into the action, with their suport of The New Day growing throughout, leading to a spirited comeback from Big E following Woods' work as the face in peril. The final few minutes produced the strongest action of the bout with a brilliant near fall off a Rusev superkick to Woods (with Michael Cole doing a stellar job on commentary) before the scrappy closing stages saw Kofi Kingston, Sheamus and King Barrett involved in shenanigans at ringside and Woods rolled up Rusev to retain his team WWE Tag Team Championships! A good television opener, for sure and it was great to see the show open with some action rather than the usual talking segment.

Fuck me up the arse and call me Barry White, The League of Nations actually looked like a credible group of bastards. Following the match, they utterly destroyed all three members of The New Day with everyone getting a chance to hit their finisher on one of them, before standing in the ring doing a bizarre bow thingy. Why the fuck didn't this happen months ago? You know, when the group was involved in the main storyline across the show and Sheamus was the WWE World Heavyweight Champion? Ah well, let's forget that for now, this was a fantastic piece of booking and exactly what needed to be done to help this feud. The New Day now look like credible babyfaces, The League of Nations look like credible heels and the whole feud takes on a much more serious edge. 

fast-forward...A recap of the previous match and it's aftermath aired, yay...

dean ambrose and brock lesnar *almost* come to blows

It felt much easier coming into a talking segment after having an opening match already, I'm not sure why exactly but I'd certainly like to see this style used more often. It definitely helped that it was Dean Ambrose coming out to the ring, as he's been one of the highlights across WWE programming over the last couple of months, whether that be in a match or on the microphone. This was no different as he did a good job of moving past his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match two nights earlier and discussing the "controversial" three count he got in the bout well, this kept Ambrose title ambitions open for the future, but re-focused things on WrestleMania at the same time. Paul Heyman once again knocked it out the park and beyond with his reply, but the moment that completely sold the upcoming match between Ambrose and Brock Lesnar was The Beast Incarnate disobeying his manager and stalking the Lunatic Fringe around the ring, before retreating after Ambrose pulled out a crowbar. I wanted to see the two fight so bad, I wanted to see Ambrose swing a crowbar at Lesnar, I wanted Lesnar to suplex this shit out of Ambrose. Two more weeks of this stuff before WrestleMania could be very special stuff indeed.

ryback defeats sin cara

Well, the good times couldn't last forever could they? Literally no one in the arena gave a flying fuck about Ryback and Sin Cara, because it was Ryback and Sin Cara. The bout was met with utter indifference and whilst it was a bad match, there was nothing here to get too excited about at all. Of course, the Big Guy picked up the win, following two Shellshocks. Following the match, Ryback cut a heatless promo about a good big guy beating a good little guy every time, despite only being a few inches taller than Cara, before challenging Kalisto to a WWE United States Championship match at WrestleMania. Ryback is basically doing the gimmick that Sheamus was given just after last year's WrestleMania, except with about a 1/3 of the charisma, 1/4 of the heat and with an opponent nowhere near as over as Sheamus' rival, Daniel Bryan, was then.

dolph ziggler interrupts the authority

HEY GUYS, DO YOU LOVE TEN MINUTE TRIPLE H PROMOS?! YEAH, WE DO! Said no one ever. You know, Triple H is obviously an accomplished public speaker and can easily handle a crowd, but brevity is not one of his strong points. Neither is subtlety either it would appear, because this promo hit you over the head with what it wanted you to feel and then told you how you feel. Trips even told the Pennsylvannia crowd that they loved Roman Reigns, whoever wrote that deserved to be fired. How is that a helpful line for a crowd that still hasn't warmed to Reigns in the position he's in? The whole babbling about Authority and how everyone hates their boss and how the crowd lives vicariously through their heroes on television was like someone reading bullet points on why the Stone Cold and Mr. McMahon feud from the late 90's and early 00's was so popular. The highlight of the first portion of this for me was Stephanie McMahon's exaggerated introduction for her husband and her little dance to her theme music on the way down to the ring.

Dolph Ziggler's interruption did bring something different to proceedings, attempting to draw on "real-life" situations (or at least what has been relayed through various wrestling newz websites over the last few years) by placing The Show-Off opposite the Authority figure. It's a real shame that this whole sub-storyline has clearly been thought up very recently (two week's ago Ziggler was trading sub-minute victories with The Miz) and Ziggler hasn't really been built up enough for what this role required, making things feel just a tad forced at times. That being said, announcing that Triple H would wrestle on Monday Night RAW for the first time since an April 2014 bout with Daniel Bryan (even though the commentary team pushed it as his first match on RAW for three years) was again a twist that I didn't see coming. Stephanie choosing The Game as Ziggler's opponent (with The Show-Off getting to choose his match at WrestleMania had he won the bout) and having the match later in the show gave things a sense of urgency that announcing a match for the following week wouldn't have done. 

sami zayn defeats the miz

Before looking at the finish, I think it's only right to talk about how Sami Zayn looked in his first Monday Night RAW match since early May 2015. Just like he did with AJ Styles a few months ago, The Miz allowed Zayn to look great, as the former NXT Champion ran through a series of his flashiest signature moves, whilst also getting an opportunity to show of what makes him one of the best babyfaces in the business right now, his selling. It wasn't a match that set the world a light, or even one that many will remember even happened next week, but it introduced Zayn to an audience that a large proportion of weren't familiar with him against a familiar face. WWE Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens on commentary provided plenty of insight into the rivalry between he and Zayn, putting in a strong character performance also. I'm not too convinced on the finish of the match however, as Owens attempted to get involved, before getting cheap shotted by Miz and the causing the distraction that allowed Zayn to pick up the win with the Helluva Kick. Complete over-booking in a match that needed a simple clear finish. With the commentary team mentioning that Zayn and Miz, as well as Neville, wanted shots at Owens' Intercontinental Championship, it feels like WWE is shifting towards having a multi-man bout for the title, rather than going for a straight-forward Owens vs. Zayn bout at WrestleMania.

fast-forward...A 2nd recap of the opening match and it's aftermath...A video package about WWE's paediatric cancer charity Connor's Cure partnering with The V Foundation aired, including the announcement by Stephanie McMahon earlier in the day from the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh...Team B.A.D. went over Team Bella, with Lana causing Brie Bella troubles at ringside...The Social Outcasts were in an advert for Burger King...Lana and Team B.A.D interrupted Jo-Jo's interview with Paige with a multi-woman tag bout now seeming likely for WrestleMania...WWE Diva's Champion Charlotte and former 2 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair both put in great performances during an interview with Renee Young, discussing Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks and teasing something for this week's Smackdown...Despite The Dudley Boyz trying to get involved at the commentary desk, The Usos made short work of The Social Outcast's Adam Rose and Bo Dallas...In another superb backstage segment former 3 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion Mick Foley made his return to company talking to Dean Ambrose about his No Holds Barred Street Fight with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, concluding with Foley presenting Ambrose with the prior's weapon of choice, a barbed wire wrapped baseball bat...

triple h defeats dolph ziggler + roman reigns returns

 After not really buying into their talking segment earlier on in the show, I thought that Triple H and Dolph Ziggler put in a real quality television main event here. Despite a slow start, the bout was very well structured and had the pair had the Pennsylvania crowd eating out of their hands by the time things were done. Triple H focusing on Ziggler's arm and giving him a vicious beating on the outside made The Cerebral Assassin look a like an ass-kicker, with The Show-Off selling his beating nicely. Outside the initial few minutes of action, Ziggler's offence was kept to bursts of big moves, followed by perfectly timed near falls, and a big pops from the crowd each time. The finish mimicked The Game's victory over Dean Ambrose on Saturday as Ziggler rolled into the ring and almost straight into a Pedigree, only to quickly escape, fail to hit a Zig Zag and finally succumb to the WWE World Heavyweight Champion's Pedigree and forfeit his chance at a WrestleMania match. A nice piece of booking that offered that last sliver of hope right at the end before snatching it away.

Roman Reigns is back, but whilst he wasn't booed out of the building, it was hardly the heroes welcome that WWE was clearly hoping for. However, I did enjoy watching Reigns give Triple H an absolute beating as he attempted to gain a modicum of revenge for the champion's attack a few weeks ago. I liked Reigns intensity (even if the commentary team pushed this WAY TOO MUCH) and the brawl going backstage was a nice touch that provided a different back drop for the action. Having even more blood involved in the rivalry added an extra depth to things, now that both men have spilled each others blood, how far exactly will they go when the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is on the line at the biggest event of the year? Or at least, that's what WWE is hoping you're thinking at this point. Just in case you were wondering, Triple H had over 40 minutes of TV time dedicated to him and his feuds on this show.

fast-forward...A recap of the previous segment aired...The commentary team pushed #FreeWrestleMania, as well as looking ahead at what the WWE Network had planned for WrestleMania week...R-Truth dressed as a penguin in an attempt to convince Goldust to be his tag team partner...

neville defeats chris jericho via disqualification

Chris Jericho and referee Charles Robinson did a stellar job of covering and calling on the fly after Neville had suffered a serious ankle injury, ending the promising match after only a few minutes. Lesser experienced performers would have drowned with so much TV time to fill and no way to finish the match, but firstly Robinson called for a clever DQ finish that kept the heat on Jericho, before Y2J called for a microphone and continued to pour scorn on the WWE Universe, Neville and rival AJ Styles. As much as I was disappointed that this match didn't get to reach it's potential, this was something that everyone coming through the WWE Performance Center should be shown as there was more than a couple lessons to be learned. Jericho ended up playing for time, until AJ Styles made his way out and one-upped the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, laying him out with the Phenomenal Forearm to continue their feud.

the undertaker chokeslams shane mcmahon

I'm digging Vince McMahon's character right now. He's basically taken the backstage image that's painted off him by various dirt sheets and turned it up to eleven. Starting the segment by talking about the things that Shane McMahon could do if he took control of Monday Night RAW, all of which were great ideas, and then being like "Nah, I'm not gonna let that shit happen". Brilliant. His clash with The Undertaker was pretty much perfect, with Vince first admonishing The Deadman, before quickly realising that Undertaker was about to batter him, shitting his pants and apologising. The extra bit of spotlight put on their relationship allowed Vince to look even more of a pathetic weasel, which is exactly how he should be portrayed right now. 

The crowd lapped up the rest of the segment, as Shane McMahon came out and he and The Undertaker had their first meeting since their match at WrestleMania was announced. If Pennsylvania wasn't popping for what the performers had to say, they were sitting and listening, just waiting for something to happen. Shane O'Mac bought his A-Game as well, and armed with some killer material about Taker being a puppet, completely smashed it. The little bit of a scrap between the two WrestleMania opponents showed viewers that Shane could potentially hold his own against Undertaker, before Vinny Mac helped Undertaker show just how destructive Taker could be, pushing Shane into a chokeslam that would end the show. Another storyline that has managed to maintain it's momentum over the last few weeks, there's two weeks left to add the finishing touches to one of the most unexpected WrestleMania matches in history.

atpw scale rating - 5.83/10

Another solid episode of Monday Night RAW, this edition was a slight improvement on the week before. Whilst Triple H lengthy promo was my least favourite part of the three major segments of the show, his match with Dolph Ziggler and involvement in the return of Roman Reigns, both provided plenty of entertainment, even if the 40 minutes of Game based television was way more than I would have liked. The New Day and The League of Nations opener and follow-up angle gave the Tag Team division a much deserve spotlight, whilst established new roles for both teams excellently. Upcoming WrestleMania bouts (Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon and Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose) both had their ante upped as the segments promoting these matches were arguably the best parts of the show, despite being overshadowed by The Cerebral Assassin. 

The show wasn't without it's misgivings however, as Ryback's match with Sin Cara garnered utter indifference from the crowd, Sami Zayn and The Miz's match was let down by an overbooked finish and Neville suffered an unfortunate injury that lead to Chris Jericho having to cover for time. There was portion of the show in the 2nd hour that saw a lot of matches and segments being very short, leading to them feeling more than a little bit rushed. This almost certainly had something to do with the length of Triple H's earlier promo and meant that the show suffered from major pacing issues during this period.

All in all another strong step on the road to WrestleMania for WWE, with just 20 days to go. This episode left plenty to build upon over the next two episodes! See you next week. 

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