In case you have not heard by now, Kevin Nash has been announced as the final inductee in this year’s Hall of Fame Class, and I have no doubt he tore his quad from the excitement.
We kick off RAW with something I never thought I would see… The sight of Sting making his way to the ring to cut a promo. Yes, Sting has been on WWE television since Survivor Series, but as a fan going back to the late 80’s, the mere notion of Sting in a WWE right remains surreal to me. Seeing him wind up cutting a promo face-to-face with Stephanie McMahon, is surreal to me. It is of no surprise the segment topic is mostly Steph ripping into Sting for being the last holdout and finally “making it” to WWE. The Billion Dollar Princess attempted to slap the Stinger, but got caught. Quickly, Triple H made his way down to ringside to tease a fight. Steph hands her husband his trademark sledgehammer, only to back away from Sting and his baseball bat. The segment concludes with the live crowd booing The Authority as they retreat.
Next up is a great tag bout featuring Dean Ambrose and R-Truth up against Luke Harper and Stardust. Fantastic fast-paced match with R-Truth pinning Stardust. Ambrose took some bigtime bumps from Harper. Wade Barrett on commentary high-tails it when the match is over to be certain no one steals his belt anymore.
Vote on the WWE App for Randy Orton’s opponent. Seth Rollins and J&J Security, Big Show, or Kane. Does it matter?
Bill Simmons joins the announce team featuring a 10-man tag with some of the participants of the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. We have Miz, Damien Sandow, Adam Rose, and The Ascension up against The Prime Time Players, Erick Rowan, Ryback, and Zack Ryder. Heels dominate over Ryder for most of the short match, however hot-tags it to Ryback who mauls EVERYONE, and serves up a Miz platter with the Shellshock for the victory win.
The fans vote for Randy Orton to face off against Seth Rollins, Jamie Noble, and Joey Mercury. Match goes for less than five minutes as Orton makes squishy out of the former cruiserweights as Rollins evades action.
Backstage, Paige and AJ Lee debate Nikki’s invitation for one of them to get a championship match tonight. Paige wants it, while AJ Lee warns Paige it is a trap. Paige calls AJ crazy not to want a title match, and AJ does not seem to appreciate this… However we find out Paige accepts the challenge for the Divas Title. This turns out to be a really good match between Paige and Nikki Bella, however is marred by an accidental strike from AJ, hitting Paige, which allowed Nikki to hit the Rack Attack for the title-retaining victory.
Replay of SmackDown, with Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler putting on a classic.
Snopp Dogg is on RAW. No one cared… Until Curtis Axel shows up and announces that AxelMania is still running wild. I think he was more over than Snoop Dogg, until…
… HULK HOGAN comes out. At this point, Axel might have crapped himself. Just to be honored with sharing the same ring with the leader of Hulkamania. Wow. Suddenly, #Axelmania isn’t so over anymore. Axel rips the shirt and takes a swing at Hulk, but is blocked and decked by the Hulkster. Snoop then grabs Axel, and hurls him over the top rope. Does this mean Axel has finally been eliminated from the Royal Rumble?
I would have paid to see Hulkamania vs. Axelmania.
Announced for the WrestleMania pre-show, is a Fatal Four Way for the WWE Tag Team Championships. The Brass Ring Club (Cesaro and Tyson Kidd) will defend against The New Day, Los Matadores, and the Usos. In an “interspecies” match, Los Matadores and El Torito gain victory after the midget bull pins Natalya. I have no words.
Backstage: Kane relieves Wade Barrett of the Intercontinental Championship, and seems to take joy in making the Bare Knuckle Brawler suffer. Barrett face turn?
Back in the ring, Jack Swagger is once again fed to Rusev. I think Swagger now ties with Zack Ryder for number of consecutive jobbings to Rusev. What did WWE think we would expect? At least the plus side is the “We The People” gimmick is still very over. Rusev refuses to release the hold, brining out John Cena to brawl with his WrestleMania opponent. Rusev winds up gaining the upper hand in this fight. Awesome ending spot where Rusev just hurls Cena clear over the announce table.
Say what you will about Cena, but WWE did an amazing job of building the feud for the United States Championship. I am looking forward to this and I wonder if WWE will decide to keep Rusev undefeated.
Bray Wyatt. I do not know how to begin a paragraph involving this psychopath. His promo tonight delved into the deepest and darkest thoughts in our minds. I love this character. I really worry one day it will fizzle out. Gimmicks these days do not have the shelf life of those from the 90’s. Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry, Edge, Chris Jericho, Goldust, and even The Undertaker have all found ways to remain relevant, though reinventions or rejuvenations. These days, gimmick go for a year or two, and that’s it. As Wyatt talks, we see and hear crackles of lightning, thunder, and Bray Wyatt declares he now controls these “auras” and supernatural effects. He promises to be judge, jury, and executioner, proclaiming Undertaker guilty, and as he rests in peace, Bray will rise to the mantle of The New Face of Fear.
Damn creepy. Damn fantastically creepy. I love it.
We get a great promo package featuring Kevin Nash and his induction into the 2015 Class of the WWE Hall of Fame. Showing his early years as Diesel, then the influence of his defection to WCW, forming the nWo and becoming a major influence on the future of the wrestling business.
Backstage, Tyson Kidd proclaims his love for… Chicken Fries. Natalya is not too happy, but winds up swiping the food and eating it herself.
Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan make their way out for their match, and Booker T announces who the WWE Universe selected to serve as special guest ref, out of the other Ladder Match contestants, Dean Ambrose.
We get the match we wanted, and deserved. If their bout on SmackDown was not enough, tonight’s match took it another step higher. This was the real main event of the show. Ambrose as ref was the comedy portion of the match, even though it was not needed, but still fun to watch, egging the two to continue beating the almighty hell out of each other. This match could be a future WrestleMania match. The most surprising part, is Bryan nails one turnbuckle dropkick, goes for a second and eats a superkick, then Dolph hits the Zig Zag for the second consecutive pinfall victory over Bryan. Wow. Post match, Ambrose spikes Ziggles with the Dirty Deeds, then pulls out a ladder. This cues the rest of the participants to come out and brawl with their own impromptu ladder match, which results in bodies everywhere.
Backstage: Rabbi Paul Heyman knocks on the door of the private locker room for Brock Lesnar, saying… “It’s time.”
Unfortunately, I have no words to describe the passionate and unbelievable promo Paul Heyman cuts. He puts over both Brock and Reigns, but with the caveat how he has always been right about Lesnar, and Reigns is out of his element.
Brock holds up the WWE Championship belt, and Reigns, like a 5th grader, snatches it from him. The live crowd immediately boos Reigns, and we hear chants of “Let’s go Lesnar.” Wow. The show closes with Lesnar and Reigns playing tug-of-war with the championship title belt. Ugh. Not the way I had hope it would end. I do not know how the show should have ended, but that was a bit lame. Lesnar and Reigns better get on their hands and knees thanking The Rabbi of Wrestling for single-handedly putting this match over.
Overall, this was an excellent go-home RAW program. Every match on the ‘Mania card got attention, even the pre-show Tag Team Championship match got some attention. Lots of confrontations for the main attractions. Kicking off RAW with having Sting in the ring with Stephanie McMahon and having a tense staredown with Triple H came off flawlessly. The Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match is as anticipated as the main event and the return of the Undertaker. Lesnar and Reigns, this does have a degree of intrigue since they have not been in the ring before, and we just do not know what WWE has in mind for Sunday. Roman Reigns is untested in a main event scenario like this one. When CM Punk or John Cena or even Triple H has a match with a celebrity or novelty attraction, we can believe it. Roman Reigns, the angle is that no one believes he should be in the ring with the former UFC Champion, and his job is to prove he can hang with the biggest of the biggest.
SmackDown may not have the same feel as tonight’s RAW, but I certainly recommend tuning in.