Here’s a fun drinking game for any random episode of Raw over the next six weeks: whenever someone points to the WrestleMania sign, take a drink. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Please don’t actually do this. You’ll probably be dead before the third hour starts).
OPENING SEGMENT- bad
John Cena came out and cut very frustrating promo. He starts off by saying that everyone here- both the fans and the wrestlers- is excited for WrestleMania because we “all know what WrestleMania means.” Then he proceeds to give a grand speech explaining to us the exact thing he just said we all already know.
He said that “WrestleMania can bring a legend back from the dead.” If this was a line that was thrown in just to tease us, I’m going to be pretty pissed.
Cena then says that if he doesn’t win at Elimination Chamber, he not sure that he’ll have a path to WrestleMania. I know Dave Meltzer went off a few weeks ago about how ridiculous it is for a top star to say this, but, to be honest, I don’t think Dave went far enough. Dave said that this is a ridiculous thing to say because he’s John Cena and, from a kayfabe point of view, it would be totally ridiculous for the company to not book him in some match at WrestleMania. But the truth is, it’d be ridiculous of just about anyone on the main roster to say this. The Shining Stars are lucky if they make it onto any WWE TV show (including Main Event) once every two months, and even they get to be in the Andre The Giant Memorial Everyone Gets To Swing Until They Hit The Ball Little League Tee Ball Invitational, so Cena is coming off like a total drama queen here talking about how if he doesn’t win the main event of the February PPV to become the #1 contender to the WWE Universal Title then he might not even have a match at WrestleMania.
If you like Cena’s grand speech promos then this was fine, but I personally found it to be grating. Cena was then interrupted by The Miz, who said that it was he and not Cena who would main event WrestleMania. In his attempt to illustrate that Cena would have no chance against Brock Lesnar, Miz called Cena “the founding father of Suplex City.” Even if this didn’t sound horrifically stupid, it would still be wrong because the “Suplex City” thing started when Brock said “Suplex City, bitch!” at WrestleMania XXXI after suplexing Roman Reigns (John Cena wasn’t even involved in the match). But really… Miz couldn’t have just said “the last time you faced Brock Leanr he kicked your ass all over the place! Hell… you haven’t even main-evented a WrestleMania since then!” Not only does this not sound dumb, but it would set up a potential story of redemption for a hypothetical Cena vs. Brock world title match main event that might actually have fans convinced that Cena might actually win at Elimination Chamber to make such a match happen (and even when he doesn’t win, it still plants the seeds of the idea so that you can come back to it next year. Basically, it’s a lamer, less intricate version of the story I’m setting up with Cena in my BRM Books Raw 1,000 And Beyond” ongoing fantasy booking thread that I totally haven’t given up on, despite all appearances to the contrary). But no. We had to have Miz say the most painfully stupid line you’ve ever heard.
Cena says that Brock would maim Miz. Miz claims this wouldn’t happen because he would use his brain and not play Brock’s game. He says he will cross lines that Cena won’t, and that’s why he was able to beat Roman for the IC Title. They run their mouths on each other for a bit, and it’s basically your “generic Cena interaction with a heel” vs. “generic Miz stuff.”
Cena finally suggests that they have a match tonight where the loser will have to enter the Elimination Chamber first. Miz points out that he has no incentive to take that risk. Then CURTIS AXEL AND BO DALLAS LAID OUT JOHN CENA. Miz then said he would accept Cena’s challenge and demanded that a referee come out here right now.
Thankfully for my sanity, Kurt Angle came out instead. Kurt, obviously, authorized the match, but for later tonight, and with Bo and Axel barred from ringside. This way Miz gets to escape this segment with some heat, but we know that by the end of the night he will not only get what he deserves for this, but his own attempt to outsmart Cena will have been turned around on him by babyface General Manager Kurt Angle, leading to Miz ultimately losing fairly to Cena and being forced to enter the Elimination Chamber first.
That’s what a good booker would book, anyway. Instead, Kurt (after flubbing his line about the stip of the match) does bar Bo and Axel from ringside, but orders the match to take place right now, even though John Cena appears to still be unconscious from the beating he received from Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas (I cannot believed I typed that last part with a straight face), thus rewarding Miz for his dishonorable behavior.
LOSER ENTERS THE ELIMINATION CHAMBER FIRST: The Miz vs. John Cena- 6/10
The first spot in this match was Miz making the cover on the still-unmoving Cena. Cena just got his shoulder up in time, of course, but in a promotion where they have spent the past year or so making a point of separating the wrestlers if one attacks the other before the bell and not starting until the attacked wrestler has assured the referee that he or she is able to go, to see them start a match while one of that participants was seemingly unconscious due to a pre-match attack was ridiculous.
They had a short mid-match, then just traded finishers for ten minutes. Well… at least they did built up to their finish, because the finish was Cena finally hitting an AA from the top rope. Cena picked up the win, meaning that Miz, and not Cena, will enter the Elimination Chamber first. Someone in the front row held up a sign alerting us that “GABY HATES THIS.” Sorry, Gaby, but if I have to sit through Shane McMahon every week on Smackdown then you have to deal with Cena winning tonight.
I finally actually paid attention to that commercial where they advertise that you can go hang out at Universal Studios with Jimmy Uso & Naomi… and some idiot decided that the best way to start that commercial would be to have Naomi turn to her husband and wistfully say “finally… some alone time, with just you and me.” So yeah. Basically they’re advertising a chance for you to be the unwanted third wheel on a married couple’s date. Doesn’t that sound like fun? This makes me wonder if one of them has heat with the office and this is the office’s way of punishing them by taking away a vacation day and forcing them to hang out with a fan instead.
We’re getting Sasha vs. Bayley tonight, and they made sure to note that Raw was in Bayley’s home town. I hope the aforementioned Gaby isn’t a Bayley fan or else she’s going to be hating this show a lot more by the end of the night.
MATT HARDY PROMO- fine, until the “DELETE!” part went on for too long.
He says he’ll win tonight’s last chance qualifier, then “turn the Elimination Chamber into the Deletion Chamber.” “Deletion Zone” would have sounded cooler, IMO.
GALLOWS & ANDERSON PROMO- they’ve now added stupid sound effects to their stupid graphics. I also really didn’t like them trying to make fun of The Revival for “knowing every tag team since 1902.” While that is obviously an exaggeration and isn’t even what The Revival mean when they say they’ve been studying tag teams of the past (which just makes Luke & Karl sound dumb for saying it), I myself am someone who likes trivia and studying history. I’ve wasted countless hours of my life playing those Sporcle quizzes where you have to name every IC Champion ever, in order, and I’m sure I’m not alone in liking these things. Making fun of fans who like trivia and statistics made Gallows & Anderson come off like heels.
KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS vs. THE REVIVAL- 3/10
The Revival jumped them from behind and took out Gallows’ knee. Cole emphasized that they did this because they “didn’t like being called nerds.” In any other company in the world, this would be two big, tough, strong dudes taking on a pair of wrestlers who, while they might be smaller, are renowned the world over for their ability to work together as a cohesive unit to pick apart an opponent’s body limb by limb and debilitate them. In WWE, it’s two guys getting upset because two other guys called them “nerds.”
Anyway, two minutes after this dastardly re-match attack, the match starts and Gallows is legal… and not only is he not selling his knee at all, but he’s beating up The Revival all by himself. *Face-palm*
The Revival eventually got control back when Dawson took out Gallows’ knee again (although of course this was only after Gallows had been distracted by taking Dash over the top rope to the floor with a one-handed shove. They went to commercial right afterwards, and it wasn’t long before Gallows was able to make the hot tag. All in all, we saw well short of a minute and a half of heat. How are people watching at home supposed to get into the match?
The Revival got the win a minute and a half later. These two teams should not be having matches this bad. Or this short.
KURT ANGLE ANNOUNCES THAT, AT ELIMINATION CHAMBER, RONDA ROUSEY WILL SIGN WITH RAW- This makes no sense. Why would Ronda sign with either brand? Anyone who has been portrayed as a “free agent” (including John Cena right now) has been allowed to show up and wrestle on either show, whenever they want, so what benefit does Ronda (or anyone else) get from signing with one brand? It seems to me that all she’s doing is cutting her opportunities in half.
KURT ANGLE ANNOUNCES THAT JASON JORDAN HAD NECK SURGERY AND WILL HAVE TO MISS WRESTLEMANIA- Fans actually cheered this news. I’m going to pretend that they’re cheering the fact that Jason is taking care of his body as opposed to going the Tanahashi route.
Kurt won’t give them the benefit of the doubt, though. He goes off on the fans for cheering someone having a serious injury just because they don’t like him. It made me pop.
Seth Rollins came out and apologized to Kurt for being mean to Jason Jordan last week. He draws some good parallels between himself and Jason Jordan, and then used that to segue over to talking about the fact that he doesn’t have a match booked for WrestleMania or even Elimination Chamber. Kurt offers him another tag title match, but Seth says that he wants to be the top guy. He wants to face Brock at Mania, but needs to win the Elimination Chamber match, so he asks to be put in the “Second Chance Fatal Four-Way” Qualifier. Kurt says that that wouldn’t be fair to four guys already in the match, but in my opinion, those guys all lost clean in their original qualifiers so they should be happy that they’re even getting another shot in the first place. They waste time debating it until Kurt says that he’ll leave it up to the fans, who say yes.
BRAY WAYTT PROMO- good
SASHA BANKS vs. BAYLEY- 8/10
This was Cena vs. Miz done right. Most of this match was big haymakers, but they had the proper built-up emotion behind and made everything feel like one big progressing story. It was awesome, but was not close to being, as Coach claimed “a five-star match.” Shockingly, Bayley won. Sasha had been acting heelish throughout the match, and they had a stare-down after it, but before anything could happen…
NIA JAX ATTACKS BAYLEY & SASHA- good
Nia ran in from behind and laid out two exhausted women who were much smaller than her, just because she could.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS NIA- Nia says that “over the past two weeks, those two have brought Asuka to their limit… and I just destroyed both of in seconds.” Based on this heelish logic, she asserted that she could break Asuka’s undefeated streak at Elimination Chamber. Very good stuff.
This might be Bayley’s home town, but one of Dana Brooke’s parents is also clearly in attendance. I can’t imagine who else would bring a sign that says “I paid to see Dana Brooke.”
ROLLINS & REIGNS BACKSTAGE- standard WWE banter, but at least they made reference to something that happened in the Royal Rumble.
CESARO & SHEAMUS SHOW UP TO BOTHER SETH & ROMAN- They were good heels. Roman got to shut them up with lame WWE banter. Then Rollins got to look like a coward by shouting “nice skirt, fella” well after they had left. Say it to his face, Seth.
We got a replay of Nia’s promo, with their stupid words on the screen gimmick.
ASUKA VIDEO PACKAGE- mostly bad. It was basically a Royal Rumble “numbers” video package well after the point that people are sick of such things.
RENEE YOUNG INTERVIEWS TITUS WORLDWIDE- she lowered the bar of “making history” to Apollo Crews having the chance to qualify for the Elimination Chamber. I get the feeling that WWE’s definition of “making history” is a very literal one where literally anything you do so long as you are moving forward in the time-stream counts as “making history.”
Titus then shooed Renee off so he could interview Apollo. This was kind of a pep talk, and it was well done. It was goofy and wouldn’t have worked for almost anyone else, but Titus is supposed to be kind of an over the top goofball, so it worked.
Meanwhile, the camera was zoomed in on just Crews and Titus, cutting Dana Brooke out of the picture entirely. Long live the Divas’/Women’s R/Evolution! When we zoomed out to finally include her, she came up with a catchphrase for Apollo, which is that “Crews can’t lose.” Titus liked this so much he started having spasms and they were all saying it, guaranteeing that they’re all going to look like total idiots when he does, in fact, lose. This was not good.
ALEXA BLISS! & MICKIE JAMES BACKSTAGE- good
Alexa walks up to Mickie and says “hey partner.” Mickie is suspicious of Alexa’s motives in saving her last week, and asks why they’re teaming together tonight against The Paige of the Fall. Because she hasn’t been made to look like an idiot, I’m going to give Mickie the benefit of the doubt and say that the real point of her question was to get Alexa to admit that she was behind getting the match booked. Alexa admitted that she was, casting the match as her doing Mickie a favor by helping her get revenge on the women who attacked her last week (to which Mickie muttered “of course,”). She also said she was tired of the “newbies” thinking they could “take over Raw,” which was a good bit if heel hypocrisy.
Most importantly, though, Alexa says, she wants to “clear the air” between them, and apologizes for the mean things she has said and done to Mickie over the past few months. Mickie can tell that Alexa is full of sh*t, so Alexa takes another track, saying that she said those things because she’s jealous of how Mickie has managed to be six-time champion and also found time to be a mother and she’s so inspirational, etc. And Mickie still isn’t buying it… and of course Alexa can’t help but be herself and insist that she is apologizing to Mickie and Mickie is just being rude to her, and reminding Mickie that Alexa was the one who brought her back to WWE in the first place.
Alexa finally just lays her cards on the table and says that they need to work together at Elimination Chamber or else Femolition will be able to win by working together and they’ll never let anyone else have a title shot ever again. And Mickie still isn’t buying it, pointing out that Alexa is only interested in keeping her title, not preventing the Girl-rillas of Destiny from winning the Elimination Chamber match, or else she wouldn’t have tried to weasel her way out of defending the title last week. Mickie tells Alexa that she will work with her as a tag team partner tonight, but come Elimination Chamber, it will be every woman for herself.
ALEXA BLISS! & MICKIE JAMES vs. ABSOLUTION (Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose) (w/Paige)- 4/10
Mickie was a good babyface in the ring while Alexa playing babyface tag team partner on the apron was funny. The NexSisters picked up the win when Paige distracted Alexa so that Sonya could pull her off of the apron and prevent Mickie from making the tag, which allowed Mandy to hit the weakened Mickie with her as of yet unnamed sit-out double-underhook facebuster for the win. I’m a little surprised that Corey Graves hasn’t started calling it the Angel’s Wings (even though she doesn’t spin with it) just because of how well it would fit in with his adoration of Mandy.
There is a fan with a sign that said “I’m ready for U, Asuka!” I would pay so much to see Asuka run out into the crowd, grab said fan, and put him/her in an armbar.
THE DRIFTER SINGS A SONG- He started off with a promo in which he buried the crowd, their home town, and their entire state, for which he was roundly booed… and then, when he asked them to do his catchphrase, they all did it with him and cheered him. Then, when he started to play his song, they treated him like a heel again. I just don’t get fans like this.
The Drifter’s interactions with fans are always entertaining, though, and he played a fun song… and then, when he seemed to be done, JoJo announced that Braun Strowman was here… and they turned on a spotlight on the stage and there was Braun, sitting patiently on a stool in front of a microphone stand like he was about to take his turn to sing. Braun got up, went to the nearby dark area, and returned with a bass, which he held like a guitar. That was legitimately hilarious… but that is not what you should be going for with the “Monster Among Men.”
The Drifter looked legitimately concerned as Braun started to sing (and broke the bass with his first pluck). Braun’s singing wasn’t bad… but, again, THIS NOT WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING WITH BRAUN STROWMAN! He should have charged down to the ring while the spotlight was on The Drifter and came out of nowhere and destroyed him. Yes, he beat The Drifter up in this segment, but he shouldn’t be sitting their calmly and doing goofy bullsh*t first. No one wants to see large funny man Braun Strowman. We all want to see violent, out of control monster Braun Strowman and nothing but violent, out of control monster Braun Strowman.
Also, someone will need to help me with something. When Braun broke the bass over The Drifter’s back, Cole called it by saying “Braun just blew up the Chicken Man in San Jose tonight!” I have no idea what this means.
FINN BALOR PHONE PROMO- would have been great if it hadn’t been shot on a shaky phone-camera.
ROMAN REIGNS vs. SHEAMUS (w/Cesaro)- 7/10
IVORY IS GOING INTO THE HOF- whatever. I’ve come to terms with the fact that they’re pretty much out of women who they are willing to induct and who actually mattered, but I hit the fast forward button the moment I heard Bayley utter the phrase “the evolution of women in WWE started with Ivory.” Really, Bayley? Because Steph told us that every woman ever was part of it. I am so f*cking sick of their need to shoehorn their stupid branding crap into everything, and an HOF video package is something I can skip, so I’m going to skip it just to avoid getting angry at their obsession with branding.
FATAL FIVE-WAY ELIMINATION CHAMBER QUALIFYING MATCH: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Matt Hardy vs. Apollo Crews (w/Titus Worldwide)- 7/10
They had a fine chaotic multi-man match. We got a double-pin finish when Seth and Balor both pinned Bray at the same time, so we still have no one assigned to fill the final spot in the Elimination Chamber. I was shocked that they didn’t have Crews take this pin so Matt and Bray could brawl their way to the back.
This was a few great wrestling matches surrounded by a bunch of bad segments. The women’s division came through pretty big this week, but Asuka’s absence from the show was pretty glaring.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES:
1. Coach (about the Elimination Chamber match)- “The one thing that- Deville and Mandy Rose- neither one have had, and that is a WrestleMania moment, so if it comes down to these two, with that on the line, you can throw the friendship right out the window.”
Yes, Coach has astoundingly managed to bury the Raw Women’s Title two different ways in the very same sentence. First by referring to it “the one thing” that Mandy and Sonya haven’t done when neither of them has held the title (I’m not even sure either of them have won a main roster match cleanly), and secondly by totally ignoring the fact that the title is on the line at Elimination Chamber and instead portraying the real prize for winning that match as the fact that you get to go to WrestleMania and thus have your “WrestleMania Moment™.”
2. Graves then did the same thing, but not as blatantly, talking about how important it would be to Mickie to win the Elimination Chamber match to have “another WrestleMania moment at this stage in her career.”
Only f*cking MICHAEL COLE, the man who has spent all of his time working for WWE rather than being an indy wrestler or covering legitimate sports, managed to put over the fact that the title is on the line at the PPV and someone wants to win it because she wants to be the champion.
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“Braun just blew up the Chicken Man in San Jose tonight!”
I also don't know what this meant. I appear to have wrongly assumed it to be some kind of Americanism.
I also don't know what this meant. I appear to have wrongly assumed it to be some kind of Americanism.
"While you're looking at Bop, I'll hit you with Bang. You day see that coming"
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