By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar Signed the Contract for Their WWE Fastlane Triple Threat Match
At first, I questioned the decision to open the show with Stephanie McMahon and not giving the fans what they want (Daniel Bryan), but they were smart to save the hometown hero for later in the show as well as switch up the tired formula of the overdone contract signing concept. Having Ambrose come out and immediately cut to the chase was a nice change of pace, and I'm glad Reigns' mic time was kept short, sweet and to the point. Lesnar demolishing both Ambrose and Reigns should put the talk of him not feeling special as of late to rest. This segment made me more excited for the Fastlane main event than I ever was going into it.
Dolph Ziggler def. Kevin Owens
It was made apparent on last week's SmackDown that Ziggler and Owens are feuding. That's fine and dandy, but why should we continue to care about them having matches every singe week? A set-up through a backstage segment or something would have been appreciated. This was another excellent matchup between them that the crowd was hot for, but I'd be more open to them trading wins if it was a Best of Five Series or if there was a title opportunity at stake. This was Owens' third loss in the last week, and while that's not ideal, he can always get his heat back with a good promo.
Divas Champion Charlotte def. Alicia Fox (Non-title)
Essentially, this was the same match we saw on SmackDown last Thursday, but there wasn't anything wrong with it, so I can't complain. The crowd wasn't all that engaged in the action and it's hard to blame them when Fox has been so heavily damaged over the years. On a side note, I liked how they addressed Brie Bella not being at ringside by saying she was backstage with her husband Daniel Bryan. It was a logical explanation that allowed Charlotte to win clean without any interference from Brie on Fox's behalf.
Chris Jericho Hijacked 'Miz TV' with 'The Highlight Reel'
Jericho and Miz have always seemed to have fun chemistry whenever they have interacted in the past and this segment was no exception. This might have marked the first time I have ever seen one talk show transform into another within a matter of moments. Jericho's unfunny dad jokes aside (which I'm hoping are leading to an eventual heel turn), their back-and-forth was at its best when they discussed their recent shortcomings against AJ Styles. The brawl that ensued between the three was really well done and made me want to see a Triple Threat at Fastlane. Miz has held his own in this program, so I'm totally content with him being involved a little longer. It will save the rumored rubber match between Styles and Jericho for WrestleMania if they want to drag it out that long.
Bray Wyatt def. Ryback
I honestly didn't think I would care about this match at all, but admittedly, it was better than expected. It wasn't great by any stretch, but they made effective use of the time they were allotted and both guys put forth a commendable effort, specifically Ryback. As I mentioned in my SmackDown review, I like that he has a new look, as its the small things like change of attire that make the biggest differences. After a fantastic finish, the post-match attack on The Big Guy reestablished The Wyatt Family as a dominant force, but for how long? If I had to venture a guess, they'll be facing Kane, Ryback and/or Big Show at Fastlane. That could be a snoozer, but more than anything else, I'm interested to see where Braun Strowman ends up at WrestleMania coming off all the backlash regarding his reportedly planned match with The Undertaker.
Adam Rose def. Titus O'Neil
The Social Outcasts have really grown on me since their formation last month, but they're involved in something different every week. Basically, they're the same jobbers they were before, but now they're a group. But I guess I can't refer to them as jobbers when Rose beat O'Neil in random fashion. On the bright side, the audience was solidly behind O'Neil, so he shouldn't be hurt from the loss. I still don't understand where WWE is going with him. Not giving him any mic time to connect with the crowd certainly isn't helping matters.
Dean Ambrose Called Out Brock Lesnar
In any other case, I would have left it at the opening segment, but Ambrose calling out Lesnar to get revenge after what happened last week and earlier in the evening was a great way of showing he wasn't going to brush it off. Ambrose talking crap about Lesnar before talking a beatdown of a lifetime and showing signs of being a resilient babyface was perfect up until he delivered a low blow to Lesnar. He took the cowardly way out after a distraction from his buddy Reigns, which was the opposite of what he was all about seconds beforehand. I assumed Ambrose would lash out at Reigns for coming to his aid, and that could still be the case, but the booking of Ambrose here was odd. A stellar segment, nevertheless.
League of Nations def. The Lucha Dragons
I've been enjoying Kalisto's singles run I completely forgot about Sin Cara being out of action. Sorry, Sin Cara, nothing personal. That said, it's nice to see him back from injury, but I hope this doesn't change anything as far as Kalisto's U.S. title reign is concerned. The match was all right for what it was and although I would have Sin Cara get pinned instead of Kalisto, it gave viewers a reason to believe Del Rio has a chance of regaining the gold come Fastlane.
Tamina def. Becky Lynch
We have had two Divas matches on past episodes of Raw, but one match was usually more meaningful than the other. That hasn't been the case the past two weeks as we have two real feuds in the division right now, which is awesome to see. Lynch vs. Tamina wasn't anything of note wrestling-wise, but they furthered the feud nicely with Naomi and Sasha Banks getting into it at ringside. Tamina winning was weird, but I guess they needed to give her some credibility after being booked like the loser of Team B.A.D. for so long.
The Dudley Boyz and The Usos def. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day and Mark Henry in a Tables Match
It was strange to see New Day and Henry teaming up at first, but they made sense of it in the end by having Henry walk out on New Day when their antics became too much for him. Perhaps he isn't a heel for the billionth time after all. The match itself was fairly fun and the Tables stipulation was a nice treat. The babyfaces were able to score the win, but the heel turn from The Dudley Boyz was the real kicker and I liked it a lot. I've been dying to see Dudleyz vs. Usos since the former returned and I really hope it's a match they save for WrestleMania and do a Triple Threat tag title match at the pending pay-per-view to hold us over.
Daniel Bryan Announced His Retirement
Wow. This was every bit as incredible as I hoped it would be and much, much more. Even those who had an inkling it might have been work had to let that subside and simply enjoy the speech Bryan gave. And I dare anyone who has ever criticized his mic work to look at this promo, but then again, it's hard to call it a promo when it was truly a phenomenal farewell. It also amazed me how he was able to turn something so sad into a moment of happiness with the whole crowd going bananas for him, and I couldn't have been gladder the retirement took place in his backyard of Seattle. What a sensational sendoff (up there with Shawn Michaels' and Ric Flair's in my opinion) for one of the greatest wrestlers the world has ever seen. Best of luck to him in whatever his next endeavor is.
Last week's edition of Raw didn't do much for me, but I thought this show was a significant improvement. Obviously, a majority of the focus was on Bryan as it should have been and that made the night feel like a special occasion, but everything else was enjoyable on the whole. The Dudley Boyz turning heel was a pleasant surprise, the hype for the upcoming Triple Threat main event was superb and more matches were added to the Fastlane card. Next week's episode is what will sell people on whether to buy the event or not, but so far it looks like a solid card on paper that I, for one, am looking forward to.
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