By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Roman Reigns Interrupted Seth Rollins
It's amazing to see how far Rollins has come on the mic in the last nine months, as he carried this entire segment. Reigns was good here as well, but usual, he's at his best when he's limited with what he has to say on the mic. There was some heavy foreshadowing to Rollins cashing in on him at WrestleMania or the night after and they set up their match for later in the night nicely. It was refreshing to see him (and Reigns) kick off the show for once instead of the typical Authority promo (even though Rollins is a part of The Authority, but you know what I mean).
Dean Ambrose def. Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett (Non-title)
Perhaps it was due to the livelier crowd, but I enjoyed this bout between Ambrose and Barrett more than I did their Fastlane encounter. Of course, by that I mean only what we saw was good as the rest of the time was wasted on R-Truth on commentary. The whole "hot potato" gimmick with the Intercontinental belt has gotten too goofy for my taste, but on the bright side, it appears Luke Harper may be involved in the Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania.
Bray Wyatt Called Out The Undertaker
Wyatt has always been a great talker, but it wasn't until recently that his promos started to find direction when it became clear that he was headed for a match with The Undertaker. He's also done a good job of not repeating himself week-to-week, and the casket on fire was a cool visual (even though it didn't last long). Hopefully he can keep this up in the weeks to come, as it appears 'Taker won't be on TV at all until the pay-per-view.
The Usos and Naomi def. WWE Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Tyson Kidd and Natalya
What I like most about this on-going angle is that all six of these competitors are great in-ring workers and it certainly shows in their matches. I would've rather seen them get some more time, but with the time they were allotted, they made the most of it. The involvement of the women was smart as it allowed The Usos to win without pinning either of the champs. At one point, they were telling the story that Natalya was "playing possum" with her injury, so to hear her complaining about it to Kidd afterward was confusing.
Stephanie McMahon Interrupted John Cena; Cena def. Curtis Axel
Cena entering himself into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was simply comical. Anyone who actually thought that would stick had to be kidding themselves. I enjoyed his interaction with Stephanie, and whether it was planned or not, she played off the crowd's disdain for him perfectly. This was easily Curtis Axel's best showing on the mic to date and he had the crowd behind him the entire time. I doubt it'll lead to anything, but it's fun while it lasts. The match was a complete squash as expected. It literally consisted of only a few moves as Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment and locked in the STF almost instantly. Meanwhile, I'm interested to see how they ultimately get to Cena vs. Rusev II at WrestleMania. I'm hoping it's not by way of something stupid.
Triple H "Fired" Booker T
Is Triple H going to continue to confront old WCW stars until he faces Sting at WrestleMania? I kid, I kid, though it wouldn't be completely out of the question with this company. Booker T didn't hit a home run of a promo, nor did he say anything to warrant getting "fired," so Triple H saying he was just joking seemed a bit odd. I understood what they were trying to accomplish here, but it came off strange and wasn't as strong as Triple H's encounters with Ric Flair and Sting from recent weeks.
Paige def. Divas Champion Nikki Bella by Disqualification
I was honestly shocked when they advertised the Divas title match in advance. They really did listen to the fans, but how long it lasts is the real question. Nevertheless, Paige and Nikki worked a fairly good match, and the fans were anxious to see Paige win the belt at the end when she had the PTO locked in. The non-finish was well done as it saves the rematch for later down the line, and AJ Lee's return couldn't have come at a better time with this show emanating from her hometown. It looks like a WrestleMania Divas tag team match involving these four ladies might be in the cards.
Seth Rollins Hosted 'The Daily Show' with Jon Stewart
This whole program between Rollins and Stewart has been so well handled and I was happy to see it culminate with Stewart coming to Raw, especially in his home state of New Jersey. The timing couldn't have been better, either, with it being the road to WrestleMania and WWE getting some easy mainstream attention. Stewart was composed throughout, had the crowd behind him (the home field advantage helped) and was very knowledgeable about the product. Randy Orton didn't do much, but it furthered the feud nicely with him and Rollins while also giving Stewart his moment with the low blow to Rollins. This had to be the best celebrity involvement in quite some time, and Stewart was absolutely awesome here. It's a shame not all the notable names they bring in aren't as big of fans as Stewart is.
Daniel Bryan def. Luke Harper
Bryan is still receiving strong reactions, but he has cooled off significantly since his return two months ago. Thankfully, he and Harper have seemingly found direction going into WrestleMania in the form of the Intercontinental Championship Ladder match. Bryan and Harper had a nice matchup, but most of it was made up of the commercial break and ended prematurely. It's encouraging to see the belt getting some love for once, but it's going to take a lot more to make me care about it again.
Paul Heyman Discussed the WrestleMania Event
I loved how Heyman tied in the recent Lesnar online talk into his promo, blurring the lines between storyline and reality. The constant mic cut-outs were embarrassing on the company's behalf after the first few promos, but Heyman ran with it and turned it into gold (like anything else he touches). He has been the single factor that has gotten me excited for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, and his promo here was a showcase of how amazing the man is on the mic. If he leaves WWE with Lesnar after 'Mania, it will be a sad, sad say.
Seth Rollins def. Roman Reigns
Obviously, they did this match to play off the possibility of Rollins cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase sooner rather than later, but I still feel like they should save the "Shield member vs. Shield member" matches for special occasions. This was still a great match, but it'd mean more if they did it sparingly. It was very well wrestled, but it was bogged down by all the interference by The Authority down the stretch. Rollins picking up the win was a pleasant surprise, but how much did it really win when Reigns annihilated all of The Authority afterward? I realize it was done to make him look strong, but why just have Reigns win in that case? Also, Orton's alliance with The Authority continues to confuse me as he helped Rollins win here, leaving me to question when they'll finally pull the trigger on their feud.
It may not have been a stellar show, but it was a vast improvement over last week's letdown of an episode. Personally, I enjoyed most of the edition including Jon Stewart's appearance, AJ Lee's return, and the in-ring action was excellent as well. The WrestleMania 31 card is really shaping up to be something special and I look forward to what else is in store in coming weeks. On a side note, congrats to Alundra Blayze/Madusa on being the latest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame. Having revolutionized women's wrestling back in the early '90s, it's well deserved and a long time coming.
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