By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Mr. McMahon Presented Stephanie McMahon with the Legacy of Excellence Award; Shane McMahon Returned
I'm sure I wasn't the only one disappointed to see Stephanie accept the award, but it immediately became apparent that the whole thing was a work, and I was waiting with bated breath to see who would interrupt. And wouldn't you know it, out comes Shane McMahon! I've been anticipating his inevitable WWE return for years, and soon as I heard "Here comes the money!", my heart jumped out of my chest. That pop though! What a hell of a moment. It was simply surreal to see three-fourths of the McMahon family (excluding Triple H) back on WWE TV together, and they wasted no time in adding a major matchup to the WrestleMania 32 card with Shane facing The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell for control of Raw. If that doesn't go on last, the crowd just might riot. This was exactly the shot in the arm the program needed to feel must-see again. The next month of programming should be incredibly interesting to say the least.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day def. Neville and The Lucha Dragons
I feared the worst when I saw Neville and the Dragons in the ring together (i.e. another match with League of Nations), but I was pleasantly surprised that New Day were their opponents. It was a random assortment of wrestlers considering the two trios aren't feuding at the moment, but I can't complain about a very fun train wreck of a match. The final few minutes were especially entertaining with Kalisto and Neville shining on the outside with their amazing aerial maneuvers.
Brock Lesnar Attacked Dean Ambrose
Rumors were running rampant all of Monday that Lesnar's WrestleMania opponent was changed from Bray Wyatt to Ambrose and I couldn't have been happier. Lesnar vs. Wyatt would have been physical no doubt, but there wasn't much question The Wyatt Family would get demolished by The Beast Incarnate. Plus, they've been booked so badly I likely wouldn't have cared. Lesnar vs. Ambrose, rather, is a different story. Anyone else notice how Ambrose always returns to Raw the same night he's either hospitalized or jailed? He heals quickly, that's for certain. The set-up for their WrestleMania match was really well done and the No Holds Barred stipulation should be a blast. Oh, and Paul Heyman cut another gem of a promo. What else is new?
The Usos def. The Ascension
It was strange to see The Usos back doing business as usual instead of going after The Dudley Boyz following the heated attack two weeks ago. The match was fine for what it was, but I'm more excited about the idea of an Usos vs. Dudley Boyz rivalry, as I've discussed before. It's a fresh feud and I hope it leads to The New Day getting involved so it's a Triple Threat tag team title match at WrestleMania, just not on the Kickoff show this year.
Chris Jericho and AJ Styles def. The Social Outcasts
This was essentially the same segment and match we saw on SmackDown a few short weeks ago, but it was enjoyable, nevertheless. Jericho and Styles make for a good team and The Social Outcasts never cease to make me laugh. They have been planting the seeds for a Jericho heel turn since he returned and it's bound to happen eventually. Either way, Jericho vs. Styles must continue through WrestleMania. An Iron Man match would be a masterful, but I know the odds of that happening are slim to none.
The Wyatt Family def. Big Show, Kane and Ryback
For the second straight night, the match quality wasn't nearly bad as you would expect it to be given who was involved, but that doesn't necessarily mean I was invested in the action. Show and Kane don't do a ton for me this day and age, but what's worse is that WWE has managed to make me not give two craps about The Wyatt Family. Sure, they won here, but they always lose when it matters most (see: Royal Rumble, Fastlane, Survivor Series, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, etc). As for Ryback's apparent heel turn, we'll see where it goes. Ryback has always been a better babyface, but if they have more direction for him as a heel, perhaps he has a chance of succeeding.
Sasha Banks def. Naomi
This wasn't another case of WWE throwing the women in the third hour because it would be short-lived and the crowd wouldn't care. They weren't red hot for the match, but Banks and Naomi have had a solid story going as of late along with Becky Lynch, so I liked the match for as long as it lasted and I was glad they received an ample amount of time to contest a nice little match. I'd prefer to see a Triple Threat Divas Championship match at WrestleMania, but one-on-one is also acceptable. Banks will likely become the No. 1 contender, but at the same time, I don't want to see Lynch left off the card.
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus Ended in a No Contest
We have seen Reigns vs. Sheamus (and the rest of League of Nations) no less than a dozen times in recent months, so while I sat on my hands for the match itself, I remained optimistic because I assumed an angle of some kind was coming, and thankfully, I was right. The post-match brawl between HHH and Reigns was hard-hitting and a small taste of what they can produce at WrestleMania. I still don't think it should close the show, but I'm betting they'll surprise people with the match they'll have. HHH getting the upper-hand over Reigns and bloodying him up was great, though I don't think the intention was for The Game to get cheered.
I had my hopes up for a hot post-pay-per-view show coming off a mediocre Fastlane event and Raw definitely didn't disappoint. Shane McMahon's return was obviously the most newsworthy moment of the night, but the rest of the episode featured plenty of hype for WrestleMania, including the confirmation of Lesnar vs. Ambrose. I love how they're not waiting until early March to start building up the event. It's already shaping up to be a strong show and I'm excited to see what the rest of the road to WrestleMania has in store.
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