By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Authority Confronted Randy Orton
Perhaps it's just me, but Orton seems more motivated than ever, and I'm excited to see what he brings to the table in this anti-hero role. The Authority kicking off the show (again) was more of the same, but it was to be expected given their history with Orton. Technically, Orton never officially turned face, so him attacking The Authority would be an effective way to do so, but why not just do the "business meeting" right then and there? Orton agreeing to meet with them later in the night felt like an anticlimactic way to end the segment.
Dolph Ziggler def. Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett (Non-title)
The silence Barrett received when he came out spoke volumes. It's discouraging how much momentum Barrett has lost since he returned from injury, and I blame that all on the booking of his character. The match was good and they picked up the pace down the stretch, but the fans' lack of reason to care about Barrett made it suffer. Plus, they've had better matches in the past. I'd be down for a Triple Threat Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania between these two and Dean Ambrose, as long as R-Truth doesn't get involved. I have no desire to see him in the title picture, though an argument can be made that the belt's worthless so to hell with it.
Prime Time Players def. The Ascension
As happy as I am to see the Prime Time Players back together, they could've used a backstage segment to set up their official reunion. Darren Young said last week that he wasn't sure if they were back together or not, and then one week later, they're teaming on Raw like they never split up. A quick promo from either him or Titus O'Neil would've gone a long way. The match was brief and inconsequential, but it's nice to know the Prime Time Players weren't put back together only to fed to The Ascension. Sure, they were attacked afterward, but they still handed them their first pinfall loss since coming to the main roster.
Daniel Bryan and Paul Heyman Interrupted Roman Reigns
Many fans are going to be repulsed by it, but I didn't have a problem with Bryan endorsing Reigns. It didn't make Reigns any more popular with the live crowd, but it was the logical approach for the Bryan character to take after losing two title opportunities fair and square. Heyman was great here per usual and I was glad Reigns was kept limited with what he had to say. Brock Lesnar will be sparingly appearing on programming over the next month and Heyman will be cutting promos in his place in the meantime, so I'm sure this isn't the last time we've seen these two come face-to-face in the ring before WrestleMania.
The Usos def. WWE Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Tyson Kidd by Disqualification
Much like at the pay-per-view, the two teams had a fun matchup, but it felt like they were holding back a bit. Obviously, the feud is only getting started (which explains the non-finish), but I'm waiting for them to put on the stellar match they're capable of having. On a side note, I really liked the commentators' endorsement of the Kidd and Cesaro tandem, highlighting their impressive tag team maneuver and how they've risen to glory in such a short period of time.
Jack Swagger def. Stardust
Obviously, the match could've been a lot better than it was if they were given more time considering the two guys involved, but it served its purpose in furthering the feud between Goldust and Stardust. I've been so excited to see this feud finally come to fruition that I completely forgot Goldust never officially turned face. The crowds are taking to him, but the rushed nature of this program is very transparent. Still, I like the story they're telling with the losses and "Cody" chants getting to Stardust, and hopefully they do away with the gimmick either before or at WrestleMania.
United States Champion Rusev and Lana Interrupted John Cena
Although I liked the finish to their Fastlane match, it didn't make any more interested in their feud. Sure, it gave Rusev a big win, but it just delayed the inevitable: Cena beating the streak and taking the title at WrestleMania. It's been in the works forever so I can't say I'm shocked, but it's simply disappointing seeing how nearly anyone else would've been a better opponent for Rusev. This segment didn't light the world on fire and Rusev denying Cena a rematch was predictable. I'm sure Cena will beat him up to the point where he will grant him a rematch eventually, but as it stands, their pending match doesn't leave me with much hope for the Rusev character.
The Bella Twins def. Paige and Emma
While it was cool to see Paige and Emma team up given their longtime friendship, it was short-lived. What the hell was the point of this match if it was going to consist of only one move? Emma has been buried (yeah, I said it) since coming up to the main roster a year ago, so this terrible treatment of her is unsurprising, yet still depressing. The Divas division continues to flounder and this piss-poor booking of the women doesn't do anyone any favors.
Ryback def. Curtis Axel
Axel's mock Hulk Hogan shirt was hysterical. The Royal Rumble rambling only has so much of a shelf time, but he's definitely making the most of it and working it to perfection (no pun intended). It was nice to hear both Ryback and the commentators acknowledge they were formerly a tag team, but this was nothing more than a glorified squash for Ryback. It's a shame he's not in a more prominent match at WrestleMania other than the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but at least he's on the card at all.
Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns def. Seth Rollins and Randy Orton
The match suffered from two commercial breaks early on. What we did see, though, was solid and everyone involved played their part well. The apparent tension between Bryan and Reigns at the end was stupid considering Bryan just put him over earlier in the show. Meanwhile, I figured they were going to have Orton turn on Rollins in the end, but that wasn't the case. I understand they're taking the "slow burn" approach, but there's absolutely no need. They did that in the fall. Orton should have immediately begun feuding with Rollins upon his return, none of this aligning with The Authority crap.
If you were expecting a first hot show on the road to WrestleMania (like I was), you were sorely disappointed. I wouldn't go so far as to say this was a bad show, but hardly had any redeeming qualities and there wasn't much to be excited about. In a nutshell, there was a lot of odd ball booking. I figured they'd make it all seem worth it with a big conclusion, but nope, that was a letdown as well. I still think WrestleMania 31 has potential to be great, but they need to start building it up that way. If every Raw is going to be like this for the next five weeks (which isn't much time), they are going to be in a very bad place come March 29th.
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