By Graham "GSM" Matthews
League of Nations Interrupted WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho
I've seen plenty of mixed reviews regarding this segment online, but I wasn't too sure what to think of it myself. Reigns, Jericho and everyone in League of Nations (sans King Barrett who hasn't talked at all lately oddly enough) played their respective roles well, but Jericho's babyface shtick already feels played out. He's too over-the-top to the point where he has to be turning heel soon otherwise he's lost his magic (I get the feeling it's the former). Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus mentioning they've won Rumble matches in the past was a nice touch since WWE rarely acknowledge their own history, but they have very little heat right now. If nothing else, the segment set up the subsequent match between Reigns and Rusev.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns def. Rusev (Non-title; Chris Jericho Served as Special Guest Referee)
Reigns and Rusev haven't had many matches against each other over the years (only a handful), so this felt somewhat fresh and they worked well together. Jericho serving as the special guest referee added to the bout and made it more entertaining than it would have been without him, especially when he ejected the League of Nations members from ringside. The long drawn-out talking segment didn't light the world on fire, so following it up with a match featuring as much star power as this was a welcomed change of pace.
Natalya def. Brie Bella
It's good to see Natalya and Paige back on WWE TV, but you had to know it was solely because Total Divas is returning on Tuesday. That's fine and all, but the only thing this match really accomplished was remind me how directionless all the other women are not named Charlotte or Becky Lynch. Is Paige still a heel? And what about Brie and Alicia Fox? Although they're capable of much more, it was a nothing match because it was far too short to be anything of note. By the way, didn't Paige attack Natalya backstage on SmackDown a few months ago? Oh, whatever.
The Wyatt Family def. Ryback and The Dudley Boyz
And the feud between The Wyatt Family and The Dudley Boyz continues. Their matches are almost always decent and this six-man tag was no exception, but it came as no surprise the crowd couldn't have cared less because The Dudley Boyz rarely win nowadays. That said, it's good The Wyatt Family are finally picking up consistent wins, but how long will it last? At the very least, I hope they had the strong showing in the Royal Rumble match they deserve.
Big Show def. Heath Slater
I was under the belief that The Wyatt Family attacking Big Show two weeks ago was merely hype for the Rumble match and establishing that it's everyone for themselves, but I guess it was a face turn for Show after all considering his mannerisms during and after this match. He had no trouble in destroying all four members of The Social Outcasts, one of the few groups that have held my interest as of late. This was total trash all around and I can't believe we're in the midst of another turn for Show (though I probably should believe it given his track record).
Roman Reigns Was Picked the No. 1 Entrant in the Royal Rumble Match
Well, I think I can safely say we all pretty much saw this coming. The McMahons pulling Reigns' name out of the tumbler three times essentially gave away it was rigged, whereas it should have been implied with them doing it once. Having them drag out the segment was just painful because it was obvious where it was going. On a side note, Stephanie mocking "McMahon's Millions" from 2008 got a laugh from me.
Becky Lynch def. Tamina
Two women's matches in one night was cool to see and I was glad they furthered the feud between Becky and Charlotte and didn't just leave it at the Total Divas infomercial from earlier. However, this match was no better than Natalya vs. Brie. Team B.A.D. has zero heat right now with Sasha Banks out for the time being with an injury and Tamina is simply not good in the ring. Thankfully, the focus was put on the post-match promos between Becky and Charlotte and I liked how Ric Flair accepted his daughter's challenge for her.
United States Champion Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus def. Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose and Kalisto
I would have rather wanted Kevin Owens involved in the match, but I can't complain about him sitting in on commentary because he's always entertaining. The in-ring action was enjoyable and everyone worked well together while simultaneously furthering the two feuds for the Intercontinental and United States Championships going into the Royal Rumble. It was simple, solid and effective.
WWE Tag Team Champion Big E def. Jey Uso
As I've said countless times in the past, I've never been too excited by The Usos in one-on-one matches. They're both exactly the same and seem to work better in tag team matches. Not to say they're terrible singles wrestlers, but this was average at best. Big E winning was the right move since The New Day have been on the losing end of their matches more often than not recently.
Neville, Titus O'Neil, Mark Henry and R-Truth def. Tyler Breeze and The Cosmic Wasteland
Whose bright idea was it to hold this match at the end of the third hour of Raw? The crowd would have sat on their hands for it regardless, but the crowd was beyond dead and it didn't make me any more excited for the Rumble match (which apparently all of these men will be taking part in). Worse yet, it's so sad Breeze has taken Neville's role as WWE's biggest loser, eating the pinfall when his partners were The Cosmic Wasteland. This all but confirmed the recent reports that Vince has soured on the gimmick.
Paul Heyman Confronted Chris Jericho on 'The Highlight Reel'; The Wyatt Family Attacked WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar
Jericho must have anticipated a fight was coming seeing as how the Jeri-tron and no other furniture was in the ring, so was it really a 'Highlight Reel' at all in that case? At any rate, Jericho and Heyman had a great verbal exchange and I hope WWE has plans for Jericho coming out of the Rumble. He's been made to feel like a big deal since his return and it would be disappointing if he wasn't in a top match at WrestleMania at this point (or at least make it to the final four in the Rumble). The interaction between Reigns and Lesnar was kept limited as it should have been and I suspect we'll see the WrestleMania rematch next month at Fastlane. The Wyatt Family laying out Lesnar and Reigns to close the show was unexpectedly awesome. I figured it would lead to all the other participants coming out and throwing each other over the top rope as we have seen in years past, but it surely made Wyatt look like a threat for once. Wyatt vs. Lesnar at 'Mania confirmed?
As pumped as I am for the Royal Rumble and all that it has in store, this was a rather weak go-home show. The closing segment ended the evening on a high note, but other than Reigns vs. Rusev, very little else felt meaningful in any way. The three hours definitely dragged more than usual. From what I've noticed in recent years, the build for the Rumble is traditionally terrible, so this show being flat was hardly surprising, though I hope the streak of disappointing Rumble pay-per-views ends on Sunday and we kick off the road to WrestleMania 32 strong.
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