By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Stephanie McMahon Interrupted Sting
I don't know what it was, but Sting's promo seemed much more motivated and passionate than anything I've seen from him in a long, long time. Perhaps it was on par with his work in TNA and it's just been so long that I simply forgot, but I loved the line he dropped about not wanting to avenge to WCW but rather take down Triple H. Stephanie played her "emasculating" role well, and I'm glad Sting actually took it to her and didn't back down (then again, would he have really done that?). The tease for physicality between Sting and Triple H was great and I find myself more excited for their match at WrestleMania than anything else on the card.
Dean Ambrose and R-Truth def. Luke Harper and Stardust
The match was decent for what it was and picked up down the stretch. Other than that, there wasn't anything overly special about the match (sorry, I'm just geared to not care about anything involving R-Truth). Bad News Barrett was fine on commentary, but maybe the most notable part of the segment was Booker T reading off the betting odds for each of the Ladder match's competitors. Any chance those were legitimate? By the way, how ridiculous it when Truth and Ambrose danced afterward? It was a funny visual and all, but it's every man for themselves on Sunday and they should have established that here, especially after Ambrose called Daniel Bryan a "turd" just recently.
Ryback, Erick Rowan, Zack Ryder and the Prime Time Players def. The Miz, Damien Mizdow, Adam Rose and The Ascension
I can't say this match did anything to amp up my excitement for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but at the very least, it didn't hinder my excitement like the stupid segments last week did. The only story told was that Miz and Mizdow are set to implode come WrestleMania which should be fun to see. Most of the focus wasn't even on the match, but it was forgettable anyway, so what does it really matter? Bill Simmons didn't add to the action in any way, but he wasn't unbearable on commentary. In fact, he was quite good and I'd take him over the other three clowns any day.
Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins and J&J Security in a Fans' Choice 3-on-1 Handicap Match
The fans voted for this? Seriously? Well, I guess it was the lesser of three evils since the other two options were Big Show and Kane. I'm just beyond tired of seeing Handicap matches by this point (as I'm sure most of you are), but I was glad to was kept short and sweet and Orton was never able to get his hands on Rollins which is exactly the way it should have been, further building anticipation for their pending clash.
Divas Champion Nikki Bella def. Paige
I've been loving how much focus the Divas division has been getting recent weeks. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it's a vast improvement over what we were getting before. Now we just need all the other women in the division to get an equal amount of attention. As for the match, it was by far the best bout these two ladies have had to date. See what happens when you actually give them time to wrestle? The extra wrinkle they're adding to the tag team match at WrestleMania is the question of whether AJ and Paige can coexist. It's a logical story to tell given their long history as rivals from last year.
Curtis Axel Confronted Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg is one music artist I don't mind showing up on Raw given that he's a fan and he has history with the company dating back several years. He did fine for himself here and Axel was especially entertaining. Hulk Hogan's appearance was a pleasant surprise and it was a great way to blow off the Axelmania angle. Kudos to Axel for getting this shtick over and getting to this point. I don't think it lads to anything for him after Sunday, but it's been fun while it lasted.
Los Matadores def. WWE Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Tyson Kidd and Natalya in an "Inter-species" Six-Person Tag Team Match
Of all the matches to replay from SmackDown, it had to be this one? Sigh. The "inter-species" stipulation was so stupid and despite how good the match could have been (and trust me, it wasn't anything memorable), that prevented it from me taking it seriously. Aside from the tag team champs losing, the worst part about this was that the intent was for it to get viewers looking forward to the WWE Tag Team Championship match on the WrestleMania Kickoff show. It could be an enjoyable match as far as I know, but the build has been absolutely atrocious.
United States Champion Rusev def. Jack Swagger (Non-title)
I felt like I was having deja vu while watching this match. We've seen it a million times since the summer and it's never any different. Plus, no one honestly thought Rusev would lose his first match before WrestleMania, so there was no reason to believe Swagger would win. I realize the purpose was to give Rusev a quick tune-up match before Sunday, but it wouldn't have killed them to switch it up and fed someone different to Rusev for once. On the bright side, Rusev's attack on Cena afterward was strong and helped him build momentum going into their match. It's just a shame we all know he's suffering his first loss to Cena in that match.
Bray Wyatt Addressed The Undertaker
Wyatt has essentially said it all by this point, but he still managed to not meander in his latest promo and instead deliver a direct message to Undertaker. The gimmickry with the flashing lights may have been campy to some, but I personally thought it was a nice touch. Wyatt's aggression was great and I hope that's the Wyatt we get in his match with Undertaker. I don't what to expect from an in-ring standpoint, but the fans are definitely anxious to see Undertaker again after a yea absence.
Dolph Ziggler def. Daniel Bryan (Dean Ambrose as the Special Guest Referee)
You couldn't have expected anything less than an excellent match from these two and they definitely delivered. I don't think it was hot as their clash on SmackDown, but that might have been due to the commercial breaks in between. I also loved the perfect placement of it so late in the show right before the big face-off. Ambrose didn't add anything the match as the special guest referee, but he didn't take away from the awesome action, either. The post-match brawling from all the Ladder match participants was exactly what would you expect, but it served its purpose in putting final heat on the bout before the show.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns Went Face-to-Face
Once again, Paul Heyman cut a gem of a promo that hyped up the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match in strong fashion. Just when you thought there wasn't anything left for him to say, he did an excellent job of making me care about who wins Sunday. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. I grew excited when Reigns came down, but all we got was a tug of .war with the belt between Lesnar and Reigns. Wait, what? That's it? It was fairly anticlimactic, and while I didn't expect them to go at it, a staredown would have sufficed. Did they rush it because they went into overtime? I don't want to say it rendered Heyman's promo irrelevant, but it was a poor way of closing out the final Raw before WrestleMania.
Aside from the lackluster conclusion, this was a great Raw and exactly what WWE needed going into WrestleMania 31. The build to The Show of Shows has left a lot to be desired this year to say the least, but this show was successful in getting me invested in most matches on the card and building my anticipation for the event to an all-time high. The presences of Sting, Hulk Hogan and Brock Lesnar definitely made this Raw feel like a big happening and got me pumped for what we'll be seeing Sunday. As I've said time and time again, the WrestleMania 31 card has the potential to exceed expectations, but it could also underwhelm; either way, I think I can speak for most fans in saying that I'm extremely intrigued to see what goes down Sunday.
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