Written by Mark Henely
The show kicks off with with the always hilarious Tag Team Champions, the New Day, coming down to the ring in a storm of confetti to taunt the Pittsburgh Steelers and bring WWE World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus down to the ring. One of Sheamus’ great talents is his ability to use his appearance to get heat. If you thought he looked stupid with his mohawk and braided beard, you will really hate how he looks tonight with a suit on and his mohawk gelled back. Sheamus uses his time to taunt Roman Reigns and dance with the New Day (both activities that I wish I could be a a part of). The segment ends with Reigns delivering a beautiful Superman punch to Sheamus and stealing the WWE Title from the champ.
After the commercial break, Roman giggles as shows the stolen belt his buddies, Dean Ambrose and the Usos. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon take the belt back from Reigns and place him into a title match that night. The caveat is that Roman has to win within 5 minutes and 15 seconds (the length of time that Roman Reigns held the title two weeks ago at Survivor Series).
The first match of the night is Dolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze. As characters, Ziggler and Breeze aren’t all that different from each other. Both are self-absorbed blonds with crazy clothes. The main difference is that Breeze cheats and Ziggler doesn’t, but as a fan, it’s hard to take a side because fans that can find something to like about Ziggler will probably find something to like about Breeze as well. Both guys deliver in this match, but Ziggler gets the quick clean pin after a surprise superkick.
The next segment is a bizarre edition of Miz TV. Miz has Rusev on to discuss his real life engagement with Lana. The crowd boos Rusev massively as he tells the Miz that he got engaged to Lana because she was the only one that was there for him while he was out on injury.
The WWE creative team is in a tough spot with Rusev and Lana because the fans legitimately hate Rusev and legitimately love Lana, so it doesn’t make sense for them to be together on the show. But, the fans also know that Rusev and Lana are together in real life, so they can’t ignore that fact on TV. They actually do a really good job in this segment playing off of that disconnect by having Rusev and Lana awkardly declare that neither character has had sex with Dolph Ziggler or Summer Rae while they were broken up. This segment allows Rusev and Lana to get back together on TV in an interesting way without insulting the fans intelligence by pretending the Dolph Ziggler/Rusev story didn’t happen. It also leaves a level on tension in the Lana/Rusev relationship in case the creative team wants to break them up again.
Ryback comes down to the ring in totally douche mode, ranting and raving about how Lana is lying about not having sex with Dolph Ziggler and how Pittsburgh loves “Smashmouth” (I know he isn’t talking about the band, but I like to pretend that he is). Rusev and Ryback have a super short match that ends in a count out. Ryback accidentally knocks Lana over and Rusev tends to her rather than continue the match. There isn’t too much to say about the match, it was too short to really judge. Ryback did do a missile dropkick in it, which was uncharacteristically cool of him to do.
Triple H calls Dean Ambrose into his office to tell him that if Reigns doesn’t beat Sheamus in five minutes tonight, then Dean will lose his future shot at the Intercontinental Championship. I suppose this is the character’s way of trying to drive a wedge between Roman and Dean, but it really just incentives Dean’s character to interfere in the match tonight.
The Dudley Boys come down to the ring with four covered tables and deliver a heartfelt promo about wanting to defeat the Wyatt Family. The Dudley uncover the tables to reveal that each Wyatt family member has his name on one of the tables. The Wyatts come down to talk trash, but the Dudley one up them by calling old friend, Tommy Dreamer, down to the ring. The Wyatts storm the ring, but are rebuffed by Dreamer and the Dudleys.
After the commercial break, Dreamer and the Dudleys take on Luke Harper, Erik Rowan and Braun Strowman in a six man tag match. The match ended in a no contest when all of the Wyatts refuse to leave the ring when it is not their turn to be in the match. The ECW guys get a beatdown that is unexpectedly spoiled when Bubba Ray suddenly gets up and puts Bray Wyatt through a table.
It’s really great to see Dreamer back in the WWE once again. The company has never really embraced Dreamer as a main eventer or star, but the fans have always loved him. I’m hoping the story continues because TLC is also coming up soon and it would be a shame to not see the Dudleys in a table match with the Wyatts.
The next match of the night is Alberto Del Rio vs. Goldust. Del Rio’s manager, Zeb Coulter, attempts to gain heat for his client pre-match by taunting the crowd for loving Twitter or something. The crowd doesn’t connect with Coulter’s sentiment at all and Del Rio is sent to the ring to a deafening silence. Del Rio wrestles an aggressive and exceptionally mean style that quickly gets some of his heat back. Both men are legit good wrestlers and they do a lot with a short match. Del Rio wins and flexes his pecks like a real douche. Del Rio is better at getting heat with his actions than he is with Zeb as his mouth piece. That pair is absolutely terrible together and they are going to bury each other if they stay together.
Jack Swagger comes down to save Goldust from a post-match beatdown. It’s weird to see Swagger as a hero because he is such a natural heel, but the audience seem to love him and his “We the People” catchphrase.
After that, Becky Lynch and Charlotte meet backstage and Charlotte agrees to give Becky a title match. Then, Ric Flair shows up to say “Woooo!”
The next match is the Usos vs. the Lucha Dragons for the #1 contender position with the New Day on commentary. The Usos and the Dragons are both amazing and the New Day does their best to ruin it by yelling, screaming, and mocking the art of commentary in general. Once the match really gets exciting, the New Day ruins it for real by attacking both teams. The guys in the New Day mistakenly think that this will mean that there will be no #1 contender, but both teams will surely be offered the match because this exact scenario has played out at least once a year for the past twenty five years.
Backstage, Stephanie McMahon offers the Lucha Dragons and the Usos the title match at TLC, but the Usos will not get the match if Roman loses tonight. That’ll teach those Usos to be cousins with Roman Reigns. They really screwed up when they became Roman’s cousins.
Next up, Brie Bella vs. Sasha Banks. The two woman have a really cool match. It’s cool to see Sasha Banks get to really be Sasha Banks on Raw and it was nice to see Brie do some Daniel Bryan style spots. Banks gets the win and gets to dance with her friends.
After a brief moment of encouragement from Ambrose and the Usos, Roman heads down to the ring for his match against Sheamus. The two have a cool little match with a unique ring psychology. Roman wants to win quick and Sheamus just has to beat not lose, so Roman goes for a bunch of quick pins and Sheamus just tries to do rest holds. When Sheamus looks like he is in trouble, Rusev attacks Roman mid-match. Roman wins via disqualification, but Sheamus keeps the title. It looks like Ambrose and the Usos get to keep their title matches as well.
After the match, Sheamus announces that he has formed a stable called “A League of Nations” with Wade Barrett, Alberto Del Rio,and Rusev. Finally, a heel stable that caters to people who hate all foreigners, no matter what country they may be from. The Usos and Ambrose come out to prevent Reigns from getting a beatdown from these new villains.
Next, Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch with Paige on commentary. Becky and Charlotte have a good match and Paige does a good job on commentary. The match ends when Charlotte feigns an injury and manages to steal the win from Becky. Ric Flair “Woos” ecstatically while Becky looks on confused. Charlotte smoothes things over with Becky after the match, but it looks like Charlotte is turning heel. Charlotte could be a great heel, but the division already has so many heels, so this decision seems strange.
After that, Adam Rose hosts an extremely low budget “TMZ” style segment where he roasts Rusev, Lana, and others from earlier in the night. It isn’t very good, but the audience laughs loudly for jokes about Dolph Ziggler being bisexual and Rusev being fat. Adam Rose’s facial hair and eyeliner make him tough to look at. This is the low point of the show so far.
Stardust cuts a backstage promo on a Christmas ornament and Titus O’Neil shames him for it.
The main event is Roman Reigns, The Usos, and Dean Ambrose vs. “A League of Nations” (Sheamus, King Barrett, Rusev, and Alberto Del Rio). But, wait! The New Day comes down just before the match starts and joins the League to make the main event 7 on 4. The WWE is really relying on heavily on the New Day to gain heat for almost every segment on this show. Jimmy Uso is injured mid-match and the match becomes 7 on 3. The match was a little slow and hard to connect with. It wasn’t a classic by any means and I don’t know if it will add anymore heat onto the League or the New Day or get more people to sympathize with Roman, but it is how Raw ended.
Overall the show was pretty good. It was a little slow, but at three hours, Raw is always slow. Those that watched got to see some good stuff. This period of time with Sheamus as champion is a weird one ad probably won’t be remembered fondly (or at all) but he is doing his best to get heat and be the champion that the company needs. He might not get over to the extent that the company needs right now, but it isn’t from lack of trying.
***Mark Henely is a stand up comedian, podcaster, and fan of wrestling and comic books. He went to Rutgers University where he officially studied English Literature and unofficially studied the New Monday Night War (that time when Impact and Raw were both on Monday night). Now he has a podcast where he reviews the first appearances of Comic Book characters. It is called “Introducing… The First Appearance Podcast” and you can check it out on iTunes and Stitcher. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/introducing…the-first-appearance/id993523477 If you listen to episode 29, you can hear Mark talk about wrestling when they reviewed WWE Superstars #1 by Mick Foley. You can also follow Mark on Twitter @MarkHenely***