Earlier this week, I was listening to one of my favorite wrestling podcasts in the car, which is known as “Going In Raw”, and as Steve and Larson were previewing this week’s edition of Monday Night Raw, it seemed obvious to them that Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose would be winning back the Raw tag team titles in Los Angeles. There logic was sound, as Roman Reigns had won the Intercontinental title a few weeks prior, and the creative team seemed to be going in the The Shield Wins All The Titles direction on the Road To WrestleMania. With Reigns likely to not get pinned before his Universal title match against Brock Lesnar, ending next year’s granddaddy of them all with the visual of The Shield carrying all the titles makes sense. (It may also be the only way the show doesn’t end on a dud.)
That’s not what happened last night.
Instead, The Bar survived in what was a wild finish that included not only Rollins and Ambrose but Reigns and Samoa Joe as well. The Shield can’t seem to shake heel trios -- last week it was Elias and The Miztourage, this week it was Joe and The Bar. At one point, Raw general manager Kurt Angle came out and restarted the match after Sheamus intentionally got himself disqualified after ten-plus minutes of in-ring action. (Logically, this didn't make a lot of sense.) Chaos ensued, similar to the way The New Day cost Rollins and Ambrose before Survivor Series to close out an episode of Raw, as The Bar escaped with the tag team titles in stunning fashion.
Still, it was surreal to see just how invested the crowd was in a feud that I’d previously thought hadn’t had any meat left on the bone for months. The near falls were electric, the match reset idea clicked, and the show ended with Joe, Cesaro and Sheamus celebrating in the crowd just like we all predicted.
Without further ado, let’s dive into some of the smaller things that caught my attention this week:
- I’m very much over Authority Figure Opens The Show routine on both shows, but this week was an exception. Jason Jordan attacking Reigns from behind was the right call, and the creative team has clearly changed gears with his character that’s now registering real heat with the crowd. The kid just needs a mouthpiece. What’s Wade Barrett up to?
- The Reigns and John Cena comparisons, for the most part, have never really coincided with reality -- just read Triple H’s quotes about the Big Dog he gave to The National this week -- but what does seem to be happening that was also true for Cena is elevating other talent by just feuding with the WWE’s top guy. By attacking Reigns, by staring bullets from the top of the ramp during his match with Jordan, by costing his brothers the tag team titles it made Joe look not only really cool, but, perhaps more importantly, made him look important. Elias seemed to still be glowing from his match with Reigns last week on Raw. Joe isn’t winning this feud with Reigns, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t helping him.
- Absolution is working, and it certainly looks like the crowd is definitely here for a Paige vs. Asuka pay-per-view match down the road, but tonight’s match that pitted Sasha Banks against Mandy Rose and Sonya Daville’s leader didn’t work. In a lot of ways, this match came off the same way Dolph Ziggler matches against Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura unfolded. The same sort of problems reappeared: far too long, too many rest holds, and an ending everyone expected. Banks and Ziggler have a lot in common right now.
- “Woken” Matt Hardy is here and the company isn’t wasting any time introducing the WWE audience to Hardy’s new persona. In a week’s time, his personality has drastically changed, his attire, his accent, just about everything about the nostalgia act that was the Hardy Boyz is gone. It was a risky play by WWE’s creative team to not slowly introduce fans to this niche character, but it looks as though Vince and company hit 21. While fans, myself included, groaned and grew droopy-eyed as Bray Wyatt spouted more nonsense and incoherent dribble, the Woken One flashed on the screen in delightful fashion. Wrestling fans’ appetite for this character’s return hasn’t subsided, and they’re going to get it in full for a while.
From The Digital Notepad:
“I have been woken.”
I think more people watched the Broken Matt Hardy Impact Wrestling shows than NXT.
Where does Alexa Bliss come into focus?
Nia Jax and Enzo is going to deliver some very memorable segments.
Can Alicia Fox finally get new theme music?
I don’t love Drew Gulak vs. Rich Swann next week.
That Mustafa Ali springboard spanish fly was nuts.
“Oh God.” - Kurt Angle to Elias.
Booker T and Corey Graves is never going to work.
Jason Jordan is three years younger than Roman Reigns.
I miss The Miz.