The Barclays Center in Brooklyn played host to the final Raw of 2015, headlined by the return of WWE’s biggest star: John Cena, seeking revenge against Alberto Del Rio. Vince McMahon was also in the building, with WWE Champion Roman Reigns in his crosshairs. It’s the Raw Report…
Vince McMahon opened the show, almost immediately calling out Roman Reigns in a fit of rage. Incensed over his attack at the hands of Reigns a few weeks ago on Raw, McMahon said he owned Reigns, but the champion bit back that the company actually belongs to the fans. Irritatingly, the Brooklyn crowd decided to fire off a barrage of chants for Daniel Bryan and CM Punk. Stephanie McMahon turned up with a group of NYPD cops, who refused to arrest Reigns. Vince, enraged, grabbed one of the officers and was duly led out of the building in handcuffs. This was an odd segment that, like almost all Raw openings, dragged on for far too long. Once again, WWE is trying to force fans to sympathise with a babyface who is on top almost all of the time.
1. Kevin Owens vs. Neville
A recap video showed what drove Neville to win the Slammy Award for Breakout Star. It was that Slammy that sparked this match, with Owens aggressively targeting the Brit from the moment the bell rang. Neville was able to use this rage against Owens, rolling him up with a hurricanrana after less than a minute of action. Owens immediately fought back, brutalising Neville to the point that he had to be helped to his feet by doctors. After the break, KO moved to continue his assault, but Dean Ambrose made the save and fought Owens to the back. It was a shame to see this match run so short, but the post-bell fight did its job in advancing the notion of Owens as a violent, rage-fuelled monster.
JoJo interviewed Becky Lynch ahead of her bout with Sasha Banks. Lynch vowed that, with Charlotte absent from Raw, she would finally prove that she can win on her own. The development of Lynch as a character continues to be one of the more compelling aspects of the women’s division.
2. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks cut a promo on her way to the ring, running down Becky Lynch and the Brooklyn fans, playing up her Boston roots. The Boss and The Lass Kicker wrestled a decent technical match, similar to their standout war at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable. Team BAD repeatedly attempted to make their presence felt, but Lynch fought a plucky match in order to minimise their influence. In a great final sequence, Team BAD interference allowed Banks to go for the Bank Statement, but Lynch rolled through into the Disarmer, only to fall victim to a roll-up with a healthy handful of tights. This was a solid women’s match with intriguing psychology that did a stellar job of furthering Lynch’s storyline, whilst giving Banks another valuable win.
Renee Young was shown outside the police station where Vince McMahon was being held. They showed his mugshot, which was perhaps the most terrifying thing ever committed to television… seriously.
3. Kalisto vs. Kofi Kingston
On paper, this was an intriguing battle of WWE’s best high-flyers. It was never given the time to work in practice, though, with a hurricanrana roll-up from Kalisto giving the lucha star the victory in short order. Sin Cara had leaped onto the two other members of New Day at ringside, preventing them from interfering in favour of their teammmate. Xavier Woods verbally berated Sin Cara after the match and teased challenging him to a match, but ultimately volunteered Big E to square off against Kalisto’s partner.
4. Big E vs. Sin Cara
Sin Cara and Big E worked a hard-hitting clash of styles, with Big E’s power countering the aerial ability of the masked competitor. Credit must go to Sin Cara for working the second half of the match with what would later turn out to be a dislocated shoulder following a hard landing on the floor. Big E eventually picked up the win following the Big Ending, leaving the odds even between these two teams going into the New Year.
5. MizTV with almost the entire undercard
Miz started talking about reviewing the year, but was interrupted by the arrival of Ryback, who promised to make 2016 the year of The Big Guy. The next few minutes were a bizarre procession of jobbers, with Goldust, Zack Ryder, R-Truth and Heath Slater either slating Miz or talking themselves up. The ring eventually resembled a graveyard of wasted talent. Soon after Slater made his rare appearance, a returning Big Show wandered slowly to the ring. A string of KO Punches and chokeslams left Show alone with Ryback, who was also dispatched after a very brief staredown. Show laughed off the “please retire” chants from the Brooklyn faithful, before announcing that he would be the number one entrant in the upcoming Royal Rumble match. Because that’s the sort of news everyone was just clamouring to hear…
6. Big Show vs. Ryback
This was an utterly miserable five minutes of television, featuring two performers who should probably never share a ring. The action was slow and plodding, despite Ryback’s continuing attempts to incorporate an array of high-flying moves into his arsenal. Bizarrely given the dominance he had showed only minutes earlier, Big Show opted to allow himself to be counted out, bringing the match to a disappointing end.
7. The Usos and Dean Ambrose vs. League of Nations (Sheamus, Rusev and King Barrett)
This was yet another of WWE’s trademark meaningless tag team matches, marred by the fact that King Barrett was clearly still injured and therefore never took a bump of any kind. The action moved fairly slowly, only lighting up when Ambrose entered the contest. After things broke down, Jey Uso caught a Brogue Kick from Sheamus, allowing the heels to emerge victorious. Kevin Owens rushed out after the bell, assaulting his Intercontinental Title rival Ambrose, culminating in a vicious powerbomb through the announce table. The match itself was a disappointment here, but the post-match antics with Owens were very impressive indeed.
Renee Young was once again shown outside the police station, where Vince McMahon was released after making bail. Young tried to interview the Chairman, but got short shrift from the angry businessman.
8. United States Championship: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. John Cena
A surprisingly positive ovation greeted John Cena as he returned to Raw for the first time since dropping the US Title to Alberto Del Rio at Hell in a Cell. He criticised Del Rio for how rarely he has defended the title, in contrast to Cena’s open challenges. The champion emerged, flanked by his League of Nations buddies, and said that he was simply picking and choosing a time prestigious enough for his title to be on the line. Cena goaded the champion until he reluctantly agreed to put his belt up for grabs.
Cena and Del Rio battled in an engaging match that was a cut above their slightly too brief pay-per-view clash. The challenger showed some ring rust, peppered by brutal kicks from the champion. A referee bump eventually let the League of Nations make their presence felt, but Cena fought his way clear of the numbers advantage. Some terrific nearfalls followed, with Cena eventually landing the AA. The League rushed in to break up the pinfall, bringing the match to a disqualification finish.
The League of Nations tried to beat down Cena, but The Usos turned up. The action turned back in favour of the League, but Roman Reigns arrived and silenced the team of heels. As Reigns stood tall, Vince McMahon appeared on the stage. He announced Reigns vs. Sheamus for next week’s Raw, with the title on the line and McMahon himself as the special referee. This was a great main event match and an intriguing post-match segment that gives fans a reason to tune in to the first show of 2016.
This was a distinctly variable episode of Raw. Aided by Cena’s return, the main event was an excellent bit of television, but the rest of the show never reached that level of entertainment. Odd booking and a lack of star power due to a clashing house show lead to this being a programme that trod water rather than boasting story progression.
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about David Cameron.