Monday Night Raw was in Pittsburgh, PA as the build to the TLC pay-per-view continued. The WWE Championship was on the line, a new stable was formed and the Dudley Boyz found a helping hand in their war with the Wyatt Family. It’s the Raw Report…
1. New Day Celebration
Confetti rained down from the ceiling as New Day opened the show. They prepared for a celebration, running down the Pittsburgh Steelers in the process by turning a towel bearing their colours into a sweat rag for Big E. The tag team champions then introduced the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, looking as dapper in a suit as a man with a beard that odd can. Sheamus cut a brilliantly arrogant promo about his path for the top and then thanked the man who made it all possible… not Triple H, but Roman Reigns. New Day were delightfully sycophantic towards the new champ and Sheamus delivered a heat magnet reference to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s famous “Austin 3:16” speech, but the segment still seemed to go on forever. In this case, the bloat was not the fault of any of the performers, but of WWE’s philosophy on show-opening segments. As Sheamus celebrated to thunderous pyros, Reigns arrived through the crowd to lay out the champ leave with the WWE Title.
Reigns was shown holding the title and joking backstage with Dean Ambrose and The Usos. He was confronted by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who forced him to reluctantly hand over the belt. Reigns opted to hand it to McMahon instead of Triple H, furthering his bubbling issues with the boss. Triple H said that he had just spoken to Sheamus, who wanted to defend his title against Reigns on Raw rather than waiting until TLC. The only stipulation would be that Reigns had to win the belt in a shorter time than his own brief title reigns – five minutes and 15 seconds.
2. Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler
After emerging victorious against the Show-Off at Survivor Series, Tyler Breeze battled Ziggler in a rematch on Raw. This was a technical clinic in the early stage, giving way to a story in which the two men countered the other’s similar offensive moves. Ziggler was somewhat inconsistent in selling an injured shoulder and Breeze ruthlessly beat down the Show-Off. Some close near-falls gave way to a final sequence in which Ziggler was able to catch Breeze with a superkick for the pinfall win. Given Breeze’s win at Survivor Series, this was predictable 50/50 booking rescued only by two great performers putting on a very solid match. Ziggler was a strong choice for Breeze’s first main roster opponent, but Prince Pretty must emerge as the decisive victor when the two part company.
3. MizTV with Rusev and Lana
Rusev appeared on MizTV and discussed his time off, thanking Lana for helping to nurse him back to health. He introduced his fiancee, making her return to WWE television. Rusev did an excellent job of reacting to the crowd, who woke up briefly to chant “USA” at the Bulgarian Brute. Perhaps unwisely, Miz referenced the bizarre storytelling from earlier in the year before asking what brought the couple back together. Lana spoke about how Rusev’s proposal snapped her out of her previous state and the two engaged in an awkwardly lengthy public display of their affection. Ryback made an appearance and goaded Rusev before their scheduled match. What happened to Rusev’s intriguing alliance with the Authority from last week? The Bulgarian Brute deserves to be at the top of the card, not languishing in nothing segments like this.
4. Ryback vs. Rusev
This was a brief match between the two big men, which ended when Ryback drove Rusev into the steel steps and the moving metal caught Lana in the leg. Rusev noticed the injury to his fiancee and allowed himself to be counted out as he tended to her. This was baffling booking because it made the babyface Ryback look like an awful human for showing no remorse at hurting Lana and it created sympathy for the heel Rusev, who rushed to protect his partner. It seems the Rusev character will continue to be a victim of WWE Creative’s worst stupidity.
Dean Ambrose was called to Triple H’s office. The boss congratulated Ambrose on securing an Intercontinental Championship match with his win on SmackDown, but stated that the title shot would also be on the line in the main event. If Roman didn’t win, Ambrose would lose his title shot. This was a welcome return to the Authority’s manipulative side after a year of trying to sabotage their own champion.
5. The Dudleys Speak
In the land of ECW, the Dudley Boyz cut a promo in a ring full of tables. Bubba Ray addressed the recent actions of the Wyatt Family towards the Dudleys, stating that their mistake was not finishing them off. The Dudleys revealed tables bearing the names of each Wyatt Family member and encouraged the family to get down to the ring for a fight. The Wyatts obliged, bringing their imposing frames down to the ramp. They stated that they accepted the challenge set down by the Dudleys, but then the lights went out and Bray Wyatt’s minions stood at the side of the ring. The Dudleys, unconcerned, announced that their family would even the odds too… welcoming ECW favourite Tommy Dreamer and his trash can full of weapons. The ECW men forced the Wyatts back with kendo sticks, kicking off an impromptu six-man match. This was a great segment, but why not save the match for pay-per-view?
6. The Dudley Boyz and Tommy Dreamer vs. The Wyatt Family (Braun Strowman, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan)
After a brief battle between the two teams, in which Tommy Dreamer took a hell of a beating, all six men poured into the ring and the referee threw out the match. Soon, the Wyatts imposed their will and took out all three members of the ECW alliance. Strowman lifted a table into the ring as Wyatt mocked the Dudleys’ catchphrase. Out of nowhere, Bubba Ray popped up and knocked Wyatt off the apron, through a ringside table. This is an interesting feud, but WWE needs to be a little more patient in order to not over-expose the rivalry and make fans want to see this match on pay-per-view.
7. Alberto Del Rio vs. Goldust
Zeb Colter cut one of his usual dull promos about “hate” prior to the match. Del Rio grabbed a mic and slid into the ring, calling Goldust “out of date”. The veteran immediately smacked the US Champion in the mouth and the match got going. This followed the pattern of recent Del Rio matches, with a brief, slow-paced contest ending after the double foot stomp in the corner. This sort of booking is never going to get Del Rio over as a top heel in the current WWE. Del Rio locked the cross armbreaker on Goldust after the match, which brought Jack Swagger down to the ring to make the save, chasing the Mexican star out of the ring.
Becky Lynch caught up with Charlotte backstage. She suggested asking the Authority if the two of them could have a non-title match to remind them of their glory days in NXT and help them forget about the ongoing chaos with Paige. Charlotte accepted on the proviso that her father could accompany her to ringside.
8. Number One Contender Match: Lucha Dragons vs. The Usos
New Day were on commentary for this match and encouraged the announce team to put their unicorn horns up. They repeatedly took shots at Michael Cole and opted to call the action themselves. That action was fast-paced and high-flying, which made it rather sad when New Day opted to cause a double disqualification, leaving them without number one contenders for TLC. This was an innovative way to build to the triple threat match rather than the usual tag division strategy of simply announcing the match whilst hoping no one notices the lazy booking.
Both The Usos and Lucha Dragons bickered with Stephanie McMahon backstage and she booked a triple threat match for the Tag Team Championship at TLC. McMahon added the proviso that the Usos would only be involved if their cousin Roman Reigns could win the WWE Title later in the show, adding yet more fuel to the main event fire.
9. Brie Bella vs. Sasha Banks
In a match set up by a Twitter spat, the immensely popular Sasha Banks took on Brie Bella. Banks repeatedly paused to mock both Brie and her injured twin. Alicia Fox hopped up on the apron, but was immediately thrown into a superkick from Tamina and escorted to the back. Brie fought a babyface style in this match, despite the fact that Banks was clearly the more popular performer in the match. The numbers game caught up with Brie as she surged into her comeback, allowing Banks to lock in the Bank Statement for the submission win. It’s always great to see Banks in the ring, but she needs to make a play for the Divas Championship soon rather than languishing without creative direction.
Dean Ambrose and The Usos caught up with Roman Reigns in the backstage area, revving their friend up before his championship match.
10. WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus (c) vs. Roman Reigns
The story told here was of Roman Reigns, desperate to beat the clock, going for rapid pinfall attempts on the champion Sheamus. He made mistakes, though, allowing the Celtic Warrior to slow the pace and run down the clock. Reigns, however, had Sheamus in position for the spear with almost a minute left to run. Rusev arrived, though, and pulled Reigns out of the ring. On the other side, King Barrett and Alberto Del Rio freed Sheamus from his predicament. The match was thrown out and Sheamus introduced the WWE Universe to his new friends – an alliance of international performers known as the League of Nations. Ambrose and the Usos made the save on Reigns’ behalf, but it was the heels who left happy with the title in their hands. This is an intriguing development on the road to TLC and should really help the guys in the stable to get over as heel performers. On the other side of the coin, though, the finish was a cheap way of swerving the stipulations that were set up to add stakes to the title match.
11. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch
Ric Flair got a massive pop as he accompanied Charlotte to the ring. Charlotte and Lynch, with sportsmanship in mind, put together a technically proficient contest in the early stages. The champion countered an irish whip in the corner and seemingly jarred her ankle on the landing. A concerned Lynch turned to Ric Flair to check on his daughter, but Charlotte kipped up behind Lynch in a vintage Flair move and rolled up her friend for the sneaky win. This was an interesting development in the women’s division and seemed to prove Paige right in her recent comments about Charlotte.
Backstage, Lynch quizzed Charlotte about what happened in their match. Charlotte described her actions as “tough love” to help Lynch step up on the main roster and shed the NXT mentality. Paige then popped in to stir the pot just a little more. If this is going to lead to a push for Lynch, then it’s something that is definitely worth getting behind.
Adam Rose debuted a new character in a gossip package discussing the romantic issues involving Rusev, Lana and seemingly half of the WWE roster. It was nice to see Adam Rose on television and this could be a nice way to get him a little more exposure.
Stardust railed against Christmas in his little backstage promo room. Instead of The Ascension, he was joined by Titus O’Neil, who defended the joys of the festive season. This was incredibly bizarre.
12. Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and The Usos vs. The League of Nations
As the two teams faced off at the start of this match, New Day arrived and announced that they were joining the League of Nations to make a seven on four handicap match. The numbers game repeatedly helped the heel team, with any brief babyface advantage brought to an end by well-timed interference from the villains. Midway through the match, Jimmy Uso landed awkwardly, injuring his knee to the degree that he had to be helped to the back by officials. This was a fun, chaotic tag match helped by the sheer amount of cumulative talent in the ring. Dean Ambrose exploded into the match with a tonne of babyface fire as things broke down, but a sudden Brogue Kick from Sheamus to the Lunatic Fringe put an end to the hopes of Reigns and friends. This was solid booking all round and a fun main event match.
This was a chaotic episode of Raw that covered a lot of storytelling ground on the path to the TLC pay-per-view event. It didn’t always hold together perfectly, but the in-ring action was fun and the prospect of a star-studded stable behind Sheamus immediately makes him a more compelling champion. For the first time since Seth Rollins went down with his knee injury, the future looks bright for WWE.
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about David Cameron.