Monday, December 19, 2016
I missed this show live to go see Rogue One with my family. After hearing reports about it when I got home, I seem to have made the right choice. I originally wasn’t going to watch the show but for continuity’s sake (I haven’t missed a PPV since 2013), I decided to review it. On the Kickoff show, Rusev beat Big Cass by countout in 4:31 in a match that did nothing for either guy. All it did was set up a rematch for Raw. I hate when PPVs do that. Also, Rusev tricking Cass into a countout just didn’t feel in line with his character. Blah.
Like Nikki Bella in 2015, New Day broke a record for longest reign as champions and immediately dropped the titles in their next defense. These guys produced the match I’ve been waiting for them to deliver. Cesaro continued to run wild and just excels in tag teams. Seriously, he’s at his best in this environment. Everyone else produced too, with Big E and Sheamus bringing brute force, Kofi bumping around and even Woods being entertaining on the sidelines. I love that they got just shy of ten minutes because it meant there was no slow down. They went as hard as they could for the time and it clicked. Sheamus was sneaky in the end and rolled up Kofi to end the historic reign. These teams have great chemistry and it all came together here. Someone was finally crafty enough to beat New Day, who gracefully handed the titles to Cesaro and embraced, while Sheamus snatched them and celebrated.
Since the draft, Braun Strowman has been a pleasant source of entertainment on Raw, while Sami Zayn is always great. Nobody takes a better beating than Sami, so Braun throwing him around for the first half of this match was fine. It was the back half where this shined. Mick Foley came out and teased throwing in the towel in the same town where Undertaker nearly killed him back in 1998. Foley’s interactions with both Strowman and Zayn were great. Sami’s final stand in the closing minutes was the highlight. Braun did the overdone broken guardrail spot and just as time expired, Sami hit the Helluva Kick. The best Braun performance to date. I think they have something better in them because Braun is improving and is a good monster while Sami is the best underdog babyface around. Good storytelling.
Before the PPV, I noted that this was the perfect stopgap program for Seth Rollins. After the lengthy Owens feud and before the Rumble and HHH Mania build, he and Jericho makes a lot of sense. For the most part, the match was standard. Rollins hit the high spots for the crowd and Jericho nailed the classic heel tactics like raking the eyes or using the official for over. It was fine but didn’t grab me. Jericho’s current run has been magnificent in terms of character work but his matches mostly leave something to be desired (though he’s been awesome in multi-man matches). Kevin Owens showed up but got sent away after an argument with Jericho. Rollins countered the Codebreaker into the Pedigree to win. It felt like a first or second hour main event on Raw rather than a PPV match.
Austin Aries joined commentary for this and just seeing him on an official WWE PPV was cool. Swann being called “outlandish” for no real reason is lame. This suffered from the same issues that other Cruiserweight Title matches have. The action isn’t bad but the crowd doesn’t care and something was just missing. They tried hard and had some cool spots that involved all three men set up. There were a few slip ups throughout that didn’t help either. Swann retained after a kick and I came away disappointed.
The crowd finally popped when Neville’s theme played and “The Man That Gravity Forgot” made his return to TV for the first time in months. It looked like he would congratulate Swann but instead attacked him. Perkins tried to make the save but also got his ass kicked. The fans chanted “thank you Neville”. A heel Neville is an interesting change, but just adding him to the division is great.
It is the feud that never ends. It goes on and on my friends. Ironman matches can be hard to properly complete. Sasha and Bayley nailed it last year having a top three Ironman match ever in my opinion. This wasn’t that. With around eleven minutes left, Charlotte got the first fall and Sasha tied it shortly after. Sasha took a 2-1 lead but Charlotte sent it into OT after making Sasha tap with two seconds left. Whoever laid that out is an idiot. Your babyface should the one to overcome the odds and make the comeback. Even if she’s going to lose in the end, if she blows the lead by tapping at the buzzer and then loses the match, she looks like a total chump. Charlotte, the hated heel, not only made the big comeback, but then won in OT. Sasha bled a fair amount from the mouth and tapped to the figure eight again, moving Charlotte to 15-0 in PPV singles matches in 2016. They better have meant it when they said this was the end of the feud. Can we just anyone else in the title program? Bayley? Emma? Nia? Please? I didn’t need these two to go 30+ minutes when their rivalry has already gone on far too long. My least favorite match of theirs ever. The trading of the title and Raw women’s division in general, is a joke.
Kevin Owens as the top champion on a brand could be special. Instead, it has been beyond lackluster on Raw. He’s looked far beneath his challengers during the builds and the matches have been disappointing (though the HIAC and FCA matches with Rollins were good). The crowd was mostly dead for this, which I think was partially because the build has been shit and partially because they just watched a 35-minute match. There are times when a match goes for a while and it feels like they’re just killing time. That was this. It was a twenty minute match that felt like a forty minute one. You just knew that Chris Jericho had to get involved, so there was no suspense before that. Once he did show up, he hit Owens with the Codebreaker, resulting in the DQ. Bland stuff here. It felt like a house show match with a Raw finish.
Post-match, Jericho gave the title to Owens and they celebrated. You see, it was all a set up. Swerve, bro. Seth Rollins ran out because the heels aren’t allowed to ever look strong or come out on top. He and Reigns Shield powerbombed both Owens and Jericho through the announce tables.
Overall: Coming into this show, Fastlane and Clash of Champions were my picks for worst WWE Pay-Per-View of 2016. This took that dubious honor. The Kickoff match was bad, but the show started off rather well. The Tag Title match ruled, Braun/Sami told a good story and Rollins/Jericho was solid. The show fell hard after that. The Cruiserweight Title match was decent at best and the booking of the final two bouts were what we’ve come to expect from Raw. The Ironman match didn’t make sense and the main event felt like a waste of time. The best thing about the show was the Tag Title match and Neville’s return.