Monday, March 6, 2017
As usual, the cruiserweights got the Kickoff show treatment. The main focus here was the rivalry between Kendrick and Tozawa. Tozawa took an early heat before tagging Swann. That just led to a heat segment on Swann and Tozawa getting the true hot tag. The crowd reacts to him, which gives him a leg up on most cruiserweights. After some dives, Swann hit a superkick and Tozawa took out Kendrick with the snap German. A Phoenix splash on Dar ended things. This was a fine tag match and something I’d expect to see on 205 Live. It was every other cruiserweight tag in that it was solid fun but wildly unspectacular.
Starting the main show was the most interesting match on the card. They had two great matches in NXT last year but this wasn’t meant to be that. This was here to establish Joe as a serious threat and it accomplished the goal. He dominated from the start and Sami is the best at playing the sympathetic babyface role. Sami got in the hope spots he needed to, like the blue thunder bomb, but the outcome was never in doubt. Joe avoided the Helluva kick with an STJoe and won with the Coquina Clutch. Mostly one-sided but it did what it had to.
Originally, this is where I cut the show off. The card was that uninteresting to me. I only went back to watch the matches for the sake of doing a review.
The challengers sent the champions packing early and Cass tossed Enzo onto them. One issue about Enzo and Cass matches is that Enzo always has to take the heat, which can get repetitive. I know other teams have been in a similar situation but for some reason I don’t love it with them. After a few hope spots were cut off, Enzo made the tag and Cass did his thing. They hit a weak rocket launcher but Gallows broke up the pin. The Boot of Doom finished Enzo and his foot was knocked off the rope. Standard tag stuff. Anderson and Gallows have been largely average at best in their WWE run. This was another in a string of ho-hum matches.
Their match at the Royal Rumble told the right story, but that didn’t stop it from being boring. This got more time but Sasha wasn’t hobbled by a knee injury and could do more. They played the size disadvantage situation you’d expect from these two. Sasha brought fire but Nia would just shove her back and destroy her. Nia tossed her around the ring and, like Samoa Joe earlier, dominated this. Sasha found some openings and hit a tornado DDT into the Bank Statement. Nia powered out with a spinebuster but Sasha countered a Samoan drop into a rollup to steal it. Better than the Rumble outing though the finish was kind of clear with how the match was laid out. The crowd being invested helped.
This wasn’t announced beforehand. Mahal and Rusev wanted to prove themselves as singles guys so Foley told them to go out there. They argued and brawled over how got to compete first, with Mahal getting the chance. I have no clue why they brought Mahal back. He’s just as bland and boring as before, except he now looks like he’s trying to get to Scott Steiner levels of steroid use. For the first time in forever, I was completely bored during a Cesaro match. That shouldn’t be possible. Cesaro won with a big uppercut. This was just not good.
Big Show came out to face Rusev. They had a surprisingly decent match back in 2014. For some reason, this was given a lot of time. Rusev had a wise game plan, working the knee to cut Show down to size. Show ignored it at times and got his stuff in. Rusev clipped the knee and hit some superkicks for two. Show escaped the Accolade, hit three chokeslams and the WMD to win. Why? Show shouldn’t be going over guys like Rusev at this point. Rusev is consistently one of the best things on Raw and he gets treated like crap.
Along with Joe/Zayn, this was the most interesting thing on the card. Neville tried to get in Gallagher’s head but Jack turned the tables. His corner headstand seemed to bother Neville. The champ did take control, making sure to stop, gloat and talk smack in between his work. Part of Gallagher’s rally saw him use Neville’s superplex for a near fall. He took a nasty bump on a German but kicked out of Neville’s middle rope Phoenix splash. By the way, Neville doing that kills Swann’s version earlier. Gallagher hit headbutts for a near fall. They sounded brutal. He fought off a superplex with some headbutts. Neville looked out of it but sent him to the mat. He reached deep into his bag of tricks and won with the Red Arrow, which he hasn’t used in months. Easily the best thing on the show. A lot of cruiserweight matches don’t stand out because they’re similar to everything else. Here, this was different from the rest of the card and that helped. There was a great intensity and it was one of the best Cruiserweight Title matches so far.
Braun did Braun things. He threw Roman around like he was nothing. You know, between Braun, Joe and Nia (not to mention guys like Show and Rusev), there are a lot of big brutes on Raw. This suffered from a similar fate to previous matches on the show. The first two-thirds or so were largely uninteresting. It wasn’t until the home stretch where things picked up. After Braun had control for most of the match, they started trading big blows and Braun survived some of Roman’s best shots. He kicked out of a spear and survived multiple Superman punches. Of course, he missed a splash and took the loss. With Roman set for the Undertaker, you knew he’d win here. This went too long. Braun has been good lately but he’s not ready to work 15+ minutes and Roman’s good, but not at a level where he can carry this. I feel like they had good ideas but I was disappointed overall.
So, I’ll rant a bit here but I want to touch on the match itself quickly. Charlotte came out with Dana Brooke but sent her back so it could be one on one. That was a great idea if the match stayed that way. This was similar to their Rumble match. It felt like they were going through the motions a bit. Like, I’ve seen them do better. It came across like they were just killing time to get to the run-in stuff near the end. They had several awkward spots where Bayley tried getting in her corner elbow. As Charlotte went for a moonsault outside, Sasha ran down. They brawled, which somehow didn’t cause a DQ. Charlotte took care of her and got hit with a Bayley to Belly outside. She tried a rollup with a handful of tights but Sasha showed the referee. Another Bayley to Belly ended things. What a shit finish. They built up Charlotte’s PPV streak (at the expense of any Sasha Banks momentum by the way) and should have made it ending a big deal. Instead, it ends on a fart because the faces basically screwed her here. Also, they’ve badly mishandled Bayley. This whole angle is falling flat and I’d much rather we get a straight babyface (with none of this cheating nonsense) Bayley against a heel Sasha at Mania. The match was blah. for the match, for the booking.
Yea, I knew this was gonna happen but it still sucks. Owens stalled outside after the bell rang, but then Michael Cole said it never did. Goldberg looked blown up from his entrance. Owens finally got ready to compete and Chris Jericho came out. The bell rang and the distraction led to the spear and jackhammer. Goldberg wins, we get a shitty Goldberg/Lesnar III match for the title and everything sucked.
I’d like to point out that since the brand split, I’ve given seven Smackdown PPV matches at least ****. (Miz/Ziggler at Backlash and No Mercy, Dean/AJ at Backlash and TLC, Dean/Cena/AJ from No Mercy, AJ/Cena at the Rumble and the Elimination Chamber match).
In that span, I’ve given zero **** ratings to anything Raw has produced.
Overall: This was easily the worst WWE PPV in quite some time. Right up there with TLC 2014 as the worst of the Network era. A lot of the show felt hollow. I know the last PPV before WrestleMania tends to lack but this truly felt like a bunch of people killing time until the big event. Joe/Zayn was smartly booked and Neville/Gallagher stole the show. The rest of the show is an easy pass thanks to mediocre performance, horrible booking or a combination of both.