Reviewing the Review – Monday Night Raw: January 12, 2015

Raw was back in New Orleans for the first time since the night after Wrestlemania last year, meaning the fans are going to be hot all night. The big story is the return of Daniel Bryan and how serious he seems to be about winning the Rumble and main eventing Wrestlemania again. The key thing is this gives us a new option other than Reigns for the top spot, which is far more interesting than just having the long choice. Let’s get to it.

To the shock of no one paying attention, we opened with a long promo between Cena and the Authority, talking about things that happened back at Survivor Series. Basically Cena thinks the Authority sucks (and he has a HASHTAG for it) and he’s going to win the WWE Title to get Ryback, Rowan and Ziggler their jobs back. See, he’s going to win the title and then leave, because that’s going to make the Authority miss him. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be a jab at Lesnar, but it came off as more of a stupid idea than anything else.

HHH and Stephanie came out and offered Cena a deal: the trio can have their jobs back if Cena can beat Rollins in a lumberjack match right now. So to recap, in the span of a month, Cena and Rollins have had a regular match, a tables match, a (really good) cage match and a lumberjack match.

In a logical world, that should be months and months of matches, not a single month. It shows how WWE feels desperate to keep people watching with quick fixes instead of setting this stuff up. As usual, I’ll point you to NXT. You know what you don’t see a lot of there? Gimmick matches. The gimmick matches, when they happen, are to blow off a feud. Neville fought Dallas in a ladder match and you see a few 2/3 falls matches in there. They let the regular stories build up to the gimmicks instead of just throwing them all out there at once, which makes them mean more.

In NXT, you hear the words “ladder match” and gasp because it’s something very rare and therefore special. In WWE you hear the words ladder match and roll your eyes because they have at least three a year between MITB and TLC. The same is true of cage matches, which happen WAY too often on Raw and with almost no build.

That’s another issue with the lumberjack match on Monday: they had all of five minutes’ notice. How are the fans that might want to see it supposed to know? Hope that they read Twitter? Is that really what you’re hoping for? It’s a bad idea and amazingly enough, it doesn’t seem to be anything successful.

As for the match itself, of course Rollins won with interference. It was entertaining enough and a good match, but I’m tired of seeing them fight. You know they’re just waiting on a reason to bring the trio back and I’d be shocked if they weren’t in the Rumble, making this entire storyline a waste of time. You know, like so many other things you see in WWE anymore, which is really getting old.

Due to their comments about the trio being fired on Smackdown, Stephanie punished the Usos by making Naomi wrestle with an arm tied behind her and Ambrose has to see a psychiatrist or he’s out of the Rumble. Simple idea, but the Naomi thing sounds destined to fall flat.

Dean’s evaluation was of course a comedy segment with him freaking out over the doctor’s clock, calling Stephanie a HO in a funny bit and switching roles with the doctor. Other than the Stephanie bit, there really wasn’t much to see in this and I really wish they had done something more with it. It’s a very good sign that Dean is still getting a focus, even though he was completely and totally buried by losing in pay per view main events right? That’s how it works no?

The New Day beat Kidd and Cesaro in an average match. I really like Kidd and Cesaro as a team, even though they see to be little more than jobbers at this point. Why are they jobbers you ask? It’s because that’s the role they were given when the team was put together and screw you if you think they should rise up the card, because that’s the role they’re given and nothing is going to change that. That seems to be the mentality in WWE way too often and unfortunately it rarely changes.

Big Show came out, talked about being an awesome giant and ran away from Reigns and his horrible scripted promos. They’ve been doing this FOREVER now and I really hope they blow this off at the Rumble instead of taking it all the way out to Fast Lane. As for Reigns’ promos, his delivery is fine but Steve Austin on his best day would have trouble getting over this horrible material.

Now the interesting part for Reigns came when he had a really entertaining match against Luke Harper. The key here though was Harper, who looked absolutely awesome. The stuff that he can do at his size is incredible and he looks like one of the best guys on the roster today. Why can’t he and Reigns be having a great feud and beat the tar out of each other for weeks on end? Instead we have Big Show because he was a big deal like, years ago. I really hope Harper gets a push in the future because he’s more than earned it at this point.

Mizdow reveals that he’s been filming Miz in his home, much to Miz’s chagrin. They need to split them eventually and this might work. As usual, I like that it’s something interesting and unique to the characters. It’s actual writing for the characters instead of writing for the story and putting the characters in. Those are two very, very different things. One is good and the other is what makes wrestling hard to sit through.

Alicia Fox beat Naomi in a dull match with Naomi’s arm tied behind her back. See, it’s Total Divas AND the Authority stories combined! HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY TOP THIS???

Lesnar and Heyman came out and said they’re awesome. This is basically a way to say Lesnar is coming for Rollins too. I really don’t care about Lesnar at this point because he’s been gone for so long and it’s ruined so much of the main event scene.

Miz beat Jey Uso to continue a feud that is long since over. Once the Naomi Goes Hollywood stuff went away, the feud died in a hurry.

Daniel Bryan and Stephanie (because she isn’t on this show enough) came out and did their usual thing. They really are just doing the same story over again….and I’m not sure how to feel about that. If Bryan wins again, it’s Bret Hart winning at Wrestlemania X. If Bryan doesn’t get there……I’m really interested to see where he goes from there. I’d be fine seeing him win though. Kane came out and got beaten up for his efforts, setting up their match on Smackdown.

Now we get to the part of the show I liked best. Rollins was in the back when Heyman and Lesnar came up to him. Lesnar simply threatened him and Rollins didn’t blink. Instead he looked Lesnar in the eye said he’s the future. Heyman was a key here as he sounded worried and offered an alliance to take out Cena. Seth stood there and the camera stayed on their faces the whole time for a great visual.

For the first time ever, I completely buy Rollins as a main event player, but the key here is he has the resume to back it up. Look back to Royal Rumble 2008 when Jeff Hardy was pushed against Randy Orton. That entire show was built around the idea that Hardy could win and it sold like nothing had in years.

However, at the end of the day, it was all hype because Hardy didn’t have the resume to be a believable World Champion. Now though, Rollins has both the resume and the skill to take the title at the Rumble and that little sliver of a chance makes the whole thing that much more interesting. This felt like a turning point and it couldn’t come at a better time.

Brie Bella beat Paige in a nothing match.

Bray Wyatt is in the Rumble and Randy Savage is in the Hall of Fame. Guess which one of these things gave me the biggest and most genuine smile I’ve had in wrestling in years.

Ascension destroyed more jobbers.

Rusev beat Ambrose via referee stoppage. Again, a loss due to an existing knee injury isn’t going to cripple Ambrose’s push and I continue to chuckle when people insist he’s being shoved down the card.

The Authority moderated a three way contract signing between Lesnar, Rollins and Cena. Again, Seth stood toe to toe with both of them and looked on their level. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that Rollins has this kind of star power already. I’ll give you two guesses how this went. Thankfully it was Seth standing tall.

Oh yeah we’re in Rumble season and it’s working just as it’s supposed to. Rollins being added to that title match has made the whole thing feel so much more interesting and fresh, which is exactly what it’s been missing. I’m not sure who is coming out of that match with the title but I really want to see where it goes. The same is true of the Rumble itself, as suddenly it’s gone from the Roman Reigns show to “can Bryan do it again?” Adding something to the mix makes things that much better.

On the other hand you have the midcard, where things are stagnant again. Big Show vs. Reigns, Usos vs. Miz/Mizdow, Mizdow going solo, Rusev beating up various people and winning or escaping every time and Total Divas in general have all felt like they’ve been going on for months and it’s really hard to care at this point. Hopefully things shake up in the Rumble and it couldn’t happen at a at a better time. This week was a good show, mainly because they’re adding stuff into the main event scene to freshen it up.

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