Monday Night Raw Review for 5/25/15
The Opening Segment
This Raw, like most others, started off with the whole of the Authority making their way to the ring, with Seth Rollins playing into his well-established arrogant and pretentious heel persona. He does well enough for the most part, only seeming slightly off with one or two verbal flubs here and there before
Dean Ambrose comes out, much to the thrill of the Long Island crowd. Ambrose works the mic near perfectly, declaring his intent on becoming WWE World Heavyweight Championship in between ripping on J&J security and Kane, calling them Hobbits and a lapdog respectively.
The only thing that was perhaps slightly cringe-worthy might have been Ambrose’s comparison of Seth Rollins to Justin Bieber. It prompted chanting from the crowd, and an odd acknowledgement of it from Seth, but once that particular reference was out of everyone’s system, things got better again.
Cue Roman Reigns coming out, and subsequently cue Stephanie McMahon announcing the night’s opening tag team match.
Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins & Kane
All three members of the Shield face off in a match. Along with Kane. Oh, and J&J security is at ringside to provide the obligatory cheap shot or two.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins somehow always seem to make magic when they’re in the ring together, with their back and forth being the most exciting aspect of the bout. Everyone gets their moment though, with Reigns showing off his strength, Kane reminding everyone how deadly he can be in spite of his relative old age, and Rollins getting his fair share of licks in. In the end, however, Ambrose puts Rollins in a backslide pin to get the win, looking the best he possibly could before going into his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Elimination Chamber.
It's worth noting that shortly after the match viewers got to enjoy a video package of one of best superstars in the WWE today, NXT champion Kevin Owens. It’s good to see the WWE reminding the fans of who he is and what he did to Cena, making sure to build interest in what’s sure to be the most exciting match on the Elimination Chamber card.
Rusev vs R-Truth
Before his match, a clip of Rusev breaking up with Lana, along with the ensuing aftermath involving Dolph Ziggler, is shown. R-Truth comes out and the match gets started, with things, surprisingly, becoming rather lively at the start. It doesn’t look like a simple squash match until Rusev locks Truth in the Accolade and he taps out in about a millisecond. Rusev ask Lana to come out and she does (to her own, new, fancy babyface music no less).
Despite the soap-opera like melodrama, it’s surprisingly effective. What sympathy a fan might feel for Rusev’s begging is undercut by his obsession and contempt for America and his condescending suggestion that Lana admit she was wrong. Going full on sexist, he tells Lana he owns her, allowing Lana to retort that she belongs to no one before going off on the Bulgarian brute and walking out into the arms of Dolph Ziggler for a kiss.
Ryback vs King Barret
Ryback comes with his ribs covered in bandages, a nod to his wounds suffered at the hands of Bray Wyatt during the Payback pay-per-view. Ryback takes control early for a few moments, getting his “Feed Me More” chant started with the crowd, until King Barrett targets Ryback’s ribs to gain some momentum. Barrett uses the wasteland on Ryback, but The Big Guy kicks out, eventually dropping Barret with the shell shock to get the pin. He eyes the vacant intercontinental championship for a moment, subtly hyping the PPV.
The Cast of Entourage Segment
As Stephanie and Triple H laugh about getting Dean Ambrose arrested, the guys from Entourage come backstage to trade some clearly pre-written words with the two. They push the movie real transparently and real quick, making a nod to Jeremy Piven’s infamous SummerFest screw-up from last year and naming a number of guest stars in the film. Rhonda Rousey is one of these names, and smartly, this is used to call back her moment with The Rock and The Authority during Wrestlemania where she locked Stephanie into a standing armbar. Things get awkward (and to the segment’s credit, funnier than expected) before a clearly offended Stephanie excuses the men.
(This particular segment wasn't uploaded to the WWE's youtube channel, but the other one was, so feel free to enjoy that instead)
Neville vs Stardust
Stardust comes out and gets in the face of “Arrow” star Stephen Amell whom he's apparently been trolling on twitter. “The Man that Gravity Forgot” Neville comes out and the match starts to loving “NXT” chants. The two men grapple until Stardust gets the upper hand with a long, stalling suplex. Bo Dallas comes out to taunt Neville before their match at Elimination Chamber. Neville eventually connects with The Red Arrow on Stardust to win the match, but is clearly hurt from his injured knee. Bo Dallas taunts Neville some more before eventually attacking that same knee and taking a victory lap, looking simultaneously cold and vicious and childishly smug.
Dolph Ziggler vs Sheamus
The third pair for the intercontinental Elimination Chamber match step into the ring with The Show Off and The Celtic Warrior brawling for a while before the latter eventually starts to take over. Lana comes out sometime later to watch the match and to presumably give her new boy-toy some moral support. After a number of close calls, it looks like Ziggler is going to get the win, that is until Rusev comes out to distract him. Ziggler makes quick work of Rusev, but his momentary lapse in focus allows for Sheamus to hit him with the Brogue Kick for the win. Rusev goes on to brutalize Ziggler after the match, starring Lana down for every second of it.
Nothing against Seth Rollins, but it’s probably safe to say that Rusev is the biggest heel on the roster in this moment, coming across as genuinely bitter, barbaric and dangerous. The crowd won’t be chanting “Justin Bieber” in jest at him anytime soon (One would hope).
John Cena's U.S. Open Challenge
John Cena’s music plays and he comes out to the usual split response. Instead of his more recent and common “America is the greatest” rhetoric, Cena acknowledges his fans and his detractors, using them as a springboard to talk about all the fights he’s won and simultaneously re-introduce Kevin Owens to the WWE universe. The cast of Entourage come out to introduce Long Island Iced Z himself Zack Ryder for the challenge, making this the first time he’s been see live on Raw in a while (at least to my knowledge).
Cena and Ryder get off to an energetic start, but Cena quickly floors the Long Island native. One of the cast of Entourage (I refuse to learn any of their names) steps into the ring for a quick and humorous distraction. Ryder gets Cena into a roll-up pin, which Cena of course gets out of. Ryder goes for a ton of other pins, Cena kicking out of them all before inevitably putting Ryder away. The outcome of this was clear from the beginning. There’s no way Cena is losing his title to a guy like Ryder just days before a PPV.
The most interesting part of this whole thing, however, happens after the bell, with Kevin Owens coming out of nowhere to hit Cena with his signature pop-up powerbomb. Reminiscent of last week, Owens proceeds to stomp on the U.S. Championship and shows everyone why he’s one of the best working in the business (and if you haven’t already guessed, I’m a very big fan).
Paige vs Tamina
The number one contender for the divas championship (and with AJ out of the picture, most interesting Diva in the division) Paige takes on Tamina (the least interesting diva in the division), the two of them trading hard blows while the Bella Twins speak on commentary. The match isn’t all that interesting, with it mostly being an excuse for Nikki bella to talk about her upcoming title defense. In a strange move, Tamina picks up the win even though Paige is the one that should be looking like a strong contender before her championship match at Elimination Chamber. Honestly, this just speaks to the WWE’s problematic lack of direction and build-up for their women’s division and things like this are what prompt people to say that NXT is the place to go if you want to see women wrestlers have great stories and work superb matches. Those same people would likely love to see that same passion translate to Raw, but it doesn’t look like that is happening anytime soon.
The New Day vs The Entire Tag Team Division
This was silly.
The New Day came out to generate some heat for a quick minute before Kane ( who was shirtless for some reason) came out to announce that the trio would be facing Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, Los Matadores, The Ascension, The Lucha Dragons and The Prime Time Players in a ten on three handicap match.
Needless to say the match is hectic. It was interesting to see the New Day get the win by D.Q., but Kidd and Cesaro came in immediately after to lay the group out. They’re clearly the favorites to win the tag team Elimination Chamber match.
We end as we started with The Authority coming out once again, this time to sling mud at the framed and arrested Dean Ambrose. They take their shots at the Lunatic Fringe, seemingly working their way up to announcing that Ambrose won’t get his title shot before Roman Reigns comes out to defend his former shield teammate. Reigns manages to fight off Seth Rollins and J&J security before getting chokeslammed by Kane. Suddenly, the camera cuts to Ambrose driving through the back, and eventually to the ring in a police van. Ambrose and Reigns make quick work of the Authority’s lackies and Ambrose gets his hands on the contract for his championship match at Elimination Chamber, signing it, and staring down Seth Rollins with a satisfied smirk as the show fades out.
This was a far better episode than most Monday Night Raws (which isn’t saying much, but there you go), most likely due to the fact that the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view is only days away, prompting WWE creative to bring most of their storylines and feuds to as close to a head as possible before their big finishes. None of the matches overstayed their welcome (although a few could have utilized their time better) and most of them were well worked. Everyone’s focus was clear, except, oddly enough, Roman Reigns who seems to just be an avid supporter of Dean Ambrose at this point, with no real driving ambition or direction of his own. In contrast, Dean Ambrose is looking like this generation’s Stone Cold Steve Austin (an audacious comparison, I know). Overall, the WWE delivered a solid episode of television before one of their more interesting specials with the Elimination Chamber. Here’s hoping they can keep it up after Sunday.