We open Raw with the crowd pleaser – all of sudden – that is Roman Reigns, and then someone hands him a mic, which is less of a mistake than it used to be, but still. After complimenting Seth, and making things a little bit sexual as he talked about ass-kissing, Seth comes out and said he’s ready to go, right there, right now – but Mummy and Daddy comes out and out a stop to that, because they can’t have that in Denver of all places, and then Trips botches a weed joke, because he’s getting on a bit now. Instead, they’ll give us a 5 vs 5 Survivor Series match, two weeks before survivor series. Okay. Give us a PPV for free, and also point out that Seth Rollins has no friends left on the roster who aren’t part of The Authority, and aren’t injured/fired/old. Or show us that he can make alliances, like a champ should be able to manage.
Next, we’ve got Dolph Ziggler vs Kevin Owens – two great wrestlers who are both over with the crowd, so it’s a hard call as to who we’d most like to see win, but the expectation is that, once more, the WWE will use Dolph to get KO over as champ. Dolph Ziggler is consistently one of the best workers in the company, and a lot of people are considering it a crying shame that he’s being used to push others, but not getting a push himself, instead being stuck in kayfabe lady drama between Rusev, Lana and Summer Rae first, and now between Tyler Breeze and Summer Rae. Considering his skill in the ring, Ziggler could do well on his own, though it would be interesting to see what he could achieve when teaming with, say, Stardust, whose style would complement his, or even with Breeze, if they decided Summer wasn’t worth the fight.
We’re informed by commentary that Summer Rae is livestreaming the match from the VIP area, and the WWE wonder why their ratings are so low. Blurry camera-phone footage of the men hitting the mat is not what we want – any fangirl on tumblr can and has uploaded similar, and they don’t turn to look at their boyfriends every five seconds. Tyler decides a selfie by the ring is the answer, distracting Dolph and allowing KO to get the pin, but not before Dolph hits a few legitimately good spots, and puts up with a lot of tugs to the ‘injured’ knee. As expected, KO gets the win, and Dolph gets one good shot in to Breeze’s face before being taken down for the count and – more embarrassingly, having his half-conscious self in a selfie with Breeze and Summer Rae. We get it, you can’t bury Breeze on his first steps up to main roster, and you can’t have KO look weak when he’s still holding the IC title – but burying Ziggler just makes him look weak, and creative need to do something strong with him pretty soon, or he’ll become a joke. He can’t job to everyone on the roster forever. He deserves his chance.
KO leaving the ring is the first guy Seth asks to join his team, after some unimportant compliments about Seth vs Kevin Owens at Wrestlemania, and KO is in, with the stipulation that Rollins owes him one for that.
Commentary call the Diva’s division ‘controversial’, which is true, but for all the wrong reasons. They suggest it’s because of Paige’s pipe bomb, and then turning heel, but really, it’s because they brought these great women up from NXT, and buried all of them. For the first time in a long time, we get to see Becky Lynch on the mic as something other than Charlotte’s shadow, with Renee Young, and it’s a brilliant little segment, full of energy and pep, even when Brie Bella interrupts to say she’ll be winning the fatal fourway. Once Brie’s been dispatched by Becky’s sharp wit, she has a giggle with Renee, and it’s wonderful to see these women being women – friendly, supportive, keen and excited – rather than bitchy Divas, thrown together into teams and made into schoolyard jokes.
We get a wonderful moment of accuracy from commentary, with “Nobody likes you, Byron” before we’re into a Cesaro vs Miz match. Miz is his usual flappy self, but it seems like WWE have finally found Cesaro’s push, as he wins easily, with fireman carries, the swing, and the sharpshooter, finally making Miz tap out. Sadly, Cesaro’s push seems to come at the cost of Stardust, who has only been seen at ringside, with the Ascension, for the last few weeks, gradually looking more and more Mad Max as he gets spikes added, and a variety of fancy viewing apparatus, which the commentary team can’t seem to tell apart, possibly because they don’t see very much. It seems a shame to waste Stardust’s talents by making him slip into the catsuit and the make-up every week, just to sit in the audience and wave a sign, but if it leads up to a good feud between Stardust and Cesaro, it can only be a good thing.
We’re reminded again that Bray Wyatt likes to talk, and that Braun Strowman is the black sheep, Eric Rowan is the white sheep, and Luke Harper is… not important enough to have a gimmick. Brya talks cryptic nonsense about how he could destroy the world, and end humanity, and how he’s a higher power – but first he’ll probably have a few wrestling matches, y’know, just to keep his hand in. Obviously the reason we’re seeing all of this is to give Undertaker a good send off at Survivor Series, to have him settled once and for all, or emerge victorious before vanishing into the distance, and it gives Kane something to do while he’s fired from The Authority. Bray does Undertaker’s lightning trick, and we see a video package of Undertaker spots from the past 25 years, to get us all psyched up for seeing how they’re going to finally retire him in two weeks’ time. Bray’s good on the mic, and I can only see better things from him and the family in the next year or so, though they need a new team to feud against, as Reigns and Ambrose will probably split in the not-too distant future.
Coming back, we have a Lucha Dragons vs Barrett and Sheamus, because creative clearly have no idea what to do with Barret and Sheamus other than fling them at teams who are more cohesive than they are, and see what happens. Yes, they’re dominating the non-title tag matches, but they’re just not interesting enough together. Their gimmick seems to be that they’re from geographically close places, and against Kalisto and Sin Cara, they just look slow and ponderous. They don’t have the same movement the Lucha Dragons have, or anything like the same interest from the crowd. The Dragons got a ‘lucha’ chant from the crowd, even, but in the end, the big guys just dragged the Dragons around, especially taking it out on Sin Cara, who kept kicking out when you felt it might be better for him to just lie down and let them take the win. Watching him take Sheamus down into a DDT was pretty impressive, considering how much bigger Sheamus is, and the win by the Dragons was well-earned – they made what could have been a very dull match into something with some pop, and the crowd loved it.
A short segment of Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger, with Del Rio interrupting, lets us know that we’re going to be seeing a lot of this while Cena’s out on personal leave, and I’m not sure Swagger isn’t right, and that we shouldn’t be buying this. The idea of MexAmerica is bizarre, although debuting it in San Diego was a smart call, but it’s a little difficult to see where this is leading, other than to Swagger joining the main roster in the absence of so many superstars right now. Cena’s out, Orton and Rusev are injured – so we’re likely to see some more NXT faces being called up in the next few weeks.
The match is R-Truth vs Del Rio, with Colter at ringside, and commentary mostly focussed on whether they’d be let into MexAmerica. Del Rio keeps slipping out of the ring in the early sections, getting his slaps and smacks in that he’s famous for. R-Truth struggles at the beginning, and the crowd chant for him with a lacklustre energy. They’re not into this match, and commentary mostly turns to tweets about Wyatt’s earlier statement. The match is over quickly, with a win for Del Rio, and no one’s surprised.
We get a history lesson, showing us Survivor Series matches from when Raw and SmackDown ran two different rosters, in 2005, also telling us about Brangelina, for some unknown reason. We watch HBK vs Orton, as team SmackDown won, leading into the traditional match which is… happening two weeks from the actual show.
Seth’s searching for more team players, and Big E and Kofi Kingston tell him the team is full and certain – before revealing Xavier Woods, back thanks to the wonder of unicorn magic. Seth looks like he wishes he’d stayed in The Shield, while simultaneously hoping they were never that embarrassing. From there, we go to Jojo talking to Sasha Banks, and showing us the Boss getting ready for the fatal fourway, talking a very good game. So far, we’ve got no news on who Roman’s going to pick as his team, and I’m sure I’m not the only one desperately hoping that he picks all Divas, and that they somehow win.
For the fatal fourway, we’ve got Becky Lynch out first, joined by Sasha, Brie – whose theme we’ve almost forgotten because we only see her as an extension of Nikki most of the time these days – before finally adding Paige into the ring. Becky’s straight over to Paige, but Brie and Sasha go for her, Paige keeping herself out of it and waiting for the chance to get going. Becky Lynch is clearly struggling to keep her emotions in check while facing Paige, which is a nice touch. Brie looked like she went down early, curled in a corner as Sasha and Becky went at it, the violence of Becky surprising Sasha, as she got a couple of pins before Brie coming in from the top rope to break it up. Seeing these four apart, rather than as part of teams, it’s easy to see their characters coming back, and how much more interesting this match is than the team matches we’ve been having lately.
Rather than a mass of women in the right, this match kept mostly to one on one inside the ring, in the best tradition of these matches, and the pacing seems intelligent – it’s rewarding to watch, and there’s a genuine interest and pop from the crowd. It makes sense for the winner to be Sasha or Paige – Sasha because she’s very over with the crowd, and Paige because of the recent heel turn, but it’s nice to see Brie getting aggressive, and Becky showing her spirit, too. The best spot of the night was a powerbomb off the top rope from Becky Lynch, with Brie, Paige and Sasha on the ropes, and Becky coming in underneath, taking out everyone, and the ‘this is awesome’ chants were spontaneous and exuberant as the crowd tried to say that this is what we’ve been waiting for. These are the divas we want to see. Paige took the pin over Becky Lynch, but it looked like it hurt, and she kicked Becky out of the Bank Statement in order to make it happen. Expected winner, but a fantastic match, and brilliant to see.
Byron Saxton steps into the ring to talk to Paige, who talks a good game about how she’s going to beat Charlotte, and gets the boos she needs from the crowd. She gets good heat, dismissing Byron easily; she’s easy to hate, and she’ll make a very good heel coming into Wrestlemania. Once more, we get a history lesson, this time about 2014, because they’re shilling Survivor Series hard tonight, showing us old matches in the hope the ratings will go up. Unfortunately, it just shows us that they were using Ziggler a lot better in 2014 than they are in 2015.
Charlotte talks to Renee about being seen as baby Flair, which is, to be fair, exactly how the WWE have been selling her, but it’s nice to see her showing a tough face against this. Seeing the divas be different characters, rather than just women is a really positive step for the division, and we have to hope it continues.
Finally, we’re onto our over-teased 5 vs 5 match, and ready to see the teams. Rollins has New Day and Kevin Owens, making it a three for three on champs on their side. The New Day are out first, talking a good game and selling themselves as well as the team, with a list of favourite things named survivor (before admitting their favourite movie is really The Last Unicorn), ready for Rollins and KO to make their way out to the ring. Kevin Owens looks less than amused to be surrounded by The New Day, before Seth makes his way out, as smug as ever. Roman takes his usual walk down from the crowd, alone, no Dean by his side, when who should come out, but the Usos – because Roman’s a family man, and he believes family comes first. No one better to back him up than Jimmy and Jey, to have his back, and he brings Ryback out, too. For some reason, Ryback’s wearing a tiny hat, to shill merchandise, and looks like a baby on a winter day. Finally and predictably, Dean’s out last, because we all know Roman’s not going out there without his brother on his team.
Xavier Woods starts off, against Jimmy Uso, with Jey leaping over him to eliminate Xavier straight away, within the first move. Dean does the unicorn horn in a mock spot as we see Xavier flat out – we have to assume he’s not 100% but that they wanted him back just for the numbers, so he’s out early before he has the chance to get any more hurt. Jey Uso’s the target of a lot of brutal shoulder stamping, seeing as he’s been out for six months, and they let him stay in a little longer before he tags Jimmy in, with a flying spot over the ropes onto Kofi and Big E. A good frogsplash gets Kofi Kingston out, and Big E is straight in to defend his unicorn brother, eliminating Jey Uso, again presumably to spare him a longer match when he’s just coming back in. KO gets a pop-up powerbomb on Jimmy, and it’s Roman Reigns in to defend his cousins.
With KO and Reigns in the ring, Seth tries to go in for a moment, but is knocked out of the ring by Dean, who gets tackled by Big E, who is in turn taken out by Ryback, leaving the arena floor littered with bodies. Rollins gets up for a distraction, letting Owens hit Reigns with a punch that sends him down to the mat, flat out. Rollins lets Big E get Reigns to the ground before taking his space in the ring and taking it out on Roman, trying to choke him out and wear him down, but Roman pushes out of it – they’re selling this feud pretty hard – but KO gets tagged in, and Ambrose gets in the ring, tries to go for him, before getting stopped by the ref.
Seth takes a cheap shot at Ambrose, and that seems to be all it takes to get Roman riled up, getting Seth over the ropes and giving Reigns a chance to tag in Ryback, Ambrose still on the floor from the cheap shot. Rollins tags in Big E against Ryback, but KO leaps in to pulls things apart, Ambrose jumping in to even the odds. When they end up outside the ring again, Rollins drives Dean’s head into the steps, and once more, it’s down to Ryback and Big E in the ring, the big guy getting the Shellshock on Big E, and taking him out. Rollins leaps in and eliminates Ryback, so we’re down to KO and Rollins vs Reigns and Ambrose, with the latter two barely able to stand. Reigns and Ambrose have both been sent into the barricades at this point, and are barely moving, but Dean finds some energy somewhere to get out of Rollins’ pedigree attempt, and even kick KO in the head as he goes for an elbow drop from the top rope.
Rollins gets superkicks to Ambrose, and Reigns breaks in to break it up, tearing into Rollins in fury, giving Ambrose time to recover before Rollins tags in Owens. The crowd are cheering for Ambrose, and Reigns is clapping in time to get him up, but Rollins gets tagged in and hit him with a knee from the top rope for the pinfall, with Ambrose kicking out at two. A short trash talking segment later, and Ambrose ducks another glancing knee, it hitting Owens, and leaving us with Ambrose and Reigns vs Rollins, who looks terrified at the mere idea of getting back in that ring. It looks for a moment like our champ will walk out, as Dean tags in Roman, and he makes a run for it, Ambrose stopping him and sending him back into the ring. He tries to get into the crowd, but Reigns is having none of it, slamming Seth’s head into everything he can, getting him punch drunk before he gets him back into the ring.
Dean and Seth high five, and once more, Seth goes for the edge, Ambrose bringing him back from the timekeeper’s area – and he brings a chair with him. After taking out Ambrose, he goes for Reigns, calling ‘looks familiar, don’t it’ as it’s announced that he’s disqualified for the chair us. One superman punch from Reigns, and Rollins is out of there. Roman and Dean stay in the ring, Roman just shaking his head at the chair and Seth, the two of them wincing, and then Raw is over.