The last Raw recap of 2015 starts as I began – late, slow, and with an extraordinary amount of John Cena. It’s good to return to normality. The Cena tag has been feeling neglected lately.
Raw opens to enough pyro that Kane thinks he’s having a comeback, and reminds us that Cena’s back, because we’ve all been waiting for that. Grandad Vince swaggers out to a mixed crowd reaction, like they’re happy they’re important enough that he’s shown up, but are also wishing he hadn’t bothered. He calls out Roman Reigns, because the McMahons have a score to settle, but Roman’s in no hurry, ambling down from the crowd like he’s got all day, while we get a recap of him winding up Steph the other night. Poor boy’s been waiting for almost a year for the crowd to be on his side on his single’s run, so we’ll let him enjoy it. Vince is desperately trying to wipe the smirk off Roman’s face, but the crowd are firmly on his side now, and nothing is going to stop SmugSamoan2k15.
We get a nice close up of Roman’s new custom sideplates as Vince says he owns wrestling, he owns the ring, he owns the title belt. Roman calls him a rich snob and a jerk, and Vince threatens he won’t have the title for very long. The crowd chants for Daniel Bryan, because Vince’s talking has somehow drained most of the oxygen from the arena, and the lustful gasps of the women staring at Roman Reigns has taken the rest of it. Vince tells the crowd to shut up, so they start chanting for CM Punk, because… they like reminding Vince of how his company failed to keep someone they really liked? Yeah, let’s go with that, I haven’t got the mental energy to keep up with the Brooklyn crowd.
Vince brings up Roman’s dad and uncle, the Wild Samoans, and then decides that there’s not enough rampant racism going on, so tells him he’s ‘only one generation away from a bone through [his] nose’. Leaving aside everything else, Vince, you do realise that minorities work as stereotypes within acting professions (of which wrestling is one) because it’s one of the few ways to actually get that work? That playing up to what white people expect of you is one of the ways to get them on your side? And that it was your racist business model which set that up to happen, the same way your company still puts the three white women together on one team and gives them the most character development, and the way that minority wrestlers are, on the whole, less visible than their white counterparts, regardless of skill?
I get it, you pull apart Roman’s family because that’s what drives him, and that’s the easiest area of attack, and Vince goes on to talk about he worked Afa and Sika unendingly just to line his pockets, which drips truth, and is much more acceptable. But within kayfabe, you say something that racist to the face of an employee in front of thousands of witnesses, and you’re looking at a lawsuit at the very least. Outside of kayfabe, when we know it’s all scripted, it’s simply too distasteful, even for make-believe. Roman pushes Vince, who does the worst impression of a man who’s hurt his neck that’s ever been seen outside of a preschool play, and Roman’s face seems less disgusted with everything he’s said, and more about how poorly he’s selling this. And to think, people accused me of being bad, his face seems to say, compared to this, I deserve an Oscar.
Steph… doesn’t exactly run to her dad’s defence, to be honest, but then, she’s not wearing the running heels tonight, she’s wearing the sex heels, because someone told her that her husband might be back. She comes with the police, telling them to arrest Roman for punching her dad, because standing in a wrestling ring with a professional wrestler, as a man who used to do a bit of wrestling, being pushed a little is totally an unacceptable move. Steph gets told that no one’s there to be her personal police department, and that she needs to step away and stop yelling at people, or she’ll be the one getting arrested. In the end, in defence of Stephanie, it’s Vince who gets arrested, and Roman stands there like a peeping tom, holding the mic for the guy reading the charges. It’s hilarious and everything I never knew I wanted, as Roman grins like he’s having the best day of his life, and I realise, as Vince is led away, that I’ve written nearly 800 words in the first 20 minutes of this episode. Let’s hope the matches aren’t eventful, too, or this thing won’t be done until the start of 2017.
First match of the night is Kevin Owens vs. Neville, because KO is pretty outraged that Neville won the Breakout Star of the Year Slammy instead of him. KO just seems to be picking fights with half the roster at this point, for funsies. The match is over incredibly quickly, with Neville getting the win, but KO won’t let him have that. He comes back over and over, leaving Neville limping and dazed, needing to be helped back out from the ring. Owens will not let the matter drop, and in the end, it takes Ambrose’s music for him to let Neville go and leave him limp on the ground. Dean seems to have neglected to wet his hair tonight, so was “not prepared” for this match, and it’s rather a treat to watch his floofy curls fly about as he beats the holy hell out of Owens on the ramp.
By the time this fight looks like it will make it to the ring, Neville’s been cleared away, and KO rolls straight back out of the ring and heads through the crowd to get away, leaving Ambrose in the ring. Clearly the Murder Bear wants no part of a fight with Dean… yet.
Oh god, commentary want to tell us what Cena did today before he came to Raw, like one of those essays children write about their summer holidays. Cena’s, surely, would just read ‘did some filming, did my girlfriend, did some sit ups’. I can’t imagine he had time for much else, to be honest, but apparently he was on some talk show I don’t care about, as well. I hope he’s had a nap between the two, I’m not having that argument about him being too tired to not call his spots like a teenager in his first indie bout.
Then we get a recap of The Rock’s Instagram, because we all know that what we tune into Raw for is updates on the social media of wrestlers who rarely wrestle anymore. Actually, if that’s not what we watch Raw for, then… why are we still here?
Jojo is being gorgeous backstage, introducing Becky Lynch, who will apparently be fighting Sasha in a bit. Charlotte tweeted that she won’t be at Raw tonight – what is this, social media hour? Is this what we get now that Steph’s made poor Tom Phillips to afraid to come to work? – and that puts Becky at a disadvantage, but she says that she’s worked through toucher challenges than Team Bad, and she’ll do it again.
Sasha comes out, of course to acclaim, and waits for the boos she can get for her Boston mentions. Sorry, Sasha, they’ll boo you, but they still love you. Naomi lists all the issues she has with Brooklyn, which I keep expecting to end with ‘and they tell you it’s fat free, but it ISN’T’ because it sounds like a sorority girl being angry about where she goes to college. It’s funny, but I don’t know if it’s really the heel heat they’re looking for.
Purely from a corset fan standpoint, I wish they’d stop making Becky wear the weird ‘nude’ one, because it looks like it’s some sort of medical device. It’s not sexy, and if a corset you wear over clothes isn’t sexy, what’s the point? Also, even if it’s only plastic boned, it surely has to give her some difficulties in moving her abdomen, and bending. I wonder how practical it is.
The match starts off with lots of drags, both women down to the mat time after time, Sasha slamming Becky down to the mat nice and early, that she bridges out of with a really interesting move. The issue here is that Sasha can get herself out of the ring and stand with the other members of her team to recuperate, while Becky’s alienated in the ring. Commentary say Becky wasn’t as well known when she came up from NXT as Sasha and Charlotte were, but that she’s made a name for herself in WWE. Excuse my bitter laughter as I recall Becky from NXT and the silent sycophant she became for Team PCB. This is why we’re so happy to see her getting some of her character back.
There’s a great spot where the numbers game really comes into play, with Becky locked in on Sasha’s leg in the middle of the ring. Naomi acts as if she’s going in, to distract the ref, and Tamina pulls Sasha closer to the ropes, forcing Becky to break the hold once the ref notices. Becky gets all of Team Bad onto the outside of the ring, and flies from the top of the ring post onto all three of them. Unfortunately for Becky, after that, it’s all Sasha from this point on, and Sasha just slowly pulls her apart in the middle of the ring. The pain seems to make it easier for her to focus, as she comes back angrier and stronger than before, flinging Sasha into her teammates and nearly getting a count out at eight. The crowd chants ‘this is boring’, because they don’t deserve how GOOD this match is.
When Sasha comes back in, there’s a gorgeous backstabber from her, and then Becky does a beautiful suplex to Sasha in retaliation. There’s some old fashioned mat wrestling before Becky almost gets the disarmer, but Sasha rolls her up for the pin. This match was… twelve, fifteen minutes? And breath-taking, minimal interference from Naomi and Tamina, just enough to keep the whole match going for a little longer, giving Sasha the edge when she needed it against a furious Becky. This didn’t make either woman look weak, or foolish, just one strong, confident woman against another, and someone had to lose. That’s how you book a match, diva or otherwise, you book it so that at the end, whoever wins, the loser put up a hell of a fight, and you respect both of them. God, that was good. If you watch nothing else, watch this match. Seriously.
Whoever made Renee stand out in the cold needs to be beaten to death, because the poor woman looks like she needs some gloves and a coffee. She’s standing outside a police precinct where Vince has apparently been taken, following the laziest fake mugshot anyone’s ever taken, but she has little to tell us other than the fact that Stephanie has arrived with her attorney. You made her leave the arena, where she can interview her chipmunk IC title-holding boyfriend and his heavyweight title-holding brother, for this?
We get told there’s a six-man tag coming where Ro’s Bros – sans Ro – will be facing off against the Euroboys sans Del Rio. Oh good.
The New Day come out to make us feel better about our life choices, with Kofi Kingston against Kalisto in singles action. They say this is the arena where the trombone debuted, and where they won the tag team title. Apparently the trombone is called Francesca, and she’s angry that New Day weren’t voted as Tag Team of the Year at the Slammys. Kofi also says that if your kids misbehave, you call New Day and they’ll come and fight your children. Uh. Xavier and Big E have a pause there, and then they say that proves that every time they talk, it’s an OMG moment. A little more WTF, guys, but okay. We love you too much to be mad at you.
Kalisto and Sin Cara have brought back the green and yellow outfits, and Kalisto has his Slammy with him, which is just frustrating Kofi more. Some nice old school chain wrestling, which gives both men a chance to show off their athleticism, with kip ups from Kofi and flips from Kalisto, who mocks the unicorn horn. This is fast paced and vibrant, brilliant to watch, but ends far too soon with Sin Cara helping out so Kalisto can get the win. Xavier Woods objects to this, and so puts Big E in against Sin Cara, then goes over to yell at commentary for not doing their jobs. Calling it, in twenty years’ time, commentary should be Xavier Woods and Dolph Ziggler, because they’re both brilliant at it.
Big E takes Sin Cara off the edge of the ring, and you can hear the moment his left shoulder dislocates on the floor. You can hear him saying ‘my shoulder’s out, my shoulder’s out’ and Big E gets him to the apron so he can pass this to the ref. As the ref calls for the doctor, New day play up to the camera like they don’t know who hurt him, but eventually, Sin Cara rolls back into the ring, Big E goes for the cover, and the luchador kicks out. Big E throws him around a little more, always making sure Sin Cara can land on his right shoulder easily, even taking a moment to put him in the abdominal stretch and spank him a little, because Big E is always giving.
There’s a really rough-looking spot off the top rope where Sin Cara leaps onto Big E, but lands heavily on the damaged left shoulder. Sin Cara keeps the kicks coming, and does two gorgeous leaps off the second rope, left arm dangling loosely, before doing a rolling senton off the top rope that must be agonising. Big E eventually puts him away, but I’ve got to say I’m really impressed by Sin Cara keeping all those high-flying spots going, even with the damaged shoulder. Really impressed.
We get a view of John Cena on the cover of Muscle & Fitness, where they’ve managed to give him the waist of a supermodel, and arms that are bigger than his own head. The worst part is, they haven’t photoshopped his shoulders, so they still look tiny compared to his arms, and they’ve accidentally edited out his entire right elbow. When I saw the cover with Charlotte, I thought maybe the amount of photoshop was a sexist thing, but apparently they do it to everyone.
The Miz is bundles up in his hats and scarves because he’s getting the cold shoulder from Neville and it stings a little. He’s going to give us a year in review, but thankfully we’re saved from this by Ryback, because he’s the sort of guy who gives us a public service. He tells Miz he looks stupid, and that 2016 is going to be the year of the big guy. Leather-look Goldust shows up to say it’s the season of awards and mock Miz’s acting career. Zack Ryder then turns up to say it’s going to be HIS year next year, too – what is this, did we let everyone out the wrestling dungeon tonight because they took they keys off Vince when he got arrested? R-Truth shows up, and Goldie has a little dance to his music, before we run the same ‘confused R-Truth’ gimmick, which I still think is indicative of too many knocks to the head. He’s forgotten he won a Slammy, poor man. Slightly worried about how he gets to and from the shows, actually, with this little knowledge of what’s going on – does someone tie him to a roof rack?
Heath Slater’s our next uninvited guest, and I’m already crossing my fingers that Curtis Axel has been allowed to come out to play as Big Show wanders in to punch everyone in the ring for funsies. R-Truth hits himself to get out of it, and gets a chokeslam as a reward, so we’re down to Big Show and Ryback. I kinda just wanted them to hug it out like bros, just for the fun of it, but instead, Big Show flings Ryback out to join everyone else outside the ring, and then responds to the ‘please retire’ chants. He says he’s going to enter himself as the first man into the Royal Rumble, and he’s going to win it. OH! That’s what this section of under-utilised wrestlers is all about – the Royal Rumble is in January, and they don’t want to risk another Roman Reigns scenario, where even the presence of The Rock going ‘but he’s my little baby cousin, look how cute he is’ couldn’t stop the boos from the crowd. This year, they’ve got to get it right. So, my money is on Curtis Axel!
There’s a dull match between Ryback and Big Show, impromptu, with Ryback coming in off the top rope twice into Big Show’s hand, because he’s a glutton for punishment as well as terrible puns. Big Show puts just enough effort into the match to stop on Ryback’s midsection, which looks painful. Wonder where Big Show finds shoes. Ryback goes in for the meathook clothesline, and Big Show scampers away like an elephant in plimsolls, letting Ryback gain the win by disqualification. Not the way Ryback wanted to win, so he looks perplexed and disappointed with it all, poor lamb.
Finally, we’re onto the six man tag between Dean Ambrose and the Usos (Ro’s Bros) vs Sheamus, Barrett, and Rusev (Euroboys or Wrestling Husbands and The Third Wheel) that should at least be vaguely interesting for storyline purposes. Del Rio can’t make it, because he’s busy painting his nails and oiling his buttocks for his match with Cena lately, and the smug-powered Roman Reigns machine has run out of fuel and is having to be restarted backstage, so it’s just three on three for now.
Dean’s wet his hair for this match, which makes me a little disappointed. His floofy curls were so magnificent. The Usos are bringing their Slammys, because they feel upset that their cousin and his bro have gold hardware, and they don’t yet. Sheamus says that everyone should ashamed for cheering Vince’s arrest, and calls him ‘Mr McMahon’ like he enjoys being deferential. Dean makes the ‘loser’ sign, because clearly some of Roman’s sass has been rubbing off. Rusev’s got a lovely braid that I hope Lana did for him before she patted him on the butt and sent him out of the house to go play with his friends, and I notice this just as Sheamus and Barrett strip off their shirts like they’ve been practicing in their bedroom in front of the mirror. At this point, I should admit that I’m on a lot of painkillers, and so can’t really be held accountable for anything I write.
There’s some nice spots early on, with double team moves from the Usos on Sheamus and Rusev, and a lovely missile dropkick from Ambrose onto Rusev, too. Barrett puts an arm around his wrestling husband to help him out, and then all three of the Euroboys have a cuddle, sad that they can’t rub their lucky Del Rio for more confidence. Sheamus is a little battered, one leg not so good after what the Usos did to him, and he’s keeping himself out of the ring for so long that Dean does his usual flop in the middle of the ring like a lazy dog, trying to taunt the Euroboys into an easy pin. Eventually, though, Dean has to go and get Sheamus, rolling him into the ring for more punishment. Commentary are back on the ‘Dean Ambrose: he just does things’ shtick, which makes me really angry and frustrated, and wishes they, you know, called the matches instead of talking rubbish.
Jimmy Usos’ left knee gets worked pretty violently, over and over, by Rusev, trying to force a tap. As the Euroboys keep beating down Jimmy, the crowd chant ‘this is boring’ – can’t say I argue with them. Ambrose gets tagged in as the anti-boring to start a slugfest with Rusev, then a couple of clotheslines – so much faster and sparkier than the previous points in the match. Barrett distracted Ambrose so Rusev could lay him out flat, but Dean manages to keep enough wherewithal to roll out of the way. Things start to go the way of the Euroboys, and then Sheamus gets the pin on Jey Uso, Jimmy left on the floor outside the ring, curled up into a ball of pain, Jey having been sent into the ring post shoulder-first, and Dean by the announce table, holding a dead arm with a ripped tank top.
Kevin Owens runs in, slamming into Dean Ambrose and sending him into the barricades, setting up the steel steps by the uncovered announce table, preparing to pop up powerbomb him off the steps and into the announce table. The look on his face is positively beatific, like he’s finally got what he’s been after all night, as he stands over the battered body of Dean Ambrose, who isn’t moving. When he does, he shakes like he’s having a fit, eyes unfocused, before he finally lets people help him upright and out from ringside.
Renee Young is still in the cold outside the police precinct, because she’s annoyed someone in a position of power recently, or because she looks really cute in a beanie. One of those reasons. Bail has been posted, and out comes Vince and Stephanie, who snub her, after they left her in the cold for so long, and they just drive off.
Our main event! Cena vs Del Rio with… more than twenty-five minutes left? Oh god, Cena’s going to talk, isn’t he, and there’s going to be swelling music, and… oh god. Even Brooklyn is halfway happy to see him, because whether you hate him or love him, Cena’s a gift to the ratings. He says that Del Rio has never defended the US championship, and that it used to be fun, when he’d have an open challenge, and you can actually hear the crowd go ‘oh yeah, the US title… that used to be interesting’ and then realise this means they missed Cena. It’s a little confusing. Cena talks about how the crowds hated him, how people called him names and made fun of him, and how wrong it is that Del Rio won’t put the title on the line.
Eventually, people stop talking and I wake up again, and we start a match, where Cena’s got Del Rio to agree to put the championship up. Everyone’s talking about ring rust for Cena, which must be true, because he’s making Del Rio look fast, whereas he looks like he’s stop motion compared to everyone else. Cena manages to dodge a move from Del Rio, and it looks like he slides out of the ring and hits his knee, but then we come back after the break and he seems totally fine, dragging Cena around and making his pecs wobble in a way that makes my breasts feel inadequate. Del Rio keeps doing the John Cena hand wave, every time he gets up to the top rope, and then Cena surges back up and starts taking control.
Cena being in control lifts the speed to a more interesting point, the match heating up a little as it gets faster, but then Del Rio has Cena on the ground again, and we’re back to match that looks like two elderly tortoises trying to work out if one of them is female. It’s slow. So slow. Del Rio gets a good hold that it looks like Cena will have to tap out of, but he rallies, the ref knocked out of the ring, so that when Cena does get a hold, Del Rio taps out, but it doesn’t count because the ref doesn’t see it. At this point, the rest of the Euroboys come in to help out their wounded golden calf, Rusev with a lovely kick to Cena, and they drop Del Rio on top of him and wake the ref. Superman Cena kicks out – of course – the official still out of it at the side of the ring, as Cena takes on all of the Euroboys at once. Del Rio’s left in with him, and takes him down, the official waking up just enough to count, but Cena kicks out AGAIN.
We’re reminded why we don’t like Cena – because he eats impossible odds for breakfast. Same reason we all hated Roman for a while, it’s no fun to watch someone who always wins. However, Cena is insensate in the middle of the ring. He gets up, but the Euroboys are in, making sure that Cena doesn’t get the win, and Sheamus and Rusev beat the hell out of Cena. Sheamus spares a moment to check on his beaten, title-holding baby, then comes in with a brogue kick. The Usos come out to help out Cena, because… the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I guess? They get the hell beaten out of them, but Sheamus come back with a steel chair. Before he can get back into the ring, Roman shows up to spear Rusev, and there’s a stare down between Roman and Sheamus before Sheamus goes in with the steel chair, and Roman hits him with a superman punch.
Roman roars his victory as the Euroboys lie scattered around the ring, and out comes Vince, who thinks the name of his own company is ‘WE’ and not ‘WWE’, and tells Roman he’ll defend his title against Sheamus next week, and that he, Vince McMahon, will be the special guest referee. There’s… no way you can with this, is there, Roman? Raw ends with Vince shouting ‘Happy New Year’ like some bizarre greeting card, as Roman shakes his head at how unfair the world is to him. Well, that’s one way to start off 2016.