We start Raw with a recap of last week, which was a recap of the week before… sometimes I feel like I’m time travelling with this stuff. Thank god we didn’t get a recap of the racism this time, but we do get the unlikely reminder of American police arresting a white dude when there’s a minority stood right there. Steph’s got a hell of a scream on her, but then you only have to listen to her dad to know she comes by that honestly. Both of them need some throat lozenges, if you ask me.
Raw proper opens with Steph ambling out in a jacket that looks like it belongs to her husband (where IS Trips, anyway?) and then out comes Roman, before her entrance is even over, ruining the mood already. Roman walks right past Steph to head into the ring, cocky little upstart, and Steph’s got the flat shoes on as she circles him like a shark. The crowd chants for Roman, and he grins that smug little grin, and says it’s not about Steph, it’s about Vince. There’s a lovely ‘Sheamus, please win :(’ sign which makes me giggle. He tries to call out Vince, but Steph says he’s got to get used to disappointment.
Roman says that if he doesn’t have the belt, he doesn’t have a job, and without that job, he can’t provide for his family, and then he seems to say that the belt is his family now. Roman, did you just adopt a belt? Steph says you can’t keep a good billionaire down these days – is that political satire from WWE? Wonders may never cease. She also says he’s ‘the help’ and that she’s going to do exactly what her dad did to his father – wear his body down and work him until he can’t work anymore.
Awkward to know we’re still playing the race card, but it’s good to hear Steph being an actual villain, without her bleeding heart husband holding her back. Roman’s still going to fight for his title, though. I’m battling with an illegal stream that doesn’t want to show me anything, so this is fun. The screams of the women for Roman – same, though.
Dean comes out, more screams from the women, because the brothers in arms are always well-received by the local ladies. Dean’s going to be seated at commentary for a Neville vs Kevin Owens rematch, which obviously will in no way end up with him getting involved, no sirree, that’s not the sort of thing Dean Ambrose gets into.
We get a commercial warning us that WWE have found the money to pay Brock Lesnar to come back next week, so if we don’t want to see him being terrifying, we should probably hide under the sofa. Dean says that Kevin Owens has games to play, but that Dean won’t be doing that. Neville’s taped up on the ribs from the beating that Owens gave him, but he’s beating the hell out of KO, and Dean says he’s enjoying it up close, and there aren’t a lot of moves in the world he can’t do, but that Neville’s shooting star is certainly one of them.
We go to commercials in the middle of this, and I curse corporate sponsorship, because I’m missing my favourite high flyer, with my favourite wrestler on commentary, against my favourite of the aggressive, larger fighters. Basically, whoever decided this needed a commercial break, but that we needed a full recap of the last two weeks of Raw, I blame you. This is terrible for pacing.
When we come back, Owens has taken all of Neville’s taping off his ribs, and the Murder Bear is giving it a good job, but he’s not really managing to get that many licks in on Neville. A spectacular spot is a full forward somersault off the apron onto Owens’ chest, damaging the ribs for both of them. Owens hit a cannonball and then a pop-up powerbomb for the pin, but he just doesn’t seem like he’s enjoying it the way he used to. Dean says no one has ever ended a fight with him, and the best sign of the night is ‘Chill Owens Chill’, as KO comes back to beat the hell out of Neville, and Dean does a suicide dive through the ropes and comes at him.
Owens goes to powerbomb Ambrose through the announce table, throwing the top of it back at him, but Dean slams him into the steps and gets him onto the table, doing a massive elbow drop from the top of the barricades, and leaving Owens flat. As he celebrates with his title and the crowd, I’ve noticed people tend to pat his belly like he’s a stray dog who needs feeding. Commentary once more think a wrestler is ‘unstable’ because he fights, but I can’t hear them because I’ve muted it like you can do in WWE 2k16.
Vince arrives backstage, and Jojo drew the short straw to talk to him. Vince says all his charges have been dropped, and that it’s ironic that he broke the law, because once he’s the ref? He is the law. Vince spent the entire time he was in jail thinking up clever lines for this segment, but in the end, he still had to go with something stolen from an old western, and hope that his audience is too young to realise it.
Stardust vs. Titus O’Neil – I thought these guys were going to be best friends or lovers, but apparently this is a fight? Stardust does a lovely little cartwheel, and it’s good to see him back after we knew he had a shoulder issue. He throws some vicious stomps to Titus, and then seems to spend as much time as he can with his hand down the back of Titus’ trunks. At first it looked like Titus had the upper hand, but once Stardust’s used a few sneaky manoeuvres, Titus looks like he’s struggling to get back to his feet. Stardust is picking on a knee, but the Cody chants seem to bother him enough for Titus to get a clothesline in and get the Cosmic Prince down onto the ground.
Clash of the Titus – he gets the win, but it wasn’t all easy, just a victory of power over speed and cunning, and probably the longest match Stardust wanted to do with a newly recovered shoulder.
Backstage, Becky Lynch is warming up, and Charlotte shows up, asking if Becky organised their match. She says she already beat Becky on Raw, fair and square, and Becky says that if that’s how Charlotte wants to remember it, then that’s fine. The girls agree to their match in the spirit of competition, Becky smiling and looking like her old self again – and then Ric shows up to drunkenly woo at her, scaring the bejesus out of the poor girl. Somehow I get the feeling Charlotte’s not all that interested in playing fair, and she’s bringing out her partially-mummified father to help her win by any means necessary.
This match starts with a reminder that last time these two had a match, Charlotte feigned injury to win, with help from her dad. Yeah, okay, we got the foreshadowing. Becky is at her most Steampunk, and there’s a sign saying ‘We want Tamina’. Yes. We do. Pay attention, Creative. The ring echoes with ‘woooo’, which is actually how Flairs drive away their natural predators – which now include red-haired Irish woman. Ric’s doing his stupid walk on the outside, but we don’t care because the women are doing a little test of strength wrestling, and are both moving in a way which showcases Charlotte’s flexibility, before they get into a little chain wrestling, which is Becky’s speciality.
Charlotte asks Becky to help her up, and when she does so, she gets hit with a big Flair chop, slammed backwards, and Charlotte does a neckbreaker off the second rope, Becky looking stunned and hurt as we go to commercial. When we come back, Charlotte’s still in control, and a ‘Becky’ chant rises, Charlotte mocking it as she slams Becky’s head into the mat with her thighs. How come we’ve never seen Roman do this move, huh, if it’s that powerful? Becky fights back a little, but Charlotte’s still the one in control, and she brings her to the top rope – but Becky gets some kicks in, before climbing onto the back of Charlotte with a submission hold.
Charlotte slams them both into the ring to break the sleeper, and goes for the figure eight, Becky getting the small package instead, but Charlotte kicks out. The crowd are cheering for Becky, Becky – who was practically invisible in PCB – and she kicks out of a pin from Charlotte. Ric’s shouting some gibberish at ringside, like either woman needs his help to give us one hell of a fight, as Becky throws Charlotte into an exploder that she manages just about to kick out of.
Ric grabs Becky by the leg, but the ref sees, Charlotte rolling Becky up, but Becky manages to reverse it and get the pin to win the match. Ric throws his jacket at Becky, and looks like he’s going to try to fight her, and Charlotte takes a chance to spear Becky, get her on the ground, and beat the hell out of her. Ric climbs into the ring to shout nonsense at Becky as the crowd boo Charlotte, shouting ‘loser’ at her, as Charlotte and Ric leave, Becky curled in the middle of the ring. She eventually rises, sobs breaking on her face, as she tries to get up.
That was a hell of a match, mostly the women, with Ric playing the smallest part possible, and not helping Charlotte get the win. Spectacular, both of them highlighting their strengths, and showing off their in-ring chemistry. Brilliant.
Backstage, Vince and Sheamus have a chat, and Vince runs through the rules, the chief one being that Sheamus will do whatever Vince says in the ring, no questions asked. Sheamus looks a little bit upset by this, as if he was hoping to fight his own battles at some point, but then Vince wishes the luck of the Irish upon him, and suddenly, our favourite cuttlefish-coloured ex-champ is all smiles again. A little foreshadowing that maybe Sheamus isn’t going to play exactly the way Vince wants him to – after all, he’s not exactly known for his love of authority, rules, and playing along.
Oh, god, it’s Ryback vs. Big Show, because we needed more of an excuse to watch that. A ‘Rusev is Bae’ sign is prominent, and Ryback doesn’t quite look like himself tonight. He looks a little bit down, less cheerful, and his cry of ‘wake up, it’s feeding time’ is a little lacklustre. Then again, he’s wrestling Big Show, who wanders down to the ring looking like someone who got lost on his way to the buffet on a cruise ship. The match doesn’t really get started before the Wyatts show up, surrounding Ryback, who goes for Harper, but Rowan and Strowman join in to beat the hell out of him, with Bray joining in which he thinks Ryback’s been sufficiently stunned that he’s in no danger of having to actually wrestle. Big Show just stands there and lets it happen… because he’s a heel this week? I don’t know, but the Wyatts seems confused about which side he’s on, too, because they border the ring on every side, and head towards him.
Big show fights Bray, Rowan and Harper away, and then bellows at Strowman, clearly trying to work out if they both speak Giant or just Lesser Giant, and Bray gets him from behind, the rest of the family joining in. Big Show has a nip slip, which is all I’ve ever wanted from a Monday night, and Bray bellows that the family will be in the Royal Rumble. Not quite sure why he didn’t get a mic, but apparently he reckons he can just shout and Sister Abigail will carry his voice to the heavens, or something. Who knows.
I guess Ryback looked sad because he knew he’d wriggled into his ring gear and wasn’t going to get to have a real match – hang on, did he come out without his hat? My god, there must be something really wrong with him, poor guy. Or maybe he was just sad it wasn’t his turn to have a nip slip this week. We’re all just sad it isn’t Roman’s.
Del Rio and Rusev come out for the Euroboys (League of Nations, my wife asks, what are they, a group of superheroes who also beat each other up?), with Rusev sporting that lovely braid Lana does for him before she lets him leave the house. Del Rio gives Rusev a companionable punch to the boob to get him ready for this. The Usos are out against them, which gives commentary a chance to get them mixed up again. I rather like watching the Usos fight Rusev and Del Rio, because the two Euroboys are slow and ponderous, and the Usos are all about movement and speed, which means that they make the other two look better.
‘We want Lana’ chants, because we all know she’s the mastermind behind Rusev. Jimmy and Jey tag in and out swiftly, perhaps deliberately to confuse the hell out of commentary, but it’s Rusev who makes the first big move, twisting Jimmy’s knee, and then tagging in Del Rio to work it a little harder, before Rusev takes it over. There’s a hell of a punch from Jimmy, who tags Jey in to get thrown off the top rope by Rusev, Jimmy looking worried for his brother.
When we come back from commercials, Jey is still in, and Rusev dodges a lovely enzuigiri, leaving Jey flat on the apron, fighting his way back from the ropes as Del Rio slams into him again and again. Jey gets a hell of a Samoan drop on Rusev, then tags in Jimmy to face Del Rio, and Jimmy gives the US champ a little taste of daddy Rikishi’s moves. Jimmy connects with an enzuigiri, and then we set up for that slow, ponderous double stomp that no one in their right minds would sit still for. Thankfully, Jey turns up to push Del Rio too far over, and then lands a great splash.
Jimmy leaps into a boot from Rusev, so Jey finishes the job, and commentary insists the twins are interchangeable. Uh. No. Stop this, please. Del Rio gets the double stomp off Jey, who is tangled in the middle of the ropes, away from the corner, in a spot that feels a lot more realistic than his usual ones, and gets the pin to take the match for the Euroboys over Ro’s Bros.
The inimitable Dolph Ziggler up next, for more screams of the ladies, complaining about crowded gyms with people in there for new years resolutions. Heath Slater is out next with… Team Jobber? Curtis Axel nearly forgets how to stand on the stage, Bo Dallas and Adam Rose hanging out there, too. Dolph’s upset that Slater’s pants are cooler than his, and it worried that the women will go for him instead, so he’s trying really hard to make it work. Dolph takes his shirt off as someone shouts ‘Adam Rose is a legend’ and my friend I introduced to wrestling realises she’s never seen Adam Rose even at Ringside before. Dolph’s clearly being used right now to sell the midcard, and Slater nearly rolls him up a couple of times, Slater screaming at the crowd to shut up and stop booing him.
Dolph’s business-like ponytail comes loose, and Slater slams him into the mat a few times before Dolph tries the same back. The Show Off gets up, a little wobbly, but gets distracted by Adam Rose, a few lovely little wiggles from Ziggler as Slater pins him and gets the win. You can visibly see Dolph Ziggler questioning his life choices as he reels from a loss to Heath Slater, of all people. Slater says that he’s found some friends, Adam Rose says they’re all unique flowers, Curtis Axel would like us to know that he’s no longer chained down in Vince’s sex dungeon, and Bo Dallas would like us all to know that he’s up. We know, Bo, those trunks don’t hide much. Apparently we’re hashtagging these guys as Social Outcasts, but nope, sorry, you’re Team Jobber. Deal with it, and if you keep beating my precious Ziggler, I will come up with other words that aren’t as PG friendly or kind.
Roman’s hiding backstage, but Vince has found him, and is telling him the same rules that he told Sheamus, including the one about obeying his commands at all times. Roman’s mouth twitches like he’s barely restraining himself from saying something unwise, or punching a grandad again, as Vince leaves.
The New Day are here to make it all better, our uncle-daddy Big E at the helm to tell us that 2016 will be the most magical year of their lives, that it’s lit for them. They mock Mike Tyson for falling off a hoverboard, although Pops Kofi is a little stern about it all. They say they’re going to put a stop to Kalisto and the Dudley Boyz, and tell us they have a little surprise for us – but I don’t think Y2J was the one they were thinking of! He’s apparently forgotten that he’s meant to wear a shirt AND a vest under his sparkly jacket, so we’re getting a shot of his old man midriff, and a quiff of hair that you normally find on a middle manager somewhere.
Jericho drags the rest of Raw, says that the ratings are terrible and no one’s subscribing to the network, and what we need is Jericho. He also refers to them as Green Day, because Jericho is an old man now, and thinks getting the crowd to shout ‘rooty tooty booty’ works. Jericho enters himself into the Royal Rumble, which gets a huge scream from the crowd, and he calls New Day ‘trap queens’. Big E makes a face like he’s having a stroke. You can tell Jericho’s been on tour with his band, because he half-sings everything like he thinks a gravelly voice will help him out against the glory that is the New Day. Jericho, I love you, but leave my unicorn favourites alone.
New Day are doing their best not to be thrown off by Y2J showing up and waggling his butt at the crowd, because they’ve got Kalisto and the Dudleys to face now, in a six-man tag. Xavier starts, against Kalisto, but he complains and says he wants Bubba instead, so Bubba tags in at last, and the match gets started. Despite Kalisto doing his best, this match is slow, very slow, and the chants are murky as to whether New Day rocks, or sucks. Bubba Ray holds Kofi in a vertical suplex for a really long time, a show of strength, which is pretty cool, but it doesn’t take long for the crowd to be demanding tables, just to liven the match up a little.
There’s a round of unicorn stampedes to Kalisto, who looks incredibly small next to the New Day, especially Big E. Francesca the trombone gets blown by Xavier, as Big E jiggles for us, and Kofi tries to beat Kalisto’s face right off. Once more, commentary have decided that Kalisto’s signature move is the ‘salina del sol’ and not ‘salida del sol’, but then, they don’t bother to differentiate between a clothesline and a lariat, or between Kofi and Xavier, so I don’t know why we’re surprised anymore. When D-Von finally gets tagged in, I’m stifling my yawns and assuming that this is the last match before our main event, just by the time. Kalisto manages to knock Big E over without actually hitting him at all, which really is as magic as commentary say. Wazzup from D-Von is prepped, but Xavier pulls the ropes, so Bubba decides to… chase Xavier out of the ring, as if they’re being accompanied by the Benny Hill theme. The New Day get the pin to D-Von during this distraction, for the win, and then run away up the ramp like naughty schoolchildren. We’re told, with some relief, that we’ve only got the main event match left.
We get YET ANOTHER recap of the past two weeks, and I work out we’ve now wasted a whole HALF AN HOUR on this SAME RECAP VIDEO PACKAGE. If I sound angry, it’s only because this three hour Raw is pointless if you’re not going to actually utilise your goddamn time. Vince McMahon comes out in a sleeveless ref shirt and flexes for us, because he thinks we want to see a grandad’s muscles, before doing that walk like he got as buttplug stuck and doesn’t want to admit it to anyone. Good grief.
Sheamus is doing his impression of the light of Vince’s life, flashing a brilliant white to startle his prey, but unfortunately for the Irishman, Roman’s ridiculous coloured contacts protect him from blinding light as well as being ‘not exotic enough’. There’s a sign that says gingers have no souls, because we’re already at maximum level of satire, so why not throw in a South Park reference? They did a wrestling episode that was better than this Raw has been. There’s a glittery sign for Roman, which I think means that if we don’t clap our hands for him, Tinkerbell dies. He hands the belt over to Vince and keeps a grip on it for a moment, letting Sheamus start off with an early suplex.
Roman appears to want to be flat on his back a lot tonight, maybe he’s feeling in that sort of mood, but Sheamus doesn’t look like he’s going to be gentle. Roman has his hand on his ribs for a couple of seconds, but soon forgets he’s meant to be hurt, because a career where you get knocks to the head a lot doesn’t really make remembering whether your injury is real or fake very easy. They both end up outside the ring, Vince refusing to start the count as Sheamus flings Roman into the steps. No foreign objects, but Vince is happy to stare in the opposite direction, as Sheamus uses the steps to lay Roman out, leaving him gasping and writhing on the ground, to the lamentation of the women.
Roman gets caught by a hand which basically sends him unto a somersault, and we see Roman being slammed into the announce table during the commercials. Everyone keeps calling Trips Vince’s brother-in-law which makes me worry there’s some sort of incestuous thing going on in the McMahon family. Eurgh. The crowd is still chanting for Roman as both men are down in the middle of the ring, Vince telling Sheamus to get up, shouting at him to get onto Roman to get the pin, but Sheamus faces the other way, and the two have a slugfest where we realise they both make the same noise when they get hit, like they were trained by the same people or something. Roman get a couple of good clotheslines and then gets Sheamus on the apron for a drive by. Roman gets a Samoan drop, and then Vince gives the world’s slowest count as Sheamus is pinned.
Arguing with Vince gives Sheamus time to recover, and he goes for white noise, getting rolled up instead and slammed back down to the mat, Roman getting the pin and Vince counting one, two… oh no, I have something in my eye. Pretty sure that’s not a number, Vince. When Sheamus grabs him from behind, though, and gets Roman pinned, Vince is suddenly fine to count to three nice and quickly. Once more, Roman gets a superman punch, and Vince doesn’t even pretend to count this time, just sits there, grinning. Roman sits up slowly, and seems to be arguing with himself, before he gets up and challenges Vince. Vince promises to make the next count a fair one, so when Roman goes for the superman punch again, he pauses, changes tactics, and punches Vince. He spears Sheamus, there’s a three count from the crowd, and he calls for another official as Sheamus rolls out of the ring.
Roman isn’t done, he follows Sheamus and gives him a superman punch, then turns back to Vince, chasing him through the ring, and almost going for him again, when Steph comes down to the ring, looking uncharacteristically vulnerable as she balances on the bottom rope. Roman propels her father into the ropes, sending Steph over them and into the ring, where she scuttles back from him, face afraid. She tells him to leave her father alone, and Roman goes back in to spear Vince, but Sheamus comes back with a brogue kick. He pins Roman, and another crooked ref slides in just too late to help Sheamus get the pin. Roman superman punches the second ref and Sheamus, and takes him down for the pin, a third official making the count and granting Roman the win.
Vince isn’t happy with the result, and punches the other ref in the face, then grabs a mic. Roman will defend the title at the Royal Rumble, he says, but not just at it – in it. He’ll have to take on all other 29 men, and his title will be on the line. We end Raw with Roman’s down beaten face, like he’s just realised how stacked the odds are against him, as Steph and Vince walk out, Steph’s face glowing with an evil glee. The McMahons are back, guys, and when a McMahon comes back, it can only ever be with a vengeance.