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Ric Flair surprise appearance at Raw and other off-air notes


Submitted by Stephen Lyon

I attended the WWE Raw TV taping in Manchester, England, Monday. Here's some notes on some things you didn't see on tv, and some overall thoughts. This was a completely different show in so many ways from the lacklustre WWE house show that I attended in Liverpool last night.

- Crowd make up was completely different. There were still some kids there, but there were far more adults, and it seemed much more like a Wrestlemania weekend crowd, in that it was the hardcores, with people travelling from different parts of the country to attend the taping. The arena looked full, with no areas curtained off.

- The crowd was very hot all night and made it seem like a hot product. They only went into 'business for themselves' during the opening RAW match featuring Reigns vs Big Show, doing the wave, and chanting 'we are awesome'. Thankfully they got it out of their system and from that point forward, they were a really good traditional-style wrestling crowd. It was really clear who was over and who was not.

- For Superstars, it opened with Fandango pinning Bo Dallas with a top rope legdrop. Fandango got a great crowd reaction, with virtually everyone doing the dance - a complete 180 from the previous day in Liverpool. Bo's goofy gimmick was also cheered.

- Dudleys & Ryback beat Stardust & the Ascension. This was so funny. The Dudleys got a huge reaction coming out. Then when it was announced to be a six man tag and their partner Ryback was introduced, everyone booed Ryback. People just wanted to see the Dudleys on their own and not team with a 'new generation' babyface. Fun match, Dudleys won with the 3D on one of the Ascension, I think Viktor.

- They showed lots of WWE corporate promotional videos pre-RAW, including the Wrestlemania 31 recap video. Hilariously, every single shot of Hulk Hogan was edited out of the Triple H vs Sting recap. It was unbelievably skilfully done.

- The opening RAW segment with Triple H and Roman Reigns, I thought, was really good. Triple H did a great promo, and they made the storyline clear going forward. Crowd desperately wanted Reigns to accept Triple H's offer of becoming the Authority's guy and booed heavily when he turned it down. The funny thing was, as much as Reigns was booed, I saw tons and tons of adult males buying and wearing the new Reigns t-shirt, which was by far the top seller at the merch stands. My perception is, at least amongst the crowd I was with tonight, he doesn't have the same negative stigma that Cena has, but people don't want to like him as a babyface, they want to like him as a heel (if that makes sense). It's such a weird dichotomy that the best way to get him over as a babyface is to turn him heel (a throwback to that old Steve Austin/Rock 'Rebel' thing, I think).

- Owens got a big babyface reaction, even though he ripped on the Royal Family in his pre-match promo.

- Crowd chanted 'We want Sasha' loudly throughout Natalya vs Naomi, with Sasha at ringside. There were tons of 'Sasha Section' and 'Cesaro Section' signs.

- Crowd loudly chanted NXT throughout the show.  

- Wayne Rooney of Manchester United was introduced early on in the show. Ryan Giggs (Man Utd legend and current assistant manager) and Darren Fletcher (a former United player) were all sat together. Rooney was the only one name-checked on-screen. I'm sure Rooney is at least known in the U.S., but it cannot be underestimated how big a star this guy is in the U.K. at this time. He's arguably one of the 3 most famous sportspersons in the UK right now (and has been for many years), and is an A-list mainstream celebrity in his own right. There was a 1 hour documentary on his life shown in prime time on BBC1 just a few weeks ago. I will be shocked if his angle with Wade Barrett doesn't make U.K. sports and news headlines tomorrow. People were massively into Rooney being there, chanting 'Let's go Rooney/Rooney sucks'.

- Barrett has had a good natured Twitter war with him for months, so as soon as Barrett and Sheamus came out, people knew something was going down with Rooney, as soon as Barrett had the mic. It was similar to the Ronda Rousey thing at WM31 when people sensed it. Barrett cut a scathing promo on him, mocking him, saying he'll never be a champion again, that he's finished and washed up, and that if he wants a piece of him, to get in the ring. Rooney did the 'Bring It' hand gesture to a big reaction. I think the Barrett promo on Rooney took place during a commercial, but they show a replay of it after the commercial break.

- Cesaro vs Sheamus was excellent, by the way. Crowd chanted 'This is awesome', justified in this case. The conclusion saw Sheamus arguing with Rooney at ringside, and Barrett pulled Sheamus away. Barrett then argued with Rooney, and Rooney slapped him, sending Barrett down. Crowd went nuts. Cesaro then pinned Sheamus. Crowd were 100% behind Rooney after the slap, after the earlier mixed reaction.

- Dean Ambrose vs. Tyler Breeze was pretty good. Crowd were heavily into both guys. It's a shame Breeze had to lose his first tv match, although he wasn't portrayed as a joke. I suspect he'll cost Ziggler his tournament match with Ambrose.

- New Day came out and were the second most over act on the entire show, besides Undertaker and Kane. Just ridiculously over as babyfaces. Everyone was singing and dancing, singing along to New Day's theme and chanting along with Big E's introduction. New Day vs Neville & the Usos was another really good match. Neville did a tremendous Red Arrow to the outside on all the guys in the match.

- Ric Flair came out in a surprise cameo, for a quick promo. This won't air on tv and was solely for the live crowd. He joked he was annoyed that Triple H had kept him in the back so long, and put over what a fantastic crowd we were. He plugged that Undertaker would be appearing at the following night's Smackdown taping in the same building. Flair said the show was sold out, but I don't think that's the case. People booed when he mentioned Undertaker would be at the following night's show, as they thought it meant he wouldn't be at tonight's show.

- The Undertaker and Kane entrance during the closing Bray Wyatt segment got over HUGE. The place went NUTS when Taker and Kane came out. I was surprised to see them clean house on all 4 guys. Not sure how this sets up Survivor Series given they already beat up 4 guys in a 2 on 4, but the live crowd ate it up.

- People were chanting 'That was awesome' after Taker and Kane had exited and the show had ended.

- Overall, I think that was one of the better RAW tapings in the UK that I have ever attended. Some really good/very good matches, the Rooney angle and Taker/Kane stuff was very well done. The crowd atmosphere was fantastic.