The hits were thin on the ground on Monday night’s holiday edition of RAW, to say the least. Read on as I search for the positives in the carcass of a dead-as-a-doornail, completely phoned-in edition of the WWE’s flagship show.
-- The Hits --
Beginning a holiday edition of RAW with a comedy segment like this is tantamount to telling your audience not to bother, but I’m only mildly ashamed to admit that I loved it. While I understand that Bo Dallas inadvertently pouring punch over himself is change-the-channel heat for many, I firmly believe that wacky bits like this help to add color to the WWE’s cast of characters and get them over.
Remember, it was a holiday edition of SmackDown on which John Cena began his transformation from a ruthlessly aggressive bore to the Vanilla Ice wannabe that ultimately broke the glass ceiling.
Little touches like Cesaro dispassionately arm-wrestling Apollo Crews through the chaos, or Kevin Owens eating chips under the table to avoid the melee, make me laugh and more inclined to watch those involved again in the future. Even Fandango sensually spraying whipped cream on himself raised a chuckle as did the ultra-wacky first-person pie-facing that Owens sustained at the segment’s conclusion. This would never happen on Canada Day, indeed.
Xavier’s apprehension about a trip to the woods
I enjoyed the contrast between Big E and Kofi Kingston’s naivete and Xavier Woods’ apprehension in the face of the Wyatt's invitation. Woods, who has looked far more uncertain than his wisecracking buddies in recent weeks, did a great job of angrily warning against the dangers of complacency ahead of their impending trip to the Wyatt compound.
One can only assume that the WWE are looking to outdo the viral buzz garnered by the Hardy's recent exploits in TNA with this New Day excursion. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out as poorly as things usually do when this company tries to piggyback on a trend.
-- The Misses --
Team USA vs. The Multi-National Alliance
Look, there were positives to this 16-man omnishambles, namely the Pop-Up Powerbomb delivered by Owens to Mark Henry, and the heartstring-tugging Real Americans callback. Those aside, I find it difficult to care about a match that involves a large part of one’s roster getting pinned in short order with recent US champion Kalisto getting squashed by Henry like a bug being a particular lowlight.
Not that I was very keen on the lesser-spotted, retirement-verging Big Show quickly pinning Chris Jericho and Alberto Del Rio, especially given the fact that his mobility appeared even more limited than the last time we saw Mr. Wight. Cesaro and Sheamus were also both sacrificed at the altar of giving Zack Ryder his biannual moment in the sun with the former’s elimination generating strong boos from a bemused crowd.
Protecting Owens by having him disqualify himself for using a chair on Sami Zayn was fine, but it was hilarious to see Kane be given the same treatment. God forbid Kane is pinned.
Once again, AJ Styles and John Cena had impeccable delivery, but the material they had to work with again left much to be desired. An unnecessarily long talkfest saw both men rehash prior arguments, including Styles breaking out the “shovel” references again.
Credit goes to Cena for trying manfully to rouse a crowd that had sat through an appalling first two hours of RAW. “You’re not as fired up as you normally are!” complained the weary 15-time champ. And hey, at least Karl Anderson got to brag about his “hot Asian wife” again.
On a positive note, the Enzo & Cass rescue of Cena, paired with the later announcement of a 6-man tag for Battleground is good news. The prospect of another Cena vs. Styles singles match so soon after the first was not an enticing one if you recall how much the quick turnaround hurt Owens last year after his debut victory over the unseeable one.
Throwaway matches befitting of a throwaway show
Main event aside, this show featured six matches, four of which - including the Rusev U.S. title defense against Titus O’Neil - were total squashes. The other two, featuring the remaining unsuspended participants in the Battleground triple threat, were unnecessarily long 10 minute-plus affairs given their totally predictable outcomes.
Both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose surprised no one by emerging victorious from competitive back-and-forth matches against Dolph Ziggler and The Miz respectively. Ambrose then predictably equalized Rollins’ beatdown from last week by giving him a Dirty Deeds on the Spanish announce table. Boring.
Vickie Guerrero’s appearance goes nowhere
In a further sign that the writing staff were phoning it in, Vickie Guerrero’s appearance on Monday’s show was easily the weakest of the recent ex-SmackDown general manager cameos.
She basically said her “Excuse Me!” catchphrase several times and screeched for a bit about running SmackDown before being carted off by security. Even Ziggler’s St. Peter-esque denial of his former squeeze couldn’t save this. Although I did enjoy that Dolph’s phone conversation featured an admission of another defeat: “I tried very hard…I was close!”
The definition of a Boss
While Charlotte’s whiny heel delivery was again effective, I was not a fan of the confrontation the Women's champion had with Sasha Banks. Banks’ scripted promo, in which she rapped on the definition of a Boss was the definition of cringe for me, only matched by the awful Dana Brooke’s inability to get removed from the ring competently.
Banks’ air kick to a prone Brooke whiffed just as much as the material the writing staff stuck her with. Keep this up and they won’t be able to manufacture those “We Want Sasha” chants for much longer.