RAW Thoughts

The wheels are rolling on the WrestleMania train and we’re going through Chicago, Illinois en route to the biggest show of the year. What did WWE give us last night? Let’s find out…Shane McMahon

Shane-o-Mac made his way to the ring to a pretty impressive pop. He had the live crowd eating out of the palm of his hand and had a pretty borderline “shoot promo” on Vince and the current state of the company. Vince came and out tried to garner as much cheap heat as he could…which the Chicago crowd delivered in spades. The segment ended with Shane beating up four security guards who tried to escort him out of the ring, much to the delight of the crowd. I suppose the segment was designed to put Shane over as a legitimate threat to the Undertaker, and because of the hot crowd the segment seemed to work.

Kevin OwensI had heard the rumors but didn’t believe them. Yet last night we saw the (re)debut of Sami Zayn and he went after Kevin Owens, setting up their match at WrestleMania with only a few weeks of build. Listen…I’m all for a Zayn vs Owens match for the Intercontinental championship, but WWE is only giving the WWE Universe a few weeks to see Zayn as a major star. Yes, the vast majority of hardcore fans know exactly who he is but the vast WWE audience have no clue. I just hope they can build him up quickly enough to make the match worthwhile. Thankfully, the Chicago crowd went ape-shit for his music…so those watching from home who are unfamiliar with him will hopefully think he is a big deal based on the crowd’s reaction.

Neville & Sami ZaynAnd for the record, Neville deserves better than this. The guy is someone who could legitimately be a top main-event superstar, yet is always in the role of putting up a great fight, occasionally winning a match, but never being pushed as an upper card star. No, he can’t promo and no, he’s not the biggest guy in the world. But he’s got a fantastic physique and can do things in that ring that others could only dream of and he deserves a better spot than he’s in.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the backstage segment between Dolph Ziggler and Stephanie McMahon. I mean, if WWE really wants to push Ziggler then they’ll update his gimmick and flip him around somehow. The way it is currently is that he looks like a cheap knockoff of Shawn Michaels and his whole act has gotten stale. Putting him into a spot where he’s the “sympathetic babyface” doesn’t really work for me at this point. I just don’t care anymore.

I’m intrigued to see the eventual Lana vs Brie Bella match that takes place (WrestleMania, perhaps??), but I’m still in disbelief at the inexplicable push of Summer Rae. She’s now pinned Paige and Brie Bella. WHY?? She’s better than Eva Marie, for sure…but aren’t there already other women on the roster who can wrestle circles around her? Out of all of the times she’s been pushed before as a sidekick or girlfriend or manager, why choose now to have her be a top wrestling contender to the Divas championship? I just don’t buy it because, quite frankly, she’s not that good.

For the record, though…Lana looked INCREDIBLE. #JustSayin’Lana

I gotta say…I was totally into Dean Ambrose last night for the first time in a long time. I don’t think his promo was meant to pop the crowd, but it was a fantastic promo that had me listening to every word that he said. The whole match with Triple H scheduled for this Saturday really has me questioning whether or not they’ll actually pull the trigger on the Ambrose Asylum. I don’t think they will, but the fact that WWE has me questioning the situation is a win on their part.

Dolph ZigglerAs expected, Dolph Ziggler lost his 3-on-1 handicap match against the League of Nations. After pinning Wade Barrett, he was decimated by Rusev and Sheamus. I mean…did you expect another result? What was telling was how the crowd didn’t really react to Ziggler at all. They popped a bit, but they knew he’d lose. His gimmick is so stale that even a 3-on-1 handicap match can’t garner a ton of sympathy for the guy.

As much as I didn’t need to see five more minutes spent on Shane McMahon, it was very smart to have a highlight package presented for the newer fans who have no idea who he is or why we should buy him as a legitimate threat to actually beat the Undertaker. It was well done in the sense that it showed all of his highspots and made him look pretty impressive.

Tag team matches are exactly what Team B.A.D. need because they are NOT over as a team or a faction. The crowd popped for both Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks (definitely more for Banks), but weren’t really into the match that much because of their opponents. I am really looking forward to the Triple Threat match against Charlotte at WrestleMania. If given enough time, they could have a real shot at stealing the show. They’ve done amazing things in NXT and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do at Mania.

And for the record, Charlotte was lookin’ HOT tonight…

Charlotte

Y2AJI was REALLY impressed with the tag team match last night for the WWE tag team championships. But primarily because this was the best showcase of AJ Styles‘ talents since he debuted at the Royal Rumble back in January. He was absolutely spectacular and I was also really impressed with the booking of the final few minutes. As expected, Chris Jericho turned on Styles once the match was over…setting up their eventual WrestleMania match where Jericho can put over Styles on a much grander stage. I don’t really want to see Styles vs Jericho IV, but hopefully they can do something that makes it all worthwhile.

Next up was the announcement of the latest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016: Big Boss Man. In fact, Ray Traylor was #18 on my Top 30 list of wrestlers not yet in the Hall. He’s not a top pick by any stretch, but with runs in the NWA, WWE, and WCW that included being UWF heavyweight champion, WWE tag team champion, and 4-time WWE Hardcore champion…Boss Man is a memorable gimmick and is certainly a decent name to be entered into the Hall. Big Boss Man - HOFRyback 2The next two segments showed the good and bad that WWE has got going on right now. They’re pushing Kalisto as a solid singles competitor and I respect that (even though I don’t think he’s quite ready for the “Mysterio Push” quite yet). They’re also pushing Ryback in a manner that’s believable and interesting. He’s not quite a heel, but he’s certainly not a babyface. I hate to say this, but I might end up liking this new Ryback gimmick as long as he stays neutral. Listen…I’ll give credit where it’s due and Ryback has been working his ass off to become a better in-ring competitor by expanding his repertoire and move-set. He updated his look (though it’s silly that he’s now looking more like Goldberg than ever) and is doing what he can to promo in a believable way. I’m not a fan yet (by a long shot), but I appreciate where they’re going with him right now.

Social Outcasts 2The bad is what they’re doing with the #SocialOutcasts. I think this group has a ton of potential to be a fun upper mid-card faction, but they’re constantly being used as enhancement talent. I think the crowds can get behind them if we know whether or not they’re playing babyface or heel…but right now we really don’t know what they are, thus the crowds pop a bit but then quiet down because they don’t know what they should be doing. Give them some direction and legitimately give them all a chance to showcase what they’re capable of (all four are excellent wrestlers with solid gimmicks in place) and then see what happens. I just love these guys and would love to see what they potentially do (they are very reminiscent of the New Day when they started…maybe almost a bit too much?).

Bray Wyatt vs Dean AmbroseI felt bad for Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt in the main event because the crowd was pretty quiet for the match. And why shouldn’t they be? This is a feud that played out in 2015 with Wyatt winning clean. Now Wyatt’s on some kind of “big match losing streak” that upsets his fans to no end. This is a guy who deserves to be a legit scary bad-ass who wins matches…but he doesn’t seem to win anything these days. So the crowd just wasn’t buying into what they were presented with, even though things picked up a bit once Wyatt and Ambrose gave them reason to get excited.

Wyatt Family 3I mean, this was an excellent match. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if I’ve seen a bad match between these two guys as they’ve got tremendous in-ring chemistry. The match ending prematurely made sense from a storyline standpoint, but I wasn’t a bit fan of it because all the Wyatt Family can do is beat people down before losing subsequent matches. Wyatt and Luke Harper deserve more than that, though…they’re just so immensely talented in a number of different ways.

Bray Wyatt vs Triple HWhat I loved most about last night’s main event was the confrontation between Bray Wyatt and Triple H. It was brief, but the crowd popped for it. And after the staredown, Wyatt’s smile and caressing of the WWE championship (hopefully) set up Wyatt for bigger things down the road. I mean, it’s something that should be happening as Wyatt is absolutely deserving of being in the main event title picture at this stage. WWE wonders why they don’t have any top level heels to carry the company…all they have to do is see how they’ve castrated the push of Bray Wyatt over the past year to see why.

And while I was hoping for a legitimate shake-up to take place this weekend in Toronto, with Ambrose standing tall over Triple H I think it’s safe to now say that Ambrose will lose and the WrestleMania main event is still set in stone. A shame, really…because I think the current slate of matches isn’t the best that WWE could offer.

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This is just what I’m thinking, but what are YOUR thoughts? Sound off in a comment below or hit me up on social media and let me know!

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