Match #1: The Usos Draw with Luke Harper & Erik Rowan
As is par for the course for these Wyatt hosses, the match had the usual slow, yet methodical build with Harper & Rowan dishing out the bulk of the blows, which always works well even if it might've dragged on slightly in this case. I've been really liking the Uso's recent work, but the comeback here from the hot tag wasn't as electric as we've seen from them in previous matches, and as a result this bout never really feels like it gets anywhere close to top gear. I'm also not crazy about the decision for the finish, but that's subjective. But the segment did culminate nicely when Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan's post-match attack kicked in, adding some real weight to the segment. It went from being an ordinary match between the two teams to an important continuation of Bryan's transformation and it also builds to a tag match between the Uso twins and Bray/Bryan on Raw.
Rating: 7/10. - There's been better matches with these two teams in recent weeks against different opponents and also with each other. But the post-match attack added to the wider context of what this was about, making it much more worthwhile in the process.
- On Daniel Bryan joining the Wyatts, I'm going to let it play out first before adding much more in the way of comment about it.
- Orton backstage tells Vickie Guerrero he's going to confront HHH and Stephanie on Raw about his feelings on not getting consulted over the WWE World Heavyweight title match with John Cena at the Royal Rumble. Short segment but it's an added incentive to tune in to Raw on Monday. As usual, this is the best way to use Orton in terms of mic time; Short, arrogant and bad tempered rather than long, dreary and tiring.
MizTV with Big Show as guest
It appears Miz is sticking with a babyface roll for now despite a couple of false heel turns as of late. I much prefer him as a heel but at least it looks like they've made up their minds in terms of his alignment. Regarding the segment and Big Show's challenge, Show delivered his promo well as did Paul Heyman. Heyman's bit about teasing a fight between them on tonight was predictable, yet nicely done and Heyman put it across in a delightfully slimey way. Truth be told a Big Show/Brock Lesnar match does nothing for me, but that's purely from my perspective. Putting that aside and looking at it objectively; In terms of how they're setting it up, they've booked it well initially and I can't fault them for that at all.
Rating: 7.5/10. - Solid build and another match gets added to the Royal Rumble card. Not a match that will be everyone's cup of tea, but the actual hype should keep people hooked for now.
- There's a video recap of the WWE Network press conference from Thursday. The recap itself sums everything up nicely and I thought they did a tremendous job of making it feel like one of the biggest things the company has ever done. Which it is, obviously. Speaking as a UK resident, it might take me a little longer to actually get access to it, but when the time comes I'll be one of the first to sign up and I have no doubt it's going to be excellent. I hope it doesn't take long to arrive in this part of the world, and when it does I'll be like a pig in Chardonnay.
Match #2: Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara & Los Matadores w/El Torito Def. Real Americans, Ryback & Curtis Axel
Essentially a filler match and a chance to get all of these acts on TV. But as filler goes, this was harmless fun, quick and easy and kept the show moving along nicely. Everyone did their jobs accordingly and all for the benefit of a family audience. Poor Zeb looked like he was going to pass out with rage because of seeing so many illegal masked men in one place!
Rating: 6.5/10. - As I said, nothing memorable but good, wholesome, harmless fun.
-Another excellent video recap, this time covering the recent skirmishes between John Cena and Randy Orton. I know it'll be the millionth time they'll have faced each other, but for a big event such as the Royal Rumble this is more than a fitting title match to go with.
Match #3: Randy Orton Def. Big E Langston
Orton largely dictated the pace throughout this one. Similarly to the Usos in their match with the Wyatts earlier on, I felt that Big E's comeback was a little reserved compared to recent efforts on his part. It didn't help that the crowd tonight has been on the quiet side, and Orton did well to eventually get them going with some sly tactics and irritating postures to goad them. A solid match all the same, but you got the feeling both had more in the tank than what we were ultimately given. Some have argued that Big E didn't need to be booked to lose to Orton, but here he remained competitive and still has the IC title in his grasp so this wont do him any harm. If anything it showed he can hang with the main-eventers when called upon. For Orton, he gets a big boost heading up to his Rumble title defense and as such this did what it was supposed to do.
Rating: 7/10. - Could've been better, but still solid. Big E doesn't look like a chump despite what some would argue, and Orton gets a relatively big TV win to build momentum to his PPV match.
- Another promo from the Wyatt's backstage, this time addressing the Usos. Usual creepy, haunting stuff and Bryan's input added to it too. Again, I'm not sure where they might be going with the angle but I'll see how it plays out.
Match #4: Xavier Woods w/R-Truth Def. Fandango w/Summer Raye
Fandango straight away mocks Woods with struts and shaking the hips. Excellent! Good to see the character in full flow because we didn't see that last week against R-Truth. This was actually a welcome change of pace thanks to the energy about this one, even if it lasted barely a minute. Might've been better served going on earlier in the night to pump up the crowd a bit more, actually. Much better than the interaction these performers had last week.
Rating: 6.5/10 - They're obviously high on Xavier Woods and I'm actually pleased they look to be moving him on to a new feud after the stuff with Brodus Clay. I remain a big fan of the Fandango character and the more interactions these guys have I ultimately expect him to get his own back.
-The Usos get a backstage promo, talking about how they'll get revenge on Raw against Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan. The Usos getting more chances like this to express themselves verbally is very welcome and this was delivered superbly in my view. Lets hope they get more mic time in the future, because I think there's some untapped potential there. Surprisingly good.
- Speaking of promos, The Shield get more mic time before the upcoming main event. As I said last week, it's great that they're actually getting to speak in front of the audiences in person now and they've moved away from the backstage stuff. All three can handle themselves perfectly well, but Rollins edges it for me as the best talker. Calm, confident and assured and knows when to pick his spots in terms of raising his voice and emphasizing key points.
Match #5: The Shield Def. CM Punk & The New Age Outlaws
Par for the course when it comes to Punk and The Shield; rock solid as ever and full of energy. The Outlaws genuinely look like they haven't missed a step and along with Punk managed to get a somewhat lukewarm crowd fired up for everything that was going on. For the heels, Ambrose particularly excelled here and he seems to be ramping his unhinged, psychotic nature up a notch in light of the recent altercations with Punk. As for Roman Reigns, getting the pin again here caps off a memorable week for him and one that further emphasizes his recent ascension. The key for him will be consistency, and he and his stable-mates have certainly shown that in abundance since debuting.
Rating: 8/10 - Good way to close the show. The Outlaws looked great, Punk's comeback was good, and The Shield are never anything other than solid workhorses. Good recipe for 6-man tag.
Overall - More star power this week and we got some nice advancement in some key areas. Namely -
-The Daniel Bryan/Wyatts angle continued and built up to a match on Raw.
-Brock vs Big Show is confirmed for the Rumble.
-Excellent video package for the WWE Network, shown on TV here for the first time.
-Randy Orton looks strong going into his big PPV title defence.
-He also announced another reason to tune in to Raw as he confronts HHH and Stephanie.
-Roman Reigns continues to be booked strongly.
So to me, they hit all the right points in the key areas they obviously wanted to address. At times I did feel the matches were lacking a bit of spark compared to recent weeks, and there was an air of filler about the broadcast at times, but it wasn't a totally throwaway edition. I'd have liked to have seen John Cena on the show (he did work a dark match after the taping) too. Still, some good stuff to seek out this week.
Rating: 7/10 - The matches weren't blockbusters but as highlighted above, there's still lots of positives about the show. Hopefully next week things get a little more interesting as we get closer to the Rumble.