WWE RAW Review
March 29, 2016
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com

What else is there really to say? The build for WrestleMania 32 is all concluded and, for the most part, it’s been an unmitigated disaster. Their failure to get Roman Reigns over despite two years worth of build has sullied the main event coupled with a roster depleted by injuries (which is really just an excuse) and really bad creative. The nicest thing I can say about the build is at least it’s over. Let’s just jump into the review of last night’s show, which I attended live. One could call it the “Please nobody get hurt” edition of RAW. Many thanks to Adam Martin for covering RAW for me last night!

The show peaked in the first segment

Without a doubt, the one match at WrestleMania that has generated the most interest has been The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon. Has the storyline been well thought out and explained? Absolutely not. Is it something out of left field and almost feels fresh? Yes, it is. In my mind, this should be the main event of WrestleMania. It’s got people interested and, depending on the finish (and there are many, many ways it could go), it’ll send the crowd home happy or at least buzzing with excitement.

The show kicked off with The Undertaker’s bell tolling, which got Brooklyn really fired up. After sitting through an hour and a half of boring and pointless Superstars, Main Event, and Smackdown taping matches, including a thrilling match that went way too long with Ryback and Fandango, seeing the legendary Undertaker was definitely a great way to kick off the live show. Undertaker said this would not be his last WrestleMania, so that could be a swerve or it could take the prospect of Undertaker laying down for Shane McMahon completely off the table. Undertaker then reiterated that the blood of Shane would be on Vince’s hands, but the blood of Vince could be on his own. That didn’t make any sense. I guess that’s a response to Vince calling him a bitch or putting the retirement stipulation on the match last week. Still, Undertaker is making it clear that he has no love for Vince McMahon, so why is he doing his bidding? This has yet to be explained and it looks like it never will.

Shane McMahon then came out to a thunderous applause from the crowd. Being there live, that really was a hell of an ovation. Undertaker’s was certainly huge, but this definitely matched it. Shane talked about his legacy and how if he has to end Undertaker’s legacy to continue his own, he will. Undertaker warned him to not talk about his legacy.

Shane came down to the ring and this is when things really picked up. Shane talked about how Undertaker’s legacy died two years ago at WrestleMania with the ending of the streak, and The Undertaker said Shane is his father’s bitch. They started brawling until Undertaker threw him out of the ring. Shane then got the better of him by slamming him in the head with a monitor and laying him out on the commentary table. Shane then went to the top rope and executed a beautiful leap of faith. That really stunned me. I figured with the rash of injuries that have plagued WWE leading up to WrestleMania that anything risky would be off the table, but they had Shane do the leap of faith. Man, could you imagine if he tore his shoulder out doing that? Shane is 46 years old now. Still, the guy got great air and took the bump like a champ. It was a great visual. Even better was when Undertaker sat up after a minute of selling and did his throat slash taunt to Shane. This certainly got the crowd really fired up. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. With the benefit of hindsight, this should have closed the show.

Roman Reigns as a face just isn’t going to happen

Look, it’s over folks. The Roman Reigns as the super face of the company experiment has failed, and it has failed miserably. This is indisputable. Also, before anyone even e-mails me about it, there is no comparison whatsoever with the reactions John Cena gets compared to Roman Reigns. Cena was red hot when they made the decision to go with him as the top guy of the company over Batista. Remember, the plan at first was Batista was going to be “the guy,” but crowd reactions and interest changed those plans quickly. Also, while the crowd has certainly been hard on Cena through the years, his quick wit, promos, and great in ring skills (they’ve greatly improved through the years) always managed to turn the crowd. Now I think Cena is at a point where deep down even the hardcore crowd loves him – they just enjoy doing the dueling chants for him.

Reigns just doesn’t have any of that going for him. This is not me picking on him – it is just facts. Reigns was red hot along with two other guys in The Shield, constantly having his weaknesses hidden in six-man tag team matches. Then when The Shield broke up, instead of showing anger toward Seth Rollins for turning on him, he just moved on and immediately transitioned to being involved in title matches and higher profile matches, despite there not really being a strong surge from the crowd wanting to see it.

After being ham-fistedly put into the Money in the Bank ladder match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after The Shield break-up and then into the fatal four way for the title at Battleground in 2014, he moved on to facing Randy Orton at SummerSlam. Then they decided it was time for him to be angry with Seth Rollins. All the while, his reactions were shrinking every week with horrible promos such as saying, “Randy Orton may have the venom, but I have the antidote (holds up fist).” It was really cringe-worthy stuff. They booked him to face Rollins at the Night of Champions PPV. Then they inexplicably had Reigns and Rollins face on the RAW before the PPV and Reigns decisively beat him. Reigns then went down with a hernia and was gone for three months.

When he came back, he bungled his promo declaring he would be in the Royal Rumble. Then Daniel Bryan returned, got people excited about the possibility of another run with the title, and then he was unceremoniously dumped from the Rumble. The crowd saw this as the WWE giving the finger to the crowd and instead giving them what they thought should be a main eventer in Reigns. Reigns was viciously booed that night, and he’s never recovered from that. Very briefly they managed to get Reigns over at the end of 2015, but their hideous booking tactics immediately negated any progress within two weeks of his victory in Philadelphia.

Now Reigns is once again ham-fistedly being put into a WrestleMania main event despite there being absolutely no momentum behind it or any surge to want to see it. They have Triple H come out and talk about how people love Reigns despite the fact that the crowd is booing every mention of his name. They come off as so clueless to what their crowd seemingly wants. The terrible creative and ultra-long marathon episodes of RAW has killed the interest of most of the casual viewers, leaving only the dreaded “hardcore fans” to attend the television tapings. This is evidenced by the declining television ratings, WWE Network subscriptions (at least 80% of the numbers are hardcore fans), and the crowds that file into the arenas. Seriously, if you wanted to become a fan of WWE, you have to invest at least five hours a week into watching their stuff and subscribe to their network. It’s a very time consuming endeavor that not a lot of people that weren’t already exposed to the product would want to take on. Then you watch the shows and listen to how the crowd abuses this supposed superhero and you wonder what is going on. I don’t care how many interviews WWE executives do defending Reigns and their decisions. At the end of the day, you have to listen to your audience.

Well, usually around this time of the year, WWE ultimately does. Two years ago, Daniel Bryan main eventing WrestleMania XXX was completely because of the crowd’s reaction. Last year, Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and took the WWE World Heavyweight Championship away from Roman Reigns, who was undoubtedly booked to win. This year, with interest in Reigns even lower than it was a year ago, what can they do? In my mind, the only way to go is turn him heel. At this point, the guy is damaged goods. They’ve failed miserably getting him over, so the only way to salvage it is to try to get him over as a heel, which in all honesty is probably the best role for him. Reigns looks like a heel and his personality is more suitable for that anyway. How they do that, I don’t know. It also can’t be a lame six-month heel run before they try to force him to be a face again. It needs to be a year or two long. That’s really the only way to salvage it.

Anyway, enough about what they should do with Reigns. Let’s talk about what they did do with him on RAW.

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon came out for a promo. Triple H cut a very good promo about how he’s obsessed with greatness and talked about his stranglehold on the business for two decades. Reigns then came out, was loudly booed, and he scared them off. Backstage, Triple H attacked him to massive cheers. Then Triple H and Stephanie McMahon came out to essentially cut the same promo at the close of the show. Reigns came out, much like he did earlier in the show, and they had a pull apart brawl that absolutely no one cared about. Then Reigns dove over the top rope onto a bunch of wrestlers and Triple H, yet the crowd still booed him. Then it was over. I guess it was better than the belt tug of war with him and Brock Lesnar last year, but not by much. It was a disaster – just the latest disaster in the Roman Reigns as the top guy push. Something has got to give here.

The crowd in Brooklyn… yikes

Being part of the crowd in Brooklyn on Monday night was a trying experience. I can’t remember the last time I was surrounded by that much white trash not in a waffle house. Maybe it’s because I’m married and pushing 30, but to listen to drunk morons scream and curse (like vicious cursing) about how Vince McMahon needs to die all while families shield their children’s ears made me sick. Then the morons crapped on matches that weren’t bad, did a wave during a commercial break that no one saw, and chanted, “We are awesome.” I love being a part of crowds that are electric and respond to the show in a constructive way. I don’t care if they boo faces and cheer heels. I don’t care if they start fun chants. But to disrespect the talent in the ring while cursing and acting like asses with children around, it made my blood boil. It really made me not want to attend a show for a long time. There were moments that were fantastic to be a part of live on Monday night, but they were outweighed by largely awkward and sad situations. Some people take it way too far.

Quick Thoughts

I really thought Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles was already booked for WrestleMania weeks ago. Apparently not. So they’re cool with Jericho losing to Zack Ryder, whose presence in the Intercontinental Championship match lowers it’s prestige greatly, but he couldn’t lose to Fandango last week so AJ Styles could get revenge? Ok! I definitely liked the promo Jericho cut on him before accepting the match. The crowd was very receptive to this angle.

Charlotte and Becky Lynch had a complete nothing of a match that saw many head for the bathrooms. Becky seemed to be a complete afterthought, as it appeared to be all about Charlotte and Sasha Banks. If that’s what they wanted to focus on, why did they make this a triple threat match?

The final build for the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was what it was. After all that build, Goldust and R-Truth are just two guys in the match. What a waste of time that was. Also, Kane attacked Big Show last week, but now they’re buddies this week? Where is the quality control on these shows?

The New Day got an absolutely incredible reaction in Brooklyn. They were definitely a highlight of the night. Kofi Kingston beat Alberto Del Rio in a match that was highlighted by Xavier Woods playing La Cucaracha. Jonathan Coachman came out after, announced that ESPN SportsCenter was providing live on site coverage of WrestleMania, and danced with New Day. All in all this was a great segment.

Kalisto beat Konnor of The Ascension in short order in a sloppy match. Ryback came out, stood over Kalisto, and walked off. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in seeing this match. Every week I see Kalisto with the United States Championship, I’m surprised to remember that he’s champion.

Paul Heyman cut a really fantastic promo on Dean Ambrose with Brock Lesnar by his side. This was great final hype for their match on Sunday. Dean Ambrose then came out with a wagon, and he went under the ring to put weapons in the wagon before walking off without saying a word. The wagon thing was really hokey, but still, at least half the segment was good and it didn’t end with Ambrose once again being laid out, so that’s a positive.

Ok, you want to talk about how clueless the company is? How about sending out Eva Marie to make a babyface save and thinking it was going to be a huge surprise. I’m sure there were more than a few executives backstage that were stunned that Eva Marie got viciously booed. Being live in the crowd, the boos were louder than anything Roman Reigns got. They are just absolutely clueless to what their crowd wants.

The six-man tag team match was a travesty. The match work was fine. It was the crowd that ruined it. These guys worked their asses off for 20+ minutes. Was it filler just to get through the show? Yes. Should it have been lambasted as badly as it was? Absolutely not. It was a total embarrassment. Still, the guys went with it, did their jobs, and that was that. What a shame.

Final impression

The build for this year’s WrestleMania was absolutely horrific, but WWE probably doesn’t care. WrestleMania sells itself. They could probably put Heath Slater in the main event (by the way, he shows more personality and character than they’ve given to Reigns) and it wouldn’t matter because the show would have already sold out months ago. The build probably isn’t indicative as to how the show actually will be. Last year, the build was terrible and they pulled out a good – not great, but good – WrestleMania. I’m sure this year will be no different. The show will feature Steve Austin and The Rock in some form, so it can’t be all bad. No matter how you feel about wrestling at this stage of the game, a real wrestling fan still gets excited about WrestleMania. I’m not feeling it yet, but I know come Sunday I’ll be pretty amped up. Even if the show isn’t great, NXT in Dallas is going to be phenomenal. That should satisfy a fan of wrestling by itself.

Bump of the Night: Shane McMahon’s leap of faith on The Undertaker!
Match of the Night: The six-man tag ** 1/4

Final Rating: ** 1/4

Well those are my thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know by commenting or using one of the other two options to get in contact with me.

E-Mail – MikeyT817@gmail.com

I will be back on Sunday with my predictions piece on WrestleMania 32. Be on the lookout for that around 1 PM EST. Even though the build has been awful, it should still be a very good show.

Check out the recap of this week’s RAW here. Please check out my live recap of RAW every Monday at 8 PM EST.

Thanks for reading!

Mike Tedesco is the official recapper of WWE Monday Night RAW for Wrestleview.com.