January 4th, 2016
From the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX
Your hosts are Byron Saxton, JBL, and Michael Cole
Before the live show, we get a video package of the events that led to tonight’s main event between Roman Reigns and Sheamus, with Vince McMahon as the special guest referee.
The show starts with Stephanie McMahon coming out. However, Roman Reigns’ music hits as he makes his way through the crowd and into the ring. Stephanie is pissed off to say the least. A “Roman” chant breaks out briefly before Reigns tells Stephanie its not about her but rather her father as he calls out Vince. Stephanie tells Reigns that he will have to get used to disappointment as he isnt here yet but will be for the WWE Title match. Reigns then tells Stephanie that the WWE World Title is his life because if he loses it then he will no longer have a job, becoming unable to provide for his family. Reigns then tells her no one will take it away from him. Stephanie laughs it off and cannot believe Reigns thinks he will win. The crowd chants “Yes” as she then thinks the crowd is pathetic for holding on to the belief that Reigns will win. Stephanie goes even further and tells the crowd they will never break from their Monday routine because the only thing that will get them through is the hope things will change. Stephanie then reminds Reigns that she is the boss and he is the help. However, she will not fire Reigns but rather “use” him by making him fight every night and eventually, the fans will chant the next “arrogant superstar.” Reigns cuts her off and says the next time, she will not be picking her dad up from jail but rather the hospital before saying “believe that” and dropping the mic. I thought the promo was fine. It showed that Reigns was not going to back down from the McMahon’s or let her comments about his family get to him. Plus, it didnt last as long as most opening promo segments.
Highlights of the Kevin Owens/Dean Ambrose confrontation last week on RAW. After that, Ambrose comes out and passes Reigns in the aisle. They acknowledge each other as Ambrose heads out to do commentary for the Kevin Owens vs. Neville match.
Next Monday, Brock Lesnar will be on RAW
Kevin Owens vs. Neville
Once again, Neville comes out with the Slammy Award for “Breakout Star of the Year” as Owens is pissed. His ribs are all taped up selling the beating he received last week courtesy of Owens. Neville immediately sends Owens to the floor with a dropkick then flies out with a corkscrew dive. Neville hits Owens with a somersalut senton off of the steps then hits Owens with a springboard dropkick in the ring. Owens is back outside while Neville flies out with a shooting star press. Neville tries a springboard move but Owens blocks that and catches him with a kick. Owens targets the ribs then hits a draping DDT. He tries a cover but Neville rolls outside. Owens follows and tosses him into the barricade as we head to break. The action returns with Owens continuing his assault on Neville on the outside. Neville floats over on a back suplex attempt and sends Owens into the post. Neville dropkicks Owens from the apron then hits him with a 450 splash. Back inside, Neville covers and gets two. They head up top were Neville tries a hurricarana but that fails and he ends up in a tree-of-woe. Owens then hits Neville with a cannonball before finishing him with the Pop-up Powerbomb (9:15) ***1/4. After the match, Owens tries to powerbomb Neville on the floor but Ambrose hits him with a tope. They brawl and go back-and-forth until Ambrose puts Owens through the announcers table with a running elbow drop from the barricade. The crowd starts an Ambrose chant as he yells at Owens about having a rematch anytime he wants.
Thoughts: Good match. Neville got in a lot of offense, looking good in defeat. The post-match brawl between Ambrose and Owens came off well and played into the story Ambrose was trying to tell on commentary about Owens being unable to take the punishment he hands out. This feud continues to be a shining spot on RAW.
JoJo runs into Vince McMahon, who arrives to the arena. She asks him about not commenting on his arrest as Vince says it’s a new year and he had money to get a good attorney. He then talks about how he is the special guest referee tonight, meaning that he is the law. After that he smirks and walks away.
Stardust vs. Titus O’Neill
Stardust does a cartwheel but Titus tossing him into the corner and hits him with chops. Stardust fights back and gauges Titus while a mild “Cody” chant breaks out. He hits the Disaster kick then targets the back and neck while the announcers talk about Titus “having all of the tools.” Stardust grabs a chinlock then uses a chop block after Titus breaks free. Stardust freaks out as more “Cody” chants break out then he walks into a boot and a clothesline. Titus takes control then gets the win with Clash of the Titus (4:16) 3/4*.
Thoughts: The Stardust character has more than run its course. This whole angle seems to be designed for him to revert back to being Cody Rhodes. And quite frankly, I think the damage has already been done to Cody as a performer with this gimmick. With Titus seemingly done teaming with Young, he’s likely going to languish in the lower midcard. Despite the announcers going on-and-on about his “tools,” he has shown minimal progress in the ring as a wrestler.
Becky Lynch is warming up backstage. Charlotte runs into her and asks if she asked for a match tonight. Becky said she remembers they had a good match while Charlotte reminded her she won last time. They agree to have the match “in the spirit of competition” as Ric Flair walks in to yell “wooooooooooo” and walks off with his daughter.
Charlotte w/ Ric Flair vs. Becky Lynch
This is a non-title match. Both girls trade armdrags to start. They go back-and-forth, ending in a stalemate as the crowd gives them a mild ovation. Becky takes Charlotte down with an armdrag and smiles. Charlotte sits down for a bit then gets up an attacks Becky as she takes over the match as we head to break. We return with Charlotte using a figure-four neck lock as she tells Becky “this is what you asked for” while landing a few forearm smashes. Charlotte hits a poor excuse of a clothesline followed by a slam before placing her on the top rope. Becky fights back and ends up locking on a sleeper after until Charlotte breaks it up. Becky counters a figure eight attempt with a rollup then fights back. Becky pumps up as she hits a few clotheslines and a leg lariat. Charlotte stops that with a big boot for a nearfall. The crowd starts chanting for Becky, who fires away. She hits an Exploder for a two. She hits a leg drop and tries another one but Flair grabs her leg. Charlotte tries a rollup but Becky counters that and grabs the tights for the win (10:46) **1/2. After the match, Flair tosses his jacket while Becky taunts him. However, Charlotte attacks Becky from behind and hits her with a spear. She then asks her dad to raise her hand before posing with the WWE Divas Championship.
Thoughts: Solid match. And its nice to see Becky give Charlotte a taste of her own medicine. Plus, Becky came off not looking like a gullible fool here. Charlotte is still doing better as a heel but needs to act like more of one in the ring. The post match beatdown helps sell their title match on Smackdown as this seems to be the Divas Title feud direction for the Royal Rumble.
Backstage, Vince McMahon is telling some guy to “do his job.” Sheamus walks in and sucks up to his boss. Vince reminds Sheamus he can make history tonight and goes through the rules, specifically when it comes to “obeying his commands.” He then tells Sheamus “may the luck of the Irish be with you” as Vince smirks while at Sheamus, who is walking away.
Ryback vs. Big Show
Show backs up Ryback into the corner and hits a chop. Ryback avoids a charge then knocks Show done. He gets shoved off attempting the Shell Shock and hits a chokeslam. Ryback gets tossed over the top rope then the Wyatt Family music interrupts as they are surrounding Ryback. They beat on the Big Guy as the Big Show watches from the ring with his hands on his hips. After disposing of Ryback, the Wyatts surround the Big Show, who takes everyone down until he is left standing with Braun Strowman. They stare each other down until the Wyatts attack Show from behind. They beat down Show then Bray screams about how they are “war, death, and pestilence” before proclaiming that they will be the last standing at the Royal Rumble. The match seems to have been ruled a no-contest.
Thoughts: The company once again is pushing the Wyatt Family as a major threat but too many poor feuds and little to no character progression from Bray is making that tough. As an act, they are not bringing anything new to the table. They seem to beat lower card acts only to put over the main event guys/part-timers. Poor Ryback seems to be really buried now while he was a complete afterthought here.
Rusev & Alberto Del Rio vs. The Usos
The match starts off with both teams trying to psych each other out. The Usos work over Del Rio in their corner as the announcers put over the Usos’ Slammy Awards. Rusev tags and stomps Jey in the corner as a “we want Lana” chant breaks out. Neither team can gain the advantage until Rusev hits Jey with a superplex as we head to break. The match returns with Jey trying to fight back. Rusev ducks an enziguiri before sending Jey to the floor with a standing dropkick. Del Rio tags and he hits a DDT for a nearfall. Rusev is back and applies a chinlock as some of the crowd rallies behind the Usos. Jey comes back with a Samoan drop as most of the crowd rallies behind him and he makes the tag. Jimmy runs wild until Del Rio cuts him off of the top rope. He tries the double stomp from the top but Jimmy avoids that and super kicks Del Rio. Jey comes off of the top with a splash for two as Rusev breaks up the pin. Rusev gets sent to the floor but he catches Jimmy with a super kick. Jey takes out Rusev with a dive but Del Rio hits him with an enziguiri then rams him into the post as he comes off of the top with a stomp on Jey, who was hanging in the ropes, and gets the win (13:21) **3/4
Thoughts: Decent match. Rusev looked good here but his team with Del Rio just came across as two singles guys wrestling in a tag match more than anything else. The Usos act is really stale right now. Even the fans seem less interested in them than any other point over the past two years.
An ad for the Royal Rumble airs, highlighting the fact that it is free for first-time WWE Network subscribers.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Heath Slater w/ Adam Rose & Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel
Before the match, Ziggler is shown in an insert promo hyping up the fact it is a new year and how he can “punch his ticket” to WrestleMania by winning the Royal Rumble match. Cole mentioned how the four guys together have been sending “cryptic tweets” all day long. Slater is carrying some extra weight in the midsection. Ziggler takes down Slater, who manages to avoid a superkick. Ziggler takes Slater back down and works a bow-and-arrow lock. Ziggler manages a small package then hits a corner splash. Elbow drop gets two. Slater cheapshots Ziggler off of a break then goes to work. Ziggler manages a neckbreaker but misses a corner splash as Slater targets the back. Slater chokes out Ziggler on the bottom rope before grabbing a chinlock. Slater slams Ziggler but misses an elbow drop. Ziggler comes back with a DDT then tunes up the band as the crowd does not seem too impressed. Rose and Dallas jump up on the apron to distract Ziggler and that allows Slater to roll him up and grab the tights for a surprise win (4:36) DUD. After the match, Slater tells us that he found friends as they all speak. Axel keeps screaming about how the “chains are off” while Rose cuts a promo I can barely understand. Slater then finishes this off by saying “trending worldwide: Social Outcasts” as that appears to be the name of this group.
Thoughts: This was complete garbage. I think the ship has sailed on Ziggler a few years ago but he still deserved better than this. First off, Slater looked awful. He had the body of an 80s WWF TV jobber and wrestled like someone who didnt even belong on NXT TV. He looked abysmal. Ziggler was clearly going through the motions and the crowd was silent throughout the match. They barely even responded at the finish. And to make matter worse, they treated the win as nothing more than a fluke. This segment had no business making it to live TV.
We are shown the New Day messing around backstage on their way to the ring.
A plug for the Stone Cold Podcast with guest Ric Flair. This will air immediately after RAW next Monday.
Vince McMahon approaches Reigns in the locker room where he reads him the rules, emphasizing that he obey his commands at all times.
The New Day come out to the ring. They talk about destroying Kalisto and the Dudley Boyz while making fun of Mike Tyson falling off of a hoverboard. Woods proceeds to do one of the worst Mike Tyson impressions I have ever heard in my life as the whole sketch was awful. We then get a countdown as the New Day plan to give the crowd a present but that ends up leading to Chris Jericho coming out. The crowd popped for that. Jericho introduces himself to the crowd, sixteen years after his WWE debut, saying he is here to save the WWE. Woods cuts him off as the New Day let Jericho know they saved the WWE through the power of positivity. Jericho insults the New Day’s unicorn horns before trying to get a “rooty, tooty booty” chant aimed at the New Day. The crowd played along for the most part. Jericho then announced he will be in the Royal Rumble and will throw out all the “trap queens” in the New Day. I thought this was terribly written but the performers were able to at least get it over to a degree. The crowd was into Jericho but I felt this went on far longer than needed.
Tomorrow night at 9pm EST, Dean Ambrose will be on SportsCenter with Jonathan Coachman
New Day vs. Kalisto & Dudley Boyz
Kalisto starts off the match but Woods demands Bubba. He tags as Woods chops him in the corner. Bubba barely sells it as a mild “rooty, tooty booty” chant occurs. Bubba chops Woods then works the arm. Kalisto tags and also targets the arm. Kofi is now the legal man for the New Day as he also has his arm worked over while a “we want tables” chant breaks out. Bubba presses Kalisto over his head and launches him outside at the New Day as they all fall over while we head to commercial. We return with Big E hitting Bubba with a belly-to-belly suplex for a nearfall as the New Day take control of the match. The crowd rallies behind Bubba, who is unable to make the tag. Kofi hits two with a running kick but misses a corner splash as Kalisto tags into the match. He leaps off of Bubba’s shoulders with a seated senton. Woods stops short his comeback then Big E splashes him on the ring apron before gyrating near the barricade. The New Day hits Kalisto with the Unicorn Stampede in the corner while Woods plays the trombone. The New Day continue to neutralize Kalisto, who keeps kicking out of pin attempts. Kalisto dodges a charging Big E, who spills out to the floor. Kalisto makes the tag to D-Von, who runs wild on Woods. Bubba tags and hits a backdrop before firing away at Big E. He hits Woods with the Bubba Bomb but Big E breaks that up. Kalisto sends Big E to the floor but gets caught on a dive attempt and rammed into the barricade. Woods breaks up a Wassup Drop attempt as Bubba chases him around then Big E picks up D-Von for the Big Ending while Kofi comes off of the top with the assist as the New Day gets the win (16:37) ***.
Thoughts: Fun match. Kalisto is really starting to get over with his offense. The WWE showcasing him more is certainly helping that cause. Bubba is still great at getting the crowd into the match and they were really into this.
Another video package to hype tonight’s main event.
Plug for Smackdown on Thursday, with Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte for the Divas Title.
WWE World Title Match: Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns (c) with Vince McMahon as Special Guest Referee
Vince is rocking the muscle shirt here. Reigns was reluctant to give Vince the title belt, allowing Sheamus to attack him from behind. Reigns breaks up mounted punches in the corner and stomps away. Sheamus whips Reigns into the corner as some “let’s go Roman” chants break out. Reigns fights back and hits ten corner clotheslines before knocking Sheamus. and himself, to the floor. Sheamus sends Reigns into the steps as we head to break. The action returns with Sheamus working a chinlock. He takes Reigns down with a knee smash as we get a clip of Sheamus slamming Reigns on top of the announcers table during the break. Sheamus gets two with a rolling senton. Reigns tries a comeback as Sheamus catches him with a sleeper but is able to counter that with a backdrop as both men are down. Reigns is up first and hits some clotheslines. He snaps Sheamus neck off of the top rope before hitting the Drive By. Back inside, he gets two with a Samoan Drop as Vince counted used a slow count on the pin attempt. Sheamus fights back and hits Reigns with a kneelift. He hits the White Noise but Reigns rolls through that and hits a powerbomb but Vince stops counting after two, claiming he lost a contact lens. Sheamus gets two with a quick rollup but walks into a Superman Punch. Vince uses another slow count so Reigns gets fed up then feigns a spear and decks Vince with a Superman Punch. Reigns then spears Sheamus but there is no ref to make the pin as Reigns tries to wave in another official. Reigns continues to brutalize Sheamus before starring down Vince, who tries to escape. Reigns tosses him back inside as Vince is on the mat begging for mercy. Stephanie’s music hits and she stands on the bottom rope so Reigns shoves Vince against the ropes as Stephanie flips into the ring. Reigns tells Stephanie she has a front row seat while he sets up for a spear. However, Sheamus catches him with a Brogue Kick. Sheamus hits another Brogue Kick as Vince drops down to make the count then just stops and turns away. That looked really bad. Scott Armstrong comes out as Sheamus only manages two. Armstrong apologizes to Sheamus as Cole tells us Armstrong works for the Authority. Reigns sidesteps a Sheamus charge and hits him with a Superman Punch then does the same to Armstrong. Referee John Cone runs down to the ring as Reigns spears Sheamus for the win (18:20) **1/4. After the match, Vince informs Reigns that is next title defense will take place at the Royal Rumble………………….in the Royal Rumble match. The announcers are shocked as the camera shows a distraught Reigns in the ring while Vince and Stephanie are gloating on the ramp.
Thoughts: This never felt like a big match. The atmosphere was not at all indicative of a WWE World Title match. Reigns did not appeared to get booed but the cheers were not all that overwhelming either. Sheamus as a top heel has predictably bombed. I like the guy as a worker but he is not a main event guy in 2016. The end of the match was overbooked and Vince appeared to have blown a spot at the end when he was in position to count for Sheamus but froze and rolled over waiving in another referee. However, the end with Vince announcing that Reigns’ title will be on the line at the Royal Rumble is certainly big news and adds a lot of intrigue to that match.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I thought this show was okay. The action was generally solid and besides the Ziggler/Slater match, nothing else was actively terrible. The main problem once again is the lack of depth, which can be blamed on a mixture of injuries and failure to create new stars. The Owens/Ambrose feud is good but its really the only one the company has at the moment.
The news of the Royal Rumble match being for the World Title tells me that they still do not have an idea for the title match at WrestleMania. I think it also buys them some time in order to think up of a plan. And for fans, it adds a lot of intrigue to the match itself because there is no clear-cut favorite. I assume Brock Lesnar is appearing next week on RAW to declare himself as part of the Rumble match and he will have to be one of the favorites.
Right now, the company needs to make some compelling characters and build up top heels. The League of Nations has been a poor excuse of a faction and that is the top heel group. The rest of the midcard is just floundering and it doesnt appear like they are going to break away many people from that pack. Hopefully the start to do this as we get closer to the Rumble and for the Rumble match itself. They have to push some people heading into WrestleMania and at this point I do not care who just as long as some of them rise above the rest of the midcard and get a chance.