Bayless’ RAW Rundown 2/22/16


February 22, 2016
From the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI
Your hosts are Byron Saxton, JBL, and Michael Cole

We are shown clips from last night’s Fastlane PPV, which saw Roman Reigns pin Dean Ambrose to win the match and the right to face HHH for the WWE World Title at WrestleMania 32.

The show starts with Cole plugging the WrestleMania 32 main event. We then see a clip of Brock Lesnar ambushing Dean Ambrose as he arrived to the arena. Lesnar put him through a windshield of a limousine as we then saw Ambrose get loaded into an ambulance as Cole said he was currently undergoing tests at a medical facility. The announcers put over how Ambrose prevented Lesnar from winning the match last night.

Vince McMahon comes out to the ring, where the “Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award” is present. Vince talks about his family presenting “sports entertainment” for over 100 years and talks a bit about that. He put over his dad for being cunning and kind and states that the person winning the award shares these same qualities. He then presents the award to his daughter, Stephanie McMahon, as she comes out. Stephanie comes out and pretends to act surprised that she won before acknowledging her husband, HHH, who is going to defend his title against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. That drew a lot of boos.

However, Shane McMahon’s music hits and that drew a lot of cheers. Stephanie and Vince looked shocked as Shane plays to the crowd. The crowd then breaks into a loud “yes” chant, which switches over to a “holy shit” then “this is awesome.” Vince goes for a hug but Shane instead fixes his dad’s tie. Vince then extends his hand but Shane does not take the offering. Shane finally speaks and first thanks the crowd. He then talks about conducting business tonight and said he is here because this award was the straw that broke the camel’s back as it should have been given to a worthy recipient, which is not his sister. Stephanie tells Shane this is her moment and the award is her legacy, something Shane tells his sister she has not earned. Stephanie tells Shane its easy to say this when you are sitting on the sidelines as she and her husband are putting their blood, sweat, and tears into everything. Shane then motions to Vince that Stephanie doesnt know about some sort of deal they had before going into how the stock, ratings, and talent injuries have been decimating the company, all under her watch. Stephanie then tells Shane he has no clue about success because he is nothing more than a quitter. Shane reminds Stephanie that their father is great as Shane once again hints at something. Shane tells the story of how several years ago, Vince messed up big and he saved him. After that, they made a deal and that allowed Shane to leave and explore other opportunities. Stephanie tells Shane she knows everything that goes on in the WWE but Shane tells her she only got to climb within the company because he let it happen. Stephanie asks her dad if this is true as the crowd starts a “Yes” chant. Vince asks for a word with Shane first as Stephanie tells Shane they are busy with WrestleMania and if he feels like showing up for a change, she can get him a ticket. Stephanie then demands to know if this is true, then Shane himself asks Vince if its true. Vince said some of it was while Shane said all of it is true and tells Stephanie at that time, it was “best for business.” Shane then holds the ropes open for his sister, who says she will never forgive him for this.

The crowd chants for Stephanie to leave as Vince wants to know what Shane wants, even stating his checkbook is here and he can name his price. Shane tells Vince it was never about money and that he left a lot of it on the table when he took off. Shane said it is about legacy, the one Vince’s grandfather and father started, and how Shane has three boys at home and wants the business to be around for them and the way it is heading, its not appearing the business will be around any longer. Vince asks Shane what he wants, which is control of Monday Night RAW. Vince laughs and said how RAW goes, the whole company goes as Vince said its now a public company and you cannot just step in and take control. Shane stresses generational control as Vince flips out about Shane only coming out to embarrass Stephanie and himself. Vince then stops and makes Shane a deal. He can have control of RAW, as long as he has one more match and wins. Vince then says if Shane loses, he wants the key to the lockbox that holds what Shane has so he can no longer use it against him. The crowd starts a “you still have it” chant. Vince then swears at Shane as it is censored. Shane tells Vince his beatings only made him stronger, then Vince tells Shane his place and opponent will almost be as big as his ego as at WrestleMania, he will face the Undertaker…in a Hell in a Cell match.

First off, the reaction to Shane was incredible. And it really was a great surprise seeing him return to WWE TV. I did like the angle of him coming back to save the WWE from the Authority. However, the thought of him facing the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match reeks of desperation. I get the fact that Vince wants to punish Shane and make sure his secrets never get out for the storyline they are going with but this match setup came off as awfully contrived.  After battles with Brock Lesnar, who is constantly portrayed as the baddest man in the company, how does this pose as a threat for the Undertaker. And why would the Undertaker agree to fight for Vince’s behalf? There is also a slim possibility that Shane has someone fight on his behalf to face the Undertaker but they really seemed to drive the point across that Shane was actually going to wrestle. They have five more shows to make this work and built interest and it seems like it will be challenging, especially if the rest of the crowds react to Shane fighting the Undertaker like they did here. (the crowd tonight went to being red-hot for Shane to turning silent when the match was announced). You can attribute some of that reaction to shock if you want but this match is not going to be an easy sell. 

Neville & Lucha Dragons vs. New Day

Before the match, we get an inset promo from the New Day as they talk about the League of Nations interrupting them at Fastlane. They talk about taking the high road because they have the power of positivity before saying they need to get a box of “Booty-Os.” The New Day are quickly cleared from the ring then we cut to break. The match returns with Neville working over Woods until he gets caught with a thumb to the eye. Neville lands a kick then heads over to his corner but stops right before making a tag and goes back to kick Kofi in a dumb-looking spot. Neville gets hit with the Unicorn Stampede as Woods plays the trombone. Kofi works a stretch as JBL tells us Kid Rock is a huge New Day fan. The New Day continue to neutralize Neville as we head to another break. Back from the break as the New Day continue to beat on Neville, who comes back with a backdrop on Woods that sends him to the floor. Kofi prevents Neville from tagging out then knocks Kalisto off of the apron but Neville scurries over to make the tag. Sin Cara runs wild then takes Kofi out with a tope. Quebrada gets two as Big E breaks that up. The match breaks down as Neville sidesteps a charging Big E, who spills out to the floor. Neville hits a 450 splash from the apron onto Big E as Kalisto also flies out to hit Woods. Back inside, Kofi rolls away from a Swanton then escapes from Sin Cara’s shoulders and hits the Trouble in Paradise for the win (15:26) **1/2. Sin Cara’s mask nearly came out towards the end.

Thoughts: The match was fine but just used to give the New Day a win. Kalisto once again finds himself on the losing end in another multi-man match, despite holding the U.S. Title. And Neville continues on the treadmill to nowhere as he has zero creative direction at the moment. Based off the insert promo, the New Day might be turning face soon to feud with the League of Nations. Well, I assume they would turn face if that was the case and since they are without challengers, a turn and feud with LoN makes sense. No other team gets cheered more than they do anyway.

Backstage, Roman Reigns is pacing while texting on his phone. Jojo comes over to ask him if he has an update on Ambrose. Reigns talks about how all he knows is that Ambrose went through a windshield and they are running tests. Reigns is getting booed here. Anyway, Reigns talks about he went through a lot this year and at WrestleMania, it will just be between HHH and himself and will come down to his fist and his heart, which he points at, before ending this by saying he likes his odds. This crowd wants nothing to do with Reigns tonight, much like last night. Or last week’s RAW crowd.

Tonight, Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar will address the Ambrose attack.

Heyman and Lesnar head out to the ring. A “Suplex City” chant breaks out before Heyman speaks. Heyman tells us this is the main event of the evening as he puts over the fact that whenever Lesnar is around, it is the main event because he is the biggest box office attraction in sports entertainment or MMA. Heyman puts over how Lesnar took both Reigns and Ambrose to Suplex City last night. Heyman then talks about how Reigns was seconds away from tapping out to Lesnar’s Kimura but all of a sudden, Ambrose came along and turned the match into a no holds barred match, ruining his chance at a WrestleMania main event. Heyman tells us this pissed off (which was censored) Lesnar and he has decided to take Ambrose out of WrestleMania altogether. We then get a replay of Lesnar attacking Ambrose today as the camera cuts back to the ring with Lesnar laughing. Heyman talks about no shield being able to protect Ambrose from Lesnar while going on about how ridiculous it is for Lesnar to not be in the main event. Heyman’s microphone dies and gets a replacement then talks about how Lesnar needs a WrestleMania opponent and how anyone in the locker room who wants to step up should visit Ambrose in the hospital to see what happens when you endure the wrath of Lesnar and how the path of destruction you will face has no mercy.

We then see on the screen an ambulance make its way to the arena. The ambulance then heads to the ramp as we see Ambrose step out of the driver’s seat, wearing a neckbrace, as he stumbles all over the place. Ambrose cannot even stand as he lays at the feet of Lesnar outside of the ring. Lesnar stops then steps on him as he heads backstage. Ambrose then yells for Lesnar, telling him to “kiss his ass” and that he is indestructible and will find that out the hardway as he challenges Lesnar to a No Holds Barred Street Fight at WrestleMania. Lesnar heads back down and hits Ambrose with another F5 on the floor. Heyman then gets on the floor near Ambrose and lets him know his client accepts the challenge.

The idea of a Lesnar vs. Ambrose match makes sense based off of last night. Plus, it seems a lot more interesting than the previously rumored Lesnar vs. Wyatt match. I thought Heyman’s promo was excellent here. However, Dean coming out in the ambulance stumbling came off as overkill but the segment ended nicely with him challenging Lesnar at WrestleMania. 

The Usos and the Ascension are out for their match. Before that we see a replay from two weeks ago when the Dudley Boyz turned on the Usos. Right after that, the Dudley Boyz themselves head out as Bubba welcomes them back and said not to take what happened personal as they just had to remind everyone that the Dudley Boyz are not a nostalgia act but rather the most decorated team in WWE history. He also says we will never see the tables again. D-Von then mentions about how their father (Rikishi), instead of buying thongs, should have been teaching them respect. After that, the Ascension attack the Usos from behind.

Good, insincere heel stuff from Bubba, who works better as a heel to begin with. Having the Dudley Boyz change their gimmick as heels is a smart move as well. So far, the turn is working. 

The Usos vs. The Ascension

The Ascension beat on Jimmy to start as the Dudleys watch from the ramp. Jimmy escapes from Viktor and makes the tag as Jey runs wild. The Ascension eat super kicks then Jey puts Viktor away with a splash (1:59) 1/4*.

Thoughts: The match was nothing and just a backdrop for the Dudley Boyz to come out and cut a promo on the Usos. The Ascension are just a lost cause at this point. They might be the least valuable team in the company.

Tonight, a rematch from last night’s Fastlane PPV as the Wyatt Family takes on Kane, Big Show, and Ryback.

Chris Jericho heads out to the ring. We then see Michigan University football coach Jim Harbaugh in the crowd, trying to get the fans going. Jericho talks about AJ Styles and how he wanted to see what made him phenomenal but after the Royal Rumble, did not like him as he does not understand how someone who has never wrestled in the WWE can call himself that. Jericho then puts over his match last night and AJ himself but wants to say a few things to him as he invites him out. AJ enters as the crowd starts a loud dueling chant. Jericho talks about how he lost last night and ends up congratulating AJ for proving to him that he belongs in the WWE. Jericho even tells AJ that he proved he was phenomenal last night and they shake hands. The Social Outcasts come out as they mock Jericho and AJ acting friendly then tell them both they are not buying these two as friends and that they need to leave the ring. Jericho calls Slater a “ginger jackass” then said maybe he and AJ should be a team as he asks the crowd if they want to see them team up as they start with the Social Outcasts right now as we head to break.

They have been teasing a Jericho heel turn for a few weeks now but tonight, he actually played up to the fans and gave AJ props. Maybe they team for a bit to play off of their dueling chants. The Outcasts interrupting to call them out for trying to fool the fans was fine, as was Jericho running them down. 

AJ Styles & Chris Jericho vs. Heath Slater & Curtis Axel w/ Bo Dallas & Adam Rose

Match starts with Slater getting worked over. Slater counters a Styles Clash as AJ tries to fight off all of the Social Outcasts and ends up getting clotheslined by Axel. He roughs up AJ a bit then Slater applies a chinlock. AJ escapes and tags out as Jericho runs wild. He misses the Lionsault but Jericho takes him down and applies the Walls of Jericho. AJ takes out Slater with a springboard forearm smash before flying outside to hit the rest of the Outcasts with a springboard crossbody as Axel taps out (3:54) *1/2.

Thoughts: Fine for what it was. The fans are into both guys and the Outcasts were just here to eat a pin. I have no idea where they go from here with Jericho and AJ but still suspect a Jericho heel turn in the future.

Replay of Shane McMahon making his return. After that, we see HHH and Stephanie backstage. HHH tells Stephanie to let it go as Stephanie is frustrated. HHH assures Stephanie that her brother is and always will be a failure. He then wants to know if she wants to tell Roman or if he should do it as Stephanie smiles and said she will herself. They are dropping hints that HHH vs. Shane could be in the future too.

Backstage, Stephanie runs into Reigns. Stephanie tells Reigns he will not be checking on Ambrose as he has a match tonight against Sheamus. Stephanie puts over how the League of Nations have a real bond, unlike Ambrose and himself, and that she wouldnt want to see them all hurt Reigns and cost him his match at WrestleMania before she walks off.

In the locker room, Goldust walks in holding a cake as he surprises R-Truth. He apologizes to Truth for costing him his match and gives him the cake, which says “I’m Sorry.” Truth talks about how this was cute at first but does not want his apologies or cake as Goldust stops him to say he can predict everything he does. Truth then asks Goldust if he is psychic and can see him smash the cake in his face before saying he is better than that and leaves. However, Truth comes back and says “psyche” as he smashes the cake in Goldust’s face. At this point, they either have to make them team or feud within the next week as these segments are getting played out.

Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper & Erick Rowan w/ Braun Strowman vs. Big Show & Ryback & Kane

Before the match, Rowan and Strowman put their masks on Saxton. Kane and Bray start things off as Kane wins that. Harper tags as does Ryback, who is met with “Goldberg” chants. Harper comes back with a dropkick on Kane then tags Rowan, who beats him down. Kane beraks away and tags Ryback, who hits Rowan with a crossbody followed by a pair of high knees in the corner. He hits a spinebuster then plays to the crowd, who do not respond. Ryback then clotheslines Rowan outside and gets the crowd to chant “feed me more” as we head to break. We return with Harper beating on Ryback. He gets two with a Michinoku Driver before tagging Rowan, who tries a superplex. Ryback fights Rowan off and hits a missile dropkick as both men are down. Ryback tags Show, who runs wild on Bray until Harper meets him with a super kick. The match breaks down as Strowman pulls the ropes down on Show. Back inside, Bray and Harper double-team Show, who is getting support from the crowd. Harper counters a chokeslam and locks on a sleeper that Show breaks up with a side slam as both men are down. Show tags Kane, as the crowd barely responds, and he runs wild. He takes the rest off of the apron before planting Harper with a DDT. Kane signals for the chokeslam but Ryback decides to leave and head backstage and that led to Bray sneaking in to tag and hit the Sister Abigail for the win (12:59) **.

Thoughts: The Ryback walkout was unexpected and the focal point of the match. The Wyatt Family actually winning here did nothing for them and made last night’s result even more puzzling. I have no idea what you do with them going forward.

Backstage, Rich Brennan catches up with the Ryback to ask him what just happened. Ryback said he won the match last night and doesnt have anything else to prove. He then says he is done being in teams and that he has to look out for himself and harbors no ill will towards Kane or the Big Show. Ryback then says he will break the glass ceiling and take that brass ring. Ryback showed great fire here and cut a solid promo. Seems like they are going to push him again as a solo act, possibly as a heel.

Sasha Banks vs. Naomi w/ Tamina

Sasha takes control early with various holds. She gets a nearfall with a victory roll but gets booted after being flipped over. Naomi tosses her on the ropes and kicks her as the ref steps in between. As that happens, Tamina yanks Sasha off of the apron as we head to break. The action returns with Sasha fighting back. She gets two with a double knee smash but Naomi yanks her off of the top after Tamina provided a distraction. Becky Lynch runs down to take out Tamina and as that happens, Sasha puts Naomi in the Banks Statement for the win (6:45) *. After the match, Charlotte comes out dressed as Nikki Bella. She sarcastically talks about being moved due to the bonding between Sasha and Becky, comparing it to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, only with cheaper hair dye. Charlotte then tells us that the Authority made a #1 contender’s match between the two as the winner faces her at WrestleMania. Charlotte jokes that Sasha might attack Becky as the crowd boos that. Charlotte then talks about the next few weeks being fun for her before leaving.

Thoughts: The match itself was not good at all. However, Charlotte’s post-match promo was pretty damn great. She is really hitting her stride as a heel. A possible three-way for the title or Sasha/Charlotte should be good for WrestleMania. They are finally starting to build a credible women’s division.

Sheamus is getting ready for his match against Roman Reigns, with the rest of the League of Nations.

We get another replay of Shane McMahon’s return, with Vince telling him he can control RAW if he beats the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania.

Backstage, Vince and Stephanie are together. Stephanie wonders what Shane has hanging over him, saying she refuses to work for her brother. Vince assures Stephanie that he twisted Shane all around and that the odds Shane wins are astronomical. Plus, he got another WrestleMania main event out of the deal. Vince goes on about how everything works on calculated risks as Stephanie reluctantly agrees.

Roman Reigns heads out for his match. He gets booed.

Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus w/ League of Nations

Sheamus starts by working the arm. Reigns figs back as the fans boo everything he does on offense. Sheamus goes back to working the arm as the rest of the LoN taunt Reigns, who fights back and sends Sheamus to the floor with a clothesline. Reigns rolls outside and hits a Superman Punch then rolls Sheamus back inside. Sheamus sends Reigns to the floor then distracts the ref as Rusev decks him with a super kick as we head to break. The match returns with Reigns slugging away until he runs into the Irish Curse. Reigns then comes back with the Superman Punch but sells his arm then rolls out to go after Sheamus. He spears him as both men are down. HHH’s music hits as he comes out wearing a leather jacket and holding the belt over his shoulder. He takes it off and comes out as Reigns looks worried then heads out and brawls with HHH (10:46) **. Reigns gets booed as he takes advantage. HHH fights back and rolls Reigns inside, only to get hit with the Superman Punch. Reigns continues to get booed as he clotheslines into the timekeeper’s area. HHH hits Reigns with the bell then the crowd starts a chant for HHH as he destroys Reigns. They even start “yes” chants as he repeatedly smashes Reigns’ face off of the announcers table. Reigns’ nose is bleeding as the fans cheer over the fact he is getting his ass kicked. The officials check on Reigns has HHH clears them away and hits Reigns with a Pedigree on the steps, to the delight of the crowd. HHH poses with the belt to cheers as the show ends.

Thoughts: The end of this match was truly amazing. Well, for the wrong reasons. The crowd cheered with glee as the top heel, and champion, destroyed the face challenger. Plus, he did it 1 on 1 without help. Why not have the League of Nations join in on the attack? And if you are going with the idea Reigns was beat up from last night, why not stress that continuously on commentary? Once again, WWE creative make Reigns look like a putz incapable of defending himself, nevermind someone who can win a big match.

Final Thoughts: After last year and how the crowd rejected Reigns, the WWE decided to run the storyline again. And the RAW after TLC when Reigns won the belt, the fans chanted “You deserve it” at him. One month later, they had Reigns lose again, while being booked to look like a putz, at the Royal Rumble and he is yet again chasing the title, which he had been doing at the Survivor Series and TLC.

Right now, Reigns has a top babyface is cooked. The fans do not want him in that role. You can call him the scapegoat for fans frustrated with WWE Creative or the victim of bad booking and you’d be right. However, you can also call him someone who is not rising above material, especially when it comes on the microphone. He cannot even hide the fact that he is defeated right now. Its visible on his face. Plus, all of the charisma he has seemingly got zapped away. In non-wrestling segments, he stands out as much as an extra does in the background of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

They have five more RAWs to get the fans behind Reigns and I see no feasible way that happens. And the WWE can blame themselves for being tone-deaf to the fans. I’m certainly not in their meetings but, to me, it seems like they are pushing Reigns as the face of the company, for the benefit of the corporate side of things (Charity & Public Appearances) while at the expense of its on-screen product. How that damages or benefits the company will be interesting.

As far as the rest of the show, the Shane vs. Taker match comes off as desperate. The stipulation is intriguing at least though. However, I thought they at least showed direction here and nothing was truly horrible. The Divas Title has a lot of meaning again and Lesnar/Ambrose in a street fight should be a spectacle. And I think we are getting a New Day turn, which is for the best. Odd we did not see Kevin Owens tonight but I’m sure they will have something for him at WrestleMania.

In closing, it was an enjoyable standalone show but as far as the big picture is concerned, its not looking too pretty for WrestleMania.