How WWE Got It Right With RAW This Week (26/10/15)

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The majority of RAWs in the past month have been well below par. It’s featured a lot of repetitive booking which have prevented the show from gaining any good ratings as TV viewerships went to record lows. However, this RAW was actually a pretty good one for a number of reasons. I think the biggest reason for it’s success though is that it appears that the writers have “re-booted” the storylines as it gave wrestlers fresh new material to work with.

It wasn’t like the events of Hell in a Cell weren’t followed up on. Bray Wyatt explained his attacks on Undertaker and did reference his match with Roman Reigns in his promo. There’s also the winners of the matches at Hell in a Cell being given spots in WWE Title contendership eliminator matches which we’ll get onto later. However, it just seemed to me for so many weeks that the writers were some what burned out. A part of me still thinks that’s the case but they did a great job with this week. I think the reason it worked so well is that it almost seems like they started from scratch again which is sometimes not a bad thing. With the current WWE storylines going stale, the writers had to try something else. The transition into these new storylines were pulled off so well that it opens up a lot of possibilities for the future.

They had Paige’s heel turn finally cemented which was a big plus from me. It was almost like they were milking this apparent PCB reunion storyline for so long that it just lost it effect. It was almost making little sense as Charlotte and Becky would have came off so bad for falling for Paige’s act. Paige turning heel for good now shifts the focus onto Charlotte vs a fully heel Paige.

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The best part of the episode was the series of qualifying matches for a number one contendership match at the WWE World title. This was exactly the type of thing that WWE needed. I mentioned WWE following up on what happened the night before. With this little concept, all the winners from the night before were actually rewarded for winning these big matches at this big event. All of a sudden, the winners are actually starting to get over as top talent. They’ve earned the right to fight for the championship.

For the majority of the year, there’s rarely been a time where the number one contenders for the WWE World title have actually had to earn their title match in such a way. Usually, just beating Seth Rollins would get you the opportunity. The problem with that is simple… EVERYONE had started to beat Seth Rollins on RAW and SmackDown! Therefore, anyone could have theoretically been the number one contender. With this, only the strong will survive and get the opportunity at the title.

It could be argued that WWE should have stretched this out so it could take place over the course of a few weeks and build up anticipation for future shows. However, I think that’s very difficult considering that the writers have to fill up three hours worth of television RAW every week. I’m happy with the way they went as it could have built up anticipation for the main event.

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Another reason why this worked so well is that they could have easily killed the momentum of a lot of the winners from last night, but no one really suffered badly. Kofi Kingston and Big E both lost, but the New Day were coming off a big win of the Dudleyz the night before anyway. Cesaro and Neville didn’t really get a lot from this night after losing but they weren’t stars with a lot of direction in the first place. Cesaro and Neville won in the pre-show match of Hell in a Cell so it’s not like they won a big match of importance.

Then there’s the fatal four way itself. Usually, I’d be mad that they brought Alberto Del Rio back just for him to get beat in the main event of his first RAW with the fatal four way. However, Del Rio looked really good in this match. Hell, everyone in that fatal four way looked strong in their own right. Kevin Owens started to look like a legitimate threat alongside Del Rio. I didn’t believe that Ziggler was going to win the match but he didn’t look that bad himself.

This was a main event that lived up to the anticipation built over the course of the night. It was a main event that actually seemed like a main event. It’s not like the crowd was bored and burned out by the end of it. They got really pumped for the finish of the fatal four way when Kevin and Roman Reigns were staring each other down.

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Finally, Roman Reigns won. The right man won this mini-tournament and looked great when he did. He was actually built up to be a great contender by beating up everyone else to do it. These were not just over people too. He defeated the US and Intercontinental champions who were coming off two big wins in the course of 24 hours or so. I think with his win over Bray at Hell in a Cell as well to take into account, Roman now suddenly looks like a main event title contender.

It was just a great show in general that was exactly what the WWE needed heading into November. I’m praying that booking like this can continue on into next week. If that’s the case, the viewership numbers maybe about to turn around and a new star COULD be made.

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Wrestling Flashback – The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels & Triple H Wrestlemania Feud

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The Undertaker’s streak. Many tried to beat it. Monsters like Mark Henry, King Kong Bundy and Giant Gonzalez have tried to crush the Dead Man. They failed. Some have put up championships against the Undertaker, hoping to be known as the great champion that ended the Undertaker’s streak. Batista, Edge and Psycho Sid all put their titles on the line against Undertaker, only to lose those belts they hold dear and become part of the streak. Men like CM Punk had tried to use head games as a means to break the streak, but could not get the job done. Many tried. One succeeded. However, none of the matches came close to the excitement and story-telling than Undertaker’s streak of matches against Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

It was not like none of matches before his encounters with Shawn and Triple H, that spanned from Wrestlemania 25 to Wrestlemania 28, were any good. There were some beauties that the Undertaker took part in against the likes of Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, Ric Flair and even Triple H at Wrestlemania 17. However, none of them stole the show quite like the matches in the saga between Taker, Michaels and Triple H.

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These matches were usually a thing of beauty but the story-telling of these matches were even more impressive. At Wrestlemania 25, Shawn Michaels was the first man to step up. With Shawn Michaels being almost an exclusive to the RAW brand and the Undertaker being almost exclusive to SmackDown!, these two legends never seemed to collide during the brand split of WWE. However, when the two of them would battle in the Royal Rumble, it was usually exceptional. Undertaker and Shawn Michaels produced possibly the best finish to a Royal Rumble match in 2007. While Undertaker won that particular encounter, Shawn returned the favour by eliminating Undertaker at the 2008 Royal Rumble. At Wrestlemania 25, we got to see Shawn and Undertaker go at it for the first time since 1998… in a match that put an end to Shawn’s career for four years.

Shawn was confident though, particular bragging pre-match about how the Undertaker had never beaten him. The two clashed and it was quite possibly the best Wrestlemania match we’ll ever see in our life time. These men kicked out of everything they could throw at each other. Shawn even kicked out of the Undertaker’s tombstone piledriver which caused Jim Ross to, and I quote, “have an out-of-body experience.” In the end, Undertaker prevailed in what was the match of the night by a HUGE margin. And they weren’t finished there…

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Both Undertaker and Shawn Michaels would take a hiatus from the WWE following Wrestlemania, returning in August 2009. Shawn had re-united DX and battled Legacy and Jeri-Show en route to winning the Unified WWE Tag Team titles while Undertaker dominated the SmackDown! roster en route to winning the World Heavyweight Championship. At the 2009 Slammys, Michaels and Taker won the Slammy for Match of the Year. While accepting the award, Michaels issued a challenge to the Undertaker for a rematch at Wrestlemania 26. Undertaker declined, so Michaels would try to force the issue at the 2010 Royal Rumble. If Michaels won the match, he could challenge for Undertaker’s World title and more importantly… the streak. Sadly, Shawn was not able to win the rumble match. Shawn’s life continued to deteriorate, as he was unable to accept his loss to the Undertaker the year before. Michaels’ obsession would lead to Elimination Chamber, where he cost Undertaker the World title. The next night on RAW, Michaels goaded Taker into a rematch claiming that Taker wanted revenge. Taker accepted with one condition… if Shawn lost, his career would be over. Michaels stated that if he couldn’t be Undertaker, he’d have no career and he accepted the stipulation.

While this match was not at the level of their match at Wrestlemania 25, this was still great. It was the main event of the show and rightfully so. Shawn kicked out of everything the Undertaker had and refused to go down. Michaels slapped Undertaker to get him to fight and Undertaker went into a fury. Taker gave Michaels one final tombstone and that was that…. Shawn Michaels’ career was over.

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Having beaten Shawn Michaels in two incredible Wrestlemania matches in a row, the question was this… what could WWE possibly do to follow up two of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history? Their solution was to put Undertaker up against the “Cerebral Assassin” Triple H at Wrestlemania 27…

Undertaker and Triple H had faced each other at Wrestlemania before but this one was very special and necessary for a few reasons…

  1. Their match at Wrestlemania 27 would be a rematch from their previous Wrestlemania 17 showdown ten years before… which Undertaker won.
  2. It’d make sense for Triple H to try and avenge his best friend Shawn Michaels, who had his career ended by the Undertaker.
  3. Triple H and Undertaker, like Shawn and Taker, have both been near-exclusives to the RAW and SmackDown! brands respectively. Therefore, they’ve not really had any big programs together for almost a decade. This was unique.

The first match was made No Holds Barred match. This helped appeal to the intensity of both these characters. These men could go all out and they did. It was hard-hitting and it just helped Taker and HHH thrive. This was not like the wrestling masterpiece that the Michaels/Taker matches were. This was a straight up battle. It suited both men well.

This match was also unique in it’s layout. The story of the match was last outlaw of WWE refusing to give up as Triple H was wanting to put him away. It was not like Undertaker and Triple H just had a great back-and-forth match. It was initially, but then Triple H just simply battered Undertaker. He battered him with chairs, pedigrees and even a TOMBSTONE of his own! However, Undertaker still refused to give. Triple H wanted to end things with his trusty sledgehammer, but Undertaker locked on Hells Gate to make Triple H tap and escape with the streak intact. However, Undertaker ended up being carried out on a stretcher. Undertaker won, but it hardly seemed like a victory. This match was the brightest spark during a pretty lame Wrestlemania 27. The ending was also the perfect set-up for a rematch…

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While Undertaker had spent the year on the sidelines, Triple H had been through a fair amount of character development. Following Money In The Bank 2011, Triple H would take the reins in WWE as the COO. He had traded in his wrestling gear for a suit as he started doing more paperwork than pedigrees. On an episode of RAW in January 2012, Triple H was about to fire Interim GM John Laurinaitis. As he was doing it though, we heard that all too familiar gong. Undertaker returned, hinting towards the rematch. However, Triple H seemed to take a pass on one final match.

Despite pressure from Undertaker and even Shawn Michaels, Triple H refused to face Taker as he didn’t want to destroy the “brand” of the streak that helped made Wrestlemania such a success. It was great that the build up to this match was also able to tie-in to Triple H’s role as COO as well. Undertaker was adamant about erasing the memory of Triple H forcing Taker onto a stretcher the year before and offered Triple H one more shot at immortality. Undertaker went as far as to call HHH a coward and claim Shawn was always better than him, which pushed HHH over the edge. Triple H accepted on one condition… Hell in a Cell.

This was an appropriate finish to this four year storyline. As pointed out, Taker and HHH had a lot of history inside the cell. A standard match might have not had as much impact. The Cell made more sense from a storyline standpoint. Shawn Michaels was also added to the match as he had the streak in the palm of his hand. The stage is set. At Wrestlemania 28, Taker beat Triple H in the cell to take the streak to 20-0 and end the era which I believe was simply this four year storyline. While a lot of people might not have gotten the “End of an Era” billing of the match, I think it was just this era of Wrestlemania matches which was centred around Michaels, Taker and HHH. Jim Ross was also brought into to commentate the match and did a great job.

Now, I’m going to say something which will not be a popular opinion… I was left disappointed by this match. This was by no means a terrible match. It was not as great as their match at Wrestlemania 27 but it was still a great match. However, there were a few things about it that really hurt the match in my opinion.

The first issue I had with it was Shawn Michaels as the special referee. The reason Shawn gets a bit of criticism is because it wasn’t really made clear what his motivation was leading into this match. It was kind of hinted on television that he was going to screw Undertaker. However, the storyline in the match became about whether Michaels would allow his friend to do what Michaels himself was unable to do or if he would help his friend end the streak of the man that had ended Michaels’ career. Therefore, everything Shawn was doing as the referee was just dead confusing to me. He teased calling for the bell, then he jumped in when Triple H was beating Undertaker with the chair and then he tried to screw Taker himself with the super kick. By the way, that Super Kick/Pedigree spot was the highlight of the night.

The point is, Michaels’ actions just came off as so confusing that it looked for all the world like he was Darth Vader struggling to decide between saving Luke or siding with the Emperor but it was done in such a complicated matter that it took way from his role as referee. There was also the use of the Hell in a Cell itself. Now let me just make clear that I did not expect HHH and Taker to do something crazy like going to the top of the cell. However, HHH said in a promo leading into the match that he and Taker should “go all the way.” To me, it didn’t look like they “went all the way.” It looked like they just did a repeat of the match from the year before, added Shawn Michaels and a Cell. They rarely ever used the cell. I would have preferred it if they just left it to being a singles match with Shawn as the referee. At least then, the cell wouldn’t have limited Triple H and Undertaker.

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With that being said though, this was still a great match. The hug at the end was great and it was a great way for this saga to end.

Wrestling Flashback – The Batista vs John Cena Feud

As much as I’m a huge fan of John Cena, so many times has Cena won feuds which he really shouldn’t have. Recent feuds with up-and-comers like Rusev and Bray Wyatt saw the potential of these monster heels prematurely squashed by the leader of the Cenation. But there was one feud in particular which I was extremely annoyed about the treatment of Cena’s opponent. It is a former multi-time World Champion that had just turned heel once more and was really establishing himself as the top guy in the company once again. But when he squared off with Cena, it was bad news for this man. The man I’m talking about of course… was Batista.

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Now don’t get me wrong. This rivalry… was good. The foundations of the entire story have been in place for years. Cena and Batista were two men that broke out into the big time on EXACTLY the same night. They both won world championships at Wrestlemania 21, honing in a new era for WWE. Their paths never really crossed each other when it came to in-ring action until Summerslam, where Batista defeated John Cena in their first ever one-on-one match. With his win, Batista had broken Cena’s neck. With Batista turning heel shortly afterwards and Cena getting involved in the animosity between Bret Hart and Vince McMahon, a program was inevitable.

For a build to Wrestlemania, this was brilliantly well done. That’s probably my biggest complaint about Wrestlemania 31 in general. The build for some of these matches were shocking. Batista and Cena’s feud on the other hand had plenty to work with considering their last meeting resulted in a broken neck. Whether it necessarily needed to be a WWE Title feud is something I’d question tough. Surely Batista vs Cena should sell on its own merit. Yeah, Batista being a heel champion is very cool and a long time coming. However, it took away from the up-and-comer heel Sheamus tremendously with him being considered nothing more than a paper champion at the time. Despite that, everything checks out so far.

Batista in this era… was OUTSTANDING. Batista’s initial run as a heel was fantastic to watch. With Batista being a good guy ever since 2005, this turn was largely overdue. As a good guy, Batista was very limited to what he had to say. But as a heel, he was golden EVERY TIME he was on the mic. In his exchanges with Cena, Batista tore Cena apart. This one below in particular was probably the best I’ve ever seen Batista promo-wise.

Their matches… do not live long in the memory. These two weren’t exactly the greatest of chemistry in the ring. You could tell by the fact that the most the commentary team cheered for in the Wrestlemania match was a Five Knuckle Shuffle off the top rope. This has always annoyed me looking back, particularly PLAYING it back on WWE 2k14. You mean to tell me that THIS was the highlight point of the match? However, what we really did hurt the match was the winner… John Cena.

If you think about it in the long-run, if the plan was to have Sheamus win the WWE Championship anyway, why does John Cena need to be champion? Yeah, it’d make more sense for a face to be the one Sheamus beats for the title. However, this would do Batista no favors at all, provided he was going to be still in the company around the time. Or at least if WWE just HAD to have Cena win the feud and the title, why did it need to happen at Wrestlemania? Surely Batista needed it more?

The thing which made these matches really suffer was the predictability of ALL of them. At least one win for Batista at Wrestlemania would shake things up a little bit. Then again if Jericho was gonna walk out World Heavyweight Champion anyway, then probably two heel champions wouldn’t be the greatest way to end the show. Unless Edge were to win the title, which I think he probably should. To be honest, that entire PPV was a mess and I might just leave that for another time!

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So where did this feud go from here? To Extreme Rules. And sadly, their Last Man Standing rematch barely lived up to the name “extreme”. The match ended when Cena tied Batista’s foot to the ropes and the ref counted the 10 with Batista not being able to escape. Now to Over Th….

Sorry I can’t get over that. Cena TIED HIS FEET TO THE ROPE and BEAT HIM. Of the potential cool Last Man Standing match finishes that you could do, you did the one that made BOTH men look incredibly weak! What kind of champion, a face champion even, would tie a man’s foot to the ropes in order to keep him down. The rules of the match are usually that you have to incapacitate your opponent so they can’t respond to the count of ten. All Cena did was wrap his feet to the rope with DUCK TAPE and got the win. How does that make him look strong? How does that make Batista look strong? It makes Dave look like a complete idiot at not being able to escape having his feet tied to the rope. To quote TeamFourStar’s version of DBZ fighter Piccolo, in this situation that makes him no doubt the big, tough, stupid one of the two. Worst last man standing match finish ever….

So the last match in this trilogy, Over The Limit 2010. The I Quit match. “The Animal” Batista’s last hurrah before leaving WWE. And he went out on more of a whimper than a bang. It was not really a fantastic end to this feud. To be fair, the Oklahoma Slam spot through the announce table was a pretty cool spot. But it’s a spot that we’ve seen before from Batista and surely they could have done something different. It ended with Batista shouting “I Quit” in fear off being AA’d off a car and through the floor. However, Cena did the AA anyway and Cena reigned supreme. The feud came to an end when Batista quit on RAW the next night having being confined to a wheel chair.

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So that about wraps up the feud between these two. I personally believe that the build to their match at Wrestlemania 26 was actually really well done. Batista was gold as a heel and was the perfect soil for Cena… until he lost at Wrestlemania. I have to say, I’ve always been annoyed at WWE for how they booked Batista after he lost the first match. In the end, he just seemed like a bumbling monster having lost to Cena three times in a row on PPV. It’s a common flaw for WWE with regards to their booking for Wrestlemanias. They always seem to struggle having put all their effort into the grand daddy of them all and the follow-up PPV/feuds always seem to be a little disappointing. I just hope in 2015, they don’t make the same mistakes they made here.