NXT TakeOver: San Antonio

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Arnold Furious: January 28, 2017. We’re in San Antonio, Texas. Hosts are Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Percy Watson. Corey is making his final Takeover appearance before permanently graduating to the main roster.

 

Tye Dillenger vs. Eric Young
Tye is over huge with the Perfect Ten gimmick and I’m confused as to why he’s gotten no discernable push in NXT whatsoever. As soon as that “TEN” gimmick caught on he should have been pushed hard. With EY, I’m glad he’s been given something to do as all the former TNA boys are struggling to differentiate themselves. With SAnitY there’s at least something different happening. I also approve of Big Damo’s re-branding as Killian Dain. It’s weird that Eric is backed, entirely, by European wrestlers. I’d be fully in favour of Tommy End kicking Young out of his own stable and turning it into a filthy Eurograps ensemble. SAnitY play the numbers game and somehow Young isn’t disqualified for all the heels running into the ring during the match. At least Tye gets the clean win with the Tyebreaker and the visual pinfall, even though SAnitY cheat to keep EY alive. Tye comes across like a genuine star and has the presence of one right up until Young pins him, which is a great move for SAnitY but not for crowd reactions. Personally I think Tye has been treated horribly during his time in NXT. If this is it for him and he’s away to the main roster I wish him all the best.
Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Speaking of main roster; Samoa Joe is ringside.

 

Andrade Cien Almas vs. Roderick Strong
Roddy is probably too good to be jobbing around in NXT. However he’s so good that he’s one of the guys who can get over someone who’s struggling like Almas. For what he lacks in adapting to American wrestling Almas certainly has the personality to succeed as a heel. It’s almost ridiculous that they tried him as a face first. Presumably because he’s so devastatingly handsome. They tell a tidy story with Strong going after backbreakers and Almas using innovative lucha counters to avoid more of them. Almas really ups his game here, backed into a corner by Roddy’s violence. I love a hard-hitting match and this is that in spades. Roddy survives being kneed in the face and hits the Sick Kick for the win.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

NXT Tag Team Championship
#DIY (c) vs. The Authors of Pain
This is a major challenge for Gargano and Ciampa. Authors of Pain have looked good in short matches but have yet to be tested in a major match. The champs tell an intriguing story where they try different tactics to take over the match. Whether it’s technical wrestling, countering, quick tags or hitting and moving. It’s really well done as they try such a range of tactics but nothing works. The match slows down with AoP actually take over on offence but because it’s a long match they’re not their usual aggressive selves. Everything has to slow down and it removes a lot of what makes AoP fun to watch. Ciampa gets all fired up with German suplexes and that shows a crack in AoP’s gruff exterior. If you’re running the ‘Road Warriors’ gimmick you can’t show much ass but this is enough, to show they’re human. It opens the window of possibility. The biggest shock is that this is a great match. It relies heavily on #DIY and their workrate and creativity but AoP are no slouches. They do fine work in running their big spots and having the champs make desperation escapes. The double submission spot is a nice call back to Toronto and #DIY’s title win. This time it doesn’t get the job done. AoP power out, avoid the double strike and bully Ciampa into the pin. This was shockingly high-quality and it’s Authors of Pain first truly great match. I’ll need to see them wrestle other teams at this level to be convinced they belong here but it takes two (or four) to tango.
Final Rating: ****

 

Promo Time: Seth Rollins
“Show’s called Takeover right? Well I’m taking over”. He gets a huge pop for coming out of the crowd, grabbing the microphone and calling Triple H out. It was only a matter of time before main roster feuds crept into NXT and I like how this was presented. The crowd do too, which is a good sign. Wouldn’t it be weird if Hunter forced Seth to wrestle in NXT for a while?

 

NXT Women’s Championship
Asuka (c) vs. Nikki Cross vs. Peyton Royce vs. Billie Kay
The money match here is Asuka vs. Nikki but putting the two Australians in here allows us to tease that match without delivering it. Nikki Cross looks totally nuts. I love her character. She’s easily the best character in SAnitY. The two Aussies help each other out but even that’s no use against the skills of Asuka. It’s Nikki who takes it to Asuka and their sequences are a delight. Cross even lays Asuka out with a neckbreaker off the apron. The Aussies remove Nikki from the match though, ending the best part of it, with a suplex off the announce table. This allows them to double team Asuka. The Aussies don’t take advantage and Asuka kicks them both in the head to retain. Peyton eats the fall but it could have been either. I thought Peyton looked the better of the two Australians in personality terms and for work.
Final Rating: ***

 

Video Control takes us ringside where UK Champion Tyler Bate is seated. That’s not the money shot though as behind him is Matt Riddle, wearing a Progress scarf, giving the thumbs up, bro.

 

NXT Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Bobby Roode
Roode is over on entrance and music alone. Tonight he’s not accompanied by a choir but he does have eight valets. Eight! Nakamura is relatively low key by comparison. My expectation levels are quite low for this because Nakamura has been coasting a little in NXT and Roode doesn’t do much for me. We were debating Roode in the office and the general feeling is that he’s a vessel, largely empty coming into WWE, and has allowed himself to be filled with WWE ideas. There’s no baggage here, which is why he’s been so successful. I don’t buy into Roode besting Nakamura in a straight up fight so they wisely create injury angles to sell the match up. Nakamura does good work in selling the shoulder but it doesn’t really impact the match. The match picks up when Nakamura stomps the piss out of Bobby and catches him with a flying armbar. This is the match I wanted to see. Roode running largely generic heat wasn’t. Nakamura injures his own knee doing a flying knee on the apron and that changes the match. Nakamura generally doesn’t sell his knee, even if it’s been worked over, so this is a change of gears for him. It’s interesting that it happens on an offensive move and looks like a fluke. The match from then is totally different with Roode destroying the knee in brutal fashion. It helps massively that Nakamura sells everything and even looks like tapping out. Roode can’t get a submission but the Glorious DDT finishes and Bobby takes the title.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Summary: A rock solid outing from NXT. I probably went into this Takeover at my least hyped for a major NXT show but it did deliver. Especially in the tag title match, which blew my expectations out of the water. I should probably never forget that whoever is competing on NXT is young (mostly) and hungry and want the exposure. That’s as true here as on any other show they’ve put out.
Verdict: 92

Extreme Rules 2017


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Arnold Furious: June 4 2017. We’re in Baltimore, Maryland. Hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Booker T. This is a solid announce team.

 

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. The Miz
The stipulation here is that if Dean is disqualified he loses the title. That’s not particularly ‘extreme’ is it? The Miz had a great run with the IC title on SmackDown. Ambrose’s run has been significantly less memorable. Despite this he is the longest current reigning champion in WWE. That’s more of a reflection of WWE booking than Ambrose’s title run. Miz’s tactic is to provoke Ambrose into getting disqualified. It gets in the man’s head because he has to think about what he’s doing. Ambrose’s strengths, as a character, is that he doesn’t think he just ‘does’ stuff. The stipulation neuters him. It’s fine work from Miz, routinely outsmarting Dean. Miz runs a lot of heat during the match, which would be fine if the crowd were biting on it more. However Baltimore wants more action and the reactions are only there when they speed things up. After that they switch to a leg match, with Miz focusing on Dean’s left pin. Miz continues to cheekily steal Daniel Bryan’s spots, even though they’re now on separate brands (corner dropkicks, Busaiku Knee, Yes kicks). Maryse slaps Miz in an attempt to force a DQ but the ref instead ejects Maryse. It’s a clever spot and if the referee followed logic it is an actual DQ. Ambrose gets thrown into the ref moments later teasing another DQ but it’s merely a chance for Miz to blindside Dean with the Skull Crushing Finale and that finishes. They did a lot of clever stuff here. Miz’s various attempts to get Dean disqualified were entertaining but also he had an underlying run of stuff designed to weaken Ambrose for a finish other than the unsatisfying DQ. It was a very long match but ultimately it arrived at a satisfying conclusion.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Tangent: Miz now has seven IC titles, the second largest number in WWE history, behind Chris Jericho, moving clear of Rob Van Dam and Jeff Jarrett. If he holds the title for two months he’ll move into the top ten of all time for combined days.

 

Video Control takes us backstage where Bayley is interviewed and Baltimore gives her heat. In Baltimore’s defence it’s a poor promo. Bayley loves wrestling but her delivery on promos is still shaky. You’d think they’d have worked past that in NXT but since Dusty Rhodes died the weaknesses in promos have not been addressed in developmental. They need a promos guy in there ASAP. Personally I’d go with Jake Roberts.

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Monday Night Raw (01/30/95)

Arnold Furious: We’re in Palmetto, Florida, with this filmed after last week’s live Raw. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels.

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Two-man Rumble
Mabel vs. King Kong Bundy
They booked this after the two big men collided during the Royal Rumble match. To win you have to throw your opponent over the top rope and both feet must hit the floor. Given that the Rumble rules are in effect, both fat bastards just hug the ropes for the whole match. This does not meet my basic standards for “wrestling”. If it was called the World Fat Guys Hugging Federation then this would be a title match. But it’s not. IRS and Tatanka get bored watching something so horribly tedious and just jump in there to throw Mabel out, although it takes ages. To call this a match would be an insult to actual wrestling matches.
Final Rating: -**

 

Backstage, Vince McMahon gets words with Bam Bam Bigelow. The Bammer calls his defeat to 1-2-3 Kid a fluke because every dog has his day. Vince asks Bigelow about Lawrence Taylor laughing at him. Bam Bam calls Taylor’s laughter disrespectful. Athletes should show respect for each other. Bigelow refuses to apologise to LT and instead challenges him to a fight. Vince’s reactions combined with Bigelow’s aggression made this good fun.

 

Hakushi vs. Ricky Santana
Santana looks like a chunkier Ricky Steamboat. He’s decently mobile and is able to take Hakushi’s strikes, including a killer back kick to the jaw. Shawn has fun again cutting Vince down by correcting his pronunciation of “Shinja”. Santana continues to keep up but Hakushi’s spots are on another level, like a flying shoulderblock off the top. A cartwheel standing moonsault finishes. Hakushi’s flipping always looks nice, but isn’t high impact enough for my liking. He is a great wrestler, but on the softer side of the spectrum.
Final Rating:

 

Aldo Montoya vs. David Sierra
Sierra is a bearded Latin veteran. Aldo throws some awful punches. Nobody punches a guy in the top of the head Aldo, nobody. That’s the hardest part of the head. Stop aiming for it! Aldo is just abysmal here; so sloppy. The only remotely worthwhile spot is a pescado that Sierra has to move in order to catch Aldo on. The finish is a botched diving bulldog. I’ve only ever seen one decent Aldo Montoya match. I’d have switched him back to job duty ASAP.
Final Rating: DUD

 

The King’s Court
Lawler’s guest is Mr. Bob Backlund. Lawler runs through Backlund’s interview material for him but Backlund shows disdain for Lawler. Backlund says from now on he won’t let people out of the Crossface Chickenwing unless the victim screams “I quit, Mr. Backlund”. Lawler pushes his luck by saying he could get out of it. Backlund should have put him down, Lawler should know his place: “No one is exempt from that policy”. Backlund points out the King is NOT exempt and he should shut up. Lawler still doesn’t get it so Backlund slaps him in the CFCW. “I quit Mr. Backlund”. As Backlund leaves, Lawler backs up and claims he just quit doing the interview. Backlund comes back down and Lawler takes a powder. This was awesome. It blurred the lines and tried to do away with all that Heel Club bullshit the WWF had been running forever.

 

WWF Tag Team Championship
The Smoking Gunns (c) vs. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly
Keep in mind this was signed “last week” but it’s actually the same night, so this is the second time this crowd has seen this match. Kid and Billy work some tidy chaining before the challengers bring some double teaming, then Kid comes back in to eat the Gunns’ double teaming. Then the tide changes again and it’s like they’re taking it in turns to demonstrate double teams. Curmudgeon Bob Holly gets a little salty with Billy and fisticuffs ensue. Like last week, or earlier tonight depending on your perspective, the crowd is divided so deeply that they like both teams but can’t bring themselves to cheer for either. Kid’s kicks raise the tempo. A few of his front leg back kicks are terrific. Eric Bischoff would be having kittens. Kid misses a senton but lands on his shoulder and stops moving. The ref rings the bell and a hush comes over the crowd as they suspect a serious injury. It’s just an injury angle and a very poor way to end the match. At least they had a clean switch last time but this match was going better until the finish. Matters are made a thousand times worse by Vince “I hate making money” McMahon who announces the Kid just got up and walked to the back during an ad break. Way to go Vince. Bad finish that leads nowhere. Perfect.
Final Rating: **¼

 

Kama vs. Jumbo Beretta
Kama is a big dude, the former Papa Shango, making his Raw debut. Jumbo is appropriately named as he’s a blubbery lardass. “A kick to the blubber” calls Shawn after Kama boots his tubbier opponent in the abdominal area where Jumbo’s abs would be if he had any. Abdominal folds, maybe. Vince runs the last match into the ground further by pointing out that the 1-2-3 Kid is 100% fine. So he’s just a pussy then? If I was Bob Holly I would kick his ass for that. Back in the Kama match nothing much is happening. Kama has ok kicks but doesn’t know when to use them, so most of his offence is rest holds and dull stuff. He calls for a finish and hits the belly-to-belly. Nobody cares Kama, nobody cares. He finishes with an STF with a chinlock instead of a facelock. Possibly because that was the only way to get fat boy Beretta’s neck to bend right.
Final Rating: DUD

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Bob Backlund. His craziness exploded before an assault on Jerry Lawler. Great segment.

 

Least Entertaining: Kama. Boring debut from a guy with no visible personality. This would continue until he switched gimmicks to the Godfather.

 

Quote of the Night: “No one is exempt from the Crossface Chicken-wing, including yours truly” – Bob Backlund says something crazy about submitting himself.

 

Match of the Night: The Smoking Gunns vs. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly. Ok little title contest but with a terrible finish, straight from the School of Lame Finishes. Vince’s burial of whatever angle they had going just increasing the uselessness of it all.

 

Summary: Two interviews highlight this poor wrestling show. Bigelow’s verbal attack on LT and Backlund’s physical attack on the King. The wrestling was worryingly subpar around those two incidents. Bundy-Mabel was beyond awful and two squash matches both featured inadequate talents: Aldo and Kama. The tag title match was fine but the finish stunk. So all in all a poor show for in-ring but a good show for talking.
Verdict: 38

Monday Night Raw (01/23/95)

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Arnold Furious: We’re in Palmetto, Florida at the Manatee Civic Center. Between this and Houston the WWF looks to be expanding into larger arenas for Raw and wider territories. Vince McMahon opens the show to apologise for the actions of “Scott Bam Bam Bigelow” for his scuffle with Lawrence Taylor at the Royal Rumble. Vince does it in his serious voice to make it sound like a real life incident, not an angle. Bigelow eats an unpaid suspension, storyline, but will end up headlining WrestleMania. Hosts are Vince McMahon and 1995 Royal Rumble winner Shawn Michaels, who gets his own entrance.

 

WWF Tag Team Championship
1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly (c) vs. The Smoking Gunns
This is one day after Kid and Holly’s upset title win. That was the final of a tournament after Shawn and Diesel vacated the belts back in November. Originally the Gunns were booked to win but Bart got injured, hence the re-tooling of the tournament for the underdogs victory. Because both teams are faces they start with handshakes and niceties. The Kid seems to be the most popular guy and yet Bart still gets popped for powerslamming him. The crowd are willing to back both teams. Normally the bigger team ends up slightly heel. That’s evident with Billy getting a blind tag and hitting a bulldog on the unsuspecting Holly. The Gunns appear to have superior tag team skills until Holly shoves Bart into Billy up top and the champs hit a double team superplex for two. Billy starts shrugging off Kid’s chops so Kid switches to more effective kicks. The crowd’s responses start leaning towards the underdogs and the Gunns spots start getting popped less. The crowd’s reaction is muted. Kid gets caught with a Rocker Dropper and again the crowd don’t respond. Bart manages to just about get heat on his hot tag. Against the 1-2-3 Kid. The Gunns bust out the double teaming to get heat on Kid. How on earth are they still managing to work formula in a babyface tag? Shawn starts riding Billy Gunn for delaying his pins and not hooking the leg. Holly’s hot tag is decidedly lukewarm as the fans can’t really decide who to root for. They pop spots but not anything else. Holly misses off the top and Billy takes it with the Sidewinder. The crowd pop a title switch but do they actually like the Gunns? Based on this it’s really hard to say. Match meandered a bit thanks to the Gunns moveset being so weak. Compared to the Kid/Holly match against the Heavenly Bodies last week, there’s no comparison.
Final Rating: **½

 

Post Match, Kid says he’s disappointed and Holly blames a tough match the previous night. Kid asks for a re-match next week. We head to the commentary position where Shawn Michaels announces he’s looking for a bodyguard to watch his back into his WrestleMania title shot.

 

IRS vs. Buck Quartermaine
Because this match will be completely boring, Vince throws to Roddy Piper via telephone. Piper is on shill duty and claims the 1995 Royal Rumble was the best ever. Shawn and Piper have a nice back-and-forth due to their ability to think on their feet. The match isn’t long enough to cover the phone call as IRS finishes with the Write Off. Piper continues to ramble. He’ll be providing new commentary on Encore Plus for the Rumble re-run and promises an exclusive interview with “that jerk” Shawn Michaels.
Final Rating: ½*

 

The King’s Court
Lawler’s guest is NEW Intercontinental champion Jeff Jarrett. He offers Razor Ramon a re-match anytime. Jarrett isn’t content with the IC strap though and challenges Diesel to a WWF title match. Vince calls him greedy before proclaiming the British Bulldog as the Rumble winner. Oops. Jarrett’s title aspiration bombshell made this meandering promo worthwhile. Not that anyone considered Jarrett world champion material at the time.

 

The British Bulldog vs. The Black Phantom
The jobber is David Heath aka Gangrel, who gets in a few nice moves before Bulldog takes over. Phantom takes a few slick bumps off clotheslines and such. Davey lacks imagination though and hooks a chinlock to eat up his time in charge. Running powerslam finishes.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

Backstage, Bam Bam Bigelow is due to apologise for his actions at the Royal Rumble. However the WWF’s crack technical crew can’t get his earpiece to work so he can’t hear his cue to start talking. I don’t know why the WWF so persisted with the incompetence of their tech for plot points. It’s embarrassing.

 

Instances in 1995 that the WWF used technical incompetence of their own people as a plot point:
Two. And counting.

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Shawn Michaels. Shawn was on form on commentary, continuously gloating about his Rumble win and criticising everybody else for their mistakes. I’m surprised they didn’t make more of his win on this show, as instead they focused on Bigelow.

 

Least Entertaining: IRS. But at least they knew he was going to be boring and instead got Roddy Piper to talk over his match.

 

Quote of the Night: “I have plans up my sleeves. And that’s not easy for a guy who never wears sleeves. That’s just how sneaky I am” – Shawn Michaels.

 

Match of the Night: The Smoking Gunns vs. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly. A decent title match up. Shame they went with the Gunns, based on looks, rather than a good team to boss the tag division. This is actually the shortest of their three tag title runs, ended for Owen Hart to achieve the first of his golden goals at WrestleMania.

 

Summary: Nothing dragged and the tag title match was decent, but it’s not what you’d call a good show. At least they set up a tag title rematch for the following week, but the hour showed it had limitations here. If the big marquee match isn’t a stunner then the rest of show can’t make up for it. That really puts the pressure on the marquee match to deliver.
Verdict: 31

Monday Night Raw (01/16/95)


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Arnold Furious: We’re in Houston, Texas. This show was taped after the live Raw the previous week. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels. The latter makes a load of Gridiron references ahead of the Super Bowl.

 

The Heavenly Bodies vs. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly
The Bodies were sadly towards the end of their WWF run so, despite Jim Cornette still being their manager, they’re on job duty here. That means there can’t be many more Jimmy Del Ray showcases remaining. A pity as he’s the greatest short and fat wrestler in the history of the business. Holly gets double teamed by the superb Bodies offence. If there was ever a team -other than the Brainbusters- who made their heat fun, it was the Bodies. They show that in spades in the dismantling of Holly. Oh, how I wish they’d been given a proper push. Doctorbomb for Holly but he miraculously kicks out. I do not agree with that, it should have been a Kid save. Tatanka and Bigelow stroll out to watch as they’re facing Kid and Holly for the straps at the Rumble. Given those two choices, how on earth were the Bodies not selected instead? I’m not being biased here; they were fantastic. Kid tags in and gets double teamed too, but Holly spears Pritchard allowing Kid to finish Del Ray with a sweet bridging fisherman suplex. Amazing high bridge on that from the Kid. It might have been a short match, under five minutes, but it was awesome stuff from bell-to-bell. I once again plead with the Time Lords to get rid of that goddamn tag division booking in late ’94 and early ’95 and just put the belts on the Heavenly Bodies. This match alone should have been evidence in their favour. Kid and Holly were a fun tandem, but the Bodies were the finished article and could have a blast against any babyface teams the WWF could dig up to face them.
Final Rating: ***½

 

Backstage: Vince and Shawn get an interview with Bret Hart and Bill Shatner. Vince asks Bret if he’s rusty but he claims not. Shawn infers that Shatner should watch his back but The Shat is not concerned. Of course not; he’s a robot from the future. He calls Roadie “Roadkill”. The WWF seamlessly switches from this interview to Vince plugging the Raw debut of Mantaur. NO SHAME.

 

Mantaur vs. Jason Arndt
Jim Cornette somehow got saddled with Mantaur, whose entrance music is a cow mooing. A cow. Mooing. MOOOOO! Why is Mantaur a heel? He moos. Arndt tries hard (as you’d expect, he is the future Joey Abs while he was still being mentored by Matt Hardy). Mantaur’s main source of offence is running his big fat belly into Arndt. One of those finishes when accompanied by a big fat splash. In case you missed him; Mantaur was one of the WWF’s dumbest ideas but he was also terrible in the ring.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Jeff Jarrett vs. Bret Hart
Jarrett is cornered by the Roadie. Bret, who’s hardly been on TV since his Survivor Series title loss, is cornered by William Shatner. Bret gets a huge pop. He’s on his way to a WWF title shot against Diesel at the Rumble while Jarrett has a shot at the IC strap. Jarrett brings the Memphis stalling, which on an hour long show is uncalled for. When the action kicks in Jarrett is in the mood to take big bumps while Bret laces in his perfect strikes. Every time Jarrett tries for a move Bret has a counter lined up. It’s a wrestling masterclass from the Hitman, countering slams into armdrags or hip tosses into backslides. It’s beautiful. Jarrett finally gets something with his own counter; a back suplex out of a sleeper. They go to the near fall counters, not quite at the Malenko-Guerrero level just yet but smooth. Jarrett slows things up a touch on offence but Bret is in no mood to let him, so whenever Jarrett stalls too long Bret throws in a comeback. He has enough moves to get the majority of the match and Jarrett can bump around all day. The pace is unrelenting. Jarrett goes to the eyes to prevent the Sharpshooter but he can’t follow up quick enough for Bret’s liking and they run a spot on the ropes afterwards where Roadie interferes to actually change the tide. Jarrett gets the figure four on, but Shatner pushes the ropes in for Bret to reach them. They rock in another near falls reversal and Bret scores the duke this time. Post match Shatner kicks the Roadie’s ass. Awesome. Bret and Jarrett busted their asses in this one. It’s a minor classic. I’m surprised it’s not made its way onto more tape releases.
Final Rating: ****

 

The King’s Court
Lawler has the whole Million Dollar Corporation on. Ted DiBiase calls the fans “mongoloids”. Not sure that’s a PC term, Ted. DiBiase promises IRS will bury the Undertaker. “The only dead thing I like is Dead Presidents”. Nice. Ted promises the Million Dollar Corp will take the tag straps too. He’s so enthused about it that they’ve already signed a title defence against the Smoking Gunns. The final ridiculous claim from Ted is that King Kong Bundy will win the Royal Rumble. Is he serious with this? Bundy was his title aspiration guy? What he was saying was bullshit, but the way he said it was incredible. Superb promo work from Ted DiBiase.

 

Mabel vs. Lee Toblin
Toblin looks like Bret from Flight of the Conchords. Mabel plods through his moveset. Whoomp there it is, etc. The moves are impressive from a big fat guy, but the speed he’s doing them at is offensively slow. When Toblin starts whaling on him the difference in speed is really noticeable. Toblin is ok; decent kicks, good bumps. Mabel legdrops him for the win.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Post Match: the commentators pop up to ask Mabel about the Rumble match. Mabel points out he’s the biggest so he’ll win. King Kong Bundy strolls out to have a word about size. Mabel wants a Battle of the Fat Bastards RIGHT NOW but Bundy is too fat to get in the ring. Shawn claims he’ll win the Rumble while all of this is going on and Vince throws to a Diesel promo video.

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Bret Hart. Absolutely phenomenal in his first TV match since November. He lit a fire under Jeff Jarrett’s ass and they had an early contender for Raw MOTY.

 

Least Entertaining: Mantaur. Moo!

 

Quote of the Night: “Nobody needs to watch my back, I can take care of myself” – William Shatner.

 

Match of the Night: Bret Hart vs. Jeff Jarrett. Brilliant free TV match. PPV quality action from two technical masters.

 

Summary: Sensational Raw. Two great matches, a couple of decent interviews and very little to hate on. If every Raw had wrestling action this good, I’d have virtually nothing to complain about. Sometimes the hour length can put limitations on the WWF but their product came across really well here. Shame Shawn is stuck at the announce desk for these shows.
Verdict: 78

Monday Night Raw (01/09/95)

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Arnold Furious: We’re LIVE in Houston, Texas at the Summit for the second year anniversary of Monday Night Raw. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels. They run down the card including Bill Shatner on King’s Court, Owen Hart getting an IC title shot and Bret Hart in the house. William Shatner has pre-recorded comments where he basically cuts a promo on Jerry Lawler and claims he’s here solely to promote Tech War and “not wrestle”. They’ve set the Summit up with the entranceway at the back, which makes it look a bit like MSG.

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
Razor Ramon (c) vs. Owen Hart
This is part of Owen’s campaign to win all the WWF titles. HBK brings the history by pointing out that Owen beat Ramon to win King of the Ring. Vince gets in on it by talking about WrestleMania X and the Shawn-Razor ladder match. Razor combats Owen’s speed with his usual smashmouth brawling style, but his opening shine is overly long and he spends too much time working Owen’s arm, although Owen does incorporate some superb counters. I like how Owen’s stuff blends into Razor’s stuff, like an attempt at a crossbody being a genuine Owen move and Razor countering into the fallaway slam. However, I resent that every time Razor sets for the Edge anywhere near the ropes, it telegraphs a backdrop over them. Owen adds in a tope at speed before Razor rolls through a second crossbody into a pin for 2. I like them mixing it up. Owen on offence is nowhere near as boring as the staple heel offence commonplace during the era. Just compare his stuff to say Tatanka or IRS. Owen mixed up high risk and technical offence, with just enough cheating in there to stop him wrestling face. Also, a chinlock. Owen’s creativity won’t allow him to sit in it long, but it does set up a Princess Bride sleeper moments later. Razor fights out and starts throwing those famous right hands. They slightly botch the set up for a chokeslam, with Razor having to grab it a second time. Minor issue. Owen dumps Razor groin first on the ropes to set up a missile dropkick and ‘the Rocket’ straps on the Sharpshooter with Vince calling for a DQ on account of the nut shot. Bret Hart promptly runs in for the DQ. Really good match, which Owen usually had with anyone who was game. Razor was, and the BS finish was needed to protect Owen to keep him strong. They basically gave up on that as the year continued.
Final Rating: ***¼

 

Backstage, Jerry Lawler has words for William Shatner, promising to “beam him so far up he’ll never come down”. I think he meant to punch him.

 

Hakushi vs. Matt Hardy
Hakushi is making his debut and has Shinja in his corner. Matt flubs an early trip to the ropes so Hakushi flips around to show him how it’s done. Hakushi nails Matt with a diving elbow smash and finishes with a tame slingshot splash. Not what you’d call a stunning debut and certainly not the match you’d expect from the names involved.
Final Rating: ½*

 

The King’s Court
Jerry’s guest is William Shatner, in case you missed him. Shatner acts without saying anything. Wonderful stuff. King shills Tech War, which follows Raw on USA every Monday night and was written by Shatner. Shawn makes Star Trek jokes while Shatner claims chewing gum is more interesting than the King’s Court. Lawler gets into Shatner’s personal space and a ruck is impending, as Shatner claims everyone in this crowd watches Tech War. Um, guess again Bill. King tries to charge The Shat but gets taken over with a monkey flip. Bret Hart strolls out to “save”, despite the fact that Lawler is so toothless that he was taken out by an actor. Still, the segment was a lot of fun and Shatner was game for the wrestling monkey business.

 

King Kong Bundy vs. Gary Sabaugh
Sabaugh is the guy who looks like Garry Shandling. Bundy corner splashes him and pins in 9 seconds. Wait, that seems very familiar. The only real highlight is Shawn calling Bundy “love chunks” post match when the big man claims he’ll win the Royal Rumble.
Final Rating: SQUASH

 

Tuxedo Match
Howard Finkel vs. Harvey Wippleman
Both guys are cornered by tag teams. Fink has the Bushwhackers while Harvey has Well Dunn. This feud has been rumbling on for a while, with Fink taking exception to the loudmouthed and irritating Wippleman. Tuxedo matches are so gay. Who on earth wants to watch two ugly men tearing each other’s clothes off? Especially when Tuxedo matches traditionally involve the less manly men in wrestling. Let’s face it, no one wants to see a couple of middle aged skinny guys stumbling around the ring with their trousers around their ankles. “I’ve seen two chicks fight better than this” – Shawn Michaels criticises women’s wrestling. Howard manages to retain his cummerbund to win. On the upside, at least no one was wearing a thong. On the downside, every Tuxedo match is horrid.
Final Rating: DUD

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Owen Hart. Tempted to go for Shatner for that slick monkey flip, but Owen was on form.

 

Least Entertaining: Whoever decided to book a Tuxedo match as Raw’s main event.

 

Quote of the Night: “I’ve been impressed a lot but this isn’t one of the most impressive times I’ve had” – William Shatner is not impressed to be on Raw.

 

Match of the Night: Razor Ramon vs. Owen Hart. I’m glad we have a decent match after just two weeks of the new year. It bodes well.

 

Summary: Tuxedo nonsense aside, the second year anniversary Raw show was ok. Good IC title match, good celebrity involvement and nothing outstayed its welcome.
Verdict: 50

Monday Night Raw (01/02/95)

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WATCH NOW (ON WWE NETWORK)

Arnold Furious: We’re in Liberty, New York. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Shawn Michaels, which is a strange combination of Old School and New Generation. We start in the back with Double J, Jeff Jarrett, who promises a sensational singing debut this evening. “Ain’t he great?” adds the Roadie as the credits roll. Gorilla claims he’s here because Vince McMahon is actually too sick to work. He is? I thought Vince had to be legally dead before he missed a day’s work. Gorilla wishes us a Happy New Year even though this was filmed back on 12th December 1994.

 

Tatanka & Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lex Luger & The British Bulldog
As mentioned in last year’s edition; Shawn wasn’t a good commentator and introduced weird pauses and inflections where they didn’t belong. He starts that shit right in the opening match. Luger and Bulldog would go on to be a regular team as the Allied Powers, but they’re not called that yet. Luger is still feuding with the Million Dollar Corporation, but has no idea how to reflect his anger at Tatanka in his style, so he works Bigelow’s arm half-heartedly before running a stupid spot where he changes ropes on clotheslines so Tatanka can knee him in the back. Lame. Shawn viciously assaults Luger’s moveset by claiming all he does is clotheslines; he wasn’t a Lex Luger fan. Next to get Shawn’s ire is the slightly fatter than usual Tatanka, who’s “bulked up”. Tatanka laces in a few decent chops in the corner but Luger’s lack of effort in this match is palpable -he can’t muster enough of a shit to not give a shit– so they stand around in a bearhug for a while. Monsoon starts laying into everyone for being lazy or stupid. Hot tag to Davey and he has Tatanka pinned with the powerslam after a few seconds, so Ted DiBiase pulls his charge to the floor and everyone gets counted out. Long way to go for such a lame finish.
Final Rating: *

 

Duke Droese vs. Mike Bell
Droese gets one backdrop and heads to the chinlock. LAZY! Monsoon breaks up the monotony by telling us William Shatner will be on Raw next week. Droese stops mucking about and finishes with the Trash Compactor.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

King’s Court
“1995 and we still gotta put up with this?” – Gorilla Monsoon voices his displeasure at the ongoing King’s Court. I agree, sir. At least Jerry Lawler’s guest is Owen Hart. Owen is on to talk about Survivor Series, even though that was TWO MONTHS AGO. Nice of the WWF to be topical. Owen relates all of his 1994 successes, including beating Bret at WrestleMania and costing him the WWF title at Survivor Series. Owen has brought the submission towel with him allowing Shawn to deliver a killer whispered line of “that’s the towel”. Perfect delivery. Owen promises to win all the WWF titles in the same order that Bret won them in, starting with the tag titles. He promises to eventually win the WWF title and retain it until he chooses to retire, which is a pointer as to where Owen’s career was heading. The fact he was going to start with the tag titles showed how he was heading down the card. 1995 was a horrible year for Owen’s career after the blow-away successes of 1994.

 

Jeff Jarrett vs. Buck Quartermaine
Buck Quartermaine is one of the great jobber names. He looks like a bigger version of Sean Waltman. Jarrett sleepwalks through his moves while Buck gets nothing at all. Strutting occurs. Monsoon rounds on Jarrett: “just finish the match, sing your song and get out”. Ah, my thoughts exactly, Gorilla. Jarrett obliges with the first part courtesy of a figure four.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Post Match: All night long Jarrett has been promising his singing debut, but he isn’t happy with the quality of microphone provided for him. It probably doesn’t help that his guitar isn’t plugged in. Between feedback and shoddy spotlight work from the lighting crew, Jarrett walks off. So no performance this evening. Gorilla blames it on Razor Ramon. I get they were trying to draw this out, but nobody cared if Jeff Jarrett could sing or not. Well, the WWF bookers probably did, but none of the fans did. It’s no good building up to something that nobody cares about. If they were building up to a sing-off against a babyface then maybe that’d count for something. Even better if it was settled with fisticuffs instead. Seeing as Jarrett really can’t sing, this is really going nowhere. Fast.

 

Instances in 1995 that the WWF used technical incompetence of their own people as a plot point:
One. And counting.

 

Backstage: Super Dave Osborne gets to plug his new show. In case you don’t remember who that is, or are too young to remember, he was a comedy stunt man.

 

Tatanka & Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lex Luger & The British Bulldog
As if once wasn’t enough, we get the continuation of this match to close the show. “Luger has finally been exposed for his lack of talent” says Shawn as Tatanka pounds him. The earlier match was incredibly exciting compared to this one, with the heels plodding through heat on Luger while Shawn learns new names for body parts from Monsoon. Tatanka manages to duck under a double clothesline spot, which leaves him kneeling awkwardly on the mat while Luger makes the hot tag. The heels collide and Davey just pins Tatanka for the win. Jesus, that’s a lame finish. DiBiase seems to blame Bigelow for the loss. It really is hard to care after a humdrum contest with not one but two poor finishes.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: I guess Shawn Michaels. I found his sly burial of the product to be quite amusing.

 

Least Entertaining: I could literally pick anyone else. Jarrett ate up a load of time with no end result, everyone in the tag match was boring, Owen Hart said next to nothing in his interview and Duke Droese stunk up the joint with a bad squash. I’ll go with Droese for putting a chinlock into a 2-minute match. Criminal.

 

Quote of the Night: “1995 and we still gotta put up with this?” – Gorilla Monsoon voices his displeasure at the ongoing King’s Court.

 

Match of the Night: Tatanka & Bigelow vs. Luger & Bulldog. The first one. Had some semblance of formula but was pretty awful. Everything else sucked.

 

Summary: 1994 was a chore to sit through. We deliberately stepped away from doing these Raw books for a couple of months just to prepare for another year of potential horror. This opening show does not help my feelings of dread. I guess technically it was shot in 1994, but hey, it can only get better right? Oh, by the way, next week’s main event is Howard Finkel vs. Harvey Wippleman…
Verdict: 16

United Kingdom Championship Tournament – Night 1

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Arnold Furious: 
January 14 2017. We’re in Blackpool at the Empress. She is a beauty. Hosts are Michael Cole and Nigel McGuinness. Nigel knows very little about the British scene but he is one of the biggest available names, due to jumping ship from ROH where he made said name. Cole is the voice of experience and to train for this show he’s been watching tapes. No really, he’s actually been at the tape libraries to prepare.

 

Triple H welcomes us to the show. My word, he’s got bits of white in his beard. He looks like an aging Superman. He encourages us to build our own Empire. Starting now! Nigel calls Pete Dunne the tournament favourite before throwing out red herring Danny Burch. Cole pitches Trent Seven and Joseph Connors.

 

All tonight’s matches are first round bouts in the title tournament.

 

Trent Seven vs. HC Dyer
Dyer the flier also has tasty hands. He’s working heel against mega-babyface Trent. Seven is over everywhere that’s important in UK wrestling so it’s almost inevitable he gets the most love. Trent hurts his hand doing his chop spot, allowing him to sell for most of his own offence from then on. Dyer is fairly bland, by international standards, but he has a nice punch. Seven spends most of the match selling for him before finishing HC off with a harsh lariat for the win.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Jordan Devlin vs. Danny Burch
Danny, aka Martin Stone, was in NXT for two years. He’s dropped a tonne of weight, getting down to the cruiserweight area. Devlin was famously trained by Finn Balor who’s at ringside to witness Devlin’s Network debut. These are ridiculous times. Burch has been over in the USA for a couple of years so he’s not that familiar to modern UK fans. He’s had a lot of experience at this level so he takes this in his stride. Devlin is heel, which is a sensible choice based on his OTT work of late. He works a very dull style, continually going to the chinlocks. Burch ends up looking really strong by comparison, which is intentional. Danny gets the back of his head busted badly open from an Enzuigiri and the referee calls it for Devlin. This match was really poor before the rough stoppage. Devlin cements his heel spot by superkicking Burch post match like an asshole. Our Martin deserved better.
Final Rating: *1/2

 

Saxon Huxley vs. Sam Gradwell
Huxley, the “Muscle Cat” is from Hartlepool, home of world renowned monkey hanging scumbags. Gradwell looks like a partly finished CAW. Huxley looks like Jesus so the crowd chant “let’s go Jesus” and “Jesus sucks”. Huxley has good basics but horrible lower body definition. The match plods along while the crowd sing songs about Jesus Christ, our lord and saviour. Gradwell gets virtually ignored so he gets all fired up and starts imitating Tommy Billington. Diving headbutt finishes for Home Town Sam, The Blackpool Hero. Fans weren’t aware that was a narrative here.
Final Rating: **

 

Pete Dunne vs. Roy Johnson
Roy is really green and it’s a pity they don’t let him spit some rhymes pre-match as that’s how he gets over. Dunne is a firm favourite. Roy gets to show a little power but he’s basically here to get Pete over. Dunne’s focus is destroying the hand/wrist area. It doesn’t really go anywhere and Dunne can’t do biting on the Network, which is unfortunate. Inexperienced Roy tries hard and certainly gets into position for Pete’s spots but he’s basically just here to count lights. Drop Dead finishes, although it’s now called “The Bitter End” because there’s no death on the Network.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Tangent: quick shout out to how solid Michael Cole has been on this show. He’s done his home work and sounds both knowledgeable and comfortable. When he’s not being produced to shit on RAW he’s actually a good announcer. They need to stop barking in his ear every Monday.

 

Tyson T-Bone vs. Wolfgang
Tyson is a ‘gypsy’ fighter with loads of tattoos. Wolfgang is ICW champion and based on that alone should be a favourite to progress. Which would set up an interesting ICW main event vs. Trent. He’s the only Scottish wrestler in the tournament. T-Bone headbutts Wolfgang at the bell to sync the crowd up on the heel/face alignments. Wolfgang looks surprisingly good, considering his usual standard being mediocre, and delivers with all his big spots. In particular his spots off the ropes. The moonsault is nailed and so is the swanton. That finishes and Wolfgang progresses. Cole pays him the backhanded complement of saying it’s the best he’s seen of the ICW champion. The bizarre thing is he’s completely right.
Final Rating: ***

 

James Drake vs. Joseph Conners
Drake is a rock solid technician and Conners is really good too so we could be in for a treat. Conners has that WWE body, albeit on a cruiserweight frame. Cole seems to be a big Conners mark. I think he scouted him. Drake works heel but Conners doesn’t have a lot of sympathy so it’s tough to get the heat going. Conners nearly lost his ear in a night club attack, which is the theme of the match. Drake goes after that ear and the combination of his intensity and technical work makes him look like the actual star. Conners manages to take over right at the end with a nice elbow into a backbreaker before the Righteous Kill (renamed “Don’t Look Down” because there’s no murder in WWE) puts Drake away. I’m still not sure if he was supposed to be wrestling face.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

Mark Andrews vs. Dan Moloney
Dan’s pre-taped promo is fucking great. They give Andrews the live promo because of his TNA experience. He’s also the only Welsh guy. It bodes well for his progression to the later stages. Dan is a really good for his age but Andrews is the horse to bet on. Dan cuts Andrews off nicely to limit the flipz. Mark still hits a lot of flipz because that’s what he does. I like that Dan is good enough to tease a few false finishes but Andrews gets a counter into the Stundog Millionaire and the SSP puts Andrews into the quarters.
Final Rating: ***

 

Tucker vs. Tyler Bate
Tyler is incredibly good for his age and has developed some boxing strikes. The fact he’s on last suggests WWE are keen on Tucker, being from Northern Ireland. Tyler does his fantastic boxing jab in the early going. The crowd are very into Tyler but Tucker does good work across the ring from him. Tyler’s technical work is phenomenal for his age. He’s so smooth. The addition of punches has given his offence credibility too. His selling is also on point here, some of the best work on the entire show. Tucker’s range of wrestling skill is equally impressive and they have the stand-out match on the show by some distance. Tyler’s power and the way he throws Tucker around is a joy to behold. Tucker hits a superkick in this that’s so on point the crowd lose their shit for it and Tyler falls clean out of the ring. Tyler Driver ’97 finishes and Tyler advances in a thrilling night one main event and Bate looked like a goddamn star. WWE swooped in here and decided to pluck one of our youngsters and turn him into their guy. Absolutely the right decision and Tyler grabbed that brass ring. Good showing from Tucker too.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Post Match: Nigel has a special presentation and William Regal joins us for it. Bate vs. Devlin, Seven vs. Wolfgang, Dunne vs. Gradwell and Andrews vs. Connors will be the quarter finals tomorrow. The big news is Dunne smashing poor Sam in the face with a forearm and getting chastised by Regal for it. The facial expressions and timing on everything was mint.

 

Summary: A reasonably poor show, from an in-ring perspective, but it was suitably surreal and the choice to showcase Tyler Bate and Tucker was an exceptionally good one. Those lads really took the chance with both hands and stole the show. The crowd was also a big part of making the show special, as they always are. Tomorrow should be an improvement over this with more important matches and bigger stars colliding. This was a nice little introduction to anyone completely unfamiliar with BritWres who wants to dip their toes in our fiery hot water.
Verdict: 58

Royal Rumble 2017

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Arnold Furious: January 29 2017. We’re in San Antonio, Texas at the enormous Alamodome for the first Rumble there since the hugely papered one in 1997. Hosts are the many, many announcers WWE have.

 

WWE RAW Women’s Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley
Lots of huggers in attendance. Charlotte remains unbeaten on PPV. She’s 15-0. As with Sasha they’ve been slow in getting Bayley into a big match and she’s suffered because of that. Also because her promos aren’t very good. The in-ring is good enough to compensate for that. There’s a feeling that, despite the ***** classic Bayley and Sasha had, Charlotte is the most rounded of the three. She’s certainly the best promo. She’s also adapted well to the main roster way of doing things. Which means talking on RAW, occasionally working short matches and being able to shrug off shit angles. Part of the problem all the women have had on the main roster is having to go bigger (Hell in a Cell etc) because they already worked each other in great wrestling matches on NXT and, because of the Network, everyone saw them. It’s a new and interesting problem for WWE; the success of their own feeder promotion burning out development stars before they hit the main roster!

To be fair to these two, they do tremendous work in getting the crowd invested in this match and this moment. This is especially evident in the Figure Four stuff but also when Bayley starts lifting Randy Savage spots to counter Charlotte’s Daddy issues. Charlotte’s selling has improved of late, to the point where I’m convinced she’s in trouble. That’s a big step for any performer and I’m thrilled she’s found that extra step. Charlotte nails Natural Selection on the apron to get the win. Why are people still shocked when Charlotte wins on PPV? That’s what she does! This was a touch botchy but they told a good story and Charlotte was excellent.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Quick Cuts: Monday Night Raw (05/29/17)

This week’s episode of Raw was a mixed bag, with two strong television matches counterbalanced by one of the worst segments of the year.

After the obligatory show-opening talking segment to set up a throwaway, feud-combining multi-man (in this case Miz-Ambrose and Hardys-Sheamus & Cesaro), we were given the first chapter in an unfolding mystery. Announcer Corey Graves sh*t-stirred with GM Kurt Angle by showing him a text message which called the Olympic Hero, “A disgrace and embarrassment to the WWE and besmirched (WWE love that word) his reputation as a gold medalist.” The full contents of the message were not revealed, however, though evidently there was more to it as Angle said that if true it could ruin him. It’s been a while since WWE did a good old episodic whodunit, and having an intriguing thread running through a few weeks of television should lead to at least a degree of spirited online speculation as to where the angle is going next. Chances are it could result in a return to the ring for Angle, though one expects WWE might prefer to save that for WrestleMania, unless those low recent ratings really are starting to concern them.

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Elias Samson took us back in time to 1995 with both his pre-match concert (stirring up memories of Man Mountain Rock, albeit without the amazing logo guitar that MMR used to have) and his quick destruction of jobber Zac Evans. One can only assume that Samson is being built for an eventual WrestleMania showdown with SmackDown Live’s own musical maestro Aiden English… Perhaps not.

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One of two excellent matches on the show took place next as Samoa Joe defeated Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor in an excellent three-way match, designed to build up to the Universal Title number one contenders match at Extreme Rules. If you apply WWE’s formulaic booking logic then Joe’s win removes any chance of him winning on Sunday’s pay-per-view. The match was very good, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would have been stronger had Wyatt pulled up his rocking chair at ringside and observed rather than competed. As decent as he is in the ring, he simply cannot hold a candle to Joe and Balor.

WWE.com

On Sunday, WWE will presents a mixed tag match featuring the odd pairing of Sasha Banks and Rich Swann (who appear to have been thrown together because they both enjoy a spot of dancing) against Noam Dar and his main squeeze Alicia Fooooooox. The prospect of this bout is sure to cause headaches for WWE’s ring crew when they try to work out what colour ropes to put around the ring. With the cruiserweights competing convention dictates they be purple, but the women’s involvement throws a spanner in those works. Maybe they will go half and half. To set up the match Swann defeated Dar, practically ensuring that Dar and Fox will emerge victorious at the weekend.

In a brief segment, The Revival denied all knowledge of having attacked the glass-jawed Enzo Amore last week, even after being presented with footage showing them hastily departing the scene of the crime. For the second time in the night Corey Graves stuck his nose in, implying that Enzo’s partner Big Cass had done the deed, an opinion he quickly backed down from when Cass came out to confront him. Later in the night, Enzo was attacked again. The plot thickens! This, and the Angle mystery, both signify a small change in ethos from WWE’s usually-prosaic writers. For years every “angle” on Raw has been drab and uninspired, usually seeing two parties fighting for the sake of it, with no semblance of storyline progression to further the issue. This is a much-needed step in the right direction; long may it continue. My front-runners for who committed the attack are the Hardy Boyz, Corey Graves himself, and The Fashion Police (teaching Enzo a lesson for his terrible fashion sense). This being WWE, it will be who we all thought it was in the first place: The Revival.

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After a worthless Titus O’Neil squash win over the unbearable Kalisto, we were given a segment which smacked of desperation from WWE: Alexa Bliss presenting This Is Your Life – Bayley. As everyone knows, WWE champions a This Is Your Life segment with The Rock and Mick Foley in 1999 as its highest rated segment on Raw ever (it wasn’t, the highest was a WWF Title match between The Undertaker and Steve Austin), and with ratings down this seemed like a futile attempt to recapture that elusive lighting in a bottle. Unfortunately, the skit failed on every level. Bliss is usually one of the star performers on the show but the material she was given to work with here was WWE’s badly-scripted verbiage at its unflattering worst. Bliss struggled through the lame attempts at comedy as she mocked Bayley for among other things still playing with dolls and for winning a trophy for “sportsmanship”, all of which felt forced and fell incredibly flat. The introduction of characters purportedly from Bayley’s past dragged things down further. The acting from the presumably trained professionals was some of the worst ever seen on WWE TV, which is saying something. After what seemed like half an hour of being insulted by Bliss, Bayley finally came out to defend herself… then got her ass kicked again by the Raw Women’s Champion. What a mess WWE has made of the Bayley character, who at one point looked set to be this generation’s female role-model for the masses. Bayley will almost certainly retrieve the weaponry first in their Kendo Stick On A Pole showdown at Extreme Rules in order to exact her revenge, though I see absolutely no reason why WWE would take the title off Bliss at this stage.

In the second callback to 1995 of the evening, Goldust continued with his retro Hollywood act, making vague threats from his director’s chair towards former tag partner R-Truth. In response, Truth interrupted the vignette with one of his own, playing Goldust at his own game by quoting Pulp Fiction. This was the most tolerable Truth has been in months, perhaps years. Rather than goofy, he came across like something approaching a bad ass. Goldust going back to the glory days of his character is a definite positive too. Maybe this feud won’t be so bad after all.

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In the main event, former Shield partners Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins went at it full tilt in a pay-per-view quality match. The pair have great chemistry and assembled a spirited battle that fans were fully invested in. The result – Reigns over clean with a spear – like the three-way earlier, perhaps telegraphs the result of the Extreme Rules main event. Reigns is not going to face Lesnar at Great Balls Of Fire – WWE are saving that showdown for WrestleMania – so they gave him a win here to keep him ticking over. If we once again apply WWE logic then Rollins came out of Raw weaker than the other likely winner, Finn Balor, in the sense that he was pinned whereas Balor was simply out of the ring when Joe won the three-way. In other words, put your money on Rollins in the five-way on Sunday.

Overall this was a much better episode of Raw than in recent weeks, with strong matches and intriguing storyline progression throughout. It’s just a shame it was dragged down by that horrific segment.