May 19, 2015 by Joey Keogh
Last night’s Payback event wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either and, with that in mind, RAW rolls into Richmond, VA somewhat apprehensively. Just kidding, it does so with, like, fifty trucks and Triple H and Steph are back to gloat about how great it is to be back and how well everything is going. “It’s a better world when The Authority is in charge” JBL quips, as Cole urges us to use the goddamn hashtag to interact with other losers who have insightful opinions to share such as “John Cena wins again #LOL”. The crowd hate it at first, but when Steph starts shilling the show to them, they get a bit confused. Luckily, Trips points them in the right direction by telling them “I hate to say I told you so but…I told you so”. Rollins is the future of the WWE and, in celebration of his general awesomeness and stubbornly two-toned hair, tonight’s Main Event will be dedicated to him. That means technically the ladies headline tonight, but they only get about a minute so it doesn’t really count. A tumble-weed greets the shocking revelation of the relinquished IC belt, as Ma and Pa acknowledge that Daniel Bryan probably isn’t watching the show tonight because he’s a dirty hippie and, therefore, does not own a TV. It’s worth noting that Bryan is still totally over, even when there’s no possibility of him showing up any time soon. The Authority advise that, “unlike Daniel Bryan‘s career”, the show must go on, and with that in mind, here’s Sheamo to cue a vid from Smackdown and demand the belt is handed over to him immediately, with no need for a match. He’s clearly relishing the opportunity to play a heel, particularly as it means he can finally stomp on little guys like Bryan instead of desperately trying not to hurt them. Ryback, who is the living, mouth-breathing embodiment of a bully, interrupts to complain about how he doesn’t like bullies. It doesn’t matter how often he says it, we ain’t buying it, and all the cheap pops and shills for poor little Bryan aren’t going to change that. To shut these two up, they’re given a match.
Sheamus Vs. Ryback
One word: why? Is this building up to something or does somebody just really want Sheamus to get injured real bad? At first, Sheamo plays the cowardly heel, which is complete bollocks because he’s a big, brash, bulky Irishman and could just as easily be a ruthless dickhead but try telling that to writers who only understand; hero good, bad guy bad. Watching him leg it is comical, rather than endearing him as a villain to us as an audience. Cole spends most of this match explaining to us exactly what the Elimination Chamber entails because, if you haven’t already guessed, both of these lads will be taking part in it in a couple weeks. He also refers to Sheamo “having his way with” Ryback, but maybe that phrase means something different from whichever Dumpster he originated? The spinebuster looks like shit, even though Ryback is Kayfabe injured or whatever which, by the way, he sucks at selling. It looks like he has it won after bouncing Sheamo off the announce table and stranding him in the corner, but the crafty Irish bastard fakes an eye problem so he can Brogue kick Ryback to hell before triumphantly pulling back his hand and assuring the fans that he’s okay. It’s a miracle!
Backstage, The Authority gather to toast Rollins, who’s wearing an open-collared shirt and suit just like Mad Dad. Ambrose interrupts to demand a title match and he’s all “Don’t make me laugh” and cackles maniacally as per usual. Kane carefully considers this proposition for about ten seconds, ultimately leaving the decision to Rollins himself. Ambrose is like “you used to be cool, bro”, name-checking Paul Bearer and Taker. This displeases Kane. Ambrose responds by drinking his champers and scolds him for drinking on the job and saunters off to go be mad elsewhere.
Neville Vs. King Barrett
For some reason, Renee interviews Neville before the match kicks off. He mostly talks about all the wild nights he’s had with Gaz and Scotty T, but before he can go into too much detail, Bo Dallas appears, in the midst of tracking down his stolen gimmick from The New Day. He’s a bit cheeky, so Neville reminds him that he beat him for the NXT title not too long ago and things soon descend into a mini-brawl, with Dallas targeting the Geordie’s injured knee. Once Barrett eventually shows up, Dallas settles on commentary and, considering we’re seeing Superstars doing this more and more often lately, he doesn’t do too bad a job, comparatively speaking – the highlight is when he calls Booker “Mr. T”, much to his bemusement. The match itself is diverting enough; Barrett focuses on Neville‘s knee, as he finds it buckling each time he goes for a move, and the two bounce really well off each other as usual. The end comes courtesy of a Bullhammer, after which Dallas attacks Neville for no apparent reason.
Winner: King Barrett
Rusev strolls out next and he is pissed about what happened last night with Cena, and not even over that ridiculous table botch. “I speak your stupid American language perfectly”, he tells the crowd, “I know how to say ‘I quit'”. The fans are after Lana, even though Rusev screams over and over that she is never coming out ever again. Of course, she does come and, in an effort to appeal to her boss, she tells him that she knows the real him and she knows he was in pain and she was just trying to help. This isn’t exactly what a man like Rusev wants to hear and he banishes her, much to the chagrin of the fans.
Dean Ambrose Vs. Bray Wyatt
As some sort of consolation prize, Ambrose is given a match opposite Wyatt and, although it seems at first to be a time-waster, since these two already had a super-hot feud that ended, rather weirdly, on RAW, it’s actually the highlight of the night. Foley wrote on Facebook after the PPV that Ambrose has truly proven his worth as a Main Eventer now, and this is evident even in little non-matches such as this one. The two start by staring each other out for a bit, each trying to out-crazy the other. There are some cool spots from Wyatt, including a gnarly Suplex off the second rope onto the floor, but this is Ambrose’s match and he dominates even when he’s eating some offence, by styling out his reactions with his own weird little flourishes. Neither of them are fans of sleeves, so there are lots of clotheslines and uppercuts but the end comes when, after both fail to hit their finishers, Mercury and Noble intervene to give Wyatt the room to land the Sister Abigail and win. It’s not immediately clear why The Authority is on the side of a swamp-dwelling weirdo who never did anything to help them, but, hey, anything to give Wyatt some more prominence can only be a good thing.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Tag Team Re-Match: Cesaro & Tyson Kidd Vs. The New Day
Poor ol’ Xavier Woods has been banned from ringside after his cheating last night cost Tyson Kidd and Cesaro the belts. His brothers vamp a little bit before things kick off, in his honour, noting that the denizens of Richmond are illiterate and ugly (Cesaro kicks the ropes impatiently while this is going on, in another example of his fantastic in-ring personality). They’re hugely over, but they don’t even get close to as big a reaction as Kidd and Cesaro do when they hit the barricade to jam with the fans a little bit. This is something Stardust was doing a while ago, and it seems pretty simple but a little bit of interaction like this really goes a long way in the long run. A huge elbow drop from Kidd off the top rope kicks things off proper, but it all ends rather quickly in a DQ when E and Kingston round on him and try to double team him in the corner. This leads to every other tag team in the division spilling into the ring, clad in their county colours, and spoiling for a fight. The Prime Time Players are last, with Titus grabbing Woods by the hair and dragging him into the ring for his punishment. It’s not exactly the cream of the crop with Los Matadores in there, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
Winners: DQ (The New Day retain)
US Championship Open Challenge: John Cena Vs. ?
Relax, relax, there is no need to worry because someone bought that hideous Cena US champ belt tee thing. Phew. Now we can rest easy. In other news, this goddamn challenge is still happening. Is it just going to go on forever? Is this how Cena is eventually going to retire? Will he be doing it in the old folks home in his bathrobe? I honestly can’t remember a time when this wasn’t happening. Tonight, the man in question is super Southern and super into both ‘murica and the cheap pops. But there’s a difference, because none other than Kevin Owens, the angriest and most aggressive French Canadian in history, is here to show him how to cut a promo without resorting to cliché. Or the word poop. He’s all “You know who I am” and, at first, Cena is quite polite but he switches, Jekyll and Hyde style, once Owens takes credit for Zayn’s injury and posits that he’s gonna whoop his ass tomorrow night. Eventually, after much back-and-forth, Owens kicks and powerbombs Cena, before stomping on the US title and then holding the NXT belt aloft. As much as I cannot stand this stupid open challenge bullshit, if it means more NXT talent showing up and proving just how deserving they are of being on the main roster, then bring it on. Also, this was a great way to shill Unstoppable without feeling the need to have Cole blather on about how it’s LIVE on the NETWORK for the low-low cost of only ONE SOUL.
Dolph Ziggler Vs. Stardust
Sadly, this is where the show starts to lull. Up until this point, RAW was pretty action-packed but this match, along with the next one and, sadly, the Divas bout, clock in at about twenty minutes total, which is downright pitiful on an episode with a promo as the Main Event. Much has been discussed about Ziggler possibly blading last night (check out how perfect the little cut on his head is), as head-butts don’t generally result in gashes like that, but he’s vehemently denied the rumours so I guess we have to believe him. Anyway, the whole point of this bout is to give Lana a proper face turn as, following Ziggler’s obvious and easy victory, she gives him two of the most PG Disney kisses you could ever possibly imagine. Rusev shows up to kick some butt, he and Ziggler brawl for a bit, she slaps him and he eats a Zig Zag. Whatever. Remember when this guy was unstoppable? Oh hey, watch NXT!
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Tag Team Match: Erick Rowan & Luke Harper Vs. Fandango & Zack Ryder
When Ryder’s involved, we know it’s going to a short bout, but to be fair to the kid the crowd are dying for him to get a look in right from the beginning and, when he does, he proves while he’s still employed. Cole, insightful as ever, chooses instead to point out that Rowan is still wearing his sheep mask. Fandango gets double-teamed for a bit and a tornado DDT, by Harper, is a stand-out moment but this is little more than a squash match and, even as that, it isn’t particularly entertaining. But at least the swamp bros are back together, where they belong.
Winners: Erick Rowan & Luke Harper
Divas Championship Match: Nikki Bella Vs. Naomi
Before they even make it to the ring, the Bellas have a really weird moment with Steph backstage that results in Brie being banned from ringside. Er, okay, who gives a shit when her sister somehow manages to get even more naked right before the bell rings? Naomi and Tamina cut a promo in the little confessional box that is supposed to put them over as heels but, once again, does not (even with the former’s impressive evil laugh). The two ladies go at it for a respectable amount of time, hitting some pretty tough offence, including some great clotheslines, a gnarly dropkick and a sweet back body drop from Nikki. It all ends in a DQ when Tamina intervenes to stop Naomi losing and Paige makes her triumphant return to the ring by getting rid of everyone, even hitting the Rampaige on Nikki. She holds the title up, yells some stuff in British, and all is right with the world once more.
Winner: DQ (Nikki retains)
And now, folks, we’ve reached our exciting Main Event; Seth Rollins: Architect Of A Dream. The Authority are gathered in the ring to await him, Steph kicking things off with a mushy intro about how she and Trips got him off the streets and raised him to be a pop punk kid with too-big hats and not enough dedication to one particular hairstyle. As it happens, he’s wearing a beanie in the little promo vid they show, but no matter, he still looks STOOPID as Ryback would say. They all ham it up for a bit, with Trips telling his adoptive son how proud he is that he used the Pedigree last night and how much he reminds him of him (mainly because they are wearing the exact same outfit). Jamie looks as though he’s about to propose to Rollins, and Joey almost gets a chance to finally speak from the heart but, of course, Ambrose shows up to ruin everything yet again. He’s like “gimme a title match or else” so Steph goes “get him, Seth!” and then Rollins really sheepishly removes his jacket while asking Ambrose rather quietly if he wants a piece of him. They brawl, it all spills outside and there’s a moment where Ambrose is teasing smashing Rollins’ head into a pile of strategically-placed cinder-blocks but Steph relents and gives him his title match. He eats the Pedigree anyway, as, after being literally dragged out of the ring by his feet, Rollins returns once Ambrose’s back is turned to ensure the show goes out exactly the way it started; with ear-splitting boos.