Thursday, February 26, 2015

WWE Fastlane & Raw 2-23-15

I know I'm a little late to the party with the pay-per-view being several days done now. And I realize I haven't posted in a while yet again. I really wanted to write about the Royal Rumble, but that is all over with now. Time to move on.

So unlike many internet smarks, I wasn't upset with who won the Rumble, or who the WWE is pushing. Frankly, I'm sick of Daniel Bryan. Not because of his in-ring talent, which is very evident, but because of his personality and attitude. I just don't care for him. He was once the little guy that had to scratch and claw, or at least that's what we were told and what we honestly saw. Then he became friends with John Cena, married a Bella, and now he can do no wrong. People want to say Roman Reigns is being pushed, but honestly, Daniel Bryan is one of their cash cows and golden boys now just as much. People don't seem to get that.



But enough about that. I was actually looking forward to WWE Fastlane, and I wasn't disappointed. We had some great matches to enjoy during that event, and overall I was happy with the results.

The six-man tag match between The Authority and Ziggler, Rowan and Ryback was exactly what I expected it to be. The faces get pummeled a lot and have to rally back. Lots of run-ins and false finishes, and finishing moves, until somehow The Authority gets the win. It made sense, was handled well, and I wasn't let down by it at all. Solid match with some nice spots.

Goldust vs. Stardust also went the only way it could. I imagine the place they are trying to take Cody is back to the talent he was before teaming with his brother. I can't imagine that the Stardust character is going to last. It was a nice, fun gimmick that saw the Dust brothers teaming up, winning tag-team gold (probably a dream of theirs), and inevitably breaking up. The only place for them to go is for Cody to get back that - pardon the pun - star power he had prior. Cody at one point was on the track to greatness, but something happened that set him back. Hopefully he can find his way again. And as we saw on Raw, he is still haunted by the Cody chants and his brother's presence. So in my opinion, they are playing this right.

Tyson Kidd and Cesaro deserved their win over the Usos. I like the Usos, the one true tag-team left in the WWE, but Kidd and Cesaro have been struggling to find their place and are both amazing in-ring talents. Adding the WWE Divas into the mix with Naomi and Natalya adds to the story aspect of it too since both tag-teams lack a little in that department. It was a solid mid-card match with a result that both made sense and entertained. And the rematch on Raw saw things really heat up between the ladies, furthering the only story that really exists between the two teams.

Nikki Bella vs. Paige was a forgettable match sadly. It makes sense for Nikki to stay on top as the dominant heel Diva of the division, but I'm not sure I like the direction Paige is headed down. Unlike AJ, who was able to blaze her own trail more or less, Paige, the young women she is, seems to be making some compromises along the way. The match itself was okay, but nothing to write home about.

Bad News Barrett going over Dean Ambrose was honestly a little surprising at first, but once Ambrose stole the title, the ending made perfect sense. He's a loose cannon. The best of Piper and Pillman rolled into one. And with the fallout on Raw, entering Ziggler and R Truth into the mix, we now have an interesting story surrounding the once second most important title in the WWE.

Did anyone really expect Cena to come in and defeat Rusev on his first try? If you did, you haven't been paying attention. They are building Rusev up to be this unbeatable super athlete, as they call him. He's not a beast like Brock Lesnar, he's just simply... superior. That's the gimmick. And Cena has not been faring well lately against, well, anyone. But if there's a guy that can beat Rusev, it's gotta be John Cena. So why not save the big defeat of Rusev for the grandest stage of them all? Sure, Rusev turned that match down, but we still have four and a half weeks... it will happen. And it should. Cena standing tall, waving the American flag at Wrestlemania having defeated the unbeatable super athlete, Rusev.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the confrontation between Sting and Triple H! HHH just talked and talked and talked, then took a shot at the Stinger, and beat him up for a while. But as soon as HHH went outside, I knew exactly how it was going to play out. See, the WWE was clever in not showing the trademark black baseball bat yet, because it gave it impact at Fastlane. HHH pulled out the sledgehammer, and as soon as he gets back in the ring, the bat comes out as Sting backs HHH into the corner before pointing with the bat to the Wrestlemania sign. And there we have it, Sting will wrestle at Wrestlemania! Took too many years, but it's finally happening. 



Then we come to the main event, which I thought was spectacular. I don't get all the hate for Roman Reigns. Sure, he's a little green on the mic, but so were SO many major stars when they first started out. "Stunning" Steve Austin was terrible for years. And let's not forget Roman's family, Rocky Maivia either. The problem is fans today have very little patience, and they think Vince, HHH, or whomever is always screwing with them. That's the perception enforced by the Attitude Era that people seem to have latched onto. They really think the behind-the-scenes stuff is that one-sided. Truth is we don't know what goes on behind closed doors, only rumors and internet talk we hear.

Anyway, this was a very good, back-and-forth match between Reigns and Bryan. Every spot either competitor usually hits was on display here. False finishes galore throughout, and ultimately Reigns came out on top fair and square, by the book. Will fans still boo him? Sure, but not necessarily because they don't like him. But because they somehow think he took Bryan's spot and is being force-fed down everyone's throats. It's funny to me that when The SHIELD was around, everyone loved all three of them, and when Reigns got hurt, everyone was excited for him to come back. The timing sucked for Reigns, though, because Bryan came back too, and fans sadly jumped off Reigns' bandwagon to back Bryan. Like it was impossible to root for both guys...

Roman Reigns is something special. Not because of his size, but because he quite frankly has "it." Daniel Bryan does too, in a different way. The two CAN co-exist. Why people can't grasp that is beyond me.

On Raw, Bryan gave his respect to Reigns, and the two teamed up in a great tag-team match against Rollins and  the returning Randy Orton, who I will talk about more in a minute. The match was a typical tag match with all your back and forth, and the faces getting beat down, having to tag each other in to save the day. The finish saw some unwanted tag shenanigans in a humorous and respectful way on one side, and a not so playful way on the other. It worked out well, and Randy was a conundrum to Rollins throughout.

The match aside, which was fine, Orton was very confusing here. He started off as an anti-hero when Raw began, ready to take on all of The Authority. Then he gets back on the same page with them. There are little hints throughout that he may turn at any moment, but all episode long he rides the Authority wave and resists pummeling Rollins. But why?

My theory is he just planted himself in The Authority like the viper he is, and he's waiting for the right time to strike. I still see Orton vs. Rollins at Mania, and for the next few weeks we're going to get a slow build to that eventual turn. And if that's the way it goes down, then it works for me. If Orton is just another face in The Authority camp, I will be disappointed. He's too good to waste in that role any longer. And his character's ego is too big to play second fiddle to Seth Rollins.

I said the Usos were the only real tag team left in the WWE, clearly not mentioning the Ascension. I don't like them and I don't think they will last. I hope they don't. They are a poor man's Legion of Doom or Powers of Pain, or Demolition. The key factor in all those teams I mentioned, they were actually a bit scary. They had presence. These kids don't have that presence. It doesn't work in my opinion. But we did see the return of the Prime Time Players, though Young looks ridiculous with that beard and hair cut. Titus is so underrated though. I hope they do return as a tag team, but we know how little the WWE values tag team wrestling anymore.

It was fun seeing the Rybaxel reunion as they faced each other. I like what they are doing with Axel. Or that they are doing anything with him at all really. It was a fun match.

The last thing I want to talk about, though, is Bray Wyatt. For weeks we've known who Wyatt was cryptically calling out in his promos without ever saying his name. And Monday, the lights went down, the eerie chanting music started, the lightning struck, and the druids wheeled out a coffin. The Undertaker is back! Or is he? I knew the whole time, as probably did most, that when that coffin opened it was going to be Bray Wyatt, not the Undertaker. And there he was, calling the Dead Man out once and for all. It's a perfect build up to a Wyatt/Taker match at Mania, which I am actually very excited for. If Taker wasn't going to face Sting, this is definitely the route they needed to go.

So for me, all in all, Fastlane and Raw were both successes. Things always pick up on the Road to Wrestlemania, and while there's not as much of an epic feel this time, I am still pleased with the direction many of the stories are going. I can't wait to see what Smackdown has in store for us tonight as well.

-B

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