- No wrestling this week on Raw, no Main Event, probably no Superstars, thanks to some hellacious weather in the Northeast. If there were ever a time WWE needed a show canceled so they could do a controlled environment telecast, it was this Monday Night. With a little more time to digest the Royal Rumble, and sitting through a second viewing, I have to say… my overall opinions don’t change, but the snowflakes are slightly off. I’d probably up the Triple Threat Title Match to 4 1/2 stars, and downgrade the Rumble to 2 1/2 stars. When it comes to the latter, I don’t change any of my overall opinion (fun first half, deflated second half with a decent spot thrown into the mess), but I understand the displeasure like making the eliminations of guys like Ambrose and Ziggler such after-thoughts. Even Bray Wyatt, the ironman of the match, so thrown out in such a ho-hum kind of way.
Following the Rumble, Twitter “blew up” with #CancelWWENetwork, and in one of the greatest coincidences, WWE sent out a press release that they topped 1 million subscribers. When that number was tallied is up for the debate (rumors suggest very recently, with strong pushes the day of and after the Royal Rumble), but it strongly suggests that the “smart” audience isn’t large enough to make a significant impact, or there’s a bunch of liars on the internet. I know, LYING ON THE INTERNET? No Way! So… Monday Night Raw is all but canceled, with a few interviews done at WWE Head Quarters thrown around re-airing the Title Match and Royal Rumble Match for free. Daniel Bryan gave his endorsement to Reigns, and Paul Heyman is making a strong effort in making us care for Reigns vs. Lesnar.
- Finally… we’re LIVE for WWE Smackdown, on January 29th, 2015, from Hartford, CT, with Michael Cole, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Byron Saxton at ringside calling the action, unless otherwise noted. We’re promised tonight will be the end of the Daniel Bryan/Kane feud… in a CASKET MATCH.
- COO Triple H opens the show for our standard “everybody’s talking too much” opening segment. “Welcome to Monday Night Raw!... oh wait…” OK, that got a chuckle out of me. Oh, and the WWE Network has 1 Million Subscribers. Suck on that, #CancelWWENetwork goofs. This somehow leads into talking about the NFL and having trouble with balls, and yes, innuendos-a-plenty. At Fast Lane, on February 22nd, Triple H will go face-to-face with his problem, a man called STING. The level of effect is up for debate, but Triple H does an outstanding job in trying to blanket the flames of the Royal Rumble “controversy.” Triple H promises to make an announcement on Monday Night that will end the controversy shake the WWE... and this brings out Roman Reigns. He tells Triple H there was no controversy, and Triple H casually tells him his match is next. Personally, Reigns saying nothing and hitting Hunter with a Spear would’ve been super-effective, but I’m sure they don’t want to go for the Ace on the first play.
- Pre-recorded promo from WWE Chairman Vince McMahon is gloating about the WWE Network reaching 1 million subscribers, and offering the month of February, to “new subscribers” for free. That’s yet ANOTHER give-away in less than a year of the launch. It’s smart to lure newbies in the month leading up to WrestleMania, but they can’t keep going to this gimmick so often or it will burn out the product.
- The newest inductee announced for the Class of 2015 Hall of Fame… Arnold Schwarzenegger, as part of the “Celebrity Wing.” He did appear on an episode of WWF Smackdown back in 1999 to promote “End of Days”, so there’s that. I’d say he’s on par with Drew Carey as far as contribution to the world of WWE. I’m surprised some awful news website with no knowledge of wrestling haven’t tried to call Arnold a former WWF Champion because they’ve seen him in a picture holding a WWF Title.
- Seth Rollins comes out with J & J Security to gloat about how great he was at the Royal Rumble. He issues an open challenge to anyone who thinks they can hang with him… and this brings out The Ryback. I was hoping for Bubba Ray Dudley, honestly. Noble and Mercury cut him off, allowing Rollins to get a cheap shot in. This brings out Erick Rowan, probably to job to one of their jackets. He bowls through J & J, but eats a kick from Rollins and plays dead (see?). Now it’s Dolph Ziggler’s turn, and Rollins somehow escapes. Rowan grabs hold of the goof squad, but he can’t do that right, either. How much more can they do to make Erick Rowan look like a total doofus?
- Kane is backstage, caressing a casket, and cutting a promo on Daniel Bryan to hype tonight’s Main Event. Will this be the end of Corporate Kane?!
- Rusev is bitching about being hosed out of winning the Royal Rumble Match and that Cena is washed up and doesn’t have the hunger (isn’t that the plot to Rocky III? Rocky IV had the evil Russian, Vince). John Cena has words for the undefeated United States Champion, the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev (are they Cena Wins, LOL?). What an odd match to insta-feud for Fast Lane. It’s Non-Title, opening the door for Rusev doing the job, but he’s undefeated, so Cena doesn’t need the win. It’s a PPV Main Event, so if you do a bullshit finish, you’re pissing off the paying audience yet again. It just screams of booking yourself into a corner, and probably going with the worst possible scenario.
- Signed for Fast Lane: Nikki Bella defends the Diva’s Championship against Paige. INSTA-FEUD! Renee Young is standing by with Paige, but it’s quickly interrupted by the Bella Twins, doing their typical catty “Mean Girls” bullying. BE A STAR!
- Some goober, advertising Wizard Wars on SyFy, is entertaining R-Truth, Zack Ryder, Summer Rae, and Alicia Fox. Miz and Mizdow interrupt, and the segment ends with Miz getting an egg cracked on his head.
- Bray Wyatt with a promo with his usual cryptic message. What could he be up to?
We return from commercial, with Kane smothering Bryan under the ring apron. That ring apron is getting a lot of work tonight. Kane drops him across the top rope with a suplex and lands a boot, but Bryan won’t fall into the casket. He uses kicks to fend Kane off, then quickly runs into a big boot. Whip to the corner, Kane follows with a clothesline, and connects with his signature side slam. Bryan skins the cat to avoid the casket and takes Kane over the top with a head scissors. He heads to the top rope and comes down on Kane with a plancha. Kane catches a dive from the apron, and rams Bryan into the post. Kane with a boot, knocking Bryan into the casket, but he quickly scrambles out from the other side. Kane puts him back in, but he still can’t close the lid. Bryan fights free, but jumps into an uppercut as we take our last break.
We’re back from the final commercial interruption, with Kane coming off the ropes with a DDT. Bryan avoids being sent into the casket, so it’s more punishment at the hands of Kane. Whip to the corner, Bryan flips over Kane and comes off the ropes with a diving clothesline He hypes himself up and unloads with a flurry of kicks. Kane misses a charge, and Bryan follows him to the floor with a suicide dive. Bryan targets the legs and comes crashing into Kane with a running dropkick. He tries it again, but this time takes a back drop into the timekeeper’s station. Kane tosses him into the nearby announcer’s table, grabs a chair, and smashes it across the back. Bryan gets sent face-first into the of the casket. Kane goes for a Tombstone, but Bryan counters, hangs Kane up across the top rope, and comes off the ropes with two of his running dropkicks. Kane counters a third with a Chokeslam and rolls Bryan into the casket, but Bryan lands a kick to the head and has Kane trapped into the Yes-Lock inside of the casket! Bryan goes for the lid, but Kane blocks. Bryan with more kicks, but the roundhouse kick is blocked. Back in the ring, Kane turns Bryan inside out with a clothesline. He goes for another Chokeslam, but Bryan escapes. He sends Kane to the apron, hits a kick to the back of the head, and nails the Running Knee! Kane lands in the coffin, and the lid is closed at 22:05 to give Bryan the victory. *** They’ve worked enough times to develop a formula. I’m personally not a fan of casket/coffin match stipulations, because it tends to handicap things, but they worked well around the gimmick, and thankfully there wasn’t outside interference or unnecessary overbooking.
Final Thoughts: You can feel the efforts in making up for Monday Night Raw having very little original content, so we got two big matches with decent time (and both were pretty good, considering some of the participants). Triple H seems to be positioning himself into a scenario that will help convince the fans to pull for Roman Reigns, and I’m excited to see some Usos vs. Kidd and Cesaro matches in the coming weeks. On the negative side, Cena vs. Rusev does nothing for me, especially if Cena’s going to “sell” the match by playing 5th grade comedy routines on his opponent and his manager. The less said about WWE’s way of using the Ascension, the better.