When the ratings are constantly hovering around all-time lows, you can expect to see some desperate tactics, and with a weak Monday Night Football match-up (Baltimore @ Cleveland, two teams with a combined record of 5-15), thereís an idea that more people will watch Monday Night Raw instead. Personally, I find that to be a weak excuse. If youíre a wrestling fan and the product is at least intriguing enough to give a crap about, the wrestling show will always be picked. If youíre a sports fan and thereís two teams playing who you either dislike or have no interest in, odds are youíll look for other sports to watch, what with the NBA and NHL underway. Back to the topic at hand... desperate times call for desperate measures...
First, the Roman Reigns and Sheamus nonsense. Wrap your mind around this, and Iím pretty sure this is how it was made out to be: Sheamus (or as Reigns calls him, "Magic Mohawk") taunts Reigns and gets KOíed for it, so a match is booked later tonight, with the Title on the line, but Reigns has to win the match in 5:15 or less to win the Title. If he loses the match, he loses his Title opportunity at TLC, and if he wins... well, he wins the Title, unless he wins by DQ, then he just kind of still gets his Title shot and this was all pointless. Oh, and since heís best buds with Ambrose and the Usos, their Title hopes are at stake, too. The main problem with this whole scenario is how clumsy the set-up was and how poorly it was translated to the viewing audience. At times I honestly didnít know if his match tonight was for the Title or not, and the commentary didnít help matters either, never acknowledging it as such. I hate to be that guy, but this is some serious "WCW nonsense" when I think about it. Something fishy is up, because the big Title Match is set to begin at 10 p.m. As expected, we got a BS finish, with Rusev running in to get Sheamus DQíed... so Sheamus not only looks like a goof, but can barely survive a 4 and a Ĺ minute match where he spent half of the time stalling. We also have a name for his new stable of companions, the so-cleverly-titled "League of Nations", featuring Rusev, King Barrett, and Alberto Del Rio.
We closed out Monday Night Raw, with the LEAGUE OF NATIONS (seriously, did they spend more than 6-seconds on that?) taking on Reigns and Friends (Ambrose and the Usos) in an Eight-Man Tag Team Match. But wait... we stack the odds, with The New Day joining it to make it a Seven-on-Four Tag Team Matchô instead. I guess Kevin Owens was busy noshing at the catering table (or home sick with the flu... seriously, how did WWE not use my excuse? Seems about write with their level of intelligent writing). The match not only stunk (running nearly 30-minutes in front of a dead crowd), but the over-exposure of almost everyone involved is just baffling. Rusev and the New Day, among others, were featured in no less than FOUR SEGMENTS EACH, and despite a deep Main roster and a deep roster of ready talent in NXT, this is what we get. We followed this up on Smackdown with Roman Reigns having to face insurmountable odds, a 4-on-1 Handicap Match because his "Family" lost a match fair and square to the New Day. Donít worry, through some WCW magic, one man was thrown from ringside for illegal participation, and Reigns managed to survive the 3-on-1 and win the match by Count-Out. Didnít stop Sheamus from knocking his block off with a Brogue Kick to end the night.
With so much happening and so little having a strong impact, the rest of the weeks programming will just be summed up without an order of importance...
First, The Ravishing Russian Lana is back. Oh wait, sheís no longer called that. Just Lana (not to be confused with Just Joe). Sorry if I didnít make it seem all that important, WWE didnít, either. They seriously cut to a backstage shot of Rusev, Lana is there, and "Oh, theyíll be on Miz TV next." You know, in my day, the big reveal of Lana wouldíve been DURING the tired formula of Miz TV, not announced before it. That was just ammunition for me to switch the channel to the MNF game, so mission failed, WWE. Rusev constantly referencing Lana as "one person" wouldíve been the perfect interlude for Jim Hensonís "Just One Person" song. If that doesnít turn an evil Bulgarian-turned Russian-turned back to Bulgarian babyface, I donít know what will... wait, what? Heís still a heel? Well someone needs to clue Lana in on that one, unless they are going to immediately tease a break-up angle her first night back! Ryback interrupted for a match that went maybe 2-minutes outside the commercial break, and Rusev took a count-out tending to Lana, who was coincidentally hit by the ring-steps during a spot on the floor. FORSHADOWING! With Rusevís involvement mostly having to do with Roman Reigns on Smackdown, this was only touched up in a weak backstage interview, where the only notable thing was Lana NOT wearing her standard jacket and mini skirt, but something more... fancy? I donít know, they just want to kill the character from what I understand. To think, not even 6 months ago, she was the flavor of the monthô for Vince McMahon and now sheís just another face.
The Wyatt Family continued their reconstruction program with the Dudley Boyz, and if what youíre about to read doesnít scream desperately grasping at anything to get people interested, then I donít know what does. The set up was simple: The Dudleys are out-numbered ("3 to 2", according to Bubba), so they have someone to even the odds... Tommy Dreamer. Yep. Tommy Dreamer is featured on WWE programming in 2015. 10 years since the ECW revival, and 15 years since ECW went out of business. The fan base has turned over so much over a DECADE AND A HALF that outside a brief moment of nostalgia, the Six-Man Tag that followed was met with deafening silence and was an incredibly long three minutes before getting a non-finish (double DQ). Just as it seemed the Dudleys were going to be brutalized again, Bubba Ray desperately threw himself at Wyatt, standing on the apron at the time, and knocking him off and through a table. This naturally set up a match for Smackdown, and advertised as such... Bubba Ray vs. Bray Wyatt. Except we got DíVon vs. Bray Wyatt, the match went 3-minutes, stunk, and Bray went over clean. Again, the Wyatts left standing tall, even with Tommy Dreamer offering his services, again.
Elsewhere in the Tag Team Division, the New Day are still the Tag Team Champions, and even with the Usos back in action, thereís little excitement surrounding the belts. Itís always a problem when a heel act gets over so strongly that the crowd cheers it, thus killing the reactions for the faces. See also: The Miz and Mizdow, which effectively killed the division for a couple of months. The Usos and Lucha Dragons met on Raw in a #1 Contenders Match, but the New Day made sure that there wasnít a winner. Despite being in the good graces of the Authority, they are punished by having to defend the Titles in a Triple Threat... and in a Ladder Match, despite there being zero reason for the gimmick to be used, other than the show is called "TLC" and gimmick matches need to be trotted out until the crowd stops caring. If 2014 was any indication, that would be somewhere around the third match on the card.
Moving onto more confusing story-telling, the saga of the WOMENíS DIVISION. Sorry, I canít stand the "Diva" title and having to refer to all Womenís matches as a "Divas Match." Even in NXT, when itís clearly stated as a Womenís Championship, they call all the female matches "Diva Matches." Anyway, Charlotte is the Champion, and Paige is being a bitch, planting seeds that she and Becky Lynch arenít as close as Becky wants to think, so Becky challenges Charlotte to a "friendly" match... a match that Charlotte just has to have her father, Ric Flair, at ringside for. Because Ric Flair is her father, and so we must care for her character lacking any personality. The match only goes a few minutes before Charlotte "injures" her knee, only to reveal sheís faking and rolls up Becky for a cheap victory. Tough love she says. Dumb excuse for randomly altering the direction of the division, I say. We followed this up on Smackdown with Becky battling Brie Bella (who goes back and forth depending on the day of the week on the face and heel chart). Brie took a cheap shot at Charlotte, so Charlotte runs in just as Becky has the match won, and gets Becky DQíed for assaulting Brie. I honestly donít know if Paige is still involved in this storyline, or if sheís even going to challenge for the Title since their last rematch ended in a non-finish.
With Kevin Owens out of action with the flu, his program with Dean Ambrose might as well not exist, but the match is still on. Dolph Ziggler and Tyler Breeze continued to play the game of "I watch you wrestle, you watch me" and occasionally interacting. They had a rematch from Survivor Series on Raw, with Ziggler going over because 50/50 booking clearly works. Stardust and Titus OíNeil did an awful segment in Stardustís mysterious dungeon of doom, ending in "comical" style. Adam Rose has a new segment called the Rose Bush where he dishes on the dirt in WWE. It was pretty bad, and hopefully wonít return for a second week. Goldust did a job to Alberto Del Rio in two minutes, but Jack Swagger made a post-match save. I guess Swagger had Smackdown off, because that storyline was completely ignored, too. Neville and the Miz are teasing some kind of fluff angle, but honestly, I wouldnít be surprised if it was completely erased from the storyboard in time for the next episode of Monday Night Raw.
From WWE Main Event, taped on December 1st from Hershey, PA... The Miz (2-0) pinned Dolph Ziggler (0-1) at 7:15 with the Skull Crushing Finale, following interference from Tyler Breeze. Yeah, that Ziggler vs. Breeze program isnít over, yet... Sasha Banks (2-0) tapped out Alicia Fox (0-2) at 2:56 with the Bank Statement. Again, with Nikki Bella gone, Brie and Fox are basically scrubs who only win matches when their opponent becomes easily distracted by a rival... Ryback (3-0) pinned Bo Dallas (1-3) at 4:11 with the Shell Shock... Titus OíNeil (4-0) pinned Stardust (0-4) at 5:40 with the Clash of the Titus on a rematch from last week, when Stardust walked out for a cheap Count-Out.
From WWE Superstars, taped on November 30th from Pittsburgh, PA, but broadcast at a later date than Main Event... Zack Ryder (2-3) pinned Heath Slater (0-6) at 4:34 in one of the most important matches to the short-lived tracking of records. A win from Slater wouldíve pulled him closer to Ryder to escape the dungeon, but Ryder continues to be maybe the 3rd from the bottom when it comes to jobs (the 2nd being Adam Rose)... Neville (2-0) pinned Bo Dallas (1-4) at 8:12 with the Red Arrow (or as people are now referring it as, "the ace up his sleeve"). This went from the Championship Match on the 1st NXT TakeOver to a random, meaningless match taped for a show that NOBODY BUT ME watches.
Final Thoughts: Not the greatest week for WWE programming. The ratings were up slightly, but the product seemed to suffer with a lot of bad angles and segments thrown at us. With a strong roster of performers, itís very shocking that we didnít get one stand-out match from either Raw or Smackdown, with two main events of Handicap Matches and so-so-sooooo much filler underneath. Next week, weíll hopefully get some better wrestling action on Raw and/or Smackdown, and give the final preview for the 2015 edition of TLC. Until then...