The WWE Universe spoke (enthusiastically) and The Authority listened. After fielding two weeks of hostility from a crowd that was less than satisfied with the events of the Royal Rumble Match, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon did, as many surmised, opening Raw by seemingly throwing Roman Reigns’ victory into question. Somewhat less expected was where they laid the true culpability for the controversy: at the feet of The Rock, who interfered on the former WWE Tag Team Champion’s behalf in the closing minutes of the annual melee.
Reigns, of course, was less than thrilled at the potential cancellation of his WrestleMania road trip, though the appearance of Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins — two Superstars with legitimate claims to a main-event spot at The Show of Shows — presented a solution to the evening’s dilemma. Rollins and Bryan would battle in the main event of Raw, with the winner to face Roman Reigns at WWE Fastlane for the No. 1 contender’s spot against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
“One Vs. All” went from bad to worse real quick when, moments after his WrestleMania World Title Match was thrown into question, Roman Reigns suffered a long-brewing loss to his persistent foe Big Show. The decimation of The Big Dog wasn’t exactly quick and painless, either. Show took advantage in the bout’s opening moments when he hooked Reigns by the vest and tossed him to and fro with impunity. Though Reigns did get going eventually, Seth Rollins and J&J Security ran interference on the giant’s behalf and took Reign’s legs out from under him. Show did the rest, catching his enemy with the chokeslam and grabbing his elusive 1-2-3.
The rumblings over Roman Reigns’ victory weren’t the only lingering bit of controversy surrounding the Royal Rumble Match. Equally vexing to a chosen few was the non-exit of Curtis Axel, who was jumped before he could officially enter the over-the-top-rope fracas and was therefore never eliminated and therefore has grounds to demand a World Title Match at WrestleMania. Less receptive to this idea was Dean Ambrose, who summarily dumped The Ax Man over the top rope and revealed his latest impulse: Following his vision quest through the snow last week, he’s looking to get his face on WWE Headquarters’ Wall of Champions. How’s he going to do this? By notching a second victory over Bad News Barrett, this time with the Intercontinental Championship at stake.
There’s a disturbance in the Force, or the cosmos, or whatever intergalactic energy keeps Gold & Stardust chugging along. After miscommunication doomed the former WWE Tag Team Champions against The Ascension on SmackDown, the longest-reigning NXT Tag Team Champions in history repeated the feat on Raw. While Stardust’s hastiness cost the brothers last week, however, Goldust took the rematch into his own hands by forcibly dragging his brother within his wingspan to make the tag. The Bizarre One held his own for a few moments against the two behemoths, but a Fall of Man flattened him soon enough, prompting a near-meltdown from baby brother just moments later.
It’s been some time since John Cena officially won Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback their jobs back, but the Cenation leader has never gotten the chance to formally welcome his Survivor Series running mates back into the fold. The 15-time World Champion remedied that on Raw by throwing them an official welcome-back shindig. Given that The Authority isn’t exactly enamored with the continued employment of the “Corpus Christi three,” Stephanie McMahon was quick to throw the troika right back into the frying pan by placing them in individual matches, the first of which was Ryback vs. Luke Harper.
Give Luke Harper credit for sticking to his “team-player” mentality months after Survivor Series came and went. That said, the former Intercontinental Champion’s proclivity for doing The Authority’s dirty work landed him in the ditch he crawled out of when he came up short against Ryback on Raw.
Granted, a shocking display of agility from the oft-shambling big man left The Big Guy momentarily stunned, to say nothing of the WWE Universe. Harper’s fanciness was what doomed him in the end, though. A superkick to Ryback’s chin stopped the Meathook Clothesline in its tracks, but an ill-advised sunset flip rollup attempt left Harper all wobbly and allowed Ryback to complete the thunderous maneuver. Shell Shocked followed moments later, and Harper was gator chum for The Big Guy.
Might “The Masters of the WWE Universe” have a pair of copper championships in their future? Tyson Kidd got one over on Jey Uso last week, and the Tag Team Champion’s twin Jimmy suffered the same fate as his other half against Cesaro on Raw. It took a Cesaro Swing to disorient a rolling Jimmy, and even then the win was a narrow one. With Cesaro supine on the mat after a running Stink Face, Kidd pre-empted the top-rope splash that typically follows by causing a ruckus on the apron. That gave Cesaro enough time to recover and clobber Jimmy mid-splash with a European uppercut to grab the victory
The #DBvsDZ moment may yet gain steam and land Dolph Ziggler in a marquee match against Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 31. Alas, the #BWvsDZ moment didn’t end so great for the former World Heavyweight Champion when Ziggler went one-on-one against Bray Wyatt on the orders of The Authority and fell short of the clutch victories that have come to define him of late. Despite Ziggler’s ball-of-energy enthusiasm at making his Raw return, The Eater of Worlds was all over him from the get-go, bouncing “Zig Man” off the concrete with a suplex off the apron and steamrolling him with a running crossbody right as The Showoff began to gain steam.
That Ziggler stayed upright long enough to fell Wyatt with a leaping DDT and a superkick to the gut was a minor miracle in and of itself. Unfortunately, Bray Wyatt isn’t much for miracles. A Famouser quite literally bounced Wyatt off the mat, which meant he was on his feet and ready to catch Ziggler with Sister Abigail before the follow-up.
The good news for Paige: She beat her fellow “Total Diva” newcomer Alicia Fox and ensures her road to Fastlane against Nikki Bella keeps its momentum. The bad news is, she got, er, burned (sort of) by both Bellas in the process. As epic as the small-package reversal of Alicia’s tilt-a-whirl backbreaker was, the post-match shaming of The Diva of Tomorrow was even more outrageous: Alicia incapacitated Paige and The Bellas pounced with cans of spray tan, darkening Paige’s belly to taint her signature look and leaving her down moments later.
The Miz’s weeks-long neglect of Damien Mizdow hit its peak on Raw when the beleaguered cross-platform Superstar officially demoted his stunt double to the role of personal assistant. That bad karma — plus a still in-character Mizdow — came back to haunt him in a big way later in the night, though. Granted, Miz was facing Sin Cara, who’s become an upset-win specialist of late, so it was probably unwise for The Awesome One to focus his attention on Mizdow, who was fighting his urge to mimic Miz, over Sin Cara. Miz’s repeated admonishment of his underling kept the former NXT Tag Team Champion in the game and, eventually, decided the match when Sin Cara caught a distracted Miz with a rollup.
Erick Rowan proved himself an admirable friend by offering to soften Rusev up in return for John Cena getting him rehired. The sheep-masked monster fell short of snapping the Russian’s unbeaten streak in advance of the Cenation leader’s challenge for the U.S. Title at WWE Fastlane, though. In fact, Rowan fell short of even fighting Rusev at all, as The Super Athlete dismantled his opponent before the bell even rang as a display of power to Cena. The 15-time World Champion may have gotten some impromptu revenge, however, as the deployment mechanism for Rusev’s Russian flag was sabotaged, leaving The Hero of Russian Federation with egg on his face even in victory.
The dream lives, Daniel Bryan has beaten Seth Rollins and The Beard is headed to WWE Fastlane. The result came despite the best efforts of Seth Rollins, J&J Security and Big Show to ensure that Mr. Money in the Bank meet his former brother-in-arms Roman Reigns at February’s pay-per-view for the right to become Brock Lesnar’s No. 1 contender. With all that interference, you’d think Bryan would be screwed from the jump. But the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion battled his old enemy into the advantage at the cost of his own body, tossing Rollins into the air with a top-rope side suplex and taking a bad landing onto his neck.
Big Show’s attempt to protect Rollins from further punishment brought out Reigns, who laid waste to everyone involved and Superman Punched Rollins right into the path of Bryan’s running knee. Fastlane is next. Does WrestleMania come later? Bryan’s followers have a three-letter answer in mind.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- The Big Show (w/ Seth Rollins, Joey Mercury & Jamie Noble) defeated Roman Reigns (2:38)
- The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor) defeated Stardust & Goldust (1:47)
- Ryback defeated Luke Harper (5:57)
- Cesaro (w/ Natalya & Tyson Kidd) defeated Jimmy Uso (w/ Jey Uso & Naomi) (6:21)
- Bray Wyatt defeated Dolph Ziggler (14:49)
- Paige defeated Alicia Fox (2:44)
- Sin Cara defeated The Miz (w/ Damien Mizdow) (5:38)
- Daniel Bryan defeated Seth Rollins (w/ Big Show & J&J Security) (Joey Mercury & Jamie Noble) (Winner will face Roman Reigns at Fast Lane for the right to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXXI) (17:11)
Other on-screen talent