Since the Royal Rumble, fans questioned what the WWE would do about the reaction toward Roman Reigns, and the main event at WrestleMania. On Monday's Raw two steps were taken towards resolving that.
The first involved Triple H's "big announcement." When Raw kicked off, Triple H came out to make that announcement, alluding that there was controversy surrounding Roman Reigns' win. This brought out Reigns, to say he already earned his WrestleMania shot, and then Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins, both claiming that they deserved a shot at the title. Triple H set up a match between Bryan and Rollins on Raw, where the winner would face Reigns for the WrestleMania shot at Fast Lane. Reigns, while angry, agreed to that proposal, establishing himself as a wrestler willing to fight and prove himself.
Bryan would go on to beat Rollins in a great back-and-forth match that capped off a Raw episode full of solid wrestling. At the end of the match, with Big Show and J&J Security starting to get involved, Roman Reigns (who had lost to Big Show earlier in the night after Rollins got involved) came out. He delivered a huge spear to Big Show, and then, with the ref distracted by Jamie Noble trying to attack Bryan, he hit Rollins with a Superman punch to allow Bryan to get the victory.
So, step one was getting Daniel Bryan back in the title picture to at least briefly appease fans of his.
The other step was Reigns himself. He seemed like a completely different person than the Roman Reigns we saw leading up to the Royal Rumble. Gone were the corny jokes and stories. Instead, we got badass, pissed off Roman Reigns, the Roman Reigns people wanted to see.
I do think they took it a step too far, when he angrily talked to Daniel Bryan and even said "Get out of my locker room." Having him be a jerk may not help him, especially when it's directed towards the most popular guy in the company. However, this personality change, and better promos, mixed with him helping out Daniel Bryan, is only going to help him as he tries to recover from the Rumble debacle.
Now, the question is where they go from here. It doesn't seem likely that Bryan will actually beat Reigns at Fast Lane. So why put Reigns in a situation where he's going to beat a fan favorite like Bryan?
I do think that Bryan will get the best out of him, so being able to put on a good show should muffle some of the complaints that he can't wrestle, or doesn't put in the work.
However, that won't be enough to prevent people from being disappointed at Fast Lane. Which is why, in my mind, the result is going to be secondary to someone, maybe Dolph Ziggler, costing Bryan the match. That would protect Reigns while giving Bryan direction towards WrestleMania.
We'll have to wait and see what happens, but it does seem like the WWE has a plan going forward. And that, in itself, is a step in the right direction.
The Rest of Raw:
** Bray Wyatt and Dolph Ziggler had a fantastic match that ended with Bray Wyatt springing up after a Fameasser and hitting the Sister Abigail for the win. While the match was great, it was the promo Wyatt had after the match that was truly notable. He said that he had been watching someone for some time. It was a person that people used to fear, but that person had allowed the fear to turn to love. He then called himself the new Face of Fear. Clearly, this is a reference to the Undertaker, and it looks like that we will have the rumored match after all. I'm not totally sure how the match will go, but the build to it should be fascinating, as Undertaker hasn't faced someone like this in quite a long time.
** The Miz and Damien Mizdow had a falling out. First, backstage, someone came up and asked for Mizdow's autograph, but didn't ask for one from The Miz. That caused Miz to become enraged, firing Mizdow from his stunt double position, but keeping him on as a personal assistant. He ran down Mizdow, talking about how Sandow was just a guy wearing costumes and getting beaten before they met. Now they became tag champions and it was all due to Miz. Later, as Miz faced Sin Cara, Mizdow continued getting cheers, to Miz's chagrin. Finally, Mizdow jumping on the apron and getting cheered caused Miz to get distracted, which allowed Sin Cara to win with a rollup. While Mizdow is getting cheers, it can't be overlooked how much Miz is doing to build him up. When they eventually do have a match, it's going to be so anticipated because of this build.
** The Ascension beat Gold and Stardust. This match was notable for two reasons. The first was after Goldust took the pin, Stardust came in the ring and started berating Goldust. After the commercial, both were shown in the back, as Goldust tried to reason with Stardust. He even called him "Cody" which just set Stardust off, and he responded by saying never to call him Cody again. Clearly they're setting up a feud between these two, but it's hard to say where exactly they're going with Cody's character. The other interesting thing was during the math, Booker T was actively supporting The Ascension. It was good to hear someone on commentary actually giving The Ascension some credit, instead of constantly burying them, like Cole, JBL and King all did.
** Curtis Axel came out to complain that he was never thrown out of the Rumble. Dean Ambrose came out, threw him over the ropes, and then said he was in line for an Intercontinental title shot since he beat Bad News Barrett in a non-title match a few weeks back. It's somewhat lazy booking, but a true feud, if they go in that direction, should be good between these two.
** John Cena had a segment to run down his Fast Lane opponent, Rusev, and bring out Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan so he could also talk about Triple H. One interesting thing about this promo was that he talked about NXT, and basically said that NXT was Triple H's view of wrestling, and basically that he was training NXT to replace John Cena. This isn't the first time that he's talked about the future of the company negatively. I can't tell if it's him just not realizing he's putting himself in a position where he's trying to hold the new guys down, or if this is a conscious act. I will say this, if they are eventually, down the line, going to have him turn heel finally, this is an excellent way to do it.
Rusev later came out for a match against Rowan. He assaulted Rowan before the match could even start, eventually locking him in The Accolade. Lana then took the mic and ran down Cena, even showing a video of Rusev beating all the "weak Americans" he's taken down over the past year.
** Ryback beat Luke Harper, but not before the two put on yet another good match. Harper has become one of the most consistently good wrestlers on the roster, and watching where he goes from here may be one of the more interesting things going forward.
** Cesaro beat Jimmy Uso. Each had his tag partner, and the partner's wife, on the outside. The two teams should put on some great matches in this feud.
** Paige beat Alicia Fox. The Bellas were on commentary, and after the match, they attacked Paige, and then sprayed her with tanner.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in comment section, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster