While RAW gave us a healthy dose of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and John Cena on Monday night, it was Lana who truly was thrust into the spotlight.
Lana played a prominent role in two segments on Monday night. First, Rusev called her out, and wanted to reunite with her after he sent her away last week. It looked like the two would get back together until Rusev (who interestingly enough was back to being from, and representing, Bulgaria) demanded that she admit that she was wrong.
Obviously this didn't go over well, and she left the ring, where she was greeted by Dolph Ziggler at the top of the ramp. Later in the show, Rusev distracted Ziggler in a match against Sheamus. After Sheamus won, Rusev went on the attack, dissecting Ziggler and locking him in the Accolade, while looking straight into Lana's eyes.
While all of this clearly pushed the feud between Rusev and Ziggler, it was Lana who was the star in all of it. She was given the biggest lines, and the biggest moments. Her facial expressions to everything sold the story, even more than what she said or did. And those reactions told a story: there's still something there with Rusev.
If you looked at her face while Rusev had the Accolade on Ziggler, she showed some concern, but there was also no hatred toward Rusev -- just hurt. Her gaze followed Rusev as he went up the ramp, and it didn't go immediately toward Ziggler. This leads me to believe that this is going to end up being a swerve.
Yes, Lana is eventually going to be a breakout star. She's over with the crowd, and we know that the front office is supporting her. However, unlike when Sable broke away from Marc Mero, the WWE doesn't want to leave Rusev in a lurch, or at least they shouldn't want to. So it makes sense to continue the tease for a while here before officially breaking them up.
It would be a natural wrestling ploy to have Lana help Rusev win the chamber, or have Rusev beat Ziggler after the Chamber. Granted, it's a little hard to say after she runs down Rusev's views on women, and when Rusev continues to call her his property, but it's easy to throw off with a simple line of, "We fooled you stupid Americans." The overhyping of the Bulgaria thing leads me to believe even further that this is a swerve, and the star of the whole feud will continue to be Lana.
Lana is the key here. If she does everything well, this feud will really get over, and she can become a white-hot babyface down the line. If she stumbles though, the angle is going to continue to be clunky. It's time for Lana to shine, and WWE is going to give her the chance.
The Rest of RAW:
-This was the last show at Nassau Coliseum, and the WWE tried to send the fans home with something to remember. John Cena once again came out for his Open Challenge, and this time hometown boy Zack Ryder came out to make the challenge. It should be noted that this was the primary use of the Entourage crew, to hype Ryder before the match, and then cheer him on at ringside.
It wasn't a terrible way to use the celebrities. Anyways, Ryder got in a good amount of offense during the match, including hitting most of his signature moves. A Rough Ryder didn't put Cena away, so Ryder went up top and attempted, I believe for the first time, a 450 splash. Cena rolled out of the way and hit Ryder with an AA. It was a bit disappointing to see Ryder get put away by the AA (and not much other offense) when everyone else in the challenge had kicked out of it once.
After the match, Kevin Owens once again showed up and laid Cena out. Cena had a nice promo before the match about Owens, which just made me wish we had a month or more of build to this match at Elimination Chamber, instead of a week. These two could have cut a great series of promos against one another.
-Dean Ambrose signed his contract for the title match at Elimination Chamber, after some shenanigans. At the beginning of the night, the Authority came out and said that Ambrose would have to physically sign the contract by the end of the night to get his match. Of course, this started a show-long game of keep away, which included Ambrose getting arrested, driving back to the arena in the police van that took him, coming out in a officer's outfit and then finally signing the contract.
Ambrose is in a weird position right now. He's clearly getting a spotlight put on him, but he's basically a comedian at this point, less than the "Lunatic Fringe" moniker that they keep labeling him with. He had some good lines about Justin Bieber (Which Rollins brilliantly used to his advantage. Is there a better heel line than "Justin Bieber is the most talented artist of our generation?") and the Human Centipede.
However, that's what he is, a standup comedian. Which is fine, but it seems to go against the persona that they're trying to stick him with. Characterization matters, and in this case, Ambrose is getting more confusing by the week. Either way, they should put on a good show on Sunday. It is interesting to see Reigns hanging around Ambrose lately. That's clearly leading to something, but the question is what the plans are.
-Speaking of odd usage, what the WWE did with The New Day on Monday was bizarre. Of course they needed a match to hype the Elimination Chamber. Instead of doing the logical thing and having a six-on-six match with the six teams involved, Kane instead booked a 10-on-3 handicap match, with five teams against The New Day.
This goes against every logical aspect of booking. Heel authority figures shouldn't be putting heels in a position where they need to overcome the odds. That, almost by definition, makes them a face. It's completely illogical, especially when they can boast that they won in that situation. It's a small thing in the grand picture of RAW, but it stood out as a particular moment that seemed to simply be lazy writing on the creative staff's part.
-Neville beat Stardust fairly easily in a match. Bo Dallas came down to ringside, and then after the match, he attacked Neville before going on his victory lap. It's still disappointing that Neville isn't in the chamber, as he was really made for that sort of structure, but the match with Bo Dallas should be good.
This match was also notable for Stardust getting in the face of Stephen Amell during his entrance. Amell is the star of CW's Arrow, and is an outspoken wrestling fan. Amell and Stardust have continued to go back and forth on Twitter after the confrontation, so we'll see if this leads to anything.
-Paige and Tamina had a very disappointing match in Paige's return to the ring after her brief departure. I'm not sure what went wrong in the match, but the two didn't seem to be on the same page at all. It was hard to tell if Paige was working too fast, or Tamina simply couldn't keep up, but the moves were not in sync, and Tamina kept bumping a second too late. Tamina ended up getting the win after Naomi hit Paige when the ref was distracted, but it wasn't a great look for either diva.
-Ryback beat King Barrett cleanly in one of the matches to hype the IC title Elimination Chamber. I get that they wanted to build Ryback back up after his loss to Bray Wyatt, but the WWE should want to build more momentum with a guy that they crowned King of the Ring. Barrett's still floundering somewhat, and a clean, and relatively easy, loss to Ryback doesn't help that.