It wasn't long ago that Raws were more a setup for future big shows than showcases of wrestling. It seems like WWE is heading back down that road as we head to 2016, and it feels right.
Once again, Raw felt like they borrowed from the Attitude Era more than a little bit. It didn't hurt that Vince McMahon came out to start the show. And, just like 1999, the segment ended with him being taken away by police. He came out to call out Roman Reigns. He went into a vaguely crazy and slightly-racist rant about Roman's family, and how Reigns was "a generation removed from a bone in your nose."
He then pretended to be hit by Reigns. But when the police came out, they refused to arrest Reigns, and instead arrested McMahon when he put his hands on the cop. While both were out of the picture most of the night, McMahon would return at the end, after Reigns had taken out the League of Nations, and announced the main event for next week: Reigns vs. Sheamus for the title with McMahon as the guest referee.
Quite frankly, this is what Raw needs to be in the three-hour era. It's understandable why they want to have at least one 20-minute match every night, but part of the reason that pay per views have felt so lackluster in recent years was because we were able to see so many of those matches over the weeks on Raw.
To have a Raw where future matches felt like a priority felt like a breath of fresh air. They clearly had a plan: setting up the first Raw in 2016. That Raw had always felt like a big deal, and they treated it like one here. When's the last time we knew the main event of next week's Raw a week ahead of time? It doesn't happen often anymore.
While some complain about the way the matches were structured on Monday, what we had was a simple build towards bigger things. We saw the build of Roman Reigns and Vince McMahon. We saw a build between Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose and Neville. We saw the start of a build toward the Royal Rumble.
For RAW to succeed, they need to go back to the old formula. No, I'm not talking about the cursing, blood and risque angles of the Attitude Era. It needs to be used to build storylines, instead of having matches for the sake of having matches. They've done that the past few weeks, and hopefully it continues.
The Rest of Raw:
- John Cena made his return at the end of the night. He faced Alberto Del Rio for the U.S. title. The two had a decent match, which ended with the League of Nations interfering. The most interesting part might have happened after the show, though.
After Reigns came out on the show to chase off the League, after the show went off the air, Cena and Reigns had a staredown in the ring. If we're saying that Monday night teased 2016, that image could end up being the defining moment.
I'm sure we're going to get Cena and Reigns sometime during the year, as a "passing the torch" moment. While it wasn't on-air, you can bet this moment will be referenced liberally in coming weeks.
- As mentioned, Kevin Owens and Neville had a match that seemed like it could be the match of the night. However, the match ended in a quick rollup in about 30 seconds.
That wasn't the end, though. Owens snapped, and brutalized Neville around the ring. The show went to break, and when we returned, Neville was being helped to the back. However, Owens came back down and clotheslined Neville out of his shoes and continued the assault.
This kept going until Dean Ambrose intervened and chased off Owens. Later in the night, after the League of Nations beat Ambrose and the Usos, Kevin Owens struck again. He tossed Ambrose into the ring steps, and then powerbombed him through the announcing table. They did an excellent job of extending the Ambrose/Owens feud, and might have added a nice wrinkle to the feud in Neville.
- With Charlotte at the house show that was running concurrently, Becky Lynch was on her own facing Sasha Banks. The two put on a very solid match (despite the crowd chanting boring during part of it ... what are you doing, Brooklyn?) that had some throwbacks to their Takeover showdown earlier this year.
These two are really fun to watch together, just because they can wrestle a chain and submission style, which is something you don't really get in any other divas matchup. Sasha ended up winning. I'm sure this will lead to Charlotte gloating a little bit that she can win and Becky can't, which should further the divide between the two.
- The New Day continued their feud with the Lucha Dragons. Kalisto beat Kofi in a match, then Big E beat Sin Cara. Sin Cara actually separated his shoulder during the match, but was able to continue and finish the match.
-The first build toward the Royal Rumble started. Miz came out, which eventually brought out much of the lower card. First Ryback, then Goldust, then Zack Ryder, R-Truth, Heath Slater, and then finally Big Show.
Big Show announced he would be the first person to officially enter the Royal Rumble, and then cleared the ring except for Ryback. The two had a quick match, but this was a fine segment to start the build towards the Rumble match. My only wish is that Heath Slater had more time on the mic, and that Bo Dallas was involved.