WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown Live
Mike Miceli – Staff Writer
Welcome to another edition of Bell2Bell where we recap both WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown LIVE every Sunday right here on TwoCentsTV!
Elimination Chamber is already upon us as we head back into PPV overload mode. So let’s get on with my recap or, if you’d like, you can skip straight to my predictions for tonight’s PPV by clicking here!
WWE Raw 2/6/17
I feel like I’m in a bit of an abusive relationship with Raw these days. It treats me terribly, let’s me down constantly, and makes me feel bad about myself for being a WWE fan in the first place. But then it comes back and it’s sweet and reassuring, making me think “Hey, it’s not so bad. It’s really a good show. I’ll forgive it.” And that’s where we are this week. Monday’s episode of Raw was actually very good with a few pretty stellar matches and some interesting story progression leading into the Fastlane PPV in a few weeks.
Raw begins with Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley bringing out Samoa Joe to sign his Raw contract. Foley is less than enthusiastic and I liked that his character didn’t appreciate being forced to be an accessory to the Rollin’s attack. Stephanie, of course, can’t resist the opportunity to berate someone and runs down Foley for his lack of enthusiasm. But, at least Foley got a word in about it for once. Joe grabs the mic and cuts one of his classic, intense promos on both Foley and the entire Raw locker room before signing the contract.
This brings out Roman Reigns who says he’s the the man on Raw (debatable) and this is his yard (I guess Undertaker signed off on this character infringement). Foley then books Reigns vs Joe for tonight. I like that Joe is being thrust right into the main event and how they’re making him feel like a big deal… because he is.
Nia Jax and Bayley had a match next and Bayley deserves all the credit in the world for making this halfway decent. Bayley came off like the determined underdog that I was hoping Sasha could be last week. She got in some offense, never gave up, and gave Jax a run for her money.
Jax on the other hand… Well she tried. I can see that she’s trying but I just can’t get past her awkward in-ring movement or her lack of charisma. She moves much too slowly at times. I know she’s a bigger lady but even Braun Strowman moves faster. And she seems to have a serious lack of ring awareness, especially when it comes to pin attempts, awkwardly circling her fallen opponent so she can face the hard camera.
Bayley came pretty darn close to beating Jax if not for Charlotte interfering and causing the distraction. Jax hit Bayley with her big samoan drop (which does look pretty good) to get the pin. The new rumor is that this is all leading to a big fatal-four-way match at ‘Mania between Bayley, Jax, Charlotte, and Sasha. Not a bad match on paper and with three talented ladies to make up for Jax’s shortcomings, it should turn out pretty good.
Speaking of Strowman, he’s back to crushing jobbers and demanding “competition” from Foley. A bit of a regression for his character but, whatever. I almost felt bad for these 4 guys as Strowman manhandled them and brutally beat them all down. One even said “screw this” and high-tailed it up the ramp mid-match.
After pinning the 3 renaming men at the same time, Strowman stormed backstage to confront Foley about competition (or lack there of). Foley then says he’ll have competition at Fastlane when he faces Roman Reigns. So I guess Vince gets his big hairy men dream match after all.
SIDE NOTE: Technically the jobber on top of the pile of jobbers was face down while Braun pinned him. So, technically, that Jobber won the match as he pinned the other two with Braun holding him down…
Next up we have the Raw debut of Akira Tozawa; a standout from the Cruiserweight Classic. He faced Drew Gulak in a pretty good match. Unlike most other Cruiserweight matches, the crowd was into this one and Tozawa is one hell of an entertaining wrestler.
Now, it goes without saying that he was allowed to do a hell of a lot more in the CWC, but that didn’t stop him from hitting some great moves and super stiff kicks. Plus, that german suplex finisher looks vicious.
Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens come down to the ring. Y2J puts New England Patriots QB Tom Brady on “The List” for being considered the “greatest of all time” when Jericho is clearly the G.O.A.T. Owens goes on about how he’s beaten every challenger and how he and Jericho are unstoppable. Jericho says how great it would be to have a best friend vs best friend match at Wrestlemania.
Goldberg’s music hits and he makes his way from the back down to the ring. He tells the other two to shut up or they can fight 2 on 1 right now. Y2J and Owens back off a bit and Goldberg announces that he accepts Lesnar’s challenge for Wrestlemania. Owens irrupts and says how that would be a great undercard match. Goldberg then says he noticed that Owen’s night is open at Fastlane and challenges him to a match for the Universal Title.
Jericho chimes in, saying he just can’t make matches on a whim. And you know what happens when people make matches? As Jericho is about to put Goldberg on the list, Goldberg snatches the list from his hands and adds his name to it himself. Nice touch.
This enrages Jericho who says he never liked Goldberg and if he wants a fight at Fastlane, he’s got it. Owens can’t believe that Jericho just accepted a match on his behalf. Goldberg says Owens and his title are “next”.
So it seems like Fastlane is coming together pretty much as the rumors have suggested. The pieces are quickly falling into place and even if I’m not happy with the particular direction they’re going, I can’t argue that they aren’t doing it efficiently.
After commercial, we’re backstage with Jericho and Owens where KO is still upset that Y2J accepted the match for his title. Jericho says he’ll always have his back and not to worry, but Owens isn’t happy at all.
Cesaro and Sheamus have their Tag Team Championship rematch (already?) against The Club. I’m really happy to see that they didn’t immediately break up Cesaro and Sheamus after they lost the titles, but I think having a rematch this soon as opposed to at Fastlane seems a bit premature. Enzo and Cass were observing from ringside for this one. Michael Cole told us that they will be next to challenge for the titles, but considering they’re constantly losing, I don’t understand how that’s possible.
This match was pretty good with Cesaro as a stand out. The match told a good story. Cesaro was prevented from making the tag at almost every turn as Sheamus desperately tried to get into the match. Gallows and Anderson were on point and I like that they are being booked as a more dominant force.
The match was going fine until Gallows started to get into it with Enzo and Cass at ringside. Cass eventually kicked Gallows in front of the referee causing a DQ finish. I hope this might be leading to a 3-way tag title match at Fastlane which would be pretty entertaining.
We had a recap/update of Seth Rollin’s knee injury. Rumor has it they are still proceeding with Rollins/HHH at ‘Mania. Whether this means he’s going to have surgery to repair the knee and hope he can be back in time for the match, or he’s going to use some kind of knee brace and tough it out remains to be seen. As of this past week, however, he still hasn’t had any surgeries on the knee and the recovery time post-surgery is around 8 weeks. So, the clock is ticking…
New Day faced the Shining Stars and the minute the match started I thought to myself “well this will be a quick squash”. Surprisingly this was a pretty competitive match. Some great back and forth action and I was really impressed with Primo and Epico as they showed they could be a pretty formidable team and not just a comedy act.
New Day did pick up the victory but it was hard fought and actually really entertaining. It helped to have Xavier Woods in the match who is always a fantastic worker.
Backstage, Jericho and Owens make up and Owen says he knows Y2J will always have his back and that he’ll have Jericho’s back tonight in his title match against Sami Zayn. They also decided to hold a “Festival of Friendship” on next week’s Raw. Oh goody.
Sami Zayn and Y2J (with Owens) each make their respective entrances down to the ring for the US Championship match. This was another great match between these two. It was given about the same amount of time as their match from last week but it seemed faster paced, to me. I appreciated that the two veterans managed to make the match feel different with some familiar spots, but used those spots in more interesting situations.
I also have to hand it to WWE here because they got me. I actually believed that Zayn might win the title. With all the teased animosity between Jericho and Owens, I thought for sure we’d see a title change tonight. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Sami had control of the match and seemed poised for a win, when Owens super kicked Sami as he was draped over the bottom rope. This allowed Jericho to hit the “Codebreaker” for the win.
I think this may be setting up a rubber match at Fastlane for the US Championship. I can only hope Zayn wins there because he seems to be unable to build any momentum. And that’s not his fault. It’s poor booking. It’s as if management knows the crowd will be behind Zayn no matter what, so they can have him eat loss after loss. And while that may be true, that good will only goes so far.
Sasha is backstage in the trainer’s room when she’s paid a visit by Women’s Champion Charlotte who gloats about continuing to make history while Sasha continues to be a loser. Charlotte asks how Sasha feels about letting Bayley fight her battles for her. Sasha has nothing to say to that apparently…
SIDE NOTE: I wonder if the trainers put up those health posters every where they go? Just in case they need a detailed diagram of the human anatomy for any surgeries they might be performing back there?
SIDE NOTE 2: If Banks is ‘injured’ and thus didn’t have a match on the show or even a speaking role, then why was she there in the first place and not, say, at some rehab facility?
So now we have a low point in an otherwise pretty fantastic show. A completely dead crowd didn’t help what turned out to be a boring drawn out segment to begin with. 205 Live‘s Austin Aries has an “exclusive” interview with Cruiserweight Champion Neville. The interview pretty much goes nowhere as almost every significant competitor from 205 Live from Jack Gallagher to TJ Perkins comes out to say their piece about getting a shot at the champ. This eventually leads to a brawl before cutting to commercial.
When we come back from commercial we’re apparently now in a 6-Man tag match between the cruiserweights… ok then. I guess we’ll be watching this now… The match was pretty standard fair. Nothing really special going on here until the end when Neville abandoned his team and went up the ramp. Cedric Alexander was able to hit his finisher for the win. I like that the match ended with Alexander standing tall and potentially the contender for the belt. But the way we got to that moment was some pretty jumbled garbage.
An now we have our main event which was just fantastic. I rag on Reigns a lot. I know I do. And honestly, it’s deserved most of the time, not because of his in-ring skill but because of the way his character feels so forced. That’s not his fault, I know that, so I need to give credit where it’s due; he and Samoa Joe had an awesome match here.
Both guys gave as good as they got with Roman and Joe hitting some pretty stiff shots. Reigns looked less like Superman and more like a true competitor which is great. Any character is more interesting when there’s a struggle involved. You can’t have him win and shrug off pain all the time, otherwise he becomes uninteresting. And here, Joe gave him an epic battle that really helped Reigns look better than he has in a while.
Joe, on the other hand, looked like a relentless pain machine. Dishing out some hard kicks and great suplexes. He was booked incredibly strong which is fantastic. I also appreciate that he got the win over golden boy Reigns in his debut Raw match. It’s a great way to establish him as a force to be reckoned with at the top of the card.
My only gripe is that his win wasn’t clean as Joe had some help from Braun Strowman. While I understand Roman needs to be somewhat protected (like he isn’t protected to high heaven as it is already), but a clean win would’ve been even more impactful.
Post-match, Strowman continued to assault Reigns and eventually slammed him through the barricade. The crowd started to chant “Thank you, Strowman” which I found very funny.
Overall Raw was leaps and bounds ahead of what we saw from both shows last week. We had 4 really great matches and some well done story progression. The only hiccup during this show was really the Cruiserweight brawl but that is somewhat offset by the excellent Kozawa debut match.
Fastlane is shaping up to be a loaded card and even though I have a few nitpicks and gripes with the way Wrestlemania is shaping up, props to the creative team for at least making the road there a coherent journey so far.
Click here to head on over to the Smackdown recap!