Thursday, September 23, 2021

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Raw Redux (March 9th, 2015): Tag Team Turmoil Rocks Road to WrestleMania

Welcome one and all to this week’s Raw Redux! The #GiveDivasAChance movement has cooled off a little yet WWE has thankfully kept their side of the bargain up nicely. They announced a Divas match for WrestleMania (albeit not the one most people wanted) three weeks in advance, and last night’s Raw featured two matches, backstage segments and some awesome mic time for Lana and Stephanie McMahon. With lots to discuss, let’s get underway.

Our first sighting of the night is of Stephanie McMahon like usual, yet not until much later than we can normally expect. And not for as long either. Following Big Show and Kane‘s loss in tag team action, Stephanie welcomes them to the Queendom before laying into them. Stephanie is mega pissed! Steph sounded awesome yet how many times have we seen a ‘reawakening’ of The Monster and The Giant? Boring! Please exit to the left. To quote Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time for that”!

It is time for our first match of the night next as AJ Lee is to go up against Summer Rae. Before AJ enters the arena, we see her with her friend/enemy/frenemy Paige in a hilarious backstage segment, with Paige trying to keep up with a skipping AJ in the corridor. Brilliant!

We then are ‘treated’ to a backstage interview with Brie and Divas Champion Nikki, The Bella Twins, in an excruciating backstage segment promoting their appearance in a The Flintstones movie. Their deliveries weren’t awful and I appreciate WWE giving them mic time yet again, yet the content in this segment was just god awful.

After the interview has thankfully concluded, the future pieces of rubble AJ and Paige are by the ring, as we also see Summer Rae with Cameron and Eva Marie.

AJ is tossed to the mat to start the match, yet she fights back nicely with a hip toss reversal pin attempt. After that, she continues her offense with a dropkick, a clumsy looking headscissor takeover (I think that was Summer’s fault) and a spin kick yet Summer gains revenge in a major way, dropping AJ clean on her face after she reversed a second wheelbarrow style move that AJ had planned.

Summer works AJ over with a chickenwing submission and when that doesn’t work, she decides to shove AJ in the corner and choke the life out of her. Summer’s hilarious attitude towards the referee cost her following her choke as AJ uses both feet to knock her to the floor. That move could definitely cause whiplash!

AJ hits a Lou Thesz Press to keep her comeback going, a move she follows up with by hitting a running elbow, corner clothesline, neckbreaker, spin kick and DDT. A new move from AJ – I am shocked! The new weapon in her arsenal is far from deadly however as Summer kicks out at two. AJ reverses a scoop slam as the pace quickens, and she looks to lock on a Shining Wizard. Summer surprises me as she sees this coming. She avoids that contact and lays AJ out with a spinning heel kick. She fails to nab the upset win though as AJ soon locks in the Black Widow, forcing Summer to pathetically tap out before the move is even locked in properly. Womp womp. Eva and Cameron look totally unimpressed at Summer as AJ and Paige celebrate to close the segment.

It is Lana time next as the ice cold Ravishing Russian and Rusev are confronted by John Cena backstage. Cena berates them for living the American Dream, only to disrespect it at every turn. A nice segment to foreshadow things to come, perhaps?

After Rusev destroys Curtis Axel, John Cena rushes to the ring to attack Rusev in our next Divas sighting. Lana is beside herself as a fresh John Cena pummels Rusev. Lana gets so distressed that we see a side of her that we have never seen before. She practically pleads with John Cena, before giving him what he wants, a United States Championship match vs Rusev at WrestleMania. Now that one is going to be interesting.

We then see Lana and Rusev argue backstage, another fresh happening between the two. Lana is like a sad puppy as Rusev banishes her from the locker room. Sadly, I couldn’t find the video to this segment, yet imagine a Russian soap opera featuring an argument, and a random ginger guy who is touching Rusev. For those who haven’t seen the segment, the random dude I’m referring to is the WWE Doctor!

Following a loss for the WWE Tag Team Champions against The New Day, The Usos and Naomi make their way to the ring for our second Divas bout of the night featuring Naomi vs Natalya.

The match seemingly starts during the break, yet that doesn’t really deter from what we see as the match ends up being pretty short anyway. The match is full of reversal after reversal, which is a trend that starts from the get go. Naomi whips Nattie into the corner, yet dodges Naomi’s running attack attempt, slingshotting her from the ropes onto her coccyx.

Tal then floats over Naomi looking for a basement dropkick, yet Naomi trips Natalya up and goes a jack-knife pin. This signals the start of a series of nice pin attempts from both girls before Natalya uses her strength to rise up. Nat aims to hit a backslide, yet Naomi matches her strength and then uses the turnbuckle to flip over the Dungeon Diva’s back. Mrs Uso tries to kick Natalya, yet the Queen of Harts pulls Naomi down into a cringe-worthy split position. Ouch.

After a dropkick and a near fall, Nattie locks in a Sharpshooter yet doesn’t lock it in as tightly as possible as she is distracted by her douchebag, I mean husband Tyson Kidd. Naomi breaks the submission by rolling over and sending Natalya cranium-first into the middle turnbuckle, a move Booker T says he has never seen before. That counter has definitely been done before very recently on WWE TV. If you’re not announcing, you should at least be watching Booker! Although judging by the booking, I don’t blame him for not.

Tyson jolts onto the apron and chaos ensues. Tyson and tag champion partner Cesaro get into fisticuffs with The Usos, which is very entertaining. These teams have just as good chemistry as their female friends! Back in the ring, Naomi ducks Natalya’s discus clothesline and then hits “what she calls the Rear View” for the win. I seriously wish Michael Cole (and also Tom Phillips) would stop saying that some old line. This is a not a WWE video game!

Natalya looks frustrated after the match (when does she not?!) and she then tells Tyson that his championship is hers now. I so hope this leads to Natalya and Naomi being involved in a tag team championship match at WrestleMania.

Judging by the way WWE booked the two tag team matches that bookended this match (booking which I absolutely loved by the way), could we see a four-way, 12 man tag at WrestleMania for the WWE Tag Team Titles? I would love to see the belts defended between four, three person teams in The Usos and Naomi, Tyson & Cesaro and Natalya, Los Matadores and El Torito and The New Day – that would be awesome! Lucha Underground are planning a Trios Championship, and this would be a way of showing that they can provide just as good intergender six-person action.

Thoughts: I wish I could be more positive, yet tonight’s action was very much a “middle of the road” night for the Divas, yet there are still plenty of positives to take out from the action.

After I complained that Lana should have had more of a presence last week, WWE listened to me this week and she was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. With the camel being Rusev.

Another major positive is the fact that we have a WrestleMania match for the Divas confirmed three weeks before the show, which is incredible. Normally, Diva match announcements are last minute affairs, so I am really happy that WWE are trying to at least give some kind of exposure to the Divas. There isn’t much of a storyline, but hey, this is way better than a Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal. Well, it is on paper!

A final positive was the continuation of friction between Cameron, Eva Marie and Summer Rae. I imagine these three will soon form a stable, yet I guess that they will try and one-up each other for the next few weeks until they realise they will work better as a unit. These three working as a heel stable with Summer as leader would be really fresh. It would allow them to keep excelling on the mic (with the exception of Eva who can try and improve, which is unlikely) and they can work together to get better in the ring. I’m certainly intrigued although I’d rather Layla was in the place of Eva and she could lead the faction as an experienced veteran.

Onto the content I was so-so about from last night. Both matches. Naomi and Natalya were so fluid in the ring, and demonstrated excellent chemistry yet the match was way too short. Also, I shouldn’t complain about seeing the Divas, yet how many times will Naomi and Natalya face-off in a low-stakes environment? A match stipulation or subsequent storyline stipulation would be nice to see implemented here.

As for the AJ and Summer match, that was more or less the exact opposite of the second match of the night. These two were given a little more time (still not enough) which I appreciated yet their chemistry was a little off. I did like some elements of the match, such as AJ mixing up her moveset with a DDT and Summer avoiding an expected Shining Wizard win with her spinning heel kick, yet the Black Widow looked very tame and the lightning-quick tap out was lame. Thankfully, rest holds were kept to a minimum and that’s a definite plus point.

The Bella’s backstage segment was one of the worst parts of the night for me. Maybe I’m being overly harsh, yet I hated the interview. The outfits were stupid (I get why they wore them) and the lines were cheesy (I get why they said them) but trying to come across as cocky heels whilst making references to The Flintstones just didn’t work at all. “The greatest tag team since Betty and Wilma” – awful. Just awful.

Overall, I am still excited for WrestleMania, and the following that, I see WWE live for the first time in 10 years! On the subject of Mania, I hope that John Cena getting under Lana’s skin tonight is the push she needed to get physically involved come the Grandest Stage of Them All. Here’s hoping!

Until next time!

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