THE SPECIALISTS TUCKER'S INSTANT REACTION - Raw Before Mania: WWE tries to hide Roman Reigns amongst well-developed Mania Feuds
Mar 24, 2015 - 1:37:12 AM
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Instant Reaction - WWE Raw 3/23
By Ben Tucker, PWTorch TV specialist
Overall Score - 7.0
Monday's edition of Raw provided the first consistently entertaining edition of the Monday night program since the Royal Rumble. Each match for the WrestleMania card was given time to shine, and despite there being little to no cohesion between any of these portions of the show, most of the matches on the broadcast received at least a little bit of a boost by the show's end.
The one person who didn't receive a boost was Roman Reigns.
Over the past three weeks WWE has attempted to shield Roman (no pun intended) from exposing his weaknesses to the television audience. What this has resulted in is a Reigns who has barely been on TV the past three weeks, receiving one or two video packages per show and having his character develop no further than an "I can, I will" catchphrase. Roman's lack of preparedness for the spot he has been given (once again, not a complaint on Reigns) has prevented him from being a spotlighted individual on the road to WrestleMania in the past month, which in hindsight has served to harm his character even more.
Reigns's new tagline comes across as a seven-year-old reciting "The Little Engine that Could," as Roman has experienced no adversity on his journey to face Brock Lesnar. John Cena had to power through JBL's Cabinet. Steve Austin was tied in the ropes as DX mercilessly taunted him with the WWF Championship. Last year, Daniel Bryanw as beat down week after week by The Authority. This year, Roman Reigns chatted with Paul Heyman one week, got a shirt, and then played tug o' war with Brock Lesnar. If it wasn't for the amazing skills of Paul Heyman, who for the umpteenth week in a row delivered a gem of a promo, the Lesnar-Reigns feud would have become a debacle of epic proportions.
Fortunately for WWE the other major PPV matches on the show (which, despite the placement of the Lesnar-Reigns segment tonight, have been presented as the true main events of WrestleMania) were all promoted delightfully throughout the program. Sting was fantastic in the opening segment, showing the great babyface fire that fans latched onto in the late 1980s and early 90s. While the exchanges with Triple H and Stephanie were largely regurgitations of material from past shows, everyone delivered a great Mania-level intensity. Sting's debut continues to be handled well... with the exception of his generic theme music.
Bray Wyatt, meanwhile, delivered the promo of his career, upping his game to another gear that he rarely reaches. It's been amazing to see him single-handedly hype his entire match with The Undertaker, and he has been ale to do it without making me miss Taker's presence.
In the fourth main event-level feud, Rusev's beat-down of John Cena was excellent, with the announcers doing a great job selling the brutality of the attack (unfortunately this was the only thing they would excel at this evening).
The further down the card a segment was tonight, the worse it was. Orton and Rollins were treated as afterthoughts on this show, with their program still reeling after the butchered Randy Orton face turn. Meanwhile, the Andre the Giant Battle Royal has been gutted this year, now more closely resembling a pre-show battle royal than anything worthy of being on the WrestleMania card. I do have to give WWE credit for giving nearly every male main roster talent a spot on the card, I suppose, though in fairness I don't watch pay-per-views hoping that the whole roster gets a pay day.
The chaos of the Intercontinental Title ladder match was sold well enough tonight; the importance of the title was not. Where are the promos about the title's importance? Where are the blood feuds? The ladder match has been promoted as a lower-tier Money in the Bank match where the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
The big surprise of Raw's undercard was the entertaining back-and-forth Divas match between Nikki Bella and Paige. The match was solid enough to both increase interest in a Divas Title change and make the tag team match at WrestleMania feel like there is a tangible beef to it. Hey, it's been more physical than Brock-Roman.
The guest appearances on the show were largely harmless, though Bill Simmons did manage to make the commentary team even worse.
Raw as a whole? Entertaining. WrestleMania finally feels like WrestleMania, but more like a Mania IX than a Mania X-Seven. WWE has spent the past four months devaluing their roster as a whole. Within two weeks the part-timers will be gone and WWE will need to restructure again as the supposed Age of Reigns begins. But will Roman be ready for that responsibility? And more importantly, will WWE be ready to handle everything coming out of WrestleMania properly?
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