WWE RAW PRIMER 12/10: Seth To Address Dean and the State of Raw, Natalya & Ruby setting tables, Slater’s new career, Drew and Finn get ready for TLC, Alexa press conference

By Frank Peteani, PWTorch Specialist

Dean Ambrose (photo credit Brandon LeClair © PWTorch)

DECEMBER 10, 2018

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young

In Memoriam: “The Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington

The WWE and its fan base were saddened this past week to learn of the passing of Tom Billington, known to us as the “The Dynamite Kid” at the exact age of 60.  He famously held the WWF Tag Team Championship in arguably my favorite tag team of all time the British Bulldogs with his late cousin, Davey Boy Smith.  There were the second team to win the title at a WrestleMania as they accomplished that feat at the second incarnation of the now-famous annual event.

The WWF was not his only stop in his wrestling career.  He had stints in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling.  He was involved with the Hart family as his first wife was the sister-in-law of WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hit Man” Hart.

Billington sadly spent the second half of his life in a wheelchair due to health complications mostly stemming from his doing the headbutt off the top rope.  He was one of the original risk-takers and paved the way for his style of wrestling which was adopted by the late Chris Benoit and Daniel Bryan just to name a few.  He had altercations with wrestlers through the years including Bruce Hart and Jacques Rougeau Jr. who had several roles in the WWF.

I could never forget the matches the British Bulldogs had with the Hart Foundation and the Dream Team on various Saturday Night’s Main Events.  Then of course, you have their mascot Matilda, who once chased then-Islanders Haku and Tama’s manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan around the ring in a moment that still brings a smile to my face this day (see how’s that done, WWE?  ORGANICALLY!).

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Larry “The Axe” Hennig

The WWE family and fans were also saddened to learn of the passing of Larry “The Axe” Hennig.  Larry is the father of WWE Hall of Famer “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and the grandfather of current wrestler, Curt’s son Joe Hennig, who is better known to us as Curtis Axel.  He of course is one half of former Raw Tag Team Champions the B-Team.

Larry was a force in the now-defunct American Wrestling Association (AWA) based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He was part of a heel team with WWE Hall of Famer Harley Race and won the AWA Tag Team Championship from Dick the Bruiser and the Crusher in 1965.  Later on, in his career he teamed with a heel “Dirty” Dusty Rhodes and at times affiliated himself with Nick Bockwinkel and Ray “The Crippler” Stevens.  He also spent a “cup of coffee” in the WWWF (what WWE was known as) challenging Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Championship.

I could never forget my first impression of Larry Hennig.  For Christmas once I got a VHS tape of AWA matches which included Larry teaming with his son Curt to face the Road Warriors.  Watching that match on VHS I learned quite a bit of what he brought to the table.  Since his passing I could see the impression he left on the wrestling community and the people around him.

I was too young to fully appreciate Larry in the sense of watching him on television, but I could see his legacy through Mr. Perfect and Curtis Axel.  May his family and friends be comforted in this difficult time.

Arena and Items Advertised by WWE

WWE Raw returns to the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, CA. after appearing a little over five months ago.  WWE.com shows the arena under its former name, the Valley View Casino Center.  The changeover took place this past Tuesday as the Pechanga Resort & Casino acquired the naming rights.  Nonetheless looking back when they were last in the building Bayley attacked Sasha Banks which lead to them having counseling with the famous Dr. Shelby.  Things are much different now for those women as last week, in another open forum conducted by Women’s Division manager Alexa Bliss, they announced their intentions to be the first Women’s Tag Team Champions.

Here are the items of emphasis advertised by WWE.com.  Per usual, no matches have been announced as of this writing:

  • Rollins to address Dean Ambrose and the state of Raw
  • Natalya and Ruby Riott set the tables
  • Heath Slater officially begins new career path
  • Did Drew McIntyre’s assault on Finn Bálor change the WWE TLC landscape?
  • Alexa Bliss to hold pre-WWE TLC press conference

Dean Ambrose in Seth Rollins’ Head?

Seth Rollins is set to defend the Intercontinental Championship against Dean Ambrose at TLC.  Last week, we continued the build towards that match.

Ambrose came out with a SWAT team all in gas masks, including himself.  He eventually took the mask off and discussed his issues with Rollins attacking him the week prior and of course, the city of Houston.  He said he wore the mask because you could never be too safe in the city.  Nonetheless, he talked about Rollins and Roman Reigns “selling out” and caring about the fans when they were in the Shield.  He claimed Rollins had to be in control and get his way all the time.

Eventually, after several other words, Rollins came out and the two of them went at it again.  It ended when Ambrose knocked Rollins out with the gas mask he came down with earlier.  He gave him a Dirty Deeds on the floor and then in the ring when the SWAT team threw Rollins in the ring.

Tonight, we’ll get the final build towards this match.  Here’s the YouTube clip from last week in case you missed it:

Along with discussing the upcoming match with Ambrose, Rollins will address the state of Monday Night Raw.  The show has come under fire lately especially with how much G.M. Baron Corbin has been involved and especially his controversial decisions.

Frank’s Analysis:  I have to be honest, when I saw the SWAT team and Dean in the mask, they lost me.  First, they have him getting shots and then pull something like this.  Then they continue to focus on Dean having issues with the crowd rather than focus on his issues with Rollins and his time in the Shield.  Now I will say Ambrose was a lot meaner and gave more of an explanation as to why he split from Rollins.  If the promo was focused on that factor, it would have worked better for me because the issue is Rollins and Ambrose and not how he feels about the local crowd.  God knows what he’ll say about San Diego tonight.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he trolls them for losing the Chargers to Los Angeles.

It’s interesting to see WWE have Rollins talk about the state of Raw.  They may or may not be trying to get in front of the criticism they have taken for what have been terrible episodes lately.  Why not put arguably the most popular wrestler in a position to discuss the situation?

Heath Slater’s Referee Career

Tonight, Heath Slater begins his new “career” as a WWE referee.

Last week, G.M. Baron Corbin (BTW I’m not calling him G.M.-elect because that’s just stupid) informed Slater and his partner Rhyno that he only had room for one of them on the roster.  He decided they must wrestle each other, and the winner would keep his job.  Slater would win the match in a minute.

Here was Rhyno in a WWE.com exclusive after the match:

Frank’s Analysis:  The fact that this is an item of emphasis for tonight is puzzling.  There were rumors of Rhyno retiring, but they have been dispelled by several wrestling media outlets as he is scheduled for WWE house shows.  These two have been irrelevant since their arrival on Raw.  Something like this historically is used to heat up characters, although I don’t anticipate much here.  One thing I will say, if this was Rhyno’s last stand on WWE television, he deserved better.  

Drew McIntyre’s Attack on Finn Balor

Finn Balor will go one-on-one with Drew McIntyre at TLC.

Last week, Drew ended his partnership with Dolph Ziggler.  He was issued a medal by G.M. Baron Corbin and discussed how he changed the ways of wrestlers in WWE.  He talked about everyone wanting to play video games and retweeting fans compliments.  Ziggler came out asking why he wasn’t “invited to the party,” to which Drew said he was never invited.  He talked about making Ziggler accomplishing something for once and making him relevant again.  This led to a match between the two.

Finn Balor would interfere deep into the match, helping Ziggler win.  Later on, Drew would attack Finn in the back:

Tonight, we get the final build towards this match at TLC.  Bear in mind, Corbin is still slated to face Braun Strowman at TLC, in a TLC match, for the right to be permanent G.M.  Strowman will earn a Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar should he win.  This may or may not tie into this match, considering the “partnership” forming with Drew and Corbin lately. 

Frank’s Analysis:  Considering the partnership Drew and Ziggler had, I’m not a fan of it breaking up on Raw and having a match right away.  This waters down the significance of the partnership and doesn’t make the turn feel special when it actually happens.  It’s not that I have an issue with Ziggler turning babyface but considering how long he’s been here and how they were featured recently especially with the Shield, they could have stretched this out to make the breakup feel more significant.  Also, isn’t outside interference reserved for heels trying to help each other?  As far as tonight is concerned it wouldn’t surprise me to see a tag match with Finn and Ziggler taking on Corbin and McIntyre based on how WWE has handled these things historically, but that’s just me speculating.

Alexa Bliss TLC Press Conference

In case you have any burning questions for Alexa Bliss, she is holding a press conference in advance of the Raw Women’s Championship match between champion Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax.  She announced this on her Twitter account:

In the previous two Raw shows, she had open forums with Sasha Banks and Bayley.  Banks and Bayley were attacked two weeks ago while last week they announced their intentions to be Women’s Tag Team Champions if and when those titles are announced.

Last week, Ronda and Ember Moon defeated Nia Jax and Tamina in the main event. 

Frank’s Analysis:  I’ll try here, but I don’t have much.  I’m lucky I watch press conferences when my teams sign or trade for significant players.  I have to watch one on WWE programming now?  It is an attempt to interreact with fans, but I’m sure there will be plant questions.  Alexa did drop and regain the Raw Women’s Title from Nia Jax and lost it to Ronda Rousey.  You would think they’d tie in that history, although who knows.  I question if anyone cares.

Other Items from Last Week:

Bobby Roode and Chad Gable failed to gain another Raw Tag Team Championship opportunity against champs AOP.  G.M. Corbin told Roode initially he’d have to beat Drake Maverick to earn the right, but for the 8,756th time Corbin changed course and made it a handicap match.  Roode and Gable lost to Maverick and AOP.

  • Lucha House rules reign supreme again.  The Lucha House party defeated Scott Dawson of the Revival under “Lucha house rules.”  How this makes sense for a babyface team and why the Revival have been reduced to fodder is mind boggling.
  • Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Mickie James and Alicia Fox following their open forum.  Fox and James were set to attack Bayley and Banks as they did the week prior but were stopped by Alexa Bliss.
  • Elias was to have a match with Bobby Lashley.  While Elias was performing for the crowd, Lio Rush and Lashley interrupted.  Following Lashley doing another butt pose (just weird), Elias would pursue both men on stage.  He ultimately chased Lashley away with the guitar and bashed it over Rush’s head.  If you care, they could have the match tonight or at TLC
  • Finn Balor got back in the win column defeating Jinder Mahal.

Raw Ratings

I try but it’s hard not to be sarcastic and critical of WWE, especially in previewing Raw.  As was covered here and by several wrestling outlets, the Raw ratings sunk to a new non-holiday low of 1.61.  That is down 0.35 year-over-year and 0.47 from two years ago.

Granted, the Philadelphia Eagles played the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football.  There have been good games on MNF when ratings were better.

It’s the holiday season.  People may be shopping, watching Christmas movies and specials, going to office parties, etc.

My point is I’m just throwing all the excuses WWE may use to explain the low ratings.  I’m not saying any are the reason, but let’s be honest.  The show has stunk to high heaven the last few weeks.  I don’t want to hear it’s because Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman are out, and they have a part-time Universal Champion again, or for any of the reasons I mentioned.  From 1999-2000, arguably the biggest star ever in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was on the shelf and the show did just fine.  Yes, they had the Rock and Triple H and Kurt Angle and the Undertaker and other big stars, but they were treated as such and the shows felt must see.

The last few Raw shows have felt must-cringe.  Looking at the items they’ve advertised for the show tonight, they don’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to fix things.  It’s very puzzling.  As Eli Drake from Impact would say, that’s just a fact of life.

Start Time & Matches Advertised

The arena’s website is advertising a start time of 4:30 p.m. with doors opening at 3:00 p.m. local.

They advertise no matches or specific wrestlers appearing.

Follow me on Twitter @FrankPeteani or e-mail me at fpeteani@gmail.com.  Questions and discussion are welcome  Thank you for reading!

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