Credit: Brad Acevedo and Prowrestling.net
My girlfriend and I attended Raw, just our second WWE event, the first being a live untelevised house show a few months prior. We usually try and arrive early to see if any arriving superstars will interact with us. This time we settled for Dean Ambrose and Cesaro walking nearby to get something out of a car, but Cesaro acknowledged us and a few other fans with a wave.
Getting into the actual arena was a special kind of hell as apparently a “no camera” policy has been implemented. Apparently camera phones are fine, but not regular digital cameras. I don’t know if this is a WWE based or arena based policy but after being literally turned away at the door, we sought confirmation at a separate entrance and they let us right in without further incident. Go figure.
Raw began proper after the WWE Superstars taping with no opening video or pyro. The commentary team made their separate entrances.
The opening promo was a bit tepid and mention of Kane’s name met with a mixed response, but a big pop was earned for the mention of the night’s mini No. 1 contender tournament. San Diego is also most assuredly a “Reigns Town” as the favor far outnumbered the hate. He’s even more awkward on the mic than I recall and I’m sure his utterance of “You in the Hall of Fame? What?!” earned some online snickers.
Roman Reigns vs. Kofi Kingston was a solid match with the highlight being Reigns’ sick looking powerbomb and plenty of hilarious shenanigans by Big E. LOTS of dueling New Day chants.
I don’t know if it came across on air but there was a production gaffe in which Miz’s backstage WWE 2k16 game promo was suddenly cut short, then a shot of the commentary team aired and then swiftly the Raw logo.
Our first ‘This is Awesome” chant of the night occurred during Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro, and both men’s superb mix of power, speed, and technical ability was on full display. Plenty of Cesro Section signs throughout, but I was surprised at the lack of Stardust’s presence. Cesaro’s charge into Owens and straight into the crowd was a great spectacle live.
Sad to say, the Team Bella vs. PCB match was generally overshadowed by unheeded chants of “We Want Sasha” and also “We Want Becky”… Ms. Lynch would promptly tag in and be destroyed by Nikki in a matter of minutes. The Paige post-match heel turn was met with a mixed reaction and actually a small “YES!” chant, but I’m sure half of the audience suspected it would occur.
I was very excited for the Alberto Del Rio vs. Neville match. Del Rio was MASSIVELY over with the SoCal crowd. Zeb earned a few points as well with his declaration of “Mex-America”… Neville’s pyro was my first experience of WWE pyro and it was LOUD. Great to see though. This match was well received with Neville’s fantastic selling and Del Rio’s climb-up Enziguri getting a great reaction. Post match, Del Rio approached a cosplayer dressed like him and swiped his towel in a great little fan interaction moment.
Rusev, Sheamus, and King Barrett vs. Ryback and The Dudleys is voted most likely to be cut from the Raw 90-minute Hulu edit. More loud pyro for this match and an amusing moment in watching the crew frantically remove the competitor’s props before hand. A pair of stage hands scurried away with the Bulgarian flag and the referee actually casually tossed Barrett’s crown out of the ring!
The Bray Wyatt promo was teased as next and an armada of “fireflies” alighted within the arena only for mild booing to occur when we realized we weren’t getting a full Wyatt entrance. This was evident when he clearly sauntered down to the ring during a Hell in a Cell recap promo. Kane’s pyro caught us all off guard. All the other members of the Family are huge in person and their beatdown of Kane was met with disdain when we realized that Undertaker wasn’t going to make the save.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Big E was a surprisingly great match and New Day’s antics continued to highlight with Big E stealing JBL’s hat and dancing around with it (a commercial break stall tactic I suspect) and what I will dub “The Unicorn Kiss of Death”… Bryan kissing AJ only to be kicked by Sheamus has nothing on Big E and Kofi “rubbing horns” and then getting superkicked by Ziggler!
In an amusing moment I suspect wasn’t picked up on camera, Big E spilled Tyler Breeze’s pink martini at ringside only for it to be immediately replaced with a bright green one. Breeze earned another mark of approval after we witnessed JBL’s perplexed expression during his announce table selfie. Poor JBL, taunted to the extreme in this match!
What seemed like the entire roster emerged during yet another 2K16 ad (no exaggeration, there were about eight throughout the broadcast) and the breast cancer charity promo was a touching moment. A great moment for Titus O’Neil too, and the crowd was into his Million Dollar Dance. A few notable faces in the crowd included the MIA Curtis Axel and Team BAD, who would had no further involvement with the show.
Miz’s next 2K16 promo earned a HUGE pop once Stone Cold showed up onscreen. Shame, we pretty much all suspected he wouldn’t be appearing live. Still, a cool moment to see him even if not in person.
The four-way main event was another superb match. Owens showed great heel chops with a hilarious moment of mocking Ziggler’s gyrating dance. A “This Is Awesome” chant was earned and I must say that Del Rio’s superkicks sound absolutely brutal. A shame that they went with the most obvious and telegraphed choice for a winner, but I guess I shouldn’t expect otherwise from this era of WWE creative.
Post match, Lilian thanked us for attending but offered no return date nor did any dark match take place. It was especially odd to me was the complete lack of explanation for Cena’s absence.
After the show, we hung around near the loading dock and earned greets and small moments from Naomi, Owens, and Neville. Also, most hilariously, referee John Cone stopped to utter a few Flair “Woo’s” with the fans gathered!
We took our exit cue as four drunk fans (dressed s Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Jake the Snake and Randy Savage no less) decided to have an impromptu intoxicated brawl right there in the parking lot, complete with Sweet Chin Music, chokeslams, and a plush Damien snake used as a weapon. For the record, Drunk Shawn Michaels won (due to a fast count by a young fan with a replica title belt) and surprisingly no security was called. An interesting way to end the day.
All in all, a wonderful night despite some odd booking choices (the new Kane-Wyatt saga seems inconsequential and Reigns was an annoyingly obvious choice for Rollin’s next opponent) and a few production gaffes.