'WWE Raw': Ziggler, Harper, Cena and Rollins Save Christmas

A pair of terrific matches make up for a cartoonish main event on Monday night

Ho-Ho-Hogan on works the crowd on 'WWE Raw.' Credit: WWE

It was three nights till Christmas, and all through the Target Center, many a WWE fan was stirring, eager for their heroes to triumphantly enter.

A few did deliver, sending many a shiver, though others fell flat as they took to the mat. But thank goodness, as always, I'm here to unwrap the most bountiful of all pro-wrestling recaps. So far as last night's Raw, here's five things that I took away, and to paraphrase Fo-Fo Foley Claus, I hope you all have a nice holiday!

5. Fandango's Got His Groove Back?
It wasn't one of the evening's more memorable contests, but the "new and improved," flamenco-dancing Romeo did score a clean win over Jack Swagger, who just a couple weeks back broke out of Rusev's Accolade and nearly claimed the Bulgarian brute's U.S. title. I can't tell whether I'd like the man behind Fandango (or at least if I responded without wincing to his portrayal on Total Divas), but I've always admired his ability and enjoyed the character, which could be an enduring gimmick. As for Swagger, this was merely a stopgap till they bring back Zeb from storyline injury and recalibrate the pair's aims. Hence, little harm in taking one for the team, which indeed necessitates more of a "we the people" than "all for I" mentality.

4. Schwartz and All
If you're Christmas Story star Scott Schwartz, may as well take all the perks you can get. That includes front-row seats at Raw (Minneapolis: Where all the players play) and a shout-out from the announce team. The rest of us can merely savor the irony that, years removed from the iconic image of his tongue getting stuck to a pole, Scotty reversed those fortunes with a career in hardcore porn. Accordingly, his Monday-night cameo was the closest this PG era's come in quite some time to anything X-rated.

3. Minimum Paige
We named her our Diva of the Year, and we stand by it. The 22-year-old, second-generation female grappler found her calling as a heel, masking any novice skills with the perfect balance of sex and violence. It's too bad then, that she's been left out in the cold of late by being asked to pull weight in one holiday-themed costume match after another, seemingly without a story to be told. She's young, and there's time, and no doubt Nikki Bella's doing a fine job as champion (even if her arc with sister Brie over the past six months has been incomprehensible). Not to mention it's hard to argue against Natalya – who scored a pinfall over Brie last night and all but anointed herself number-one contender – getting another shot, especially when it furthers the intrigue with husband Tyson Kidd (who, I imagine, will cost her the strap come Royal Rumble).

On the other hand, Naomi's involvement in the Miz and Jimmy Uso kerfuffle feels fairly by-the-numbers. One (i.e. me) can't help but think that Paige could excel with that kind of exposure, though it stands to reason her time might come now that she's essentially supplanted Mrs. Fatu on Total Divas (that's right, there's two Total Divas mentions for your dollar).

2. Rollins Is Back
Based on one week's action, at least. Whether written for him or largely winged, Seth Rollins' opening monologue was crisp and confident. Moreover, during his terrific bout with John Cena (note how many times the latter is one half of a standout match), the gymnastic competitor demonstrated that he can still dazzle with aerial grace and technical prowess without alienating his primary role as villain.

As Rollins dictated the tempo and displayed a preternatural ease maintaining his poise amid myriad hold reversals and daredevil stunts, it evoked recollections of his classic Raw confrontation with Daniel Bryan from 2013 (in which, it should be said, he was also the antagonist). And in an instance of lucid booking, Cena dodged the devious J & J Security (who Ho-Ho Hogan should have ba-ba banned from ringside anyhow) and Rollins' briefcase to pick up a clean and logical win that satisfied the audience, made sense in the context of the participants' feud and helped further the perception of Rollins as a guy too timid to succeed on his own formidable talents.

1. Time to Extinguish Dean and Bray
First, there were unexplained Star Wars holograms. Next came short-circuited TV monitors. And OK, we'll give the Boot Camp match a pass, since anything under the Tribute to the Troops banner is buoyed by good intentions. But after last night's "Miracle on 34th Street Fight" silliness – which saw these two supposedly unpredictable, dangerous weirdos doing their worst with plastic Christmas trees, wreaths, fire extinguishers, chairs affixed with oversized bows and, most unforgettably, candy-striped kendo sticks – it might be time to move on. It was never really clear why these two so disliked one another to begin with, and there's still a lingering feeling that Bray Wyatt's return and Dean Ambrose's blowoff with Seth Rollins were simultaneously squandered when Bray v. Dean failed to click. The table bumps have become rote, their war of words has been a draw and neither man has emerged much different than they were before. Meanwhile, Bray's one-time disciple, Luke Harper, has collaborated with Dolph Ziggler in a series of physical duels that's spoken volumes for their chemistry while elevating each individual's game. This is only a notion, but perhaps it's time for Bray to pay his former protégé a visit and suggest he's not quite ready to pass the lantern just yet.

Below the Belt

  • Is it wrong that I'm kind of into Adam Rose v. the Bunny?
  • The Usos love those Slammy trophies.
  • Too bad no one came out to challenge Ziggler during that Lawler interview.
  • Surprised the screeners let a tweet from @wwetnalover17 get on-air.
  • Wait, so now Ziggler was stapled and not just glued after TLC?
  • OK, we get it, it's the "Seth Rollins Era."
  • Tyson's attire is becoming a character in itself. Sweet Johnny Lawrence skeleton gloves.
  • Poor Goldust.
  • Move of the Night: Harper spinning off of Ziggler's superkick into a super-clothesline.
  • Line of the Night: My wife, at the sight of Ho-Ho Hogan: "Oh, that's cute."
  • In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Did Clint Eastwood remake Lone Survivor? Also, wish you lived where I did so you could bear witness to this local ad (which, amazingly, has only five views on YouTube as of this writing).
  • Noticeable In Their Absence: New Day, Kane, Cesaro, Rowan, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman.