The Royal Rumble is in the books, Triple H is on top once again and WWE is launching headlong down the road to WrestleMania – but not before they make a pit stop at Fastlane, of course.
There was a whole lot that happened on last night's Raw in Miami, from the Rock revealing his "llama penis" to A.J. Styles' Monday debut. New WWE champ the Game got his coronation, the Divas title feud got bigger and, hey, the card of WWE's next PPV even took shape. But before Mr. McMahon arrives and hurts my feelings with insinuations that I'm nothing but poor white trash, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the January 25, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. Bo Out-Battled Flo Rida…
Because Flo Rida's not a great rapper. And because Bo Dallas was given actual diss lines to recite, while Flo (yes, he basically has the name of a diner waitress) was quasi-spontaneously called out from the crowd by old nemesis Heath Slater in order to execute an incongruously rehearsed bit of sabotage with the Dudley Boyz. Still, Dallas was funny as his character (i.e. Barney Rubble in this Fruity Pebbles ad) and appropriately terrible at being an MC. Unfortunately, Flo (hehe) was even worse at demonstrating his platinum skills than abetting a pre-match comedy bit.
4. An A-Plus for A.J. So Far
At least in how he's been booked. An early Rumble entrance and solid – if not show-stopping – performance was spot-on. As was an evenly fought contest against the get-me-over king, Chris Jericho, last night. Styles will have to work at a much more deliberate pace than what we've grown accustomed to during his Bullet Club-era renaissance, as was evident while he and Y2J grinded out their match. There were a few signature Styles spots, flashes of his charismatic ego (without upstaging Jericho, who came off great) and the continued teasing of an as-yet-unexecuted Styles Clash. Odds are, WWE isn't exactly sure of their long game with the 38-year-old former TNA/Ring of Honor/New Japan superstar, but in the short term, they've done a fine job of introducing him to a wider audience without letting him skip to the head of the line.
3. Limp Owens Limp
Kevin Owens sells every little heel nuance so well, it's almost fitting that he has trouble maintaining a more sympathetic tic. Still, let's be honest: KO may have been dynamite throwing bows and talking trash at both the Rumble and on the subsequent Raw, but that hobbled leg he dragged down to the ramp on each occasion seemed to magically right itself once he was between the ropes. I'm not saying the guy's gotta emote like Dolph Ziggler, whom he defeated in ho-hum fashion last night. I also get that Owens' entire offense is predicated on sudden explosiveness and impact. I'm merely suggesting that he throw us a bone in the suspension-of-disbelief department with an occasional weak-kneed stumble before gaining a head of steam. Like this. (Run Owens Run!)
2. From Game to God
I enjoyed Triple H's opening segment. I liked seeing him with the belt. He totally sold me on his God complex and belief that his championship was divined. He snorted, ranted and raved about this business being his religion and he its ostensible prophet, whipping himself up into an egomaniacal frenzy that answered smarks' fantasy that he's WWE's tyrannical figurehead. And the answer, for entertainment's sake, is yes. So if you're weary from watching political coverage of real-life wannabe demagogues and aspiring dictators, tune in to Raw between now and WrestleMania and relish the reign of TV's ultimate scripted king.
1. Settle Down, Rock
He's been up since 3:45, he's been bangin' and clangin', he's been filming Ballers for 12 hours (i.e. mostly relaxing in his trailer while people apply his makeup) and he's apparently been drinking more Red Bulls than Sarah Palin. Has there every been a single WWE alumnus with this kind of carte blanche to take over an entire half hour of Raw to more or less soak up adulation, rehearse his more outlandish comedic timing with several broader films on the horizon and adlib hit-and-miss material about weed and llama penises? Truth be told, New Day – as they did with Chris Jericho – made the Rock seem kind of old, and it was tempting to fast-forward through a lot of those awkward pauses where it was abundantly clear Dwayne Johnson had no idea what to say next. But hey, he got the Big Show and Rusev good. And more importantly, he glad-handed, snapped selfies and explicitly advertised his upcoming appearance at WrestleMania, which is likely netting him enough cash to buy the actual New York Red Bulls. Personally, for the next post-Rumble show, I wouldn't mind trimming the People's Champ down to a tighter 10 minutes and focusing more on the simmering storylines set in motion the night before. Or, alternatively, a lot more of this.
Below the Belt:
- Since Raw treated it as an afterthought, so shall I, but I am psyched for Lesnar vs. Reigns vs. Ambrose for a shot at Triple H.
- And Trips is the best, but I'm not sure about "arguably the greatest of all time." Easy, JBL.
- Upside: Now Nikki and John have more time to shoot Total Divas.
- Jericho, and the commentators, referencing Styles as if he's "a kid" is a bit silly.
- Yeah, the guy in the 'Taker outfit's gotten enough tension.
- Three-way Fastlane fights for the World Heavyweight title and Divas title may be a bit much, but is what it is.
- Paige is suddenly on the outside looking in, huh?
- Sign of the Night: I don't know: "Why Vegan?" Oh, that's why.
- Line of the Night: Styles: "This is where I shoulda been the whole time." Multiple burn victims on that one.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Well played on the song license, Carnival Cruise Lines; I'm definitely down for Snickers Crisper, although isn't it just Keebler's Deluxe Grahams with Rice Krispies?
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Brock Lesnar, Stardust