'WWE Raw': The Undertaker Doesn't Get Paid by the Hour

The Phenom makes a quick cameo, Triple H gives Dean Ambrose a title shot and Stephanie owns the night in Nashville

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WWE
Let's make this quick, Vince. The Undertaker's got places to be. WWE

It sure is hard to hold WWE wrestlers to their convictions these days.

The Dudleys claim they're done using tables as weapons, but then D-Von takes out an Uso with one at ringside. New Day keep taking shots at League of Nations ("loose collective" ­– heh heh), but continue playing up their heel hijinks. Then there's Ryback, who's neither good nor bad, though maybe a bit ugly (sorry, Big Guy). And don't even get me started on "Radical Mongoose" Adam Rose. What kind of mongoose wears bike shorts to work?

Anyhow, before I get worked up like Bray Wyatt and jabber on in cryptic fragments about absolutely nothing worth bearing in mind, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the February 29, 2016 edition of Raw.

5. Oscar De La Oy
Who ever said that wrestling recaps can't carry a couple pugilistic puns? Long after the Oscars ceased trending on social (or any other) media, WWE rode the ebbing wave with a few wince-worthy references to the previous night's Academy Awards. Triple H issued some kind of sneering honor to Dean Ambrose for acting in a bromance, Ambrose likened his lunatic reputation to the insanity of Mad Max, Ryback was force-fed a bizarre promo relating his lone-ranger turn with Spotlight's Best Picture win and Brie Bella shut Lana down with some remark about Rusev having portrayed the Revenant bear. Suddenly I long for the Slammys.

4. Y2EhJ
Or to more meaningfully unscramble that, "Y2AJ? Eh." It seems like this tenuous partnership is all part of their larger singles storyline, and that tensions will re-arise during their title match against New Day next week. Otherwise, it's hard to see how this serves anyone apart from Jericho, who could potentially eke one more championship out of the arrangement. Styles looks a bit silly pantomiming his partner's catchphrases, cheerleading for his team and generally playing the Teller to Jericho's Penn. Especially when the "Phenomenal" WWE newcomer's real magic happens when he's permitted to be a stoic leader who intimidates with his talent. I'm sure Styles is game so long as he's chasing some kind of gold while earning his keep in the company, but in the short term I'm hoping Y2AJ is just a detour en route to a final WrestleMania blowoff between these two.

3. Stephanie McMahon > Paul Heyman?
Ladies and gentleman, it is indeed time to "bow down to your queen" as Stephanie commanded. If ever a "We're not worthy" chant was warranted, last night was the time. But to her credit, Mr. McMahon's little girl is so damn good at being bad that the Nashville crowd understandably felt compelled to simply shower her with boos. Maybe she's been taking notes from Mr. Heyman as much as her dad over the years, but last night's promo – in which Steph violently, venomously articulated her rage toward Shane and the WWE Universe – was every bit as magnetic as any oratory Paul E.'s ever uttered. Stephanie upstaged everyone last night, including her husband, whose snoozer of an opening segment with Dean Ambrose was only salvaged when he once again talked with his fists to close the night. May she never emulate her brother and elude Raw's cameras for seven long years.

2. So, Yeah, It's a Divas Triple-Threat at Mania
Just thought I'd get that out of the way, since Michael Cole and JBL are deeply flummoxed and concerned over who Charlotte's facing at WrestleMania after Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks fought to a draw in last night's number-one contender bout. It's a little unclear why a three-way clash couldn't have been booked outright last week. Not to mention the double pin Becky and Sasha were asked to execute on Raw won't be winning any stunt choreography Oscars (too late?) any time soon. Charlotte vs. Becky vs. Banks for the title in 33 days is definitely best for business, though why this big "mystery" – which only prolongs the real story from being told – was set in motion is anyone's guess. OK, I'll try: Knowing the Triple H/Ambrose title match and Y2AJ/New Day collision were both two weeks away, Becky and Sasha were scheduled for last night to help compensate for a fairly weak and inconsequential card. Which, in its own way, is sort of a compliment?

1. Over Taker?
Naw, not really, but it's a fun bit of bait. Point is, what the holy hell is the backstory to the Undertaker's involvement in Vince and Shane's family feud? Does anyone know? Was last night's appearance from the Dead Man – during which he almost chokeslammed his boss and muttered something about the prodigal son's blood being on the Chairman's hands – supposed to clue us in? Does it mean Vince ostensibly made a deal with the devil, i.e. Taker, for his services? And by extension, is Taker generally available for hire in the event that I might need someone to stop meddling in my publicly traded business? And what does Shane have over his father again, and why do we care? Doesn't matter. Shane-O Mac and the Phenom's clash inside Hell in a Cell means monster-pop central. How or why we get to that electric moment is, clearly, not of utmost importance, so let's just enjoy the Last Ride.

Below the Belt: 

  • Ya had to know Miz was getting that win. Yay Miz! But what's next for Dolph Ziggler?
  • Xavier Woods is really winning me over with his nerd esoterica. Sonic and Tails. Classic.
  • Steph's "makes me wanna vomit" naturally brought this to mind.
  • Lots of folks getting off their opponent before three-counts and tap-outs last night.
  • Not a bad move to position Roman Reigns as anti-authoritarian.
  • How helpful of Kalisto to clutch the ropes for Del Rio's finisher.
  • God, I hate Del Rio's finisher.
  • Poor Natalya.
  • I can see where people would prefer KO/AJ over KO/Big Show.
  • We want Rollins.
  • Move of the Night: Sorry, but gotta give it to Steph for cradling her Legacy award like a baby.
  • Sign of the Night: Extra credit to the Seinfeld fan for fashioning their Festivus sign in the style of its originator.
  • Line of the Night: Ambrose's "Hunter… thanks" got an appreciative chuckle out of me.
  • In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Did this count as Tiny Lister's unofficial WWE reunion? Oooh, Street Fighter. And I guess in lieu of J.K. Simmons, Kelly from Ash vs. Evil Dead will do.
  • Noticeable In Their Absence: Shane McMahon, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Neville, Stardust
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