'WWE Raw': Happy New Year, John Cena! - Rolling Stone
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‘WWE Raw’: Happy New Year, John Cena!

The man known as ‘Juan Cena’ returns, Kevin Owens turns up the heat and Vince McMahon gives an arresting performance


He's back! John Cena returns to 'WWE Raw.'


It was a tough night for the McMahon clan. Roman Reigns pushed Vince around, some cops threatened Stephanie and Vince laid his hands ’em and got cuffed and booked. And as one final indignity, VKM was apparently being detained at a precinct on Sesame Street. But the Chairman would have his revenge in the end, returning to restore order amid the main-event fallout and demanding the champ put his title on the line against Sheamus next Monday – with none other than Vince himself as guest referee. Ratings!

And speaking of, John Cena returned to help seduce some more eyeballs, the Wyatt Family and Dudley Boyz were among those who pulled a Leftovers and, poof, disappeared from sight, and the League of Nations kept doing whatever it is they do to further their quest for world domination. Or something like that.

But before Heath Slater interrupts me with a surprise entrance to talk about his New Year’s resolutions and get knocked out by Big Show, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the December 28, 2015 edition of Raw. 

5. Where’s J&J When You Need ‘Em?
Good security is hard to find. Just ask the McMahons after last night. The plainclothes officers Stephanie corralled to force Reigns out of the building as comeuppance for putting his hands on dear papa wound up bullying she and Vince around instead. But hey, this is Brooklyn – they don’t take no guff. Or at least that’s what I inferred from one hell of an incoherent (and uncomfortable) opening segment. Still, this points to only one solution: The return of everyone’s favorite pint-sized, earpiece-accessorized dynamic body-guarding do, J&J. They could even arrive via FedEx at next week’s Raw as a belated holiday gift from Seth Rollins to his bosses. Plus, Jamie Noble’s from West Virginia, which is kind of like another country, so he could even pull double duty for League of Nations.

4. League Fatigue
Whilst on the subject of Sheamus and his motley crew of vaguely international cohorts, this is one gimmick that may have run its course. Is it too late to team Alberto Del Rio back up with Zeb Colter, place King Barrett back atop his Bad News podium and find some other “stupid American” for Rusev to feud with? It was a Herculean effort from the commentary crew to try and hyperbolize the League of Nations’ run of domination, but methinks WWE’s starting to wish they pulled the trigger on this whole McMahons vs. Reigns angle sooner and bypassed rush-ordering a tenuous new stable entirely. One little detail that might help: At least in its nascent stages, make sure the League is a united front at all times, with all four members at ringside or none at all. Del Rio was conspicuous in his absence at the outset of last night’s six-man tag, as Barrett had been in a supporting capacity in recent weeks. The foursome isn’t yet convincing enough as a clique to command our attention in smaller factions. Might be time for LON to at least put together some pretaped vignettes illustrating their intent. Otherwise, we may have to retroactively declare them DOA.

3. What Just Transpired on MizTV?
That was a lot to take in: Miz’s scarf, Ryback’s burp, Goldust’s twerk, R-Truth’s “My bad” routine. No one – including those who were in the ring – is entirely sure of that segment’s scripted intent, or if it went off as planned. Was it a year-in-review? Jobber parade? Platform to declare one’s participation in the Royal Rumble? And apart from setting the stage for a match with Big Show, how did Ryback fit into this picture? Or Goldust, for that matter? What was the common thread? What does it all mean?! Who cares? It was MizTV, and it was awesome.

2. Is Neville the New Ziggler?
Not generally speaking, but at least in terms of the muddled Intercontinental picture. Dolph seemed an integral piece in a three-man IC dance between he, Kevin Owens and champ Dean Ambrose. But last night, KO – one of many superstars still dwelling on their Slammys snubs – took his ire out on Neville (and, later, Ambrose), while Ziggler was nowhere to be seen…or, in Allentown with the other half of the roster (same difference). Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, and Neville’s beating was just a one-off blow-off for Owens; it’s just a good thing for all involved and in absentia that KO is a superior enough heel to carry the day until WWE decides who exactly will be vying for its second-most prestigious singles title come January’s Royal Rumble.

1. Enjoy Cena While You Can
JBL was jesting when he remarked, “The celebrity bug has gotten to him a little bit” amid John Cena’s return match for the U.S. belt against Alberto Del Rio. But the reality is, WWE’s most popular and divisive heavyweight is off and running with roles in three hit Hollywood comedies and regularly well-received appearances on morning and late-night TV. And he ain’t getting any younger. The time is nigh, and the timing’s nearly right, for the 13-year vet to call it a day inside the ring before his body degenerates, and while he’s young enough to net a variety of topline roles in TV and film. So remember these moments – Brooklyn crowds buzzing with call-and-response banter while anticipating his appearance, his charismatic self-effacement, perfectionism (if not perfection) between the ropes and genuine star presence. They’re all comforting and familiar, at a time when the product is in flux and necessitates good faith and patience. And thus equally easy to take for granted until you really can’t see him.

Below the Belt: 

  • LOL, “Juan Cena.”
  • Solid 560 State Street, reference, Juan.
  • Guess the bloom is off The Rose Bush?
  • I was proud to see, and impressed by, the Lemmy tribute.
  • What’s so funny about it being Zack Ryder’s year?
  • Kofi virtually high-kicked himself into that rollup for Kalisto.
  • Not sure how sensitive an invocation that was of police brutality, Stephanie. Not that you care.
  • Renee Young: Intrepid on-site correspondent.
  • Did we know New Day’s trombone was named Francesca?
  • Good to see Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch getting a solid chunk of time – no matter what the crowd was chanting.
  • And can we get New Day some real rivals soon, please?
  • Does Michael Cole really, truly think Big Show is the Rumble‘s “odds-on favorite”?
  • I want Fabolous’ son’s ring bed.
  • Ambrose has to do better than loser Ls on his forehead.
  • Did I mention Miz’s scarf?!
  • Line of the Night: Vince’s, “I’m not a rich snob, I’m a freaking billionaire” is the new, “I’m not a businessman – I’m a business, man.”
  • Move of the Night: Owens’ sneak-attack lariat on Neville earned KO his initials.
  • Sign of the Night: Did that guy with the “Heath” sign know something we didn’t?
  • In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Well, geez, this was a bummer. But hey, Subway’s bouncing back from its Jared debacle! And I guess this beats this.
  • Noticeable In Their Absence: Triple H, Wyatt Family, Dudley Boyz, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust (love him)…and for the love of god, how was Damien Sandow not the last jobber to come down during MizTV?!

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