As they approach the 2016 Royal Rumble and the road to WrestleMania 32, the final WWE Monday Night Raw of the year aired last night. From the WWE television return of John Cena to “Mr. McMahon” returning to true form (and getting arrested), a lot of action and drama was packed into last night’s live, three-hour program. Below are five major takeaways from WWE Raw on December 28, 2015.
John Cena returns to WWE television
After losing the WWE United States Championship to Alberto Del Rio at WWE Hell in a Cell in October, John Cena quietly faded from the WWE landscape. The leader of the “Cenation” was still on TV, however. Whether on The Tonight Show or working on the Sisters movie, Cena wasn’t hard to find on television. But after two months of barely being mentioned on WWE’s programming, John returned in front of a perpetually hot Brooklyn crowd.
Surprisingly, Cena didn’t talk much about the Royal Rumble or his plan to win the Rumble Match. Instead, he spent his time coaxing Del Rio into giving Cena his rematch immediately in front of the WWE Universe in Brooklyn. ADR eventually gave in to the 15-time world champ, and the U.S. title match would last through two commercial breaks before ending in a DQ. John made a point before the match that what he started with the title — a weekly open challenge — hadn’t happened since he left. Will WWE continue to use Cena to elevate the United States Championship, or will John Cena turn his attention to the Royal Rumble Match?
“Mr. McMahon” returns to WWE television
Everyone knows that the hottest feud of the “Attitude Era” was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin butting heads with WWE CEO “Mr. McMahon.” Tapping into the social climate of wrestling fans in the late 90s, Vince understood that most blue collar workers wanted to give their boss the bird and lay him out while drinking a beer. Vicariously, the Mr. McMahon character became that boss, and Steve Austin became that blue collar employee.
At 70-years-old, Vince is hoping to rekindle that fire and use the heat to help WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns get over with the WWE Universe. And just like Austin often had the last laugh, last night’s McMahon/Reigns confrontation ended up with Vince getting arrested. But to prove that he’s still a powerful and vengeful force to be reckoned with, he returned to WWE Raw before it went off the air. In an attempt to stack the odds against the current champion — again, an angle used all the time during the Austin/McMahon feud — Vince announced that Reigns will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Sheamus on next week’s Raw. And Vince will serve as the special guest referee.
Royal Rumble Match buzz
In what turned out to be a full display of WWE’s mid-card talent, the MizTV segment resulted in The Big Show being the first man to announce his participation in the 30-man battle royal (as confirmed by WWE.com). With just three weeks left until the event, it’s surprising that the focus of the Rumble Match is currently on The Big Show, who has absolutely no chance of headlining this year’s WrestleMania in Dallas.
Knowing the way WWE likes to plant seeds, it stands to reason that they’ll book Show in a small battle royal with the six other guys involved in last night’s scene. Those six WWE Superstars — The Miz, R-Truth, Ryback, Zack Ryder, Goldust, and Heath Slater — will likely be in the Royal Rumble Match as well.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be at WrestleMania 32
Announced before WWE Raw even went on the air, Bleacher Report confirms that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas next April. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as The Rock has been a part of the last five WrestleMania events. The exact role that The Rock will fill has yet to be disclosed.
The Rock hosted WrestleMania 27 in Atlanta and then wrestled John Cena at both WrestleMania 28 and WrestleMania 29. At WrestleMania 30, The Rock made a surprise appearance alongside Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, a trio of arguably the three most successful professional wrestlers of all time. Last year, Dwayne made an appearance with Ronda Rousey, teasing an eventual mixed-tag match against Triple H and Stephanie. With his cousin Roman Reigns likely headlining the event, the possibilities for The Rock at WrestleMania 32 are virtually endless.
More wrestling, less talking
As noted last month by Wrestling Inc., the ratings forWWE Monday Night Raw continue to cause a headache for Vince McMahon. Members of the WWE Universe have been saying for years that the major problem with Raw is that there is too much talking and not enough wrestling. Last night, it would seem, WWE gave those fans exactly what they wanted. Sure, there was a lot of drama still. The show kicked off with Vince, Roman and Stephanie arguing in the ring. The New Day was given more than enough time to give a promo before their matches. Cena gave a rather long-winded speech upon his return.
But several of the bouts lasted just about as long as you’d expect them to last on a PPV. In a match with nothing specifically on the line, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch grappled through two commercial breaks. After Kalisto defeated Kofi Kingston, an “impromptu” match between Big E and Sin Cara began almost immediately. The six-man tag match between the League of Nations and Roman Reigns’ friends was treated like an actual match rather than a time-killer. And aside from the ending, the Cena/Del Rio title match was as good as anything they have ever done together. When the ratings come out, will the extra in-ring time translate into increased ratings?
In case you missed Raw completely, here’s a breakdown of the results from each match:
- Neville defeated Kevin Owens
- Sasha Banks defeated Becky Lynch
- Kalisto defeated Kofi Kingston
- Big E defeated Sin Cara
- Ryback defeated The Big Show (count-out)
- Sheamus, Rusev and King Barrett defeated Dean Ambrose and The Usos
- John Cena defeated Alberto Del Rio (disqualification)
A special 90-minute edition of last night’s WWE Monday Night Raw, featuring the long-awaited return of John Cena, will be available to steam on-demand through Hulu Plus on Tuesday. The WWE Royal Rumble 2016 will air January 17 on the WWE Network.
[Image via WWE]