WWE Raw results, February 23, 2015: Bryan and Reigns bury the hatchet while Orton and Rollins form uneasy alliance
Stephanie McMahon confronted Randy Orton
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — All jokes aside, Randy Orton’s unexpected return at WWE Fastlane really was — ahem — outta nowhere. But the surprise of seeing Orton back in action and RKO’ing anyone whose name began with a “J” had nothing on Stephanie McMahon’s reaction to the return of the Superstar she ordered to be destroyed the last time he showed his face. She welcomed him right back.
Photos: Orton returns to Raw
Incredulous as it sounds, McMahon — flanked by Kane, Big Show and Triple H — was more than willing to allow the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion to rejoin The Authority and take his place as The Face of WWE once more. Even more incredulous was Orton’s eventual reaction to the offer: a tentative, if somewhat sinister-sounding, commitment to attend a backstage "business conference" to formally cement his re-induction via a tag-team bout against Daniel Bryan & Roman Reigns, with Seth Rollins as his partner.
Dolph Ziggler def. Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett
The good news, more or less, for Bad News Barrett is that he’s still technically the Intercontinental Champion. That’s a silver lining that’s hard to catch, though, since Dean Ambrose absconded with the Brit’s title after being disqualified out of his questionably legal challenge at WWE Fastlane. Being filched left Barrett with a less than sunny disposition, one that didn’t exactly endear longtime foe Dolph Ziggler to him during a non-title match on Raw.
With R-Truth on commentary to demand the WWE Universe #GiveTruthAChance for a title opportunity off his win on SmackDown, Barrett dismantled The Showoff with clubbing blows from his fists and feet in equal measure. A reversal of Wasteland into a DDT gave Ziggler some space, and Barrett was right there to catch him with the Winds of Change off a ping-ponging sprint between the tables. Barrett was unable to connect with the Bull Hammer elbow, however, as Ziggler rammed him into the turnbuckle and pounced with the Zig Zag for the win. Ambrose materialized moments later with the Intercontinental Title in hand and trash talk spewing from his mouth. Barrett, of course, was in no position to throw down with “The Lunatic Champion.” Ziggler, however, seemed interested …
The Prime Time Players def. The Ascension
The Ascension’s run through WWE’s tag team division ended up being cut short long before it reached the highs of their NXT streak, all thanks to the freshly reformed Prime Time Players. Anyone in the WWE Universe who questioned whether Darren Young & Titus O’Neil could truly let bygones be bygones got their answer in emphatic fashion on Raw. The Big Deal provided the saving grace for Young, who had been smothered from the get-go by Konnor & Viktor’s offense and was about a second from getting pinned before O’Neil put the boots to Viktor. Mr. No Days Off sprang with a rollup after a brief fracas to get the pin, but millions of dollars brought millions of problems, as the big men jumped O’Neil and obliterated Young with the Fall of Man. A win is a win?
Paul Heyman confronted Roman Reigns
Well here we are again. And this time, there’s no studio and snowstorm to enforce any kind of civility from Roman Reigns, who — after a final concession to The Big Dog from a wistful Daniel Bryan — finally stepped into a WWE ring as the honest-to-goodness No. 1 contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Paul Heyman was right there to meet him, spouting rhetoric and visibly relieved to be rid of Bryan, talking up the potential of Reigns and predicting his ultimate downfall at the hands of Brock Lesnar. Despite Heyman's bravado, Reigns’ eagerness to throw down with The Beast Incarnate either forecasts a bright future for the No. 1 contender … or the ultimate downfall of a Superstar who doesn’t understand what he’s gotten himself into. Thirty-four days until the answer is revealed.
The Usos def. WWE Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Tyson Kidd via Disqualification
Among the more unexpected facts that dropped at Fastlane was the coronation of Cesaro & Tyson Kidd as Tag Team Champions, a development that seemed as likely as cats and dogs living together when they started teaming on a whim only two months ago. But there they were as champs one day later, defending their titles against The Usos, who didn’t waste any time evoking their rematch clause or putting “The Professionals” against the ropes in pursuit of their third run with the twin titles.
Even Cesaro & Kidd’s signature, on-the-fly tandem maneuvers weren’t enough to slow The Usos down. It took some chicanery from Natalya, of all people, to get the job done when she tripped Jimmy Uso off the top rope following an altercation between her and Naomi that landed Kidd in the crosshairs of a top-rope splash. The Queen of Harts’ interference stopped the match at a disqualification, ensuring The Usos won but the titles remained in the land of cats, facts and Kings of Swing.
Jack Swagger def. Stardust
We, the people, may not be setting foot on Mars anytime soon. But give Jack Swagger credit for the biggest step for mankind since Neil Armstrong after his upset defeat of Stardust, who’s all but gone supernova in the wake of his controversial loss to brother Goldust at Fastlane. Torn between the specter of his former self, Cody Rhodes, and the space-creature he has transformed into, Stardust took out his aggression on The Real American, whose defense of Dusty Rhodes on Twitter landed him in this bout in the first place. Stardust made sure Swagger regretted it, but Goldust was there to apply a little smoke and mirrors to distract baby brother with a sudden appearance. Swagger sprang into action with the Patriot Lock to notch a quick tapout, but it seems the stars of the Rhodes family have not quite aligned yet.
John Cena challenged Rusev to a WrestleMania rematch
Call it a technicality if you must, but the record books don’t lie: John Cena submitted to Rusev at WWE Fastlane. Granted, there were some events that led to him being locked in the Accolade into unconsciousness that weren’t exactly on the up-and-up, which is why a dumbfounded Cena is officially on his road to redemption. The first stop? A potential rematch with The Super Athlete for the U.S. Title at WrestleMania. Only Rusev wasn’t exactly jumping at the chance to face the Cenation leader again. Instead, he settled for kicking the 15-time World Champion while he was down, rubbing the loss in his face, rejecting his challenge and posing from the stage as the Russian flag descended over Cena’s head. Hey, no one ever said The Road to WrestleMania always got off to an easy start.
The Bella Twins def. Paige & Emma
The Bella Twins’ admiration for the NXT women’s division apparently does not extend to taking it easy against two of its most prestigious alumnae: Paige & Emma. The duo, who battled for the NXT Women’s Championship at the very first ArRIVAL pay-per-view, couldn’t get the job done when they combined their strength against the main roster’s resident mean girls. There wasn’t even a match to speak of, really. Brie knocked Paige off the apron and pinned Emma with a facebuster. When Paige stormed the ring for payback, she was dealt with quickly. Better luck next time.
Ryback def. Curtis Axel
Ryback & Curtis Axel dissolved their partnership as RybAxel on ostensibly friendly terms, yet The Big Guy showed his old buddy no quarter in a friendly yet firm decimation of “The Ax Man” on Raw. They squared off moments after the two bros declared they would join The Miz in the second annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Despite a smothering opening attack from Axel, Ryback’s quick one-two of the Meathook Clothesline and Shell Shocked got the road to #AxelMania off to a rough start.
Daniel Bryan & Roman Reigns def. Seth Rollins & Randy Orton
Anyone expecting another explosion of physicality between Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns on Raw can settle down. The two most volatile elements in WWE remained at rest 24 hours after they blew the roof off WWE Fastlane, instead focusing their collective energy on the returning Randy Orton and Seth Rollins.
Photos: Rivals join forces on Raw
All in all, the bout was a tale of two teams, one that buried their hatchet and another that maybe, juuust maybe had not. When Rollins (with Kane & Big Show on the outside, supporting Rollins before their Fastlane rematch against Dolph Ziggler, Ryback & Erick Rowan on SmackDown) tagged himself in during Orton’s decimation of Reigns, the former World Champion threw a fit and stormed off. Yet when Bryan tagged himself in after Reigns laid Rollins out with the Superman Punch, the 2014 Superstar of the Year happily ceded the floor while The Beard annihilated Rollins with the Running Knee. Teamwork makes the dream work, but it seemed as though Rollins was headed for a waking nightmare when he found himself in the sights of The Viper’s punt. Instead of kicking Rollins into next week, however, The Viper offered a rough, if seemingly genuine, pat on the arm. Probably best Rollins takes that with a grain of salt, though: Orton’s mood can famously change, well, outta nowhere.