Some say it’s the most important RAW of the year. Like the beginning of a season, where the fallout from the biggest show of the year, WrestleMania, meets new storylines and often new main roster superstars. RAW, as we know from week to week, can be rather tedious. A three-hour block of often poor matches and storylines that lead nowhere leaving our entertainment need far less than fulfilled. This is the one time a year we can sit back and with confidence, turn on WWE’s flagship show and know that we will get something from it. Tonight we find out what comes next after a lackluster WrestleMania 32 and what paths will be laid for our wrestling viewing future. Welcome to the RAW after ‘Mania, let’s find out what await us. We are live in Dallas, Texas with Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton on commentary.
Promo Time: Vince McMahon
After a WrestleMania music video recap, RAW begins with the commentary team discussing how passionate the WWE Universe is, and they will chant what they want for who they want. This is rather odd; something is up already. Vince Mcmahon’s music hits to which the crowd sings loudly “no chance in hell.” On the stage, he talks about Shane losing at WrestleMania and that he has already taken care of whatever was in the “lockbox.” He says seeing Shane on top of the cell made him realize how much winning the match meant to Shane. Vince tells the crowd to enjoy RAW and that it is one they will never forget. He begins to leave, but Shane comes out limping and visibly beaten from last night. As Shane is getting “thank you” and “you still got it” chants from the crowd, he tells them he has two things to say. The first is to shake his father's hand and tell him “you won.” The second is to tell the fans thank you and goodbye. Shane begins to leave, but Vince stops him saying “nobody upstages me!” Vince says how ridiculous it would be if Shane were running RAW and the fans begin to chant “let him run it.” This crowd is loud and on fire already. Vince says “okay, let’s see what you got” and leaves. Shane is officially running RAW for the night. Best of both worlds from the match at WrestleMania; Undertaker gets his win, and Shane still gets to run RAW, for tonight anyways.
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The League of Nations (King Barrett & Sheamus)
The New Day start this one off on the mic discussing how things didn’t go to plan for them at Wrestlemania. They have what they are calling “the last piece WrestleMania booty ‘o cereal” or “the booty of life.” The match starts out with high impact back and forth by both teams that spill to the outside. The New Day are eventually cut off, and the League takes over working on Kofi. Throughout the early stages of this match, the hot crowd in Dallas is doing the wave, and Sheamus makes sure to mock them for it. Kofi gets the hot tag to Big E, and he runs wild clearing the ring. Big E ends up throwing King Barrett into Sheamus on the apron followed up by the Midnight Hour double team finisher for the victory. Decent match that hopefully brings this faction feud to an end.
Final Rating: **1/2
Sheamus grabs the mic post-match talking about how the League of Nations should be destroying everybody, but there is something wrong. He says “you are only as strong as your weakest link.” As you can guess, this spelled the end for King Barrett. Rusev and Del Rio grab Barrett's arms, and Seamus gives him the Brogue Kick. As they are beating on Barrett, the light go out. When they come back on, The Wyatt family is in the ring and began to tear apart The League. Bray gives Sheamus Sister Abigail as the crowd chants “Thank you Wyatts” and we head to commercial.
Backstage Renee Young catches up with Mr. McMahon as he is leaving. He says he is leaving because he doesn’t want to “witness the ship go down” and then takes off in his limo.
Sasha Banks vs. Summer Rae
This starts with Sasha reminding Summer she is the boss and giving her a slap in the face. Sasha is hands down the best women’s wrestler they have on the roster, and I cannot wait to see her chase for the championship.This match does not last long. After some brief offense by Summer, Sasha flubs but still locked on the Bank Statement for the win. Maybe last a little over a minute. Not a match I would expect out of Sasha, but one I would expect from Summer Rae.
Final Rating: *
Tyler Breeze vs. Apollo Crews
This is the RAW debut for Apollo Crews, and he is matched up with his former NXT rival, Tyler Breeze. RAW debuts are often one-sided contests to show off the new up and coming superstar, and this instance is no different. Crews shows off his athleticism early with backflips and power slams. Breeze gets some brief offense slowing down the pace of the match, but it doesn’t last long. Crews gets a kick to Breeze’s head followed by a gorilla press slam. After hitting a standing moonsault and the sit-out powerbomb, Apollo Crew’s first main roster appearance is a victory over “Prince Pretty.”
Final Rating: *3/4
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
Roman comes out a begins his promo to deafening boos in the arena. He says he’s not a bad guy or a good guy; he’s the guy. He gets to the point saying if anyone wants his championship then to get their ass out there now and throws the mic. Jericho comes out in what I am loosely calling “street clothes” and begins immediately to berate the crowd. You can tell Jericho is doing everything he can with the clothes and verbiage to be a bigger heel to this crowd than Roman. Jericho says that Roman and the “internet favorite, AJ Styles, can’t compare to him, and he demands a title match. Styles music hits, and he heads to the ring immediately followed by a battered and bruised Kevin Owens. Owens is so great still selling from his ladder match the night before. Sami Zayn is out right behind them, and they all surround Roman in the ring. They all begin to brawl ending with Roman spearing Jericho to which the crowd made their disapproval loud and clear.. As Roman’s music hits and he holds up his championship, the boo's are insanely loud.
Roman runs into Shane backstage. Shane tells him the main event tonight is a fatal four-way number one contender's match for his WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This main event excites me more than any RAW main event in recent memory.
Baron Corbin is ringside beside his new Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy and cuts a promo that is less than flattering for his RAW debut. The climax of the promo is him saying “my arrival means the end of days to anyone that stands in my way.” Ugh...lame. I hope the writers can fix this area up a bit.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin
For Corbin’s RAW debut, I could think of worse people to match him up with than Ziggler. Ziggler gets the upper hand early with fast paced action, but Corbin cuts him off sending him to the outside before the break. After the break, it is mainly back and forth with Ziggler selling his leg as he seems to do in every match now. Dolph gets the Fameasser sending both men to the mat, but Corbin recovers and hits the Deep Six on Ziggler for a near fall. They end up on the outside, and Corbin gives Dolph a boot to the face sending him over the barricade. Corbin goes after him and soon the ref calls for the bell and rules it a double count out. Corbin is not happy about this telling the ref over and over that it’s his fault before giving Ziggler the End of Days on the floor. Not an awful match and a least showed Corbin as someone not to screw around with.
Final Rating: **
Promo Time: Zack Ryder
Ryder is out talking about how last night was the greatest night of his life and the fans are chanting “you deserve it.” I do like the photos he shows of him holding Razor Ramon’s Intercontinental Championship when he was a kid and then vice versa backstage at WrestleMania. He also begins to thank his dad who is at ringside, but out comes The Miz to interrupt. The Miz says Ryder ruined his WrestleMania moment to which Ryder responds “sucks to be you, bro.” The Miz wants a title shot and after some back and forth arguing, Ryder agrees. Ryder is very much over with the fans tonight.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Zack Ryder (c) vs. The Miz
Ryder starts this match off like it is his last shot with some huge dropkicks and a hurricanrana off the top, but the crowd dies down on it quick. After the break, it is mainly Miz on offense with shades of a comeback by Ryder. The match spills to the outside, and Miz drops Zach across the barricade in front of his dad. Miz and Ryder’s dad get into an argument long enough for Ryder to recover and throw his opponent back in the ring. Suddenly Miz’s wife and former WWE Diva Maryse comes out of the crowd and slaps Ryder’s dad. This distracts Zack in the ring long enough for Miz to come from behind and hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win. As much as I hate to say it, The Miz is your new Intercontinental Champion, and it looks like Maryse is back to be at his side. At least, that will give us a reason to want to see the Miz in action.
Final Rating: **1/4
Kevin Owens is interviewed backstage by Renee Young. He briefly talks about the ladder match the night before but says he is on to bigger and better things. He goes on to say that Shane knows how good he is and that why he is in the main event tonight. “The road to KO ‘Mania 2 begins tonight.”
Promo Time: Women’s Championship Presentation
Lita is in the ring with the Women’s locker room and the new WWE Women’s Championship on display. Lita introduces Charlotte, and everyone into the ring claps for her except Sasha and Becky. Charlotte has the mic, but the segment is being completely hijacked by the crowd. The loudest chant we get is “hey, we want some Bayley.” The crowd doesn’t respond to anything she is saying until she holds up her championship and say “this is the future” to which the crowd cheers. Charlotte then goes into heel mode talking herself up and thanking her father. Sasha and Becky chants fill the arena. The rest of the woman show they are done listening to Charlotte leaving one by one. Natalya is the last one left. She grabs the mic and talks about Charlotte not respecting her and that she has the heart of a champion. Charlotte responds telling her that the belt means her family will always be better than Natalya’s family. Natalya immediately scoops her up by the legs and locks on the Sharpshooter. Ric quickly saves Charlotte pulling her out of the ring.
Renee is backstage with AJ Styles. Styles talks about change and says that he came to WWE to be the World Heavyweight Champion. He says tonight starts a new era and that era is phenomenal.
A teaser promo is played after the break with Primo and Epico Colon on a beach and the phrase “Come to Puerto Rico, the Shining Star of the Caribbean.” I’ve been waiting for these guys to be repackaged since the first time I saw Los Matadores. As long as they are not bull fighters, I don’t care what this gimmick is.
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Usos
All four men began brawling with Jimmy and D-Von headed to the outside quickly. From here on, absolutely nothing of note happens in the match. I hope this feud ends tonight. There is one interesting note on this match, and it happens to be a botch. The Usos set up two tables, put the Dudley’s on them and head up top. When they jump off, they Dudley's move, The Usos go through the tables, and the bell rings. Bubba begins yelling at the timekeeper “what's wrong with you!” In a tables match, the known rules are the competitor has to be put through the table by their opponent. Bubba picks up one of the Usos and tosses him into a table breaking it and then again yells at the timekeeper “now you can ring the bell, what's wrong with you!” This match sucked, but Bubba yelling at the timekeeper was rather entertaining.
Final Rating: *
Renee is backstage with Sami Zayn interviewing the final of the four main event competitors. Sami says he has been the “underdog from the underground” for 14 years and tonight he will prove he belongs at the top being World Heavyweight Champion. Kevin Owens suddenly attacks Zayn and powerbombs him through a table.
Promo Time: Enzo & Cass
As the Dudley Boyz are heading back up the ramp, Enzo and Cass’s music hits and they head down to the ring. No Carmella with them tonight which is sad. Must not have received the call up with the boys. A “how you doin’” chant breaks out and they deliver”can’t teach that” schtick. Enzo begins to provoke the Dudley’s at one point telling D-Von that he will put his lazy eye back to work. Cass challenges the Dudley’s to come down to the ring, and they start to but pull back last second. They call the Dudleys “sawft” apparently setting up a match for the two teams.
Sami Zayn is announced as out of the main event after the Owens attack. A mystery fourth man will be added.
Fatal Four-Way WWE World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender's Match
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho vs. Cesaro
I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this as the main event on RAW. I’m not sure if something like this will continue week after week, but I am going to take it all in while I can. For WWE to move into the future with momentum, these are the kind of superstars they need headlining shows. All four men break out into a brawl to start the match, and then they all switch in and out to get all their spots in. At one point they pull off a multi-man super plex/powerbomb from the top which made the crowd pop. The crowd also gave the “this is wrestling” chant a couple of times throughout the match, and I could not agree more. Lots of near falls and finishers late in the match. Cesaro reverses the Walls of Jericho into a sharpshooter, is hit by AJ with the Phenomenal forearm, AJ nails Owens with the pele kick and Jericho hits AJ with the Codebreaker for a near fall. This is the kind of action that keeps people watching. Eventually, it ends up with just Jericho and Styles and Styles hits the Styles Clash for the victory. Yes, AJ Styles is the new number one contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and RAW goes off the air with his victory celebration. Great match and finish that I honestly never saw coming, but I’m so glad it did.
Final Rating: ***3/4
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: The live crowd making their voices heard.
Least Entertaining: Roman Reigns - Still not a fan of him on the mic.
Match of the Night: Fatal Four-Way - AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho vs. Cesaro
Summary: Sadly after all the hype I started with, this RAW after ‘Maina was rather disappointing just as was WrestleMania the night before. Aside from the NXT call ups and the first RAW main event I’ve been excited about in a while, this was just like every other Monday night in the WWE universe. I always expect to be filled with excitement over new storylines and angles, but now it is just a feeling of the same old thing we see week after week. We do have one glimmer of hope with that fact that Styles, Owens, Zayn, and Cesaro look to be in the main event picture, but if that lasts long is still to be seen. In the weeks to come, we will find out more, but as of now the WWE calendar year is starting the same way it ended; dismal.