April 11 2016
Last week Shane McMahon was given the opportunity to run RAW, contrary to the stipulation of the match that he lost at WrestleMania. RAW was mostly the same drawn out bore it normally is but with a few NXT call ups (Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews, Enzo & Cass) and a terrific four-way main event that AJ Styles win a shot at Roman Reigns. Despite Shane having almost nothing to do with any of that the WWE universe felt so passionately about his performance, which we saw nothing of, they’ve come out in force to support Shane (allegedly) so he’s back in charge this week too because, damn it, WWE listen to their fans. Honestly, they do. That booing you hear when Roman Reigns appears must be an audio fault, or those wacky post-WrestleMania RAW crowds cheering heels and booing faces. Those guys! Don’t worry, this week we’re in Los Angeles, California. So Roman will be cheered like a conquering hero and if he isn’t it’s because of those wacky Californians. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton.
This show is in memory of Robert Windham, aka Blackjack Mulligan, WWE Hall of Famer who passed away this week. RIP. Sadly a day later Balls Mahoney also passed away. He was only 44 years old. That’s no age to die.
Promo Time: Shane McMahon
He thanks the fans and gets into booking the show; Natalya gets a women’s title shot, the tag team tournament for a title shot gets underway, Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles with Sami getting a chance to get into a triple threat for the title if he wins. This naturally pisses off Kevin Owens. Shane goes on to deny Owens his contractually obliged re-match for the IC title. Shane promptly books Owens against Cesaro for an IC title shot. Shane is certainly going for crowd pleasing booking but Owens not getting what he’s due is interesting. If it turns Owens into a new age Austin, going after Shane like Austin did with Vince, I’d be totally onboard for it.
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
Cesaro is the master of making everything entertaining. He even makes a headlock look awesome. Owens bails, angrily punching the announce table and knocking JBL’s hat on the floor. Like a gentlemen he picks it up. “Sorry John, I got carried away”. The commentators unfortunately drift into bickering about the Authority, which reminds me of WCW and the commentators talking over cruiserweight matches about the nWo. Owens focuses his attentions on Cesaro’s taped shoulder, a remnant of his recent surgery. It’s a solid back and forth between two excellent workers. Owens switches his offence up a little, to focus on the arm, and Cesaro does good work selling the arm on the Giant Swing. The finishing sequence sees counters to counters and Cesaro picks Owens off with the Neutraliser. Not sure Owens should be losing to anyone right now, seeing as he’s the closest guy they have to breaking the glass ceiling, but at least it was to Cesaro who should be a world title contender at the very least. Good opener though.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where Dr Phil meets with the Flair’s. He accuses Ric Flair of holding Charlotte back and corrupting her. Charlotte isn’t best impressed and walks off. Elsewhere Kevin Owens threatens Shane McMahon so Shane has him escorted from the building. Oh my lord, common sense? Where have you been? I am legitimately flabbergasted.
Promo Time: The New Day
Xavier addresses the sudden improvements in the tag division suggesting “like a game of NBA Jam” it’s “on fire”. Booty-O’s present the bracket for the tag contendership:
Usos vs. Slater & Axel
Golden Truth vs. Vaudevillians
Enzo & Cass vs. Ascension
Lucha Dragons vs. Dudley Boyz
Lo and behold, WWE does actually have nine tag teams. Even if Slater & Axel are a thrown together duo from the Social Outcasts group.
The Lucha Dragons vs. The Dudley Boyz
An ad break immediately misses Kalisto taking a filthy clothesline on the floor from D-Von. The Dudleys get even filthier heat by taking the anti-Mexico approach and aggravating all the Hispanic Angelinos. It makes no difference as Kalisto never gets back in and Sin Cara eats the 3D. Ball game!
Final Rating: ½*
Post Match: Enzo & Big Cass make an appearance. They’re already one of the hottest acts in the company after two weeks. Which goes to show catchphrases and a guy who can run his mouth can take you a long way in sportz entertainment. Enzo’s “how you doin’” punctuation tick is beautiful. “S-A-W-F-T” has gotten over in a hurry too.
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
Naturally he gets heavily booed, like he is everywhere because the fans are sick of him being forced down their throats. “I’m not a good guy, I’m not a bad guy, I’m the guy” is an attempt to do the Diesel late 1995 gimmick. The difference here being that fewer people are cheering. Diesel went full blown heel after a few months. Just saying. Reigns is interrupted by the League of Nations, who are not involved in this storyline in any way. Sheamus moans about being left out of the number one contender’s match and yet that happened because random people walked out when Roman issued an open challenge. If they wanted into that match, they should have left the locker room. The lads come down in numbers to assault the champ but he’s saved by the Wyatt Family. Didn’t Bray Wyatt want to destroy Roman last year? Now he wants to be buddies? Shane pops out to book a mismatched tag team contest for later on. At least he’s appearing to do stuff this week.
Video Control gives us the repackaged Los Matadores, as Puerto Rican nationals. It’s a little like Kofi Kingston’s earliest Jamaican gimmick or Carlito Caribbean Cool when he debuted.
WWE Women’s Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya
Natalya is a fine example of a women’s wrestler who’s been stuck as a diva for years. The arrival of women’s wrestling allows her to shine and she’s got nothing to lose in getting beaten by the champ. It’s a handy feud they can slip back into without hurting Becky and Sasha with more losses. They do some good mat countering, which makes Charlotte look like a stronger champion for busting out the Figure Four from an unusual position. The only downside to a solid contest is Natalya’s insistence at yelling “come on, you guys” at the crowd like Chunk out of the Goonies. Maybe I just hate babyfaces but pandering to the crowd irritates me. It is a really good match though and Charlotte even taps out to the Sharpshooter but Ric pulls the ref out to cause a DQ just beforehand.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us to Sami Zayn being interviewed about his chances at the WWE title. It’s getting hard to process stuff like that. It’s also a little weird to me that some NXT call ups get treated really well, like Sami, and others, like Tyler Breeze, get treated like crap. Does Hunter have a limited number of guys he’s allowed to get over on the main roster?
The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts (Heath Slater & Curtis Axel)
We pretend for a while that Slater and Axel really are a tag team before the inevitable babyface comeback. I’m fairly staggered that the commentators find anything to talk about and there is far less chatter than usual. JBL should have saved his Leicester City references for here. The Usos take heat until the Bo Train allows a tag behind idiotic ginger Slater’s head. Usos win with a cheeky roll up. But the real deal is Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows making their WWE debuts afterwards to destroy the Usos with the Magic Killer. That tag division is heating up. If they’d debuted last week they might have gotten in on the tournament.
Final Rating: ½*
Video Control takes us backstage where Maryse bitches out a PA for giving The Miz blue M&M’s and domestic water, because they’re prima donnas. Miz sitting there with cucumber slices over his eyes is supreme douchebaggery. His inability to realise he’s no longer relevant is sensational. Second best heel WWE has behind Owens right now. Cesaro pops in to promise the red carpet version of his uppercuts at Payback.
A.J. Styles vs. Sami Zayn
If Sami wins he gets booked into the title match at Payback. At the moment it’s Styles vs. Reigns. It’s a good excuse as any other to pitch two of wrestling’s best workers together onRAW. Crowd is immediately into them both as they run stalemate feeling out processes. This is the kind of excellent match that you’d hope to get from throwing guys like this ontoRAW and giving them time. There’s room on RAW to do this every week. Why does it so rarely happen? Last week I really enjoyed the fatal four-way main event. Having this a week later means Shane is 2/2 in booking something worthwhile on RAW. Zayn and Styles give it 95% with the occasional rest hold but generally pepper the match with snug striking and high flying. It’s funny that Styles, having broken away from the mediocrity of Jericho, suddenly looks like a big star. Maybe they didn’t want him to shine too much before WrestleMania, instead breaking out afterwards. It’s WWE logic. Any way you slice it both these guys are going to be super workers on the main card for some time. Sami shines particularly strongly in this one, as he’s the new guy, and showcases his terrific moveset of high impact and high risk. He’s a thrilling worker. The flip over escape from the sunset bomb is truly majestic. Styles ends up planting Sami with the Phenomenal Forearm to retain his one-on-one match with Roman at the PPV. They busted out some next level NXT business in this match. The main roster guys are going to have to step it up if the new guys are doing this kind of business week-in, week-out. I love underdog Sami. He gets better with every loss. He’s the one new guy they can book to lose because it’ll make his eventual win all the sweeter.
Final Rating: ****
Tangent: This is the first RAW I can remember in a long, long time where three matches went over ***. That Shane McMahon is friggin’ genius.
Video Control sees Styles and Zayn chatting afterwards and Shane runs in to put them over. How hard was that? Two guys have a great match, get along fine afterwards and we move on to next week where the same can happen again. You don’t need every match to lead to a heel turn or be a continuing match in an eighteen match series. The fact they did this suggests WWE realise they’re guilty of lazy booking and are capable of changing it. Good!
“I just love the Highlight Reel” pipes up Byron. Yeah, I bet you do. Chris Jericho’s guest tonight is himself, who he bigs up, naturally. Did you know he beat the Rock and Steve Austinin the same night? He’s still banging on about that, fifteen years later. Jericho interviewing himself is pretty irritating until Dean Ambrose interrupts. “Thank goodness” pipes up Bryon’s alter ego who seemingly doesn’t enjoy the Highlight Reel. Make your mind up, robot. It’s strange to me that WWE booked so heavily around Ambrose before WrestleMania only to seemingly forget about him afterwards. Ambrose strolling in and casually taking over the chat show, “this is my show now”, is perfectly ridiculous. Ambrose may keep getting crushed by WWE’s machine but his delivery never wavers, God bless him. Jericho plays up so Ambrose downs him with Dirty Deeds. “I like the Ambrose Asylum” chirps Byron. You can hear the main roster breaking the poor man one segment at a time. He’s slowly turning into Jerry Lawler.
Video Control takes us backstage where Goldust yells at R-Truth for entering them into the tag tournament. Why is Goldust upset? He’s been trying to get Truth to team with him for months. I just don’t get any of this.
Apollo Crews vs. Adam Rose
They seem intent on getting Crews over as a guy who squashes people, which isn’t the worst idea. I’m still shocked they called him up so quickly when he was blatantly struggling to find his character in promos. His in-ring is brilliant but he’s too happy to be a monster so he needs to find a voice. If he does find a voice he’s easily world champion material. There are plenty of people he can work with on this roster in the meantime though. Rose gets way too much offence in this one, seeing as he’s a member of a team of jobbers and Apollo is the hot new babyface. Apollo finishes with the toss powerbomb.
Final Rating: *
Bray Wyatt & Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio
Despite the changes under the ‘Shane regime’ it’s interesting to note that the main events still feature the same tedious jabronies that everyone has been booing for the past year. No offence to Rusev. None of these guys are particularly exciting in the ring and almost all of them are here because at some point they’ve impressed Vince McMahon. These four men are not the future of this company. Unless you’re Vince McMahon. Unfortunately the decision is ultimately his. The idea of Roman and Bray being reluctant allies who somehow get along is actually the most interesting thing either have done in some considerable time. It doesn’t stop the crowd raining hate upon the Roman Empire. I’m aware that success breeds contempt but in this case contempt, of the McMahon’s to the fans, has bred contempt. The fans cheer away as Roman takes a beating from the listless Del Rio and hearing actual reactions motivates Alberto to suck less. Roman compounds the misery by lifting Drew Galloway spots and not being able to hit them because Galloway is such a superior wrestler. The oddness of this match continues with Bray getting a genuine hot tag. Del Rio eats Sister Abigail and Roman times his spear on Sheamus to coincide with the pinfall, thus making it sound like people were actually cheering him. This improved after a failed attempt at getting heat on Reigns.
Final Rating: **1/4
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: This was exceptionally hard but for once it was because of the standard of entertainment on show. It’s a tough pick but I’ll go with A.J. Styles and Sami Zayn for having the match of the night.
Least Entertaining: Bryon Saxton. He rubbed me up the wrong way a few times and with everyone in the ring performing this week, the ignominy of least entertaining could only go to one of the announcers.
Quote of the Night: “I think you may have knocked a few screws loose when you jumped off that cell” – Kevin Owens of Shane McMahon.
Match of the Night: A.J. Styles vs. Sami Zayn
Summary: Best RAW of the year so far. The focus was firmly on the in-ring and largely on new talent. If they continue to book shows around talented in-ring workers, WWE could have a great second half of this year. One that might make me forget the horrors of WrestleMania. Roman can succeed as champion if he’s given the kind of support that Styles, Zayn, Owens and Cesaro can provide. Much like John Cena’s first big run was backed up by the likes of Christian, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle. If the challengers are great workers, the champion ends up looking good regardless of the public’s opinion of him. I’m glad they’ve decided to push new talent post-Mania and freshen up a show that’s been relatively dire for years. Can they keep this up? Now, there’s the question.