Live from London, UK, only 226.5 miles from my house. I didn’t go. I haven’t been to a live WWE (then WWF) show since 1994 when the main event was Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. I probably should make more of an effort, but ticket prices are way too high. The usual useless trio of Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton host. The excellent Mauro Ranallo is being wasted as a backstage interviewer. He really needs to become the lead guy of RAW as well as SmackDown!.
The Ambrose Asylum
Dean muses on the news and discusses a monster sighting in the Thames (the awful joke being that it’s Braun Strowman). Perhaps he’s confusing the Thames in London, southern England, with Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It’s only two different countries and 580 miles’ difference. Next to get a pop are the small and surprisingly thin parents of fat, unfunny, talentless, waste of blubber and oxygen, James Corden. Man, do I hate that guy. At least he’s not there, unless he’s unable to move beyond the hot dog stand, you know, like Cat trying to pass a mirror in his gold space suit. Except his name wouldn’t be Cat; it would be Fat. Ambrose’s guest is Shane McMahon, who is running RAW for a third week in a row, despite losing his match at WrestleMania, rendering another WWE stipulation pointless. Shane becomes the proxy voice of the fans (and the internet) by reeling off a list of popular superstars. Kevin Owens is the first to interrupt, calling Shane out for producing the “same old crap” and being a power-mad McMahon with a personal vendetta against this generation’s top superstar (by which he means him). Is it just me or does the idea of Owens vs. McMahon somewhere down the line sound great? Sami Zayn is next to make an appearance, and is shortly followed byChris Jericho. “Zayn, there’s a lot bigger issues here than your stupid, idiot emotions,” Jericho coolly informs him. Shane is also the focus of his ire, presumably for cancelling last week’s Highlight Reel. Shane books the obvious matches for Payback, Owens vs. Zayn and Jericho vs. Ambrose, then leaves, taking Ambrose’s plant with him, so that they four guys can finish with a scrap. Ambrose and Owens were really entertaining here, but it was Y2J that stole the show.
Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn
After the commercial break, this match has started. I was expecting a tag team main event following the previous segment, but it’s two singles matches instead. Shane apparently booked this on Facebook during the break. What if neither guy checked their Facebook account in that short time? It seems unlikely that they would, seeing as how they didn’t have their phones with them or access to a computer. It makes no sense. Realistically, the booker, Shane, would tell the competitors what match they are in and when, and as the show is broadcast live, everyone else will find out about it after the break anyway. Zayn is now the latest hot new talent to be thrown in with Jerciho in singles competition. The ageing Jericho has a bit of trouble keeping up with Sami’s unique and exciting offence, so slows the pace whenever possible. The Blue Thunder Bomb is only good for a two count, but then after Sami escapes the Walls of Jericho, a thumb to the eye and a Codebreaker is enough for the three. So that’s two wins overAJ Styles and one over Sami Zayn for Jericho now. Ever get the feeling that the wrong guy is going over? At least Zayn seems job proof at this stage of his career.
Final Rating: **1/2
Backstage, Mauro Ranallo gets a word with AJ Styles. He’s soon interrupted by Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, and it gets all pally-pally. I’m finding it curious that they debut essentially as heels last week by attacking The Usos, who happen to be the cousins of Roman Reigns, AJ’s next opponent. Something is brewing here.
Number One Contender’s Tag Team Tournament Semi Finals
Enzo & Cass vs. The Dudley Boyz
The catchphrase kings are massively over on both sides of the pond it would seem. Even though Enzo’s promo isn’t as good as some of his recent stuff, the crowd are still willing punctuate each sentence with a rousing “How you doin’?” The Dudleys, especially Bubba Ray, are excellent as straight-faced, no nonsense foil for Enzo & Cass. The match is largely Enzo taking a physical and verbal assault until Big Cass gets a hot tag. A Dudley miscues leads to the Rocket Launcher and that’s it.
Final Rating: **1/4
Promo Time: Roman Reigns
London says “booooo.” Roman repeats his the good, the bad, and the guy phrase, which was effective the first and only the first time. His promos are edging towards a heel turn. Why not? He’s getting tonnes of heat anyway. Notice how he’s been kept apart on-screen from his “brudda” Dean Ambrose, too. Before long AJ shows up. He’s much better at promos than I think he sometimes gets credit for. He acknowledges that he’ll have to have the match of his life to beat Reigns, but fortunately for him, he points out, that’s exactly what he does each and every night. Roman says that he’d rather be respected with the title than liked without it; AJ has his sights set on both respect and accomplishments. WWE hasn’t broken him yet. After AJ leaves the ring, Gallows and Anderson attack Reigns. AJ looks as if he’s surprised by it, but then we cut right to a break.
After said break, AJ approaches Roman back stage to protest his lack of involvement with the attack. Reigns shows absolutely no signs of having taken a pummeling, nor any aggression toward Styles, even though he’s not buying that Styles didn’t put them up to it. In that case, logic dictates that he should sock him in the mouth. This was really weird.
Fandango vs. Baron Corbin
Perhaps Fandago is here on the off-chance of getting Fandangoing trending again. No chance. Dolph Ziggler joins commentary. Naturally, Fandango gets launched into Ziggler, which is what always happens in these situations. End of Days finishes. The hapless Ziggler attacks his latest nemesis after the bell, but he gets his ass kicked anyway.
Final Rating: *
Maryse introduces her husband in French again. Pot pourri, bonnet de douche, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rodders, which I think I have translated accurately. They compare themselves toWilliam and Catherine, of whom I could go on a rather lengthy diatribe about, then show some pictures of Prince George. Unfortunately, it’s the not the Prince George played by Hugh Laurie. They make some parable about how they and the Intercontinental Championship are more regal than a child before another promo time interruption occurs, though I am most grateful for this one. Cesaro, looking sharp in his suit and one of the few men I’ve seen who make bald look cool, calls Miz a “royal pain in the ass.” Miz has a response in a prepared a monologue, which despite myself and my hatred of all things Miz, I have to admit is quite amusing. It’s a take on a Liam Neeson scene from Taken, which requires multiple takes. I haven’t seen the film, so I can only presume that Miz is deliberately doing it badly. Cesaro cuts him off on the third take to quote another movie star, Rowdy Roddy Piper. It’s the famous chew bubblegum and kick ass one (and to make it authentic, Cesaro is actually chewing gum). Miz point out that his ass is temporarily saved from a kicking because Cesaro is scheduled to face Rusev right now, but the Swiss Uber Mensch counters with a change to the booking (approved moments before by Shane O’Mac) to make it an eight-man tag match.
The League of Nations & The Miz vs. The New Day & Cesaro
Cesaro strips his suit to reveal a Booty-O’s vest. Gotta love them Booty-O’s. If only they had a catchy tag line, one that assured the consumer against any potential bootyness. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances under which this match was announced, there is no pre-match promo from New Day. We do at least get a few toots on Francesca II during the Unicorn Stampede. Otherwise, there is not much of interest going on in the match. For the most part it’s a long, long, long heat on Xavier Woods. There’s no excuse for a multiple-person tag bout to become boring, as there are enough guys there to come in and out, thus keeping it fresh. Cesaro does try to ramp up the intensity when he gets the hot tag, uppercutting just about everyone in sight before scoring a surprising clean victory over Sheamus, who seldom loses clean on TV. It’s not been the best week for the big ginger galoot, with him also displaying a serious lack of ability to kick a football on Soccer A.M. at the weekend.
Final Rating: *1/2
Backstage, Mauro gets a word with Charlotte and shows a clip of the controversial ending to her Women’s Championship match with Natalya last week. Charlotte makes an astute point that the champion does not need to beat anyone. Fair point. Champion’s advantage worked well for The Honky Tonk Man. Natalya interrupts (seriously, these interruptions are really grinding my gears now) to inform the champ that a) they have a rematch at Payback, and b) Natalya will be cornered by her uncle, Bret Hart, to nullify Ric Flair’s involvement.
Natalya, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks & Paige vs. Charlotte, Summer Rae, Tamina & Naomi
Back to back eight-person tag matches. Is it Survivor Series? No, just poor planning from the bookers/road agents. Substitute Summer Rae for Emma and you’d get a good idea of the depth in the newly-titled Women’s Division. It’s actually not that bad, plus Asuka and Bayley will find their way there sooner or later. The match goes at a fairly quick pace, with frequent tagging in and out on both sides. It still fails to be interesting, somehow. Becky takes a brief heat and it quickly becomes formulaic tag action and pretty much the same as the last match on the show. Nattie taps out the champion with the sharpshooter, leaving the result of their match at Payback in little doubt.
Final Rating: *1/2
Number One Contender’s Tag Team Tournament Semi Finals
The Vaudevillains vs. The Usos
Anyone who has read my NXT reviews will know that I have a real soft spot for The Vaudevillains, but I still fear the worst for them in the long run since their call up. I do, however, expect and all-NXT alumni final in this tournament. If there is one thing about The Vaudevillains that I might criticize, though, it is that their offence does not always suit their old-timey gimmick (which has also been pointed out by Arn in a previous review). The Whirling Dervish is a cool name for a finisher, but I think that it should incorporate an airplane spin. That’s what wins it for the dastardly scoundrels.
Final Rating: **
Apollo Crews vs. Heath Slater
On the RAW pre-show, Slater and his Social Outcastcounterparts tried to recruit Crews for their crew. He’s agreed to join on one condition: that one of the Outcasts can beat him in a singles match. He won’t be joining, then. Actually, the caveat does generate a modicum of interest in an otherwise piss-break squash match. The downside is that Slater gets too much offence, which translates as stomps and a chinlock. He even rolls through a cross body for a two count. Apollo is much more exciting to watch and looks every bit a star in the making. He takes out the rest of the Outcasts (minus the absent Adam Rose) with a standing moonsault from the apron before pinning Slater following the sit-out powebomb.
Final Rating: *3/4
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
Looking at some of the recent RAWs that I’ve covered, Ambrose vs. Owens is a massive step up in the main event scene from a second Authority promo and Big Show vs. Braun Strowman. They’ve had a fair few matches since Owens stepped up to the main roster, but they do at least try to keep it interesting by throwing a few variants on the usual routine such as Ambrose taking the cannonball while in a tree of woe and Owens hitting a frog splash from the apron to the outside. The chinlocks aren’t quite as welcome, though. Ambrose seems to be in booking limbo at the moment, drawing the Jericho short straw after a comprehensive defeat to Brock Lesnar and several failed attempts to capture the heavyweight title, while Owens has Zayn and possibly Shane on his horizon before hopefully moving into the main event scene. He is definitely the company’s top heel. However, I do worry about the number of jobs Owens has to do, and he does another one here, losing clean to Dirty Deeds. After the match, Jericho takes Ambrose out with a codebreaker.
Final Rating: ***
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho for their contribution to the Ambrose Asylum segment.
Least Entertaining: James Corden just for being mentioned.
Quote of the Night: “Zayn, there’s a lot bigger issues here than your stupid, idiot emotions” (Chris Jericho).
Match of the Night: Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens.
Summary: If we pretend that Shane is really running the show, then it’s another good outing – just – for the Shane O’Mac regime. The talk show segments were very entertaining and most of the wrestling was decent enough, with the nice bonus that most victories were decisive and clean. There’s interesting things afoot with the relationship between Styles, Anderson and Gallows and how it will play out in the main event match, too. That said, only one match just about cracked three stars and the constant interruptions to every promo and interview became grating extremely quickly, so it won’t be going down as a classic show by any means. Zayn and Owens doing jobs doesn’t sit too well with me, but at least Cesaro and the other new stars got over and looked strong.