We’re in Greensboro, North Carolina for WWE’s flagship show. So far the Shane & Stephanie “New Era” has been fairly successful but that’s been based on solid in-ring. If that’s to continue they need to find new matches and new possibilities. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton. The latter really adds nothing to these broadcasts and seems not only out of place but hanging around with Cole and JBL, who are clearly friends, he’s a third wheel.
Promo Time: AJ Styles
It’s refreshing, in a way, to open the show with a Styles promo rather than an authority figure rambling, seeing as AJ vs. Roman is the best storyline they’ve got going at the moment. They should be given a chance to sell that storyline themselves. The crowd helpfully chant “Bullet Club”. The suggestion seems to be that AJ is the heel as he’s braggadocios here and yet Roman Reigns arrival is greeted by loud boos. JBL hits the nail on the head when addressing Reigns; WWE are happy if people react to him, regardless of what that reaction is. If the crowd is loud, you’re a winner. Roman’s reaction to Styles achievements is the typical WWE fanboy reaction; wrestling everywhere else means nothing, WWE is everything and the WWE Championship is “the” championship. Crowd chants “we want Rollins”, which is harsh considering how great Roman vs. AJ was at the last PPV. What’s with the audience wanting something other than what’s in front of them? It’s getting as irritating as it is bizarre. This segment ends with the Club and the Bloodline facing off and Roman punching Styles out of the ring. This dragged a wee bit but Roman Reigns is looking far more comfortable as a main eventer now, seeing as he’s accepted the hate and is basically working heel.
Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro
This is sub-two minutes and dominated by Kevin Owens and The Miz being on commentary. The former throwing insults at Maryse in French. Seeing as we’re heading toward a four-way for the IC strap at Extreme Rules, this ends up as a shmoz and a tag match.
Final Rating: N/R
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. The Miz & Cesaro
El Steenerico getting the chance to team once again despite feuding is interesting. This is Steph’s idea. Shane and Stephanie getting along is all creepy and weird though. I’m not sure I like it. The idea of Stephanie being anything approaching a face after her character of the past fifteen years is tough to swallow. Owens and Zayn do make great reluctant tag partners. I love how they argue and attempt to outdo each other. Owens even outdoes that by mocking Miz at great length. “Oh my gosh, you’re so talented” he yells as Miz poses. This leads to Owens getting flat-out cheered. He’s been getting popped for a while but his abuse of heels being equal to his abuse of babyfaces makes him a unique character and people love unique characters who stay true to their beliefs. This match is a tremendous combination of personalities and skill. That is until Miz pisses Cesaro off and the Swiss Superman flattens Miz with the Skull Crushing Finale. Helluva Kick wins it for the mismatched duo of Owens & Zayn. This was good booking all round and entertaining wrestling.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us to Chris Jericho, who rants about the destruction of his iconic jacket. His claims that it belongs in the Smithsonian are good and he hasn’t called anyone a stupid idiot this week either, so that’s improvement.
The Shining Stars (Primo & Epico) vs. Brian Kennedy & Scott Jackson
Los Matadores have been repackaged as two generic Puerto Ricans. It’s a horrible attempt at rehabbing a team that’s been dead in the water for ages. They debut with a job match against two ham and eggers. They’re actually John Skyler and Corey Hollis, the NXT jobber team with different yet massively generic names. It doesn’t help that they’re wearing their NXT gear so the different names don’t even make sense. Don’t get used to the Shining Stars, they’ll be hanging out on Superstars before too long.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Dean Ambrose
He addresses his mental health issues, which include a newly discovered issue of disliking captivity and comparing a straightjacket to prison. Jericho shows up, the crowd hate him for it and Y2J has a great line in shushing them up. “Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. Quiet”. Unfortunately he then calls Dean a “stupid idiot”. I spoke too soon. Ambrose challenges Jericho to a match at Extreme Rules and down comes a cage with weapons and crap on it. It’s going to be an Asylum Match. TNA has done gimmicks like this but WWE is pitching this as something Dean dreamed up. Hence the potted plant and straightjacket and tools given to him for his Lesnar ‘Mania match up.
Becky Lynch vs. Dana Brooke
Dana came up to the main roster a bit quickly, even though her personality is solid. As a wrestler she’s a bit ropey and hasn’t long come back from injury. She’s only wrestled three house show matches to get ready for this comeback. Dana is stuck on her own now as Emma has suffered a serious back injury. They were great together and they suffered being apart and are now stuck in the same situation again. Dana does manage a superb hands-free flip during her entrance, giving me hope for her main roster spot. Crowd chant for “Asuka”, which continues their desire to see something that’s not in front of them. I don’t get crowds sometimes. At least give this a shot. It’s not like we’re twenty matches deep into the Becky-Dana rivalry. Dana takes a few rough looking bumps, specifically she can’t bump at dropkick at all. Poor Becky is sacrificed again, getting pinned when going for a sunset flip, to get Dana over. I like Dana, she’s improving at a solid rate and should be a useful addition to the main roster given time. At the moment she’s a step below the likes of Becky Lynch though.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control takes us to Bob Backlund who tells Darren Young to be on time. It seems Bob doesn’t care for modern technology, insisting Darren wears a watch so he’s on time for stuff. “Nobody wears watches anymore” replies Darren. Backlund as someone who’s completely out of touch with the modern world could be entertaining. Still not sure Young is worth saving at this point though. Elsewhere Shane has fun doing the “and you can’t teach that” gimmick to set up Big Cass vs. one of the Dudley Boyz later.
The Golden Truth vs. Tyler Breeze & Fandango
This is the debut of the Golden Truth, two guys who’ve been teasing a tag team for months. Instead they paired up with their opponents but those two teams imploded on SmackDownand the Truth-Dust team paired up to save themselves. The idea behind this is the Golden Truth having a laugh and dismissing their heel opponents in short order. Which would be a huge disservice to Tyler, so surprisingly Breeze gets the pin after Truth accidentally sidekicks Goldust. The only good thing about this entire angle is that Tyler Breeze is getting TV time out of it.
Final Rating: 1/2*
Promo Time: The New Day
In order to prepare for fighting a team from the past, the Vaudevillains, they’ve invented a time machine called the New Daylorean. “That keyboard, is that from your parents house? Why is it sticky?” says Big E. The New Day travel back to the year 2009 with Kofi coming out with his Jamaican accent. “Leave me here, 2009 was my best year”. They end up in the “bygone era”, in black and white, but get jumped by the Vaudevillains. This helped to put over the challengers and the time travel gimmick was so much fun that the crowd boo when the Vaudevillains smash the New Daylorean up.
Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs. The Usos
Both Styles and Reigns accompany their backup to the ring. AJ is behaving more heelishly during this interaction, ordering the rest of “The Club” around and being more of a presence. Having both come into the feud as squeaky clean babyfaces Roman and AJ are now trying to out-heel each other. The match is high energy, especially from the Usos and it benefits from the star power at ringside. As if the wrestlers want to show off in front of Reigns and Styles. Sometimes an energetic contest can make up for lack of chemistry and it ends up being a strong match up. Poor Karl gets beaten with the Superfly Splash. He’s jobbing too much already but WWE mentality is that wins and losses mean nothing. Even if that’s only partially true.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Business gets real as AJ Styles, and a chair, collide with Roman Reigns. While Roman is busy with the rest of the Club, AJ nails Roman with a chair shot and then hits a dramatic Styles Clash on his larger opponent. Given that moves history, this must have been a nervous moment for the WWE Champion but he took it like a pro. The mixed reactions for both guys were great during this, because different fans are biting on different wrestlers for different reasons. It’s been a great storyline so far.
Big Cass vs. D-Von Dudley
Cass mocks the Dudley Boyz pre-match, including Buh Buh’s stuttering gimmick in ECW and how he looks like Fred Flintstone. I get the feeling Enzo is writing his material from the concussion ward. This is an absolute squash as D-Von gets obliterated. Big Cass is taking this main roster push opportunity with both hands. He’s looked incredible.
Final Rating: N/R
Video Control gives us clips of John Cena doing the gym work ahead of a May return to RAW in two weeks. Recovery time from his injury should be nine months, he’s back in five. Sometimes I wish Cena would just take the full injury time off. How can we miss you if you won’t go away?
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio
They’ve not quite gotten the idea of promoting a big title match as they had #1 contender Rusev lose to midcard tag guy Sin Cara last week. Del Rio is the man Kalisto was feuding with before Ryback, which was not a particularly good series of matches despite their combined lucha background. This match is a 50-50 booking deal where Rusev jumps Sin Cara backstage and kills him while Del Rio forces Kalisto to watch. Rusev dragging Sin Cara’s corpse away makes me laugh. “Come here bitch, you’re my new best friend”. The match is about as mediocre as the other Del Rio-Kalisto matches but I can see the Rusev match being better. They’re building up to it in the worst conceivable way but when they’re out there at the PPV they should deliver the goods. Kalisto eats the Lungblower for the loss, thanks to distractions, and takes a great bump on it.
Final Rating: **
Contract Signing: Charlotte vs. Natalya
This is the main event of RAW, which is an odd thing to close the show on. This is (Ric) Flair Country though so it makes some sense and the women’s wrestling revolution is finally gaining some traction. Unfortunately they allow Natalya a lengthy promo that just serves to remind everyone what a horrible person she is. Charlotte’s claim that “these are my people” gets a decent reaction, both positive and negative. Charlotte is perfectly at home as a heel. “You don’t boo at a Flair”. She even puts Ric in his place before calling Natalya “another whiny Hart”. We get around to the contract and it turns out creepy old man Ric is banned from ringside, with the title forfeit if he does appear. Flair rants at the McMahon’s calling Steph “the worst businesswoman of all time”. Charlotte getting frustrated with Ric’s crazy old man routine is funny. “Dad. Daaaaad. Dad!” Steph slaps Naitch and he does an overblown sell on it, as the Emasculator triumphs once again. Why is it when an opportunity arises for someone to get over, it’s Stephanie? People hate that. This segment was going quite well until the end of it.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: AJ Styles and Roman Reigns. The story they are telling over the WWE title makes me forget how disappointed everyone was in Roman winning the belt in the first place. Top work all round.
Least Entertaining: Primo & Epico. Nobody cares guys, nobody cares.
Quote of the Night: “I have headlined the Tokyo Dome in front of 60,000 people. I have been a champion all over the world” – AJ Styles
Match of the Night: The Club vs. The Usos
Summary: A real mixed bag of an episode. There were highs and the AJ Styles-Roman Reigns storyline is one of the best booked main event feuds WWE have run in quite some time. I’m also looking forward to a lot of the Extreme Rules matches including the women’s title match, the four-way for the IC title and the tag team antics. There are also lows and a few people on this show are either rudderless, pointless or just taking up space until someone from NXT is ready to step up. You can practically predict the next round of talent releases.