Tonight’s RAW was alive with energy, fresh faces and new rivalries. Surprise endings and electric debuts coupled with a wild post-Mania crowd made this Monday’s episode of the WWE’s flagship program one to remember, and certainly the best of 2016 so far.
Let’s break it all down.
Christmas for smarks everywhere
Vince McMahon started off RAW, acknowledging his son’s wild antics at last night’s WrestleMania and even acknowledging the crowd’s consistent booing of Roman.
But he was soon interrupted by Shane McMahon himself, battered and bruised and barely walking. He shook Vince’s hand and thanked all of the fans for the reception they all gave him. And the crowd was grateful as he was. But Vince wouldn’t let him leave so fast, saying that no one would upstage him.
To prove his point, and just because, Vince gave Shane control of RAW tonight.
And because Shane is the best? Well…
The New Day vs. The League of Nations (WWE Tag Team Championship match)
The New Day entered to an absolutely thunderous ovation, the crowd welcoming them like heroes. They discussed the awesome Stunner Xavier Woods took and showed off the giant piece of Booty-O’s from their entrance, dubbing it the “Booty of Life.” Xavier sang to the tune of “Circle of Life.” It was AMAZING.
Kofi started off hot, sending Sheamus hard out of the ring as Big E sent out Barrett before they double-teamed to further punish Sheamus. But a distraction from Rusev allowed the League of Nations to take control of the match, using their own numbers game against the New Day.
The crowd began the wave, and even Sheamus joined in. Big E and Barrett both tagged in, and Big E took swift control of the match, isolating Barrett for some double teaming. Kofi scored the pinfall.
Infuriated, Sheamus took to the mic, and the League beat down poor Barrett, rolling him out of the ring. Then, the lights went out, and when they came back on, the Wyatts were there, beating them down with brutal ease.
What a fun way to kick off RAW, and what a welcome dominant showing for the Wyatts. It was fresh, unexpected, and most of all….the Wyatts won. God bless.
Backstage, Vince told Renee that RAW would be an absolute trainwreck.
Sasha Banks vs. Summer Rae
In the ring, Summer Rae trashed Sasha Banks, who quickly interrupted her, taking the mic right out of her hand and slapping her clean in the face. Summer rolled right out of the ring, clearly terrified, and Sasha pulled her right back in.
Summer Rae took an early lead, but Sasha had plenty of fight left in her, locking in the Banks Statement in no time.
This match was short (my common complaint) but it was Sasha Banks, so the crowd ate it up. And after Mania, she will not just fade into the background, and we can all Bank on it.
Apollo Crews vs. Tyler Breeze
Is this NXT?!
Crews wasted little time in showing off his swift athleticism, but Tyler Breeze soon mounted a comeback to the enjoyment of the RAW crowd with a Superkick. However, a moonsault and spinout powerbomb allowed Crews to get the pinfall.
This match served its purpose, showing off Crews’ agility and fun ringwork against an opponent who, while sadly a jobber now, knows him well and has a history with him. Crews, in my opinion, is still a little green for a main roster jump, but he was, after all, running out of steam in NXT. Perhaps this is just what he needs to finally tap into the final ingredient needed to make him the next big thing.
Roman Reigns vs. literally everyone
Oh, man. Those boos were absolutely BRUTAL.
“Aw, come on,” Roman started, saying he wasn’t a bad guy or a good guy, but THE guy, and announced an open challenge for his new championship.
Chris Jericho answered. The crowd cheered him out of principle, but Jericho told them to shut up and called Roman and the crowd idiots. The crowd turned that into a chant. He said he buried AJ Styles and demanded a championship match.
But he was interrupted by AJ Styles, who wanted a shot himself. So did Kevin Owens, who entered with a fury. And Sami Zayn.
Owens and Zayn barely even looked at Roman, as did Styles and Jericho. Two brawls broke out as Roman looked on incredulously, and Reigns speared Jericho. He still couldn’t get any cheers.
Backstage, Shane told Roman that the night’s main event would be a Fatal Four Way between the four men for his title.
This was no fluke. This crowd, while louder, is not unique. It’s a reflection of the sentiments of fans around the world. We’re not buying into this, and it’s likely we never will until something changes.
Roman displayed some heelish mannerisms tonight, acting more arrogant than any babyface ought to. It was a thousand times more interesting than any of his bland babyface work, and I enjoyed it immensely. I hope it just gets more pointed as time goes on.
Oh, and Roman? Seth is the man, not you. #GimmickInfringement
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
Baron Corbin’s entrance was just as electric on RAW as it’s always been on NXT. The Battle Royale victor introduced himself by detailing his path of devastation and saying he would crush anyone in his way.
Corbin could not be taken down by Ziggler’s quick-paced offense, on his feet even after a dropkick. He tossed Ziggler out of the ring like a rag doll. But the Showoff managed to wear him down with swift strikes and a reversal.
But this wasn’t his showcase. Favoring the knee he “hurt” in the ladder match, Ziggler went for the Fameasser and hit it, but Corbin kicked out, taking their fight into the crowd. He threw Ziggler through the barricade and into the garbage cans, earning himself and Ziggler a countout.
Furious, Corbin tossed Ziggler back to ringside and hit the End of Days on the seasoned performer.
This was as good a way to properly debut Corbin as any. He’s been really coming into his own as a monster heel on NXT, so seeing him get this opportunity is a welcome change. The midcard needs some good heels other than Owens and Miz, and a fresh face might be just the thing to help elevate it.
Zack Ryder vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Championship match)
The crowd had a lot of love to offer to Zack Ryder, who said that WrestleMania was the greatest night of his life. He thanked his father for always being there for him, but soon enough was cut off by the Miz.
Miz called Ryder a one-hit wonder and told him he ruined his WrestleMania.
“Sucks to be you, bro,” Ryder replied.
Miz challenged Ryder for a title match, and the new champion accepted.
Ryder wasted little time in showing off his aerial arsenal of moves against the Miz, flying off the top rope and then diving out of the ring to a pop from the crowd. The Miz fought back briefly, working Ryder cruelly.
Ryder looked to hit a missile dropkick, but the Miz dodged for a near-fall. Ryder got one of his own with an impressive reversal, but even that wasn’t ment to be. The crowd rallying behind him, Ryder ascended the ropes, but the Miz joined him there before Ryder pushed him off, hitting him with an el-bro drop. He had it, but Miz got his foot on the ropes.
Miz found some new momentum here, sending Ryder into the barricade right in front of his father. Daddy didn’t take too well to this, shoving Miz to the ground. And the Miz’s wife wasn’t too pleased with THIS, slapping him. Distracted, Ryder took the skull-crushing finale and Miz had the title once more.
….I’m just really sad, you guys. Ryder has a rematch on SmackDown, but I’m still terrified he’ll get buried. Again.
With the entire Women’s Division standing in the ring, Lita praised them for all of their work and called down Charlotte herself to the ring to receive her championship formally.
Holding the belt, Charlotte proclaimed that the belt was about all of the women in the WWE, and about the crowd, who were too busy cheering and begging for Bayley. Charlotte held the title high, saying that it was the future, and, most importantly, it was thanks to her dad.
Returning to her heelish side, she thanked her father and held the title high. Her gloating did little else but drive the women from the ring. It was Natalya who grabbed a mic, saying that she needed to learn about humility, challenging her to a match.
In reply, Charlotte said her family would always be better, narrowly escaping a Sharpshooter from Natalya and retreating.
I’ll wait a few weeks before completely condemning this, but if this leads to Sasha once again being kept out of the title picture, the WWE is missing a valuable chance to truly elevate the division. On the other hand, Natalya is the most criminally underutilized women on the roster. And after Roadblock, she deserves a chance to shine.
I’m sad Bayley didn’t debut, but we all know it’s inevitable. I can be patient. The crowd made a statement with those cheers tonight, and you just know management heard them.
The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz (Tables match)
The match, well, was basically like all of their other matches. Trades of momentum, flying Usos. There were tables. The Dudleys were cool. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But in my opinion, the best thing about this match was the chants. Nakamura…Jordan and Gable…it was amazing.
Naturally, the Dudleys won. Because 50/50 booking. Funnily enough, the timekeeper rang the bell too early, and the Dudleys reacted hilariously.
Backstage, Kevin Owens attacked Sami Zayn as he was being interviewed, powerbombing him through a table, effectively taking him out of the Fatal Four-Way.
“MY NAME IS-“
Enzo Amore and Big Cass entered to what might be the biggest pop of the night to the puzzlement of the Dudleys. Enzo wasted no time in smack talking the Dudleys to everyone’s delight.
Big Cass challenged the two veterans to come down to the ring, and the infuriated team teased a fight, but retreated.
Well, that didn’t sit too well with the dynamite duo. There’s only one word to describe them, and Cass spelled it out for all of us.
Enzo and Cass have been ready to make the leap to the main roster for a long time now. Their charisma and energy in the ring are rivaled only by the New Day, and the Dudleys are a perfect foil to introduce them to the wider WWE audience. It’s a shame Carmella is still in NXT, but I’d rather let her continue to grow as her own wrestler before bringing her up for good.
Congrats, boys. Welcome to the roster. You’ll be champs in no time.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro (No. 1 contender’s match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
With Sami Zayn unable to compete, the final competitor, to the delight of Dallas, was revealed to be . . .
Cesaro immediately went after Owens and Styles after Jericho. And soon enough, it was Styles and Cesaro staring each other down in the ring and then going after it. the electricity was palpable as the two ring generals went at it with their quick offensive styles.
Deep breaths, you guys. This is REAL LIFE.
Soon enough, Owens and Cesaro were brawling at ringside , and Cesaro was facing down Jericho. Styles beat Jericho down, clearly infuriated, but it was Cesaro who landed a massive powerbomb of the other three from the ropes into the mat in an owesome Tower of Doom.
Again, Styles and Cesaro went at it before Cesaro caught him with a wicked uppercut. Owens went after Jericho, scoring a near-fall, but it wasn’t enough as he drove himself into the turnbuckle when Jericho dodged. He went for a lionsault, but Owens reversed it.
Each star continued to go at it, with Cesaro going uppercut crazy on the other three. And boy, the crowd ate it up, especially when Cesaro took Jericho swinging. Owens nearly took out Styles, but it was broken up. This pattern continued for some time, with each man breaking up pins left and right.
Jericho locked in the Walls of Jericho, but Cesaro reversed it into the Sharpshooter. Styles broke it up, and he and Owens went at it. Jericho got a near-fall on Styles, who finally hit the Styles Clash for the pinfall.
This is what heaven feels like. This was very nearly the perfect RAW, certainly the best of the year. And it definitely hints towards the long-overdue Roman Reigns heel turn, because there’s no way anyone can stay babyface against the likes of AJ Styles.
RAW did what it’s been struggling to do for a long time: it left me wanting more. It changed the landscape of each title picture. And while it certainly had its low points, it its ending gave me hope.
Bring on 2016, WWE. I’m ready.