Shane McMahon once again helmed Monday Night RAW, and if you thought the surprises would end at last week, you were proved wrong tonight with another fun episode full of surprises and, most importantly, good wrestling.
Shane O’Mac himself opened RAW for the second week in a row, thanking the WWE Universe for their overwhelming support and announcing a Tag Team tournament for the chance to face The New Day for their titles. He also announced Sami Zayn versus AJ Styles for the chance to compete against Roman Reigns as well.
This prompted an interruption from Kevin Owens, who belittled McMahon for giving Zayn such an opportunity and accused McMahon for screwing him over. McMahon didn’t buy into Owens’ excuses, but did agree to give Owens his rematch for the Intercontinental Championship if he beat Cesaro.
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro (No. 1 Contender’s match for the Intercontinental Championship)
Cesaro clearly intimidated the former IC Champ, who ducked out of the ring early on, and proved there was bark to his bite, having fun in the ring as he messed with Owens. Owens briefly gained some momentum, working Cesaro’s weak shoulder hard.
Owens got cocky, going for an uppercut of his own, and Cesaro took advantage, taking Owens to uppercut city, but Owens once again gained momentum by throwing Cesaro’s shoulder into the turnbuckle.
The two exchanged blows, with Cesaro making a comeback through the pain in his shoulders, hitting Owens with a crossbody into a crossface by Owens. Cesaro countered out, locking in the Sharpshooter, but Owens made it to the ropes, hitting the King of Swing with a Superkick and then a Frog Splash, but even then Cesaro kicked out.
He managed to take Owens for a brief swing, but his shoulder gave up on him. That wouldn’t stop him, as he hit Owens with the Neutralizer for the pinfall.
This was a fun match between two extremely talented and over workers, so I expected nothing less than excellence. They delivered. It’s so great to have Cesaro back, especially now that he has a new Bond-esque entrance. He’s a blast to watch, and now the IC picture is ten times more interesting.
Backstage, Dr. Phil confronted Charlotte, telling her to stop using her father to win. And Shane McMahon told an infuriated Kevin Owens to leave the building so he couldn’t ruin anything for Sami Zayn.
The Lucha Dragons vs. The Dudley Boyz
The New Day came out to open the Tag Team Tournament, sponsored by Booty-O’s, of course.
The Dudleys wasted no time in going right after the Lucha Dragons, putting Kallisto out of commission early on, busting his shoulder.
Sin Cara was subjected to what was basically a handicap match, being viciously beat by the two veterans. He managed to stage a brief comeback, gaining momentum against D-Von, but a hidden tag and a 3-D got the Dudleys a quick win.
But the Dudleys couldn’t celebrate for long, as Enzo and Cass emerged to break up their party. The Dudleys didn’t take too kindly to the interruption. Bubba Ray angrily pointed out that they paved the way for tag teams like them, to which Enzo and Cass cheekily replied that they paved their own roads.
Enzo and Cass were fun as ever, and the LA crowd chanted right along with them. Their dynamic with the Dudleys is already very entertaining, and it’s only getting better from here. The crowds are buying into Enzo and Cass quickly, but was anyone really surprised?
They took NXT by storm, and the regular crowds won’t be immune to their charms any less than the Full Sail faithful.
Reigns cut his usual promo about he wasn’t a good guy or a bad guy, just THE guy. And because WWE hates us, the League of Nations interrupted him. Reigns simply challenged them to come to the ring.
They did, but they were interrupted by the Wyatt Family, who simply stared Reigns down before Shane McMahon interrupted them, announcing Reigns and Wyatt versus two members of the League of Nations in the night’s main event.
His new catchphrase is already old. I hope WWE makes it into a t-shirt so I can buy one and then burn it.
Reigns is a thousand times more intriguing with this new, smug edge, and the pairing with the Wyatts was interesting considering their long feud from last year. However, it’s something fresh, and frankly, anything is better than seeing Reigns fighting Sheamus ever again.
Charlotte vs. Natalya (WWE Women’s Championship match)
With Dr. Phil at ringside to see if Charlotte would heed his advice, Natalya and Charlotte squared off for the WWE Women’s Championship.
Natalya instantly began to target Charlotte’s legs, prepping her for the inevitable Sharpshooter, but a Spinebuster began to slow her momentum. Natalya locked in an armbar, forcing Charlotte to retreat from the ring.
Upon re-entering, Charlotte was subject to more quick-paced offense from the Canadian Superstar. However, a neckbreaker allowed her to gain some control back, wearing Natalya down until Natalya attempted to lock in an armbar.
Charlotte locked in the Figure Four, but Natalya reversed it, forcing Charlotte to escape. In an ultimate show of disrespect, Charlotte locked in the Sharpshooter until Natalya reversed out of it, hitting a German Suplex and clothesline.
Charlotte fought back, attacking Nattie with a hard boot, repeatedly going for covers and missing a moonsault.
Natalya took advantage, locking in the Sharpshooter and making Charlotte tap, but a distraction by Ric Flair got Natalya the victory . . . by disqualification. So Nattie might have won, but Charlotte kept her title.
The finish was expected, of course, but the match was well-paced and given ample time to flourish. Charlotte and Natalya both work very well together, and continued to show their stuff in a submission wrestling clinic.
It’s disappointing that we didn’t get to see Emma and Becky Lynch further their feud, or Sasha Banks at all, but I know those girls will get their shot. For now, Natalya’s getting some well-deserved time in the spotlight. And Charlotte is proving that she doesn’t need her dad to be a star.
Backstage, Sami Zayn cut a heartfelt promo about not throwing away his shot, and AJ Styles told him that while he respected him and liked him, he intended to be the only one facing Roman Reigns for the title.
The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts
In the next first-round match of the Tag Team Tournament, the Usos took early control over Curtis Axel, who apparently wears jorts now. Axel mounted a bit of a comeback, locking Jey into a chokehold into a dropkick. A tagged-in Slater continued capitalizing on Axel’s momentum before tagging Axel back in.
Their momentum was cut short, however, when a premature Bo-train allowed the Usos to surprise the Outcasts with a rollup victory.
But in a shock move, both teams were ambushed by KARL ANDERSON AND DOC GALLOWS, who laid everyone out at ringside before being forced to leave ringside by officials.
I blinked, and suddenly my boys were on the screen. It happened that fast.
What a fun way for the two Bullet Club alumni to make their debuts! The crowd went nuts when they realized who was in the ring, and both Anderson and Gallows were radiating charisma.
The Tag Team Division is getting more and more loaded every week. I can’t wait to see where this all leads.
Backstage, Jojo tried getting a statement from The Miz, but Maryse pushed her aside and The Miz, in two takes, called himself the Swiss Superman’s kryptonite before looking terrified at the sight of Cesaro, who cheerfully told him he’d get a star-worthy beating.
Oh, and The Miz doesn’t drink “domestic” water. Classic.
AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn
Early on, the two former indy darlings felt each other out, testing the waters. Sami went for an early series of rollups, but Styles got out of both. Zayn and Styles both worked each other’s arms.
Zayn picked up momentum with some quick arm-drags, but Styles responded with an arm drag of his own. Zayn, getting fired up, chopped Styles and challenged him to do more, but Styles responded with a surprise dropkick followed by a suplex.
Now further in control, Styles took the action out of the ring briefly, hitting Zayn with a knee to the face, but Zayn sent Styles out of the ring in turn, flying over the ropes to take Styles down.
But his lead didn’t last long, as Styles worked Zayn with brutal intensity, absolutely torturing his back. He went for the Styles Clash, but Zayn reversed it into a near-rollup pin, getting three near-falls in a row.
Styles countered with a Pelee Kick, but Zayn got him right back with a Blue Thunder Bomb, almost ending the match right there. Styles locked in the Calf Crusher, and Zayn just barely made it to the ropes.
Styles went for a Sunset Flip, but Zayn made it to his feet, nearly hitting the Helluva Kick, but Styles dodged, hitting the Phenomenal Forearm for the pinfall.
Backstage, Styles praised Zayn, shaking his hand and telling him he would get another shot, and Shane McMahon praised THEM for an awesome match.
This match right here is why I love wrestling. It built slowly, a story of struggle against two opponents who respected each other unfolding at a leisurely pace before exploding into a series of fun spots and signatures.
Styles and Zayn worked wonderfully together, crafting a bout that was an absolute blast to watch. Shane’s praise was most certainly well-deserved.
Welcome to the Asylum
Chris Jericho introduced his biggest guest to date, praising them for their accomplishments and calling them a future Hall of Famer.
It was himself, naturally.
He offered the crowd the chance to bask in his glory, giving them the gift of Jericho, and said that nobody on the roster could touch him.
Dean Ambrose crashed his self-celebration, potted plant in hand, and casually told Jericho that this was his show now, and he had a memo from Shane McMahon to prove it.
Welcome to the Ambrose Asylum!
He casually teased Jericho over his scarf, and the furious vet told Ambrose that he would do whatever he wanted, threatening to bury Ambrose and calling him “boy.” Ambrose ignored that, bringing up the scarf again and planting Jericho with Dirty Deeds when his guest got handsy, shoving him.
Ambrose and Jericho have some crazy chemistry. Jericho’s uptight heel persona is a wonderful foil to Dean Ambrose, and his hijacking of the Highlight Reel was both funny and intriguing.
Jericho is still wrestling like he’s in his thirties. Ambrose is in his prime. This feud might be just the thing to put Ambrose back in the main event scene where he belongs.
Backstage, Goldust confronted R-Truth about putting them in the Tag Team Tournament, and even Dr. Phil didn’t want to bother with them.
Apollo Crews vs. Adam Rose
Crews wasted little time in showing off his quick athleticism. Rose showed brief signs of life, attacking Crews with ferocity, but a vertical suplex by Crews halted him in his tracks.
Crews went on a roll, and even an attempted distraction by Bo Dallas couldn’t stop him as he hit Rose with his new powerbomb finisher for the win.
I’m conflicted, you guys.
There’s no questioning that Apollo Crews is straight fire in the ring. He’s athletic, well-built, and technically sound. Physically, he’s the total package.
But aside from that, what do we know about him? What is there to know? Fans of NXT know how hard he’s worked to get here, but so far WWE has given us little reason to care about his rise other than he’s a star in the making.
Give him a character. Let him flesh it out. Let us get to know him. He almost has it all.
Roman Reigns & Bray Wyatt vs. The League of Nations
It took some convincing, but Bray convinced Roman to let him start things off against Sheamus, forcing Sheamus to retreat. Reigns soon tagged in, and the two double-teamed against Sheamus. Soon enough, Wyatt tagged himself back in to everyone’s pleasure, continuing to punish the Celtic Warrior.
Del Rio got some momentum back for the League of Nations, but Wyatt gained some momentum back long enough to tag in Reigns to yeah, a lot of boos and some desperate cheers. Reigns sent Sheamus retreating out of the ring, and the numbers game was not in his favor there.
Reigns took a whopping punishment at the hands of both Del Rio and Sheamus until he hit a Samoan Drop, tagging Bray Wyatt in red hot. Wyatt cleaned house, the crowd going insane for him, and even a distraction couldn’t get him pinned.
The other Wyatts arrived on the scene, neutralizing Rusev and allowing Bray to hit Sister Abigail for the pinfall. Roman hit a spear too, but this was Bray’s moment.
It was thrilling to see the crowd so firmly behind Bray Wyatt, who has been abused by WWE Creative for so long. He and Roman both performed well, capitalizing on their unlikely chemistry and flourishing together.
Overall, this RAW was fun. The matches all had stakes behind them, and many of the pairings were fresh. Here’s hoping WWE continues to build on its momentum going into Payback.