RAW Recap/Analysis – April 18, 2016

WWE continued a trend of fun episodes of RAW during its broadcast from London, England. Fresh matchups and a huge surprise early on fueled a night full of unexpected twists and entertaining wrestling.

(A very full) Ambrose Asylum

Dean Ambrose opened the night with an episode of his brand new show: The Ambrose Asylum, being greeted with a big pop from an appreciative London crowd. He cracked a few jokes and then introduced his first guest: Shane McMahon.

London gave Shane a warm welcome and Ambrose agreed, showing the clip of Shane’s absolutely insane spot from WrestleMania (you know the one). He asked Shane what his agenda with WWE was, and Shane name-dropped stars such as AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, and Sasha Banks, and said he was there to give the WWE Universe what it deserved.

He was interrupted by Kevin Owens, who called Shane mad with power and accusing him of having a vendetta against him. Owens badmouthed Sami Zayn, and soon enough the man himself came out to confront him. Sami brought up their history and said that Owens would have never ended up in WWE without him.

To complete the party, Chris Jericho came out, mic in hand, and called Zayn an emotional idiot. He criticized McMahon, and the four in the ring began to bicker, with Dean telling everyone to be careful around his plant.

Shane then took the opportunity to book two matches for Payback, pitting Jericho against Ambrose and Owens against Zayn. He stepped out of the ring, taking the plant with him, and chaos broke out. Zayn and Ambrose threw Owens and Jericho out of the ring.

This was a bit of a hot mess, but enjoyable nonetheless. Frankly, anything that is not Authority-related is good for me.

Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn

Zayn started the match off hot, catching a grumpy Chris Jericho off guard with some swift, high-flying offense. Jericho, with some well-timed ring utilization, staged a comeback, wearing Zayn down on the ring and with a dropkick to the chest.

Jericho badmouthed Zayn as he locked him in a chokehold, but Zayn powered back with a series of clotheslines and a flying crossbody. He countered a lionsault and hit a Blue Thunder Bomb, but Jericho survived it, reversing into the Walls of Jericho. Zayn broke it, but it had done a lot of damage.

Zayn launched a frustrated Jericho out of the ring, flying through the ropes to attack Jericho with a flying DDT. But Jericho caught Zayn in the eyes, allowing him to hit a Codebreaker for the pinfall.

This was an excellent match, with Jericho utilizing classic heel tactics not involving a distraction to secure a win over Zayn, who still managed to come out of the match looking credible.

Backstage, Mauro Ranallo interviewed AJ Styles, and this was interrupted by Anderson and Gallows. The pair exchanged a warm greeting with Styles and the trio went off to catch up.

Enzo and Cass vs. The Dudley Boyz (Semifinals of the Tag Tourney)

London gave Enzo and Cass a huge ovation as they entered, and the pair wasted no time in getting their trash talking started for the receptive crowd before the Dudleys emerged.

Enzo started things off, energetic as ever even as both Dudleys began to wear into him.  Bubba Ray didn’t know quite what to make of Enzo’s manic energy, but Enzo running into him was like running into a brick wall. DeVon tagged in and continued the beatdown, and both veterans mocked him as they beat him down.

But Enzo couldn’t be kept down for the count, avoiding asplash off the top rope from Bubba Ray and tagging Big Cass in hot. Big Cass cleaned house, tagging Enzo in for the Rocket Launcher for a beautiful, clean victory.

Is there any doubt as to how incredibly hot Enzo and Cass are? The crowd went absolutely nuts for them, showing the kind of energy serenading Enzo Amore that can only be rivaled by the energy they showed booing Roman Reigns.

The Dudleys also feel fresher than ever against this dynamite duo, being given a pair who can easily match them both on the mic and in the ring. I hope this rivalry doesn’t die here, it’s too good to waste.

Bullet Club strikes

Roman Reigns entered to some pretty sizable boos, which were surprisingly not edited down. He spouted his usual line about being THE guy, talking down about AJ Styles and saying it was his time, and his era.

The crowd started chanting “BORING,” until AJ Styles entered to save the day, getting the kind of welcome he deserves. AJ gave Reigns his due credit, saying he would have to have the match of his life to become champion, but that he was ready to do so.

Reigns acknowledged how popular AJ Styles is, saying he would earn the respect of everyone and adding that he would rather be respected with the championship than liked without it. And Styles said he wanted both.

But as he left, Anderson and Gallows ambushed Reigns to huge cheers, laying him out in the ring as Styles watched from the ramp.

Backstage, AJ assured Roman that he had no idea what was going to happen, saying he didn’t need his friends to beat Reigns, and Roman said it wouldn’t matter either way.

Well, this is interesting.

First, I’m impressed that WWE did not even attempt to edit down the chorus of boos that greeted Roman Reigns, and also am impressed with the champ’s work on the mic. In his new, more arrogant and dispassionate attitude, he seems to be finally finding a real voice, gaining some serious heat when he talked down to AJ Styles and said he didn’t care about being liked. Styles also sounded stronger than ever on the mic, really getting the British crowd behind him with enviable ease.

Second, the Bullet Club’s interference sets up two possibilities: Styles turning heel on tweener Reigns and reforming the Bullet Club, or the Bullet Club turning on Styles and possibly going rogue or rallying behind a debuting Finn Balor.

Color me intrigued, WWE. Keep it up.

Baron Corbin vs. Fandango

With Dolph Ziggler on commentary, Baron Corbin squared off against Fandango, who apparently still exists. Bless him.

Corbin dominated the match, sending Fandango out of the ring and into Dolph Ziggler, getting an easy and decisive victory in no time. He wasn’t able to celebrate for long, with an infuriated Dolph Ziggler going after him, hitting the End of Days at ringside.

Baron Corbin looks to be settling right in on the main roster. His aura has not faded in the slightest and he’s looking better than ever in the ring. Good on you, big Banter. Good on you.

Miz TV

Introduced obnoxiously by Maryse, the Miz wasted no time in mocking Prince George and bragging about being Intercontinental Champion. The two then made out in the ring, and thank goodness were interrupted by Cesaro and his glorious suit.

Charisma showing easily, Cesaro mocked the Miz, who ignored him in favor of delivering a monologue from Taken. The crowd heckled him throughout, so he just delivered the last line again and again.

Cesaro cut him off, saying “when my hand goes up your mouth goes shut,” and the crowd absolutely ate it up. He proclaimed that he would in fact be the WWE Intercontinental Champion and quoted Roddy Piper:

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

The Miz brushed this off and introduced Cesaro’s opponent: Rusev.

But Cesaro revealed that plans had changed, and Miz and the League of Nations would be teaming up against him and….(ripping away his suit to reveal a Booty-O’s shirt) THE NEW DAY!

Cesaro’s charisma shone brightly in this segment, but one of the biggest revelations was how good as a heel pair Miz and Maryse are. They drew heat easily, and Miz looks more and more credible every time she is at his side.

Cesaro & The New Day vs. The League of Nations & The Miz

London popped massively for the New Day, practically blowing the roof off the O2 Arena as they chanted along with Big E for their entrance.

Woods and Miz started things off, with Woods getting some early momentum against the Hollywood star and Big E tagging in to continue dishing out punishment. a tagged Kofi was soon subjected to some punishment from a tagged-in Alberto Del Rio, but a vertical leap allowed the New Day and Cesaro to hit the Unicorn Stampede.

The League of Nations regained some momentum over Xavier Woods, isolating him far away from his team and sending him out of the ring. The heels continued to beat down on him, preventing anyone from being there for Xavier to tag in.

Cesaro finally tagged in, taking Sheamus and the Miz to Uppercut City, even leaving the ring to take the others out before hitting a crossbody on Sheamus. Chaos erupted as all the teams got involved, with Big E evening things out for Cesaro to get the win.

Is there any group more over than the New Day? These guys got the pop of the night and delivered in the ring, clicking with Cesaro wonderfully. They were entertaining as hell, and it’s always great to see Xavier Woods int he ring AND getting some nice offense in.

Backstage, Mauro Ranallo interviewed Charlotte before Natalya interrupted, revealing that Bret Hart would be in her corner at Payback.

Natalya, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch & Paige vs. Charlotte, Naomi, Tamina & Summer Rae

No Superstar stayed in the ring for too long, all tagging in and out with ease. Paige got time to make more of a statement on her home turf, taking out both Naomi and Tamina with a dive from the ring as Becky took Charlotte down herself.

Speaking of the Lass Kicker, she took control of the match soon after, battling through interference from Tamina and Naomi both no matter which heel was tagged in. Summer Rae looked to continue beating the Irish Superstar down before tagging Naomi in.

Lynch was finally able to tag in a hot Natalya, who quickly sent Summer Rae to town before Charlotte tagged in. Tamina and Naomi attempted to break things up, but Sasha and Paige got rid of them, allowing Natalya to lock in the Sharpshooter on Charlotte, forcing her to tap.

Let me start with this: Natalya and Charlotte can build a feud without it being about the men in their families any day of the week. Natalya knows the business well, and Charlotte’s a natural. Adding Bret Hart to the mix is a bit of a distraction from who the true stars should be: the ladies.

That being said, this is Bret’s first appearance since his battle with prostate cancer, and I am thrilled to see him doing better. He and Ric will probably play the same roles they did at NXT in 2014 when the two women first faced off. I predict Bret will only serve to elevate his niece, just as he should.

The Vaudvillains vs. The Usos (Semifinals of the Tag Tourney)

Simon Gotch started things off strong before tagging Aiden English in to continue dishing out the punishment on Jimmy before Jey tagged in. He got some momentum back, hitting a kick tot he face and Samoan Drop before Gotch interfered.

Back in the ring, English worked Jey’s shoulder  before hitting the Whirling Dervish for a decisive victory.

An Apollo Crews vignette aired after, finally giving the casual WWE Universe a glimpse at the latest NXT callup.

NXT truly has arrived, my friends. Bask in the glory.

Apollo Crews vs. Heath Slater

On the deal that if he lost the match he would join the Social Outcasts, Apollo Crews took on Heath Slater.

Crews displayed his power and athleticism with practiced ease, hitting an impressive vertical suplex before a cheap shot by Slater allowed him to slow Crews down. Slater grounded the new Superstar, locking him in a chokehold and beating him down into the mat.

But Crews couldn’t be kept down for long, taking out Dallas and Axel at ringside before hitting a crossbody on Slater and escaping a rollup attempt. Hitting the sit-down powerbomb, Crews got the victory.

He didn’t get to celebrate for long as Owens entered for his main event against Dean Ambrose, not even sparing a glance for Crews as he entered.

Crews is fun in the ring, but if we don’t get to see a glimpse of who he is as a character, he will have a hard time getting any sort of reaction anywhere. I hope he’s given the chance to continue growing, because he really does have what it takes to be huge.

Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens

Owens and Ambrose wasted no time in exchanging blows and throwing each other into the turnbuckle. Ambrose took an early lead in the match against a frustrated Owens, who soon got Ambrose caught in a headlock, proclaiming himself the headlock master. Ambrose fought out, clocking Owens before hitting him with a suicide dive when he tried to retreat out of the ring.

In retaliation, Owens sent Ambrose over the announce table, and Ambrose soon returned the favor. However, Owens soon enough regained momentum, using his weight to punish Ambrose as fully as possible before locking in a chinlock.

Ambrose made it to his feet, escaping the lock and striking Owens before being sent over the top rope and being hit with a frog splash off the apron. Ambrose just barely beat the count back to the ring, only to be caught in another chinlock before reversing it into a powerbomb.

Ambrose got to the top rope, hitting a stunning flying elbow out of the ring on a fleeing Owens. Back in the ring, the two once again traded blows before Ambrose hit Owens with a wicked clothesline for a near fall and then a superplex from the ropes for another. Owens nearly hit his finisher, but Ambrose reversed it, only to get hit by a crazy move from the ropes by Owens.

Owens went for another splash from the ropes, but Ambrose hit him with the knees to the gut followed by Dirty Deeds for the victory, but Chris Jericho caught him with a Codebreaker to close out the night.

Another RAW, another fantastic showing from two of WWE’s best and most over workhorses. Hope to see them in the main event scene of pay-per-views soon enough. They both deserve it.

All in all, this week’s RAW continued the WWE’s trend of meaningful, fun hours of wrestling and yes, entertainment. I hope they can continue this for weeks to come.

 

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