RAW continued its hot streak Monday night with another episode filled with plot growth, intrigue, and yes, a thrilling in-ring debut from Anderson and Gallows. The go-home show before Payback for many fans, it did its job in creating a lot of buzz for the first pay-per-view following WrestleMania.
Once again, Shane O’Mac opened up Monday Night RAW with a huge smile on his face. But he didn’t get too much out before being interrupted by Stephanie McMahon. She played up being a Hartford native as obnoxiously as possible before saying that this would be his last week in charge before Vince McMahon would decide who would be in charge at Payback.
Shane made it very clear, as did Hartford, who the fan favorite was, and tried to make Stephanie leave, but she refused to leave the ring. Shane, undeterred, simply brought in security to escort her from the ring. She, quite literally, had to be dragged off, and Shane introduced the first match of the night.
AJ Styles vs. Sheamus
Sheamus started off strong, hitting a series of uppercuts and a double boot on Styles in the match’s early stages. But after telegraphing a charge, Styles began to mount a short comeback, his swift athleticism coming in handy. But Sheamus caught him outside the ring, throwing the Phenomenal One into the stairs hard.
He maintained his momentum a while longer, hitting Styles with a series of backbreakers before Styles bought himself valuable time by dodging a charge into the turnbuckle, going to the top rope before Sheamus caught him on the ropes, looking for a superplex. But Styles threw him off the ropes, hitting him time and time again with his swift offense.
Styles targeted his shoulders with a series of kicks before Sheamus caught him for a power slam for a near-fall. In return, Styles caught him with a pelee kick and proceeded to wear him down with a series of forearms, but Sheamus caught him up in the Clover Leaf. Styles made it to the ropes. Sheamus went for a Brogue, but Styles caught him with the Phenomenal Forearm for the victory. As he celebrated, Anderson and Gallows emerged, applauding. Styles looked concerned indeed. as did Roman, whose cousins the Usos offered him their support.
This was a very smart match. On Sunday, Styles will be facing a big brawler in Roman Reigns, so to properly build him up, he must defeat a big brawler. Sheamus is the perfect fit, boosted in credibility by his title reign last year, however unpleasant it was.
Styles looked incredible as usual, even if this wasn’t his strongest match. He really sold his underdog status convincingly while still showing off his athleticism and technical prowess. No better way to keep people interested than by letting one of their best workers do his thing.
New Day emerged to a sizable pop that Roman would probably kill for, talking about the upcoming finals for the Tag Team Tournament at Payback, but were interrupted by the Vaudvillains, who were in turn interrupted by Enzo and Cass.
Enzo easily talked trash, much to the New Day’s delight, and the champs reveled int he chaos, but made it clear that they would be tag team champions for a long time yet.
Seeing Enzo and Cass in the same ring as the New Day has long been a dream of mine. And though I didn’t expect it to come like this, the moment was as sweet as I imagined. These three teams are the future of tag team wrestling.
The Vaudvillains feel energized in their heel roles, working surprisingly well ont he mic and providing perfect foils for Enzo Amore and Big Cass, who are more over than WWE could have dreamed.
With these three teams at the helm, the tag team division could very well experience a new, bright era where they shine as they deserve. It’s been a long time coming indeed.
Backstage, Gallows and Anderson emerged from Styles’ locker room, ready for their match against the Usos.
The Usos vs. Gallows & Anderson
The match was aggressive from the get-go, the Usos still angry about their attack two weeks ago and Gallows and Anderson determined to make a statement.
Anderson and Gallows laid a beatdown on Jey Uso, with Gallows’ strength doing considerable damage. Anderson made himself known as well, methodically pounding the Samoan into the matt and targeting his shoulder.
He covered Jey several times for a near fall before tagging Gallows back in, isolating Jey in their corner and knocking Jimmy off the apron with a cheap shot. He tagged Anderson back in, and the Machine Gun laid him out on the curtain before bring the action back into the ring, working Jey’s shoulder some more.
Jey looked to attempt to fight back, but Gallows wouldn’t allow it, shoving Jey off the top ropes and out of the ring, right into the barricade. After being further dominated through a commercial break, Jey finally fought back in long enough to tag in Jimmy, who hit a Samoan Drop on Anderson before being caught by a clothesline.
Gallows threw Jey over the barricade before Jimmy hit him through the ropes. Anderson sent him into the post before tagging Gallows back in for the Magic Killer for the win. The two continued their beatdown in the ring after the match’s conclusion, but Roman Reigns arrived to make the save.
He was booed, by the way, as Anderson and Gallows retreated.
Backstage, Renee looked to interview AJ Styles, and Anderson and Gallows assured Styles that they had his back, even though he didn’t want them to attack Reigns anymore.
This moment was surreal. Gallows and Anderson performed spectacularly, as expected, laying down a thrilling and convincing beating on the ever-energetic Uso twins. They worked in perfect harmony and drank up the crowd’s investment, showing exactly why they were such a draw back in Japan.
Their storyline with AJ Styles grows more and more intriguing every moment that goes by. Also, didn’t you love how the “babyface” got booed yet again?
Sami Zayn vs. Rusev
Rusev wasn’t in the mood for any fun and games, going right to work on the former NXT Champion. He refused to allow Zayn to regain any momentum at all, catching Zayn when he launched himself out of the ring and throwing him right into the apron. But a moonsault off the barricade allowed Zayn to regain some lost momentum.
Though Rusev regained control briefly, Zayn began fighting back, turning his energy up ten-fold, willing himself back into contention, reversing a powerbomb into a near-fall of his own. Rusev responded with a back body drop and Superkick, nearly getting the three-count.
Infuriated, Rusev looked to lock in the Accolade, but Zayn rolled him up quickly, stealing the victory. As he celebrated on the entrance ramp, however, he was ambushed from behind by a cold and calculating Kevin Owens.
Rusev seems to have his fire back, looking spectacular against Sami Zayn tonight. WWE aired a vignette detailing the long history between him and Kevin Owens, which worked wonders as well in hyping their Payback match.
The match had a dead crowd, but was a lot of fun nonetheless.
Apollo Crews vs. Stardust
Backstage, Stardust interrupted Apollo Crews’ interview with Renee Young before their match, becoming agitated when Crews called him “Cody.”
Fast-paced from the start, Crews let his agility shine as he took on Stardust, who looked more aggressive than usual in his offense against Crews. Stardust worked Crews’ arm for a while before going for a rollup, but Crews powered through, taking Stardust to town with enthusiasm.
He hit his standing moonsault (and former finisher), but Stardust rolled out. He couldn’t, however, escape from the spinning sit-down powerbomb, and Crews scored yet another win.
…I like Apollo, I really do. But he needs a direction, and fast.
Ambrose told the crowd that though he was originally slated for the Ambrose Asylum, he wasn’t in the mood for entertainment. He wanted a good old fight, and cut a killer promo on Chris Jericho, saying that he doesn’t just demand respect, he fights for it.
He demanded that Chris Jericho come right to the ring, and a very perplexed Jericho sauntered right on in. Jericho was infuriated that Ambrose would dare call him out, and made it known, saying that Ambrose should get own on his knees and kiss his boots to thank him for even being in the ring with him.
Jericho demanded an apology then and there, so Ambrose gave him one . . . in the form of a series of punches. He looked to throw Jericho into the announce table, but Jericho stunned him on the table, locking him into the Walls of Jericho on the table. Officials broke it up, and Jericho left a prone Ambrose behind.
Put two of the most entertaining talkers and personalities in WWE together, and there are bound to be fireworks.
Jericho and Ambrose furthered their feud with precision, expertly drawing the crowd in, but something about this makes me believe that Payback won’t be their only encounter.
Natalya vs. Emma
With Charlotte on commentary, Natalya took on the Australian dynamite Emma, who took control early on with the aggression that has defined her new characterization. But soon enough, Natalya locked Emma into the Sharpshooter for the win.
Afterwards, WWE aired a tribute to Chyna.
Revolution, huh? How long did that match last?
Do better, WWE. Shame on you.
Baron Corbin vs. Damien Sandow
Before Baron Corbin could even finish his awesome entrance, Dolph Ziggler ambushed him on the stage. Corbin, terrified, retreated through the back, abandoning his match against Sandow.
I was so excited to see Sandow, and he didn’t even wrestle. What a sad, sad joke.
The Miz w/ Maryse
With his, yeah, absolutely stunning wife at his side, The Miz badmouthed Cesaro and any of his fans, calling them mindless wanderers. Miz said he brought prestige to the title, further calling the fans nerdy and lonely.
He was interrupted by Cesaro himself, dressed in his glorious suit, and laughed at his attempts to make the WWE Universe root for him. The Miz pulled off every impersonation int he book, and Cesaro admitted he was amused. Cesaro talked about the prestige of the title, and proclaimed his intent to take it.
“Do you feel lucky, punk? Do you?” Miz quoted.
“GO ahead,” Cesaro quoted right back, “Make my day.”
Miz looked to leave, trying to blindside Cesaro from behind, but the Swiss Superman caught him with an uppercut. He looked to take Miz swinging, but Maryse threw herself over his body to prevent it.
Cesaro grabbed the IC Title, gave it a look, and left head held high.
No charisma, eh?
Backstage, AJ Styles approached Reigns, proclaiming he was taking his title, and Reigns asked if he’d already bought ringside tickets for Gallows and Anderson before walking off.
Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio
Though the match started fairly even, Del Rio soon took the reigns early on in the match. The former champion beat down on him rather comfortably before Roman, out of nowhere, began powering back with headbutts and punches.
A series of clotheslines really sped things up for the Champion, who locked and loaded for the Superman Punch, but Del Rio dodged, rolling out of the ring before Reigns sent him right into the corner post.
Del Rio got Reigns with a kick to the jaw, but Reigns kicked out at two. Del Rio looked to capitalize, but Reigns hit him with a Superman Punch. But just as he really got fired up, Anderson and Gallows emerged, allowing Del Rio to roll him up and nearly win, but Roman got him with a spear for the count and win.
Anderson and Gallows beat Roman down after the match, but AJ Styles ran in, saving him. in thanks, Reigns hit him with a Superman Punch, taking out Gallows and Anderson. Styles himself responded with a Phenomenal Forearm.
This storyline is by far the most surprisingly intriguing one going into Payback. It’s so layered. We have AJ Styles trying to prevent Gallows and Anderson from interfering too much despite their lasting friendship and his nerves going into his match against Reigns. We have a supposed babyface champion who is displaying more heelish tendencies every day. And we have a rebelling fanbase determined to force Reigns into a heel role.
Okay, Payback, I’m interested. Don’t let me down.