RAW Recap/Analysis – May 30, 2016

Sometimes, RAW is worth pointless comedy segments and time-killing promos. Sometimes, RAW offers something truly special. Tonight’s episode of RAW was one of those episodes, a truly thrilling surprise smack dab in the middle of the show featuring one of the most dream-like and shocking moments of 2016 so far.

Dance off

RAW kicked off with the entire roster, Cena and Rollins included, I might add, standing on the stage for a salute, and a short video package honoring those who gave their lives for America.

Shane opened the show, and Stephanie was not too far behind. She welcomed Green Bay to Monday Night RAW. Shane McMahon acknowledged the upcoming brand split, and Stephanie acknowledged the return of John Cena.

They were both interrupted by The New Day, who were wondering about what the brand extension would mean for them. Stephanie dodged their questions, and the New Day demanded that they not be split up. They pointed out Shane and Stephanie’s rivalry, and challenged the two to a dance challenge.

And yeah, Shane twerked.

Stephanie was about to dance herself, but the Vaudevillains interrupted this, emerging for their match against The New Day.

Nothing more heelish than keeping us from seeing Stephanie McMahon twerking. You VILE VAUDEVILLAINS!

The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains

English and Gotch worked to not allow the New Day’s numbers game to give their opponents the advantage this time, wearing Kofi Kingston down with purpose. Kofi looked to fight back and tag in Big E, but was sent out of the ring by Simon Gotch.

In the ring, Big E took control. However, Gallows & Anderson interjected, taking Woods and Kingston out before doing the same to Big E. Backstage, the fearsome duo declared that everyone on the WWE roster should be on notice.

Before I get to everything else, I feel the need to commend the Vaudevillains on their excellent work. They are looking more and more like a threat the more we see them. That being said, Gallows & Anderson are exactly the opponents The New Day have needed.

Their title reign has been very memorable, but mostly because of the New Day themselves, not because of any of their defenses or feuds. Their most memorable rivals were the Prime Time Players. Now, however, they have the perfect foils in Gallows & Anderson: two imposing, serious juggernauts in need of gold around their waists.

This will be a very, very interesting rivalry going forward.

Breezango vs. The Usos

With the Golden Truth on commentary, Breezango took on the Samoan superteam.  The Usos seemed firmly in control, but some sly working by Fandango allowed Tyler Breeze to get an advantage before tagging Fandango in.

However, it wasn’t enough, as The Usos got a victory, which Breeze and Fandango blamed on Golden Truth.

Golden Truth and Breezango brawled at ringside, with Golden Truth double-teaming to take Breezango out.

I mean…this happened. I don’t have much else to offer int he way of analysis because this entire storyline just seems to pointless.

Mind Games

Roman Reigns cut a promo on Seth Rollins, calling him a coward for always running away, and challenged him to come out to the ring. He did, but didn’t even come out to the ring, retreating back down the ramp and grabbing a mic.

He paused, but then dropped the mic, approaching the ring…and backing off again, smirking. He kept teasing charging the ring, and speaking, but finally just left.

Reigns’ music started playing, and Seth charged out, but retreated once more.

Here’s what I don’t understand.

In Seth Rollins, you have one of the best in-ring workers in the entire WWE who is dynamite on the mic. He is riding a tidal wave of support from the WWE Universe as he bravely returns from injury. Even as a heel, he has the ability to work a crowd into a chorus of boos as he goes up against a tepid at best, hated at worst babyface.

So, mere weeks before their massive pay-per-view match, you do a segment where the beloved heel says nothing and never even enters the ring.

I don’t get it. Please, someone explain the logic of this to me. Enlighten my poor, amateur mind. Make my day.

Rusev vs. Zack Ryder

Rusev dominated from the top of the match, catching Ryder with a knee to the gut. Ryder looked to power back with a missile dropkick, fighting to the point of covering Rusev, but Rusev locked in the Accolade soon after for the pinfall.

In the ring, Rusev looked to cut a promo about himself, calling himself a great American, but Titus O’Neil cut him off, berating him for daring to say such a thing and then punching him so hard he flew out of the ring.

When all else fails, always resort to the ‘Murica-loving babyface against an evil foreign heel dynamic. That way, you don’t have to put any actual effort into crafting a real storyline.

In all seriousness, O’Neil seems like the next challenger to Rusev’s throne. He’s a good choice. The fans like him well enough, and he looks like a real threat, physically.

And Rusev is wonderful as he plows over the roster, of course.

Backstage, Stephanie berated Charlotte for her behavior to her father.

Enzo & Cass vs. The Dudley Boyz

Enzo & Cass dominated from the start of the match to the finish, although the Dudleys did look to regain some momentum by targeting Enzo Amore. However, it looks as if the Realest Guys in the Room are about to move onto greener pastures, as they decimated the Dudleys in no time at all.

John Cena

John Cena returned to RAW in a big way, coming out to cut the most patriotic promo I think I have ever heard in my life. He switched gears after, discussing whether or not he truly had a place in this new era. Then, to Green Bay’s delight, AJ Styles’ music hit, and the Phenomenal One emerged.

For several minutes, neither performer could get a word out as dueling chants of delight rang through the arena. Styles told Cena he respected him, shaking his hand. But soon after, Gallows & Anderson emerged, calling Styles an ass-kisser. They charged the ring, and Styles and Cena both prepared for battle.

But in a HUGE swerve, Styles turned on Cena, blindsiding him. The reunited Club battered down Cena together, Styles looking like a man possessed. They “too-sweeted” in the ring and left Cena laying in a broken heap.

Oh.

My.

GOD.

After months of remaining int he light, AJ Styles has finally succumbed to temptation. I said last week that Styles is meant for big things, and this is exactly what I meant, though it’s not what I had in mind.

AJ Styles vs. John Cena is a dream match. The two are the same age and from opposite walks of life, career-wise. Fans have been salivating over its possibility since AJ Styles debuted at the Royal Rumble. Two icons of their time facing off in WWE…that’s the stuff of dreams.

Well, it looks like we’re getting it. We don’t deserve this.

I’ll be frank: I didn’t see this coming at all. And that’s thrilling to me. Predictability has been a plague upon WWE all year, as evidenced by the ending of WrestleMania and the fact that I was able to correctly call every finish at Extreme Rules. I did NOT see Styles’ masterfully orchestrated heel turn coming. Especially not this way.

But I’m glad.

WWE is in need of more top calibre heels. Right now, Seth Rollins is inching towards a possible face turn. Kevin Owens is brilliant, but he’s wrapped up in his own storyline. The Miz, Sheamus and Del Rio are all talented, but they cannot sustain a main event push. AJ Styles is the kind of high-profile, talented workers who can step up as a legitimate bad guy for the company. Add Finn Balor to the mix someday, and you have endless possibilities for feuds and more down the line.

Natalya vs. Dana Brooke

Within moments, a dominant Dana Brooke got an easy win over Natalya with the help of Charlotte, who provided her new ally with the distraction.

After the match,t he two began to clobber on Natalya, but Becky Lynch emerged for the save, chasing the two blonde Superstars off.

Welcome to the “Women’s Revolution,” folks. This match was over int he blink of an eye. Even shorter than the Golden Truth segment, I believe. How nice.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin (Technical wrestling match)

This match didn’t really go anywhere, as Ziggler hit Baron Corbin with a shameless low blow to end the match then and there.

This was actually a welcome swerve. I will fully admit to making fun of the “technical” stipulation to the match, and laughing even harder when Ziggler put his head protection and mouth guard on. But having it all turn out to be a trap made Ziggler look sly while allowing Corbin to save face.

Dean Ambrose, Cesaro & Sami Zayn vs. Alberto Del Rio, Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho

Cesaro and Del Rio started the match off, and Cesaro went flying early on, taking Kevin Owens out at ringside before going back after Del Rio, who capitalized. The three heels teamed on Cesaro out of the ring before Del Rio resumed the attack back in the ring.

With the ref distracted by Jericho, Owens and Del Rio both assaulted Cesaro in the corner. Del Rio looked to hit a suplex, but Cesaro’s sheer power allowed him to reverse it into a back body drop of his own.

Sami Zayn tagged in, attacking Del Rio with his usual swiftness and knocking Jericho off the apron. He hit a high crossbody, but Owens saved Del Rio from hitting the helluva Kick. Jericho hit Zayn from behind, and Ambrose attacked Jericho. Zayn flew out of the ring, taking all three down.

Owens managed to turn the tide, inflicting some pretty brutal punishment on Sami Zayn, throwing him on the ropes and kicking him with glee. Del Rio tagged in, followed by Jericho, and they continued to wear down Zayn. Zayn looked to crawl to Ambrose, but Jerichodragged him away, slapping and taunting the underdog. Zayn finally fought back with a Blue Thunder Bomb, tagging in Dean Ambrose, who went ham on Jericho.

Jericho managed to block a Dirty Deeds, going for a Lionsault, but Ambrose reversed it, launching himself out of the ring in a chaotic suicide dive. He sent Owens into the barricade, and hit a flying elbow on Jericho. Del Rio broke the pin, and Jericho hit the Codebreaker. Owens tagged himself in, but by then Ambrose could kick out.

The two bickered, and Cesaro took advantage, taking Jericho swinging. Del Rio broke it, and Zayn hit him with Helluva Kick. Ambrose hit Owens with Dirty Deeds, pinning Owens for the pinfall.

This was a main event-calibre match. The dynamic between the heels was hilarious, and Ambrose managed to rebuild some of the momentum he lost in his disappointing feud with Jericho. Sami Zayn and Cesaro both looked exceptional as well.

All in all, RAW was fairly mediocre, saved entirely by AJ Styles’ shocking heel turn and John Cena’s return.

 

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BREAKING: The Brand Split is back!

SmackDown is officially moving to broadcast LIVE on Tuesday nights on the USA Network starting July 19th, WWE has confirmed. This move is the first in an official brand split to truly kick the “New Era” into high gear.

“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV,” WWE Chairman Vince McMahon said in a statement on WWE.com. “This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around th­e world.”

It looks as if one McMahon each will control RAW and SmackDown, respectively. No word yet on what this split means for the titles. A draft will be held sometime this summer to determine the rosters for each show.

This brand split, like Vince said, is a bold move to accommodate an increasingly loaded roster that only looks to grow with the likes of Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Bayley and Shinsuke Nakamura down in NXT. I am looking forward to this change, and will keep updating everyone as more information becomes available.

 

I accidentally helped Finn Balor troll Twitter

This isn’t news, and I’m not recapping anything. I just thought I’d share something hilarious that just happened today.

So yesterday, during RAW, I got an idea while watching the “Club” squabble. So, I took to Photoshop and mocked up an awful edit in about 30 seconds.

I doubted he’d see it, so I went to sleep soon after posting my RAW recap.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I wake up, and scroll down my timeline to see this:

My first thought: Damn, I should’ve watermarked it.

My second thought: WHAT THE FINN-

My third thought: Of all the things for him to get from me, why THAT? It’s probably one of the worst Photoshops I’ve ever done. That being said, I’m cackling at the fact that he’s using my lovely little edit to troll the internet.

Hopefully, sometime soon, I won’t have to resort to Photoshop to see these four sharing the ring.

RAW Recap/Analysis – May 23, 2016

RAW charged headfirst into the road to Money in the Bank, one of the most exciting PPV events of the year. And boy, were there a lot of moving pieces to rearrange. Seth Rollins was right back in the main event scene. AJ Styles had to find a new way to scrape back up to the top of the card.

Overall, the night did not disappoint, being supported by matches that mattered and wonderful wrestling performances from the talent.

Monday Night ROLLINS

Seth Rollins opened the show, proclaiming he was back to reclaim his title. He brought up his former heel status and proclaimed he never needed the fans and still didn’t need the fans.

Roman Reigns interrupted him, and Seth rolled out of the ring, saying he did things on his time, and Shane McMahon emerged, calling Rollins back into the ring. He set the main event of Money in the Bank: Seth Rollins against Roman Reigns.

Although I’m absolutely disappointed that we’re not getting babyface Rollins quite yet, it was AMAZING seeing him back in the ring, and to hear the cheers that never quite faded despite his brilliant heel tactics.

It will be interesting seeing a feud between the returning heel who is greeted by cheers and the bland tweener who should be a heel being greeted with overwhelming jeers. Hopefully this leads to what could be an iconic double turn some time in the future.

Sami Zayn vs. Sheamus (MITB qualifying match)

Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Sheamus, who belittled the “New Era” and Sami Zayn.

Zayn went on the offensive early on, but his eagerness would prove to be his downfall early on, until he managed to gain momentum, driving Sheamus into the turnbuckle. Sheamus caught Zayn in the back, hitting a legdrop, but a missed clothesline into a hurricarana sent Sheamus out of the ring.

At ringside, Zayn his a moonsault off the barricade, and the pair brawled back into the ring. Sheamus caught Zayn with a backbreaker, going for the pinfall, but Zayn kicked out, hitting Sheamus with a killer clothesline. Sheamus went for the Brogue, but Zayn hit the Helluva Kick from out of nowhere for the win.

In the ring, Sheamus seethed. Yikes.

Sami Zayn is one helluva athlete. That’s all.

Backstage, Renee Young attempted to interview Apollo Crews, but he was ambushed by Sheamus. Okay then.

This is an intriguing angle. Sheamus versus the new era. I’m interested, to say the least. Which is more than I can say about anything involving him for the past year.

The New Day vs. The Social Outcasts

The New Day emerged with a cake awaiting them in the ring reading, “Happy Birthday,” to celebrate RAW’s 1200th episode. Big E brought the cake out to ringside, threatening to smash it in the faces of JBL and Byron Saxton.

While they were goofing around, the three remaining Social Outcasts ambushed them in the ring. Getting the match started, the Outcasts controlled it early on, but a reversal from Kingston allowed the New Day to powerback with the Unicorn Stampede.

The three triple-teamed on Slater, who was pulled from the ring by Dallas and Axel, who attempted to take him on a Bo-Train, but Slater plopped to the ground as Kingston took them out at ringside.

New Day’s domination continued as they pinned Slater for the 1-2-3. Slater then took a cake to the face. Poor Slater.

New Day is absolutely on fire. I’m looking forward to seeing who next will try to snuff it out.

The Miz vs. Cesaro (MITB qualifying match)

The Miz and Maryse cut a promo in the ring, and the Miz proclaimed that he was on a roll, likening himself to Rudy. He and Maryse looked to make out, but luckily Cesaro cut them off, entering for the match.

Cesaro wasted little time in taking Miz for a ride on the uppercut train before hitting him with a dropkick. Maryse pulled her husband out of the ring, and Cesaro pursued, leaping after Miz and sassing Maryse.

Back in the ring, Cesaro hit a vertical suplex before landing an impressive flying uppercut.The Miz staged a short comeback, as Cesaro favored his left shoulder, hitting a neckbreaker and planting a DDT. He flung Cesaro into the ropes, wrenching the Swiss Superman’s shoulder cruelly.

Cesaro caught Miz with a desperate uppercut, turning one into several. He knocked Miz off the top rope, spilling him out to ringside before driving him over the barricade. Back in the ring, he hit a lateral crossbody, but Miz survived. Cesaro briefly took Miz swinging, but a targeted shoulder attack seemed to turn the tide.

It didn’t for long, as Cesaro hit the Neutralizer to advance to Money in the Bank.

THIS MATCH IS GOING TO BE SO GOOD.

Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Seth Rollins, who repeated that he would take back his title because he’s Seth Rollins and he’s just that good. He looked to greet Stephanie warmly, but she wasn’t as happy to see him, offering him a simple handshake, leaving him looking like a lost puppy who needs my warm embrace-

AHEM. Sorry.

Chris Jericho vs. Apollo Crews

Chris Jericho came out, covered in bandages, and wasted little time in berating the newcomer, going after him aggressively. Crews fought back with a dropkick, driving Jericho into the turnbuckle as Sheamus watched from backstage.

Crews targeted Jericho’s banged up back, slamming him down mercilessly. Jericho hit a cheap shot to regain momentum, suplexing him and then hitting a dropkick. He locked him in a chokehold, and Crews powered out of it.

He hit Jericho with a series of clotheslines, shouldering the veteran into the mat. Jericho caught Crews in the Walls of Jericho, but Crews made it to the ropes. He hit Jericho with a series of strikes, even surviving a Lionsault.

But it wasn’t enough, as Jericho hit the Codebreaker for the win. Backstage, Sheamus laughed.

Elsewhere, Jojo interviewed Baron Corbin, asking about his victory. Ziggler interrupted, insulting Corbin’s moves and challenging him to a technical wrestling match on next week’s RAW.

Big Cass vs. Bubba Ray Dudley

Big Cass emerged with ENZO AMORE back at his side, and Enzo wasted little time in cutting his brilliant smack talk. Big Cass and he were clearly having an absolute blast being out there together once more.

The Dudley Boyz didn’t take too kindly to that, emerging for Bubba Ray’s match. Bubba Ray immediately hit Cass with a slap, but Cass was unfazed, pushing Bubba Ray clear across the ring.

He continued to dominate, throwing Cass around like a rag doll. At ringside, D-Von cheapshotted Enzo from behind, allowing Bubba Ray to take advantage of the distraction. Big Cass countered with a clothesline and shoulder tackle.

Bubba Ray retreated out of the ring, but Cass gleefully threw Enzo right into him. Cass then threw Bubba Ray off the ropes and into the ring before hitting the Empire Elbow for the win.

It is so good seeing Enzo back. Big Cass looked almost giddy to have his best friend back in the ring, and Enzo looked as wild and crazy as ever.

Butterfly Kisses

Ric Flair took the mic to start things off, congratulating Charlotte for all of her accomplishments. Charlotte then congratulated herself, then began to reminisce about her childhood. She talked about how he was never there. She said she understood now, why he was never there, because being champion was so empowering to her.

And then she told Ric Flair to get out of her ring.

She told him he was stealing her spotlight, and that her spotlight shines brighter than his ever would. She called him the second dirtiest player in the game, and said she didn’t have time for second place. She said that she didn’t need him anymore.

She said that while he was immortal to the crowd, he was dead to her.

Ric Flair left in tears.

Thank God. Charlotte has long been ready to step out on her own and be her own character, and turning on Ric was the perfect catalyst for her into super heel-dom.

Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler (MITB qualifying match)

The two babyfaces felt each other out early on, working methodically and slowly. Ziggler, as commentary pointed out, utilized classic technical wrestling moves, but Ambrose wasn’t in the mood for any games.

Ambrose slammed Ziggler into the turnbuckle, hitting him with strike after strike. The two went for rollups, and Ziggler rolled from the ring. Ambrose went for a dive, but Ziggler dodged, and Ambrose stopped himself.

The two continued grappling in the ring, and Ambrose landed a superplex from the ropes for a near-fall. Ambrose sent Ziggler out of the ring once again, then dove through the ropes at him. Back in the ring, Ambrose almost hit the flying elbow, but Ziggler rolled through, hitting the Fame-asser. Ambrose survived.

The two both went for a crossbody, but collided in the center of the ring. Ambrose survived a Superkick, taking Ziggler down with a clothesline. Ziggler fought back, driving Ambrose into the corner, but Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds for the victory.

Ambrose, to me, is the ideal MITB winner, so this was thrilling for me to see.

Backstage, Renee Young tried talking to a heartbroken Ric Flair, but the Nature Boy had nothing to say, leaving the building.

AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens (MITB qualifying match)

Mic in hand, AJ Styles said that Roman Reigns was every bit the man he said he was. He also, interestingly, said that he would be champion if not for the Usos and Gallows and Anderson.

Anderson and Gallows didn’t take that too well, emerging to confront Styles. Styles reminded them that things had changed, and that he wanted to find his success on his own. Anderson accused AJ of changing. Gallows said that if they didn’t drop everyone he had a problem with, Styles wouldn’t have even made it to Extreme Rules.

“We’re done,” Styles said simply, although he did assure Gallows and Anderson they were still brothers. Gallows and Anderson didn’t accept the apology. They weren’t brothers or friends in their eyes. Styles told them to get out of his ring, and the two ominously complied.

But Styles had other things to worry about, as Kevin Owens emerged for their match.

Owens and Styles wasted little time in exchanging heated words and blows, with Owens the headlock master going after Styles immediately, just managing to dodge a dropkick from Styles…the first time. Styles drove Owens into the ropes, hitting him with a flurry of strikes before Owens countered with a dropkick.

Styles went Owens through the ropes, launching after him, but Owens countered, sending him falling on the apron before hitting a hard clothesline. The two brawled at ringside, with Styles sending Owens into the steel steps to regain some momentum. Owens caught AJ, however, sending him right into the ring apron. and then over the ropes.

Owens looked to powerbomb Styles into the steel steps, but he powered out, hitting Owens with a series of swift strikes, sending Owens face first into the mat with a hard-hitting powerbomb. Styles looked for the Clash, but Owens reversed it into a back body drop, hitting a suplex and cannonball into the turnbuckle.

Styles powered back with a kick and backbreaker, but Owens would not be defeated so easily. He hit a devastating neckbreaker, and Styles kicked out of the cover. Owens looked to hit a moonsault, but Styles dodged, hitting a moonsault of his own for a near-fall.

At ringside, Owens hit a killer powerbomb on the steel steps, and Styles just barely beat the count. Owens looked to hit the Pop-up Powerbomb, but Styles countered with a pelee kick. It didn’t prove enough, as Owens managed to hit the Pop-up Powerbomb for the pinfall.

Kevin Owens is a megastar in the waiting. It’s great seeing him doing so well, just over a year into his main roster career.

Styles is losing clean a lot. I’m mildly concerned, but I can’t seem to shake the feeling that WWE isn’t quite done with him yet. Something big is about to happen. I just can’t figure out what it is…yet.

But don’t give up on him. WWE has invested way too much time and money into Styles to let him sink down the card now.

Extreme Rules 2016 Recap/Analysis

For the first time in years, Extreme Rules actually lived up to its name. There was violence, brawling, insanity, and a long-awaited return that will change the main event scene of WWE for good.

Anderson & Gallows vs. The Usos (Tornado Tag Team Match)

The Usos and the Club wasted no time in going after each other right away, brawling both in and out of the ring. Gallows and Anderson hit a brutal Boot of Doom from the apron out of the ring. Gallows began taking some punishment, but Anderson intervened with a cruel knee to the head.

The Usos fought back, looking to hit their finishing splash, but Anderson prevented it. Gallows dodged a corkscrew move from the ropes, but went right into a Samoan Drop. The four men reached a stalemate. Anderson was the first to his feet, but he ran right into a kick from Jey Uso, who ran him into the barricade only to run into a clothesline from Gallows, who proceeded to throw him over the barricade.

Gallows, on his own, grabbed the bell itself, but ran into a Superkick. He dodged a splash, and Jimmy splashed onto the bell. The two finished him off soon after.

THANK GOD.

Kalisto vs. Rusev (United States Championship match)

Lana presented Rusev, which was certainly missed.

Kalisto immediately went to work attacking Rusev’s legs, utilizing his speed. He went for a corkscrew from the ropes, but Rusev swatted him with ease. He continued to dish out punishment on the Luchador, locking Kalisto into a less than comfortable bear hug, targeting his lower back.

Kalisto managed to reverse it into a sleeper hold of his own, but Rusev managed to slam him onto the ground. Kalisto bought himself recovery time with a DDT, dodging Rusev and hitting a corkscrew and hurricarana for a near-fall. He flew through the ropes and hit another hurricarana on Rusev out of the ring, sending him into the steel steps, but Rusev stayed alive.

Kalisto hit a moonsault from the top rope out of the ring, ascending to the top rope, but Rusev threw him off and onto the ring apron. Kalisto barely moved, and Doctors tried tending to him, but Rusev was relentless, locking in the Accolade for the win.

Rusev is on a hot streak, back to his old, dominating ways with a new undercurrent of entertainment that makes him easily watchable and extremely enjoyable. Best of luck to the new champ. Kill it.

Or, better yet, CRUSH IT.

The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains (WWE Tag Team Championship match)

The New Day cut a brilliant promo on the Vaudevillains, hilariously comparing the to garden hoes.

Xavier Woods and Aiden English started things off, with Woods hitting a hurricarana before interference from Gotch, who then tagged in, sent him out of the ring. Gotch took him back into the ring, and English took over, working Woods into the mat before locking in a chokehold. Gotch took over from there, and Woods hit a kick to buy himself time to crawl to Big E, who tagged in.

Big E hit belly to bellies on both English and Gotch before hitting a splash on English in the center of the ring. But English fought back, and Gotch and English teamed up, nearly pinning Woods. Big E returned with a fury, throwing English out of the ring. Kofi took English out, and Woods pinned Gotch to retain.

Always good to see Woods in the ring. The match was well-paced, and the right team won. Vaudevillains will get their shot, but these titles are not theirs to win just yet.

The Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (Intercontinental Championship match)

Sami Zayn barely waited for the bell before taking Owens out with a Helluva Kick, and Cesaro took the Miz out with an uppercut, leaving the two babyfaces in the ring together. Sami went on the attack, hitting an arm drag and hurricarana. Zayn sent Cesaro out of the ring, and the Miz charged back into action.

Zayn threw them both out of the ring, flying to take the two out. Zayn dragged Miz back into the ring, but was driven into the turnbuckle. The two went to the ropes, but Owens flew back into action, targeting Zayn right away. He drove Zayn into Cesaro, slapping him silly.

Zayn looked to power back with a superplex, but Cesaro turned it into a massive superplex, tossing all three Superstars over his shoulder in an incredible display. Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb and Miz kicked him out of the way looking to take advantage.

Cesaro hit an exploder suplex on Zayn and the Miz and proceeded to take the three others on a ride on the uppercut train. He looked to take Miz swinging, but Owens came back into action, nearly hitting his finisher on Zayn. Miz hit the Skull-Crushing Finale on Cesaro, but he kicked out.A furious Miz slapped Cesaro, but Cesaro hit an uppercut corkscrew, taking Miz swinging before locking in the Sharpshooter. Miz tapped, but the official didn’t see. Owens tried interfering, but Cesaro hit him with a Neutralizer. Zayn broke the pin.

Zayn and Cesaro traded near-falls. Zayn went for the Helluva Kick, and Cesaro hit an uppercut. Zayn ran into a Superkick, and Owens hit the Pop-up Powerbomb, and Miz interfered. Miz looked to pin Cesaro, who kicked out.

Zayn hit the Helluva Kick, but Owens broke it. Infuriated, the two brawled out of the ring, and Miz took advantage, covering Cesaro to retain.

Hello, match of the year candidate! This match was electric from start to finish, stocked full of thrilling near-falls and perfectly executed spots by all four men. I cannot wait to see the heights they will take each other to next.

Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho (Asylum Match)

Jericho called for the door to be opened, but Ambrose caught him immediately, throwing him to the ground soundly. Jericho went climbing, but Ambrose caught him, taking him down yet again, throwing him into the cage’s side twice.

The two climbed up, and Ambrose reached the mop first, hitting Y2J soundly with the mop with a smirk on his face. He mopped Jericho down with glee, but Jericho fought back with a missile dropkick, using the mop himself. He went for the barbed wire 2×4, but Ambrose hit a suplex from the second rope to delay him.

Ambrose and Jericho both ascended the cage, with Ambrose getting nunchucks while Jericho grabbed the 2×4. Turns out Ambrose can actually use them, and he took advantage. Jericho looked to escape the cage, and Ambrose followed him up. Jericho grabbed the kendo stick, knocking Ambrose back into the ring and sitting proudly atop the cage.

Jericho hit Ambrose with a  diving kendo stick, and used the nunchucks before hitting a suplex. Jericho grabbed the giant strap, whipping Ambrose, but the Lunatic Fringe fought back, grabbing the strap himself and returning the favor. Jericho launched Ambrose into the cage, looking to escape, but Ambrose caught him, and the two exchanged punches before Ambrose knocked Jericho into the ropes.

Ambrose retrieved the fire extinguisher, and Jericho grabbed the straitjacket. Jericho used the jacket to blind Ambrose and hit a dropkick, flinging Ambrose into the cage and hitting a second dropkick. Jericho nearly got Ambrose locked into the jacket, but Ambrose fought out, hitting a flurry of strikes and driving Jericho into the turnbuckle.

Ambrose hit a STUNNING Flying Elbow from the top of the cage and retrieved thumbtacks, spilling them on the ground. Jericho went for a lionsault, but Ambrose countered it. Jericho locked in the Walls, but Ambrose refused to tap, dragging himself to the kendo stick, which he used to break out of the hold. Jericho blinded Ambrose witht he fire extinguisher, hitting the Codebreaker, but Ambrose kicked out.

Jericho used the barbed wire 2×4, striking Ambrose, but Ambrose threw him into the thumbtacks and hit Dirty Deeds for the pinfall.

This match was way too long, but the shocking ending saved it. Kudos to Jericho for sacrificing his freaking body. Ambrose looked absolutely deadly as he left, which was great to see.

Charlotte vs. Natalya (Submission match for the WWE Women’s Championship)

Natalya went right for Charlotte’s legs, locking down the champ’s legs before Charlotte reversed into a headlock, applying pressure to Nattie’s jaw. Natalya hit a dropkick to Charlotte’s face, working Charlotte’s back, but Charlotte managed to leap over the ropes, noly to run into a clothesline.

Natalya pursued, but Charlotte, infuriated, hit her with a series of brutal strikes. Natalya sent her into the steel post, returning to the ring, but Charlotte retaliated with a boot to the face. Natalya locked Charlotte into an armbar, but Charlotte broke it by reversing into a powerbomb.

Charlotte locked in a submission move on Natalya’s legs, and Natalya reached the ropes for the break. Charlotte continued the assault, driving Nattie into the ropes with a suplex. Charlotte hit a moonsault into a half crab, and Nattie escaped, launching Charlotte with a German suplex, locking in the Sharpshooter.

Charlotte reached the ropes, but Natalya dragged her back into the middle of the ring. Dana Brooke emerged, dressed as Ric Flair, and distracted Natalya, allowing Charlotte to lock in the Figure 8 for the victory. With Ric Flair and Dana, she celebrated in the ring.

Great match, very intelligently put together, but what a screwy ending. Once again, Creative let its ladies down.

Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles (Extreme Rules match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship)

Styles was amped up from the start, utilizing his high energy against Reigns’ raw power. He drove Reigns into the turnbuckle, but Reigns shoved right back, slamming Styles into the turnbuckle with a series of punches. The two went after each other, and Reigns hit Styles with a knee to the chest.

Styles retreated from the ring, going for a steel chair, but Reigns caught him, grabbing the chair for himself and returning to the ring. Back outside the ring, Reigns looked to hit Styles with the chair, but Styles drove him into the announce table with a series of strikes. Styles cleared the table and drove Reigns over the barricade, driving Reigns through the crowd. Reigns threw Styles into the stands, but AJ fought back with a chair to the gut.

Reaching the kickoff panel set, Styles was thrown by Reigns onto the unforgiving glass table. Styles hit a desperate kick from the table, and then hit the Phenomenal Forearm. The two continued to brawl back to the timekeeping area, and Styles drove Reigns into the barricade, unpadded. He then peeled away the floor padding, looking for the Clash, but Reigns fought out of it, driving Styles into the steel steps.

Reigns looked to powerbomb Styles, but Styles fought out with furious punches. Styles looked for the Clash on the table, but Reigns sent him over the barricade again. Reigns hit Styles again with a back body drop onto the other announce table. Reigns returned Styles to the ring, but Styles did not surrender. Reigns went for the Superman Punch, but Styles reversed it, seemingly harming Reigns’ knees before driving him into the turnbuckle again.

Styles hit a running knee, but Reigns caught him, throwing him against the ring and barricade before throwing him into the table. Reigns went for the spear, but Styles dodged, returning Reigns to the ring. Styles ascended tot he top rope, but Reigns caught him with the Superman Punch, knocking Styles out of the ring. Reigns hit the spear, throwing Styles back into the ring, but Anderson and Gallows emerged, hitting the Boot of Doom. Reigns kicked out.

The Usos joined the fray, Superkicking Styles and hitting the splash, but Styles kicked out. Reigns took out Anderson and Gallows, going for the spear. Styles caught him, hitting the Styles Clash, and Reigns kicked out. Styles looked to hit it again on the chair, but Reigns threw him off. Reigns ran into a Pelee Kick, and hit the Clash on the chair, going for the cover, but an Uso pulled him off long enough to allow Reigns to kick out.

Styles went crazy on everyone, decimating the Usos and Reigns with the steel chair, and went for the Phenomenal Forearm, but fell to the spear.

Reigns held his title high, BUT THEN SETH ROLLINS RETURNED OUT OF NOWHERE, downing Reigns with a Pedigree and holding the title he never lost high to end the night.

First off…SETH FREAKING ROLLINS IS FREAKING BACK!

The crowd came absolutely unglued for the returning Superstar, giving him a hero’s welcome. Well deserved too.

Now, as for the match itself…

What a freaking disappointment. Once again, Roman Reigns took out Anderson and Gallows on his own, and then magically recovered from multiple steel chair shots to spear AJ Styles out of the air. What a joke. AJ deserved better. We as viewers deserved better.

Styles is one of the best wrestlers in the entire world. Not just in WWE, but in the world. He deserves better booking. Hell, Reigns deserves better. It feels like Creative is sabotaging him at this point.

All in all, Seth Rollins is back, AJ Styles should rule the world, and the IC boys deserve a trophy. Good night.

RAW Recap/Analysis – May 16, 2016

In the final RAW before Extreme Rules, it was the challengers who stood tall, picking up significant victories ahead of the PPV.

Setting the record straight

RAW kicked off with AJ Styles himself, who wasted no time in saying that he got to where he is because of himself, and not anyone else,e specially Anderson and Gallows. He was interrupted by Roman Reigns, who acknowledged all of Styles’ victories but claimed that none of them mattered compared to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Styles mocked Reigns’ new slogan, and Reigns promised to put Styles through hell at Extreme Rules.

Soon enough, the mutual trash talk was interrupted by Anderson and Gallows, who had to hold Styles back from attacking Reigns and the Usos.

The crowd chanted for Rollins throughout, and Reigns brushed it off.

It was great seeing the crowd so amped up for Rollins, whose imminent return is like a light at the end of the tunnel.

Reigns’ arrogance is really fitting him like a glove, and the more he soaks up the boos the better. His character is just begging for a heel turn, and it needs to come soon. Styles, meanwhile, is better than ever on the mic. His nagging injuries are definitely worrisome. I hope he isn’t worked to hard before and at Extreme Rules. He has made himself too valuable to be on the shelf.

Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn

The Miz and Kevin Owens came to ringside to watch their two opponents for Extreme Rules go at it in a rematch from one of the best matches in NXT history.

Early on, Cesaro and Zayn both felt each other out, avoiding getting any real offense in, but Owens and the Miz began to brawl at ringside, taking their conflict into the ring and causing a disqualification when they attacked Zayn and Cesaro both.

Shane McMahon emerged, setting up Miz and Owens against Zayn and Cesaro. But then Stephanie emerged, switching up the teams and setting up Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens against Cesaro and The Miz, threatening to remove Owens from Extreme Rules if he walked out on Zayn.

Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. The Miz & Cesaro

Owens and Cesaro started things off, and Owens just barely avoided going swinging before he forcefully tagged Sami Zayn in, who was taken right down with an arm drag and an uppercut before Miz tagged himself in to suplex Zayn.

Owens tagged himself in, hitting a drop on the Miz and badmouthing Zayn for his struggles before tagging Zayn back in defiantly. Zayn looked to be gaining momentum before a distraction by Maryse allowed Miz to knock him out of the ring.

Cesaro took things from there, inflicting punishment on a suffering Zayn before the Miz tagged back in only to be nearly rolled up by Zayn, who began to mount a comeback, finally allowing Owens to tag himself in and hit a dropkick on the Miz followed by a cannonball. Cesaro tagged in to even the odds, taking Owens for a ride on the uppercut train.

Cesaro then hit the Skull-Crushing Finale on Miz, who took a Helluva Kick from Zayn, who got the victory. Owens took Zayn out in response, standing tall to close out the segment.

Have I ever said how much I love it when rivals are forced to team up? Yes, I have, back when Y2AJ were still frenemies. The constant one-upsmanship on both sides kept what might have been an overexposed rivalry fresh and kept eyes glued on the match. Owens and Zayn in particular shone bright, their harder than necessary tags and bickering throughout providing a wealth of entertainment.

Backstage, Chris Jericho ranted to Renee Young about Dean Ambrose’s destruction of his jacket.

The Shining Stars vs. Local Competitors

The Shining Stars

Epico started off strong, doing a number on the two local competitors before tagging in Primo, who hit a dropkick out of the ring. The two hit their double move, the Shining Star, and walked away with a victory.

Celebrating in the ring, the two invited everyone watching to come to Puerto Rico.

Ooof. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Asylum arrives

An angry Dean Ambrose immediately called Jericho out, and his rival answered the call, mic in hand. Jericho said he wasn’t interested in talking, instead demanding an apology that instant.

Ambrose scoffed at that, instead challenging Chris Jericho to a match at Extreme Rules. Jericho accepted, and Ambrose asked if he was sure at his age. Jericho declared that there was no one in the company crazier than him, touting his championship record to the Lunatic Fringe.

Jericho offered the gift of Jericho, and in response Dean offered a gift of his own, lowering a steel cage littered with a barbed-wire wrapped two-by-four, a straitjacket and even a potted plant around the ring, announcing that their match would be the first ever Asylum Match. No escape, just surrender.

This match is sure to be explosive if WWE gives it the time it deserves. Ambrose and Jericho both thrive under these circumstances, but if Ambrose puts on anything but a dominating performance, this entire angle is a waste.

Ambrose should win with no doubts in anyone’s minds. Anything less is just plain wrong.

Dana Brooke vs. Becky Lynch

Becky started off strong, taking Emma for a ride of arm drags and mocking her. Dana retreated out of the ring, but Lynch went after her. That proved to be a mistake, as Brooke drove her into the barricade before returning to the ring, driving her into the mat cruelly.

Brooke attempted a cover, but Lynch kicked out, attempting a suplex but hitting a clothesline instead, gaining momentum and driving Brooke into the turnbuckle, hitting an exploder suplex and attempting a cover.

Lynch went to the ropes, but Brooke caught her, rolling her up for a victory.

Emma’s injury is heartbreaking, and a definite blow to the women’s division. Dana Brooke is now on her own. That being said, she performed very well against Lynch, playing up her strength and finally getting her own entrance.

Another segment with Darren Young and Bob Backlund aired.

Backstage, Stephanie and Shane set up a match of one of the Dudley Boyz against Big Cass.

The Golden Truth vs. Breezango

R-Truth started things off against Tyler Breeze, and he and Goldust wasted no time in going ham on Tyler Breeze before Fandango tagged in.

Goldust caught both Fandango and Breeze with powerslams, but a well-timed duck by Tyler Breeze caused R-Truth to knock out Goldust by mistake, letting Tyler Breeze pick up the win.

 

Backstage, R-Truth attempted to apologize to Goldust, saying they still had to work out the kinks, and that the WWE Universe, he, and Goldust all wanted the Golden Truth. Tyler Breeze and Fandango gloated at them, calling them the Golden Girls, and the two resolved to get their chakras aligned.

That’s right, folks. We endured half a year of this damn angle to see them lose in their debut match.

On the bright side, Tyler Breeze has a bit of a winning streak going. So there’s that.

The New Day

In the ring, the New Day mocked the bygone era the Vaudevillains supposedly represented before uncovering a makeshift time machine made from an empty refrigerator box. They stepped inside, and Kofi emerged to his old Jamaican theme. They went back into the machine, and finally emerged wearing mustaches in black and white.

The three declared that the bygone era sucked, but no matter the era, they would still be champs. They were then ambushed by English and Gotch themselves, assaulting Woods and sending him right into his time machine.

This was a very creative segment. Kofi’s Jamaican throwback was awesome. It was a good way to further the rivalry without overexposing both teams. Well done.

Anderson & Gallows (with AJ Styles) vs. The Usos (with Roman Reigns)

Anderson and Gallows started off strong, but the Usos began to regain momentum until Luke Gallows came into the fold, weakening Jey Uso before Anderson tagged in to continue the punishment. Jimmy Uso finally tagged in, catching Gallows with a kick to the gut and hitting a huge crossbody for a near-fall.

Jimmy sent Gallows out of the ring, and continued the beatdown out of the ring before a distraction by Styles allowed Gallows to hit a right hand. Reigns didn’t take too kindly to that, to say the least.

Anderson regained momentum before tagging Gallows back in, unloading on Jimmy Uso, who tried desperately to get back to Jey, who tagged in hot, taking Gallows and Anderson out at ringside. He nearly pinned Anderson, but Anderson kicked out, fighting back with a fury. He landed a rocket kick, but ran into a Superkick, with Gallows saving the match.

The Usos hit Gallows and Anderson both with Superkicks, hitting a splash for the win.

Chaos broke out in the ring, and Styles looked to finally use the steel chair aganst Reigns, who caught him with a right hook, taking the chair and hitting Styles with it. He took out both Gallows and Anderson, but Styles responded with a chair shot himself, FINALLY landing the Styles Clash on the chair.

Speaking of overexposure…

We’ve seen this match far too much in the past few weeks. Why not pit the Usos or the Club against other tag teams, give us something fresh so that the WWE’s most intriguing feud does not become tired?

Additionally, it’s an absolute travesty to book Anderson and Gallows as anything less than a dominant force. having Reigns and the Usos take them out with so much ease takes away any shred of credibility they have. WWE likes to play up their dominance in Japan, but they feed them to Reigns weekly. That’s ridiculous.

I was surprised to see Styles in action, especially considering his physical state, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t extremely satisfying seeing him hit the Styles Clash on Reigns. He won’t win on Sunday, but we’ll always have this, I suppose.

Big Cass vs. D-Von Dudley

Big Cass cut a fantastic trashing promo on the Dudleys, likening D-Von to Urkle and Bubba Ray to Fred Flintstone. The Dudleys didn’t give Big Cass time to call them SAWFT, revealing D-Von to be Cass’s opponent for the night.

D-Von rolled out of the ring, with Bubba Ray distracting Cass by pulling out a table. D-Von took advantage, but Big Cass soon caught them both with a boot and then East River Crossing, picking up a massive and impressive victory.

Big Cass, smug, finished his sentence, calling them SAWFT to close out the segment.

It’s great seeing Cass get such a strong push. Once Enzo returns, they will both undoubtably be in title contention in no time at all.

Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio

Del Rio went on the offensive immediately, targeting Kalisto’s mask as Sin Cara watched on from backstage. Kalisto struggled to regain momentum as Del Rio hit him with a series of strikes, but Kalisto finally turned the tide with a hurricarana.

He attempted another outside the ring, but Del Rio caught him, sending him head-first into the barricade. This gave Del Rio the advantage.

Backstage, Rusev attacked Sin Cara as he observed the match, with Kalisto forced to watch by Del Rio. A distracted Kalisto crashed shoulder-first into the turnbuckle. Del Rio showboated a bit, and Kalisto took advantage, hitting a hurricarana from the top rope.

Rusev emerged with Sin Cara’s prone body, sending him right into the post, and allowing Del Rio to hit the backstabber on a distracted and distressed Kalisto. After the match, Rusev locked in a brutal accolade in the middle of the ring, having to be forced away by referees. He grabbed the title, and held it over Kalisto before leaving.

This was a good showing for Rusev, who is finally starting to look like the unbeatable force he used to be.

Women’s Championship Contract Signing

Shane and Stephanie took to the ring to preside over the contract signing. Ric Flair emerged first, interrupting Stephanie to introduce his daughter himself, telling the crowd to stand for his daughter,who milked her entrance for all that it was worth.

Shane introduced Natalya, who asked Charlotte what she had become, criticizing Charlotte’s new attitude. Charlotte called herself a goddess, saying that she could do anything and still be cheered.

Ric began to WOO, but Charlotte cut him off, continuing to trash Natalya and calling the signing a waste of her time. Shane cut her off, handing her the contract, but before she signed, she took offense to an added stipulation declaring that if Ric Flair even tried to approach the ring, Charlotte would forfeit her title.

Shane brought security down to the ring to escort him out if need be, and Charlotte signed the contract. Ric Flair went crazy, calling Stephanie the worst businesswoman of all time and threatening to beat up Shane. So, naturally, Stephanie slapped him.

Charlotte charged at Stephanie, but Natalya, heels and all, caught Charlotte in the Sharpshooter, forcing her to tap and sending a clear message, holding the title high to close the segment.

Having a women’s segment closing out RAW is truly incredible, but there was a bit too much happening here. I won’t let that take away from the excellent mic work done by both Natalya and Charlotte, however.

Also, Natalya applied the Sharpshooter in high heels. Mad respect.

RAW Recap/Analysis – May 9, 2016

RAW emanated from Omaha, Nebraska, the next chapter of a so-called new era, and boy did WWE not let us forget it. I hope nobody tried to make a drinking game out of it, because those two words were shoved down our throats so much I almost asked for the Ruthless Aggression era back.

The Highlight Reel with Mitch (and Cass)

Chris Jericho, pouty face and all, opened up Monday Night RAW with the Highlight Reel. Hey, at least it’s not an Authority promo. He revealed his guest for the night to be none other than Mitch, the potted plant he brutally murdered last week on RAW, comparing the broken plant to Dean Ambrose himself.

He acknowledged the internet firestorm over Mitch, calling Mitch more interesting and charismatic than Ambrose and, quite bluntly, a loser and a slob. He called himself a legend before being interrupted by none other than Big Cass himself.

Cass mocked Jericho’s so-called gift of Jericho to the audience, completely unafraid, and announced as a warning that he had ARRIVED. He challenged Jericho to a fight, and Jericho refused, sauntering out of the ring. Cass called him SAWFT, and Jericho charged him, but Cass took him out with a single boot to the face.

Creative clearly has a lot of faith in Cass, and it was amazing seeing him talking smack with Chris Jericho himself. He didn’t stumble or disappoint as he sized up the veteran with ease, doing his injured partner and everyone working hard in NXT proud.

Jericho’s cascade of insults about Ambrose had a bit more bite than they did in the buildup to Payback, which I like. The added ferocity is just what their feud needed.

Backstage, an infuriated Jericho approached Stephanie, who told Jericho that he would be competing in the main event of RAW against Cass, and told Jericho to never try to drive a wedge between her and Shane.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Corbin instantly drove Ziggler into the turnbuckle, mocking him viciously before Ziggler fired back with a series of elbows. Things left the ring quickly, with Ziggler driving Corbin over the barricade with a dropkick. Ziggler’s momentum continued through the commercial break until he missed a Fame-asser, allowing Corbin to make a fierce comeback.

Corbin made a mockery of Ziggler in the ring, driving him into the mat. Ziggler managed to hit the Fame-asser on Corbin, but he managed to kick out, much to Ziggler’s shock. Ziggler charged, but Corbin caught him with a Deep Six, which Ziggler kicked out of.

Ziggler nearly rolled him up, but Corbin caught him with the End of Days to pick up the victory.

50/50 booking strikes again, but hey, Corbin looked good. If booked right, he very well could be the monster heel WWE’s been looking for.

Backstage, Shane McMahon talked with Ric Flair and Charlotte, who sleezily attempted cozying up to Shane, asking him to allow Ric Flair to be at ringside for Extreme Rules, but Shane bannedFlair from ringside for RAW as well.

Elsewhere, Jojo interviewed Styles, Anderson and Gallows. Styles proclaimed that this week, he would not hesitate to take out Roman Reigns tonight and that for RAW, the club was back together again.

Fandango vs. R-Truth

R-Truth rook early control of the match, dancing cheerfully as he beat down on Fandango, who tossed him from the ring to regain momentum.Truth’s partner, meanwhile, just admired his reflection in his phone.

Fandango took Truth down with a dropkick, but was distracted by a dancing Goldust enough for R-Truth to surprise Fandango for the pinfall.

I would analyze this, but frankly, this storyline is so ridiculous that I can’t even comprehend it enough to try.

Meanwhile, Stephanie McMahon and Shane were swarmed by the Intercontinental contenders , and Sami Zayn asked for a shot to earn the chance to be put into a match for the IC Title alongside Cesaro, Kevin Owens and current champion Miz.

Charlotte vs. Paige

With Natalya on commentary, the Nature Girl herself took on former Divas and NXT Women’s Champion Paige without her father by her side.

Charlotte looked to be taking an early lead, but Paige took advantage of a moment of arrogance, hitting her with a kick on the apron. But back in the ring, Charlotte drove Paige into the turnbuckle and hit her with a vicious boot to the face.

Once again, Charlotte showboated, allowing Paige to hit her with a series of knees and a rollup. She caught Charlotte with a kick to the face for a nearfall, but Charlotte kicked out, striking back with a brutal chop. She went for a moonsault, but Paige interfered, hitting a superplex for another nearfall.

The two attempted more rollups, and Paige nearly got the PTO locked in, but Charlotte made it to the ropes, which she attempted using for a dirty pin. Nattie prevented it, and Paige hit a fallaway slam for a near-fall.

Ric Flair emerged, allowing Charlotte to hit a backbreaker, but Shane McMahon interrupted his party with a group of refs to escort Ric Flair backstage. Paige took advantage, rolling Charlotte up for the win as Nattie watched smugly.

First off, Paige looked absolutely fantastic here, reverting back to the fun brawling style she used more back in her NXT days. She was clearly making the most of her opportunity and having a blast as she mocked Charlotte. I hope WWE finds a way to use her that doesn’t involve any Total Divas nonsense. She deserves better.

Charlotte looked comfortable in her heel persona, oozing attitude even without her father at ringside. Her athleticism shone through and, despite the chaotic finish, she looked good even in defeat.

Sami Zayn vs. The Miz

Sami Zayn wasted no time in going for a quick win, rolling up Miz before they even locked up. Miz, unsettled, got Zayn into a side headlock, but Zayn quickly fired back with a series of arm drags, rolling him up yet again.

Miz retreated from the ring, and Sami hit him with a moonsault off the barricade, stunning the Intercontinental Champ before sending him into the not once, but twice. Zayn continued his momentum int he ring as Owens and Cesaro watched on backstage until he was thrown out of the ring, hitting the steel steps hard.

Zayn managed to avoid being counted out, but Miz capitalized, driving Zayn into the turnbuckle and hitting forearms from the ropes. Miz looked to hit the Skull-Crushing Finale, but Zayn avoided it, hitting a driver for a near-fall.

The Miz locked in the Figure Four on a suffering Zayn, who just barely managed to reach the ropes for the break. A furious Miz stomped Zayn into the ropes, trying to use the ropes as leverage for a pinfall, and Zayn hit an exploder into the turnbuckle before landing the Helluva Kick, earning himself a spot in the now Fatal Four-Way for the Intercontinental Championship.

This was a foregone conclusion, but it was still a great moment to see. Sami Zayn is tremendously over, and his performance only cemented it.

Backstage, a smug Emma called Becky Lynch inferior before DANA BROOKE ambushed her.

Well, this is interesting.

I know a lot of people are up in arms about Brooke, a notorious overacter who still needs some polishing in the ring, getting called up before Bayley, but I can’t bring myself to mind too much. Brooke and Emma were a blast together, ruthlessly taking women out left and right back on NXT. Brooke will fit right in.

That being said, it is worrisome that WWE is adding another woman to the roster when they still can’t find any time for Sasha Banks.

Elsewhere, Zack Ryder approached Shane McMahon about getting a chance to shine, but was interrupted by Kevin Owens, who mocked Ryder’s internet popularity. In response, Shane set up a match between the two to determine the who would be the fourth entrant in the Fatal Four Way.

And somewhere else, Roman Reigns, with the Usos at his side, declared that in their upcoming elimination match against The Club (?!?!) he would be the one to eliminate AJ Styles.

Sin Cara vs. Rusev

With Kalisto at ringside, Sin Cara took on a re-energized Rusev, who kept his eyes on the US Champ the entire time as he methodically beat down the luchador.

Rusev went for a pinfall with a fall-away slam,, but Sin Cara fought back with a tornado DDT, briefly stunning the Bulgarian Brute. Sin Cara went for a move off the ropes, just barely hitting a moonsault before attacking the retreating brute out of the ring with a dive through the ropes.

Rusev fought back, however, hitting Sin Cara with a boot to the chest and showboating. Kalisto managed to provide a distraction as the ref was preoccupied with Lana, kicking Rusev on the apron and allowing Sin Cara to roll him up for the win.

I don’t understand this.

If you’re trying to build up Rusev as a dominant Goliath to Kalisto’s David, how does it make sense to have him lose to Kalisto’s more inferior (sorry Sin Cara) partner?

Roman Reigns & The Usos vs. The (Bullet) Club

The tension was palpable as the two factions took each other on. Anderson started things off, as Reigns and the Usos worked him with expert team style. Styles joined the action soon after, taking time to look right at Roman Reigns as the Club boys took Jimmy Uso to a world of hurt.

Jey Uso soon tagged in, staging a bit of a comeback against Anderson before Anderson eliminated him holding his tights.

Styles and Reigns both tagged in, but Luke Gallows tagged himself in instead, only to be treated to a classic Reigns-style beatdown., knocking Anderson and Styles off the apron. Jimmy Uso hit Gallows with a crossbody, nearly getting him eliminated before driving him into the corner.

Anderson entered the fray, but was rolled up and eliminated, evening the odds. But soon enough, Styles had Jimmy eliminated with a  Phenomenal Forearm.

Against Gallows, Reigns looked to mount a comeback, eliminating Gallows with a Superman Punch, and an energized Styles burst into the ring, taking Reigns down with a flurry of punches, strikes and a pelee kick. Throwing Reigns out of the ring, Styles flung himself out of the ring onto Reigns and prepped the announce table to get some sweet revenge.

But Reigns flung Styles into the apron and over the table, recovering out of nowhere, and looked to once again put Styles through the table, but Anderson and gallows broke it up, soon being joined by the Usos for a good, old-fashioned brawl. Reigns took Gallows and Anderson both out in the ring with a spear before being caught unaware by Styles, who almost hit him with the Styles Clash.

The two faced off, with Reigns defiantly offering Styles the steel chair in the ring. Styles merely returned it to Roman, who almost used it on Styles, who slid out of the ring, declaring he had no need for that chair.

Just as I’ve been saying, this feud is positively enthralling for so many reasons. Surprisingly, the Usos and Gallows and Anderson are still adding depth to the feud more than anyone ever believed they would.

The final sequence with the chair gave me chills. Neither man using the chair because of pride. The absolute desire to forgo all pretenses and just brawl. The arena was abuzz, and no matter what side you’re on, you cannot deny that these two are making each other stars.

Zack Ryder vs. Kevin Owens

Owens wasted little time in cruelly beating Ryder down, badmouthing him throughout and looking to powerbomb him onto the apron, but Ryder reversed it into a back body drop, furthering his momentum with a missile dropkick until Owens struck back from behind.

Ryder flew into a jacknife cover, but Owens kicked out, missing a canonball into the turnbuckle and barely evading the Broski Boot. Ryder wouldn’t let him recover, driving him into the barricade before tossing him back into the ring and hitting the El-bro fromt he top rope for a near-fall.

Ryder went for his finisher, but Owens caught him with a Superkick followed by the Pop-up Powerbomb for a decisive victory, officially sending him to Extreme Rules.

Well, I mean…did anyone expect anything different?

Backstage, Big Cass told Renee Young that he was dedicating his match against Jericho to Enzo Amore.

The New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz

The New Day emerged to cut a promo on the Vaudevillains, pointing out that the era the Vaudevillains represented an era not kind to people like them….smartphone users. They worked the crowd up wonderfully, actually getting them to bow down to the Booty-O’s before their opponents for the night emerged: The Dudley Boyz.

Bubba Ray started things off strong against Kofi Kingston, mocking the New Day throughout before Big E hit a splash in the middle of the ring. But when Kofi tagged back in, D-Von began to turn the tide back int he Dudleys’ favor.

But Kofi managed to hit a dropkick, allowing him to tag Big E in for a double-team move into the turnbuckle. Bubba Ray tried to interfere, but Big E took him out with a belly-to-belly, and the New Day began the Unicorn Stampede on D-Von. Kingston hit a dropkick, and the dancing and girating began before the Vaudevillains emerged, attacking Woods at ringside and letting D-Von pin Kingston.

The Vaudevillains continued their assault in the ring, hitting the Whirling Dervish on Kingston at the center of the ring and standing tall to end the segment.

The New Day proves, week after week, that they are still one of the most organically entertaining acts on the entire roster. Their pre-match promos get the audience psyched to see them in action, and their in-ring antics keep everyone watching and waiting for the next wild thing.

The vaudevillains are fitting into their heel roles perfectly, providing a surprisingly fresh antagonist for the New Day to fight. They are so very annoying that audiences are practically salivating at the thought of seeing them getting their asses kicked. And I love it.

Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho didn’t even make it to the ring, being ambushed in the dark and on the ramp by Dean Ambrose, who wore his glowing jacket all the way into the ring, cheerfully ripping it apart for everyone to see. Jericho ran into the ring, and Ambrose wasted no time in laying down punishment.

Jericho retreated from the ring, and Big Cass blocked his way, staring him downw ordlessly until Jericho made the mistake of slapping him. Cass snapped, throwing him into the ring for a waiting Dean Ambrose, who hit Dirty Deeds. Cass threw in the jacket as well, and Ambrose proceeded to cut it to pieces, kicking it onto Jericho’s prone body and walking away.

Backstage, Shane thanked Stephanie for co-existing so well with him, and walked away as Stephanie looked on with an unreadable expression.

First off, I’m sad Cass didn’t actually get to wrestle in the main event. But he’ll get his chance soon enough, so I am not too concerned.

Second, that was one of the coolest looking ambushes I have ever seen.

Dean Ambrose can make any angle he’s involved in a  thousand times more intriguing with a simple flash of aggression or wild-eyed look, and both were on full display as he avenged Mitch the Plant in spectacular fashion. Big Cass’ assist was a nice tie-in as well. I wouldn’t mind seeing these two trash talkers team up for a spell.

Overall, RAW was a good time. The matches seemed to be spaced out better, keeping some of the more intriguing angles until the end of the show for a change to try and retain viewers. We got an NXT debut, and the title pictures look interesting as ever.

Cheers. Here’s to a new era.

RAW Recap/Analysis – May 2, 2016

RAW continued its hot streak as it came crashing into St. Louis the day after Payback, and wasted no time in establishing new storylines while furthering older ones. I hope the ratings reflect it, because RAW is as good as it’s been in recent times.

New era indeed.

Sister Act

Stephanie McMahon opened RAW, much to St. Louis’ displeasure. But soon enough, Shane McMahon came out as well, thankfully saving us from yet another Authority promo. As a peace offering, Stephanie offered her brother a gift: a repaired photograph of young Shane and Vince McMahon.

The two asked to hear each other’s ideas, and as Shane was about to present his own, he was interrupted by Kevin Owens, who demanded a rematch for the Intercontinental Title. Cesaro too emerged with a request of his own, reminding everyone that it was HIS victory Owens and Zayn spoiled.

So Shane set up the first match of the night: Cesaro and Kevin Owens for a shot at the Intercontinental Championship.

I’m intrigued by the family angle. If all goes perfectly, I can see to it leading to a SummerSlam showdown. In a dream world, I would have Seth Rollins return to back up Shane and face off against Triple H at SummerSlam.

But hey, that’s just me.

Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens

The Miz came out to commentate during the match to compete for his title. Cesaro started off strong against Kevin Owens, taking him down with a flip off the barricade when Owens retreated out of the ring before hitting a crossbody back in the ring.

But Owens caught him with a Superkick to the chest, turing the tide in his favor and then landing a DDT. Cesaro landed an uppercut, but Owens reversed it, ascending to the top rope to hit a splash, but Cesaro rose, landing an uppercut, dropkick, and then a suplex, throwing Owens off the ropes and into the center of the ring.

Owens responded by hitting Cesaro’s shoulder on the ropes and then a frog splash out of the ring. But once they returned to the ring, Cesaro got a series of uppercuts in. However, Owens responded with a brutal cannonball into the turnbuckle. Cesaro seemed to be out of it, but Cesaro hit a flying uppercut out of nowhere, sending Owens out of the ring and then hitting an uppercut at ringside.

Owens looked to use The Miz’s belt against Cesaro, but Cesaro hit them both with an uppercut. He took Owens back to the ring and looked to go swinging, but Miz attacked him, causing a disqualification. Owens and Miz began to attack Cesaro in the ring, but Zayn arrived to make the save, unloading on Kevin Owens.

The Miz looked to stop him, but Zayn fought him off, hitting the Helluva Kick on Owens before Maryse pulled the Miz out of the ring. He held up the IC Title himself to end the segment.

The IC Title scene is as engaging as I can remember it ever being. All four men are at the top of their game right now. Kevin Owens is a raging timebomb, Sami Zayn is dynamite, Cesaro is cool as ever, and even the Miz is delivering. These four men could carry an exciting program all the way through the summer.

A lot happens backstage, okay?

Backstage, a friendly Stephanie McMahon approached Dean Ambrose, all smiles, but Dean didn’t buy it, agreeing to have her on the Ambrose Asylum but giving her a face when she walked off.

Elsewhere, R-Truth attempted socializing with his new partner Tyler Breeze, but Breeze wasn’t really having it. Goldust arrived, challenging the Gorgeous Truth to a match with him and Fandango.

Even elsewhere, AJ Styles was shown talking to Anderson and Gallows about his match with Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules before an angry Roman Reigns arrived to stare Styles down. He said he had a lot of respect for Styles, but not Anderson and Gallows, saying they didn’t think Styles could win on his own. Styles declared he would win at Extreme Rules alone, but agreed to a match against Reigns and the Usos that night.

Goldust vs. Tyler Breeze

What a lovers’ spat we have here. Goldust, accompanied by Fandango, took out Breeze quickly with a strike, but was quickly distracted by his spat with R-Truth, who took selfies at ringside with his tree branch selfie stick.

Breeze sent Goldust into the turnbuckle, but the odd one responded with a shoulder to the chest before being once more distracted by Fandango and R-Truth dancing at ringside, allowing Breeze to roll him up for the win.

The New Day & Big Cass vs. The Dudley Boyz & The Vaudvillains

The New Day cheerfully emerged to an appreciative St. Louis crowd, informing the crowd of Enzo Amore’s concussion which brought the Tag Team Tournament to an abrupt end. They showed a picture of Enzo Amore being released from the hospital, saying he was okay and saying they would happily take him on when he’s ready to return.

The New Day were then interrupted by the Vaudvillains themselves, who said that a real man would have gotten back up, unlike Enzo. They said that they had made Enzo the realest guy in the emergency room, and left no doubt as to who deserved a shot at the Tag Team Titles.

THEY were cut off by the Dudley Boyz, pointing out that they hadn’t beaten anybody at Payback and saying they deserved a shot at the Tag Team titles. Big Cass himself cut them off, furious at the Vaudvillains for messing with HIS family and declaring he would finish what they started.

Chaos erupted, with the eight men going at it in the ring. The New Day started things off strong before tagging in an emotional Big Cass, who positively dominated Simon Gotch before joining in the Unicorn Stampede fun and games. Kingston tagged Xavier Woods in, who was blindsided by a surprise tag from Bubba Ray Dudley.

The Dudleys double-teamed on Woods, but the gamer kicked out. The Dudleys tagged in Aiden English, who continued the beatdown with the help of Bubba Ray. Woods escaped a splash from D-Von, tagging in Kingston, who hit D-Von with a fantastic boot drop before Aiden English distracted Kingston, sending him into the corner of the ring.

Gotch took the reigns from there, nearly pinning Kingston in the ring before letting D-Von get in on the action with an uppercut. The Vaudvillains took over from there, double-teaming on Kingston and not letting him get a tag in, viciously striking Kingston and blasting the New Day off the apron.

Kingston finally got to Big Cass, who bodyslammed English twice, took out the Dudleys, and then hit English with a Fall Away Slam and big boot. Hitting an elbow, Cass almost got the pin, but the others interfered. Woods helped even the odds, and Big E took Gotch out at ringside. Bubba Ray nearly pinned Cass, and the two nearly hit the 3-D, but Kingston took Bubba Ray out, allowing Cass to hit the East River Crossing for the win.

There was love for Enzo Amore present in every move Big Cass made, and Cass did not shine any dimmer without his beloved mouthpiece at his side. He was completely at ease on the microphone and fluid as ever in the ring, proving himself capable of keeping his name relevant until Enzo is ready to return to action.

The Vaudvillains were fantastic as well, having settled right into the main roster with more ease than I ever would have thought. Aiden English’s singing and grammar obsession is hilarious, and the two are delivering consistently int he ring as they did in NXT.

Becky Lynch vs. Emma

The two women wasted no time in locking up, with Becky Lynch taking Emma down with a series of armbars. Emma retreated from the ring, and Becky went right after her, hitting an elbow from the apron and throwing Emma back into the ring.

Becky went up to the ropes, but Emma pulled her off, slamming her down hard and working her back with cruel ease. Emma locked Lynch into a full Nelson, but the Lass Kicker powered out, only to be hit by a dropkick and then sent into the ropes. Emma threw Becky into the turnbuckle next, hitting a flying crossbody before going for a cover.

Becky responded with a fury, hitting a series of magnificent clotheslines and then an exploder suplex. She sent Emma face first into the mat and went for the Dis-arm Her, but Emma rolled away, hitting Lynch right in the injured eye to pick up a dirty win with a piledriver of sorts.

Hey, guys, we’re back to two women’s segments again! Thank God!

In what must be but a teaser for things to come, Emma and Lynch put on an enthralling match never once cut off by chants for the still-beloved Sasha Banks. Their feud is really coming into its own, and becky Lynch is proving herself a solid star whether she is in title contention or not.

Emma too is shining against a worthy opponent like Emma, playing her part to perfection and wrestling with practiced ease.

This was, in simple terms, just a damn good wrestling match. Cheers, folks. We’re making progress.

The Ambrose Asylum with Stephanie McMahon

Okay… So, Gabby’s dorm caught fire during the Ambrose Asylum (I know, ironic isn’t it?), so I (Bret Bilbrey aka The Bilbs) am going to try and summarize for you. I’m definitely no Gabby when it comes to these things, but here goes nothing. BTW… someone setting fire to Gabby’s dorm a week before finals? If they used that strategic planning to study instead of starting fires, they might actually pass Freshmen year.

Dean comes out for the Ambrose Asylum and then invites Stephanie McMahon to come down and join him as his guest. Dean asks Stephanie how she can be so happy after Shane, who was absent for seven years and came back to a hero’s welcome, is co-running RAW with her. Stephanie proceeded to say that Vince felt he did what was best for business. Dean then proceeds to show a picture of Roman Reigns spearing her at Wrestlemania to try and get under skin, saying he “knocked her out of her Tina Turner boots.” Stephanie, getting more agitated, but holding her cool replied that she was in the ring where she didn’t belong and shouldn’t have been arguing with he ref.

Dean then grills Stephanie about how she missed birthday parties, dance recitals and other important events in her daughters’ lives to remain loyal to the company and Vince just gave the keys to Shane. Stephanie stops the interview and proceeds to cancel the Ambrose Asylum. Dean says he could have been the next Fallon or Kimmel, but respects her decision, grabs Mitch the Plant and leaves the ring.

Stephanie then announces the return of the Highlight Reel and Chris Jericho makes his way to the ring. Dean and Jericho exchange words, followed by fists. Jericho gets the better of Ambrose and hits him in the back of the head with Mitch. RIP Mitch… you were a good plant and a fan favorite. However, I’m glad I didn’t buy the t-shirt like I did the Y2AJ one. Okay, Gabby’s dorm is no longer on fire, so I turn it back over to her!

 

Battle Royale for the No. 1 Contendership for the United States Championship

I returned late for this one, but when I arrived Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler were going right at it, with Ziggler eliminating Corbin before being eliminated by Rusev in turn. Sheamus eliminated a returning Titus O’Neil as Sin Cara eliminated Bo Dallas.

With only the former League of Nations members, Zack Ryder and Sin Cara left in the match, Alberto Del Rio eliminated Sin Cara, leaving only the ex League-mates and Zack Ryder.

The three former friends all beat down on Ryder, nearly eliminating him, but Ryder survived. Del Rio eliminated Sheamus before  being hit by a kick from Rusev. A kick from Ryder eliminated Del Rio, leaving only Rusev and Zack Ryder.

With the crowd desperately behind him, Ryder hit a missile dropkick on the Bulgarian Brute , but Rusev eliminated him in a last-ditch effort, much to everyone’s displeasure except for Lana, who joined him in the ring to celebrate as United States Champion Kalisto stared him down.

Welcome back Titus….and Zack Ryder, it was fun while it lasted. I honestly kind of hate WWE for teasing us like that. I mean just imagine being Zack Ryder. All the talent and charisma in the world, put over at WrestleMania, and then relegated right back to jobber status the next night.

I hope this feud gives Kalisto something to really sink his teeth into. Given the right foe, Kalisto can truly shine. He just needs to be given a  chance.

The queen is speaking

With her father at her side, Women’s Champion Champion Charlotte and Ric said Natalya hadn’t been screwed over at Payback, and called Charles Robinson out to clear up any lingering concerns.

The crowd began to heckle her, calling her a cheater, but she told them to let the queen talk. Charles Robinson said Natalya was screaming, “STOP!” and he had to call the match. Charlotte asked if Robinson’s long friendship had anything to do with his decision, and Robinson had a Freudian slip, accidentally saying yes, and confirmed the finality of his decision.

Charlotte dismissed him, and a furious Natalya emerged, coming to the ring and taking the mic right from Charlotte’s hands. She provoked the champion, sending her right out of the ring and staring down Ric, who seemed poised for a fight before Natalya went after him herself, locking int he Sharpshooter on Ric before Charlotte dragged him out of the ring.

Backstage, Stephanie McMahon announced Charlotte vs. Natalya in a submission match and added that Ric Flair would be banned from ringside. Suffice it to say that Ric was not pleased in the slightest.

First off, I freaking love submission matches, and the Women’s Division has been owning the game in submissions for months now, so it’s only fitting that these two ladies face off this way.

Secondly, Charlotte and Natalya are brilliant. Natalya locking Ric into the Sharpshooter was a cool moment, and Charlotte is as bad as ever in the best way.

The Bullet Club vs. Roman Reigns & The Usos

Yeah, I said the Bullet Club, because that is EXACTLY what this is!

Styles and Roman started things off quickly, with Styles’ agility meshing wonderfully with Reigns’ strength before Luke Gallows tagged himself in, powering Reigns into the corner before Reigns hit him with a Samoan Drop. Jimmy and Jey Uso tagged in soon enough, taking on Gallows before being hit by a boot.

Gallows threw Jey out of the ring, and the teams both faced off as Jimmy looked to come to the aid of his brother. Anderson brought the action back into the ring, locking Jey Uso into a headlock and then a spinebuster.

Styles tagged in, throwing Jey into the corner and hitting him with a fierce forearm before locking in a headlock of his own. Gallows took out Jimmy in the corner, and Styles went to scold him for that, but was hit by a Superkick upon turning back to Jey, who tagged in Reigns as Styles tagged in Anderson.

Reigns unloaded on Anderson, but was almost rolled up as Reigns went after Styles, who tagged in only to be hilt by a tilt-a-whirl slam. Reigns hit Gallows with the Superman Punch, but was hit by a pelee kick from Styles, who almost took a pinfall with a splash from Jimmy Uso.

At ringside, Gallows and Anderson hit the boot of Doom on Reigns as Styles hit the Phenomenal Forearm for the victory over Jimmy Uso.

In the ring, Gallows and Anderson looked to attack Reigns with a steel chair, telling Styles to attack him, but Styles couldn’t bring himself to do it, refusing as Anderson and Gallows beat him down. From behind, the Usos attacked Styles with a chair and Styles returned the favor, only to be seen by Roman Reigns.

Enraged, Reigns hit Styles with the Superman Punch and powerbombed him through the announce table to close the show.

So, uh, someone might want to tell Roman that Styles spared him and the Usos attacked first, because attacking Styles like that is definitely no way to be a babyface. That being said, Reigns going into angry badass mode is always fun, so it was a cool way to close the show while still giving the Bullet Club boys a clean victory.

Once again, Styles and Reigns put their shocking in-ring chemistry on full display while also adding further depth to their already intriguing story. I love the shades of gray in this rivalry, especially since it could very well be leading into one of the most organic heel turns in recent history.

Heck, even Vince Russo loved the final sequence of this segment. It was brilliantly written and perfectly executed, and I am very much looking forward to seeing where this all goes.

Payback 2016 Recap/Analysis

Wrestling.

That’s what made 2016’s Payback so good, in my opinion. Though hampered by a terrifying injury early on, the pay-per-view managed to deliver fantastic matches that made stars out of its performers.

Enzo & Cass vs. The Vaudvillains

The New Day opened the show to a massive ovation from the Chicago crowd. They announced they would be sitting ringside for the finals of the tag team tournament.

The Vaudvillains started off strong against Enzo and Cass, wearing down Enzo before he tagged Cass in. Enzo and Cass utilized classic tag strategy, wearing down Gotch before Aiden English tagged in and turned the tide, throwing Enzo right out of the ring.

But Enzo hit his head on the ropes, sustaining a very real, very scary injury and forcing the stop of the match.

This was one of the most terrifying moments I’ve ever witnessed live. Enzo was later announced as suffering from a concussion and no neck injuries, but the worry on the faces of all teams involved was clear as day.

Get well soon, Enzo. We’re rooting for you.

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn started off strong, passionately going after Owens with aerial might. Owens, however, fought back with vigor, throwing Zayn out of the ring. Setting Zayn up on the steel steps, Owens kicked him square in the face before returning the action to the ring.

Owens continued dishing punishment, bouncing Zayn off the top rope before going for a failed cover. The two exchanged elbows and clotheslines in the center of the ring before Zayn hit a second clothesline, driving Owens into the turnbuckle and dishing out punishment with a  Blue Thunder Bomb.

Owens fought back with a brutal neckbreaker and a frog splash from the top rope.  He didn’t stop there, driving Zayn into the corner with canonballs. He went for the Pop-up Powerbomb, but Zayn reversed it. Owens responded with a clothesline.

The two went for right hands, hitting each other in tandem before Zayn went for a rollup. He went for a move from the ropes, but Owens caught him and threw him into a backbreaker. The two battled on the ring apron, and Zayn hit Owens with a back body drop. Zayn followed it with a running DDT through the second rope.

But back in the ring, Owens caught Zayn with a Pop-up Powerbomb for the win. But that wasn’t enough for the prizefighter, who threw Zayn out of the ring and demanded that Byron Saxton join him, demanding that he ask him about beating Sami.

Mic in hand, Owens furiously declared that he was the better man and declared his intentions on reclaiming the Intercontinental Championship.

This match was a brilliantly executed technical showing and storytelling clinic. Owens and Zayn absolutely shone, bringing the Chicago crowd back to life after a legitimately scary end to the opening match of the night. And Owens’ monologue at the match’s finish was a work of art.

The Miz vs. Cesaro (Intercontinental Championship match)

With Owens on commentary and still ranting and raving about Sami Zayn, Cesaro started off strong against the Miz, showing off his incredible athleticism, hitting Miz with a vertical suplex and swinging backbreaker.

Cesaro continued dominating until Maryse interfered, allowing the Miz to take control. He targeted the Swiss Superman’s injured shoulder and locked in a brutal chokehold. But Cesaro powered out, reversing it into a vertical suplex before taking Miz to uppercut city. He hit a suplex over the ropes from the apron on the Miz and then a tilt-a-whirl. He nearly had him pinned, but Miz got his foot on the ropes.

Miz hit the Skull-Crushing Finale, but even that couldn’t keep Cesaro down.

At ringside, Zayn came flying back into action, attacking Owens as Cesaro took Miz swinging TWENTY TIMES. He locked him into a crossface, and Miz tapped, but the ref was distracted by Zayn and Owens. Miz caught Cesaro with his tights to retain.

Owens threw Cesaro, Miz and Zayn out of the ring and held the title high to close the segment.

Fatal Four Way? I’m game. Also, Owens should commentate forever.

Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho

Ambrose stared Jericho down fearlessly before going right after him, slapping him across the chest. Incensed, Jericho retreated from the ring and Ambrose went right after him, hitting him with a flying crossbody and clothesline outside the ring.

Jericho crawled to the ref desperately, declaring Ambrose was, “killing him,” before hitting Ambrose with a running dropkick and sending him out of the ring. Pulling Ambrose back in, Jericho punched and twisted his foot on Ambrose’s face. He locked in a chokehold and then hit a dropkick.

Ambrose reversed a running bulldog, sending Jericho into the turnbuckle and then hitting a tornado DDT. Jericho looked for the Walls of Jericho, but Ambrose reversed it, hitting a swinging neckbreaker and running bulldog.  Ambrose went for a flying elbow off the top rope, but Jericho caught him, locking in the Walls, but Ambrose powered to the ropes.

Furious, Jericho kicked him into the ropes, but Ambrose sent him into the announce table with a suicide dive, but was launched into the timekeeping area by Jericho., and just beat the countout. A furious Jericho went for the Codebreaker, but Ambrose reversed into a clothesline, returning to the top ropes and hitting a flying elbow. Jericho still didn’t fall.

He locked in the Walls of Jericho, but Ambrose reversed it into a rollup. An infuriated Jericho hit a backbreaker, taunting Ambrose viciously. Ambrose fought back, hitting Dirty Deeds for the pinfall. A peeved Chris Jericho threw a fit at ringside, but Ambrose celebrated nonetheless.

This match was fantastic, full of great spots and spot-on performances from both men despite little to no decent story buildup. Ambrose looked like the star he is, and the win was vastly encouraging in regards to how WWE views him. His character shone through every move he made and every look he sent towards Jericho.

Backstage, AJ Styles declared to Mauro Ranallo that he would be beating Roman Reigns on his own.

Charlotte vs. Natalya (WWE Women’s Championship match)

With her uncle in her corner, Natalya once again took on Charlotte, immediately going after the champion with confidence. As Charlotte showboated, Natalya looked to lock in the Sharpshooter…twice. The crowd cheered for Sasha, and Charlotte taunted Nattie with it, driving her into the mat with her knees.

Charlotte exited from the ring, slapping Nattie and strutting with confidence. Back in the ring, Natalya hit Charlotte with a German Suplex and then hit a dropkick to the face, stunning Charlotte. The champ, however, responded with a strike to the knees, working Natalya’s legs and taunting Bret Hart.

Charlotte worked Natalya’s leg cruelly before Natalya reversed it into an armbar. Charlotte wormed out, suplexing Nattie into the ropes. Charlotte climbed to the top rope, and Nattie pushed her out of the ring, buying recovery time. Charlotte looked for a powerbomb into the apron, but Natalya reversed it into a semi-huricarana.

Back in the ring, Charlotte caught Nattie with a boot to the face as an increasingly worried Ric looked on. She looked for the Figure Four, but Natalya responded with a clothesline, looking for the Sharpshooter, but Charlotte reversed it into the Natural Selection. Nattie kicked out. Charlotte hit a moonsault from the top rope. Nattie kicked out.

Charlotte locked int he Figure Four, but a defiant Nattie refused to tap, reversing it. Charlotte broke it with the ropes, and locked int he Sharpshooter. The bell rang though Nattie never tapped, and the two furious Harts locked in the Sharpshooter on the Flairs in the ring. Chicago Screwjob, I guess?

The ending was wholly unnecessary and was a bit of an insult to the women, as if they couldn’t carry an original storyline, but the match itself was excellent. Natalya’s defiance was engaging and wonderful to see, and Charlotte’s heel work was sharp and well-executed.

Family Affairs

Vince was greeted with a healthy chorus of CM Punk chants, which made me smile for once. To his credit, Vince ran with it. He discussed the Attitude Era and said that RAW needed something new, someone with vision.  He brought Stephanie out to the ring to massive boos, and Vince called the crowd animals.

Stephanie touted those who debuted under her tenure on top, including the Shield and the Horsewomen. She lauded the WWE Network and said she always did what’s best for business, calling Shane mysoginistic and weak and reminding Vince of Shane’s WrestleMania loss.

Shane didn’t take so well to that, entering to applause and cheers. He pointed out various news headlines praising his tenure leading RAW and implored Vince to listen to the WWE Universe.

Vince, naturally, didn’t, putting both Stephanie and Shane in charge of RAW…together.

The two siblings shook hands and left the ring. Oh boy, oh boy. This will be interesting.

Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles (WWE World Heavyweight Championship match)

As expected, boos reigned supreme for the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion as he faced off against AJ Styles, who was given a hero’s welcome.

AJ went after Roman immediately, but was just shoved back. He went for a headlock,a nd was shoved off. AJ then began targeting Roman’s legs, kicking and striking his hamstrings, sending him out of the ring with arm drags.

Styles slid out of the ring, daring Reigns to join him, baiting him into a clever attack in the ring before Reigns caught him with a shoulder tackle. Styles targeted Reigns’ legs again, but Reigns responded with blows to the back, utilizing his raw power. Styles went to gain momentum, but Reigns hit him with a wicked clothesline, powerbombing him into the center of the mat.

Reigns loaded the Superman Punch, but Styles caught him with a pelee kick. He lifted Reigns onto his shoulders and hit a backbreaker, locking in the Calf Crusher, but Reigns made it to the ropes. Reigns rolled out of the ring, and Styles hit the Phenomenal Forearm out of the ring and into the table.

Reigns was counted out, and Styles won the match, but Reigns retained his title. Unhappy, Shane emerged, restarting the match with no countouts.

Styles brought Reigns back into the ring, hitting him with a pelee kick. He hit a 450 splash, but Reigns got his knees up, almost getting the three-count. Styles went for another splash, but Reigns caught him in the ribs. The official called for DQ, claiming Reigns had hit a low blow, but Stephanie emerged, declaring the match No DQ.

The pair brawled at ringside, with Reigns sending Styles into the steps and barricade and into the crowd. But Styles sent him right back into ringside with a forearm and running knee to the neck.  Int he ring, Reigns hit the Superman Punch mid-air, but Styles kicked out. Furious, Reigns tried again, setting Styles up for the Spear, but Gallows and Anderson pulled Styles out and went after Reigns, hitting the Boot of Doom on Reigns.

Styles dragged himself back in the ring, hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, but Reigns got his feet on the ropes, and the Usos emerged, attacking Anderson and Gallows. Reigns pushed Styles out of the ring, and he took out all four men. Reigns flew out of the ring, but Styles caught him by surprise, hitting a splash back in the ring, but Reigns kicked out.

Reigns caught Styles with the Spear and retained clean.

But, backstage, the McMahons already set up an Extreme Rules rematch, with Extreme Rules stipulations.

Okay, okay, I’ll go ahead and say it: Reigns was excellent. He wrestling the infuriating strong style (not the Shinsuke kind) that made him look infuriatingly invincible. The ending was ridiculous, however. How in the world does it make sense for Roman to kick out of everything Styles has but for Styles to fall to a single spear?

That being said, Styles was beyond belief in this match, performing wonderfully. The crowd ate up every incredibly athletic feat he pulled off, truly believing for a moment that Styles was actually walking away WWE World Heavyweight Champion. He wasn’t just phenomenal, he was spectacular.

The best thing WWE can do is fully turn Reigns into a heel. They absolutely cannot claim to be in a new era if they’re going to continue pushing Reigns as a babyface or even a tweener.

Styles will have his chance. Of that I am sure. And I am willing to endure a Reigns….reign if it means getting there someday.

All in all, Payback was a great night of wrestling. But only time will tell if WWE is truly heading into a new era.