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.

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