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.
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.
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 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.
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.