WWE has long been able to rely on the charisma of its talent to drive even the most subpar storylines, and that trend continued on June 27’s RAW, which broadcasted from Tampa, Florida.
Seth Rollins immediately addressed the elephant in the room, bringing up Roman Reigns’ suspension and demanding that Reigns be taken out of the Battleground main event. He was interrupted by Dean Ambrose, who asked Rollins what it was all really about.
They were interrupted in turn by AJ Styles, who suggested that he be put in the match in Roman’s place. He reminded everyone that he had a victory over John Cena, and said he deserved a spot in the match. John Cena then emerged, proclaiming Dean Ambrose to be a fighting champion.
Cena suggested that Ambrose fight against him, reminding Ambrose that he beat him the last time they fought. Rollins objected, and Stephanie McMahon emerged. She set two matches to give John Cena and AJ Styles the chance to put themselves in the main event of Battleground.
Rollins was fun on the mic as always. His promos during his title reign could get old, but only because of overexposure. This was short, sweet, and Rollins’ charisma had the crowd listening raptly to everything he said. He and Ambrose have wonderful chemistry, so they will not have any issues building up to their match at Battleground.
The introduction of Cena and Styles into the storyline certainly got a pop from the crowd. WWE would be wise to continue putting the two veterans against the likes of Ambrose and Rollins.
Sasha Banks & Paige vs. Charlotte & Dana Brooke
Sasha started things off against Charlotte, but the champion tagged herself out right away, tagging Brooke in. Banks threw her right into the turnbuckle, tagging in Paige to double-team on Brooke with a double dropkick, making both blondes retreat to recover.
Charlotte and Brooke regained control with underhanded tactics, brutalizing Paige in the ring. Charlotte locked Paige into a chokehold, showing off her athleticism and cheapshotting Banks. Banks went after Charlotte, having to be restrained by the referee.
Paige finally tagged in Banks as Brooke tagged in, and Sasha went crazy, dropping Brooke with clotheslines and knees to the midsection from the ropes. She hit Brooke with the Backstabber into the Banks Statement, forcing Brooke to tap.
Banks and Paige were both supremely over. I hope the brand split forces WWE to utilize Paige to the fullest. She certainly deserves it. But the match was all about Banks.
The former NXT Women’s Champion was all fire and attitude, and the audience soaked it up. Sasha Banks was as over as can be and didn’t skip a beat throughout the match. Her title shot, whether it comes at Battleground or SummerSlam, better come with a lengthy title reign!
Rusev vs. Titus O’Neil
O’Neil did not even wait for the match to start, going right after Rusev before the bell could be rung. He rammed Rusev with a series of clotheslines and right hooks, slamming Rusev onto the mat with ferocity.
Rusev made a comeback, bearing down on O’Neil with a series of kicks. He locked O’Neil into a chokehold and continued to wear down on him until O’Neil caught him with an elbow and shoulder tackle.
Rusev retreated from the ring, grabbing his belt with the intention of leaving, but he and O’Neil collided outside the ring. O’Neil sent Rusev into the timekeeping area, where he was counted out.
Backstage, Kane approached Stephanie McMahon asking to be considered for SmackDown GM, but both were interrupted by the Miz. Kane brought up the fact that the Miz hadn’t defended his title in a long time, bringing up the ever-forgotten 30-day rule. Stephanie booked a title match for later that night.
Funny how a feud can pick up steam after the title match, huh?
Seth Rollins vs. John Cena
Cena looked to start off strong, but Rollins had him well-scouted, responding with a shoulder tackle of his own. As the crowds chanted wildly for both men, Rollins gained the upper hand, hitting Cena with a series of strikes and a dropkick.
Cena looked for a comeback, but Rollins once again responded with ferocity, hitting him with a quick move from the ropes and blows to the head. Cena finally managed to get some shoulder tackles in, but Rollins caught Cena with a kick to the face, mocking the franchise man.
Cena took control once more, hitting the Five Knucle Shuffle, but Rollins managed to escape an AA. Cena caught Rollins with a Tornado DDT, but Rollins stayed alive, hitting a dropkick and going for an unsuccessful pin. The two traded blows in the center of the ring, with Rollins gaining the upper hand.
Rollins hit Cena with a corner powerbomb, but Cena dodged his Frog Splash. Cena ascended the ropes, but Rollins caught him, landing a Superplex into a Falcon’s Arrow. Rollins went for the Pedigree, but Cena reversed into the AA, with Rollins staying alive enough to put his foot on the ropes.
Cena caught Rollins in the STF, but then the Club emerged, distracting Cena and allowing Rollins to hit the Pedigree and pick up the win.
“You owe me one,” AJ said to Seth with a smile on his face.
Rollins and Cena have fantastic chemistry in the ring, and although that chemistry wasn’t on full display, it was evident throughout the match. Rollins is looking fantastic, his incorporation of more high-flying moves a very welcome addition to his hard-hitting moveset.
The dynamic between Styles and Rollins at the match’s conclusion was about as intriguing as the ongoing developments between Styles and Cena. I’m looking forward to seeing those two clash someday.
Enzo & Cass vs. Local Competitors
After getting a wave going, Enzo and Cass picked up an easy win over two local jobbrts within seconds. They looked to celebrate, but were cut short by the Social Outcasts. They proclaimed themselves hard (yeah, for real.) and went right for Enzo and Cass.
Well, not exactly. After a big boot from Cass sent Heath Slater packing, Dallas and Axel refused to enter the ring and retreated.
Enzo and Cass are great. The addition/return of the Social Outcasts into the fray is somewhat refreshing, as it’s something other than the Vaudevillains or Dudley Boyz.
Becky Lynch vs. Summer Rae
With Natalya on commentary, Becky Lynch simply went right after the third-generation star, looking for some sweet revenge as she drove Nattie into the barricade with ferocity, screaming to Natalya that she had messed with the wrong girl.
This was far too short for my tastes, but it’s encouraging to see WWE pushing this feud and storyline. Non-title stories for women that aren’t centered around men are all-too rare these days.
The Highlight Reel (with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn)
After complaining about Ambrose being champion, Jericho brought out both Owens and Zayn.
Jericho relished in the tension between the two, bringing up their past as friends and the fact that Zayn was Owens’ best man at his wedding. Zayn refused to play into Jericho’s game, saying that neither he nor Owens would get anywhere until they moved on from each other.
Zayn implored Owens to put an end once and for all to their rivalry at Battleground. Owens just stared at Zayn in silence, and Zayn called him a coward, demanding that Owens admit that he betrayed him because of resentment and envy.
Owens denied it, saying he did what he did for business.He said Zayn is the one who ruined their friendship. He said that he was happy for Zayn when he signed to WWE, and that Zayn should have been happy for him when he won the NXT Title.
“I was always a better friend to you than you were to me,” Owens said, accepting Zayn’s challenge.
Jericho agreed with Owens, calling Zayn pathetic before giving everyone the gift of Jericho. Instead of drinking it in, Owens and Zayn both Superkicked Jericho over, and Owens left without saying another word to Zayn.
I would honestly not mind seeing Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens fight forever. What they have together is the stuff of legend, the kind of rivalry that could put either one of them into the Hall of Fame someday. Their storied past combined with their current chemistry has made this feud, which has been building for over five months now, one of the most enthralling stories on WWE television today.
The Miz vs. Kane (Intercontinental Championship match)
Kane immediately caught Miz with a right hook, blasting the champ into the turnbuckle and hitting him with a boot to the face. Kane kept control easily early on, hitting a vertical suplex and dropkick.
But then Maryse fell off the apron, clearly feigning injury, and Miz carried her backstage, giving Kane the victory by countout, but no title belt.
Backstage, Maryse revealed to Miz that she had been acting the whole time, and he certainly approved.
WWE had us all thinking we were fixing to see a debut. How naive and stupid we were.
Cesaro & Apollo Crews vs. Alberto Del Rio & Sheamus
Cesaro started off strong against Del Rio, hitting a series of uppercuts after a beautiful crossbody. He looked to take Del Rio or even Sheamus swinging, but Del Rio took control, planting Cesaro with a DDT.
Sheamus continued his team’s momentum until Cesaro managed to reverse a backbreaker into a back body drop of sorts, allowing Crews and Del Rio to tag in. Del Rio hit Sheamus with a dropkick, quite enjoying himself, and walked out as Crews hit the sit-out powerbomb on Sheamus for the victory.
Backstage, Jojo interviewed Dean Ambrose, but was cut off by an unhappy Stephanie McMahon, who berated Ambrose. The champ, however, was unaffected.
I hope Cesaro and Del Rio are given an actual story sometime soon. It would be a shame to have them wasting away into the cluster f*@k that is this storyline.
New Day falls…?
Dressed as the Wyatts and hilariously spoofing the Wyatt family, the New Day came out to the ring. They roasted the Wyatts cheerfully, though Xavier Woods wanted to wrap things up early. Then, the real Wyatts emerged.
Bray offered a little spoof of his own before saying that the world wasn’t all positivity and rainbows He said the power of positivity was a lie. Wyatt acknowledged how shaken Xavier Woods looked with a sinister laugh, and then repeated… New Day falls.
Backstage, Renee Young asked the New Day if they thought messing with the Wyatts was a good idea. Woods just kind of…walked away.
Woods’ terror is a stark reminder of how talented he really is. He can bring it when called upon, and his team’s worry over him brings an interesting pathos to the entire story. Bray Wyatt’s logic in going after the New Day, also explained, was sound.
This rivalry seems to be finding its footing. Here’s hoping Creative doesn’t ruin it.
Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles
Ambrose and Styles locked up early on, wrestling mat-style. Ambrose looked to roll up Styles, but then the match became a battle of headlocks. Styles took control, driving Ambrose back with a series of chops, looking for Dirty Deeds early on, but Styles dodged, always a step ahead.
He kept control, hitting a wicked dropkick on Ambrose and hitting a series of hard hits on Ambrose, working him into the ground. Ambrose looked to stage a comeback with a clever reversal, going for a back body drop, but Ambrose hit a Codebreaker on Styles, nearly getting a three-count.
Ambrose and Styles exchanged rollups and near-falls. Styles ascended the ropes, but Ambrose caught him, landing a huge superplex. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Ambrose caught him, looking for Dirty Deeds, but Styles caught him once more, the two remaining at a painful stalemate.
Styles rolled Ambrose into the Calf Crusher, but the Lunatic Fringe escaped, hitting a Suicide Dive on Styles out of the ring. Styles hit Ambrose with a pelee kick, but Ambrose responded with a clothesline as the Club emerged. Styles took advantage of the distraction, but Ambrose stayed alive as John Cena ran out.
Ambrose planted Styles with Dirty Deeds, and a relieved Rollins applauded him. Anderson and Gallows, upset, attacked Cena and a distracted Ambrose was planted by Rollins. The Club hit the Magic Killer on the stage, and Rollins planted Ambrose yet again with a second Pedigree.
A fresh match between two stars you’d never offhandedly imagine together proved to be an exciting mesh of different styles, resulting in an entertaining main event. Rollins’ commentary, and reluctant support of Ambrose for his own sake, was a welcome addition to the match. Styles and Ambrose told an entertaining story, complementing each other surprisingly well, and despite the predictable ending, it was fun to watch all the same.