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.