In a three-hour show, there’s bound to be a lot of hits and misses. Here’s what I thought hit the bullseye with RAW Monday and what went askew.
The Hits —
Three NXT alums made their RAW debuts to varying degrees of success. In the first hour, Apollo Crews looked good in squashing a potential vision of his future, Tyler Breeze. Later, Baron Corbin built on last week’s fantastic NXT promo by showing some good intensity of delivery in his pre-match words, before impressively laying out Dolph Ziggler with a vicious End of Days on the floor. The little nuances that Corbin has added to his character have impressed me greatly of late; hark at the way he blamed the ref’s count-out call for the ensuing beatdown: “This is on you!”.
Finally, Enzo & Cass popped up late in the third hour to chastise The Dudley Boyz with Enzo giving an all-time great performance on the stick; promising to pop D-Von’s lazy eye back into place and instructing “Bubs” to “fall back like (his) hairline!”. Hopefully the follow-up for all three is just as strong. I would be most worried about Crews, whose ability to connect with an audience has actually gone backward during his time at Full Sail.
The Ryder/Miz feud begins
I’m sure some hated this due to the hotshotting of the title change, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. Even the usually awful distraction finish worked well with the returning Maryse slapping the taste out of Ryder’s dad’s mouth — a perfectly valid reason for Zack to take his eye off the ball. Zack’s emotional pre-match promo — featuring those Scott Hall photos — worked for me, as did his subsequent exchange with a bitter Miz: “Sucks to be you, bro!”.
Although, Miz’s glass house must be in ruins after throwing that stone about Ryder’s “goofy old man”. The actual match was decent, if a little long. This feud may have legs and the on-screen pairing of The Miz with his real-life wife looks to be an inspired choice, even if it will have us racking our brains weekly. There’s hope for us all, eh?
Owens and Zayn start a singles feud
Not much to say here, only to hope that it matches their efforts in other territories (including NXT). It started well, at least, with the Pop-Up Powerbomb through the table backstage. Great to see Sami actually looking directly at Renee in that segment too, by the way, before Owens attacked him from behind. Are we seeing an end to their ridiculous staring-off-into-space policy?
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The main event and the return of Cesaro
This stood favourably against the majority of matches that took place the previous night and represented an excellent showcase for the returning Cesaro. The Swiss Superman got the crowd going with a brilliant extended Uppercut Train spot, a giant swing to Chris Jericho and an exciting reversal of the Walls into Tyson Kidd’s Sharpshooter. Styles’ victory – with the Styles Clash, no less – was a genuine surprise and compensated greatly for his loss to Jericho on Sunday…with AJ also kicking out of the Codebreaker along the way.
With Roman again showing signs of some heelish mannerisms at the top of the second hour (bouncing off the ropes after the spear to Jericho, for example), the question now is whether we’ll get a face vs. face match between he and AJ? Or, will the company pull the trigger on a heel turn that should have happened at least 12 months ago?
The Misses —
“Ignore them, they’re foreign…”
Not content with imposing sitcom-esque cue cards on their audience on Sunday night, the WWE went a step further in the disempowerment of their audience on RAW. The announcers began the show by advising the TV audience to disregard the sentiments of fans “from all over the world” in the building who “cheer those they usually boo and boo those they usually cheer”. These sentiments were reiterated at the top of the second hour as public enemy #1, Roman Reigns, made his inglorious entrance. The farce was capped in the opening segment when Vince McMahon pretended not to hear the fans’ “Better Than Roman” chant about his son Shane.
The crowd crap on the Women’s title presentation
Any sympathy garnered by the crowd for the company’s attempts to diminish them was completely squandered with their behaviour towards Charlotte in the women’s title segment. Admittedly, she dealt with it poorly, but continuing to sing and chant for Bayley when a woman that has elevated her division significantly is trying to get serious was a jerk move. They seemed to realise that themselves eventually, chanting for “women’s wrestling” and apologising to Naitch’s baby girl with some “Whooos”.
Charlotte recovered her composure to salvage the segment somewhat; but it still fell flatter than Lita’s mic work. Nattie is also an underwhelming first post-Mania opponent; been there, done that. Presumably this decision is a legacy of switching the booking from Sasha at the last minute.
The McMahon storyline reaches peak nonsense
Having set up a no-win situation for the fans at Wrestlemania – in which neither outcome was one worth cheering for – the Shane/Taker/Vince storyline concluded on Monday with the latter putting his son into power after all! Shane’s one-night mastery of RAW was uneventful to say the least; limited to setting up the main event and inviting us all to figure out if the massive bruise on his face was legit. Hey, at least the mythical lockbox got a cursory mention at the start of the show!
Wyatts turn babyface…maybe
It might have garnered a good reaction from the raucous crowd in Dallas, but it’s very hard to care about the prospect of a babyface Wyatt Family facing off against the League of Nations. I’ll reserve judgement about how much sense it makes for Bray’s boys to be fighting the good fight until I hear the inevitable meandering, incomprehensible promo that follows it up. As a footnote, did anyone else notice Braun flashing the Four Horsemen hand signal as the segment went off the air?
It’s hard to be bullish about the returning Matadores
That vignette for the returning Puerto Rican pair of Epico and Primo might just be the worst I’ve ever seen. What the hell is their gimmick supposed to be?! Puerto Rico is better than where you’re from?! Is that it!? Even spitting apples at people is better than that bull.