1 - Singles - Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
2 - Singles - WWE Diva's Champion Charlotte w/Ric Flair vs. Alicia Fox
3 - Singles - Bray Wyatt w/The Wyatt Family vs. Ryback
4 - Singles - Titus O'Neil vs. Adam Rose w/The Social Outcasts
5 - Tag Team - The Lucha Dragons vs. League of Nations (Alberto Del Rio & Rusev) w/King Barrett
6 - Singles - Becky Lynch vs. Tamina w/Naomi
7 - Eight Man Tag Team Tables - WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day & Mark Henry vs. The Dudley Boyz & The Usos
fastlane main event contract signing
A contract signing was a novel way to kick off the show this week, and despite loathing the cliche's that usually come with these types of segments, I thought this was a great example of how to do them right. Firstly, I feel that the segment benefited from not having three hours of hype and being in the main event slot, it meant that every entrance felt fresh and the Seattle crowd had a wonderful energy. Stephanie McMahon starting the show alone in the ring allowed the crowd to get out their frustrations as a loud "Daniel Bryan" chant rang out, before Stephanie was able to turn it straight into heat for her character, by talking out her husband and WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H. The rest of the segment kept the energy coming with Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and then Brock Lesnar (flanked by Paul Heyman) all interrupting Stephanie. Little touches like Ambrose's desperately wanting to fight Lesnar after he received an F5 last week and Stephanie cutting off Heyman as he went to say his catchphrase and getting a tonne of heat for it, made this a very entertaining watch indeed. With Lesnar managing to over power both Ambrose and Reigns and deliver another F5 to the Lunatic Fringe, the segment ended with a stare down with Triple H on the entrance ramp.
fast-forward...The commentary team spoke briefly about Daniel Bryan announcing his retirement via Twitter earlier in the day
dolph ziggler defeats kevin owens
For the third week in a row, Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler faced off on Monday Night RAW and this was arguably the best match of their series so far. Both guys have managed to take something from nothing and create a feud, based pretty much entirely off of in-ring work, which is something pretty special in WWE in 2016. Owens shouting "Hey Dolph, what's funnier than you?...EVERYTHING" whilst delivering a beat down to the former World Heavyweight Champion got a little chuckle out of me, but also added a little extra depth to the feud. After an impressive Ziggler comeback, done whilst selling a shoulder injury, the match became a much more back and forth affair with the two managing to reverse a number of each other signature holds to produce a couple of lovely near falls. Owens blocking Ziggler's big DDT attempt and hitting a picture picture superkick springs to mind as an example of this. The finish saw their storyline advance further as Ziggler evaded a cannonball from Owens and got the pin with his feet on the middle ropes. Could we be seeing the beginning of a double turn for both men? A heel turn for The Show Off would definitely freshen up his character, whilst Owens is popular enough that a babyface turn would be accepted almost instantly.
fast-forward...The Dudley Boyz asked The Usos if they could join in on their Table Match with The New Day later on in the night, in an awkwardly scripted backstage segment...
divas champion charlotte defeats alicia fox
It was a shame that Alicia Fox was placed in the babyface role here, as the fans haven't been given a reason to cheer for her and therefore things were a little flat here. The action that the two produced was all good stuff, with the two seemingly connecting early in the ring, as they run through a series of nice moves. Alicia looked at her best in short bursts, her Bridging Northern Lights Suplex continues to look great every time she hits it. With a bit more time and thought into the action, it felt like the two could have produced a high quality match with each other. Charlotte regained some momentum after losing to Brie Bella last week, by picking up a clean submission victory with a Figure 8.
chris jericho turns miz tv into the highlight reel
I've been pretty vocal in my criticisms of Chris Jericho's on-mic performance since his return to WWE, however he managed to hit a home-run with this segment. Helped by a game The Miz who played his part perfectly, as Jericho turned an episode of Miz TV into the Highlight Reel (complete with set change and potted plant), as the A-Lister worked the crowd and managed to get some decent heat, with simple tricks like "When my hand goes up, your mouth goes shut". Having them both show each other clips from their matches with AJ Styles, managed to put the Phenomenal One over without him even being present, by having two recognisable WWE guys argue over who he hurt more. Styles interrupting Jericho as soon as he bought back his "Best in the World at what I do" catchphrase was a nice touch and them teaming up to take out Miz, before Jericho backed down from a fight, worked very well to set-up the Styles vs. Jericho rematch that will take place on this week's Thursday Night Smackdown.
bray wyatt defeats ryback
I was pleasantly surprised by this bout, as both guys really bought it and put on a decent, if not entirely forgettable, TV bout. With Ryback sporting the new look he debuted on last week's Thursday Night Smackdown, dropping the Rob Van Dam style singlet for black trunks, I was impressed with the former WWE Intercontinental Champion's athleticism, especially on his comeback sequence, which was some of the crispest in-ring work I've seen out of the Las Vegas native. The crowd seemed to get into Ryback quickly, which produced a sweet finish, where Bray Wyatt silenced the "Feed Me More" chants by reversing a Meat Hook clothesline attempt with a Sister Abigail to pick up the victory.
fast-forward... A backstage segment with The New Day "working a table" certainly raised a smile, as Renee Young found out that they'd still to choose a tag partner for their tables match later on...In another backstage segment we saw some storyline advancement as Dean Ambrose told Roman Reigns that he didn't want his help when calling out Brock Lesnar....
adam rose defeats titus o'neil
The thing I took away most from this match was that Adam Rose is some kind of mongoose. Because the rest of the match was the drizzling sloppy shits. Neither man seemed to be able to hit a move correctly and if they did the other guy didn't seem to know how to take it. Add to this the fact that the crowd literally couldn't have given less of a shit and you ended up with a pretty painful watch. Undoubtedly the weakest match on the entire card, as Rose picked up an upset victory with a roll up, as the haphazard booking of the Social Outcasts continued.
fast-forward...Throughout the night highlights from Daniel Bryan's WWE career aired, with his SummerSlam 2013 WWE Heavyweight Championship victory over John Cena getting the most coverage...
dean ambrose calls out brock lesnar
With Dean Ambrose promising to fight Brock Lesnar in numerous backstage segments throughout the show, he was out in the ring at the top of the 3rd hour. Ambrose's put in a superb character promo, as he tried everything he could to get Lesnar out to the ring. For me this promo and the beating that Lesnar dished out to Ambrose (who continued to get up and ask for more) turned The Lunatic Fringe from a third wheel in the Fastlane main event, to perhaps the bouts most important element. Yes, Lesnar beat the shit out of him, but Ambrose continuing to ask for more punishment, seemingly gives him an edge at Fastlane, especially when he doesn't necessarily have to do all the damage himself with Roman Reigns also in the bout. I did, however, not feel that Roman Reigns interuption was particularly necessary here, as he caused the distraction that allowed Ambrose to level the Beast Incarnate with a low blow (in scene reminscent of the Might Boosh episode, "Killeroo"), as I feel the low blow on it's own would have been more impactful and given the commentary team time to focus on the No DQ elements of a Triple Threat bout.
fast-forward...Highlights of the previous Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns segment aired for reasons...
the league of nations defeats the lucha dragons
With Sin Cara returning to television for the first time since the end of December, he logically worked the Luchadore in peril role with Rusev and Alberto Del Rio of the League of Nations faction taking turns to work over the former NXT Tag Team Champion. Obviously, this also meant to we got a hot tag from the popular United States Champion, Kalisto, which was pleasure to watch as he hit a series of exciting flippy moves on his opponents. After what was a decent tag bout, it was a shame that the finish was slightly botched, as after an enziguiri to the back of the head by Del Rio, Kalisto fell from the top rope, rather than falling into the tree of woe position for The Essence of Excellence's Double Foot Stomp finisher.
fast-forward...This week's Goldust and R-Truth segment failed to hit the spot as the two did a weird Jimi Hendrix skit that saw Goldust get arrested for breaking a guitar...
tamina defeats becky lynch
Thanks to Sasha Banks' brilliant turn at the commentary desk and lots of cool action on the outside, the second women's match on the show turned into an engaging contest. Sasha showed off a great understanding of her character and got over her current relationships with Becky Lynch and former Team B.A.D. partner effectively, managing to add to the upcoming tag team match between the four at Fastlane. The crowd was into Becky and the Lass Kicker got a reasonable couple of chants going, and got a big pop when hitting Naomi with a Lass-Plex on the outside to help out Sasha. Tamina pulling out the victory after catching Becky with a surprise Superkick, gives Team B.A.D. the momentum they need to look like anything other than roadblocks for Becky and Sasha on the road to WrestleMania at Fastlane.
fast-forward...Mark Henry joined The New Day's side for the main event Tables match, because reasons...
the dudley boyz and the usos defeats mark henry and the new day in a tables match
So much happened here! Mark Henry quickly worked out on his new found New Day pals, because no one tells him what to do apparently. The crowd went nuts for the tables, there was a double Whazzaaap by the babyfaces, The Usos hit shit loads of superkicks, and the Dudley Boyz put Big E through a table with 3D to win the match. The bout itself was lots of fun, but the biggest talking point came after the bell had rung. The Dudley Boyz turned on The Usos, finishing off Uso #1 (or maybe #2) with a Powerbomb off the top rope through a table. The heel turn might be exactly what the Dudley Boyz needed to make them relevant for a while again, however the crowd cheered the turn and chanted "ECW", so how successful the execution of the turn was I'm not quite sure, perhaps a promo would have helped things out just a little.
fast-forward...An emotionally charged video detailing Daniel Bryan's career and it was almost time to grab for the tissues...
daniel bryan's retirement speech
How on earth am I supposed to go about reviewing this? Daniel Bryan's retirement speech was pretty much perfect. It was sad, it was funny, it was incredibly entertaining, sometimes all at once. The crowd hung onto his every word, as the 3 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion looked just as emotional as the fans in attendance as he explained the reasons for his retirement and told stories about his family. The story about his Dad watching the infamous Championship Ascension ceremony was particularly touching as Bryan struggled to recall the night at times. Thanking the fans for making him feel like a star, and allowing his Dad to see that reaction, just a few months before his death, was seemingly typical Bryan, as he humbly missed that it was his own performances that made the fans treat him like star and rightly so.
I think what I found most touching about Bryan's speech was how much his love for pro wrestling came across in his words and mannerisms. It seemed like with every word that came out of his mouth his heart broke just a little bit more. It was relatable on a level that WWE rarely is anymore, if they could find a way to tap into this feeling, then perhaps WWE's ratings wouldn't be struggling so much. Of course, the show ended with Bryan looking to the future, conducting one last Yes chant with the entire arena, before sharing a moment with his wife, Brie Bella, as he moves onto the next chapter in his life. Best of luck with everything Bryan, thanks for giving us everything that you could.
atpw scale rating - 6.02/10
This was the best episode of Monday Night RAW in 2016 so far, as the "treading water" feel that the show has had for the last two weeks had gone, as it felt like almost everyone stepped up their game to build toward the Fastlane PPV in two weeks. Obviously, Daniel Bryan's retirement speech to close the show was a highly emotional piece of television, and WWE should be commended for allowing Bryan the opportunity to talk on TV for almost 25 minutes. Whilst the sloppy Titus O'Neil vs. Adam Rose bout dragged the show back a little, but the two segments involving Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho and AJ Styles on Miz TV (or The Miz and AJ Styles on the Highlight Reel) and the third match in Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler's series all provided more than enough entertainment to make up for it.