Match 1 - Six Man Tag Team - Neville & The Lucha Dragons vs. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day
Match 2 - Tag Team - The Usos vs. The Ascension
Match 3 - Tag Team - Chris Jericho & AJ Styles vs. The Social Outcasts (Slater/Axel) with Adam Rose & Bo Dallas
Match 4 - Six Man Tag Team - The Wyatt Family (Wyatt/Rowan/Harper) with Braun Strowman vs. The Big Show, Ryback & Kane
Match 5 - Singles - Sasha Banks vs. Naomi with Tamina
Match 6 - Singles - Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus w/League of Nations
Commentary Team: John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Michael Cole & Byron Saxton
fast-forward...A quick recap of the WWE Fastlane main event, where Roman Reigns become the Number One Contender to Triple H's WWE World Heavyweight Championship, after pinning Dean Ambrose in a Triple Threat match that also included Brock Lesnar...The commentary team ran down a few of the things in store for tonight, including the presentation of the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award, whilst also showing a clip of Brock Lesnar attacking Dean Ambrose in the parking lot prior to the show...
shane mcmahon returns
So there I was expecting a pretty run of the mill Monday Night RAW opening, Mr. McMahon presented the newly created Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award to his daughter Stephanie and the crowd were loudly booing. I was thinking "Yeah this is decent, Stephanie has good heat, they'll use it to tie into Triple H's WrestleMania match" and then BOOM out comes Shane McMahon for the first time in almost six years and then all sorts of things happened. The chat between Vince, Stephanie and Shane was WWE's brand of soap opera done right as the trio all put in performances that drew me into the developing storyline, with Shane in particular standing out for me. Dropping a number of "kayfabe bombs" as he listed of flagging ratings and the current long list of performer injuries for reasons why Stephanie didn't deserve the award and why her and Triple H shouldn't be in control of WWE. The use of real life facts to bolster WWE's fiction tends to be pretty successful strategy and judging by the crowd reaction this worked a treat.
If the segment had ended with the Shane and Stephanie stand off then I think most people would have been pretty pleased with the return of the former WWE European Champion, but boy, had we only begun to scratch the surface by this point. When Shane revealed to Vince that he wanted to take control of Monday Night RAW, the pace of the drama sky rocketed. Vince losing his shit and dropping an F Bomb on live TV, offering Shane the chance to control RAW if he could win one match against the opponent of Vince's choosing at the time of Vince's choosing and then the final reveal of what Vince had in mind for his son was chaotic television that was difficult not to be mesmerised by. Both men's history with each other on WWE TV over the years meant that any long-term WWE viewer would surely get a kick out of the two at loggerheads once more, even if just for the nostalgia element. The fact that Vince revealed that Shane would in fact face The Undertaker at WrestleMania on 3rd April, and then that it would be inside Hell in a Cell was the huge pile of icing on the already big piece of cake. Whether that match will still be in place come 3rd April, I'm still not 100% sure, but I'm happy to see where things go between now and then.
the new day defeat the lucha dragons & neville
After a near twenty five minute opening segment, it was time for the first match of the night and it continued to keep the good times rolling as Neville teamed with the Lucha Dragons in a losing effort against the WWE Tag Team Champions, The New Day. Whilst the bout was spliced a fair bit, to make up for the lack of advert breaks during the McMahon's segment, the six men more than made up for it with a blistering hot finish that featured one of the best continuous spot sequence that I can remember WWE ever doing. My particularly highlight of the closing melee was Big E missing his trademark spear through the rope and Neville replying with a 450 Splash of the apron. This coming in the middle of load of silly spots and some surprisingly physical strikes between Xavier Woods and Neville. Finishing off with Kofi Kingston levelling Sin Cara with Trouble in Paradise for the victory, WWE looks to be keeping the New Day strong as Tag Team Champions, with their potential challengers at WrestleMania yet to surface and the all hints of a babyface turn seen on FastLane the night before extinguished.
fast-forward...Jo-Jo interviewed Roman Reigns who gave his thoughts on his WrestleMania match with Triple H, with a performance which didn't exactly inspire confidence in their feud going forward...
brock lesnar vs. dean ambrose street fight confirmed for wrestlemania
Just when I began to think that WWE couldn't keep things going at this pace for the next segment, out comes Paul Heyman and cuts a killer promo about Brock Lesnar fury at Dean Ambrose costing him his shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and outlining a potential path of destruction for Lesnar between now and WrestleMania. Wow, Heyman could make a turkey get hyped for Christmas dinner. This was perfectly pitched emotional speech. Dean Ambrose driving into the arena in an ambulance almost verged on the wrong side of ridiculous, but Ambrose gives so much to his character that I quickly forgot about the silliness of the situation. The Lunatic Fringe dragging himself towards another beating from The Beast Incarnate, only to challenge him to a No Holds Barred Street Fight at WrestleMania was more compelling television. I wanted to see what was going to happen to Ambrose and what he would do next. With Heyman accepting by putting a lovely exclamation mark on the segment, I was wondering just how exactly the trio would be able to keep this up across the next 41 days to WrestleMania. I'm looking forward to finding out though.
the usos defeat the ascension
The Dudley Boyz and Usos feud began to develop further as the freshly heel Bubba Ray and D-Von cut a promo on the twins before their match with The Ascension. There is certainly a freshness that has been bought back to the 2 time IWGP Tag Team Champions that had been lacking from their babyface run of 2015. A reference to The Usos father, former WWE Intercontinental Champion Rikishi was intriguing develop, I wonder if we'll see Rikishi back on WWE television to help push the feud soon? The tag match between The Usos was pretty much a squash, as after the Ascension blindsided the San Fran tandem, it was all Usos. With a dominant win in 2 minutes, before a tease of a scrap with The Dudleyz, this was a cool bit of build up for a future clash between the two teams.
chris jericho and aj styles defeat the social outcasts
Whilst the tag bout between Chris Jericho & AJ Styles and Social Outcast members' Curtis Axel and Heath Slater was decent short encounter, that showed of Styles' offence well and allowed Jericho to pull back some momentum by getting Axel to tap out, it was the segment between Y2J and the Phenomenal One that preceded it that was the most important thing here. It was refreshing to see a straight up show of respect from Jericho to Styles, as he told us why he was initially skeptical about the 2 IWGP Heavyweight Champion, before going on to say that Styles was as every bit as phenomenal as he said he was. If the tap out victory and the handshake at Fastlane wasn't enough, this was another huge rub for Styles as he continues to receive a big push from his new company. It would seem like Styles and Jericho are done for the time being following this bout, hopefully we'll begin to get a picture of where they will slot into the WrestleMania picture in the next few weeks.
fast-forward...A recap from the opening segment featuring Shane McMahon's WWE return...Stephanie McMahon told Roman Reigns that he'd be facing Sheamus in the shows main event, with implications that Reigns could get battered by the League of Nations...Goldust had baked R-Truth as an apology for costing him his match with Curtis Axel at Fastlane, of course, the cake ended up in Goldust's face...
the wyatt family defeat kane, the big show and ryback
This wasn't quite a rematch from Fastlane as Bray Wyatt replaced Braun Strowman for The Wyatt Family, but I found myself struggling to stay engaged in the action anyway. The crowd seemed much the same way as they chanted referee Mike Chioda, which was nice of them. The commentary team made a massive point of putting over Ryback whenever he was in the ring, to the point that it was becoming annoying. At one point, Luke Harper put a chin lock on the Big Show. Erm...Erm...Then Ryback fucked off, when Kane seemed to be about to win the match, which then allowed Wyatt to hit Sister Abigail to win the match. I've no idea. Ryback is turning heel it would seem. I'm convinced this was the role initially earmarked for Titus O'Neil before he went coco loco.
sasha banks defeats naomi
To put the feud to bed, Sasha Banks and Naomi put on a decent TV contest, that told a simple story. Whilst the live crowd didn't seem to be particularly into it, especially for Naomi as a heel, I think that they were worn out by this point after a number of red hot segments. Sasha and Naomi put together some solid sequences, whilst Tamina at ringside allowing the former Funkadactyl to remain in control at various points. The pay-off came when Becky Lynch charged down to ringside to even the score and Sasha, almost immediately, got the submission victory with the Banks Statement. With one feud done with, it was time for another to come off the back burner as Charlotte interrupted Becky and Sasha's celebration and revealed that the two would face off in a Number One Contender's match at some point, with the winner facing her at WrestleMania. There's potential for this story to become a real highlight of WWE's television product over the next month and half, if done the right way. Before then, just look at Charlotte and Ric Flair's cackling picture above.
fast-forward...Another recap of Shane McMahon's return, because why the fuck not at this point, right?...Backstage, Vince McMahon explained to Stephanie his reasoning behind choosing The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania for Shane's match, saying that not only did Shane have no chance, but that Vinny also had another main event match for his PPV...The Godfather was announced as joining Sting in the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016...
triple h interupts roman reigns' match with sheamus
I was actually rather enjoying Roman Reigns match with Sheamus, a lot more than I was expecting to when it was announced. Sheamus focusing on Reigns' arm after the damage of Brock Lesnar's Kimura Lock at Fastlane was a neat piece of storytelling, that played out nicely throughout the time the two had, when they could have essentially just gone through the motions before the big end to the show. Kudos to The Juggernaut for doing a bloody good job of selling his arm here. However, the bout never got to reach it's conclusion as WWE World Heavyweight Champion and Reigns' WrestleMania opponent, Triple H headed out and the two got in brawl all around ringside. A brutal start to their WrestleMania programme, with Triple H looking like a non-good piece of shit for having to nail Reigns with a ring bell to take control, but somehow simultaneously also looking like a bad-ass motherfucker for the beating he dished out after. The crowd cheering for The Game took a little bit of the shine off things, but a Pedigree on the steel steps and Reigns ending the show covered in blood provided a solid foundation for the rest of the programme to be built on.
finally...atpw scale rating - 6.47/10
I quite liked Fastlane, but this was the better show, by quite some way. Not perhaps in terms of wrestling matches, because there was nothing on this show that was on the same level as the Triple Threat main event, or Styles vs. Jericho or Owens vs. Ziggler, but in terms of sheer entertainment this was the better show. Shane McMahon's return and all the hullabaloo that surrounded it, Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar confirmed for WrestleMania amidst a ridiculous ambulance gimmick and a superb Paul Heyman promo and Triple H and Roman Reigns starting their WWE World Heavyweight Championship programme with a bloody brawl, this show had a look to enjoy. The only major drawback for me was the dull Six Man Tag bout with The Wyatt Family vs. Kane, Ryback and The Big Show took up so much time on the show, otherwise we'd be seeing stupid ATPW Scale Rating here!
For me, this was the best Monday Night RAW of 2016 and could take some beating. Five more episodes like this before WrestleMania and we'll have a very special show come 3rd April...