Tuesday, 8 March 2016

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1189 (New Day vs. Styles/Jericho)

Check out last week's Monday Night RAW review featuring Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio here.

Broadcast live on 7th March 2016, the 1189th episode of WWE's Monday Night RAW aired from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, USA, with just 5 days until Roadblock. The New Day put their WWE Tag Team Championships on the line against AJ Styles & Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose took on Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon opened the show with a confrontation with his father Vince...but was it any good? Let's find out.

monday night RAW #1189 match card 

Match 1 - Singles - WWE Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens vs. "The Man That Gravity Forgot" Neville 

Match 2 - Singles - Brie Bella vs. Summer Rae

Match 3 - Handicap Elimination - Dolph Ziggler vs. League of Nations (Rusev, King Barrett & "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus) 

Match 4 - Tag Team - Team B.A.D. vs. Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks 

Match 5 - WWE Tag Team Championship - "Y2J" Chris Jericho & "The Phenomenal One" AJ Styles vs. The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) with Xavier Woods

Match 6 - Singles - WWE United States Champion Kalisto vs. Tyler Breeze

Match 7 - Singles - Curtis Axel w/The Social Outcasts vs. Ryback

Match 8 - Singles - Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt

fast-forward...Recap from Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and The Undertaker's storyline from Monday Night RAW #1187 & #1188...

shane and vince open the show

After taking a week off, Shane McMahon returned to Monday Night RAW and had the Allstate Arena eating out of the palm of his hand. Rosemont was popping at the end of every sentence that came out of his mouth, whilst silently waiting to hear what he had to say in between. Beyond calling his Dad a "bastard" it was hardly revolutionary stuff from Shane, but WWE seems to have struck gold with The Undertaker vs. Shane at WrestleMania and the fanbase looks to be hooked on the storyline as it stands. Vince McMahon's entrance into the arena was perfectly done, as the infamous dong of The Undertaker's music played before transitioning into McMahon's "No Chance in Hell" theme. It not only gained Vince extra heat, but built towards the eventual confrontation between Shane and Taker on a later edition of the show. Vince controlled the crowd well, allowing them to hail him with "CM Punk" chants, before continuing with what he had to say. The heat he got for stamping on an old photo of he and Shane (That anyone with half a brain would have assumed was merely a copy!) was ridiculous. I'm not sure I particularly liked Shane taking out four security guards sent to eject him from the arena, but the live crowd seemed to love it and went nuts for Shane O'Mac throwing a series of jabs. Hopefully everyone involved can keep up their performance for the next three episodes leading into WrestleMania! 

wwe intercontinental champion kevin owens defeats neville...and sami zayn returns!

Before I get too excited about Sami Zayn's return to Monday Night RAW, I best talk about WWE Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens and Neville putting on a bloody good opening match. The pair have had numerous bouts opposite each other over the last nine months on TV and at live events and that showed here with a fluid and flashy contest. Owens dodging a moonsault on the outside and sending Neville into the steel steps was a lovely lead-in to the matches ad-break, whilst "The Man That Gravity Forgot"'s electric comeback sequence had me scratching at why this was his first singles match on Monday Night RAW since 4th January (also against Owens)! Neville's second rope Phoenix Splash was a world class near fall that got a great reaction from Rosemont. Sami Zayn making his first appearance on RAW since #1145 (4th May 2015) to stop Owens (who had won with a schoolboy roll-up) post-match attack got an even bigger pop and presented a ready-made classic Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania. The commentary team had claimed that Owens had said he'd have a better match than Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat's classic over the Intercontinental belt at WrestleMania III (29th March 1987), maybe with Zayn that just might be possible. 

fast-forward...The commentary team pushed the idea of #FreeWrestleMania, as the WWE Network continues to offer a full-month free to new subscribers...Recap of Dean Ambrose and Triple H's storyline from Monday Night RAW #1188...In a backstage segment, Stephanie McMahon placed Dolph Ziggler in a handicap elimination bout with League of Nations as punishment for a tweet he sent earlier in the day...After causing the distraction that allowed Summer Rae to go over Brie Bella in a short match, a new-look Lana hit Brie with her own Bella Buster finisher...

triple h picks dean ambrose's opponent for the evening

Dean Ambrose is entertaining. His promo here wasn't a complete hit and at times the content let him down just a little bit, but I was content to listen to what he had to say because he sounds different to anyone else on the roster. The Allstate Arena seemed to feel the same way and whilst they weren't going nuts for the promo, they listened and reacted positively throughout. What let this segment down was just how transparent Triple H's reply was. He compared Ambrose to Roman Reigns and reminded us that the two of them were exactly the same, both with a dislike for Authority. Now, I like Roman Reigns, I've made no secret of this in various PPV reviews over the last few years, but if this technique manages to get the fanbase that so fervently dislikes Reigns to suddenly cheer for him at WrestleMania then I will chow down on JBL's cowboy hat. Triple H closing things off by placing Ambrose in a match with Bray Wyatt in the closing segment was a little more interesting than last week's main event with Alberto Del Rio (who didn't even appear on this week's show). It was a rather unimaginative pick to finish the show, but after the pair had put on numerous matches between June 2014 and June 2015 (most succesfully at Survivor Series 2014 and TLC: Tables, Ladders, Chairs...and Stairs 2014) it was a safe choice that fans knew would 
result in an entertaining contest.

league of nations defeat dolph ziggler

After Dolph Ziggler had spent a week trading sub-minute victories with The Miz on Monday Night RAW and Thursday Night Smackdown, he suddenly found himself competing against League of Nations members Rusev, King Barrett and Sheamus in a handicap elimination match. I just couldn't buy into this one, especially after the way the two acts have been used over the last few months. Ziggler did his fighting from underneath stuff which he is very good at and the League of Nations got a chance to dominate with power moves, but really...who cares? Ziggler managing to eliminate Barrett says a lot about the latter's position within WWE at the moment with the Englishmen said to be on his way out of the company. Nothing wrong with the content of the match as Sheamus managed to get the win for his team following a Brogue Kick, but due to how WWE has handled everyone in the match recently, I found myself giving less of a fuck the longer the match went on.

fast-forward...Recap of Shane McMahon and Vince McMahon opening the show...A hype package for Shane McMahon aired, which in kayfabe makes little to no sense considering Vince is the owner of the company and The Authority are in control of the show in storyline...Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks had some pre-match banter backstage...Charlotte took out Becky and Sasha after the pair had squash Naomi and Tamina in a tag team encounter...Backstage, R-Truth tried to apologise to Goldust by bringing him a pizza, which was eventually eaten by Mark Henry...

the new day defeat aj styles and chris jericho to retain the wwe tag team championship...and jericho attacks styles post-match

The show's main event easily took the Match of the Night, with AJ Styles and Chris Jericho coming up short in their quest to take the WWE Tag Team Championships away from The New Day. Personally, this contest is now my favourite regular tag team match from The New Day, as Big E and Kofi Kingston produced some an entertaining two on two bout with Styles and Jericho, which contained a handful of brilliantly timed near falls and had the Allstate Arena rocking. After a pretty straight-forward start (a flashy face shine from Jericho and Styles, New Day controlling after the ad-break, Unicorn stampede), the match erupted following Jericho's hot tag to Styles, who the Rosemont crowd were dying to see in action. Both teams traded near falls, with Jericho saving Styles after a Midnight Hour double team by pushing Kingston into the pin in an indy as fuck moment and Big E pulling Kingston out of the ring following a brilliant springboard 450 splash from Styles, standing out as particularly gripping moments for both teams. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy and perhaps were ready to see Jericho and Styles take the title, however after a well-produced closing sequence it was Big E who picked up the clean victory for his team delivering the Big Ending to Jericho. 

Following the match, I was half expecting to see a turn, but that turn I was half expecting was a Styles Clash from The Phenomenal One. I just thought it'd be a pretty cool moment and put the storyline between the two on it's head. However, I was still pleasantly surprised by Chris Jericho delivering three Codebreakers to Styles before shoving the short-lived "Y2AJ" t-shirt into the former 2 time IWGP Heavyweight Champion's mouth. This is a side of Jericho that has been brewing quietly since he pushed past Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns back at Night of Champions last year and we saw glimpses of it at Fastlane, so it was satisfying to see it finally erupt following this loss. Making things even better was the fact that it was Jericho himself who took the pinfall, which gives them much more material to run with. It would seem WWE have decided to stick with Styles and Jericho for a WrestleMania match, I'm suspecting they might sneak a gimmick onto the fourth bout of the series, perhaps Two Out of Three Falls or even an Ultimate Submission match? 

fast-forward...Recap of The New Day retaining the WWE Tag Team Championships over Chris Jericho and AJ Styles as well as the aftermath, for those with extra short memories...WWE United States Champion Kalisto went over Tyler Breeze, for reasons...The Big Bossman will join Sting, The Godfather and The Fabulous Freebirds in the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016...Ryback cut a horrible promo as he interupted Kalisto's interview with Jo-Jo backstage...

ryback defeats curtis axel

RYBAXEL EXPLOOOOOOOOOODDDEEESSS! Ah man, The Social Outcasts have become my guilty pleasure over the last few weeks and to be honest with you, I don't even feel that guilty about it. All four guys have decided that they can be as utterly ridiculous as they like and seem to have been allowed to run with it. Curtis Axel in particular just going for it with his "Axe Man" thing, chopping away at an invisble piece of wood, was pure bliss. These are my guys. Long live the Social Outcasts. Ryback is scum. Why would you do this Skip? Why? You and Axel were best of friends! Paul Heyman was your Dad. Do you not remember the good times you had together? DO YOU NOT REMEMBER? Die Ryback, you bitch. 

fast-forward...A recap of Vince and Shane McMahon's segment from earlier in the night...Stephanie McMahon tried to convince Vince to reconsider Shane's WrestleMania match, just in case he would win, Vince said he had it, magical...

dean ambrose defeats bray wyatt via disqualification

The Allstate Arena crowd didn't seem to be too interested in this one and possibly were a little fatigued after another long night of TV tapings, but Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt put on a solid, physical match. Things felt a little throwaway with no particular reason to stay tuned in given, but the action was perfectly acceptable. Ambrose and Wyatt have wrestled over thirty times one on one since June 2014 and that could be seen here as the two were almost on auto-pilot, running through a series of spots and keeping things broadly entertaining. The build up to a double clothesline spot on the outside was done very well, even if both men trying to get into the ring following the move didn't feel like it went quiet as good as it could have. Another sequence of action on the outside, which saw Wyatt attempt to hit Sister Abigail on the outside, before eventual hammering Ambrose with a ura-nage onto the barricade, stands out as some of the strongest of the match. The DQ finish when the rest of The Wyatt Family descended on the ring was a strange one and seemed like a means to an end, rather than an return to Ambrose vs. Wyatt feud. 

That means to an end, of course, was a reason for WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H to head down to the ring to lay some beats into his challenger at Roadblock, whilst also not having Bray Wyatt suffer a loss ahead of his match with Brock Lesnar on Saturday. Despite the third closing match in a row that didn't feel particularly important, I thought the finish of the show was strong and built well towards Saturday's Roadblock on the WWE Network. Triple H continued his power trip by setting up the announce table for Ambrose, calling back to his attacks on Ambrose and Roman Reigns over the last two weeks, only for The Lunatic Fringe to catch him with Dirty Deeds as he rolled back into the ring. It's the first time we've seen a chink in Triple H's armour since he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble and the first time Ambrose has looked like a legitimate challenger for the title, in my opinion. Anyone who stuck around til the end was given a reason to tune into Roadblock, a thread to follow with Triple H being shown to be vulnerable when he loses his cool. Triple H is still retaining though, obviously.

atpw scale rating - 5.72/10

After last week's episode got the worst ATPW Scale Rating for 2016, this was a much more pleasing edition of WWE's flagship show. Three matches delivered quality in-ring action and sound storyline advancement with the main event WWE Tag Team Championship match, edging out Kevin Owens vs. Neville and Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose for the match of the night crown. The only main segment of the show that didn't do much for me was Dolph Ziggler taking on the League of Nations. However, it was Shane and Vince opening the show that was my favourite moment of the night, with the two putting on a lesson in crowd control, even if Shane O'Mac taking out four security guards didn't quite hit the spot for me. 

One thing I have to pull this show up on is the almost non-existent build towards Roadblock on Saturday. Yes, it's not a PPV, but it's scheduled for three hours and of the three matches currently scheduled for the show, only ONE received any real storyline push here. Brock Lesnar wasn't present to promote his match with Bray Wyatt and Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady challenging the Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championships didn't even get a mention. Who knows what we're going get Saturday night! 

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