Tuesday, 22 March 2016

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1191 (Styles vs. Owens)

On 21st March 2016, WWE aired the 1191st episode of Monday Night RAW live from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. With 13 days until WrestleMania 32, WWE Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens went toe to toe with AJ Styles in the main event with Chris Jericho getting involved, WWE Tag Team Champion and New Day member Big E faced League of Nations member Rusev with both factions at ringside and Dean Ambrose battled The Wyatt Family's Braun Strowman...but was it any good? Let's take a look. 

monday night raw #1191 card

Match 1 - Singles - "The Phenomenal One" AJ Styles vs. WWE Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens 

Match 2 - Singles - WWE Tag Team Champion Big E w/The New Day vs. Rusev w/The League of Nations

Match 3 - Singles - Chris Jericho vs. Fandango

Match 4 - WWE Intercontinental Championship #1 Contender's - Sin Cara vs. Stardust vs. Zack Ryder

Match 5 - Singles - WWE Diva's Champion Charlotte w/Ric Flair vs. Natalya

Match 6 - Singles - Bubba Ray Dudley w/D-Von Dudley vs. R-Truth

Match 7 - Singles - Braun Strowman w/The Wyatt Family vs. Dean Ambrose

fast-forward...A recap of the on-going storyline between WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H and #1 Contender Roman Reigns, including Reigns' return to WWE last week...

stephanie mcmahon and roman reigns open the show

This opening segment didn't really do a lot for me, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it didn't actually set up anything for the rest of the show. Stephanie McMahon came out, explained that her husband, Triple H, was at an important meeting and couldn't be at the show tonight, cut a short promo on the crowd about responsibility and power, was interrupted by Roman Reigns, tried to slap Reigns, Reigns said he "was the Authority" and then everyone went their separate ways. There was no match made for later on, no real reason to stick around to see what was going to happen. Secondly, it didn't really make a whole lot of sense. Reigns is The Authority? What does that even mean? Finally, I wasn't totally convinced by The Juggernauts performance here either. It felt very forced and inwards. Perhaps because he was in front of fairly hostile, Philadelphia crowd, but this was completely flat promo. Not a great place to be just 13 days before the biggest match of his career.

wwe intercontinental champion kevin owens defeats aj styles

The show's main event happened to be it's opener as Kevin Owens and AJ Styles went at it in a nearly twenty minute bout. This was a match that was clearly chosen to appease the hardcore fan-base that the city is known for and the Philadelphia crowd lapped it up, popping for pretty much everything that Owens and Styles did in the ring. Both men got a handful of near falls, with the bout being kept pretty even for the most part, as the two stars went back and forth. A brilliant strikes based section stands out as the strongest action of the match, culminating in Styles landing a Pele Kick on the former ROH World Champion. Of course, with this being a television match the finish had to be one to further storylines, so it was Chris Jericho coming out saying "AJ Sty-els" repeatedly that was enough to cause the distraction and allow Owens to school-boy Styles to pick up the victory. Not the strongest finish and one that didn't particularly further the Jericho and Styles feud, but at least the Intercontinental Champion came out with the victory. 

A fairly lazy piece of booking followed as Kevin Owens began to cut a promo announcing his opponent at WrestleMania, only for Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and Sami Zayn to interrupt him and stake their claim for an Intercontinental Championship shot. WWE seems to have decided to throwaway a seemingly red-hot feud between Owens and Zayn for something a lot less satisfying to watch, but a hell of a lot easier to book. Chuck a load of guys into a title match, because you don't have to bother about writing any real storyline and obviously no one will notice that you've just gone for the same thing that you did last year, minus the weird chucking the belt around thing. More on this later of course, because the "best" was yet to come...

fast-forward...At a bar somewhere, 2 time ECW World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk returned to WWE Television in order to give Dean Ambrose a chain saw, in a bizarre skit that ended with Ambrose destroying a table...The first of two build up packages for Shane McMahon and The Undertaker's Hell in a Cell match aired with a variety of WWE Hall of Famers and Legends waying in on the subject, including Mick Foley, Edge, Steve Austin, John Cena, Jerry "The King" Lawler and more...

big e defeats rusev

This was a top-heavy episode as WWE Tag Team Champion Big E and Rusev competed in one of the show's sub-main event's as the feud between The New Day and League of Nations continued to rage on. Before the bout started we got promos from both factions with the League of Nations surprisingly out-doing the New Day this time round. The quartet kept things simple, showing footage of last-week's assault on the trio, whilst Sheamus put over the attack even further. For me, The New Day's promo missed the mark somewhat, as they didn't seem all that bothered about the attack on them last week and decided to talk about Rusev having toe-jam and imagining what it would be like if all three of them had won the King of the Ring instead of King Barrett.

Big E and Rusev however really brought it in this match, putting on strong heavyweight tussle that brilliantly paced and used the surrounding five men at ringside well. Lots of big hard-hitting action, the bout built into a really good television contest, as Rusev and Big E proved that they could still potentially deliver on the singles promise that both men once seemed to have. Big E in particularly looked great here, having developed an exciting babyface moveset, including his Big Splash on the apron, a handful of sweet overhead belly to belly suplexes, as well as his signature spear through the ropes which he used to knock Sheamus off the apron in the closing stages. Of course, The New Day managed to gain a modicum of revenge for last week's attack here with Kofi Kingston nailed Rusev with an enziguiri from the apron, which allowed Big E to nail Rusev with the Big Ending to pick the victory. The victory means that Big E is now undefeated in singles competition since the end of October 2015! 

fast-forward...All four members of The Wyatt Family cut promos on Braun Strowman's upcoming sub-main event bout with Dean Ambrose later in the show...Alicia Fox, Naomi, Natalya and SOME GUY were in an advert for Snickers, what a time to be alive...

kane destroys the social outcasts and the big show

What an utter treat this was, eh? Big Show cut a promo saying he had to say he was the greatest giant of all time for some reason or another, but then claimed that it was in fact Andre the Giant who should hold that title. Obviously entering himself into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, proving that winning the battle royal does absolutely nothing for a career. Despite this, The Social Outcasts were buzzing about being apart of it and battered Show to prove it. A magical return for Kane was next as he saved Show by tossing Adam Rose, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and Heath Slater over the top rope, because we've got a battle royal to promote. The highlight of the segment was Show hugging Kane and jumping to the top rope, due to the utter joy on his face. The segment ended with Kane turning on Show and chokeslamming him off the middle rope to the floor. Yeah! 

fast-forward...4 time Triple Crown Champion Stan Hansen, best known for his time in All-Japan Pro Wrestling, was announced as the next inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016...

chris jericho defeats fandango

Fandango made a triumphant return to Monday Night RAW, making his first appearance since jobbing to Neville in last July, to put Chris Jericho over in a WrestleMania Rewind bout. A few minutes of action from Jericho and Fandango was interrupted by AJ Styles chanting "Y2Jackass" in a weird voice, before Y2J hit a Codebreaker to pick up the win, leaving Fandango without a win on television since 18th December. Styles and Jericho's chat that followed completely bombed with the live audience, who neither joined in with the "AJ Styles" or "Y2Jackass" chants leading to a pretty awkward moment for both men. We did however get another match booked for WrestleMania as Styles and Jericho will face off for the fourth time.

fast-forward...A second look at Shane McMahon and The Undertaker's bout at WrestleMania 32, this time focusing on McMahon's preparation...

stardust, sin cara and zack ryder battled to a non-contest in an attempt to become number one contender to the wwe intercontinental championship

I mentioned earlier how the "best" was yet to come in terms of the Intercontinental Championship picture and here it is!! Kevin Owens was on ring announcing duties, but instead of calling out Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn and The Miz as expected, out came Stardust, Sin Cara and Zack Ryder. This moment was, in fact, pretty entertaining with Owens teasing each of the original names, before bringing out the three stooges, but it quickly descended into silliness. Ziggler, Zayn and Miz came out to argue with Owens on commentary and then everyone started attacking Owens, with the referee throwing out the bout. The main problem here is that Owens was clearly taking the piss out of Stardust, Cara and Ryder by bringing them out for the #1 Contender's bout, pointing them out as weaker than the likes of Ziggler, Zayn and Miz, which was part of the entertainment factor, but now all of a sudden I'm supposed to see them as equals? Horribly booked, with no thought put into it. WWE has managed to make chicken shit out of chicken salad. Obviously Neville would've taken one of these spots (The Miz?) had he not got injured last week, but with names like Kane, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Jack Swagger, Tyler Breeze, The Big Show, Damien Sandow, Goldust and R-Truth all without matches on the main card of WrestleMania, it's difficult to see how WWE settled upon this final line-up for an Intercontinental Championship bout. 

fast-forward...A recap of Stephanie McMahon and Roman Reigns opening the show, what a treat...Kevin Owens approached Stephanie McMahon backstage only to find himself booked in an Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at WrestleMania, against Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Sin Cara, Stardust, The Miz and Zack Ryder...As Triple H arrived to take Stephanie away from the arena, Roman Reigns was waiting, leading to pretty cool visual when garage door lifted and Reigns was there, but the resulting brawl was a bit of damp squib after last week's clash...

charlotte defeats natalya

This was an abridged version of the pairs bout from Roadblock, without the storytelling and mainly sticking to the big memorable spots, like Natalya's sit-out powerbomb. Most of the focus was on Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks who were doing guest commentary as they pushed their characters and the upcoming WrestleMania Triple Threat they're in with Charlotte. Perfectly watchable wrestling, with some fun stuff from Sasha and Becky, but it felt like neither side got a lot of attention. Either full throttle with the wrestling or go full throttle with the character work, by attempting to do both I think the segment actually ended up not doing either particularly well.

fast-forward...A recap of the Dean Ambrose and Terry Funk segment from earlier...The commentary team put over the #FreeWrestleMania gimmick as well as what's being shown on the WWE Network across WrestleMania week...

bubba ray dudley defeats r-truth

Bubba Ray continued his undefeated streak in Singles matches as he destroyed R-Truth in just over two minutes. Basically a way of furthering The Dudley Boyz feud with The Usos, as after Goldust failed at making the save for Truth, The Usos were out to cause problems. The duo got roundly booed by Philadelpha, seemingly due to their association with Roman Reigns. It would appear that WWE is heading in the obvious route of a Tables Match at WrestleMania, as The Usos whipped out the hardware, only for Dudley Boyz to quickly scarper up the entrance way. A decent piece of promotion for a undercard bout, but I don't feel like many people have been fully sold on this rivalry as of yet.

vince mcmahon adds a stipulation to the undertaker's match with shane mcmahon at wrestlemania

With The Undertaker and Shane McMahon both absent from this episode, it was up to Vince McMahon to carry their storyline this week. Vinny Mac cut a promo alone in the ring, once again explaining the match, before adding a stipulation. As if the bout needed any more bells and whistles, this was pushed throughout the show, with my prediction being some kind of special guest referee announcement. However, Vinny Mac added the stipulation that it would be The Undertaker's last match at WrestleMania if he failed to defeat Shane McMahon. In kayfabe, I get it, Vince wants to ensure that The Undertaker will be at his best and have as much to play for as Shane does, but in the real world it's bit of a strange decision. Does the crowd want to see Shane triumph to finally joust the Authority out of power? Because that will lead to us never seeing The Undertaker as his event ever again. Who is the crowd supposed to side with? Who will they side with? Will they side with any body? 

braun strowman defeats dean ambrose via disqualification

This was the final marquee bout of the evening and it struggled to connect with the Philadelphia crowd who chanted "This is Boring" about half way through. Braun Strowman isn't the flashiest wrestler in the world and even though Ambrose is a fairly sympathetic babyface, watching Strowman plod through the bout and controlling the pace was hardly going to be the most enthralling piece of television you'll ever see, and the crowd didn't have the benefit of Paul Heyman's commentary to help them through it, either. It wasn't awful, but it just wasn't very exciting. Tasking Strowman with closing the show in only his 8th televised singles match was pretty ridiculous piece of booking. The bout finished with Ambrose teeing off on Strowman with a steel chair to cause the DQ, and after fighting off the rest of the Wyatt Family, hitting Strowman with a Dirty Deeds onto the chair to end the show. Obviously, this was an attempt to show what Ambrose could be capable of against Brock Lesnar in their No Holds Barred Street Fight in 13 days time, but it wasn't a particularly awe-inspiring finish to the show. After seeing Ambrose use a crowbar last week and get given a Barbed-Wire Baseball bat from Mick Foley and a Chainsaw from Terry Funk, this close felt like a bit of an anti-climax, which with just one more Monday Night RAW before the biggest show of the year, WWE can't really afford right now.

atpw scale rating - 4.27/10

One of the weaker episodes on the build towards WrestleMania, this was below average event, edging toward poor. The show was saved from being completely awful, thanks to two quality singles matches in the first hour. If you take the show on the first hour alone, then you've got a bloody good wrestling show as AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens and Big E vs. Rusev were both strong outings. It was a shame that the other marquee bout on the show, between Dean Ambrose and Braun Strowman couldn't live up to what had happened earlier on, but due to a mix of ill-thought out booking and an anti-climactic finish ended the show on a bit of a downer.

After the first hour, the show went quickly down hill with a mixture of weird segments (Show, Social Outcasts & Kane segment), lazy booking (Intercontinental Championship picture) and the lack of big name stars (No Brock Lesnar, no Undertaker, no Shane McMahon and only a quick glimpse of WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H). Nothing in the second two hours was really worth catching out with average at best in-ring action and storyline progression that was either mind-numbling or non-existent. 

After a hit and miss build to WrestleMania over the last five weeks, WWE needs to hit next week's Monday Night RAW out of the park.

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