Wednesday, 6 April 2016

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1193 (Styles vs. Cesaro vs. Jericho vs. Owens *WWE World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender's Fatal Fourway*)

Our review of WrestleMania 32, featuring thoughts on Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell, is here.

On 4th April 2016, WWE aired Monday Night RAW #1193 live from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, USA on the USA Network just one day removed from WrestleMania 32. AJ Styles, a returning Cesaro, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens battled it out in a Fatal Fourway to crown a Number One Contender to Roman Reigns' WWE World Heavyweight Championship, The New Day put their WWE Tag Team Championships on the line against Sheamus & King Barrett of the League of Nations and Zack Ryder defended his newly-won WWE Intercontinental Championship against The Miz...but was it any good? Let's find out.

monday night raw #1193 match card

Match 1 - WWE Tag Team Championships - The New Day: Big E and Kofi Kingston with Xavier Woods vs. League of Nations: King Barrett and "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus with Leauge of Nations: Alberto Del Rio and Rusev

Match 2 - Singles - Summer Rae vs. Sasha Banks

Match 3 - Singles - Tyler Breeze vs. Apollo Crews (bka Uhaa Nation)

Match 4 - Singles - Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Match 5 - WWE Intercontinental Championship - Zack Ryder (C) vs. The Miz

Match 6 - Tables - The Dudley Boyz: Bubba Ray Dudley and Devon Dudley vs. The Usos: Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso

Match 7 - WWE World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender's Fatal Four-Way - "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles vs."Y2J" Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens vs. (Antonio) Cesaro

Commentary: John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Michael Cole & Byron Saxton

Ring Announcer: Lilian Garcia

fast-forward...The commentary team explained that the crowd would be rowdy and might not always react in the way that WWE would like them to react...

vince and shane open the show

Vince McMahon opened the show by interacting with the Dallas crowd and calling them "nutty". This genuinely felt like Vince saying that he had no clue what they actually wanted to see and no idea why they didn't want what he wanted them to have, as opposed to a character trying to get some heat from the audience. The crowd lapped up Shane McMahon coming out and the back and forth between Shane and Vince was cool to see again, especially with a crowd that was so hot for it. For reasons, Vince gave Shane the control of the show for the evening, and whilst I'd usually moan about their being little to no logic behind it, the crowd went nuts for it so who cares.

new day defeat the l.o.n. to retain the wwe tag team championships, the l.o.n. turn on barrett, wyatt family destroys the l.o.n.

After The New Day had seemingly calmed the rowdy Dallas crowd down with their antics, Big E & Kofi Kingston successfully defended the groups WWE Tag Team Championships for the 11th time, making them the most successful WWE Tag Team Champions since Brian Kendrick & Paul London's 2006-07 reign. The match was pretty basic in it's structure with the New Day retaining the belts after a swift comeback sequence that would lead to Kingston pinning King Barrett following a Midnight Hour. The contest was nothing to write home about, but I was glad to see The New Day retaining their belts as another victory only strengthens their title reign, which surely strengthens the tag division itself. 

Boy did things shift after the match though, eh? Sheamus organised the destruction of King Barrett, finishing off the 5 time WWE Intercontinental Champion with a Brogue Kick. The rumours have been swirling for months that Barrett would be exiting WWE, so it would appear this will be his exit angle. Things would get more exciting though when The Wyatt Family descended upon the ring and tore apart the L.O.N.. A babyface turn could refresh Bray Wyatt and his group and should lead to Wyatt actually coming out on top of some of his feuds! L.O.N. vs. Wyatt Family has potential, if L.O.N. are portrayed as a reasonable threat to Wyatt Family, so whilst this was a strong way to kick things off, there's plenty of work still to be done.

fast-forward...Summer Rae got some mic time, before submitting to Sasha Banks in a simple squash...

crews defeats breeze

An impressive Monday Night RAW debut for former Dragon Gate star Apollo Crews (bka Uhaa Nation) here as WWE looks to bulk up their roster heading out of WrestleMania. Crews was pushed hard by the commentary team and looked great as he was allowed to show of his power and athleticism in a decisive squash over Tyler Breeze. It's a shame that Breeze has been deemed only deserving of putting over talent, as whilst he did a terrific job of making Crews look great, these two could have stolen the show if they were allowed to really cut loose in the ring. 

jericho, styles, owens and zayn interrupt new wwe world heavyweight champion roman reigns

After some poorly thought out booking decision involving Roman Reigns' push to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, this segment seemed to cleverly address a number of those mistakes and play to the Dallas crowd perfectly. Reigns initial promo was calm and collected in front of a crowd that seemed to hate his very existence, with The Big Dog presenting an interesting "shades of grey" type character. Reigns has drifted into tweener territory in terms of his performance, but with the loud crowd reaction I wouldn't argue with you if you saw this as a heel turn. Having Reigns call out any one from the lockerroom who wanted a shot at his belt, lead to a procession of guys who are clearly over with the crowd that hates Reigns as Chris Jericho, former TNA & NJPW star AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (fka El Generico) made their way to the ring. Whilst the four brawled with each other, Reigns stood out as the star beckoning Zayn to fight him in the middle of a chaotic sequence, before leveling Jericho with a Spear to close things out. Let's never forget that the Dallas crowd chanted "We Are Idiots" also.

corbin and ziggler fight to a double countout

Another Monday Night RAW debut as Baron Corbin took on Dolph Ziggler. Before the match, Corbin handled himself fairly well on the microphone cutting a solid promo whilst stood next to his Andre the Giant Memorial Trophy. It wasn't the best promo you'll ever hear, but it stuck to his character and got a decent reaction out of the crowd. The bout he had with Ziggler was another solid effort with Ziggler allowing Corbin to look like a star throughout, even if the audience weren't quite into the basic heel/babyface structure of the contest. The finish was a bit of weird one, as Corbin lost control and somehow hadn't been informed that he could be counted out for spending too long on the outside of the ring. It made him look a bit of a nutter as he shouted at the referee but hitting Ziggler with the End of Days on the outside. 

fast-forward...Some still photos from Brock Lesnar's No Holds Barred Street Fight victory over Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32...

miz goads ryder into a wwe intercontinetal championship match, miz defeats ryder to win the wwe intercontinental championship, maryse returns

I'll come out and say it, this whole segment was gold. Zack Ryder's WWE Intercontinental Championship victory the night before threw a lot of people off, but he got a superb reaction from the American Airlines Center and cut a strong, emotional promo about his victory. Any opportunity to see Zack's Dad is one that I'll take with open arms and it's clearly working for others as Ryder is over like rover at the moment. Talking of over, The Miz is having a career revival right now, helped by his performances on his Miz TV talk show segment, and he owned his moment here. Turning up in his silly gold coat, Miz had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hands as they popped for literally every that they said. Plus who doesn't love an impromtu title match? Well, Lilian Garcia apparently.

I found myself really marking out throughout the match, as I suddenly returned to my utter love I had for Zack Ryder back in 2011. I didn't want to see him lose the belt, I wanted the fairy tale to last forever. I wanted Zack and his Dad to live the dream and potentially become Tag champs as well. But no, that ass-hat Miz had to ruin it all. My whole mark-ish behaviour was helped by how the match unfolded as Ryder hit a number of moves for big near falls, each of which got meaty reactions from the crowd. It felt like with each move Ryder was getting closer to keeping the belt and also managed to get the crowd to believe that Ryder could defeat the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The finish featured some over-booking as Miz got all involved with Zack's Dad, before 2 time WWE Diva's Champion Maryse and Miz's real-life wife made her return to WWE TV and caused the distraction that lead Miz to win his fifth WWE Intercontinental Championship! What a time to be alive.

fast-forward...Kevin Owens owned his interview with Renee Young and the crowd popped for every syllable...

lita officially presents charlotte with the new wwe women's championship belt, no one likes charlotte, natalya attacks charlotte

The women's division took a whole new path coming out of WrestleMania, with Charlotte having to battle through a tough crowd to get her promo done. As has been the case over the last year or so, the crowd wanted someone who didn't happen to be in the ring and chanted for Bayley throughout Charlotte's promo. To be fair to the WWE Women's Champion, after a shaky start, she managed to weather the storm and turn things round on herself and finished her acceptance speech by getting some quality heat. Natalya was a curve ball of a choice to have stand up for the rest of the women (who all decided to leave the ring), but I suppose it does make some sense with her being the longest standing female roster member. This does however have all the hallmarks of a placeholder feud for Charlotte to continue the build until Sasha takes the belt from her or Bayley makes the step up to the main roster.

fast-forward...Renee Young interviewed AJ Styles about the upcoming Fatal Fourway main event...

dudley boyz defeat the usos in a tables match

Another run of the mill encounter here as The Usos and The Dudley Boyz ran through a number of Tables match spots, without ever looking to produce anything resembling creative. The four struggled to keep the crowd on board, continuing the vibe of their WrestleMania Kick-Off bout the day before. It was far from a bad bout, but it lacked the energy and any stand out moments. To cap of the whole trainwreck, the time keeper rang the bell after the Usos crashed through the tables, rather than waiting for Dudley Boyz to actual chuck them through one. Bubba Ray kicking off at the time keeper and Lilian Garcia was probably the strongest piece of work he's done since the Bully Ray character, probably because he was genuinely pissed off.

fast-forward...Kevin Owens took out Sami Zayn during an interview with Renee Young, continuing their feud, putting Zayn through a table with a Powerbomb (interestingly placed just after a Tables Match, no?)...

enzo and cass rip dudley boyz a new one

I was gutted when the show went to a break after Dudley Boyz victory, because I was clamouring to see Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady debut. Therefore I bloody exploded when the show came back and Bubba Ray and Devon were still making their way from the ring. The whole segment from this point had me on the edge of my seat as the crowd popped huge for Enzo and Cass and continued to pop for every single one of Amore's zingers. This was the feud I most wanted to see Enzo and Cass debut in and I'm hoping it gives Bubba Ray and Devon a kick up the arse. This feud should be absolute gold if done properly over the next few months and adds some great depth to the tag division. Double thumbs up.

styles defeats jericho, owens and cesaro to become number one contender to the wwe world heavyweight championship

How could this match not deliver? Firstly, Cesaro is back! After over four months on the sidelines The Swiss Superman made his return to WWE and got a huge pop as he came out as Sami Zayn's replacement as chosen by Shane McMahon. If there was ever a doubt that Cesaro deserves to be positioned as a top performer in WWE then this match surely knocked those out of the window. He was a vital part of the four that developed into becoming one of the best Monday Night RAW main events. With plenty of twists and turns throughout the chaotic action, it was hard to take your eyes of the bout as the four competitors made you sit up and take notice.

After a Tower of Doom spot the match really hit it's stride, leading to a sequence of strikes that involved all four men. Owens and Jericho worked well together on a smooth piece of action, whilst the build to Cesaro finally using the Cesaro Swing again was done incredibly well. It's a simple move that has got so so over, so it's right that it's used sparingly and built to properly, as it was here. The closing flurry of moves was superb, with everyone being showcased and number of high quality false finishes that had Dallas going nuts. Styles coming out of the match victorious after finally using a Styles Clash to pin Jericho delivered a satisfying finish, allowing Styles to not only become Number 1 Contender, but get another victory over his rival Jericho. A potential bout between Styles and Roman Reigns has a lot of potential, I'll be paying close attention to how WWE takes their storyline over the next few week's heading into Payback on 1st May.

atpw scale rating - 6.04/10

The best Monday Night RAW episode of 2016 so far, the show was highlighted by a brilliant Fatal Fourway main-event that pushed WWE into a new direction, crowning a popular Number One Contender to go toe to toe with the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion who has been the focus of the die-hard fanbases vitriol for months. The saga of League of Nations provided entertainment as King Barrett was kicked from the group, before The Wyatt Family made a popular face turn. Zack Ryder trying to hold onto to his WWE Intercontinental Championship produced a fun bout with The Miz and a memorable return for Maryse. The undercard was highlighted by promising debuts for Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady, as well as strong talking segments from Roman Reigns (to set up the main event) and new WWE Women's Champion Charlotte. 

Can WWE keep this momentum going heading out of WrestleMania 32? I'll be here next week to find out.

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