Wednesday, 11 May 2016

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1198 (The Club vs. Reigns & The Usos)

On 9th May 2016, WWE aired the 1198th episode of Monday Night RAW, live from the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, on the USA Network. 8 days removed from Payback 2016, WWE World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, now going by The Club, clashed with WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns and The Usos in an Elimination Tag Team bout, Sami Zayn got a chance to earn a spot in a WWE Intercontinental Championship match at Extreme Rules 2016, as he went one on one with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz and Big Cass interrupted an edition of Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel...but was it any good? Let's take a look! 

monday night raw #1198 match card

Match 1 – Men's Singles – Dolph Ziggler vs. 2016 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal Winner Baron Corbin 

Match 2 – Men's Singles – R-Truth with Tyler Breeze vs. Fandango with Goldust

Match 3 – Women's Singles – WWE Women's Champion Charlotte vs. Paige (Ric Flair is banned from ringside)

Match 4 – Men's Singles – Sami Zayn vs. WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz with Maryse (If Zayn wins he is added to the WWE Intercontinental Championship match at Extreme Rules 2016)

Match 5 – Sin Cara with WWE United States Champion Kalisto vs. WWE United States Championship #1 Contender Rusev with “The Ravishing Russian” Lana

Match 6 – Men's Tag Team Elimination - Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson & WWE World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender AJ Styles vs. The Usos & WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns

Match 7 – Men's Singles – Zack Ryder vs. Kevin Owens (If Ryder wins he'll replace Owens in the WWE Intercontinental Championship match at Extreme Rules 2016)

Match 8 – Men's Tag Team – WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day: Big E & Kofi Kingston with Xavier Woods vs. The Dudley Boyz: Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley

Commentary: John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Michael Cole, Bryon Saxton & Natalya (Charlotte vs. Paige only)

Theme(s) - "The Night (2014 Remix)" by CFO$/Kromestatik and "Denial" by We Are Harlot

fast-forward...A recap of last week's main event with Roman Reigns and The Usos facing AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson with the aftermath...

cass interrupts the return of jericho's highlight reel

Just six weeks after his Monday Night RAW debut, Big Cass was part of the opening segment, alongside former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Chris Jericho. It was a big moment for the 29 year old from New York and he did himself proud holding his own with the veteran main event star. "Y2J", of course, gave Cass a brilliant lead in, boasting about injuring Dean Ambrose on Monday Night RAW #1197 and continuing to run-down "The Lunatic Fringe" for apparently having less charisma than Mitch the Potted Plant (RIP), before ripping on the Nebraska crowd. Honestly, this was some of Jericho's best work this year, that worked perfectly towards Cass' interruption whilst also adding fire to "Y2J"'s feud with Ambrose. The segment closing with Cass getting the better of Jericho both verbally and then physically, instantly shifted "The Big Bambino" into a new role whilst Enzo Amore recovers from his concussion. 

fast-forward...Chris Jericho went to Stephanie McMahon to complain about Colin Cassady and ended up being booked in a match with him later on...

corbin defeats ziggler

I've had my criticisms of Baron Corbin in the past, but he's accounted for himself very well since arriving on Monday Night RAW #1193. Dolph Ziggler has provided a quality first programme for the Kansas City native over their six week feud, with this match seemingly being the culmination of that as Corbin went over clean with an End of Days after initially sending Ziggler face first into the top turnbuckle. A lively crowd helped make a neatly booked contest, that saw lots of near falls for "The Show-Off" but mostly dominance from "The Lone Wolf". Credit to Ziggler for working his arse off to make Corbin look as good as he possibly could have. His posting for Deep Six in stands out as particularly impressive. Whilst this felt like a natural end to this feud, perhaps we'll see the duo go at it one more time at Extreme Rules 2016 on 22nd May with some kind of gimmick in place. 

fast-forward...WWE Women's Champion Charlotte and Ric Flair visited Shane McMahon to get him to overturn Stephanie McMahon's decision to ban Flair from ringside during Charlotte's match with Natalya at Extreme Rules 2016, only for McMahon to ban Flair from Charlotte's match with Paige later tonight...Jo-Jo interviewed AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, with Styles telling us that The Club is back together...R-Truth pinned Fandango with bare antics from Goldust and Tyler Breeze at ringside...Stephanie and Shane McMahon are about to make a Triple Threat match at Extreme Rules 2016 with The Miz defending his WWE Intercontinental Championship against Cesaro and Kevin Owens, but Sami Zayn interrupts and talks himself into a match with Miz later on, if Zayn wins he joins the match...

paige defeats charlotte 

Fun little match here, with Paige and Charlotte putting on a physical encounter that would eventually descend into shenanigans. However, Natalya on commentary was not a great idea. It's not that she struggles to speak like Kalisto did last week, but she just says really cringy things and her interaction with the other commentators just makes me feel queasy. It's like your Auntie trying to get involved in the newest playground craze. Add to that Michael Cole constantly reminding us that Charlotte's match with Natalya would be "The Figure 8 vs. The Sharpshooter" and you had a near unbearable soundscape. Luckily, the crowd aided things, popping nicely for near falls like a well-performed superplex from Paige and lifting the whole affair. Of course with Ric Flair "banned" from ringside, her decided to come out anyway after Natalya stood up from her position on commentary, cue a big pop for Shane McMahon coming out to eject him and Paige sneaking a roll-up victory. I'm really not sure about the finish, as not only did it cut an enjoyable match short, but I don't know what it really offered in terms of narrative for the upcoming Charlotte vs. Natalya title match. Other than a way of getting Shane O'Mac out into the arena for a big pop, I'm not sure what it offered the storyline going forward.

fast-forward...Recap of Chris Jericho and Colin Cassady's segment from the opening of the show...

zayn defeats miz to earn a space in the wwe intercontinental championship match at extreme rules 2016

A fairly simple match here with a straight-forward layout, but completely watchable even with a result that was sign-posted more than Alton Towers. Basically, you had Sami Zayn getting numerous near-falls from roll-ups, dropkicks and what have you, whilst The Miz cheated to remain in control with help from wife and valet Maryse. Hardly an original concept, but the two characters made it work, because they are both so watertight and get the correct reactions with the crowd. I've mentioned the crowd a lot so far, but they really were that good, not in a "Hey, let's chant entertaining stuff" kind of way, but more in a way of giving the performers the reactions they were after. Sami Zayn was perhaps one of the most over characters of the whole show, getting big reactions for each near fall, as the crowd clearly want to see him get his shot. The match built nicely to the finish with Miz getting frustrated and arguing with referee John Cone, before running into an Exploder Suplex, which of course lead to a Helluva Kick and a pinfall victory for Zayn. Not a match that set the world alight, but a technically sound one, with a satisfying closing section that gave "The Underdog from the Underground" a sound reason for being in a match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship, having suffered a loss to Kevin Owens 8 days earlier. 

fast-forward...Dana Brooke made her Monday Night RAW debut and attacked Becky Lynch during an interview with Renee Young, with Emma providing the distraction...Darren Young is with Bob Backlund now, apparently, yeah...The New Day, Sasha Banks and Dolph Ziggler sold pizza...Kevin Owens interrupted Zack Ryder talking to Shane McMahon, with Shane O'Mac booking Owens vs. Ryder for later on...Tom Philips interviewed Roman Reigns and The Usos in the locker room with Reigns saying that he'd eliminate Styles from their tag team match later on...

cara defeats rusev

Yup, a week after becoming #1 Contender to the United States Championship Rusev was losing to Sin Cara in less than four minutes. I completely get the idea of having Cara win here, as a way of showing that Kalisto could potentially upset the bigger man, but I'm not sure that WWE went the right way about showing that. The match itself was fairly entertaining, Rusev and Cara worked quite well together with a nice power and speed type deal with The Bulgarian Brute acting as a solid base for some of Cara's more flippy shit. However, with Rusev winning a battle royal to become Number One Contender, I think this week's episode of Monday Night RAW should have gone about showing him win in singles action, looking dominant and walking over an opponent. This outcome would have been much more suited to next week's go-home show for Payback 2016. However, having Kalisto have to interfere, nailing Rusev with a enziguiri after Lana had distracted the referee on the other side of the ring, before a roll-up from Cara got the win, hardly did Kalisto any favours. All we know is that Kalisto might be able to beat Rusev with some outside interference and the interference hardly made the current WWE United States Champion the most likeable chap either.

reigns and the usos defeat the club via disqualification 

Good solid action here, but just not enough of it. It took just over 9 minutes for the elimination tag team match to be down to just WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns and his number one contender AJ Styles. 9 minutes for both Usos, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows to all have their shoulder pinned to the mat. I suppose it could have came off as chaotic and energetic, but I don't think it did, with each elimination I felt a little bit disappointed that that wrestler had gone. The eliminations should have felt satisfying, they should been built to, you just can't do that with having a man pinned every couple of minutes. Gallows being pinned with a Superman Punch stands as the best example of just how rushed this contest was. I did like the booking of having Styles and Reigns as the final two, it gave the audience a nice preview of what we might see at Extreme Rules 2016. The pair scrapping to the outside was a nice touch, emphasing the eponymous stipulation of their upcoming bout. I have to admit to being a little disappointing at seeing Gallows and Anderson return to cause the disqualification finish, but I'm sure that was exactly how I supposed to feel, considering it made me want to see more.

At the close of the contest we got perhaps the most interesting exchange of the entire show. After Reigns had managed to dispatch of Gallows and Anderson with a pair of well-placed spears, Styles would have another opportunity to show his "true colours", as it were. In a superb tease, "The Phenomenal One" would position Reigns for a Styles Clash with a steel chair conspicuously placed beneath him. The move was held just long enough for the imagery to run through each and every fans mind, before "The Big Dog" would scramble to safety. The main event segment would close with some brilliant drama, as Styles and Reigns would stare each other down, tossing each other the steel chair to see just who would blink first. A last flurry of excitement came as Styles jumped from the apron and attempted a Phenomenal Forearm as Reigns went to pick up the chair, only for "The Guy" to quickly step aside and Styles to scramble to the outside. Despite the disappointing match, the aftermath was a terrific watch, that hopefully left every viewer wanting to see more and chomping at the bit to see Styles and Reigns tear it up again at Extreme Rules 2016 on 22nd May.

fast-forward...Replay of Styles, Gallows & Anderson vs. Reigns & The Usos...

owens defeats ryder to keep his place in the wwe intercontinental championship match at extreme rules 2016

Another fun bout here, that was completely made by it's stipulation. Zack Ryder's WWE Intercontinental Championship reign might not have lasted long, but it has allowed him to step up into an important role over the last few weeks, he's become jobber to the stars. A win over Ryder now means so much more, because the crowd are once again invested in him as a performer and character. We saw it last week in the United States Championship #1 Contender's Battle Royal and it was on display again here as he attempted to earn himself an WWE Intercontinental Championship match. Lot's of near falls for Ryder, almost mirroring the Miz vs. Zayn bout from earlier, however this would be no fairytale as despite getting the better of Owens for most of the match, Ryder succumbed to a Pop-Up Powerbomb after just four minutes. WWE has started using little stipulations like this over the last few weeks for some of the undercard bouts (with the WWE Tag Team Championship tournament being the biggest example) and it keeps things so much more interesting, giving you a reason to stick around. Hopefully they'll keep this sort of thing up and use it more often.

dudley boyz defeats new day

The New Day's promo was once again the highlight of their screen time on Monday Night RAW. Confusion on how to say The Vaudevillains, getting the crowd to "hail" the Booty-o and a joke about historical racism, this promo had it all. The match with The Dudley Boyz didn't really do much for me with not even time for either team to really hit their stride and at times a lack of direction. It felt very much like both teams were waiting for something, which of course would be The Vaudevillains, who turned up to attack Xavier Woods at ringside leading to D-Von Dudley pinning Kofi Kingston after a big lariat. The #1 Contenders then hit Kingston with a Whirling Dervish before legging it. A decent way of furthering the issue between the two teams, but having the third champion end up being pinned on the same show really doesn't sit too well with me and shows a lack creativity on the whole from the booking staff.

ambrose destroys jericho's jacket

Part of me was disappointing at not getting to see Big Cass in the closing match of Monday Night RAW, the rest of me was jizzing my pants at the incredible visual of Dean Ambrose attacking Chris Jericho with the only light coming from "Y2J"'s Justin Bieber jacket. It was beautiful. Even Michael Cole struggling to pretend he didn't know what was going on, it was marvelous. Ambrose destroying Jericho's jacket in the middle of the ring seemed very 1990's, but worked well because Jericho sold it like it was the end of the world and made it seem like a big deal. Big Cass getting physical and stopping Jericho from leaving meant that his involvement was entirely lost either. A different end to the show in a segment that had less than eight minutes television time, but one that despite it's retro call-backs, felt rather fresh in it's presentation. 

fast-forward...Stephanie and Shane McMahon chatted about the loss of Jericho's jacket and seemed to be getting on rather well...Jericho continued to shout at Ambrose for destroying his light-up jacket...

atpw scale rating - 4.75/10

A lot of really good stuff, let down by lazy booking and a little too much filler. The main event between The Club and The Usos & Roman Reigns is the best example, as the match was rushed, but the aftermath was dramatic and built the anticipation for the upcoming WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Extreme Rules 2016. In other marquee segments, Sami Zayn and The Miz put together a solid bout with a reason to watch and Big Cass looked comfortable stepping up to Chris Jericho's level to open the show. Jericho and Cass were involved in the highlight of the undercard (weird thing to say for the final segment) with Dean Ambrose's attack on Jericho providing some top notch visuals and taking their feud up another level. The multiple champions suffering pinfall loses, following distractions or outside interference, stands out as particularly weak booking and watered down Sami Zayn's achievement and begs the question that if Zayn earned a title match by the defeating the champion, why wouldn't Paige or The Dudley Boyz get the same treatment? Throw into the mix the United States Championship #1 Contender losing as well and you have to wonder why nobody flagged this up before the show began?

With next week's show being the final edition before Extreme Rules 2016, WWE will need to pick up their game and produce a tighter booked show, focusing on the positives mentioned above and emphasising them.

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