It's the last Monday Night RAW before the 2016 edition of Money in the Bank, WWE was going to pull out all the stops to make sure everyone was tuning into the WWE Network on Sunday, right?
Eight Man Tag Team Match - The New Day and Enzo & Cass vs. The Vaudevillains and Gallows & Anderson
The Ambrose Asylum with WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins
Contract Signing between John Cena and AJ Styles
...but was it any good? Let's find out!
The show would get underway with an Eight Man Tag Team bout, that would feature all four tag teams that will be competing over the WWE Tag Team Championships at Money in the Bank in six days time. Of course with this match involving The New Day, there was some enjoyable hijinks before things would get underway. I found the banter about Kofi Kingston's shoes to be more than a little odd, I suspect there was some kind of joke about sports that only get played in the US. It felt like a missed opportunity to have the trio talk about each of their opponents on Sunday. The segment lifted with the arrival of Enzo & Cass, who brought bags of energy, before things settled into talk about Enzo Amore potentially having sexual relations with Xavier Woods' trombone, which was nice. With The Vaudevillains and Gallows & Anderson joining the fray it was time for the opening match.
The match was well-structured display that managed to highlight the four teams well and show each as a potentially winner of the upcoming four way. One of my personal highlights was a nice sequence of action between Simon Gotch and Amore, with the latter working brilliantly in the face in peril role, which was built well into a hot tag to Cass as he forced his opponent to the outside of the ring. Hot tags for Cass and Kingston were surrounded nicely by some ground and pound action for the heels, with a sprinkling of bad guy tactics, before a break down sequence would be highlighted by an overhead belly to belly suplex from Big E on the outside. Things would conclude with Gallows and Anderson managing to keep their heads above the chaos and hitting The Magic Killer on Kingston to finish an enjoyable, but straightforward, eight man tag and giving the duo even more momentum heading into Money in the Bank.
fast-forward...Another Darren Young and Bob Backlund promo, I'm still pretty indifferent about them...Kane returned to hand his resume to Stephanie and Shane McMahon, in an attempt to convince them to allow him to run Smackdown...Zack Ryder was laughing to some pals about Apollo Crews beating up Sheamus, so Sheamus came and got all angry and made a match with Ryder, this is like the Smackdown game career mode...WWE United States Champion Rusev attacked Titus O'Neil as O'Neil made his way to the ring and continued to beat the shit into him for a couple of minutes...
In a heavily promoted segment, Dean Ambrose would welcome WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins to The Ambrose Asylum, a head of their title collision on Sunday. Obviously, the fact that all three men were once apart of The Shield, a group which dominated our screens between late 2012 and mid 2014, was the draw of the segment, with WWE re-airing a couple of the groups highlights heading into the segment. This was brought up well in the segment by Seth Rollins, who produced a blinding promo about how his time with the group was "the best times that (he) ever had in this ring". Lots of reflection and references, that I'm sure Tumblr was creaming itself over, before closing by bringing everything crashing down by bringing up his destruction of the group and bringing everything back into the clash with Reigns on Sunday.
Whilst Rollins was busy shining, Reigns struggled to find his feet at times here. His closing promo struggled to find a real point to hammer home and that meant Reigns sounded unsure and stumbled through what he had to say. I suppose he and the writers are in the difficult position, as Reigns has to remain positive about The Shield because it's still a popular group (hence it being used here). The closing moments were interesting as the talk show broke down into a brawl, before Ambrose would eventually hit Reigns with Dirty Deeds, after the latter had nailed Rollins with a Superman Punch. I partly understand the idea of having Ambrose left standing here, as he's in the Money in the Bank Ladder match on Sunday and very well could get himself involved in the main event, but I felt like after the Reigns promo had struggled so much that it left the build up for the Rollins vs. Reigns match lacking an exclamation point.
It's such a shame that WWE hasn't been able to capitalise upon the brilliant Women's match from WrestleMania 32 and all the hype that surrounded it, with clear and compact booking and high level performances to match. Paige vs. Charlotte on Monday Night RAW has the potential to be a barn burner, a show stealer, but instead it was a damp squib of a bout, going less than three minutes. Becky Lynch and Natalya felt like the main focus on commentary, with Natty talking utter bollocks about how her cat will be watching Money in the Bank and other such nonsense. We'd then be treated to a tension builder between Charlotte and Dana Brooke, just four weeks after the two aligned as Brooke rolled Charlotte back into the ring and straight into a dodgy looking RamPaige and a loss. Even if everything else had been right about the match, having your Women's Champion lose in such a fashion is never going to be a good thing.
fast-forward...Sami Zayn interrupted Renee Young's interview with Cesaro and ended up getting a verbal dressing down...Sheamus squashed Zack Ryder picking up a quick win a Brogue Kick with Apollo Crews making the save...Kevin Owens and Alberto Del Rio had a bit of a brou-ha-ha in Shane McMahon's office, before Kane offered them a “team-building exercise” against The Lucha Dragons later on...
Sami Zayn and Cesaro showed the roster how to have an entertaining match with minimal television time, making the most of their eight minutes of screen time. That isn't to say that I wasn't more than a little disappointed in seeing another potential show-stealer cut short, but that I am happy to see talent able to make the most of any opportunity and put on the best looking match they possibly could. The action was slick and smooth throughout without Cesaro and Zayn's familiarity coming across strong as they easily strode through a handful of sequences of action. The Swiss Superman's huge dropkick to knock Zayn off the top rope followed up by a deadlift superplex was a particularly notable moment. The finishing sequence lifted the pace even more with the two flying towards the finish line as The Underdog from the Underground picked up the victory with a Sunset Flip Powerbomb, that caught me by surprise. Not among the pairs best encounters, but still a solid showcase that saw the two make the most of their moment, with some flashes of brilliance.
The real highlight of the show was next as John Cena and AJ Styles signed their contract for their clash this Sunday. The narrative of the signing was an interesting twist on the concept as Cena presented Styles with two separate documents, one for a regular singles match and one with The Club members being allowed at ringside. Around the narrative you had John Cena pulling out a superb performance on the microphone, dropping bombs that would satisfy the hardcore fans (Was this WWE's first acknowledgement of PWG on-screen?) and throwing barbs Styles' way by reminding him that choosing to have The Club at ringside would "secure his spot as captain of the bitch club". The line starting with "Your club isn't full of bullets..." probably wasn't the wisest choice of wording following the events in Orlando, even when noting the Bullet Club reference. Apart from that, I have no real complaints about this segment with Styles raising his game on the mic to match Cena's intensity and making their clash at Money in the Bank feel even more "can't miss" than it already did. Brilliant work.
fast-forward...Recap of Randy Orton winning the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2013, before succesfully cashing in on Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam 2013...
Another intriguing piece of booking, as WWE continued to show tension between Kevin Owens and Alberto Del Rio a head of their participation in the Money in the Bank ladder match on Sunday. Therefore, we got a story driven bout with ADR and Owens attempting to work together in order to keep their place in the match, whilst the Lucha Dragons tried to take advantage. The relationship took over the contest, with the entire focus become ADR and Owens continued bickering throughout. The concept created some quality moments, like Sin Cara getting a roll-up near fall on Owens, but the match dragged on just a little bit too long with the narrative ending up suffocating the action.
fast-forward...Stephanie McMahon made Kevin Owens guest commentator and Alberto Del Rio guest time keeper for Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose's match later in the show...Recap of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins in-ring segment earlier in the show, concluding with Ambrose hitting Dirty Deeds on Reigns...More hijinks with Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon backstage, with Cesaro being made guest ring announcer for the Jericho vs. Ambrose match and Kane being told he wouldn't be put in charge of Smackdown....
The show-closer saw Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose tangle for the fourth time in a month and a half, as their rivalry continued to run as an undercurrent for the Money in the Bank Ladder match. The in-ring action was solid, with "Y2J" and "The Lunatic Fringe" both more than capable performers with a strong knowledge of each other, leading to a couple of nice transitions without the pair every having anything resembling chemistry. The finishing sequence was the highlight here, as Ambrose repeatedly went for his Dirty Deeds DDT, eventually blocking a Codebreaker attempt to hit the move and gain another victory over Jericho. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had provided plenty of distraction on commentary and after the match a big brawl with guest ring announcer Cesaro and guest time keeper Alberto Del Rio all getting involved would close the show. Peaking with Zayn flipping off the top turnbuckle on Ambrose, Owens, Cesaro and ADR at ringside, the segment (and the show) would close with Jericho climbing a ladder to hold the Money in the Bank briefcase. Not the most original piece of booking, but still gave the audience a nice preview of the action for Sunday, whilst making it pretty clear that Jericho wouldn't be walking out with briefcase (we all know the rules of reverse momentum!)
atpw scale rating - 5.61/10
Unfortunately, I haven't reviewed Monday Night RAW for a couple of weeks, so can't compare the recent run of shows like I'd usually do here.
However, the shows high point for me was AJ Styles and John Cena's contract signing with both men being on dazzling form on the microphone and managing to create a real tension between them without having to even touch each other. The eight man tag team bout and it's build up, as well as The Ambrose Asylum segment with the supposed Shield reunion also provided a lot of fun and entertainment in their major roles on the show. The handling of the Women's segment held the show back, with a lack of time and any kind of thought apparently.
We'll see you for Money in the Bank on Monday, you'll be able to get more immediate thought on our Twitter page here.