With the major news of Roman Reigns' wellness policy violation and resulting 30 day suspension, how would WWE look to bounce back from losing a third of their next PPV's main event? Stick your critical hats and your analytical socks on and strap yourself in for this week's Monday Night RAW review!
Rightio, let's chat about that main event. A first time ever clash between WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dean Ambrose and The Club's AJ Styles. First off, having the stipulation that had Styles won he'd be added to the WWE Championship match on 24th July was a great piece of booking, turning a good main event, into a meaningful main event. Ambrose and Styles seemed to connect in the ring early, running through some nice series' of action, transitioning from move to move with ease. A sequence that would begin with Styles rolling through Ambrose's diving elbow drop into a pinfall, before both would hit signature strikes was a personal highlight. Also, whoever decided Seth Rollins should be on commentary deserves a pay rise, because he bought an extra level of drama, having to cheer on his most-heated rival, because of his desire to keep the title match at Battleground down to as little many guys as possible!
Many things would go on in the closing stages of the match and it's aftermath, as we knew this was never going to end with a clean pin and do a funky jig to end the show. The rest of The Club were out to cause trouble and John Cena weren't having none of that, so arrived to take Gallows and Anderson out of the picture, only for Styles to become distracted and allowing Ambrose to hit Dirty Deeds to keep Styles out of the title picture. A bit of an unwieldy finish this one, not particularly overbooked, but it could have been done a little tighter with a bit of tweaking. The show would finish with Rollins hitting two pedigree's on Ambrose in the ring, whilst The Club dismantled Cena on the entrance.
Whilst Styles was facing Ambrose in 1st time match, Cena had his chance to earn a place in the 24th July title match, opposite Rollins in a bout happening on TV for the 13th time since 2013. Cena and Rollins are always good for an entertaining match, aren't they? Yes, they are. There wasn't a whole lot of new material here, with the duo pulling on their wealth of experience with each to simply produce almost condensed "best of" bout. The first third of the bout even borrowed from Cena's recent match with AJ Styles (and many before it, I'm sure) with Cena looking to hit his regular comeback sequence and in particular, the five knuckle shuffle, with Rollins cutting him off at various points throughout it. Rinse and Repeat. The main thing that stopped me from enjoying this match completely, was just how loud and blatant Cena was when calling his spots.
Whilst JBL was marveling at Cena's "thick wrists (and) huge hands", The Leader of the Cenation and The Aerialist were stringing together some brilliant flurries of action, including the build toward Cena hitting an Attitude Adjustment for the strongest near fall of the clash. Of course, in almost a mirror image of the main event finish, but without the clunkiness, we had The Club head to ring side, with the distraction allowing for Rollins to nail Cena with a Pedigree for the three count. Obviously, having the show end with no change to the next PPV's title match, means that this was entirely a case of filling time with another three editions of Monday Night RAW heading our way between then and now, but hey, it was at least an entertaining waste of time!
So, if you thought spending half an hour of time on, what was essentially the same storyline, was a bit too much, that would be forgetting that we'd need an extra fifteen minutes to set up the two matches at the start of the show. I'm definitely being more than a little harsh, but spending a third of the show on the same thread is perhaps a little excessive. It perhaps signposts how reliant WWE is right now on it's top four (or five with the absent Reigns) guys right now. With the draft coming up next month, WWE will need to start making more use of it's supporting cast, with the likes of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens being at the front of the queue.
The segment itself was broadly entertaining, mostly in a "look at all these guys coming out and staying stuff" kind of way. Seth Rollins addressing Roman Reigns' 30 days suspension was the highlight, as he kicks off the show by ripping into Reigns' Twitter statement over the incident. For me, whilst Rollins handled the promo as if it were a shoot, it sounded like the words were coming from the office to put Reigns in his place for the embarrassment he'd caused the company. Either way, it got a great reaction out of the crowd and it'll be interesting to see the kind of reaction The Big Dog will get when he returns on PPV. Ambrose, Styles and Cena would follow Rollins out, with Stephanie McMahon eventually making the matches talked about further up this review.
The highlight of this episode for me, was "The Highlight Reel" (sorry) as Chris Jericho welcomed Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens for a brilliant talk show segment. From Y2J telling the crowd to "quiet" repeatedly, which set the tone for the segment perfectly, to Owens remaining completely silent whilst Zayn attempted to get a reaction from him by telling his rival to "Grow a set" before Owens would launch into a tirade that mixed fact with fiction superbly. I think, the part of the promo I liked the most was just how relatable the emotions involved were. I'm sure everyone has had a friend that they feel has done something to turn against, whether that be true or not. The finish of the segment where Zayn and Owens would unite to kick Jericho in the face was well-timed and felt completely right for the kind of feud that they're having.
In another case of treading water, we had women's tag bout with Paige and Sasha Banks tagging as a duo for the first time since a 2013 episode of NXT to take on Women's Champion Charlotte and her pal Dana Brooke. Nothing wrong here at all, all four women put in a good effort and it sort of followed on from last week's episode, but it didn't do a whole lot to further the storyline. Basic tag format, with Paige working as your Anti-Diva in peril, before Banks would clean house and pick up a submission victory with the Banks Statement. Nothing that will be remembered by next week, but it was nice to see Banks get a decisive victory on WWE's flagship show.
A variation on a theme here as we got another tag bout, with four guys looking to establish a spot higher up the card as Cesaro and Apollo Crews over came former League of Nations compadres, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. The main narrative throughout the match was "The Celtic Warrior" and "The Essence of Excellence" not being the best of pals anymore, because...because they just aren't...okay? Basically, Sheamus decided to tag in when ADR was going for his Tree of Woe diving double foot stomp situation and ADR just had enough of Sheamus being a wazzock, so tagged him and then smashed him in the face with an enziguri. Both looked like dicks, so who knows where WWE will take that feud, maybe they'll use it to separate the pair in next month's draft. Crews would get the win for his team with an impressive spin-out powerbomb on Sheamus.
Filed under "No one gives a fuck" is Titus O'Neil's problems with United States Champion Rusev. Bless O'Neil for trying, but he just isn't a good enough performer on his own. The match was put together well enough with "The Real Deal" going nuts from the beginning, but I just didn't believe that he was actually all that bothered. Plus once Rusev got in control, O'Neil was wooden as hell and I just couldn't bring myself to get behind. A countout victory following a double clothesline spot on the outside hardly does him the world of good either.
Another quality non-wrestling segment would be The New Day's "roast" of The Wyatt Family. What's better than a roast? Why toast when you can roast? Just a complete jamboree of excitement as the trio ripped into their new foes for having poor hygiene and lacking positivity. I'd worried last week about whether the two teams promo styles would be able to gel without either being harmed in the process, but when Bray Wyatt would interrupt and cut a mesmerising promo about his problems with New Day, I was pretty much convinced that this feud would have some legs. Xavier Woods clearly being terrified of Wyatt's group adds an interesting layer to proceedings and helped to keep thing grounded.
The Miz would return this week and instantly have to defend his Intercontinental Championship against...erm...Kane. Yeah, Kane was back in action. Miz had been AWOL for over a month and we hadn't seen Kane in the ring for another month on top of that, so obviously the crowd gave them nothing. Completely dead. You can't really blame them either. "The Big Red Machine" beat the shit into Miz for a couple of minutes, before Miz would leave the ring because of Maryse supposedly injuring her ankle. Another bit of filler that did very little for either man and took a big chunk out of the prestige of the title, after it had already taken a hit for not appearing on TV for a month.
Enzo and Cass get their own little portion of the review, because Cass is seven foot tall and you can't teach that, so I'm told. The duo have got a new Mexican Wave gimmick, which will be much cooler when they don't have to tell the crowd to do it. After a lightning quick victory of some guys called Carlos Corty and Mitch Walden, Enzo & Cass would be confronted by the returning Social Outcasts. Again, not a whole lot actually happened, as the duo would manage to keep Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and Heath Slater at bay, before telling them the one word that describes them.
ATPW Scale Rating - 4.92/10
This wasn't a good show. It wasn't a bad show. But it was a show. Styles vs. Ambrose was a good main event, Rollins vs. Cena was a good semi-main, the opening segment started things off well and Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens stole the show with their performances on the Highlight Reel...but not a whole lot actual happened. I mean, two and a quarter hours of content felt like it didn't actually move us anywhere. Everything felt very static, especially in the two tag bouts. Obviously with three more episodes to go until the PPV, this was always going to be the case, so perhaps we should just be happy that it wasn't really shit? The two matches with WWE Championship consequences probably made up for the lack of movement.