Wednesday, 6 July 2016

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1206 - Team USA v Team Multi-National Alliance (James Marston)


It was 4th July, which is a big day before Americans, apparently. However, just because 4th July landed on a Monday, WWE wasn't going to go over the top with the patriotism, were they? Nah, surely not...



MAIN EVENT IS TEAM USA BEAT TEAM MULTI-NATIONAL ALLIANCE IN A SIXTEEN MAN ELIMINATION TAG TEAM MATCH...Oh. Okay then... First things first, whoever came up with the name "Team Multi-National Alliance" should be fired. Although, it does sound like something Vince would come up with, so...! What's wrong with Team Rest of the World or Team International? I guess they couldn't recycle League of Nations after they fucked that gimmick up in about three months. MULTI-NATIONAL ALLIANCE IT IS! Man, then you have everyone coming out their national anthems, instead of their themes, which was very odd, especially when it meant rivals like Alberto Del Rio and the Lucha Dragons or Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn having to come down to the ring with each other. It just felt very out of date with what WWE's current worldwide product is or perhaps, should be. Then let's talk about who were chosen to main event...The Dudley Boyz and Jack Swagger haven't wrestled on RAW for about a month, it's been three months for Big Show, four months for Mark Henry. The only regular guys on Team USA were Zack Ryder (who is without a win on the show since before WrestleMania) and Apollo Crews. Team Foreigner was a real star-studded line up in comparison with Alberto Del Rio, Cesaro, Chris Jericho, The Lucha Dragons, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & Sheamus all involved.

Wrestling is built on investment of the fans. If I'm not invested in the outcome of the match, then it doesn't matter what kind of story the performers tell or what they actually do in the ring, I still won't give a fuck. Of course, you could probably see where the twenty plus minutes of action were going to go as the wrestlers made their way to the ring. Team USA would end up at a disadvantage, and then come firing back because they are like the underdogs that we all know America is! MURICA! Weirdly, the match concluded with The Big Show and Zack Ryder having to overcome the almighty power of Sheamus on his own. The rest of the match had it's moments, because you had some good workers in there, but it booked to look like a complete mess at points. Even the Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn feud ended up looking like a sack of shit here, when the pair got into before Owens would hit Zayn with a chair, somehow getting himself disqualified, before Kane would grab the chair and hit Owens and also get disqualified. The commentary team ripped into it, pointing out that Owens had hit a member of his own team, whilst Kane had hit someone who wasn't even in the match. State of your main event, WWE. 

With sixteen guys in the main event, it meant that Dolph Ziggler, a wrestler who hasn't won a major match since the middle of May, was drafted in to face WWE Championship contender, Seth Rollins. The reason given by the commentary team was that Ziggler had requested the match because of the upcoming brand split. With Ziggler's positioning within the company recently, it has to be said that this was incredibly weak semi-main for the flagship show. Ziggler is, of course, a premier in-ring talent, who when motivated has produce some outstanding work inside the ring. In comparison to last week's show where Rollins squared off with John Cena, already a bigger match, plus with the added stipulation of Cena joining 24th July's WWE Championship bout, the bout really didn't stand up in it's position on the card.

Of course, because Rollins and Ziggler are both top tier workers, the match itself was pretty decent watch, with the action being kept pacy and exciting throughout, making the most of the ten minutes or so of time they received. The duo ran through a fairly basic structure, both taking on their roles nicely. The match was clearly booked with a knowledge of how Ziggler had been positioned previously as most of his near falls were from flash style cover, this worked well drawing in those in attendance, with a section of action where "The Show Off" would turn a Pedigree into a pinfall, before hitting a big superkick for another one straight after. However, I straight up hated the finish where Ziggler hit his big jumping DDT on Rollins, who then staggered towards the ropes, blocked a Zig Zag and nailed a Pedigree for the win. No. What's the point of hitting the DDT if it's not going to be sold? I'd expect better of these two. (After the match, Dean Ambrose would get his heat back on Rollins by hitting Dirty Deeds on the Spanish announce table)



The strongest part of the show for me was the continuation of John Cena's feud with AJ Styles and The Club, which got some solid story advancement as well as a match confirmed for 24th July. The first portion of the segment was pretty much more of the same from John Cena, praising AJ Styles as a wrestler, but criticising his choices and actions with The Club, whilst also chatting a bit about it being Independence Day, because Murica. It wasn't a bad promo, but not a memorable one either. Luckily, the best was saved for Styles, Gallows and Anderson, who put in some of their best work on the microphone since joining WWE. They planted the seeds that nobody wanted to help Cena, whilst running through a series of holidays, saying they'd like celebrate by beating up The Leader of the Cenation. It was funny and menacing all at the same time, especially with Cena alone in the ring. 

Obviously, this would lead to the trio heading down to the ring and beating the shit out of Cena. I think most of the audience had worked out that someone was about to come out to make the save for Cena, but I couldn't quite work out who it would be. I considered The Usos the obvious choice, because of their previous feud with The Club, and they've also been tagging with Cena against the group on recent house shows runs. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised when Enzo & Cass' music hit and the duo sped down the ramp to make a well timed save. Whilst the trio of Cena, Enzo & Cass haven't been seen on WWE TV together, there's a mix of real life here with the fiction as it was Cena who initially championed the pair when he took a trip to Full Sail. It would be nice to see that play into the next two week's of storyline, before the trio team against The Club at Battleground.

WWE Champion Dean Ambrose was also in action this week, pinning Intercontinental Champion The Miz, in a decent bout. Similar to my point about Ziggler facing Rollins, Miz wasn't a viable opponent for Ambrose at the moment, as after a month off TV, Miz lost to Kane (who'd been out even longer) by countout last week. Even with WWE pushing the Champion vs. Champion gimmick, it didn't feel at all special, because the title has suffered from being absent for a month, just like it's holder. There was nothing wrong with the match itself, it told a simple story of Miz targeting Ambrose's knee in order to lock in the Figure Four, with Ambrose selling it well. The Lunatic Fringe would get some nice near falls, by reversing a couple of Miz's signature holds into pin attempts before eventually getting the victory with a Dirty Deeds. A clean loss for a champion is never a good thing, why they didn't get Maryse involved in the finish to save cushion "The A-Lister" just a little I'm not sure. 

The opening match of the night saw Titus O'Neil submit to Rusev's Accolade as the Bulgarian retained the United States Championship in a match. Christ on a unicycle, O'Neil came out dressed as Uncle Sam. This is supposed to be a big feud ending match, you've been trying to batter Rusev for the last two weeks because he looked at your kids or something. And you come out in anything other than your wrestling gear. Get to fuck, Titus. Or whoever decided that was a good idea...probably Vince. The match was okay, I guess. O'Neil got a false finish when Rusev kicked out of Clash of the Titus (which JBL called Clash of the Champions). Then it was over in a couple of minutes. I guess that's the end of O'Neil's push, back to Superstars for you. Or maybe he'll get released, you know, because he's shit. Also roid belly. 



Along with saving John Cena, Enzo and Cass got a little run out in the tag division, as they picked up a swift victory over The Social Outcast's Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed that the lads had dropped the Mexican Wave gimmick they did last week, because it would've been pretty cool if it had got over. Pretty much a straight squash match for Enzo and Cass here, with Social Outcasts dressed as some old timey American dudes...I think. The main highlight was learning that Enzo can list off all the presidents of the USA. Also big credit to Heath Slater for coming up with a ridiculous amount of gimmicks on him to sell going through a table in the food fight (more on that in a mo)

For the time they were given, The New Day and The Wyatt Family put a whole lot of work into their promos here. Mixed in with their catch phrases, the Tag Team Champions would throw accusations that Wyatt Family were perhaps into a bit of incest, which was nice. It is a bit weird how Wyatt does keep going on about Sister Abigail. With New Day in the ring, Wyatt Family would deliver their reply on the screen in the form of a pre-taped promo. This was some of the darkest stuff we've seen from the threesome, with Wyatt especially looking like a creepy ass motherfucker. With Kofi Kingston and Big E ready to head down to the barn next week, there was an interesting development where Xavier Woods seemed to be completely terrified of the group and walked out on his partners. This has been a different type of storytelling from WWE, with Woods bringing just enough grounding to keep the bizzareness from going over board.

Another short but effective non-wrestling segment involved Women's Champion Charlotte, Dana Brooke and Sasha Banks with both Charlotte and Banks cutting strong and believable promos. "The Dirtiest Woman in the Game" kicked things of with a story about how "jealousy is the strongest human emotion" and how even though the fans chanted for Banks, "chants don't pay bills, championships do". It was well-written and performed with enough malice to draw in the viewer and make them want to see someone knock Charlotte off her championship perch. With Banks interrupt Charlotte upped the ante, claiming she was the real "Legit Boss", which lead into the #1 Contender firing into a wonderful rant about what being a boss really meant. The crowd lapped it up, with Banks going on to gain the upperhand in a scrap between her, Charlotte and Brooke with "The Genetically Superior Athelete" having to be saved by her "Total Diva" protege. 

Mates, where do you even begin to review a WWE food fight? Yes indeedy, the show began with a good old fashion 4th of July grub chuck, as most of the roster chucked their chow at each other, because that's what Murica wants. It was utterly mental and completely stupid and really really pointless. But, there were a few stars turns, where guys need to be praised for taking a horrible idea and just having a load of fun with it. Cesaro and Apollo Crews just sat their in an arm wrestling stalemate throughout, Sami Zayn ran around saying the beans were contaminated, Chris Jericho ate a plaster, Heath Slater got chokeslammed by Big Show and Kane threw a table and Kevin Owens sat under a table until the very end, only to emerge and have someone throw a pie in his face. Credit to all those guys for making the most of it, here's hoping their willingness to just go with stupid ideas is rewarded down the line. 


Somehow managing to find itself below a food fight in our highlights, we have Becky Lynch's submission victory over Summer Rae, in a truly horrible match. I remember Rae being not half bad back in her NXT days, but she's definitely more than half bad now. Lynch was seemingly having to oversell Rae's offence, because it was so weak, which made the match completely lose any flow or momentum. Then there was the nasty botch where "The Lass Kicker" was seemingly about to turn a Rae suplex attempt into a small package, only something went wrong and Rae dropped Lynch straight on her head. Like true indy darlings, they repeated the spot a few steps later. I was glad when "Maiden Ireland" got the quick tap out victory with the Disarmer, here's hoping her 24th July match with Natalya is a damn sight better than this. 

Elsewhere, The Golden Truth squashed The Vaudevillains (yes) and Vickie Guerrero returned to offer her services as COO of Smackdown.


Finally...

ATPW Scale Rating - 4.08/10 


In my opinion, this week's Monday Night RAW was rescued from being an utter shambles, by three strong non-wrestling segments. John Cena being save from The Club by Enzo and Cass, The Wyatt Family inviting The New Day to come to their yard and Sasha Banks and Charlotte's in-ring showdown. The rest was filler, place-holder stuff until some else coming around. At least last week when playing for time we got Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles and Seth Rollins vs. John Cena with implications for the next PPV. This week we got Ambrose vs. The Miz and Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler. Neither were bad matches, but neither gave the viewer a reason to stay around and neither match ever had any doubt about their outcome. The fact that the main event was an inconsequential elimination tag involving guys who haven't been on the show in months really didn't help matters, and that's without even considering that the show started cold with a food fight and one of the weakest women's match in recent RAW history. 

The sooner the draft comes the better, because it's clear WWE is just wasting time until it happens...without actually weaving the upcoming idea into it's story-telling very well, at all. Just two more episodes guys!

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