Aired - 5th September 2016
After #1214 had seen Kevin Owens win the vacant Universal Championship, #1215 would feature the newly minted champion going up against his fiercest rival, Sami Zayn, in the main event. After producing a number of WWE classics over the last two years, could Owens and Zayn create another masterpiece and kick start the era of The Kevin Owens Show?
I don't think that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn could ever have a bad match, actually I don't think that they are capable of doing anything less than very good bout together. Using a number of motifs from their previous outings, Zayn fought well from underneath, getting a number of near falls, whilst Owens came across as a dick as he repeatedly went to hit Zayn with an apron powerbomb. The match was full of the smooth reversals that you'd expect from two familiar opponents, whilst still having the impact of two guys who hate each other's guts. The finish called back to Zayn's match with Seth Rollins two weeks earlier, as The Underdog from the Underground would hurt his ankle as he went for the wristlock springboard tornado DDT, and after had been able to hit a nasty looking half and half suplex on the floor he was unable to get across the ring quick enough to hit the Helluva Kick, allowing Owens to nail a superkick and powerbomb to get the win and take their WWE series to 3-2. A brilliant piece of booking to have Owens first match as champion against Zayn, as it guaranteed a very good main event, whilst also allowing Owens to pick up a win over the man that most recently defeated him. At the close of the show, Owens would end up having a stare down with Roman Reigns, with General Manager Mick Foley booking a match between the two for #1216 with the possibility of The Juggernaut joining the title bout at Clash of Champions with a victory. It's definitely worth noting that the final image as RAW went off the air was Reigns standing on the turnbuckle, as seen above.
After the shocking events of last week, Seth Rollins would get an opportunity to take out his frustrations on Kevin Owen's Jeri-KO tag team partner, Chris Jericho. This lead to the second TV bout between the two being the match of the night, driven by the fire of The Architect as he batter Jericho around the ringside area on numerous occasions, whilst the level-headed Y2J was able to take control between the ropes, using anything opportunity that Rollins left open for him, including using the referee to hit a triangle dropkick! As Rollins continues his babyface turn, Jericho was a clever opponent to place him with, as he's been doing some of the best heel work of his career recently and his style clashes with Rollins' in all the right ways. After Rollins had hit a slingblade and a blockbuster, the pair put on some slick sequences, with near falls dotted throughout, that made for an exciting final third. Jericho catching Rollins springboard flying knee and turning it into the Walls of Jericho was a particular highlight, as was a sequence that saw The Architect block a superplex, then miss a Frog Splash before Y2J hit a Lionsault. If the lead up had been enthralling the finish picked things up a notch, as Jericho kept up with the man 15 years his younger in a swift back and forth sequence that saw Rollins get the emphatic win with a Pedigree.
Bayley continued to shine on the big stage as she defeated Women's Champion Charlotte in a smashing opening match. The pair produced a simple narrative, that they performed well and kept the crowd hooked throughout a number of near falls. Bayley had appeared to injure her right knee when trying to hit her running baseball dropkick, under the bottom turnbuckle, and like a shark who smells blood, the Nature Girl went straight for the leg on the outside. The leg injury would used to create a number of hope spots, as Bayley would appear to be about to make a comeback, either for the leg to give out or Charlotte to manage to hit the target with another vicious move. One of my favourite moments was Bayley managing to block a Figure 8 attempt, only for the champ to lock in a single leg Boston crab. Each of these little moments meant that when Bayley went for a school-boy pin out of nowhere, the crowd popped big, but they'd pop even bigger when Bayley kicked out of a roll up and sent Charlotte in Dana Brooke at ringside and even bigger when Bayley hit a Bayley to Belly to get the win! It was star performance from Bayley, her selling was perfect throughout every moment, getting across the pain and making that victory seem even more impressive. A Women's title match at Clash of Champions is surely coming her way!
The arena show began with a red-hot in-ring celebration for the new Universal Champion Kevin Owens, presented by Commissioner Stephanie McMahon and General Manager Mick Foley, interrupted by Seth Rollins. The interactions between the four was enthralling television, that jolted around like a dodgem car as it headed toward Foley booking a title match between The Prizefighter and The Architect for the 25th September supercard, Clash of Champions. Owens was supremely good as he looked every inch of the top guy his belt suggest that he is, turning on Kansas City's "You Deserve It" chants, claiming they were trying to steal the spotlight from him and also claiming that he had the match "98% won" and Triple H only helped to do what was right! He's great about being a dick. Rollins bought the passion of a babyface, but his verbiage suggests he hasn't quite turned yet, as he seemed to using some heely hypocritical phrases when complaining about Owens relationship with Triple H. The crowd went nuts when the two had a bit of a scrap and that probably should have been it as the bickering between McMahon and Foley over whether Rollins was suspended or not was a bit awkward and unnecessary. Still this was an exciting start to the show and kick-started a new feud that will only get better over the next three episode's before Clash of Champions!
Also in the tag team division, The Shining Stars (Epico and Primo) picked up a surprise victory over Big Cass and Enzo Amore in a lively encounter. Things began with Cass & Amore interrupting Epico and Primo and doing a weird skit about being in labour, because it was Labour Day in the US, which wasn't funny at all. Cass just about made it work with a bizarre breathing routine thing that kept the crowd involved. The match was much better than I was expecting it to be, as Epico and Primo were finally given a bit of time to show off what they could, which included Epico hitting the Trileda [belly to back suplex, german suplex and a brainbuster in quick succession] as Amore worked the face in peril role. Cass' polished hot tag routine would run into the shock finish as after Primo had thwarted a Badaboom Shaka Laka attempt, Epico was able to roll-up Amore to pick up the victory. I enjoyed seeing a different tag team getting a spotlight to show what they could provide Monday Night's and after being held back by their gimmick it looks like The Shining Stars might finally be ready to cash in on their potential.
Cesaro and "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus's Best of Seven Series had already reached Match Three and with Sheamus already 2-0 up, the drama was beginning to build between the pair. I'm a sucker for storytelling and especially continuity, so having the bout revolve around the back that Cesaro had injured in the previous match after being sent back first into the ring post, made me a very happy man. The Swiss Superman made the moment, as after an initial face-shine with plenty of uppercuts, he took a back bodydrop and had to roll out of the ring because of the pain. Clasping his back and grimacing as he tried to fight off his foe was marvelous stuff, whilst being unable to fully push Sheamus into the air with his regular uppercut, because of the back was even better. The narrative would conclude with The Celtic Warrior hitting a series of Irish Curse Backbreakers with more venom than they've had behind them in years, before a Brogue Kick would take him to 3-0 in the Series. The duo are scheduled to have Match 4 of the Series on 7th September in London at a house show and if there first three matches have been anything to go by, the duo will thrive in an environment with less restrictions and the heightened theatre.
Sasha Banks proved that she was worth more than her weight in gold, as she put on a mesmerising performance on the microphone, despite what the lame Kansas City audience would've had you believe. The segment had been pushed as being Banks' time to deliver some bad news and it followed all your usual tropes of a retirement speech, calling back to Daniel Bryan's emotional "farewell" in February. It felt real, an element that is so important but often lacking from modern day WWE and was easy to build an emotional connection towards, not just because of it sharing tropes with previous speech, but also the stories that Banks chose to tell and the reality behind them. Luckily for us, Banks wasn't out to retire however and after Dana Brooke had headed to the ring, interrupting Sasha as she mentioned she had received some bad news from her Doctor, in an attempt to send Banks away "on her terms", proving she spent way too much time with The Club last week, the former Team B.A.D. member quickly got the better of Charlotte's protege making her tap to the Banks Statement. The segment ended with Banks revealing that the bad news was for Charlotte, as she would taking back the Women's title when the pair met at Clash of Champions.
Over the last few weeks, the main thing that's been making me tear my hair out while watching RAW has been the Prime Time Players explode storyline. The storyline had about as much momentum as a clamped car when it began and somehow it's managed to go backwards. This week Darren Young would go over Jinder Mahal, after Titus O'Neil had tried to get involved. Young even managed to make the transition into his finish clunky as he fumbled around before hitting the Gutcheck double knee gutbuster. Things were made almost unbearable by O'Neil on commentary only having one thing to say about Young and his life coach, Bob Backlund, "When was Darren great in the first place?". It was boring a few weeks ago, it's pain inducing now and with no heel heat it's clearly not working. Young would brawl with O'Neil after the contest and the number of people who gave a fuck decreased even further.
Best of the Rest
- Sin Cara put up some fight against Braun Strowman, but eventually lost by countout after being dragged under the bottom rope and straight into the barricade
- A backstage segment with Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley opened the show as an emotional McMahon promised Foley that she had nothing to do with Triple H's involvement in last week's main event.
- Ann Esposito got in the most offence of anyone against Nia Jax so far, but Jax still proved she's not like most girls with a quick victory with a powerslam. It would appear that Jax is moving into a feud with Alicia Fox, who was presented as a close friend of Esposito.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.83/10
If we forget that The Old Day skit and the Titus O'Neil and Darren Young feud exists, then this was a cracking episode of Monday Night RAW. With those two things, as well as lacklustre crowd, then it's still closer to good than it is average.
Whilst not having Triple H appear on the show seemed like miscue, there were three good matches at the top of the card, with Owens v Zayn, Jericho v Rollins and Bayley v Charlotte all scrapping it out to become match of the night, as well as a strong storytelling bout in Cesaro and Sheamus' Best of Seven Series on the undercard as well! Add to that a red-hot opening segment as Owens celebrated his title, as well as the Sasha Banks promo and you've got over an hour of good to great wrestling television! (RAW's run-time is around two and a quarter hours without ad-breaks)
With Roman Reigns v Kevin Owens already booked for next week and number of other storylines only just beginning, it looks like we should be in for an entertaining three weeks as we head towards Clash of Champions. That's if we can put up with The Primetime Players scrapping for that long!
Words - James Marston
Banner - Kai Stellar