The 1219th episode of Monday Night RAW came just one night after RAW's first post-draft PPV, Clash of Champions, where Kevin Owens had retained the Universal Championship over Seth Rollins, thanks to a little bit of help from Chris Jericho. After Owens appeared on an episode of Jericho's Highlight Reel, the pair would find themselves in the main event against Enzo & Cass, whilst Roman Reigns put his newly won United States Championship against "The Bulgarian Brute" Rusev, whilst Sasha Banks, Tag Team Champions The New Day, Tony Nese, Women's Champion Charlotte and Cruiserweight Champion TJ Perkins all found themselves in major spots on the show. Heading out of a good PPV, this was going to be brilliant TV, right?
Chris Jericho is on fire, right now. He's been one of the best things about watching WWE television for the last couple of month's and he didn't let me down here either, as he knocked out the park on The Highlight Reel. Even before Jericho welcomed guest Universal Champion Kevin Owens to the ring, Y2J was commanding the screen and the ring, toeing the line between entertaining and annoying perfectly, even when having to build for a feud with Ashton Kutcher and some other lad for next week. The relationship that he and Owens have cultivated plays wonderfully into Owens title reign, as Jericho's heat will transfer nicely to Owens, who has arguably struggled to get heat recently, thanks to the haphazard booking of his title win and feud with Seth Rollins. The Prizefighter's promo about Rollins' injury at Clash of Champions being karma for the injuries that The Architect has caused was great connocotion of fiction and reality, with Owens mocking tone and pacing as he called himself "The Most Dangerous Man in Wrestling" was much closer to where he needs to be promo wise at the moment, whist Jericho parroting his sentences will help even more. Rollins brief appearance, before being pushed to the back by security and General Manager Mick Foley was a nice way to keep the feud going, whilst Rollins was unable to get physically involved. Things would slide nicely into an unnannounced main event, after some hilarious banter between Jeri-KO and old rivals Enzo & Cass.
The main event was a more than passable TV effort, with the two teams benefitting from having previously feuded but not had a whole load of matches with each other on TV. This meant that things felt recognisable and meaningful, whilst also having a fresh and exciting feel to them. The structure of the match was a fairly simple tag bout, but it was fleshed out with a lot of nice touches that made the ten or fifteen minutes went by quickly. Enzo & Cass' routine is pretty much nailed on now, but with a couple of variations, their face shine is fun, Amore as a face in peril always offers something different, Cass' hot tag is polished and hits the spot and they have a number of signatures to dip into when required. Their act is made even more satisfying when you have two solid heels to work them over and that's what Jeri-KO provided here, pulling out a number of your classic heel tag tactics, cutting off the ring and dominating Amore for a long section. Thinking about it this match had a lot of similarities to the kinds of matches Enzo & Cass were having with The Revival in NXT, especially in the first two thirds. I'd have liked to have seen the pace upped a little in the closing stages and it was frustrating to hear the Cinnicinati crowd not react as well as they could have, but as a main event being used to span some space until Rollins is cleared and to essentially build up Jericho & Owens as a unit, this was a good watch.
After Roman Reigns and Rusev hadn't particularly wowed audiences with their United States Championship bout on Clash of Champions, it was a brave choice to have the duo open the show with a match that went over 25 minutes. In my opinion, at least in terms of what was presented on screen, that decision paid off as Reigns and Rusev put on a stronger contest than the previous evening and righted a few wrongs as well. Arguably, this bout had the most involved crowd as Cincy reacted to pretty much every movement and were also one of the more pro-Reigns crowds I've heard in a while. Part of the match's success was the storytelling, which was head and shoulders above Sunday's match, as Rusev used his wrestling ability to keep control of Reigns, whilst latter focusing in on The Big Dog's back after sending his opponent into the post. This was handled well by both, as Reigns sold his injury well and it would play heavily into the story as Reigns would unable to hit a number of his offensive moves throughout the contest. At points, I felt like Reigns was over-selling just a bit, perhaps to stretch the match out a little, but it didn't have a major impact on my enjoyment.
Before I talk about the Dusty Finish, I'd like to mention the terrific sequence the pair had moments before that, when they'd both miss a series of signature strikes, before The Bulgarian Brute would nail Reigns with a superkick as the US Champion came charging in for a spear in a seamless transtion. I was fairly happy with the crowd brawl leading to the double countout finish because it worked well with the storyline of Rusev trying to hold in his rage agaisnt Reigns in order to win the belt, however the stuff that went on after the match took a little bit of the sting out of it. Reigns didn't really need to hit the spear, he really didn't need to that moment after winning the belt the previous night, however a prolonged beatdown from Rusev with a chair would have felt like the natural progression of the match's story and would have also upped the ante for a second rematch for the Bulgarian Brute. However, this was still a great opening match, that started the show off hot and had plenty of action, creating a much more satisfying start to a wrestling show than most of the fifteen minutes promos are.
Another rematch from Clash of Champions would see Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson get another chance at The New Day's Tag Team Championships as they came up against Big E and Kofi Kingston, in another case of the TV bout being a better effort than it's PPV counterpart. The match started hot with Anderson and Gallows nailing Kingston and Big E with some hard shots on the floor, including a brutal looking clothesline from Gallows to Kingston. After The Dreadlocked Dynamo had slotted into the face in peril role and Big E had come flying out with his belly to belly hot tag sequence, both teams had convincing false finishes hitting The Midnight Hour and The Magic Killer respectively, with some nice build around this to add to the believabilitiy. I think the eventual finish struggled to keep up with the strength of the previous near falls, as Kingston would win the match with a Trouble in Paradise, this was also partly to do with their being a bit of awkwardness as Kingston appeared to be pissing blood from his head for some reason and not quite all there. Still this was a good TV tag and a big improvement on their other matches.
The Women's Division on RAW continued to offer entertaining talking segments, as the feud between Women's Champion Charlotte and Sasha Banks depended with an in-ring confrontation that set up a title match between the pair for #1220, next week. The drive of Charlotte's initial promo as she reminded fans of her success and claimed she'd put away all challengers meant that Banks' entrance coming right on the peak of the promo was very satisfying. Charlotte calling her rival "Sasha Wanks" was a bizarre moment, that went completely over the Cinnicinatti crowd's collective head, maybe she thought she was in London. Charlotte was however mostly on great form on the mic and in her performance in general as she teased the crowd that she'd give Banks a rematch on the show, pulling her jacket off as Banks did the same on the other side, only to tell Banks she'd have to wait til next week. Dana Brooke was fairly surplus to requirements here though, only really doing anything when she had to take a Banks Statement from Banks, which considering Charlotte got chucked out the ring herself, could easily have been covered by the Women's Champion. Overall, however, this was added a little extra spice to their match next week, whilst also watering the seed that Mick Foley had planted a few week's earlier, making satisfying viewing for regular watchers.
The Cruiserweight Champion TJ Perkins got his in-ring debut on #1219, besting NYWC's Tony Nese in a brief, pacy encounter. For me, this was the match that should have happened on the Supercard, as Nese has much more of a recognisable "Cruiserweight style" than the way that Brian Kendrick wrestles and he showed that here in a blistering opening section that included a mental dive to the outside. The crowd however were having none of it, which honestly really pissed me off as a home viewer. They chanted "CM Punk" and "Randy Savage" over it and it seemed to effect both guys work as they clearly weren't expecting to be shit on, because they were working their fucking arses off. It seemed to be a case of the audience being horrendously smarky, but hilariously ignorant at the same time. If you don't know who these guys are, give them a chance, stay quiet and let those who want to watch enjoy it, you'll be presently surprised if you do.
Best of the Rest
- In more Cruiserweight action, Rich Swann & Cedric Alexander teamed to defeat Drew Gulak & Lince Dorado, which saw all four guys produce impressive spots and work well together for a short, but exciting tag.
- Mick Foley would declare Cesaro and Sheamus's Best of Seven Series a draw, whilst offering them a Tag Team Championship match together in the future, with all three bring a lot of passion to the segment.
- Cesaro and Sheamus would later go over Nick Cutler and Willis Williams in a match that clearly got them over as an odd couple tag team.
- Mick Foley continued his strong show-wide performance opposite Commissioner Stephanie McMahon, with the duo adding more depth to their relationship, as well as the main event of Clash of Champions.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.84/10
This was a fine episode of RAW, that in many ways improved on the PPV from the night before, with both the Roman Reigns and Rusev bout and New Day v Enzo & Cass being a least a step up from what they did on Sunday evening. The tag team main event may have been essentially a way to fill some space, whilst Rollins fully recovers, but it made good use of everyone involved and will only stand to benefit the main event feud, especially with Rollins being forced to the back. The main negative would be that the Cruiserweight division is still struggling to connect with the larger audience, despite producing plenty of exciting action this week, it appears like WWE expected their wider audience to be more familar with these talents and hasn't put the time and effort into getting them over as they should have.
There was plenty of storyline development, producing things that I'm looking forward to seeing where they lead in the future. Therefore, it will be interesting to see the direction that the show takes on next week and which feuds are taken forward for the Hell in a Cell supercard on 30th October.
Words - James Marston
Banner - Kai Stellar