A week after the Superstar Shake-up and the sediment was beginning to settle on Monday Night RAW in the penultimate episode before Payback. This week's main event was a rematch of February colossal clash between Braun Strowman and The Big Show, whilst Chris Jericho, Jeff Hardy, The Miz, Cesaro and Samoa Joe were all featured across the three hours...but was it any good?
Braun Strowman opened the show, popping the crowd with a list of things that he was proud of, which mainly included trying to kill Roman Reigns last week. The brief segment concluded with General Manager Kurt Angle booking Strowman v Reigns for Payback and The Monster Amongst Men being told to leave, despite a plea for more competition.
Joe def. Jericho
A rematch from a March bout that ended in a Count Out, this week's opening contest bought two of the RAW brand's biggest names together for a solid opener that put Joe over strong, as he won clean with the Coquina Clutch, even after surviving a pinfall attempt. The two are strong enough that they could essentially walk through this contest and alongside a Colombus crowd that adored Jericho, that was enough to make this bout work. Two sequences that saw Jericho come close to victory stood out in particularly, firstly Y2J dodging a senton to hit a Lionsault for only the third time in history, before later being able to dodge an Enziguiri to earn a massive pop as he locked in the Walls of Jericho. Whilst the first part of the bout was pedestrian, the closing few minutes picked up, produced some sturdy near falls for the popular Jericho, before making Joe look like a world beater as he continues to run through the competition on RAW. The clean cut nature of the loss puts Jericho in an odd place heading into his United States Championship match with Kevin Owens at Payback, but that's more a symptom of the rushed nature of last week's shake up than anything else.
- Following the match, Joe cut a promo addressing Seth Rollins, who was on commentary, before The Kingslayer climbed onto the announce table to tell Joe that "Payback...is a bitch".
- Braun Strowman took out The Golden Truth as they were walking backstage, leading to Finlay, Joey Mercury and Adam Pearce running about in terror.
- The lewd Mike Rome tried to interview Braun Strowman, who said he wasn't finished.
- Gallows & Anderson issued an open challenge, because The Golden Truth were supposed to be their opponents, with Enzo & Cass answering the call.
Gallows & Anderson def. Enzo & Cass
Considering this was a thrown together match between two teams that have probably already faced off too many times over the last year, I found myself enjoying this standard issue tag bout. It wasn't anything special and didn't feature anything that would particularly stick in my memory if I hadn't been writing notes, but it filled it's screen time well and stuck to the performers strengths. Gallows & Anderson looked great, controlling Enzo and looking crafty in the finish, whilst both teams were over with the crowd, with Cass getting an especially big reaction when he tagged in for the hot tag. The finish was a cool departure from the norm, as Cass taking himself out by delivering a Cactus Big Boot that sent he and Gallows to the floor and with Enzo all alone, Anderson delivered a move that dropped the New Jersey native across the top turnbuckle for the victory. With The Revival out due to a Dash Wilder injury, it seems like the Tag division is getting a little jumbled up as WWE tries to work out it's next move.
Ambrose appeared on "Miz TV"
The Miz brought some of the fire and realism, that transformed him into a top star on SmackDown, to RAW as he wonderfully ripped into Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose during an episode of Miz TV. I get a feeling that some of the words coming out of Miz's mouth were a window onto how creative views Ambrose, as words like "wrassler" and "lazy and complacent" very well could have been coming from Vinny Mac himself (especially after some Dean's recent PPV efforts). The hometown audience for both men added some extra energy to proceeding, loudly supporting The Lunatic Fringe as he mocked Miz's maroon suit and reminded us how little he cares about images and other things. The closing moments saw both men attempt their finishers, before Miz escaped up the ramp with his wife, Maryse, in tow. The two have had a fair few matches on TV over the last three years, none of them have set the world a light, but I'm hopefully that with a little more fire behind them we may see the two put on something a little better when they next lock horns.
- Kalisto made his RAW return, by getting put in a dumpster by Braun Strowman, with The Big Show sort of making the save by shouting "Pick on someone your own size" like a big brother confronting a school bully.
- Neville and Austin Aries came to ringside to watch the following match, for reasons that weren't quite clear.
Perkins def. Gallagher
After TJ Perkins and Jack Gallagher had ripped it up on 205 Live last week, I was hopeful that this rematch would receive a more appreciative audience, with the Colombus audience being hot for most of the show. However, whilst Ohio State University was much more interested in what Perkins and Gallagher had to offer, the match wasn't a patch on what the pair had done last week. In part this was because the focus was more on Neville and Austin Aries sitting at ringside, instead of what was going on in the ring. Gallagher's Mary Poppins dive to the outside is always fun and Perkins continually rolling to the outside was a nice classic heel tactic, but with the Cruiserweight Champion and #1 Contender at ringside, it all had the feeling of treading water. Of course, that was the case, as after Perkins threw Gallagher into Aries things broke down, allowing Perkins to nick a Detonation Kick victory. Nothing particularly wrong with anything here, but after seeing the 205 Live match it was a little disappointing.
- Titus O'Neil propositioned newcomer Apollo Crews, by rhyming things with his name, it was weird and I don't want to see either a match between the two or a team, but at least we got to see Crews chatting with Akira Tozawa beforehand.
- Cesaro & Sheamus interrupted the makeshift Mike Rome's interview with The Hardy Boyz, although they are still all good pals.
Bliss def. Banks, James, Jax to become #1 contender to RAW Women's Championship
A well-booked four way here, that opens up an interesting clash between Alexa Bliss and RAW Women's Champion Bayley soon, whilst putting off bigger money matches with Sasha Banks and Nia Jax. Nia was the star of the show here, as despite an alliance with Bliss that was teased last week being completely no sold, Jax walked through her competition, hitting big slams, surviving a guillotine choke from Banks and hitting the move that would win the match. Jax time will come, but I like that she's been held away from having one on one title match just yet. It'll make her a bigger star when the time comes, especially if handled correctly. Outside of the Jax dominance, thinks were a little hit and miss, as whilst Bliss and Banks had a very good sequence of reversals based around the Banks Statement, a sequence with Bliss and James was sloppy. It was perhaps surprising to see the respected veteran James stand out as the weakest link in the match, but against women five to twelve years her junior she just didn't seem with it.
- The upset Charly Caruso spoke to the Big Show, who was still angry about Strowman's antics.
- Curt Hawkins cut a promo describing how he made The Big Show into a star last week, before challenging someone to face him.
- Finn Balor defeated Curt Hawkins in just over thirty seconds.
- The big Mike Rome spoke with Chris Jericho, with Y2J saying there was no shame in losing to Samoa Joe, before chatting about his US title match with Owens. Elias Samson drifted into the background and eventually ended up on the list in a pretty entertaining interview segment.
- Bray Wyatt made an appearance in his smoky lair, cutting a promo about the upcoming House of Horrors Match with SmackDown's Randy Orton. Filled with weird imagery, including a bloke with antlers (Moose?), it still did very little to clue us in on what the match will actually be.
- Emma purposefully put a stop to Dana Brooke's friendship with Alicia Fox, recalling Brooke's poor jokes about Fox getting covered in powder on last week's 205 Live.
J. Hardy def. Cesaro
Jeff Hardy's first RAW singles match since beating Dolph Ziggler in an Extreme Rules match in March 2009, bought us a fun, first-time ever clash with Cesaro. The Swiss Superman controlling the contest from the ad-break, nailing running uppercuts on the outside and dodging Hardy's hope spot Swanton Bomb, was certainly the best thing for the match, as even with the popularity of Cesaro, he was always going to come off second best to a Columbus audience getting to see Hardy live for the first time in four years. In the last few minutes the action began to pick up, with Cesaro blocking a Twist of Fate with an uppercut and then hitting a springboard corkscrew uppercut moments after Jeff blocked a Swing attempt. There was the feeling that in a different context (and maybe a few years ago) the pair could have torn the house down together. The clean as a whistle finish, with a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb, felt a little peculiar, doing very little for Cesaro & Sheamus title challenge. Some interference from Sheamus or perhaps anything that would've suggest friction or even the shock value of having Cesaro defeat Hardy clean himself, could've really built some interest into the upcoming RAW Tag Team title match at Payback and therefore this bout feels like real missed opportunity.
- The physical Mike Rome bumped into Heath Slater & Rhyno backstage, before Braun Strowman walked past and Rhyno dropped his crackers.
Strowman v Show ends in No Contest.
They broke the freakin' ring! For only the third time in WWE history and for the first time since Mark Henry v Big Show at Vengeance in 2011, the ring collapsed after a superplex spot. Whilst the whole spot had been signposted from the beginning of the show, by WWE using their old ring with no screen around the apron and classic ringposts, the spot got a huge reaction from the crowd. As well as the big deal they made of "re-enforcing" the ring during the build to their last match. Chances are, seeing how the previous two breaks happened in Orlando in 2003 and San Antonio in 2011, that this was the first time almost all of the crowd had seen such a spot live and in the flesh. The rest of the match was similar to their February bout, starting slow with weird spots like arm drags, before shunting into a series of near falls. The crowd was hot throughout even through dated spots like the battle to do a powerslam, but were positively molten when Strowman jumped off the middle rope and into a Knockout Punch. The build towards the superplex was handled well, with both superstars ending up on the top rope at various points, only for one to thwart the danger. It's Strowman v Reigns at Payback, so I wouldn't be surprised if we get a Strowman v Show again next week with a gimmick of some kind.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.17/10
Another solid edition of Monday Night RAW, which considering the storylines are still trying to find places to settle following the shake up is pretty commendable stuff. The shift to have longer matches and only one lengthy talking segment (that was arguably the shows highlight) is certainly a positive, with almost every match on the card, at least, matching my expectations. The show isn't currently missing out on having it's top champion missing, because there's strong storylines and popular characters pulling their weight and with Bray Wyatt v Randy Orton scheduled for Payback the big show shouldn't suffer either. The show's still not batting for six, as certain booking decision were a little questionable, but RAW's still not out.
Review - James Marston
Twitter - @ATPWrestling