WWE RAW Review
July 19, 2016
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com
I’m back! It’s been a while since I’ve written a review for RAW. I’ve received a lot of e-mails from people asking when it’s coming back. I apologize for the long delay. Personally, I’ve been a little burned out on the product, which makes it hard to sit down and do the review the way I feel it should be done. I don’t mind doing the recaps, but having to break the show down and talk about the same mistakes every week became a little redundant. Rather than present you with a product that I feel is halfhearted, I chose to wait until the inspiration came to me again.
My problems with the product are not all bad. With some call-ups from NXT, this is probably the most athletic and talented roster WWE has ever assembled. They’re finally not focusing on older guys like Big Show and Kane and instead letting the younger guys show what they can do. They’re letting their future be showcased rather than subdued in favor of aging talent. There is more focus on the wrestling product lately, which is a very welcome change. I got tired of the lack of a true main event for the show or the extremely rushed main event because they somehow ran out of time on a three-hour show. There still is an overreliance on the distraction/roll-up finish, but that’s ok.
AJ Styles has also been a complete revelation in the post-WrestleMania WWE. The guy is just absolutely killing it at every given opportunity match-wise. His promo skills previously had been a weak point in his game, but he’s really stepped it up in that department big time since turning heel against John Cena. I don’t know how much confidence Vince McMahon had in him when he first came in, but he’s too talented to be pigeonholed into a certain spot on the roster. Styles is must-see television when he’s out there from match-work to his promos.
Those are just some of the things I absolutely love about the product right now. I’ll talk about Dean Ambrose as WWE Champion and the return of Seth Rollins in a bit. At the end of the day, it’s still a wrestling show and damn it, wrestling should be a central focus of the show.
The General Managers for RAW and Smackdown are revealed
The show opened up with Shane and Stephanie McMahon announcing their picks to be General Managers for the imminent brand extension. This was one of the most anticipated announcements heading into the draft, so I thought it was a really good idea by the WWE to lead off with this. The choices were pretty interesting. Stephanie McMahon, despite immediately criticizing Shane McMahon at the start of the show for pandering to the crowd, introduced Mick Foley as her GM. Foley came out and almost instantly pandered to the crowd with his trademark cheap pop. Foley was a real surprise pick here. I figured it would be either Triple H or Ric Flair. I guess they figured if they did Triple H, we’d be right back to the same Authority crap that has seen ratings for wrestling go down consistently since they really took over in 2013. As for Ric Flair, he was the original “owner” of Monday Night RAW in 2002 when they did the brand extension, so since that brand extension ultimately wound up being a complete failure and damaged ratings and interest in the product to the point that it has never recovered, they probably didn’t want to be accused of literally doing the same thing over again. Now they’re just kind of doing the same thing all over again.
The dynamic between Foley and Stephanie should be pretty interesting. He’s a face authority figure, which is something RAW really hasn’t had in a long time (or ever?), so it could make for some good television. I’m sure they will be in segments butting heads every week over the direction of the product, which is almost exactly what she’s been doing with her brother Shane over these last few months. She did say that Foley has complete autonomy over the show, but how long will it be before she starts to overrule everything he does in storyline? It could be good, but almost every segment involving Stephanie sees her put over to the nth degree with absolutely no payoff for her character, so it could also be really bad. We shall see.
I have to say something about Stephanie in this segment and really from the last few months – she’s been absolutely awful. From trying to emulate her father’s gravely voice while saying “Monday Night RAW” or going off script and throwing in one-liners in an attempt to crush the crowd and mock them, it’s turn-off television. There’s good heat from heels and there’s go away heat. We all know this. Some don’t deserve it (I never understood X-Pac heat) and some, like her, do. As I previously mentioned, she is always put over all talent, stealing heat from faces and heels alike, with absolutely no retribution or payoff ever brought against her. That spear at WrestleMania? Forgotten. The writing staff is back to their old ways of trying to get brownie points with her by putting her over huge. For those that complain that Roman Reigns is or was THE man in WWE, he isn’t. She is and always will be. If Reigns were put over half as strong as she has been through the last few years, he’d be a legitimate superstar. Then they have her flip-flop between face and heel when she needs to be “Corporate” Stephanie as opposed to “Character” Stephanie. The lines get blurred and it hurts the product when they do that. She can’t be both. They have to choose which Stephanie to present. I’m expecting a lot more of this in the coming weeks and months, particularly with the release of her book “Lady Balls” coming up. What an absolutely trashy name for a book for someone Vince McMahon is grooming to be the next leader of the company.
This actually brings me to my singular biggest problem with the product right now. They’re calling it a “New Era” while STILL making the McMahon family the central focus of the show. That makes it more like the last five “eras” they’ve tried. For nearly twenty years – TWENTY YEARS – they’ve featured the McMahons as the on screen power brokers of WWE. This storyline is more than played out. They had a golden opportunity to make this change after WrestleMania by eliminating them all together, but instead they’ve been put over stronger. This company is scared to completely change directions because this formula worked twenty years ago and they think it’ll work again. It’s not. I understand why they did it twenty years ago. Vince was bleeding talent to WWE and needed a huge rival for Stone Cold Steve Austin that wouldn’t cut and run to WCW. Who better than himself? It worked in a huge way then. Now it’s a dead concept. As a fan of the product, it is frustrating as hell to watch. It makes me want to flip the channel every time I see them. I imagine it’s like that for many others. In fact, I know for a great many it is that way.
Anyway, I digress.
After Stephanie made her introduction of Foley, Shane McMahon introduced Daniel Bryan, who came out to a monster pop from the crowd. Even though the secret was let out of the bag a few days ago, he still got a humongous reception and looked genuinely moved by it. Bryan did a good job building up Smackdown and what to expect. That should be a good relationship with Shane and Bryan running the show. Smackdown could really be something great if they do it right. RAW in my humble opinion is going to be a train wreck. Three hours with half a roster, Stephanie McMahon all over the show, and Roman Reigns at the top. Yikes. I’ll talk more about the WWE Draft tomorrow when I write up the review for Smackdown.
The WWE Championship match ends in controversy
Last week, they built this match up with the best promo Dean Ambrose has ever cut. They did a good job promoting it throughout the evening with a tremendous promo with Seth Rollins in an empty arena and Ambrose doing a Shield style promo to build it up. Then the match started and the crowd completely died for whatever reason. It could be that the show is just so long or they could smell the BS finish coming a mile away. It’s no secret that they’re going with two World Titles for the draft, which is a HUGE mistake to me, and it appears they put the wheels in motion for that tonight. Even though the crowd was dead and really didn’t get into it until the end, they still put on a tremendous match, but that was all undone with one of the worst non-finishes I can remember. Rollins and Ambrose were both counted down with their shoulders on the mat. Nothing about it made sense. Why did Stephanie make the announcement that Seth Rollins was the new WWE Champion? Why didn’t Shane fight her on it at all? Why didn’t they tell the people to tune into the WWE Network to find out it was a No Contest? I didn’t even know about that until a few hours ago when I was checking Wrestleview. Now they’re having a rematch tonight on Smackdown. There has to be a better way to go about doing this without shortchanging the viewers you have.
Just a quick note about Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. I really like that they made Ambrose the WWE Champion, but they totally neutered him with this ridiculous finish. Hopefully they can come back with a better one tonight. Then they have to protect him Sunday so it doesn’t appear that he is just some fluke, paper champion. This is really the guy they should be building around. Either him or Rollins. They both have a connection with the fans and have a ton of talent and charisma. They really, really blew it with Rollins when he returned. They could have done what they did with Triple H in 2002 when he came back from his first quadriceps tear and made him a mega face. Instead, they were so hardheaded about Roman Reigns being the guy that they figuratively cut off their nose to spite their face. It made no sense and Rollins is back to just existing in my opinion.
If they have Reigns make his return on Sunday like nothing ever happened and make him champion while simultaneously pushing him as the top face in the company, then something is seriously wrong with Vince McMahon’s mind. There is absolutely no indication in the only thing that matters in business (the bottom line) that says Reigns is the guy people want. House shows with him as the headliners are doing atrocious attendance and even worse payoffs, ratings are way down for his segments, and the crowd participation is toxic. It’s time to move on or make him heel. I want the guy to succeed, I truly do, but they’ve given him crappy storylines and threw him into the fire when he was so totally ill prepared for it. Something has to give.
The announcement of the reformation of the Cruiserweight Division coming to Monday Night RAW was interesting. I have no faith that it’ll be any good because Vince McMahon has never done well with light heavyweights and the crowd seemed to sense that with their apathetic reaction to the announcement. It’s only a matter of time before guys like Baron Corbin or Braun Strowman start running them over in squash matches.
I thought the opening tag match with Sami Zayn and Cesaro teaming up to beat Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho was as good as I expected it to be. These guys always deliver. Even if they have some clunky spots, they can recover for it. I like that Zayn picked up the win over Jericho. Jericho isn’t fighting on Sunday, so him losing doesn’t matter. They did a good job building up to Zayn and Owens and that’s all you can ask for.
Darren Young beat Alberto Del Rio in what was a truly awful match. They barely went two minutes and were completely out of sync with each other. Young was built up like he had no chance against Del Rio, a guy who isn’t even on the PPV, and the finish was fluky just like his win in the battle royal last week was. That’s how they built up the Intercontinental Championship match for Battleground. At least Mr. Bob Backlund is back doing whatever it is that he does. It’s funny, I’ve been watching some of the old RAWs from back in 1995 and Backlund still looks and acts the same.
Later in the night, they had Rusev and Sheamus beat Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler in a match where Ryder looked like he had no chance against US Champion Rusev ahead of the PPV. Have there ever been two feuds for the mid-card titles going on at the same time that are as awful as the ones happening here?
The lead up to the 12-man tag started out entertaining enough with John Cena, Enzo Amore and Big Cass in the ring. Enzo Amore was absolutely killing it with his one-liners against The Club. This guy is pure gold right now. Even if he has bad material, he makes it work. Last night, he only had gems. I loved the fact that John Cena was confused by Enzo’s actions as well. It was a really great dynamic. The Club came out and continued with their hot tagline of “Beat Up John Cena.” AJ Styles is absolutely tremendous right now. Then it started to go a little too long. The New Day came out and started listing off Pokémon Go characters before dragging on about The Wyatt Family. All told, this was probably a twenty-minute segment that should have gone ten. There were some truly funny moments in it, but it could have been halved in time and been even better.
The good thing was it led into a good, long 12-man tag team match. They were given a lot of time and really didn’t disappoint. The only cringe-worthy moments involved Braun Strowman, who fell when he was supposed to catch Kofi Kingston. It ended with Styles getting the win over Enzo, so The Club has the momentum going into Sunday.
Baron Corbin squashed Sin Cara and then Kalisto in about a minute in an absolutely nothing match. Kalisto is dead and buried on this roster, so naturally he’ll probably be the face of the new Cruiserweight Division.
The women’s tag team match was pretty clunky all thanks to Dana Brooke. Talk about someone who doesn’t belong on the roster, this girl is greener than the greenest grass out there. She has absolutely no business wrestling on Monday Night RAW in long matches. She’s shown herself to be uncoordinated, which can be dangerous for the other performers. I remember her almost killing someone with a Michinoku Driver a few weeks back. Dana Brooke has been on the roster for two months, but Bayley is still in NXT. How does that make any sense?
I absolutely loved the segment with Mick Foley and Daniel Bryan playfully going back and forth before getting serious. That was so well done and really made me excited for the WWE Draft, despite how I feel about the move.
This is the final full roster Monday Night RAW, and they did a really good job of building up to the WWE Draft. The build for Battleground was definitely on the back burner. I must admit there were moments when the show dragged, as there always are, but it really made me uneasy because next week they won’t have the full roster they did and it’ll still be three-hours long. They’ll probably be able to make it work for the next few weeks because the WWE Draft will be new and shiny, but it’ll eventually get old and hurt ratings real quick. I hope they can pull a rabbit out of a hat and make this work.
Bump of the Night: Sheamus giving Ryder a rolling senton on the floor
Match of the Night: The WWE Championship Match ***
Final Rating: *** 1/4
Well those are my thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know by commenting or using one of the other two options to get in contact with me.
Please check out my live recap of RAW every Monday at 8 PM EST. Also be sure to check out my coverage of Smackdown Live and the WWE Draft tonight at 8 PM EST.
Thanks for reading!
Mike Tedesco is the official recapper of WWE Monday Night RAW for Wrestleview.com.