WWE RAW Review
April 12, 2016
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com
Something has happened over the past two episodes of RAW. Out of nowhere, after the biggest WrestleMania of all time (and one of the more poorly booked), RAW has become tolerable. Yes, I know it’s only been two episodes and there are gaping plot holes all around, but these last two episodes have been so nicely paced and put together that it’s almost like a new writing staff is on board. What used to be a three-hour chore to get through has been transformed into this enjoyable show over the last two weeks. Guess what? A lot of what makes the show so great is there is less talking and more action. Who would have thought that good wrestling matches could make a wrestling show enjoyable? Anyway, a lot could change, and I’m sure it will eventually when Triple H and Stephanie McMahon return (because Stephanie must be put over strong), but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. Let’s talk about this show.
Great wrestling matches carry the show
Like I already said, who would have thought that meaningful wrestling matches on a wrestling show could make the show good? This show had three way above average matches that really kept it moving at a brisk pace. Heck, I’d even throw in the main event as a good tag team match, but I’ll talk more on that one later.
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro – This match was set up by Shane McMahon at the start of the show. I’ll talk more on Shane’s appearance in a bit. The match was to become the #1 Contender for the WWE Intercontinental Championship at WWE Payback. This was just a terrific match. Cesaro looks like he hasn’t missed a beat since being away due to injury the last few months. They told a great story in the match and it was really a joy to watch. For me as a wrestling fan, the matches I enjoy the most are the more physical ones. This was definitely that. They were really laying into one another. Some of the things that both these guys do are really great. If you’ve ever seen any of them live, you’d see just how big of a guy Kevin Owens is as well as Cesaro. To see Cesaro come off his feet like a cruiserweight and connect with a picture perfect dropkick or a high cross-body block, it’s really something to marvel at. The same goes for Owens’ frog splash that he’s been doing. They went back and forth and told a good story in the ring with Owens concentrating on Cesaro’s freshly healed shoulder. In the end, Cesaro came out on top.
I really like what they’re doing with the Cesaro character. For a guy who according to Vince McMahon doesn’t have “it” he sure is connecting with the crowd in a big way. I like the James Bond inspired entrance and the suave demeanor about him. Moving on to the guy he’ll be facing at WWE Payback, I really like The Miz with Maryse. Obviously being married, they’ll have a natural chemistry with each other. It rounds out his movie star character better to see him with a hot wife who is his aggressive manager. I really enjoyed the skit where she was complaining about the M&M colors, a play on classic rock and roll complaints. Her English is way better than when she left a few years back. She handled herself well in this. I even got a kick out of him spitting out the domestic water. It’s a nice turn around for an act that was really foundering on the roster. Again, it’s only two weeks and it could all change next week, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction to build up this mid-card heavy roster and develop some characters.
Also, for those saying Zack Ryder once again got screwed by not appearing on the show, he had his quick little run and has a moment that he’ll remember forever. I don’t feel bad for him. It was way more than the character deserved. Him holding the Intercontinental Championship even for a day brings down the prestige, but they’re quickly rehabilitating it with a strong challenger in Cesaro and a guy waiting in the wings like Kevin Owens.
Charlotte vs. Natalya – I know it’s only a brand name, but dropping the “Divas” name has really helped my psyche when watching these matches. Even though the work rate with these two is the same (always good), calling them women and not constantly inserting the “Divas” brand name makes watching the match even better. It helps me to take them more seriously. Of course, Dr. Phil was inserted into this in a useless cameo, but that’s beside the point. These two had a very good match that helped build Natalya up as a legitimate contender. Before this, they were just fighting to see whose family is better. Now there’s a legitimate screw job that happened to set up a rematch. This match wasn’t as good as their one NXT Takeover match or even the Road Block match, but it was still damn good. It did a good job of setting up the PPV match, which should always be the point.
Charlotte has really super heat with the crowd. There is a contingent that really just does not like her. The great thing is it doesn’t have to do with her looks or something superficial. It’s good character work that’s gotten her over. She’s using her father’s tactics, and he’s constantly getting involved in her matches. It’s working. It’s pissing people off and not in a bad way where it’s making people change the channel. It’s making people want to see her lose. The finish was really great. The crap disqualification finish has been done to death, but here it was very well done. Natalya got Charlotte in the Sharpshooter. Just as Charlotte starts tapping out, Ric Flair pulls the referee out. The referee signals for the DQ even though the champion is tapping out. It shows that Natalya can beat her and gives her a good beef that people can get behind. It was just a well done angle. Ric Flair adds so much to this grouping.
As for Dr. Phil, he had a decent segment with Charlotte and Ric Flair before the match. He was out to watch the match and just gave some awful scripted lines when it was all over. I’m not sure what the point of him being there was. It wasn’t like they promoted his show, said what channel it’s on, or even what time of the day it’s on. It was just “Here’s Dr. Phil – love him” and that’s it. Just a strange and stupid appearance.
AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn – This was the best match of the three. This was just super. It was nice of them to tie up the loose end that Sami Zayn was unfairly screwed out of the match last week, so he gets another chance at the title. If Zayn won, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WWE Payback would have become a triple threat. This was a great match. It started slow and really built up well. They started out initially just feeling each other out and getting into stalemates before realizing the importance of the match and changing the intensity. It was very well done. The crowd settled down toward the middle of it, but they came back to life after that awesome near fall on the Blue Thunder Bomb by Zayn. The finish was awesome. Zayn got out of a sunset flip powerbomb (and nearly spiked himself on the head in the process) and went for the Helluva Kick, but Styles avoided it and caught him with the Phenomenal Forearm for the clean win. It was great.
I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with Zayn losing this match. It establishes AJ Styles as a strong contender for Roman Reigns, and Zayn doesn’t look bad at all in this loss. Zayn is still being introduced to the main roster so this match (along with the compliments of Shane McMahon) will go a long way in establishing him as a guy to watch. The best thing was it was a clean loss. A lot of people were expecting Kevin Owens to interfere, but he didn’t. Not everything needs to be some screw job finish. It’s ok for guys to lose clean. The last few years, it seems like no one wants to be booked to ever lose clean. There’s always something behind it, especially the closer you get to the main event. It wasn’t always like that. To see a great wrestling match with a clean finish… it’s damn refreshing.
The Shane McMahon plot hole is pretty damn glaring
Ok, Shane McMahon made a surprise return back in February and announced that he wanted to protect the legacy of WWE, meaning he wanted to take control of Monday Night RAW. Vince McMahon said he would give him his wish as long as he could beat The Undertaker inside of Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania 32. Well, that didn’t happen. In fact, Shane lost clean as a sheet to Undertaker with no interference or controversy. Shane is not supposed to get his wish. Yet the next night on RAW, Vince allows Shane to run the show just to watch him crash and burn, rendering the entire point of the WrestleMania match useless. Now he’s back a second week due to “overwhelming social media support.” It’s not said who made that decision whether it be Vince or the Board of Directors. It’s just happening. Don’t get me wrong – it’s much more preferable to have Shane McMahon as a face authority figure than the other options of the stale Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, but it’s just another example of WWE killing off their stipulations. Stipulation matches really mean nothing anymore, but then again it’s been that way for quite sometime. Remember, The Authority was supposed to have been gone forever back in November 2014 and they were back just about a month later.
Anyway, Shane McMahon kicked off the show to a nice reception from the crowd and announced a few matches he made for the evening. Kevin Owens came out to confront him and complain about getting screwed. In a really ironically funny line, Shane said that Owens lost his stipulation last week and doesn’t deserve an opportunity. Shane then booked him into a match against Cesaro, which has already been talked about.
Shane alluded to this being his last night in that promo. If that’s the case, the fans in England may be treated to the return of The Authority. What if they booked these shows to be really good to show what Shane can do to build up a match against Triple H to determine who runs Monday Night RAW? Of course, that would require the shows run under The Authority to be bad so people want Shane back. That means an entertainment company has to deliberately make their shows bad to piss off the fans. They wouldn’t do that… would they?
Later in the show, they had Roman Reigns come out to talk about AJ Styles, but as usual they didn’t let him talk long enough to get tongue tied or in trouble. Still, he was booed out of the building. Last week the commentators said the crowd was filled with people from out of the country that boo and cheer whoever they want and they’re just having fun. What’s the excuse this week? They didn’t have one. They did do a good job of continuing the subtle tease of a heel turn. Whether or not they actually pull the trigger on it, it’s a good move to even just tease it.
Reigns was interrupted by the League of Nations, who complained about not getting an opportunity to fight in the fatal four-way. They went to beat up Reigns, but The Wyatt Family made the save. The reason The Wyatt Family is attacking the League of Nations and whether or not they’re now faces is still just as unclear as last week. The Wyatts and Reigns teamed up to clear the ring of the League. Shane then came out and booked Reigns and Wyatt to team up against the League of Nations in the main event.
Again, this just doesn’t make any sense. The entire summer of 2015 was wrapped around a very, very lackluster feud between Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt. Wyatt’s motto was, “Anyone but you,” as he sabotaged and attacked Reigns time and time again. Now they’re putting those difference aside because they have a common enemy… an enemy where it hasn’t even been established why they’re enemies in the first place. Come on, I need a little more than that. They had Wyatt cut a promo before the main event, and he didn’t even address the League. He talked about Reigns.
Still, the main event was pretty good in my opinion. It was a solid tag team match. Reigns was selling a lot in the match to build to the hot tag with Wyatt. There was a really solid moment where Reigns went for the hot tag and Wyatt looked like he was going to back away. Wyatt then made the tag. That was very well done. I’m not sure where this is going, but they need to do a lot of explaining on this one. Hell, if they just explain why The Wyatts hate The League of Nations, I’ll be happy.
The first two matches of the #1 Contender’s Tag Team Tournament (sponsored by Booty O’s) didn’t have enough of their sponsored cereal. Booty O’s make sure you ain’t booty, but these matches were very booty. The first match was The Dudley Boyz taking on The Lucha Dragons. It started during the commercial and when we joined the match in progress, Kalisto was down at ringside from what looked like a collarbone injury. They showed a replay with him taking a hard bump on the floor. The Dudleys and Sin Cara had to call the match on the fly. It was sloppy at times, but they got through it with The Dudleys coming out on top.
After this match, Enzo and Cass once against confronted The Dudley Boyz. I was worried last week that they wouldn’t get as big of a reception in front of a crowd that aren’t completely hardcore fans, but I realize I had no reason to worry. Their pop was still very big. Enzo just oozes charisma. The Dudleys had some retorts for them this week, but Enzo shut them down. Looking at the brackets, it looks like it’ll be Enzo and Cass taking on The Dudley Boyz in one of the semifinal matches. I could see Enzo and Cass winning that match and then getting screwed in the finals by The Dudleys.
The second match was The Usos taking on The Social Outcasts. This was just a lame match all around with a finish that was never in doubt. The real news came after the match with the debut of Karl Anderson and Luke (Doc) Gallows. They viciously attacked The Usos to a huge ovation from the crowd. That was a very cool moment. A lot of people are putting together that The Usos are Roman Reigns’ cousins and the former leader of the Bullet Club, AJ Styles, is facing Reigns at Payback. Could there be something in the works? Hey, at least it’s something to ponder and get excited about. By the way, my pick for the winning team: The Vaudevillains.
The Highlight Reel segment with Chris Jericho having himself as a guest was pretty funny. Jericho is such a great heel. Dean Ambrose then came out, and Jericho was the perfect foil to him. Ambrose trying to present a memo to him and pulling out a speeding ticket was great solely because of Jericho’s reaction to the ticket. Ambrose eventually laid him out, so the feud between these two begins. After an embarrassing and largely pointless and quickly forgotten about feud against Brock Lesnar, Ambrose needs to get back on track with a big win or two.
Apollo Crews had a very so-so match against Adam Rose. Crews has a good look, but like I said last week, there are a handful of guys that are infinitely more ready to be on the main roster than he is. They need to start giving him more of a character than this smiling babyface that leaps around all the time.
Maybe instead of Apollo Crews, they could have given Baron Corbin a chance to run over a guy after a less than stellar RAW debut last Monday. If they want to establish Corbin as a monster, he needs to be shown running over guys. A video package just isn’t going to do it. Crews and Corbin are at a high risk of becoming lost in the shuffle at the moment.
Top to bottom, this was a very good episode of RAW. The show, even with big plot holes, was carried by strong performances from some of the best workers on the roster. There were some lulls as there always are and should be, but they didn’t drag the show down at all. It was a smooth three hours. All in all, this was a very enjoyable episode of RAW.
Bump of the Night: Kalisto’s hard bump on the floor
Match of the Night: AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn *** 1/4
Final Rating: *** 3/4
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.
Check out my recap of this week’s RAW here. Please check out my live recap of RAW every Monday at 8 PM EST.
Thanks for reading!
Mike Tedesco is the official recapper of WWE Monday Night RAW for Wrestleview.com.