April 11, 2016
From the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA
Your hosts are Byron Saxton, JBL, and Michael Cole
The show starts with a graphic of the recently deceased Blackjack Mulligan
Shane McMahon comes out to the ring. Cole lets us know that due to the “overwhelming support on social media,” Vince McMahon let Shane run RAW again tonight. Shane is no longer selling any injuries from his WrestleMania match. Shane talks about the fan support as to why he is here tonight. Shane puts over last week with new wrestlers and matchups before saying Charlotte will defend her Womens Title against Natalya. Also, a Tag Team Tournament will begin to crown the #1 contender for the titles, held by the New Day. Shane also talks about AJ Styles facing Roman Reigns for the title but mentions how opportunity was squandered as he will give Sami Zayn a match against AJ Styles and if he wins, he will be added to the Styles vs. Reigns WWE World Title match at Payback. A pissed off Kevin Owens comes out on the ramp. He tells Shane that Zayn does not deserve that opportunity and it might be a good thing that this is his last night in charge of RAW. Owens also talks about getting screwed over, as he never got pinned last Monday or at WrestleMania. He demands a rematch for the Intercontinental Title but Shane tells him that is not how things are run around here and he can face off against a man who has been pacing around back-and-forth all day and that man is ……………..Cesaro. The match will determine the #1 contender to the Miz’s IC Title. Owens is pissed as Shane walks out of the ring as Cesaro heads out to the ring.
Basic segment to tell us what to expect on the show, which is always a good thing and something that is lacking at times. The Owens/Shane confrontation was fine and this was designed to further put Shane over as someone in tune with the fans. The fans really booed the mention of Reigns name and AJ got a big pop from the crowd, as did the announcement of Charlotte vs. Natalya.
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
Owens stalls to start. Cesaro grounds Owens, who rolls outside as the camera shows the Miz and Maryse watching backstage on a monitor. Back inside, they trade side headlocks until Cesaro frustrates Owens by frequently switching arms as Owens rolls outside. Owens enters and cheap shots Cesaro, who knocks him down. Owens goes after the surgically repaired shoulder of Cesaro and targets that for a while. The announcers talk about the Authority as Cesaro fights back. He hits his running uppercut spot and caps that off with a dropkick for a nearfall. Owens dodges a charge and rams Cesaro’s shoulder into the post as Cesaro spills outside right before commercial. The action returns with Owens working over the shoulder as we see a clip of Cesaro hitting a super gutwrench suplex that took place during the break. Cesaro knocks down Owens and tries for a swing but Owens stops that. Cesaro counters with a double stomp for a nearfall then clutches his shoulder. Owens runs into a boot as Cesaro goes for a crossbody but Owens rolls through and locks on a crossface. Cesaro tries to fight to the ropes but Owens rolls over and has it on in the middle of the ring. Cesaro counters with a rollup then locks on a sharpshooter as Owens is able to reach the ropes. Owens then hits a super kick and climbs up to hit a frog splash for a nearfall. Owens yells how he is awesome and this is over but Cesaro dodges a Pop-Up Powerbomb and comes back with a springboard corkscrew uppercut. He tries for the swing but is too hurt to really do the move. Owens attacks the arm and tries again for the Pop-Up Powerbomb but Cesaro counters then hits the Neutralizer for the win (14:48) ***1/2. After the match, Cesaro celebrates with the fans while selling his shoulder.
Thoughts: A damn fine match to open up RAW. They have Cesaro come back strong with a new look and a shot at the IC Title. Also, they can continue Owens’ storyline about believing he is getting screwed over. And, Owens’ frog splash is an awesome move.
We are shown last week’s WWE Women’s Championship Ceremony that ended with Charlotte telling Natalya that her family will always be better than hers. After that, Charlotte is backstage with Ric Flair and asks why she is always a victim. She complains about having a title match then Dr. Phil cuts in and tells Charlotte he is proud of her accomplishments. He also said that while her father has done a great job providing for her, he is dragging her down by constantly cheating and that she needs to stand up on her own feet and to stop leaning on her father. Charlotte threatens to chop him all the way back to Texas and leaves. Flair tries to yell “Wooooo” at Dr. Phil, who cuts him off with his own catchphrase.
Believe it or not, Dr. Phil was pretty damn good here. He analyzed the entire Charlotte/Flair relationship. It seems like they are planting the seeds for an eventual split between Charlotte and her dad.
Owens is venting to Shane McMahon then accuses him and Cesaro of screwing him over yet again tonight. Owens then tells Shane what happens to Zayn tonight will be on him. However, Shane tells Owens no one will threaten him and to “hit the lockers” because he is going to be escorted out of the building tonight. Owens is irate but ends up biting his tongue and leaves.
It appears that this is not the last we will see of Owens and Shane. In fact, between the past mentions, I believe Owens will indeed be on the side of the Authority when they eventually return. Despite losing his title and his match tonight, it seems like Owens is in the company plans going forward.
The New Day come out to the ring. Xavier said that the Tag Team Division is on fire, just like NBA Jam. The New Day then ponder who should deserve a shot at their titles as they welcome us to the #1 Tag Team Contender Tournament, which is sponsored by Booty O’s. However, neither of them expect anyone to knock them off but that it will sure be fun to see them try as they start dances while Xavier appears to be humping the ropes while playing the trombone.
This was really more of a way to get the New Day on the show than to promote the Tag Team Tournament but they also did that here as well. The segment was fairly short and fine overall.
Tag Team #1 Contender’s Tournament First Round Match: Lucha Dragons vs. Dudley Boyz
The match started after the break, with Kalisto on the ground getting checked out by officials. We see from the break as Bubba pulled the ropes down on him then D-Von clotheslined him down. The action starts back up after Sin Cara was attacked from behind after checking on his partner. The Dudley Boyz work over Sin Cara as the camera shows the trainer checking on Kalisto. Bubba gets some cheers as he screams while beating down Sin Cara. D-Von tags but Sin Cara fights back with some springboard attacks but Bubba makes a blind tag and they hit the 3D for the win (3:09) 3/4*. After the match, Bubba yells at the trainer as he checks on Kalisto then walks back inside. However, Enzo & Big Cass come out on the ramp. The crowd starts a “How You Doin” chant. The Dudley Boyz do not appreciate Enzo and tell him and the crowd they need to shut up. Bubba calls them “two young punks” as D-Von said they paved the way for guys like themselves and only exist because of them. Enzo the corrects him and said he only exists because his mom and dad got it on. He also referred to D-Von as “Devon.” The segment ends with Cass calling the Dudley Boyz SAWFT.
Thoughts: If Kalisto was legitimately hurt, I hope he is okay. Otherwise, it seemed like a way to put the Dudley Boyz over while not having the U.S. Champ job cleanly on TV. The main point of this was to put over the budding Dudleys/Enzo & Big Cass feud. Once again, Enzo was great on the mic. He sticks out on the main show in a great way as there is finally a larger-than-life character on TV. Most wrestling fans are begging for these types of wrestlers on the show and if the WWE actually let these guys cut loose a bit, the product would improve.
After the break, we see security escort Owens from the building.
Roman Reigns heads out to the ring. The crowd greets him with a chorus of boos. Reigns starts off by telling the crowd “I’m not a bad guy, I’m not a good guy, I’m the guy.” Reigns talks about facing AJ Styles at Payback and possibly Sami Zayn, if he beats AJ tonight. Reigns puts over both guys accomplishments all over the world but that they have never held the WWE World Championship. The League of Nations show up and ask Reigns how confident he would be if he had to face one of them for the title. Reigns just about laughs that off as Sheamus said the League of Nations got screwed by not being part of the #1 Contender’s Match. Rusev tells Reigns he is better, more powerful, and better looking than Reigns, who laughs that off and calls Rusev the “ass” of the WWE. Reigns then welcomes them all to the ring to get their asses kicked. They begin to brawl but the lights go out as the Wyatt Family appear. The Wyatt Family and Reigns clear the ring then the Wyatt Family focuses on Reigns until Shane comes out. Shane then tells Reigns & Wyatt he liked seeing them fight together and tonight, they will team up against two members of the League of Nations.
Intriguing, but seems like they are planning on an eventual Wyatt/Reigns match, with Wyatt turning on Reigns. On the microphone, Reigns did not seem too comfortable at first but settled down a bit as it went along. Honestly, the sooner they break up the League of Nations, the better, as they are failing as a stable. All three guys stock in the fans eyes are down.
Primo and Epico are back in Puerto Rico, admiring the Hibiscus Flower and how they can only grow in a place as beautiful as Puerto Rico, not a place where we live. I don’t fully understand what their gimmick is going to be yet but so far, I cannot really say that I care.
WWE Womens Title Match: Natalya vs. Charlotte (c) w/ Ric Flair
Dr. Phil comes out to join on commentary. He wants to see if Charlotte can live up to being a champion and if she took his advice. The camera focused a lot on the new title belt during the champ’s entrance. They start off the match with some mat work. Natalya takes down Charlotte by the leg in a clunky spot then after that gets slammed to the mat but comes back with an armbreaker. Charlotte rolls outside as Natalya hypes up the crowd. Back inside, Natalya gets the best of Charlotte again. Charlotte goes back outside the returns and chops Natalya after the ref was trying to hold Natalya back. Charlotte hits a neckbreaker then chokes Natalya out with her shin as we head to break. The match returns with Charlotte working over the neck. Natalya fights out but Charlotte slaps on a figure four. Natalya ends up reversing the hold but Charlotte reaches the ropes. Charlotte then locks on a Sharpshooter. Natalya fights back and hits a release German suplex. Charlotte blocks a second attempt but Natalya comes back with a discus clothesline. She tries for the Sharpshooter but Charlotte punches her in the face then hits a big boot for two. She hits an Exploder then heads up top but misses a moonsault. Natalya then turns Charlotte over for the Sharpshooter. Flair tries to interfere but the referee prevented him. Flair then pulled the referee outside and as that happened, Charlotte was tapping out but the referee signaled for the bell and ruled the match a DQ (10:56) ***. After the match, Dr. Phil said he was disappointed in Charlotte for resorting to cheap tricks then puts over how proud he is of the women’s division.
Thoughts: Good match. The finish looked really weak but they at least ended it in a way to build to a rematch, likely at Payback at this point. Dr. Phil was fine on commentary and really shined in his role tonight. I have no idea if he follows the product but you would think so from watching tonight.
We are shown a replay of Kevin Owens attacking Sami Zayn last week on RAW, which knocked Zayn out of the #1 Contender’s match. After that, Zayn is with Renee Young. He talks about being ready his whole life for this opportunity. Zayn then said that his heart and soul have gotten him this far and he did not come this far to lose. AJ Styles comes in and tells Zayn he was like him fighting all of these years. However, he is the only #1 contender and plans on keeping it that way.
The actual lines written for Zayn were not good at all. His delivery was okay though and it would appear they actually want to get behind him in an underground face role, especially how they pushed the “underdog from the underground” catchphrase. I’m indifferent to that saying, personally. AJ’s part was decent enough I suppose and the way he ended left it open for many things, including a heel turn or even some outside interference.
Tag Team #1 Contender’s Tournament First Round Match: The Usos vs. Curtis Axel & Heath Slater w/ Bo Dallas & Adam Rose
The Usos start off the match by working over Axel, who comes back to hit Jey with a running knee to the shoulder. Slater tags and hits a suplex before posing as Cole points out that Jey was clutching his shoulder. The Outcasts beat on Jey in the corner then Axel works a chinlock on the mat. The Outcasts stay in control then Bo wants to start a Bo Train as they all take a lap around the ring as Bo screams like a psycho. Slater and Axel celebrate but end up getting knocked into each other as Jey rolls Slater up for the win (4:16) *. After the match, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson run out and they destroy the Usos until officials come out. Gallows and Anderson smile and act cocky before going through the crowd. There was a mild “Bullet Club” chant going on but the crowd seemed to cheer them quite a bit after they hopped the guardrail.
Thoughts: The match itself was dull and forgettable but the real story here was the debut of Karl Anderson and the return of Luke Gallows. They both looked great in destroying the Usos and came off as stars. The crowd reacted well to them. The Tag Team Division needs a team like Anderson & Gallows in a bad way.
Back from break, we see a replay of Gallows & Anderson attacking the Usos. Their finisher is still referred to as the Magic Killer. Cole also put over their accomplishments in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
We see the Miz and Maryse backstage. Maryse berates a production assistant for including blue M&Ms in the bowl and providing only domestic water. After that Jojo comes in and wants to speak to Miz by Maryse yells at her for being another woman after her husband as she holds up her wedding ring. Jojo then asks about Zack Ryder and Cesaro, as Miz takes the cucumber slices off of his eyes and makes fun of Ryder for taking public transportation as he drives an Audi R8. Miz then talks about the “Swiss Superman” and claims to be his kryptonite. The Miz asks Maryse if he should do another take and he does, this time he is a lot more dramatic. Cesaro comes in to interrupt then tells Miz he will be stealing his role of Intercontinental Champion and to watch out. He leaves and Miz is pissed and takes a sip of water but Maryse yells that it is domestic as Miz spits it out and is even angrier than before.
I liked this segment. The Miz/Maryse pairing is promising so far. Both are natural heels on screen. Maryse tearing apart the assistant was a nice way to reintroduce her heel character to the audience. Cesaro came off as a star here too and the new look is working for him. I laughed at the end of the segment.
AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn
They start off the match by trading moves, ending in a stalemate. A mild “this is wrestling” chant breaks out as neither man can gain an advantage. Zayn hits a few armdrags then works an armbar, even grinding his other arm in AJ’s face. They break in the corner as Zayn chops AJ but ends up eating a dropkick after an Irish whip sequence. AJ gets two with a snap suplex then works a chinlock. AJ knocks Zayn outside then hits him with a sliding knee smash for two. Zayn pulls the ropes down on AJ then flies out with a tope con hilo as we head to break. The match returns with AJ working a headlock in the ring. Zayn tries to fight back but AJ hits a barrage of strikes. AJ hits a corner clothesline then gets two off of a pumphandle gutbuster. AJ then gets another nearfall before signaling for the Styles Clash but Zayn countered with a rollup. The crowd was practically silent for AJ. Zayn comes back with a crossbody from the top then hits a DDT for a nearfall. AJ comes back with a Pele kick as both men are down. Zayn ducks a springboard attack then nearly puts AJ away with the Blue Thunder Bomb. Zayn is in disbelief as AJ rolls and puts Zayn in the Calf Crusher. Zayn struggles but eventually reaches the ropes as the crowd cheers. AJ tries a sunset bomb but Zayn escaped, almost landing on his head, and hits AJ with a basement dropkick. Zayn sets up for the Helluva Kick but AJ boots him then hits the Pheomenal Forearm and gets the win (16:45) ****. After the match, AJ celebrates in the ring while Zayn is sitting outside, looking distraught.
Thoughts: Excellent match. The crowd was really quiet for this at points. I think part of it was that they did not want to boo either guy but at the same time did not want Zayn to lose so they were quiet for AJ’s signature spots. Somewhat similar to the crowd reaction we saw in the Asuka vs. Bayley NXT Takeover: Dallas match. Either way, the made AJ look strong heading into his title match and put over Zayn here too as the underdog who never stops fighting.
Back from break, we see that Seth Green is in attendance. Also, we are shown highlights from the Zayn vs. Styles match.
Backstage, AJ is consoling Zayn as Shane runs in to tell them their match was awesome and just what the business needs. He runs off then AJ offers a handshake as Zayn finally accepts.
Having Shane run to these guys and put over their match was a pretty big deal. They seem to be pushing these two. Also, with a distraught Zayn reluctantly agreeing to shake the hand of AJ, they set it up that Zayn could eventually snap and turn heel. That seemed weird to do now in the middle of his feud against Owens.
Highlight Reel with host Chris Jericho. He tells the crowd to shut up and proclaims tonight will be the biggest Highlight Reel off all-time. His guests is a multiple time World Champion and someone who was main evented WrestleMania. And that person is…………….himself. Jericho tells us tonight we will learn more about him than ever before. Jericho then proceeds to interview himself. After giving us the “gift of Jericho,” he points out how he beat AJ Styles at WrestleMania and how no one on this roster can touch him right now as Dean Ambrose comes out to interrupt. He is holding a plant and a sign. Jericho yells at him but Ambrose said this is now his show. Jericho insults him as Ambrose claims Shane McMahon told him this is his show. After a gag with a speeding ticket and a piece of paper stating the Highlight Reel had been cancelled, Ambrose put on a tie and tapes an “Ambrose Asylum” sign over the monitor. He then welcomes the crowd and his first guest, Chris Jericho. Ambrose pokes fun at Jericho’s scarf, which apparently costs $750, as Jericho tells Ambrose this is all the result of him ruining his celebration on Smackdown. Jericho then insults and runs down Jericho while referring to himself as a legend who does not play by the rules. Ambrose then asks Jericho if he will talk about the scarf then hits the Dirty Deeds.
A bit long but they got over the beginning of the Ambrose/Jericho feud. Some of this was lame but they did their best and I think these two can really entertain together.
This Thursday on Smackdown, we get more Tag Team Tournament matches as the Golden Truth take on the Vaudevillians while Enzo & Big Cass take on the Ascension.
In the locker room, Goldust is pissed off at R- Truth for including them in the Tag Team tournament. Dr. Phil enters and is about to intervene but decides against it and walks away. Even someone with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology knows better than to try and make sense of this relationship.
Adam Rose w/Bo Dallas vs. Apollo Crews
Crews hits a dropkick before sending Rose outside with a clothesline. That looked awful as Rose jumped outside for the bump prematurely. Rose stalls as Bo provides a distraction as rose hammers away. He works a headlock on the mat then gets a nearfall. Rose decks Crews but fails to hit a suplex as Crews deadlifts him for one as both men are down. Crews is now a house of fire and chases Bo off of the apron. Crews then blocks a kick from Rose and connects with an enziguiri before hitting a spinning sitout powerbomb for the win (3:30) *.
Thoughts: The crowd was absolutely dead for this match. Crews looked good on offense though and that was the most important thing. Slowly building him up as he runs through the lower card guys is a good way to bring him along.
Up next, Roman Reigns & Bray Wyatt vs. Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio
Primo and Epico are walking the beaches of Puerto Rico and how we should get away from our miserable cities to visit one of the 245 beaches in Puerto Rico.
We get a video package on Baron Corbin. It shows him winning the Battle Royal at WrestleMania and destroying Dolph Ziggler last week on RAW among other NXT highlights. A solid hype video.
Bray tells Roman not to worry as you can trust him. That was followed by laughter. He then lets Los Angeles know that he is here.
Bray Wyatt & Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio w/ Rusev
Bray and Sheamus start off the match. Bray hits a clothesline then hammers away. He hits Reigns on the shoulder then they both double-team Sheamus in the corner after a staredown. The crowd boos Roman loudly as Bray tags himself in and once again gets into the face of Reigns. Del Rio tags and attacks Bray before sending Reigns off of the apron. Bray is getting beat down then Sheamus works a chinlock. Bray sends Sheamus to the floor and makes the tag as Reigns runs wild, as the crowd boos. He signals for the Superman Punch as he gets some cheers for that amidst the boos but Sheamus rolls outside. Reigns falls victim to the numbers game as they beat him down. Del Rio tags and takes him down with an enziguiri for a nearfall. Reigns is in the tree of woe but is able to pull up and yank Del Rio off of the top rope as both men are down. Sheamus tags in and cuts off Reigns then beats him down. Reigns catches Sheamus with a Samoan Drop then makes the tag as Bray runs wild. The crowd is really into him now. Del Rio blocks the Sister Abigail but Bray catches him with a tackle. Reigns clotheslines Sheamus to the floor but misses a Superman Punch. Back in the ring, Rusev catches Bray with a kick then Del Rio his a lungblower but Bray is able to kick out. After that, the lights go out as Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman have destroyed Rusev and Sheamus before staring down Del Rio, who heads back inside. Del Rio sets up for the cross armbreaker but Bray counters then hits the Sister Abigail for the win (11:07) **1/4. After the match, the Wyatt Family stares down Roman as the show ends with Reigns and Bray standing face-to-face.
Thoughts: Well, this was weird. The crowd hated Reigns and Bray getting sympathy from the crowd was different to say the least. The staredown at the end was odd as you would think Bray vs. Reigns were going to be facing off at the PPV. They also left it off to do something unexpected like the Wyatt Family helping Reigns. Also, the League of Nations really needs to go away now. After this loss, they are off little use.
Final Thoughts: Overall, this was easily the best RAW of the year. The action was good, including three PPV-quality matches. Plus, the show breezed right by as it was perfectly paced. And, more importantly, all of the segments had a purpose.
It will be interesting to see what they do next week as this was supposedly Shane’s last night in charge of RAW. Just having a face authority figure alone is a breath of fresh air. However, the storyline still makes zero sense and we have no idea what will happen next week.
Also, I assume since AJ vs. Reigns is 100% official, they will have a confrontation next week. The crowds on TV and at PPV love to boo Reigns at all times, which make for awkward segments.
The Tag Team tournament is a good idea. Even though there are not a lot of good teams and the action was weak, the debut of Gallows & Anderson and the appearance of Enzo & Big Cass are a much needed shot in the arm for a struggling division. And, with the exception of the U.S. Title, they are making a renewed focus on the Championships.
With Owens losing tonight and getting thrown out, I imagine that they have plans for his character going forward. He was in several segments tonight and they are not doing that for someone without any reason at all. I think the Authority comes back and he is with them but we will see.
To make it brief, this show felt refreshing after the past few months of TV and they actually have some interesting directions and programs for the coming weeks. Plus, the new talent on the main roster helps and the fact they are putting them over on commentary helps.