The go-home Raw for Extreme Rules wasn’t all that bad. Some good matches and some decent angles. The emphasis still feels like it’s on the McMahons. I really don’t know where things are going between Stephanie and Shane, the main event segment almost felt like a babyface turn for Steph. So there is at least a level of intrigue there as to what’s happening. Triple H’s continued absence from TV is conspicuous and I’m sure it’ll be a big deal when he returns. But we’ll see what happens.
AJ Styles & Roman Reigns promo: Hit
I’m not a big fan of the way that AJ Styles has been portrayed over the last few weeks. It’s weird because the fans largely see him as the well respected, babyface hero and Roman Reigns as the arrogant, undeserving heel champion, but WWE have started trying to portray AJ Styles as a heel and Reigns as a babyface who has to fight against the odds. The stupid thing is that the odds are even given that The Usos are constantly in his corner. And they’re booking Styles like an uppercard heel rather than a major main eventer. We see Styles always come up short against Reigns, and his lackeys – Gallows & Anderson – are frequently bested by “The Bloodline”. WWE is really creatively going against the grain because of how desperately they want Roman to be perceived as a hero, and while some crowds will cheer him, AJ Styles will still get cheered over Roman Reigns. But anyway, those complaints aside, I really did like this opening segment. Styles was solid on the mic, and honestly, this was easily one of Reigns’ better promos.
The Miz & Cesaro vs. Zayn & Owens: Hit
While I was looking forward to Cesaro vs. Zayn, I did like the change up of having the babyfaces and heels having to team together. Particularly the dynamic of Owens and Zayn being forced to partner up. Really decent match too.
The Shining Stars “Debut”: Botch
It wasn’t the biggest flop I’ve ever seen, but it was still a flop in every sense of the word. It’s still just Primo & Epico – the same team that we’ve seen for years – so it’s hard to get excited about this repackaging. The gimmick sucks, the name “The Shining Stars” kind of sucks, and this match wasn’t anything to write home about. The crowd didn’t cheer or boo, they just sat there quietly and patiently waited for the match to finish. Maybe it’s too soon to judge and it’s always possible that they come into their own and the gimmick improves, but I really don’t see this going far.
Dean Ambrose challenges Chris Jericho: Hit
More great mic work from Ambrose and Jericho. The announcement of the “asylum” match was a bit tacky and super over the top when it was combined with the flashing lights and ominous music. But the cheesiness of it all just worked for me and I thought Ambrose sold it well. The asylum match isn’t anything new to wrestling fans, it’s just a cage match with weapons. But I am looking forward to it and I’m sure Jericho and Ambrose can pull it off well.
Becky Lynch vs. Dana Brooke: Botch
I think Dana Brooke could be great one day. She looks great and she’s got a real smug, easy to hate persona that she pulls off really well. But I don’t think she’s that solid in the ring yet. I’m lumping her in with Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin as talents who could probably use another 6-12 months in NXT before being ready for the main roster. They could have built her as a contender for the NXT Women’s Championship, but instead they hotshotted her to the roster here. Becky had to carry this match and it still wasn’t very good, and Becky was defeated in fairly short order. In some ways you could say that this was a strong debut for Dana, but Becky Lynch loses so frequently that a win over her is nothing to brag about.
Make Darren Great Again: Botch
This is a good idea. Bob Backlund is great, and Darren Young’s been around for ages without being used properly. But I find these split screen segments to just be a bit awkward and overly scripted. I don’t see Darren getting over from this. Maybe I’m judging too soon, but we really need to see Backlund out there in Darren’s corner, cutting promos in front of live crowds and helping him win. This segment felt like the goal was to poke fun at Bob Backlund as opposed to do anything meaningful with Darren.
Breezango vs. The Golden Truth: Hit
I can’t believe it, but I kind of liked this. I have just strongly disliked all of the “Golden Truth” segments that we’ve had to deal with for months now. I don’t find them to be all that funny, and I think at the end of the day, the ceiling is incredibly low for a Goldust/R-Truth tag team in 2016 anyway, so why should I get invested? But between the lengthy, over the top video package and just the overall presentation of this match, I actually enjoyed it. The match didn’t go too long and honestly, this program has been the best thing that’s happened to Tyler Breeze since his very brief feud with Dolph Ziggler back at Survivor Series. Breeze scores another win on TV, and the tag team division gets a little stronger.
The New Daylorean Time Machine: Hit
I completely get it if some people thought this was too cheesy and over the top or if this brand of humour just doesn’t do it for you. But I got a massive kick out of this segment. It’s rare for me to laugh at WWE when they’re actively trying to be funny, normally I’m laughing at them for the wrong reasons. I thought New Day were great here. The Kofi Kingston “leave me here, 2009 was my best year!” gag was hilarious and the Derriere Squares was pretty funny too. Vaudevillains actually felt like they got some decent heat by interrupting the fun and destroying the time machine. And it looks like they’ve added a couple of new brutal double team moves to their repertoire. I like the Whirling Dervish, but I feel like it lacks a bit of impact as a finishing move. Overall, this was one of my favourite moments of Raw.
The Usos vs. The Club: Botch
We’ve seen The Usos and Anderson & Gallows face each other virtually every week since they debuted. And despite a strong start, Anderson & Gallows already feel like such a non-threat. They could have brought them in and built them as a formidable unstoppable force to make us believe that Reigns has no chance against them. Instead, we see The Usos defeat Anderson & Gallows once again, and then Reigns bounce them around the ring. I like that the post match ended in Styles getting some form of retribution over Reigns – but the moronic thing is, is that this wasn’t intended to look like retribution. This was supposed to look like bitter heel AJ Styles attacking babyface Roman Reigns, instead he completely came off as justified for this attack and the crowd ate it up.
Big Cass vs. D-Von Dudley: Botch
The entire purpose of this was to just keep Cass on TV. His zingers about D-Von being the Steve Urkel of the Squared Circle and Bubba Ray being like Fred Flintstone kind of a laugh out of me, but I wonder how many younger fans even got these references. Cass is okay on his own, but his act won’t last long without Enzo.
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio: Hit
I could sit here and rant about how stupid it is that the US Champion is decisively losing a non-title match on TV to a guy who isn’t even feuding with him (or anyone for that matter) less than a week before defending the title on PPV. But whatever, it’s Kalisto and WWE clearly stopped caring about the US title once John Cena was put on the shelf. The hit here goes to the booking of Rusev. Rusev’s beat down of Sin Cara and then destruction of Kalisto is the most fierce and dominant the guy has looked since he dropped the US title last year. I really, really hope that they allow Rusev to continue looking this destructive and unstoppable. If Kalisto turns around and beats Rusev at Extreme Rules, then it’ll confuse me even more as to why he had to lose to Del Rio here. But they’ve gotta push Rusev and given that Kalisto has been such an afterthought as a champion, I see no reason for them to keep the belt on him any longer.
Women’s Championship Match Signing: Hit
This went a lot better than the last time they had a Women’s Championship match signing in the final segment of Raw. I was impressed with the fact that Charlotte was able to draw heat for herself and Ric in Flair Country. I wasn’t impressed that this ended up being more of a platform for Stephanie than the actual talent. But overall, this built hype for the Women’s title match nicely and Natalya came out of this looking strong as well. Really decent closing segment.
All photos via WWE.com