The Undertaker is pulled from all future appearances and, for a second week in a row, Shane McMahon is running Raw. I’m not sure why they didn’t just let Shane win that match now, but I guess Shane probably isn’t going to be around for the long haul.
This was the best episode of Raw I’ve seen in ages. Fresh angles, great matches, lots of notable things happened. It was actually a really good 3 hours for a change.
Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens: Hit
It’s very, very refreshing to see some fresh faces open the show, and to have a babyface Authority figure giving the crowd what they want. I liked that Owens was frustrated over not getting his IC title rematch, it kind of bugged me that he didn’t really bring it up last week. But I like that it was addressed this week. It looks like Owens might get more of the spotlight, which is cool. And this led into a great match.
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens: Hit
It’s great to see Cesaro back, and his James Bond gimmick is a bit cheesy but cool at the same time, at least to me. Although I would ditch the earpiece, that combined with the suit and sunglasses makes him look like a bodyguard more than a suave professional. Owens and Cesaro had a great opening match with some good psychology too. Cesaro gets a solid clean win and he may well be on his way to an IC title reign.
Dr Phil, Charlotte & Flair: Hit
I normally hate these guest hosts, and judging by the reaction Dr Phil got, so do most fans. But this wasn’t bad and it’s really how the guest hosts should be used. To enhance a storyline. He seemed to plant the seeds for what will probably end up being a Charlotte/Flair split sometime down the track. And Dr Phil’s involvement wasn’t too obnoxious or time consuming. I just hope when Charlotte eventually sets out on her own, it’s not for a babyface run. She’s a way better heel and the division needs a top heel.
The Tag Team Tournament Announcement and The Dudleyz vs. The Lucha Dragons: Hit
With two new tag teams on the main roster, it seems like a good time to highlight the division. Not only that, but we’ve got the repackaged Los Matadores coming back as well, although I have a feeling that may not take off. Still, things are looking good. The Dudleyz and The Lucha Dragons didn’t have much of a match, admittedly, I’m not sure if Kalisto was legitimately hurt or if it was a work. Enzo & Cass got a decent pop coming out again though and they’re just crazy entertaining on the mic. I thought they might’ve pushed their in ring debut for Raw, but it looks like they’re trying to build up SmackDown instead.
Roman Reigns and The League of Nations: Botch
You could hear the groans from the crowd when The League of Nations came out. They just need to be split up. They were pretty dead on arrival, but months of losing over and over again have just completely killed them. I’d like to see Rusev and Del Rio get singles pushes, I don’t know what they should do with Sheamus at the moment though. Reigns was fine and has really taken to his new “I don’t care what you think” tweener role. I don’t think we’re likely to see Reigns go full heel, but a man can dream. I really don’t know what they’re trying to do with The Wyatt Family – I assume they’re going for a face turn. But the prospect of a League of Nations tag team main event was very discouraging.
Natalya vs. Charlotte for the Women’s Championship: Hit
A really good match. The finish works and makes sense if they’re building towards a PPV rematch for the title, which seems like the case. Natalya and Charlotte are solid together and the crowd really came alive towards the end when they thought Natalya actually might’ve won the title. I’m also glad that Dr Phil’s role here wasn’t too intrusive and he was out there to put over the division. They really could have butchered this match by giving him a headset and making him talk for 10 minutes, but they didn’t, and that’s awesome.
Gallows & Anderson Debut: Hit
Great, sudden and impactful debut for the Bullet Club. They ran in from the crowd, destroyed The Usos, then left. I liked that they didn’t get on the mic and explain things because it leaves a lot of mystery in the air. Are they going to be joined by Balor soon? Will they end up siding with AJ Styles, maybe? Are they working with someone else? Crowd was really into it and it was a strong way to make their presence known.
The Miz, Maryse and Cesaro segment: Hit
It was goofy and maybe a little overdone, but it worked for me. The Miz is really working the Hollywood phony angle really well as the champion, and Maryse compliments his character really well. I like that they’re already giving the IC title feud some attention with Cesaro’s interactions. Good stuff.
AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn: Hit
Best match of the night, with the Owens and Cesaro match as a close second. This was awesome and it had some high stakes to it. People cared about the outcome of this match and it was just so well worked. The WWE’s in-ring roster now is just the absolute tops, and the fact that we can get a competitive 15+ minute match between AJ Styles and Sami Zayn on Raw is awesome. It had a clean finish that put over Styles strong, but it didn’t really hurt Zayn. Commentary were also really putting these guys over. I’m kind of glad that the Payback main event won’t be a triple threat, I think Reigns vs. Styles alone is going to be a solid enough match.
The Highlight Reel: Hit
Dean Ambrose was noticeably absent from Raw last week. I’m kind of bugged that there were little in the way of references to his Lesnar match, it makes it feel like it never even happened, which suggests that they might regret some of the booking decisions with that match. Still, I liked this segment. It dragged slightly, but Ambrose was funny and Jericho’s petulant heel routine is great. I’m looking forward to the promos and angles between the two.
Adam Rose vs. Apollo Crews: Botch
I was hoping for a more dominant one sided squash for Crews. I don’t think he’s going to get over by having competitive albeit brief matches with Social Outcast members. And the crowd was kind of dying down at this point too. I like Apollo Crews but I think both he and Corbin need more squash matches to build them up to the main roster audience. This was still not horrible though.
Roman Reigns & Bray Wyatt vs. The League of Nations: Hit
This was really weird. It feels more like they’re building a story between Wyatt and Reigns rather than Styles and Reigns. I think the purpose of this has been to get Bray Wyatt over as a babyface, and of course when he’s in the ring with The League of Nations and Roman Reigns, he’s obviously going to be the only guy that gets cheered. I have no doubt that fans will easily cheer him on, I’m not sure sure they’ll take to cheering his goons on with the same enthusiasm. Ultimately, I didn’t actually mind this match and I’m interested to see where exactly they’re going with Bray Wyatt.
All photos via WWE.com