Raw after Wrestlemania delivered with the usual loud and smarky crowd and tons of noteworthy stuff. We got a bunch of NXT call ups, a title change, a return and a new #1 contender for the world title. There was still a lot left in the air in regards to Shane McMahon and the future of The Authority, and there were some notable absences such as Lesnar, Ambrose, Taker and Cena who many expected to appear. There were a few lulls here and there, and some questionable stuff, but overall it was a pretty good show with a great main event.
Vince & Shane open Raw: Botch
Hey, it’s a crowd pleasing way to start the show. I get it. No Authority, and Shane gets to run Raw anyway. Nevermind that this segment completely undermines one of the major storylines going into Wrestlemania. I don’t know if Shane’s run of Raw was just for one night or if we’re getting more Shane going forward. It was a stupid segment though. It’s like someone losing a #1 contender’s match but the champion giving them a title shot anyway just for the hell of it. It doesn’t make any logic story wise. But I guess I’d probably still be complaining more if this were another 20-minute Triple H promo.
The New Day vs. The League of Nations: Botch
The Raw after Mania match had more stakes than their Wrestlemania match given that the belts were on the line. Crowd was lively but really, we’ve seen New Day vs. LoN so many times lately that it’s just overdone. The LoN literally booting Barrett out of the stable probably means that we’ve seen the last of him. That’s sad, I always thought Barrett had a ton of potential. He was decent in the ring, good on the mic and his Bad News gimmick was really taking off until WWE pulled the rug out from under him for some reason. This was all followed up by a sudden Wyatt family attack. So, Bray and co are babyfaces now? I’m really not sure what to think because there was no clarification behind the purpose of it. One heel stable just attacked another heel stable and that was that. I guess we might learn more next week, maybe. I really think without Barrett, they should just break the LoN up. This stable has only hurt all four members.
Sasha Banks vs. Summer Rae: Botch
A short, nothing match where Summer Rae got mic time to earn some cheap heat, but we didn’t really hear anything substantial from Sasha. I don’t think this was necessary, but I guess they wanted Sasha to appear strong given that she didn’t win at Mania. Still, weird match that felt pretty pointless.
Apollo Crews debuts: Hit
I’m really worried that they’re rushing Apollo Crews too fast. I’m not surprised, he’s an amazing athlete and he’s got an awesome physique, which I’m sure makes him a favourite with Vince and Triple H. But his promo and character work could be improved on and I felt like he would have benefited from another six months in NXT. We’ll see though. This match was a good debut showcase with Crews, even if it was at the expense of Breeze. I’ll be interested to see where they end up pushing him. I could easily see them throwing him into a midcard title storyline pretty quickly.
Roman Reigns issues an open challenge: Hit
The fans, as expected, hated Roman Reigns. And Roman’s promo was short, and the best mic work he’s done in… maybe ever. “I’m not a bad guy… I’m not a good guy. I’m THE guy.” That is either an indication of a heel turn or Roman massively trolling the smarks. We’ll see how his promos change over the next few weeks or if he keeps acting heelish. But man, he has such a natural heel persona in there that they just won’t let out, meanwhile his babyface persona is just so forced and is a big part of why he’s been so rejected by the masses. The challenge was really good. I often wonder why, with open challenges, only one guy comes out. Surely if the world champion is putting the belt on the line, there’s going to be a big rush of people wanting a shot at it. This felt actually sort of logical to an extent. A good segment with good talking from Jericho as well.
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler: Botch
Baron Corbin is already another chump on the same level as Dolph Ziggler. They had Corbin deliver a pretty weak promo, and then he had a boring and yet competitive match with Dolph Ziggler. I feel like it would have been better if they just threw a Social Outcast in the ring for him to destroy in 30 seconds, but instead they had Ziggler get a bunch of near falls on him, then they protected Ziggler by having the match end in a double count out. The only way this debut could have been any worse for Corbin is if he straight up lost. Give it two weeks and he’ll be losing clean matches and fitting right into the 50/50 club.
The Miz vs. Zack Ryder: Botch
I knew Ryder’s IC title reign was not long for this world, and part of me expected him to lose it here tonight. But I thought it would have been back to Kevin Owens. Instead he drops it to Miz, who’s held the belt a bunch of times before and is really just another irrelevant midcard act at this point. The Intercontinental Championship was good on Kevin Owens. It was a nice little moment for Ryder at Mania, but dropping it to Miz hurts the belt, in my opinion. Too much hot potato and Miz just isn’t important any more. Miz & Maryse could make for an interesting act together in the coming weeks, but eh, would have been much better to put the belt back on Owens. When Ryder jobs out again on SmackDown, it’ll further solidify that his win was a fluke and overall meaningless.
Women’s Championship presentation: Botch
I want to say here that it’s incredibly progressive and excellent of WWE to do away with the word “diva” and give the women a championship that isn’t a complete joke. They should be treated like serious competitors, equal to the men, and given the opportunity, they can absolutely steal the show. I don’t think this presentation worked though. I felt like Charlotte was jumping between babyface and heel with every sentence in her promo and the crowd clearly didn’t know how to react to it, whether to cheer her on or boo her for being a heel. I think a lot of people were expecting a Bayley debut too. Ultimately Charlotte went heel, but then we didn’t hear from either Becky or Sasha – the two opponents who got screwed over at Mania, and they just left. And now Charlotte’s just going to move on to Natalya? Natalya certainly deserves some of the spotlight and a chance at the title, and she’s given Charlotte her best matches over the last couple of years. But I’m not sure this should be at the expense of the women’s title storyline. Do Sasha and Becky just fade into the background until it’s their turn again?
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Usos: Botch
This match didn’t go over so well in the Mania pre-show, and it didn’t work here either. It was fairly dull and the live crowd just didn’t care. The Usos maybe need to be repackaged or something if they keep getting these reactions, fans just seem to be getting sick of them. Bland match and it didn’t help that the timekeeper botched the finish by ringing the bell prematurely.
Enzo & Cass debut: Hit
Crowd LOVED Enzo and Cass. Enzo was so good on the mic and the crowd hung off his every word. A simple but really solid debut for them. It’ll be interesting to see where they go. The New Day are still really over and have recently gone face, I imagine they’ll hold off on a Tag Title push for Enzo & Cass for a fair while. But it certainly seems like WWE is actively trying to build up their tag division again, which is good.
Fatal Four-Way Main Event: Hit
The main event was just all kinds of awesome. The surprise return of Cesaro went over really well and it looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. AJ, Jericho and Owens were all awesome as well. It was a great match with tons of believable near falls, lots of suspense and unpredictability. AJ Styles won and is now the #1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Yes that almost certainly means he’ll be losing to Roman Reigns, but I wonder if this is a program for the next pay-per-view or if it’ll be like a Raw main event next week. I’m still expecting part five of the neverending AJ Styles/Chris Jericho feud.
All photos via WWE.com