What a solid episode of Raw! Okay, they usually pull out all the stops and give a solid show when they're in the UK. I cannot say they actually pulled out all the stops, but they did give us some solid storylines, solid direction for some Superstars, and built toward Payback. The main event was stellar, but beyond that, there were a number of places that they could have pushed harder, but we can say the same about some of the best PPVs. Yes, I can nit-pick every little thing, but that's not who I am, and not what I want to do when the WWE is finally on an upswing. I'm going to continue to hope that things will only get better and better because it seems like each Raw is getting better and better, which is so much better than it normally is this time of the year when things usually go downhill, other than a few high points, until SummerSlam.
Ambrose Asylum > A-
I loves me some Ambrose, and this is a great way to start Raw. Better was the opening joke to start the segment. Actually, his jokes through the whole thing were great. Handing the plant to Shane on his way out had me laughing. “Deano!” chants! That's fantastic! Okay, I'm sure McMahon won't think that the fans in the UK know anything, and won't think that the chants mean that we actually love Ambrose. Shane was adorable coming out, and I didn't know that Shane gave him Ambrose break. Shane seemed truly honest when he took the compliment from Ambrose. I've always loved Shane, but he's feeling more real, more honest, less silver spoon and more giving an honest sh!t about what the fans really want. Honestly, he seems more human than he and any of his family members ever have.
Owens? Really? I find that interesting, but there has to be a heel who hates the face in charge of the show. Who better than KO? Just as great, bring out the sexy Sami Zayn! This is a lovely, and drool-worthy start to Raw. Sami might not be the best on mic, but being surrounded by the rest of these guys seemed to have helped him through this.
Wait, Jericho? This is even better, and something I've been waiting for since Shane came out. And, I saw a tag match being set up as soon as Jericho came out (but Shane didn't make one…yet) (EDIT – The tag match is on Superstars. I don't read spoilers for Raw when it's taped, it harshes my groove). I didn't expect Jericho versus Ambrose at Payback, but I did see KO facing Sami. I have to admit that I'm going to pick Ambrose winning over Jericho because the Ambrose Asylum needs to stick around. Some worry that Ambrose will get stuck talking and not in the ring, but look back and Jericho, he had his show and worked to the top of the company. Edge didn't have his show until he was at the top. It's a great spot for Ambrose, and he needs to win at Payback to keep the Ambrose Asylum.
Sami Zayn vs Jericho > B+
I know some people don't like how Jericho yells through his matches, but I like it. Further, we hear him yelling smack and stuff, not usually calling moves, and that's what I don't like hearing. I loved how Jericho screamed at the ref when Neville was injured. Got right in his face and didn't care who heard him. Of course, that was cut for later airings, but Jericho didn't hold back when he felt he needed to let it out, and I think that's part of what makes Jericho so great. I'll admit that I might be higher on Jericho than I normally would, especially seeing how he's slowing down in the ring, and he's not as on point as he once was, but I've been watching him through 2000 lately, and he was so fantastic then that it's hard not to remember that as I watch this. I was watching Jericho just this morning when he was in his prime. Jericho isn't exactly that guy any longer, but he is a legend who can still go quite well.
I worried that this match wouldn't be as great as it could be, but it was better than I worried it might be. Jericho did a solid job of keeping up with Sami. Sami was able to hit his moves, fly high, impress us all, and Jericho didn't look too out of step. He wasn't as quick as he used to be, but Sami made it look as though Jericho was keeping up. Jericho might be a legend, but Sami proved a lot in that match. Though that code breaker was only one knee, so it looked a bit botched. On the other hand, I really liked the way the move looked with one knee to the face!
Winner – Jericho
Backstage Segment > B
YES! I was thinking this would take a lot longer for them to get together in any way, and here's the Bullet Club, even though they're crossing the face/heel lines. AJ was so much stronger here, and I think it's because they didn't have any real scripted lines.
Enzo & Cass vs Dudley Boyz > A-
I wasn't sure what to expect from these four in the ring, but I really enjoyed it. Enzo being the little guy, of course, had to start the match, get beaten down, then give Cass the hot tag. If Cass can work at a solid level, and not get injured, he could reach the top of the WWE. He comes off a bit dull sounding on mic, but he's beloved being matched with Enzo and saying all the right things. Moose said he reminds them off a mix of Test and Edge, and I see it. Cass could be a WWE WHC in a few years, he just has that thing that works, but I wonder how well he does on mic without Enzo. As much as I love them together, it's something to think about for the future. But in the ring, they looked really solid and were entertaining. I'm excited about their futures in the ring, as well as on mic. They are so over right now, and it might be smart to strap them quickly as the Tag Division is really hurting right now – other than New Day. (Grade includes Enzo & Cass on mic.)
Winners – Enzo & Cass
In Ring Segment > D+
CJ is absolutely right, this is where we start getting tired of Reigns, and the writers are not helping him in any way. This not a good guy, not a bad guy thing shows that he's wishy-washy and that we really have no reason to care either way. I think Reigns has what it takes, when not jammed down our throats.
I don't know how AJ said to Reigns what he said without laughing, though I know it's his job to not break kayfabe when he's in the ring with a paper Champion. And while the fans on this side of the pond don't like Reigns, the fans in the UK screamed it louder than I've ever heard over here. The 'Boring!' chants and solid heat for everything he said, other than giving AJ props. When AJ on mic is the best parts of a segment, there's a serious issue. Reigns stuck to the script, and he's getting nowhere with it. The writers are sucking, and Reigns' delivery is sucking. It's a complete kerfuffle and hurts to watch. I didn't fail this segment because of the Bullet Club attack on Reigns after AJ left the ring. AJ didn't look thrilled with the attack, so that adds more questions than answers – yay!
Backstage Segment > F
Interesting, Reigns doesn't believe AJ about the attack! That's wonderful. That makes things so much more interesting, even though I'm annoyed that Reigns thinks he can beat anyone! AJ stumbled over his words, and Reigns looked like he couldn't care less, so obviously not selling his words. Ugh!
Fandango vs Baron Corbin > B-
It was obvious that Fandango was going to job here, and him being a local guy, it about kills me to see him jobbing in this way. The WWE killed his push by killing his music. That's stupid creative that makes me shake my head.
Well, that was a nothing match, but it continued to push his feud with Ziggler who was on announce. I think I like this feud between the two of them.
Winner – Corbin
Backstage Segment > B+
As much as I dislike Maryse, she's great with Miz!
Miz TV > B
So not impressed with the kissing, but their mic work was great. Cesaro made this segment that much greater. I love Cesaro and have been hoping for him to get to the top since he came over from ROH. It's great how Cesaro can take a segment, make it great, and make Miz get so many 'Boring!' chants. And that was before Miz stumbled over his monolog. The fans in the UK really showed what they think of everyone, good and bad.
Quoting Piper! That was bloody amazing! He's no Piper, but he made it his own, and for that, I love it that much more. I know Cesaro should be a top Superstar, and should have been two years ago. This is proof that the fans are being ignored when we showed how much we like a Superstar. The break-away suit is epic.
League of Nations & Miz vs Cesaro & New Day > B
I was excited to see Cesaro with New Day, but seeing League of Nations out there with Miz left me rolling my eyes. I've said it a number of times, and I'm going to say it again, League of Nations is terribly boring! Further, I don't see a future for any of them if they stay together. Rusev is already a no one has been since Cena beat him and Lana was split off. If Rusev had Lana, he might have a chance. ADR has proven to the fans that he doesn't care about them, so they now don't care about him – as I've felt about him from word go. He's back to phoning it in and getting X-Pac heat. Sheamus is the only one with a chance out of this faction, and that's because he's Trip's boy. I'm disgusted and over League of Nations.
It's easy to look strong over the other team when your team is physically huge, even if they're not that great in the ring, and can't get over no matter what they do. Cesaro, the strongest, pound for pound, in the WWE, looked great off the hot tag, but when the other team is huge, it's hard to stay on top. On top they did, but after all those ineffectual finishers, I was delighted to see the neutralizer! I had forgotten how bad some of those finishers looked until I saw them lined up!
Winners – Cesaro & New Day
Backstage Segment > C+
Did Charlotte get veneers? Her top row looks very white, fake, and bonded. It's not a good look and only adds to how bad Charlotte is on mic. I loved seeing Nattie finally get the upper hand, and setting up for the match she and Charlotte had in NXT that blew the roof off Full Sail.
Nattie & Becky Lynch & Paige & Sasha Banks vs Naomi & Tamina & Summer Rae & Charlotte >
Those women are hard hitting and don't wimp out about anything. They leave it all out there, though I have to say that Paige seems shockingly playful. Yes, she's getting huge pop from her home country, but I expected her to be more serious than silly about it. I guess I'm way off, and while I know she's silly a lot on Total Divas (what little I've seen), that's so obviously scripted, like most reality shows.
I know they wanted to get all the top Divas on TV in the UK for the fans, but this match wasn't very good. There were some solid moves in this match, but the rest was a choppy mess and a reason for Nattie to get Charlotte to tap to the sharpshooter. I wish there were fewer Superstars in this match so they could show their skills better. As per usual with too many Superstars, it turns into a kerfuffle.
Winners – Faces
The Vaudevillians vs Usos > B
A lot of the guys in the Open Thread Discussion are not thrilled with The Vaudevillains or their entrance, thinking they're going down the tube quickly. I, on the other hand, only think they need to prove themselves in the ring, and they could be a lot of fun. Now, I don't get why English enters the ring under the second rope, but it's a total change of pace! Further, English and Gotch are not afraid to work the ring hard! I thought they looked solid here, and I have higher hopes than most of the WNW Open Thread Discussion regulars.
Winners – The Vaudevillains
Slater vs Crews > C-
That dropkick on Slater was short and stiff. Now, I know Crews is new to the WWE roster, but much of this match was hard to watch because Crews seemed off his mark. Honestly, at this point, Crews is an epic mess with no personality or character. He has charisma, but like the Usos, we know nothing abut him, or why we should care about him beyond his size and look. I know McMahon has a hard on for guys like Crews (even as short as he is), but he needs something more than just being muscle in the ring. Yes, he has a great smile, but I want more than a smile after a few weeks in. JBL says he has megastar written all over him, but if he's nothing more than a body, he holds little for me. Who is Crews?
Winner – Crews
Owens vs Ambrose > A!
These two fighting over the WWE WHC at WrestleMania is something I want to see, and something we should see. Honestly, while everything is greater at WrestleMania, these two are likely to give us as much on any given Monday as they are at any given PPV – except maybe WrestleMania. They are both fully rounded top Superstars who should be main eventing PPVs more often than not right now. Nothing against AJ (tons against Reigns), but these two have been working so hard in the WWE to get to the top, and they should get it because there're no other Superstars who are as fully rounded as KO and Ambrose. They left it all out there from the bell.
KO yelled, “Headlock master, baby!” but it didn't sound like that coming through my TV. At first I hear, “I love masturbating!” but didn't think he said that! Watching a second time I thought he said, “I love Masters, baby!” as in Chris Masters. Moose said he heard “Headlock master, baby!” So, your thoughts?
I sometimes honestly wonder how Ambrose can get up after certain moves, but that frog splash from KO off the apron was sick! Ambrose so reminds me of Foley in his prime. Ambrose would have fit in perfectly in ECW, and into the AE, because he keeps a beating and keeps going like it's nothing. That man acts as if nothing truly hurts him, and that's scary to someone who is seriously hurting every moment of the day. That being said, KO is working this match in the same way, and does it in most of his matches. KO seems to absorb pain and go on, whereas I almost think Ambrose liked pain – at least when he's working the ring and is right in the middle of it.
Ambrose getting his knees up into KO's frog splash off the corner made me wonder if something in Ambrose's knee went bad. It looked rough, but Ambrose was up and dodging KO, rolling through and hitting dirty deeds for the three. That was a beautiful ending to a great match.
Yes, Jericho ended the show, and that was a solid way to push forward, but I really like that Jericho didn't attack until after the match, because that match needed to be left pure with the clean ending.
Winner – Ambrose
This was a solid B+ show, and I don't mean that in the derogatory way that Trip meant it to be when talking about Daniel Bryan. For Raw to be a solid B+ show is a HUGE step up from the C- shows with beautiful, shining glimmers of hope. Those glimmers of hope have be brought to the forefront and are proving that they're more than hopeful flashes, they are what should be the core of the WWE. They gave Rocky, Austin, Trip, Kane and so many others a shot back in the day, now it's time for the same people (the McMahons) to give these new upstarts (not all young or new to the industry, but all more than worthy to be at the top and hold the WWE WHC, or at least fight for it in main events) the direction, creative, storyline, and feuds needed to shine. I also think they need to ease up on how overly scripted the Superstars are. It takes away the spontaneity of every segment, and doesn't give them any room to work off the fans. The best of the best know how to work around and with the fans, and these are the Superstars who should be on mic more often and given the most freedom. All that being said, AJ did a great job of handling the fans who were hating on Reigns, even though he's not the best on the stick. Little tweaks could help WWE TV enormously, and while Shane coming in has helped in a huge way, there's still a long way to go for the fans to get the product they deserve.
And, as I promised, I'm going to end this each week with a hope and plea that Sandow return to WWE TV in a huge way with a solid push and an intelligent storyline. Shane wants to bring in the talented Superstars and put them to work on Raw, well, Sandow is one of the most rounded, most talented of the Superstars on the roster, yet he's wallowing in not being involved in anything. While I worry about some of my favorites (Slater) wallowing in mid-card purgatory (even with a decent character and faction), Sandow isn't even getting face time! It's time to package Sandow in a way that makes sense, and bring him up to Raw and push him hard. It's time for him to sink or swim, not just sit on the dock with barely his toes in the water.
Queen of WNW