RAW Ramblings – April 18th 2016
O2 Arena: London, England.
Yet again Shane McMahon was in charge of RAW, which meant no HHH & Stephanie on the show again for the third week in a row. It is amazing how fresh the television feels without the Authority taking up a bunch of segments and burying the fans and all the talent. This show wasn’t perfect – the third hour dragged something fierce and killed the crowd – nor could they match the high standards they set with last week’s great show. Obviously it is still highly insulting to one’s intelligence that Shane is running RAW. Nevertheless, logic be damned, the quality of the shows with a babyface GM cannot be denied. It is just a shame that HHH & Stephanie will inevitably come back for a feud with Shane for control of the company (again) – probably at SummerSlam – and RAW could end up right back in the doldrums where it has been for nearly three years. At least Payback is shaping up to be a much better show than WrestleMania.
The big angle on the show was Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows attacking Roman Reigns from behind and AJ Styles claiming that he knew nothing about it. Gallows & Anderson showed up during an AJ Styles backstage interview and too sweeted their old BC pal. They thanked AJ for helping them get a “foot in the door” and Anderson said when he grew up he wanted to be AJ Styles. Gallows asked if there was a place they could go catch up because their last night in Roppongi was a little hazy; Anderson even managed to sneak a, “Good brother” into his lines. Reigns was out at the top of the second hour; I don’t know why they still insist on having him cut live promos in front of the crowd. He was hated and the people booed his “I’m THE guy” line, which is getting more and more contrived every week. Styles showed up and said he would have to put on the match of his life to beat Reigns, but told him that having the match of his life is what he did every night. Styles left up the ramp then Anderson & Gallows jumped Reigns and laid him out with their Flapjack/Big boot combo; so I guess the Magic Killer has been axed already. Anderson & Gallows left with AJ, who looked disappointed in what his buddies had just done. Backstage, Reigns was up and walking around just fine in the next segment. Styles told him he had no idea about what Anderson & Gallows did; Reigns didn’t believe him and told him to bring all the friends he wants because it won’t matter at Payback. We got another brief BC segment later on, as Styles was talking to Anderson & Gallows in the back, however we couldn’t hear what was being said. – From their early interactions, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Anderson & Gallows end up being aligned with someone else other than Styles. Despite what Michael Cole claimed Reigns/Styles does not in fact feel like a “big fight” feel, so at least Anderson & Gallows add another layer of intrigue to the match.
Show opened with the Ambrose Asylum segment. Ambrose had his sign and potted plant from last week and brought out Shane McMahon, who got a pretty big reaction. They showed Shane falling off the Cell and he did his usual speech about delivering “change” for the fans. Kevin Owens interrupted and said it was the same old crap that had been going on for years with a McMahon in charge then cut a promo about being ejected from the building last week. Sami Zayn was out next and he told Owens he wouldn’t even be in the WWE if it wasn’t for him. Chris Jericho came down and cried about having the Highlight Reel taken away; everybody bickered and Ambrose warned them all to watch out for his potted plant. Shane booked Zayn vs. Owens and Jericho vs. Ambrose for Payback then left the ring. Ambrose gave Shane his plant to look after then a brawl broke out and the babyfaces cleared the ring. Back from commercial and Jericho vs. Zayn was the opening match. They had a solid TV match which Jericho won after a poke to the eyes and the Codebreaker in 12:30; Sami looked good at even hit his diving ring post DDT on the floor, however beating him every week isn’t going to help get him over to the non-NXT watching audience. Owens vs. Ambrose was the main event and they also had a very good match. Sadly, the crowd was tired by this point and thy weren’t as into it as they could have been. Owens & Ambrose have also wrestled each other countless times over the last couple of months, most of the time on SmackDown with Mauro Ranallo doing commentary and being awesome; I don’t need to tell you the announcing here was painfully sub-par. Ambrose won at 17:15 with the Dirty Deeds then Jericho hit the ring afterwards and laid Dean out with a Codebreaker to close the show.
The tag team #1 contenders tournament continued with the semi-finals. Enzo Amore & Big Cass beat the Dudley Boyz in 8:33 with the Rocket Launcher. Match wasn’t much; heat on Enzo, Cass made the comeback. Enzo & Cass were over big and the fans sang along with their catchphrases. The Vaudevillains went over the Usos in a nothing 3:15 match; they played up the idea that one of the Usos had an injured shoulder and that cost them the match. Nobody really cared at all. So it’s Enzo & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains at Payback in the tourney final.
There was an horrendous Miz TV segment with Cesaro, although Maryse’s outfit made up for all of the terribleness here. This is pretty much where the show fell off a cliff and they were never able to get the crowd back after this abysmal segment. Miz did an awful impression of Liam Neeson from the movie Taken and the pay-off was Cesaro delivering Roddy Piper’s “bubblegum” line from They Live. The League of Nations interrupted for some reason and Cesaro said he had talked to Shane and he had booked the Miz & LON against Cesaro and some partners of his choosing. Cesaro tore off his suit and revealed a New Day t-shirt; the fans went crazy and gave New Day the biggest reaction of anyone on the show by a wide margin. Cesaro & New Day over Miz & League of Nations in 13:25; match dragged a little, although the finishing sequence with a parade of big moves was good. Cesaro pinned Sheamus with the Neutraliser.
Immediately following the men’s eight-man, we got another atomicos match with the women. Nattie revealed in a backstage promo that Uncle Bret would be in her corner at Payback; so they are doing the same thing they did in NXT with Bret & Ric in each girl’s corner. Nattie, Paige, Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch beat Charlotte, Summer Rae, Naomi & Tamina in a very dull 10:25 when Nattie submitted Charlotte with the Sharpshooter.
Elsewhere: Baron Corbin squashed Fandango in 1:25 with his move. Dolph Ziggler was on commentary and afterwards Corbin laid him out with the End of Days on the floor again. Primo & Epico still love Puerto Rico. They hyped the season finale of Total Divas and hyped the debut of Total Bellas – complete with Big Johnny Bella, Daniel Bella & the Doctor of Bellanomics John Bella. Apollo Crews beat Heath Slater in 4:15 with his sit-out Powerbomb. It was basically a squash, however since they had Corbin destroy someone in under two minutes they had to have Apollo sell for Slater and make a comeback. They did finally air a vignette for Crews, only three weeks after he debuted. Apparently they shot an angle on the pre-show and made the stipulation that if Apollo lost he would have to join the Social Outcasts. Mauro Ranallo was doing the backstage interviews for the night, reportedly because Renee Young had some kind of Visa issue.