By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live from Los Angeles, California at Staples Center
[Q1] Raw opened with a graphic that acknowledge the death of Blackjack Mulligan… Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton were on commentary…
Shane McMahon’s music played and he walked onto the stage, played to the crowd, and did his dance while Lilian Garcia introduced him. Cole said there were 16,908 fans in attendance as Shane headed to the ring. Shane said his father had him run Raw for his own personal amusement. Shane said he must be very amused because he’s back again. Shane thanked the fans and credited them with being the reason he is back.
Shane said he wanted to keep rolling with new superstars and fresh matchups like he had last week. He hyped Charlotte vs. Natalya for the WWE Women’s Championship, the beginning of a tag team tournament to determine the No. 1 contenders to New Day. Shane congratulated AJ Styles on earning the right to face Roman Reigns (70/30 boos for Reigns).
Shane said Sami Zayn was getting another opportunity. Shane said Zayn would face AJ Styles on Raw, and if Zayn wins then it will be Reigns vs. Styles vs. Zayn in a Triple Threat at WWE Payback. Kevin Owens made his entrance and said it’s a good thing that this might be Shane’s last night in charge because Shane may have knocked a few screws loose during his WrestleMania match if he thinks Zayn deserves that opportunity.
Owens joined Shane in the ring. Shane said Owens screwed over Zayn on Monday, and lost during his opportunity in the four-way, just as he lost at WrestleMania. Owens said he was robbed by Zayn at KOMania and he was robbed again on Raw. Owens said it’s not fair that he has yet to receive his rematch for the Intercontinental Title.
Owens demanded his rematch. Shane said demands are not how things work. Shane said this may be his last night, but Owens has to earn his shot at the Intercontinental Title. Shane said Owens has to beat one man. He said that man has been here running around all day, then announced that it was Cesaro. Shane booked the match to take place on the spot. Cesaro made his entrance wearing the tearaway suit again as Shane made his exit… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good opening segment with some fresh faces in Shane and Owens. It’s worth noting that Owens is the one who started the talk that this could be Shane’s last appearance. Shane didn’t deny it when he responded. It may end up being his last appearance, but I also wonder if they are just writing him out temporarily since they will be heading overseas and won’t be back until April 25 when Raw is in Hartford. The only thing I really disliked about the opening segment is the idea that Owens isn’t entitled to his rematch given the tradition of the rematch clause that seems to be coming and going lately.
[Q2] 1. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens to become No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Title. Tapout is the sponsor of the Payback event. The Miz and Maryse were shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Cesaro had his left shoulder taped. Owens ran Cesaro’s bad shoulder through the ropes and into the post heading into the break. [C]
Powell’s POV: Titus O’Neil was featured in an ad for Universal Studios and a contest that allows the winners to go to the theme park with him. He was listed as a WWE Superstar, so no jokes about how he could be a TNA wrestler touring the company’s television home by the time the contest ends.
Cesaro continued to sell the shoulder coming out of the break. Cesaro performed a cross body block off the top rope, but Owens rolled through and applied a crossface. Cesaro escaped and applied a Sharpshooter as the tribute to Canada’s finest wrestlers continued, but Owens reached the ropes to break the hold. Owens caught Cesaro with a superkick, then went up top and performed a frogsplash for a two count.
Cesaro caught Owens with a springboard uppercut and then performed the Swing. Cesaro released the Swing and sold the shoulder injury. Owens rammed Cesaro into the turnbuckle. He went for his finisher, but Cesaro countered out and then hit the Neutralizer for the win…
Cesaro defeated Kevin Owens to become No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Title.
Powell’s POV: A strong match with Cesaro doing a nice job of selling the shoulder injury. I must say that I hope Kevin Owens isn’t talking in interviews years from now about how much he regrets performing top rope splashes. It would be one thing if it was the key move in an occasional match, but it feels like it’s becoming a routine near fall in his matches. Overall, though, an enjoyable match that sets up Miz vs. Cesaro, and frees up Owens for a likely match with Sami Zayn.
[Q3] A recap of last week’s Charlotte and Natalya confrontation as part of the WWE Women’s Championship ceremony aired…
Backstage, Charlotte asked Ric Flair why she is always the victim. She complained about the women ruining her ceremony, and said she should be on Legends With JBL rather than defending her title against Natalya. Flair said he couldn’t agree more. Dr. Phil entered the picture and said he is proud of how hard Charlotte has worked. However, he said Flair is holding Charlotte back by not letting her be who she is. Phil said she is cheating and asked why she is letting him hold her down. Charlotte objected and eventually walked away. Flair was going to “woooo” in Phil’s face, but Phil beat him to the punch…
Backstage, Owens complained to Shane about being screwed at WrestleMania, last week’s Raw, and again on Raw tonight. Shane told him to settle down. Owens told him that what happens to Sami later tonight is on Shane’s “pretty little gray hair.” Shane said he’s not screwing with Zayn again and told him he was having him escorted from the building… [C]
Powell’s POV: The Dr. Phil segment was better than most celebrity appearances in that it at least played into the current storylines and wasn’t ridiculously campy. I like that we’re seeing Shane backstage tonight. As much as I want the authority figures to be background players, I think it’s important for them to do a better job than last week of what Shane is actually responsible for.
New Day made their entrance while Cole noted that they have been tag champions for 232 days. Xavier Woods compared the tag division to a game of NBA Jam in that “it’s on fire.” He said everyone wants a piece of the tag champions. Kofi Kingston questioned which team deserves it. Big E said “we shall see” and spoke about the tournament to determine their next challengers. Big E said prepare to say goodbye to March Madness and busted brackets, and instead say hello to the number one contender tag tournament sponsored by BootyO’s.
The brackets listed The Usos vs. Social Outcasts (Heath Slater and Curtis Axel), Golden Truth vs. The Vaudevillains, Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Ascension, and Lucha Dragons vs. The Dudley Boyz. New Day said the first round begins now. The Lucha Dragons made their entrance…
[Q4] [C] 2. The Lucha Dragons vs. The Dudley Boyz in a first round tag tournament match. The match was joined in progress with doctors checking on Kalisto, who down selling an injury. The Dudley Boyz went to work on Sin Cara even though Bubba and the broadcast team noted that Kalisto was the legal man. There was a botched 3D spot with D-Von punching Sin Cara in the gut when Bubba was waiting to hit his end of the move. Bubba told him to do it again and then they hit 3D for the win.
The Dudley Boyz beat The Lucha Dragons in 3:00 to advance in the tournament.
Afterward, Bubba rolled to ringside and briefly mocked Kalisto, who was still selling. Enzo and Big Cass made their entrance. Enzo delivered his standard introduction. Bubba told him they are doing just fine. He said Enzo needs to shut his mouth and the fans need to shut their mouths. Bubba said they are two young punks, and added that the Dudleys paved the way for guys like them.
D-Von said Enzo and Cass are not the best tag team in the business. He said they reason they exist is because of them. Enzo said the reason he exists is because his mom and dad got it on. The fans chanted “How You Doin'”. Cass said the Dudleys need to step to the side of the road because he and Enzo are coming through like jackhammers. Cass called them SAWFT…
Saxton hyped Roman Reigns for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: That was an awkward match. Kalisto took a wild bump on the floor and then got up and took a clothesline from D-Von. The trainer was checking his shoulder. The finish was even odder with the weird 3D spot that preceded the actual finish.
Backstage, Owens jawed at security as they escorted him from the building… Roman Reigns made his entrance to far more boos than cheers. JBL said Reigns “is a certifiable badass, but a lot of people don’t like him.”
[Q5] Reigns stood in the ring and started to speak, but then stopped and listened to the boos. He smirked, shrugged, and repeated the line about how he’s not a good guy or a bad guy, he’s the guy. Reigns went through the possibility of facing Styles in a singles match or Styles and Zayn in a Triple Threat. Reigns said he respects both men a lot because they’ve been all over the world. He was interrupted as he spoke about remaining champion.
League of Nations made their entrance. Sheamus, Rusev, and Alberto Del Rio cut a promo on the stage. Sheamus asked how confident Reigns would be if he had to face one of them at Payback. Reigns asked if they were trying to make him nervous. Sheamus said they kicked out their weakest link King Barrett last week and they are all upset about being left out of the contenders match.
Rusev said he’s stronger and better looking than Reigns. He said he should be the face of WWE. Reigns laughed and said Rusev proved he’s the ass of WWE. Reigns invited the trio to come to the ring and get all of their asses whooped. They took him up on the offer and just as they started to brawl, the Wyatt Family video flashed.
The Wyatt Family members (minus Luke Harper) were in the ring and they quickly cleared League of Nations while Reigns stood in the corner. The Wyatts turned and looked at Reigns. Shane McMahon came out and told them to hold on for one second. He said he never thought he would see them fighting side by side, but he digs it. Shane booked Reigns and Bray Wyatt against two members of League of Nations in the main event…
Cole hyped Styles vs. Zayn, and then Saxton said Charlotte vs. Natalya is up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: Maybe that’s one they should have just hyped for “later tonight” instead of telling people it’s the main event. Sure, the question of whether Wyatt and Reigns can coexist makes it a little more interesting, but it’s impossible to be excited about a main event that involves League of Nations. It doesn’t help that Roman wasn’t the least bit intimidated by LON despite being outnumbered, and the Wyatts cleared them from the ring with ease. By the way, a commercial aired for Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut on the NXT television show for Wednesday.
Dr. Phil made his entrance to no reaction. Natalya and then Charlotte were out next. Byron asked Phil why he was at ringside. Phil said he wants to see if she takes the advice he gave her earlier by playing it straight rather than going the cheap route…
[Q6] Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) vs. Natalya for the WWE Women’s Championship. Lilian delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Cole noted that WrestleMania was the final match for Brie Bella. Natalya was the early aggressor, but Charlotte had control going into the break a few minutes into the match. [C]
At roughly 10:00, Charlotte caught Natalya with a big boot to the face, which led to a couple of two counts for Charlotte. A short time later, Charlotte went for a moonsault, but Natalya avoided it and then applied the Sharpshooter. Flair tried to reach in to grab Charlotte, but she was too far away. Flair pulled the referee from the ring. Charlotte tapped out, but the referee disqualified Charlotte. Charlotte smiled and went to celebrate, but Natalya quickly chased her away. At ringside, Dr. Phil said he is disappointed that Charlotte took the approach she did. He said he is proud of the women’s division and how they will take their place in sports history…
Natalya defeated Charlotte by DQ.
Powell’s POV: Well, if Dr. Phil likes the women’s division then it’s good enough for all of us! Or something. I really liked the match and the overall finish. I didn’t care for the way Charlotte was tapping out one second only to show no signs of distress from the Sharpshooter just seconds later. That said, her facials were fun as she sold the anguish of losing the match only to smile once she realized that she retained the title.
[Q7] Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Sami Zayn and asked if he’s ready after being attacked by Kevin Owens last week. He once again said “they” call him the underdog from the underground. He said he’s spent his career working toward this moment. He said Owens and tables can’t take what he’s done away from him and he didn’t come this far to lose. AJ Styles entered the picture and said he was right there with Zayn fighting all those years, but he is the only number contender and he plans to keep it that way…
The Usos made their entrance for a tag tournament match… [C]
4. The Usos vs. Heath Slater and Curtis Axel in a first round tag tournament match. Axel wore cargo shorts rather than his usual trunks. JBL wished Kobe Bryant well in his final game at Staples Center next week. The Social Outcasts performed a victory lap, which led to one of the Usos rolling up Slater and pinning him.
The Usos beat Heath Slater and Curtis Axel in 4:15 to advance in the tournament.
After the match, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows entered through the crowd wearing t-shirts and jeans. They attacked the Usos. Cole acknowledged them by their last names and said there have been rumors for months. JBL said Anderson and Gallows dominated the Japanese tag team scene. Saxton asked “Why now?” and “Why the Uso Brothers?” as the attack continued. JBL said “Why not?” He said that’s what they do, beat people up. Several referees came out and then Gallows and Anderson backed off and departed through the crowd while a number of fans cheered…
Cole hyped the main event… [C]
Powell’s POV: A strong debut from Anderson and Gallows. I love that Saxton asked the questions he did because it means that WWE wants us to be asking those questions. In other words, there is more to this than Anderson and Gallows simply making a statement as a tag team. There are a number of ways they could go with this. The obvious is that they are connected to Finn Balor and/or AJ Styles. I’ve even throw out the dark horse possibility that the two of them are connected to Seth Rollins in a swerve. By the way, if you’re late to the party and Gallows looks familiar, it’s because he played Luke Gallows and Festus in WWE previously.
[Q8] The Anderson and Gallows debut was recapped… Cole hyped The Miz an Maryse for the ESPN segment on Tuesday night…
Backstage, Maryse threw a fit about the M&M bowl containing blue M&M’s even though her husband, who was getting a cucumber eye treatment, didn’t want them. Jojo entered the picture and asked about the controversy regarding his title win and his upcoming match against Cesaro. Maryse said she wasn’t invited into his private dressing room. She said she is tired of Miz groupies trying to talk to her husband. Miz stood up and said the only controversy is that she used Cesaro and Ryder in the same sentence with his name.
Miz boasted about the type of car he drives and said Ryder uses his dad’s pass to use the Long Island railroad. He also said he is the Kryptonite for the Swiss Superman. Cesaro was shown matching in the distance. Cesaro said he was there to see the leading man he is going to take the title from. He said he would roll out the red carpet of his uppercuts just for him. Miz took a sip of water after he left, but Maryse stopped him and told him it was domestic water. Miz choked…
AJ Styles made his entrance for the match against Sami Zayn… [C] Zayn made his entrance…
5. AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn. If Zayn wins the match, the title match at Payback becomes a Triple Threat. The crowd was lively early by singing the “Ole” song and chanting for both men.
[Q9] The fans died down a bit, then came to life when Zayn flipped onto Styles at ringside heading into the break. [C] There were some good near falls for Zayn. Styles came back with a Pele Kick at 14:00. Styles set up for his finisher, but Zayn avoided it and then hit the Blue Thunder Bomb. Zayn went for the pin, but Styles kicked out and Zayn flashed a great look of disbelief.
Styles rolled into a Calf Crusher. Zayn teased tapping and eventually reached the ropes to break the hold. JBL questioned how much damage was done to the leg of Zayn. Styles went up top, but Zayn hopped up and caught him with a forearm, then limped to sell the hold. Styles went for a sunset flip powerbomb, but Zayn landed on his feet and then dropkicked Styles, who was in a seated position. Styles came back with a Phenomenal Forearm and scored the clean pin…
AJ Styles beat Sami Zayn in 16:45.
[Q10] Chris Jericho was shown walking backstage. Cole said he had a very special guest coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: A very good match that built very nicely to the late near falls. I like that Shane was credited with giving Zayn the opportunity that Owens cost him last week. I also liked that they sent the message that Owens would not be interfering because Shane had him escorted from the building. I can’t even complain about this match not going on last given that they gave it strong placement. The show hasn’t dragged yet and I think we’d all be raving about a hot episode if this match had concluded a two-hour show. Let’s see if they can keep the pace for the next hour or so.
Seth Green was shown in the crowd, and Cole hyped his involvement in Camp WWE… Cole recapped the Styles vs. Zayn match…
Backstage, Sami Zayn and AJ Styles were discussing their match when Shane McMahon entered the room and praised them both. He said that’s what the business is all about. He thanked them and said he knows everyone out there appreciated it because he did. “That was awesome,” Shane said. “Awesome.” Styles and Zayn shook hands, then Zayn wished Styles good luck…
Chris Jericho made his way to the ring for the Highlight Reel segment. “Shut your damn mouths and listen to what I have to say,” Jericho started. He said it’s a monumental night and the biggest Highlight Reel of all-time. Jericho said his guest is the biggest star in WWE history. He laid it on thick while he spoke about the guest headlining multiple WrestleManias and being a future WWE Hall of Famer. “My guest…is me,” he said. Jericho told the fans they would learn more about him than they’ve ever known before.
Jericho asked himself questions and responded as if he were being interviewed. Dean Ambrose’s music eventually interrupted Jericho. Ambrose headed to the ring with a potted plant and a sign. Once in the ring, Ambrose examined Jericho’s usual potted plant. Jericho asked what he was doing and said this is his show. Ambrose said it’s his show. Jericho told him not to touch his plant.
Ambrose said he had a memo straight from Shane. He handed Jericho a slip of paper. Jericho said it was a California speeding ticket. Ambrose pulled out another piece of paper. Jericho read aloud that the Highlight Reel has been cancelled and will be replaced by the Ambrose Asylum. He noted that it was signed by Shane. Ambrose, who covered Jericho’s TV monitor with a hand drawn Asylum sign, had a clip-on tie over his t-shirt. Ambrose introduced Jericho as his first guest. When the fans booed, Ambrose told them not to boo his guests. Ambrose said the world wants to know, “What is up with that scarf, dude?” Jericho said it costs $750.
[Q11] Jericho said he’s reached legendary status and doesn’t have to play by the rules. He told Ambrose to make a smart decision for once and “take your stupid ass out of my ring now.” Ambrose responded by asking, “So you’re not going to tell us about the scarf or…” Ambrose gave Jericho the Dirty Deeds DDT…
Cole hyped Apollo Crews for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: They played it right by not hyping the hell out of Jericho’s special guest throughout the night, as they would have turned off some viewers with a bait and switch. Because it didn’t get overhyped, it turned out to be fun to watch Jericho interrupt himself. It was well timed with Ambrose coming out just as it was starting to drag. Ambrose is still too cute with his mic work for his own good at times, but his humor clicked with me for the most part. Maybe the live crowd doesn’t agree with that assessment given that Dirty Deeds came off a little flat at the end.
Cole hyped the other first-round tag tournament matches for Smackdown…
Backstage, Goldust told R-Truth that he promised him an audition in Los Angeles, but instead he got them a spot in the tag tournament. Goldust said they are not a tag team. Dr. Phil entered the picture and was about to say something when he stopped himself, waved them off, and left the room…
6. Apollo Crews vs. Adam Rose (w/Bo Dallas). JBL said he’s seen Crews on NXT and was looking forward to seeing him in person. There was a nice spot with Rose going for a suplex that Crews blocked only to counter with his own. The live crowd reacted favorably. Dallas distracted Crews, who then caught Rose going for a kick. Crews delivered an enzuigiri and then hit the spin-out powerbomb for the win…
Apollo Crews beat Adam Rose in 3:35.
Powell’s POV: A nice showcase match for Crews. I don’t get the sense that the NXT faithful take as much pride in Crews as they do in other guys who were in NXT longer, but it’s hard to say with this crowd because the match occurred at a time when the fans are probably tiring out and seemingly only have a LON tag match left to look forward to.
[Q12] Saxton hyped Reigns and Wyatt vs. League of Nations in the main event… [C] The latest Primo and Epico vignette aired. They still love Puerto Rico… Cole set up a Baron Corbin video package that included footage of his Dre win, Raw debut, and of him hitting End of Days in various NXT matches…
Backstage, Bray Wyatt delivered a promo in which he said that Reigns can trust him. He laughed and then said, “Los Angeles, I’m here.” Wyatt made his entrance… [C]
7. Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt vs. Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio (w/Rusev). Bray said he wanted to start the match and Reigns obliged.
[Overrun] Wyatt got Sheamus into his corner and then made a hard tag to Reigns. Roman looked at Wyatt, but then they both threw punches at Sheamus. Reigns returned the favor with a hard tag of his own. Later, Roman took a tag from a weary Wyatt and was booed when he entered the match again. League of Nations took turns working over Reigns. The live crowd even counted along with Sheamus performing his forearms to the chest of Reigns.
Del Rio had Reigns tied up in the tree of woe and set up for his finisher, but Reigns sat up and threw Del Rio off the top while still tied up. Reigns freed himself and went for a tag, but Sheamus cut it off. Reigns came back with a Samoan drop on Sheamus and then crawled to his corner where Wyatt was anxiously waiting. Wyatt pulled his hand back and Reigns looked at him, then Wyatt stuck his hand out and took the tag from Reigns.
Wyatt had an offensive flurry and played to the crowd. He went for his finisher, but Del Rio shoved him off. Wyatt hit a running cross body block. Sheamus entered the ring only to be tossed out by Reigns. They fought on the floor, where Shemaus ran Reigns into the steps. Rusev kicked Wyatt, then Del Rio performed the Backstabber for a near fall.
The Wyatt Family video flashed and then Braun Strowman and Erick Rowan beat on Rusev at ringside. Del Rio set up for a move on Wyatt, who countered with Sister Abigail. Wyatt went for the cover, and Reigns speared Sheamus while Wyatt got the win.
Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt defeated Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio in 11:45.
After the match, Reigns looked surprised as he and Wyatt made eye contact. Strowman and Rowan joined him in the ring. Reigns and Wyatt had a staredown as Wyatt’s music played to close the show…
Powell’s POV: An entertaining main event. Okay, so it’s hard to be excited by LON, but it was interesting to watch the Reigns and Wyatt dynamic. Does this mean Bray is an all out babyface or is his character playing the long con with Reigns? I’m thinking babyface, but it’s something to at least consider. The overall show was much better than usual. The absence of heel authority figures was a nice start, but there was plenty of like with a strong and intriguing debuts from Anderson and Gallows, good to even great in-ring action at times, quality talking segments, and even a nice video package on Corbin. I never felt like I was watching filler, as the tag title tournament helped make those matches feel like they had a purpose. Hell, even Dr. Phil was much more tolerable than the way WWE booked a lot of other guest hosts. This felt like a much stronger creative effort than usual. Here’s hoping it continues. Let us know what you thought of the show by voting in our main page poll.