By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Taped earlier today in London, England at O2 Arena
The opening video aired. Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and JBL were on commentary. Cole touted that there were 16,956 fans in attendance at the sold out show. Yes, the trusty phone booth was on the stage along with a taxi cab…
Dean Ambrose made his entrance and headed to the ring for an Ambrose Asylum segment. He had his handmade sign again this week. He told a corny joke about a river monster and said he didn’t know Braun Strowman can swim. There were some laughs. Ambrose said he can’t believe the joke was a hit even though he wrote it. He said he doesn’t know how talk show hosts do it every night, then introduced the parents of CBS talk show host James Corden, who were in attendance.
Ambrose introduced Shane McMahon and noted that he was in control of Raw again this week. London gave Shane a big reaction. Once in the ring, Ambrose told Shane to have a seat. Shane looked around because there were no seats. Ambrose went Chris Farley-esque by cringing at his “slip.”
Ambrose set up footage of Shane performing the elbow drop off the top of the Hell in a Cell structure at WrestleMania. Ambrose said that move is one of the only times that made him ask what someone else was thinking. Shane took that as a compliment. Ambrose asked him about his agenda as the leader of Raw. Shane said it’s all about the fans. Shane said there’s a new era in WWE and now superstars who never would have received a chance are getting opportunities. He listed AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Sasha Banks as examples. Shane said it’s because all of the fans “that we have arrived.”
Kevin Owens interrupted the interview and said this is the same old crap he has seen for years. Owens said it’s another example of a McMahon having an issue with the top superstar of his generation. Shane said he has no issue with Owens, who complained about being removed from the building last week and then railed on Zayn.
Sami Zayn made his entrance and laughed at the idea of riding Owens’s coattails while pointing out that he was signed first. Sami said Owens knows deep down that he never would have been signed by WWE if it wasn’t for him. He said Owens made a career out of stabbing his friends in the back. Chris Jericho interrupted Zayn and headed to the ring.
[Q2] Jericho said the only person in the ring with any brains is Owens because he said Shane is drunk with power. Jericho said he never liked Shane and vented about him taking away The Highlight Reel. Shane said it’s about about new opportunities and encouraged Jericho to watch his old talk show on WWE Network. The wrestlers bickered. Ambrose yelled, “Hey,” and then said, “Be careful around the plant.”
Shane booked Jericho vs. Ambrose, and Owens vs. Zayn for WWE Payback. Shane said tensions are getting too high, so he stepped out of the ring. Ambrose grabbed his plant and asked Shane to hold it for him. Ambrose removed his jacket and then went after Owens. Zayn cleared Jericho from the ring, then he and Ambrose cleared Owens… [C]
Powell’s POV: A decent opening segment. The announcement of the Payback matches felt a little lifeless. They are both attractive matches on paper, but Shane didn’t really sell me on them in big announcement style.
1. Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho. The broadcast team said Shane booked this match on social media during the break. Zayn performed an Asai moonsault before the two minute mark. A short time later, Jericho pulled Zayn off the ropes and crotched him. Jericho, who could be seen calling spots, caught Zayn with a dropkick going into the break. [C]
[Q3] JBL spoke about the similarities between younger Jericho and guys like Zayn and AJ Styles. Jericho went for the Walls, but Zayn twisted out of it. Jericho still performed a running bulldog, but then he performed a Lionsault onto the knees of Zayn. Sami followed up with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count. Zayn went to the ropes and leapt into a dropkick from Jericho, who then applied the Walls of Jericho. Zayn fought to the ropes to break the hold and then backdropped Jericho to ringside.
Zayn followed Jericho to ringside and then dove through the bottom and middle rope and caught Jericho with a tornado DDT. Zayn set up for his finisher, but Jericho sat down and hid his face between the ropes. Zayn approached Jericho, who poked him in the eyes and then performed the Codebreaker and pinned him…
Chris Jericho beat Sami Zayn in 12:30.
The broadcast team hyped the tag tournament semifinal matches… [C]
Powell’s POV: A solid match with some cool moments. I like the finish of the match. A lot of people will complain about Zayn losing, but I think it works to his advantage to establish him as a plucky underdog so that it means more when he eventually gets on a roll. Of course, the question is whether this is actually the approach that WWE is taking or if this is just a case of them booking Zayn to lose. Only time will tell. Still, there’s nothing wrong with putting heat on Jericho by having him cheat to win a competitive match.
Backstage, Mauro Ranallo interviewed AJ Styles, who was immediately distracted when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson walked into the picture. Styles introduced them by name and asked Mauro if he could take it from there. Styles hugged Anderson and did the too sweet bump with Gallows, who said he appreciated him putting in a good word for him. Anderson said he couldn’t thank Styles enough. Gallows said they are going to make the most out of their opportunity, just as he will do at Payback. Anderson said when he grows up he wants to be just like Styles. Gallows asked if they could find a spot to catch up because he has to work out a few hazy details about their last night together… Cole said Styles, Gallows, and Anderson ran together in New Japan…
Powell’s POV: That’s honestly more than I expected tonight. I thought WWE might keep it as simple as Anderson and Gallows attacking someone else or another team tonight, so the interaction with Styles was a nice surprise. There was nothing particularly memorable to the meeting aside from the fact that we saw them on WWE television together for the first time. Still, it managed to establish that they are friends. Well, at least for now.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass made their entrance and did their pre-match routine. The fans chanted “How You Doin’?” and then Cass spoke about how they have arrived. The fans sang Enzo’s name. Enzo had a riddle. It concluded with “there is dud in Dudley Boyz.” He said there is nothing silicon about him and Cass, and they are real whether you like them or not. Cass did the Sawft bit to close out the mic work with the crowd getting behind it.
[Q4] 2. Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Dudley Boyz in the semifinals of the tag team tournament. Bubba got the better of Enzo in the opening minute and they went to break. [C] Cass took a hot tag. Cole said Enzo does the talking and Cass does the walking. The Dudleys quickly performed their neckbreaker move on Cass, but he was just fine seconds later and put Bubba down with a big boot. Cass tagged in Enzo and they performed the rocket launcher with Enzo landing on Bubba and pinning him…
Enzo Amore and Big Cass beat The Dudley Boyz to advance in the tag team tournament.
Cole noted that Enzo and Cass will face the winner of the Usos vs. the Vaudevillains match. Cole said the tournament wraps up at WWE Payback… Roman Reigns was shown in a graphic that was booed by the live crowd… [C]
Powell’s POV: I’m curious to see whether they go straight to Enzo and Cass challenging New Day or if they get derailed in the finals, perhaps thanks to interference by the Dudley Boyz. I just have a hard time believing this program is over.
Roman Reigns made his entrance and was booed loudly. He held up the title belt on the stage and was booed even more. The camera cut to one of the fans who was applauding him, and then the broadcast team hyped Reigns vs. Styles for WWE Payback. JBL said he thought that match would never be made.
[Q5] Reigns delivered his “I’m not a good guy, I’m not a bad guy, I’m just the guy,” line. Reigns said AJ Styles is a tough guy. He said Styles is aa world travelled champion and a great wrestler and he said he guesses that makes him phenomenal. Reigns paused for a Styles chant. Reigns said Styles is going to try to outwrestle him, but it’s not going to work because he’s going to bring the big fight.
Reigns said that anyone else who thinks they are in this new era of WWE can get some too. “Because this is the era of the Roman Empire,” Reigns said. The crowd booed and Reigns smirked before saying, “and we’re here to stay.” AJ Styles made his entrance. Once in the ring, Styles said he had to give Reigns credit and he thinks Reigns is “one heckuva champion.”
Styles said that despite what the fans may think, Reigns has it all. He said he will need to have the match of his life in order to beat him. “But having the match of my life is what I do,” Styles said. He said that’s why WWE came calling and why he will become champion at Payback. The fans chanted Yes! Reigns said he felt everything Styles just said. The crowd booed. Reigns said he had the match of his life at WrestleMania and that’s where he became champion.
Reigns said the fans like Styles, but they won’t like it when he beats him at Payback. Reigns said the fans will respect him. He said he’d rather be respected with the title than liked without it. Styles said he would rather be liked and respected because that will make him a phenomenal WWE Champion. Styles’ music played as he left the ring. Cole said there is a big match feel.
As Styles was heading backstage, Anderson and Gallows attacked Reigns from behind. Styles turned and watched as Gallows hoisted up Reigns and then Anderson delivered a running kick. Styles looked a little disappointed, then said “yep” as they walked up and patted him on the shoulder… A commercial aired for Countdown with Kane as a cop and Dolph Ziggler a plain clothes cop. It even featured Rusev in wrestling gear asking to see Dolph’s badge and then eating a superkick… [C]
Powell’s POV: Reigns vs. Styles does not have a big match feel to it. Or at least it didn’t with me until the Anderson and Gallows angle. Styles trading wins and losses rather than being introduced as a strong and undefeated winner takes something away, but the addition of Anderson and Gallows to the mix makes it much more interesting. My guess at this point is that it’s too easy for Styles to be aligned with them and they will actually be aligned with someone else.
A recap of Anderson and Gallows attacking Reigns was shown… Backstage, Styles approached Reigns and told him he had no idea that was going to happen. Reigns asked if he expected him to believe it. Reigns said he knows those are AJ’s boys and he brought them to WWE. He said they attacked his cousins last week and now him this week. Reigns told him to start telling the truth. Styles said they are his friends, but he doesn’t need them in order to beat Reigns for his title. Reigns told him to bring all his friends and said it won’t matter…
[Q6] 3. Baron Corbin vs. Fandango. Dolph Ziggler was on commentary. Before the match, footage aired of Corbin delivering his finisher to Ziggler on the floor. Dolph said he’s seen a lot of them come and go and that would not happen again. Corbin took the fight to the floor and then threw Fandango into Ziggler. Corbin kicked Ziggler on the floor, then brought Fandango back to the ring and hit him with End of Days for the win. After the match, Ziggler attacked Corbin, who quickly recovered and ended up giving him End of Days on the floor again…
Baron Corbin beat Fandango in 1:25.
The broadcast team hyped an eight-woman tag match… Backstage, The Miz and Maryse came across a cup of soda that was knocked over. Miz made a man take his suit jacket off and cover the spill so that they could walk over it. Cole hyped that Miz TV is next… [C] Titus O’Neil and Natalya were featured in an anti-smoking ad…
Powell’s POV: An effective match and post-match moment for Corbin. They must be paying well in WWE these days because it looked like the guy who put his jacket down was content just walking off without it.
The latest Primo and Epico love-fest for Puerto Rico was shown…
Powell’s POV: The music reminds me a little of the “Dexter” theme. I just hope the Primo and Epico vignettes payoff is a shot of Carlito looking like a lumberjack.
Maryse introduced The Miz, who hosted Miz TV. Yes, the second talk show segment of the night. Miz said William and Catherine have nothing on him and Maryse. They shared a kiss and Miz asked for a little bit more. They got really into it until they were interrupted by Cesaro as Cole hyped their Intercontinental Title match at Payback.
Cesaro said the only thing royal about Miz is that he’s a royal pain in the ass. Miz said he’s a leading man whereas Cesaro is a supporting actor. The fans chanted “boring” at Miz while Cesaro conducted them. Miz said he had a monologue with his own twist from the movie “Taken”. The boring chants continued. Hell, I’m chanting at home.
Maryse called for action. Miz delivered the Liam Neeson line about having a very special set of skills. Miz said that if Cesaro gives up the IC Title match then this will be the end of it, but otherwise he will look for him, find him, and beat him at Payback. Miz said that was a bit rushed and called for another take. He went for a third, but Cesaro cut him off and said, “When my hand goes up, your mouth goes shut.”
[Q7] Cesaro said he is going to become the new Intercontinental Champion at Payback. Cesaro quoted Roddy Piper’s bubblegum line in “They Live”. Miz asked if Cesaro wanted to fight on the spot. Miz said there’s nothing he would rather do, but Cesaro is already scheduled for a match. Rusev made his entrance and was joined by Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. Cesaro said he spoke with Shane and spiced things up. He announced the match will be Miz and League of Nations vs. Cesaro and New Day (he removed his suit to reveal a BootyO’s shirt). New Day made their entrance and the live crowd was really into it… [C]
Powell’s POV: At leas the second talk show segment of the night had a good payoff as far as the live crowd was concerned. And now it’s time for the time filler match of the evening.
4. Cesaro, Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods vs. The Miz (w/Maryse), Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, and Sheamus in an eight-man tag. The match was joined in progress. E performed a running splash on Miz for two, then gyrated for Maryse. Kingston and Del Rio checked in. Kingston performed a cool move with a leaping double stomp. Woods played the trombone as his team worked over Del Rio. The heels came back and isolated Woods heading into the break. [C]
[Q8] Woods was still being worked over with Del Rio putting him in the Cross Arm Breaker over the ropes. Later, Woods went for a tag to Kingston, but Del Rio ran over and pulled Kingston off the ring apron. Woods eventually made a hot tag to Cesaro, who threw a bunch of uppercuts at Miz and Sheamus, then went to the floor and performed them on Rusev and Del Rio. It was rapid fire spot time for the illegal men. Eventually, Cesaro performed the Neutralizer on Sheamus and pinned him to win the match for his team…
Cesaro, Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods beat The Miz, Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, and Sheamus in 13:25.
Backstage, Mauro Ranallo interviewed Charlotte, who was accompanied by Ric Flair. Mauro showed footage of her match against Natalya last week. Charlotte said he’s worse than Dr. Phil and asked what type of journalist he is. Charlotte said it was Natalya’s job to beat her, and she is still a failure like every other woman in the division. Natalya showed up and said she made her tap last week, and Shane granted her a title match at Payback. Natalya announced that Bret Hart would be in her corner. Charlotte and Flair were not pleased… [C]
Powell’s POV: It’s always good to see Bret Hart return. I’m just happy that WWE officials continue to blow off some of the comments he’s made about Triple H and others since his last appearance. And, sure, we saw this scenario at the NXT level, but it should be fun again now that Charlotte and Flair have been well established as main roster heels.
Cole hyped the Total Divas finale for Tuesday and the debut of Total Bellas…
[Q9] Ring entrances for a women’s tag match took place…
5. Natalya, Paige, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte (w/Ric Flair), Summer Rae, Naomi, and Tamina. Paige received a nice reaction from her countrymen when she tagged into the match. She performed a fallaway slam on Naomi, who rolled out of the ring. Naomi ran over to check on her, and Paige performed a summersault dive off the apron and onto both women, then Lynch followed up with a dive off the apron and onto Charlotte. [C]
Tamina pulled Lynch to the floor and kicked her, then the heels isolated Lynch. She eventually made a hot tag to Natalya. A short time later, Natalya kicked Charlotte off when she went for a Figure 8, then applied a Sharpshooter for the submission win…
Natalya, Paige, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch beat Charlotte, Summer Rae, Naomi, and Tamina in 10:25.
Powell’s POV: The crowd was into the idea of seeing the women and gave the babyfaces good reactions when they checked in for the first time, but interest in the match seem to fade as it went on. I like the finish as they continue to build up Natalya as a threat to take Charlotte’s title.
[Q10] A recap aired of the drama involving AJ Styles, Roman Reigns, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows… Backstage, Styles was talking with Gallows and Anderson. There was no sound, but Styles was doing the talking and it looked like Anderson and Gallows were listening and conceding. They cut to a shot of Shane talking with the Uso Brothers… [C]
Primo and Epico still love Puerto Rico…
6. The Vaudevillains vs. The Usos in a tag team tournament semifinal match. Jey had his shoulder taped to sell the angle last week. Cole questioned whether they were 100 percent coming into this match. Cole noted that Simon Gotch was trained by Harley Race and Daniel Bryan. He said Aiden English was a singer and a Broadway performer. Jey caught English with a superkick and had him covered, but Gotch broke it up. A short time later, Jey dove onto Gotch on the floor and then came up selling his shoulder. English kicked the shoulder and rammed it into the ring post. Gotch and English hit the Whirling Dervish and got the win…
The Vaudevillains beat The Usos in 3:15 to advance to the finals of the tag team tournament.
The broadcast team hyped Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains in the finals of the tag tournament for WWE Payback… Saxton hyped Ambrose vs. Owens as the main event… Cole asked Saxton what he thinks of when he says Apollo Crews. Saxton said five star athlete, strength, and agility. Cole set up a video package for Crews…
Powell’s POV: The Vaudevillains didn’t seem to get the NXT love from the live crowd. The Crews video package was a nice touch. It wasn’t nearly as effective as the videos they once aired on NXT television, but it was still nice to see him spotlighted.
[Q11] [C] 7. Apollo Crews vs. Heath Slater (w/Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel). Cole hyped Raw in Hartford for next week and said Shane would be happy to be in his area if he’s still around. JBL said he’s drunk with power. Footage aired from the Raw Pre-Show of The Outcasts recruiting Crews, who said he would join them if one of them could beat him on Raw. Crews said they have to leave him alone forever if it doesn’t happen. After fighting out of a chinlock, Crews eventually performed a backflip onto Dallas and Axel on the floor. Slater got a near fall by rolling through a cross body block, but Crews came right back with a kick and then the spin-out powerbomb…
Apollo Crews beat Heath Slater in 4:15.
As Crews was making his exit, Kevin Owens’ music played and he made his entrance, walking past Crews on the ramp in the process… [C]
Powell’s POV: Crews got only a slightly better reaction than the Vaudevillains, so the NXT London chapter fans may just be losing steam at this point in the show. Another showcase match for Crews. I like the brief moment with Owens and Crews, which is a match that I’m looking forward to.
[Q12] A commercial hyped the Camp WWE premiere for May 1 on WWE Network… AJ Styles will be the guest of The Miz on Miz TV on Smackdown… Dean Ambrose made his entrance…
Powell’s POV: Yeah, because after two talk show segments tonight, I’m sure viewers will be thrilled that the only thing hyped for Smackdown is a talk show segment.
8. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens. Ambrose performed an early suicide dive. He rolled Owens inside the ring, but Owens rolled right out the other side. Ambrose followed, but Owens was there to whip Ambrose over the broadcast team’s table. Owens went after Ambrose, who hit him with punches and then threw him over the table to return the favor heading into the break. [C]
Owens tied up Ambrose in the ropes and then performed a running cannonball, which led to a two count. A short time later, Owens performed a frogsplash off the apron onto Ambrose on the floor. Owens returned to the ring and then asked Cole if he saw that. Ambrose got back to his feet and returned to the ring at nine to break the count. Owens blasted him with a boot tot he face and remained in offensive control.
[Overrun] Ambrose came back with his flying elbow on the floor. Late in the match, Owens went for his finisher, but Ambrose performed a huracanrana to avoid it. However, Owens caught Ambrose with a kick and got a two count. They fought on the ropes. Owens got the better of it and performed a fisherman’s buster suplex for a two count. Owens went back to the ropes and went for a frogsplash, but Ambrose put his knees up. Ambrose went for a cannonball, but Ambrose avoided it. Ambrose went for a rollup, but Owens rolled through, and then Ambrose caught him with Dirty Deeds for the win…
Dean Ambrose beat Kevin Owens in 17:15.
After the match, Chris Jericho showed up and put Ambrose down with a Codebreaker to close the show…
Powell’s POV: A good main event with Ambrose and Owens both working hard. The broadcast laid it on thick by talking about how Shane McMahon was responsible for the main event and an unpredictable show. You know, because Triple H and Stephanie McMahon never booked Ambrose vs. Owens. Anyway, the show wasn’t as hot as last week. The live crowd was a lot of fun early on, but they just soft of turned into a regular crowd during the third hour. Still, it was newsworthy with the Payback match announcements, the tag tournament progressing, and especially due to the Anderson and Gallows followup. I’ll have more to say on Tuesday in my WWE Raw audio review and my WWE Raw Hit List. Thanks for watching along with me.