By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live from Hartford, Connecticut at XL Center
[Q1] Raw opened with a graphic acknowledging the death of Chyna… A video package focussed on Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson… The opening video aired and then pyro shot off on the stage… Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton were on commentary and hyped AJ Styles vs. Sheamus, and Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio…
Shane McMahon made his entrance and did his dance on the stage before heading to the ring for a promo. Cole said Shane is in charge again this week. The broadcast team spoke about the job that Shane has been doing. Even JBL conceded that Shane has done a good job “so far.” Shane soaked up the crowd’s cheers once he entered the ring. “Well, I’m still here because of you,” Shane told the fans. Shane said WWE Payback is the first pay-per-view of a new era. He welcomed viewers to Raw. Shane said they would keep the action rolling with new faces and new match ups and would “have some fun.”
Stephanie McMahon’s entrance music interrupted Shane. Stephanie walked to the ring to boos while JBL said it’s about to get interesting. Steph gave Shane a kiss from a distance. Stephanie said the people of Hartford are tired of politicians feeding them lies. She said she knows this because she is one of them. Stephanie said she was born in Hartford Hospital. “These are my people,” she said. The fans booed. She said clearly she booing fans were not actually from Hartford, but those cheering her are. Shane said Stephanie knows how to take the air out of the room.
Stephanie told Shane that this is his last night running Raw. The fans booed and then a “no” chant broke out. Stephanie said Vince McMahon will officially decide at Payback who is running Raw. The fans chanted for Shane. He said the chairman’s decision is final. He polled the fans and got cheers for himself and boos for Stephanie and went back and forth with it. Stephanie said their father is smart enough to never put decision making “in these people’s hands.” Shane said he’s still around so Vince must be listening. Steph said she has it on good authority that things won’t go Shane’s way.
Shane said it’s time for Stephanie to go on her way. Shane asked “Hartford’s favorite daughter” to leave the ring. Stephanie said she wasn’t going to leave. Shane said the decision is what it is on Sunday. Shane said that he’s in charge of Raw this week. Shane called for security to come out and escort Stephanie from the ring. Stephanie was not happy. The fans chanted “yes.” Shane asked her to leave our (fans) ring.
Stephanie left the ring without security getting involved and the fans sang the goodbye song at her. She scolded security. One of them touched her arm as she was leaving, so she turned and slapped the security guard. The other two grabbed her and walked her up the ramp. Stephanie barked, “Get off me” at the men. Shane led the crowd in sining the goodbye song again. “Man, that was fun,” Shane said. “Let’s get into some action, shall we?” Shane introduced AJ Styles for his match…
[Q2] AJ Styles made his entrance. Cole hyped his match with Sheamus for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A crowd pleasing segment. I could do without seeing The Authority so soon, but Shane and Stephanie in the ring together is compelling for a lot of viewers. Stephanie was a lot of fun as she talked about being Hartford’s favorite daughter while pandering to the fans. The hook of Vince McMahon his decision about Raw is a nice hook for the pay-per-view for Shane fans. It is laughable how Shane always talks about getting right to the action only to engage in the usual long talking segment. By the way, if Shane is running Raw, who is running Smackdown?
1. AJ Styles vs. Sheamus. Cole said no newcomer has earned as WWE World Title shot as quickly as Styles has. JBL corrected Cole to note that Styes is the first male newcomer to get a world title shot so early in his run. Cole said a lot has been made of the arrival of “Styles’ buddies from New Japan.” Styles went for a moonsault off the apron, but Sheamus avoided it and ran him into the steps heading into the break. [C]
[Q3] Sheamus got the better of Styles coming out of the break. Styles performed a sunset flip powerbomb off the middle rope. Cole said there were 12,421 fans in attendance as both men were down. They noted that Sheamus landed awkwardly (more on his tailbone) and he held his neck briefly. Sheamus recovered and had the better of Styles briefly, but AJ caught him with a Pele Kick.
Sheamus came back again with a clothesline for a near fall. Sheamus applied the cloverleaf, but Styles reached the ropes to break it. Styles dodged a Brogue Kick as he was standing on the ring apron. Styles connected with a few strikes, then followed up with a Phenomenal Forearm for the win.
After the match, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows walked out wearing sleeveless trench coat length white jackets with a skull wearing gas masks on the back. Gallows that the same gas mask logo on the front of his wrestling gear. Styles didn’t look thrilled to see them as they applauded and signified that he would win the title on Sunday….
AJ Styles beat Sheamus in 14:30.
Roman Reigns was shown watching the footage on a backstage monitor. The Usos entered the room. Reigns said Styles, Anderson, and Gallows are united. The Usos said they are united with Reigns too. The crowd booed Reigns heavily… New Day made their entrance… [C]
Powell’s POV: The live crowd was flat at points in the match that were designed to get cheers. For instance, they didn’t come to life when Styles hit the Pele Kick. They did cheer for the finish. Anderson and Gallows look badass in their new entrance gear. They really looked like stars. I also like the simplicity of having them applaud an apprehensive Styles, and showing Roman watch the match backstage. Will they ever give Styles a quick decisive win? I’m not saying it had to happen against Sheamus, but you’d think they would have booked him against someone he could have shined against heading into his title match on Sunday. Keep in mind that they also had Styles work a long, back and forth match with The Miz on Smackdown. Finally, Roman being booed loudly in Hartford is interesting. It was no surprised that he was booed in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Dallas (night after WrestleMania crowd), Los Angeles, or London. Hartford isn’t typically a tough crowd, so that’s telling.
New Day delivered an in-ring promo about the tag title match. Xavier Woods said the winning team will party like it’s 1999.
[Q4] The Vaudevillains made their entrance. Aiden English sang as he said the “WWE World Tag Team Championship” and said they will party like it’s 1899. Funny. Simon Gotch referred to Enzo and Big Cass as mongrels. Enzo and Cass made their entrance and a lot of fans said the entrance lines along with them. Enzo said the Vaudevillains want to be No. 1 contenders, and he wants to run down the beat into his own arms, but that’s impossible. Cass led the crowd in the SAWFT chant. Xavier Woods spoke about how exciting it was and then said New Day will remain tag champs regardless of which team wins. New Day danced while the contending teams stared at one another…
A shot aired of Anderson and Gallows leaving AJ’s locker room and bumping fists. “I told ya,” JBL said. “There it is, evidence”… [C]
Powell’s POV: I’ve been skeptical when it comes to how the Vaudevillains act would work on the main roster, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how good English and Gotch have been on the mic on both Thursday’s Smackdown and now in this segment. Enzo and Cass are already very over. Bonus points to Saxton for talking excitedly and believably about how much he is looking forward to their match on Sunday.
A WWE Network commercial aired… The broadcast team spoke about John Cena returning to Raw on Memorial Day…
2. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows vs. Jimmy and Jey Uso. Lilian Garcia was the ring announcer. Cole noted that Jey Uso still had his shoulder taped from the initial Anderson and Gallows attack. The Usos worked over Anderson early. He came back with a dropkick on Jey. Gallows tagged in and ended up taking running splashes from the Usos before cutting off Jey with a clotheslined that turned him inside out.
[Q5] There was a loud “Bullet Club” chant as Gallows threw light kicks at Jey in the corner. Later, Anderson worked over the injured shoulder of Jey. Uso ended up kicking both men while on the ropes, but Gallows shoved him to the floor heading into the break. [C] Jimmy worked over Anderson and then pulled down the top rope to send Gallows to the floor. Anderson caught Jimmy with a clothesline. Gallows tossed Jey over the barricade at ringside. Jimmy dove onto Gallows on the floor. Anderson ran Jimmy into the ring post. A short time later, Anderson and Gallows hit a double team move for the win…
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson beat The Usos in 14:00.
After the match, Anderson and Gallows worked over the Usos. Roman Reigns’ entrance music played and he came out for the save to boos. Reigns threw pucnhes at Gallows and cleared him from the ring with a clothesline. Anderson climbed onto the apron. Gallows went for a Superman Punch, but Anderson dropped off the apron…
The broadcast team hyped a “special look” at the 14-year friendship between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn… [C]
Powell’s POV: The jackets of Gallows and Anderson have a patch that reads “GB 4-Life” on their right side. The right team won, but I can’t believe how long the match went. I really thought these guys would attack the Usos before the bell or simply make quick work of them through nefarious means if they did have a match. It dragged a bit in the middle, but the crowd never lost interest and the broadcast team did a nice job of putting over how dominant Anderson and Gallows were even if they were not as dominant as I thought they should be. The post match was puzzling with Reigns getting the better of big man Gallows so easily.
[Q6] Backstage, Renee Young interviewed AJ Styles until Gallows and Anderson interrupted. Styles said they can’t stay out of trouble. Anderson said they didn’t start the fight with Reigns, he came after them. Gallows promised that they won’t “up… jeopardize your opportunity.” Gallows said they know Reigns and the Usos will do whatever it takes to keep the title. Gallows said they have his back. AJ asked if that’s all they have planned. Gallows said they will do whatever Styles needs and added that their friendship is forever. They shook hands and hugged…
Cole set up the video package on the Owens and Zayn feud. It included still shots of the two of them (including Owens wearing a PWG shirt). They also showed Owens turning on Zayn when he won the NXT Championship and plenty of footage of their WWE feud. Owens talked about how he’s the victim and rationalized everything he’s done with heel logic…
Zayn made his entrance for a match against Rusev… [C]
Powell’s POV: An excellent video package. Just imagine how much better it could have been if they had been able to tell the story of their ROH work. WWE does such tremendous production work. I wish they would produce for video packages like this one to help sell the various feuds.
[Q7] 3. Rusev (w/Lana) vs. Sami Zayn. Lana wore a jacket and a top that showed off her abdomen, which is less conservative than she previously dressed while in Rusev’s corner. There were soft “Ole” and “We Want Lana” chants from the crowd. Rusev caught Sami at ringside and then dropped him onto the edge of the ring. Rusev whipped Zayn toward the barricade. Zayn jumped onto the barricade and then performed a backflip onto Rusev. Back inside the ring, Rusev connected with a heel kick. Rusev ended up knocking Zayn to the floor heading into the break. [C]
Rusev took control down the stretch. He softened up Zayn’s lower back, then smiled while looking to the crowd as he set up for the Accolade. Zayn slipped through and rolled him up for the win. Afterward, Zayn went to the stage and celebrated his win only to have Kevin Owens attack him from behind. Zayn held his neck and jaw while Owens looked down at him…
Sami Zayn beat Rusev in 11:55.
Backstage, Renee Young tried to interview Apollo Crews, but Stardust interrupted. Crews called Stardust by the name of Cody and said it was an honor to work with him, especially after working with his father, whom he credited with coming up with the name Apollo. Stardust said Apollo wants to dwell amongst the stars, but he will find out the hard way that not even Dusty Rhodes can make him a star…
Powell’s POV: A good win for Zayn. Rusev doesn’t lose anything because he’s already been beaten down by working with League of Nations, and Zayn’s win was booked to feel like an upset, which is right for his character. By the way, here’s hoping that the return of Lana to Rusev’s corner is a sign that LON is no more. After all, Rusev and Alberto Del Rio did not appear in Sheamus’s corner earlier. We’ve seen no interaction from the LON faction members. By the way, it felt weird to hear Crews talk about having his name picked out for him. I’m used to it on shows like Breaking Ground, but it just feels odd to hear the wrestlers draw attention to having stage names on the actual Raw television show.
[Q8] [C] Cole hyped that the Dudley Boyz will be on ESPNews on Tuesday night…
4. Apollo Crews vs. Stardust. Cole said people on Twitter were referring to Stardust as RudeDust because he interrupted the interview. Ugh. The broadcast team mentioned Cody Rhodes and once again talked about how his father helped Crews. Apollo performed an early flip and followed up with a dropkick. There was a nice spot with Crews going for a shoulder block through the ropes only to have Stardust counter into a neckbreaker.
Stardust played to the crowd and didn’t get much of a reaction. He removed his gloves and remained on the offensive. The fans chanted Cody briefly. Crews went for a sunset flip, but Crews dropped onto him for two. Crews came back performed a standing moonsault for a two count. “I remember when me and Ron used to do that,” JBL said. Funny. He followed up by saying the first time he did it is also the first time that Ron Simmons said Damn! Crews performed the spin-out powerbomb for the win…
Apollo Crews beat Stardust in 3:10.
Powell’s POV: Let’s hope that Stardust doesn’t stop with the gloves. We heard a lot more about Cody than usual and we didn’t get Stardust acting outraged by it. I’m ready for Cody to return. Stardust is a WWE Superstars level performer. I still believe Cody Rhodes can be more than that. Obviously, this was a showcase match for Crews, who appeared to be at least a couple inches shorter than Stardust.
Dean Ambrose made his entrance to the pop of the night while the broadcast team hyped his Payback match against Chris Jericho. Ambrose said he was supposed to host the Ambrose Asylum, but he told Shane McMahon there would not be an Ambrose Asylum.
[Q9] Ambrose said he’s not in the mood for fun and games after being attacked from behind last week. Ambrose spoke about facing a six-time champion in Jericho on Sunday. Ambrose said Jericho loves to say he’s the best in the world at what he does. Ambrose said Jericho has made quite a case for himself over the last couple months. Ambrose said he’s pretty good too.
Ambrose said he fights for and earns respect. Ambrose said Jericho cheap shots. Ambrose said he goes right to your front door. Jericho whines and complains. Ambrose said he punches people in the face and gets punched back because that’s what he does. Ambrose told Jericho to “lace up your scarf, light up your stupid little Christmas tree jacket and get out here,” Ambrose said.
Jericho’s music played and he headed to the ring and referred to Ambrose as a disrespectful, stupid idiot. He said he wouldn’t waste his time fighting Ambrose “in a dump like this.” Jericho looked at a fan in the crowd and said, “Shut up.” Jericho said he doesn’t just say he’s the best in the world, he is the best in the world at what he does. Jericho said he wins matches, makes history, commands respect, and he elevates every single opponent he steps in the ring with. Jericho said being in the ring with him brings Ambrose to a new level. Jericho told Ambrose to kiss his $1,500 boots. “$750 a boot,” Jericho boasted. Funny.
Jericho demanded that Ambrose apologize to him for disrespecting him and stealing the Highlight Reel from him and said he would be very sorry if he didn’t do it. “I’m sorry… you paid so much money for those ugly ass shoes,” Ambrose said. “Chris, I’m sorry that you’re walking around everywhere wearing a scarf.” He said he’s sorry Jericho has a Bon Jovi haircut and is an egomaniac. Ambrose said he’s not sorry for “this” and then attacked Jericho. They went to ringside where Jericho got the better of Ambrose by tripping him. Jericho and put him in the Walls of Jericho on the broadcast team’s table. Several referees ran out and Jericho eventually released the hold…
Powell’s POV: A strong segment. Jericho was at his arrogant heel finest, and Ambrose was the most over guy on the show. I’m enjoying this feud and just how good Jericho is when he plays the egomaniacal heel.
A recap of the Shane McMahon and ringless Stephanie McMahon segment from earlier in the show. The broadcast team hyped Vince’s decision on control of Raw for the Payback event. They also hyped Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio… [C]
Powell’s POV: Thanks to Dot Net reader Jeff Mitchell for pointing out that Stephanie wasn’t wearing her wedding ring. He said she usually does (I honestly don’t notice). Did Stephanie want us to notice her ringless finger? She put her hand up when security came out so we got a good look at her left hand. I’m not suggesting there’s trouble in paradise. Rather, I’m suggesting there could be at least a tease of trouble in storyline paradise.
[Q10] A commercial for NXT hyped footage of “the match that everybody is talking about” and showed fans looking shocked by a three count and then Samoa Joe holding up the NXT Championship… The Jericho and Ambrose segment was recapped… The broadcast team hyped the WWE Women’s Championship match for Payback…
5. Natalya vs. Emma. Saxton said Emma has been turning heads now that she’s no longer the girl next door type. Charlotte’s music played and she headed to ringside with Ric Flair and joined the broadcast team. Emma threw a nice clothesline. Before they could finish with the replay, Charlotte had Emma in the Sharpshooter and got the win. Natalya went to ringside afterward. Charlotte ducked behind her smiling father. Byron said Natalya is ready. JBL said Charlotte is read, then apologized to Charlotte for Byron being “a fanboy”…
Natalya beat Emma in 2:15.
Cole set up a video package on Chyna that included shots of tweets from Trish Stratus, Lita, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Steve Austin, Charlotte, Natalya, Shane McMahon, and The Rock along with clips and still shots from her career… [C]
Powell’s POV: A very nice tribute video. I thought it might stop with the opening graphic, so I’m happy that they took it a step further. Whether you feel they did it for her or to make themselves look good, she deserved that type of tribute.
[Q11] Footage aired of Baron Corbin’s recent attacks on Dolph Ziggler. The broadcast team announced they will meet in a match at Sunday’s Payback…
Baron Corbin made his entrance. Dolph Ziggler ran out behind him and attacked him. Corbin shoved him down, but Dolph got up and threw more punches at him. Corbin eventually ran to the side of the stage while referees surrounded Ziggler… [C]
Powell’s POV: Simple and effective hype for their match. Here’s hoping Ziggler gets the second entrance on Sunday only to have Corbin wait to the side of the stage and then attack him again.
Primo and Epico still like Puerto Rico, only now they like women and dancing in Puerto Rico too…
The Miz and Maryse stood in the ring for a promo. Miz said he’s appalled that people think Cesaro can beat him because they don’t see the advantage of him being the Intercontinental Champion. Maryse said the fans are hungry for his knowledge. He said he is hungry for her. Miz held up the IC strap and said it’s more than a title and an accomplishment, it is legendary. He said he is one of those legends, yet Cesaro never has worn the title. He mocked fans for their “Cesaro Section” signs. Miz pointed to Maryse and said that’s what his section looks like, then looked at the fans and said that’s what the Cesaro section looks like.
Cesaro made his entrance and spoke as he walked to the ring. Cesaro said the fans are too educated to cheer for Miz. It was impersonation time. He did a Robert De Niro “You talkin’ to me?” schtick. Cesaro said Miz belongs in the movie Jackass. Cesaro said he’ll make sure the credits roll on Miz being IC Champion. Miz said there’s only one question that Cesaro needs to ask himself. “Do you feel lucky, punk?” Cesaro responded by saying, “Go ahead, make my day.”
[Q12] Miz escorted Maryse to the apron, then went for a sneak attack, but Cesaro put him down with ease and then went for the Swing, but Maryse returned and laid on top of Miz. Cesaro picked up the IC Title belt and dropped it next to Miz…
A shot aired of Roman Reigns walking backstage. AJ Styles approached him and said he would take his title at Payback. Reigns said Styles must have already bought ringside tickets for Gallows and Anderson. Styles glared at Reigns, who then walked away while Cole hyped the main event… [C] The Samoa Joe title win commercial aired again to promote Wednesday’s NXT television show…
Powell’s POV: Join Zack Zimmerman for live coverage of NXT on Wednesday as the show streams on WWE Network. Zack also attended all three NXT weekend events, including the title change, so you can find his report on those shows in our NXT Live Events section.
Cole hyped John Cena’s return for Memorial Day (May 30)… Saxton hyped Kalisto vs. Ryback for the U.S. Title. He said it was “just in” even though they were talking about the match on the Raw Pre-Show…
Roman Reigns made his entrance to more boos than cheers. They aired footage of Reigns granting a wish for a Make A Wish child. Back live, Reigns walked over to the young fan named Ivan Rodriguez and shook hands with him and his family. The boos grew louder when Reigns climbed onto the ring apron.
6. WWE World Heavyweight Championship Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio in a non-title match. Reigns caught Del Rio with a running kick that knocked him to ringside. Del Rio performed a double stomp off the apron and onto Roman’s back heading into the break. [C] Footage aired of Del Rio avoiding a shoulder block in the corner. Back live, Del Rio was working over Reigns with a chinlock.
[Overrun] Reigns made his comeback. There were some high pitched cheers for him, but far louder boos. Reigns looked to the crowd at one point. He set up for his finisher that Del Rio dodged by ducking to ringside. Reigns went after him and caught him with a dropkick into the post. Reigns was getting back inside the ring when Del Rio kicked the middle rope into his balls. “What a move,” Cole exclaimed. What?!?
Anyway, Del Rio performed his superkick onto a seated Reigns, then tied him up in the tree of woe. Del Rio set up for his double stomp finisher, but Reigns avoided it and freed himself. Del Rio went for the Cross Arm Breaker, but Reigns pushed him off and connected with the Superman Punch moments later. Reigns got to his feet in the corner. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson’s music played and they walked onto the stage. Del Rio rolled up Reigns for a near fall. Reigns came back moments later with a spear for the win.
Roman Reigns beat Alberto Del Rio in a non-title match in 12:30.
After the match, Anderson and Gallows hit the ring and attacked Reigns. AJ Styles ran out talked them down. Anderson and Gallows left the ring. Styles turned into a Superman Punch. Anderson and Gallows went after Reigns, who quickly took them both out. Styles recovered and hit Reigns with the Phenomenal Forearm. Cole questioned whether it was collusion. JBL said it was. Cole hyped the Payback main event and questioned how Anderson and Gallows fit into it..
Powell’s POV: A good final angle to drive home the big question of whether Styles is working with Anderson and Gallows. I still don’t believe he is, but it’s not like there’s been a major tell from the storyline one way or another, which is a good thing. Roman Reigns is being booed even in Hartford. This isn’t just a major market issue for WWE. I’d love to have it revealed that he’s working with Anderson and Gallows, especially after they went out of their way to use Make A Wish in hopes of getting him over as a good guy. I’m not holding my breath.
Raw was a good show and it still felt needlessly long. That’s the curse of the third hour. Still, I like that they focussed on so many of the pay-per-view matches and didn’t give us a bunch of filler. It was cool to see Anderson and Gallows debut, but I definitely have some criticisms beyond what I wrote earlier. I’ll have more to say about them tonight in the member exclusive audio review and in Tuesday’s WWE Raw Hit List. Thanks for watching along with me. Join me for live coverage of WWE Payback on Sunday night beginning with the Kickoff Show.