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Pros and Cons of the April 25 Monday Night Raw: Got your back

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Every shows has its ups and downs... here's one fan's accounting of the high and lows of Raw from Hartford on April 25!


Omen in the Sky

It’s almost unbelievable how well WWE has handled the rollout of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows given their track record in the past couple years. They started seemingly small with beating up The Usos weeks ago, but even that had a clear purpose and now they’ve been seamlessly integrated as a focal point of the main event angle and it’s worked incredibly well. With the Finn Balor stuff I thought they had potential to mess with it in a negative way by blowing the payoff too early last night, but instead they just further built the intrigue such that I’m even less sure of what is going to happen on Sunday.

With a gun to my head, I'd say No Contest via Balor, Anderson, and Gallows, but I'm not confident about that anymore especially with how hard they've shifted toward absolving Styles of blame for the attacks. It once again feels like the swerve is that AJ is actually aligned with them because they've really told this story well such that any outcome would be surprising but also make sense. Thought they really nailed that closing segment tonight. This is the best build to a WWE title match in at least two years.

Also, Roman Reigns' character is the biggest dick ever. AJ makes the save for him and then he punches him in the face for no reason? I guess he did warn us that he wasn't a good guy...

As for the match, I actually think all things considered that the debut of Anderson and Gallows in the ring was handled well enough. WWE just doesn't believe in short dominant television matches in situations such as this. Obviously if it was up to me they would have handily defeated the Usos, but I've come to accept that's just not how they do things even with acts like the Usos that they've given up on protecting in terms of wins and losses. With three hours of Raw, they want to have as many long television matches as possible and to protect too many acts.

With that being said, even though it was too long, I was thankful that at least Gallows & Anderson were dominant, and took about ninety percent of the match before winning clean. If it has to be long, at least make them look strong in that longer format.

The Victim

The Payback hype video for Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens was just what that feud desperately needed, and was tremendously well done. Too often WWE doesn't do the legwork when pushing people from NXT to the main roster and really struggled with Zayn in that regard until this evening.

The reason Kevin Owens has been one of the most successful acts from modern NXT on the main roster is because his time in NXT was brief, so they actually established his character to the main roster audience rather than coasting on his NXT reputation and expecting the Raw audience to just get it, even though NXT is probably watched by ten percent of the Raw audience. Too much of Sami's run had been just alluding to why he and Kevin had been battling, but tonight they actually showed the audience what their friendship and rivalry and history was all about to make people that aren't regular NXT viewers invested in their feud. This is the kind of stuff WWE needs to be doing with NXT acts more often if they want them to be successful on the main roster.

Strong Style

I was immediately excited when Sheamus versus AJ Styles was announced for last night's episode of Raw. Sheamus has always been a top TV worker, and at this point AJ is without a doubt the best TV worker in the company this year, and they did not disappoint on my high expectations, producing one of the best Raw matches of the year.

This was very much a Sheamus special, a violent, stiff war that made AJ Styles look tough as nails for surviving it. AJ's experience in New Japan showed he was more than equipped to fight back against Sheamus' stiffness delivering a bunch of hard shots of his own including a nasty Pele Kick that looked like it hit Sheamus flush. It also gave a good indication of the type of match we can hopefully expect to see on Sunday given the stylistic similarities with Reigns and Sheamus.

I was also impressed that they gave Styles a clean as a sheet win with his finish given that Sheamus generally continues to be protected beyond what seems reasonable for his level of overness with the audience. That type of win positions Styles well for his match at Payback.

Sudden Impact

C'est un Miracle! WWE has seemingly figured out how to present Cesaro two weeks in a row now. Vince might actually finally get it. I thought he came across great once again tonight. Having people as good at their jobs to play off as Miz and Maryse definitely helps, but Cesaro delivering a couple lines and hitting Swiss Death on people in a suit without taking off his shades is exactly the place he needs to be.

Cesaro has such a natural coolness about him when they let that come across as they've done lately. I really could see Payback going either way, but both outcomes are great because both Cesaro and the Miz and Maryse duo have been killing it.


Broken record

I mean, at this point, there’s not much left to say about the women’s division. They got about five minutes of time, and the woman in an actually interesting feud got jobbed out in 2 minutes which undercuts whoever wins the feud if they even have a match at this point. Once again they’re relegated to a Raw fallout video.It seems extremely clear at this point that the only purpose of this change to Superstars was positive publicity for WWE and Stephanie, a less embarrassing championship belt and a shiny toy to distract people, rather than and intent improve anything meaningful for the women of WWE.

Today though I'll talk about one specific point that I've seen come up lately in the argument for why Charlotte shouldn't have lost the title to Sasha at WrestleMania even though Dallas desperately wanted her to win. The argument has been that Sasha Banks needs more character development before she gets her big win, likely in Barclays at SummerSlam where she had the WON North American Match of the Year last year against Bayley. That seems reasonable on its face and a good culmination to her journey if they did well building towards it. Well, since WrestleMania, WWE has elected to build her character through a 70 second squash match with Summer Rae, an 8 woman tag where she got 30 seconds of ringtime... and that's it. Not entirely sure how she's meant to get her character over to the audience while sitting in catering. And that's not to mention Becky who didn't even get the one singles match. She's just been completely ignored.

I know I bring this stuff up every week, but the treatment of women in WWE is worth talking about until it's fixed with more than branding and shiny distractions, especially after two of the women that have been ignored stole the show at the biggest WrestleMania in history mere weeks ago and now can't even get on television regularly. It's something they shouldn't be let off the hook for.

The Return of the Queen

People familiar with me on this site know that I think Stephanie McMahon is a great performer, but even I was not thrilled to hear that style and grace was returning to Raw. She was absolutely dynamite in the Bryan storyline at the genesis of the Authority and played a huge role in cementing him as a top star in the eyes of the audience at large with her scathing promos that got the audience behind Bryan's underdog tale, but it's just gone on too long at this point. There's only so much crushing dominance from the villains that an audience can take, as shown by the show's ratings falling off a cliff since 2014.

I'm really hopeful that Shane's new era can continue after Payback. The show has needed this refresh, even if the ratings are still struggling. They need to stay the course on this rebuild and start getting newer acts over rather than yet again falling back on things like The Authority.

If they do bring The Authority back, hopefully the rumors are right and Shane brings back Seth Rollins to end this farce.

Walls of Jericho... on the Announcer's Table!

Bad form by Jericho stealing Paige's PTO on the table gimmick, which Paige thankfully called Jericho for on twitter. She invented that.

As for this feud, it's amazing the difference in how entertaining or not entertaining Ambrose is based on the feud he is currently involved with. When he was opposite Rollins in 2014 or opposite Triple H and Brock Lesnar (before the idiotic cart segment on the go-home show for WrestleMania) this year, he seemed like someone who I could genuinely see as a top guy. He was compelling on the microphone. But when he doesn't have something like those feuds to really dig his teeth into, something is completely lacking in his performance. I thought the segment tonight was one of the biggest lowlights of the show.

Wrestling Isn't Wrestling

The final knock on this episode isn't on WWE. It was impressive just how little an arena full of people going to a wrestling show had any interesting in watching wrestling. Many of the promo segments got over, but basically every single match on the show just died with the audience, and it was not due to a lack of effort on the workers who put on multiple very strong matches tonight. In front of a hotter crowd, the stiff war with AJ and Sheamus is up there for TV MOTY and even matches like Gallows & Anderson versus The Usos and Zayn and Rusev would have come across in a much more compelling fashion.


What were your highlights and lowlights, Cagesiders?

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