The concept is self-explanatory... let's talk the good and bad of the May 9 Raw!
Chairs at Dawn
The reaction to the post-match angle with AJ Styles and Roman Reigns was the most passionate and excited we've seen for a feud in quite some time and deservedly so, because they have been nailing this storyline. It feels so good to have an engaging title feud for once featuring compelling personalities and a captivating narrative. Those closing moments in particular were the hottest of fire with the gamesmanship and tension around the steel chair. Simply exceptional work by both guys.
This feud is doing an excellent job getting both guys over in a big way to the audience, and should be a perfect launching point to get Finn over huge as well when Gallows & Anderson inevitably turn on Styles. Really, the great thing about this storyline is that every member of it is gaining overness and no one is losing it. That's the best kind of angle: one where the rising tide lifts every boat. It's so good to have a hot main event angle again, something the show has been totally lacking since Daniel Bryan's Road to Wrestlemania.
It's wild that after all the hackneyed cheap tricks WWE has pulled over the past 20 months to try to get Roman Reigns over, the answer turned out to be just putting him in a great story and giving the audience a reason to cheer for him. Funny, that.
Playtime is Over
Dana Brooke is on Raw! Extremely happy to see the Total Diva (Err... is it Total Woman now? Total Superstar? Who knows) on Monday Nights. One of the few convincing arguments I'd seen for keeping the Women's Championship on Charlotte at Wrestlemania is that there is a dearth of heels in the women's division, while there are plenty of faces, meaning that Charlotte had more feuding options coming out of Wrestlemania than Sasha Banks or Becky Lynch. Hopefully adding Dana to the mix will serve to redress that balance by strengthening Emma's character as a credible heel on the same level as Charlotte down the line. Having Becky fight 2 on 1 down against Emma and Dana should hopefully get real heat on the pair.
You Can't Teach That
WWE has done really well continuing to feature Big Cass even with Enzo Amore on the shelf to keep the act in the minds of the audience, but they made a particularly aggressive choice tonight when they had Cass actually in the show opening segment and confronting Chris Jericho. It makes me start to wonder whether they'll attempt to transition Enzo into being Cass's manager and move away from the tag team. Given Cass's size and skill, I could easily see Vince wanting to push him as a singles act sooner rather than later. I thought Cass really acquitted himself well here. He came across like he was completely on Jericho's level as a star and did not seem out of his depth at all. In fact, he was the star of the segment.
The Prizefighter and the Likable One
Isn't it fitting that the Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn continued their career symmetry in their own character appropriate ways tonight? Sami Zayn just asks for an opportunity. He pinned The Miz on Smackdown, but he doesn't demand a title shot. Instead he just politely requests that if he can beat The Miz tonight he gets added to the Extreme Rules triple threat match. He doesn't want to be handed his shot, he's more than willing to earn it, and earn it he did. On the other hand, in classic Kevin Owens fashion, he finds his opportunity he already had cast into question because he can never keep his big mouth shut. He was already in the Triple Threat, but him being a constant pain in Shane's ass led to Shane making him defend his slot against Zack Ryder. And yet again, KO emerged victorious, continuing his strong booking he's received in recent weeks.
For the most part, Miz's character work continues to be recognized as it should be, but he's also one of the most unheralded performers in WWE this year. That trend continued with a really strong outing against Sami tonight. Zayn thrives when he's positioned as the true babyface, and so a matchup against WWE's most heatseeking heel was a perfect one for him, and they delivered on that tonight. Plus, The Miz didn't run away from contact and actually caught Zayn's moonsault off the barricade! Progress!
There's nothing necessarily fancy with this storyline, but having multiple interesting characters, matches with stakes, and a title being treated as important is usually a good way to get an angle over and that has bared out with this one.
The Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin feud continues to make little sense to me in how it has been handled. This was pretty much the definitional 50/50 booking that WWE gets derided for which prevents them from successfully building up newer guys. What does this accomplish? Why did Corbin lose at Payback? And after losing at Payback, at that point, why did Corbin win here? It doesn't help either guy. It cements him as another guy floating around the midcard, which I suppose is their purpose, but it just all seems so pointless. If you're not feuding a debuting guy against someone he can beat to establish himself, then pick someone else to feud him with.
Kalisto is the single worst babyface in WWE right now. He jumped Rusev for no reason on Smackdown, and tonight he actively cheated to help his tag team partner pick up a win against Rusev. Besides the fact that having Rusev lose to Sin Cara before he wrestles for a title, even if via cheating from Kalisto, isn't a good idea in and of itself, it also makes Kalisto look like a complete dick. He actually went to the apron to intervene first, and then once Lana distracted the referee he kicked Rusev in the head. How is that a thing for a babyface to do? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. This is a level beyond how WWE normally struggles with babyface psychology in that he was actively doing a heel move with no provocation.
Bait and Switch
Having the Jericho, Ambrose, and Cass stuff main event after the hotter than the sun angle with Styles and Reigns was less than ideal as it was, but to then also bait and switch the audience out of actually seeing the match and making Cass a bit player in the Jericho and Ambrose feud really ended a very good show on a low note. If they're high on Cass, why not have Ambrose cost Jericho the match than not having the match at all?
This episode is a great example of how important the main storyline is to the overall quality of a wrestling program, even one that is three hours long like Raw. Outside of the Intercontinental Championship feud, Cass's promo, and Dana's debut, there wasn't a ton of great stuff except the Styles and Reigns feud, but that segment was so strong that it elevated the entire rest of the show.