WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (May 4, 2015) from Montreal, Quebec, Canada with all the latest build to the upcoming Payback pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for later this month in Baltimore. And I'll be damned if they didn't put on what may have been the best episode of the year so far.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Biggest dog, smallest yard
When Randy Orton and Roman Reigns briefly feuded last year, it was your typical main event level program in WWE. Orton was his usual technically sound but emotionally uninteresting self while Reigns was still trying to find his footing as a singles star and gearing up for bigger matches under brighter lights.
It was what it was, basically.
Now, though, Orton and Reigns in the ring together trading testosterone feuled shots at each other over who beats who felt like a much bigger deal. Both are so much better than where they were the first time around but there was a certain chemistry here. It didn't feel like two meatheads pushing their chests out so much as two badasses trading barbs ahead of testing their might.
Your mileage may vary.
Meanwhile, Orton won the hearts of fans everywhere when The New Day's theme hit and he completely switched gears and started bobbing his head to the beat. He even clapped along with the crowd chanting how much they suck.
They really don't. They're amazing. The Montreal Boo Hoo Job? How incredible is that?
This segment was amazing.
The ensuing match may not have been great but it was very good for what it was and the booking was outstanding. The heel tag champions got to pick up a win over two main event guys, Reigns spearing Orton was right for the ongoing story in the main event, and Kane using it to book a match to close this show actually made sense in a way most booking decisions don't.
This was a lot of fun.
It's worth mentioning that the main event later was underwhelming for the match, but the way it was booked led to a fun spot with Dean Ambrose running in as a hero he hasn't been in some time.
INZAYN (Not even a little sorry)
Remember when Charlotte debuted on Raw in a special guest spot and it was kind of cool but you always had to defend it because it was booked so poorly?
Sami Zayn's debut was the exact opposite of that.
This was perfect.
It started with a rambling John Cena promo, one he played to perfection both because he turned the crowd by the time he was done and because he knew what was coming and drew it out for all it was worth. THIS is what makes Cena such a great pro wrestler. His control of the crowd in situations like this.
Bret Hart's surprise appearance was fun not just because it gave us another cool "here's this Canadian hero back in Montreal" moment but because it confused us. And Heath Slater following right after him confused us even more, and it also pissed us off, giving Slater heat he desperately needs right now.
Then he ran into a mic shot and the confusion was gone, replaced by euphoria. We knew what was coming, and Hart may have struggled to get the words out but I like to think it's because he was so swept up in the excitement of what was happening. It was electric in that arena.
And then it happened. Sami Zayn made his main roster debut on Monday Night Raw.
That alone would have made for an awesome moment, or segment, or even match, no matter who he was working with. But they went the extra mile. They did it in his hometown, where he received a hero's welcome, and they had him answer the John Cena US title open challenge.
What's more, they booked him like a main event level WWE superstar. He did the job, sure, but they didn't just send him out there and beat him clean in the middle.
They actually protected him.
They made him look like a star in waiting, like a future foil for Cena when he finally does come up to the main roster for good. He broke Cena's submission and he kicked out of Cena's AA finish. He hit all his signature spots. He got the endorsement on the way out.
It was so damn good to see you, Sami, and we can't wait to see you again.
All the best to all the rest
Life sucks, then you wrestle: If Ryback has taught me anything in the few promos he's cut on WWE television it's that his life completely sucked but then he started wrestling and now he's feeding. I have no idea why this is supposed to make me cheer him, but he's got a certain goofy charm to him when he's out there violently jerking his head around and screaming every word like he can't hear himself talking. What's more, Bray Wyatt's schtick has become so tired I find myself cheering for THE BIG GUY in all this.
Brass Ring Club vs. The Ascension: Utter and complete confusion at Konnor and Viktor scoring so much offense on Tyson Kidd and then it all made sense when Cesaro got in and started uppercut murdering everyone in sight. Those running uppercuts into the corner from post to post should become a trademark spot right now. These two are going to be a really fun babyface team.
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose: When Kane announced that if Ambrose won this match he would be added to the Payback main event, I'm certain I was one of the few fans who didn't want him added to the match. It's too close to the Shield triple threat for the title that we should get at some point soon, and Ambrose would almost surely be the job guy and nothing more. After all, that's been his role for some time now, especially on PPV. That said, it was a great way to get heat for what would have been just another match on a Raw with a hot crowd who were really into everything they were doing. It's unfortunate that Ambrose is in this position but they made the most of it here with one of the best Raw matches in a long time with a legitimately surprising finish. Still not a big fan of Ambrose in the main event of Payback like this, but can't really feel bad about how they executed all this.
Rusev vs. Fandango: I'm greatly enjoying the basic gist of this Lana-Rusev break up as it is being presented. Essentially, Rusev is a controlling asshole who refuses to let her express herself how she likes and the fans are properly siding with Lana. There are issues with how others have been written to deal with her, but the basic gist of this is solid. Also, Lana Fandangoing was one of the best damn things you'll ever see. You do you, Lana, and to hell with Rusev.
R-Truth vs. Stardust: We actually watched a match on this show that featured a wrestler winning because he brought toy spiders to the ring in a bag and the other wrestler got really scared when he opened that bag. That happened. Let's move on.
Naomi gets a heater: There was something missing in what Naomi was doing last week but giving her a heater in Tamina feels right, especially when they'll be dishing out beat downs like what they did to Nikki and Brie Bella here. It still doesn't feel too good, though, because they were given all of one minute to do their business. There's no other way to put it: That really sucks. That said, as many pointed out to me on Twitter, they did advance the story while introducing an entirely new element to it, which is more than can be said for a meaningless 30 second match.
King Barrett & Sheamus vs. Neville & Dolph Ziggler: Really simple tag match pairing two heels opposite two babyfaces currently engaged in a program and they had a solid if short match with plenty of good action and a fine finish. Nothing truly special, but you can't ask for much more in a spot like this.
This was an outstanding show. They missed on maybe one segment, and that's it.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comment section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?