WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 11, 2016) from Los Angeles, California, and the company is well on its way to building something special as they head into the upcoming Payback pay-per-view (PPV) early next month in Rosemont, Illinois.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
Screaming into the mic and I like it
Shane McMahon has proven to be a big hit for our business, as far as traffic is concerned, at least, so it's no real surprise he was put back in charge of Raw again this week. They chalked it up to "social media support" but it didn't matter the reason.
Yes, the story they told is still unimaginably stupid, but you know what? It's awful nice to have a babyface authority figure.
Instead of watching underdogs attempt to overcome the evil overlords oppressing them, we get to watch Shane O'Mac only abuse his power a little bit by denying Kevin Owens his automatic rematch for the Intercontinental championship and then going all Teddy Long at the first opportunity.
Again, it's fine, if only because it feels fresh. It won't last, and will probably lead to something silly like a Shane vs. Triple H match for control of the show at SummerSlam or some such nonsense, but we really should enjoy this while it lasts.
Put it all over the air in thick slices
This version of the Roman Reigns character may be repetitive -- this is the third consecutive show he's uttered the same line about not being a bad guy or a good guy but rather THE guy -- but he's also the most interesting. No longer does he appear to be shrinking away from the crowd response, whatever that response may be.
Dare I say, it looks like he's actually feeding off it, allowing it to guide his actions and dictate his movements. Instead of getting flustered at negativity, he lets it fester and breathe until settling in to whatever he wants to come with next.
The character works because he can be himself, the same guy he always was in The Shield but with a little more fire and a lot more conviction.
I'm not sure how it made sense to take an entire week off from his program with AJ Styles in service of maintaining what looks to be a career long rivalry with Bray Wyatt but that's just because I don't know what they're doing. It's okay too.
We don't always have to know.
Even if it was standard fare, the tag team main event was fun and a Bray Wyatt fans can cheer for looks to be just as fun as we all hoped.
Soak it all up in your head with the anger
When Dr. Phil was announced as a guest star for this show, it was absolutely fair to immediately doubt how WWE would put him to use. Then, the show happened.
And he was fantastic.
Actually, I'm not sure they've used a single wrestler as well as they used Phil here. He confronted Charlotte and Ric Flair about all the character issues that exist with the two, somehow making it work both in kayfabe and out of it, while also acting as the voice of the disgruntled mark and smark fans alike.
Not only that, when Flair stepped to him, Dr. "I'm not playing around" Phil wooo'ed right in his face.
Later, he was ringside for Charlotte's women's title defense against Natalya and there's nothing grand to say about Byron Saxton asking him how he felt about it before and after. That was as strange as it was pointless, but at least it was in service of getting over these dastardly heels who, let's be real, we're all DYING to see get savagely beaten.
The match, by the way, was fantastic, with a brilliant finish. Charlotte, for all her faults, is a master of wrestling facials and her expression when she realized she was keeping the title despite tapping thanks to her dad stepping in at just the right moment was everything you want from a smarmy heel like that.
Fantastic work all around.
All the best to all the rest
Tag team tournament: A tourney is a great idea because we really can't stand another Usos/Lucha Dragons feud for New Day and there are new teams to get over in the division. Enzo and Big Cass were just as over this week as they were last week, which is a great sign, and their match against The Dudley Boyz actually has a ton of meaning for being a quarterfinal. That was another great thing about this show, by the way: STAKES.
Bullet Club: Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows are here and, well, the fans seemed to know them! That's a plus! Commentary put them over strong and it felt like a fresh way to debut a new team. The question is whether or not that's all they'll be: a straight up tag team with no association with Finn Balor, or AJ Styles, or any member of the Bullet Club they used to run with. That's the fan expectation, but wouldn't it be so very WWE if they just attacked The Usos so they could take their spot in the tag title tournament or something? Either way, it's intriguing enough to want to come back to see how they follow up.
Cesaro def. Kevin Owens: Cesaro as James Bond is killer, pissed off Owens is the best version of this character, and when the two meet in the ring for a number one contender match, well, magic happens.
Miz & Maryse: The wife is just as unbearable as the husband, which is great because Cesaro is back just in time to swing them both -- hopefully at the same time -- around and around for our viewing pleasure. Credit where it's due, the domestic water bit had me laughing.
AJ Styles def. Sami Zayn: Just a really fun match between two top pro wrestlers at the top of their pro wrestling game. I don't want to overstate anything here but these are two of the blandest characters you'll find in WWE, entirely dependent on their skills in the ring, and they managed to grab the crowd and keep them throughout the match while building to a great finish. They paid it off after with a great backstage segment where Styles consoled a down on his luck Zayn by saying "it was just three seconds." They made it feel like they're on equal footing while also making Styles strong for his upcoming title match. Really nicely done.
Highlight Reel: This may have been the best Chris Jericho we've seen in years. He's a massive shit stain, so ungodly annoying that it's not enough to see him beat I want him humiliated. Enter Dean Ambrose and his wacky nonsense that actually plays well because it makes Jericho look like an idiot for his mishandling of it. They shouldn't hammer on this too hard but this was incredibly well done considering both how bad it could have been and how it ultimately played out.
Apollo Crews def. Adam Rose: It's early, and slow and steady wins the race, but having watched enough NXT, I'm not sure where they can go with Crews.
This was a fantastic show. Great matches, great angles, a great job of setting up for the future, a big debut, and intrigue for what's to come.