WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (April 4, 2016) from Dallas, Texas, and it was the first stop after the heavily criticized WrestleMania 32 pay-per-view (PPV) that saw Roman Reigns become the new WWE world heavyweight champion. He now has his first opponent.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
It's all about control
Shane McMahon failed at WrestleMania. He fought hard, though, sacrificing his body for what he thought was the greater good. Sometimes in life you just have to live with trying your best and coming up short anyway.
So he came out to say goodbye, tears in his eyes, forced to face the fact that he would not be running Raw like he hoped.
Then, Vince McMahon said he could totally run Raw.
In that very moment a monumentally stupid angle became an all time stupid angle. WWE has run some incredibly dumb storylines in its history but this literally wiped out every single thing that came before it.
Undertaker may be done wrestling forever (probably not, but maybe) and he will have gone out over something that made no difference to anything at all. They were going to do whatever they wanted to do and nothing in between was going to matter. That's the lesson WWE is constantly teaching us: care about this all you want, none of it will matter when all is said and done.
Actually, that's a great life lesson. Wasn't it Vince McMahon who once said "life sucks and then you die"?
There has not ever been a day nor will there ever come a day where Roman Reigns is booked better than he was on this show. He walked out to boos like he was Eva Marie wrestling Bayley for the women's title at Full Sail, like he was John Cena walking into Hammerstein wrestling Rob Van Dam for the WWE and ECW titles. This man was HATED, the kind of hate that seeps into your bones and makes you shake.
The King of Swing is back and looking better than ever, uppercutting and swinging everyone around.
He responded to it with a shit eating grin before saying this:
"I'm not a bad guy. I'm not a good guy. I'm THE guy."
They couldn't have scripted that any better and he couldn't have possibly delivered it any better than he did. If the fans had their way in that moment, they would have all stormed the ring and torn him apart.
It was magnificent.
Then he challenged literally anyone to come on out and try to take his title from him. And one by one they filed in: First Chris Jericho, then AJ Styles, then Kevin Owens, and finally Sami Zayn. My man Reigns regarded all of them as lesser, especially Zayn, who he casually waved away as he was climbing in the ring, like how Sami wasn't even good enough to climb into it to stand there with him.
Then, when those four men -- who have all been feuding -- started fighting each other instead of keeping their eyes on the prize, he stood back and laughed at them. When the smoke cleared, Jericho was left standing in the ring, so he speared him, bounced off the ropes like he was way too cool for this scene, picked up his title, held it triumphantly above his head, and left.
It was perfect. Roman Reigns, if only on this night, if only for this night, was perfect.
Later, Styles would win a Fatal 4-Way that included a returning Cesaro and we're looking at a beloved star who busted his ass his entire career just to get the chance to make it to WWE challenging for the top title against a man we can finally feel good about booing.
This was a total win.
Another family affair
The booking of the women on this show was baffling.
WWE went to a great deal of effort to put over the fact that there is a new women's championship title, that the entire roster of women helped create that by simply working hard and being just as good as any man in the promotion. This is good!
What's baffling is that they've focused all of this on a champion who literally only wins her matches because she has a man, her father, assisting her. Charlotte straight up said those words, too, that she wouldn't be women's champion were it not for Ric Flair.
I do not believe there is any sexism at play here. I do not believe they had any intention of bringing this across this way. I'm sure the idea wasn't any different than any other heel manager/wrestler tandem, where the former cheats to help the latter win.
But the reality is the story they're telling is that Charlotte is the women's champion only because a man helped her get there. And when you think of it like that, well, it kind of sucks.
Then Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch were seemingly cast aside so Natalya could establish herself as the next challenger, and they immediately brought up the family aspect, and didn't these two have a match at an NXT Takeover special with Ric in Charlotte's corner and Bret Hart in Nattie's?
That seems like a strange first play in this new verions of the women's division. Why make it at all about those who came before them? Why not make it all about those who are there now and making all this happen like they're claiming?
Realest guys in the room
Hot damn it's good to see Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy in a WWE ring live on Monday Night Raw in front of a crowd who would surely adore them.
Did they ever.
Going beyond the fact that Michael Cole was calling them an "acquired taste" when the entire building was eating out of the palm of Enzo's hand -- which I wouldn't recommend, by the way, you'd probably be high for a week -- the moment sounds came out of his mouth, this was fun in a way most Raw segments cannot be.
Silly as this may sound, we need more catchphrases in wrestling that don't make you cringe. Enzo is literally overflowing with them, like he has so many in his tiny little body he needs to unload them as fast as possible. Big Cass can just stand there and incorrectly spell the word "soft" and it's somehow the best thing you've ever seen.
And you WANT to be a part of it. You don't want to make fun of it, you don't want to mock it in a chant, you want to be the one saying it along with them.
You know who else got over like that? The Rock. He was just a charismatic dude you liked listening to who came up with catchphrases you liked saying along with him. When he worked a match and got a near fall, you loved it because you loved him because of those awesome catchphrases. It's a ridiculously silly but entirely legitimate way for a performer to get himself over in pro wrestling.
These two are made.
Would also like to shout out Bubba Ray Dudley for his reaction to getting ethered throughout the entire segment. Not that it was necessary to get the act over, but it was a real nice cherry on top.
I don't really have any feelings towards Zack Ryder in any direction, so his getting a WrestleMania moment followed by a really nice moment with his father on Raw didn't affect me the way it did so many others. However, I recognize it absolutely did affect so many others.
Which is why I wholly support the decision to go about it exactly the way they did.
The Miz is still the most underrated performer on the WWE roster, and his wife, Maryse, has long needed to make some sort of return to interact with him on television in some sort of way. I had no idea how badly I wanted that some sort of way to be her squaring up with Zack Ryder's way too jacked dad, slapping him hard across the face for pushing her man down, and that being enough to get Miz the victory and the Intercontinental title.
There are many people who are PISSED about this, and it's delicious.
They've got a nice program staring them in the face here with all the backstory they put together in one segment that could get them through at least two pay-per-view shows.
All the best to all the rest
New Day def. League of Nations: The match was fine, like all matches between these two teams, but it was really a set up to kick King Barrett out of the crew. He's probably done in WWE, as reported months ago, and, really, they never quite figured out how to use him anyway. Even when they got it right, with the Bad News gimmick, it was only because it was dropped in their laps and hey even managed to screw that up fairly quick. If it is goodbye, it's sad. But not that sad.
Babyface Wyatt Family: It's hard to tell with WWE sometimes but I think this was an acknowledgement that what The Rock started at WrestleMania was cemented here in the form of a turn and now it's actually proper to cheer for these fellas. This is probably the right call.
Apollo Crews debuts: We've become accustomed to the idea of big debuts with a lot of hype around them, but this felt very workman like. Just a dude showing up and scoring a win over his opponent. He more or less looked exactly like he always did in NXT, which may not be a good sign for the future but it seems clear they see something there so perhaps he'll get more opportunities.
Sasha Banks def. Summer Rae: That they would book a squash match like this would seem to indicate they still have big plans for her and she isn't losing her place in the title picture. And then the women's championship ceremony happened, Nattie set up a program with Charlotte, and I'm not entirely sure what the deal is.
Banter Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler: This legitimately felt like Corbin forgot he needed to break the 10 count by getting back into the ring before continuing to attack Ziggler on the outside and then actually got angry at the referee for doing what he was supposed to. It was almost certainly booked this way and nothing was improvised but it's far more entertaining to think it was, especially considering he told the ref it's his fault that Dolph got an End of Days outside the ring. Maybe it was booking designed to protect everyone -- that's WWE's usual go to -- but it didn't necessarily feel that way. It was fun.
The Dudley Boyz def. The Usos: 50/50 booking sucks, there wasn't much to like about this, and no one seems to know the rules of a Tables match. The crowd was also dead by this point, either because it was so deep into the show or they just didn't care. It was saved, however, by what came after it.
This was a fun show, even if so much of what was presented flew in the face of everything they did at WrestleMania. Really, they called up quite a few NXT acts, The Authority was nowhere to be found, and it felt fresh, especially compared to the old time feel of WrestleMania 32 the night before.