In-Person Raw Review: Styles and Cena Launch White-Hot War of Words (EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS)

6/7/16 – Scott Strandberg – @wrestlerosters

AJ Styles and John Cena engage in fourth-wall shattering promo battle

Cena entered, and talked about how the electricity he felt when standing in the ring with Styles was comparable only to standing in the ring with The Rock — one hell of a compliment. Cena asked Styles to come out and explain why he and The Club attacked him. AJ entered with Anderson and Gallows — as captured by yours truly in the photo at the top of this post — accompanied by very loud dueling “Let’s Go Cena / AJ Styles” chants.

Styles said that every time he watches Cena in the ring, he sees an embarrassment to wrestling. Styles chastised Cena for not having a comeback, saying that he’s had 15 years to come up with one, but failed. Cena responded by telling Styles that “your jokes are as outdated as my jorts,” and that if Styles couldn’t even get past Roman Reigns, he sure couldn’t beat him.

Cena asked Styles why he couldn’t fight him one on one, and Styles responded with possibly the most memorable line of his long, storied career: “It’s because everyone knows that once you fight John Cena and you lose, it’s time to bust out the shovels. Because guys like you, bury guys like me.” Styles told Cena that Gallows and Anderson are his insurance policy, to which Cena responded, “Just because y’all were in the Bullet Club together?”

The Club stormed the ring and surrounded Cena, but New Day made the save, setting up The Club vs. New Day for the evening’s main event. WWE breaking the fourth wall doesn’t always work, but this was one of those occasions where it worked to perfection.

Styles has never been known as a great promo, but he was every bit as responsible as Cena for how tremendous this segment was. Both men played off each other’s peeks behind the curtain, and the meta-layers were pretty deep for a WWE dialogue segment. Everything about this worked.

The Club (AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows) def. New Day (Kofi Kingston and Big E) by pinfall in a 3-on-2 handicap match

Before the show’s main event, Styles hit a Styles Clash on Xavier Woods on the floor, forcing Woods to be ruled out of the match. Left in a two-on-three handicap situation, Kofi and Big E fought admirably. As soon as the bell rang, Kofi looked like a man possessed, single-handedly clearing the ring in a rage.

Big E hit a belly-to-belly on Anderson, but Gallows and Styles quickly overtook him. The Club wore Big E down until Kofi got the hot tag, hitting a Boom Drop on AJ (when was the last time Kofi did a Boom Drop?!) and a DDT on Gallows. Kofi reversed a Styles Clash into a beautifully executed SOS, forcing Anderson to make the save.

Kofi got distracted by Gallows long enough for AJ to hit a Phenomenal Forearm, earning the three-count. The Club kept beating down on Kofi and Big E after the bell, until Cena rushed in to make the save. Cena helped Kofi and Big E gain the upper hand, with a flurry of finishers ending with the faces standing tall.

This was a fun match that really sold Kofi and Big E as resilient fighters, taking on three major threats and holding their own. It’s also important to note that Cena actually made the save. If you recall, about a year ago, it was a running joke how The Usos would always come to Cena’s aid, but he would never repay the favor. Tonight, however, Cena came to the aid of his friends. Interesting detail.

Still, this was probably an underwhelming and predictable finish on television, but the live crowd was given a real treat after Raw went off the air. More on that at the end…

Teddy Long returns, butts heads with Stephanie McMahon over control of Raw amidst Money in the Bank madness

Raw opened with the six Money in the Bank competitors sitting atop ladders in the ring. Jericho hilariously sat atop his ladder with his legs crossed. The six men bantered for a bit, with Jericho telling them that he invented MITB and was an expert in the match type.

Zayn responded by saying that Jericho never won a MITB match, to which Jericho said that he won the 1st MITB match, then changed his mind to say the 6th. When Zayn asked him where that match took place, Jericho simply responded by saying “Apple.” Jericho then made a great callback, by telling Cesaro, “I’m from Winnipeg, you idiot!”


The segment inevitably broke down into a brawl, until Teddy Long made his surprise return. Teddy said that he was back to run Smackdown, then booked the six men into just about every non-tag-team match type possible, until Stephanie McMahon interrupted. Steph sent Teddy backstage and booked singles matches between the six MITB compeitors for later in the show.

Backstage, Teddy told Steph that Enzo and Cass, The Vaudevillains, and Gallows and Anderson all deserve tag title shots, proposing a fatal four-way at Money in the Bank for New Day’s titles. Steph asked him how he’d even gotten backstage, then called Vince, taking credit for Teddy’s idea and booking the match for MITB.

Later, R-Truth had a match with Tyler Breeze, which immediately devolved into a Golden Truth vs. Breezango brawl. Teddy and Steph came out, and Teddy tried to restart the match as a tag-team match, but Steph told him she’d had enough. She appeared with two security men — including Chris Cambridge, the champion of the local independent promotion, Imperial Wrestling Revolution — and had Teddy escorted from the building.

With Shane not appearing on Raw this week, having Teddy as his proxy worked wonderfully, and was a very pleasant surprise.

Match of the Night: Cesaro def. Chris Jericho by submission

Cesaro hit a flurry of uppercuts, but Jericho turned the tide with a dropkick and a springboard thrust kick. Cesaro answered with more uppercuts, but got caught in a Codebreaker when trying to springboard. Cesaro rolled out of the ring, and by the time Jericho got him back in, he was able to kick out.

Jericho kicked out of Cesaro’s superplex, and Cesaro kicked out of a big boot. Cesaro hit a big swing and tried for a Neutralizer, only for Jericho to reverse it into the Walls of Jericho. Cesaro squirmed his way out of the Walls and locked in a Sharpshooter, forcing Jericho to tap out.

The first match of the night was also the best, as Jericho and Cesaro worked together seamlessly. The finish was entertaining and unexpected, and gives Cesaro a nice momentum boost heading into MITB.

Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens by pinfall

After some brawling outside the ring, Ambrose hit a sidewalk slam back inside. Owens landed a big boot and a running senton. Ambrose kicked out, but Owens landed a superkick for another near-fall.

Ambrose countered a pop-up powerbomb with a Frankensteiner, which sent Owens rolling out of the ring. Ambrose tried for a suicide dive, but Owens caught him in mid-air and rammed him into the apron. Owens climbed up onto the apron and hit a frog splash onto the floor, which has to hurt like hell.

Owens tossed Ambrose back into the ring, but Ambrose caught him by surprise with Dirty Deeds for the pinfall. After the match, Ambrose set up a ladder inside the ring to take down the MITB briefcase that hung over the ring all night, but Owens tipped it over.

The finish to the match was a bit sudden, but considering we saw this same match just last night at the WWE Lawton house show, we were impressed by how few spots were used in both matches. I gained an extra measure of appreciation for both men, seeing them wrestle two entirely different styles of matches on back-to-back nights.

Alberto del Rio def. Sami Zayn by pinfall

Del Rio escaped an early Helluva Kick, but landed a step-up enziguiri. Del Rio climbed up top for his double-stomp finisher, but Zayn pulled him back down to the mat. Del Rio planted a very stiff superkick on a kneeling Zayn, then hung him back in the tree of woe for the double-stomp and the pinfall. This match was surprisingly not very competitive, as del Rio looked borderline dominant.

The crowd was also not behind Zayn at all. He got basically zero reaction when he entered, and del Rio received several rounds of “Si!” chants throughout the match. This could be partially attributed to the sizable Mexican-American demographic in Oklahoma City, but it was still surprising to see how little people seemed to care about Zayn.

  • Two promo packages on the history of Rollins and Reigns ran at different points throughout the show, one from each man’s perspective. While both were very well-produced — as is expected from WWE — it was strange to see that Rollins’ package was every bit as babyface-focused as Reigns’ was.


  • The Vaudevillains def. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady by disqualification: Cass unloaded on Gotch, hitting a big boot and an Empire Elbow. English got in the ring with Enzo, and threw him into the bottom rope, just like Gotch did when Enzo got hurt. Cass lost his cool and relentlessly attacked English, causing a DQ. I liked the booking here, as it’s very rare to see a babyface DQ loss, but it made perfect sense because Cass wanted to get revenge for his friend.
  • Rusev (w/ Lana) def. Jack Swagger by countout: Swagger got his usual hometown pop, and the action quickly spilled out of the ring. Rusev threw Swagger into Titus O’Neil (who was sitting in on commentary), rolling into the ring to accept his countout victory. Titus and Swagger attacked Rusev and eventually sent him from the ring, standing tall. It’s sad that Titus is so far from being over that WWE needs to leech off a jobber’s hometown fans, just to make Titus seem popular enough to get a US Title shot.
  • Charlotte cut a promo with Dana Brooke at her side, saying that her comments about her father were misinterpreted. She said that when she said he was dead to her, she only meant professionally, and still wants to spend holidays with him. Natalya and Becky Lynch entered, and Charlotte called the Harts a “trainwreck of a family.” Natalya and Becky tried to convince Dana to join them, but she predictably did not. Dana and Charlotte beat down on Natalya and Becky for a while. This was bad, and I was also distracted by the bacon cheeseburger and onion rings I purchased during the previous commercial break. This was the only women’s segment on the card, which is a painful reminder of how far the women’s division has fallen in a matter of two months.
  • In a backstage vignette, Tyler Breeze shaved Fandango’s back. This segment was brief, but surprisingly funny.

DARK MAIN EVENT – John Cena and Roman Reigns def. Seth Rollins and Sheamus by pinfall


As soon as Raw went off the air, Reigns’ music hit and he entered to a solid mix of boos and cheers. Rollins and Sheamus entered quickly afterward, with Rollins wearing a large brace under his tights. Early in the match, the crowd chanted “We want Rollins,” and Rollins accepted a tag from Sheamus, only to immediately tag Sheamus back in.

At this point, I assumed Rollins — who has still not wrestled on television since returning from injury — would let Sheamus work the match. I was pleasantly surprised that I was wrong on that count, as Rollins worked at least four minutes of the 10-12 minute match. He looked good, even in that limited amount of time.

Cena hit a Five-Knuckle Shuffle on Rollins, who squirmed his way out of an AA. Sheamus and Rollins isolated Cena in their corner, wearing him down. Finally, Cena reached Reigns for the hot tag, as Rollins tagged in Sheamus. Rollins immediately re-entered the ring in an attempted double-team and ate a Superman Punch from Reigns.

Cena planted Rollins with an AA, clearing the ring for Reigns to spear Sheamus, earning the pinfall victory. Cena and Reigns took pictures and signed autographs with fans on their way out of the arena.


On the whole, Raw probably would have worked better if the dark match had been televised. It was a more satisfying ending than the one given on TV — which I understand is the point of dark main events — but in this case I think it would have been equally effective on television.

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