4/25/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
AJ Styles def. Sheamus
I often write that Raw is at its best when there is a sense of coherence that binds the segments together. Even if it’s not a common theme for every element, an overriding sense of purpose helps keep the show from drifting into irrelevance. This week, the complicated interplay between AJ Styles, Roman Reigns, the Usos, and Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows introduced enough confusion and uncertainty to hold the show together.
The first match of the night was the best. It pitted Sheamus against Styles in a hard-hitting showdown. Styles took a big time beating from Sheamus, who was not afraid to lay in his offense in a stiff fashion. He went for a Brogue Kick, but Styles ducked it on the apron. Instead, he came over the top rope with a Phenomenal Forearm to get the pin. While the fans seem to have lost some interest in Sheamus, even as a heel, a clean win over him in a singles match still puts Styles on a great trajectory going into Payback.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows def. The Usos
Jey Uso came to the ring with a wrap on a shoulder that he injured last year and aggravated when Anderson and Gallows jumped him. That brace gave Anderson and Gallows a target and they worked the shoulder throughout the match. When Jey finally reached Jimmy for the hot tag, the rally was short lived. Gallows hit him with a big boot and they doubled teamed him for the Magic Killer to get the win. When they continued the assault after the bell, Roman Reigns made the save. Anderson and Gallows insisted to Styles that their only intent is to protect his back and make sure the Usos don’t cheat to protect their cousins’ title.
Roman Reigns def. Alberto Del Rio
My only complaint about the main event picture is the face/heel confusion between Styles, Reigns, and those around them. Since Reigns is the most unpopular wrestler in the company, it would make sense if his friends were heels and his adversaries were babyfaces. Instead, Styles is a clear babyface, but so are Reigns’s friends the Usos, while Styles’s friends Gallows and Anderson are tweeners with questionable motivation. The confusion gets back to the announcers, too, who repeatedly gave mixed messages about who they support.
The symptom of Reigns’s unpopularity deadened the crowd when he wrestled fellow unpopular wrestler Del Rio in the main event. The only reaction through the whole match was a chorus of boos each time Reigns mounted a rally. The boos culminated when Reigns tried to set up for the Superman Punch. When Reigns hit the Superman Punch, Gallows and Anderson started to make their way down the ramp. Despite the distraction, Reigns hit a spear and got the win.
As soon as the match ended, Gallows and Anderson jumped Reigns. They stomped him until Styles joined them in the ring and begged them to leave Reigns alone. In spite of his intervention, Reigns punched Styles, Anderson, and Gallows in sequence. Styles recovered in time to hit a Phenomenal Forearm with Reigns focused elsewhere.
The uncertainty over how Anderson and Gallows will factor into the main event makes the match much more intriguing than a straightforward singles match. It’s not a storyline on par with CM Punk stealing the WWE Title, but it is plenty compelling for an off-month PPV. If I had to guess, I would say that Anderson and Gallows do not side with Styles and ultimately align themselves with a debuting Finn Balor, which carries a three-way program into next month.
-Raw opened with Stephanie McMahon confronting Shane about control of Raw. She announced that Vince will make a decision on control of the show at Payback, which is oddly unexciting.
-New Day mediated a war of words between Enzo and Cass and the Vaudevillains. It was fun to see how delighted New Day was to witness Enzo’s wordplay up close. It was almost as if Xavier woods realized that his group finally has the comic foil to take them into the stratosphere.
-A great video package cataloged the history between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Due to their shared development and chemistry, this match should feel like more of a big deal. It might have made sense to dedicate more time to it so it could feel like the semi-main event it deserves to be. Nonetheless, a great match could make it as memorable as it deserves to be.
-Zayn went on to take on Rusev in a singles match. It’s a shame that this match came with Rusev at his lowest point on the main roster and without enough time for Zayn to take the full brunt of Rusev’s onslaught. I think they could have very entertaining matches together with Rusev’s offense and Zayn’s ability to sell. Even though it could have been better, it was fun to see Rusev inflict the damage he did, and Zayn countering the Accolade into a schoolboy was a clever finish. Naturally, Owens took him down on the apron.
-Dean Ambrose gave one of his best promos of the recent past when he contrasted his hard-edged style with Chris Jericho’s pomp and circumstance. Jericho rose to the same level and told Ambrose to kiss his $1500 boots for giving him the chance to get in the ring with him. A fight broke out and Jericho managed to trip Ambrose head-first into a monitor atop the announce table. He put him in the Walls of Jericho on the table. WWE is better when Jericho is around, even at this point in his career. He is bringing the best out of Ambrose in a way that even Brock Lesnar couldn’t.
-Natalya quickly dispatched Emma with a Sharpshooter while Charlotte sat in on commentary. The segment was so short that it must have had time cut when another segment went long. There simply wasn’t enough time to do anything here.
-Apollo Crews got his first real test against Stardust, and even got a brief pre-match interaction about Dusty Rhodes’s role as his mentor. It didn’t take long for Crews to hit a standing moonsault, a beautiful enzuigiri, and a spinning sit-out powerbomb for a relatively easy win.
-Miz mocked the “internet trolls” who make up the Cesaro Section and said that the Miz section is made up of his wife. Cesaro responded that he wants to take the Intercontinental Title to restore the honor to its legacy. Miz tried to jump Cesaro, but only avoided a Swing when Maryse jumped on him to block it.
-After Baron Corbin jumped Dolph Ziggler’s during his entrance on Smackdown, Ziggler pulled the same trick on Corbin. If anyone can give Corbin a strong first impression at Payback, it should be Ziggler.
-The Colons are still in Puerto Rico. Their weekly video packages have apparently taken the place of the Golden Truth promos that officially led to nothing.
-There were plenty of questions about whether and how WWE would acknowledge Chyna’s death. They aired a very tasteful and appropriate video package that featured statements from many wrestlers about how she impacted them.