5/23/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Seth Rollins Returns to Raw
Raw opened with a Rollins entrance and a huge pop from the fans in Baltimore. He said that he waited 200 days to come back and teased a babyface interaction with the crowd. Instead, he said that he lit all of the “get well soon” fan mail on fire because he didn’t need fan support to win the WWE Title and he doesn’t need it now. He repeatedly focused on the fact that he never lost the title and declared his intention to get it back from Roman Reigns.
Reigns came to the ring and approached Rollins for a fight, but Rollins retreated. Even after he turned on the fans, Rollins got a vastly superior reaction to Reigns, who was booed by everyone in attendance. It was odd to see the wrestler who the fans clearly prefer retreating from the more heelish one, especially a night after Reigns wrestled a purely heelish match against AJ Styles. Nonetheless, Shane McMahon joined them in the ring and announced a title match between them at Money in the Bank. It will be strange if the build for the match continues to portray the wildly unpopular champion in the fan favorite role.
Later in the show, Rollins tried to give Stephanie McMahon a hug backstage. She said that the tenor had changed at Raw and they had to have a more businesslike relationship. She gave him a handshake instead. It was one of many small tweaks to the Rollins character that will probably serve him well. He was more verbose and sounded less scripted on the mic. He also used his fake laugh to fill time less often that he usually does. Even the shock of blond hair has almost completely grown out. One night into the Rollins return, there is plenty of intrigue.
Money in the Bank Qualifiers
Raw was filled with fresh, compelling matchups between wrestlers trying to qualify for the MITB ladder match. Any time Raw can come up with built-in stakes for matches, it makes the three hour show feel more cohesive and interesting. The fact that these stakes took place in good matches between top stars made it very exciting. On the other hand, with three more weeks until the PPV and only two spots remaining, it will be interesting how WWE keeps up the momentum until the show.
Sami Zayn def. Sheamus
Sheamus warned that his beating of Zayn would “not be suitable for all ages.” Zayn used his usual combination of selling and counters to create a fun match, including a moonsault off of the barricade to Sheamus on the floor. He kept fighting with a great clothesline and a Michinoku Driver for a near fall. He recovered quickly from a big Sheamus forearm and hit a Helluva Kick to get a clean win. It was a very good, short match and probably Zayn’s biggest main roster win. It was nice to see him get a win that did not come off as a fluke.
After the match, Sheamus ambushed Apollo Crews backstage, saying that he will prove that the new era cannot overtake him. Crews has languished without a clear rival on the main roster despite his amazing skills. A rivalry with Sheamus would be a great opportunity for him to make his mark.
Cesaro def. The Miz
Cesaro came after Miz with a series of uppercuts and a cannonball off the apron as soon as their match started. He continued to largely control the action with an impressive dropkick to set up the Swing. Miz escaped and started to target Cesaro’s bad shoulder. Cesaro caught him with a counter uppercut and hit the Neutralizer to get the win and qualify. Cesaro looked phenomenal in the amazing Extreme Rules match. It was fitting to see him get a legitimate victory to follow it up.
Chris Jericho def. Apollo Crews
Jericho hilariously came to the ring covered in bandages over the scars from his fall on thumbtacks at Extreme Rules. He did not let the injuries stop him and kept pace with the younger, more athletic Crews. In response, Jericho hit a moonsault on the floor and a beautiful enzuigiri. Jericho caught him in the Walls of Jericho and Crews reached the ropes. Crews tried to kip up to dodge a Lionsault, but ended up taking Jericho’s knees to his head. He managed a small package shortly after. Jericho hit a Codebreaker, though, and got the win. Crews looked good and has the excuse of the pre-match beating from Sheamus. Combined with the quality of the match, he has nothing to be embarrassed about in the loss.
Dean Ambrose def. Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler kept Ambrose grounded with mat wrestling holds while the commentators interestingly focused on his amateur wrestling bona fides. He got near falls off of a roll-through of a cross-body and a famouser. Ambrose rebounded from a superkick with his big lariat and got a two count from it. Ambrose finally hit Dirty Deeds and got the win in a very good match. This match was probably the easiest to predict of the MITB qualifiers. They put together a competitive match anyway.
Kevin Owens def. AJ Styles
Despite a negative reaction, Styles said that Reigns convinced him that he’s as good as he says he is in their matches together. He said that the outside interference was the reason he lost and placed blame on Gallows and Anderson as well as the Usos. Anderson and Gallows confronted him and said that he has changed since coming to WWE. They said that Styles needs their protection to survive. They said that they are neither brothers nor friends anymore. They hesitantly left the ring, but it was clear that there is more to come between the former Club.
Styles showed the effects of his WWE Title brawl in the early going against Owens. He finally got on track and got a near fall with a knee to the back of the head. Owens answered with a neckbreaker to the back of his knee and got a near fall of his own. Owens showed amazing agility with a spinning moonsault, but missed, which allowed Styles to hit a springboard 450 for a two count. The match spilled outside where Owens powerbombed Styles onto the ring steps. Styles made it back into the ring, but missed a Phenomenal Forearm and Owens hit a Pop-Up Powerbomb for a clean win. It was a very good match and an impressive win for Owens. It’s interesting that the three losers from the tremendous IC Title match all had great wins on Raw.
-Charlotte turned on her dad after he gave a heartfelt compliment to her. She said that he is only “Charlotte’s dad” at this point in his career and that her spotlight is brighter than his ever was. As long as Ric Flair stood next to Charlotte, she was destined to get some cheers, so it is a very heelish move for her to turn on him. She executed the promo very well, too. I hope that Ric remains in the storyline because he continues to bring a lot to the table, even as a manager.
-New Day brought a 1200th episode birthday cake to Raw and teased smashing it into the face of the announce team. Instead, the Social Outcasts ambushed them before their scheduled match. New Day quickly took out Heath Slater with a Big Ending and then put the cake in his face.
-Enzo Amore made a triumphant return from his concussion to a great reaction. He was ringside for a Big Cass victory over Bubba Ray Dudley via the Empire Elbow.