How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with a RAW review, re-capping the go-home show for Extreme Rules 2016. Three weeks to promote a pay-per-view is never healthy, whenever WWE does this. I’ve seen them promote pay-per-views in the space of two weeks previously and it’s just not enough for the fans to digest new developments or just new storylines in general. It’s going to be very difficult to convince the fans that this pay-per-view is going to be different than the last one you just watched, and the WWE haven’t done a great job in giving you that feel with this one.
Scheduled for Extreme Rules includes a rematch from the main event of Payback, a rematch from the women’s title match at Payback and we’ve even got a Payback rematch between Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho. To be fair, the Payback show was actually pretty good. There was little wrong with that pay-per-view but there’s a whole lot wrong with the build to this one. With three weeks to build up this show, the WWE have struggled to make it seem like this show isn’t anything more than a continuation from what happened at Payback. Many will argue that every single pay-per-view is essentially a continuation of WWE storylines, but each pay-per-view should also stand out on their own merit. I don’t want to see the same matches that I saw last month. This RAW suffered in the same way that their pay-per-view will.
This RAW saw SO MANY repeats of what we’ve seen in the last few weeks of RAW and essentially what we’ve seen in the entirety of 2016. Did we not see Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto fight over and over again at the start of the year on RAW, SmackDown! and pay-per-views? Did we not see Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows fight the Usos on SmackDown!, as well as in the many six man tag team matches between “The Club” and Roman Reigns’ crew? Did we not see everyone in the mix for the Intercontinental Championship at Extreme Rules in a tag team match together on SmackDown!? Did we not see Becky Lynch fight Dana Brooke on SmackDown!? What was so damn special about RAW this week that will cause viewers to stick around to watch Extreme Rules on the WWE Network?
Furthermore, how did the go-home show for Extreme Rules actually promote the pay-per-view? You had the same AJ Styles teasing angle that you’ve been pushing for nearly two months now. You had the closing segment of the show featuring the contract signing for Charlotte and Natalya, with the focus being on Ric Flair and the McMahons. You had the most entertaining segment (the Golden Truth video package) being centred around a feud which is not even a part of the pay-per-view. You announced the pre-show match (which is also a rematch from Payback) with none of the competitors even being on RAW to build towards that match, which could have helped pop a rating on YouTube if you really tried hard enough. They even had a post-RAW segment with Dolph Ziggler on the WWE’s YouTube page, which would have been better suited on RAW to build towards the pay-per-view.
This show was NOT one of the worst RAWs I’ve ever seen. It’s the farthest thing from but I’m just completely baffled by it. To be fair, the first two hours were not that bad. However, that third hour just completely drained me of life. I don’t mean any disrespect to the likes of Del Rio, Kalisto, Rusev, Big Cass, the Dudley Boyz and the women involved in the final segment, but this was just another reminder of the painful truth that this show is WAY TOO LONG. It’s not like the WWE attempted to save their best stuff for last, which is probably what they should do. They gave us the content that would be better suited for an episode of Main Event or Superstars and they put it on the final hour of RAW leading into their next pay-per-view.
I will go into further detail about the infamous closing segment for RAW as I’ve got a LOT to say about that segment. However, let’s just dive right in.
AJ Styles came out for a promo. He discussed the apparent talk on social media about himself conspiring with Gallows and Anderson as part of “The Club.” He showed all of these tweets about the storyline and these tweets were not derogatory of AJ and the Club at all. As a matter of fact, it was a number of fans tweeting about how cool the idea of the stable is!
And AJ, god bless his soul, is trying to sell that this tweets are so hurtful to him. This entire segment just goes to show to where the wind has blown in terms of support in this storyline. The WWE are trying to portray and hint at this idea of AJ, Gallows and Anderson being mischievous and dastardly, and this crowd is not buying into any of it. The fans think everything they do is cool and everything Roman Reigns and the Usos do is lame. Speaking of which…
Roman Reigns comes out to thunderous boos and he said that everything AJ’s done in the past meant nothing as he’s never won the WWE Championship. Let’s think about this line for a second. With the rare exceptions of the Giant when he won the WCW Championship in his first match, how many wrestlers have actually won a world title in their first match? A very small few. This seemed like a completely burial of nearly everyone on WWE’s roster, as probably 75% of the roster has not won the WWE Championship. About 50% of them have never been given a WWE Championship match. AJ was trying to put himself over by talking about headlining the Tokyo Dome and Roman Reigns claiming that those things don’t matter just completely derailed AJ as a threat. If AJ were to win the championship at Extreme Rules, I wouldn’t have had a problem with this line as it meant that AJ silenced his critics. However if AJ loses clean, who could possibly want to care about AJ after being insulted and beaten by Roman?
This was not the greatest of back-and-forths on the microphone. Roman Reigns is not too good on the mic. AJ Styles is not too phenomenal either. At least it wasn’t THAT LONG until Gallows and Anderson came out. The Usos came out to have Roman’s back, which led to Roman cheap-shotting AJ.
Sami Zayn was scheduled to face Cesaro. Currently Zayn, Cesaro, Kevin Owens and The Miz are embroiled in a four way feud for the Intercontinental Championship. We’ve seen matches between the faces and the heels, with Cesaro fighting Miz and Owens and Zayn fighting Miz and Owens too. The mouth-watering prospect, as a fan, must surely be to see Cesaro and Zayn go all-out as big time babyfaces in a match against each other. That match going into Extreme Rules would have been a killer way to get people invested into the four way match. However, they had to have Miz and Owens break it up early on to cause the no contest.
This led to Cesaro and Zayn vs Owens and Miz being announced by Shane McMahon, who clearly never watched SmackDown! as that match actually happened. In fact, Stephanie McMahon came out and pulled him up on this! She made things interesting by having Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn fight Cesaro and Miz in a tag team match instead. Unless the big plan is to turn Stephanie McMahon into a babyface, why would have the heel authority figure ever out-do the babyface in terms of match-making?
I know a lot of people are going to disagree but I felt that passing up a Zayn/Cesaro match for just another tag team match was a huge misjudgment by the writers. The whole storyline for this match was that everyone has been fighting each other anyway and they’ll fight each other at Extreme Rules, so why would you have them all fighting each other on RAW? At least if you did Cesaro and Zayn, you could have sent fans into Extreme Rules thinking “Wow. They went all out for this non-title match on RAW. Imagine how far they’ll go to win the Intercontinental Championship!” Another added benefit was that you could have also addressed the incident on SmackDown!, where Zayn accidentally hit Cesaro with the helluva kick!
The tag match was actually pretty good. There was obvious issues between the two sets of teams. In a surprising move, Kevin Owens got the hot tag in this match. A unique choice, especially when there’s two babyfaces already in there that could have had the tag. However, Kevin running wild was great to see and the fans were into it. Cesaro then tagged himself in and hit a series of uppercuts on Owens. Miz tagged himself, threw out Cesaro and then attempted the Cesaro Swing on Zayn. Cesaro broke it up and hit Miz with the Skull-Crushing Finale. Zayn hit the helluva kick on Miz to pick up the win. Owens laid out Zayn with the superkick and claimed the victory. This was a fun tag team match and I do have high hopes for the match at Extreme Rules. I think it could be incredible stuff, even with the Miz involved.
Renee Young interviewed Chris Jericho. Jericho whined about his $15,000 light-up jacket being destroyed by Dean Ambrose and that he demanded an apology. He said that the jacket was worth more than Andre The Giant was to WWE.
Next up was the re-debut of the “Shining Stars” Primo and Epico. I don’t know how many people picked up on this, but Vince McMahon mentioned something last week during the conference call following the release of the financial numbers for WWE’s first quarter. He talked about how there would be even more talent on their roster than ever before, with new and returning superstars coming back. After this whole deal about bringing in more talent, the WWE had the “Shining Stars” take on two local talents! They couldn’t have Primo and Epico beat at least a recognisable tag team? They couldn’t have faced the Social Outcasts or maybe a tag team of Titus O’Neil and Zack Ryder?
Primo and Epico called the ring their paradise and they beat the enhancement talent. I’ve got to say that Primo and Epico really have to make this gimmick work. I don’t want to say that they’re doomed but it’s going to be very difficult to get this gimmick over. They’ve had several incarnations of this tag team, including a matador team where they were over-shadowed by a mini bull who is now no longer with the company. I don’t see this having a major impact but you know what, please prove me wrong. I actually think that these two are good workers and the New Day are proof that any bad gimmick can be turned into a hugely over act. My advice would be to get as crazy and over-the-top as possible with this gimmick as it’s going to be difficult for them to get over by just playing a generic cocky heel, as there’s plenty going around in WWE at the moment.
Dean Ambrose appeared to call out Chris Jericho. He just wanted to talk to him. Jericho came out and said that since he’s a millionaire, the money that the jacket cost didn’t mean anything to him. He wants an apology because Ambrose destroyed a part of his legacy. Ambrose instead challenged him to a match at Extreme Rules, to which Jericho accepted. Dean then revealed that Shane McMahon gave him the choice to have any type of match he wanted at Extreme Rules. Dean then lowered down a cage, with a platform above it with different weapons hanging off it. Dean declared this to be an Asylum match. This really was just a Lethal Lockdown match, except that it’s simply just one on one. The weapons that were hanging off this platform including leather belts, kendo sticks, barbed wired 2x4s, straitjackets and a fire extinguisher. There was also a couple of mops hanging up there, which Perry Saturn apparently gave the OK to.
So Dean started cutting this promo as the cage came down and the production crew played this horror-film like music as Dean cut this promo. Dean was doing his best to sell this match and you couldn’t take it seriously at all, as the music was almost comical.
Let me just state that I’ve not been the biggest of fans of this feud between Jericho and Ambrose. It started off as a feud over talk shows, then moved into a feud about plants and there was little seriousness to any of this. However, I still thought that the WWE had turned the corner last week with the attacks from both men. When Jericho attacked Dean while he was in a straitjacket, I thought that was really well done. When they revealed the asylum match though, it’s almost as if the work done to try and redeem the angle just went up in smoke. I know some people like the goofiness of this all but at the end of the day, these two men are both supposedly main-eventers in WWE. The fact that they’re having this feud over daft things like plants, talk shows and jackets is just not the way to get Ambrose over to a main-event level. I’m not a fan of the match stipulation as I felt that an I Quit match would have been much more appropriate for the feud as it was building up in intensity.
Becky Lynch took on Dana Brooke, in a SmackDown! rematch. No Emma at ringside as she was unfortunately sidelined with a back injury. This match was OK. Dana didn’t really screw anything up. Dana seemed a bit hesitant with her work, which is understandable considering that this is her first match on RAW. Becky was able to get a decent match out of her but Dana ended up going over. I mentioned this for SLTD Wrestling but it’s going to be rather difficult for Dana to get herself over without Emma being there but it seems that they still want to do stuff with Dana, as she got the win again on RAW. Becky had to lose twice in a row to Dana but at least it wasn’t your typical 50/50 booking from WWE. They want to try and do something with the new girl which is totally fine.
We had a “Make Darren Young great again” vignette with Darren Young and Bob Backlund. Bob was appalled by Darren’s use of the phone to do simple things such as checking the time and setting the alarm clock. He demanded that Darren did squats for him. I actually think that this angle could be a huge success and I’ll explain why. The ones that are running the ship like Vince McMahon have been in the wrestling industry for years. They have an old-school look at life and wrestling, as is the case with Roman Reigns’ push. There’s a lot of aspects about the wrestling industry that they don’t understand. They don’t understand why some guys are more over than other guys and why things like NXT are such a huge hit. Using Darren Young and Bob Backlund as a means to get across their mindset is a great way to do it. Bob’s disgusted reactions at Darren for using a phone were great to see and I actually think that this will be an angle that’ll get more over than it probably should do!
With that being said, what came next was rather interesting. The Dudley Boyz appeared before Stephanie and Shane to remind that while this is the “New Era,” the Dudleyz were from the Attitude Era and still had something to offer. It’s funny because after they named-dropped the Attitude Era, everybody cheered! They wanted a tag team match but the McMahons refused. They allowed them to decide among themselves about which one of them would be a singles match later. That match would be against Big Cass.
Next up was something utterly tremendous. It was a video package to commemorate the “Golden Truth” storyline and it just goes to show you that those who put together the video packages for WWE programming are some of the best in the world at what they do. This was essentially a comedy storyline but by the end of it, it made you care so much about the direction of R-Truth and Goldust! This was portrayed as the greatest love storyline in the history of the WWE and it featured two men going back and forth about whether to form a tag team! It showcased the struggle of both these men as Goldust wanted to be Truth’s partner but Truth refused. Truth eventually broke up the entire relationship and Goldust went with someone else in Fandango. Truth tried to make him jealous with a new tag team partner of his own in Tyler Breeze. Fandango and Breeze then realised that both men were just using them to get over this break-up. They turned on their partners, with Goldust sacrificing himself to try and save Truth. This was the moment where Goldust realised that he and Truth were meant for each other. And now, AT LONG LAST, these two were now officially a tag team! It was beautiful. This was like a much better version of the Shawn Michaels “Tell me a lie” video from 1997, where Shawn Michaels lost his smile. True emotions were showcased here!
The Golden Truth took on Fandango and Tyler Breeze with a team which myself and everyone but WWE dubbed “Fabreeze.” Even Fandango mentioned this name on Instagram! It was a brief back and forth match before Truth accidentally nailed Goldust with a kick which led to the heels winning. It was heart-breaking to see Golden Truth lose after that amazing video package but all is not lost with this angle. Backstage, Golden Truth were devastated and mocked by Fabreeze but they decided to stay together and continue to team together. This actually got quite the applause and cheers from the crowd! I’m personally looking forward to the future adventures of Golden Truth. A THUMBS UP FROM ME!
The New Day came out with a giant object being covered up in the ring. Xaiver Woods revealed that he had brought a time machine to RAW, which was essentially a box with things stuck to the side! This is the sort of stuff that children do so it’s great that the WWE allowed the New Day to embrace their inner-child with this time machine! They went in to turn back time and go to the by-gone era. After a while, Kofi Kingston’s old theme played. Kofi came out, was in full-Jamaican mode and reliving his old gimmick when Xaiver Woods declared that they didn’t go back far enough. Kofi protested by saying that 2009 was his best year! He was pulled back into the time machine and they eventually came out to enter the by-gone era. It was all in black and white and the New Day had mustaches. They mocked the era and declared that they would always be WWE Tag Team Champions when the Vaudevillians jumped them. They destroyed the time machine and stood tall. A good way to get the Vaudevillians over by having them beat up three men and a funny little segment to sit through. This also gets a thumbs up from me!
The Usos took on Anderson and Gallows. It was your standard tag match between these two, with Roman Reigns and AJ Styles being in the corners of each team. The Usos won cleanly and this led to a staredown between AJ and Roman. Roman used the chair on AJ and then beat up the rest of the Club when AJ took over. He whacked Roman with this chair over and over and eventually hit the Styles Clash on the chair. This was a really good segment that really should have went on last. The Styles Clash looked nasty for Roman and I give AJ credit in getting the big man up for the move. Although this was the same sort of angle that we’ve seen in the last two months now, this was probably one of the stronger segments.
NOTE: It was announced after the show that the Usos would take on Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows again at Extreme Rules in a tornado tag team match.
Then we got into the third hour. Big Cass took on D-Von Dudley with Bubba Ray in D-Von’s corner. It didn’t even last minute until Big Cass overcame both Dudleyz and won. What was the point in putting this match on RAW? It’s not like any of these three people will be featured on Extreme Rules so unless it was just to get Big Cass on television, I don’t really know. I will say that Big Cass cut a really good promo before the match started.
Kalisto took on Alberto Del Rio in a non-title match. Sin Cara was watching on from backstage when Rusev jumped him. They showed this on the big screen and Del Rio forced Kalisto to watch it. Rusev brought Sin Cara out to the ring as Del Rio hit Kalisto with the backstabber and won. Rusev then crushed Kalisto with the Accolade. It’s the same Del Rio/Kalisto match that we’ve seen throughout 2016 but the big issue is the fact that the US Champion lost in the go-home show before his big title defense at Extreme Rules. Rusev also lost to Sin Cara last week, so none of these guys have been able to get over on RAW in the last two weeks. I actually did the research and it turns out that Kalisto has not won a match on RAW since the episode BEFORE WRESTLEMANIA! Kalisto hasn’t won on RAW since March 28th 2016!
If Kalisto retains the US Championship at Extreme Rules, I’m just going to be baffled. What incentive is there to keep the title on Kalisto if you’re just going to treat him as a joke on television? Can we have these two guys win so maybe you could get people interested in their match? The US Championship has went from John Cena and Kevin Owens having one of the best programs of 2015 to the two challengers losing all the time leading into a pay-per-view.
Then came the main event segment of the show. It was Charlotte and Natalya’s contract signing for Extreme Rules. Ric Flair got a big North Carolina pop as he introduced Charlotte. Charlotte got some mild woos. Natalya got a very light reaction. Stephanie and Shane were over-seeing the contract signing. Natalya ran down Charlotte and said that she wanted to face the Charlotte that she faced at NXT, who didn’t have Ric Flair watching her back. This is funny because in the NXT Women’s Championship match where Charlotte won the title, Ric Flair was in her corner!
Charlotte responded by claiming that these fans weren’t hear to cheer Natalya. She said that all of Charlotte, North Carolina treated her like a god before she told the crowd to shut up. Charlotte was about to sign the contract when she noticed a new stipulation. It was decided that if Ric Flair ran down and ignored the stipulation of him being banned from ringside, Charlotte would lose the championship. Charlotte angrily signed the contract and Ric Flair berated Stephanie, calling her the worst business person ever. Ric was going nuts and Charlotte tried to calm him down. Shane didn’t want to fight Ric out of respect for him. Stephanie stepped in and said that while Shane had respect for him, she didn’t. She slapped Ric to a big babyface reaction and even to “Stephanie” chants. Charlotte got angry and it appeared that she was about to attack Stephanie when Natalya got involved. She locked on the sharpshooter and Charlotte tapped. Natalya hoisted up the championship.Charlotte then rolled out of the ring and made no attempt to sell Natalya’s finisher. And all of this was supposed to promote CHARLOTTE VS NATALYA!
This was not as big a train-wreck as the infamous Charlotte/Paige contract signing which saw Paige speak ill of Charlotte’s deceased brother, but this was an awful attempt of promoting their women’s title match for Extreme Rules. The closing segment of the go-home show for Extreme Rules was centred around Ric Flair and the McMahons! The WWE instead decided to tease a confrontation between Stephanie and Charlotte!
The reported plan for Summerslam was for Charlotte to face Sasha Banks and drop the championship to her but I’m truly convinced that Sasha Banks will not be anywhere near that women’s match at Summerslam. The WWE, for whatever reason, clearly doesn’t want Sasha to be the women’s champion. Sasha being the champion is what the fans want as the “We Want Sasha” chants are still continuing. We got those chants during the Becky/Dana match. However if they wanted Sasha to be champion, she would have been by now. We wouldn’t have had to sit through an eight month title reign with Charlotte as the champion. If Sasha was truly being groomed to be the champion, she would have won it at WrestleMania 32 as she should have. But she didn’t.
I have no desire to sit through Charlotte as the champion until at least Summerslam, but that’s what we are going to get. My theory is that Sasha is being kept of television because they are looking out for other alternatives for Summerslam. They want the right woman to step up and face Charlotte instead of Sasha. This may make me sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I truly believe that we’re more likely to get Charlotte vs Stephanie at Summerslam than Sasha winning the championship at Summerslam. I don’t want to believe that but this segment didn’t feel me with a lot of confidence.
I don’t believe Natalya has any hope of walking out the champion at Extreme Rules either. I want her to do but again, she would have won it much earlier if there was any interest internally in Natalya being the champion.
So this RAW was not terrible as an episode of RAW but it was terrible as a go-home show for Extreme Rules. This was not the way to promote this pay-per-view. I think Extreme Rules might still be a good pay-per-view but I don’t think the numbers will be strong enough for it to be an effective pay-per-view in terms of pay-per-view buys and network subscriptions.