Last Thursday we were rocked by the loss of Joanie “Chyna” Laurer. I am by no means a Smackdown viewer, so I didn’t know if a farewell package had been put together in time for the show. There was a small pocket of the Universe who wondered if they would even put a dedication on WWE Television, even after seeing the content that was featured on WWE.com. Well, they put together a nice piece in which they posted the reactions of people who worked with Chyna back in the day. They made sure to show at her best moments. Stone Cold seemed particularly sincere in his tweet. That isn’t to say he was the only one, but you could tell who was shoot sad and who had to make a statement. I really don’t mean for that to sound as bad as I did. But there was no other way to say it without being crass.
Raw was live from Hartford, CT, Birthplace of Stephanie McMahon. Apparently. The show started with Shane-O but was quickly interrupted by the return of the Million?…Billion…? Billion Dollar Princess, Stephanie McMahon looking like she just stepped off a shoot doing dialogue for Brazzers . It was a homecoming on a couple of levels as Steph went for the cheap pop and mentioned Hartford and her connection to it. It wouldn’t be enough and it seemed to only garner more heat for her. She revealed that she was there to informed Shane this would be his last week playing sugar daddy to the WWE Universe on Mondays. She swore that at Payback, the fate of Raw would be decided, just like it was decided at WrestleMania I suppose. Then Shane played the Kiki Shepherd game where you put a hand over a person’s head to gauge a winner by crowd applause. He won in a landslide, so Steph got good and petty and refused to leave her ring. Shane promptly had security remove her and he started the action with AJ Styles.
People think I don’t like starting the show off with promos. Not exactly. As long as the promo is eventful and interactive, it is essential to the setup of a show. But if it goes too long, you run the risk of boring the audience at home as well as the arena. Another toxic part of a long promo is an overactive crowd that tries to hijack the show with annoying “What?” and whatever the latest “CM Punk” chant is these days. This was just the right length and the right blend of mic work and crowd response. Pretty good.
The Old, The New and The New Day
It was almost as good as the New Day/Vaudevillains/Enzo and Cass promo. Everybody was money. New Day were able to seamlessly make reference to “respeck on the name” and Prince and partying like it’s 1999. They Vaudevillains preferred to party like it’s 1899, which is a scary and aggressive thing to say to black men. Brothas often ended up dead at those kinds of parties. Then Enzo and Cass joined the fray. You can tell Enzo Amore got part of his G certification roasting at the lunch table. Dude can talk. New Day instigated the whole time, while the challengers remained focused on each other. Because I’m too jaded to believe the main event will end in any life-altering way, I’m most looking forward to the tag team tournament finale and subsequent title match. While I’m an unapologetically biased New Day mark, these two teams pose a serious threat. Add that to Gallows and Anderson looming on the horizon, and the tag division is all the way back.
A Couple of Slammys
Speaking of G and A, they made their much awaited in-ring debut against the two time Slammy Award Winning Jimmy and Jey Uso. It was a sound beating, but they protected the Usos by making Jey’s re-injured shoulder the story of the match. Gallows and Anderson came in with a solid game plan, too much size and strength and gradually overwhelmed the Usos. The post-match beatdown they caught didn’t make them look half as weak as having big cousin Roman Reigns run in and beat up Luke and Karl. For him to come down and clean house with no weapo…errr, equalizer not only made the new guys look soft, but makes the Uso brothers look like wimps. They might as have gotten written off the show for a week or so.
So of course those ripples caused waves in the main event when Gallows and Anderson attacked Roman and still seemed to have trouble putting him away. And why does music play when someone does a run-in? I thought a sneak attack was supposed to be sneaky. If I have to run 30-50 yards to bum-rush someone, I don’t want my fanfare to give away my position. Music should only be used when interrupting a promo or scheduled ring appearances like matches and guest ring announcing. Anyway, that Phenomenal Forearm AJ hit Reigns with is the best one I’ve seen to date in the WWE.
Another takeaway from the main event was the obvious tinkering with the audio. I’m pretty sure they muted the boos and replaced them with old audio from babyface Shawn Michaels matches. I understand not wanting to hear a chorus of boos during the announcement of Roman’s Make-a-Wish segment, but in the ring-that’s our time to jeer as we see fit. Maybe it was only on the edited version on Hulu, but there was definitely some ckufery going on. There would be squealing and shouting, but the audience moved like the Chinese Terracotta Army. You get that reference if you dug social studies.
Boos are better than silence, bruh. If The Rock and Ho…He Who Shall Not be Mentioned could work a face turn on the fly in a match, surely creative could come up a few ideas to run with a Reigns jerk turn. It seems like they’re trying to stick with Sweet Baby Reigns. But hopefully it’s a Kansas City Shuffle.
The League of Jobbers
The real MVP of the night was the League of Nations. In the three matches they were featured, they put on competitive displays but took the losses to put over the three faces carrying Payback. They all worked hard but smart. There weren’t too many close falls or no sells. They were all great Raw matches, meaning they didn’t feel too big for TV. They didn’t give too much away before the big event. They sold the sizzle and not the steak. That has become a lost art and it’s encouraging to see the subtle approach working. I could not have been any happier with the League.
In the battle of the Redhead vs the Redneck, AJ hit the Phenomenal Forearm to pin Sheamus. Again, a very conservative but competitive match. They both worked pretty stiff so it looked like a fight. Styles is a real pro because so much is said for wrestlers knowing when to slow the action, but he’s mastered the game at any speed.
Sami Zayn and Rusev got it on and it was more of the same. Sami might have gotten a little too much shine by getting all his stuff in on the Bulgarian Brute. I understand pushes gets cancelled, but Rusev was just grinding everyone’s bones to make his bread not too long ago. Plus, isn’t Sami Zayn the exact kind of guy you want to use to get the sympathy from the crowd by having a bully like Rusev pound him into the ground? Anyway, to meet their quota of at least one big heel getting pinned by a schoolboy, Zayn wrapped up Rusev for the three count. Lana whipped her pumps at Sami. Maybe that means something sexy in Russia, but I’m guessing she was just salty. To snatch the rug from under the moment though, that lovable Winnie the Jerk, Kevin Owens attacked Sami from behind. That’s what happens when you gloat, Sami. Stop counting those eggs before they hatch.
Speaking of the Canadians, how good was that package they put together about their friendship and rivalry? It makes me think of Fist of the Northstar or something. It’s going to be the best match at Payback. Believe that!
Jericho wrapped Dean Ambrose’s ol’ silly ass up in the Walls of Jericho on the announce table. You know how funny it is when you think about getting mad at someone and putting them in the Boston Crab? Can you imagine how crazy that would be if your pops yoked your uncle up in the Camel Clutch during Spades night?
Nice Ahmed Johnson (Apollo Crews) beat Stardust with the Pearl River Plunge or whatever they’re calling his Sit-out Powerbomb. Can’t help but be transported back to the time when Ahmed Johnson was going to kill Goldust for getting all mouth to mouth with him. Remember how that stupid gold paint was all over his sweaty lips? And Marc Mero ran up to him looking like a kid pretending to be scared and snitching on Goldy’s location? Pre-attitude era was hilarious, B.
New drinking game: Take a shot every time the announce team says the term “wheelhouse”. Take two if it’s during a Sami Zayn match. Take it easy on that stuff during NXT though. That’s like, the only word they say over there.
Natalya beat Emma with the Sharpshooter. Gotta say, as a Bret Hart/Sting fan, I am so glad to see the submission get over by actually making someone, you know? Submit. That’s three weeks in a row. I don’t expect Natty to win, but I would not be upset if she did.
Seriously Dolph? We have been wanting to see some Sandow for months. And you hated on the moment!? I don’t even care about their rivalry anymore. We know Dolph is going to lose because he is going to make the End of Days look like the greatest finisher in the history of Professional Wrestling/Sports Entertainment.
Miz and Cesaro had another chat that ended in scrapping. Miz, you can’t get beat up in front of/rescued by your wife, champ! Let’s get the momentum going for a new IC champ eh? The Cesaro Section has been ready for a while now.
Well, kids. There’s your in-depth look at Monday’s Raw and what I thought of it. You agree or disagree? Do we need anymore set-up on Smackdown before Payback or are you ready to roll? Pick your winners now and let’s see how they match up. Am I finished or am I done? A little bit of both. See you next week.
And seeing as how it looks like we won’t get a heel Reigns, click here to listen to some pretty cool plans that should happen.