By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns Interrupted AJ Styles
We've seen Reigns and Styles face off countless times over the past month or so, but it was refreshing for Styles to kick off Raw for a change. He came off a bit whiny and arrogant in his promo talking about the social media backlash and how phenomenal he is, and I'm hoping that wasn't done by design to hint at a heel turn for Styles. If anyone needs to turn, it's obviously Reigns based off the overly negative reactions he's been receiving as of late. The subsequent staredown was a nice way of building to The Usos vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows later on in the evening.
Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro Ended in a No Contest
I was initially shocked to see this match taking place because I assumed the first one-on-one encounter between them would be saved until later down the road. Thankfully, it didn't last long as the interference from Kevin Owens and The Miz caused the contest to be thrown out. It was fun while it lasted, though, and a small preview of what to expect when they do eventually clash in singles competition again. Check out their outstanding 2-out-of-3 Falls match from 2013 in NXT when you get the chance.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz and Cesaro
I'm glad they went with this match instead of the same tag team match we saw on SmackDown last week. The rivals teaming up, specifically Zayn and Owens, added an interesting dynamic to it and made it an enjoyable matchup. The crowd responded very well to Owens getting the hot tag in the final stretch. As exceptional of a heel as he is, he'll be a breakout babyface someday no doubt. The Intercontinental Championship picture continues to be the best thing going in WWE right now and the Fatal 4-Way on Sunday should be stellar.
The Shining Stars def. Scott Jackson and Brian Kennedy
I almost thought I could hear the air conditioning in the arena when Primo and Epico were making their entrance. All right, I'm exaggerating, but I fear fans will sit in silence during their matches. They're excellent athletes, but the "vacationing" gimmick is just bizarre and I'm not sure how they're going to be heels. They might get booed because fans will reject the gimmick, not because they're eliciting genuine heat. Time will tell, and if nothing else, it's a significant improvement over the awful Los Matadores. On a side note, I believe their opponents were John Skyler and Corey Hollis, but they had different names here.
Dean Ambrose Challenged Chris Jericho
I figured we were in for another Street Fight from these two, and while that would have been fine, I'm happy I was wrong and they're going with an all-new stipulation instead: an Asylum match. Granted, it's a glorified Steel Cage match with weapons, but it fits the Ambrose character to a tee. It's definitely out of the ordinary, but that's what I like about it. The match should also be an exciting way of blowing off their rivalry that has been very entertaining thus far.
Dana Brooke def. Becky Lynch
From an in-ring standpoint, Brooke was nowhere near main roster ready. She's not a terrible wrestler and has certainly come a long way in the last year, but the purpose of her alliance with Emma was that she could do most of the in-ring work for the team. That won't be the case in the meantime with Emma out injured. On the bright side, Lynch is great enough that she was able to carry Brooke to a pretty decent match. Brooke winning was the right move, especially considering she'll need all the credibility she can get with Emma on the sidelines for the foreseeable future.
Breeze-Ango def. Golden Truth
I can't believe they devoted a five minute video package covering five months worth of awfulness to this one match. Imagine all the people who could have benefited from that television time. This was the throwaway tag team match I figured we would get, but at least it didn't overstay its welcome. And hey, Tyler Breeze and Fandango won! That said, I fully expect the babyfaces to get their win back as soon as SmackDown.
The Vaudevillians Attacked WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day
The time machine skit had the potential to be a total disaster, but it ended up being better than I thought it would be. Then again, if there's anything I've learned, it's to never underestimate anything New Day is involved in. The return of Jamaican Kofi Kingston was especially hysterical. "Leave me here! 2009 was my best year!" I'm still in stitches. Furthermore, the subsequent attack from The Vaudevillians was an effective way of giving them last minute heat going into the WWE Tag Team Championship match so they're an legitimate threat to the titles.
The Usos def. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
While I've been thoroughly enjoying the WWE World Heavyweight Championship feud in recent weeks, WWE has relied way too heavily on putting these six Superstars in tag team matches against each other. All of them have been chaotic and well-wrestled, but would it kill them to get a little more creative when making matches? Hopefully we're in for something new after Extreme Rules. Gallows and Anderson losing clean was beyond asinine. They've been in WWE for a mere month and they've already been booked to look weak. Any buzz they had going has basically been diminished by now. What a shame.
Big Cass def. D-Von Dudley
Once it was made clear Big Cass was facing D-Von, you had to know D-Von was losing in decisive fasion. There was nothing wrong with that, but the match barely began before it abruptly ended. It surely did nothing to add to the apparent momentum The Dudley Boyz gained from beating The New Day last week. I'd be content with Big Cass feuding with them while waiting for Enzo Amore to return. I have zero idea when that will be, but here's hoping it's sooner rather than later.
Alberto Del Rio def. United States Champion Kalisto (Non-title)
These two have good chemistry together, but we saw them have so many matches earlier this year that it was hard to get excited about another encounter between them. It also doesn't help that the United States Championship program heading into Extreme Rules has zero juice at the moment. It's received more storyline support than Kalisto vs. Ryback ever did, but it feels beyond basic. Alberto Del Rio beating Kalisto for no apparent reason only hindered the prestige of the title even more. It's sad that this was the same championship that fans were actually excited to see defended every week at this time one year ago.
WWE Women's Champion Charlotte and Natalya Signed the Contract For Their Extreme Rules Match
Contract signings are such a tired troupe in wrestling that I roll my eyes whenever they're announced, but I was willing to forgive this one in particular simply because it meant the women would be closing out the show for once. Sadly, Natalya didn't make the most of the opportunity by cutting an abysmal promo and botching a few of her lines, but Charlotte fared well with the material she had to work with. Let's remember that the last time a women's contract ended Raw, Paige insulted Charlotte's deceased brother, so this was gold in comparison. It wasn't a home run segment by any means, and the focus shouldn't have been on the McMahons and Ric as much as it was, but again, I appreciated the change of pace for whatever that was worth.
The first hour flew by and the second hour was solid, but the third hour was below-average and dragged beyond belief. The Extreme Rules card was well-hyped throughout the night and I'm still very much looking forward to Extreme Rules on Sunday (largely because I'll be in attendance), but it will be an interesting event to say the least. As far as this episode went, it had its fair share of flaws, but as previously noted, I liked how they didn't revert back to the stagnant status quo in terms of how the program was structured, so the show did have that going for it.