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The Smark Henry RAW Review (6/29/16): Onward Ever, Backward Never




(Editor's Note: Don't be fooled by the header above. Since Stan's departed from the RAW Review job for Smark Henry, we're auditioning new people for the role. Say hi to Miggy, everyone, and let him know what you think of his review in the comments!)

This week's Monday Night RAW would have to deal with a pretty shocking blow in terms of building up for Battleground's blockbuster main event: the Triple Threat between all three former Shield members with the WWE Championship on the line. Roman Reigns, the champion heading into Money in the Bank, was suspended after committing his first Wellness Policy violation.



But the two other participants in said Triple Threat match, however, delivered. Seth Rollins and WWE Champion Dean Ambrose of course had to address the elephant in the room, and it was handled very well. A promo that blurred the line between reality and show came from Rollins, which in turn led to Ambrose steering the wheel away from that topic. Seeing as he was a fighting champion, it would only make sense that he focused on his opposition.

Some added potential challengers came in the form of AJ Styes and John Cena, who wanted to lay claim to a spot at the Battleground title match, which led to Stephanie McMahon announcing respective matches for Styles and Cena in order to earn their way in. Nothing bad came out of this, except the ham-fisting that an Ambrose title reign is actually worse than a suspension from the man (or rather, the Guy) being groomed to be the top star.

We also saw two women's matches on this edition of RAW, which is still quite a novelty. However, we only technically witnessed one. Summer Rae vs. Becky Lynch was nothing more than to further the Becky/Natalya feud, but it can't be helped but be seen as pointless. Summer was given an entrance, yet was not able to do anything in the ring. It doesn't need to be said that Natalya is excellent in the ring, but is horrendous when on commentary. Thus, she wasn't able to get her new character across, but Becky capitalized on this and brought out the emotion necessary for this feud moving forward.



The women's match we did get to see, however, was a solid outing from all four competitors. It was a tag team match between unlikely allies Paige and Sasha Banks taking on Dana Brooke and the Women's Champion Charlotte. This match set-up was simple yet effective, and it yielded some great offense from both Paige and Sasha as they dominated the second half of the contest. A massive kick from Paige to Charlotte led to The Boss making Dana tap out to the Bank Statement, cementing her own statement that she is coming for Charlotte's title.

In what was perceived to be just a one-match feud, Titus O' Neil and Rusev have been at it with each other longer than anyone expected, and the feud is leading into some very personal territory after Rusev got in the faces of Titus' children. Tonight, Titus got a count-out victory over Rusev in a slow but steady match, but it is to be expected that Rusev will get another win back very shortly.

Apollo Crews and Cesaro sound like a downright amazing team on paper, and they even get more of an advantage when paired against the likes of Alberto del Rio and Sheamus. Still reeling out from all the drama surrounding the League of Nations months ago, del Rio delivered an enzugiri on Sheamus and walked out on him. This allowed Crews and Cesaro to take the win, but aside from some big-time offense from our victors, it was sadly a dull affair that served little purpose in advancing anything.
Meanwhile, Enzo and Cass had a confrontation with the Social Outcasts, and Miz defended his Intercontinental Championship against Kane and got himself counted out. These were two segments that, unless could lead to rivalries down the line, were simply unneeded for a three-hour show that looks like a chore to fill up.



The encounter between The New Day and The Wyatt Family was one of the best parts of this episode. At first glance, these two trios have absolutely nothing in common and would look like victims coming out of a far-fetched feud. But both teams delivered with their words, with The New Day heralding the power of positivity as "a way of life" (while mockingly dressed in Wyatt garb, no less) while the cult leader that is Bray took a more pessimistic, if not realistic, approach to his worldview.

It's a rivalry that could have layers of depth on it as long as it's on the right track, and with Xavier Woods showing signs of restraint upon messing with the Wyatts, there could be more depth to this than initially thought. Or perhaps he's just secretly salty over his loss to NJPW's Kenny Omega at CEO 2016? Losing at Street Fighter V could get under one's skin at times

Another segment that stole the show came in the form of the Highlight Reel with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Detailing about their friendship and descent into hatred, Zayn goaded Owens in to a match at Battleground. However, Chris Jericho put the spotlight on himself instead of his them for way too long, and he paid for it by eating up two boots from his guests. The chemistry between Zayn and Owens is near-flawless, and their confrontations are sure to evoke memories of another storied rivalry stemmed from a friendship and rooted in betrayal and in chaos—Triple H and Shawn Michaels.

Two high-profile matches that were made at the start of the show were Cena against Rollins and Styles against Ambrose. Cena and Rollins was a contest to behold, having great chemistry with one another. The flow of the match was smooth, and both displayed impressive power moves and graceful counters. A Pedigree into an STF that saw no rough edges, and Rollins' superplex-Falcon's Arrow combination are two sights that are sure to impress. In the end, however, Rollins gained the win after an unwelcome appearance by the Club.



The main event came in the form Styles and Ambrose in a non-title match, and Cena got his payback by getting his hands on the Club, which led to Ambrose hitting the Dirty Deeds on a distracted Phenomenal One for the win. The match was relatively okay for the most part, though the initial clash of styles (no pun intended) between both men was a stark contrast to the chameleon-like adaptability AJ displayed when against Cena at Money in the Bank. Still, it was a good match from these two, but when compared to other past outings within AJ's year so far, it doesn't measure up there.

The addition of John Cena and AJ Styles to spice things up more than made up for the lack of Roman Reigns, and it made his absence much easier to swallow for those foaming at the mouth at more confrontations between the former Shield brothers. Yet, now that the Triple Threat stipulation was not modified in any way and as we enter week two of Roman's 30-day suspension, how can Raw cover up the glaring hole next week? Also, with the draft coming this July, can a depleted roster actually even cover 3 hours' worth of showtime for the red brand? These are all burning questions that will be answered in the coming weeks, and one can't help but hope for the best.

Match rundown


  • Sasha Banks & Paige def. Women’s Champion Charlotte and Dana Brooke via submission. (3/5)

  • Titus O’Neil def. U.S. champion Rusev (w/ Lana) via count-out in a non-title match. (2/5)

  • Seth Rollins def. John Cena, as a result Cena will not be added to Battleground main event. (3/5)

  • Enzo Amore & Big Cass def. two unknowns. (no rating)

  • Kane def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz via count-out. (1/5)

  • Apollo Crews & Cesaro def. Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio. (2/5)

  • WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dean Ambrose def. A.J. Styles, as a result Styles will not be added to Battleground main event. (2.5/5)

Awards


Best segment: New Day and The Wyatt Family
Best match: Seth Rollins vs. John Cena
Worst segment: Enzo & Cass vs. two jobbers
Worst match: Enzo & Cass and the Social Outcasts
Male Superstar of the Night: Seth Rollins
Female Superstar of the Night: Sasha Banks

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