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WWE Raw Review: April 18, 2016

As traditionally happens twice a year, this Monday’s episode of WWE Raw came to us (not quite) live from London. These tape-delayed episodes sometimes feel like the company is treading water and keeping storylines static, perhaps due to spoilers getting out hours before the show airs in the States. This week’s installment mostly lived up to that reputation, outside of the the main event scene, which saw some very interesting developments.

After last week’s strange Bray Wyatt tag match detour, this Raw was mainly focused on WWE Champion Roman Reigns, the number one contender for his title AJ Styles and where the recently debuted Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows fit in. The latter two, who were allies with Styles in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Bullet Club faction, were first seen tonight having a friendly backstage conversation with AJ. Later, during an in-ring promo exchange between Reigns and Styles, where the champ was once again showing heel mannerisms, Gallows and Anderson assaulted Roman. For his part, Styles seemed to condemn their actions, yet didn’t physically intervene. Later, he denied any prior knowledge of their plans to a skeptical Reigns.

To WWE’s credit, the Gallows/Anderson attack and Styles reaction to it creates numerous possible scenarios for the upcoming title match at the Payback event. There’s the obvious direction that most fans have expected since the three signed, namely that Styles will turn heel and join with his former Bullet Club partners in an American version of their popular stable. However, there’s also the possibility, bolstered by Reigns’ heel mannerisms, that what we saw tonight turns out to be a swerve, and Anderson and Gallows align themselves with Reigns. Not only would this cement the heel turn many fans have been clamoring for, but it would also put Roman back into a faction after he previously did the best work of his young career as a member of The Shield. A Reigns/Gallows/Anderson faction has the potential to be a heel powerhouse team and could feud with numerous babyface characters, including Styles, Dean Ambrose, and perhaps a soon returning Seth Rollins. Perhaps least likely but still plausible is a scenario where Gallows and Anderson assault both Styles and Reigns because they’re working for a third power such as The Authority’s Triple H or NXT Champion (and former Bullet Club leader) Finn Balor.

Best of The Rest:

  • Outside the main event scene, nothing else really moved forward on this show. Kevin Owens versus Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho versus Sami Zayn were both good matches, but neither reached the highs of recent Raw matches, such as last week’s AJ Styles versus Sami Zayn contest.
  • It’s a shame Bray Wyatt suffered an injury at a non-televised live event this past week, as his character had finally seemed to find some direction over the last two weeks.
  • Shane McMahon was once again back as the baby-faced authority figure this week, and his act is quickly running out of steam. As the goodwill for his return continues to wear off, his weaknesses on the microphone in front of live crowds are becoming more pronounced. Hopefully soon he can transition to a mostly off-screen character.
  • The interactions between Cesaro and The New Day tonight were gold. I wouldn’t mind seeing those four working together more in the future. I think the latter trio really bring out the personality that some say the Swiss Superman lacked.
  • As much as I enjoyed their match last week, I just can’t get excited about the Charlotte vs Natalya program for the Women’s Championship. It feels like total filler.

This week’s Raw was truly a one-angle show. The Reigns/Styles/Gallows/Anderson developments are definitely worth seeking out, as they were not only well done but also lay the groundwork for several interesting possible outcomes. The rest of the show, however, simply felt like it was treading water until the company is back in the U.S. next week.

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