The first WWE Raw of May 2016 followed up on Sunday night’s Payback pay-per-view event. That show left many unanswered questions coming out of its main event, which used narrative flourishes to skirt around giving a decisive victory to either Roman Reigns or AJ Styles, and keep the latter’s exact in-story relationship with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson mysterious.
The Styles-Reigns angle was once again the central focus of Raw, this time culminating with the two competing in a match. We first saw Styles talking to Anderson and Gallows, still seemingly trying to impress upon them that he didn’t want or need their help in his matches. At this point, Reigns and his real-life cousins/storyline allies, The Usos, entered and challenged the three former Bullet Club members to six-man tag match later in the night.
The six-man tag capped Raw as the show’s main event. It was a solid match that saw all six competitors give fine performances. As would be expected, the major story advancement came in the post-match. Anderson and Gallows cleared the ring of The Usos, then proceeded to beat down Reigns and offer AJ Styles a chair to dismantle the champion with. AJ refused, thereby giving the Usos the chance to return the favor and take out Anderson and Gallows. In retaliation, Styles used the chair on The Usos only to be seen doing so by the revived Reigns who angrily attacked Styles, power-bombing him through the announce table to end the show. The angle was beautifully executed, with the six workers timing everything to perfection. It added another layer to the AJ motivation story, as Styles’ seemingly doing the “right” thing lead to him being obliterated by Reigns. It opens the door to an Angle where AJ possibly begins to think that accepting Anderson and Gallows help after all. This added layer of intrigue should make the weeks leading up to their rematch at Extreme Rules very interesting.
The other major storyline development of the night merged the angles that provided the two best matches of Payback (Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn and Miz vs Cesaro respectively) and merged them into one. A match between Owens and Cesaro to crown a new number one contender for Miz’s Intercontinental Championship ended in a brouhaha involving all four man and Zayn holding the title belt aloft. The angles coming together like this suggests a fatal four way match is in the works for the title, which I would welcome. Zayn, Owens, and Cesaro are probably the three best workers in the company right now, and while Miz isn’t on their level in ring his persona is more than good enough to warrant his inclusion.
Best of The Rest:
- The Stephanie and Shane McMahon being forced to run Raw together angle was as insufferable as expected. My feeling is that this will be drawn out all the way until August’s Summerslam and culminate in a Shane vs Triple H match at that show.
- Speaking of Stephanie, I wasn’t a fan of her interaction with Dean Ambrose. It reminded me too much of her early 2000’s interactions with Chris Jericho, a place on the card Ambrose should be above at this point. The aforementioned Jericho attacking Ambrose worked well enough, though I’m ambivalent about seeing these two work another match at Extreme Rules.
- I wasn’t a fan of the ending of the Women’s Championship match at Payback, but I thought tonight’s follow-up was well done. Charlotte’s promos have improved dramatically in her time on the main roster was her best work yet. Natalya played the part of indignant babyface perfectly, and I liked that she took out both the champ and her father Ric Flair. The fued between the two still seems like a space-filler until the summer when the company will most likely insert Sasha Banks into the title scene, but it’ stood for what it is.
- WWE did a good job of integrating the Enzo Amore injury into the show without it feeling like they were taking advantage of it. I also pleasantly surprised and impressed with Enzo’s partner Big Cass who proved he’s good enough on the mic to stay on tv until Enzo is ready to return.
The May 2 Raw was one of the best episodes of the show in the past 18 months. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it successfully moved some major stories along and general contained the upward trend the show has been on since Wrestlemania.