The May 23, 2016 edition of WWE’s Raw followed on the heels of the previous night’s successful Extreme Rules pay-per-view event. There were several major headlines for the company to play with, starting with the surprise return of Seth Rollins at the end of the PPV’s WWE Heavyweight Championship match between champion Roman Reigns and AJ Styles.
The company immediately acknowledged the situation by kicking off Raw with Rollins return to over the air TV. The former champion initially received a monstrous ovation, but to his credit he was able to change at least some of them to boos by heeling on the crowd and reasserting his villainous persona. Rollins next demanded a title match, bringing out Reigns. Before the two could come to blows, authority figure Shane McMahon came out and booked the two in a Championship match at the upcoming Money In The Bank event. The opening segment was a hit in my eyes. Reigns and Rollins played their parts well, and latter especially deserves credit for turning at least a portion of the crowd against him after his return pop. The match-up between the two is an interesting one due to the Rollins and challenger/Reigns as champ dynamic.
Once the Rollins/Reigns situation was settled, the rest of the show was built around qualifying matches for spots the Money In The Bank Ladder Match. The best of four matches was the main event that saw Kevin Owens defeating Styles to gain a spot in a nearly twenty minute contest. Victories by Sami Zayn, Cesaro, and Dean Ambrose over Sheamus, Miz, and Dolph Ziggler respectively were solid if short TV matches. Apollo Crews defeat at the hands of Chris Jericho was the weakest of the qualifiers as the two seemed to have no chemistry in the ring. On a whole, the right men went over in all five matches and so far have set up MITB to be an interesting spectacle.
- Prior to Styles match with Owens, he and his cohorts Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson had a falling out that saw the two saying Styles had become a different person after he had indirectly blamed them for his loss the night before. It seems to be more evidence of WWE slowly building up to the main roster debut of Finn Balor.
- The segment that saw Women’s Champion Charlotte verbally abuse and banish her father Ric Flair was a mixed bag for me. In concept it worked, as Charlotte had needed to strike out on her own for a while now. However the performances were left much to be desired, and took away from the desired emotional impact.
- New Day are such an over act at this point that they can essentially be involved in throwaway segments and still make them work.
- It was great to see Enzo Amore back on TV after his concussion scare, even just as a cheerleader/hype man for Big Cass.
- While not a part of Raw proper, I would recommend anyone with a WWE Network subscription check out the Mick Foley/Shane McMahon interview that aired after the show. It was definitely worth a watch.
WWE did a very good job with the May 26 episode. The in-ring action was solid, there was nothing egregiously bad, and the set-up for the upcoming Money In The Bank event began in a solid and interesting way.