Longtime wrestling fans normally have low expectations for holiday editions of WWE Raw. Generally, these episodes are treated as “filler” by the company, often leaving out any story development assuming most of the normal audience isn’t watching. However, expectations were high for the Memorial Day 2016 edition due to the return of top star John Cena and a mysterious social media campaign launched by the company promoting #hatch.
The return of Cena was easily the biggest event of the show, and in keeping with their recent modus operandi, WWE had it occur during the second to third hour transition instead of the traditional main event slot at the end of the show. This pattern seems to imply that even the company knows that three hours is simply too long to hold audience attention, but I digress. The segment began with Cena cutting a patriotic/Memorial Day themed promo before merging into his happiness to be back from injury.
Shortly thereafter, Cena was interrupted by AJ Styles. Initially Styles paid respect to Cena and welcomed him back until he in turn was interrupted by his former allies Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. The two brow-beat Styles and challenge he and Cena to fight. However, in a shocking twist, Styles assaulted Cena from behind. The three, officially known as The Club, proceeded to brutally beat Cena down. I can’t say enough how perfect this heel turn was. Styles played his part perfectly, both at first as a face and later as a crazed heel. Through this booking, WWE have immediately setup AJ and The Club as some of the biggest heels in the company and setup a dream feud between Cena and Styles, arguably the most iconic WWE and non-WWE wrestlers of the previous decade. All around, everything about this segment was perfect.
- The #Hatch was simply revealed as promotion for former WCW star Goldberg’s inclusion in the upcoming WWE video game.
- The show’s “main event” slot was filled with a six-man tag match between the six announced Money In The Bank match participants Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Alberto Del Rio, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, and Dean Ambrose. The match itself was fine and saw the latter three come out victorious. However it served no purpose in the overall build for MITB, and simply felt there just for the sake of being there.
- The show opening promo between Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and New Day was horrid. The jokes fell flat, and the hype for the brand extension made the whole thing sound confusing and misguided.
- The Money In The Bank WWE Championship between Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns got a minor promo segment that reinforced Reigns being tough and Rollins being a coward.
- Speaking of Rollins, I must recommend the Rollins-centric episode of WWE 24 aired on the WWE Network following Raw. It follows Rollins’ entire recovery from his 2015 ACL/MCL injury, and is a very entertaining watch that gives viewers a strong view into the man behind the character.
While John Cena’s return and the subsequent AJ Styles heel turn made the 2016 Memorial Day Raw more memorable than usual, the rest of the show was the usual holiday episode mix of placeholder segments and little story development.