Tonight is the go home show for Payback. I imagine we’ll get that card filled out a bit on tonight’s show, we’re promised the in ring debut of Gallows & Anderson, and many on the internet think that Finn Balor debuts on the main roster tonight. I have my own theories about the Finn Balor debut, but let’s see what goes down tonight on Raw, shall we? Usual deal for me, I avoided the internet almost all of today in order to catch this show fresh and give you, dear reader, my immediate reaction to what I’m watching for the first time. So, let’s get right into the WWE Raw 04/25/16 recap.
WWE Raw 04/25/16 Recap
We open with a still image tribute to Chyna, which is the absolute least they could do, but that’s an editorial for another time. WWE. Then. Now. Forever. We get a video package about the AJ Styles / Roman Reigns feud to remind us that Roman is THE guy. Standard Raw video open runs, pyro hits, and we’re live from Hartford, CT. The announcers run through the confirmed matches tonight and I can’t help think we’re getting the League of Nations guys in the spots that would have gone to a healthy Wyatt Family. “Here Comes The Money” hits and Shane McMahon is out to run the show again because WrestleMania stipulations still mean nothing. Wow, JBL is running Shane down the point it almost makes me think we’re getting an announcer angle tonight, sheesh. Shane cuts a promo saying we’re going to get more new faces, new match ups, and fun. On cue, Stephanie’s music hits because there will be no fun with her around! Stephanie gets huge heel heat. Stephanie mocks Shane saying he wants the crowd to have fun and says “yuck”. See, I told you! No fun with Stephanie around! Stephanie cuts a promo defending Hartford because she was born there. Stephanie eventually cuts to the chase and says tonight is Shane’s last night running Raw. On Sunday, Vince will decide definitively who is running Raw, because it’s not like we already had a WrestleMania match with a legend in it to determine that or anything. Shane polls the crowd to see who they want running Raw and they boo every time he puts his hand over Stephanie’s head. Shane asks Stephanie to leave, but she refuses and says she’s going to hang out in “her” ring. Since Shane is still running Raw tonight he asks for security to come down and escort Stephanie from the ring. Shane then asks Stephanie to leave “our” ring. Stephanie tells the security guards not to touch her. One does so she goes nuts and starts slapping him. She finally leaves but says that Shane will pay for this. Shane then introduces AJ Styles.
Back from break, AJ is still in the ring. Sheamus is out to a tepid reaction from the crowd.
Match #1: AJ Styles vs. Sheamus
The story they try to tell here is that this is a warm up for Styles going into Payback. I’d argue that Sheamus is considerably stiffer and not really a good clone of Roman’s offense. What we get is Sheamus running the show for most of the match. He slaps Styles in the Cloverleaf, but it’s a missed Brogue Kick that allows Styles to hit the Phenomenal Forearm for the win. The match is nothing spectacular and easily is one of my least favorite AJ Styles WWE matches to date.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – I didn’t expect to “Thumbs Up” this one because I didn’t see Sheamus and AJ’s styles meshing that well, and they really didn’t. Also, an AJ win is really the only move here so there was no real drama in the match.
Post-match, Gallows and Anderson come out to the stage in sleeveless white trench coats and applaud for him. Styles just sort of looks at them. This cuts to a shot of Roman Reigns backstage looking at a monitor of AJ looking at Gallows and Anderson. The minute Roman appears he gets booed more heavily than Stephanie was earlier. The Usos appear and Roman, stupidly, thinks that incredulous look on AJ’s face means they’re all together. Well, this promo is the definitive proof that Gallows and Anderson don’t align with Styles. The crowd chants “we can’t hear you”, which makes this promo probably even more awkward looking to the live crowd. The minute the Usos leave and the camera focuses in on Reigns again? Boos.
Next, the New Day’s music hits and that’s the fastest I’ve heard a crowd go from booing to cheering.
Back from break, the New Day are in the ring to deliver a promo. They explain what is going on with the number one contender situation. Xavier makes a “1999” Prince reference and then the Vaudevillains music hits. English is out and starts singing like he used to way back in his pre-Vaudevillain NXT days. English says when they win they’re going to party like it’s 1899. Gotch starts cutting a promo on Enzo & Cass and their music hits. Enzo & Cass continue to be hugely over. It’s great seeing the main roster crowds eating these guys up. The New Day then stand there and watch Enzo cut a promo on the Vaudevillains. The New Day seem to really enjoy Enzo & Cass because they mime along to the “sawft” promo that Cass cuts. The New Day say it doesn’t matter who wins because they’re going to remain tag champs. The Vaudes and Enzo/Cass stare each other down, while the New Day dance.
Meanwhile, Anderson and Gallows walk through a door backstage. The door closes and it says “AJ Styles” on the door. Wow, they could not be more subtle about the “swerve” that is going to happen some time between now and the Raw after Payback.
Back from break, we learn that John Cena will be returning at the Memorial Day Raw in Green Bay – hey, site contributor Paul Wozniak is going to be at that show! Next, the Usos are out for their match. Gallows & Anderson are out next with a really generic TitanTron video. I mean it’s not as bad as some of the ones in NXT that used Arial font or whatever, but their Tron is still super generic.
Match #2: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Usos
Well, this is exactly what it needed to be. Gallows and Anderson systematically destroy Jey Uso. Jimmy Uso gets the hot tag, the crowd actually boos him, and Gallows and Anderson are able to make a comeback. After Gallows dumps Jey out into the crowd, Anderson gets Jimmy back in the ring. They hit their team finisher, “Magic Killer”, and get the decisive win.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Strong debut for Gallows and Anderson and WWE managed to not screw this up.
Post-match, Anderson tosses Jey Uso back into the ring. Gallows and Anderson each pick a Uso and start pounding on them. Roman’s music hits, the crowd starts booing, and he’s out to the ring to defend the Usos. Roman takes out Anderson and gets booed, he then attacks Gallows to a bunch of boos. They leave the ring before Roman can Superman punch Anderson. Roman tends to the Usos while Gallows and Anderson stare at them.
Back from break, Renee Young is with AJ Styles. Renee starts to ask AJ how he’s preparing for his title match when Anderson and Gallows appear. They want to talk about “this Roman Reigns situation” and claim innocence saying he went after them. Anderson and Gallows lay it on thick they have AJ’s back. Guys, I think they might not actually have his back. Their friendship is “forever”, bro. Byron Saxton is the only voice of reason here that sees that WWE has laid this out so obviously that a toddler could tell they’re not really going to align with AJ.
Next, we see a video package hyping up the Sami Zayn / Kevin Owens match at Payback. After that, Sami Zayn is out for his match. Rusev is out with… Lana? About, damn time. She’s also wearing a vinyl outfit which looks significantly better on her than the denim look she’s been sporting.
Match #3: Sami Zayn vs. Rusev (w/ Lana)
A surprisingly good little match. I’m glad we’re finally back to square one with Rusev, as he’s been more or less released from the League of Nations shackles and has Lana back. Rusev dominates during most of the match, but Sami gets a smattering of offense in too. Rusev seems to have things in hand, sets Sami up for the Accolade, and Sami reverses it into a roll up and gets the win. Can’t really complain here. A good way for both guys to keep their heat going into Payback, though as of right now Rusev doesn’t have a match on the show.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Going back closer to classic Rusev is a good move. Zayn wins going into his match with Owens which is also good.
Post-match, Lana freaks out and throws her high heel shoe at Sami. JBL makes a dad joke about her turning heel, which falls flat because she already is a heel. Sami poses for the crowd on the stage and gets jumped from behind by Kevin Owens. After initially knocking Sami down, Owens just kind of stands over him and stares down at him.
We’re then sent to Renee Young who is with Apollo Crews. The theme of the backstage interviews tonight is that Renee asks a question, and when the person starts to answer it they get interrupted. This time, Stardust appears. Apollo calls him Cody and then starts putting over how much Dusty Rhodes changed his life. Stardust says it is fitting that a man named Apollo wants to play in the stars. He then says not even Dusty Rhodes could make Apollo a star. Apollo just stares blankly into space to end the segment. Uh, I’m not sure what that accomplished.
Back from break, Stardust is already out in the ring. Crews is out next, and I still can’t really tell how over or not over he is with the crowd.
Match #4: Apollo Crews vs. Stardust
Hey, imagine that, another Apollo Crews squash where he wins with the sitout powerbomb. I mean, they at least try to say “Dusty Rhodes gave him his name at NXT” during this match to give his character some sort of dimension to it. But, it’s still not enough. The match is fine, Apollo is great in the ring, as is Stardust, but it just feels like a time filler on this show.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – A technically sound match that is interchangeable with every match we’ve seen from Crews on the main roster so far.
Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose is backstage… and he’s walking!
Back from break, Dean Ambrose is out. Ambrose says he was supposed to host an Ambrose Asylum, but tonight there will be no Ambrose Asylum. After being jumped by Jericho, Ambrose is no mood for fun and games. Ambrose then cuts a promo on Jericho. Dean lists off the ways he’s better than Jericho, like he doesn’t cheap shot people and he earns respect. Ambrose then calls out Jericho and Jericho’s music hits. Jericho comes out with a confused look on his face. Jericho calls Ambrose a disrespectful stupid idiot. Jericho then calls Hartford a dump. Jericho then cuts a promo that puts himself over. Jericho says Ambrose should get down on his knees to kiss his $1500 boots for allowing him to be in the match with Jericho. Y2J then demands an apology out of Ambrose. Dean is sorry that Jericho paid so much money for his ugly boots. Dean is sorry that Jericho walks around wearing a scarf. Dean is sorry about Chris’s stupid Bon Jovi haircut. He’s sorry that Jericho is an insecure egomaniac. Dean’s sorry that he has to beat him at Payback. But Dean is not sorry for “this” and then he attacks Jericho. They brawl outside the ring and Ambrose goes face first into a monitor on the announce table. Jericho then puts Ambrose in the Walls of Jericho on the announce table. A bunch of refs get Y2J to break the hold. Jericho then poses on the table while the crowd boos.
Next, the announcers show us the Shane / Stephanie segment that kicked off the show.
During the break, we learn we’re apparently going to get to see the house show match where Finn Balor loses the NXT title to Samoa Joe on this week’s NXT episode.
Back from break, we see the Ambrose / Jericho segment again. Meanwhile, Natalya is already in the ring. Hey, it’s Emma! Hey, it’s Charlotte and Ric Flair… out to do commentary I guess?
Match #5: Emma vs. Natalya
Normally, I’d be excited by an Emma vs. Natalya match. But, this one has all of the trappings of the go home show before a PPV. Emma is here to put over Natalya strong so it’s a waste of her talent. If she was still working, this match would have been Brie Bella in this spot with Natalya. It also doesn’t help that the crowd starts loudly chanting “we want Sasha”.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – About what I’d expect. Natalya making Emma tap out the Sharpshooter while she stares down Charlotte. I feel like we’ve been here before.
Post-match, Nattie confronts Charlotte and Ric at commentary until the ref convinces her to back away. Meanwhile, Becky Lynch isn’t on the show and is shown eating a salad in a “Fallout” video on YouTube.
Next, Byron and JBL loudly discuss the title match at Payback while Cole puts on “serious face”. Cole then sends us to a video package on Chyna. RIP Chyna, it’s too bad WWE couldn’t celebrate you in life the way that they have now that you’re gone.
Back from break, Cole hypes up the animated show on the WWE Network that I have absolutely zero interest in watching. What? Damien Sandow is in the ring. What is happening here? Oh never mind, he’s just the squash victim for Baron Corbin this week. We also learn that Ziggler vs. Corbin is on for Payback.
Match #6: Baron Corbin vs. Damien Sandow
Thanks for playing, Sandow. The minute Corbin comes out, he’s jumped by Ziggler.
Verdict: No Thumbs – Match doesn’t happen.
Corbin and Ziggler brawl in the area in front of the stage. A bunch of refs show up and try to pull them apart. Corbin eventually escapes and runs off while the refs hold Ziggler back.
This week’s Primo and Epico vignette shows them out on the town partying at a club.
Back from break, Maryse and The Miz are in the ring. Maryse introduces the Miz and he mentions he’ll be defending his title against Cesaro at Payback. The Miz can’t believe that the fans think that Cesaro will defeat him on Sunday. The Miz holds up the IC title and calls it legendary. Miz then cuts a promo on the Cesaro Section signs. The Miz then points to Maryse and says that is what the “Miz Section” looks like. Cesaro then interrupts. Cesaro says he thinks the fans are way too educated to fall for Miz’s attempt to convince them to support him. The Miz then does a terrible DeNiro impression. Cesaro says the only movie The Miz belongs in is Jackass. Cesaro then puts the title over. Then Miz does a terrible Clint Eastwood impression and asks Cesaro if he feels lucky. Cesaro, doing an equally terrible Eastwood, responds “Go ahead. Make my day.” Groan. Cesaro prepares to pull his suit off to fight, but Miz grabs Maryse and slowly backs away. When Cesaro isn’t looking, Miz launches at Cesaro and eats an uppercut. Cesaro sets up Miz for the swing, but Maryse jumps onto Miz to stop it.
As Cesaro leaves to cheers, we see Roman Reigns walking backstage and the cheers change to boos. AJ Styles appears and tells Roman he’s taking the title at Payback. Roman implies that Styles will get help from Gallows and Anderson and then leaves.
Back from break, we’re reminded John Cena returns on the Memorial Day Raw. Hey, look! Kalisto gets to lose the U.S. Title to Ryback on the Kickoff show on Sunday. Remember when John Cena made the U.S. Title match one of the most exciting things on Raw each week? Well, screw that, we’re giving it to the guy with no charisma on the free show that airs on YouTube!
Next, Roman Reigns is out to mostly boos. During his entrance, we see footage of Roman doing a Make-A-Wish earlier today. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt Roman is a good guy and he’s an adequate wrestler at this point in his career… but his character has been hot garbage for a while now and this forced position of him as champ isn’t working. Anyway, Roman comes out and greets the Make-A-Wish family at ringside. Alberto del Rio comes out to the same kind of tepid response that Sheamus got.
Match #7: Roman Reigns vs. Alberto del Rio
Well, this is your standard main event Roman Reigns match. He starts out getting beat up and then fights back with his standard offense. The crowd boos, chants “Roman Sucks”, and “Boring”. Del Rio manages to hit the stiff kick, the one that he used to beat John Cena for the U.S. Title last year, but Roman is able to kick out. Wow, when you kick out of something that beats Cena, that’s saying something. Anyway, Gallows and Anderson appear to distract Roman, but ADR isn’t able to capitalize with the roll up. Roman is able to then hit the spear to get the win.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – The Anderson / Gallows interruption was a given, but still, I felt like in no way Roman would lose here. I suppose it makes Payback’s outcome a little more dubious by having both Styles and Reigns win tonight, but, I mean, come on… Roman is winning at Payback.
Post-match, Anderson and Gallows jump Reigns in the ring. Styles comes running out and pulls them off of Reigns. They leave and Styles eats a Superman punch from Reigns. Roman then single-handedly takes down Gallows and Anderson. What are they doing here? Thankfully, Styles hits Roman with a Phenomenal Forearm off the top rope to stop this madness. Anderson, Gallows, and Styles all hold their jaws and wince to end the show.
As far as go home shows go, this Raw could have been better. I mean, we only got one women’s match and it was a squash that accomplished nothing. But even still, minus the Ryback match, I’m still pretty hyped up about Payback.