After a Wrestlemania that I will happily give 9/10 stars to, we find ourselves at one of the most exciting times in the wrestling calendar. If Wrestlemania is the ULTIMATE THRILL RIDE, then the RAW (and Smackdown) after Wrestlemania would be the ULTIMATE RESET BUTTON where we get new stars debuting, fresh changes to story and character and a sense that "hey, this could be aaaaalllll right..."
After proving once again that they can turn turds into diamonds at Wrestlemania, the stage was set for big doings and they did not disappoint! I'm going to break this report into 2 parts because, well, as it turns out, when it's wrestling that's good, I have a lot more to say about it!
The show opened with an absolutely tear-jerking, Johnny Cash worthy video recap of Undertaker's match and exit at WrestleMania. Interspersed with pictures from his muiti-decade career, this was a piece that proved that when it comes to video packages, no one does it better than WWE.
The crowd then chanted for Undertaker for several minutes. It was a wonderful and electric moment where we all as fans felt connected in saying goodbye to the Deadman. ...and then the fans did what they love to do, which is ruin everything and make it all about themselves.
After a few minutes of Undertaker chants, Roman Reigns, the man who ended Taker's career, arrived. The Crowd immediately shelled him with some of the most hateful and profane chants I've heard since Hulk Hogan turned heel on Nitro. It was honestly, disgusting to watch. They got even worse during the Curiserweight match when they began tossing beachballs around and chanting "Beach Ball Mania!" while Neville and Mustafa Ali were busting their ass in the ring.
I'm all for the audience reacting and participating in what's going on during the show. It's part of what makes live wrestling so much fun. But these days it seems like the "hardcore" fans that start these chants are looking to obnoxiously insert themselves in the programming and be the centre of attention instead of watching and enjoying the show in front of them. I've never liked "famous fans" as part of wrestling and I can only hope this kind of thing can be chalked up to Wrestlemania Weekend Excitement. Everything was fine on Smackdown, but the RAW audience really got under my skin and not in a good way.
Anyway, self-righteousness aside, Roman Reigns arrived. I don't mean that he showed up, because he did, but what I mean is he has ARRIVED. Roman stood silent in the ring for 13 minutes absorbing the crowd's hatred and then simply said "It's my yard now." And left.
It. Was. Brilliant!!
Roman played the crowd, the audience and the locker room perfectly and instantly gained more ground with all of them than he's had since the Shield days. It was awesome and I can't wait to see more of this Roman in the WWE.
1. Raw Tag Team Championship Match: The Hardy Boyz (c) vs The Club.
The Hardy Boyz, now fixed, made a huge return Wrestlemania and captured the RAW tag titles in spectacular fashion with a patented Jeff-Hardy-Oh-Jesus-He's-Going-To-Die move off a ladder. On Raw, the greatness continued as the Boyz had a "re-match" against former Champions, The Club. It was a solid match and a great way to start Raw with Matt hitting a Twist of Fate to retain the titles.
Next was the RAW return of good ol' Vincent Kennedy McMahon, who delivered a great promo about how injured and broken his daughter was after getting put through a table accidentally at Wrestlemania. Seriously, it was fantastic. "Bad Guys" are at their best when they are oblivious and over the top and no one does oblivious better than Vince.
McMahon made two big announcements; The first being that next week on Raw and Smackdown, wrestlers would be traded and swapped between the two brands. They're calling it SuperStar Shake-Up, so look for that in the App Store any day now.
The second big announcement was the identity of the new Raw General Manager and oh, yes, it's true, it's true:
No, not that guy (but close)
It's Olympic Hero and newly minted WWE Hall of Famer, Kurt Freakin' Angle!
This is very exciting because no one has better comedic timing and passionate delivery than Angle. He fits into the WWE style of programming and comedy like a glove and I'm super excited to see what he's got in the tank after all these years.
The fun didn't stop there though! Up next, the New Day came down to the ring and said they enjoyed hosting Wrestlemania, but were dying to get back in the ring. That means: OPEN CHALLENGE! And since we'd already seen the Hardyz, who (who? Who? Who?) would answer the challenge?
How about the goddamn Revival, fresh off blowing everyone away at Takeover!
2. The Revival vs The New Day
The Revival/DIY/AOP match at Takeover was the best of the night, if not year and it was great to see these guys not missing a beat and taking the win with the Shatter Machine.
Next, it was the women's turn in a tag match featuring the return of the one, the only, Emma! And Evil to boot!
3. Bayley, Sasha Banks and Dana Brooke vs Nia Jax, Charlotte Flair and Emma
Emma kicked ass in this match, being cold and ruthless and reminding us why we never need to utter the name "Emmalina" again. In the end, Sasha slapped a killer-looking Banks Statement on Charlotte for the win.
In probably the only low point of a stacked show, the New WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar came out with Paul Heyman. Heyman ran down/spoke the truth about Goldberg and called out Roman Reigns as the man Brock wanted to fight next. This brought out full-six-inches-bigger-than-Brock Braun Strowman.
I salivated in front of my TV, but a match between these two giants was not meant to be this night as Strowman challenged Brock, Brock accepted and then Strowman... left? It was weird, but I still really do want to see those two in the ring. Here's hoping for Payback (the event, not the activity).
In a segment earlier in the night, Kurt Angle proved just how great a GM he's going to be by a) surviving a conversation with Cass and Enzo in hilarious fashion, and b) booking them in a #1 Contenders match for the Tag Titles.
4. Tag Team Title No. 1 Contenders Match: Sheamus and Cesaro vs Enzo Amore and Big Cass
Like I say, everyone seemed to have dialed it up to 11 this week as the match between these two teams was great. It was fast and Enzo was essentially tossed about between the three bigger men like a rag doll. In the end, Sheamus pulled it out for his team by hitting Big Cass with a Brogue Kick and literally thowing Enzo into a European uppercut from Cesaro, who made the pin. Great stuff.
Angle once again stole the show with an amazing conversation with Sami Zayn, resulting in him facing the over-inflated football that is Jinder Mahal.
5. Sami Zayn vs Jinder Mahal
It was a quick but solid match that featured Sami actually getting the win! Zayn hit Mahal with a Helluva Kick for the victory. After seeing this I'm actually a little disappointed by the prospect of Sami getting "Shaken up" over to Smackdown, but then again...
Earlier in the show, Chris Jericho was scheduled to be Seth Rollins partner in a tag match against Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens. But during an interview segment, Owens and Joe attacked Jericho and put him out of the match.
So a new partner for Seth was needed but who could it be...
6. Finn Bálor and Seth Rollins vs Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe
Hells yes, it's Finn "Boy I Sure Do Love Lego" Bálor! It was fantastic to see him back and still as great as ever. After a strong tag match, Bálor got the win for his team by pinning Kevin Owens with his signature Coup de Grace. After the match, Finn had his hand raised by his partner and man who injured him and put him on the shelf for 7 months but that's ok, Seth Rollins. It was a great end to one of the best RAWs of the year, so far