Hello my friends, you have entered the twisting nether that is the weekly Raw review, delivered by yours truly as always. Tonight’s Raw comes from Hartford, CT (only 45 minutes away from me and I didn’t think to get tickets, go figure) and WWE seems to be stacking the deck tonight with 4 matches announced before the show even starts, that’s right, there’s actual direction for tonight’s show. The in-ring debut of Karl & Gallows facing the Usos, Reigns vs. Del Rio, Zayn vs. Rusev and Styles vs. Sheamus. Man, those last two should be a hoot. Speaking of hoots, I’m very much interested to see Karl and Gallows in action, and with Finn Balor suddenly dethroned at a house show, there seems to be a peaked interest in tonight’s event, especially with Payback being this Sunday. Anything could happen, or nothing could happen! It’s the weekly roll of the dice, let’s get to gamblin’.
Shane O’Mac is back in charge again, running down his agenda that he’s had over the past few weeks, new faces, fresh matches, etc. Steph interrupts, making her triumphant return. Steph calls the people of Hartford tough and smart individuals (had a good laugh about that one, Hartford is shit) who are tired of politicians with smiling faces. Steph says she’s one of them, Hartford’s favorite daughter. Steph says tonight is Shane’s last night in charge, and Vince will make the decision at Payback as to who will be officially in charge. Shane asks the crowd who they wanna see in charge, in favor of Shane, obviously. Steph says she has it on good authority that things won’t go Shane’s way on Sunday. Shane asks Steph to leave but she won’t budge. Shane says he’s still in charge so he tells security to escort her out. Your local squad of indie wrestlers comes out to escort a belligerent Steph out, Steph even takes one out with a slap that the dude sold like a Big Show KO, which was probably the best part of this whole thing.
A good ol’ stiff match, Sheamus pulling no punches against Styles who can take it and deliver it right back. Sheamus bodies Styles with various strong moves that Styles sells like absolute death, Styles doing great at putting over Sheamus’s brute force. Styles comes back with a fury of strikes and Sheamus smashes his face off the turnbuckle to stop his momentum and crushes him with a powerslam. Styles hits a pele kick that legit bopped Sheamus on the top of the head. A hard hitting back and forth finish, Sheamus missing a brogue kick and Styles springing off the ropes and hitting the Phenomenal Forearm for the win. Very solid matches, Sheamus is such a good stiff worker, this was one of his moments where you’re reminded of how good of a big dude he can be. Karl and Gallows come out after the match rocking some awesome gear similar to their NJPW attires, applauding Styles and furthering the ‘ARE THEY IN CAHOOTS?’ narrative. The Usos find Reigns in their locker room and do some weird fucking math promos including the lines “Sometimes the One needs from the All and sometimes the All needs help from the One.”. No fucking clue.
New Day are here to hype their tag team tournament, sponsored by Booty-O’s~! Big E says at Payback, you will all put some RESPECK on the name of the #1 Contender’s for their championships. Xavier says they’ll all party like it’s 1999. (good tribute) The Vaudevillains interrupt to zero reaction and Aiden English says when they win their championships, they’ll party like it’s 1989. Max Landis, er, Simon Gotch starts to speak some words but is interrupted by Enzo & Cass to a massive pop. Enzo says he’s gonna keep it 100 like a high fever, he says The Vaudevillains wanna be the champions like Enzo wants to run down a beach into his own arms, impossible. Cass calls them SAWFT and Big E is in the background loving it. Seeing all these dudes in the ring on Raw is great.
Karl & Gallows have officially arrived with a less than stellar theme. Very generic and butt-rocky. Hopefully a placeholder? Karl and Gallows are so good at just beating the hell outta people. Karl and Gallows tear Jey to shreds and focus on his ‘injured’ shoulder. This match goes far longer than it needed to go. Jimmy finally gets the hot tag in and the crowd boos the hell out of him. Jimmy’s momentum is stopped short by a big clothesline from Karl as Gallows murders Jey on the outside. Jimmy takes a big boot from Gallows and the Magic Killer to finish the job. Solid match with a good finish, still think it went a few minutes too long. They beat down the Usos post-match until Reigns makes the save to a mixed reaction from an otherwise asleep crowd. Karl and Gallows are sent running to end this bit.
Styles is being interviewed backstage and is interrupted by Karl and Gallows. They say they won’t jeopardize his opportunity at the title, but they need to make sure it’s a fair fight. Karl says they’ve got his back, Gallows says their friendship is forever and they’ll do whatever he needs them to do. Hmm.
A wonderful video package is played chronicling Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens’ long friendship and rivalry. Really, really great stuff.
What a match-up. The brute force of Rusev against the speed and underdog ferocity of Zayn is a match made in heaven. I’d like to reiterate that Hartford is absolute shit, because they are. No pops for Zayn doing a goddamn moonsault off a barricade. All of Zayn’s quick moves are countered by Rusev’s power, and Rusev nearly kicks Sami Zayn’s head into the nosebleed seats with a superkick, and gets a real close nearfall off it. Rusev goes to finish him with the Accolade but Zayn rolls through and gets the three off him with a surprise roll-up. Lana throws a shoe at him and for a second it looked like Zayn flipped her off. So many wonderful things happened in the span of a minute. God bless.
Nothing to be said here, really. Stardust gets some heel offense in and Apollo comes back with his sequence of moves, hitting the spin-out bomb for the win. They seriously need to dig deep and find a way to make people care about Apollo Crews, because he’s just some guy right now. There’s no real reason to care about him, he’s a great talent but the average lame crowd isn’t gonna bat an eyelash at him. I mean come on, the dude doesn’t even have a name for his finisher. Don’t squander this man.
Ambrose is out to probably the most significant reaction that this crowd has given anyone, it’s still not much though. Ambrose talks about his match this Sunday and calls out Jericho cause he’s done talkin’. Your dad comes out dressed like he’s come from the set of Magic Mike, and calls Ambrose a stupid idiot. Jericho says he’d never fight in a dump like this (can’t blame him there.). He demands Jericho get on his knees and apologize to him for stealing his Highlight Reel show. Ambrose apologizes for many things, including Jericho’s outfit and his Bon Jovi haircut and says he doesn’t apologize for this before punching Jericho in the face. Ambrose tears down the announce table and Jericho turns the tables on him, beating the hell out of him on the table and standing over him to end the segment.
A match that should have gotten time did not at all. Highlights included Emma hitting a butterfly suplex on the outside and well, that’s really it. Nattie won with a Sharpshooter while staring in the eyes of Charlotte at ringside.
A very beautiful memorial video package is played for Chyna. Very sad, but very well done. RIP Chyna.
Well, it looked like we were getting Sandow vs. Baron Corbin but Ziggler attacked Baron during his entrance, the cameraman went goddamn nuts as a brawl broke out and showed pretty much everything but the fight. The refs restrain Ziggler to end this segment as I’m sure Sandow was just lingering in the ring, a broken man at this point surely.
Miz and Maryse are out here. Miz puts over the prestige of the IC title and says Cesaro has never held it. Miz buries the internet trolls who make Cesaro Section signs. Cesaro interrupts and Miz does a De Niro “are you talkin’ to me” and Cesaro gives him 4/10. Goddamn amazing. Miz asks if Cesaro “feels lucky punk” and Cesaro dares Miz to make his day. Miz runs at Cesaro but gets drilled with the pop-up uppercut and goes for the swing but Maryse lays on top of Miz to stop it. All in for this Miz/Cesaro feud composed entirely of movie quotes and references.
Hartford certainly did not help this match at all, no sir. They managed to stir from their 3 hour slumber to chant Roman Sucks for a short while but went right back to sleep. Del Rio did a brutal stomp off the apron that got literally zero reaction. The match itself was nothing of much value until the closing minutes, some counters and stiff shots. Del Rio even gets a little color, getting busted on a headbutt it seemed. Reigns seem to going for the win but Karl and Gallows make their way to the ring. Del Rio nearly gets the three off the dreaded distraction roll-up but Reigns kicks out and hits a spear on Del Rio for the win. Karl and Gallows attack Reigns but Styles comes out and stops them. Reigns hits a Superman Punch on Styles outta nowhere, and goes after Karl and Gallows. Styles flies off the ropes and hits the Phenomenal Forearm. Karl and Gallows yuck it up on the outside as Raw ends.
A strangely well-structured Raw tonight. The matches were good and the booking was great, nothing crazy or truly head-scratching really happened. A solid go-home show that did well in building up all the PPV matches. Payback has been sculpted to look like a great show on paper, and may very well live up to it. We’ll, of course, have all the coverage here on Wrestling With Words so make sure you keep it locked in here. Thanks for reading.