We Begin The Right Way: We start the show with a graphic and moment of silence remembering the late, great Joanie Laurer, aka Chyna. It was a nice, tasteful way to begin the show, and thankfully it would not be the last one in the night.
Then We Begin the Show the Usual Way: Yes, a McMahon opens the show. Thankfully, it’s the one we all like — Shane. Well…that is for a second. The “Bulletproof Heel” Stephanie McMahon comes out with her trademark shit-eating grin. Why is she the “Bulletproof Heel” you may ask? Well, because nothing ever hurts her, and that’s why she’s an awful heel. Wrestling fans pay to see the bad guy lose, get their comeuppance, show their ass, get pie on their face, etc. Stephanie never does. She always comes out smelling like a daisy, and thus she’s an ineffective heel. Tonight, they try and put pie on her face by having security usher her out, but of course she kicks one of the poor guys in the crotch — and there’s no real consequences from that. I digress, they’ll never change her character. It’s inevitable that they’re going to set up some sort of Shane vs. Triple H match-up to regain control of RAW, and with the return of Cena and Orton on the horizon, the return of “The Authority” is actually a scary thing.
Sheamus vs. AJ Styles in a Red Rooster vs. Redneck Match: I’ve said it for years, Sheamus is missing that “it” factor. He’s got the look (the septum ring does need to go), he is serviceable on the mic, and he can go in the ring. However, there’s that intrinsic thing he’s missing to be a top guy. AJ Styles has come a LONG way from his debut earlier this year — the hesitation and ring rust have been shaken off, and each week he’s busting out new variations of his offense. Pound for pound, in my opinion, he’s the best American wrestler in the world today, and has been for some time. I love the fact AJ has reinvented his game — it’s not all flips and spots — it’s much more Japanese with strikes and kicks backed with sheer intensity. While it seemed alien that Styles was in WWE for the first few weeks, he’s adapted extremely well. AJ scores the win level Sheamus with his tremendous “Phenomenal Forearm” (stupid name, I know) springboard forearm strike. Winner: “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles
On the Ramp: Luke Gallows and “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson, decked out in their new ring gear, congratulate AJ, much to his chagrin.
Worst Promo Ever aka “The Uce” Promo: I wish The Usos would stop using the word “Uce” in their everyday promos. It makes no sense, and is just highly annoying. The promo here is convoluted and ineffective.
The Best Promo Ever: The New Day, Vaudvillains, and Enzo Amore & Colin Cassidy come out to talk about the finals of the Booty-O’s sponsored tag team tournament. The New Day did a great job of putting over the tournament, the two “rookie teams” and of course themselves. Great segment.
The Bullet Club Is In the House Match – The Usos vs. Anderson & Gallows: The Usos are my least favorite team bar none. I’ve been quite a fan of The Bullet Club aka Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows for a long time — they’re awesome in the ring, and they’re funny as hell. Sadly, they’ve got to debut against the lukewarm Young Bucks impersonators. Machine Gun is in excellent shape, dropping a ton of weight since last fall. The Bullet Club focuses heavily on Jey Uso’s injured shoulder, a smart move, and a great example of how these two guys know ring psychology. They really played it old school here – no super flashy moves, just smash mouth wrestling, and when you look at the tag division, it’s what’s missing. Winners: The Bullet Club
Backstage with The Biz Cliz: Gallows and Anderson do a great job of turning AJ into Sting. How so? They easily dupe the honest to goodness babyface into believing they’re “on his side” when in fact they’re the heels of the situation. Well, technically everyone hates Roman and The Usos, so they’re actually the faces — but that’s how things go.
KO vs. Zayn Package: They’re really building this feud up nicely…and they’re building it to last forever. Because as Owens said years ago, ‘We’re going to be doing this forever.’ I really feel this feud is a modern day Raven vs. Dreamer feud minus the weird summer camp thing and Beluah.
Sami Zayn vs. Rusev in a Sadly Lana is Not on a Pole Match: Sami’s theme is still one of the best in WWE right now, and who knew ska would be so awesome. Remember how I said Sheamus has the tools but is missing that intangible “it factor?” I think Rusev has it. Despite being in the mid card now, I feel that he could ascend back to the top of the card and be a serious contender for the WWE title. This was a really strong match with Rusev doing a lot more than his usual kick-punch-submission move set. I’m hoping with guys like Sami in the fold now that guys like Rusev can go outside their normal routine to put on matches that are super fun and competitive like this. Sami, as always, proves he can have a good match with any wrestler on the roster. It’s funny he’s super agile to go with cruisers, but is big and solid enough to look credible against a guy like Rusev. Winner: Sami Zayn
Side Note: Dear WWE Universe, can you stop being assholes and chanting “CM Punk?” Is there a reason you need to do this? Sami is a guy – YOU WANT. If this were during the 10,000 iteration of John Cena vs. Randy Orton, I can see that. But, if you’re an IWC nerd (like me), you wanted to see Sami on the main roster. You wanted AJ. Owens. Bullet Club. Neville. Enzo & Cass. New Day. There’s no need to chant for CM Punk anymore. He ain’t coming back.
Backstage: Cody Rhodes and Apollo Crews have a backstage encounter, and it gets super weird when Apollo Crews mentions Dusty Rhodes. Like really weird. Segment derailing weird.
Apollo Crews vs. Stardust in a Let’s Awkwardly Keep Mentioning Dusty Rhodes Match: This was the first time in a few weeks that Apollo Crews showed weakness. Crews has a lot of talent, but they need to do more with him than “be the large guy who can fly around.” It’s fine, but he’s just so vanilla that there’s really nothing people can sink their teeth into. We need something more for us to care about. Mike Awesome was similar in his move set, but he was always portrayed (in ECW) as a killer, when that was taken off him — no one cared. Apollo needs something to do. Winner: Apollo Crews
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho in a Promo Off: Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho have terrific chemistry together, and this is a feud I’d like to see go on for a while. When he needs to be serious, Dean can be one of the best — and he really does remind me of Mick Foley, when Mick was being serious. Ambrose knows how to position himself as the everyman, the blue collar street fighter, and that’s why he’ll always be loved by the crowd. Jericho, of course, is a golden god on the microphone, and his love of scarves, no shirts, and Bon Jovi hair makes him the antithesis of Ambrose. Jericho also knows how to use the basics of the heel promo and make them so much more effective than anyone else.
Natalya vs. Emma in a Match That Deserved More Time: Emma gets the TV entrance that I believe lasted longer the match itself. These two deserved a bit more time, but this was all about giving Nattie a win as she goes on to face Charlotte. Winner: Natalya
A Great Chyna Tribute: The WWE did the right thing here with a great tribute video to Chyna. It really emphasized how important she was to pro wrestling, and how she broke so many barriers. She had such a massive impact on wrestling, but it was in a such a brief window, and sadly that as a long time ago. The younger wrestling fan, and even longtime fans, may have forgotten this, and only know her for her rather tragic last 10 years. It was great to see the WWE give her the tribute she deserved.
Hey It’s Damien Sandow and Baron Corbin: Nope. Sorry Internet – no Sandow for you. Thankfully Ziggler kicks the pants out of Baron Corbin, who sucks.
Miz & Cesaro Quote the Movies: This was a fun little segment. Miz is really back on top of his game. Cesaro is definitely getting there in the promo game.
Roman Reigns vs. Alberto del Rio in a Sleepwalk Match: Alberto seemed about as uninspired as one can be during this match. I firmly believe if AAA didn’t stiff Alberto on money he’d still be wrestling Mexico, and not in WWE. He’s so talented in the ring, but his new WWE run has been so ‘meh’ it’s sad. As for Roman the WWE smartly inserted a clip of him with a Make-A-Wish kid so the WWE Universe couldn’t boo him. I mean could you seriously boo a guy for doing this? If you can, you have serious issues. To be fair, Roman wasn’t uninspired in this match, but he just didn’t have the normal fire he usually has. Maybe he was off. Maybe the crowd did not just care. I’m thinking a little bit of both. Either way, Roman stays strong with the win here. Winner: Roman Reigns
The Aftermath: The Bullet Club knocks Roman around until AJ Styles comes in to break things up. Of course, Roman being a douche nozzle, knocks out Roman. Then he “looks strong” and knocks Gallows and Anderson around. Thankfully AJ BLASTS Roman with a Phenomenal forearm. Great move, great ending.