Well, that was quite the weekend, wasn’t it? I used to be the Face That Runs the Place (the place in question being the VOW Raw Review) until the show finally drove me stark raving mad. But since Jeff Hawkins is attending the show live, I’m jumping back in the saddle for just the one week.

The #RawAfterMania is traditionally the biggest Monday night of the year for the company. The big surprises that will actually matter for the next 12 months are brought out on this night. This is the night that changed our world by introducing the timeless dance classic, the Fandango. If last night was the show for the once-a-year fan that WWE loves, this is the show for the watching every week and criticizing the show fan that WWE loathes with every fiber of Vince’s veiny being. Fittingly enough It is in many ways the opening day for WWE. With that in mind, tonight we will be taking a bit more of a 30,000 foot view of the show, focusing on what the events of tonight mean going forward. After watching the endless WrestleMania yesterday, I’m willing to forgive myself if I use the FF button judiciously.

WWE Monday Night Raw
April 4, 2016

Vince McMahon, Destroyer of Worlds

Announce team invoked the bizarro world caveat right off the bat. I hope this becomes a weekly game for the announce team, where each week they come up with a different reason why Roman Reigns is not loved and adored by the fans the way he should be dammit. Possible reasons why Roman might not get a hero’s welcome:

  • Chicago – Turns out Roman’s family owns the farm where Sam Sianis bought the billy goat that cursed the Cubs.
  • Buffalo – Crowd didn’t like his 15 minute pre-show standup routine centered around Buffalo Wings not being made of actual buffalo.
  • Las Vegas – Ignores conventional wisdom, actually chooses not to bet on black. Sadly it is Wesley Snipes night at the arena.
  • Tunis – They haven’t forgotten the Punic Wars
  • Tokyo – Drowns his sushi in soy sauce, prefers wasabi paste to grated wasabi root.

Vince came out to gloat and dismiss the issue of the lockbox forevermore. I guess we’ll never know what was in there. The fact that Shane McMahon is upright and is mobile amazes me. I play a game of flag football and I’m demanding a Rascal for a week. I was terrified watching him climb that cage last night. I hope whatever Shane needed to get for himself and his family last night he was able to get full satisfaction and is never compelled to take such a risk again. Just because he is willing to die for this industry doesn’t mean we want to see it happen.

Somehow at the end of everything Shane was given control of Raw for the night. The crowd loved it, and I was happy about it, but it felt so Vince ex Machina to reset the board after Mania so that both outcomes we ostensibly wanted occurred. Maybe the whole thing will be that Vince needed to humble Shane, to see if the desire was really there to stay around forever, before giving him control of Raw. Now that I’ve said it out loud that really isn’t the worst idea.

The New Day def. League of Nations

New Day recreating Lion King with a piece of the Booty O’s from last night was one of those things that should be the worst fan pandering thing possible, but the crowd was so into it that I couldn’t help but be entertained by it. Once they don’t have the kind of audience participation they had last night it could be rough seas ahead unless they come up with something to tweak the gimmick.

Wade Barrett finally being in a match made me think of Groucho Marx.

An observation during this match that remained trenchant throughout: “After last night’s show, no match should go more than 6-8 minutes unless it has a damn good reason to do so. Keep everything brisk tonight, pack in stuff, let a little Crash TV happen for one night only. This is the day when you give the excitable kids all the pixy sticks and soda they can cram into their tiny gaping maws.”

Farewell King Barrett. We are a sadder world for no longer letting you tell us the bad news.

And then the Wyatt Family, fresh off being punked out by a movie star and a guy who has been on the shelf for the last six months, appeared and beat up the remaining League members. I guess the only thing left to do with the Wyatts was a face turn of sorts. The few times they have faced off against heels the crowd still was excited even given how they’ve been booked into oblivion.

For everyone involved in this segment, WrestleMania was just another day at the office. League of Nations still hates New Day, New Day still loves the word “booty”, and the Wyatts are still all beardy and cryptic but only effective against nerds like League of Nations. Unless the possible turn by Bray is all part of a master plan to use the Rock’s words against him, leading to a match where Bray beats Rocky at Mania 33. Then Sunday night actually meant something for anyone involved in this segment.

Sasha Banks def. Summer Rae

Starting with Summer in the ring cutting a promo seemed like the most unlikely segment possible. Being a lead in for Sasha to come down and whip some ass made much more sense.

As one of the resident women’s wrestling marks here (check out my SHIMMER preview and review from this weekend for proof!) I think Banks was part of the match of the night at Mania. Having spent months lamenting the way the women’s wrestling scene was presented on Raw, it made me so happy to see the belt replaced, the term “diva” left for branding reality shows, and three women have a great match in front of a crowd that was involved the whole way. I understand being skeptical of Ric Flair’s interference, especially given what happened later in the show. I think that WWE looked at Flair being involved as “we get to involve Ric Flair” more than “we can’t trust this angle without some man involved to keep people interested.” That may be very optimistic knowing WWE’s track record, but it’s springtime so I’m trying to stay cheery.

The women’s division is one of the few things that anyone can point to and say was changed due to Mania. They have the new belt, new naming convention, and they kind of stole the show and proved that a huge crowd can be into a long women’s match on a big card.

Apollo Crews def. Tyler Breeze

Even on the main roster Breeze can’t help but put over the new NXT stars.

Crews looked good in his debut, though I feel like he would be well served with more time in NXT. He is still such a raw talent, no pun intended. I don’t know that he will be given the room to grow and learn while on the main show.  I’m also nervous that Vince may be driving things in an older, more familiar direction. Between the upset win by Baron Corbin, who is really tall and makes fun of indie nerds, Crews, who is awesome in his way but also looks like he’s carved out of marble getting the big debut squash, and the debut yet to come in the show there’s a lot of man that made their Raw debuts tonight.

Roman Reigns – Man of the People

Roman said he’s not a bad guy. Nor is he a good guy. He is The Guy. The crowd does not seem to care for Roman’s cocky demeanor. Not sure there is one he could have put on that would make them like him, short of saying he is a fraud and retiring on the spot. Instead of that advisable decision, Roman issued an open challenge that was answered by Chris Jericho. The crowd hated Reigns so much they are cheering for Jericho calling them idiots. It was fun to watch old grizzled vet Jericho demanding the crowd not hijack his segment.

After letting Jericho ramble for a bit, AJ Styles came out to demand a shot. Then Kevin Owens came out and demanded his shot. Then, because you can’t have Kevin Owens without Sami Zayn close by, the Underdog From the Underground appeared to demand his shot. Everyone wanted Roman’s belt. All I could think was that the most interesting possible match would be heel Reigns against Sami Zayn. Because Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens can’t help but fight each other it broke down into Styles vs. Jericho and Zayn vs. Owens.

This segment was impressive. I didn’t believe WWE could tell the fans how much they hate them more than they did last night. But they succeeded. A segment involving four of the best talents in the company, and Roman ends up standing tall at the end. All this show needs is a segment where Vince takes a shit on a copy of the Observer.

After the break the multi-man match was set up for a title shot.

It is impossible to say that WrestleMania didn’t have a lasting impact on Reigns. He is the champ now after all. Maybe he broke the Authority with his big win, hence their lack of appearances on the show. But other than a bit of extra swagger he seemed pretty much good ol’ Roman Reigns.

Baron Corbin DCO Dolph Ziggler

I love Big Breakfast Banter Barry as much as the next guy on Twitter, but it’s hard to take the guy seriously when he looks like a Bo Dallas Shrinky Dink before you put it in the oven.

It is even harder to take Dolph Ziggler seriously when he is steadfast in being Dolph Ziggler. He should probably try being someone less lame.

This was a stunningly unhelpful segment. A too-long match with your new giant going 50-50 against a small guy who has no juice left in his character. A double countout, followed by a single move on the outside that would have been a transition move in most of the matches the previous night. I understand what they were going for, but beating up Dolph Ziggler means about as much as beating up Heath Slater. Corbin got to deliver an unimpressive beating to a jobber with an elaborate entrance.

WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz def. Zack Ryder ©

How can anyone not be happy for Zack? A guy who loves wrestling, who never stopped working and trying to get back into the mix, only gets his moment because of an injury to Neville, finally got his moment of triumph and a chance to live his dream.

I don’t know if this is the right word, but I think Miz’s coat was on fleek. Please feel free to correct me on Twitter.

Woof, Ryder’s promo went downhill quickly. “Sucks to be you bro!” He’s endearing as an underdog, or a guy who is really appreciating the moment. The minute he turns into a guy with a popped collar who laughs at the miseries of others he becomes quite unlikeable. Being likeable is a rare commodity in WWE these days. Even Sami Zayn has a monomaniacal hatred of Kevin Owens that rears its head anytime they meet. Ryder needs to stay likeable or he’s useless in his role.

After a weekend of flips and dives and grappling it was refreshing to have a good meat and potatoes match. Watching a sneaky heel finding ways to cheat and gain the advantage against a valiant hero made me happy. It was a perfect Raw match for that moment.

After Miz got into it with Zack Ryder’s dad, Maryse made her return, leading to Miz taking the belt! Miz is the best heel in this whole damn company. Adding in his absurdly attractive wife to the package just makes him even more punchable. Put him against Roman and maybe people will cheer a bit for the Big Doggernaut Against All.

Zack Ryder and Miz will be feuding over the I-C belt. Given the ephemeral nature of that title, while the impact of Mania is still being felt now, within a month it will probably be held by Ryback in a feud against Dolph Ziggler. Despite all that I really liked this match, and would give it a solid ***¼

The Vaudevillains are going to be debuting on Smackdown. Probably a good idea, as that gimmick is just begging to be savaged by a crowd that doesn’t get it and doesn’t want to get it. Give them the remnants of the Mania crowd and audio sweetening and they might have a chance.

WWE Women’s Championship presentation

I love Bayley too, but if the crowd wanted to make sure they didn’t get what they want, there’s no better way to go about it than appearing to diss Vince’s chosen woman and her legendary dad.

Charlotte was so delightfully disingenuous giving credit to everyone in the division, but then thanking her daddy for being so helpful at Mania. On a night when everyone in the division was out there to give respect to the entire division, Charlotte made it all about her. Just like a proper Flair should.

The walkout of the rest of the women was a good thing. I want to see a division where all the women want the belt as their main goal. Sure there will always be grudges and side feuds, but no one should settle for less just because they have the same alignment as the champ. On the bad side, Nattie is neither the spokesperson that this division needs nor deserves. Especially when it led to an argument about whose dads and uncles were better. Having Ric around for Charlotte is a thing that is happening and we can’t stop it. But the last thing the women need right now is the inevitable interview segment where Ric Flair and Bret Hart argue about their legacies while Nattie and Charlotte stand by quietly in the background. So yeah, in retrospect, they probably should have listened to the crowd and just brought out Bayley.

What in the name of Carlos Colon was that “Welcome to Puerto Rico” promo?

Tables Match
Dudley Boyz def. The Usos

Nope. I watched too much good wrestling this weekend to watch this happen again. Tables were broken, Uses were O’d, and a merry old time was had by all. And it went through a commercial break, because they really wanted to prove my theory that matches should be short on this night. Also, nothing changed for either of these teams because of Mania. They’ll probably be doing this next year at Mania time because really, it’s the Usos and the Dudz.

I thought this segment was over, then it bled into a debut for Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Once again, hate to worry about such things, but another giant got the callup. And they didn’t even bring Carmella with them. Enzo was perhaps the most hyped person in the history of the world during this segment. Even when individual lines were clunkers he just kept on going and figured the next one would stick. The looks on the faces of the Dudleyz during this segment were priceless. Bubba looked more confused than if Paul Heyman had paid everyone in cash right after an ECW show. The crowd loved Enzo’s schtick, perhaps more than anything else on the show outside of New Day. If Enzo and Cass could take this crowd on the road with them they’d be headlining Mania for a decade.

Dr. Phil is the guest host of Raw next week! I’m sure Jeff will be so happy about that!

AJ Styles def. Kevin Steen, Cesaro & Chris Jericho

That was one hell of an entrance for Cesaro. Watching him accelerating around the ring against Styles was a reminder of how talented Cesaro is and how much he was missed. His movement was so dynamic that everything has urgency and potential to be great. Even something as simple as forearms in the corner became epic when Cesaro was doing them at warp speed.

I’m not going to bother trying to describe the action. You know what happens when four guys of this caliber get together. This was a fitting way to end a weekend that was so full of awesome wrestling. One last surprise, one last crazy match.

I can’t see AJ facing Reigns one on one for the title. As little as Mania may have meant in the big picture for many of the competitors on Raw, AJ Styles is now the number one contender after losing cleanly at WrestleMania. Roman may not have been changed much by the events of 4/3/16, but his current crop of competitors has been. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens now have personal animus that will draw them away from the title picture. Chris Jericho will be able to claim that he beat AJ Styles multiple times, so he deserves a shot. Of all the matches on that card, turned out Styles vs. Jericho ended up being the most important for the short-term future of WWE booking. And I’m feeling crazy and generous, so let’s slap a good rating on this one. ****¼

Well, that’s it for me. Next week you’ll get a proper reviewer back in the chair. Hit me up at @spiffie6123 on the Twitterer.