WWE Monday Night Raw
June 20, 2016

Watch: WWE on Hulu

3 Things You Must Watch If You DVR

The Shield Saga (0:00, 2:34)
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens (:23)
Titus O’Neill vs. Rusev (2:20)

We are live from Phoenix, Arizona…

Dean Ambrose – New Champ

Dean Ambrose has a Becky Lynch problem. I like his nonchalance, Cool Hand Luke style, but as the opening segment and his commentary during the “main event” segment showed, what could be weird intensity often comes off as goofy rambling. Ambrose at his best could be not unlike Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, even as an anti-hero face he could show the fatalistic nihilism of John Ostrander’s interpretation of Deadshot, another Batman foe (with some interpretation to be seen in this summer’s Suicide Squad). To start RAW, Ambrose almost leaves the WWE Title in the cab he’s riding in, so much for championship heft. He passes Chekov’s Branded Podiums on the way to the ring to open the show with the patented 20 Minute Monologue. No change in character for Ambrose, so success hasn’t gone to his head. He partied in Vegas and remembers winning the briefcase and the title. Seth was “The Man,” Roman was “The Guy,” Dean is “The Dude.” “The Dude” abides so long as you call him “The Champ.”

Roman Reigns, looking intense, comes to a pensive Ambrose and congratulates Ambrose but the crowd’s not buying it. Reigns wants to live vicariously through the cash-in but Ambrose says he would have cashed in against Reigns as well. Reigns has a rematch clause, and Seth Rollins objects as he never fairly lost it, and had the decency to cash in to Reigns’ face. Reigns wants to fight to settle this, Rollins reminds Reigns he beat him and Shane McMahon wants to make a match. Rollins says they had the match last night and wants Stephanie’s approval but she isn’t there, and with the draft coming, who knows when they’ll have another chance to do this, so later tonight we’re getting “A WrestleMania-caliber main event.”

So out of the three Shield members in the segment, the one with the title seemed the least important. It was expected, I tend to be of the opinion this is the usual “toe in the water” title push that has happened to guys they think could be stars but aren’t ready to pull the trigger on, but the bad news these always fail. CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Edge, Daniel Bryan’s first title runs are all the proof you really need. When the champion isn’t the main attraction the champion tends to fail to connect, and then the company loses faith, and then the stars have to reinvent themselves. With ratings already at a low, it will be interesting to see if main events with Dean Ambrose, which already haven’t done well in the past, will deliver when they’re half-heartedly making him seem important. The downside to that is if things get worse, this will be Vince’s message to fans about how correct his assumptions are, and as we know from history, when Vince McMahon wants to be correct and defy people, he makes it happen (Rey Mysterio’s title run).

Roman Reigns has now lost the title three times and is back in the title picture, with two people who are more popular than he is. All three were members of a very popular stable. They’ve been trying to leech the popularity since the inception of the Shield in certain ways. Is this going to well once too often or is this a brilliant endgame none of us expect?

Sami Zayn def. Kevin Owens

I feel like they’re destined to do this forever, and that’s great. Now, give me the hate filled promos I so richly crave. Can you be bored watching these two? I think not. First half was all about fighting on the outside. Second half was all about impressive power moves in the ring. Zayn won by reversing the Pop Up Powerbomb into a roll up. Owens attacks Zayn post-match as Zayn walks up the ramp until Zayn gets the upper hand avoiding a powerbomb and the referees break up the melee for now, but after a break they’re back at it backstage. A nice first appetizer because they’re going to keep you waiting for the gourmet meal.

John Laurinaitis returns to plug the draft. “Big Johnny” is great and he looks tanned, rested and ready. The last time he showed this much charisma he was carrying a flag for the Sheepherders. Shane McMahon rejects his offer to GM.

Enzo & Cass def. The Vaudevillains

People are looking at the packaging of the Vaudevillains, but ignoring their more vicious offense they’ve brought out since being called up to the main roster. I think part of it is presentation, part of it is the shadow of Enzo and Cass’s popularity. The usual Enzo and Cass match, but shorter: Enzo getting beat on, Cass with the hot tag, leading to the rechristened Rocket Launcher, now known as the Badda Boom Shaka Laka. Three minutes at best. I’m at a loss as to what the Vaudevillains could do in the this sanitized era to get over. Perhaps an old circus strongman contest where they knock a guy out with a weight? Or perhaps they’re destined for Ascension-like groans and making other guys look good, but you always want the opportunity to improve your lot.

John Cena def. Karl Anderson via DQ

AJ Styles falsely shames The Club for interfering, and they have to apologize to John Cena. John Cena is out to accept. Styles offers up any member of The Club, except himself. John Cena says it doesn’t matter because all three will be there, and wants a fair fight. Styles makes a match for Karl Anderson versus Cena. AJ Styles has really grown into the heel role, losing any of the awkwardness of his babyface run. He even gets two plugs for his Stone Cold Podcast. He really has found his element as “Sports Entertainer” that the first six months didn’t show.

Cena wrestles Anderson while always looking over his shoulder in anticipation of an attack. As expected, The Club are dirty heels, and an Attitude Adjustment on Anderson leads to their interference and a beatdown that includes a Magic Killer and a Styles Clash. This comes off as John Cena being smart enough to know better, but his pride getting in the way. Would be a great story if that continued with Styles eventually conquering, but I know better.

Interviewed by Renee, Becky Lynch cut her best promo since coming up from NXT. She played emotionally hurt and a bit intense, and it came off as genuine frustration for about three quarters, until she veered a bit into goofy Becky when trying to get riled up. Nattie interrupts with a beatdown. Becky is not a better Bayley than Bayley despite the similar stories, but I’m hoping this leads to her getting born again hardcore. The Women’s Division needs more ass kicking athleticism to be taken seriously or at least as equal to or better than the men’s programs, which is why the Women’s Division was the spark that really helped make NXT a hotter product. Becky as a Chad Gable or Tazz-like suplex machine/arm breaker that’s all about being the best would inject some life into a world of characters that are far too broad.

Baron Corbin def. Zack Ryder

Zack Ryder’s in full Hype Bro mode. Baron Corbin fakes being poked in the eye early to get the upper hand. Ryder gets enough offense to be respectable, but the End of Days is inevitable. I liked Corbin’s slide outside to escape the turnbuckle irish whip followed by the immediate return for a clothesline, especially when it debuted against Jack Swagger, but now that it’s a spot he has to hit every time, it’s not as special.

Charlotte (w/Dana Brooke) def. Paige

In a win for continuity fans everywhere, the WWE remembered Paige has beaten Charlotte twice, so Paige gets a title match. The pre-fight interview for Paige is ruined by Charlotte and Dana doing their best “Mean Girls” impression while Paige is trying to talk. Paige can get a dead crowd into her match. Dana is a great annoying second, but she’s still green even at cheating properly though she somewhat redeems herself later by running into Sasha’s fist post-match and flying.

You may be shocked, but the match ends when Paige goes after Dana and the distraction leads to Natural Selection and the pin. Sasha returns post-match to even things and her and Paige stand tall for now. But in WWE women don’t stay friends for long, so keep your cynicism on this lasting any length of time.

The Wyatts return (sans Luke Harper) and are interrupted by the New Day, so I guess the face turn was short lived for the Wyatts. Of note in this segment is Xavier Woods seems hypnotized by Bray at one point, and forgets to say his part of a catchphrase. Oh no, a supernatural posession angle is coming, and I assume it will not the fun kind like the Osiran Portal. You could show that to friends about how funny wrestling could be. This is going to be one where even if you’re sitting home alone, you’re hoping no one walks in and asks what you’re watching. Speaking of which, the segment was followed by Bob Backlund and Darren Young and was cringeworthy

Titus O’Neil vs Rusev – No Contest

Renee interviews Titus O’Neil pre-match, and Titus gives an angry, passionate promo about not messing with his family and that this isn’t about the title. I was taken a bit aback at the old school anger of it all. A pretty damn fun brawl breaks out, two hosses just throwing each other around and bringing the angry. Hose me. Rusev eventually retreats through the crowd. It’s the best Titus O’Neil has ever been.

Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns – Double Count Out

Almost as good as the match from Money in the Bank. They call back a lot of the spots from Sunday night here as well. They teased the finish, then just went ahead and did it, which seemed a bit much. Shane McMahon wanted to restart the match but Ambrose said he’d fight both of them in the same night. Ambrose ends the night giving both competitors Dirty Deeds. JBL is killing Ambrose here as a weirdo instead of a dangerous maniac he should fear, and it’s a bit of a disservice. Michael Cole did a good job selling Ambrose as a man who has eschewed friendships.

Final Thoughts:

A fairly strong RAW, even if a bit predictable at times. I like the new Titus O’Neil, and AJ Styles and Becky Lynch have shown some growth in character. The Shield Triple Threat feud is on, Zayn and Owens are fighting, and Sasha Banks is back.