Monday night's post-Money in the Bank edition of WWE RAW certainly had its moments including the new World Heavyweight champion Dean Ambrose grabbing the spotlight impressively and Big "Johnny Laryngitis" (thanks, Enzo) making his glorious return. As always however, those diamonds were surrounded by a lot of rough spots too.
-- The Hits --
While it’s probably too early to tell, Monday's RAW showed encouraging signs that the WWE may see Dean Ambrose as more than just a transitional champion. Ambrose was given ample opportunity to play to his strengths, demonstrating his natural line delivery in the opening segment and shining on commentary at the end of the show.
While his in-ring work remains a frantic and often sloppy work-in-progress, Ambrose’s bountiful charisma, paired with a new harder edge to his character, makes him a very realistic candidate for the role of top babyface. That added grit, which saw Dean back up his threats to take out Roman Reigns if necessary, must remain if the transition from upper-midcarder to main eventer is to stick. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin wasn’t exactly too interested in making friends or being wacky either.
No, I’m not referring to the en vogue crowd chant. Rather, the seemingly neverending beef between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, complete with the always hilarious, and cartoonish, fist-flailing dust-ups.
Although only five minutes aired, the match between these two, who the announcers again claimed are “destined to fight forever”, was a very enjoyable taster for what will presumably be a rubber match at Battleground. The finish, with Zayn reversing the Pop-Up Powerbomb into a cradle, was particularly enjoyable.
I’ve been as critical of the paint-by-numbers Rusev/Titus O’Neil feud as anyone, but Monday night’s resumption of hostilities between the two was a major improvement.
Titus’ impassioned backstage hollering about the Bulgarian having the temerity to disrespect his kids was excellent, ensuring that the former Prime Time Player actually received a reaction for running off the US champion for a change. While I’m not crazy about the idea of another PPV match for a guy that has no business working matches of that calibre, one must award credit where it’s due.
Recent unsolicited auditions of Teddy Long and Kane for the role of Smackdown general manager were both leading to this glorious moment -- the return of John “Big Johnny” Laurinaitis. Hearing the hoarse one protest that “Big Johnny loves change!” was music to my ears, as was his hurried “People Power!” before Shane McMahon ushered him off the stage. What a preview for those of us literally counting the days to his debut on Total Bellas.
-- The Misses --
The Apology Club
Following on from the crummy finish to their match on Sunday, everything about the Cena/AJ Styles dispute fell completely flat on this show.
While AJ’s promo delivery remains great, the material he, Cena and The Club had to work with was wafer-thin, centering mostly around an insincere Styles looking to extract an “apology” from his buddies. Cena of course rejected it, but not in nearly as brief a manner as might be expected. The subsequent 3-minute encounter between he and Karl Anderson was also terrible, with Cena making his opponent look like a geek by destroying him despite gawking at the entrance ramp the entire time. Weak.
Rollins’ characterisation (again)
Seriously?! Let’s get this straight -- Seth Rollins works the Money in the Bank main event as a babyface, reverts to whiny heel mode in Monday’s opening segment, and then cuts a rousing “prove myself” promo in the second hour!? The characterisation of The Man/The Future is even more inconsistent than that of his former leader Stephanie McMahon at this stage.
The kind of predictability we saw in his plodding main event against Reigns -- complete with Chekhov’s (unbreakable) Spanish announce table and obvious double countout finish -- would be very welcome here.
“Oooh, the Wyatts are mad at me. I'm so scared! Oooh, the Wyatts!”
The Wyatts, sans the injured Luke Harper, made their return on Monday night, threatening to ensure that “New Day Falls”. Colour me underwhelmed. The fun-loving New Day should be too, given that Bray Wyatt and co. have delivered on precisely zero of their threats to date.
In fact, it’s difficult to think of a non-jobber heel group with a lower success rate than these jamokes. Hey, at least our tag champs’ interruption prevented us from enduring some of Bray’s patented rambling windbaggery. No buys for anything involving him until the way he’s booked improves drastically.