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WWE RAW Hits & Misses: Mean Dean, Dana's dud and a Hardy homage


Monday night’s edition of RAW followed up a dreadful first hour filled with baffling booking by treating us to a wildly inconsistent show that featured some undisputed highlights and some shockingly terrible low points.

Let’s relive it all now, in my weekly pull-apart of the WWE’s three-hour endurance test:

-- The Hits --

The Ambrose response to ‘The Rollins Report’

Look, Seth Rollins’ sit-down “interview” with the suspended Roman Reigns wasn’t exactly a hit, but I’ll take that over 'Photoshop Fun with John Cena' segments any day of the week.

What I was far more interested in was Dean Ambrose’s fiery contribution to the segment, proving once again, as I’ve consistently argued in this column, that it behoves this company to lead its most popular babyface character in a less wacky, more intense, direction.

Ambrose’s promo was arguably the best he’s ever cut and its significant impact was amplified by Rollins’ pitch-perfect reaction. And hey, they booked and hyped a match a week out! That’s major progress.

Owens and Zayn’s dance of eternity

This was the latest simple but effective segment in the build to my most anticipated match at Battleground.

I loved the usual cartoon fist-fight between the two, as Kevin Owens got Sami Zayn escorted to the back before facing Cesaro, and Zayn’s expression of sheer joy as the Swiss Superman swung his arch-rival after the match.

As an aside, Cesaro appears to be the only man on the roster comfortable with losing to alternate finishers. He lost here to an Owens TKO just weeks after falling victim to a Zayn Code Red.

Enzo and Cass avoid the Usos treatment

The Club’s clash with Enzo & Cass, in the supposed “absence” of John Cena, was another simple but effective segment that actually accomplished more than it seemed to at first glance.

Cass’ pre-match promo, in which he explained that he and Enzo don’t care about Cena and are only interested in a pre-emptive strike on the Club, was important, as it guards against the negative reactions that compadres of the top babyfaces usually receive.

The company is obviously aware of how The Usos became infected by association with the boos received by their cousin and does not want to see another popular team fall victim to the same fate.

The DQ finish to their subsequent match with the Club didn’t bother me, as it was the resolution that made most sense.

Cena’s post-match save was a nice surprise too, and I was delighted to see the excellent AJ Styles get the reverse crowd reaction to his current nemesis: “AJ Styles” from the guys, “AJ sucks” from the women and children.

It’s heartening to see such a talent get himself over in a big way, despite some pretty dodgy booking.

Main event McMahons

It won’t be a popular point of view, but I must admit to enjoying the McMahon soap opera that closed the show on Monday night.

Shane McMahon’s “change” promo was particularly impressive, especially given how shaky the prodigal son has sounded on the stick since his return earlier this year.

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Vince’s impression of his always-shrill daughter made me chuckle, as did his futile attempts to explain away Shane’s continued presence on the show despite his loss to The Undertaker at WrestleMania.

Shane and Stephanie gaining control of SmackDown and RAW respectively was not a surprise, but I did find Vince’s competition-based explanation of that decision to be convincing and well-executed.

Steph delivering a slap to the face of another male performer was even less surprising, of course. How delightful that karma delivered her a heel-malfunction at the bottom of the ring steps moments later!

-- The Misses --

Make Darren Young an afterthought again

It’s difficult to imagine a more ill-omened re-debut for the former Prime Time Player. Although Bob Backlund’s protege ultimately won the Battle Royal to become the number one contender for The Miz’s Intercontinental title, that victory owed everything to the two sweetest words in the English language: de-fault.

As amusing as his post-match celebration in Backlund’s arms was, it did not overtake the company’s preferential treatment of other pet projects to become the biggest takeaway from this segment.

The match itself was built around making Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin look as strong in defeat as possible, with Young’s return only mentioned in passing minutes in.

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Crews, the only superstar to receive an entrance, received the honor of eliminating one of the few credible participants in Alberto Del Rio. Corbin, meanwhile, affected at least five eliminations and was put over strongly on commentary.

Young only triumphed when both eliminated each other at the finish.

There is no defense whatsoever for this kind of brain-dead booking. If Crews and Corbin are your guys, then give them the title shot(s) at Battleground.

If not, and you want to go for Young instead, then put him over properly instead of making him look a complete jabroni on his first night back. It’s not rocket science.

Rough RAW for Ryder

In keeping with the bafflement visited upon us by the opening segment, the WWE followed up the commencement of Young’s half-hearted push by burying their US title challenger six feet under.

It took Sheamus all of three minutes to demolish Zack Ryder and get his win back from last week’s 16-man tag main event. Rusev then promptly showed up to treat Ryder to a second beating, before accepting the challenge the Hype Bro had delivered to him in the preceding backstage segment.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to switch off the TV after this. Why should anyone take Ryder seriously as a threat to Rusev if he’s getting squashed like a bug in this manner? 

Why did he get put over as an American hero to close the show last week, if he’s going to be summarily executed by the guy he pinned seven days later?

Why should any of us care about wins and losses if they’re distributed in the manner of a socialist utopia, in which everyone gets their “fair share”, meaning that no-one can ever get ahead? 

Absolutely dreadful.

Kalisto in the doghouse?

Pinned in two seconds flat by a semi-retired Mark Henry last week, recent US champion Kalisto was booked to take the fall for his team against Breezango on this week’s show.

Although the luchador can be botch-prone, as evidenced by his rope-slip at the beginning of his comeback, it’s difficult to fathom why he’s been made to look so weak. Then again, it’s not like they booked him to look strong when he had the belt either.

Final Deletion II

Not satisfied with ripping off Lucha Underground’s ‘One vs. All’ concept for January’s Royal Rumble, the WWE took a page out of TNA’s book this week by aping Impact’s wildly successful Final Deletion skit.

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Predictably, the New Day’s trip to the Wyatt compound featured none of the charm of the original, with the company’s decision to play it straight leaving us with a boring, sub-one-star, horror short, rather than an intentionally terrible comedy romp.

Also, what was that ending about? The subsequent contributions from the announcers would suggest that there will be no follow-up, but surely New Day’s unresolved predicament means that there’s more to come. Unfortunately.

Pairing Banks with Brooke again

Like moths to a flame, the WWE followed up Dana Brooke’s amazingly successful attempt at making Sasha Banks look bad by pairing up them up again for a disastrous near-15 minute match.

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While last week’s physical interactions between the two were mercifully cut out from the retrospective clips, there was no editing this live omnishambles.

After two minutes of stalling, the girls botched the first spot they attempted and things continued to go downhill from there.

Brooke, who is clearly not main roster ready, let alone for a main-event match of this duration, managed to make every single thing she did look terrible, with an eye-wateringly unconvincing handspring slam standing as a particular lowlight.

Pair this, and last week’s cringe-worthy definition of a Boss promo, with Sasha’s “I don’t get mad, I get real” nonsense from earlier in the show, and you can see why those in the know are completely confident that this company will mess up the can’t-miss Bayley upon her inevitable promotion.

The supremely talented Banks deserve a lot better than this. Instead, she has the unenviable task of facing Brooke again on SmackDown. Between that and Backlund’s appearance on Miz TV, that’s a must-watch for all the wrong reasons.