Tonight's Raw from London will once again have Shane McMahon in charge. At this rate, he will surpass Bud Selig's record as longest interim authority figure in history. However, the string of good Raws will likely continue. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will continue their program, and so will Chris Jericho-Dean Ambrose. The semifinals of the #1 Contenders tag team tournament feature the Usos vs. the Vaudevillians and Enzo Amore/Big Cass vs. the Dudley Boyz, which has been teased ever since WrestleMania. The WWE website is also teasing a potential Emma vs. Becky Lynch program.
Our coverage starts at 8 ET.
The Big Takeaway: A show that dragged at points that was full of wrestling. The #1 contender tag team tournament will feature the Vaudevillains vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass in an NXT final. Only storyline news was the acknowledgement of a relationship between A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows from New Japan Pro Wrestling (simply referred to as New Japan on the broadcast, because we can't be having pro wrestling mentioned on our pro wrestling show). Anderson and Gallows jumped Roman Reigns after Styles confronted Reigns in an another interview segment where Reigns was heavily booed. Styles denied any knowledge that Anderson and Gallows were going to jump him, but Reigns didn't believe it.
Dean Ambrose came out for the first full-length edition of the Ambrose Asylum. He told a joke about a large monster being discovered in the Thames River and said he didn't know Braun Strowman could swim. CBS late night talk show host James Corden's parents were at ringside, who Ambrose introduce a nice response. Then he brought out Shane McMahon to a big reaction. He told Shane to have a seat, but since the set didn't include chairs, they stood.
They replayed the clip of Shane jumping off the Hell in a Cell onto the table against the Undertaker. They showed an angle that showed how gimmicked the table really was. Ambrose still put over the stunt as something even he wondered "What was Shane thinking?" Ambrose asked Shane what his agenda was. Shane said the fans were on his mind because he was giving stars a chance who, ordinarily, would never get a chance. He mentioned Sami Zayn, A.J. Styles and Sasha Banks.
Kevin Owens interrupted him. Owens said he's been watching the same old crap he's seen for years: a McMahon filled with power with a vendetta against him. Shane denied that. Owens asked why did he remove him from the building last week? Shane said because he threatened to go after Zayn before his match with Styles. Owens said he was being honest and Zayn didn't deserve to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Zayn came out with the crowd singing his theme song before he could start his promo. Zayn said Owens was riding his coattails because he was signed by the WWE before Owens. That's why Owens attacked him in NXT. But they both knew Owens would have never ended up in the WWE without him. Crowd had a mixed reaction for that.
Then Chris Jericho showed up. So do the 20-minute opening segment. Jericho told Zayn there were bigger issues than his emotions. Jericho told Shane he was drunk with power, and he never liked Shane. Jericho told Shane to remember he was the best in the world at what he does, which included hosting the greatest WWE talk show of all time "The Highlight Reel." Shane said the new generation was about new opportunities, which is why they had the Highlight Reel. Shane got in a plug for the WWE Network. They all started arguing, and Ambrose yelled at everyone to be careful around his plant. Shane ordered Jericho to face Ambrose at Payback, along with Owens vs. Zayn. Shane left the ring and Ambrose handed him the plant. It wound up as a four-way brawl where Zayn and Ambrose cleaned house quickly.
It was announced that Shane had ordered Ambrose vs. Owens as the main event.
Chris Jericho defeated Sami Zayn (12:47)
Jericho won after thumbing Zayn in the eye while referee Charles Robinson tried to break them up in the corner, followed by a codebreaker. Good match. Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho, but Zayn made the ropes. Zayn later did his spot where he dove through two sets of ropes into a tornado DDT on the floor. Zayn hit his Blue Thunder bomb for a near fall. Consecutive jobs for Zayn isn't helping him burst out of the gates early.
Mauro Ranallo made his Raw debut doing a backstage interview with Styles. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows showed up and Styles greeted them like they were old pals. It was stange to see Anderson and Gallows treated like babyfaces when they basically made a heel debut last week attacking the Usos. Anderson said he had been trying to get in the WWE for years. They laughed together and left to catch up on old times. Michael Cole mentioned that Styles, Anderson and Gallows were old friends from New Japan.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass came out. Fans chanted Amore's name to the tune of "Seven Nation Army" again. Amore had a riddle. There is "hell" in "hello." There is "end" in "friend." And there is "Dud" in "Dudley." Amore said the Dudleyz were a couple of duds. Amore says he and Cass were A cups because they were real whether anyone liked them or not.
Enzo & Cass defeated the Dudley Boyz to advance to the finals of the WWE #1 Contenders Tag Team Tournament (8:33)
Enzo pinned Bubba Ray Dudley after a Rocket Launcher. Bubba Ray accidentally hit Devon Dudley with a forearm before the finish after Cass got the hot tag. Cass hit the Empire Elbow and big boot after the hot tag. Match was fine and the announcers put over Enzo & Cass winning as a major one.
Roman Reigns came out. The crowd reactions just get worse. They weren't chanting "Lou," they were booing. And Reigns did the exact same opening line he's given over the past two weeks about being "the guy." Reigns put over Styles, who got a minor chant. Reigns said this was the era of the Roman Empire, which got jeers and boring chants.
Styles came out. Crowd liked him, but it wasn't an overwhelming reaction or anything. They sure like him better than Reigns, without a doubt. Styles put over Reigns as being "one heck of a champion." He had power, explosiveness and quickness. Styles admitted he would have to have the match of his life in order to beat Reigns, but having the match of his life is what he does. Having the match of his life is what's made him a champion everywhere he's been, and it's what is going to make him champion at Payback.
Reigns said he had the match of his life at WrestleMania. He admits the whole world like Styles, but they won't like it when he beats Styles at Payback. But they will respect him. Reigns said he would rather be respected as WWE champion and that liked without it. Styles said he wants to be liked and respected, because that's what is going to make him a phenomenal WWE Champion.
Styles left, but Anderson and Gallows ran out of the crowd to jump Reigns. Placed popped big when Gallows kicked Reigns while he was on Anderson's shoulders. Styles watched on and looked disappointed when his friends jumped Reigns.
First thing we saw after the break was Regins walking backstage, not selling a thng. Styles told Reigns he didn't know that was going to happen. Reigns didn't buy any of that, reminding Styles that Anderson and Gallows' jumped his cousins, the Usos, next week. Reigns told Styles to bring all of his friends, because he would withstand them all. He muttered one vs. all.
Baron Corbin defeated Fandango (1:21)
Baron Corbin won with the End of Days in a squash. Dolph Ziggler was at ringside doing commentary. Corbin threw Fandango into Ziggler before the finish. Ziggler jumped Corbin afterwards, only to have Corbin give him the End of Days on the floor.
Maryse and the Miz walked backstage. Maryze found spilt coffee on their way and demanded a stage manager place his jacket over it so they could walk over the stain.
Another Greetings of Puerto Rico vignette from whatever the Primo and Epico will be called in this new gimmick. They put over Puerto Rico beaches.
MizTV started with the photo of Prince Charles, saying you would never know it's royalty. Miz said his baby was like royalty. They started making out when Cesaro came out. Lots of Cesaro Section signs to be seen as Cesaro said the only royalty Miz knew was how to be a royal pain in the ass. Miz said he was the one with a starring role but Cesaro was just as supporting actor. Crowd chanted "boring." Miz claimed he prepared a monologue taken from the movie "Taken." It was orginally delivered by Liam Nesson. Miz got on his cell phone and acted out a scene that was supposed to be in Cesaro's words, and sounded like it was taken straight from every one of Neeson's films over the past 10 years.
Cesaro put his hands over Miz's mouth and said "When my hand goes up, your mouth goes shut." Cesaro said he would becoming the Intercontinental Champion at Payback, and since Miz likes movie quotes, he quoted Roddy Piper from "They Live." Cesaro mentioned it was Piper's birthday last week. He gave the famous "I came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum" line. Miz teased a fight with Cesaro, but Miz said Cesaro had a match with Rusev.
Cesaro said he talked with Shane earlier in the day and said there wouldn't be a singles match. Instead, it would be the League of Nations and Miz vs. Cesaro. Then Cesaro stripped off his suit to reveal a New Day t-shirt, and the New Day came out for the 8-man tag.
The New Day & Cesaro defeated the League of Nations & the Miz (13:27)
If you looked at this match for 30 seconds, you might have thought the hot blonde at ringside was Lana. But it was Maryse. Anyway, Cesaro pinned Sheamus after the Gotch Neutralizer after the usual spots where guys did their finishers on each other. Cesaro teased the Cesaro Swing on Sheamus, but Alberto Del Rio stopped him. Xavier Woods got the heat. Crowd lost interest about midway through.
Charlotte did an interview with Ranallo. They showed a replay from last week where Ric Flair helped Charlotte retain the title against Natalya. This led to Natalya walking in and saying Shane had granted her a rematch against Charlotte for the WWE Women's Championship, and she would have Bret Hart in her corner. Charlotte and Ric didn't look happy at all over that.
They announced that E! would start airing a Total Divas spinoff called Total Bellas, featuring Nikki and Brie Bella, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and John Laurinaitis.
Natalya, Paige, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch defeated Naomi, Summer Rae, Tamina and Charlotte via submission ( 10:25)
Natalya made Charlotte tap out to the sharpshooter. Classic New Japan booking where the challenger wins over the champion in a tag match before the title match. Becky Lynch was kicked hard on the floor by Tamina to set up the hot tag. Crowd liked the match, which dragged at points. Well executed hot tag sequence by Natalya on Summer Rae, which included a slingshot atmoic drop, then stepping over Rae's back into a seated drop kick.
Styles was shown talking to Anderson and Gallows. Since there was no audio, you couldn't tell what he was saying. It was vague because he didn't look
More from the Puerto Rico guys. They're surrounded by history and they walked past Ponce De Leon's house. Is walking past the Fountain of Youth supposed to get them heat?
The Vaudevillains defeated the Usos in the semifinals of the WWE #1 Contenders Tag Team Tournament (3:25)
Simon Gotch pinned Jey Uso after the Whirling Dervish. They were doing hot tags within two minutes, which was just as well because the crowd was dead. Jey had his right shoulder taped selling the beating by Anderson and Gallows from last week. He did a tope on Gotch, but starting selling his shoulder. Aiden English rammed Jey's shoulder into the post. Fans weren't into the Vaudevillains at all, so the decision on who goes over in the tournament final should be easy.
Apollo Crews defeated Heath Slater (4:29)
There was actually a stipulation to this match. If Apollo Crews won, he had to join Social Outcasts. They did a skit on the Raw preshow where Heath Slater, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas tried to get him to join their group. There was no Adam Rose, nor any mention of him. Slater actually got a near fall reversing a crossbody before Crews won with the Spin-Out Powerbomb.
On his way to the back, Crews crossed paths with Owens. They shared a brief glare before Crews went to gorilla.
Dean Ambrose defeated Kevin Owens (17:15)
The highlight of the show. Ambrose won with Dirty Deeds after Owens got Ambrose's knees to the gut going for the frog splash, then missed a cannonball. Early on, the match was a brawl. Each man threw the other into the announcer's table. Highlights after the commercial break included Owens giving Ambrose a frog splash off the apron to the floor, followed by a successful cannonball. Ambrose attempted his elbow off the top rope, but Owens rolled out of the ring, so Ambrose hit Owens with a plancha. The two fought on the top rope before Owens caught the Super Fisherman's Buster for a really good near fall, which got the crowd to chant "This is Awesome."
Afterwards, Jericho ran in and gave Ambrose a codebreaker.
SUMMARY: Your usual taped Raw. Beginning and the end were very good. There was a lull in the middle. Only real takeaway as far as how Reigns is concerned is to compare with how Daniel Bryan was booked two years ago. Of course, Reigns is far from over in the fans' eyes, but at least he's booked as being smart. He's suspicious of Styles after being jumped by two of Styles' friends. In the months after winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Bryan was constantly being outsmarted by Kane, looking every bit as dumb as any Friday the 13th victim that got beheaded by Jason Vorhees. It goes to show you when Vince McMahon has his heart behind someone, he's going full throttle. If he isn't, even the most promising of prospects job to HHH for no reason.