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WWE returns to the U.S. for Monday’s Raw from Hartford, Conn. leading into the Payback PPV on Sunday…
WWE Raw TV Report
April 25, 2016 – Episode #1,196
Live in Hartford, Conn.
Report by James Caldwell (@JCTorch), PWTorch assistant editor
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- Final Payback PPV lead-in
- Shane McMahon and The Authority teased
- Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (in-ring WWE debut) vs. The Usos
- WWE World Hvt. champion Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio
- A.J. Styles vs. Sheamus
- Sami Zayn vs. Rusev
- Announcers: Michael Cole, JBL, Byron Saxton
The Raw pre-show on WWE Network ended with Booker T tributing Chyna (Joanie Laurer). Raw started with an “In Memory” graphic noting Laurer’s life and death.
Raw transitioned to a video package on WWE World Hvt. champion Roman Reigns. The video went to A.J. Styles, the #1 contender to the WWE Title. Included were some historic Styles photos, then footage of Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows linking up with Styles, but going against his wishes by taking out Reigns last week on Raw.
Live from Hartford, Michael Cole introduced the show and Byron Saxton hyped A.J. Styles vs. Sheamus tonight. JBL then hyped Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio in non-title action.
Shane McMahon’s music then played to bring out the interim show-runner dancing on the stage in red Nike tennis shoes. JBL said he misses The Authority. He repeated himself, then noted Shane is temporarily in charge of the show. In the ring, Shane waited out loud cheers before speaking. He said he’s still here because of the fans.
Shane said Payback is this Sunday, and it marks a new era for WWE. He shouted out to Hartford for Monday Night Raw. Shane said they’re going to have new match-ups, fresh faces, and some fun.
And, there’s Stephanie McMahon’s music to bring back one-half of The Authority. Cole noted she and Triple H have been absent since Hunter lost the WWE Title to Reigns at WrestleMania. Shane welcomed his sister into the ring and she went for a hug, but Shane backed away.
Steph mocked Shane wanting to have fun tonight. She said he can’t pander to these people who are from Hartford. Because she’s one of them. Steph said she was born right here at Hartford Hospital and these are her people. The crowd booed. Shane said Steph really knows how to take the air out of the room. Shane said he figured that Steph and her husband would show up eventually.
Stephanie said it’s important that she was back on Raw because the city officials wanted to honor her with a key to the city or maybe a statue. But, she’s really out here because tonight is Shane’s last night running Raw. “No!” shouts from the crowd. Steph said their dad will decide once and for all at Payback who is really running Raw. “Shane O’Mac” chant from the crowd.
Shane said Vince’s decision might be final, but he would like to poll the crowd. Who wants to see Steph and The Authority run Raw? Boos. Himself? Cheers. Back and forth Shane went. Boo/Yay. It’s like a John Cena or Roman Reigns match. Steph said fortunately their dad is smart enough never to put the decision-making in the hands of these people.
Stephanie said she has it on good authority that in six days, he won’t be in charge of anything more. Shane replied that the crowd sentiment seems to be everyone wants to see Steph leave the ring. Steph said she’s not going anywhere. She leaned against “my ring” trying to take control of the ring, but Shane noted that he is still running Raw tonight. So, if she will not politely leave the ring, then security, come on down. Three indy guys walked down to the ring to escort Steph out of the ring as Shane noted this is “our ring.”
Steph dropped the mic at Shane’s feet, then slowly walked onto the ring apron and yelled in Shane’s face. Steph turned around and walked down the ring steps while the indy guys took an earful. “Do not touch me!” she yelled. One guy ended up touching her on the back, so she airballed a slap, then kinda went for another slap. This turned into bad theater with the other security guards trying to force Stephanie up the entrance ramp to the back. Shane tried to save the bit by leading the crowd in the “na na na good-bye” song.
THE NEWS: Vince McMahon will decide at Payback who runs Raw going forward – Stephanie or Shane. Cole relayed that item in 15 seconds more clearly and effectively than the never-ending opening exchange.
[Q2] Shane then got down to action, bringing out the #1 contender to the WWE Title, The Phenomenal A.J. Styles. Styles shook hands with Shane before pounding the ring steps entering the ring.
[Commercial Break at 8:16]
Back from break, Styles finished out his ring entrance as Cole hyped Reigns vs. Styles for the WWE Title at Payback. Sheamus then made his ring entrance by himself without League of Nations. But, Lillian Garcia announced Sheamus representing The League.
1 — A.J. STYLES vs. SHEAMUS
The main talking point for the announcers was Styles earning a WWE Title shot quicker than anyone else in WWE history. Cole also referenced Styles’s buddies from New Japan, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows, showing up in WWE. Will they help Styles at Payback? Meanwhile, in the ring, Styles controlled early on. Styles pounded Sheamus in the corner, then took his time walking up to Sheamus to follow up, allowing Sheamus to kick him hard in the chest.
Styles ended up with a giant red mark on his chest from where Sheamus kicked him. Styles then knocked Sheamus out of the ring and went for a back-flip splash, but Sheamus ducked. Sheamus then tossed Styles into the ring steps to take control heading to break.
[Commercial Break at 8:25]
Back from break, Styles and Sheamus were in the ring. Styles broke free of a chinlock with forearm strikes to the chin, but Sheamus responded with consecutive Irish Curse backbreakers. Sheamus, sporting a Playoffs-quality unkept beard after two weeks in Europe, gloated about his success at this point in the match.
[Q3] Sheamus took Styles to the top turnbuckle looking for a big move, but Styles elbowed Sheamus’s back before sending him crashing to the mat. Both men sold the effects after landing hard on the mat. Styles and Sheamus came to their feet with hard blows back and forth. Sheamus seemed a bit loopy as Styles lit him up with hard strikes. Just a very physical match-up here.
Styles dragged Sheamus out of the corner looking for a DVD, but Sheamus escaped and nailed a powerslam for a two count. Sheamus wanted the Texas Cloveleaf, but Styles escaped to his feet and hit the Pele Kick to the shoulder. Styles followed with repeated forearm blows before trying the Clash, but Sheamus blocked and clotheslined Styles for a two count. Sheamus immediately went back to the Cloverleaf in the middle of the ring, but Styles crawled across the ring to reach the bottom rope for a break.
At 14:00, Sheamus pounded Styles with kicks to the back. Sheamus tried a Brogue Kick, but Styles ducked and caught Sheamus’s right leg in the ropes. Styles then sprung on Sheamus with the Phenomenal Forearm to the face. Styles covered Sheamus for the win. Cole said Styles is ready for Roman Reigns on Sunday.
WINNER: Styles at 14:20. The match just didn’t seem to flow. Whether it was Sheamus, Styles, the combination, or exhaustion from two weeks in Europe, they just didn’t seem to gel. Plus, the crowd was taken out of the show by the opening segment, Sheamus’s character is cold, and Styles is unfamiliar to many casual fans, so there needed to be more energy in the ring. Styles got a solid win before Payback, but a different opponent might have been more effective.
Post-match, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows walked out on-stage dressed in sharp-looking long white ring jackets. Karl and Doc applauded Styles before WWE replayed the finish of Styles-Sheamus.
WWE cut backstage to the locker room to show Roman Reigns watching the happenings on a TV monitor. The crowd booed his appearance on the big screen. The Usos then walked in and told Reigns that it’s clear what’s going on. Reigns mumbled that it looks like Styles, Karl, and Anderson are together, prompting a “We Can’t Hear You” chant from the live crowd. Reigns talked about them working together, which The Usos liked.
In-ring: WWE tag champions New Day were introduced to the ring for the next segment.
[Commercial Break at 8:38]
WWE Tag Title Segment
Back live, New Day was dancing and singing in the ring. Xavier Woods spoke first that the #1 contender tag tournament is off to a huge success. Kofi Kingston noted their Booty O’s sponsorship, then Big E. said the tournament winner will earn their respect. And, party like it’s 1999 (referencing Prince).
The Vaudevillians, representing 1899, interrupted in their black and white video filter. Aiden English sang about being #1 contenders to the WWE Tag Titles. Aiden, joined by Simon Gotch, entered the ring and noted that they will indeed represent the 1899s at Payback. Gotch, with his over-exaggerated heelish upper lip, briefly spoke about getting rid of Enzo Amore & Big Cass at Payback.
[Q4] That brought out Enzo & Cass to fire up the crowd. Enzo introduced himself and Big Cass. How you doin’. Aiden English mockingly said it looks like dumb and dumber have something to say. Enzo said The Vaudevillains want to be #1 contenders, but that’s as impossible as him running down the beach into his own arms. “How you doin’?” chant from the crowd. Cass said there’s only one team walking out of Payback as tag champs, and that’s them. Because there’s only one word to describe The Vaudevillians. S-A-W-F-T – sawft!
Xavier said you can cut the tension with a knife and this match will be exciting, but no matter who wins, they will remain WWE tag champs. Why? Because New Day Rocks. New Day’s music played as the NXT tag teams stared each other down.
Backstage: WWE cut backstage to the locker room to show Anderson & Gallows leaving A.J. Styles’s locker room. They make their in-ring debut next on Raw.
[Commercial Break at 8:49]
Back from break, Cole read a tweet that John Cena is returning to Raw on Memorial Day.
In-ring: The Usos were introduced for the next match. WWE cut to footage from two weeks ago of Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows making their WWE debut attacking The Usos. Back live, hard rock music played to bring out the former IWGP tag champions. The announcers listed their accomplishments in Japan and noted they were “part of a club” in New Japan with A.J. Styles, who put in the good word for them to get to WWE.
2 — KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS vs. THE USOS (JIMMY & JEY USO) — Karl & Doc’s WWE in-ring debut
The announcers said The Usos were actually fans of Anderson & Gallows before they came to WWE and attacked them. Anderson teed off on Jey Uso early on, then tagged in Gallows. The Usos took control with double-team offense, but Gallows smashed Jey with an inside-out clothesline for a two count. A brief “Bullet Club” chant broke out from the knowledgable fans in the crowd.
[Q5 — second hour] Anderson tagged in and went to work on Jey’s previously injured shoulder. Doc & Karl continued to punish Jey Uso as the crowd watched quietly. The announcers filled the time noting the relationship between Styles and Anderson & Gallows. Uso tried to make a comeback, but Gallows kicked him hard off the top rope to the floor. Karl & Doc remained in control heading to break.
[Commercial Break at 9:04]
Back from break, Karl and Doc were still in control. Jey hit a dropkick to finally get a breather. Jey then made a hot tag to Jimmy as Anderson tagged in. Samoan Drop to Anderson, then a corner butt splash. Uso sent Gallows flying to the outside, but he ran right into a knock-down clothesline from Anderson.
Chaos broke out in and out of the ring, then Jimmy checked on Jey, allowing Anderson to post him from behind. Jimmy was KO’ed from the attack. Back in the ring, Gallows big-booted Jimmy before they hit the double-team Magic Killer for the pin and the win. JBL said that’s how they won three IWGP World Tag Titles.
WINNERS: Gallows & Anderson at 12:52. Slow start to the match, but a better finish. Not an ideal crowd to mix new/debuting stars with cold/overexposed acts tonight, but they got the point across about whether the two teams will factor into the WWE Title match at Payback.
Post-match, Anderson scooped up the KO’ed Jey and dragged him back into the ring. Karl and Doc pounded away on both Usos until Roman Reigns’s music played. Reigns, without the WWE Title belt, emerged on-stage to a mix of boos and cheers. Reigns took out a charging Anderson with a Superman Punch, then cleared Gallows from the ring. Anderson and Gallows backed away from ringside as Reigns checked on The Usos while his music played. WWE went to back-and-forth shots of the two sides as the announcers discussed whether Karl & Doc will factor in Reigns’s title defense on Sunday.
Still to come: Reigns vs. Del Rio. Also, a video package on Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens.
Heading to break, WWE aired a dramatic video package on WrestleMania. The only sound was piano music with lots of clips from the event, fan reactions, and the pageantry of the event. The sales pitch was to re-live WrestleMania on WWE Network.
[Q6] [Commercial Break at 9:15]
Backstage: Renee Young brought in A.J. Styles to congratulate him on beating Sheamus before facing Reigns at Payback. Styles said he’s been waiting for this opportunity his whole life, then Anderson and Gallows walked into the shot to interrupt. Styles asked why they can’t stay out of trouble. Doc said they know how big this is for Styles, and they know Styles can win on his own, they just want to make sure it’s a fair fight. Anderson said they have his back and Doc said they’re friends for life. Styles hugged it out with them.
Announcers: Cole and Co. reacted to the backstage exchange, then Cole fed to a video package on the Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn feud.
The video went back to the Royal Rumble in January when Zayn eliminated Owens. The video transitioned to Owens and Zayn talking about hitting it off when they first met, wrestling for the same promotions, and being part of each other’s lives. And then Owens turned on Zayn when he finally won the NXT Title. The friendship turned into bitter jealously, Owens put Zayn on the shelf, he won the NXT Title, and Owens took out John Cena on his first night. Meanwhile, Zayn was having surgery when Owens debuted. Zayn said it was like a kick to the stomach that Owens took his spot. Then, Zayn cost Owens the Royal Rumble and the fight was on. Zayn said he is looking for payback on Sunday. Very good video package highlighting the back-story for viewers.
In-ring: Sami Zayn’s music played to bring out Zayn for the next match. Cole said Zayn cannot worry about Owens tonight because he’s facing Rusev next.
[Commercial Break at 9:25]
Back live, Sami Zayn’s entrance finished out, then Rusev was introduced to the ring. And, look who’s back with Rusev, Lana. Rusev marched down to the ring with Lana following close behind. Strange to bring back Lana with Rusev for this match when they should be highlighting Zayn ahead of Payback.
3 — SAMI ZAYN vs. RUSEV (w/Lana)
Rusev dominated Zayn early on as the crowd chanted Lana’s name. Zayn came back with a head scissors sending Rusev flying into the corner. Zayn then wrestled Rusev down to the mat with a headlock, which Rusev countered. Meanwhile, the announcers casually brought up Samoa Joe winning the NXT Title over the weekend.
Rusev found himself on the floor and Zayn went for a big splash, but Rusev caught him in mid-air and slammed him. Rusev tried to shoot Zayn into the guardrail, but Zayn ran onto the guardrail and back-flipped onto Rusev, displaying his athleticism.
Back in the ring, Rusev ran over Zayn with a flying heel kick to take down his opponent. Rusev then put Zayn on the top rope and kicked him in the head. Zayn crumbled to the floor heading to break.
[Commercial Break at 9:34]
Back from break, Rusev was controlling Zayn in the ring. Rusev thought he had Zayn done, but Zayn fired back with an emphatic clothesline. Zayn followed with another big clothesline, then fired himself up. Zayn climbed to the top turnbuckle and nailed a flying cross-body splash for a close two count.
Zayn wanted the Blue Thunder Bomb on the big man, but Rusev blocked and slammed Zayn for a two count. Rusev followed with a big ol’ leaping superkick, but Zayn rolled a shoulder just before three to escape a pin. Rusev, angered, vowed to crush Zayn. Rusev pounded Zayn’s back, then cockily smiled, and went for The Accolade, but Zayn slipped underneath and rolled up Rusev for a quick three count.
WINNER: Zayn at 11:56. Another match with a disinterested crowd. Again, not the right town to mix new/debuting stars with stars who have been cut down by the booking, like being part of a lame League of Nations group. Rusev should be a huge deal, but he has to remove the stink of The League before he matters again.
Post-match, Zayn high-tailed it out of the ring as Lana took off her shoes and chucked them at Zayn, who avoided the flying objects. Zayn raised his arm in the air as Rusev seethed in the ring. Suddenly, Kevin Owens came out of nowhere to blast Zayn from behind. Zayn crashed down on the entrance ramp after taking the impact, then Owens stood over Zayn to establish his dominance…until Payback?
Backstage: Renee Young brought in Apollo Crews to discuss standing out in the ring. He said he can do things in the ring that no one else can do. Suddenly, Stardust jumped in to interrupt. He addressed him as Cody, prompting Stardust to freak out and twitch. Crews said his dad, Dusty Rhodes, influenced him so much. Cody Stardust said not even the great Dusty Rhodes can make Apollo a star. Crews sold disappointment after StarCody’s harsh words.
[Q8] [Commercial Break at 9:44]
ESPNews plug: The Dudleys will be on SportsCenter with The Coach tomorrow night.
In-ring: Stardust completed his ring entrance before Apollo Crews was introduced to the ring. Cole said Stardust’s dad, Dusty Rhodes, gave Crews his ring name and now Crews dedicates every match to him. It came across like being flippant about Cody’s character presentation, unless they’re foreshadowing Stardust dropping the gimmick.
4 — APOLLO CREWS vs. STARDUST CODY RHODES
Stardust got the majority of offense early on. Hard knee to the gut, then another one. Stardust tossed his costume gloves aside for a more physical attack on Crews, including a mat-based submission. Crews broke free, then landed consecutive offense on Stardust. Big corner splash, then a leaping back elbow smash.
Crews followed with a standing moonsault for a two count. Leaping kick to the head, then Crews hoisted Stardust into the air. Crews eventually scored his sit-out powerbomb finisher for the pin and the win. The announcers talked him up being a superstar in the making.
WINNER: Crews at 3:08. A condensed version of the new/debuting star vs. over-exposed/familiar star match-up. Is this the start of a feud for Crews and transformation for Rhodes, or will they be doing something completely different next week?
Backstage: Dean Ambrose was shown walking down the hallway. He has something to say about his Payback opponent, Chris Jericho, next.
[Commercial Break at 9:54]
Back from break, Dean Ambrose’s music played to bring out Ambrose to a strong reaction. No Ambrose Asylum set or related gimmickry. Ambrose said tonight he was supposed to host an edition of AA (some boos), but he told Shane McMahon that after last week, he’s not in the mood for fun and games tonight. He said after Chris Jericho attacked him last week, he’s ready to fight at Payback. (The right promo, but the wrong timing with the crowd looking for something to get excited about.)
[Q9 — third hour]
Ambrose said Jericho likes to talk a lot about being the best in the world, but he’s pretty good at being a fighter. Ambrose said when he gets down to work, he fights and punches and hits people in the face. So, he thought that tonight on Asylum Street in Hartford, Conn., he would give Jericho a chance to see what he does best. Ambrose told Jericho to lace up his scarf and light up his Christmas tree jacket so they can fight! (Good in-promo comeback from Ambrose getting the crowd fired up.)
Jericho’s music played and he sauntered out on-stage wearing a black scarf, black vest, black jeans, and black shoes. WWE cut to a fan sign asking “Jericho, where’s your shirt?” Jericho continued to sell annoyance with this call-out. Jericho called him disrespectful and stupid. He said he’s not fighting here in a dump like this.
Jericho asked Dean if he’s forgotten who he’s dealing with. He said he doesn’t say he is the best in the world, he is the best. Jericho said he wins matches and elevates everyone he steps in the ring with. He told Dean that he should be thanking him because his career will take off after being in the ring with him. Dean seethed as Jericho continued to talk down to Dean, telling him to kiss his $1,500 boots right now. $750 a-boot, he said.
Jericho continued that Dean should get down and apologize to him. Do it now, idiot! Ambrose said he’s sorry. He said he is sorry he paid so much money for those ugly-ass shoes. Chris, I’m sorry you’re walking around everywhere wearing a scarf. He said he’s sorry Jericho is an insecure egomaniac and he’s sorry he’s got to beat him this Sunday at Payback. But, he’s not sorry about this. Dean kicked Jericho in the gut and tossed him over the top rope.
On the floor, Dean pounded on Jericho before clearing the announce table, but that time allowed Jericho to recover and turn the tables. Jericho yelled at Dean for being a stupid idiot, then he put Ambrose in the Walls of Jericho on the announce table. Dean writhed in pain as Jericho yelled and screamed. Refs eventually ran down to ringside to get Jericho off Dean. Jericho remained standing on the announce table and WWE went to some great close-up camera shots of Jericho selling complete lunacy with his eyes. Meanwhile, Dean continued to wince and sell back pain. Jericho eventually got off the table and flashed his big, fake smile for the ringside camera. Jericho pushed aside the cameraman twice for added effect.
[ Reax: Best segment of the show. Jericho was great and Ambrose’s fired-up fake apology babyface promo setting up the fight was superb. ]
Earlier Tonight: Shane McMahon told Stephanie to get out of their ring. She ended up being forcefully removed by some security guys.
Payback: Mr. McMahon decides which of his children runs Raw. Why doesn’t Vince’s illegitimate son, Hornswoggle, the former Mystery GM, get a say?
Still to come: Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio.
[Commercial Break at 10:13]
[Q10] NXT plug: WWE to air the NXT Title change from Finn Balor to Samoa Joe this Wednesday on WWE Network.
Moments Ago: Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose scrapped, with Jericho getting the upper hand heading into Payback.
In-ring: Natalya was in the ring for a tune-up match before challenging for the Women’s Title at Payback. Dark Emma was introduced as Natalya’s opponent. Full ring entrance and some back-story on Emma’s transition from a quirky girl-next-door to a darker wrestler taking herself more seriously.
5 — NATALYA vs. EMMA
Before the bell sounded, Charlotte’s music played to bring out the Women’s champion and Ric Flair, whose presence produced ample woos from the crowd. Charlotte joined commentary while Flair, with a signature cut on his forehead, sat next to her. The match started with Natalya dominating Emma, who then bailed from the ring. Natalya tried to be aggressive following up, but Emma legswept her to the ground to take control. Back in the ring, Natalya made a comeback, then slapped on the Sharpshooter for the win.
Post-match, Natalya left the ring to confront Charlotte, who remained seated behind Flair. Natalya wanted to fight, but Charlotte continued to hide behind Ric, who just smiled at Natalya.
WINNER: Natalya via submission at 2:40. Fine tune-up to make it seem like Natalya has a chance to beat Charlotte on Sunday. Meanwhile, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch have disappeared from the title picture.
Announcers: Cole and Co. were shown on-camera to transition to Chyna. Cole introduced a video tribute to Chyna following her death last week.
Chyna Video Tribute
The video showed clips of Chyna, tweets from colleagues last week, her DX work with Shawn Michaels and Triple H, winning the IC Title with Jim Ross on the call, the memorable Eddie Guerrero & Chyna storyline, and winning the Women’s Title at WM17 in the Astrodome. Raw faded to break.
[Commercial Break at 10:25]
WWE hyped “Camp WWE” back from break. It premieres Sunday after Payback on-demand on WWE Network.
In-ring: Damien Sandow was standing by for his Raw TV return. WWE went to a video package on Baron Corbin, who has been targeting Dolph Ziggler since WrestleMania. The announcers said Ziggler vs. Corbin happens at Payback, the Corbin was introduced to the ring.
6 — BARON CORBIN vs. DAMIEN SANDOW
Corbin barely made it to the stage when Dolph Ziggler attacked Corbin from behind. Ziggler got in a few blows, but Corbin pushed him off and ran away to the other side of the stage. Refs pulled Ziggler away to settle things down as Corbin continued his exit.
WINNER: No Match; Sandow is spared a squash.
Still to come: Reigns vs. Del Rio.
[Commercial Break at 10:33]
Vignette: Partying, dancing, Caribbean music. It was Primo & Epico in a completely new setting highlighting the action and excitement of Puerto Rico compared to the fat people back in the U.S.
In-ring: The Miz was standing by in the ring. Maryse spoke first hyping Miz, who then hyped his IC Title defense against Cesaro on Sunday. Miz said it has come to his attention that fans think Cesaro will actually beat him. He said he’s used to being criticized by the faceless tough-guys on Twitter, but what really appalls him is the disrespect for him as Intercontinental champion. Maryse told the crowd to be hungry for his knowledge. Miz said he’s hungry for her and smooched.
Miz pulled back to tell the crowd to stop following the crowd like the people in the Cesaro Section. He said people need to be better than making hand-made signs representing the lonely and unsophisticated fans rooting for Cesaro and disrespecting him as IC champion.
Cesaro’s music interrupted. Cesaro marched down to the ring telling Miz that the crowd won’t fall for his cheap tricks getting them to root for him at Payback. Maryse told Miz to respond to him like he does at home. Miz entered actor impersonation mode (subtly plugging USA Network’s new show), which Cesaro called a cheap trick worthy of appearing in “Jackass.” Miz took exception and they traded famous movie lines.
Cesaro started to remove his James Bond cufflinks looking to fight, but Miz and Maryse slowly left the ring. Cesaro backed down, then Miz charged Cesaro, who intercepted him with a big pop-up European Uppercut. Cesaro wanted the Big Swing, but Maryse fell on top of Miz to shield him (and score a visual three count). Cesaro then scooped up the IC Title belt and tossed it down at Miz before leaving the ring.
[ Reax: The cheesy lines written for this promo exchange were gag-inducing. Why so many people stop watching wrestling. ]
[Q12] Backstage: Roman Reigns was shown walking down the hallway. A.J. Styles stopped him and vowed to beat him for the WWE Title at Payback. Reigns sarcastically said Anderson & Gallows must have already bought ringside seats for Payback. That was all he had to offer and then kept walking. Styles sold being put off by the insinuation.
[Commercial Break at 10:46. Right on cue, a spot for the new impersonations show on USA Network aired. And then The Usos starred in a Five Hour Energy spot. How do you make it through the WWE full-time schedule? Chug an unhealthy amount of caffeine.]
Back from break, Cole dryly plugged John Cena returning to Raw TV on Memorial Day … a month from now. Saxton then quickly plugged Kalisto vs. Ryback for the U.S. Title on the Payback pre-show.
In-ring: WWE champion Roman Reigns was introduced to the ring for the main event. Boos, cheers, and some indifference. Cole robotically got in Reigns’s label of being ‘the guy’ since he had to feed to a video package on Reigns meeting a Make-a-Wish kid before the show. Back in the arena, WWE showed Reigns greeting the boy and his family on the front row. The crowd paused their boos, then resumed the boos when he entered the ring, not buying WWE trying to use a MAW kid to get over Reigns. Alberto Del Rio, with his singles music, was introduced next as Reigns’s opponent.
6 — WWE World Hvt. champion ROMAN REIGNS vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO — non-title match
The vocal males that were still engaged in the show let Reigns have it early on. Del Rio did it in the ring with a kick to the face. He took control heading to an early break.
[Commercial Break at 10:55]
Back on Raw, Del Rio wore down Reigns as the announcers sold the idea of Reigns ill-affording a loss before Payback.
[Q13 — over-run] Del Rio continued to dominate before pausing to pose in front of Reigns, who kicked him in the gut. Del Rio cut him off, though, and continued to taunt Reigns that he should be champion. Reigns came back with a headbutt, but took a DDT in the middle of the ring.
Del Rio slowly got up checking his forehead after taking the headbutt. Del Rio warmed up for a Si! superkick, but Reigns ducked and clotheslined Del Rio. Another clothesline. Repeated corner clotheslines to a mix of boos and some count-along. Reigns delivered an uppercut, then slowly walked around the ring.
Reigns cocked his fist looking for the Superman Punch, but Del Rio ducked out of the ring to the floor. So, Reigns dropkicked him into the ringpost. Del Rio made a comeback on the outside, then rolled Reigns back into the ring. Reigns sold a left leg injury as he grabbed his left hamstring. Del Rio had to move to the other side of the ring to deliver a superkick since Reigns sold not being able to move.
Del Rio then picked up a base-less Reigns and hung him upside down in the corner. Del Rio wanted his two-foot double stomp in the corner, but Reigns moved out of the way. Reigns couldn’t move, though, and barely got up, walking right into the cross arm-breaker, but Reigns pushed off into the Superman Punch. Reigns then pulled himself up to boos.
Suddenly, Anderson and Gallows’s music played. As Anderson and Gallows stood on the stage, Reigns limped around the ring. Del Rio suddenly rolled up Reigns for a close two count. Reigns then got up and speared Del Rio hard to the mat for a three count.
WINNER: Reigns at 12:56. One way to get sympathy is to sell a legitimate leg injury holding the back of your leg and acting like you can’t get up. It worked for a few moments, but the crowd went back to booing Reigns when he shook off the “injury” and went to his finishing routine. Meanwhile, The League went 0-3 in singles matches on the night, getting over as many people as possible squeezing out the remaining juice.
Post-match, Anderson and Gallows charged the ring. They attacked Reigns with a big double-team attack, then A.J. Styles ran down to the ring and pulled his brothers off Reigns. Styles wanted to keep everything clean, but Reigns suddenly smashed Styles in the face with a Superman Punch. So, Doc and Karl ran back into the ring to attack Reigns. Reigns got the best of them, but an upset Styles came flying into the ring with a Phenomenal Forearm to Reigns, staying in the right since Reigns threw the first punch. Cole botched the story, saying it looks like collusion. After JBL yelled at the top of his lungs, Cole tried to correct himself that Reigns threw the first punch at Styles, which is why Styles reacted by attacking Reigns. Saxton tried to say something, but JBL jumped on him. Overall, a messy hard-sell from the announcers for the PPV main event.
In the ring, Reigns and Styles checked their jaws while recovering in opposite corners of the ring. Meanwhile, down at ringside, Anderson smiled toward Doc that it looks like they got Styles to buy what they were selling, even though Styles was trying to do the right thing after his brothers created a mess. Styles then stood up and surveyed what happened, realizing he did punch out Reigns after taking a blow from Reigns. They closed nine minutes past the top of the hour with back-and-forth shots of Styles and Reigns before their title match at Payback.
Overall Reax: Not the best location for a PPV lead-in show, especially with so many new acts who need to be in front of invested crowds to appear to be big stars to TV viewers. The overall Payback hype was hit or miss, with the top hit being Ambrose-Jericho.
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