In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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WWE follows up on the Extreme Rules PPV with Seth Rollins now in the WWE Title mix against Roman Reigns, plus fall-out from A.J. Styles not winning the WWE Title at the PPV. …
WWE Raw TV Report
May 23, 2016 – Episode #1,200
Live in Baltimore, Md.
Report by James Caldwell (@JCTorch), PWTorch assistant editor
APP ALERT: If you are reading the Report on our new App, visit the mobile version of the report by HARD-PRESSING THIS LINK for the most frequent updates. VIP MEMBERS: Access your ad-free version by HARD-PRESSING THIS LINK.
- Week 4 of Shane & Stephanie McMahon running Raw
- Extreme Rules fall-out
- Seth Rollins returns to Raw
- Charlotte Women’s Title celebration with Ric Flair and Dana Brooke
- MITB Qualifying matches (both on Raw and Smackdown)
- Sami Zayn vs. Sheamus (Raw)
- IC champion The Miz vs. Cesaro (Raw)
- A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens (Raw)
- Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler (Raw)
- Chris Jericho vs. Apollo Crews (Raw)
Raw opened with a video package highlighting the end of last night’s Extreme Rules PPV, where Roman Reigns retained the WWE World Title against A.J. Styles in an Extreme Rules match. But, Seth Rollins attacked Reigns with a Pedigree after the match to re-assert himself in the WWE Title picture.
Live in the arena, Michael Cole introduced the show after full pyro and fireworks. Suddenly, Seth Rollins’s music played to a huge reaction. No change in the theme, indicating he’s staying heel. Out came Rollins dressed in a black suit with his arms open wide ready to receive a big comeback reaction.
Rollins hit the ring to loud cheers and shrieks as the announcers talked about Rollins being forced to vacate the WWE World Title in November after a serious knee injury. Rollins’s music stopped and he soaked up cheers from the crowd. Rollins looked around the arena and smiled as the ovation kept getting louder. Super-loud “Welcome Back” chant before Seth spoke. Rollins eventually asked if they’re going to let him talk.
Seth said it’s been 200 days and he has envisioned what it would feel like to be back inside *his* ring once again. Rollins declared, “I’m back.” He said he’s waited seven months to come back and take back the title that he never lost. Rollins said he fired the first shot at Extreme Rules. To the video board for a review of Rollins giving Roman Reigns a Pedigree after the main event. “Thank you, Rollins” chant from the vocal males. “Did you guys miss me, or what?” Rollins asked the crowd. They replied with a loud “Yes!” chant.
Rollins said that’s interesting because it wasn’t always that way. He noted when he put a chair in Roman Reigns’s back and destroyed The Shield, he was booed every time he set foot in the ring. Rollins said when he won the WWE Title, people called him the weakest champion of all-time.
Rollins said people were begging for someone to beat him for the title, but no one ever did. People called him a coward and hid behind The Authority. He said people discredited every moment of hard work that went into that title reign. And then something happened. Something profound. His knee buckled under the weight of carrying this company on his back for so freaking long. (Cheers)
Rollins said he started getting get-well wishes, flowers in the hospital, and so much fan mail that he didn’t even know what to do with it. Oh wait, he didn’t open a single one of those letters. What did he do with it all? He put it all in a garbage can and lit it on fire. Because he doesn’t need any of the fans. Rollins said he didn’t need the fans to win the title, and he doesn’t need the fans to get the title back. The boos came out. “Now you want to boo me?” he asked. Rollins said there is only room for one person on the Seth Rollins Bandwagon.
Rollins continued that when he was rehabbing twice a day to take back the title that he never lost, no one was there to match him. Rollins told the crowd to cheer him, boo him, it doesn’t matter. Because he’s back for one thing – to win back the title that he never lost. Rollins said he and he alone will get it done.
Suddenly, Roman Reigns’s music played to bring out the WWE World Hvt. champion. Reigns stood on the stage as Cole hyped Reigns vs. A.J. Styles last night at Extreme Rules. Reigns, showing no ill-effects of the main event last night, slowly walked down to ringside as Rollins prepared to fight him.
Reigns slid into the ring, but Rollins ducked out to the floor. “My time, my show,” Seth said as he walked around ringside. Reigns called after him from inside the ring. Suddenly, Shane McMahon’s music played.
Shane McMahon bounced out on-stage, then jogged down to the ring as Seth prepared to hear from Shane. Shane randomly danced around Reigns, who showed restraint not spearing Shane in the middle of the ring. Shane’s music stopped, producing a loud “Shane O’ Mac” chant. Shane asked Baltimore what’s up before getting down to business.
Shane wanted a conversation between them. Seth slowly slid back into the ring and stared down Reigns, who glared back at him. Shane recapped Seth taking advantage of Reigns having his guard down when Seth broke up the Shield, then again at WrestleMania 31.
[Q2] Shane said this match-up between Seth and Reigns feels like a WrestleMania main event. But, they’re not waiting until WrestleMania. He booked Reigns against Rollins at Money in the Bank. Seth fist-pumped and told Shane that’s right. Shane’s music played and Seth talked trash in Reigns’s face. Reigns just nodded along as Seth left the ring.
THE NEWS: Reigns vs. Rollins for the WWE Title official for Money in the Bank.
[ JC REAX: A lot of folks are going to be disappointed by Rollins returning as a heel (and with his old theme music), but he came back with a shot of energy to bring some life to the opening segment. How long will that last? That’s the question. Overall, though, very hot start to Raw making the show come alive through the TV screen. Reigns is a whole ‘nother topic as The Guy who WWE regularly gives his critics more reasons not to like him. ]
Announcers: Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton hyped the MITB qualifying matches happening tonight on Raw.
Up Next: Sami Zayn vs. Sheamus in the first qualifying match.
[Commercial Break at 8:17]
Backstage: Renee Young interviewed Sheamus about trying to qualify for the MITB ladder match after winning it last year. He cut off Renee to heel on Sami Zayn, the New Era, and people from Canada. Like you, Renee. Sheamus told parents to remove their kids from the TV because what he does to Zayn will not be suitable for all ages.
In-ring: Sami Zayn was introduced to the ring for the opening match. Sheamus was out next looking to get back in the MITB ladder match.
1 — SAMI ZAYN vs. 2015 MITB winner SHEAMUS — MITB qualifying match
Tight lock-up to begin the match as the announcers talked about Sheamus needing to not take Zayn lightly. Sheamus clubbed Zayn in the gut, then kicked him in the face. Hard knee to the back, then an elbow. Zayn came back with a flying head scissors sending Sheamus rolling to the floor.
On the outside, Zayn and Sheamus traded clubbing blows. Sheamus shot Zayn off to the guardrail, but Zayn jumped on the rail and moonsaulted Sheamus. Back in the ring, Sheamus kneelifted Zayn hard in the upper region. That sent Zayn reeling to the floor selling his left shoulder heading to break.
[Commercial Break at 8:27]
[Q3] Back from break, Sheamus continued to work on Zayn, including a spinning powerslam for a two count. Zayn fired back with a hard strike, then a Michinoku Driver for a two count. Zayn wanted to fly on Sheamus, but Sheamus caught him with a knee to the face. No matter, as Zayn suddenly smashed Sheamus with the Helluva Kick in the corner. Poor Sheamus was just looking to take a breath. Zayn covered Sheamus for the win.
Post-match, Cole sold shock over the outcome, then noted that Sheamus won MITB last year and this year he’s not even in the match. Zayn celebrated on the way out, while Sheamus flipped out and oozed anger. Sheamus ripped out his mohawk hair and kicked the ring ropes.
WINNER: Zayn at 10:03 to qualify for MITB. Nice victory for Zayn, who is becoming that dependable Daniel Bryan Guy who can have a good, two-segment match with just about anyone on the roster.
Still to come: Charlotte Women’s Title celebration.
[Commercial Break at 8:36]
Backstage: Renee Young brought in Apollo Crews to discuss facing Chris Jericho tonight. Apollo winced at the thought of what Jericho went through last night in the Asylum cage match. Crews mentioned the New Era, then Sheamus blasted him from behind. Sheamus said he’s sick of hearing that and no one will replace him. Sheamus left Apollo out cold on the floor.
Back in the arena, New Day was introduced to the ring. Big E., Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods made their way to the ring as Lilian Garcia announced a six-man tag match up next. But, first, there was a cake in the ring. The cake was inscribed with “Happy Birthday” in frosting. Wade’s was yesterday, guys.
Standing over the cake, Kofi said this cake is not to celebrate their victory, but because Raw has been going strong for 1,200 episodes. Xavier said that Raw is over 23 years old. So, basically what they want to say is Happy Birthday, Raw! Big E. said this is a wrestling ring, though, so they need to be careful with a cake. He left the ring with the cake and Xavier said they need to be careful. Big E. teased putting the cake in JBL’s face. Or, even Byron Saxton.
Suddenly, the Social Outcasts attacked New Day from behind. Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, and Heath Slater knocked the tag champs out of the ring and mock paraded around the ring before Raw cut to break. So long Adam Rose.
[Q4] [Commercial Break at 8:45]
2 — WWE tag champions NEW DAY (KOFI KINGSTON & BIG E. & XAVIER WOODS) vs. SOCIAL OUTCASTS (HEATH SLATER & BO DALLAS & CURTIS AXEL) — six-man tag match
The match was joined in progress with Slater controlling Kingston. Kofi fought back and New Day put Slater in the Boot Stomp Parade. It was odd seeing New Day in the face corner opposite the area near the announce table. Xavier still had his trombone in place to work his instrument as Slater continued to take punishment. Slater then took a triple kick in the corner.
Bo and Axel panicked and dragged Slater out of the ring. Bo sold losing focus by declaring “Bo Train!” He and Axel started running, and Slater comically fell to the mat without the support of his teammates. Suddenly, New Day splashed Bo and Axel on the floor. Back in the ring, Big E. nailed the Big Ending for the pin and the win.
Post-match, there was still a cake matter. Big grabbed a big handful of cake, drawing a reprimand from Kofi and Xavier, who told him to grab Heath. Big then sent Slater head-first into the giant cake, splattering cake everywhere on the floor. New Day’s music played as Cole reasoned that the Outcasts got what they deserved since they should have just come out to the ring to have a normal match.
WINNERS: New Day at 1:58 of what was shown. Well, 1,200 episodes doesn’t count as a birthday, but it’s also the same company that introduced WWE Math.
Up Next: IC champion The Miz vs. Cesaro in a MITB qualifying match.
[Commercial Break at 8:52]
Tonight: Shane McMahon tell-all podcast with Mick Foley on WWE Network after Raw. JBL teased Shane talking about his dad, sister, brother-in-law, and jumping off the HIAC at WrestleMania.
In-ring: Cue up the red carpet to bring out IC champion The Miz and Maryse for the next qualifying match. Cole said last night’s four-way IC Title match was a classic, and Miz managed to hold onto the title. Miz wanted to talk before his match. Actually, Maryse wanted to talk. “And still your Intercontinental champion, my husband, The Miz!” Maryse declared.
Miz said what Maryse said was, “And still your Intercontinental champion! And future Money in the Bank holder!” Miz said he has been on a roll since Maryse joined him and he’s coming off conquering three of the greatest stars that WWE has to offer today. But, only one man stood as Intercontinental champion. “And his name is … The Miz!” he said. Miz said this is a true underdog story. But, who would play his character? “Dwwwwayne Johnson?!” Miz sarcastically asked. Maryse said no one has his good looks. They wanted to have a go in the ring, but Cesaro’s music interrupted.
[Q5 — second hour] Cesaro did his James Bond entrance as Cole noted that Cesaro made Miz tap out in the title match last night, but the ref was caught up in the chaos of the match and did not see it.
3 — IC champion THE MIZ (w/Maryse) vs. CESARO — non-title MITB qualifying match
As soon as the bell sounded, Cesaro put Miz in the Uppercut Train. Cesaro just pounded away on Miz, eventually scoring a close two count. Maryse helped Miz out of the ring to recover, but Cesaro smashed Miz with a running splash. Maryse yelled at Cesaro, who threw his hand in her face. “Talk to the hand!” he told Maryse to a pop.
Back in the ring, Miz caught Cesaro and tried a suplex, but Cesaro blocked and put Miz in position for a delayed vertical suplex. Miz tried to knee his way out, but Cesaro deadlifted him into the air for a two count. Cesaro held his shoulder, drawing commentary from the announcers on Cesaro missing six months with a shoulder injury. Cesaro shook it off, then nailed the champ with a flying corkscrew elbow. Miz rolled to the floor to get care from Maryse headed to break.
[Commercial Break at 9:05]
Back from break, Miz and Cesaro were kind of hanging out in the ring. No context provided by the announcers. Cesaro stood up selling his shoulder and tried an uppercut, but he hurt himself. Miz took advantage by targeting the left shoulder. Major work on the shoulder.
Miz slowly climbed to the top turnbuckle, but Cesaro suddenly delivered a huge dropkick that sent Miz crashing to the floor. Cesaro followed up with a giant uppercut over the guardrail into the timekeeper’s area. Back in the ring, Cesaro nailed a one-arm attack, then stomped Miz in the chest for a two count. He wanted the Swing, but winced and dropped Miz after 3-4 revolutions.
Reset at 11:00 before Miz tried to attack the shoulder again, but Cesaro smashed him in the face. Cesaro followed right up with a one-arm Neutralizer in the middle of the ring. Cesaro pinned the champ for the win.
WINNER: Cesaro at 11:17 to qualify for MITB. That was a very good TV singles match. Miz has really found himself as a heel and Cesaro was excellent as a b.a. ready to break out as a big-time player for WWE. If Cesaro doesn’t win MITB, he should be in line to win the IC Title from Miz, especially getting this non-title victory.
Graphic: There will be seven wrestlers in the MITB ladder match, meaning two qualifying matches on Smackdown. So far tonight, Cesaro and Sami Zayn are in.
Earlier Tonight: Seth Rollins returned to Raw and was named the top challenger to Roman Reigns.
[Q6] Backstage: Renee Young brought in Rollins to discuss his title shot. Rollins was back in total heel mode sounding annoying and gloating about himself. Suddenly, Seth saw Stephanie McMahon off-stage. Hey, good to see you! No hug from Stephanie. She told Seth that things have changed around here, including their business relationship. Seth didn’t understand. Steph extended her hand for a cold, business-like shake. Seth was perplexed. “Okay, see ya,” he said.
In-ring: An injured and hurt Chris Jericho was introduced for the next qualifying match. Jericho limped out on-stage with a big scowl on his face. The camera focused on Jericho’s beat-up body covered by bandages. Jericho slowly walked around the ring frowning toward the crowd before Raw cut to break.
[Commercial Break at 9:19]
Back from break, Jericho’s music played out as he continued to frown toward the crowd. Apollo Crews’s music played to bring out Crews, who was also banged up after Sheamus attacked him. But, Crews was all-smiles to mask the pain.
4 — CHRIS JERICHO vs. APOLLO CREWS — MITB qualifying match
Crews quickly targeted Jericho’s torn-up body, punching at the bandages covering holes from thumbtacks against Dean Ambrose last night. WWE cut backstage to show Sheamus watching this match, secretly rooting for Jericho against Crews. Jericho came back with a clothesline, then punched away at Crews’s head.
Jericho subtly tried to get the crowd to rally behind Crews, who teased a comeback. Jericho then flew to the outside after missing an attack. Crews followed with a standing moonsault off the ring apron.
[Q7] Back in the ring, Crews tried a top-rope move, but Jericho moved. Jericho charged Crews, who answered with a powerslam for a two count. Crews followed with a leaping enziguiri. He wanted a sit-out powerbomb, but Jericho blocked and slapped on the Walls of Jericho. The crowd came to life trying to rally Crews, who reached the bottom rope for a break.
The match continued with Crews lighting up Jericho with repeated forearms and strikes. Jericho then wanted the Lionsault, Crews kipped up to do something incredible to avoid, but he slipped and fell. And, Jericho crashed down on him in the process. He actually hit the move when he wasn’t supposed to. Crews sold being knocked out, then Jericho covered Crews for a two count.
Jericho talked Crews through going to a finish, which was Jericho kicking out of a roll-up, then nailing the Codebreaker. Jericho covered Crews for the pin and the win. Backstage, Renee asked Sheamus for his reaction to the match. Sheamus just laughed and walked off.
WINNER: Jericho at 7:46 to qualify for MITB. Crews going for the super-athletic counter to the Lionsault seemed to be a product of him trying too much to engage a crowd that isn’t connected to him. WWE threw Crews on TV after WrestleMania, but hasn’t done much to explain his character or bond him to the audience.
MITB qualifiers: Jericho, Zayn, and Cesaro, plus four more to go.
Still to come: Kevin Owens vs. A.J. Styles in a MITB qualifying match.
[Commercial Break at 9:34]
Life Coach Skit: Bob Backlund and Darren Young appeared on a split-screen. Backlund yelled at D-Young for writing things down on a notepad. Backlund said note-taking is for kids, while adults need to memorize things. He told D-Young to recite all of the U.S. presidents. Young said no one knows that. Backlund started listing the presidents, then Young cut him off. “Damn, Bobby B!” Backlund yelled at him for using that language. He told him to give him 200 jumping jacks. Backlund yelled that they’re going to make Young great again.
Backstage: Jo-Jo brought in Baron Corbin to discuss his No DQ victory over Dolph Ziggler last night. Corbin recited some lines staring off-camera and then into the camera and then down at Jo-Jo about having no problem using a low blow to beat Ziggler in a No DQ match. Ziggler interrupted and said he wants to face him in a real technical wrestling match. Corbin recited some lines about not caring about wrestling growing up; he just found out he could make money. But, he’ll still beat Ziggler in a “real technical match.” Ziggler said it’s on.
[ Reax: That was complete amateur hour from Corbin, who sounded unnatural to the point where it looked like Ziggler was trying not to laugh. A product of NXT losing its focus on what the purpose is supposed to be – getting these guys ready for main TV. ]
On-stage: Enzo Amore’s music played to bring out Big Cass on the stage. He pointed back to bring out a returning Enzo Amore coming off concussion to a big reaction. Enzo ran around the stage, then promo’ed himself and Big Cass down to the ring.
Once in the ring, Enzo talked about being diagnosed with a concussion. He said he’s all the way up and he has the gift of gab to go with the gift of jab. Enzo said if he had a dime for every time he got knocked down and didn’t get up, he would have … zero dollars.
As for the couple of haters from Dudleyville, they have been way out of line. Cass tried to calm down Enzo, who was all over the place selling being blown up on the mic. Cass eventually got to the money line of the Dudleys being S-A-W-F-T. The Dudleys’s pyro then shot off to bring out the opposition.
[ Reax: Enzo was either rusty, too fired up, or still dealing with the lingering effects of the concussion. Not his best work, with Cass trying to use his solo experience from the past few weeks to get Enzo on-track. ]
[Commercial Break at 9:48]
ESPNews plug: Seth Rollins is on SportsCenter tomorrow night to discuss his injury rehab.
5 — BIG CASS (w/Enzo Amore) vs. BUBBA RAY DUDLEY (w/Devon)
It was singles action for Bubba and Cass, who no-sold a hard chop to the chest and shoved Bubba down to the mat. Bubba locked up again and Cass took him down again. Suddenly, Devon attacked Enzo on the floor. That distracted Cass, who took an attack from behind. Bubba pounded Cass to the mat, but Cass suddenly exploded on Bubba with a hard clothesline. Big shoulder tackles from Cass, then a flying splash in the corner. Bubba rolled to the floor for a breather. So, Cass hopped to the outside and launched Enzo onto Devon.
Back in the ring, Bubba tried a top-rope move, but Cass caught him and launched him down to the mat. Cass nailed a big boot, then delivered a leaping Empire Elbow drop for the three count. Post-match, Enzo and Cass celebrated in the ring.
WINNER: Cass at 3:16. A basic TV match getting over Cass & Enzo having the Dudleys’s number early in their feud. Cass has looked pretty good as a solo wrestler.
Backstage: Women’s champion Charlotte, Ric Flair, and Dana Brooke were shown walking down the hallway. Charlotte addresses the Women’s Title next.
[Commercial Break at 9:55]
Last Night: Charlotte found a way around the rules at Extreme Rules to retain the Women’s Title against Natalya.
[Q9 — third hour]
Women’s Title Segment
Charlotte, Ric Flair, and Dana Brooke strutted down to the ring to celebrate Charlotte retaining the Women’s Title last night at Extreme Rules. Charlotte took the mic, but Flair pulled it away from her to talk first. Flair wanted to address something. He said he wants to convey to her as a father how proud he is of her.
Flair reminisced that as a child, Charlotte always found the candy jar, no matter where they hid it. Flair said every thing Charlotte did as a child was golden. And, with her back against the wall, she found her Uncle Arn Anderson – Dana Brooke. Flair said he’s so proud of Charlotte for thinking on her feet.
Charlotte took the mic to thank one person. And that’s obviously herself. And, Dana, she couldn’t be more proud of her for making the right decision. Dana thanked Charlotte for giving her the privilege of standing in the ring with the dirtiest player in the game.
Speaking of Ric, Charlotte said to transition to the next part of her segment. Charlotte yelled at the crowd for booing her and disrespecting Ric. Charlotte said what she remembers growing up were Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays (what?!), and other events (what?!) without Ric. Charlotte paused to yell at the crowd for what’ing her. Charlotte wanted to tell dad that she never understood why he missed all those dates, but now she gets it because she’s The Woman and she has all the power. Charlotte said because of that, she finally has the courage to say the following. “Get out of my ring!” she told Ric, who sold not understanding.
Charlotte said she figured Flair would just stand there looking dumbfounded. She said she was compassionate enough to let Ric stand in her spotlight. Now, her spotlight is bigger than his ever was. “What, are you going to cry?!” Charlotte taunted her dad. Charlotte said she believed that she needed Flair all this time, but now she knows she can do it all on her own. Now, people will know Ric only as Charlotte’s father. She said Ric is now the second dirtiest player in the game, and she has no time for second place.
“You abandoned me!” Charlotte shouted. Flair kept crying. How do you think I felt the last 30 years of my life? Charlotte turned to the crowd to tell the people that the fans are immortal to Ric, but to her, he’s just dead. “Get out of my ring,” Charlotte told Ric. She told Ric that he can just watch her on TV from now on, just like she did the last 30 years. Flair kept standing in the ring, not wanting to leave. Charlotte told him to go, scram, get out.
Flair quietly shuffled out of the ring as Charlotte sang the na-na, good-bye song. Flair wiped away tears as he walked up the ramp. Back in the ring, Charlotte mockinly woo’ed. Flair disappeared to the back with the camera on him. They didn’t cut back to Charlotte, who talked to the crowd off-camera as Raw faded to break.
[Commercial Break at 10:11]
[Q10] Announcers: Cole, JBL, and Saxton talked in hushed tones about what a heartbreaking and pathetic scene from Charlotte disrespecting Ric like that.
In-ring: Dean Ambrose was introduced for the next MITB qualifying match. Ambrose wasn’t showing much effects from the Asylum Cage match last night. Dolph Ziggler was introduced next for the interesting face vs. face match-up.
6 — DEAN AMBROSE vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER — MITB qualifying match
Even start to sell respect between the faces. Ziggler displayed his wrestling skills with a take down, then both men circled the ring before locking up again. The announcers made a note about Ziggler’s technical wrestling skills to accentuate the Ziggler-Corbin exchange earlier.
Ambrose then smashed Ziggler in the face with an elbow strike. Ziggler and Ambrose eventually came to a stand-off and Raw went to break.
[Commercial Break at 10:22]
Back from break, Dean and Dolph battled on the top turnbuckle. Dean nailed a double underhook suplex from the top rope, but Dolph kicked out in time. Moments later, Ziggler came back with the Fameasser, but Dean kicked out before three.
Both men were slow to get to their feet, then collided mid-ring. Back on their feet, Ziggler hit a superkick, but Ambrose recoiled off the ropes right into a desperation rebound lariat. Nearfall only. Ambrose tried to follow with a top-rope move, but Dolph intercepted with a leaping dropkick for a two count.
[Q11] Dolph pounded Dean’s head with punches, then delivered a headbutt. He tried the Zig-Zag, but Dean clutched the ropes to block. Dolph fell to the mat and Dean capitalized with Dirty Deeds right in the middle of the ring. Dean covered for the win. The announcers played up the idea of Dean potentially winning the briefcase when his former Shield brothers are in the WWE Title picture.
WINNER: Ambrose at 12:10 to qualify for MITB. Tough spot for a face vs. face match deep into the third hour of Raw, but they had a really strong ending.
MITB match graphic: It’s Ambrose, Zayn, Cesaro, and Jericho, plus three more for MITB.
Backstage, Ric Flair was shown sadly walking down the hallway past Titus O’Neil and Zack Ryder. There was Arn Anderson. Arn told Ric that he’s sorry. Flair cried and walked off with his suitcase. Renee Young asked Ric if he wanted to say anything to Charlotte in response. Flair drifted away from the mic and whispered, “Not at this moment.” He headed for a door marked “exit.”
Up Next: A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens in the final qualifying match tonight on Raw. No mention of it being the “main event” of Raw. Seems like part of a post-match, show-closing angle since they’ve already visited the WWE Title main event picture.
[Commercial Break at 10:33]
Vignette: The Shining Stars talked in front of a green screen flower about their debut last Monday on Raw. Primo and Epico said their debut was so great that they want everyone to come visit them in Puerto Rico.
In-ring: A.J. Styles’s music played to bring out the former WWE World Title challenger. Styles posed on the stage, then marched down to the ring one night after losing an Extreme Rules match against Roman Reigns. WWE went to still-shots of Styles and Reigns destroying each other in and out of the ring before The Club got involved, which got The Usos involved. Cole noted Styles had Reigns pinned with a Styles Clash, but an Uso pulled Styles out of the ring on the pin. Reigns eventually pinned Reigns after a mid-air spear.
In the ring, Styles watched the replay with a look of frustration being so close to the title. Styles wanted to speak before his qualifying match. “A-J-Styles” chant. Styles said that over the past six weeks, he can honestly tell you that Reigns is every bit the man that he says he is. (Boos) Reigns said he’s one of the better men he’s ever been in the ring with. But, he still isn’t phenomenal.
Styles said if it weren’t for The Usos … and Gallows & Anderson, he would be WWE champion. But, that didn’t happen. And, he won’t live in the past, so he will beat Kevin Owens and qualify for MITB on his own tonight.
Suddenly, Karl & Doc’s music played. Karl Anderson told A.J. to hold on, bro. Karl wanted to re-visit what Styles just said. Anderson said it sounds like Styles didn’t want their help last night. Styles said he said from the beginning that he wanted to win on his own. He said things have changed here in WWE. Anderson said if this were Japan, Styles would have bought them some drinks after the show. So, from their vantage point, Styles has changed.
Styles said he didn’t bring them to WWE to fight every battle for him. Doc shot back that if not for them fighting bar fights with him, he wouldn’t have made it to WWE. And, he wouldn’t have made it to Extreme Rules last night. Styles said what needs to happen is they need to separate professionally. They can still be friends, even brothers. Styles threw up the Too Sweet, but Doc said they’re not going to be treated like that. He said their friendship is done. Styles said if that’s the case, then this is his ring and they need to get out. Karl and Doc nodded, then left the ring. Doc called out to A.J. that he needs to think about what he’s doing.
[Q12] [Commercial Break at 10:45]
Next Monday: John Cena returns to Raw on Memorial Day. Cole plugged Cena posting updates on his recovery via his Cricket Wireless device.
Smackdown plug: The Miz vs. Cesaro for the Intercontinental Title this Thursday. Plus, Rusev vs. Kalisto for the U.S. Title in Kalisto’s title re-match from Extreme Rules. No mention of the MITB qualifying matches mentioned on the Raw pre-show.
In-ring: Kevin Owens was introduced to the ring as Styles’s opponent for the main event of Raw.
7 — A.J. STYLES vs. KEVIN OWENS — MITB qualifying match
Styles and Owens met in the middle of the ring shouting at each other. Owens said this is the Kevin Owens Show. They punched each other, then scrapped in the middle of the ring. Owens went a little low with a knee to the mid-section, drawing JBL’s second Draymond Green reference of the night. Styles then missed his trademark dropkick, drawing mock applause from Owens. So, Owens bounced the ropes and ate the dropkick.
Styles smashed Owens with a scissors knee drop, but Owens came back with a dropkick of his own. Owens punted Styles in the back, but Styles tossed Owens through the ropes to the floor. Styles tried to follow with a plancha, but Owens caught his foot and slammed Styles across the ring apron. Owens then teased a big flying splash, but comically stopped, dropped, and rolled into a clothesline on the floor.
While down at ringside, Owens yelled at Michael Cole to talk him up. He then turned around to take a flying forearm smash from Styles. Styles rolled Owens back into the ring and Cole quickly tried to pose a question as Raw suddenly went to break.
[Commercial Break at 10:55]
Back from break, Owens and Styles battled in the ring. The fight moved to the floor, where Owens tried to powerbomb Styles onto ring steps, but Styles blocked and elbowed Owens back into the ring. In the ring, Styles and Owens traded big forearm blows. But, Styles smashed Owens with a knock-down lariat into a flying forearm smash for a two count.
[Q13 — over-run] Styles caught Owens out of the corner with a wheelbarrow slam for a two count. He started to get frustrated not able to put Owens away. Styles teased the Clash, but Owens back-dropped out of it. Owens followed with a big German Suplex into the Cannonball Splash. Owens then yelled at Cole to shut up because he could hear him from the ring.
Styles came back with a German of his own into an enziguiri. He then put Owens on his shoulders to deliver a big knee drop to the back of the head. Styles covered for a close two count. Styles then wanted the Clash, but Owens blocked, kneed Styles in the gut, and delivered an inside cradle kneebuster to the back of the head for a two count.
Reset at 13:00 with both men selling exhaustion. Owens decided to get risky by climbing to the top turnbuckle. But, Styles cut him off. Styles tried a superplex, but Owens headbutted him to the mat. Owens then tried a double-jump moonsault, but Styles moved and Owens ate the mat. Styles followed with a sick springboard 450 splash in the middle of the ring, but Owens kicked out.
Owens rolled to the floor looking for a breather, so Styles smashed him with a knee to the face. Styles then got a big head of steam, but he ran right into a powerbomb onto the ring steps. The announcers said Styles might be done from the cumulative effect of Extreme Rules and this match. The ref reached seven, the shrieks came out, eight, nine, and Styles leaped back into the ring just before ten.
Owens, angered, approached Styles for the pop-up powerbomb, but Styles countered with the Pele Kick for a two count. Styles then wanted a Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens kicked the ropes. Owens then tossed Styles into the air for a big powerbomb. Owens pinned Styles for the win.
Post-match, JBL said it’s been a rough 24 hours having two phenomenal matches, but losing both of them.
WINNER: Owens at 16:31 to qualify for MITB. The crowd had a tough time getting into the match three hours into the taping. Styles and Owens pulled out everything possible in the final few minutes to finish on a high note, though. Plus, the crowd wanted to cheer Styles when he came out, but the pre-match promo seemed to make Styles less likable since he was “mean to his friends.” A less-likable Styles against a heel like Owens – who doesn’t really do anything heelish to win matches – this deep into Raw took the crowd down a bit. Where does Styles go from here? Tonight seemed like Step 1 in a re-direction for Styles after dumping The Club.
Announcers: Cole hyped the rivalries in the MITB ladder match, with Owens, Zayn, Jericho, Ambrose, and Cesaro five of the seven men in the match.
Backstage: Mick Foley and Shane McMahon were shown greeting each other at the interview set. Their Network podcast is up next.
WWE cut back to Kevin Owens celebrating in the ring. Raw signed off with a shot of Owens wincing and celebrating in the ring, Styles selling pain on the entrance ramp, and a final word from Cole on MITB nine minutes past the top of the hour.
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