We start Raw with a graphic for Chyna, a silent tribute to a woman who deserved to much better, and there’s a lump in my throat, and I’m just… heartbroken.
Roman and AJ recap, because this is feud we’re supposed to care about, and I’m sobbing uncontrollably because I don’t care, because you stole a woman’s legacy and now you are act like you cared because she’s dead. I’m so angry, I can hardly breathe. I apologise if this recap is terrible, but I’m really struggling to see the funny side of any of this.
We’re reminded that Payback is here this weekend, and I can say goodbye to my spare time! Tonight’s highlights are Sheamus vs. AJ Styles and Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio.
Shane is back, with his lovely red shoes, running backwards like a man unafraid of a hamstring injury, and it’s like… what happened to Vince? What happened to Steph and Trips? Are the rest of the McMahon family locked in Vince’s sex dungeon along with Damien Sandow? The crowd are still excited to see him, which is why they keep rolling him out, he helps keep the ratings chugging along, and if there’s anything Vince loves more than watching hot, mostly-naked and oiled men rub up against each other, it’s ratings.
Queen Steph is here! Bow down to the queen, guys, she’s back and she’s stunning. She mocks the idea that people who paid to get into a wrestling show might have fun. There’s a mixed reaction, because of course, Steph was born here, Hartford, Connecticut, and she wants everyone to cheer for her. She says she’s been on the phone for people wanting to put up a statue of her. Sure, just let your mum look at you for long enough, I’m pretty sure she could turn you to stone. Steph says it’s Shane’s last night running Raw, on Vince’s say so, and the crowd boo Steph, and cheer Shane like it’s a punch and judy show. Ah love it, Maggle.
Shane has to, in the end, ask security to come and get Steph, and fair play to her, she looks genuinely horrified at the prospect, holding her hand out and climbing out of the ring on her own merits, before she gets touched by one of them, and hulks out. I don’t blame you, Steph, if strange men touched me, I’d fucking lose it. I’m actually pretty uncomfortable watching three big men manhandle a woman out of the room, but I’ll do my best to make light of it, because she actually looks like she could take them, and she gives one a hell of a kick with some lovely heels on, so good on her.
Match – AJ Styles vs. Sheamus
AJ ambles out, with a quick shoulder pat from Shane because Shane’s a good guy, remember? AJ punches the steps a few times because they once insulted his mother, and then it’s time for our first ad break! Bioluminescent Sheamus is here, prepared to catch his prey in the depths of the oceans!
- Grappling start and corner work, with Sheamus getting in some good boots, sending AJ down to the mat easy
- Huge elbow off the rebound from Sheamus takes AJ down
- Lovely leapfrog from Styles, very tight, before a dropkick connects and Sheamus goes down
- Snapmare takedown from Styles to Sheamus
- Arm submissions, before a blow to the midsection of AJ from Sheamus breaks the hold
- Forearms from Styles, then gut blows in the corner
- Styles walks into a huge two-footed kick from Sheamus in the corner, and pins AJ for one
- Sheamus holds Styles in a submission, but AJ fights out
- Sheamus comes straight back, on the apron with the ropes between the two of them
- AJ takes Sheamus out at the knees, Sheamus slamming into the apron face first
- Gorgeous moonsault off the apron from Styles, misses but lands on his feet, but Sheamus gives him a big boot and rolls him over the steps
- Back from commercials, Sheamus has AJ down in the middle of the ring, but the new boy doesn’t want to stay down and take his licks
- Irish Curse Backbreaker from Sheamus, holding AJ on his hip before hitting it again, and I’m struck as to how much Sheamus with his fuzzy beard looks like my cousin, who used to practice wrestling moves on me when I was seven. Huh.
- Weird spot where Sheamus is holding AJ basically against his dick, AJ’s legs around his waist, and AJ is messing up his hair, like they’re about to screw in an alley
- AJ gets out, sends Sheamus into the ring post, and Styles is up to the top rope and eating a headbutt from Sheamus
- Sheamus gets AJ up on his shoulder, but AJ fights out, sending Sheamus crashing down onto the mat
- Forearms from Styles, before some lovely little clothesline spot, in that fashion AJ has, where it’s more like dancing, and it’s wonderful to watch
- Sheamus favouring his left shoulder, Styles aims four kicks into in in the corner
- Styles gets Sheamus on his shoulder, Sheamus gets out, their positions reverse and Sheamus gets AJ onto the mat with a powerslam, pin for two
- Sheamus tries to set up for the Cloverleaf, Styles fights out, gets a waist lock, and then takes Sheamus down with a great Pelé kick
- AJ recovers first, rapid forearms, Sheamus rallies
- AJ gets up, goes for a kick, Sheamus catches his leg and takes him down with a clothesline, before putting on the Cloverleaf
- AJ crawls to the rope to break the hold, and takes some vicious boots from Sheamus on the apron for it
- Sheamus goes for the Brogue Kick over the ropes, and gets hung up on it, AJ sending him staggering back into the centre of the ring
- Phenomenal Forearm! Styles wins!
Anderson and Gallows come out in lovely stylish white coats and mime gold around their waists as they point at Styles. We’re shown Roman in a back room, watching tv an unnatural 45-degree angle, with the title behind him. The Usos are here, they’ve got Roman’s back, but he’s not happy about accepting help, and he’s also poorly mic’d up, so it’s hard to hear him. The title’s behind his head, glittering and shiny. Bet he polishes it.
The New Day are here! They’ve got their red tracksuits on with their light blue shirts, like no one told them those clash, and I find myself missing the pink. They’re here to talk about the new #1 contenders, and who that might be. Xavier Woods sings a bit of Prince’s 1999, and kisses the mic and looks heavenward which means this show has just said more words about Prince than Chyna and now I’m upset again. I’m just… too angry with the company right now. Too angry.
The Vaudevillains are here, and they sing a little bit too, because they’re impossible to deal with, before Enzo and Big Cass come out to the biggest pop ever, I swear, it’s better than The New Day get now, it’s damned impressive. Enzo says he wants to run down a beach into his own arms, but it’s impossible, just like the Vaudevillains winning the #1 contendership. Xavier Woods is so excited about the new talent, it’s adorable, as he cheers them on before The New Day have a little dance about the fact that whoever is supposed to beat them won’t be able to.
We seen Anderson and Gallows leaving AJ’s dressing room – more supposed evidence that they’re working with him, although we’re yet to see anything that actually tells us this.
Oh god, John Cena’s back on Memorial Day (I’m English, I don’t know when that is, is that soon?) and we’ll all remember how we missed him on the mic, but not in the ring, because yawwwwwwn.
Match – The Usos vs. Anderson & Gallows
We get a recap of the beatdown Anderson and Gallows gave The Usos recently, and now WWE has to admit that other promotions exist, because these guys haven’t really done anything here yet, so they have to talk about titles that don’t belong to the company.
- Anderson in first against Jimmy, chops in the corner to start, and it’s nice to see The Usos moving nice and quickly, instead of being sluggish
- Jey on, holding Anderson in the corner, some more chops, but Anderson manages a dropkick, and gets Jey into his corner
- Gallows tagged in, catches Jey, but eventually eats a dropkick, before tagging Jimmy, and taking a last forearm, before brother Jimmy follows it right up
- Jimmy runs into a massive clothesline from the huge Gallows and is take down hard
- BULLET CLUB chants
- Anderson tagged in and targeting the taped, injured shoulder of Jey Uso, wrenching in as much as he can
- Part of Jey’s ring gear decides to fall off and everyone has to sort of awkwardly ignore it until he steps out of it awkwardly – guys, this is the big leagues, take it seriously
- Gallows tagged in, dropping his full weight on Jey’s injured shoulder before a forearm to the face and a pin for two
- Anderson tagged in, slamming Jey around on the apron before bringing it back inside the ring and going back to targeting that shoulder
- Gallows back in, and I’m… sort of bored? At this point, there’s no cool spots, I’m just watching two angry men try to rip another man’s shoulder off, and it’s 2am, so I’m sleepy
- Gallows hangs Jey up on the top rope, but Jey fights out of his grip, pushes him back, catches Anderson with a kick as he comes in to try and get involved, but once Jey’s up on the tope rope, Gallows just gives him a shove, sending him flying into the barricades
- Commentary even admit ‘it’s been more of the same’ when we come back from commercials
- Cole calls Jey ‘Jimmy’, because they’re clearly not two distinct people, nope
- HUGE dropkick from Jey from the second rope, and he makes the tag to Jimmy
- Jimmy’s in, fresh and working hard, but Gallows takes himself outside the ring, throwing Jey over the barricades
- Jimmy leaps out onto Gallows, knocking him down, and Anderson shoves him into the ring post which he’s distracted by checking on his brother
- Magic Killer from Gallows and Anderson on Jimmy Uso, and they take the win
Anderson drags the battered Jey Uso from the barricades, and the two Bullet Club members beat the hell out of the Usos. Roman Reigns is here! He runs down the ramp to a chorus of boos, a massive forearm to Anderson, couple of blows to Gallows to take him out of the ring, and the two make themselves scarce. I’ll admit, I thought it was going to be Finn Balor, so I’m pretty disappointed it was just our heavyweight champion.
Renee Young is here, dressed like all my 1990s fantasies come to life, to talk to AJ about the match with Roman. Anderson and Gallows say they want to talk privately, and say they’re just here to make sure it’s a fair fight, so make sure that he has whatever he needs. They say their friendship is forever, and the three sweaty, half-naked men have a cuddle. Alright, boys, save it for the showers.
Apparently we’re getting a retrospective on Sami Zayn and KO’s friendship? We see ickle Kevin and tiny Sami, and see pics of them being adorable, pics of KO’s wedding, and Sami says they grew up together. Of course, then we have to watch KO hug his friend fiercely when Sami wins the NXT championship, and then the vicious beatdown Owens gave him a few moments later. It’s pretty hard to watch, even now, to see the face of Kevin Owens, the way he grins when he’s taking apart his best friend of 14 years. We get to see KO take down Cena on his first Raw, how excited he was with the IC title. Pictures of Sami post-surgery, that’s pretty hard to deal with, and then we’re onto the Rumble this year. Sami says he’s looking for payback against Owens, and Owens says he’s the victim here. I guess we’ll see on Sunday.
Match – Sami Zayn vs. Rusev
Sami out first, and I’m having a little dance to his theme, which, as I’ve said before, makes me flail like a toddler at a wedding. Rusev ambles out, and I just find this… weird? Is it ‘dull guy vs. interesting guy’ night?
- Sami avoids the grappling, the test of strength stuff, which is nice to see, but he can’t keep out of Rusev’s way for long, down to the mat quickly
- Olé chants! God, everyone loves Sami so much
- Side headlock from Sami to Rusev
- Lana appears to be wearing black and blue pvc? Not a good look on you, darling, slightly worse than when you were moonlighting as the girlfriend of Dolph Ziggler and had to pretend not to have style
- Sami comes over the top rope on Rusev, and gets caught, Rusev slamming him into the apron face first
- Rusev goes to throw Sami, Sami lands on the barricade, and moonsaults off onto Rusev! Gravity doesn’t apply!
- Sami somersaults over Rusev’s back, bounces off the ropes, but heads back into a huge clothesline, hitting the mat hard
- Rusev hoists Sami to the top turnbuckle, sitting him there to take the punches, but Sami fights back until Rusev hits him with a massive kick and Sami slithers off the turnbuckle to the outside of the ring, looking dizzy
- Back from the adverts, Rusev has Sami flat to the mat in the centre of the ring, and I appreciate the camera pointing at Lana, but I also wish something was happening in the match
- Suplex from Rusev to Sami, followed by a second, Sami flying easily
- Rusev goes for a rebound move, but Sami catches him with a clothesline, and Rusev eats mat hard
- A second massive clothesline to Rusev, and Sami slaps himself in the face a couple of times to get himself psyched up
- Commentary, it would be easier to recap if you’d tell me what Sami just reversed impressively, instead of just ‘it’ but it was nice to see anyway
- Massive cross-body off the top rope from Sami, pins Rusev for two
- Sami tries to setup for the Blue Thunder Bomb, but Rusev reverses and pins Sami for two
- Sami goes for the arm drag off the ropes, but Rusev reverses and hits Sami with a massive kick, pinning Sami for two and a half
- RUSEV CRUSH, he’s looking for the Accolade
- Sami reverses! Rolls Rusev up for the win!
Lana pulls off her shoes and throws them at Sami is disgust for his win as he retreats up the ramp and then he’s hit from behind by KO, and Sami goes flying down onto the ramp. Sami’s holding his shoulder as KO looks him over curiously, as if to say ‘why would you be hurt, Sami?’ as the crowd boo him.
Renee Young is back, talking to Apollo Crews. She asks him how to stand out, and he says he can do stuff in the ring no one can. Stardust interrupts and there’s a genuinely sweet little moment where Crews says it’s an honour to work with Cody, after Dusty gave him his name, and changed his life. The way Stardust says his father’s name is soft and reverent, and a little sad, and you’ve got to wonder whether that moment was a little difficult for him, too. Okay, WWE. You can have that one. That was some good storytelling, and it was a tiny moment that was still pretty beautiful. Now just bring that into the ring with you, boys.
Match – Stardust vs. Apollo Crews
Stardust rolls his eyes when Crews enters, and that’s a lovely little touch, and it’s so pretty to watch, so, so pretty.
- Crews does a double backflip, full back somersault, and then dropkicks Stardust hard, and it’s looking like he’ll take the win easily
- Stardust uses his speed to his advantage, a lovely snapmare into a shoulder submission, but Crews is huge, so he’s out easy
- Attempted sunset flip from Stardust, Crews counters it
- Forearms from Crews and then a leaping elbow before a standing moonsault onto Stardust… he’s incredible
- Enzuigiri from Crews, Stardust a little baffled and stunned
- Spinning sit-out powerbomb from Apollo Crews, and that’s the pin for the win
I’m a little disappointed that didn’t run longer, actually. Stardust has great personality in the ring, and I love seeing it, and Crews has all the moves, so they could have taken that for slightly longer than they did, but all in all, that was actually fun to watch, and had a basis in story somewhere, so… not bad, WWE. Not bad at all.
Dean’s here to talk about Jericho, or something? We get a recap of Ambrose winning over KO, before Jericho attacked him. Dean said he was meant to host the Ambrose Asylum, but he isn’t in the mood for it this week, because he doesn’t like being attacked from behind. That’s not what Roman tells us, babe. Dean says that at Payback, there won’t be any talking, and then goes on to mock Jericho’s ‘best in the world at what I do’ shtick, but says he’s pretty good at what he does to. Dean says Jericho wants respect, he doesn’t, Jericho complains, he doesn’t – he’s got a hard job full of bruises and bumps and punching people in the face. He calls Jericho out to ‘lace up your scarf and light up your stupid little Christmas tree jacket’ and stands in the ring, clearly simmering with rage.
Jericho comes out, looking confused, probably because he doesn’t know who keeps stealing all his shirts. Why is he wearing a shiny waistcoat, a shit scarf and ridiculously tight trousers? I mean, at least it’s not trunks, I guess. Jericho says he won’t waste his time fighting Dean right now, and that he really is the best at what he does. He says he elevates everyone he’s in the ring with, and then calls Dean ‘baby’ and says he should get down on his knees? I’m… not writing Gaywatch right now, I’m not making this up, I swear. Jericho demands an apology, after he says he doesn’t want Dean kissing his boots, and Dean looks like he can’t believe his luck, half incredulous grin and half laconic amusement. Dean says he’s sorry Jericho paid so much for ugly boots (they’re nice boots), and sorry about his Bon Jovi haircut and his scarf, that he’s insecure… god, it’s a good promo. He hits Jericho hard, taking him out of the ring before he takes apart the announce table.
Jericho grabs Dean’s knee, taking him down so he slams his head on the monitor left on the table, and Jericho gets Dean in the Walls of Jericho on the announce table. Dean’s face creases with pain as referees come out, pulling Jericho off Dean, who looks like he just realises he’s made a serious error in tangling with heel Jericho. The boos are huge, because if there’s one way to get your heel the heat he needs, it’s have him go after one of the most over guys on the roster. Just a shame they’re not using this angle on Roman, really, as Jericho leaves, shoving the cameras out of his dace. Dean’s left on the announce table, wincing and slowly trying to struggle upright.
Match – Natalya vs. Emma
Heel Emma is so much fun, and her shoulderpads are just… I don’t know, she just flat does it for me, sorry. Maybe I just like Australians. Excited for the match at Payback with Nattie and Charlotte, but less so the old men by their sides. Charlotte is here on commentary, dressed seriously in black, and her lich king father, Ric Flair, is here to make JBL look young and in-touch with modern events. The bell rings while Ric is still doing his stupid walk, serves him right.
- Nattie gets Emma down onto the mat straight away, Emma reversing to get her thighs around Nattie’s throat, before Nattie wriggle out for a kip up off the mat
- Lovely suplex from Emma to Natalya on the outside
- Cover from Emma for two
- I’m really tired of focusing on Ric Flair and Charlotte instead of the match
- WE WANT SASHA chants
- Emma drags Nattie up by the hair, but Nattie turns it into a Sharpshooter, and Emma taps out.
Charlotte hides behind her dad to keep Natalya away from her – not that Ric Flair has ever stopped himself from grappling with young women, god I hate him – and that match was two and a half minutes long. We might not be divas anymore, but it’s hardly like we’re worth much more.
The Chyna graphic shows again, and this time commentary mention her by name. There’s a video package detailing entrances, but followed up by company member tweets, including that of Triple H, and hearing her called the backbone of DX, seeing her win the IC title… seeing her with Eddie. I cry loud enough my cats break into the office to see why I’m sobbing.
I can’t help it, I just… she was someone who made me think my big cousin wasn’t going to be able to beat me forever, she was who I thought of when the boys wanted to fight me at judo club at school, she was who I emulated when I was in my dance classes and could do more full press ups than all the boys. She made me so certain I could be strong, and she’s part of the reason this site exists, she kept me locked to wrestling when other things called me. To see all those moments again just makes me long for the days when I didn’t know that even my idols were flawed and had struggles, and I thought she could conquer anything. The world is poorer for her loss.
I’ll try and pull myself together.
Match – Damien Sandow vs. Baron Corbin
Oh my god, they let pink trunks Sandow out of the dungeon! He’s here! To be fed to the lone wolf Baron Corbin, for the Payback match, sure, but whatever, we’ll just appreciate that he’s here, okay? We get a recap of the Corbin vs. Dolph feud that’s going on, then out he comes – to be attacked by Ziggler right on the ramp!
Dolph isn’t going to take no for an answer, and it’s taking four of five refs to keep Ziggler from going after Corbin, who runs away as fast as his legs can carry him. Apparently he was all huff and puff, but couldn’t blow the house down. Don’t worry, dear, it happens to everyone. Dolph’s looking very brunette now, I’m not sure it suits him.
Well, so much for Sandow having a match, I guess. To be fair, if that match was cut for time so they could do Chyna’s memorial, then I don’t think anyone can argue that they made the right choice. Corbin doesn’t need another victim fed to him, and that helped power the feud without taking up time.
Ah, Primo and Epico are back to tell us about the wonder that is Puerto Rico. Apparently it’s okay to call Puerto Rican women exotic? I’m not comfortable with this, but sure, talk about women like they’re pieces of meat. Not like we’re supposed to be having an anti-sexism revolution in this damn “sport”, or anything, is it?
The Miz and Maryse are here! Hello, my gorgeous supermodel evil power couple! I love their dynamic so, so much, Maryse has really helped to add heat to Miz’s title reign. The Miz says that he’s used to being hated, but that the idea of Cesaro beating him is clearly ridiculous. He rubs noses with his wife before he kisses her, twice, softly, and I make a little squeak because I do that a lot with my wife. Miz holds the title aloft and says that greats have held it, but Cesaro never has. He mocks the fans for their signs, and tells them to think for themselves – that he brings celebrity to the title. He wants the fans to rise up and stop being with the lonely, nerdy, and internet trolls. He says the Miz section looks like Maryse, but the Cesaro section looks like the crowd.
Cesaro’s music hits, and our Swiss Superman is out in his suit again, and his accent almost seems to become thicker when he’s talking now. Cesaro says the WWE universe are smarter than Miz thinks, and Miz does a De Niro impression that makes me giggle. Cesaro says the only movie The Miz belongs in is Jackass, and you can see Maryse swallow the urge to corpse for a second. Well, no matter how much we love our spouses, we all think they can be arses some of the time.
Cesaro says he wants to hold the title precisely because he knows so many greats have held it, and then there’s more movie quoting. Miz gallantly helps his wife out of the ring, and then runs towards Cesaro just in time to get a huge uppercut to the face, Cesaro looks to go for the swing, by Maryse throws herself over her prone husband. Cesaro picks up the IC title, and drops it by Miz, before making jabbing gestures that make Maryse roll her eyes.
GOOD GOD WWE, MIC YOUR WRESTLERS. Roman and AJ have a conversation no one can understand, because they’re fucking muttering in an open space, and it boggles my mind that someone thought this was worth showing us, but didn’t bother making sure the sound levels were good. Very unprofessional.
Match – Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio
Really? Del Rio is slow and ponderous at the best of times, and no one’s going to call Roman a pioneer in the ring, no matter how good he can make a limited move set look (not that good) so this match… I can’t imagine I’m going to be that thrilled by it. We see one of Roman’s Make a Wish appearances, and the kid is in the front row, listening to everyone boo his hero. Nice. Who are we even meant to root for in this? Del Rio’s wearing trunks with a gold decal over the dick, and PLEASE stop shoving a pair of socks down there, dude, or get some bigger trunks, or some compression underwear, or stop taking Viagra before matches. Please.
- Roman does sidesteps like a woman in an aerobics class
- Grapple, grapple, grapple, shoulder tackle from Roman
- ROMAN SUCKS chants
- Headbutt from Reigns to Del Rio
- Running enzuigiri from Del Rio to Reigns, who manages to even make falling off the apron look stilted and poorly timed. Good grief
- Roman flops to the floor outside the ring like a landed fish and really, I love the boy, I do, but this isn’t going in match of the year
- We’re running short on time, let’s see how long this match runs
- During commercials, Del Rio threw Roman into the ring post shoulder-first, and we get back to Roman in a headlock, Del Rio trying to get him to fade out
- Roman pries Del Rio’s hands off him, arms flexing beautifully, but Del Rio kicks him in the lower back and sends him down again
- Del Rio wastes time flexing, so Roman punches him in the jaw, but Del Rio’s back with some kicks, our champion crumpled in the corner like it’s already been a long night
- Headbutts from Roman, but a DDT from Del Rio, and Roman’s flat on his back in what I’d term a star float position, but then, I teach swimming
- Missed Samoan Drop from Roman, clotheslines Del Rio instead, and then a flying forearm
- Clotheslines in the corner, and the crowd are… sort of cheering? A bit? It’s all very confusing
- Set up for the Superman Punch, but Del Rio ducks out of the ring
- Roman comes back with a huge drive-by, wincing as he gets up because his hips aren’t what they used to be
- Stupid slow spot with Roman climbing over the ropes and Del Rio stopping him, left hamstring giving Roman trouble
- Lovely kicks, and then Del Rio covers Roman for two, but Roman’s still flat on the canvas
- Oh Christ, really? Del Rio hangs Roman on the ropes for that bloody double stomp I hate
- Roman “dodges” by which I mean barely moves, and there’s a weird, convoluted spot that just looks poorly timed and planned
- Huge punch from Roman to Del Rio, and Roman wastes time gurning for the camera as Del Rio lies in the middle of the ring
- Anderson and Gallows show up, Reigns gets distracted, and Del Rio covers him for two
- Spear from Roman, covers Del Rio for the win
Anderson and Gallows are obviously straight in to hammer on Roman, but AJ comes down and pulls them away, telling them no, making them leave the ring. Reigns his him with a Superman Punch, then charges at Anderson and Gallows as they climb back in. Roman eats a Phenomenal Forearm from Styles, and we end out Raw with a crumpled AJ and Reigns in the ring… all set up for Payback.