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March 22, 2016

WWE Raw (in Philly) roundup: Owens, Styles steal the show

Wrestling WWE
032216_stylesjericho_WWE WWE/Twitter

Kevin Owens and AJ Styles had one of the best opening matches in recent memory on Raw from the Wells Fargo Center Monday night.

With two weeks to go until WrestleMania 32, WWE Monday Night Raw invaded the Wells Fargo Center right here in Philly and if the first hour of the show was any indication, this could have been one of the best Raws in a long, long time.

But, that wasn’t the case.

Now, Raw started off hot – a great promo by Roman Reigns and Stephanie McMahon followed by what could arguably be one of the greatest opening matches in Monday Night Raw history with Kevin Owens and AJ Styles going one-on-one in a rematch of last Thursday’s SmackDown. And let me tell you, this match was a lot better. But, it had the same ending as their SmackDown match, so it takes away from some of its greatness.

That match was followed by a really good match between one-third of the WWE World Tag Team Champions, Big E, and League of Nations representative, Rusev. It was a good “big man” match that saw The New Day gain some revenge from last week’s Raw when the League of Nations completely destroyed them and left them laying around the ring.

Unfortunately, after the first two matches, the show fell completely off a cliff. The top stars that were absent were troubling – especially for a Raw show in Philly two weeks before WrestleMania. Triple H made a cameo appearance backstage and got beat up by Reigns for the second week in a row. No Beast Incarnate, Terry Funk appeared in a pre-taped segment with Dean Ambrose that could have been much better suited in the ring where the crowd would respond better, Shane McMahon and The Undertaker took the week off while Vince McMahon teased a huge announcement that fell flat to the audience, and a bad main event that heard a chorus of “This is boring!” chants rain down left a bad taste in my mouth and I’m sure in the mouths of thousands of others as they left the Wells Fargo Center.

This show was in no way comparable to December’s Raw in Philly that saw Reigns win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Sheamus, and to a Philly crowd that actually cheered the hell out of it, too. Monday night’s crowd could be blamed for some of those ridiculous chants, but then again, WWE didn’t give us much to work with, either.

Here are some of the main stories coming out of Raw:

Will this year be The Undertaker’s last WrestleMania match?

The entire night, much of WWE’s focus was towards the big announcement regarding the Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. In what was supposed to be a serious statement that rather came off as a joke – at least to me – Vince said that Shane might be the most formidable opponent Undertaker has ever faced at WrestleMania. I guess we’re just going to forget his own son-in-law, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kane, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, and even the guy who beat him at WrestleMania XXX, Brock Lesnar, as being formidable. Yep, according to Vince, his son Shane is way more formidable than any of those names. Le sigh.

Vince didn’t say anything we didn’t already know regarding the ongoing feud between his son and Undertaker. However, he did wind up calling the Dead Man his “bitch,” like Shane suggested last Monday night, and said that if Undertaker was to lose to Shane at WrestleMania that it would be his last WrestleMania match ever.

I think this gives away the outcome of the match even more. I believe the fact that Vince called The Undertaker his “bitch” and it would be his last WrestleMania should he lose to Shane will ultimately end up in Undertaker taking a fall for Shane.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The streak is over. It means nothing anymore. A second loss for The Undertaker at WrestleMania isn’t some sort of unbelievably terrible thing that some people would lead you to believe. A loss against Shane isn’t exactly what people had in mind, but if they build the angle around Undertaker giving Shane the win for the betterment of the company, which is what a lot of people think will happen, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. He’s exacting revenge on Vince and helping the company who made him who he is now.

Is that breaking kayfabe a bit? Sure. And The Undertaker is notorious for not wanting to break kayfabe at all. Ever. So it also wouldn’t surprise me to see something like the above scenario not play out. But that’s what I ultimately think will happen.

But, hey, at least Shane is training like a madman and won’t be looked at as a total joke as Undertaker’s opponent in two weeks. And a lot of former and current WWE superstars had something to say about it.

Reigns is the new authority

I thought the opening promo of Raw was solid. It was short and sweet and really hid much of Reigns’ limitations in his promo work. The creative team ought to keep doing Reigns’ promos like this, or just let him go out there and talk without a script.

Reigns’ entrance from the crowd is pretty much nixed at this point, as he came out from the main entrance while Stephanie was in the ring. He allowed her to talk before eventually putting his hand over the microphone, taking it and saying Triple H didn’t want to come to Philly because he was afraid Reigns would tear him up all the way down Broad Street. That got a good pop.

Reigns said he was the authority and walked away.

Later in the program, Stephanie would leave the building in Triple H’s limo that had just pulled up, but Reigns was in prime position to not allow that to happen. As the gate opened for the limo to exit, Reigns’ body stood in the way. He walked to the car and dragged Triple H out and had his way with him before he escaped back to the limo and it took off.

Not a bad segment, but it went a little too short. Reigns is clearly making up for lost time, and it’ll be interesting to see what angle occurs next Monday night on the go-home to WrestleMania show.

Owens finally has a challenger for WrestleMania… or six

The aforementioned match between Owens and Styles was just as fantastic a television show opener as anyone could expect. But later on in the show, Owens put together a Triple Threat match for the No. 1 contendership to his Intercontinental Championship, and we all believed it would be among Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and Sami Zayn due to their promo earlier in the night.

But the Intercontinental Champion had other ideas.

Owens would serve as a special guest ring announcer and bring out Stardust, Sin Cara and Zack Ryder to vie for the No. 1 contendership to his title. This entire segment was basically meant to paint Stardust, Sin Cara and Ryder as a joke, but the joke was on Owens, who purposely got involved at the end of the match

Stephanie would then make his Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania a 7-man tilt, but that’s not all. She also said the match would be contested as a Ladder Match, pretty much copying and pasting last year’s Intercontinental Title match, with some new talent.

I have to admit, I love Owens calling it KO-Mania instead of WrestleMania.

Ambrose gets a lot of love

The Lunatic Fringe has been getting a lot of love lately from hardcore legends. Last Monday, Mick Foley gave Ambrose a barbed wire baseball bat to use in his No Holds Barred Street Fight. On Monday night, Terry Funk randomly showed up to give Ambrose a chainsaw, providing a flashback to his Chainsaw Charlie days to yours truly.

That’s great and all, but if Terry Funk was in Philly, why not just have a segment like that in the arena before Ambrose’s main event match against Braun
Strowman? It probably would’ve woken the crowd up a bit and instead of chanting “This is boring!” during their match, they would’ve chanted something else. Or maybe they wouldn’t have chanted at all. That would’ve been nice.

This Ambrose/Lesnar match at WrestleMania is getting more and more interesting as the weeks go by. I’m looking forward to it.

Jericho-Styles IV still not confirmed for WrestleMania

It’s interesting – when Jericho interrupts Styles’ matches, Styles can’t get a win. But when the tables are turned and Styles tries to distract Jericho during his match against Fandango, Jericho is still somehow able to pull off a win.

Granted, Styles was going against the Intercontinental Champion both times, and Jericho was facing Fandango on Monday night, but it still makes Styles look a little bit like a geek. Styles ran to the ring after Jericho’s win after Jericho baited him, but he quickly left the ring when Styles hit it. Styles challenged Jericho to a match at WrestleMania for their rubber rubber match.

At least Styles will win at WrestleMania, right?

Not so fast.

In a video posted
to WWE’s YouTube page, Jericho said he wouldn’t accept Styles’ challenge and that he lost his place in line against him. Jericho “refuses” to allow Styles to make a name for himself off of his own name, and said he would rather sit out WrestleMania then step in the ring with him.

So, something surely will happen on SmackDown this Thursday or next Monday on Raw for this match to become official for WrestleMania.

The New Day shame the League of Nations

One week after being completely demolished and laid out by the League of Nations, the WWE World Tag Team Champions got some payback on Monday night. Big E defeated Rusev in a really good match after The New Day shamed the League of Nations in a fantastic pre-match promo.

I’ll say this, many people are getting tired of The New Day’s act because being against fun things is the “cool” thing to do a lot of the time in professional wrestling, but The New Day has continuously entertained me for well over a year. I don’t remember when that’s happened last. And they continue week in and week out to get louder and louder cheers.

As for their WrestleMania match against the League of Nations, the Tag Team Titles don’t seem to be on the line as these teams clash in a 4-on-3 handicap match.’s preview states this match is basically for faction supremacy, so I’d imagine the titles won’t be put on the line if they continue with that narrative.

Oh, and this T-shirt is amazing.

Stan 'The Lariat' Hansen to be inducted into WWE Hall of Fame

The latest WWE Hall of Fame inductee was announced on Monday, and his name is Stan “The Lariat” Hanse. Yahoo Japan's Sports Navi first reported that Hansen would be the sixth inductee into the Class of 2016.

I don’t know about you, but to me, Hansen is and always will be the Battle of the Tough Guys champion in my eyes.

For a closer look at Hansen, click here.

News and notes

Luke Harper may have suffered a serious knee injury during the main event dark match of the Wyatt Family vs. Reigns/Ambrose/Zayn/Ziggler after Raw went off the air. ... Lesnar will appear on SmackDown this Thursday night. ... Mick Foley will be a guest on Tuesday night’s edition of SportsCenter on ESPNews at 9:00 P.M. ... WWE will bring SmackDown back to Philly on Tuesday, September 13. Presale password is WWEPHILLY from now until Sunday at

Match breakdown

     • Non-Title: Kevin Owens (c-IC) d. AJ Styles by pinfall via a rollup after Chris Jericho distracted Styles… again.

     • Big E d. Rusev by pinfall via the Big Ending.

     • Chris Jericho d. Fandango by pinfall via the Codebreaker.

     • Triple Threat Match for the No. 1 Contendership to the Intercontinental Championship: Zack Ryder vs. Stardust vs. Sin Cara ended in a No Contest after Kevin Owens shoved Ryder into Miz and then a huge brawl broke out among Owens, Ryder, Miz, Stardust, Sin Cara, Zayn and Ziggler.

     • Non-Title: Charlotte (c) d. Natalya by pinfall via Natural Selection.

     • Bubba Ray Dudley d. R-Truth by pinfall via a boot to the face.

     • Braun Strowman d. Dean Ambrose by disqualification after Ambrose nailed him with a steel chair.

Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickpiccone
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