The Five-Knuckle Shuffle: WWE Raw, 25 April 2016

WWE Raw 25 April

After a few weeks of above average content, this week’s episode of WWE Raw featured some relatively dull fare, although it did a decent enough job building up this Sunday’s Payback. Here are five key talking points from the episode:

Chynese Democracy

Quite apart from matches and storylines, it was good to see WWE dedicating this week’s episode to the late Chyna and airing a touching tribute video to boot. Despite some coolness from WWE towards the legendary performer over the last few years, the company has rightfully softened their tone following her death last week. This Raw has proved that WWE is quite willing to give Chyna her due, and a deserved Hall of Fame induction now looks well within the realm of possibility.

On Whose Authority?

It looks like we are finally going to get a sense of where the McMahon power struggle is headed. Stephanie McMahon returned to television this week, and was back in superb heel form. Who else could tell a hometown crowd she was born in the city and get booed for it? Stephanie informed Shane that Vince McMahon would announce the permanent runner of Raw this Sunday at Payback. I expect there will be some sort of Team Shane v. Team Authority match at the next pay-per-view, which I hope will end in shenanigans resulting in a brand split. Despite the absurdities and logical inconsistencies that have plagued it, it’s good that this storyline is on the move again.

Super Cena Returns

In the best news coming out of Raw, a certain John Cena will soon be among us once again. The wrestler posted the following on Twitter a few hours before Raw went on the air:

The news was confirmed by the announcers on the show, which means we are now a month away from Cena’s typically miraculous early return from injury. What is that guy made of? Cena had the best matches of his life last year, and his presence will be an invaluable boost to the roster. Let’s hope Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and the rest of WWE’s wounded soldiers can make a quick recovery as well.

Bleak of Nations

Mercifully, one of the most slapdash stables WWE has ever cobbled together is now history. WWE has dissolved the League of Nations. The group was so boring that even WWE couldn’t be bothered to come up with a storyline for the split. Alberto Del Rio casually broke the news in an interview with last week, and the group simply appeared as individuals on this week’s episode without undue explanation. Unfortunately for Sheamus, Del Rio and Rusev, they didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts, losing to AJ Styles, Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn respectively. I think Sheamus and Del Rio have limited upsides as main-event talent, so I am fine with them being used to primarily elevate other talent going forward. However, I think Rusev has tremendous potential and would hate to see him relegated to being a midcard jobber. Let’s hope that isn’t gong to be the case.

Will They, Won’t They

Once again, the main angle coming out of Raw continues to be the Roman Reigns – AJ Styles – Bullet Club saga. With the last show before Payback now in the bag, we still don’t have a definitive hint about how this storyline, and the main event this Sunday, will play out. I think a Roman Reigns heel turn (with Gallows and Anderson turning on Styles) would be the most compelling option, but I don’t see WWE making such a bold storytelling decision. Interestingly, another wrinkle has been thrown into this drama with Finn Balor dropping the NXT Championship to Samoa Joe at a house show a few days ago. Balor, of course, was a one-time leader of the Bullet Club in NJPW. Is he going to factor into the finish for the match at Payback? It’s anybody’s guess. I have to give it to WWE for building up an interesting first challenge for Roman Reigns. I will be watching with great interest this Sunday.

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