I was unable to post this column last week, but we are back to regular business this week. Here are the five key talking points from an entertaining episode of WWE Raw:
I’ve been largely disappointed with what Chris Jericho’s done during his on-off appearances since 2012. He’s still very good in the ring, but his persona and promos have lacked the bite and originality that used to set him apart from everybody else. Not on this Raw, though. This week, we got a fantastic blast of that old Jericho, and the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah proved that when he’s at his best, he’s still untouchable. He ranted against Dean Ambrose and his potted plant, and manipulated the crowd into cheering for said plant. He went toe-to-toe with Cass and got some classic, millenium Jericho jabs in at the big guy and his absent partner, Enzo Amore. He went into a hilarious frenzy over his destroyed LED jacket, repeatedly informing us that it was worth fifteen thousand dollars. In a moment that will live on in memeternity, he compared himself to Haley’s Comet – because talent like his only comes along once every seventy-six years.
Thanks to one brilliant Jericho performance, what felt like a pointless feud with Dean Ambrose has suddenly become the most fun thing on the show. Credit must go to Ambrose as well, who continues to show a gift for managing to look cool while doing the most ridiculous of things. His jacket-tearing fit was entertaining, and I’ve already read a theory that it will lead to a potted-plant-and-jacket-on-a-pole match. Is it my sleep deprivation, or does that sound like a genius idea?
The Intercontinental Championship Melee
Everybody involved in the IC title scene is doing a fabulous job. The Miz is doing his best work since his ‘awesome’ main event run in 2011. Kevin Owens is killing it non-stop, week after week. Cesaro is basically morphing into James Bond. Sami Zayn is having good matches all over the place. WWE really teased us with the possibility that Zack Ryder might be inserted into the title picture as well, and although that dream was snatched away, Ryder put in wonderful work this week as well. I love everything that these guys are doing at the moment, and I want to see more of it. The Fatal Four-Way at Extreme Rules should be very good.
Family v. Club
For some reason, the Reigns-Styles storyline was relegated to the middle of the show this week, and that’s not the first time that has happened. It’s a curious trend that worth keeping an eye on. I’ve speculated in past weeks about where this angle was headed and who, if anyone, would turn heel. Right now, it doesn’t look like either Roman or AJ will. In fact, WWE seems to now be content not to have clearly-defined heroes and villains. They seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that the modern crowd will cheer for whoever they want. So you have a slightly tweener Reigns teaming with face Usos against face Styles, who is teaming up with heel Anderson and Gallows. It remains to be seen if this formula will work. Anyway, it looks like Styles, Gallows and Anderson are officially called “The Club” now, which I must say is an exceedingly bad name.
The New Era
That’s what WWE is calling this post-Mania period, although it’s unclear whether this is just part of the McMahon storyline, or represents an actual new direction for the company. Raw certainly has been better over the last few weeks. The absence of the Authority, the callup of fresh talent from NXT, a renewed focus on in-ring action and an intriguing main event feud between Roman Reigns and AJ Styles have all come together to create a new, positive aura around the show. I’m hoping it continues, although I have a feeling that will largely be determined by the outcome of the McMahon ownership saga. Speaking of which…
I have to say I’m very interested by how Stephanie McMahon has reacted to her father’s decision that she and her brother Shane share control of WWE Raw. After a bit of bickering at Payback, she has been the picture of grace and accommodation, much to Shane’s surprise and suspicion. It’s all very fishy, of course, and it seems obvious that she’s playing nice while secretly planning something nefarious. But for the moment I can’t see what that might be, and I’m enjoying the way the angle is playing out. Both siblings have been playing their parts perfectly.
That about covers it for this week. Next week’s episode will be the last one before Extreme Rules, so we can expect to see a few more matches announced. The card largely looks like it will be a rehash of Payback with some stipulations thrown in, but I hope there’s more to it than that. Tune in next week to find out.