Five years ago, the night of CM Punk's infamous Pipe Bomb, Monday Night Raw ended with John Cena laying near dead in the middle of the ring. Five years later to the day, Monday Night Raw ended the same way. Cena laid out, brutalized by cheaters, while fans cheer for Cena to rise from the dead.
Yes, Cena is still the center of the WWE universe, at rightfully so. He, along with Seth Rollins, the stole the show Monday night. With two huge free main events of Cena vs. Rollins and AJ Styles vs. WWE Champion Dean Ambrose, Raw felt like an old episode of WCW Nitro, where the company would give away free PPV-level main events on TV.
Cena and Rollins killed it inside the cage, as did Styles and Ambrose. Styles is getting better every week. Forget Dolph Ziggler, Styles looks a lot like Shawn Michaels. With an incredible ring entrance, and hypnotic music, Styles is going to win the world title and enjoy a nice run with the strap at some point. Styles might even be a better in-ring performer than Daniel Bryan, and that's saying a lot.
The show opened with Seth Rollins, who is rapidly emerging as fan-favorite. The big question? How would the WWE address the Roman Reigns suspension? Answer: they let Seth Rollins do it, and turn it into a wrestling angle. No one cared about Reigns. Man is this guy going to plummet when he returns.
So the opening segment was the biggest possible tease imaginable. AJ Styles came out asking to replace Reigns in the main event. Then Cena came out. Then Stephanie McMahon came out. And you know where this is headed. Stephanie booked Cena vs. Rollins and Styles vs. Ambrose in matches and if they won they would be put into the main event at Battleground, in what would be possibly a fatal five way.
Dumb. You knew right there that we weren't going to see five guys in the main event unless it were an Elimination Chamber-style match. Even those matches are usually terrible.
Cena and Rollins tore the house down.
Rollins won after AJ Styles and his Bullet Club nWo wannabe buddies distracted Cena and Rollins pinned him. Hmm, do you think Cena is going to get his revenge later?
We need more wrestling matches and less corporate Kane and Stephanie on television. As Ric Flair used to say, "The Name on the Marquee says WRESTLING." (scroll to 6:21)
In our other co-main event, Dean Ambrose wrestled AJ Styles. The only problem with this match as that Styles totally outclassed Ambrose and may have exposed him as not as good as Styles, Rollins and even Cena. I like the crazy gimmick that Ambrose has (by the way, what kind of a wrestling name is "Dean Ambrose"? He sounds like he should be an exterminator) but he's not that sensational in the ring, and mostly gets by on his crazy facial expressions. That's fine, but anyone watching this match has to be thinking, "That Styles is REALLY good."
Ambrose won after Cena came out and distracted Styles, allowing Ambrose to get the pin on AJ. Something tells me that's the last time we will ever see Ambrose pin Styles.
Other show notables:
Enzo and Big Cass wrestled, ready for this, unnamed jobbers. This was like an old-fashioned episode of WWE Superstars from the 1980s. They were local wrestler and Enzo and Big Cass squashed them. The match set up a feud with the Social Outcasts. It doesn't matter what they do. Their ring entrance is gold. Here's the "match."
As much as I like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn matches, these two need to go in different directions. That's what they both agreed in an episode of Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel. Owens seems lost in the shuffle, stuck in a feud with a guy whom he has good matches with, but it isn't really doing anything for his career.
Please, somebody pull the plug on the Titus O'Neill push. He cannot wrestle and doesn't deserve to be in a feud with Rusev. Can't we get someone like Alberto Del Rio, someone who knows how to work, in a program with Rusev?
The New Day mocked the Wyatt Family in a funny skit that was also weird because it looked like they were hinting that Xavier Woods was scared of the Wyatts. Big E. and Kofi were great here and Bray Wyatt is always on his game.
Finally, we got some women's action, but if this is emblematic of the whole new push for women's wrestling, bring back the Divas. Sandwiching the ladies into tag team matches every week is a token gesture. How much can the women show is 5 minutes. At least we saw Sasha Banks. She's clearly the No. 1 most popular women's wrestler and why they aren't having her feud with Charlotte for the women's title who knows.
Raw was certainly better without Roman Reigns. The in-ring product was stronger and we didn't have to listen to the so-called top babyface of the company get booed. Reigns apparently, despite his Wellness Policy violation, will return to compete in the main event at Battleground, against Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, but it won't matter for Rollins. In the old days, when something happened outside the ring, the WWE would create a story line to explain the wrestler's absence. In the age of the Internet, the WWE decides not to do that. But it would have been better. No one is going to cheer Reigns when he returns. And if he turns heel, it will be generic heel heat, not real heel heat. Someone needs to hurt Reigns on-camera in a WWE angle to turn the fans.
It's time for the WWE to pull a Ken Patera and Big John Studd and cut Roman's hair, like they did Andre's. At this point, that's the only thing that's going to help this guy.