Monday Night RAW Recap – May 22, 2017

The Good

Elias Sampson debuts against Dean Ambrose:  Kurt Angle finally stopped Elias Sampson backstage and gave him his first match on the main roster – against Dean Ambrose. Before the match, Elias sang in the middle of the ring to massive heat.  They put on a fairly good, short match. The Miz interfered against Sampson in order to get Ambrose disqualified (because their IC Title will change hands on a DQ at Extreme Rules).  Ambrose went after Miz, but Sampson stopped him and hit a modified cutter on him to lay him out. This was a great debut in a controlled environment for Sampson, and the DQ finish helped introduce the Miz/Ambrose match concept well.

Paul Heyman talk up Finn Balor before he beats Karl Anderson: Finn Balor came out to wrestle, but Paul Heyman interrupting his short promo to praise Balor and say he hopes that he wins the fatal five-way because he believes Balor could have a shot at Brock Lesnar if he won, and more importantly, that Balor believes he could have a shot. Balor then beat Karl Anderson in a short, serviceable match.  This Heyman promo feels like a swerve as it doesn’t seem likely that Balor will win the fatal-five way because why give away Lesnar-Balor so soon?  Balor has a lot of fan support right now, and to build that match slowly could be big money. It will be interesting to see where this leads, if anywhere.

Matt Hardy beats Sheamus and chooses a steel cage match for Extreme Rules: Matt Hardy and Sheamus had a nice match that Matt won with the Twist of Fate. By winning, The Hardys got to choose the stipulation for Extreme Rules, and they chose a steel cage match. The matches they’ve all had so far have been good, so this cage match shouldn’t be any different.

The Drivel

Extreme Rules Fatal Five Way Fuckery: It’s nice that there’s only two weeks to go until Extreme Rules so WWE can’t put every single combination of these five in the ring with one another although they will certainly try. Bray Wyatt starts the night with a mediocre promo, but it is still better than they have been for a while. He invokes Roman the name of Reigns – to a chorus of boos from the crowd – and Reigns comes down to defend his “yard.” Kurt Angle schedules a match, right after the commercial break.  The match itself was okay, but felt flat. The reason is because it was one of those “fake” matches. Samoa Joe interferes and goes after both Roman and Bray. Then Seth Rollins comes out to fight off Joe. Bray went to attack Seth from behind, but Roman took him out with a Superman punch. Roman gets on Seth’s case backstage for interfering in his business, but Angle comes back and says he’s making a tag match for later tonight – Roman and Seth against Joe and Wyatt. The tag match is okay. The heat was on Roman and his arm most of the match. Rollins had the match in control when Roman went for a Superman Punch on Joe, who moved, and Roman headbutted Rollins. This led to a Coquina Clutch on Rollins for the victory.  After the match, Balor approaches Angle backstage who is watching the match. Finn wants in on the action, so Angle says next week, he’ll take on Joe and Wyatt in a triple-threat match.  Oh, joy. More multi-man matches en route to a multi-man match. This booking is about as bland as you can get although they get credit for actually announcing a main event a week ahead of time. Of course, that’s probably only a test to see if Balor is drawing any ratings.

Tozawa beats Daivari: Akira Tozawa got the pin on Ariya Daivari after a top rope senton. Brian Kendrick offered commentary from the backstage area on the match; he said Tozawa is learning lessons, but he’s not as good as he thinks he is, and he’ll find that out in their street fight tomorrow night on 205 Live. That match could be good because they’ll give it at least fifteen minutes on that show, but giving these cruiserweights only five minutes on RAW is destroying this division. No one outside the top stars will get over here. They need to start blending some of them in with the heavyweights more or investing more screen time in them, which they have if they trim a minute or two off each usually insipid promo on the show.

Austin Aries beats Tony Nese: More short cruiserweight matches. Aries won with The Last Chancery. The submission ending is to highlight that Neville and Aries will face off in a submission match at Extreme Rules. That match will certainly be good given their past performances, but these cruiserweight segments are simply filler that advertises, ineffectively, for the network show.

Sasha Banks beats Alicia Fox: Sasha beat Alica Fox with the double knees to the back to get her win back from last week. Noam Dar mocked her after the match, and Sasha slapped him, which led to Alicia attacking her and giving her the scissor kick. Alica shows a lot of energy in the ring but still feels untamed after all these years. There is no real story here, so the point is unknown to these matches. They feel like filler until they figure out what to do with Sasha.

Kalisto beats Apollo Crews: Kalisto confronted Crews about his behavior backstage, and Titus O’Neil interrupted. He wants Kalisto to join the Titus Brand, but he refuses. This leads to a short, uneventful match that Apollo loses because he’s distracted by Titus yelling so much outside the ring.  This story still seems like it’s leading to Titus turning on Apollo or Apollo breaking away. Then they won’t know what to do with him again, so it’ll be pointless. Kalisto is now a prop.

Alexa Bliss beats and canes Mickie James: Short matches are the thing tonight apparently. A short, useless match ending when Alexa DDT’d Mickie for the win. After the match, she got a kendo stick and hit Mickie. Bayley ran down for the save and picked up the kendo stick, but Alexa rolled out of the ring. The story here is whether Bayley get “get extreme,” which honestly isn’t an interesting story. Mickie James gets no reaction from the crowd, which is sad. She’s just there now to put over other talent. She’s Raw’s Tamina.

The Final Analysis: This was the poor booking that was feared last week after a fairly exciting and interesting RAW. WWE has huge problem booking toward a PPV. They start off strong on the first show and have no idea how to continue stories in an entertaining way week-to-week.  This is a consistent pattern. Miz and Ambrose works because the DQ finish happened this last week. It leads to the stipulation this week and the Miz interference. They attempted a story with Bayley and Alexa, which is great, but the story isn’t that strong because Bayley’s innocence has never been played up enough on the main roster for it to work. That is slowly building a story. 50-50 booking and multi-person matches don’t tell a story. Unfortunately, the same trend will continue next week.


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