AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, John Cena, and even, yes, Roman Reigns, shined on the June 20 episode of Monday Night Raw.
Ambrose appears to be the new future of the company. In one night, Ambrose came across far comfortable on the microphone than Reigns ever did, and the fans have really embraced his "Lunatic Fringe" gimmick? How far can he go? In 2016 you don't have to look like Hulk Hogan to be the face of the company, and already there are signs that Ambrose is toning down his craziness in favor of crazy cool. "The Dude," as he coined himself Monday night, just might be "The Next Big Thing."
And there's more to be excited about. AJ Styles appears to be a future world heavyweight champion. He's embraced his heel mode, so much so that for the first time in a long time, the crowd actually started to cheer John Cena Monday night. It was just a simple "Cena" chant, with much less "Cena Sucks." Styles deserves a title run if he can stop the Cena boos. Styles, with his George accent, deep blue eyes, and incredible work, is sort of like wrestling's country music superstar. He's Keith Urban with a Calf Crusher.
Watch his exchange with Cena last night. Styles comes across so smooth on the microphone, with incredible facial expressions. He's a heel, but the fans love him because he can wrestle. Styles, along with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, has a bit of an nWo thing going on. He's just cool and cool to watch.
Cena, by the way, is still Raw's MVP. He makes you care. Incredible on the microphone, hard-working in the ring, the WWE really needs to give Cena at least one more long run at the top of the card, even if that means breaking the beloved Ric Flair's record.
Dean Ambrose opened the show in a really creative way, which was a throwback to old WCW Saturday Night. Ambrose got out of a taxi in front of the arena, with just his bag. After walking away he called the driver back, then reached in the back seat and pulled out his WWE championship belt. Even though most people who care probably already knew that Ambrose was the new champion, the surprise treatment of the title win was a pre-internet throwback, and a nice touch, another sign that the WWE's creative juices are flowing.
Ambrose then opened the show inside the cage, where he was confronted first by Roman Reigns then Seth Rollins. The Shield is back together. This would be like seeing Shawn Michaels, Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Razor Ramon all together in a top angle.
These guys have chemistry and it shows. Rollins and Reigns both want title shots, so we're headed to a triple-threat match here. Here's the highlight of the interview segment.
Reigns finally snapped back at the crowd. In probably the most honest statement of the night, the crowd chanted "You can't wrestle" at Reigns, and rather than ignoring it, Reigns screamed back, tell all "the men in the audience" to shut up and let him talk. NICE. Finally, Reigns fires back. Reigns as a heel is big money for the WWE. It's time to EMBRACE THE HATE and cash in on the money and television ratings.
In other show highlights, there's the New Day and the Wyatt family. Bray Wyatt is off-the-chart on the microphone. Hypnotic, confident with a great look, Wyatt will get a run as WWE champion when the timing is right. Wyatt talked about returning after coming back stronger than ever, when they were interrupted by the New Day. Their entrance is amazing and one of those little things that make wrestling fun to watch. They have catchphrases that have caught on with the crowd.
Speaking of cool little things about wrestling, Enzo and Cass are breaking out like major superstars. Their "YOU CAN'T TEACH THAT" gimmick brings the fans out of the chairs. Let's hope the WWE doesn't break them up and keeps them together for a long time. They need each other. They defeated the Vaudevillians on Monday Night.
Ric Flair's daughter, Charlotte, rekindled her feud with Paige in a decent women's match. Charlotte has a presence about her that will take her far outside of the WWE. Paige is a hottie (yes, I grew up in the 1990s), there's not doubting that. Good match and hopefully we will see more of them.
Despite all the talk of a revolution, the women have been portrayed as secondary characters recently, appearing in eight-person tags and fatal four-way matches. Charlotte is constantly arguing with her protege Dana Brooke. Feels cartoonish, rather than equal to the men
The show's other main highlight featured another incredible Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn match. These former Indy stars are now stealing the show in the WWE.
In this match, Owens appeared injured and tired from the WWE Money in the Bank match the night before. Zayn looked fresh. He pinned Owens, which shows that the WWE feels that Owens is so big now that a loss on free television isn't going to hurt him.
Watch this clip, simply for Zayn's incredible suplex on Owens.
Rusev and Lana continue to get a big push. Why he's wrestling Titus O'Neil is beyond me. Titus has a great look, but he absolutely cannot wrestle. Rusev squashed him, but the best thing about this match was Lana.
And in the ABSOLUTE WORST SEGMENT OF THE NIGHT, John Laurinaitis, former WWE general manager, appeared to ask to run WWE Smackdown when the brand splits in July. Laurinaitis is the worst WWE character ever. With his scratch voice and terrible microphone skills, he is a human bathroom break.
The WWE occasionally tries to drop a funny segment and in this case, it didn't work. And announcer John Bradshaw Layfield is insufferable in this segment.
The WWE is now gearing up for the brand split, when Smackdown goes live on July 19. This will be good for the WWE. More wrestlers will be able to shine and the WWE will be able to develop its characters. It's a world where Dean Ambrose can be champion and so can Seth Rollins. The WWE appears like it may be on the verge of another boom period. And you can't teach that.
(Images via WWE)