With 19 hard, ferocious punches to the head and a wicked verbal jab, AJ Styles continued to emerge as the next big thing in the WWE.
Amid the rabid patriotism angles that pervaded the show, Styles continued to destroy John Cena in every way imaginable, with the help of his Bullet Club buddies, and a crowd, that even in the PG era still really likes the authentic workers, even if they are heels.
It wasn't quite at the Pipe Bomb level, but Styles dropped in some elements of realism into his interview, where he claimed that "no one in the back likes you John" and that no one was was going to save him if the Bullet Club decided to put a beat down on. Styles also said he wasn't going to allow Cena to "bury him," a shoot-script allegation since it is widely believed that Cena "buries" goes behind the scenes who might be a threat to his rule as the No. 1 guy in the company.
When Styles appeared on Stone Cold's recent podcast, Austin made the curious comment of telling Styles that the next time he is in there with Cena he really needs to let him have it and that there are many sharks backstage. Well Styles must have listened because Styles delivered 19 really stiff punches to Cena in a fight that even if Herb Dean were the ref and it were a Dan Henderson fight, he would have stopped it.
We're getting the feeling now that Styles could be something really big in wrestling, especially with his Bullet Club/NWO buddies at his side. Is AJ Styles the next Daniel Bryan, except less goofy, and injury prone and a smaller guy that the WWE can actually get behind? It certainly looks that way.
It turns out that this week Cena did have some people at his side waiting to help him after the beatdown: None other than Enzo and Cass, yes, the modern-day version of the New Age Outlaws.
Cena getting help from this dynamic new tag team is more about getting Enzo and Cass over, so much so that in the next PPV, we'll see The Bullet Club and against Cena and Enzo and Cass in a six-man tag match. This is huge, bigger than Cass, who is seven feet tall, and you can't teach that. This will be a great opportunity for the former NXT tag team. Let's just hope Enzo can slide under the bottom rope without a lot of drama.
The rest of Raw was a lot of 4th of July hype with some elements of comedy.
Seth Rollins continued to shine as the No. 2 heel in the company. Rollins berated Roman Reigns, calling him a disgrace who took shortcuts, just like the fans, and that he doesn't even belong in the WWE Battleground main event. The crowd cheered him when he blasted Reigns, not a good sign for the entitled Samoan, or a sign that The Rock's nephew needs to turn heel ASAP.
Rollins got creative and cut his promo on the top of one of the foreign announcer tables, instead of inside the ring. That's when WWE champion Dean Ambrose came out and turned it into a big beat down, which ended in a Dirty Deeds onto the table.
This melee followed Rollins match with Dolph Ziggler. If ever there were a guy who needed to pull a Cody Rhodes and go find himself somewhere else, it is Ziggler, who isn't getting better in the WWE. Ziggler is essentially the SD Jones of this era. Likable, but, hell he's never going to win. It's time for Ziggler to make a change.
The women got some camera time on Monday night and Charlotte really shined as the best talker with the most presence on the roster. She talked about how everyone has always been jealous of her. She called out Sasha Banks, whom she said was also jealous of her and didn't deserve to call herself "Boss."
Charlotte had a great line of "Chants don't matter, but Champions do." Sasha came out to a big pop, but she was small compared to the presence Charlotte commanded. Sasha also kind of insulted Charlotte's father, Ric Flair, saying that she was trying to steal his "tired '80s game." No, Sasha Banks doesn't really have the right to criticize Flair, even subtly. Sasha then beat up Charlotte until Dana Brooke interfered. A great segment to start, but it just got bad with Sasha Banks in there. It's clear to see why her push is being delayed.
Unfortunately, it looks like Xavier Woods is going to be departing from the New Day. Maybe he wants a single's push or maybe WWE creative is bored, but this is a bad idea. Woods is apparently freaked out by The Wyatt Family and was mad that Kofi Kingston agreed that New Day would visit their compound. Woods left them in the middle of the ring, killing the New Day heat.
The rest of the show was a lot of fun and nonsense, something that felt like an episode of Tuesday Night Titans. We endured, yet again, Titus O'Neill, in an American flag outfit, get smashed by U.S. Champion Rusev.
We saw the return of Vicki Guerrero, who was funny in her attempt to become Smackdown COO, when the show goes live on July 19.
The show began and ended on a low point. A bizarre pre-taped food fight set up a bizarre multi-person tag match featuring Americans vs. The Multi-National Alliance. This was very lame, particularly since many of the show's best workers, like Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Alberto Del Rio were cast as heels on the foreign team and then workers like The Big Show, who seemed to have trouble moving in the ring, and Mark Henry, were on the American team. The fans didn't know who to cheer for, torn between their U.S. loyalty and their favorite wrestlers. Somehow, Zach Ryder and The Big Show emerged as the winners of the match, and at least Ryder got another cool moment.
Throughout the show the WWE promoted that we will find out who Brock Lesnar's opponent at SummerSlam will be, making no reference to his UFC 200 match on Saturday against Mark Hunt.
The WWE has some great angles going on right now with AJ Styles and John Cena, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, the rise of Enzo and Cash, and Charlotte and Sasha. The brand split is coming, which will give many of these wrestlers and new ones an opportunity to emerge as one of the company's top draws.
(Images via WWE.com)