by RICARDO WELLS
Ahead of Sunday’s Payback broadcast the WWE ran a video package touting the beginning of a ‘New Era’.
The return of Shane McMahon to WWE programming as catapulted the company back to prominence, the likes of which the company hasn’t seen since the ‘Attitude Era’.
While it is still unclear exactly what the ‘New Era’ is, like myself, every WWE fan is ecstatic because with Shane has come an influx of young vibrant talent, fully capable of refocusing and improving the stagnant WWE product.
When we look back on the start of this ‘New Era’, we will remember the likes of A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and every other talented character that has debuted on the main roster since last November 2015.
While I have to admit that the ‘New Era’ title does not come off strong, the caliber of matches we are now getting on a night-to-night basis hasn’t been this good in a long, long while.
The biggest draw heading in to Sunday’s broadcast was the planned announcement of who was going to run Monday Night Raw.
Stephanie or Shane McMahon.
Thankfully, Vince McMahon opted to go with the best route possible – instead of naming Shane and completely spurning Stephanie, Vince opted to end the Authority by forcing Shane and Stephanie to work together.
We all know that there are no chances of this sibling bond lasting long-term, but the idea of them having to one up each other at every turn is something we can’t say no to.
Our first look at this angle came during Sunday’s main event:
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
Roman Reigns def. AJ Styles
So this became a lot more than we expected and yet, everything we deserved.
AJ Styles won twice. But wait for it, he lost when it mattered most.
Styles first win came via count-out after hitting Reigns with a Phenomenal Forearm through the announcers’ table. But, Shane’s WWE doesn’t allow title matches to end in such mediocre fashions – match back on. This time, no count-outs.
Styles won again. This time via disqualification after Reigns hit an inadvertent low blow. But, Stephanie’s WWE doesn’t have room for such lowly DQ stipulations – match back on – again. This time a no-DQ, no count-outs.
What ensued could only be described as a dream match. High energy from both corners, two guys refusing to fall on such a big stage.
Styles kicked out of a Superman Punch and Reigns kicked out of a Phenomenal Forearm. This was a showcase of everything we have grown to love by both performers. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson made their appearance, landing a Boot of Doom on Reigns. The Usos even came out to balance the odds.
The flurry that closed out the match saw Reigns kick out of a pin after Styles landed a springboard 450. At this point the crowd was so into the match every move was met with pure amazement.
Styles missed a his third attempt at a Phenomenal Forearm, leading Reigns to hit him with a seismic spear; 1-2-3, the Empire still rules.
After the match, Shane and Stephanie agreed that Styles and Reigns should meet again at Extreme Rules in a rematch for the world title.
I can get behind this ‘New Era’ concept.
Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho
It wouldn’t have been any clearer if the WWE had called this match the, “We want them to stay relevant” match.
Dean Ambrose has been tremendous since the Shield split, and Jericho has done a great job putting new characters over. In the wake of Wrestlemania – with Jericho ending his angle with AJ Styles and Ambrose ending his run with Kevin Owens – the company needed a way to keep both guys going without them losing any relevance.
This match never really got going. To be honest the feud wasn’t that exciting to begin with. In the end, Ambrose managed to land enough moves to get the win over Jericho.
Ambrose really needed a victory and we are all hoping that this is the start off his climb back to the top. The WWE needs more belts because Ambrose needs something more important than the Intercontinental and United States title belts, but something less than the WWE World Heavyweight tile.
Damn, I never thought I would be pushing for the return of the WWE title and World Heavyweight title split – but everything is better when the chase has a point.
WWE Woman’s Championship Match
Charlotte def. Natalya
The women’s division has undergone the biggest overhaul in this ‘New Era’ and it is all the better for it.
While I admire the nostalgic approach the WWE took in this match to give the Charlotte/Natayla feud a boost, this time pairing Natayla with her uncle Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart to balance things with the Flairs.
It was all about the Montreal Screwjob last night in Chicago.
The attempt was certainly better than the execution. Wrestling purists knew at the very moment the bell rang what was going on. But, a botch sell by the Flairs and the Harts forced commentators to do everything they could to quickly explain what the match’s finish actually meant.
Even with the shaky finish, the match still was intriguing from start to finish.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. The Miz
Hell yes, you read my match-brief correctly.
Looking to bolster two of the ‘New Era’s’ biggest stars, the WWE has given us this gem.
While Sunday’s intercontinental title match wasn’t a fatal four way, it was clear shortly after the Owens/Zayne bout that the plan all along was to get all four guys locked in to a heated feud.
Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn – 5/5
This match was truly everything we wanted and more.
The Miz def. Cesaro – 4/5
While the Miz character, at times, comes across as annoying; there is no denying his in-ring mechanics and capabilities. He and Cesaro wowed us for nearly 20-minutes. Miz is the perfect opponent to sell the high-rise stunts of Cesaro, all while delivering moves that leave you impressed.
Now please book this epic match for the Extreme Rules PPV.
Kalisto def. Ryback
Rayback and Kalisto have chemistry. I will admit that much. But the big man/little guy angle while fun, has grown tired.
We get it already!
WWE writers are so busy generating angles for the ‘Divas Reveloution’ and the ‘New Era’ that they aren’t able to any good angles for the likes of Ryback, Kalisto Dolph Ziggler, New Day and any other stale mid-card talents.
While I like the angles crafted for ‘New Era’ characters, failing to find good roles for the others is not okay.
While this version of Rayback/Kalisto offered more than it has in the past, it is time to close the book on this one. The US championship needs a new face because it is being lost in the midst of this angle. It’s definitely time for something different.
Dolph Ziggler def. Baron Corbin
Corbin made his debut back at Wrestlemania with a big win in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal; a match I had grievances with, but one that displayed all the charismatic aspects of the Corbin character.
Since then, Corbin has been locked in this flat feud with Dolph Ziggler. While both guys possess the talent needed to carry a match, one is trending up and the other struggling to stay relevant. I hate these sort of pairings because the company always finds a way to build up the slumping act at the cost of the good up and comer.
This match was comparable to two acts working a script. All the lines were delivered and all the stunts came off effective. At times, too obvious to be interesting.
Heading into the bout, everyone expected Corbin to build upon his recently established predator nature, we got exactly that. Corbin spent most of the match toying with Ziggler; reminiscent of a young Randy Orton.
Trying not to bury Ziggler any further, writers penned him in for the victory.
This is what I talked about earlier, to build up the waffling Ziggler character the company allowed him to put over a vibrant young star. Hopefully, this is the last we will see of this feud.
Look for Ziggler to get a run at the United States belt in the coming weeks; and for Corbin, a big push up the main roster isn’t farfetched.
No. 1 Contender’s Tag Team Match
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady vs. The Vaudevillains
Just when we begin to lose sight of just how dangerous the scripted concept of wrestling entertainment can be, we have moments like we had in this match to remind us how serious in-ring action actually is.
Shortly after the start of the match Simon Gotch tossed Amore across the ring, failing to plant his foot on the toss, he slipped under lower rope, slamming his head on the mat.
This match ended in a no contest as Enzo Amore suffered a brutal head/neck injury.
This match had so much build up and opportunity to be big.
It is sad that it didn’t have the chance to flourish.
It’s still unclear at this time which team will be considered the number one contenders.
5/5 – the possibilities were endless
Next up on the agenda is Extreme Rules on May 22md.