'WWE Raw': Have a Seat, Roman Reigns

The champ gets flattened, Shining Stars make low-wattage debut and Dean Ambrose's cockamamie cage doesn't quite steel the show.

Roman Reigns takes a chairshot from A.J. Styles on 'WWE Raw.' Credit: WWE

Hello wrestling fans, and welcome to another of my Raw recaps, the only place for unfiltered WWE feedback front-loaded with reprehensible puns.

Last night was the proverbial (and, actual) go-home show prior to Sunday's Extreme Rules event in Newark, New Jersey, and the second consecutive week that the ostensible main event was sandwiched into evening's latter-middle section to avoid getting blown away in the ratings by playoff basketball.

Some of what we witnessed was a slam dunk (e.g. a temperamental A.J. Styles and spectacular Cesaro), while other portions were notably less satisfying (see: Dean Ambrose/Chris Jericho and a sputtering Golden Truth). But before I inadvertently get sucked into a time machine that takes me back to a more middling time before the New Era (i.e. this past winter), here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the May 16, 2016 edition of Raw.

5. Puerto Ric…Oh
After weeks of oddly persuasive tourism PSAs, Primo and Epico finally debuted as the Shining Stars, a cocky Caribbean duo whose heel gimmick appears to be some kind of affable nationalism. Local yokels Scott Jackson and Brian Kennedy performed the yeoman's work of thanklessly putting over their foes, suffering defeat via the Shining Stars' finisher, shoulder-shruggingly christened…the Shining Star. The Colón cousins are still innovators in the ring, but the ongoing effort to capitalize on their chemistry keeps stalling out in the lower card. Granted, you never know where the next New Day is lurking, but based on last night's small sampling, that potential almost seems likelier to lay dormant within these two.

4. Golden Sombrero
No, that isn't a crass callback to Primo and Epico's posthumous Los Matadores gimmick. It does, however, reference a baseball euphemism for striking out four times in a game. And after watching Goldust fail to court R-Truth, then vice versa, then try on different partners to no avail, and now lose in their first official tag match against Fandango and Tyler Breeze after months of buildup, I'm crying foul. If anything, the result put Breezedango (man, that "dango" is a handy suffix) on the map as a quirky antagonistic duo of note. If my – and most of our – feelings toward the New Day flip-flopped dramatically from apathy to adoration in a short stretch, I've experienced an equally jarring about-face on Golden Truth. Not sure I need to see them wend their way to being on the same page when there are so many quality storylines waiting for their turn.

3. Mac and Cheese
Let's face it: It was awesome when Shane returned. Then he stayed. And lost at WrestleMania. And still got to take over Raw. And now kind of just hangs around like so many token GMs. And by last night, what with his unzipped leather-jacket cuffs, garish blue kicks and self-confident strut, started to feel more like just another authority figure. Worse, if considered at a distance, he's virtually indistinguishable from the preppy boy wonder we loved to hate until he started elbowing his way through tables – only with grayer hair and a darker tan. You can't help but get the sense that there's always somewhere else Shane-O Mac would probably rather be at this point, and I admire his returning to the fold to help resuscitate the family business. I also know I've stopped identifying with him as an outsider, no matter how his presence endlessly thrills insider marks.

2. Nuts And Bolts
Ya know, on account of Dean Ambrose being cuckoo, and his newfangled steel cage­ – adorned with fire extinguishers and other custodial accoutrement – presumably being constructed with various screws and such. Well, any explanation I give for my silly sub-headline is probably more engaging than whatever Ambrose was going on about re: the Asylum match, which will hopefully be a one-night only affair. The whole thing (especially the accompanying soundtrack and Chris Jericho's efforts to look enfeebled) marked a new nadir in the escapades of Dean Ambrose: Hot Cop and – as Y2J could probably attest – smacked of circa-1990s WCW hijinks. Jericho's reliable gamesmanship notwithstanding, it's hard to see how this Extreme Rules hookup turns into anything other than a horror show.

1. House of Styles
Who didn't cringe when Michael Cole declared of A.J. Styles, "He crossed the line into the land of extreme"? It wasn't particularly proportionate to the moment that provoked it – Roman Reigns getting planted, torso-first, with a Styles Clash on a steel chair) – nor befitting a man who Cole himself breathlessly acknowledges has done it all across the world. But damn, was it good to finally see the Phenomenal One follow through with his signature move. I was even able to look past Reigns overselling being prone. And I overlook nothing! Anyhow, this may all be heading toward a Bálor Club invasion that claims A.J. as its primary target. Or not. Whatever awaits us on the other side of Sunday – and there is admittedly cause to eagerly count the days – last night was a potent demonstration of how compelling Styles is as a corruptible leader, and that he's exceeded expectations in finding his place amid WWE's upper echelon. And whether as villain or vindicator, we can all await a must-see bout soon enough between TNA/New Japan/ROH's conquering hero and a certain returning former champ who's almost here.

Below the Belt:

  • Maybe Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn do need a title between them to elevate their feud?
  • The Skull-Crushing Finale might be beneath Cesaro.
  • Was Epico always that broad (stature-wise, not humored)?
  • What's with Jericho's Bray Wyatt-esque "maaaaan" of late?
  • Was that twerking-guy backstage in a non-twerking role?
  • Really shitty news about Emma.
  • Oh, the rich irony of JBL stuttering over his admonishment of the Dudleys for not being able to spell "caucus."
  • I kind of want that Goldust T-shirt.
  • Is that a new chest tattoo R-Truth's sporting?
  • Kofi – and Big E's sticky keyboard quip – saved one corny-ass bit.
  • Do the carpets match Gallows and Anderson's shower-curtain robes?
  • The Dudleys have my heart forever for cutting off Cass' catchphrase.
  • Not sure that outfit was Natalya's most current look.
  • Also, good for Natalya for working this feud, even if it's all preamble for the Boss (we hope) ambushing Charlotte on Sunday.
  • Please, Ric: Stop.
  • Move of the Night: Duh…Cesaro's kip-kip-kip-kip-kip-up.
  • Line of the Night: Fandango! "Better get it together, Golden Girls."
  • Sign of the Night: Did that say, "Fart Sound"?
  • In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Does Coke want me to stand by them or drop it like it's hot? Anyone? Pretty sure this guy would go antiquing before ditching his wife for Buffalo Wild Wings. Hard to figure how Preacher won't be awesome.
  • Noticeable In Their Absence: Wyatt Family, Sheamus, Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews, Sasha Banks