'WWE Raw': Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose Shine at the Show of the Year

The 'Lunatic Fringe' makes 'Payback' match a four-way, Zayn thrills the Montreal crowd...why can't 'Raw' always be this epic?

NXT's Sami Zayn answered the call on Monday's 'WWE Raw.' Credit: WWE

What's the statute of limitations on how many years hence the 1997 Survivor Series WWE can and should reference that infamous "screwjob" when it visits Montreal? The answer, apparently, is at least 18 years. And last night, the honors went to New Day of all people, who stormed the opening segment with some untimely punning and continued their stutter-stepped insinuation into the upper echelon of heel-dom.

But, oh-so-much more took place from the City of Saints' cavernous Bell Centre, and in front of a frenzied crowd who, for better or worse, acted like they haven't seen live pro wrestling since that fateful evening when Shawn Michaels stole the belt from Canadian hero Bret Hart (who was, naturally, in attendance last night). So before I depart and finish off this two-day old Tupperware of Quebecer poutine, here are the five key things I took away – in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder – from the May 4 edition of Raw.

5. Finally, Tamina's Back!
No, seriously. While we've all been debating the merits of a Divas division sans Paige (temporarily), AJ (permanently) and Natalya (at least until she's extricated from valeting Cesaro and Kidd), Tamina Snuka's been clandestinely healing from major surgery. And boy, did she return at just the right time. The Bellas' face turn still feels a little abrupt, but everything about Naomi's reveal of cousin-in-law Tamina as her new enforcer, down to the assertion of their family ties, was a pretty thrilling jolt for the women's ranks. And together, Naomi and the second-generation Snuka have a cool look and convincing attitude. I love the idea of them running roughshod over competition for months to come. For once, a couple of female talents have been given an angle that has legs in every sense of the word.

4. Moons Over My Sami
North-of-the-border NXT hero Sami Zayn got both a heartwarming gift and rigorous test by being thrown in front of his hometown crowd – after an intro from Bret Hart no less – to face John Cena for the U.S. title. The crowd went bananas, Cena graciously waited while Zayn absorbed the applause and then the two went to work in a surprisingly lengthy bout that exposed some of Zayn's weaknesses (i.e. recklessness over sound mechanics and over-reliance on underdog emoting) but also gave a showcase for signature Zayn-iness a la his remarkable tornado DDT through the ropes. We can discuss him easily wriggling free of the STF and kicking out of a climactic AA some other time (although, to be brief: WTF?). The real question on fans' minds, however, is whether the alleged shoulder injury he suffered last night was a work, perhaps a cred-builder before making one last triumphant run down at Full Sail prior to getting the call alongside Neville in the big time. But my primary curiosity remains: When will Reel Big Fish call bullshit on CFO$?

3. Neville: The New Sensation Gravity Forgot?
OK, it's time to go all-in: He's either the Man Gravity Forgot or the New Sensation. It's not as if Pepsi were simultaneously the "Choice of a New Generation" and "Generation Next". This is just mixed marketing. And besides, each of Neville's nicknames is pretty pandering and silly. Maybe the WWE Universe should vote for which one it prefers via the WWE app? And Kane can assure us that there'll be no interference from J&J Security, only to have them bum-rush our phones in the final, decisive moments of tabulation. Oh, wait, now I'm conflating this with what happened at the end of last night's rematch between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Which is as good a segue as any into…

2. The Four the Merrier
A tip of the cap to those crafty buggers in the back. Two problems – a Payback main event without much juice and Dean Ambrose's storyline slump – were solved with one simple twist and the willingness to pull the trigger on an unexpected win. Ambrose and old sparring partner Rollins put on the proverbial clinic, but the bigger takeaway was Dean scoring the roll-up win despite inexplicable interference from a "barred" J&J (shouldn't there be consequences next week for their transgression?) and thus, per Kane, making the Payback triple-threat for Seth's Heavyweight Championship a four-man dance. The seeds were quickly planted for unilateral discontent amid the closing melee, as Roman Reigns and Randy Orton's singles encounter devolved into the inevitable, Authority-prompted fracas. We had Reigns spearing Rollins, Orton RKO-ing Reigns and Ambrose laying the Dirty Deeds on Randy's ass. It was all fairly ho-hum and by the book, and it's not as if anyone anticipates the Lunatic Fringe walking away with the strap at Payback. But it made him instantly dangerous and relevant again, and added a much-needed wild card into the mix of a triangulated feud running on fumes.  

1. Roman vs. Dean: Let's Do This
Odds are, Rollins is going to retain at Payback. And Orton can find someone else to slither around and stalk (did someone say Bray Wyatt?). Which leaves us with the potential for one explosive rivalry to rise out of the Fatal Four-Way's ashes and incite a program leading up to SummerSlam that would benefit both performers and audience alike. You saw that look in Ambrose's eyes last night, as he wasn't quite sure whether to help his fallen comrade Reigns off the mat or leave him rotting there as a reminder that it's every former Shield ally for themselves. These two still have that card to play, and this might be the ideal time to shuffle the deck and deal. It can be face versus face, a newly cavalier Reigns looking to squash his latest threat, or Ambrose going off the rails and rediscovering his nuclear side. But it's hard to imagine a scenario involving either guy heading into the summer with more to offer. Unless one's convinced that Big Show and Luke Harper have unfinished business.

Below the Belt:

  • Is it only a matter of months before Lana joins Total Divas?
  • Kane: "Got your leg Roman. Whoops, nope. Where did you go? OK, now I got it."
  • No reason Fandango can't be tough and tender.
  • I couldn't stop staring at Triple H's nipples on that blown-up Power Series poster.
  • Why, exactly, was Reigns looking to spear Kofi at that moment?
  • So is it King Barrett or Bad News? Or the Man Bad News Forgot?
  • Low-key night for Sheamus, huh?
  • Byron can just shave those sideburns.
  • So, I guess Truth has…R-Achnophobia?
  • Did Sami have a milk mustache?
  • Nice try deking us on the Zayn chants earlier on, JBL.
  • Wake me when Bray vs. Ryback is over.
  • Move of the Night: I was pretty impressed with how Ambrose and Rollins choreographed Ambrose's easily telegraphed springboard clothesline off the ropes.
  • Line of the Night: JBL, again for the win! Re: the Ascension's promo: "When does that future start?"
  • In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Neither seeing the commercial nor visiting its website helps me understand what Fake Off is; Tomorrowland looks kind of neat; and yeah, Christina Hendricks, why be you?
  • Noticeable In Their Absence: Daniel Bryan, Damien Sandow, Lucha Dragons, Big Show, Luke Harper, Prime Time Players, Jey Uso, Bo Dallas (i.e. lots of people).