The Payback pay-per-view card for May 1 continued to take shape on the April 18 episode of Raw, taped from London, writes Erik Beaston of Bleacher Report.
Two rivalries meshed as Chris Jericho battled Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens went one-on-one with Dean Ambrose in the evening's co-main events. Sprinkle in a heated exchange between AJ Styles and WWE world heavyweight champion Roman Reigns, a Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows attack, not to mention Shane McMahon making a few match announcements, and the top of the card was solidified.
Monday's broadcast also put feuds featuring Cesaro and The Miz, Apollo Crews and The Social Outcasts and Natalya and Charlotte at the forefront, ensuring fans have a reason to care about every match on the upcoming extravaganza's match card.
With a taped show, there is a lack of danger or unpredictability but that did not help this week's broadcast. The show featured solid wrestling and interesting story developments, leading to another quality broadcast in a line of them post-WrestleMania.
Which Superstars picked up key wins, how did each match grade out and what does it mean for the Superstars going forward?
The Ambrose Asylum
The Lunatic Fringe—Dean Ambrose—kicked off the show with his first official edition of The Ambrose Asylum. He ran down some of the goings-on in WWE before introducing this week's guest—Shane McMahon.
The current show-runner, despite that loss to Undertaker at WrestleMania that everyone is glossing over, entered to a tremendous ovation.
Before McMahon could say much, Kevin Owens interrupted. Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho followed, assembling a wealth of extraordinary talent in the opening segment.
Shane-O-Mac announced Zayn vs. Owens and Ambrose vs. Jericho for Payback and then booked Zayn-Jericho and Owens-Ambrose for Monday night's broadcast.
Chris Jericho vs Sami Zayn
In a rematch from Thursday's SmackDown, Sami Zayn battled Chris Jericho in singles competition, each jockeying for momentum ahead of their big matches at the Payback pay-per-view on May 1.
Jericho pummeled Zayn throughout the heart of the match, including a vicious suplex on the arena floor. He trapped the Montreal native in the Walls of Jericho.
Zayn fought back and delivered his trademark DDT through the ropes and on the floor. His comeback was halted when Jericho caught him with a rake of the eyes and delivered the Codebreaker for the pinfall victory.
Enzo & Big Cass vs The Dudley Boyz
A new chapter was written in the feud between The Dudley Boyz and NXT mainstays Enzo Amore and Colin "Big Cass" Cassady Monday night as they battled in the first semifinal match of the No. 1 Contender's tag team tournament.
Amore and Cassady had the crowd on its feet for their pre-match spiel, but it was the veteran Dudleys who wasted little time unloading on their younger, less experienced opponents.
Bubba Ray and D-Von's oppressive assault lasted only so long, though, as the babyfaces fought back off a hot tag late.
Moments later, Cassady sent Amore off the top rope with the Rocket Launcher for the victory.
Roman Reigns attacked by Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Roman Reigns made his way to the ring to a chorus of boos, proving the disdain for the current WWE world heavyweight champion remains as strong overseas.
He reiterated he is the guy before AJ Styles interrupted.
The Phenomenal One gave Reigns a few props, saying he would have to have the match of his life to beat him. But having the match of his life is what he does, Styles said. He did it everywhere else, and when he does it at Payback, he will be champion.
"I would much rather be respected with this than liked without it," Reigns said, ending the promo by reiterating respect is what their match boils down to.
As Styles backed out of the ring, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson hit the ring and left Reigns lying, much to the fans' appreciation.
Styles, though, did not look thrilled.
Fandango vs Baron Corbin
Fandango returned to the United Kingdom, where is he consistently popular as much for his theme music as anything he has done in the squared circle. His opponent? The Lone Wolf, Baron Corbin.
The NXT veteran tore through the ballroom dancer, tossing him into special guest commentator Dolph Ziggler at ringside in the process. He finished him with End of Days for the impressive victory.
After the match, Ziggler tried to avenge the cheap shot and wound up the same way he typically has when encountering Corbin: nearly unconscious.
Miz TV with Cesaro
The Miz and Maryse welcomed fans to Miz TV and wasted little time comparing himself to royalty.
Guest Cesaro cut him off and made his way to the ring. He called Miz a royal pain in the ass, which the fans in England appreciated. Miz recited lines from the film Taken, taking liberties with it when necessary, and fans reacted with a chorus of boos.
"When my hand goes up, your mouth goes shut," Cesaro responded.
Cesaro recited "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's classic line from They Live before Miz ducked the challenge for a match and set The Swiss Superman up for his match with Rusev.
Cesaro corrected Miz, revealing that Shane McMahon changed things up, booking a huge Eight-Man Tag Team match also involving The New Day and The League of Nations.
The New Day & Cesaro vs The Miz & The League of Nations
Xavier Woods found himself isolated from his partners and at the mercy of Rusev, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and The Miz.
Del Rio cut off one hot tag attempt but could not stop a second as Woods tagged Cesaro into the bout. The Swiss Superman unleashed a flurry of uppercuts to Miz and Sheamus. He took the fight outside and delivered the strikes to Rusev and Del Rio, ensuring that no man was left without feeling his wrath.
The action broke down, with the Superstars trading signature and finishing maneuvers, concluding with The Neutralizer to The Celtic Warrior for the babyface win.
8-women Tag Team Match
Paige returned to her native land, teaming with Natalya, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch to battle Charlotte, Naomi, Tamina and Summer Rae in a big Eight-Woman Tag Team match. The story of the match, though, was not the Anti-Diva's journey back to relevancy. Instead, it was about Natalya continuing her chase for the Women's Championship.
The Queen of Harts exploded into the match off of a hot tag late, the action breaking down until it came down to her and Charlotte. Natalya countered a Figure Eight attempt and trapped the women's champion in the Sharpshooter to secure the win for the babyfaces.
The Usos vs The Vaudevillains
Jey Uso's shoulder injury, aggravated during last week's attack at the hands of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, was the story of this match.
Aiden English and Simon Gotch, known collectively as The Vaudevillains, exploited the injury and used it to their advantage.
Late in the bout, Jey dove over the top rope and onto Gotch. English, sensing an opening, kicked the shoulder and rammed it into the steel post, further intensifying the pain.
Moments later, The Vaudevillains delivered the Whirling Dervish for the win.
Apollo Crews vs Heath Slater
The video package spotlighting Crews prior to this match was far more interesting than anything that actually happened between bells. Having vowed to join The Social Outcasts if he lost, Crews was determined to defeat Heath Slater in singles competition.
It would not be much of a fight for Crews, who wiped out Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel on the arena floor, then put Slater away with this powerbomb finisher to sustain his momentum.
Dean Ambrose vs Kevin Owens
In case you have not seen enough of Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens over the last six months, the Superstars headlined Monday's show.
A frog splash from Owens to Ambrose on the arena floor had The Lunatic Fringe reeling, but he was able to make it to his feet to break the count. Back inside the squared circle, Owens delivered a fisherman buster from the top rope in a spot that re-energized the audience, if only for a fleeting moment.
Another frog splash attempt did not turn out quite as well for Owens as Ambrose got his knees up. Moments later, he delivered Dirty Deeds to net the clean pinfall victory.
After the match, Chris Jericho delivered the Codebreaker to Ambrose and stood tall to close out the broadcast.
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