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With all of its focus on properly setting up storylines for a pay off this Sunday, a lack of truly compelling in ring action and more focus on talking can be forgiven in this episode of Monday Night Raw. Filled with a few interesting promos, a tribute to Chyna, and a few decent matches, Raw played it safe and kept things on track for what will be a pay per view destined to change WWE. Let’s just hope it’s for the better.

What I liked

WWE has handled AJ’s status with Gallows and Anderson masterfully. Their past together is being played up while AJ seems convincingly against their way of doing things. It makes sense for AJ to want to win the title alone at Payback. It’s the WWE world heavyweight title. Despite years wrestling all around the world, and multiple titles won in his career, the crowning achievement any superstar of his caliber would want is to win the most well known title in wrestling. AJ wanting to go at it alone to do so just makes a lot of sense. But Gallows and Anderson’s actions are ruining his chances of a fair fight, and may actually cause him the title at Payback. And there is a lot of talk about Finn Balor joining the team soon, so that leaves more questions than answers as to how things will play out at Payback.

Gallows and Anderson made their in ring debut as well. Working together as a well polished tag team, they were able to convincingly defeat The Usos after a strong back and forward between the two. A win over The Usos is essential in order to properly build the team up as a serious threat to Roman and his championship title. The two looked impressive, and are sure to shake things up in the already expanding tag team division.

Another plus for the episode was their video packages put together. The Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens video package was an NXT package modified to fit their current feud. It once again played off their history together to make Owens out to be the traitor between the two road brothers. It worked the first time, and still holds up with the new footage added to make it once again relevant. Zayn vs Owens doesn’t need a lot of selling. NXT fans are well aware of their feud which now has extended to the man roster. The video package was mostly for fans unfamiliar to the events that took place in NXT, and served the purpose of helping them catch up in time for this Sunday. But judging by how well their feud has been received, Payback might not be the end of it. Owens vs Zayn could go on for a while, especially if a midcard title is thrown in to the mix for them to battle over.

The other video package paid tribute to Chyna and her accomplishments in the WWE. While the company may not have been on the same page with her in her final years, it certainly did the right thing by paying some due respect to her. Chyna had a difficult life in the years leading up to her death. But with that aside, there are a lot of positive accomplishments to celebrate. It was nice to see WWE focus on them while saying their goodbyes in the process. There’s no doubt we will see her inducted in to the hall of fame in the future.

What I disliked

Apollo Crews is both the most interesting and most boring man on the roster at the moment. Like Neville when he premiered on the main roster, Crews is an impressive athlete with no direction at all. He’s wheeled out to display his talents, and then off he goes until he’s needed next week. I have nothing against Crews. In fact, I actually like him quite a bit. My issue is with how nothing interesting is happening with him at all. He’s a talented man in desperate need of a feud. He needs someone who seems tough enough to withstand his power and agility while coming off as a serious threat to him. Rusev or Alberto Del Rio would definitely fit a feud with him perfectly. Rusev would be a great powerhouse to ground the agile Crews, and Del Rio’s superb yet underrated ring work would deliver a few classic bouts with Apollo. Crews seems like a nice guy. And in a business populated by tough men, he needs someone to knock the optimism off his face and bring him down a peg in order for him to rise above it. He desperately needs a good feud to push him.

Speaking of Rusev and Del Rio, the way League of Nations just ceased to exist was a bit underwhelming. It was obvious from the beginning that the group was only formed for the sole purpose of giving Reigns someone to kick the crap out of on a weekly basis, but the group could have at least separated on air in a way that helps the individual team members. They basically kicked Bad News Barret out for being the weakest link, got manhandled by The Wyatts, and then went their separate ways without announcement. I would have rather seen the group dissolve due to big egos than just not exist anymore. If the group was originally thrown together to help one person on the roster get over with the fans by kicking the snot out of them, then the members could of at least benefited from the faction splitting somehow.

Speaking of being chumps for Reigns to beat up, Gallows and Anderson were victims of that this Monday as well. After having an awkward exchange with The Usos in the back, The Usos offered to help Reigns with his Bullet Club problem. Well Reigns flipped things around and made a comment suggesting that he’d help them with their Gallows and Anderson issue, which seems ridiculous for one guy to offer to help save a tag team if they’re getting jumped instead of the tag team helping him the other way around. But as dumb as it sounds, it played out just like Reigns stated. The Usos were taken out by Gallows and Anderson before one man ran in to the ring and cleared it on his own. If that wasn’t enough to make you roll your eyes to the back of your head faster than The Undertaker, it happened again later in the night as Reigns was distracted by Anderson and Gallows during his match, and was still able to score a win right before holding off both men for a while. The two did get the best of him for a moment before Styles broke it up, but it became three getting beat by one for a moment before Styles put an end to Reigns’ momentum.

There were two things wrong with both segments. The first is how ridiculous it looked for one guy to come to the rescue of The Usos and clear the ring alone against Gallows and Anderson. The second is how The Usos did not return the favor when Reigns was being attacked. It was complete nonsense, and a reminder of the type of booking that turned fans against Reigns in the first place. In all honesty, I originally had no idea how things were going to end at Payback. But the way they handled Reigns this episode was a reminder that this is still a WWE high on Reigns, and I should have never have thought otherwise.

It’s hard to judge a Raw before a pay per view because they’re more focused on setup than actually delivering a strong show. But as for the setup, I had issues with the way the world title feud was handled. I also thought the tag team number one contenders setup could have concluded better than it did. And I also feel like the announcement of Vince deciding who should run Raw should have just been a segment in Payback without the announcement of it. And God, can we stop it with allowing Stephanie McMahon to slap around guys whenever she feels like it? It’s embarrassing watching them sell her attacks as if they’re a vicious mauling. Stephanie McMahon is one of the worst things Vince McMahon has ever done to WWE. Hopefully, Shane sticks around and we’re cured of the disease of self importance named Stephanie painfully killing each and every segment she’s in.

There is a lot to dislike about this episode than there is to truly love. But once again, this was a Go Home episode of Raw. So a lot of the setup and ideas that didn’t work is excusable. Let’s just hope it’s the last we see of these issues.