Over the past few weeks, I've talked about how important this summer is to the WWE. On Monday night, it was shown just how important the company feels the upcoming months are, as we got two big returns in Chris Jericho and AJ Lee.
All night, the broadcasters had teased the big return of a former WWE champion. When The Miz came out, the fans, both in the arena and on Twitter, were annoyed, feeling that the WWE had pulled a bait-and-switch. However, midway through his promo, Chris Jericho came out after an absence of nearly a year. The crowd erupted, and after the Miz ran him down for interrupting, Jericho gave Miz a Codebreaker.
Jericho tried to get out a "Welcome to RAW is Jericho," but before he could finish, the Wyatts came out and destroyed Jericho.
While Jericho's return was certainly a surprise, this is a perfect time and situation for him to come into. He's spent the bulk of his return since 2012 putting over other talents, particularly the younger talent, and that's what he can do perfectly here. There was a big question on where Bray would go after losing his feud to Cena, and a feud with Jericho makes perfect sense. Jericho is big enough that moving from Cena to him doesn't seem like a big step down on the card, especially if Bray goes over.
With Jericho, it's hard to say exactly how long this run is going to be, as he always has to balance his wrestling with his music career, but his return is always welcome to wrestling fans.
While one return would have been enough to get the wrestling world buzzing, the WWE had more for us. Paige came out to cut a promo, and in the middle, AJ came out. Even though AJ had only been gone for about three months, this return was just as surprising as Jericho's, as there had been rumors flying around AJ for weeks, including that she might not be able to return for quite a while.
In a mirroring of Paige's debut back in April, AJ challenged Paige to a match right then, and took back her Divas title. We've seen two short matches between the two, never really letting them show what they could do when paired up. Assuming they have a decent-length feud, as far as in-ring quality goes this could end up being one of the best women's feuds in the WWE since Trish/Lita.
These returns show how important the WWE views not just SummerSlam, but the next few months as a whole. Both of these returns are setting up blockbuster storylines that are being added to a stacked summer lineup already, which includes Roman Reigns feud with The Authority, particularly Triple H, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, and presumably the return of Brock Lesnar later.
I'm really surprised they had these two returns on the same night, as either one would carry a RAW. However, if they can continue their momentum into the next few weeks, this should be an exciting summer for wrestling fans.
The Rest of RAW
** Cena and The Authority continued to butt heads. At the beginning of the night, after announcing Cena would be on the cover of the new video game, Triple H put Cena in a Fatal Fourway at Battleground against Randy Orton, Kane and Roman Reigns. It's slightly confusing as to why Triple H would put Roman Reigns in the title match after doing everything he could to keep him out of the title match at Money In The Bank, but I guess the storyline is that he'd do anything to get the belt off Cena if he won't play ball.
** Seth Rollins consistently teased cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase. After Rollins beat Rob Van Dam in a match, Dean Ambrose said that he'd make sure Rollins won't be able to cash in his briefcase, because he'd stop him every time he tried. Later in the night, Rollins tried to cash his briefcase in after Cena was destroyed by Kane (after Cena and Roman Reigns beat Orton and Kane by disqualification). However, just before the ref started the match, Ambrose came out and took out Rollins, chasing him through the crowd and nullifying the cash-in. Meanwhile, the show came to an end with a staredown between Roman Reigns and Triple H.
** I overlooked this a bit at the top of this column, but The Miz made his return as well. He's reverted to a heel persona, which fits him so much better than the cheesy face role that he was pigeonholed into. His persona has been tweaked, as it looks like he'll play up his role in The Marine 4 and his "movie star status." There's a long way to go for Miz to regain his credibility, but a return to his natural heel status is a step in the right direction.
** Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter seemed to turn face as they confronted Rusev and Lana. As the one and only Iron Sheik pointed out on twitter, this was similar to how Sgt. Slaughter turned face for the first time, as Slaughter had been a heel until he ran into the Iron Sheik. While the crowd seemed pretty confused at first when they came out, by the end of the segment, the pair was getting legitimate cheers, including a "Let's Go Swagger" chant.
** Bad News Barrett was announced to have a separated shoulder and will be out of action for several months. The Intercontinental title will be put on the line in a battle royal at Battleground. This is another tough break for Barrett, who has seemingly had every push he's had prematurely ended. Hopefully he'll be able to come back with the same support as he has now.
** Kofi Kingston beat Cesaro in a match that was notable for two reasons (besides the fact that Kofi got a pretty big win). First, before the match Paul Heyman declared that Cesaro was the top seed in the battle royal. Ignoring the fact that there are no seeds in battle royals, he has to be considered the favorite to take the vacated Intercontinental title. The second thing is that for the first time I can remember, the WWE accidentally had the finish take place during a commercial break. With so many mid-match breaks, I'm surprised this hadn't happened before. After the match, Cesaro savagely beat down Kofi.
** Dolph Ziggler beat Fandango. In the middle of the match, Summer Rae came down and started kissing Ziggler. Fandango looked distraught at this, and Ziggler took advantage. It's hard to say if this is going to be an actual pairing between Ziggler and Summer Rae, or if she's just going to come out in all of Fandango's matches to make him jealous.
** The Funkadactyls beat Nikki Bella in a handicap match that was made by Stephanie McMahon. After the match, Cameron took offense to a blind tag that Naomi made, and while she got in Naomi's face, no blows were thrown.
** Stardust and Goldust beat Rybaxel again.
** The Great Khali beat Damien Sandow, dressed and acting like Vince McMahon.