As you may have heard, a New Era is dawning, for Raw and especially SmackDown. And who better to usher in the latest chapter of the blue brand than ... Teddy Long?
Teddy Long. The Mac Militant Playa, former SmackDown General Manager and eternal tag team match enthusiast interrupted a ladder-top showdown between the Money in the Bank Ladder Match contestants — Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Alberto Del Rio and Chris Jericho — to throw his name in the running for SmackDown's new head honcho position. Although Stephanie McMahon (running the show solo with Shane on vacation) wasn't about to hand him SmackDown on a big blue platter, she took a cue from his matchmaking days and sanction three singles matches between the Money in the Bank men: Zayn vs. Del Rio, Ambrose vs. Owens, and Cesaro vs. Jericho. The latter of which started immediately. Holla!
With five languages and the fashion sense of a superspy under his belt, few would accuse Cesaro of being a stupid idiot, or an idiot of any kind. Yet there was Chris Jericho on Raw, hurling insults The King of Swing's way and ultimately paying for it in the first one-on-one bout between the two in more than three years. Jericho's pedigree and experience meant The Swiss Superman didn't exactly cruise his way to the win, of course. Things looked particularly dicey after Cesaro went for his springboard European uppercut and flew face-first into a Codebreaker (he rolled out of the ring to recover). But Cesaro's strength carried him through. He muscled his way out of the Walls of Jericho, somehow reversed the submission into the Cesaro Swing, and transitioned seamlessly into the Sharpshooter to make Jericho tap. Drink it in, man.
All's been mostly quiet on the Jack Swagger front lately, but after giving Rusev a tight match on SmackDown, The Real American may just be on the brink of resurgence. The former World Heavyweight Champion got another crack at Rusev on Raw off the strength of the SmackDown tilt — would-be contender Titus O’Neil was scouting at commentary — and brought the Oklahoma thunder yet again. Swagger lost to Rusev by the narrowest of count-out margins after The Super Athlete shoved him into O’Neil at ringside. That led to a three-way confrontation between all three Superstars after the bell, which Rusev got the worst of after Swagger and O’Neil expelled him from the ring.
This Money in the Bank, it's Christmas in July — or more accurately, WrestleMania in June — as AJ Styles is set to take on John Cena in what pretty much everyone is calling a “Dream Match” worthy of The Showcase of the Immortals itself. Despite all that, Cena came to Raw relatively riled up that The Phenomenal One opted to cheap-shot him and bring The Club into the equation.
Cena demanded an explanation from Styles and he obliged, summing his buddies’ presence as an insurance policy to keep his momentum going should Cena get the better of him. The assembled Club then headed to the ring to make an example of Cena, only to be cut off at the pass by The New Day, who came to Cena's aid before their main-event clash with The Club. Feel the power, baby.
The passing of Muhammad Ali affected the WWE locker room immensely. But it held special significance for Enzo Amore & Big Cass, who decided to pay tribute to the former Heavyweight Champion by talking the talk (Enzo) and walking the walk (Cass) in a match against The Vaudevillains on Raw.
In what was essentially Enzo & Cass’ payback match for, well, Payback, the realest guys in the room were rolling until Aiden English knocked Enzo loopy by shoving him into the bottom rope again. At that point, Big Cass went ballistic and decided to pay tribute to The Greatest in the most appropriate way possible, beating The Vaudevillains up. Sure that got him and Enzo disqualified, but still: float like a butterfly, sting like a 7-foot bee. There was, of course, one upside to all this: Thanks to Teddy Long, Stephanie McMahon officially sanctioned a Fatal 4-Way Match for the Tag Team Titles at Money in the Bank, pitting The New Day against Enzo & Cass, The Vaudevillains and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson.
With all this talk of the New Era, one might have expected that the old guard like Alberto Del Rio wouldn't stand a chance against a hungry up-and-comer like Sami Zayn. It looks like this old perro has a few tricks up his sleeve, however. The Essence of Excellence held his fellow Money in the Bank participant back in a singles match on Raw, despite a heartfelt effort by The Underdog from the Underground.
Ring awareness and lack of scruples won the day, though. Zayn had been lined up on the turnbuckle for Del Rio's big stomp, but he managed to haul Del Rio onto the mat. The Pride of Mexico pounced quickly, shoving Zayn face-first into the ring post and going for the move again. This time it hit home, and Zayn packed his bags for the night.
For a guy who's declared himself the pre-emptive winner of the Money in the Bank contract, Kevin Owens sure is having a rough road to the make-or-break event. Following a pair of tag team losses this week — and swearing off partners as a result — Owens took another “L” on his own against Dean Ambrose on Raw.
It was an especially heartbreaking one, too, since Owens talked some serious trash before the bell and seemed to take the momentum with his sternum-smashing “Bullfrog Splash” off the apron. The Lunatic Fringe somehow fought through the effects to hit Dirty Deeds moments later and win, though Owens did get a silver lining — and the last word — by toppling Ambrose off the ladder he scaled in an attempt to mug with the briefcase.
The partnership between Charlotte and Dana Brooke has paid massive dividends for the WWE Women's Championship thus far, but Charlotte is apparently having second thoughts over the manner in which she dismissed her father Ric Flair a few weeks ago. The champion took to the ring to offer an olive branch of sorts to her father, saying she was only disowning him “professionally” and would be open to a personal reconciliation.
Natalya and Becky Lynch quickly arrived to call shenanigans on Charlotte's waterworks, and even went one further by warning Dana of her own, inevitable termination by the Women's Champion once she'd lived out her usefulness. The two Superstars seemed to sway Dana to turn against Charlotte. But it turned out to be a ruse, at which point Charlotte and Dana joined forces to leave Nattie and Becky down.
The saga continues: In what is becoming the most epic, yet low-key, rivalry of 2016 thus far, R-Truth and Tyler Breeze squared off in the latest installment of the Golden Truth–Breezango conflict. Given the emotions that have permeated the battle thus far, it's unsurprising that both Goldust and Fandango quickly entered the fray to bring the match to a halt.
And given that Teddy Long never met a four-way brawl he didn't try to reorganize into a tag team match, it's unsurprising that the former SmackDown General Manager returned to the stage and attempted to orchestrate such a contest. Of course, he holds no matchmaking power anymore, so Long just ended up getting carried off by security and sent packing by Stephanie McMahon, who officially announced her intention to take over SmackDown come July 19.
Well, that’s pretty sour: The New Day's grudge with The Club over the past week officially built to the first-ever six-man tag between the two groups. Despite the unicorn magic in their bellies, Kofi Kingston, Big E & Xavier Woods found themselves magic-killed and left licking their wounds at the end of the inaugural clash.
To be fair, though, it wasn't like the Tag Team Champions didn't want none. In fact, it'd be fair to say they wanted too much. Ya boys clashed with The Club before the bell and got the worst of the ensuing brawl, with a furious Woods taking a Styles Clash to the floor that removed him from the bout. Kingston & Big E went it alone anyway and fell short thanks to a Phenomenal Forearm to Kingston. The Club wasn't satisfied and continued to stomp The New Day until John Cena came to even the odds. The Club was quickly subjected to a dropkick–Big Ending–Attitude Adjustment combo, at which point they made themselves scarce. It's almost like they — wait for it — didn't want none.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- The Vaudevillains (Simon Gotch & Aiden English) defeated The Realest Guys (Enzo Amore & Big Cass) by DQ (2:23)
- The Club (AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows) defeated The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) (5:10)
Other on-screen talent