WWE rolls into the Carolinas tonight as they stop in Greenville, South Carolina at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. It’s the final Raw before Survivor Series. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament moves into the quarterfinal round. Will the number one contender, Roman Reigns, make his way to the semi-finals? Or will Cesaro cut him off? Who else moves on to the big event? Also, Undertaker and Kane are rumored to appear. Will they find a way to intimidate the Wyatts one more time, or will Wyatt and his family get a leg up going into Survivor Series?
Prior to the open, Triple H and all the roster stand on the stage. Lilian Garcia asks fans to stand and offer a moment of silence for those affected by the horrific terrorist attack in Paris over the weekend.
Show Open, Live from Greenville, SC at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena:
After the Raw video open, Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton check in on commentary. They recall Seth Rollins getting injured, then hype the quarterfinal matches for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. Ziggler vs. Ambrose, Neville vs. Kevin Owens, Del Rio vs. Kalisto, and Reigns vs. Cesaro.
The arena goes dark and the druid song hits. That transitions to the familiar gong and the Undertaker’s funeral march hits. Through the fog come the Brothers of Destruction – Undertaker and Kane. Cole hypes that Survivor Series is the 25th Anniversary of the Undertaker and shills “Undertaker Week” on WWE Network. The Brothers head to the ring. Cole mentions that Wyatt tried to eulogize them last week and sends it to a video recap of last week’s Raw and Smackdown.
Back in the ring, the druids stand watch at ringside as Taker cuts a promo. He waits out an “Undertaker” chant first. “Standing before you is the true army of darkness,” Taker begins. He says that on the horizon, vengeance awaits the Wyatts. He says the Wyatts tried to claim their souls, but there is no one, “no man, living or dead” that can contains the power of the dark side.
Kane continues and says that when one tries to steal the flames of hell they will get burned. He says they have reserved a special place for Wyatt and the family in the “deepest pit of hell” and says they will suffer in the fires of eternal damnation. Undertaker addresses Wyatt, saying his kind of evil is no match for theirs. He says their evil has been time tested over again, so this is what will happen. “Bray Wyatt, choose whichever two of your family you wish to sacrifice, because the Brothers of Destruction have already decided their destiny.” He says they will never rest in peace.
Wyatt sounder hits, and here comes Bray and the Family. Wyatt sits at the stage in his rocking chair, surrounded by the rest. “For 25 years, Undertaker, you have reigned over WWE.” He says that Taker has instilled fear in every living creature that roams the earth, and 25 years is long enough. He says it’s time for a new army of darkness to emerge – “my army.”
He says that the Brothers no longer dictate when wolves howl and lightning crashes. “Those privileges are reserved for me.” Wyatt says that after Survivor Series, they will be remembered as the brothers they destroyed. “I am the one, I am Bray Wyatt.” After some sound effects. “As for your creatures of the night, they are mine.” The sounder hits, and the Druids are shown with sheep masks. Wyatt laughs, then says “Run.”
The Druids hit the ring, but Undertaker and Kane are up to the task. They hit double choke slams on two of the Druids, then Taker motions for the Wyatts to come. Harper, Rowan and Strowman head toward the ring, but Wyatt stops them. “Our date with destiny is Sunday, but for tonight, Undertaker and Kane, Follow the buzzards.” Sounder blacks out the arena.
Sound hype for the tag team match on Sunday. It didn’t overstay its welcome nor did it engage in too much hokey pokey hocus pocus stuff. I like teasing the physical interaction but avoiding it as well, though it’s with reservation (read on). I still feel like there was more on the table here to go with a traditional Survivor Series match here rather than this awkward tag team match that they’re using. I also think that having Taker and Kane destroy the Wyatts last week was a bit of a mistake, then we got reminded of it tonight.
We get a generic sell for Neville vs. Kevin Owens with no commentary going to break.
Match #1 – Neville vs. Kevin Owens; WWE World Heavyweight Championship Quarterfinal Match
Cole reminds us that the semi-finals and finals will happen at Survivor Series. Owens said in a “Facebook exclusive” that he knows Neville well and Neville knows him well. He puts himself over as holding the IC and WHC belts at the same time. Early on, Neville uses some fast-paced offense to keep Owens off balance. He uses a head scissor takedown, then teases the Red Arrow. Owens rolls out, so he changes course and hits a moonsault to ringside. He gets two back in the ring as they go to break.
Owens has taken over during the break and he gets a near fall as we come back live. During the break, Owens draped Neville over the barrier at one spot and threw him into it by the timekeeper. Neville counters a suplex with a knee to the head then chops away on him.
Owens tries to send Neville to the floor, but he holds on. Owens hits a superkick before Neville can springboard in. Neville barely beats the count, and Owens immediately loads a gutbuster and his running senton for two. Owens yells at the official that he should have counted faster. Neville drags himself up in the corner, and Owens charges. Neville ducks and hits a snap German suplex.
Neville hits the Red Arrow for a near fall. He sells, then goes for it again. Owens gets up and Neville goes over the top and hits an enzugiri. He tries it again but Owens trips the ropes. He tries for the pop-up powerbomb but Neville hits a superkick then the backwards huracanrana.
Moments later, Neville goes Red Arrow again, but Owens rolls out of the way. Neville lands on his feet, but Owens greets him with the pop-up powerbomb. Owens escapes with the win and he’s on to the semi-finals. They recap it for us. Owens walks over and looks at the belt, patting his Intercontinental belt.
This was a really good match. I think most people assumed Owens would go over, but Neville’s near falls seemed believable. Not to mention, Neville’s offense was definitely pleasing to the crowd.
The announcers hype the remaining quarterfinal matches. They then talk about the Divas championship match between Charlotte and Paige. They promise to recap the story, and show Paige defeating AJ on her first night on Raw. They will have a contract signing, later.
They show Triple H talking to Kevin Owens backstage. They go back to a recap of Triple H offering Reigns the title if he becomes “his man” then showing Reigns’ match against Big Show. Cole reminds us that Reigns was offered to go to the front of the line and not have to compete, but he turned it down.
Cole tell s us that Rollins had successful surgery to repair “a high level” knee injury. He says that in an interview, Rollins is in good mental spirits and promises to return better than ever.
Tyler Breeze makes his entrance, with Summer Rae. He’s got the next match.
Match #2 – Tyler Breeze (w/Summer Rae) vs.R-Truth:
Gotta get the Carolina boy on the show. He comes out after the break, and Breeze is laid up on the ropes waiting and taking selfies. They put Breeze over for a “strong match” against Dean Ambrose. Early on, Breeze tries to take a shot in the corner but Truth ducks.
Truth hits a couple slams and a leg drop for two. Breeze comes back with a knee to the midsection, but Truth holds on to the ropes. Truth dances, Breeze misses a strike, and Truth hits an armdrag. Summer puts lip gloss on him, and apparently that motivates Breeze. He hits some corner strikes then attacks Truth’s knee.
Breeze goes on the offense, working on Truth’s knee. He uses a single leg crab. Truth comes back and hits a scissor kick for a two count. He sells the knee, and sets Breeze up for a suplex. Breeze counters and shoves him off to hit the Beauty Shot for the win. They recap it for us.
This was fine for what it was. Truth yelling “what’s up” all the time drives me nuts.
They hype Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler for their quarterfinal match, next.
Will these two guys sell their respective injuries? And will Tyler Breeze stick around to screw over Ziggler or nah?
They hype a “Legends” special with JBL, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and Triple H discussing the Undertaker.
Match #3 – Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose; WWE World Heavyweight Championship Quarterfinals Match;
Both men eye the belt up as they come to the ring. Test of strength to start it off, with Ambrose getting the better of it initially. Ziggler counters it back but Ambrose turns it into a wrist lock. Dolph sweeps the leg then covers for one. Couple of go-behinds by both men, then Ambrose takes Ziggler down into a headlock. Ambrose uses an armbar but Ziggler rolls him up for another one count. They back off momentarily.
Ambrose shoulder tackles Dolph down then runs the ropes. Ziggler teases a superkick but Ambrose backs off of it. Back to the test of strength momentarily, then Ambrose hip tosses Ziggler down. Ambrose clotheslines Ziggler to the floor then teases a dive but Ziggler sidesteps him. Slow start here as Ziggler uses a double leg takedown and turns it over into a surfboard but can’t quite get it.
Dolph hits a nice drop kick and covers. In the corner, Ziggler whips Ambrose, but Ambrose turns it into a backbreaker. Ambrose starts to focus on the lower back, working a half crab. Ziggler rolls over and kicks Ambrose off but gets slammed. Ambrose goes top rope and hits his elbow on a standing Ziggler. Ziggler rolls it through for two, then locks on a sleeper. Ambrose gets into the ropes to break it.
The two stack up several roll-up attempts for two counts. They’re thinking the same thing and hit cross body blocks on each other after running the ropes. After some selling, Ziggler charges but gets an elbow. Ambrose goes up top but Ziggler goes to meet him. They fight on the top of the buckle. They exchange punches and both tumble to the floor.
Out of break, Ambrose hits a dive on Ziggler at ringside. Ambrose hits a charge and tries for the running bulldog but Ziggler hits a drop kick. Ambrose sets up his tilting clothesline, but Ziggler . They show Owens watching on. Ambrose uses a backslide for a near fall, then Ziggler comes back with a near fall of his own. JBL says there is no way to game plan “a lunatic like Ambrose.”
Ziggler calls for a superkick a la Shawn Michaels but Ambrose catches him and catapults him to the corner then rolls him up for two. A bit later, Ambrose hits his titling clothesline for a good near fall. Ambrose staggers to the corner and goes up top. Ziggler meets him and hits a facebuster from the ropes. He sells his knee again, and Ambrose rolls to the floor.
Back inside again, Ambrose suckers Dolph in for a small package for two. Ziggler hits a superkick for a good near fall. They sell then get to their feet. Strike exchange ensues mid ring. Ambrose starts to fire up with a flurry of shots, and Ziggler hits a headbutt. There’s an exchange of roll-ups, and Ambrose ends up in position to hit Dirty Deeds. He puts Ziggler away, and Cole hypes that we have one semi-final set now.
Ambrose cuts a promo, saying that if he wins the title he will turn the place on it’s ear. He says he will throw all the rules out. “Less talking, more action, we’ll replace Michael Cole with a fish tank…” He promises to turn the WWE into the Ambrose Asylum.
This was good, and I thought they told a story of “not wanting to make a mistake to cost th match” pretty well. the live crowd sat back and watched rather than taking a side. They did pick up steam as the match picked up down the stretch. If the plan is to turn Ambrose, they need to not shoe-horn him into the suit and tie thing. Let him be himself.
They show another highlight of Charlotte and Paige’s story, with Charlotte’s introduction in July. Cole again hypes their contract signing later.
The New Day comes out, and they cut a promo about their one year anniversary as a faction. They talk about the Usos, doing an imitation “Us-OWW.” They start to talk about Ryback but Big E stops them. He tells them about a story his “Pappy E” told him. “When life gives you booty, make booty-ade.” They chant “New Day rocks” til the USos’ music hits.
Match #4 – The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods) vs. Ryback and The Usos;
Early on, The Usos get a dive on the New Day, but New Day controls Jey with what they call the “Unicorn Stampede” where they tag in frequently and stomp a guy down. Big E jiggles while Woods plays the trombone, and JBL compares him to Patrick Swayze. Kofi hits a big drop kick on Jey. New Day continues to control the action with frequent tags, and Big E hits a splash.
Big E uses an abdominal stretch, and clubs him in the ribs. He jaws at Ryback then tags out to Kofi. Jey fights back but Kofi takes him down. The fans fire up a “feed me more” chant. Jey got the tag to Ryback, but Woods had the referee distracted so Ryback didn’t get the tag.
Big E tags in and dances at Ryback. Jey fights back but gets planted yet again. Big E taunts yet again, and this draws Ryback off the apron. He clubs Big E, pulls the official to one side, then goes after the rest of New Day. Match ends on a disqualification. Ryback hits a big suplex on Kofi, then follows with a Meathook. He sends Big E and Kofi to the floor, then gorilla presses Woods. The Usos hit a double kick, then Ryback presses Woods onto his teammates. The faces pose in the ring.
The finish of this was a surprise because of the way Jey sold for this. I expected a babyface comeback, but we didn’t get that. Ryback didn’t come off looking like a meathead, it looked like he just reached a reasonable breaking point. It worked. New Day was funny, but it didn’t come of well with the live crowd as it normally does.
They hype WWE Network, then give another moment of the Paige/Charlotte story. This time, it’s Charlotte winning the title at Night of Champions. Charlotte says on Twitter that she will just bring the title to the contract signing.
I like this continued hype that they’re producing here. It seems better than anything they’ve done with this Divas Revolution story. We’ll see if the promo segment holds up, but the hype itself hasn’t been bad.
Backstage, Cesaro is getting ready for his match. Triple H walks in and Cesaro tells him that if he has something to say like he told Kevin Owens he can save it. Hunter says he wants to talk to him, and says the match is as big as it gets. He tells Cesaro he has what it takes. He says that Cesaro could use a bit extra, but it might be time to grab th e brass ring. He says he will be watching from his own “Cesaro Section” to see if he is willing to do what it takes to take the next step. Cesaro smirks and put his headphones on as Hunter leaves.
Two good exchanges with Hunter and Owens and Cesaro. This could just be a red herring, or they could be trying to tell the story of The Authority picking their winner. I’d rather see it settled “in the ring” with no Authority involvement, myself.
Roman Reigns makes his entrance through the crowd. Reigns cuts a promo first. He asks if the “Roman Empire” is in the house and gets a mild reaction. He talks about being crowned the number one contender after Hell in a Cell and mentions that Seth Rollins got injured, creating the need for a tournament. He says that Triple H made him an offer that said he could have gone right to the finals if he joined the Authority. “There’s just one problem. I don’t sell out.” He says the road will have lots of bumps and he’ll have to go through Cesaro, Del Rio, Kalisto, Kevin Owens, “and my boy, Dean Ambrose.” He says at Survivor Series the road ends and he will be WWE World Heavyweight Champion. “And you can believe that.”
Um, do you really have the face admit that he considered a heel tactic? You’d think he would have rejected it off hand and never gave it a thought.
Match #5 – Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro; WWE World Heavyweight Championship Quarterfinals Match
Slow moving offense in the early going. Cesaro teases an uppercut but instead pats Roman on the chest and backs off. Roman looks at him like he’s a goof. Cesaro uses a cartwheel off the ropes and rolls Roman up, then comes back with a sunset flip that Roman uses to roll Cesaro up himself. Reigns takes down Cesaro, but he counters with a head scissor. Reigns breaks out.
They continue to work slowly, then Cesaro hits a big uppercut. Cesaro sets up the Swing, but Reigns fights him off. Cesaro sends Reigns into the post, then does it again. Reigns tumbles to ringside and sells. Cesaro comes out and hits him with a big uppercut by the timekeeper’s area going to break.
The official counts to six and they get back in. Reigns hits some kicks as JBL talks about how Reigns might not have the Superman punch now that Cesaro has worked the shoulder. Time to go on the Uppercut train as Cesaro tosses him corner to corner and hits a couple. Reigns hits a right to stop it, then lands a series of corner clotheslines. Reigns sells the arm and hits Cesaro with another clothesline out of the corner. Reigns snaps off a German suplex then rolls to ringside.
Reigns sets up the Drive-By, but Cesaro avoids and sets him in the Swing. Cesaro rolls him over and locks in the Sharpshooter. Reigns struggles to the ropes, then Cesaro rolls it over into the Crossface. Reigns slowly fades, but manages to get Cesaro picked up into a Samoan Drop.
Cesaro gets launched to the floor, landing his elbow on the apron as he falls. He sells, then Reigns comes by and hits him with a Drive-By. Back in the ring, Reigns hits a big clothesline, then hits his corner clotheslines. On the last one, Cesaro double sledges Roman’s arm to block it. Reigns picks Cesaro up on a roll-up into a sit-out powerbomb.
Reigns sets up the Superman punch, but Cesaro hits the uppercut out of it. Good near fall. Cesaro perches Reigns up on the buckle and hits a drop kick. He follows by trying his deadlift suplex, but Reigns blocks it. He follows with the Superman Punch, and Reigns calls for the spear.
Cesaro hits an uppercut and tries the Neutralizer, but Reigns backdrops him out. Cesaro tries a backslide for a good near fall. Reigns comes back with a Superman Punch then a spear to get the victory. Cole says they put it all out there for a chance to win the WWE Championship. They recap it for us as both men sell in the ring. They show respect and shake hands.
This was good, and it was the expected result. The near falls lacked the climactic feeling that they needed. I kept wating for Reigns to hit his spear and such so I really never bought into him winning another way. The live crowd has seemed pretty quiet, especially for the face vs face matches. Reigns did get some boos throughout the match, and when he won…but it wasn’t the really negative reaction that he will get in some towns. They could tease Reigns vs. Ambrose as the finals, as it seems the best match overall in terms of value.
Back live, the announcers pay tribute to Nick Bockwinkle, who passed away over the weekend.
Match #6 – The Dudley Boyz vs. The Ascension;
Bubba starts off with Viktor and the fans immediiately chant for tables. Bubba hits a suplex then a clothesline and a big boot. Bubba sells for the Ascension for a short time, then gets the hot tag to Devon. Devon goes on a run, then he and Bubba team up to hit the 3d and put the Ascension away.
A decent enough short filler match. It didn’t really mesh with me that much though.
Backstage, Renee Young interviews ALberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter. Colter demands the chance to talk, and says that in Mex America if you earn it, you get to keep it. I’d love that idea. He says there are no taxes or crime there. Hunter interjects to congratulate Del Rio on his success since his return. He says that Del Rio could go further with the right allies. He could go from being a man of the people to being the man.
Match #7 – Kalisto of Lucha Dragons vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Zeb Colter); WWE World Heavyweight Championship Quarterfinal Match;
As Kalisto makes his way out they ask if it’s midnight for Cinderella yet and show highlights of his match against Ryback. They show a pre-taped promo where Kalisto says that flukes don’t happen when you chase your dreams. Del Rio gets a mild welcome and the announcers hype him up for holding both the US and WWE World Championships.
Early on, Kalisto works quick offense. JBL talks about how crazy the weekend in sports has been, with Peyton Manning getting benched and Ronda Rousey getting beat. (We covered that second item, by the way). He avoids a Del Rio charge at the ropes, then tries offense off the ropes. Del Rio ends up out on the floor, and Kalisto hits a huracanrana on the floor. Kalisto poses and leads a “Lucha” chant in the ring as we go to break.
Back live, Del Rio has taken charge, controlling Kalisto with a headlock. Kalisto fires back but takes a tilt-a-whirl back breaker. Del Rio sends Kalisto hard to the corner and stomps on him. Del Rio uses a chinlock with his knee in the small of Kalisto’s back. Kalisto starts to fire off kicks then tries a springboard off the ropes but Del Rio catches him and gets a two count.
He posts Kalsito up on the buckle then goes after the mask. Kalisto ends up in a tree of woe and Del Rio fires away with kicks. Del Rio charges and Kalisto sits up, so Del Rio collects the ring post. Kalisto goes up top and hits a flying senton. He unleashes kicks on a kneeling Del Rio, but that offense gets stopped with a short-arm clothesline.
Kalisto fires back with a short huracanrana on a kneeling Del Rio. He tries for Salina Del Sol but Del Rio drapes him over the top rope. Back into the tree of woe, Del Rio unleashes a couple kicks then goes top rope. Kalisto fights back with a jumping enzugiri. Kalisto tries to get a top rope huracanrana, but Del Rio stops him and sets up the double stomp in the corner to get the win.
This was sloppy. Del Rio botched the Backstabber it looked like, then there was the unintentional unmasking that was just bad. Del Rio then had to help him get the mask back on too. Wow.
The announcers run down the semi finals bracket that will take place at Survivor Series – it’ll be Del Rio vs. Reigns and Owens vs. Ambrose. The winners will face off for the title later that night. The announcers hype up Undertaker Week on WWE Network.
They show highlights of the fatal four way between Paige, Becky Lynch, Brie Bella and Sasha Banks to determine the challenger for Charlotte at Survivor Series. Paige won that match, and now the contract signing will close the show out, next.
The least star power quarterfinal match, then the Divas segment to close? This better be big, or it’s going to be a real big crash and burn for third hour viewership. The hype has been consistent through the evening, to their credit.
Contract Signing for the Divas Championship match;
Michael Cole is handling the duties. He introduces each woman and they come to the ring. Paige sits down at first, with her feet on the table, but then stands up once Charlotte gets there. Cole recounts being at their NXT tryouts and says they bonded there. He wonders where their friendship went. Paige interrupts and says there are no friendships or emotions for true champions.
Charlotte asks what happened to Paige. She talks about how tough it must be for Paige to be angry all the time. Paige interjects and says that she isn’t but Charlotte continues. She says she didn’t get in the business to make friends. She talks about how they both watched their parents work on television (Ric in NWA/WCW and WWE, Paige’s mother in British feds), then made mention of her brother Reid. She gets choked up and says that Paige was there for her at that time, and they were like family.
Paige says she used Charlotte from the beginning. Charlotte retorts that Paige must be bad at using people because she’s the champion and Paige isn’t. She says it’s not about the championship, it’s about who has your back. Paige asks her if she learned that from Dr. Phil or Seventeen magazine.
Charlotte says she learned it from groups like the Four Horsemen and DX. She says that PCB would change the Divas division until Paige let her selfish ways get involved. Paige says she deserves the title more than anyone. Charlotte tells Paige that she never was a champion because a champion is someone that little girls at home want to be like.
Charlotte tells her she won’t be champion forever, but when she loses the title it won’t be on Sunday and it “damn sure it won’t be to someone like you.” The fans woo, and Paige mock cries. She says it’s quite the speech and she nearly teared up. She says that Charlotte makes her embarrassed.
Paige tells Charlotte that no one will have her back on Sunday, not even her father. She invites Ric to come to the ring and drop one of his famous elbows on his jacket. Charlotte tells Paige to shut her mouth or she won’t make it out of the building. Cole mentions that Paige has signed and Charlotte cuts him off. She says she will continue to fight, just like her dad, just like her brother, and just like she will. Paige says her baby brother didn’t have much fight in him.
The two start brawling. Charlotte dives across the table and the fight is on. She gets the better of Paige, spearing her up against the barrier and landing punches. They continue to fight around ringside, with Charlotte tossing Paige over the announce position. Referess run out to break the fight up but they keep getting after it. Charlotte takes Paige down again, then Paige scampers into the ring and pushes the table at her. They brawl in the corner until officials separate them.
Paige heads up the ramp, untangling her hair from her jacket. Charlotte thinks about going after her, but officials hold her back. She stands by the ropes with a stoic look toward Paige as the show ends.
This segment was clunky. I was hoping the women would do something big with the spotlight (which I was happy to see them get, by the way), but it just didn’t really connect that much with me. I thought invoking Reid Flair was tacky, no matter which way you slice it. I think there were better ways to sell this match and better ways to hype it that could have left Reid out of it. Something was just off all the way around here – maybe it’s the presentation of the women leading in, not sure.
Overall, I thought we got three pretty good tournament matches, even though the outcomes felt predictable. I thought they could have done more to tease a Reigns/Ambrose final which I think could get some eyes watching on Sunday. Maybe when they have the four men on Miz TV on Smackdown (spoilers posted tomorrow night!) we’ll see some of that tension play out. Raw is just the bigger viewing audience and better place to do it though.
Drew Koscelek will be by tomorrow with his Around the Ring segment to talk Raw and all things pro wrestling. I’ll be by with your Smackdown spoilers (correspondents always welcome – email@example.com) and Ring of Honor coverage on Wednesday. Thanks for reading along tonight.