WWE Raw comes to us tonight from across the pond in Manchester, United Kingdom – recorded earlier in the day and broadcast in the normal 8PM EST time slot on USA Network. It’s the first televised show without Seth Rollins, who went down with a serious knee injury last week. How will the Authority handle this situation? Will they begin to work toward their Championship Tournament now? What will come of Roman Reigns, the number one contender? Also, it’s rumored that Undertaker has made the trip over to England. Will he try and extract a measure of revenge on the Wyatt Family for their attack on him and Kane? With Survivor Series happening in just a couple weeks, the build gets started now.
Show Open, On Delay from Manchester, UK
After the Raw intro, Triple H’s music hit and he made his way to the ring. Cole talked about Rollins’ injury, and said he’d be out six to nine months. He sent it up to Hunter in the ring, who got a “Triple H” chant. Interesting that the heel authority got chants.
He takes a moment to acknowledge “the man” Seth Rollins. He talks about how Rollins was the hand picked Authority champion, saying he picked his way through everyone to hold on to the championship. Hunter explains the injury and calls it tragic. “Seth Rollins is no longer the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.” The fans didn’t like it much.
Hunter talks about determining the number one contender, saying that he would face Rollins for the title at Survivor Series. He introduces Roman Reigns. Reigns gets a very mixed reaction. JBL says “chaos brings ladders.” What the hell does that even mean, anyhow? Once in the ring, Hunter tells Reigns it looks nice and says a tournament starts tonight to determine a new champion.
Hunter makes a plea that it’s unfair for Reigns to go to the back of the line again and work his way back to the top slot. He says the other guys could be fighting for the right to face Roman at Survivor Series. Hunter tells Roman that when they were looking at someone to be the face of WWE they “strongly considered” him. I can’t see where Hunter saw the charisma in him, however, given his mic skills. He says that Rollins had one thing Reigns doesn’t – the ability to do absolutely anything.
Hunter replays the end of Wrestlemania, asking if it stung a bit. He talks about how Rollins took his moment, and says Reigns has been met with a lot of walls since Wrestlemania. He asks Reigns if he wants to be the man, which is met with some “Woooo!” calls. “If you want to be the man, you just have to be my man.” A heel turn would be good for Roman Reigns, really, but I’m not sure now is the time.
Reigns asks if he will get what he already earned by selling out. Hunter derides the term “sell out” calling it an excuse. “If you don’t want to be criticized, be nothing, do nothing, and say nothing.” Good advice for life, really. Hunter talks about misguided reality then asks Reigns if he wanted to put the belt on his shoulder since he was a boy. “You want them to build a monument in your honor.”
Hunter makes a play on family. “I’m talking about setting up your daughter’s daughter.” He asks Reigns to join the Authority and offers a handshake. England wants him to do it, oddly enough. Again, heel turn would be good, just not now.
Reigns says he did it his way and never took a handout. No one can take that away. He tells Hunter to shove the offer. Nice short effective line. Hunter thanks him for proving why he didn’t choose him, and tells him his match starts now. Big Show’s music hits. So, gee, Big Show vs. Reigns #143980378430? Hunter fist bumps Show as he comes to the ring. I’m not at all excited about this idea, but we’ll see how it goes.
Match #1 – Big Show vs. Roman Reigns; WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Match
Slow plodding work from Show in the early going. Going back to the opening segment (which wasn’t bad, really), the one thing missing was that Reigns has never really openly spoken to fighting by a moral code. I think that would have resonated more with fans when he stood up to Hunter. This is your typical Big Show match, so far.
The announcers are doing a good job of telling the “moral code” story here, actually. Shame they didn’t build it up out front of this night better. Show hits a splash for a near fall. Not a lot of reaction from the Manchester fans as Show dumps Reigns to ringside. Reigns fires back until he gets slammed by Show, who yells “I’m a giant!” to absolutely no reaction.
Show locks in a bear hug after the break. JBL says he admires Reigns’ tenacity but can’t believe Reigns turned down the offer to be handed the title tonight. Reigns hits a Samoan drop as Cole talks about Rollins’ injury. Reigns begins his comeback until Show swats him down. Right now, this match is following the formula of Show beating Reigns down until he makes the babyface comeback.
A pair of drive-by kicks lead to a Superman punch attempt but Reigns gets chokeslammed out of mid air. That was pretty neat. Show calls for the WMD, but Reigns gets the Superman Punch and a spear for the win. This was fair enough, and Reigns got a bit of shine off of it, but we’ve seen this far too many times for it to be important. The announcers put Reigns over well here, and talk about Reigns overcoming yet again.
The Wyatt cut in hits and they feed it to a recap of Undertaker’s debut at Survivor Series, and Kane’s debut in 1997. We’re to get a “paying respects” segment by the Wyatts later. Again, Wyatt talks well, but I’m not sure how this ends and if it ends well for Wyatt overall. I also know what happens via spoilers, and it’s clear where they’re going here.
Celebrity moment as they show Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney in the fans. Kevin Owens’ music hits to a nice pop. Owens cuts a promo, and finally, we get to hear from him! He says we need change in WWE, and they’ve been cheering for the same old garbage for years. Brits are eating it up, but he calls them the dumbest fans in the world for worshiping the Queen of England and pretend the Royal Family is a thing. Not a strong heat generator according to my speakers.
He says the change is to benefit him alone. He calls himself a prize fighter, and when he stands in the ring with both the IC and WHC championships, no one can deny that this is the Kevin Owens Show. Mixed reaction. But it’s good to hear from Owens on the mic though. Sound promo.
Match #2 – Kevin Owens vs. Titus O’Neil; WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Match
I like Titus and think he’s a solid midcard player. He is very aggressive in the early going before we head into a commercial. Back with the show, Owens is in control. Thinking more about these brackets, I’m not sure I like them all that much – the first two matches are pretty formula. I think the Brits might be going into business for themselves as “JBL” chant fails to get traction. Oddly enough, the face positioned Titus is getting booed here.
Owens lands the pop-up powerbomb out of nowhere to grab the victory. Again, a predictable result and a serviceable match between the two. It never got out of first gear though.
Renee interviews Paige backstage, and she gets smarmy about Renee for her false accusations about Natalya. Paige calls Becky Lynch a rat. She says tonight she will take out the B and at Survivor Series it will be her and that “C.” An alright promo, I suppose. Just happy that they’re focusing on a feud between Charlotte and Paige.
Another Wyatt cut-in and we get another video recap of Kane and Undertaker moments. Consistent hype for the Wyatt segment to come later on, I give them credit for that.
Match #3 – Paige vs. Becky Lynch;
Get a break from the WHC tournament here. They recap Paige turning on Becky and Charlotte. They keep talking about how personal this is, but the fact that Becky has been too far in the background until now it seems forced. Charlotte watches from backstage at that odd angle that makes us pay far too much attention to her tits.
Not a lot of reaction until Paige yells “this is my house.” The commentary team continues to round back to Reigns refusing Triple H’s offer early in the show. I get that it’s the overall major story of the night but this deserves some better attention than this. Nice exploder suplex from Becky.
I can’t tell right now if the fans are quietly invested or not interested. Paige hits the RamPaige too close to the ropes so Becky grabs the ropes. Paige tries for the PTO but Becky gets into the ropes again. The two exchange roll-ups and Becky wins. A good match here from the two ladies.
The post match angle had Paige lock Becky in the PTO on the announce table. Paige got cheered for this – then again, it’s the hometown crowd. Charlotte runs out for the save, and Paige walks off. I don’t know how I feel about this being mind games by Paige, really. Again, the buildup of the new women has been so bad it’s hard to really feel much.
We’re getting a whole week of Undertaker highlights on WWE Network. Sounds like some stuff worth watching.
The announcers talk about the Wrestlemania ticket sales being hot already, and show highlights of the Wrestlemania fan fest that happened last week. Even with all the uncertainty with the card it’s interesting that tickets are going so hot.
Match #4 – The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler; WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Match;
Here’s one of the things this tournament is missing: Promo time. I want to hear from Ziggler, Miz, O’Neil, Big Show, etc., as to why this is important to them. I want to know why Reigns, Owens, etc., want to win. This just feels like “just another series of matches” and nothing more than that.
The two work some quick offense in the early going, with Miz avoiding a superkick. Miz’s claim to fame right now is an infinity scarf. That’s another issue I have with some of the folks in this tournament – they don’t feel special. Miz is doing something logical here and pointing his offense on a leg of Ziggler.
The match was fine, and ended somewhat abruptly with a superkick. Ziggler is moving on, and he’ll get some fan love for sure. I highly doubt he makes the finals though.
More Undertaker and Kane highlights courtesy the Wyatt Family. I think this is great consistent hype for the segment coming up later. I am guessing this closes the show. A great reminder of how interesting the Hell No team was too.
They recap John Cena facing Alberto Del Rio at Hell in a Cell, winning the US Championship. Odd that this is the first mention of John Cena since he lost the title. Anyhow, here comes Del Rio to cut a promo. Colter has a few things to say about MexAmerica. He of course cuts on the British, who are giving “what” chants. He gets some heat for saying that Germany tells them what to do, and Scotland doesn’t want anything to do with them. He throws in a hygiene joke too before saying that Putin will eventually be telling them what to do too.
Del Rio says that this place is populated by haters. Colter says he doesn’t want to talk to sub-human people and talks about the opportunity that Triple H has handed them. On Thursday night, the tournament continues on Smackdown and the world will see Del Rio run the table and become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Viva MexAmerica.
This was fine, but it didn’t generate a ton of heat really. The local insults did the most damage. As an aside, I do like Smackdown having tournament matches too, as it draws some attention to that program as well. I just hope they get some hype behind this thing. It has a great opportunity to change some character directions but not if it’s just treated like “just another match.”
Match #5 – Natalya vs. Naomi (w/Sasha Banks and Tamina)
Natalya doesn’t wear underwear under her gear. Confirmed by the mesh netting. Anyhow, the focus ends up being on Sasha Banks. The story here is clearly about causing friction inside Team BAD, which I totally don’t get. Then Natalya puts Sasha in the Sharpshooter? This is a clumsy story, all the way around. I wish I knew where they were going with this.
More Undertaker and Kane highlights as we get some consistent sell for the Wyatt segment later on in the show.
Match #6 – Sheamus (w/King Barrett) vs. Cesaro; WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Match
They showed Barrett cutting a promo on Wayne Rooney (soccer star) during the break. I would be fine with this on any other show, but playing to the celebrity factor takes off of the tournament as well. Again, no promos from Sheamus or Cesaro, something this is sorely lacking from everyone. The only promo we’ve gotten so far is from Del Rio, and it wasn’t all that hot.
Irish Curse backbreaker from Sheamus a few moments in during this physical affair. They head into a commercial. Back with the match, Cesaro is getting strong chants from the crowd. I wish WWE would see this and do more with the Swiss Superman. Sheamus pulls the punk card and Cesaro starts hulking up. A really nice counter to Sheamus’ Irish Curse then a nice fireman’s carry slam. And that swing is way over, judging by the reaction when he calls for it.
Cesaro is favoring his arm as they both just beat the count. A good near fall kickout by Cesaro out of White Noise. This is a good match – Sheamus gets all sorts of flak but it takes two to tango. Another good counter of offense by Cesaro to slip under the Brogue and try to go for the Sharpshooter. They’re doing a good job of selling the arm here too.
Time to go on the UpperCut Express, then a great drop kick. Cesaro is really showing up here and I just shake my head as to why he’s not featured more prominently. Cesaro gets a nice win off a distraction because Wayne Rooney smacked Barrett, and that drew Sheamus’ attention. My concern is Reigns vs. Cesaro coming up – is Cesaro simply getting fed to WWE’s chosen boy? This match though, so far is the best of the night.
Match #7 – Dean Ambrose vs. Tyler Breeze (w/Summer Rae); WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Match;
They have Tyler cut a promo with Summer backstage. He focuses on his looks and says that we’re looking at the new face of WWE. Eh, a so-so promo. It seems to be the most attention they’ve put on someone wanting the title though. Breeze plays coy early and tries to protect himself from Ambrose’s offense.
I like how they’re hyping Breeze up, but let’s be honest, the finish of this match really isn’t in doubt, which again is an issue with the tournament setup. Nothing feels special, important, or unpredictable. I don’t want to bury this thing first night out, and maybe next week when they’ve had a chance to build some better creative around the following rounds it will be better.
Ambrose turns Prince Pretty inside out then goes top rope for the missile drop kick on a standing Breeze. He sells it but Breeze attacks the arm. Ambrose ends up winning off a small package. I am okay with this going down this way, but it’s not the best use of Tyler Breeze really. Having him squash some guys is the better way I think.
They’re doing a great job of hyping this Wyatt segment for the later part of the show. Really building up Undertaker and Kane’s accomplishments and the fact that Wyatt has taken them out.
They run down the matches we’ll see on Smackdown for the title tournament. These matches don’t scream compelling for the most part, and suffer from the lack of hype behind most of the guys involved. I think they can be good from a work perspective though.
Match #8 – The Usos and Neville vs. The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods)
New Day cut their traditional promo coming to the ring. The reaction was fairly mixed to it, as some fans really were into the gimmick and others weren’t. They did boo when Woods said that “English magic is garbage.” The fans reacted positively to the Usos as well when they came out. They dove into a commercial early in the match.
This was a fun match, but short. New Day plays the numbers game well and used some cheating heel tactics to grab the victory with Woods using the ropes for leverage. It didn’t overstay its welcome and was serviceable to get to the main event segment.
They give us a final sell for the Wyatt segment to close the show by recapping the angles that put Kane and Undertaker out after Hell in a Cell. The Wyatts are next for the eulogy segment.
The Wyatts head to the ring, and they recap last week’s segment where Wyatt had “assumed” Taker’s powers. Gotta admit, I hope they don’t get get hokey this week. The English fans sing “he’s got the whole world in his hands” and Wyatt drinks it in.
Wyatt talks about change, calling it inevitable and part of life. He says that tonight they celebrate change and celebrate the spirit of Kane and the Undertaker. Wyatt talks about their history and calls them the benchmark of power for two decades. He asks everyone watching to bow and pay respect to “the legends, the icons that are Kane and the Undertaker.” That gets him some Undertaker chants.
Wyatt calls the fans fools and says their respect is his respect. He claims to have taken the torch and burned Kane and Taker straight to ashes. He says it all belongs to him now. This promo is good, but I just can’t get over the feeling that it ultimately will fall short when he loses – unless this leads to Wyatt getting put over on the big stage.
He says the Apocalypse is here and drops the mic. On the video board, we get the same video package that we saw before highlighting the Brothers of Destruction putting people away. Wyatt watches, and Taker’s voice rings out “Rest…in…Peace…”
Fire shoots from the ring posts and Wyatt looks scared. The familiar gong hits and Manchester pops. This can only mean one thing…well, two. It’s the Brothers of Destruction coming through the fog to Undertaker’s music. Looks like we’re getting Undertaker and Kane vs. the Wyatts at Survivor Series, and I’m not totally opposed to that.
I really like how the announcers are handling this, saying that Wyatt has opened hell up yet not belittling him in the same voice. Now the rest of the Wyatts join Bray after the cut in sounder. Manchester has woken up for this and they’re eating it up in full.
Taker and Kane dispose of Harper and Rowan, only to face Strowman. Harper and Rowan get a double chokeslam, then Strowman gets a clothesline on them. They sit up, then dispose of Strowman. They dump him over the announce table, then go back in the ring to double chokeslam Wyatt.
I have no issue with this, really. If they’re heading to a Wyatts/Brothers of Destruction match at Survivor Series, then you have to get there somehow with only a couple weeks to the event. This gave the England fans a big moment to pop for and logically set up a possible match. That’s how the show ends.
I hope you enjoyed the “alternate form” coverage tonight. Because this show was taped earlier today, we knew the spoilers would be out there and decided to go against the standard play by play format we usually use for tonight. If you like it, let us know, and maybe we’ll do more of it in the future.
Not a bad show, as the title tournament matches helped prop it up a bit. A shame they didn’t do more to give the tournament some heat with the use of promos and such, but given the short notice perhaps they didn’t have all the time to plan that they would have liked. We’ll see how it continues.
Drew Koscelek will be by tomorrow with Around the Ring for more thoughts on Raw and more. I’ll be by with Smackdown spoilers and on Wednesday with Ring of Honor coverage. Thanks for following along.
Join us on Twitter @RingRap as well for conversation during the show.