Tonight and live from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, it’s the “season premiere” edition of Monday Night Raw. Going head to head against the juggernaut that is Monday Night Football for the first time, Raw features two championship matches. First, Nikki Bella defends her Divas Championship against Charlotte. Will Charlotte end Nikki’s record setting run early, or will Nikki break AJ’s title reign record and go on to Night of Champions? Also, the Prime Time Players take their rematch shot against New Day. Will New Day hang on to the titles, and who will get the Dudleys at Night of Champions?
Show Open, Live from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN
Standard programming intro welcomes us, then we get a recap of the story between Seth Rollins and Sting. Rollins accused Sting of stealing his statue and touching the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They replay the angle last week where Sting crushed Rollins’ statue in a garbage truck.
“King of Kings” hits and here comes Triple H and Stephanie. They allegedly have a major announcement for us. Cole and the commentators check in as the “power couple” makes their way to the ring. Stephanie welcomes us to Raw. Stephanie talks about the past year, running down the list of new talent that has made their impact on Raw.
Hunter says these new stars have risen and will take the WWE into the future. They will be led by “one man, the man.” Hunter hypes up Seth Rollins as being the US and WWE World Heavyweight Champion. “This Sunday, live and only on WWE Network, Seth Rollins has an opportunity to cement his legacy forever.” Hunter hypes up the title matches against John Cena and Sting.
Stephanie talks about the Divas Revolution, saying that we will see history tonight. She talks about Nikki’s 295-day title reign and says that Charlotte has rocked the division and “done it with flair.” She says that either Nikki will break the Divas title reign record or Charlotte will become the Divas champion.
Hunter says “but wait there’s more.” He hypes Sting’s accolades and says that “for the first time in history” Sting will compete on Raw. “Tonight, history is made as Sting steps into this ring to go one on one with the world’s largest athlete, the Big Show.” Hunter says he has just one question for all of us – “Are you ready? No, Memphis, I said ARE YOU READY?”
Stephanie says the fans better be ready because they’re making history. “It’s a new season, and it’s a new day.” Big E bellows out at us to not be sour and feel the power. Here comes New Day to defend their tag team championship in the first match. Stephanie dances with Big E and Hunter ponders it at first, then starts dancing too. That match is next.
This was good hype for those seeing it, but I guarantee given last week’s show there are a TON of people watching the NFL Monday Night Football double header. This should have been sold better last week as well. I am betting that the Sting/Big Show match is more an angle than it will be a match, which is fine. You don’t want to expose Sting and make him look bad going into the pay per view. Also, VERY happy to see them get in and get out – the long promos just suck the life out of the show. Not to mention they heard people chanting “boring” last week.
Match #1 – New Day (Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston, c) vs. The Prime Time Players; WWE Tag Team Championship
New Day is still getting down after the break. The Players get a good reaction as they come out. In the early action, the Players get the advantage. Titus hits a leg drop. Big E comes back with a belly to belly suplex and Kofi tags in. He does a mini-seal bark. They show the Dudleys watching on a monitor backstage.
Darren Young gets the tag and he’s on fire. He hits a nice throw then plays to the fans. Kofi tries the SOS but Young escapes and tries for the GutCheck. Kofi escapes and tags to Big E. Xavier gets on the apron and plays trombone, which lets Kofi trip Young against the ropes. Big E throws Young to the post and Xavier yells “what happened to you?” New Day takes over going into the break.
Back live, Darren Young is fighting back against Kofi but gets dumped outside. Xavier Woods plays a bad rendition of the Pink Panther as he and Big E stalk Young. Big E and Kofi double team Young at ringside, then Big E goes back to work again, driving Young to the barrier.
The action moves back to the ring. Young tries to get a tag but Kofi stops him. Dueling chants for New Day start, and Young hits a weak counter. Hot tag to Titus and Big E and the action picks up.
Titus tosses Kofi to ringside and hits a big boot on Big E. Kofi tries a springboard move only to get caught and hit with a series of backbreakers. Titus plays to the fans and barks then double splashes Kofi and Big E. He hits a slam for a near fall.
Big E tries the Big Ending, but Titus escapes. Spinebuster from Titus. Kofi tries for Trouble in Paradise, but misses. Xavier distracts Titus again, and he rips the trombone apart. Big E clubs Titus from behind, then he and Kofi team up for the finish. Afterward, the Dudleys come out and jaw at New Day from the ramp.
The PTP were in a tough spot here. How do you get them over as a face team when you put them with a team that is more entertaining than they are? The match was fine though, and a good open to the show.
Cole and Saxton hype up the Divas Championship match, and the Wyatt family appearing on Miz TV. They run a clip of Sting and Dusty Rhodes defeating the Road Warriors for the NWA Tag Team Championship in the 1980s and hype his match against Big Show for later.
Some good hype for Sting here. They are making him seem like a big deal and the match feel important.
Backstage, Seth Rollins talks to Hunter and Stephanie. He talked about their dancing earlier, and Sting’s destroying his trophy last week. He praises them for booking Sting vs. Big Show, assuming that Show will destroy Sting and solve “one problem” for him.
He asks about Cena and Sheamus. Hunter tells Rollins he solved his own problem. He books Cena vs. Sheamus for later. JBL gushes about Hunter and Stephanie being able to book matches, sing and dance and do anything. Cole moves it on to talking about the Divas Championship, thankfully.
JBL has gotten really annoying.
Backstage, Renee Young interviews Charlotte and Ric Flair. Charlotte talks about how great it is to have her father at ringside for her title match tonight. Flair says that he lives vicariously through his daughter.
Ric calls the Divas Revolution phenomenal and says that they’ve been putting on world class matches. He says Nikki and Charlotte will put on a world class match and watch them work all night long. Renee turns back to Charlotte and asks if there’s pressure to end Nikki’s record reign tonight. She says that her focus is on the title and that the Bella Army will crumble to Natural Selection. Wooo!
This was fine, but I really need more from Charlotte than her wooing like her father. The Figure 8 is a nice nod to Ric’s Figure Four, so they need to do more with her character from there. That’s been an issue across the board with the ladies. I do think the match will be decent though.
Match #2 – Paige (w/Becky Lynch) vs. Sasha Banks (w/Tamina and Naomi):
The two brawl to start, then Sasha settles into control of the offense. She works on Paige’s right arm as the announcers talk about Cena vs. Sheamus and Rollins’ concern over the two of them. Banks hits her double knee in the buckle for two. Sasha settles back in to working on the arm.
Sasha charges but Paige side-steps her. Paige rolls Sasha up, but Sasha rolls through for two. Paige comes back with a German that lands Sasha hard on her head. Sasha rolls to ringside. Paige tries a rolling senton off the apron, but Tamina pulls Sasha out of harm’s way. Back in the ring, Sasha locks on the Bank Statement for the win. Afterward, Team BAD teams up on Becky Lynch and Paige to take over the ring.
Not terrible, but not great either. Better than the normal I would say. That German suplex was NASTY. I do like the feud that they’re building between Paige and Sasha Banks, which is beyond the factions and six-woman tags.
They recap the Wyatts taking out Orton on Raw, and Jimmy Uso on Smackdown. The announcers hype up that we will see the Wyatts on Miz TV, up next.
Horrible planning. Starting hour 2 with Miz TV, a long talking segment? That’s not keeping the audience…
Back live, they hype up Connor’s Cure with a video package featuring Connor Michalek. They mix in Daniel Bryan’s speech at the Hall of Fame among other things. With the announcers, they note that the sale of a bracelet on WWEShop.com will help raise money for Connor’s Cure.
This is a great gesture on behalf of WWE to use their popularity for good. And, let’s be honest, this stuff brings me to tears.
Miz is in the ring and says he has rubbed elbows with A-listers
The Wyatts come to the ring. Miz says he appreciates the lighting effect and welcomes them to the show. Wyatt tells him to not sit down as he is not safe. “But please, continue your interview.” Miz assures them he is not Reigns and Ambrose’s partner for “Hell in a Cell” (OOPS!). He asks Wyatt who Braun Stroman is.
Wyatt tells him that Stroman is here, and he can ask him himself. Miz asks Stroman who he is, but Wyatt cuts him off and says that Miz always wants the scoop. Miz asks Wyatt what he wants. Wyatt says that he wants Miz to suffer. He wants Reigns and Ambrose to suffer. He says he has already shown Randy Orton and Jimmy Uso about suffering. “At Night of Champions, they all fall.”
Roman Reigns’ music hits. He and Ambrose make their way through the crowd, just the two of them. The announcers debate where the third man is, putting over Stroman for destroying the two of them over the past couple weeks. Miz introduces them, but Ambrose grabs Miz and tosses him out of the ring.
Off mic, Reigns says something, then he gets the mic and tells Wyatt he makes Reigns sick. “You think you’re the king of the world?” Reigns recalls the Wyatts beating down Orton and Uso. “You’re gonna pay for that one,” Reigns says.
He tells Wyatt that he has to surround himself with monsters because he can’t get the job done himself. Reigns recounts their one on one match that ended with Harper interfering, and the tag match that the Wyatts lost at SummerSlam. “How’d that end, not to well.” Reigns tells Wyatt that he wants it 3 on 2.
Reigns tells the Wyatts that they found a third man, so it won’t be three on two. He says it will be three on three “and we’re going to whip ya’ll’s ass.” Reigns tells the Wyatts that they are bringing the big fight, and will make it a war. “Believe that.” Wyatt laughs, the sounder hits, and they vanish.
For what it was, the Miz announcement was really overhyped. The segment came off well though, with Miz being intimidated by the Wyatts, and Reigns establishing himself on the mic to set up the third man. There are a lot of options – but Samoa Joe stands out to me for some reason. It would be a fun payoff on Sunday, but I would rather see some hype for his appearance.
The announcers feed it to footage of Sting defeating Ric Flair for his first World Championship at the 1990 Great American Bash. They hype Sting vs. Big Show and Cena vs. Sheamus
Match #3 – Sheamus vs. John Cena
Cena leans in to the camera and says “no matter the colors the message is the same.” Sheamus comes to the ring and confronts a fan who touches him. Sheamus gets the early advantage while the announcers bicker about the Authority’s role in making this match.
Out of the break Sheamus gets a two count then hits a shoulder block off the top. He locks in a sleeper but settles in to a chinlock. Cena starts to fire back with his trademark offense. He hits the Five Knuckle and loads the AA, but Sheamus escapes and hits an uppercut.
Cena shoots a look of confidence then stalks. Cena looks for the AA again but Sheamus slides through with a roll-up for two. He follows with the an attempt into the Cloverleaf, but it’s not really. Cena breaks it in the ropes. Cena tries to shake it off on the apron but Sheamus grabs him for Ten Beats of the Battern. “You will respect the hawk!” Sheamus yells.
Sheamus loads a rolling senton but Cena counters into the STF. Sheamus drags himself to the ropes to break it. “Ce-na sucks!” chants start in New Day Style. Cena lands his own version of the Ten Beats to Sheamus. Cena loads the AA but Sheamus holds on to the ropes then lands a running high knee.
Sheamus calls for the Brogue as Cena sells. Cena catches a clothesline instead and both men sell. A strike exchange ensues mid ring. Cena loads an AA again, but Sheamus escapes again and hits a suplex for a good near fall. “What the hell?!” Sheamus yells.
Sheamus goes top rope looking for the Battering Ram. Cena sidesteps and looks for the STF, but instead turns it into an electric chair. He plants Sheamus face first then locks on the STF. Sheamus powers out and hits a rolling senton, but Cena comes back with the AA for the victory. Cena plays to the fans.
This was a solid match that the fans seemed to be into. Very minimal story to build off of here other than two men who are intertwined somehow with the Authority and Seth Rollins going into Sunday. It’s not always something that’s needed to have a storyline between two talents, but it certainly helps keep interest going.
The announcers hype Night of Champions, saying that it’s the one time a year that every title is defended. JBL reminds fans that it is available on pay per view, but you can get it on WWE Network for $9.95 rather than the normal pay per view price. They shill the Network a bit.
They show Nikki Bella warming up backstage getting ready for her title match. They hype that she will be the longest reigning Divas Champion at midnight if she wins her match later.
Out of break, they recap the match from Smackdown between Ryback and Seth Rollins, where Kevin Owens cost him the match.
Ryback is in the ring for a promo. He says he is proud to stand in the ring as the Intercontinental Champion. He says it’s fitting that they’re in Memphis, because Kevin Owens thinks he has the Big Guy “all shook up.” He tries to do his best Elvis but it’s really bad. Ryback points out that a real champion doesn’t attack from behind.
Kevin Owens’ music hits. He says he doesn’t mean to interrupt…”oh wait, that’s not true.” Owens talks about how Ryback said “The Secret” played a big part in Ryback’s life as he returned from injury and tough times in his life. Owens says that it made him curious and he picked up a copy.
Ryback asks Owens if he can read it, and Owens says he could probably do so better than Ryback. Owens says that after reading it, he feels sorry for Ryback and all of the other “delusional idiots who believe this garbage.” Ryback says that the only garbage he sees is Owens.
Owens gets in the ring and says the book is a crutch for weak people. He says he doesn’t blame Ryback for reading it, but does blame him for being weak. He says Ryback might be the strongest guy in the locker room but he is also the weakest.
Owens calls it a travesty that someone like Ryback is champion, then throws the book at him. Ryback laughs and says Owens doesn’t know who he is or what he’s about. Ryback says he kicks the day in the ass, then goes to bed, says thank you, and wakes up again to say Feed Me More.
Ryback says there are ways to the top of the mountain, and he respects that Owens took the long road – calling his story inspirational. Ryback admits to getting an elevator ride to the top but he fell on his face once he got there. He says he brushed himself off and climbed back to the top of the mountain.
Owens says that when he gets the chance, he will take the title from Ryback and show the world that the Big Guy is nothing more than a little boy. Ryback says that he went to the Authority. He says that at Night of Champions every title must be defended, so it will be “Fight Owens Fight” Kevin Owens against “The Big Guy, the Master of Feed Me More, Ryback.” Owens exits, and Ryback plays to the fans with the belt.
This wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t greatness. It did make me interested in the match on Sunday though. The book tossing bit ended up being improvised along the way too.
They show a recap of Sting defeating Hollywood Hogan for the WCW World Championship. They point out Big Show (then known as Giant) holding him up. They hype Sting vs. Big Show for later.
Match #4 – Stardust (w/The Ascension) vs. Neville (w/Lucha Dragons)
Stardust comes out with the Ascension in tow. Neville comes to the ramp and waits for the Dragons to join him. They charge the ring and the brawl is on. The Dragons and Neville get the better of the heels, chasing them to the floor. Neville sets up a dive, but The Ascension pull him away before the dive can happen. The faces stare down the Cosmic Wasteland as they escape up the ramp
They air a hype package for Nikki Bella, where she lays claim to becoming the longest reigning Divas Champion in history. In the video, Nikki says that she gave fans the revolution and carried the division on her back. That match is next.
Match #5 – Nikki Bella (c, w/ Brie and Alicia Fox) vs. Charlotte (w/Paige and Becky Lynch); WWE Divas Championship
As Charlotte comes out they show a picture of her with her father, Ric, holding the NWA Championship. Trish Stratus has sent tweets to both women about this match. Lilian Garcia gives us the in-ring introductions.
Early tie up backs the women into the ropes. Woo! from the crowd. Charlotte locks a go-behind and works Nikki to the mat to get a one count. Charlotte lands a knee drop then uses a leg scissor style suplex a couple times. Charlotte hits a shoulder block in the corner but Nikki starts to focus on the left arm.
Nikki locks Charlotte’s arm in the ropes and works it over. The attack continues on the left arm as Nikki drops Charlotte on her arm on the apron. Nikki poses as we go into break.
Coming out of break, Nikki continues to focus on the arm. The announcers recap what happened before the break as Nikki locks on an arm bar. Charlotte powers Nikki up and drops her to break the hold. Both women sell in the ring. Charlotte starts to fire up with chops and shots. She hits a big boot for two.
Nikki goes back to the arm again, but Charlotte comes back with a back breaker. Nikki cuts off a spear with a drop kick to the shoulder. She follows with a face plant on her knee for two. Cole hypes that Nikki has had her critics but she has proven them wrong.
Nikki tries for the Alabama Slam but Charlotte counters with a roll-up. Charlotte hits the spear, and chaos breaks loose. In the scrum, the Bellas try playing Twin Magic. Charlotte rolls Brie up and the official doesn’t realize it. Pinfall…1…2…3….Charlotte has won?!
PCB celebrates in the ring, and Ric Flair runs out to celebrate as well. Cue the Authority. Stephanie McMahon comes to the stage. She says she hates to interrupt, but she has to “preserve the integrity of the Divas Division.” She tells Charlotte that when Brie laid hands on Charlotte, Nikki should have been disqualified.
Stephanie continues. She says that Charlotte won by disqualification but the title will remain with Nikki. Nikki starts celebrating, but Stephanie tells her to not get too carried away. She tells Nikki Charlotte will get a rematch at Night of Champions, and if Nikki loses by pinfall, submission, disqualification or count out, she will lose the title.
The Bellas celebrate and taunt Charlotte, who looks despondent in the ring.
This was good, but I saw this finish a mile away. Charlotte did a good job selling the emotions of winning to the disappointment of losing the title because of the finish. that adds to the title’s value. This finish sucked pretty hard and as Drew said “this is why we can’t have nice things.” I guess it’s how you get to the rematch on Sunday. Now, let’s see if we get some legit heel gloating out of Nikki.
Match #6 – Rusev (w/Summer Rae) vs. Cesaro:
They discuss the love triangle drama as Rusev comes to the ring. Early on they talk about the strength of the two men. Cesaro and Rusev trade some early arm bars, then Rusev settles in to a reverse headlock. Cesaro runs the ropes and hits a leg scissor that sends Rusev to the mat.
Later, Dolph Ziggler makes his way to the ring. He offers a gift to Summer Rae, which she refuses. Dolph puts it ont he announce table and walks away. Off the distraction, Cesaro rolls up Rusev for the win. Afterward, Ziggler hits Rusev with a superkick. Summer grabs the package and helps Rusev to the back. The announcers hype their Night of Champions match.
Point blank, that was shit. Cesaro has been on a streak of losing big matches, which they could tell a great story off of. In this case, he loses because Dolph Ziggler brought Summer Rae a gift. Seriously?
They run a video package highlighting WWE’s work with St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. They show a young lady who was recently declared cancer free in the audience.
Bacsktage, they show Seth Rollins talking to Big Show. Rollins is smiling as we go to break.
After the break, the announcers recap what happened with Summer Rae and Rusev. Rusev is pissed backstage and storms to his locker room. Summer opens the gift and smiles. Rusev then demands she join him and she hides the gift quickly.
The announcers recap the tag team championship match from the open of the show, and hype the Dudleys vs. New Day for Sunday. They move on to run down the rest of the Night of Champions card.
Ring Rap will preview the Night of Champions card on Saturday’s show so be sure to watch for that release. The full Ring Rap crew will be by for that.
Bacsktage, Triple H and Stephanie talk about the Divas Championship, with Hunter saying he can’t wait for the match on Sunday. Big Show enters, and Stephanie says all anyone has talked about tonight is Sting, but after the match they will be talking about Big Show. Hunter calls him the problem solver, and Sting is the problem.
They again recap the moment where Sting destroyed Seth Rollins’ statue last week to end Raw. They hype Sting vs. Big Show for next.
Back live, they show Hunter and Stephanie at ringside. The announcers hype it as “a momentous match” for them to be at ringside. Big Show makes his entrance, then there’s a long pregnant pause. Sting’s music hits to a good reaction. He does his yell from the stage, which gets returned by the fans.
Match #7 – Sting vs. Big Show:
Cole hypes the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Seth Rollins as Sting makes his way to the ring. Sting plays to the fans, then Lilian Garcia gives us the in-ring introductions.
Sting jumps on Show early, landing shots. Show tries to splash Sting in the corner but he gets out of the way and starts firing away. Sting lands ten corner punches off the buckle as JBL mentions that Sting got a start in Memphis. Show goozles Sting but Sting coutners to a DDT.
Sting stays on the offense, attacking Show with kicks. He hits Show with the Stinger Splash, and here comes Seth Rollins. This match is over as Rollins attacks Sting. He and Show try to work over Sting until John Cena runs out for the save. Cena dumps Rollins to ringside, then he and Sting team up on Show. Show ducks out of the ring, and Rollins tries to jump Sting from behind. He turns around, and Rollins rolls back out.
Hunter says we’ve had enough controversy for one night. He books this into a tag team match, starting right now. Well…after the commercial break.
Match #8 – Big Show and Seth Rollins vs. John Cena and Sting
Back live, we’re into the match. Cena lands hands but Show lands a shoulder block. Cena sells for Show, taking a slam as Show jaws at Sting. Cena tries to pick Show up, but can’t get it done. Show lands a big headbutt as Cena continues to sell. Rollins tags in and lands the boots to Cena.
Rollins agitates Sting, only to run into Cena backdropping Rollins all the way to the floor. Show got the tag though and he continues to control Cena with slow and plodding offense. Cena tries to load the AA on Show, but can’t get him up. Rollins hits a driveby kick on Cena.
Top of the hour, so Cole gives us a reset of the show. Cena gets some separation, but can’t get the tag. He continues to sell for Show as Show taunts Sting. Show hits a Vader Bomb off the second rope for two. Show argues that it was three but it’s not.
Rollins tags in and he taunts Cena and Sting. Cena turns him inside out with a clothesline but Rollins gets the tag to Show first. Show sets up another splash, but Cena rolls out of the way. Hot tags and here we go.
Sting fires off on Rollins, hitting a pair of Stinger Splashes and a running bulldog. Show interjects, and Cena loads the AA on Show. He connects, and Show rolls out of the ring. Rollins tries to set Cena up for the Pedigree, but Sting grabs Rollins and hits the Scorpion Death Drop. Sting follows up with the Scorpion Death Lock to get the submission victory.
Cole hypes that if Sting and Cena hit their moves, title changes could happen. Saxton says this isn’t what the Authority expected to happen. Stephanie and Hunter tend to Rollins, who is limp against the announce table. Sting and Cena play to the fans. Sting and Cena jaw at Rollins as the show ends.
I expected a bigger reaction for Sting, especially with his Memphis roots. Then again, maybe that’s something that a lot of folks don’t really know about his career at this point – especially casual fans. With Sting going up against the hated Rollins on Sunday, I would have expected more of a reaction. This could be two-fold…a foregone conclusion in most people’s minds that Rollins will win, or perhaps just some of the traditional three hour burnout.
I was actually glad to NOT see Rollins do a lot of talking tonight. I think he’s doing a fine job, it just danced over the line of being repetitive and overexposed. You don’t want to do that to a strong talent, or the crowd will turn on them or create “go away” heat.
The overall Sting hype fell a bit short with me. They made it seem like Sting has never been on Raw, but we’ve seen him interact during Wrestlemania season in angles on Raw, and we saw him work Wrestlemania against Triple H. It’s a fair point to say that the “moment many didn’t think would happen” is true because it is. But to truly do this right, they should have sold it LAST WEEK, when they really didn’t do much to hype anything for tonight beyond title matches. So my feeling is mixed on this.
Overall, this show was “above average.” The finish of the Divas Championship left a sour taste in my mouth, even though I get why they were doing it. New Day is still entertaining as hell. But the overall hype going to Night of Champions felt lacking in the end. A good Raw broadcast, but not a good go-home show I guess is where I leave it.
Drew and I at a minimum will be by on Saturday to preview Night of Champions on Ring Rap Audio, and in the meantime Drew will hit you with more Raw thoughts on Around the Ring tomorrow. I’ll be back with ROH on Wednesday and my own Around the Ring on Thursday. Thanks for following along tonight.