Tonight, WWE rolls into Providence, RI and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on a night that should surely be newsworthy in some regard. It is the night before the Draft – where the roster will be split between Raw and Smackdown. Last week, we learned that Shane McMahon will head up Smackdown, and Stephanie McMahon will control Raw. But it sounds like we’ll have managers beneath them? Who will those people be? Will Steph bring back Triple H and reform The Authority to run Raw? Will Shane pick a popular former superstar (here’s a hint, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”) as has been rumored to help him with Smackdown? And in all of this, WWE has a pay per view in six nights. How will they complete the hype and build to Battleground in Washington DC on July 24?
Show Open, Live from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island:
Raw intro rolls and we go live inside the arena where we get a full pyro display. Michael Cole hypes it as historic night before the “brand extension that will change WWE forever.” Stephanie McMahon’s music hits and she makes her way to the ring. Cole recounts her being named Commissioner of Raw last week and says she will be on hand for the draft tomorrow night on Smackdown. Cole runs down the rules of the draft for tomorrow.
Steph tries to welcome the fans to Raw, but Shane McMahon’s music hits before she can get started. He makes his way to the ring as Cole reminds us he is the Commissioner of Smackdown and that both of them are picking General Managers tonight. JBL says we’re about to find out who those people are.
Steph says she won’t miss Shane pandering to the fans, but Shane says that he thinks she was trying to say “Welcome to Monday Night Raw.” They wait out crowd noise, then Steph hypes it will be Shane’s last night on Raw because he is the Smackdown Commissioner. She tells him she won’t miss working with him, and Shane retorts the feeling is mutual. Shane says he knows that she wakes up every morning wishing she were born with testicles. He said that her slap from last week would have been met with retribution. Steph told him that lady balls are bigger than testicles, and that got about a tenth of the live crowd to react.
Steph hypes the Cruiserweight Classic and asks if fans are watching it. They cheer, then Stephanie says that they’re bringing a “Raw Exclusive” Cruiserweight Division to Raw. She talks about how it’s due to the show being three hours long, then adds the rule that she will get three picks to every two that Smackdown gets.
After a big buildup, Steph introduces the new GM of Monday Night Raw. It’s Mick Foley! Cole runs down his accolades as Mick makes his way to the ring, and Steph dances to his music. Foley thanks Steph for the opportunity and says that he had a small ember burning in him that was lit to a five alarm fire when he got the call. He compared the battle between the brands to the Attitude Era, closing by saying he wants to take the Raw brand to the future and beyond.
Shane congratulates Mick for getting the position, and says he has respect for him. He gives Steph credit for the move and endorsed the selection. After a big buildup, Flight of the Valkyries hits. Daniel Bryan is the GM of Smackdown! Saxton lauds it as a great move by Shane, and the live crowd comes unglued. Shane does a lap around the ring celebrating.
Bryan leads a yes chant as he comes to the ring, where he shakes hands with Foley and Shane. He playfully pulls a handshake away from Stephanie. Bryan waits out the reaction before saying “did you guys miss me or something?” Steph immediately jumps in to accuse Bryan of pandering like Shane does. Bryan says she doesn’t know what pandering is since fans never cheer her. Steph says that they did once.
Bryan talks about how he might never have been able to get back in the ring. He talks about Shane calling him and talking about the plan to make Smackdown more about superstars than management. Bryan says he thought he could come back and needs to. He called Smackdown the underdog brand, just like he was. He recounts his night at Wrestlemania 30, where he beat “(Steph’s) husband” and went on to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He says “We did that, and we will do it again.”
Steph chides him and the fans, saying Bryan made the loser fans feel good for one night, and asks where the underdog ended up. She calls him a B-plus player for a B-plus show. Stephanie points out that Shane is sweating and Shane asks for a hug. He says that she had to marry a WWE superstar just to remain relevant. Ouch. Bryan and Shane lead a Yes chant to close the segment.
Bill Says: I won’t miss the cutesy exchanges between the McMahons here, though we’ll get them at joint pay per views for sure. Bryan was heavily rumored to be the man to be on Smackdown, and it should be interesting to see how that goes over. Foley played the silent partner in Steph’s exchange with Bryan, where she made remarks his character wouldn’t agree with. Speaking of Foley, he feels a bit “been there done that” in terms of being an on-screen authority figure from back in the early 2000’s.
Match #1 – Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn and Cesaro;
Winner: Cesaro and Sami Zayn
The Summary: The announcers hype that this may be the last time these men face off with the draft looming tomorrow night. They hype up the Owens vs. Zayn match for Battleground and air a picture-in-picture promo from Zayn. Cesaro and Jericho start the match off. Coming out of a commercial break, Jericho continues to control the action for the heels. Owens kicks Zayn and does Foley’s “thumbs up” pose looking into the camera.
Zayn starts to build some momentum, throwing Jericho into the barricade. Zayn crawls to the tag for Cesaro, and it’s time for an uppercut party as Cesaro lands repeated uppercuts Cesaro covers Jericho for two. Cesaro calls for the Swing but Jericho counters. Cesaro comes back with a springboard uppercut for another two count.
Cesaro teases the Neutralizer, but Jericho lands an enzugiri. Tags to Owens and Zayn, who go to slugging it out right away. Owens hits a big clothesline on Zayn. Owens tries to set up the pop up powerbomb but Zayn hit a drop kick instead. Cesaro and Jericho tag back in and Cesaro hits a cross body block for two.
Jericho tries for the Walls but Cesaro counters to the Swing. Owens breaks it up with Jericho being swung into his legs. Zayn hits a tornado DDT on Owens, and pins Jericho to win.
Bill Says: A solid opener that got some heat on Zayn vs. Owens going into Sunday, if only from the commentary position. Oh, don’t forget, Drew and I will preview Battleground on this Wednesday’s Ring Rap Audio.
Backstage, Truth and Goldust talk to Daniel Bryan. Stephanie crosses paths with him and says that she’s surprised to see him back and thought he was content to live off the land and plant peaches with Brie. She compares him to the horror movie doll “Chucky,” saying he keeps coming back and when you pull the string you only hear one word – “yes.” Bryan says that he will take that over goat face, and compliments Stephanie for adding to her reservoir of insults and ruining Monday Night Raw. “Good to see you.” He walks off and Steph stews.
Skillet’s “Feel Invincible” is the theme for Battleground. It’s a pretty good tune.
Match #2 – Alberto Del Rio vs. Darren Young (w/Bob Backlund);
Winner: Darren Young
The Summary: Miz and Maryse are on commentary as we get a recap of how Darren Young got the chance to face Miz for the Intercontinental Championship on Sunday. Young starts to get on an offensive roll at one point, so Miz interfered. Young punches him, and ADR rolls Young up. The official is dealing with Miz, so he can’t count. ADR shoves Miz, but Young rolls him up and pins him for the win.
Bill Says: I guess it’s a cheap way to get some shine on Darren Young going into Sunday, though a bit disappointed it came at Del Rio’s expense. Anyhow, I don’t see a title change happening right now. Young has talent but he needs a lot more build than he’s gotten. Other problem in play here is that the titles feel so undercard right now that if Young did win, I doubt it would feel like it elevated him.
They show Shane and Daniel Bryan talking to Big Show. The commentary team hypes Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte and Dana Brooke, and the 12-man tag match for after the break.
Back live, John Cena gets his entrance and he heads to the ring for a promo. He gets serenaded with “John Cena Sucks” chants in time with his theme. He waits out cheers and says that he’s fired up too.
He talks about Commissioners and GM’s and hypes the Draft. “But wait, there’s more!” He hypes up the Battleground event, and turns his attention to The Club. He says they want to #BeatUpJohnCena, but they can’t see him because he has the Certified G’s. Here comes Enzo and Cass to a good reaction. They do their entrance gimmick.
“John, I got something I want to say.” Enzo tells the Club to not take it the wrong way, but they’re just some hers with some insecurities. “I ain’t stupid enough to read that book!” He says without ugliness there would be no beauty and thanks Luke Gallows for his sacrifice. He says the only time women open their mouths for Gallows is to yawn. “Speaking of women, AJ Styles, you got a haircut like a soccer mom – how you doin’?” He tells Anderson he’s as generic as they come, comparing him to the Times New Roman font. He says the only time those three will beat them is the 35th of Neveruary.
Cena tells him he’s all over the place and spitting out punch lines, and Enzo says that’s what he does. Cass compares them to various trios with Enzo adding “how you doin’?” in there. Cena says they have to get serious, but Cass says they come out there to have fun with the fans. He says when push comes to shove, they get serious. He goes to spell out S-A-W-F-T but AJ Styles’ music cuts him off.
AJ asks Cena about tagging with Enzo and Cass and says he’s setting himself up for failure. He vows to give him a taste of what they’re in for at Battleground. Anderson says that the Club has chemistry, and so does he and his hot Asian wife. Anderson asks if Cena, Enzo and Cass met for the first time over a bowl of candy in catering a few weeks ago. They run through a list of all the people they planned to beat up, including New Day.
Big E bellows out to not be sour and New Day makes their entrance. Kofi calls it “typical Club” to be talking about things they like to beat. Big E talks about having their hands full at the Wyatt Compound. Styles asks if they’re supposed to be under their beds. Woods says that they learned about the Wyatts and their mind games. Woods says that the Wyatt mind games would have broken normal men, but “AJ, my old friend,” we are not normal men and they are prepared to show the Wyatts why they are the tag team champions.
New Day explains the “how you doin'” thing to Cena, with Woods asking if he could have a chance. Enzo approves, then Woods brags about being a Level 21 Pokemon Go gamer. That got some pop. He ran through some Pokemon character names and the crowd responded “how you doin” lightly. The Wyatt sounder hits and they make their way to the ring. “So much for the fun and games,” Cole says, then asks if the Wyatts and the Club could get along.
Bill Says: This went on a while. I think people were losing interest at some point there. Enzo was really on fire with the one liners tonight, however.
Match #3 – John Cena, Enzo and Big Cass, and the New Day vs. The Club (AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows) and The Wyatt Family;
Winner: The Wyatt Family and The Club
The Summary: The match is joined in progress. They stick to tag rules early but a brawl gets started. Cass and Strowman have a staredown then they fight. Cass lands strikes and a big boot, then Kofi tags in. There was a blown moment where Strowman was supposed to catch Kofi but Strowman stumbles then picks him back up and hits a powerslam going to a break.
As the action continues, Cole points out that the members of the Wyatt Family could be drafted separately. Rowan works on Cena while the dueling Cena chants get going. The heels control Cena, with Styles and Anderson both scoring two counts on him at various points. Cena starts to rally as Gallows gets in the ring. We go into another break.
Finish barrage breaks loose after the break. Enzo and Cass look for Boom Shaka-Laka but get cut off, and Cena catches an AA. New Day and the Wyatts start fighting their way out of the picture. Enzo runs over Cena accidentally with a clothesline, and that lets Styles hits the Styles Clash on Cena to get the victory. Enzo and Cass sell at one side, Cena at the other, as the Club celebrates in the ring.
Bill Says: A time-consuming match that set the stage for the two six-man tag matches between the competitors for Sunday. The match was fine, and as Drew said on Twitter “good for how many people were involved.” The big multi-man match is a tough one and these guys pulled it off well. Definitely drew some intrigue for Cena, Enzo and Cass vs. The Club with the tension there.
They hype the various Draft broadcasts and Battleground. They show a shot backstage of Stephanie and Mick Foley talking to Apollo Crews. They hype the WWE Championship match for Battleground, then go to an “earlier in the day” pre-tape with Seth Rollins.
He talks about how Ambrose and Reigns were pawns in his game, and when the time was right he cut his losses and claimed the top title. He asks if Reigns will ever be the same without his edge, and calls Ambrose a coward for stealing the title via Money in the Bank. Rollins says that when he walked down the stairs with Ambrose and Reigns, there was a part that wanted to shove them down it. He calls it fitting that he will end Ambrose’s fairy tale as champion. He says he will walk into Battleground and prove that when it comes to the Shield, he was always the man.
Bill says: This was the best hype for the Shield triple threat so far. It was very well done, and well delivered by Rollins.
They recap the general manager selections from the top of the show, with Steph picking Mick Foley and Shane picking Daniel Bryan. Backstage, Mick Foley is talking to Breez-Dango when Shane approaches him. He congratulates Mick again, then asks why he would want to work with his sister. Shane talks about how Stephanie would try to manipulate him. Mick says that he went into this “eyes wide open” and had a front row seat for her rise to power. Shane says he’s just looking out for Mick. Mick says he sees it as an opportunity to better himself, then excuses himself because he has talent to scout. Shane tells him to have a nice day and does the “bang bang” motion.
Bill Says: Mick will eventually be positioned as a dope, but this at least starts off his run by saying he won’t be a pushover dope.
Match #4 – Baron Corbin vs. Sin Cara;
Winner: Baron Corbin
The Summary: The announcers talk about how the Lucha Dragons have agreed to split up and can be drafted separately. This is over fast, as Corbin hits Cara with his finish to get the win. Corbin continues to beat down Cara after the match, but Kalisto runs out to attempt a save. Corbin puts him down quickly too. The commentary team hypes that this should raise his draft status.
Bill Says: #SquashMatch. Not much else to say. It establishes Corbin as dominant?
They hype Sasha and Becky vs. Charlotte and Dana coming up. They also acknowledge that ESPN did a mock WWE Draft.
Bill Says: I see they decided to pass on the other WWE related story that got a lot of press from ESPN. I guess they’ll wait until they see if Brock Lesnar wins his appeal or not. By the way – a report circulating on some sites says that even if UFC bans Lesnar for PED’s if confirmed he tested positive, he possibly could compete at SummerSlam because New York State does not sanction individual wrestlers in pro wrestling, just promotions. So, as long as WWE complies by their own rules, Lesnar would be free to compete for them and a UFC ban would be meaningless. More on that at another time, once said reports are confirmed.
Match #5 – Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte and Dana Brooke;
Winner: Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch by disqualification.
The Summary: Banks gets a nice reaction as she heads to the ring, as does Becky. Saxton tells us that Sasha has a great choice in mind for her tag partner for Sunday as Charlotte comes to the ring. They tease Sasha vs. Charlotte in the ring early but Charlotte immediately tags out to Dana. After some early action, Natalya runs down and attacks Becky Lynch, causing the disqualification. Charlotte throws in Sasha, where Dana punches her. Charlotte hits a big boot then Natural Selection. The heels pose to end this segment.
Bill Says: There’s just no chemistry between Brooke and Charlotte. Maybe this draft is the end of the line for them as a duo.
Kane is shown talking to Shane and Daniel Bryan. They move on to a promo by Dean Ambrose about his title matches both tonight on Raw and on Battleground.
Match #6 – Dolph Ziggler and Zack Ryder vs. Sheamus and Rusev (w/Lana);
Winner: Rusev and Sheamus
The Summary: Lana gave her loving introduction of Rusev, saying he is the only one who can have her. Sheamus works Ryder in the early going, then there were some teased tags. Ryder eventually gets the tag to Ziggler, as does Sheamus to Rusev. Late, Rusev slingshots Ziggler into the ropes and hits his thrust kick. Rusev gets Ziggler in the Accolade, and he’s forced to tap out. Rusev holds the belt at ringside and taunts Ryder, who jaws back while he checks in on Ziggler.
Bill Says: Well, again, I find myself hoping that the draft breaks this combination up so that we don’t see them in a meaningless tag. It didn’t do much to get Ryder any heat going into Sunday.
They hype Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton for SummerSlam, then roll a video package hyping Orton’s return to WWE television this Sunday at the Battleground pay per view. He will be on the Highlight Reel with Chris Jericho.
Bill Says: Welp, no sooner than I get done saying that whole thing about Lesnar, and there his name pops up. I guess WWE has looked into their options already about continuing to book Lesnar despite what UFC /USADA has going on at the moment. I wonder what happens if the “potential” violation becomes a “confirmed” violation?
The commentary team hypes up the WWE Championship match that will be going down next, saying it’s a rare WWE Championship match on Raw.
Back with the show, they roll clips of John Cena hosting the ESPY Awards. Backstage, the Ascension is talking to Mick Foley when Daniel Bryan walks up. Bryan says he hopes they can have a good working relationship. Foley agrees, and says he was fine with Daniel’s bigger reaction to his reaction. There were some competitive jokes back and forth, and Bryan adds how influential Foley was to him. They talked about how they both won championships and married women out of their leagues. Foley adds how they outwork, outperform and outlast anyone in their way. Foley says Bryan is in his way, and Bryan retorts that Foley is in his. “Whether on Raw, or Smackdown Live, may the best man win. Let the games begin.” They shake hands.
Bill Says: Character-wise right now, you have two guys that fans like engaging in a battle over ratings that WWE says don’t really matter that much and pay per view buys that seemingly don’t matter with the advent of WWE Network. This doesn’t scream compelling initially. Obviously it’s night #1, so there’s lots of room for development.
Match #7 – Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Seth Rollins; WWE Championship;
Winner: Draw, Dean Ambrose retains the WWE Championship
The Summary: Cole hypes the implications of this match and asks who will leave Raw tonight with the championship. “It doesn’t happen often…” he says. Ambrose gets his entrance going into a commercial break. Rollins enters after the break. Lilian gives us the introductions, and JBL tells us that “his sources” told him that Reigns is a caged animal right now watching this at home. Daniel Bryan, Mick Foley, Shane and Stephanie McMahon are all at ringside for this one.
Cole talks early about how Ambrose has never defeated Rollins in a full length match outside of the MITB cash in. The two men fought on the apron and to ringside in the early going. Ambrose hits Rollins with a clothesline as Cole hypes “it’s all the WWE Champion right now!” going to break. They show Mick Foley saying something to Stephanie at ringside.
Rollins starts to take over the offense as we’re back live. JBL mentions the cruiserweights returning to Raw, name dropping Kota Ibushi and Cedric Alexander along the way. Saxton brings up that this might be their final show together as a broadcast team. We could only be so lucky. Out on the floor, Ambrose tries a clothesline but misses. Rollins hits a bucklebomb into the barrier.
Rollins comes off the top and hits a Frog Splash for a two count. Stephanie gets out of her chair at ringside and points incredulously as Shane and Daniel Bryan look at each other. We go into what should be the final commercial break of the night.
Out of the break, Ambrose hits a huracanrana that sends Rollins to the corner. Rollins gets up and tries to set up his finish but Ambrose counters, sending Rollins over the top. Rollins catches himself and hits a flying knee from the top. He tries for a second Frog Splash, but Ambrose rolls away.
Rollins loads and hits a buckle bomb but Ambrose stumbles forward and hits Dirty Deeds. After some selling Ambrose covers but Rollins gets his foot on the rope. Rollins rolls to ringside, and Ambrose follows. He yells at Stephanie and Mick then rips apart the Spanish announce table. He sets Rollins up for something but Rollins rolls away. The fight moves to the apron.
Headbutts on the apron, then Ambrose clotheslines Rollins in. He goes top rope but Rollins catches him and hits the Pedigree for a good near fall. Ambrose hits a big clothesline then goes top rope. Rollins meets him there, and Ambrose shoves him off. Here comes the referee bump. Rollins hits a superplex and hooks the leg when they both land on the mat. Three count by the official.
Confusion reigns supreme. Stephanie is overjoyed, and claps while Shane and Bryan look confused. Rollins celebrates and tries to get the official to stir. Stephanie gets in the ring and hugs Rollins, while Shane and Daniel try to talk to the official who is slumped down in the corner. Steph gets a mic and names Seth the new WWE Champion and winner, and Rollins poses with the belt on the ramp. The discussion continues though between Steph, Shane, and Mick Foley. Seems both men had shoulders down and it’s not really a clear-cut winner to this match? Rollins poses with the belt to end the show.
POST SHOW on WWE NETWORK: The official asks for a replay on the Tron. Turns out, both men DID have their shoulders down, and Lilian announces that the result of the match is a draw. Therefore, Dean Ambrose retains the championship. Rollins attacks Ambrose after the ruling and walks out with the belt, but Cole says he is not the champion.
Bill Says: A good match with an expected sloppy finish. I figured they’d try to preserve the triple threat on Sunday and that would be a place to do some sort of double finish if they were looking to split the championship again between the two brands. I’m not sure how I feel about Foley playing along with heel Stephanie in this case, but maybe that’s character development for him. Bummer that they didn’t send people to the Network to see that post-show angle; going by Twitter a lot of people missed it.
All in all a decent show that gave us lots of hype for the Draft tomorrow night. Drew Koscelek will have your Smackdown Live coverage of the draft show. They did okay with hyping Battleground, and the card looks pretty good on paper, but it didn’t get nearly as much attention as I thought they might try to get in. Drew and I will preview that event and talk about the draft results on this week’s Ring Rap Audio. Thanks for following along tonight.