WWE rolls into Atlanta, GA tonight as the road to SummerSlam heats up. Brock Lesnar, who had a successful and controversial return to the UFC at UFC 200, will be on the show tonight. Will WWE address the elephant in the room, or will it be business as usual for the Beast Incarnate? Will Paul Heyman, who is rumored to not be under contract with WWE presently, be with him? Also, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor are set for a title match for the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam. How will the two of them interact now that they’ve got a match on the books? Will Charlotte try to extract revenge on Sasha Banks for claiming the Women’s Championship last week as they head toward a SummerSlam rematch?
All this and more in our “stream of consciousness” Raw Reaction tonight here on Ring-Rap.com.
Show Open, Live from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA:
It’s always a nice touch when they recap the previous week’s show, and last week was newsworthy. Sasha Banks, the new Women’s Champion, came to the ring as Cole, Saxton and Graves checked in. They hyped Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte for SummerSlam, then we got a promo from the new Champ. Sasha got a good reaction, and talked about winning the Women’s Championship.
That drew out Charlotte, who was without her title and Sasha was sure to taunt her about that. The fans reminded Charlotte that she tapped out to Sasha last week, as did Sasha. Charlotte promised Sasha that she could win without Dana and without her dad “who is vacationing in a rest home somewhere…” and would beat her one on one at SummerSlam in the rematch.
Charlotte touted her title run and said Sasha capitalized on one mistake. I’m not sure I’m all that big of a fan of Charlotte calling Sasha a “one night stand,” which she did. Banks threw back that if it weren’t for Ric Flair, Charlotte wouldn’t be there.
For some reason unbeknownst to me right this moment, Chris Jericho came out and told the crowd to be quiet. Once in the ring, Jericho told Sasha she is an ungrateful and disrespectful punk. As a fellow heel it makes sense that Jericho put Charlotte over as royalty, saying she had outdone everything Ric Flair had done. A bit over the top there to put her over a 2-time Hall of Famer, but again, it’s a heel putting over a heel. No big deal. He says Charlotte will beat Sasha in the return match at SummerSlam. He then insulted Sasha some more, asking if Sasha is a relative of Snoop Dogg or Puff Daddy. He called her a brat.
Cue Enzo Amore, without Big Cass, for a big reaction. He does his half of the entrance gimmick then kisses Sasha’s hand and asks how she’s doing. They went back and forth a bit with “how you doin’?”, and Charlotte chimed in with an innuendo insult based on Enzo’s SAWFT line. Enzo called Charlotte and Jericho haters, then said listening to Jericho speak is like passing a kidney stone. Jericho said he doesn’t care how anyone’s doing because he hopes they’re doing terrible.
Mick Foley came out to interrupt, saying he does care how they’re doing. He said he’s Jericho’s boss, worked in a plug for Holey Foley, then booked a mixed tag between the four people in the ring to start after the break.
It was a long talk segment, but it got to a match that should be entertaining and it actually felt fresh because of the players. It wasn’t Stephanie, it wasn’t Seth Rollins, it wasn’t any of the people that no matter how good they may be wore out their welcome. They have two face talents in there that are over and held up their end against the heels. I wonder if this is more than a one time thing for Enzo and Jericho?
Match #1 – Enzo Amore and Sasha Banks vs. Chris Jericho and Charlotte;
Winner: Chris Jericho and Charlotte
The Summary: Kevin Owens was on commentary, and if he ever gets hurt to the point he can’t wrestle again I think he has a future in commentary – he’s that good. Is this a tell as to where things are heading for Enzo? Owens cut on the face announcers then bitched about Enzo interrupting his draft show spot. Jericho took a drop kick and tagged out hiding his face at Charlotte’s side. She had a surprised look to her that was kinda comical. Going to a break, both Enzo and Sasha hit dives.
Enzo leaped off the rope to take a drop kick from Jericho. He crawled to the corner, selling his knee, and the women tagged in. Dana Brooke ended up coming out to distract Sasha, then Sasha slapped Jericho, but that opened her up to take Natural Selection for the heels to win. Jericho hit Enzo with a Codebreaker afterward, then Big Cass hit the ring. Jericho fled and hid by Charlotte and Dana Brooke. Owens said Cass was the one to be afraid of.
This was a good match throughout and Owens added a lot to commentary. It made sense to put Charlotte over here – it reinforces her heelish claim that Sasha’s win was a fluke, and it puts Sasha in the “vulnerable champion” role because of the numbers game (adding in Dana Brooke). This worked, as most mixed tags make me want to puke but for some reason the men being involved seemed to make the women’s feud seem bigger to me. I was good with this open.
Cole hyped an exclusive interview with Finn Balor later. This is something we need to have, and it’s good timing for it. Those of the audience who don’t faithfully watch NXT don’t know Finn, so here’s a chance to introduce his character.
We got footage of The Bella Twins winning Best Female Athlete at the Teen Choice Awards. Um, ok.
Braun Strowman yells loud and makes his entrance. This isn’t going to last long. Byron Saxton interviewed Evan Anderhold, and he said he took the match because he is guaranteed $1000 and if he wins he gets $5000.
Match #2 – Braun Strowman vs. Evan Anderhold.
Winner: Braun Strowman
The Summary: Total squash. Face first chokeslam after about a minute of action. Anderhold is also known as Corey Hollis on the indies. James Ellsworth he’s not, but he filled his role well tonight.
We got a backstage segment with Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon, who were happy. Stephanie said Shane’s run as Smackdown GM will be a distant memory at this rate, in the WWE Network in a collection feature. Right now, yeah, it’s looking that way. Mark Henry entered, and Stephanie called him the ambassador to the Summer Olympics. Henry said he was excited about the Olympics, and excited about the new era. He made renovations in the Hall of Pain. New paint, new drapes?
Steph said they wanted Henry to serve in a mentor’s role, and Foley said younger talent looks up to him. Henry stopped them and ran down his accolades, saying he has a lot left and he needs one more run. Foley talked about how Henry would represent the company at the Olympics, then said he could go for gold tonight against Rusev. Henry got excited about the possibility and the crowd reacted positively. I mean, this is one way Henry can be a mentor and help talent get going, by putting them over strong, but we’ve seen this before is my only (tiny) gripe.
R-Truth and Goldust are still playing Pokemon Go. Ugh. This isn’t working for me. They have the next match.
Match #3 – R-Truth and Goldust vs. The Shining Stars
Winner: The Shining Stars
The Summary: There wasn’t much reaction for this match by the live crowd. Truth played his game on his phone while Goldust worked the match. Goldust tried to tag but Truth was distracted by his phone and the game, then Truth dropped his phone. When Truth went to retrieve it, one of the Stars rolled up Goldust. Kind of a lame match if you ask me.
Cole hyped Finn Balor’s interview for after the break, they hyped Brock Lesnar when they came back live, and during commercial, Smackdown we’re told will feature American Alpha’s debut (Drew will be thrilled!) and AJ Styles having words for John Cena. Let me guess, SummerSlam match? I’m good with that. Their previous matches delivered.
Interview with Finn Balor:
Cole welcomed Balor to the ring, calling his debut the greatest in the history of Raw. Balor got his entrance to a nice reaction. Cole said it has been a wild couple weeks. Balor said when he heard his name called, he knew he had to come to Raw and make an impact. Not a TNA joke. Balor got cut off by Seth Rollins though, who got a good reaction too. Corey Graves said that winning a home run derby doesn’t make you Babe Ruth, and that Rollins carried WWE on his back.
Rollins compared his accolades to Balor’s, emphasizing that he was the first to do some of the same things that Balor accomplished. Well no shit, Seth, he wasn’t in the company at the same time you got started. But, it makes sense given what they’re driving at. He compared Balor to Melissa McCarthy in the Ghostbusters reboot.
Balor staked claim to the first WWE Universal Championship and Rollins called him a comedian. He said the odds of Balor winning were as good as the Braves winning the World Series. That drew a chant and the Tomahawk chop from the crowd. Rollins told them their team sucks and that stopped that.
Rollins gave Balor credit for being a great NXT champion but said he’s the man in WWE. Balor said everywhere he’s been, someone has claimed to be the man and he took their spot. Rollins told Balor he doesn’t know who he’s messing with, and told Balor to watch his video on WWE Network or his match later with Sami Zayn. Balor said the big difference is he earned his shot, while Rollins was handed his. Ouch.
Rollins insisted nothing has been handed to him, and he said the only thing that will be handed to him is the Universal Title at SummerSlam. Balor said the only thing Rollins will get handed to him is his ass. The fans reacted strong for that, then Rollins tried to cheap shot Balor. Balor blocked it, landed a shot and Rollins fled to ringside.
This was a great segment, but I wish WWE would have advertised it. This is something they could have really focused on, because it’s the first time these two met in a WWE ring. Finn held his own on the mic here, coming off confident but not cocky. He thrives in these sorts of situations and he delivered well. Rollins was Rollins here. A good exchange.
We got hype for New Day vs. Gallows and Anderson with one member of New Day banned from ringside, and Rusev vs. Henry is next.
We got a recap of the previous segment and hype for Rollins vs. Zayn for later.
Match #4 – Rusev (c, w/Lana) vs. Mark Henry; WWE United States Championship Match
Winner: Rusev to retain the US Championship
The Summary: Lana gave her loving introduction, complete with adding “my husband” as her and Rusev are now married. JoJo gave us the introductions, with Henry getting a strong reaction when he played to the crowd. Henry got early control of the match with some power moves that sent Rusev to take a powder.
The announcers did a great job throughout this match of making it seem important. They didn’t monkey around with small talk and humor each other and called it straight. The action was slow and plodding a bit, but Henry powered out of one Accolade attempt but ate a kick to the neck and submitted to the second attempt Rusev tried to get the hold in.
Rusev taunted afterward on the mic about how Americans win because the Olympics are rigged, and they don’t deserve gold medals in Rio. Here comes Roman Reigns, hero to the US Olympic team. Or something. Anyhow, Rusev and Reigns stared at each other, then Rusev tried to leave. Reigns blocked him, then ducked a running move from Rusev. Rusev avoided his Superman Punch attempt, but Reigns followed him to ringside and hit him with it anyhow.
This Reigns/Rusev thing should mean a lot more, but Rusev has been so defined down to this point that his character was damaged. He’s on an upswing now, but it feels like it’s too soon to go back to this. It could make money down the road, but definitely not right now.
The announcers stood at their desk and talked, setting up a very well done Nia Jax video package. Really sold her like a monster. Cole hyped that Jax would destroy Raw tonight.
Still fighting power and cable TV problems in the wake of a big storm. Doing what I can to keep up – bear with me.
Match #5 – Darren Young (w/Bob Backlund) vs. Titus O’Neil:
Winner: Titus O’Neil
The Summary: This match was pretty poorly presented overall. Titus didn’t get his entrance but they did recap him asking Young on the pre-show when he was ever great to begin with. They could have played on their history as the Prime Time Players or something but they didn’t. Titus won with a roll-up and a handful of tights, which is a bit surprising. Heel Titus?
Backstage, Sheamus complained about Henry getting a title shot while he’s a former Champion. Cesaro showed up and the two bickered about being deserving. Stephanie and Mick showed up to intervene. Stephanie brought up Cesaro complaining about wanting to be on Smackdown, and Mick pointed out his shoulder as a question mark, something Shane had access to. Foley booked Cesaro vs. Sheamus and said the winner would get a title match in the future. The two jawed at each other.
They showed Nia Jax backstage, and she had the next match.
They hyped the WWE Cruiserweight Classic and hyped the Cruiserweight division coming to Raw. That’s a good show if you’re not watching, I’m just saying.
Backstage, Backlund and Titus jawed at each other. Titus told him to calm down or “I’ll knock your old ass out.” Young knocked Titus down and told him not to put his hands on Backlund. This is so confusing, because Titus showed heel tendencies out in the ring, yet Young jumped Titus and was pulled off by Backlund. Bad mid-card booking.
Match #6 – Nia Jax vs. Ariel Monroe:
Winner: Nia Jax
The Summary: This ends fast, as Jax hits a power slam then stands on her with one foot. Saxton got in the ring and said Nia made a statement and asked how it felt. Nia took another shot on Monroe and told Saxton to ask her how it feels. Another solid use of the squash to continue to build Nia Jax up. So far, it’s a working formula.
Tom Phillips interviewed Sami Zayn, noting that Seth Rollins is using him to prove a point. Zayn gave Rollins credit then said his weakness is his mouth. Zayn said he had the match of his life at battleground and did what he had to in order to close a chapter. He said he had something to prove tonight too.
New Day was eating Booty O’s and drawing fruit from a bag. I guess the banana means odd man out? Woods got the banana, so he’s out of the upcoming match with the Club. All three of them made the entrance though as the announcers ran through footage of their action with The Club last week.
Kofi called The Club cowards, and said one member of the New Day will be banned because they complained. Woods said he got the odd fruit and lost, and he held up the banana as Kingston and E held out the oranges. Dick jokes for everyone! Some of the crowd liked it though. Woods said he can’t perform in front of the hometown crowd, but he’ll hang out and eat Booty O’s backstage. They emphasized that it’s now a real cereal, at $13 a box. “We need the money, go buy it.”
Match #7 – Kofi Kingston and Big E of New Day vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows;
Winner: New Day
The Summary: Off of Gallows and Anderson doing the Too-Sweet thing with their hands, Big E rolled Anderson up for the pin. After, The Club beat New Day down. Woods ran out for the save but was also taken out. They hit Big E with the boot of doom twice (Magic Killer?). Woods dragged Anderson to ringside, but Gallows grabbed him. Woods screamed and Anderson kicked him. They dragged Big E into the post groin first too.
Here’s my concern about this angle. The beatdown was effective, but I fear New Day will come out next week on Raw and blow it off by doing comedy. I get that it’s their thing, but they do have to get serious at times or the beatdown loses heat. And the Club looks like schmucks for losing the way that they did. They’re supposed to be world-beaters who traveled all over and kicked ass.
The announcers promised a medical update on Big E either by the end of the show or via the website. Won’t we be disappointed when they say that Big E’s tree-trunk legs kept his balls from getting busted.
Match #8 – Sheamus vs. Cesaro; Winner gets a future title match
The Summary: Cole said that Sheamus hasn’t gotten back on track since League of Nations disbanded. The commentary team did a good job of playing up that either man could win this match, which was a physical affair. They traded uppercuts, then Sheamus threw a kick and asked if we were entertained. The two continued to just slug it out. It’s a shame that these guys aren’t clicking better than they are. I think Cesaro is in better shape than Sheamus, and that’s saying something since Sheamus is a former champion. I think there’s some value in him, but Creative has his character fucked sideways right now. Cesaro won with the Neutralizer.
After a break, Cesaro and Sheamus jawed at each other and were held apart by security, but in the ring was Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal! What?! It’s 2MB! Slater welcomed Jinder and said he was a best friend, but Mick Foley cut them off. Foley called this a surprise because neither man is on the Raw roster. Foley called for a “battle of the bands” and said he had one roster slot open so the winner of this match would get it.
Match #9 – Jinder Mahal vs. Heath Slater;
Winner: Jinder Mahal
The Summary: Don’t hinder Jinder, man. Slater got caught talking and got blasted with a kick. Jinder pinned him in 14 seconds. I like that they’re playing out the “free agent” thing with Slater and I hope he gets more out of this than being an undercard loser. He could be more than that.
We got a recap of the opening match before going backstage. Tom Phillips interviewed Chris Jericho, asking if he’s worried about being a marked man for taking out Enzo. He should be worried about that Bon Jovi hairdo. Jericho said he has someone to watch his back, and made up some names until Kevin Owens showed up. Owens said it’s not a real person, but not to worry because he has his back. Jericho made fun of Phillips and called him a stupid idiot. This could make for a fun mid-card tag for SummerSlam if you put Owens and Jericho against Enzo and Cass. I’m good with it.
Match #10 – Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn:
Winner: Seth Rollins
The Summary: Rollins controlled the early going, roughing up Zayn out on the floor. Zayn mounted a comeback but got crotched on the ropes and sent to ringside. Rollins hit a bucklebomb then set up a superkick but Zayn caught him with a clothesline. The live crowd watched on and got up for Zayn hitting a Blue Thunder Bomb. He tried for the Helluva Kick later but Rollins avoided it and hit the Pedigree to win.
This was a fine “main event” match (the Lesnar segment goes last) but I never really felt like Zayn would be going over given Rollins being in the title match at SummerSlam.
Paul Heyman (see, told you he was there…) left Brock Lesnar’s locker room, laughed and said “I’ll see you out there.” Cole hyped up Lesnar’s appearance.
JoJo introduced Heyman, who introduced himself. He said that the fans have been sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for the “single biggest box office attraction in combat sports history” made his way to the ring for the WWE Universe to worship. Heyman put Lesnar over as the beast of the Brocktagon, the ruler and conqueror of WWE, and the Viper Slayer. He got a subdued yet positive reaction, and Lesnar smirked at a “Suplex City” chant. Heyman said that on August 21 at SummerSlam, his client will…entertain you.
“Yes, because Brock Lesnar’s form of entertainment is not the same style of entertainment that they like to market and sell and promote here in WWE.” Heyman called Lesnar’s form of entertainment politically incorrect, acknowledging that he’s not supposed to say that but he’s standing next to Lesnar so he’ll say anything he wants to.
Heyman said that Lesnar doesn’t have to step up to the new era, the new era has to step up to him. Lesnar isn’t there to court favor with Mick or Stephanie. He brought up Orton, who got a mixed reaction. Heyman admits that Lesnar has heard of him and runs down his accomplishments. “They say Randy Orton is just one RKO away from victory at any moment.” Heyman says that they say Orton is an RKO away from shocking the world like Lesnar did when he beat the Undertaker and ended the Streak.
Heyman brought up Orton’s entrance music and asked how many of the voices tell him that Lesnar is going to beat his ass at SummerSlam and drag him to Suplex City. Heyman said if the voices aren’t telling him that then they’re full of mularkey. Heyman continued to boast about Lesnar’s dominance, and said that Orton’s only chance is to hit the RKO but he won’t get it. “You’re not man enough to hit the RKO on Brock Lesnar.”
Orton suddenly appears and drops Lesnar with an RKO. Officials ran out, and Orton fled through the crowd. Stephanie and Mick Foley walk out on the stage with security while Orton exited through the fans. He stopped and looked at Lesnar, who had gotten back to his feet. Orton smiled and did his pose while Lesnar stared at him. Cole asked if Orton fired the first shot or signed his death warrant as the show ended.
I’m fine with this ending. Orton and Lesnar are on separate brands, but you have to build to the match. Plus, this looks like Orton went into business for himself rather than it being a management-endorsed cross-over move. Now you have the possibility of Lesnar doing the same to get revenge on Orton on Smackdown, so that draws some eyes there. Heyman was his usual solid promo self on his first night back in a while, delivering a good promo. The crowd seemed a bit tired from the three hour marathon though, so it wasn’t like they were up for a long talking segment.
Putting Lesnar out there last might have been a safety net move by WWE. You know that the USADA allegations are out there, and while not finalized yet it could have been something that the fans revolted against. I know our Twitter feed showed some negativity toward Lesnar being on the show with that USADA stuff hanging overhead. I can’t blame them. WWE is treading on thin ice here with how they present Lesnar with those violations out there.
There was no way that WWE could keep Raw hot like they started out last week, and this show was a bit of a marathon – with my cable and power issues complicating matters further for me personally. But there was a lot of good in this show, with a good opening segment that got to a solid match, as well as some other good in-ring work along the way. The finish was good and got some hype moving for a marquee match (all the other objections aside) at SummerSlam. Commentary on Raw is so much better without JBL now, too.
Drew will have Smackdown for you tomorrow, as well as Around the Ring where I’m sure he’ll weigh in on some Raw topics too. Be sure to catch both of those things and much more right here on Ring-Rap.com. Thanks for following along (and your patience!) tonight.