WWE heads deep into the heart of Texas tonight as the road to SummerSlam winds down. Raw comes to us from Corpus Christi, TX and the American Bank Center, but the Barclays Center and Brooklyn, NY are clearly in sight. Seth Rollins promises to call out the “Demon King” tonight. Will it be Balor, or will Rollins spoof him somehow in order to try and get inside the former NXT Champion’s head? Will Charlotte try one more time to exert her superiority on Women’s Champion Sasha Banks? Will Smackdown’s Randy Orton surprise us again to get an advantage on Brock Lesnar?
Show Open, Live from the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, TX:
They recapped the Lana/Rusev/Roman Reigns angle from last Monday to start the show. I realize that WWE needs to heat up the US Championship match (assumed) between the two, but this was a bad angle and I’d rather have seen WWE focus on something else right off the bat. They moved on to recap the really good Seth Rollins promo where he vowed to call out the Demon tonight after that, interlaced with Balor promo. Good package on that end.
Rollins opens the show and said they’re six days out from SummerSlam. He vowed to make history again and become the first WWE Universal Champion. He said he’s not going to wait any longer to call out the Demon King and would do it right now. He demands “Demon King” to show himself. When nothing happens, Rollins said it was just like he thought and Balor is scared of “the man” and said he would find him.
Out in the arena, Rusev and Lana are upset and in the ring. After some words off mic, Lana said they wouldn’t leave until they heard what they had to say. Rusev said Roman Reigns ruined their celebration and there would be no show until Reigns came out to apologize. “WHAT?” is still the worst gift to wrestling by Steve Austin. A “USA” chant gets going, which gets Rusev and Lana worked up. Mick Foley showed up to save the segment, a bit.
Foley got a “Foley” chant which Rusev addressed by saying “yes, I know it’s Foley, the so-called general manager of Raw.” He said he demanded respect as the greatest US Champion ever. Foley said off mic that the fans wanted to see matches, and that the two had all the time they needed last week.
Rusev told Foley that he lied when he told Mick he was the greatest GM ever. He asked what Reigns had done to deserve a title shot and said he had done nothing. He complained that Reigns got opportunity after opportunity. He requests Stephanie McMahon to come to the ring, and she does. He thanks her while the commentary team asked what she would do here.
Steph told Rusev his behavior was unacceptable, and that no one deserved respect more than Foley. She said she supported his decisions. Rusev barked about respect again, then teased that he would bolt to Smackdown where “big brother Shane” appreciated talent.
That brought out Roman Reigns. “If an apology is going to end this, then so be it.” He said he’s sorry that Rusev found the website where he met his wife, and sorry that the two will make sasquatch babies. Those got some laughs. Reigns added that he didn’t feel like waiting til SummerSlam. Foley kept them apart while Rusev barked that the match is about his wife’s honor.
Foley said SummerSlam is about the title, but tonight Rusev vs. Reigns will be about his wife’s honor. He made the match official for later.
I’m a bit shocked that Stephanie hasn’t degraded or slapped Foley to this point or even contradicted his decisions. Anyhow, this was fine, but Rusev still needs to be built up more into a badass monster to make matches like this feel bigger. Rusev’s antics are entertaining, however.
The commentary team hyped up SummerSlam, Lesnar returning, and Rollins calling out the Demon King for later.
Match #1 – Sheamus vs. Sami Zayn;
Winner: Sami Zayn
The Summary: They did a pre-match interview with Sheamus. I like this touch, they should do it more often. Anyhow, Sheamus said he has proven he is more dominant than Cesaro so he’s moving on to Sami Zayn. He called Zayn a brave man on Twitter who makes comments. Fans told Sheamus he looked stupid, and he played into it by saying they paid to see him, so who’s stupid now? Sheamus closed by saying Zayn could say what he wanted on Twitter, but he would take his head off.
Sheamus kicked Sami’s hat, and Sami threw his jacket early. Cesaro made his way to the commentary team to watch this match. I can tell you right now that Cesaro costs Sheamus this match – confirmed. Going to a break, Zayn tried a tornado DDT on the apron but got caught and ate the ring post. Out of commercial, the commentary team banters about the rivalry between Cesaro and Sheamus while Sheamus delivered Ten Beats of the Battern on the apron. Zayn came back with a big dive.
Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for two, then ate an Irish Curse. Sheamus set up the Brogue, but Cesaro got up and distracted him. Zayn came back with the Helluva Kick to win. Interference confirmed. The commentary team hyped that the Sheamus and Cesaro have not settled their issues while Sheamus ranted in the ring. A good match, but the outcome was all about furthering the Cesaro/Sheamus story more than anything else. I want to see Zayn be put in a real program before he gets lost in the mix.
Backstage, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho are interviewed by Tom Phillips. They called him different names throughout the interview and played it straight, somehow. Pretty solid mic work by the duo. They talked about Owens’ match tonight with Big Cass, with Jericho saying it’s not a one-on-one match as he has Owens’ back. Owens said they’re closer than Enzo and Cass after a week, and you can’t teach Cass how to spell since there’s no A or W in soft. They ended by telling Phillips to “watch it” and by “it” they meant watch Owens win tonight then humiliate Enzo and Cass at SummerSlam. The two have the right mix of comedy and heel tactics to make things work.
Out of the break, there is a scrum going on backstage. Foley yelled at Cesaro and Sheamus about interrupting matches, and booked them in a best of seven series starting at SummerSlam. I like the idea of a best of seven, as it’s something we’ve not seen, but anything involving Sheamus doesn’t jump off the page at me as exciting. I do expect good stuff from Cesaro though.
Match #2 – The Dudley Boyz vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods);
Winner: The New Day
The Summary: This match was more about the post-match angle than it was the match itself. Before the match, Gallows and Anderson did their doctor gimmick. Sigh, these two are better than this. There was a miscommunication between the Dudleys that let Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise to score the pinfall victory.
After, they went back to the doctor skit, trying to find a cure for Big E. They said they needed more test samples and put jars with Woods’ and Kingston’s name on them. Woods and Kingston got upset and asked if Gallows and Anderson thought this was a game. Woods boasted about being tag team champions and said The Club couldn’t put their hands on New Day’s Rocks….get it? More penis jokes than enough. They at least sold it a bit this time. Wonder if there’s friction between the Dudleys given the looks they’ve been exchanging.
The commentary team hyped up the “dangerous” Nia Jax for next.
Out of break, Seth Rollins was asking around looking for the Demon King. No one has seen him. He came across Neville, who told Rollins that he’s not ready for the Demon King.
Match #3 – Nia Jax vs. Rachel Levy
Winner: Nia Jax
The Summary: Another solid squash match to continue to put Jax over as a dominant force. Levy got a promo beforehand, saying that the Olympics have taught her she can do whatever she sets her mind to so she would take home the gold tonight. Yeah, good luck with that. Jax destroyed her in a minute or so with her finisher.
We get a shot of Paul Heyman, who is in front of Brock Lesnar’s locker room. We find out what he has on his mind, next.
Right out of the break, here comes Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar, with full pyro. They recapped Orton hitting Lesnar with the RKO, then Lesnar going to Smackdown to hit the F5 on Orton. Lesnar got a pretty positive reaction and “Suplex City” chants from the Texas fans, oddly enough. Heyman didn’t even get out his intro before….Heath Slater…?
Heyman said he didn’t know who put him up to interrupting him and Lesnar. Slater put himself over as the hottest free agent in pro wrestling at this time, saying that Smackdown wouldn’t know talent if it slapped them in the face, so that’s why he had to approach Heyman. Heyman laughed at him and asked why he would even come up with the idea that he would advocate for Slater.
Slater told him to laugh it up, but he was getting another chance at WWE contract. “All I have to do is beat your client, one on one, tonight.” RIP Heath Slater. Slater asked for the match and the fans chanted “yes!” Heyman said the joke is over and started to deliver his introduction. Slater cut him off and said that he needs this and his kids rely on him to take care of them. He said he knows he’ll get his ass whipped but he has to do this. Heyman said he was trying to save his ass. Slater again asserted that he had kids who depend on him.
Lesnar gets the mic and cut him off. He said he can appreciate it and credited Slater for having guts. He asked Slater about having mouths to feed, and Slater said he did. Lesnar said he has kids too and invited him to the ring to talk about it. “I don’t give a shit about your kids.” Lesnar told him he had two choices – leave on his own two feet or stand there and keep pissing him off.
Slater teased exiting, but charged instead. Lesnar hit a clothesline, hit a couple German Suplexes, then the F5. The fans didn’t react much, but then broke into a chant.
Heyman said Slater deserves credit for having the guts to go against Lesnar. He said he’s a hype artist and his job is supposed to sell the fans on Orton having a chance, but if he said that then Lesnar wouldn’t believe anything he said. Heyman called it “the summer of the Conqueror” and said the Beast is in heat.
He put over Lesnar’s “unparalleled dominance” and called Lesnar the box office at SummerSlam because there’s no one in the locker room that can stand up to him. Not even a future hall of famer, Wrestlemania main eventer, and the owner of the RKO could stand up to Lesnar. Heyman hyped that the fans have a chance to see a “once ever athlete” who will have an official match with an official result that will go down in the history books. He hyped the chance to see The Beast in action, live.
Lesnar was his usual badass standing there, then having few words with Slater while he threw the assault to him. This was well sold. Drew will have what I suppose will be Orton’s response tomorrow night in his Smackdown coverage.
They hyped Cass vs. Kevin Owens for next.
Match #4 – Big Cass (w/Enzo Amore) vs. Kevin Owens (w/Chris Jericho);
Winner: Big Cass by disqualification.
The Summary: Enzo and Cass come out first, and they do their entrance gimmick. Corpus Christi likes it. You can’t teach that. How you doin’? They talk about having a barbecue at SummerSlam, and Enzo said they would bring the beef to their grill. Owens and Jericho made their entrance.
Owens sent Cass to ringside, where Jericho landed a cheap shot. Owens threw Cass to the post. Out of the break, Cass sold but started a comeback. Jericho sent Enzo into the steps, then took a shot on Cass to get the DQ. Owens and Jericho worked on Cass while Enzo sold. Logical that the heels got the heat here going into the pay per view, but I just didn’t see them going far enough. Brooklyn is Enzo and Cass’s back yard though, so that crowd will be hot for them.
Backstage, Tom Phillips interviewed Roman Reigns, who has managed to find a razor. He said he didn’t care what kind of fight they had tonight, so Rusev jumped him from behind right now. They battled, then Rusev threw Reigns into a door and onto catering tables. Revenge for dunking Lana in the cake last week I assume. Producers and referees broke them up.
The commentary team hyped up all of the WWE programming content on the Network this week. NXT Takeover: Back to Brooklyn, Legends with JBL featuring Sting, and Holy Foley were particular highlights they focused on. Don’t forget, we’ll have your NXT Takeover coverage on Saturday.
Match #5 – Darren Young and Titus O’Neil (w/Bob Backlund) vs. The Shining Stars
Winner: The Shining Stars
The Summary: They showed how the reunion came about between the two on the Raw pre-show. Late in this one, Young bumped Titus off the apron, which led to Titus hitting Young with Clash of the Titus. The Stars picked up the scraps to get the win. This really didn’t do anything for anyone. Titus got a face pop for the bark, and Young got no reaction at all. The feud between the former Prime Time Players just isn’t clicking.
Match #6 – Jinder Mahal vs. Neville;
The Summary: They recounted the return of Jinder by taking down Heath Slater a couple weeks back. Graves said he spent time in monastaries in the Himalayas to get in touch with his inner being. In the end, Neville hits the Red Arrow and puts Mahal away. The commentary team talked about the finish and said it was all about taking risks to get to the next level. Neville spent a lot of time setting up the Red Arrow for sure.
Backstage, Mick Foley and Stephanie talk about Jon Stewart being their guest at SummerSlam. Rollins entered, and he said he’s been looking everywhere for the Demon King. Rollins asked for the night off, and Stephanie was ready to give that. Foley suggested that, before Rollins took the night off, that he go to the ring and call out the Demon King out there. Rollins agreed after Foley said it would be okay if he was scared to say no.
Rollins was in the ring after a break. He talked about Balor talking about ghouls and the Demon King but he hasn’t found him despite looking all day. He told ESPN, FOX, and all the media to get ready for a soundbyte. He said nothing will stop him from becoming the first WWE Universal Champion. He called out the Demon King so he can kick him off the throne he is sitting on.
Rollins said that Balor is trying to intimidate him because he’s afraid, and said he would be afraid of himself too. Rollins called the Demon King just another chapter in the Book of Rollins. He said the Demon King wouldn’t come to the ring because he’s scared. Rollins watched a fan jump the ring, then started talking again.
The arena went dark and Rollins stopped talking. We got the familiar red lights and heartbeat, then Balor made his entrance as the Demon. I immediately recoiled and thought they should have done this a different way. They could have saved the entrance itself for Sunday and came up with another way to have the same exchange that introduced the Demon character go down tonight. Balor crawled his way to the ring and confronted Rollins. Rollins bolted to ringside at first, then got back in the ring.
Rollins took a swing after a staredown, then Balor quickly took over. He hit a running drop kick and tried for Coup de Grace, but Rollins rolled out. Balor hit a flip dive on him instead then went back to the ring to pose. Graves said that it’s other-worldly aggression that Balor unleashes when he goes to this place.
The live crowd responded to it and it was positive, and in discussion on Twitter there is always the possibility that WWE has something more theatric in mind to make Balor’s entrance really special – but man, I wish they’d have held off on the actual Demon entrance in any way tonight. There were other ways to go there. The reaction was definitely encouraging though to seeing the Demon on the main roster for the first time.
Match #7 – Goldust and R-Truth vs. Gallows and Anderson;
Winner: Gallows and Anderson
The Summary: Lab coats and bottles. Sigh. Can we change this? Goldust and Truth get the better of Gallows and Anderson in the early going, but Gallows and Anderson came back and hit Magic Killer to get the pinfall win. Woods and Kingston hit the ring afterward to attack Gallows and Anderson, roughing up the challengers before they exited the ring. They set up Anderson for a nut shot but Gallows saved him at the last second. New Day stood tall and the fans chanted for them. This is more about balls than titles, and that’s sad.
The commentary team put some hype to WWE Network.
Backstage, Dana Brooke apologized to Charlotte for being banned from ringside at SummerSlam. Charlotte understood, knowing that she was Brooke’s inspiration at NXT, and being allowed in her orbit. Charlotte asked her why she failed when it mattered most. Charlotte compared herself to Meryl Streep and called Brooke Anne Hathaway. Charlotte said she would beat Alicia by herself on Raw and once she reclaimed the title and became a two time champ, she would ask Stephanie to replace her with someone who isn’t an epic failure. Good heel work from Charlotte here, but Dana hasn’t had any redeeming qualities so where’s the heat in this?
Match #8 – Charlotte vs. Alicia Fox:
The Summary: Sasha Banks sat in on commentary, but this ended fairly quickly. Charlotte hit Alicia with Natural Selection to get the quick victory. Charlotte taunted Sasha afterward and invited her in the ring, which Sasha obliged. Dana Brooke distracted Sasha, which let Charlotte clip her and lock the Figure 8 on Sasha. Dana held up an official while another tried to get Charlotte to break the hold, which she eventually did. Sasha sold. The fans chanted “Charlotte Sucks,” which is a sign that she at least drew some heat on the angle. It was simple and effective.
They had a trivia question about the wrestler which held the title for 351 days – that was current WWE Champion (on the Smackdown brand) Dean Ambrose. The commentary team fed it to a Braun Strowman hype package.
Lana introduced Rusev, saying he would defend her honor and crush Reigns. Rusev got heat and a “USA” chant, then Reigns got his entrance to a fairly positive reaction. He stormed the ring and the two men went right to a brawl rather than a match. They fought to ringside and Saxton asked if the match would actually start.
Match #9 – Rusev (w/Lana) vs. Roman Reigns;
Winner: Roman Reigns
The Summary: They came back to the match in progress. Rusev focused his offense on Reigns’ left arm, running it to the ring post, then cutting off a comeback by slamming it on the ring steps. Rusev stomped on Reigns’ hand on the steps. Rusev teased using the title belt as a weapon, but Reigns caught him with a punch. I can’t help but feel like WWE shouldn’t be giving this away on TV unless there’s some sort of issue that’s going to take the match off the card?
Rusev got a mic at one point and told them to cheer the Russian Bulgarian. He focused on Reigns’ arm, then Reigns shot back a clothesline from the second rope. Reigns dodged a charge and hit ten corner clotheslines. He cued up a Superman punch but Rusev blocked and went back to work on the arm again. A spin kick netted Rusev a two count, then he scored a couple more along the way.
Things fell back to ringside again, where Reigns tried for something from the steps but ate a kick. Reigns hit a Superman punch back in the ring for two, then Rusev scored a near fall of his own and got frustrated.
Late, Reigns set up another Superman punch but Rusev cut it off with a shoulder block and went for the Accolade. Reigns broke it in the ropes, then a short time later he speared Rusev for the clean win. As the show went off the air, Reigns sold in the ring as Cole gave some final hype to SummerSlam.
First, I just can’t get over them giving away this match on free TV. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it – in fact if they duplicate this effort on Sunday I’ll be thrilled. The match was a great TV main event. But we’ll see it again in six days, and the feud is kind of lukewarm at the moment. You know Brooklyn will not be kind to Reigns like this crowd was, so it’s going to be a crazy night.
All in all, this show was average, with the Rollins segment being a highlight. I wasn’t crazy about how they gave away the Demon tonight, but in terms of the overall execution, it was well done. Just felt they should have saved the actual Demon entrance for Sunday, but that’s just me. It definitely helped my interest in their match, I will say that.
SummerSlam looks like a pretty good show on paper, even though this Raw didn’t do all it could to sell the final hype. Drew Koscelek will have your Smackdown coverage, so you’ll get to see what the blue brand has in store for final hype tomorrow night. Be sure to join him then, and he and I will talk ALL the weekend’s wrestling events (NXT, ROH, and WWE) this week in audio and print form. Thanks for following along tonight.