WWE heads into Memphis, TN tonight as the build to Clash of Champions comes to a head. Roman Reigns fell short against Kevin Owens in trying to get a shot at the Universal Championship because of Rusev. Will they end up going against each other this coming Sunday for Rusev’s United States Championship? How will Seth Rollins try to get an advantage on Kevin Owens going into their title match on Sunday? And tonight, TJ Perkins and the rest of the Cruiserweights make their debut. How will the current Cruiserweight Champion impact tonight’s show?
Show Open, Live from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN:
We got a recap video to open the show then the commentary team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and David Otunga (this week) checked in.
Roman Reigns got more boos than cheers as he headed to the ring. He didn’t get to talk long – “I’ve been waiting a whole week…” – before Steph McMahon interrupted him. She told Roman that she and Mick Foley had been discussing how to handle his situation all week. Foley interrupted her and he made his way to the ring. Steph encouraged Foley chants before Foley noted that he had control of last week’s show and it got away from him. He set up Seth Rollins vs. Rusev for tonight.
Reigns, as he should have been, was curious as to what that did for him. He noted getting screwed over twice – once by Triple H a few weeks ago and again by Rusev last week. He noted that he wouldn’t see “the coward” Triple H again. Foley booked Rusev vs. Reigns for the United States Championship at Clash of Champions.
Foley said that Stephanie has been on the up and up. He also noted that it offends him personally when talent doesn’t take him at his word, and book matches behind his back. Foley said that Reigns vs. Owens was a thing of beauty and asked how fans could boo Reigns. They responded accordingly with boos. I still don’t get the hate – but I think WWE should buy into it and turn Roman.
Foley pointed out that they are family and in a fight for survival against Smackdown. Foley said Steph would land on her feet because she’s a McMahon, but he would be out of a job. He noted he needs to start making things right and booked Reigns against Kevin Owens in a rematch from last week. That didn’t please Stephanie. Owens came out in a black suit and shook his head no, asking if Foley was working on standup material. Owens said he beat Reigns twice last week, and should be preparing for Rollins.
“I am in the main event of Clash of Champions, not you, buddy.” Stephanie told Owens he he would face Reigns, but not for the title. Foley made it a steel cage match. That brought out Rollins, who raised his arms while standing by Owens. Rollins headed to the ring, Reigns exited, and Cole hyped Rusev vs. Rollins for the first match.
Curious why they’re protecting Reigns so strongly on the mic? He barely got a sentence out and said next to nothing else. He will never develop if not given a chance to, and he’s not as horrible as this makes him seem. I understand not throwing him out there in long monologue segments, but this is ridiculous. All the talking though hyped stuff for later, which was smart because the Monday Night Football game hasn’t really gotten going yet.
Stephanie vented to Foley about the cage match backstage when Rusev and Lana appeared. Logical that she was upset here, and could point to being aligned with what Triple H did previously, or just not liking putting the champ in a cage match six days before a pay per view. Rusev was upset about Reigns getting a title shot and having to face Rollins on “my wife’s special night,” noting that her movie comes out tomorrow on DVD. He took a shot at Foley’s family, saying they were all miserable, pathetic, and hated each other. Foley said that Rusev could cut on his family, but it doesn’t change the match he’s booked in. That was weird. Rusev stormed off, then Foley talked to Jericho on the phone.
Match #1 – Rusev (w/Lana) vs. Seth Rollins;
Winner: Match ended in a double count out.
The Summary: In the early going, Rusev threw Rollins back-first into the ring post. He kept up the assault, throwing Rollins off the ropes with one hand heading to a commercial. Rusev continued to control the action coming out of the break until Rollins hit a kick and a suplex.
Rusev threw a kick of his own and got two. Rollins mounted a comeback but Rusev rolled to ringside to avoid a rope move. Rollins hit a suicide dive instead, and followed with a second. They fought until the double count out. That didn’t sit well with the live crowd, but it made sense because you don’t want either guy to lose going into Sunday’s pay per view.
Afterward, Rusev dragged Rollins up to the stage and teased a powerbomb. Rollins fought him off and knocked Rusev off the stage. Rollins went to the announce table and hit a cross body block from the table to the floor, then played to the crowd as his music played. I sense that Rollins has full-on turned face by now, or is at least trying to connect to the fans again, but I just feel like we need that one strong promo from him to cement his direction.
Backstage, Charlotte pointed out the double pin in the #1 Contender’s match last week, saying there’s no contender. FINALLY, someone brings it up – been waiting for that. Anyhow, Dana Brooke suggested they cancel the tag match and have Sasha and Bayley face off for the rights to face Charlotte. Mick Foley joined the conversation and set up Sasha vs. Bayley vs. Charlotte for Sunday instead. Charlotte shoved Dana down after Foley walked away. Should be a good match, but the setup felt a bit weird.
They showed the steel cage above the ring and Cole hyped the main event. They then set up video to spotlight Cedric Alexander and Brian Kendrick. Dude, I’m so excited. I hope WWE gets this right. They hyped the cruiserweights being on the show later.
Backstage, Jericho told Owens that Foley never liked him and is taking it out on him by taking it out on Owens. Jericho said Foley is abusing his power, and he planned to make a list of everything Foley has done wrong and show it to him.
Match #2 – Braun Strowman vs. Sin Cara;
Winner: Braun Strowman
The Summary: This was over in about two minutes. Cara tried a dive that didn’t knock Strowman down. In the ring, Cara tried for a springboard move but ate a powerslam. I think it’s time to start moving Strowman on from squashes to actual matches.
Backstage, Bayley talked to Sasha Banks about how she couldn’t be more excited to be back in the ring with her, calling it “just like old times.” Sasha stopped her and said it’s a new era, claiming she beat Bayley. Bayley noted that she has beaten Sasha, and that one of them would be the new champion. They agreed to show them how it’s done tonight as they team up against Charlotte and Dana after the break.
Match #3 – Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte and Dana Brooke;
The Summary: As Bayley made her entrance they pointed out she will be on ESPN Wednesday night with Jonathan Coachman. She handed out the stuff she was wearing to kids at ringside. Sasha continued to sell her back injuries by wearing tape around her midsection. Charlotte forced Dana to start but checked in to work over Bayley. Bayley ran Charlotte into Dana at one point.
Late, Bayley set up for her finish but Dana grabbed her leg. Sasha took Dana out, but Charlotte hit a big boot on Bayley and pinned her. I’m not sure what that accomplished, really, but I’m fine with Bayley taking a few early-run losses to help reestablish her underdog character to the Raw audience.
The commentary team hyped up the cage match for later, then they showed Seth Rollins getting ready to enter Stephanie’s office.
They showed members of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies watching the show at ringside.
Backstage, Steph entered her office to discover Seth Rollins hanging out. NO, NOT like THAT! Anyhow, Stephanie wanted to put their issues behind them. Rollins said he wanted to know why, and Steph said that Owens might be right since Rollins has lost key matches, and perhaps Triple H was tired of Rollins ruining his reputation.
Rollins said that Hunter and Steph might find out they put their money on the wrong horse and come back to him. Rollins added that maybe not, in that he will be their worst nightmare and know their move before they make it.
Steph told Rollins not to threaten her, and said Owens is the right guy to be champion and replace Rollins as the man. Rollins said she’s wrong, calling her a shrewd businesswoman that has been cracking ever since Shane showed up. Rollins walked off and Steph sneered.
I got concerned when Rollins played to Steph and Hunter “seeing the light” with him, but it was a good follow-up to say that he could be their worst nightmare. I thought Stephanie might go for the dress-down there, but Rollins got the last word. But please don’t tell me that this means Hunter interferes on Sunday?
Match #4 – Bo Dallas vs. Gary Graham;
Winner: Bo Dallas
The Summary: Graham drew a PS Michael Hayes reference. Bo cut a rhyming poem that ended in “Only I can believe in Bo” before attacking Graham. The fans chanted “let’s go jobber” but Bo finished him off quickly. I like the aggressive new style of Bo Dallas, and that he’s being less cheesy, but that campaign sign has got to go.
Cole hyped up Sheamus vs. Cesaro for after the break.
Cole hyped the Conor’s Cure fundraiser, then they ran a cruiserweight division video. Everyone’s waiting, anxiously…just watch Twitter. Cole pointed out that the division will only be on Raw.
Match #5 – Cesaro vs. Sheamus in a best of seven series match (Sheamus leads 3-2);
Winner: Cesaro (series tied at 3-3)
The Summary: They recapped a Sheamus interview where he said Cesaro always loses the big one. Out of a break, Sheamus hit White Noise on the apron, and Cole sold that big from commentary. That got a two count. Cesaro ducked a Brogue Kick and rolled Sheamus up for a two of his own. Sheamus hit the Irish Curse, then turned the Celtic Cross into a backbreaker again only good for two. Sheamus tried to use the ropes for leverage but the official caught him. A short time later, Cesaro hit the Neutralizer and got the win.
It was a bit predictable, but a solid match. Sheamus’ near falls would have played better in a match situation where it wasn’t so obvious that Cesarow as going to win to tie the series.
Foley was on the phone backstage and said the final match of their series should take place at Clash of Champions. Chris Jericho was waiting to talk to him though, and told Foley he never liked him. Foley said he hadn’t liked Jericho in a long time but did recommend him to Paul Heyman. Jericho talked about making “The List of Jericho.” Foley said he couldn’t hear him because he’s missing an ear, then called him a stupid idiot.
Jericho started naming grievances. He said number five was Foley’s terrible fashion sense. Foley laughed and told him it would mean more if it wasn’t coming from a shirtless man wearing a scarf. Jericho called it trendy in Luxembourg. Foley told him he looked ridiculous in Memphis. Foley left, and Jericho said he would tell the world what is on the List of Jericho.
I submit to you this piece of classic footage. If “armbar” didn’t make the list, I’m disappointed.
Jericho stood in the ring holding a clipboard to complain about how Foley was performing as GM. Jericho complained that Foley was trying to drive a wedge between him and Kevin Owens. He recalled the fashion sense remark then pointed to a fan and asked what he said. Jericho said the fan made the list. He threatened to put all of the fans on the list, then noted Foley developing an affection for “that human happy go lucky leper” Sami Zayn.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass interrupted. They did their normal routine to a hot reaction as they came to the ring. Enzo said his GPS had an issue to address, the said Jericho and Owens aren’t friends because a real friend wouldn’t let his friend go to the ring dressed like Jericho was. Cass ran down a list of famous friends, including Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson. Jericho said half of the people don’t exist, and Kitcher and Masterson was a dated reference.
The Shining Stars interjected to sell timeshares in Puerto Rico again to relieve the current stress in the ring. That brought out New Day to cut them off. Jericho demanded to know why they were there, and Big E said it’s because they have nothing better to do. Woods promoted his UpUpDownDown channel on YouTube (if you’re into gaming it’s not bad – I’m not a gamer) and noted an iPhone contest. Out come Gallows and Anderson.
Jericho said his list was about Foley, and now all of the stupid idiots in the ring were on it. That brought out Sami Zayn, and he attacked Jericho by tossing him into the barrier. He threw Jericho in and a brawl ensued. I guess that means were up for a time-killing ten man tag!
Match #6 – Sami Zayn, Enzo Amore, Big Cass, Big E, and Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods) vs. Chris Jericho, The Shining Stars, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson
Winner: Team Sami Zayn
The Summary: Cole noted this got set up during the break. The heel team isolated Kofi, who eventually got the hot tag to Cass. Big reaction for Cass when he got the tag too. Cass had Primo down, but Epico broke it up. Rapid fire spot moves ensued, with guys at ringside. Zayn and Jericho fought at ringside. Zayn tried for the Helluva Kick, but Jericho moved and Zayn pegged Primo instead. Enzo and Cass double-team finished Primo off for the win. A match that didn’t overstay its welcome even though I thought it would be a time filler.
The commentary team set up a video package to recap the open, then set up another cruiserweight division package. They focused on Rich Swann and Gran Metalik in that one. Cole said the Cruiserweights would be on the show next.
Cole hyped a Hispanic Heritage month video, then set up a video for Eddie Guerrero. God I miss that guy.
Mick Foley stood in the ring and cut a promo, butchering the “size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog” line. Foley got it square then talked about the cruiserweight division, putting over TJ Perkins is the new champion. He froze momentarily then talked about the action that the division will provide. He recounted the CWC and said that they brought four of the men to Raw tonight. He introduced each of them.
First was Rich Swann, who Cole called inspirational and talked about his history. He lost both his parents young, got in trouble a lot, and pro wrestling got him straight. Graves called Swann one of the most entertaining human beings. Foley introduced Gran Metalik as the tournament runner up and lucha crown jewel. Cole talked about his history in CMLL, debuting at 17 years of age. They ran a pre-taped promo with Metalik talking in Spanish.
Foley introduced Cedric Alexander, and Cole noted his weight loss to get into the tournament. He noted that Alexander took a tournament favorite to the limit (Ibushi). Alexander noted that the fans helped him get on Raw, and their voice was not wasted. Last, Foley introduced Brian Kendrick, noting that he was being welcomed back. Kendrick got the best reaction, as fans probably knew him the most. Why they didn’t somehow try to introduce these guys ahead of time is beyond me. Kendrick noted when he was released and said he and the fans thought he was done back then.
Foley immediately booked a four-way to determine who would face TJ Perkins at Clash of Champions. It’s worth noting the subdued reactions. I’m not sure if it’s because people didn’t know these guys, weren’t watching the CWC (WHY THE HELL NOT?!?!) or if it’s just getting late in a marathon show. Night one isn’t a night to judge the whole on, and I believe these guys can win the fans over eventually if given the right opportunity and presented the right way.
Match #7 – Brian Kendrick vs. Cedric Alexander vs. Gran Metalik vs. Rich Swann; Four way to determine the challenger for the Cruiserweight Championship at Clash of Champions;
Winner: Brian Kendrick, will face TJ Perkins at Clash of Champions for the Cruiserweight Championship
The Summary: During the match they left a purple Cruiserweight graphic up. The fans liked the exchange of kicks, punches and a chop between Alexander and Swann. Alexander used a nice head scissor take down, then Metalik jumped back in the fight to face Alexander. Alexander hit a nice dive on Kendrick. Metalik followed with a single leg springboard from the middle rope onto the other three men. That drew a “this is awesome” chant.
Metalik followed with another springboard move but Kendrick cut his legs. Swann kept Kendrick at ringside, but Kendrick sent him to the barrier then the ring steps. Cole noted Kendrick’s mean streak, saying he always had that. Swann hit a nice double underhook powerbomb but Alexander hit a stomp to break up the following pin. Alexander springboarded into the ropes and hit a nice kick for two.
Kendrick teased Sliced Bread but Metalik was there to catch him. Kendrick hit a DDT instead on Metalik and got two. Swann hit a kick on Alexander, then followed with a standing 450. Alexander hit the Lumbar Check on Metalik, but Kendrick locked Alexander in Captain Hook and got the win.
I’m not 100 percent sold that this was the best way to go to introduce these guys, but the action was fine and the live crowd reacted to the big moves. The only problem is that there really are no established characters for these guys right now, so they had no one guy to rally behind. That’s something they need to work on, obviously. I think once they start developing characters, the fan reaction should come along with it. Not a horrible debut for the division.
The commentary team talked about the match, then recapped Nia Jax destroying Alicia Fox last week. The cage was lowered for the main event.
They showed footage of Sasha Banks, New Day, and Stephanie McMahon at an event at St. Jude’s Pediatric Hospital earlier today.
Match #8 – Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns; Steel Cage Match
Winner: Roman Reigns
The Summary: Reigns got booed again when he came out. Memphis is not a fan of him. Reigns got off to a fast start as the match got underway. Owens threw Reigns into the cage and hit a superkick to counter, getting a two count. The two fought on the ropes against the cage out of a commercial, with Owens gouging Reigns’ eyes before teasing an escape.
Reigns recovered and crotched Owens, then hit three running clotheslines driving Owens into the cage. Reigns set up for a move, but Owens tried to escape. Reigns stopped him and hit a Samoan drop.
Late, the two got on the ropes again and fought on the cage. Owens yelled that it’s his show and he’s the guy before ramming Reigns head first into the cage. Reigns hit a Superman punch from the top rope. Owens crawled for the door while Reigns went over the top of the cage, and Reigns won the race to the floor.
After, Rusev attacked Reigns, where Reigns got the better of him. Owens kicked the cage into Reigns, and Rusev threw him in. Rusev locked the cage and the heels worked over Reigns. Rusev locked him in the Accolade and Owens jawed at him. Seth Rollins’ music hit and he ran out. He climbed to the top of the cage and Owens met him there, but he fought Owens off, then fought Rusev off when he came up. Rollins hit the heels with a cross body block from the cage to end the show.
The crowd should have reacted bigger to that finish but they seemed drained. The main event really didn’t have any stakes on it, which didn’t help either. It’s not that the match was bad; it was actually a pretty good match. I just don’t think people really cared about what happened in this particular case. Owens and Reigns really weren’t at a place where they needed a cage to solve an issue, so I felt like that was a bit pointless.
Overall, not a bad show, but one that didn’t really get me excited for the main matches of Clash of Champions. I found myself wondering more about the interactions between Reigns and Rollins here than I did their individual matches on Sunday. I sense that we might see Triple H get involved somehow, which disappoints me a little but yet in the same breath makes some sense in terms of Rollins and closing the books with the Authority should he truly be turning face. And there’s a lot “in the abyss” of hour 2 that left me wanting. The Cruiserweights had a decent debut, but one that needs work.
Drew Koscelek will have more on this show and all things wrestling tomorrow on Around the Ring, and will have your Smackdown Live coverage. He and I will team up on Ring Rap Audio to talk Clash of Champions and other wrestling topics on Wednesday. Thanks for following along.