Raw’s road to Hell in a Cell heads into the Mile High City tonight as the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO hosts WWE’s red brand. Last week, Paul Heyman said he was “authorized” to issue a challenge to Goldberg to fight Brock Lesnar. Well, Goldberg wasted little time and booked a flight to Denver to address Heyman tonight. What will Goldberg say – and when will this fight go down? Also, Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan and Commissioner Shane McMahon laid the gauntlet down to Raw to a series of Survivor Series matches for brand superiority? Will Raw accept? Will they even address it tonight? Will Sasha Banks continue to hold an edge on Charlotte heading into their history-making Hell in a Cell match, or will Charlotte get the better of her tonight? How will Rusev assert himself against Roman Reigns?
Show Open, Live from Denver, CO at the Pepsi Center:
We got the intro then pyro shot off. Cole, Graves and Saxton checked in for the call, noting that there are only 13 nights until Hell in a Cell. They hyped the return of Goldberg, and Graves hyped Lita interviewing both Sasha Banks and Charlotte.
Kevin Owens’ music hit and he headed to the ring with Chris Jericho. They recapped last week’s main event where Seth Rollins beat Jericho to keep the HIAC match a one-on-one affair, then Owens failing to save Jericho again. Cole hyped Owens vs. Rollins for the pay per view. Fans chanted for Jericho.
Owens called the fans idiots and said he had something important to say. Owens said that Mick Foley has a vendetta against him and proved it by forcing him to defend the title in a HIAC match. The fans chanted for Foley until Jericho told them “quiet” repeatedly. He said it’s true that Foley has a vendetta against them. Jericho said everyone is acting like HIAC is a reward, but it’s actually a nail in the coffin. He stressed the danger of the match.
Good for him! They didn’t do that same emphasis with Sasha and Charlotte, which was dumb!
Owens got fired up discussing the match, and Jericho boasted he should be in it. He talked about all the people he has beaten, including The Rock and Austin on the same night as well as Undertaker for the title. Jericho said if he could beat all of them, he can beat Rollins.
Logical heel statement, but that makes it sound like today’s guys are chumps compared to stars of the Attitude Era.
Jericho put the referee from last week on his list. Owens said he has replaced Rollins as The Man in WWE and in two weeks will retire him. That brought out Rollins, who got a good reaction that faded at first but led into a “Rollins” chant. Rollins told Jericho to put his scarf, tattoos, and sparkle crotch trunks on the list. “I am not sparkle crotch!” Jericho yelled.
Rollins told Jericho to put his friendship with Owens on the list too. He noted how Owens watched on while Jericho took the Pedigree two weeks in a row. Owens said one of them had to stay strong for the good of the team. Rollins said Owens stays strong while Jericho stays weak. Jericho got mad and bragged about his accomplishments.
Jericho told Rollins that he could beat him, and Rollins started to walk to the ring saying that the two have a rematch. He paused and asked Owens what he would do. Jericho said Owens was leaving, and Owens said he was staying. Jericho said he knows what has happened and thinks it best if Owens leaves. Jericho said he knows what Owens is doing, because he knows all the tricks. He said it doesn’t change their friendship, but Jericho needs to remind Rollins and everyone else who he is. “I’m Chris Jericho, dammit.”
Owens gave him a hug and said he would be there in spirit. Rollins continued his entrance while Cole hyped that Mick Foley made the match official.
I’m having TV issues with a bad splitter that feeds my new TV location in my “office,” so updates might be sketchy for a bit. This was a good exchange, and I felt like the fans at least in this crowd rallied behind Rollins more than normal. I know last week seemingly put to rest the notion of a triple threat HIAC match, but this exchange seems to keep that door open just a crack. I kinda hope they go there – the Jericho/Owens dynamic is more interesting than the Rollins/Owens one – especially with the looming spectre that is Triple H. It’s still out there.
Match #1 – Seth Rollins vs. Chris Jericho;
Winner: Seth Rollins
The Summary: The fans got all over Jericho early, chanting “sparkle crotch” at him. Jericho yelled that it wasn’t his name. About 4 minutes in, Jericho tried for the Walls, but Rollins countered to a pinning attempt for two. Jericho kicked Rollins to ringside with a springboard drop kick going to a commercial.
Jericho continued to control the action back live, until Rollins hit a running knee. Cole talked about the HIAC structure and Corey Graves talked about the high altitude in Denver playing into the match. Cole kind of blew past that line though. Rollins hit a high knee, then the Falcon Arrow, then went top rope.
Owens’ music hit and he came to ringside. Rollins dove off the top on Jericho, then hit a high knee and set up the Pedigree. Jericho countered to the Walls which Rollins tried to break in the ropes but Owens kept pulling them away. The referee caught him. A bit later, Rollins countered the Codebreaker then hit a Pedigree to win.
The way the commentary team played it was that Owens’ messing with the ropes ended up costing Jericho, so they continue to keep that triple threat option alive. Rollins was the right guy to go over in this match – he shouldn’t be losing here.
They ran a package of Goldberg’s first match in WCW, then hyped up his appearance tonight. Graves hyped the sit down interview that Lita was doing with Charlotte for next.
They showed Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in the crowd, and he got some boos. Cole said that Goldberg’s family had requested he attend.
They ran Charlotte’s sit-down interview with Lita. Lita talked about the legends associated with the match, saying that Charlotte and Sasha will join those names. She asked how Charlotte prepares for a match like this. Charlotte talked about being a winner and boasted that she is the greatest superstar – male or female – in WWE.
Lita asked about Sasha’s past injuries in their matches. Charlotte said that she is durable and a win is a win. Lita mentioned beating the best when they are at 100 percent and Charlotte said she is the very best because she is always at 100 percent. Lita asked Charlotte if it bothers her that fans support Banks, and that the match will be in Banks’ hometown. Charlotte said Sasha will need her hometown, and she has never needed the fans. She said she is genetically superior and it’s in her blood. Charlotte said that Sasha needs fan support because she might not be 100 percent that day, unlike her.
Charlotte really shone here. Her arrogance was believable, and she struck the right condescending heel tones as she should have.
Graves hyped that we would hear from Sasha later, then R-Truth, Goldust, and Mark Henry came out for a six-man tag.
Match #2 – R-Truth, Goldust, and Mark Henry vs. Titus O’Neil and the Shining Stars;
Winner: Truth, Goldust and Henry
The Summary: Cole set up footage from the pre-show where the babyface team was being forced to buy fake Rolex watches if they lose. That’s one hell of a stipulation, for sure. Bah Gawd, those men have wrists better than that. Henry hit O’Neil with the World’s Strongest Slam to avoid such a horrible fate.
Could “The Titus Brand” be off to a worse start? And really, “you have to buy these watches if you lose” as a stipulation? Fuck that noise.
They showed New Day toting a sign that said #420 to promote Colorado’s marijuana law…err…420 days as the tag champs.
Backstage, Jericho chided Owens saying that he told him to not come to the ring. Jericho stopped short of calling him a stupid idiot. Owens was offended and boasted about being the champion.
Jericho said he’s a six time champion and not Owens’ lackey. Stephanie showed up and told them both they were letting Rollins get inside their heads. Stephanie mentioned the Smackdown Survivor Series challenge and said she needs her best two generals on the same page. Jericho calmed down, then said he told Owens to not come down. Owens quietly muttered that he was only trying to help.
Sheamus and Cesaro came to the ring for a match. Cesaro was doing the Facebook live thing this time and Sheamus wasn’t happy. Cole hyped their title match against New Day at HIAC. New Day got their entrance, and Cole chimed in that it’s now 421 days for New Day as champs. Make up my mind, WWE.
New Day cut a promo, with Big E saying he must be a mile high if he thinks he will beat him or the three of them with his “court appointed tag partner.” Woods noted that Kofi beat Cesaro last week, and Kingston said he wasn’t even at his best. He said everyone saw him slip on the springboard move and he still won.
New Day called Sheamus a pile of hot garbage then shamed him, saying he and Cesaro probably aren’t friends on Facebook. Woods said it didn’t matter if they were friends on social media at all, or even if they shared a WWE Network account, they would still lose to New Day.
Match #3 – Sheamus (w/Cesaro) vs. Big E (w/Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston)
Winner: Big E
The Summary: Sheamus hit Big E with an early suplex. Cesaro continued to do the Facebook live thing. Big E came back with a splash on the apron.
Cesaro got in the crowd for his broadcast, and Sheamus went to ringside and argued with him about it. Sheamus grabbed the phone and yelled into it, talking about the fans needing to watch him. He told Cesaro to film him hitting the best Brogue Kick ever, but Big E splashed him and rolled him up for the win. Sheamus ranted into the phone on the FB live feed.
I think Sheamus did this better, but the fans liked it so I guess that’s what counts.
They ran footage of Goldberg beating Hulk Hogan in 1998, then ran an ad for AJ Styles vs. James Ellsworth for the WWE Championship on Smackdown Live.
How big a mistake was it that WCW gave that match away for free? And how big of a deal is James Ellsworth right now? Drew will tell you all about that when he covers Smackdown tomorrow night.
Match #4 – Neville vs. Bo Dallas (w/Curtis Axel);
The Summary: Bo still had his campaign sign with him for some God-forsaken reason. They showed how this match got set up on the pre-show, with Axel feeling bad about last week and getting Foley to agree to give the match. Bo threw elbow shots and told the crowd to believe in Bo.
Neville threw some kicks and went up top but Bo rolled out. Neville hit him with an Asai moonsault. Back inside, Neville wowed the fans with some flips but Bo hit him with his neckbreaker finish for the win. Axel got in the ring to celebrate but Bo attacked him from behind, throwing Axel into the barrier a few times.
I have no clue where Bo’s gimmick is going at all. Axel deserves better than what he got there, so it looks like an undercard feud starting there. Lost in all of this is Neville, who REALLY deserves better but yet has been poorly handled since arriving from NXT.
Saxton hyped Dana Brooke vs. Bayley for after break.
Match #5 – Bayley vs. Dana Brooke;
Winner: Dana Brooke
The Summary: They recapped Dana attacking Bayley last week in her hometown. Late in this one, Bayley hit a drop kick thru the ropes then went top rope. Brooke pulled her down and slammed her into the ring post case thing. Brooke dragged her in and covered, looking like she wanted to use the ropes for leverage but was too far away.
There was a lot of backlash on Twitter about Bayley losing. I get some of it – Dana Brooke hasn’t been well positioned as Charlotte’s lackey, but there’s more money in Bayley being the underdog that fights from underneath than there is having her come in and win all the time. It’s a slow build to the story, and patience needs to be exercised. The finish, admittedly, was very clunky.
The commentary team said that they were being joined by a guest, and Cole’s mic switched to be audible in the arena. The fans chanted for Goldberg, but Paul Heyman appeared on the screen, saying he was in Stamford, CT. Heyman said that Goldberg wasn’t flying to Denver to say no to the challenge; he was going to say yes.
Heyman asked why Lesnar didn’t issue the challenge face to face. “It’s because, Bill, Brock Lesnar doesn’t even think about you anymore.” Heyman called it a video game and a fantaasy, and his suggestion was for Goldberg to show up and repectfully say no. He said Goldberg would piss Lesnar off if he says yes, and Lesnar is already pissed that Goldberg won 12 years ago and thinks he can do it again.
Heyman said the fans believe it because they chant for Goldberg – and right on cue they did. Heyman told the fans he can hear everything they’re saying, and that would piss Lesnar off too. Heyman said if Goldberg accepts the challenge he will be beaten, victimized and conquered. He said he would be embarrassed, humbled, and humiliated by the ass kicking top attraction Goldberg fantasizes he could still be.
This was good, with Heyman heeling on Denver to get the reaction they want. Toronto will not be anywhere near as kind if indeed the match happens at Survivor Series. Hell, Heyman turned Lesnar’s own “hometown” of Minneapolis against him with a pre-show video, so anything is possible.
Cole put over the work that WWE does with the Cancer Charity.
I want to thank Jason Powell at ProWrestling.net for pointing out how he does this. He doesn’t like drawing attention to “the charity” because of their reputation, and it’s always bugged me as well. So, using the nameless “cancer charity” is a great idea. That name will no longer be mentioned on the site.
Match #6 – Braun Strowman vs. The Mile High Trio
Winner: Braun Strowman
The Summary: Saxton interviewed the three men, who put over being locals. One said there wasn’t a man alie who could beat the three of them. Liar. Strowman quickly dropped two of them to ringside then threw the third out on top of the other two. Strowman chased one of them down and threw him in the ring, then eventually won by slamming one man face first onto one of the others.
Afterward, Strowman threatened to take matters into his own hands since he isn’t getting better competition. Sami Zayn’s music hit and he came to the ring, but Strowman shoved him down and headed backstage.
Impressive squash to have Strowman beat three men. I think it could be fun to have Zayn be his first real opponent, so long as it’s handled right.
Cole hyped that Rusev had a message for Roman Reigns, next.
Backstage, Sami Zayn was asked why he picked a fight with Braun Strowman. “Because nobody else will.”
Lana introduced Rusev, and he cut a promo about crushing Roman Reigns in their HIAC match and taking back his title. Rusev yelled at them in Bulgarian and that got “What?” treatment. Rusev had Lana say all they need to understand is that he is the greatest US Champion, but she knows as his wife that he is a phenomenal family man, unlike the weak fans who have pathetic family values. Rusev said that reigns talks about family all the time, and said Reigns has 700 Samoans sitting around a fire dipping turkey legs in mayo and paying attention to all that he does.
Rusev fed it to shots of his family on the Tron. His mother was a rowing champion stronger than any American woman. Lana called her beautiful and said she loves Mama Rusev. “Don’t you dare boo my mother” Rusev retorted when fans booed. Rusev said he didn’t legalize stupidity.
They showed Rusev’s father, and he said you can see where he gets his good looks from. He talked about his father’s military history and how he became a wrestling champion. “We love you, Papa Rusev,” Lana said. Rusev also showed pictures of his brother, grandmother, and the family dog.
Out came Roman Reigns, who said Rusev would call 911. Lana slapped him, then Rusev hit a superkick. Rusev worked over Reigns, tossing him into the steps at ringisde. Rusev slammed the steps into Reigns then threw him in the ring. He also tossed in a set of the ring steps, and locked Reigns in the Accolade on them.
Rusev needed that, and Reigns does not need to get revenge tonight, or even next week. I’d let Rusev one-up him before HIAC every time before Reigns goes over that night (which I seem to think that’s what they’ll end up doing).
They ran a clip of Goldberg debuting in WWE, where Rock cut a heel promo on the crowd and told them to kiss his ass.
We got another Emmalina teaser
Match #7 – Big Cass (w/Enzo Amore) vs. Karl Anderson (w/Luke Gallows)
The Summary: Enzo did his normal pre-match promo work. Things fell outside the ring fairly quickly, where Cass threw Enzo into Gallows to take him out. Back in the ring, Cass hit his spinning side slam to win.
Welp, Not sure how or if I should care about Gallows and Anderson at this point.
Backstage, Brian Kendrick, Tony Nese and Drew Gulak were with TJ Perkins. Perkins asked if he promised his sidekicks a shot at the title if they roughed him up. Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann showed up and said they would be having a six-man match later. Perkins said he had allies after all.
Corey Graves hyped up Lita’s sit-down with Sasha Banks.
The commentary team set up the earlier sit-down interview with Sasha Banks. She talked about making history inside HIAC and proving she is the best. Lita noted that Charlotte said it would be her night. Sasha said it’s in her hometown, and it will be her night. She talked about the Women’s revolution and being the first women to work a HIAC match. Lita asked her about her back injury, and Sasha said she got ahead of herself but she’s back and 100 percent. Lita asked her if she was afraid of HIAC. Sasha said it’s not fear, and she has watched HIAC matches. She said she knows that it can’t be fear, because it’s not an option for her.
The commentary team talked about the interview and the match, then shifted to Goldberg beating Triple H in 2003 for the World Heavyweight Championship. Cole hyped Goldberg appearing, then Saxton hyped the six-man cruiserweight match.
Match #8 – Brian Kendrick, Drew Gulak and Tony Nese vs. TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann;
Winner: Kendrick, Nese and Gulak
The Summary: Kendrick shot Perkins a look. They all obeyed the code of honor that seems to apply to the cruiserweights only. We got an early break, then the babyfaces were in control out of break. Swann went top rope, but Gulak hit him with a high knee. Nese hit a 450 splash, then Kendrick tagged himself in to lock in the Captains Hook for the submission win. Nese held Perkins feet to keep him from interfering.
A good finish with Kendrick selfishly tagging in. I’d have liked to see Swann tap faster, if only to make Kendrick look bigger going to the title match.
Backstage, Steph and Mick discussed the Survivor Series challenge. They talked about going three for three, then boasted about the three Hell in a Cell matches. Stephanie asked Foley what he had for next Monday, and Foley said he booked Jericho vs. Rollins vs. Owens in a triple threat main event. They high-fived.
Nothing official on the Survivor Series matches. I guess they’ll let it play out for one more week and get past HIAC before setting it for sure.
Cole hype Goldberg appearing, and worked in a plug for the WWE 2k17 video game.
New Day vs. Sheamus and Cesaro was hyped for next week in a non-title match. They also hyped the triple threat match again.
Michael Cole was in the ring and he set up footage of both Goldberg’s appearance on ESPN and Heyman’s challenge to Goldberg from last week.
Cole introduced Goldberg as the greatest WCW Champion in history. Goldberg was shown walking through the backstage as his familiar WCW entrance music played. The fans popped when his pyro went off on the stage, and Goldberg did the smoke breathing thing he used to do. Un-Goldberg-like, he shook hands with fans and hugged a couple kids along the way. He played to the fans, who chanted his name.
The music stopped, but the chants didn’t. He bowed to the fans and was visibly choked up, then played to them some more. A “holy shit” chant got traction. Those turned into “this is awesome” chants, and Goldberg thanked the crowd. He said it’s been a long time, “and you didn’t forget.” That started the “this is awesome” chants again. Cole addressed the comments both by him and Heyman, then left him have the floor.
“Twelve years, ladies and gentlemen. Never say never, eh? I never thought I’d be in this ring again, so thank you for the humble return.” Goldberg noted his son and wife in attendance. He talked about getting the call in January for the video game and traveling the world to promote it. He said the one thing he missed more than kicking ass was to be a hero to kids around the world. He said in this day, there aren’t enough of them. He said he could go to Germany and Toronto and shake the hands of kids, and he could see in their eyes he was Goldberg.
After the crowd chanted for him he thanked them. He said he was given the opportunity to be a superhero again, but he created a little drama in WWE. He said he thought long and hard and thinks it might be best left alone and kept in the video game. That drew some disappointed boos and “no” chants.
“But then, Brock Lesnar challenged me to a fight.” That drew cheers. Goldberg said Lesnar didn’t have the balls to do it himself, but had his “fat little stooge” Heyman deliver the challenge. Goldberg asked what you would do, and the fans chanted yes.
Goldberg said he thought he might have one more ass kicking left in him; one more spear, one more Jackhammer. Goldberg looked into the camera and addressed Lesnar. “Not only does that mean you’re next, but most importantly it means, Brock Lesnar, you’re last.” Goldberg dropped the mic and played to the fans as Cole hyped the matchup.
Goldberg high fived and hugged fans at ringside, momentarily picking up one young boy along the aisle. He went back to get his son, and walked around ringside with him on his shoulder. They showed his wife, and Goldberg put his son down and he went back to where his mother was. Cole announced that Lesnar would be on Raw next week to respond. Goldberg continued to play to fans and shake hands and hug. He stopped at the stage and raised his arms as the show ended.
Goldberg was never a strong promo, but this was on point. Well done. He played into the emotion well, and was definitely overwhelmed by the reaction he got. He sounded confident, he played to the fans well, and that closing line will resonate throughout the feud. I’m still not sold on match quality, being honest, but dammit if this didn’t get off to a good start with the way this show ended.
The rest of the show, well, it was hit and miss. There were some good things – I thought the sit down interviews with the ladies were done well, and the Jericho/Owens dynamic continues to intrigue me. But, there was also some filler and it made things drag at times. Very mixed bag tonight. They need to heat up Hell in a Cell, which is now 12 nights out.
Drew Koscelek will have comments on this show and your Smackdown coverage tomorrow. He and I will join up for Ring Rap Audio on Wednesday, and I’ll also have your Ring of Honor coverage then too. See you then.