Raw rolls into Columbus, OH and the Schottenstein Center tonight, fresh off of the Superstar Shakeup. We saw some talents head to the Blue Brand, like Charlotte, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, only to be replaced by Alexa Bliss, Dean Ambrose and The Miz. How will the new talents fit in and shuffle the current card? Braun Strowman went on a rampage last week, taking out Roman Reigns. These two are slated for a match at Payback – will Reigns manage to stop the onslaught by Strowman or will the giant beast continue his rampage? Samoa Joe attacked Seth Rollins after Kurt Angle said Rollins will always have a place on Raw as long as he is general manager. Obviously, those two have unfinished business. Will they book a match at Payback, and will Rollins get some measure of revenge on the Samoan Submission Machine?
Show Open, Live from the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, OH;
They opened with a recap of the angle where Roman Reigns was attacked by Braun Strowman and thrown off a loading dock. Cole, Graves, and Booker T were on commentary. Cole pointed out that David Otunga is filming a movie, so Booker would be there for “a few weeks.”
JoJo welcomed Braun Strowman to the ring for a promo. He got more boos than cheers when he paused. “I’m proud to say that last week I broke Roman Reigns in half.” That got cheered more than booed. He said he was proud that Reigns left in an ambulance and has a separated shoulder as well as cracked ribs. Strowman said he was proud to say Reigns would not be on Raw.
Kurt Angle’s music hit and he headed to the ring. He asked Strowman what point he was trying to prove, and said he had done enough. Strowman said there was more to come. Angle said that’s the same thing Reigns said before the show ended. He said he would give Reigns what he wanted by giving him a match with Strowman at “the appropriately named Payback.” Strowman called it Roman’s funeral, and Angle said they would find out in two weeks.
Strowman asked about tonight and Angle said Strowman should be suspended. He said Strowman had done enough and should take the night off. Strowman said Mick Foley played the same game. “I want more competition, or else.” Angle retorted “Or else what?” Strowman dropped the mic and left.
Bill Says: This was solid in that it recapped the big angle from last week and set the stage for more action going forward. We know that Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman will happen at the Payback event, plus Strowman teased destroying more people tonight. All in all, well done. Strowman got a lot of boos, which was surprising. We all sort of figured (admittedly tongue in cheek given Roman’s reactions) that Strowman became a face that would get a more favorable reaction. He definitely got his share of boos.
Cole hyped a four way match to determine the number one contender to the Raw Women’s championship with Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks. They also hyped Dean Ambrose on Miz TV and Chris Jericho vs. Samoa Joe.
Seth Rollins came to the commentary table for the first match, and they hyped him facing Samoa Joe at Payback.
Match #1 – Chris Jericho vs. Samoa Joe;
Winner: Samoa Joe
The Reax: They recapped Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe beating down Jericho after Wrestlemania. Rollins said he looked up to Joe for a long time, so when Joe attacked him it blindsided him physically and emotionally. Joe took a springboard drop kick that sent him to the floor going to commercial.
Joe controlled the offense out of the break, but Jericho rallied and locked in the Walls. Joe spun out and locked on a Coquina Clutch. Jerich shoved his way onto Joe using the ropes to get two. Joe grapevined him in with his legs and got Jericho to tap.
After, Joe got the mic and addressed Rollins, calling him the mighty King Slayer. Joe asked if Rollins remembered what it sounded like when he arrived. Joe said he remembers well, and it was the sound of ligaments and joints popping and Rollins screaming for mercy. He said it was business because Rollins was a target by his benefactor, Triple H.
Joe said he cares about his clients and because of what Rollins did to Hunter, and more importantly and disgustingly Stephanie McMahon, it is now very, very personal. Rollins got on the table and said it will be personal, because Joe almost cost him his career. “Payback is a bitch…” Rollins closed.
Bill Says: The match was good, and a little surprising because Jericho also has a big match ahead on the Payback card. The right guy went over in a clean win scenario though. They need to heat up Owens vs. Jericho, and perhaps they will do that with a crossover appearance by Jericho on Smackdown. I liked the post-match verbal sparring too, with Rollins keeping it simple and addressing the previous issues he had with Joe and the accidental knee injury worked into the angle.
Backstage, Gallows and Anderson were walking and Elias Samson was playing guitar alongside them. The camera cut to R-Truth and Goldust, who got attacked by Strowman. Agents jumped in to break things up and yell at Strowman to get away, then they tended to Golden Truth.
They hyped a six pack challenge with Sami Zayn vs. Mojo Rawley vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Erick Rowan vs. Luke Harper vs. Jinder Mahal in a number one contender match for the WWE Championship.
Bill Says: Odd. These guys all lose more than they win, but the winner will face off for the WWE Championship?
They recapped the attack on Golden Truth and switched backstage to see a referee remind Strowman Angle gave him the night off. Strowman said he would leave when he wanted to, and added “Unless you have a problem with that….” The official left.
Anderson and Gallows cut a promo in the ring. Anderson said Strowman gave Golden Truth the United Airlines treatment, but they were the ones on standby. Gallows said Angle needed to round up some nerds from the locker room. Enzo and Big Cass entered and did their normal entrance routine. The fans were into it.
Match #2 – Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson;
Winner: Gallows and Anderson
The Reax: Early on, Cole told us that Dash Wilder would be missing the next eight weeks with a broken jaw. Enzo and Cass controlled the early offense. During the break, Gallows and Anderson took over the offense and isolated Enzo. Anderson hit a spinebuster for two, and Booker criticized Cass for not breaking the cover. Cole defended it by saying Enzo was able to kick out on his own.
Cass got the hot tag and went to work on both men, hitting a side slam on Anderson then dropping the Empire Elbow. Cass hit a big boot and hit the Rocket Launcher with Enzo landing on Gallows, who was interfering. Anderson sent Enzo knees first into the top rope and pinned him.
A neat and unexpected finish sequence to the match. The spot definitely seemed planned as Enzo took that toss into the ropes pretty safely. The match overall was fine. One thing coming out of this I might like to see? A singles run for Karl Anderson. He’s so good.
Cole hyped Mickie James being in action on Raw for the first time in seven years, and Graves hyped Miz TV.
Cole showcased Nia Jax as they ran highlights. They appear to be doing this for all of the women in the four-way as this was similar to the Mickie James package.
The Miz and Maryse entered for Miz TV. They recapped the segment last week with Miz and Maryse along with Dean Ambrose. It didn’t take long for Ambrose to interrupt.
Ambrose said Miz was still upset about last week. He called for a truce, noting that Miz is from Cleveland and he’s from Cincinnati. He led the OH-IO chant and the fans were into that. Miz said he lives the part of a superstar, whereas Ambrose is a disgrace to what a superstar is.
Miz said the worst thing is the fans love Ambrose. He talked about how Ambrose was drafted number one and headlined Summerslam, but was barely a blip on the radar at Wrestlemania. Miz said Ambrose never breaks the glass ceiling because he is lazy and complacent.
Ambrose said it’s about heart, saying he isn’t a brand – he’s simply Dean Ambrose. He does what he does because he loves it and would do it in front of 20 people or 100,000 people. He said there’s no one who does it like he does, and that’s why he is the IC champion. Ambrose said Miz should know this, because he beat him for the title.
Maryse called Ambrose a dirty little street rat and said walking around doesn’t make him a real champion. She said the man makes the title. Ambrose had Maryse hold the mic put the title belt down, emptied his pockets, took off his jacket and folded it. Miz said he made the title the same thing Ambrose is, a joke. Ambrose tackled Miz, and Maryse tried to help by hitting Ambrose. Miz tried to take advantage but Ambrose set for Dirty Deeds. Miz escaped and left the ring.
Bill Says: Welp, so much for new feuds for both men. Looks like we’re going back to a Smackdown feud here, and those who faithfully watch that show aren’t going to care about this feud. It’s not that this was a bad segment – it actually wasn’t. Because we’ve seen it before, it came off lifeless and rehashed.
Braun Strowman backstage dragged Kalisto through the area, then slammed him into a garbage dumpster. Big Show shoulder blocked Strowman into the wall and knocked him down. Show told him to pick on someone his own size.
They hyped Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young in a cage match on NXT this week. They recapped the Strowman/Show angle and the commentary team said the two will face off later on the show.
Match #3 – TJ Perkins vs. Jack Gallagher;
Winner: TJ Perkins
The Reax: Perkins did his normal entrance even though his character seems to be going heel. JoJo introduced Neville for a special appearance as the match was about to get started. The two wrestlers went to shake hands, but Austin Aries made his way out for a “specialer appearance.” He set a chair up next to Neville and offered a banana. Neville moved, and Aries ate the banana.
After a break, Gallagher did his umbrella spot on Perkins out on the floor. Perkins shoved Gallagher into Aries, which sent Aries over. Aries got on the apron and took off his jacket, but Neville tripped him. Perkins kicked the ropes into the face of Gallagher then hit the Detonation Kick to win.
This did a good job of getting heat on the heels here. Graves described TJP as the hand of the king, in order to imply he is doing Neville’s bidding to help him retain the title. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a tag match on 205 Live out of these four.
Cole narrated a video featuring Alexa Bliss, noting she would be in her hometown of Columbus in this match tonight.
Graves hyped Jeff Hardy in a one on one match when he faces Cesaro later. It will be his first WWE singles match in eight years.
Bill Says: I’m surprised they didn’t hype this match more ahead of time, as this would appeal to a wide range of fans. Will we get to hear from the Hardys this week?
Backstage, Akira Tozawa told Apollo Crews he is happy he is on Raw. Titus O’Neil showed up, and Tozawa split. Titus congratulated Crews on the news of becoming a father for the first time. Titus asked what Crews plans to do to make an impact on Raw. Crews said he’s all about hard work, and he will eventually knock one down. Titus told him he needs to hook up with the Titus brand. He talked about how fans could go on an Apollo Cruise (get it? Har har) as an example. Titus gave Crews his card and told him to think about it.
Bill Says: Ugh. No more Titus brand, please?
Mike Rome interviewed Matt and Jeff Hardy and asked what has changed since they were last in WWE. Matt said almost everything, then said the lights are brighter, the pyro is louder and the crop of talent is more athletic than any they have faced. Jeff said he thought he had felt every emotion there was until they returned at Wrestlemania, and said they are excited to be back and a part of the new era of Raw.
Sheamus and Cesaro showed up and welcomed them back. Sheamus spoke about them stealing the show at Wrestlemania 17 and put them over as the creators of the TLC match. Cesaro called his match with Jeff a dream match. Sheamus said without the ladders, it will be an honor to defeat the legends at Payback and win back the title. Matt said they don’t need ladders to win the titles. Cesaro told them to excuse his partner because he ruins a good time. He said they should keep it respectful, and told Jeff he would see him out there. Jeff told Rome that it’s good to be back.
The commentary team hyped Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro, then Cole spoke over a Sasha Banks video to set up the four-way.
Bill Says: A basic, but good, promo from the Hardys. The bigger story here was the behavior of Sheamus and Cesaro. Are they teasing a breakup between them, or a heel turn for both men, in the future?
Sasha Banks was first out for the four-way. Alexa Bliss got a huge pop from the hometown crowd. Mickie and Nia did not get much reaction.
Match #4 – Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James vs. Sasha Banks; Fatal Four Way to become #1 Contender to the Raw Women’s Championship;
Winner: Alexa Bliss
The Reax: Cole said his money was on Jax to win, which Booker called smart money. Bliss slapped Jax and ran, then James took out Jax. Bayley watched on from a monitor backstage. James hit Sasha with a neckbreaker and covered, but Jax pulled Mickie off the cover. Sasha dove on both women going to break.
Jax used a bear hug on Banks, who countered to a guillotine. Jax blocked it and slammed her. James locked in an arm bar that Jax teased tapping to. She rolled over and picked up James then slammed her on Banks. Bliss went top rope, but saw Jax waiting so she fled to ringside.
Sasha did her double knee drop on Bliss in the corner then covered but Jax pulled her out. Bliss sent Mickie off the apron and onto Jax. The fans cheered Bliss and Banks being the only two in the ring. Sasha hit the Backstabber then rolled it into the Banks Statement, but Mickie rolled in to break things up. Late, Jax caught Banks on the ropes and knocked Mickie off. Jax hit a Samoan drop on Sasha but Bliss took Jax out and covered Banks to win.
This was fun. Cole gave away the finish of Jax not winning though by saying at the beginning that she would be the one to win. I think there’s a segment of the fans who are on to the style of WWE announcing in that when they hype a specific person to win, that person is NOT winning. That kills off a bit of the suspense of a match, but none the less this was good.
Big Show said backstage that Braun Strowman needs to find out what it’s like to be intimidated. He said he would give Strowman a taste of his own medicine, giant style.
They ran a WWE Network ad that focused on the pay per views, NXT specials, 205 Live and upcoming WWE 24 specials on Finn Balor, Goldberg, and Kurt Angle.
Curt Hawkins cut a promo about Big Show knocking him out, and now being in the main event this week. He said if you want to be a superhero, you need to enroll in Professor Xavier’s school for the gifted, but if you want to be a main eventer you need to get in the ring with him. He asked who it would be this week, and Finn Balor came out.
Bill Says: A lot of buzz going around about Finn’s condition off of that elbow from Jinder Mahal last week – obviously, he’s cleared to go.
Match #5 – Finn Balor vs. Curt Hawkins;
Winner: Finn Balor
The Reax: Finn’s concussion was never addressed. Balor threw strikes, a slingblade, a clothesline and a drop kick, then hit Coup de Grace to win. Balor took a hard shot from Jinder last week, and there were reports going around that he was concussed. Word came out earlier today via ProWrestling.net that Balor traveled to Raw and was tested there for concussion protocol. If he wasn’t well, they wouldn’t have had him travel. Obviously, all seems well with Finn.
Cole hyped the House of Horrors match between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton at Payback.
Backstage, Mike Rome interviewed Chris Jericho, noting he was not successful against Samoa Joe. Jericho called him Tom Phillips and said there’s no shame in losing to Joe, but he’s distracted by his match with Kevin Owens. Jericho said he would be a better face of America and mugged for the camera. He said he would be going to Smackdown if he won the US Championship, and said it didn’t matter where he went. Jericho asked if he was Mike or Tom, then went back and forth with him to get him to say he was Tom. Jericho put him on the list for not knowing his name. Elias Samson walked in playing his guitar. Jericho told Rome he was off the hook, then put Samson on the list.
Bill Says: There was some sheer irony when Jericho was mugging for the cameras as “the face of America” and his Team Canada hockey tattoo was on full display. None the less, it was a fun interview and got some hype on the match. Why no one cared? Columbus down 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL playoffs. You’re welcome, Columbus.
They ran a Bray Wyatt video where he talked about fear living in his house of horrors. He said Randy Orton is scared and he smells it. He said all of Orton’s fears will come to life, and he will know pain, fear, and horror.
Bill Says: If they book the house of horrors match right – that is, let Broken Matt Hardy book it – then it will work out great. The production team put a lot of effort into that video package and it looked great, but Bray is a damaged character right now. He’s such a good talker, but his promos lead nowhere and he never truly gets over on anyone. Sad.
Alicia Fox showed Dana Brooke footage of a gift exploding in her face on 205 Live. Emma showed up and said Brooke was showing that to everyone all week. Brooke denied it, then Fox yelled at her about not wanting to be her friend anymore. Emma said Brooke wanted to stand on her own, so she wants to see how she balances.
Bill Says: Yay. Mean girl tricks. This will get people over. Or something.
Match #6 – Jeff Hardy (w/Matt Hardy) vs. Cesaro (w/Sheamus);
Winner: Jeff Hardy
The Reax: Booker called this a dream match. There were some Brother Nero chants early. Jeff hit a running leap off the apron onto Cesaro about a minute in. Jeff went to ringside and sold a leg injury after Cesaro hit him with a move. Cesaro followed with an uppercut against the barricade. Back in the ring, Jeff fought back and went up top, but Cesaro rolled out to ringside.
Cesaro slowed the pace of the match down coming out of commercial, maintaining control. Jeff rallied and hit a drop kick for two. A bit later, Cesaro hit a springboard uppercut to get two of his own. Jeff went top rope a bit later but got cut off. Jeff blocked a superplex and crotched Cesaro on the ropes, then drop kicked him to the floor.
Jeff hit a moonsault on Cesaro for two. Cesaro tried the Neutralizer but Jeff countered out to a Twist of Fate. He went up for a Swanton bomb and hit it to get the win. The four men shook hands reluctantly after the match.
This was a good television match, even though it wasn’t really super memorable. The crowd wasn’t hot for it, though they were attentive. Nothing was really on the line here and there were no issues between the characters to really get them invested.
The commentary team recapped the issues between Big Show and Braun Strowman earlier.
Mike Rome updated the condition of Golden Truth and Kalisto, but Heath Slater and Rhyno interrupted. Slater said he wasn’t even drafted, but he and Rhyno became the first Smackdown Tag Champions. Rhyno ate crackers and Cheese Whiz. They saw Braun coming and jumped back.
Graves hyped TJ Perkins vs. Austin Aries for 205 Live. Drew Koscelek will have your coverage.
Match #7 – Braun Strowman vs. Big Show;
Winner: Apparent No Contest
The Reax: Show and Strowman fought at ringside before the match started, with Show throwing Strowman into the steps. Things got started officially as the two got in the ring, with Show dominating the early going. Strowman hit a drop kick to cut him off, and Cole said the two were flying around like cruiserweights.
Both teased body slams, with Show eventually getting Strowman up but not being able to rotate him over for the slam. Show got it on the next try though, which popped the crowd. Show called for a chokeslam but Strowman shoved his hand off and suplexed him. “I’m the giant,” Strowman yelled.
A bit later, Show avoided a slam and shoved Strowman to the corner and followed with a splash. Show talked trash at Strowman while the commentary team wondered if it was Show’s last dash. Show set a superplex up, but the fans booed when Strowman was able to avoid it. Strowman jumped off, but Show caught him and hit a chokeslam for two.
Strowman avoided a knockout punch and hit a powerslam for two. Back to the ropes again, Show tried for a superplex but Strowman escaped again. This time, he jumped off the ropes into a knockout punch for a good near fall. Third time was the charm as they went back to the ropes again. This time, Strowman hit the superplex and the ring collapsed. Huge pop. Referees and trainers hit the ring to check on both men and the official who got dumped hard. The fans chanted “yes!” for it and Strowman eventually got to his feet and raised his arms as if he had won.
This was a good super heavyweight match, but I think the two had a better outing before. The finish was a huge spot, and there were teases of it coming and the fans wanted it so they reacted accordingly. They were into it, even though it’s something we’ve seen before from Brock Lesnar and Show as well as Mark Henry and Show. They can come back to these two guys in the future so the non finish made a lot of sense too. Strowman standing tall at the end is logical because he has Roman Reigns in a match at Payback.
This show felt long to me, but it wasn’t a bad show. I don’t think there was something that was really jaw-dropping or memorable until we got to the ring collapse spot, but nothing was particularly offensive either. I think there are some opportunities available to freshen up some things going forward now that the talent shakeup is over and we get past the Payback event.
Drew Koscelek has your Smackdown and 205 Live coverage tomorrow night, so be sure to check in for that as well as his Around the Ring audio. I’ll be back Wednesday with Ring Rap Audio as well as Ring of Honor coverage. Thanks for checking in.