We’re in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Center. The same building that hosted the amazing NXT show TakeOver Brooklyn on Saturday. That, combined with the G1 Climax, has been my wrestling viewing over the past month. I have been spoiled rotten by professional wrestling. Returning to my Raw duties may be a bit of a comedown. Or perhaps not. I seem to be on a lucky streak.
Incidentally; massive thanks to James Dixon for covering Raw over the past five weeks or so giving me the time to work on the G1. If you’re not a New Japan fan now would be a fantastic time to get onboard. New Japan World is ridiculous value and they put on the best wrestling matches in the world.
Incidentally, again, this was the hardest Raw to watch all year so far. Normally there’s a version somewhere on YouTube that’s fairly watchable. I have Sky but not Sky+ so I’m not waiting until 4pm this afternoon to watch the show, and it’s not on the Network. If it was I’d watch it on there but it isn’t. I’m paying all this money out every month and I can’t watch the shows I want to watch. It’s a ridiculous economy that makes no sense. Anyway, after an exhaustive search (over 30 minutes) I finally found a stream.
Video Control starts us off in the back. Triple H is with WWE and United States champion Seth Rollins. “You’re not the future of the WWE anymore. You’re not the future. You are the man”. Triple H’s pep talk results in Seth having a statue made in his honour. What’s the betting that’s tonight’s “main event”?
Promo Time: Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar
“Hashtag BrockvsTaker” says Michael Cole for no apparent reason. It’s not even in any context. Is Michael Cole a robot? “What the hell happened here last night?” asks Heyman. What indeed. Heyman calls the controversial finish unjust. This is the problem with Sportz Entertainment. You build up a big match and know you can’t deliver a clean finish because you want to do a big re-match. That’s not what happens in UFC. You build up a main event and two guys fight and one guy wins. Simple. Heyman gives us a replay of Taker tapping out for the first time in his career, which the ref didn’t see but the timekeeper (Fred Ottman’s son Berkley) did see. Heyman takes an axe to Taker’s mythology and Lesnar seems happy to be confirmed as having submitted the Dead Man. Heyman preaches and says he has enough material to eat up all of Monday Night Raw and the crowd react positively to it. Only Paul Heyman could come out here and talk and talk and say he won’t stop for three hours and get a pop. Heyman virtually turns Taker heel by pointing out how conniving he was tactically at SummerSlam. Lesnar wants Undertaker. Not at ‘Mania, not at the Rumble, not at Survivor Series, not next week but RIGHT NOW. Heyman is amazing. He took a screwy finish, spun it on its head and gave me goosebumps for a match I didn’t care about seconds earlier. Whatever they’re paying Paul Heyman it’s not enough.
And what do they do? They send Bo Dallas out here. The look of disappointment on Paul’s face matches my own. How could they even consider doing that? Naturally Bo Dallas gets a one-way ticket to Suplex City. I actually typed that before JBL said it on commentary. If Brock killed Bo Dallas here nobody would object. To recap; brilliant segment completely ruined by the conclusion. Having built something up they then deliver nothing. Why would Bo even come out there? Paul making Lesnar laugh at the end is pretty funny though. “One F-5 Brock, for me”. “BROCK LESNAR BO-LEAVES!” Thus Heyman saves the disappointment by turning it into a positive. Once again, whatever the WWE pay Paul Heyman, it’s not enough.
The New Day vs. Lucha Dragons
New Day won the tag straps last night as they’re the only over team the WWE have. No offence to Titus O’Neill, who’s great. I love how New Day had a terrible gimmick so the crowd hated them and turned them heel but they got so good at being heels they’re now being popped. Xavier Woods on trombone, New Day singing “New York, New York” as “New Day, New Day” is genius. These guys have taken the worst gimmick in recent memory and run with it. It’s a lesson in getting yourself over in spite of how bad the cards you’ve been handed were. It’s the kind of thing you see on NXT all the time. Normally Xavier Woods drives me nuts but his trombone antics at ringside are reminiscent of Jimmy Hart and his megaphone. He’s found his megaphone. The match is a decent six-minuter with Lucha Dragons hitting fun spots but New Day cheating to win and Xavier just owning the finish by playing Taps while it goes down. I might be about to do a U-turn on Xavier, he won me over big time tonight.
Final Rating: **1/4
Post Match: THE DUDLEY BOYZ RETURN! Oh my God! They clear the ring out and hit all the trademarks, popping the crowd hard. GET THE TABLES! “E-C-DUB”. 3D through a table on Xavier. This was brilliant. This might be the hottest start to Raw all year long. Can we just end the show now before they ruin it?
Video Control gives us clips from John Cena’s 500th wish for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It’s great that Cena does stuff like this. I don’t object to the WWE patting themselves on the back, looking for positive PR, as Cena really deserves the spotlight for the work he does. Elsewhere Triple H and Steph reveal the Seth statue but won’t let Rollins himself see it yet.
Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper
This is a re-match from last night, which is a bit odd as the crowd has to be a similar makeup to last nights, as it’s the same venue. Were they really that into this midcard contest to see it again 24 hours later? Also, I’m still confused as to why they split up the Wyatt Family in the first place. Did they really think Erik Rowan would get over by himself? I guess they did. As the match gets underway the crowd just dies, pretty much proving they can’t keep a crowd hot for an entire episode of Raw. The biggest problem they have with these guys is they don’t really have a story. Not yet. It’s just been Bray screwing with Roman and then both men getting backup. Where do you go from here? Well, if you’re Vince McMahon, you debut a third man in the Wyatt Family and you pick a guy called Braun Strowman who looks like a simple woodsman with a gigantic forehead who has only wrestled a handful of matches ever. So why him? Because he’s tall, muscular and has a beard (which he probably pronounces “bee-UD” because he’s manbaby. Braun is 6’ 8” so that’s Vince’s thinking. Strowman destroys both Ambrose and Reigns to get himself over as being a big scary dude. The crowd are a bit nonplussed because the booking is decades old. Hopefully Bray will be able to pull it together with his promos. “Follow!” Two debuts in the same show though, shaking things up!
Final Rating: *3/4
And now the show dies a death. Miz ceased to be relevant a long time ago and having him try to get the “Divas Revolution” over is a mistake. His guests are PCB, which is probably a mistake as Becky and Charlotte’s promos are more driven towards wrestling matches. Paige is the only one of the three who comes across well in casual interviews. Miz is more irritating than anything else and the segment is pretty dreadful, thanks to the writing. They’re interrupted by Team Bella. I may be in the minority here but I just want to see Sasha Banks. She should be the centrepiece of this diva’s revolution. It turns out I’m not alone as the crowd chants “we want Sasha” so loudly it puts Brie off her scripted promo. Miz pisses PCB off but that sets them up to get jumped by the Bellas. So I guess they have to wrestle. Crowd turns on it loudly and chants “WE WANT SASHA”. Amen, Brooklyn. Preach on.
PCB vs. Team Bella
They just don’t get it do they? The women’s wrestling revolution in NXT worked because they got a load of great talent and had them wrestle each other and everyone got over. At no point were all of them together on the same team trying to get a decent match out of useless tarts playing at being wrestler. Which is exactly how they’ve booked the divas revolution. They’ll never get a good match out of the Bellas, ever. Ever. EVER. What needs to happen is Nikki drops the belt to someone who doesn’t suck and they can start to have good matches and then they’ll win the crowd over. Until that happens…”we want Sasha”. Becky Lynch tries desperately to get a good match out of the worthless divas champion and Nikki just can’t do anything. Can’t make anything look convincing. Like a robot pretending to be human, she’s a non-wrestler pretending to be a wrestler. And the match is FOURTEEN minutes long. The crowd gets bored and chants “we want Blue Pants”. Unfortunately the WWE will probably blame Charlotte, Becky and Paige for not being able to get themselves over while working the champion. What they will never acknowledge is that the Bellas are a cancer on the divas division. You could bring in Bull Nakano, Alundra Blayze, Lita, Trish Stratus, Sensational Sherri and Molly Holly (and anyone else you felt inclined to bring in) but as long as the division revolved around Nikki it will always suck. Hopefully someone will beat her at Survivor Series, or sooner. The crowd doing the Mexican wave incidentally is a really bad sign. They put the Bellas over here, thus negating the big PCB win the night before and the status quo, the one everyone hates, is resumed. Please stop wasting this crop of talent. It’s upsetting.
Final Rating: ½*
King Barrett & Stardust vs. ?
Stardust decides to attack the Cosmic King instead of tagging with him. This brings out Neville to run him off. What was the point of any of this?
Promo Time: Jon Stewart
Jon turned heel on John Cena last night, costing him the US title. However that’s more like a face turn because it’s Cena. “Thank you, Stewart”. “You’re very welcome Brooklyn”. People had asked him why so he’s out here to explain his actions. Jon Stewart’s excuse is he couldn’t let Cena tie Ric Flair for 16 world titles because “the champ is FLAIR”. Superfan Stewart! This brings out…Ric Flair! Naitch appreciates Stewart’s deed but says he was pulling for John Cena because sooner or later the record will be broken and he respects Cena and wouldn’t mind him taking it. The crowd give him crap for it and Flair shoots them all down. “God’s in the house tonight”. There aren’t many people who can verbally slap 15,000 people into line. As Stewart starts apologising out comes John Cena to a loud, loud reaction. Love him or hate him, you can’t argue that Cena isn’t over. Cena is happy enough with Jon Stewart’s reasoning but the result is that Seth Rollins is US and WWE champion. Cena puts over all the midcard guys who wrestled him for the US title and how that opportunity for the young guys has now gone because the US belt went to Seth. “If I do this *waves hand in front of face*, can he still see me?” – Stewart brings the funnies. Stewart reasons that the greater evil would have been Cena tying Flair’s record. Cena ends up hitting Stewart with the AA. You can’t do that to Jon Stewart! The idea here is that Jon Stewart’s involvement gets the WWE mainstream press. I get that and this wasn’t a bad segment but why ruin the big SummerSlam match for this pay off? In fact, why run an angle where whoever beat John Cena for the US title would be instantly made as a top card guy and use the angle to get Seth Rollins over, when he’s already WWE champion?
Video Control takes us backstage where John Cena defends his decision and promises to have a chat with Seth Rollins later.
Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Randy Orton & Ryback vs. Rusev, Kevin Owens, The Big Show & Sheamus
Summer Rae has raided Lana’s old wardrobe, seeing as Lana is all about the stonewashed denim now. Lana’s new look is what Ivan Drago’s wife would have looked like if she’d defected to the United States after the Apollo Creed fight. Because Dolph Ziggler’s brain is stuck in the 1980s. Is this whole storyline that Dolph is stuck in a small Russian town (WWE City) designed to look American to teach Russians how to act American? Is he John Travolta in the Experts? Because I would totally watch that. The reveal that Randy Orton has been a sleeper Russian spy all this time would be the best swerve, ever. Can you imagine him coming out, singing the Soviet national anthem because he can’t let go of the past? His finisher is short for Russian Kommunist Organisation. Seriously, I would watch the shit out of that angle.
Eight men tags are usually good fun as they can keep the action fresh with frequent tags and you’ve got eight guys hitting their spots to make it entertaining. Even Show is entertaining in this environment doing the “sssshhhhh” chop spot. The crowd are noticeably hotter for Kevin Owens than anyone else. Despite the potential for quick shifts in action they opt for heat on Ziggler instead. Ziggler has a massive problem with taking heat. Because he’s so good at it, it happens in every single match and it’s both predictable and boring. Lana keeps things interesting by getting into a sensational catfight with Summer. There’s no skill involved but there’s plenty of passion and you can’t teach that (Summer Rae is SAWFT). Lana needs something after her character was stripped to the bone in recent months. There’s a bit of a tease that Ryback might be working Owens going forward, which would give Owens a title to parade around. He’s pretty great at being a champion. Ryback is more interesting in pursuing gold than defending it. His IC title run has been a damp squib. It doesn’t help he’s been working Show and Miz. The match concludes with Sheamus eating an RKO after Big Show miscued his big punch. This evens up the booking on Orton and Sheamus, again. I love Owens and Rusev tearing Show a new one for his failure. The babyfaces amuse themselves by having Cesaro and Ryback toss Show into a flying RKO in an awesome closing spot. Match was passable but the long heat segment on Ziggler was a chore to sit through. Eight man tags should never have those dead spots.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control gives us a recap of the newest member of the Wyatt Family and head over to Bray for a live promo. Braun is introduced as “Abigail’s black sheep”. Elsewhere Steph and Hunter get a chat with John Cena and call him a sore loser for attacking Stewart. Which he is. The Authority don’t want Cena around to ruin Seth’s statue unveiling and Cena is escorted out by security. Steph’s evil “you can’t see me” is sensational stuff. Steph’s recent work has been bordering on cartoon super-villainy. I actually…like it? I don’t want to hear her talk much but if she has to talk at least she’s growing on me with her evilness. I can see why Hunter likes her.
Seth Rollins Statue Unveiling
The main event unveiling is given fifteen minutes. Steph stops off to put over Vince McMahon, who’s turning 70 today and they sing Happy Birthday to him. Good lord Hunter can’t sing for shit. Should have got some lessons off Lemmy. The crowd love Vince because it’s New York and that’s his home. “He is so pissed off in the back right now it’s not even funny” – Triple H, breaking the fourth wall. Hunter spends a while putting Seth Rollins over. Moving the opening show Triple H promo to the end of the show doesn’t freshen it up. Seth comes out here for the official unveiling of his statue and he gasses along for ages too. “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man” says Seth, quoting Ric Flair and pointing out that Cena was the man around here but not anymore. The statue is unveiled and….it’s STING! Not a statue of Sting but Sting himself. Triple H does a magnificent sell of surprise on that one. I wondered what they were planning on doing with Sting and it’ll be interesting to see how Sting vs. Rollins pans out.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Paul Heyman
Least Entertaining: Nikki Bella
Quote of the Night: “If I do this *waves hand in front of face*, can he still see me?” – Jon Stewart
Match of the Night: Nope.
Summary: Considering there was very little wrestling going on, you could be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t much of a show…but you’d be wrong. We’ve been saying for a while that the WWE is a stale show. Generally you can tell what will happen before it does and the programs that are being booked don’t capture the imagination. The show needed to be more like NXT. Unpredictable, driven by the feeling that ‘anything can happen’. It’s a show where Samoa Joe and Jushin Liger rub shoulders with Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami. It’s a show where the women can steal the show. Anyone can steal the show, if they want it. The main roster hasn’t felt that way in a long, long time but this episode of Raw was so weirdly different to anything they’ve tried this year. As if to say they’re aware it was a problem and hit the reset button after SummerSlam. And how! The opening thirty minutes with Paul Heyman’s amazingly detailed promo, the death of Bo Dallas, New Day’s singing and the subsequent return of the Dudley Boyz was one of the best openings to Raw all year long. I was probably most pleased that a boring, rambling main event promo was merely a lead in for yet another innovative booking decision. Bringing Sting back to be in a program with Seth Rollins. It might have had more impact if they’d not jobbed him out to Triple H at WrestleMania but the introduction to the feud worked perfectly. The show did sag in the middle and the divas revolution is going badly, a massive disservice to the talent involved (on one side at least) but the overall feeling from the show was one of success. This is one of those Raw’s where if it was a two hour show it would have been all killer, no filler. Big props to the WWE for doing something different and getting out of their damn holding patterns. The show needs a degree of talent churn to keep it fresh. Are we on the Road to WrestleMania yet?
Last night’s NXT TakeOver Brooklyn was one of the great shows in wrestling history. A revolutionary broadcast that delivered what it was supposed to in every single match. It was perfect in many ways. How in the hell can this line-up possibly hope to even come close?
Promo Time: Jon Stewart
We start out with host Jon Stewart, who looks like he hasn't slept in weeks. He reckons tonight will feature ten of the best matches we will ever see. Not likely. Stewart runs through the guys on the show, reminiscent of Vince McMahon’s post-WCW purchase where he threw names out to gage whether he should hire them or not. Stewart says he wants to interview Brock Lesnar, but he is scared of doing so himself so he wheels out Mick Foley to help him. Mick gets a nice response, then tells a story about how he was expecting to be here interviewing The Rock. He didn't hear the “B” because of his missing ear. It’s a good excuse. Foley admits to being scared of Brock, so Stewart puts him over, reminding him of his Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker at King of the Ring ’98. “That was seventeen years ago!” screams Foley, who decides to leave Stewart to tackle Lesnar by himself. Stewart doesn't fancy that, so they both leave. Why bother having four hours of pay-per-view time instead of three if they are just going to waste it with pointless shite?
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Okay, last night was great, WWE are in my good books at the moment, so let’s try and stay positive... Erm. At least they are getting the most boring match out of the way early, let’s go with that. I am trying to work out if the amount of times I have seen this match-up in double or triple figures. Randy goes for the RKO first move, which would have been fantastic. Sheamus avoids it, then decides to argue with the crowd. “I don’t look stupid, you look stupid.” Oh, snap. “Sheamus might not think he looks stupid, but Randy Orton thinks he looks stupid.” - Cole. In other news, Brock Lesnar thinks Undertaker is a poo-poo head, and Seth Rollins believes John Cena to be a doofus. As if my interest in this match could drop any lower than it already is, the camera work is at its all-time worst. I cannot even work out what is going on because they use the shot from outside of the ring for an age, switch between cameras mid-move, and play silly arses with the zoom function when it is simply not needed. It turns out nothing is happening anyway. The crowd, who don't have to suffer the camera, hate it too. They turn on the show in the first match, chanting “How you doin’?” and “Olé”. I love it when crowds turn on Sheamus matches. The thing is, it always happens to him because he is so unspeakably dull, and his character is hokey. Obviously, that is the person WWE decided to put the briefcase on. The day he wins the title is the day I stop watching. Randy somehow ends up bleeding from... a slam. Wait, what? It’s hardway, but there is not much blood. Randy tries to excite by catching Sheamus with an RKO off a slingshot, but Sheamus rolls out to avoid it costing him. Back in, Sheamus does some stuff and finishes with the Brogue Kick. I don't care. I don't care one fucking bit. As usual, there was nothing wrong with what they did, but I have seen them both do it in the same order with the same robotic execution for what seems like decades. Even worse, it is now likely that they will work with each other again in a rubber match. One match in, and already I want to turn it off and go to bed.
Final Rating: ½*
* Note: Add a star or two if you have never seen a Randy Orton vs. Sheamus match before.
WWE Tag Team Championship
The Prime Time Players (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Lucha Dragons vs. Los Matadores
Before we get going, New Day win me over with a tremendous rendition of ‘Empire State of Mind’, changing the lyric “New York” to “New Day”. The trio are so obnoxious that they get over as faces. Their amazing white and gold gear is a big plus too. Big E and Kofi try and make a mockery of the rules by pinning each other, but the other teams soon break that up. Sin Cara manages to botch a spot within second, because, well that’s his thing, isn’t it? Kalisto looks absolutely outstanding during his sequences, like a video game character. I have never seen anyone move at the speed he does. The action is good, though there is so much going on that it feels somewhat lacking in structure. Darren Young becomes the second hardway victim of the evening, bleeding from the mouth. Brock Lesnar is guaranteed to bleed because he takes moves on his face, so it is going to be a bloody show. Young takes some heat from New Day before making the hot tag to Titus, who looks amazing again in running through everyone. It all falls apart when Sin Cara re-enters the match, making a mess of another spot and then doing a dive which is “blocked” by a Matadores kick. In theory. The kick missed by about two feet. Big E makes up for it with a spear through the ropes to the outside, which is a badass spot. Everything breaks down, which Cole says is fine because it is first fall wins and thus essentially a free for all. Why the fuck were they all stood on the apron waiting for tags then!? A tower of doom from Titus connects, then Kofi kicks him in the face and pins Fernando for the win and the belts. Big E’s post match celebration is a thing of beauty. He doesn't glitch, skip frames, or anything! Cole harps on after the bout about confusion over who was the legal man, which only serves to remind me that it sure wasn't Kofi. Whatever, this was fun, even if it made no sense for 95% of the time, and the other 5% was Sin Cara botches.
Final Rating: **1/4
Backstage, Jon Stewart tries to catch a word with Neville and Steven Amell, then the lights go black and everyone looks concerned. It turns out to be The Undertaker bringing the magic, walking past without saying a word clad in his regalia, with a plume of smoke flowing behind him. Then the lights come back on and they return to what they were doing. Best worst segment ever. Why is Taker already wearing his coat though? He has three hours to wait yet. He will get awful hot.
Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler
The build up for this has been... interesting. Any feud that incorporates a headless fish and a confused sexuality denim jacket cannot be described as anything but. Rusev uses a bearhug early on, which is never a good sign. Ziggler brings some fire, but Rusev smashes him back down and connects with a brutal looking flip senton. Dolph survives and goes to a sleeper, which Rusev survives. They do a double down and Dolph loudly yells instructions for the next spot, then Rusev connects with a superkick and locks on the Accolade. Lana yells at him, so Summer tries to intervene by slapping her, but Lana blocks it and gives her one back. That is enough of a distraction for Rusev to break the hold. Rusev comes outside and threatens to smash Dolph’s face right in front of her, so she screams. Summer takes her out, hurting herself in the process because she is inept. Superkick on the outside from Ziggler, and they do a double count out. The crowd hate that. So do I. Rubbish.
Final Rating: ¾*
Post match, Rusev and Dolph brawl again, so Summer gets involved and pounds on Ziggler. Lana makes the save, if you want to call it that, before the fellas split them up. Whatever, this was a waste of time.
So far, SummerSlam is living right down to the low expectations I had for it. They could have cut this entire first hour and kept the card at three hours, and we would have missed nothing.
Neville & Steven Amell vs. Stardust & King Barrett
Why isn't Barrett the Cosmic King? Boo. The hype video for this, including comic book pics for all four, is a work of art. Then Michael Cole goes and ruins it by reading out a cryptic Stardust tweet, making me want to die. Everyone has swank new gear tonight, and they all look great. Neville has gone for Daniel Bryan maroon, King is in blue, Stardust in his best Goldust tribute with short sleeves, and Amell has an Arrow-inspired entrance jacket. After King and Neville run a brief sequence, Stardust tags in and wants Amell. The actor obliges by vaulting onto the top rope and into the ring, survives being shoved over, and connects with a boot. Amell then flips out of a backdrop and hits a hiptoss, and he looks fantastic for a non-wrestler. Like a modern-day Lawrence Taylor. Barrett wants a piece of Amell and hooks him for a slam, only for Amell to escape and leapfrog over him. Great athleticism from the guy, and credit to him for putting in the work beforehand. His luck runs out right after that, and he takes a beating from the cosmic duo. He sell well, I am really impressed with the dude. After hitting an enzuigiri on Stardust he makes the hot tag to Neville, who goes to town on Barrett with kicks and forearms. He hits a move from the middle rope that Cole can only manage the word “incredible” for, and I don't blame him. I don't even know what it is, but there was flipping and twisting and lots of it. Amell does a dive from the top onto both guys, then Neville finishes with the Red Arrow on Barrett. Inexplicably, the camera switches mid-move. This was fine. Obviously the celebrity was going over, but he deserved to on this occasion. Good on Amell for taking his participation seriously and training hard for it.
Final Rating: **1/4
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Ryback (c) vs. The Miz vs. The Big Show
Big Show is getting into the spirit of things and has changed his attire slightly. I would still rather have my testicles slowly ingested by a python than watch him work. God, I’ve been looking forward to watching this for two months now... After hitting a double suplex, Show climb the ropes. He looks like an elephant trying to tightrope walk. Then he hits a goddamn flip senton, or something approaching one. That’s a response to the “please retire” chants if ever there was one. Not to be outdone, Ryback hits a splash off the top onto Miz. Show chokeslams him onto Miz in response. JBL decides it is appropriate to bring up the 5* Bret Hart-British Bulldog match from SummerSlam ’92 as this juncture, which only reminds me how great the IC title used to be, and what a frigging state it is in now when these three shitbags are involved. Ryback hits Shellshock on Show, which is impressive, but Miz prevents the count with Skull Crushing Finale for a two count. He covers Show with the same results, then keeps covering both to no avail. The crowd are actually into it! Show knocks out Ryback with his WMD, and I pull out the remaining hair I have at the prospect of Show being IC champ. Thank the Wrestling Gods for The Miz, who breaks the count. Show knocks him out too, Ryback clotheslines him out of the ring, eventually, then covers Miz for the win. This far surpassed my expectations. I was expecting a DUD but got a couple of snowflakes.
Final Rating: **
Backstage, Jon Stewart bravely knocks on Brock Lesnar’s door, and gets Paul Heyman. He asks for Lesnar, but Heyman says now is not a good time. Stewart shouts at Heyman on behalf of all wrestling fans for rubbing salt in the wounds regarding Brock snapping The Streak. Heyman sings “Glory Glory Brock Lesnar” in his face to respond, with WWE clearly trying to get that over so the whole arena sings it. “I guess we couldn't get Letterman to host the show,” snipes Heyman, before slamming the door in Stewart’s face. WWE should bring Jon Stewart in every week, he gets things over very well. His opening segment was still a waste of time though.
Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper vs. Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose
It seems a week in New York has meant a shopping spree for the roster, because Bray has a new jacket with horns on it, and Harper wears a... hoodie. Like a chav. Here we go with yet another match that I have no interest in seeing because it has already been played out on Raw for weeks on end. My spirit has been killed by this card and we are not even halfway through. So far, the show that is “bigger than WrestleMania” feels like an episode of Raw. As was the case in the opener, it is full of perfectly acceptable action, but there is no heart to it. What do I care if either team wins? What difference does it make to anything? Ambrose is over, though Brooklyn despises Reigns with a passion. Ambrose and Reigns win thanks to a Doomsday Device, double powerbomb, Dirty Deeds and then a Roman spear on Wyatt. A complete waste of time for the most part. Way to go Vince for rejecting the idea of using Sting in this bout.
Final Rating: **
WWE United States Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena (c)
Seventh match on the card, halfway into the show? What a curious place to put the WWE Championship match. I smell a non-finish. Cena of course got a jump on the new gear craze, having debut his new orange and green shirt on Monday. Seth Rollins has got in on the act too, debuting frankly ridiculous all-white with gold trim ensemble. He looks like Randy Savage circa SummerSlam ’91. It is certainly striking, I will give him that. Because we are in New York, Seth is over like the second coming, while Cena is heavily booed. I thought he might have been given some respect for the whole broken nose thing, not to mention his weekly classic matches on Raw over the past few months. I guess not. They even chant “Cena sucks” to the tune of “New Day sucks”. That clap and chant is the new “What?” Rollins hits a dive early on, then Cena comes back with his usual mid-match offence. The wacky Stunner is particularly squiffy tonight. Seth basically ignores it, then hits a running SSP out of nowhere. Cole doesn't know what it is called, so dubs it, “moves like these”. He follows with another Indy favourite, a double footstomp from the top a’la Low Ki. “Cena knew it was coming, but he could do nothing about it.” - Cole. Yeah, except, y’know, move. Cena comes back with an AA out of nowhere, and that move is dead at this point. Everybody kicks out of it nowadays. We are already into the big finishers/big selling portion of the match, which is basically how all of Cena’s matches go these days. He hits his top rope legdrop for a near fall, and Lawler is stunned that it didn't score him the win. I don't know what he is on about; it never works. After making a mess of a spot in the corner, Seth hits his powerbomb into the buckles and follows with a frogsplash into a pin, which Cena powers out of looking for the AA. Seth escapes, Cena hits a crossbody, but Seth rolls through and powers Cena up into an AA of his own. Very impressive. “Shades of John Cena tonight” - Cole. Shades! SHADES!? He is one of the guys in the fucking ring! What an asshole. What a complete and utter dumb fucking asshole. Put this imbecile out to pasture, immediately! Actually, get rid of all three of these idiots, and replace them with the NXT trio. Cena locks in the STF, but Seth escapes, and they go into a nice sequence switching each other’s attempted holds. Cena locks on a figure four, looking to tie Ric Flair’s (WWE approved) record title run by using his own move, which gets him heat. I like it. Seth manages to turn over and reverse the pressure. Cena goes up top, only for Seth to cut him off and hit a superplex straight into a Falcon Arrow for another close fall, but he misses with a big move off the top, allowing Cena to hit the AA. But, disaster: the referee got bumped by Seth’s legs mid-swing. Cue shenanigans, surely. Seth smashes Cena in the nose, which brings out Jon Stewart armed with a chair. He makes like he is going to hit old rival Rollins, then makes the SHOCK TURN OF THE CENTURY by smashing Cena in the gut with the chair. What is going on? I wanted unpredictability, but that is absurd! Rollins hits the Pedigree onto the chair, and covers for the win and the US Title. Can we look forward to a Cena-Stewart program now? I cannot wait to hear the justification for why he turned. Good match, as most Cena bouts tend to be these days, with Seth reminding me that for all his promos suck, his ring work remains very good when he is properly motivated. This show desperately needed that.
Final Rating: ****
Team PCB vs. Team BAD vs. Team Bella
Three moves in, and I am already sick of Brie Bella’s pathetic attempts at bumping. Team BAD cut off the ring and work over Becky Lynch, which would be fine in a straight tag, but in a three team match like this, not so much. The crowd chant for Sasha and they get her, but she is limited in what she can do with so many strawbs in there with her. The difference in crowd reaction for this match compared to last night’s epic Sasha Banks-Bayley match is remarkable. It is so ridiculous, because WWE want a women’s revolution, and they have one under their own roof, yet they persist with this useless, pointless dross. And why? To end a petty record that nobody except them cares about. Everyone does a dive, and they get progressively worse, ending with Paige basically falling off the post. Back inside, Brie hits a crappy X-Factor on Tamina to eliminate Team BAD. Welcome to reality, Sasha. Nikki nearly ends it with the fake tit Shock Treatment on Becky, but the rest of PCB make the save. Nikki ends up on the outside and blocks a Paige baseball slide with a PUNCH TO THE LEG, then hits an Alabama Slam on the outside. Brutal. Brie comes in and starts using her husband’s moves, but New York refuse to accept it. They are silent now. Paige gets worked over in the corner to utter apathy, then Alicia Foxx locks on a half-assed stretch. She pulls a face like she is struggling with some complex algebra. The heat on Paige lasts for approximately a week, and it is rotten. Just mind-numbing. They are flirting with negative stars at this point. Paige finally tags out to Charlotte, who hasn't done anything in the match so far. She unloads on all three of Team Bella, hitting a spear on Alicia followed by the Figure Eight, which Nikki breaks up. Paige sends her out of the ring, then Charlotte and Alicia collide with double big boots. Becky ends up in with Brie, the latter of whom misses a legdrop, and Becky finishes with some form of slam. I don’t even care enough to remember what it is. I think it was a pumphandle slam. My brain had already melted by then. Okay great, so what does that win mean? Nothing. A horrific comedown and a step backwards for the division after last night. What a mess.
Final Rating: DUD
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
Cesaro has new grey trunks and a customised grey towel. Did everyone get paid this week or something? Recent burial or not, Kevin Owens is still over big in Brooklyn. He deserves to be after putting his body through hell against Finn Balor last night. We get highlights of that, yet they couldn't show anything from the even better Bayley-Sasha match? Whatever, WWE, carry on. Cesaro and Owens both hit big dives right from the off, making that around ten so far tonight. Owens takes over by sidestepping a running uppercut on the outside and sending Cesaro into the barricade, then slows things with a chinlock. Cesaro uses his strength to come back, hitting a big suplex then his strongman gutwrench, from the top no less, though the crowd is fairly muted. I guess this overly-long chore of a show has killed their spirit. Cesaro tries a few times for the Neutraliser, but Owens backdrops out. Tornado DDT from Owens for two, but he misses with his springboard moonsault. He makes no mistake with a superkick though, decking Cesaro right on the chin for another two count. Cesaro simply has too many tricks in his arsenal to stay down for long, firing back with a twisting slingshot uppercut, then following up with the running uppercut on the outside that he tried earlier. Giant swing time, which as usual the director tries to ruin with excessive zooming. Sharpshooter applied centre ring, which Owens escapes via means using the ropes. “This whole match is a train wreck. I like watching train wrecks,” says JBL, oddly. If he likes train wrecks, and who doesn't huh, then he must have loved the last match. This is certainly not a train wreck. They battle up top, where Cesaro begins to lose his balance, so Owens quickly covers by dropping down and crotching him on the ropes, then climbs back up to hit his fisherman’s urinage. He follows with the pop-up powerbomb, and that gets him the win. Hmm. I get why they would put Owens over, because he has suffered a lot of high profile losses recently, it is just a shame that Cesaro ends up his victim rather than someone like Sheamus, Orton or a whole host of useless guys on this roster. Decent match, though underwhelming compared to what I was hoping for.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
Here we go then, with the match WWE have dubbed, “too big for WrestleMania”. It’s a baffling tag line when you think about it. My prediction going in: Undertaker wins with an assist from his baby brother Kane, revenge for Lesnar having broke his ankle a few months back. I think that is the wrong option mind you. Because if they really are doing this match at WrestleMania 32 in Texas, then Taker needs to go in having lost to Lesnar twice, and indeed having never beaten him. Cole makes a dumb claim as Taker makes his entrance, saying that JBL has wrestled Taker more than anyone else in WWE history. Bullshit. Utter nonsense. He has the credibility of a weekend tabloid.
Lesnar jumps Taker before the bell, not even giving him chance to remove his coat. It backfires when Taker rallies with a big boot and sends him to the outside with a clothesline. It’s clear from that sequence alone that Lesnar is now the heel and Taker is the babyface, despite how they have been positioned on TV of late. Once the bell rings they slug it out, and Taker gets more joy in the first few minutes than anyone else has against Lesnar in his last half a dozen matches. Taker goes Old School, but gets pulled into an F-5 attempt, but Taker escapes and locks on a goozle. Brock avoids the chokeslam and delivers the first move on the road to Suplex City, a belly-to-belly. He follows with a German suplex which turns Taker inside out, yelling “suplex city bitch” to a big pop. He goes for another, but Taker is not feeling anymore bumps this early and sends Lesnar into the buckles. Snake Eyes and big boo from Taker, and Lesnar is busted. I told you! I told you he would bleed! Taker rams Lesnar back-first into the barricade and the apron a couple of times, followed by his legdrop on the apron. Nobody has enjoyed this much control against Lesnar for years. Taker throws a few air punches which are uncharacteristically poor, but all they do is wake Brock up. He hits a German, then another, then another. I really didn't expect Taker to take quite so many suplexes. I figured he didn't have the bumps in him.
The action spills to the outside, where Lesnar rearranges the announce desk with bad intentions. Taker recovers and goes for a Last Ride through the furniture, but Lesnar escapes and hits an F-5 through the table. Somehow, inexplicably, Lesnar’s cut has gone from nearly dried up to dripping with blood. Curious. Taker only just beats the count, prompting Lesnar to yell, “I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch, come on.” PG folks. PG. Lesnar mouthing off gives Taker time to recover and hit a desperation chokeslam, and a beauty too. He follows with a Tombstone, and that is... only enough for two. Well, there is still half-an-hour left of this show yet. Both men are out selling the fatigue, but Lesnar sits up first, laughing. Taker sits up and does a big mock laugh, which is brilliant, then they just start slugging away at each other on the floor. Brilliant.
Lesnar goes to the Kimura on the ropes, which the referee just allows. He should have broke it. Taker escapes with the Last Ride, getting a close two count. Both men struggle to their feet, and now it is Undertaker’s turn to kick out of a finish, getting a shoulder up after a Brock F-5. Brock, dripping with blood, sweat, and snot, goes for another and connects. That’ three including the one on the outside, which was enough at WrestleMania a few years back, but not tonight. I cannot remember a time when Undertaker too this many bumps. Taker coughs and splutters, suckering Brock into Hell’s Gate. Surely Lesnar won’t tap? Nope, he switches it into the Kimura instead, locking it in fully. Taker sits in it for an age, almost as if it is a body scissors or something.
And then, shenanigans. The bell rings after Charles Robinson counts one, and Brock thinks he has won on a tap out. Robinson yells at the timekeeper, and while he is doing so Taker hits Lesnar with a low blow. He hooks Lesnar in the Hell’s Gate, Brock gives him the finger, but passes out and loses. Goodbye two and a half years of build. What a fucking horrible finish. The announcers cannot even decide properly what the finish controversy was. JBL thinks it was because of the one count, Cole desperately tries to explain that Taker tapped and the timekeeper saw it but the referee didn't. Even though the timekeeper was on the opposite side of the ring. Whatever, it’s a flat finish that everybody can see through, and nobody really gets over from. There’s nothing like a half-assed, controversial, bungled finish to end an epic, “biggest match in history”. Post match, Heyman rings the bell a bunch of times and announces Brock as the winner via tap out, but that is not fooling anyone. Lesnar lost, aura shattered, the end.
Final Rating: ****
Summary: The show wasn’t helped by having to follow NXT’s groundbreaking explosion into the mainstream consciousness last night, and a lot of the matches felt very, very flat. As usual it was down to the same quintet of super-workers to save the event from the mundane, soulless undercard that preceded them, with John Cena, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Kevin Owens and Brock Lesnar doing the business, and The Undertaker rolling back the years with his best performance since his match with CM Punk. Even then, the big matches had problem, mainly down the horrible screwy finishes and questionable booking decisions. Or in other words, the same old story for WWE. If SummerSlam had remained at three hours and trimmed the fat, we would have been looking at a much stronger card, scoring in the mid-seventies. As it was, the show was far too long and it really dragged in places. It ended up being middle of the road. Good in places, but a long way from great.
22nd August 2015.
We’re in New York City at the Barclays Center and it’s a SELL OUT, meaning the WWE’s little feeder promotion sold 16,000 (15,589 officially) tickets to a show. The NXT title headlined a show in Tokyo recently but it was partially sold on Brock Lesnar wrestling; the show was even called “The Beast In the East”. This is NXT selling out a venue the size of the main roster. Triple H’s little side project is paying off in ridiculous fashion. Remember when the WWE tried to force a brand split where the fans could choose between two almost identical products? NXT is swiftly becoming a genuine alternative to the WWE, produced by the WWE. You can watch this show and see different styles, new characters and different booking. There’s still a degree of rebranding but you’ve got Samoa Joe and Jushin Liger alongside Apollo Crews and Finn Balor. What a time to be a wrestling fan.
A word on the pre-show. Several, in fact. Firstly it’s amazing to hear the crowd chanting twenty minutes before the show even starts. You can’t buy crowd participation like that. You have to earn it. Secondly; the shill video for Sasha Banks vs. Bayley is wonderful. The way they faded Bayley out of the picture of the Four Horsewomen gave me chills. I’m the biggest Sasha Banks mark in the world but if Bayley wins I may legitimately weep.
Interesting that they tease a few things too. Like suggesting Lita may take Alexa Bliss down a notch and showing Cesaro and Neville arriving with Finn. Even when they have a killer card, NXT teases delivering even more. Which is the difference between themselves and the main WWE roster. They’re not satisfied with delivering a ‘good’ card. They won’t take excuses either and despite suffering losses with Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami, both seriously injured, they’re prepared to push on. Every time an NXT card rolls around I’m excited about it not just because it’s good on paper but because they always deliver.
Hosts are Rich Brennan, Byron Saxton & Corey Graves.
Promo Time: Triple H
He basks in a spotlight and has a radio mic, which is pretty cool. So he can talk normally. “The future is now” and the lights come up and HOLY SHIT, I’m getting chills. That is incredible. Best Hunter promo…ever. It reminded me of Paul Heyman’s pure joy and sense of achievement when ECW hit PPV with Barely Legal.
Tyler Breeze vs. Jushin Liger
Tyler’s entrance is incredible as models dressed as major New York landmarks flank him on his way to the ring. Liger gets a knock-off version of his song, which is unfortunate. Regardless of that or his veteran status, he’s probably the greatest cruiserweight wrestler of all time. It is surreal seeing Liger in there. Liger of recent years doesn’t do all the high-flying stuff but his mat skills are superb so he can still win the crowd over unusual stretches. Liger even stops off to mock Tyler with turnbuckle poses and stealing the selfie stick. It’s easy to forget that Liger is old, like Undertaker old, and yet can still go at about 70% of his prime. That Koppou Kick is as sharp as ever but he can’t do the high risk stuff like he did before. Breeze isn’t quite sure how to sell the shotei, 360 side flipping it. Another shotei leaves Breeze stunned and the Ligerbomb finishes! For those counting at home the WWE just put a New Japan wrestler over one of their developmental guys. What universe are we in? Did I fall through into a parallel one?
Final Rating: ***
Ringside: Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and X-Pac! The Kliq is in the house to back up Triple H’s project. Elsewhere Charlotte hugs it out with Bayley and Becky Lynch offers an apologetic handshake. Bayley is getting the rub from the locker room. Will Sasha Banks be so nice? Video Control then gives us a shill for Nia Jax (that’s a Star Wars name, surely). Debuting soon. Nia is one they have big hopes for. Why? Because she’s from the famous Samoan family. She was working NXT under the name “Lina” as enhancement but obviously they have some top women’s talent they need to replace so she’s getting repackaged.
NXT Tag Team Championship
Blake & Murphy (c) vs. The Vaudevillians
The challengers bring the old-timey circus act. The champs bring Alexa Bliss. My support is torn. Brooklyn’s is not; they hate the champs. Clearly they don’t have the same crush on Alexa that I do. #BAMF. The challengers come out without backup to offset Alexa. “We want Blue Pants!” chant the crowd and here she is! That entrance music kills me. Brooklyn enters into a chant of “Blue Pants city”. It’s astonishing how just about everyone in NXT gets over. Another thing it shares with the old ECW. Gotch’s old timey offence is great. It’s something different. The WWE’s main roster has too many samey talents doing ‘Main Event Style’. English’s bicep pose armbar is pretty awesome too. Incorporating your gimmick into your move set is some next level shit. People who fail in wrestling generally fail because they can’t do this. I have great difficulty paying attention to the match because every now and again they cut to Alexa walking around ringside and, damn it, I have a Jerry Lawler level of issue with this girl. The match focuses on heat from the champs on English allowing a great hot tag to Gotch but bizarrely he then tags out again. Alexa and Blue Pants get into a catfight, thus preventing Blissterference and the challengers hit the Whirling Dervish for the belts. Blue Pants pointing and laughing at Alexa is perfect. Blake & Murphy did a lot of good double teaming but their miscues didn’t work for me. Otherwise a well booked overall experience that the fans were into from the start to the finish. A little surprised it was the Vaudevillians who won the belts not Enzo & Big Cass. I can only assume the latter group are heading to the big leagues.
Final Rating: **3/4
Tye Dillinger vs. Apollo Crews
Apollo Crews, the former Uhaa Nation, a future WWE champion if ever there was one. He has everything. The look, the personality and the skills. His agility is insane. He won’t be in NXT long so make the most of him. “Whoa, that’s a lot of people” – Crews. Apollo marking out for his entrance shows the man’s humility. Tye gets his gimmick over nicely as he’s the Perfect 10. It’s easy to chant. Apollo promptly steals it with his ridiculous Dragon Gate regular move set. Gorilla press and the standing moonsault finishes for Crews in short order. Once the brief heat segment was over this was brisk. Crews has a massive future. But then, we knew this.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control takes us backstage where William Regal puts over the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. In honour of the fallen legend there will be a Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team Tournament that will culminate at October’s TakeOver show. A big months spanning tournament. It’s almost as if they were listening to the fans who were into the G1. Ringside the Tough Enough finalists get booed. New York is a tough town. Don’t get used to any of these guys, they’ll go nowhere. Well, maybe the blonde girl (Amanda Saccomanno) will get on TV. Sara Lee looks a bit like Emma Stone so she might have a shot an interviewer gig or something. With NXT being so good, did they even need Tough Enough? It’s never worked before. Even Maven got abandoned and cut loose in the end.
Baron Corbin vs. Samoa Joe
This is an interesting match up as Joe is the big unstoppable Indy star and Corbin is the WWE’s version of the same guy. He’s been squashing people in NXT since Day One. When Corbin hit End of Days on Joe on an NXT episode recently I freaked out a bit. Corbin has ridiculous power. That’s clear but his in-ring has always been a bit shaky. Joe doesn’t do subtle so that works in Corbin’s favour as they can just batter each other. Because of Corbin’s dominance he’s perhaps not accustomed to a longer match. This is evident in his early penchant for stalling, which isn’t in line with the NXT mentality. Corbin is the kind of guy who’s always been in WWE’s Developmental System. The hand picked muscular big man. Joe has a vast array of moves that Corbin has never even seen and he chains his submission attempts. To counter this Corbin gets a heel hook out of nowhere, showing he’s not one-dimensional, and then following that with power as Joe’s mobility is limited. This leads right into a beautiful strikefest, which is what I came for. Joe’s spinning backfist is fantastic. Corbin’s lack of experience counts against him during this as his strikes are way inferior. Joe sees his chance from a sloppy pin and hooks the Koquina Clutch to send the good Baron to sleep. Corbin’s best match in NXT thus far.
Final Rating: **3/4
Ringside: Ric Flair and Sgt. Slaughter. Plus Kana (not “Kanna” as the graphic reads) and Team BAD. The stars are out for this one. Sarge looks so thin I thought it was someone cosplaying Sarge.
Promo Time: Stephanie McMahon
They just can’t let the whole ‘talking on PPV’ thing go can they? The McMahon-Helmsley’s just love a natter. NXT is one of the few places where people don’t hate Triple H and Steph because the crowd is very aware of how much they’ve put into creating their own Indy promotion. “We are all making history, right here, right now”. She talks about the diva’s revolution and how it began in NXT where they earned the main events. Video Control gives us another look at that Bayley video package from earlier, which gave me chills. Same again here. The Bayley story is one of the best I’ve seen booked in any promotion in years.
NXT Women’s Championship
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bayley
Bayley’s entrance, with the inflatable wacky arm waving tubemen, is great. It works so well. She is a hugger. Sasha’s entrance suits her too as she’s accompanied by four security guards and arrives in an Escalade. Sasha gets a little more heat than usual because she’s from Boston. The rowdy crowd give this a big match feeling from the go with duelling chants. The action doesn’t even need to be that good because this match has a killer storyline and yet the action is good. Bayley accompanying her underdog routine with big bumps that make it look like she’s got no chance. They have similar experience but Sasha desperately wanted it more. Bayley wanted to be nice and people love her for it but she’s always been in Sasha’s shadow. Bayley is like your little sister. You want her to be safe. Sasha, I greatly admire but Bayley is like family I’ve never met. Bayley dodges the double knees a couple of times so Sasha does them on the top rope, switching up the offence. From there Sasha goes after Bayley’s hand, which she broke in June and it’s vicious. While Bayley is recovering Sasha hits a dive over the ref to the floor and it’s the “NXT” chant. “This is awesome”. This is emotional.
It seems as if Sasha has a counter for everything Bayley brings, strapping her in the Bank Statement and STAMPING ON THE HAND! Glorious. Bayley kicks off the ropes and gets her own Bank Statement and the crowd are losing their minds. We’re seeing something very special. Bayley to Belly doesn’t get it done and Bayley then takes a SICKENING bump off the top rope, landing on her head. Bayley refuses to stay down though, manages a ridiculous reverse super rana and the BAYLEY TO BELLY finishes! Bayley wins the NXT title! Sasha was great in defeat here, constantly focused on the body part story and looking like the slick and indestructible champion she always has. Bayley just wanted it more this time. The hand stomping bit on the Bank Statement was the best. I found it hard to do this match justice in writing because I was so busy being into it.
Final Rating: ****3/4
Post Match: Becky Lynch and Charlotte come out to hug it out with Bayley and Sasha Banks, who’s never, ever shown anyone any respect, ever hugs Bayley. They throw up the Four Horsewomen sign in a call back to the MSG Curtain Call. They may have feuded over the last two years but they’ve done this together and they’ve made it together. This was one of the great moments in wrestling history, never mind NXT. It’ll be replayed many times over. The revolution has begun. The WWE happen to have four of the greatest women’s wrestlers in recent memory and they’re all on the same page. I love these guys. They need to let these wrestlers take over on the main roster because none of the main roster girls can live up to this level of talent and emotion. The post match stuff is the intangible that changes this from a great wrestling match a genuinely important historical occurrence. We’ll be looking back on this night come the end of the year. This is likely to be WWE’s MOTY, never mind NXT’s.
Final, Final Rating: *****
Video Control takes us to Triple H earlier on when he announced NXT are going to tour the UK in December. Sold! They’d better bring some Horsewomen.
Finn Balor (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Owens is mega-over in the heel friendly New York area. It’s the first time he’s ever looked like being anything approaching a babyface on an NXT show. Balor’s entrance is amazing as there’s dry ice everywhere and multiple fake Balor’s making it look like Finn can teleport. It’s clearly acknowledged that NXT are doing great things with their in-ring but what is not so frequently acknowledged is how great their entrances are. Think about it. Breeze, Bayley and Balor all have better entrances than anyone on the main roster. That can’t be a coincidence. They start out sans ladder working a decent match, a mini-version of the Tokyo contest. Double stomp, cannonball, Slingblade all feature. As soon as the ladder comes into play they start to tease big spots with Owens intent on deliberately not doing sick spots. The stuff around ringside is brilliant with Owens mixing creativity with carelessness. Owens hurling the top of the announce table at Finn in particular amusing the locals. It gives the match a different feel to the standard ladder match and both guys are keen to avoid doing ladder spots too early, bringing logical counters to prevent ‘slow climbing’.
When they do bring ladders into play they’re intent at avoiding those climbing spots, instead doing battle with the ladders. This includes Owens taking a nasty backdrop onto a set up ladder and a missed Cannonball. Coup de Grace puts Owens down but not for long enough and he pulls Finn off the ladder to hit the powerbomb. The way that Owens is far from careful how he hits stuff reminds me of Vader in his prime. It makes everything so much more impactful. It also adds to the structure of the match to the point where my usual ladder match criticisms are simply invalid. Owens frustrations are superb. “STAY DOWN. STAY DOWN!” Balor’s fighting Irishman will not give up. So instead of appearing to set up spots in awkward sequences Owens deliberately sets stuff up intent at ending Balor so he has time to climb. Owens takes a nasty spill into a ladder and Finn is in position, but can’t reach. He’s so close. Instead he opts to give Owens the Coup de Grace off the ladder. That’s enough for Balor to pull the belt down and continue on as champion. Another great match with both guys eager to have a fine showing in the ladder environment while not running through a list of clichés. Everything made sense during this one, which makes it one of the finest ladder matches I’ve seen in years. And yet it was still eclipsed by the ladies storyline.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Summary: I am so pleased I discovered the joys of NXT when I did because as a promotion within a promotion it’s unparalleled in its brilliance. Watching the progression of the women and the respect they’re deservedly getting is particularly rewarding. The culmination of the last couple of years is Bayley finally getting the women’s title, although there remains a feeling she’s only getting it because everyone else is leaving. Interesting to note Becky Lynch still has no title win. That could easily be transformed into a main roster storyline when either Charlotte or Sasha inevitably wins the Divas title. The overall show was very strong but the main topic of conversation coming out was Bayley vs. Sasha Banks and the story they so beautifully told. We’re in the midst of a renaissance for women’s wrestling, reaching levels not seen since the heady days of All Japan Women’s promotion in the mid 90s.
We are on the final stop before SummerSlam, with the go-home edition of Raw featuring a loaded line-up of stars. Namely Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, both of whom are scheduled to appear. It will be interesting to see how they are used, because I struggle to see how they can top their epic pull-apart brawl from a few weeks ago. After a recent run of much stronger shows than usual (three of the last four episodes have been pretty good), I am cautiously optimistic going into tonight’s broadcast. Fool that I am.
Promo Time: The Authority
Well, that sanguinity didn't last for long. Christmas has come early for Stephanie, who puts over the excitement of the Road to SummerSlam, which she naturally reminds everyone is available on the Network for... $9.99. Oh, that is back. How utterly fantastic. Hunter gives us the drawn-out hard sell for the card. He takes so long that he drones through a video on the Titantron, so when Steph starts talking about Lesnar and Taker both being here tonight, the vid shows John Cena and Seth Rollins. How pleasingly unfortunate. The rest of the promo takes place over the SummerSlam theme, which is mildly irritating. They continue to ramble on and on about the matches, which is about the most mind-numbing way possible to hype a pay-per-view. Steph reckons the matches are not even the most exciting part, she thinks that is the announcement of Jon Stewart as the guest host for the show. How much more are they going to try and cram into this pay-per-view? I quite enjoyed Stewart on Raw a few months ago, but I am not particularly interesting in him as host. Whatever though, WWE gets off on these celebrity tie-ins. This was a dreary introduction to tonight’s broadcast. It was like one of those old-school wrap up segments that Todd Pettengill used to do during Raw in the mid-nineties, only in the ring and with a backing track. And with (honestly) more annoying presenters!
Randy Orton & Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens & Sheamus
Michael Cole calls SummerSlam “epic” a couple of times, then announces to the casuals that ESPN will be covering the card all day, with none other than Jonathan Coachman hosting. What a prospect, huh? This match is standard lazy WWE booking, throwing two pay-per-view matches together in a throwaway tag bout that only serves to lessen the interest in the forthcoming singles bout. It is counterproductive booking to the extreme. When did the concept of keeping rivals apart until the big payoff become a thing of the past? More to the point, why did it? Cesaro is over big again, with more fans waving around “Cesaro section” signs in the audience, leading me to suspect that WWE are now actively encouraging what started as one man’s quest to help get the guy over. “Pound for pound, perhaps the strongest man in WWF,” reckons Mackle, who has apparently forgot that Mark Henry works here. It is stupid throwaway comments like that which make him lack any credibility. After a slow heat, Cesaro springs to life and comfortably outworks Sheamus in a nice sequence. Orton steals in to take glory, failing to RKO Owens, but connecting with Sheamus for the win. Put your bets on Sheamus at SummerSlam.
Final Rating: **1/4
Undertaker does an old-school style backstage promo with the full shebang - purple lighting, smoke, grim reaper voice. He says Brock’s name has been called by the reaper, and that he will never rest in peace.
After more footage of Seth Rollins breaking Cena’s nose, Seth has a confab with The Authority. He wants a favour: after his beats Cena, he wants a statue of himself in WWE headquarters. It seems he fancies himself as worthy of rubbing shoulders alongside the likes of legends Bruno Sammartino, Andre the Giant and The Ultimate Warrior. No mention of Hulk Hogan, obviously. Steph and Hunter promises to give him a statue if he brings home both titles at SummerSlam.
Roman Reigns vs. Luke Harper
It is only the second match of the night, and yet this is the third SummerSlam match come early that they have blown on free TV already. How do they not understand that having the same guys wrestle each out repeatedly is incredibly dull? All combinations of the four guys in the SummerSlam tag match have worked with each other in singles matches over the past month, killing any interest I might have had in the PPV encounter. It is maddening. “It seems like we’re gonna be entering the Ambrose asylum, because Dean has put on a headset and joined us on commentary” - Cole, talking shite. Again. How nice to see a fresh piece of creative; we never have guest commentators on this show usually... The role doesn't suit Ambrose at all, who tries so hard to be wacky and out there that he comes off as a cartoon. At this stage he is more Norman the Lunatic than Brian Pillman. He also doesn't want to sit next to JBL, because he was mean to him, so he moves to the other side of the desk. Aww, poor Dean. Did that big, nasty Texan call you a nasty name? There, there. It’s pathetic! Can you imagine Steve Austin reacting in that manner when he was in his pomp? Of course not. The only positive to Ambrose commentating is it leaves Saxton without a chair, and doing commentary on his knees. The match is absolutely secondary to the Dean Ambrose commentary show, thought it comes to life, for two seconds, when Harper kicks Roman’s face off. It is one of the best big boots I have ever seen. “Brody used to do a kick just like that,” chips JBL, getting in his weekly delusional theory that Harper is the second coming of the legendary Bruiser Brody. “I bet he didn't kick that hard.” - Ambrose. Oh, I am fairly sure he did, Dean. Harper follows his moment of excitement with a chinlock. How thrilling. Harper uses a few more kicks, then Roman fights back to a chorus of mostly apathy. Spear, game over. The announcing killed this match dead for me.
Final Rating: *
Tamina vs. Becky Lynch
It’s nice to finally see Becky get a singles match on the show, but why, oh why, does it have to be opposite the walking disaster that is Tamina Snuka. She is a brutal worker - wildly uncoordinated and with the most wooden facials since Chyna. The Bellas and their third wheel stand in WWE’s favourite pose - the unnatural circle - and watch the action unfold. Upon receiving her cue that the director is focusing on them, Nikki points to something on the screen. Even though nothing is going on. The staging for all of the backstage stuff in this company needs to change. It is so hokey. Tamina controls with her beasty power offence, but because no one cares about Tamina, no one cares about the match either. Becky gets a pounding then makes a token comeback, before finishing with the Disarmer out of nowhere. A horrible way to showcase the best female worker in the company. Revolution my arse.
Final Rating: ½*
Rusev vs. Mark Henry
For the third week in a row no less. And to make matters worse, we have guest commentary again! Lana already proved she had zero aptitude for the task last week, yet here she is again, wheeled out because they need her for the post match angle, and unable to find a more interesting way to get her there. She is equally rubbish at it this week. What is even her role these days, other than wallflower? WWE have killed her character stone dead. And Rusev’s, for that matter. He comes out with a proxy Lana anyway, so all he has done is stayed the same, only slightly worse. Who benefitted from the split? What did it achieve? Why did they do it? The rationale, from what I can tell, was that Lana is too pretty to stay heel. Idiots. “There’s no one stronger than Mark Henry, he’s the world’s strongest man.” - JBL. I refer back to Michael Cole’s dopey claims about Cesaro in the opener. Mark Henry gets far more offence than you would expect, throwing the once invincible Rusev around like a jobber. “For the win,” says Cole after a Henry near fall. It’s like fucking groundhog day. Rusev eventually takes over and gets distracted by Lana’s presence, but incredibly it doesn’t cause him to lose via a roll up! Instead he scores with the Accolade for the win. I never need to see these two wrestle again.
Final Rating: DUD
Post match, Lana calls Summer out for a fight. Summer pulls her usual chin-heavy expressions in response. After both taking their shoes off they go face to face, and Lana demolishes her with a slap of justice. Then she calls out Rusev with the intention of giving him the same treatment. Rusev intimidates her, and the crowd call for Dolph Ziggler, who turns up on cue. He kicks ass Rusev’s ass, but the Bulgarian pulls his new beau in the way of a superkick. Ziggler stops short before taking her face off. Shame. Lana shows her athletic side by smashing Summer with a kick, and with her out of the way Dolph hits his own. Following the humiliating beating, Ziggler makes out with Lana in front of her real life boyfriend. Wrestling is weird like that. Afterwards, Dolph says he wants Rusev at SummerSlam, pushing us up to ten matches and a guest host by my count. It is like a SummerSlam card from the eighties.
The Miz vs. Ryback
I don't believe it. I honest do not BELIEVE IT! Big Show is out here... ON COMMENTARY! What is wrong with this company!? I have never known a wrestling promotion in history so bereft of original ideas. At this stage, I genuinely believe that Vince Russo would improve their product. Yes. I really said that. Show, schizophrenic yoyo that he is, acts like a babyface this week. And blow me down, if it isn't another tinkered with variation of an upcoming pay-per-view match. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with this writing team? “Here’s a man who’s become a star on Tough Enough,” says Cole, referring to Miz judging on the useless 2015 version of the show, rather than the fact he came through that series (though didn't win it) a decade ago. I find it amusing that Cole thinks Miz has only recently become a star because of that show. What about when he main evented WrestleMania!? Ryback smashes through the hapless Miz with ease, while Show makes the funnies behind the desk. He soon gets the job done with Shellshock, prompting Cole to ask, “Can Ryback do that to Miz or Big Show come Sunday”. Well, he can obviously do it to Miz! Another crappy match.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Post match., Ryback calls out Show. Show goes heel again and walks away. What a useless lunk.
SummerSlam Contract Signing
“And now it is time for the contract signing,” informs Steph, who feels the need to spell out the goddamn obvious. Seth talks about himself as usual, gets some cheap heat as usual, and makes grandiose proclamations as usual. Then he rags on Cena for holding the WWE hostage for the past decade, saying he is not a hero, but a villain. “Yes, Yes, Yes” agree the crowd. A few years ago that might have been the case, sure, but Cena is hands down the wrestler of the year in WWE. “John Cena is a disease” says the heel champion, playing to the crowd like a mark. He continues to go to town on Cena, claiming his now famous knee to the face was his way of “injecting the serum to cure WWE”. It certainly needs curing, but Cena is far from the problem. Seth continues to rant on, calling Cena a coward for not answering his challenge on Raw, and instead accepting from thousands of miles away on Tough Enough. Yeah, that was a dumb thing WWE did. Add it to the list.
Cena eventually comes out, making his first Raw appearance since the nose break, which was apparently enough time to get some new bright orange gear made with “15x Champion” emblazoned on the back. That seems like a shirt with a limited shelf life. It should be noted that there is absolutely no sign that Cena has recently suffered a badly broken nose. There is no mark, no blemish, no crook, nothing. The guy heals like Wolverine. Cena notes the usual mixed reaction, which he is of course very used to by now, and points out that while the fans are passionate about him one way or another, that nobody is saying a damn thing about Seth. Well, why would they? He is a bland, grating character who has been repeatedly booked to look like a lucky chump who is hanging onto his title by a thread. Cena shouts at Seth for being a Cena rip-off and a disgrace to the title, which at this point is about fair. Of Seth’s recent mocking of his catchphrases and mannerisms, Cena says deadpan, “So very, very original Seth. Nobody has ever done that before.” What a great way to bury the writing! One point to John Cena.
Cena continues to destroy Seth, ragging on him for not living up to Triple H’s hand-picked billing. It’s an odd route to take mind, because he sounds like he is sympathising with The Authority. Is he disappointed in Seth? Is that the deal here now? Whatever the case, Cena appreciated the extra week off to think about how he could get revenge on Seth, ruling out breaking any of his bones in an eye for an eye response, but rather he plans to do something that will haunt him. “I am a fifteen-time champion... you see where I am going with this? You see, I designed this gear months ago...” The gist is, he wants Ric Flair’s (WWE approved) title run record. Because no record is sacred in WWE these days of course. Cena points out that the record is currently held by Hunter’s mentor, so it will be a double whammy: he loses if Seth loses. “You are an answer to a trivia question,” he tells Seth, “All you are gonna be is the answer to the question: ‘who did John Cena beat to become sixteen-time World Heavyweight Champion?” This all sounds like good motivation for Triple H to interfere at SummerSlam. “There’s one major difference here: Triple H was never Ric Flair’s bitch. This Sunday, I’m gonna make you mine”. Boom, promo schooled. Seth, Triple H and Steph ranged from pointless to droning here, but Cena was excellent.
The Prime Time Players & Lucha Dragons vs. New Day & Los Matadores
You cannot be serious! Another SummerSlam match come early in a slightly altered form. Jesus Christ. Barely anything happens because time is so short, though Titus again looks really good. His charisma is unique and beginning to get him over. Xavier jumps on the apron to distract, but gets into it with El Torito, even though they are on the same team! The fannying around leads to Kalisto getting the pin on one of the Matadores.
Final Rating: ½*
We get an awesome video detailing the recent issues involving Stardust, King Barrett, Neville and Steven Amell, done in superhero comic strip style. I cannot believe it, but Stardust is actually growing on me. He is finally going fully over the top and becoming a Joker/Riddler-esque super-villain, and it works well. In a VT, Barrett gets a gift from Stardust - a swanky new cape from Stardust, and becomes a new, super-villain character: “The Cosmic King”. Now we are talking! Make everyone into a comic book character! It is larger than life. I love it.
Nikki Bella vs. Sasha Banks
It is champion versus champion, and also the blind leading the inexperienced. Like all of the women’s matches since the quote unquote revolution, it gets a lot of time. Of course, that doesn't help it because Nikki Bella is involved, and she typically struggles to entertain in three minutes, never mind ten. If ever there was a match that proved this “new” division is in fact a botched together identikit version of the insipid old one, it is this. Nikki is woeful, relying on rest holds far too much, and walking around pulling dopey expressions after every move. Pay attention next time you are unfortunate enough to watch Nikki wrestle - She is constantly staring off into the crowd, as if seeking approval because she is “trying hard”. Try harder. Try harder to fuck off out of wrestling. Nikki shows her abilities with a kick from the ropes that misses by at least a foot, which the director doesn't quite manage to save. Sasha sells it anyway. The crowd get so fed up of the shitty wrestling and a generally bland show that they turn on the match and start loudly chanting, “We want Lesnar!” Nikki reacts with her usual expression of haughty derision. The only good thing about the match is Sasha going over with the Bank Statement (a distraction finish mind, thanks to Naomi), but no matter how much Nikki jobs, she still has the Diva’s Championship, and will not be letting go of it until that AJ record is gone.
Final Rating: ¼*
I am not even going to comment on an interview from PCB, which is so fake and over-staged, not to mention cringe-worthy, that it makes me shudder.
Promo Time: Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman
The return of the prodigal son is met with the expected rousing response. So much so that they don't stop cheering when Heyman is ready to go into his promo, so Paul gets on his knees and starts bowing to him. Brock smiles, but then the whole damn crowd to it too! Amazing stuff. And Brock deserves it, too. Heyman then breaks into song, to the tune of what football fans will know as ‘Glory Glory Man United’. Lesnar is having a whale of a time out there, until an ominous dong, erm, of a bell, not a concerning penis, ends the celebrations. The lights go out, but there is no sign of Undertaker. Brock and Paul laugh it off and get back to business. For Heyman, that means cutting another fantastic promo, which again demonstrates how much better than everyone else on this roster he is behind the stick. For anyone not already intending to watch SummerSlam, Heyman just changed their minds. He is the last of a dying - actually, pretty much entirely dead - breed who can “talk them into the building”. When Heyman finishes his promo, the dong hits again and the lights go dark, and this time Undertaker is stood in the ring when they come back on. Taker repeats his actions from the last pay-per-view by kicking Brock firmly in the nuts, leaving no doubt as to who is the babyface and who is the heel in this program. It is the first time Undertaker has been positioned as such since 2002, and indeed, the first time his “proper” (as in, not UnderBiker) character has been a villain since the Ministry of Darkness days in 1999. He will still get cheered in WWE stronghold New York at SummerSlam anyway mind you, because he is an icon. As we are in Brock’s hometown and this is pro wrestling, Lesnar gets a kicking without reply, taking a chokeslam and the Tombstone to end the show. Not a patch on the brawl from a few weeks ago, but thanks to Heyman and the rowdy crowd, it was fine.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Paul Heyman. It will be a sad day when WWE stop using him to get people to actually give a damn about their product. He should be doing more than tri-monthly appearances to talk for Brock. He could be a real asset to others, as he was to CM Punk.
Least Entertaining: Hmm. Let’s see... Nikki Bella! Actually, throw Dean Ambrose in there too. His commentary was appalling.
Quote of the Night: “All you are gonna be is the answer to the question: ‘Who did John Cena beat to become sixteen-time World Heavyweight Champion?” - John Cena to Seth Rollins.
Match of the Night: Cesaro & Randy Orton vs. Sheamus & Kevin Owens
Summary: Hard work to endure. We have been spoilt of late by a weekly four-star match featuring Neville, John Cena, Cesaro or (occasionally) Seth Rollins, but of those four only Cesaro worked a match, and Neville wasn't even on the show other than in a VT. What we go in the ring was fairly drastic, either dull and uninspired, or quick and pointless filler. The ironically named “creative team” were again a real issue, with the horrible booking damaging the show. Three guest commentary spots, again, not to mention all of the SummerSlam undercard condensed into slightly altered versions of the bouts tonight, rendering much of the upcoming PPV pointless. All it now exists for is to “right” the booking with even steven BS. Without Brock, Heyman, Cena, and some great work from the video department for the Stardust and co vid, this was a horrible show.
I was wrong last week; it wasn't my third Raw in a row, but my fourth, meaning this is an unprecedented fifth in succession for me. Meanwhile, Arnold Furious is waxing lyrical about near 5* Ishii matches in New Japan’s G-1 Climax. Sometimes life just isn't fair.
Promo Time: Seth Rollins
This is an overly-familiar sight. Seth is sporting new apparel in the form of a mock John Cena shirt that reads “Never Shuts Up” on the front. We get another airing of the footage where Rollins broke Cena’s nose two weeks ago, leading to JBL stating in monotone, “That’s why he is the future of the WWE”. He is like one of those toys that has a set number of phrases, where you press a button to activate them. Rollins makes an awful joke about how Cena being “Mr. You Can’t See Knee”, then questions why he hasn't answered his challenged to a title vs. title match at SummerSlam. “John Cena isn't straight outta Compton, he’s straight outta action.” The scripting is bad tonight. Rollins says that if Cena doesn't want to come and lose to him like a man at SummerSlam, then he can turn up and forfeit his United States Championship. Rollins notes that Cena is scheduled for Tough Enough tomorrow night, and points out that he must be fine after all, and simply running scared from him. Please, do not take this feud to that show. Seth then does a weird bit where from the ring he has a conversation with someone at ringside - even though no one is talking to him - and says Cena is here... via satellite. Cue more of WWE’s trademark bad comedy, which is a picture of Cena and his smashed up face, with Rollins’ lips super-imposed over the top making ha-has. Rollins has a conversation with “Cena”, the latter of whom says he is going to give up. It’s really cheesy. Rollins brings up last week’s open challenge with Neville, putting him over for coming close but saying he doesn't have what it takes to be a champion.
Cue Cesaro, who rags on Seth for going on and on and on and on and on and on and on... I have been saying this for weeks. Cesaro - who is suited and booted and looks like a modern-day Ric Flair - wants to take on Seth tonight for the WWE Championship. Rollins refuses because his open challenge last week was a one-time deal, which brings out Kevin Owens. He says Cesaro doesn't deserve a title match because he has done nothing to warrant one, then mentions the fan who printed out thousands of “Cesaro Section” signs last week and handed them out to everyone. He has to, because the same wonderful human being has done the same thing again. The place is full of them. Owens buries the audience for being sheep who just want to hold up a sign, then tells Rollins that he has beaten Cena so if anyone deserves a title shot, it is him. Owens points out that of the three of them, only he has beaten Cena, though we are conveniently forgetting his two defeats to Cena following that momentous win.
Randy Orton turns up to spoil the fun, which the announcers think is the segment “getting better”. Orton throws in a line from the office, asking Owens if he has put on weight recently. “No,” replies Owens nonplussed. Orton wants a shot as well, predictably, even though he has had plenty and blown them all. Seth reiterates his point that he is not doing an open challenge tonight, regardless of what anyone, including The Authority thinks. That brings out an irritated Triple H, who doesn't care for Seth’s choice of words. He informs us (of the lie) that John Cena is only 50/50 to make SummerSlam, and that there is turmoil in the WWE ranks because of it. With that in mind he makes a triple threat match between the three would-be contenders, and promises the winner a shot at Seth Rollins for the title in the main event. Predictable booking, but it should give us two decent matches. Well, unless Randy Orton wins. Then it will only be one.
Team Bella vs. Team B.A.D.
This looks like a nightmare on paper. Team PCB join commentary, and for those wondering who they are, it is Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch, who have dropped the Submission Sorority name after one week because it turns out to be the name of a porn website. Oh ho ho. In a VT, Sasha calls the Bellas the Belladashians, which is pretty much the perfect way to describe them. Naomi and Alicia do some surprisingly competent stuff, then Nikki comes in... She tries to put an armbar on, but can’t figure out the mechanics so just awkwardly holds Naomi’s arm instead. The crowd loudly chant, “We want Sasha” and afford her a big pop when she comes in, which is pleasing. I hope it really irks Nikki Bella that a newbie is already far more over than she ever has been, and indeed ever will be. After commercial Sasha has a chinlock applied on Nikki, so Brie and Alicia try and get some support going for her from the crowd. Are they babyfaces this week? The crowd answer that with a resounding no when Sasha smacks Brie off the apron. Meanwhile on commentary, Paige buries the Bellas and says what everyone else has been thinking for years. “The Bellas started this revolution? They wish. They’re ruining the division.” Fact. Because her husband is Daniel Bryan, and we are in his hometown, Brie gets a ridiculously over the top reaction to a hot tag, and the crowd chant along when she hits all of Bryan’s moves. “She can’t come up with her own stuff,” snipes Paige, who is already the runaway leader for tonight’s “Most Entertaining” award. Brie ends up pinning the equally dreadful Tamina with a roll up for the win, which leads to a brawl between all nine girls out there. A far better match than I expected given who was involved, but still a million miles away from revolutionary. At least the crowd was into it though.
Final Rating: **
Los Matadores vs. The New Day
In Michael Cole’s world, this is an “important match”. The action is fine, but the commentary is a disaster. At one point Cole starts reading out tweets from the New Day in that irritating way that he does, right in the middle of an argument between JBL and Byron Saxton because the former called Bryon “Michael”. Cole just talks right over the top of them, as if he has an unstoppable need to get his shit in at the expense of everything else. What an ignorant little prick. New Day get the win following a nice DDT/flapjack double team, then do some bad dancing afterwards. Filler.
Final Rating: *
Renee Young catches a word with New Day backstage, and they are in a celebratory mood because of their win. Renee tells them they have been booked against the Prime Time Players at SummerSlam, but also Los Matadores and The Lucha Dragons. What a division, huh? New Day are not impressed because it just rendered their win entirely pointless, but try and stay positive. New Day name a trio of teams that might as well get added to the bout since everyone is involved, name-checking Harlem Heat, Doom and Men on a Mission. Is it coincidence that they are all black teams? Of course not, this is WWE. The latter is impossible what with Mabel being dead and all, which they should probably know given his widow is suing WWE.
Elsewhere, Seth pisses and moans to Triple H about having to defend his title again tonight. Hunter tells him he will be fine because he is going to be wrestling someone who has just competed in a tough triple-threat. All that does is point out the weaknesses in the booking. It’s like when guys bury their opponent before wrestling them. Who gets over? Either you look like a loser if you get beat, or you only beat a loser if you win.
WWE Championship Number #1 Contender’s Match
Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
This is good from the off, with Randy seeming to up his game to match the far more interesting workers he is in there with. With the triple threat rules, Randy is unable to do his usual boring grind, and instead is forced to get creative. He does so with a series of well executed t-bone suplexes, and has fun on the outside back suplexing Owens into the barricade. Owens gets his own kicks mocking Orton, while Cesaro is simply Cesaro, and everything he does is worth watching. Things slow down when they begin to pair off a little more, though not too much that it becomes dull. Cesaro and Orton engage in an uppercut battle, which Cesaro of course wins, only for Orton to come back with a clothesline. Cesaro counters back with a crossface, and because the ropes can’t save him, Orton is forced to climb out of the ring to break the hold. Owens makes his return by sending Cesaro to the outside, then hits an insane flip plancha (“a flying bus” - announcers) to take us into commercial. Jesus, where did that come from?
After the break, Owens is in control of Cesaro and connects with a cannonball in the corner for a near fall. Owens goes up top where he gets cut off by Orton, who combines with Cesaro to drill Owens with a double superplex. The brief alliance breaks down immediately because they both want to get the pin, and we go to another uppercut fight between them. Orton loses again, and he should know better really, then Cesaro hits him with the giant swing and locks on a Sharpshooter. Owens causes the break and nearly wins with a schoolboy, then Orton regains control. He drills both with the draping DDT, to which Cole bellows “vintage vintage Randy Orton”. Please shut up! Randy goes for the RKO on Cesaro, but gets pushed off and into the ropes, where Owens trips him, pulls him out, and sends him into the barricade with an SOS. Cesaro immediately takes Owens out with a corkscrew plancha, then back in the ring he “flies around like a cruiserweight” in pursuit of victory. Owens and Cesaro fight up top, and Owens ends up going for his flip senton only to connect with knees. All of a sudden Randy Orton is back, and he drills both men with RKOs and covers Cesaro for the win. Urgh, fuck off WWE, you tedious, predictable, samey, idealess, mundane motherfuckers. I cannot take any more of Randy Orton at the top of this promotion. What more does Cesaro need to do to be given the opportunities he deserves? Or Owens, for that matter? Yes, it was a really good match, but Randy Orton winning leaves a sour taste, one which completely puts a dampener on any enjoyment I had watching the bout. Orton vs. Rollins? Well whoop de frigging do. It’s not like I haven't seen that match a dozen times this year already. It seems Rollins-Orton is WWE’s last minute Plan B in case John Cena really is unable to make SummerSlam, or indeed if Sheamus doesn't recover from his concussion and Orton has no one to wrestle.
Final Rating: ****
Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns do a promo outlining why they are real friends, while Bray is simply using Luke Harper.
Talking Heads Discuss Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
Or in other words, neither Brock or Undertaker are here tonight. It’s a nice hype video, outlining the full recent history of the Undertaker-Lesnar rivalry, with plenty of background on both prior to the end of The Streak, and indeed what has happened since. It is nothing we haven't seen before, but tied nicely together with a little bow around it does increase anticipation for the match.
Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper
WWE are claiming this is to “whet the appetite”. I call it running a program into the ground. The match announced for SummerSlam is the ex-Shield guys sans Seth Rollins against the Wyatts, which is apparently “family versus family”. Even though none of them are related. At one point Sting was set to be involved in this match and it was set to be a six-man tag with an unknown third member of the Wyatts. Then Vince McMahon decided against using Sting for reasons only known to himself. Now the match has no appeal, because we have seen it all before a couple of years ago, only it was better because everyone in it was more over than they are now. JBL throws out a few comparisons, making his usual claim that Luke Harper reminds him of Bruiser Brody, and that Dean Ambrose is Brian Pillman. He wishes. Oddly, JBL claims Ambrose is “Hollywood Blondes Pillman” because he is so out of control. Not his specifically out of control “loose cannon” gimmick then? The match is pretty drab, with a quiet crowd not helping matters. Harper wins it with a clothesline, so it is safe to assume Ambrose and Reigns are going over at SummerSlam.
Final Rating: *1/2
Miz TV: Daniel Bryan
The place is rocking for the hometown hero, who get a kick out of being able to do their “Yes” chants. A spontaneous “Daniel Bryan” chant breaks out, so Miz shuts them up. Well, he tries and fails. Instead they just chant yes again, then yell “No” at Miz when he tries to talk. It’s pretty cool, actually. Bryan says he didn't actually come here to be on Miz TV, he just didn't want to miss Raw from his homeland. Cue some cheat heat bits, before Miz tries to take credit for Bryan’s success. Bryan laughs at the notion, mocks Miz’s upcoming movie Santa’s Little Helper, and with it the entire farcical disaster that is the WWE Films division. Miz turns focus onto Bryan’s health, gloating how he personally has never had an injury in his career. Dangerous talk if you are the superstitious type. Bryan says he has been keeping himself busy writing a New York Times bestselling book while he has been on the shelf, and also acting as a judge on “the greatest show in the history of the earth”, Tough Enough. His mocking of lame WWE products amuses me. Miz turns his attention to Ryback, who he thinks should forfeit the IC Title. Bryan doesn't quite agree, then Big Show turns up to ruin the fun. The crowd greet him with a chant of “please retire”, which Show actually bites on by telling them to find someone who can retire him. Right on cue, Ryback makes his return after a few weeks out with a staph infection. Miz tries to bail, only for Bryan to throw him back in the ring where he gets mauled by both guys. Strangely enough, this match has far more going for it now with an extra month of build, and with WWE unable to ruin it by having all three guys repeatedly work with each other every week. Regarding Bryan; it is interesting that no mention was made of when he will be returning to action, and probably not a good sign. With each week that goes by it increasingly feels like Bryan might well be done. And that would be a real shame.
WWE show a Charlotte hype video in which she puts over Ronda Rousey, then announce that there will be a three team elimination match between the Diva teams at SummerSlam. It sounds like a clusterfuck.
Rusev vs. Mark Henry
Because last week’s match was so good? According to Cole, these two have had “quite the rivalry”. Have they really? Quite the shit rivalry, that much is true. Lana is doing commentary, as the guest announcer spot gets completely overused once again. She says Dolph Ziggler will be back after SummerSlam. So much for the proposed Rusev-Ziggler bout at the supercard. Almost immediately Summer gets on the apron to distract Henry, so Lana pulls her off. Summer throws her in the ring where she looks up at Rusev from her knees, then Summer takes her out and viciously rams her face-first into the canvas. For whatever reason, that is a DQ. Summer continues the assault and locks Lana in the Accolade, then a Bulgarian flag with a huge picture of Rusev drops from the ceiling. This was a decent segment, and I was pleased the match practically didn't happen, but where is it going? If Ziggler is back after SummerSlam, what was this designed to build? Please not Summer vs. Lana. That would be the worst match of the year.
Final Rating: N/R
Next we get an awesome comic strip style video highlighting Neville’s tremendous performance against Seth Rollins last week, interlaced with footage of his arch nemesis Stardust mocking his defeat. It’s the first time WWE have really embraced the superhero/super villain aspect of the program properly, and it makes it that much more interesting a program. The hype videos have all been really good tonight.
Neville vs. King Barrett
This goes for maybe a minute before Neville hits a kick and finishes Barrett with the Red Arrow. I don't know what Barrett has done wrong, but it isn't nothing, that’s for sure. He is only one step away from being a taller Zack Ryder on the WWE totem pole. After the bout, Stardust attacks Neville, then spots Arrow star Steven Amell in the crowd, the man he has been feuding with on social media. He has a stare down with the actor then pie faces him, so Amell hops the barrier, jumps in one leap onto the apron then hurdles over the ropes before spearing Stardust and unloading on him with punches. He looks great! WWE security break them up and hold Amell back, as Cole lectures him for being a fan getting in the ring, which is “never good”. For sure, that’s a direct response to an incident on a house show this past week where a fan threw a briefcase at Roman Reign’s head. Stardust gets dragged away by Barrett, as Cole mutters, “I think Stephen Amell realises that he did wrong there.” He is such a snivelling goody-two-shoes toad. Another good segment though, with Amell coming out of this looking great.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Backstage, Triple H confronts Amell and Neville, yelling at the actor for nearly getting himself killed. They argue the toss, and Amell says he wants to take care of Stardust. Neville suggests the two of them team up to take on Stardust and Barrett at SummerSlam, but Hunter refuses. He has no intention of an actor getting murdered on his show. Amell fires back that he might not be a wrestler, but he is a man, then yells in Hunter’s face for him to make the match. It’s a better promo than anyone else’s tonight by some distance. Amell says he will sign anything Hunter wants to keep the lawyers happy and to take culpability away from him, so Hunter finally agrees. At SummerSlam it will be the Green Arrow and the Red Arrow against Stardust and King Barrett. It sounds fun. I hope Neville and Amell come in costume. Amell has been a real asset to tonight’s show.
Renee Young interviews Sheamus, who can’t work for a few weeks due to a concussion. It’s karma. Sheamus was the one responsible for putting Bryan on the shelf with a dangerous beating on SmackDown. Sheamus cuts a nonsense promo, suggesting that he might cash in the briefcase tonight.
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Randy Orton
As much as I had no desire whatsoever to see this, I will begrudgingly admit that it is still a decent enough TV match. That much was never really in doubt, they always have fairly good matches together, it’s more the tediously predictable WWE mentality that turns me off. Back in the glory days when everyone was protected and guys rarely worked with each other on TV, it was a rare occasion and thus an important one when two stars collided. It never got to the stage where you would be bored because you had seen something so many times already, yet nearly every potential match-up in WWE feels that way nowadays, especially Randy Orton bouts. He has been around non-stop for over a decade, and he was worked with everyone. What more is there for him to do? They do some fairly nice stuff, and it looks like we have a new champion when Randy catches Seth coming off the top with an amazing RKO. Thankfully/disappointingly, depending on your perspective, Sheamus turns up and pulls Orton out of the ring, drawing the DQ. Following that, Sheamus takes out Orton then smashes Seth with the Brogue Kicks, and hands the referee the MITB briefcase to cash in. For some reason Sheamus and the ref engage in a tug-o-war over the case, which was done so Randy Orton could sneak in and prevent the cash in with the RKO, but looked ridiculous. Man, I hope Cena is back in time for SummerSlam.
Final Rating: **3/4
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Cesaro. The best worker in the company, without question.
Least Entertaining: The Bellas. Their match was not bad tonight, by their standards, but Nikki is still incompetent, and Brie remains very annoying. The odd good match doesn't change the fact that they are the cancers of the Divas division.
Quote of the Night: “The Bellas started this revolution? They wish. They’re ruining the division.” - Paige
Match of the Night: Randy Orton vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens. It blew away everything else, irrespective of the toss booking.
Summary: Much to my surprise, this was one of the best Raws of the year. There was a lot of good on display, with yet another 4* match, some strong segments, and more focus on the direction they are going than usual. Combined, that made for a very watchable broadcast, which dragged far less than it usually does. I disagree with some of the samey booking, but I guess it doesn't really matter who wins and loses. It’s more frustrating than anything else. For a show without John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker and Paul Heyman, the stars of recent weeks, this was definitely a success. Hopefully WWE can keep this momentum next week on the go-home for SummerSlam.
With Arnold Furious still on G-1 25 duty, once again I get lumbered with the three-hour wooden spoon that is Raw. Three weeks on the bounce now, which is too much for any sane person to endure. Last week’s effort was a miserable affair up until the solid main event and the manly performance of John Cena, broken nose and all. The week before was pretty damn good. This week sees the return of Brock Lesnar, so I have higher hopes than usual going in.
We start with the all too familiar sight of the roster assembled on the stage to commemorate the passing of a fallen idol. This is in tribute to the late Roddy Piper, who died aged 61 on Friday. We have lost some real greats recently. It was only a few weeks ago that WWE did the same thing for Dusty Rhodes. Childhood heroes are passing with an upsetting frequency. WWE follow the customary ten bell salute and playing of Piper’s theme music with a moving tribute video, which must bring a tear to the eye of any fan who grew up with the WWF in the eighties and nineties. RIP Roddy, you were one of the best.
Promo Time: Seth Rollins
We start out with another regular sight: Seth Rollins coming out to run his mouth in the opening segment. The sound of the opening strains of his entrance music causes a mass of booing from a rowdy San Jose crowd. Let’s see how hot they are in three hours time, shall we? Seth decides he is his own worst enemy, claiming to be too sympathetic for his own good. He cites last week’s Cena nose break as an example of this, and cuts to multiple slow-motion replays. “Thank you Rollins,” chant the crowd. That’s a little harsh. I understand why people hate Cena, and I was one of them too once over, but he has won me over this year with a string of remarkable performances. “I felt his nose shatter,” says Seth, prompting more cheers. We get some more shots of Cena’s destroyed nose, leading to a collective “oooh” from the crowd. Seth complains that the match should have been stopped and he awarded the United States Championship, blaming his sympathy for Cena’s plight as the reason he ended up getting beaten. It’s an interesting spin on it. I wonder what they would have done if Cena hadn't broken his nose. Seth throws out a challenge to Cena for a title versus title match at SummerSlam and the crowd approve. As do I. Though, I am not crazy about the double title situation. It undoes all of the good work Cena has done with the US Title by making it a secondary strap. I guess the winner could defend both. Seth moves on to tonight, reminding everyone that he won the WWE Championship in this very city at WrestleMania, and that John Cena did his first US Title Open Challenge here too. That gives Seth an idea: a WWE Championship Open Challenge which starts right now! Good stuff. A strong promo from Seth for a change, and it’s about damn time.
JoJo hits the ring and randomly asks Seth if the open challenge is legitimate, to which Seth responds in the affirmative... with two conditions. His opponent has to be under six-feet tall and under two-hundred pounds. “So, you’re talking about a match with El Torito?” JoJo is a sharp one. Seth says yes and calls out the little bull, as my hand reaches for the remote... Instead of El Torito we get Neville, who fits the requirements for the match. However, WWE booking him as such does rather send a message that he is one step away from a midget. I don't care for Neville being portrayed in such a manner, but at least the match should be good.
WWE World Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Neville
It’s nice to see Neville back doing something meaningful after having been treading water for weeks. They really need to do some tweaking to his character though, because some of the things he does at the moment are killing his reaction. The awful music needs to change for one. Another thing I could live without is the cape. While we are at it, Neville is the worst superhero name in the world, and seeing as WWE are pushing Neville as a comic book star, they should really come up with something better. Call him Gravity Man and have done with it.
As you might expect the pace is quick from the off, with Neville flying around and Seth giving him plenty of offence. Neville gets all of his big flying spots in early, including an insane corkscrew plancha off the top to the outside. It’s all Neville as we go to commercial, but when we return it’s chinlock city. Neville fights back as Rollins continues to give him plenty of the match, and a reverse rana scores Neville a near fall. Neville continues to dominate, drilling Rollins with a series of dead lift German suplexes for more close calls. Seth desperately avoids the Red Arrow and hits a clothesline to buy himself some time, but Neville is able to counter the Pedigree into one of the closest near falls you will ever see. The crowd are furious and yell “three!” at the ref. Seth goes up top but takes too much time, and Neville catches him with a ridiculous top rope rana. He connects with the Red Arrow and the ref counts three, but notices at the last split second that Rollins’ foot is on the rope. The crowd bought it as the finish. Hell, so did I. It was a perfectly executed spot. San Jose chant “one more time”, and Neville obliges, but he crashes and burns then immediately falls victim to the Pedigree. Outstanding match, and a real strong showing from Neville. He won himself a lot of new fans here.
Final Rating: ****
The Lucha Dragons & Los Matadores vs. The Ascension & New Day
The Prime Time Players join the commentary team, as they are feuding at a distance with all four of these duos, who all want to become tag champions. This match is very typical of WWE booking strategy, with everyone involved in a program just dumped into a match. The guest commentary spot was done to death last week too, and indeed over the past few months. WWE needs some fresh ideas to spark interest in its issues. Titus cracks me up again, mocking Byron Saxton for his inert presence. “You don't do nuthin!” That’s a fact. Titus was in the news this week because of a heart-warming tale where he took a bunch of homeless people out for lunch, with the announcers unable to resist making a big song and dance about it. It’s really not all that honourable to do charity work just for the adulation, which isn't what Titus was doing at all, but the way WWE go about championing it makes it seem like a publicity-seeking news story. Titus is dismissive about it, saying he was just doing his bit the make the world a better place. What a great guy. Attention turns back to Saxton, rather than the clusterfuck in the ring, when he tries to play hip cat by throwing out PTP catchphrases. “That was awful!”, is the PTP verdict. I have no idea what is going on in the ring because it has all been secondary to the commentary. It’s nothing to write home about anyway. New Day win it thanks to Kofi pinning Kalisto. A TV time-filler of a match if ever there was one.
Final Rating: ¾*
The Bellas vs. Charlotte & Becky Lynch
Before things get going we are forced to endure an insert promo from the Bellas. In her irritating sing-song voice she declares the Divas revolution began when she first won the Divas Title, and I truly believe she thinks that too. Alicia and Brie are allocated two lines each. “Team Bella is the brand to be.” I hate that over-used word brand. I disagree with the notion that a person can be a “brand”. It’s such phony corporate speak, and it sounds even more ridiculous coming from those three half-wits. Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch get an insert promo too, which is also not good. They deem themselves the Submission Sorority, which is actually a pretty decent name. I still think the whole assigned teams thing is hot nonsense though.
Once again all hopes of WWE “getting it” this week are out of the window due to the seemingly omnipotent Bellas’ presence in the match. They engulf this division, and it will never, ever prosper while they are around. And they will always be around, because of whom they are married to/doing. The talent of Charlotte and Becky makes this slightly better than most Bellas matches, but not much. Brie is absolutely dire, unable to comprehend the most basic of spots. Watching Lynch try and lead her into things is hard work. Sometimes, Brie seems like she has never seen a wrestling match before, and that it is her first day on the job. They do the most convoluted cue of all time to go to commercial, with Becky taken out on the outside and all three of the Team Bella bints standing over her and posing. After commercial... chinlock. My god. Becky takes a long and dull heat, with the Bellas clueless about what to do in a long match. And make no mistake, this has been a long match. Anything over three minutes for the Bellas is too much time for them. Charlotte gets the hot tag and goes to town, Becky hits a t-bone on Brie to take her out, and Charlotte counters a few times into the Figure Eight for the submission win over Nikki. Good, but like last week, does it mean anything? Credit to WWE because they keep putting the new girls over, but we all know when it comes down to it, they will lose in the title match with Nikki and that will be that. No one will care anymore.
Final Rating: *1/2
Backstage, Naomi challenges Paige to a match tonight, then brings up Ronda Rousey. Naomi says he is not the baddest woman on the planet, Team B.A.D. are. Okay, love. They walk off, with Tamina giving JoJo a look like she just farted right there in front of her.
Miz TV: Kevin Owens and Cesaro
Before we get to the storyline, or rather what loosely passes for a storyline these days, Miz totally babyfaces himself after years of being an insufferable twat, putting over Piper’s Pit as the wrestling talk show originator and the inspiration for Miz TV and many others, then giving his own shout out to the late ‘Hot Rod’. I don't care if what he said is true, a heel shouldn't do that. It totally takes you out of the moment, especially when Miz then goes back to be a dick heel right away. Can you imagine if Christian Bale had taken a moment out during The Dark Knight to pay his respects to Heath Ledger, only to then immediately slip back into being Batman? No, because the premise is absurd. The more WWE do illusion-shattering things, the harder it is to take anything they do seriously. It’s like openly admitting that everything is in on the fix.
Owens is far too amiable with Miz, a character that his no-bullshit persona should ordinarily despise. Cesaro cuts off the pleasant chat quite quickly, which irks Miz because he thinks he should announce him. Owens says Cesaro is jealous of him, because for all of his hard work and sacrifice he will never be as good as him. Cesaro thinks his theory is bullshit. He tells Owens he is ashamed of him because of his tendency to walk out on matches, which he finds disrespectful, and calls him an embarrassment. Owens stands up to retort, but in a case of unfortunate timing the chair he was sitting on gets caught in his shorts and comes for the ride. Cesaro cannot resist pointing it out, but Owens completely no sells it. “You know what I think is embarrassing? That I have accomplished more in three months than you have in three years.” Cesaro wants a fight, which gets Miz excited. They both tell him to shut up, scaring him out of his chair. “Why don't you let the two guys who can actually fight handle this, hey bud?” - Owens. Once again Owens goes to leave, but gets goaded back into the ring for a brief brawl. He shoves Miz into Cesaro and goes for the powerbomb, but Cesaro counters into a giant swing attempt. Owens skips out, and that’s the segment. This was fine. At least WWE are doing something to promote the match rather than having them wrestle each other every week to the point of exhaustion. They have a problem with each other and conflicting opinions as to who is right, and they want to fight about it. It’s not that hard is it? More of this.
After commercial we go to a Ronda Rousey quote about Roddy Piper, and brief footage from her post-fight victory speech on Saturday where she paid tribute to the man who give her the nickname “Rowdy”. WWE using UFC footage - with credit - in 2015! I am shocked. Even more so given the idiotic comments made by Dana White prior to the show, where he dismissed wrestling as “fake shit”. He should realise by now, regardless of how much he likes to deny it in public, that half of his audience are wrestling fans.
Rusev vs. Mark Henry
Ah, a Vince McMahon fetish match: two behemoths rumbling. He is the only person in the world who enjoys bouts like this. The match sucks of course, but at least it is super-brief. Rusev wins with a superkick after around two minutes tops, then gives Henry another after the decision.
Final Rating: SQUASH
After some Network shills and the customary mocking of the PPV audience who pay $54.99 to watch, we go to a Wyatt Family promo. They hype the lazily booked six-man tag with Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton tonight, then Sheamus appears on camera. A stranger, from the outside, ooooh! Wyatt tells Sheamus that the enemy of his enemy is his friend, and that tonight he can consider them friends. This has novelty value seeing Sheamus in the Wyatt setting, but it was merely a hype vehicle for the main event. Not good, not bad. Just there.
Zack Ryder vs. King Barrett
This has “filler” written all over it. JBL comes over all excited at the prospect of Barrett, making intentionally wild claims that Barrett is the reason for England getting the rugby world cup. “Are you feeling alright, JBL?” - Saxton. Barrett does the kind thing and lets Ryder throw in a couple of moves, before finishing him with the Bullhammer. Another squash.
Final Rating: SQUASH
Promo Time: Paul Heyman
Heyman reminds us that it was Undertaker not Brock Lesnar who rebooted the rivalry between them, citing his attack at Battleground. He cuts to footage from the show. We also get highlights from the epic brawl two weeks ago, then Heyman introduces Brock. The response he gets makes it clear that this is an all-babyface program. Lesnar takes his anger out on the ring steps, the top of which he hurls effortlessly into the ring. He can’t help himself can he? If he sees something loose, he just has to throw it. Lesnar uses the stairs as a pulpit, standing on them mid-ring while Heyman does the talking. It’s an odd visual. Heyman claims Undertaker begged Vince McMahon for a match with Lesnar at WrestleMania 31, which apparently he refused. Well, he should have entered and won the Royal Rumble shouldn't he? Heyman says Undertaker interjected himself into Lesnar’s business to force WWE’s hand, and now Brock is going to take him to Suplex City at SummerSlam. Heyman points out the numerous injuries Taker suffered when he last met Brock, showing more passion in selling the mach than anyone else in the company shows about anything. See, Miz, that is how you play a character. Another great promo from Heyman, but as usual the way WWE use Brock is questionable. Why was he even here? Heyman could have cut this promo without him standing there gurning. Lesnar is on a limited schedule, make his appearances mean something rather than wheel him out to stand around. They could have achieved the same thing with a cardboard cut-out.
Paige vs. Naomi
#DivaRevolution? More like #SameOldShit. It’s literally the exact same division, only with three NXT girls added to the main roster, and more time allocated to them on Raw. What is revolutionary about Paige vs. Naomi? Nothing. Which probably explains why the crowd is so silent for the match. It’s fairly useless viewing too, which is the other reason. As usual in Naomi matches, the most exciting thing about watching her is seeing what colour the lights in her boots go. These longer matches are a nice idea in theory, but the reality is most of the girls who were already on the roster struggle to fill three minutes with anything worthwhile. When they get more time, they go to rest holds and protracted heat sections. The announce team are on autopilot throughout, with Cole using the exact same comments to describe many of the moves as he does every week. “That looks familiar,” he notes in a bored tone when Paige hits a fallaway slam. He is referring to JBL, who used to use the move, but after over a year of Paige doing it I think we get the picture. Paige wins with the PTO, as the Divalution continues to flatter to deceive.
Final Rating: *1/4
Backstage, Stardust does a promo with his wife Eden, who looks at him with a mixture of confusion and disgust. Stardust does his usual quirky promo on Neville, then sends another message to Stephen Amell of Arrow. It seems the actor has already made his decision and via Twitter says he will be at Raw next week. If Stardust (and Neville, as mentioned earlier) were properly portrayed as super heroes, they could have some fun with his appearance. Unfortunately, I am already resigned to it being a segment filled with lame attempts at humour and the celebrity giving the heel a kicking.
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper & Sheamus
I really dislike main events like this, because they are so uninspired. It’s the usual WWE trick of throwing two feuds into one throwaway bout, a practice they have employed since Raw began. I find it to be lazy, the mark of a creative team lacking ideas about how to progress issues. Can you imagine if the WWF had done this in the nineties, and shoved H***n (sorry, I am following WWE’s lead) and Warrior in throwaway tag matches in the weeks before WrestleMania? It would have killed all interest in seeing them finally face off. WWE do that every week with every rivalry they have going. I realise I am like a broken record with this, but it must change if WWE ever wants to draw decent Monday night ratings again. This is every pointless WWE six-man tag you ever saw, with a boring heat in the middle where a boring heat doesn't need to be, and the now commonplace dead end of show crowd. Thankfully, both the action and the audience pick up a notch or two towards the end, once the finishers and counters start coming thick and fast. It’s a frenetic few minutes and leaves a more positive memory of the bout. Sheamus is the one sacrificed because he has the briefcase, which in WWE logic means he has to lose every week. Reigns pins him following the spear, and the babyface trio celebrate as if they have achieved something other than a routine win. See, this is what I dislike about booking these matches; they mean nothing. The result doesn't matter a jot, so you can’t get invested in who wins or loses, because who cares? Mundane bout, with a hot finish that carried it through.
Final Rating: **1/2
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Neville. He was the star of the show tonight.
Least Entertaining: The Miz. He wasn't terrible in the Miz TV segment itself, but his kayfabe breach was ridiculous. Leave personal tributes to a non-kayfabed environment, don't undo all the work you have put into your character by dropping in and out of the role on Raw.
Quote of the Night: “Byron is about as popular as a lion hunter in Zimbabwe” - JBL. A topical reference from JBL!
Match of the Night: Seth Rollins vs. Neville. By a mile.
Summary: This is the new WWE formula: put two great workers in there together and give them twenty minutes to do their thing, then fill the rest of the card with played out rivalries, half-assed booking and the new fad of two Divas matches. It has been the same for the past few weeks. I tune into Raw every week hoping they will finally recapture the formula that once made the show so vibrant, but each week I shut off the TV feeling exhausted. Even with the good shows. This was a so-so show, nothing bad, a few things worth seeing, but with far too much that was unimportant. Filler kills wrestling shows, and every edition of Raw at three hours is chock full of filler. The noticeable lack of The Authority, Kane and The Big Show was pleasing though. That, I do approve of.