WWE Raw Recap – 22nd June, 2015

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Instead of the usual Authority-flavoured opening this week, the Beast Incarnate himself, Brock Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman kicked off the show. It’s been a while since we got a proper Heyman promo and it was a corker. Heyman made some passionate statements about Seth Rollins’ meagre chances at Battleground. I’m so glad they’re back on TV. The Lesnar/Heyman thing is something that WWE nailed a while ago. Lesnar is a barbarian and Heyman is gold on the mic. It’s hard to see the weaselly Seth Rollins posing any kind of threat to Lesnar. I genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen at Battleground and I’m excited for it.

Our first match was Dean Ambrose vs. Kane. It was a fairly standard affair. After a while, Seth Rollins appeared on the ramp. Ambrose, going for a high risk top rope move, hesitated and Kane took advantage of the distraction and chokeslammed him down to the mat. Kane got the pinfall victory and Rollins left smiling and pointing at Kane in a “I got your back, buddy!” way.

Backstage, Rollins spoke to Kane and made it clear he wanted to get the old Authority band back together. Obviously, Rollins is trying to cover his back since learning of the Lesnar-shaped sword of Damocles hanging above his head. Kane rejected him and walked away, leaving Seth frustrated and a bit panicked. It makes sense for Rollins to try and even the odds slightly, but I wish they’d given him more time to step out on his own. I was having fun with his delusion that he became champ all on his own. It seems premature to pull him out of the first new bit of character development we’ve seen in a long time.

Tag action next with the champs Prime Time Players taking on The Ascension. Prime Time Players won with relative ease and that was that. I’m starting to feel sorry for The Ascension. They’ve been given nothing to do but to lose to others and it’s a damn shame. I’ve grown to like their look and especially their entrance (which we hardly see now) and I reckon they could be great if given a storyline or something. I’m always happy to see PTP win, but let’s throw The Ascension a bone.

Roman Reigns went up against Sheamus. I sighed when it was announced and figured it was just a bunch of filler until Bray Wyatt inevitably got involved. It was in a way, but it was surprisingly enjoyable. The two powerhouses slugged it out in a match that had some innovative spots. My favourite was Sheamus’ clothesline reversal of Reigns’ signature basement dropkick. It was an example of great timing by both and Reigns made it look like he’d been hit by a bus. I like it when wrestlers have strategies for signature moves. Roman Reigns does that dropkick every week. It’s about time someone figured they’d better do something about it. I was also a big fan of Reigns’ huge jumping elbow drop which bounced Sheamus off the announcers’ table. That dude can get some serious height.

As expected, Wyatt interrupted the match via Titantron. He appeared to be having a tea party with someone off-camera, heavily implied to be Roman’s daughter. Wyatt told Reigns to find him and Reigns abandoned the match to run backstage. Being privy to the rest of the video, it was clear that Wyatt was bluffing and had been speaking to an empty rocking chair. I found Reigns running out a little hard to take. There was no proof Wyatt had his daughter and the whole thing felt a little too goofy. I suppose an argument could be made for Reigns knowing how messed up Bray Wyatt is and not being willing to take any chances.

Backstage, a panicked Reigns desperately searched, following Bray Wyatt‘s husky and mocking version of “I’m a Little Teapot”. He charged into a candlelit room with Wyatt nowhere to be found. However, Wyatt had scrawled the message “Anyone but you” on the wall, surrounded by pictures of Roman with the eyes and mouths cut out, clearly taking inspiration from the sort of anti-shrine some fans must have made in their own bedrooms after this year’s Royal Rumble. It was legitimately creepy and I dug the hell out of it. I hope this feud doesn’t just burn out after Battleground. Roman’s motivation is a simple but strong one and I hope they build off this.

Seth Rollins continued his apology tour with J&J Security. It basically played out like a reverse of last week’s show and I had the same problem. I know you have three hours to fill, guys. I get it. However, the Sesame Street comparison I made last week still rings true. J&J also walked away from the champ, making Rollins’ grovelling count for nothing.

“The Man That Gravity Forgot” and “The New Sensation” Neville took on “Error 404: Cool Nicknames Not Found” Kofi Kingston next in a singles match. However, since Kingston is part of New Day, he comes as a package deal, with Big E and Xavier Woods at ringside. The match was entertaining, as one would expect from a fight between two high-flyers. Being the heelish New Day, they soon ganged up on Neville, leading to his new BFFs The Prime Time Players to run down to the ring and try and help him. Having not heard of double standards, the ref banned PTP from ringside and broke the ruckus up. One little detail I absolutely loved was Xavier Woods‘ trash-talking, threatening to call gravity on Neville. He’s genuinely funny. As the match went on, Big E and Woods also got banned from ringside. Neville got the better of Kingston and hit the Red Arrow for the win. Good stuff. Having said that, I wish commentary would shut up about “setting your DVR” for Neville. He’s established now, you don’t need to keep selling him in that way.

King Barrett faced Zack Ryder next. The match was alright, but it reeked of wasted potential. They clearly needed Barrett to win a match after bad writing put him on a long losing streak to any muscled douchebag going. Why did it have to be Zack Ryder though? It depresses me seeing him continually eating losses and used as a stopgap solution. I keep hoping for Creative to buck up their ideas when it comes to both men, but I’m not holding my breath.

John Cena returned after a week off to lay down his perspective on his recent history with Kevin Owens. He talked about the quandary he found himself in as Owens has made no secret about his U.S. Title aspirations. Cena is well within his rights to deny the challenge, but he wants to be a fighting champion. He made it clear he respects the wrestler Kevin Owens, but not the man himself. Owens came out to respond to Cena, saying that Cena’s opinions meant nothing to him. I loved Owens talking in his native tongue of Canadian French, leading Cena to also respond in French and then Mandarin because he can. Cena’s pulled this trick before, but it never fails to impress me. It’s such a fitting touch to his Superman-esque character. Owens made no bones about challenging for Cena’s belt and the title match was set for Battleground. I can’t wait another month. Both men put on incredible matches and the fact that championship gold is on the line this time raised the stakes considerably. Hopefully Owens becomes champ. It’d be a perfect cap on his awesome introduction to the big leagues.

I had a problem with Seth Rollins‘ apologies throughout the night, but I thought his face-to-face with Triple H and Stephanie was well done. Trips and Steph told Seth to cut the crap but acted as forgiving parents, almost going as far as to grab him by the ear and getting him to apologise to Kane and J&J.

The Bella Twins fought Tamina and Naomi in a tag match. I’m not a fan of the directionless angle they’ve written for the Divas division. I keep finding myself checking out because there’s nothing to hook me in. It was a sub par match and the Bellas won again. I’m praying that this Paige vs. the Bellas thing has a decent pay-off, but being someone with basic pattern recognition skills, I doubt it.

Mark Henry fought Ryback and nobody cared. Whatever.

Next was Adam Rose vs. Dolph Ziggler. It’s been a while since Rose had any focus and it was great to see him. He teased some kind of masterpiece unveiling soon and here’s hoping it’s a big character change to turn him into more of his Leo Kruger persona. I enjoyed the match. Ziggler was reliably good and Rose held his own. Adam Rose also got to use his brilliant spinebuster which always looks devastating. Ziggler managed to win, but both competitors came out looking strong.

A final backstage segment occurred and Triple H and Steph gathered the rest of the Authority to try and convince them to get in Rollins’ corner again. They all walked away, seemingly not up for supporting the spoiled brat champ.

Rollins made his way to the ring to apologise publicly to Kane and J&J and shamelessly asked them to take him back. Seth’s pleas were cut short as Brock Lesnar‘s music hit and the Beast came down to the ring. After a long stare down, the assembled Authority left Rollins to his own devices. However, all three men then attacked Lesnar, who easily dispatched them. Rollins got suplexed to within an inch of his life and Lesnar stood tall. This didn’t last as Kane got back up and chokeslammed Lesnar multiple times. Kane saved Rollins from a nasty F5 by taking out Lesnar’s legs and the punishment began. Lesnar’s leg was smashed around the ringpost by a steel chair and soon Rollins and Kane stomped him into the mat. Joey Mercury got involved and Lesnar faced a three on one assault. The show ended with Rollins triumphantly holding up his belt. It’s a good angle. Rollins with Authority backup is a legit threat to Lesnar and makes the match up that much more unpredictable. However, commentary can suck a fat one. I realise Lesnar’s off-the-cuff “Suplex City, bitch!” is now a marketable catchphrase, but they just wouldn’t quit saying it. Michael Cole (or more accurately Vincent K. McMahon through Cole’s earpiece) saying “Suplex City again” when Rollins was suplexed a second time made me retch. It’s nonsensical and it’s spoiling a cool thing. Fucking stop it.

So, standard mix of good and bad. I’m looking forward to at least three or four matches on the Battleground card and they’ve got a nice, spacious month to build to the PPV. Commentary grated on me more than it usually does this week and it hampered some of the more entertaining bits. Also they aired a cringeworthy mashup Terminator Genysis trailer featuring Roman Reigns which looked like something an obsessive 13 year old Reigns fan made in 10 minutes which made me laugh and wince in equal measures.

Ben Browne