The final Raw before Battleground started with a long Paul Heyman speech about how his client, Brock Lesnar, tends to get what he wants, citing previous championship wins and UFC victories. Seth Rollins interrupted, cutting Heyman off mid-rant. Kane accompanied him and announced that their contract signing for Battleground would take place at the end of the show.
Both Heyman and Rollins were reliably good and it just added more fuel to their feud, which is now bubbling away quite nicely.
Obligatory tag action as Randy Orton and Ryback took on Sheamus and Big Show. The Miz once again took commentary duties. The match was fairly standard until The Miz started mouthing off again to his two opponents for the Intercontinental title. It was around this time that the match suddenly kicked up a few gears and the crowd cheered loudly. Big Show chased after Miz, leaving Sheamus alone to deal with Orton and Ryback. Orton hit a sweet RKO on Sheamus and Ryback performed a surprisingly graceful splash from the top rope to get the win.
I’m half feeling the Intercontinental race now. Miz is the one making it interesting for me. The Miz is arguably underrated but definitely underutilised. I’m hoping for a sneaky Miz win, but I can’t see them stripping Ryback of it any time soon.
Rollins talked to Kane backstage about the public contract signing, worried that Lesnar will kick off when they sit down to sign. Kane reassured Seth that it was all under control.
Dean Ambrose took on old rival Bray Wyatt in singles action next. Wyatt made his trademark lantern-holding dark entrance. As soon at the lights were hit, Roman Reigns appeared out of nowhere and attacked Bray outside the ring. Reigns threw Wyatt from barricade to post, but Wyatt eventually managed to escape after hitting Roman with his lantern.
I’m really digging this rivalry. Both characters need this kind of story and it’s worked well over the last month. As I’ve said repeatedly, I hope this continues on the other side of Battleground.
The three members of Team Bella came out next, with champion Nikki ranting about their dominance of the division whilst Brie and Alecia indulged in cartoonish overreactions. Stephanie McMahon made her way down to the ring to lay down the law on who actually owns the WWE and the Divas division. Steph called out Paige and she entered the ring. What happened next was what I’ve been praying for the past few months. Steph introduced NXT wrestlers Becky Lynch and Charlotte and teamed them up with Paige. Then Naomi and Tamina had something to say and interrupted, prompting Stephanie to introduce someone who thinks like them- NXT Women’s champ, Sasha Banks. As the three teams of three faced off, I had a massive smile on my face. Fresh blood and more focus is all the Divas’ division has needed and it got both in spades.
There ended up being an all-women brawl and it was fucking excellent. It was fast and fun with some great spots showing just what the new recruits can do. I especially loved the submission trifecta bit where all three NXT wrestlers had all three Bellas tapping out. The match earned multiple “this is awesome!” chants from the crowd and it deserved them. When was the last time we heard that kind of reaction for a Divas match? It was truly special. Let’s hope all this talk of a “revolution” isn’t just talk.
The Prime Time Players and Mark Henry took on all three New Day members in more tag action. It was a great match. I like Mark Henry when he’s used as a strongman for hire. PTP picked up the win. I also smiled like a fool when Titus and Darren got Henry to dance to their music.
King Barrett took on R-Truth in yet another tedious chapter in their dumb rivalry. R-Truth won and soon dressed up in his paper crown, bedsheet cape and plunger sceptre and my heart sunk as fast as my vomit rose. Whatever.
John Cena Open Challenge action next. This week, the newly-healed Rusev answered the call. He wasn’t the only one as previous challengers Kevin Owens and Cesaro both came out to stake their claims. After the ad break, we were informed that the three challengers would have a triple threat match to win an immediate title match with Cena. Owens, Rusev and Cesaro put on a hell of a show. I love all three and the match justified that love. It was an epic battle with near-falls and huge moves. I loved Cesaro suplexing Rusev and Owens at the same time in an incredible show of strength. Owens left after a bit of a beating and Rusev and Cesaro continued their ordeal. There was a brilliant moment when Cesaro had Rusev in a Crossface submission and the front row were slamming their hands on the barricade with a chant of “Tap! Tap! Tap!” that gave me legitimate chills. Rusev managed to win, but it was a pyrrhic victory as the exhausted Bulgarian then had to face a fresh Cena.
Cena/Rusev didn’t last very long as one would expect. Rusev was knackered and Cena’s hard to put down at the best of times. After getting soundly stomped Rusev managed to slap the Accolade on Cena and it looked to be all over. Kevin Owens reappeared to kick Rusev in the face and ensure that only he dispossesses Cena of his belt. The match ended via DQ.
WWE have done a decent job in increasing the prestige of the other active belts. Whilst the Intercontinental momentum has ground to a halt, the U.S. Title is going strong and has some obscenely talented people in the race for it. Rusev/Owens/Cesaro was an awesome match-up and I’d be happy with any of them as the new champ. Having said that, I don’t want them to end the open challenges yet. They’re usually the highlight of the show and Cena has been putting on a clinic each time.
Stardust is back! Hooray! He returned with a decent amount of focus too, with a rambling backstage promo to himself and getting to engage in a superhero/villain smackdown with Neville. The match was enjoyable and Stardust got the surprise win after pinning Neville and pulling his trunks for leverage in a classic heel move. Neville was left visibly pissed off as Stardust scampered up the ramp. Here’s hoping for a fun feud.
We then got to the contract signing. Seth and Brock sat at opposite sides of a table and signed on the dotted line. Heyman called out Seth when it appeared the champ was going for something under the table. Rollins denied any foul play and Lesnar flipped the table, revealing an axe handle stowed beneath the rim. Instead of going mental, Lesnar reset the table and chairs, placed the handle on the table and challenged Seth to pick it up. Rollins snatched it and had a moment of mocking laughter before Lesnar flipped the table into his face and chaos broke out. The combined efforts of Kane and Rollins worked for a while, but Lesnar was too strong. He F5ed Kane onto the floor and Rollins escaped into the crowd. Still hot, Lesnar punished the downed Kane, smashing his ankle between two steel steps. Lesnar lifted Seth’s abandoned belt before placing it down and leaving the ring.
Having watched the whole thing from the crowd, Rollins came back to throw a hissy fit, chucking the broken furniture around the ring. He grabbed a mic and cut an angry promo about how he is the only one that has managed to stop Brock. It was some fantastic mic work and it legitimised their feud, at least to me. Rollins is vicious when he wants to be and his delusional ranting endeared him to me. He then went on to prove how vicious he is by blaming Kane for his failed axe handle master plan and stomped on his injured ankle, possibly breaking further bones but definitely severing their partnership. Rollins is now facing the Beast on his own. Fade to black.
I loved this episode of Raw. There were one or two eye-rolling moments, but the quality of the mic and in-ring work was high. The Divas segment ended up being my favourite moment of the night, but the triple threat match would have won it any other night. I’m hyped for Battleground now.