Things were kicked off this week by The Undertaker, fresh from he reappearance at Battleground, making his slow, macabre way to the ring to speak to the crowd. Short version? Turns out he’s pretty pissed about his Wrestlemania streak being broken. He made it clear he wants a rematch and promised that he would conquer the unconquerable.
We cut backstage to Triple H and Stephanie rubbing their hands together in glee at a Summerslam main event being dropped into their laps. Triple H concluded that to protect the main event, they’d have to keep Lesnar and Taker separated and both went off to make some calls.
It was a cool opening segment. Whilst I have reservations about a Lesnar/Taker rematch, they have five weeks to convince me it isn’t a bad idea. To be honest with you, some of the stuff later in the show went a long way to win me over. Undertaker suffered a concussion early into their ‘Mania match and as a result it threw the pacing, so perhaps a rematch isn’t the worst idea. Whatever your opinions on the matter, it’s definitely happening and I’m more open to it now than I was when Taker first showed up. They still bollocksed the ending of Rollins/Lesnar though, just to promote this match. I’m not forgiving them for that.
Our first bit of in-ring action was a singles match between Charlotte and Brie Bella. All three factions were fully represented, however, with Team BAD taking commentary spots and the other members of Team Bella and Team Paige taking ringside positions. The match was a cracker. Brie Bella isn’t particularly respected for her wrestling ability, but she’s great at selling and they put her talents to full use with Charlotte. Team BAD were entertaining on commentary too. The match was pretty lengthy and the crowd were into it. After a bit of back-and-forth, Charlotte flattened Brie with a spear and applied her bridging Figure 4 leglock “The Figure 8” to win via submission.
I’m really pleased they’ve bucked their ideas up when it came to the women’s division. Having an opening Divas match is a huge show of confidence. Having two in a night like this week had is incredibly rare. They’re on a good track here, let’s hope nothing derails it.
More backstage shenanigans came in the form of Triple H on the phone to Paul Heyman, ordering him and Lesnar to take the night off. The Miz tried to interrupt to complain about Big Show knocking him unconscious at Battleground. Having more pressing matters at hand, HHH set a singles match between Miz and Big Show, seemingly out of spite.
I like Triple H and Stephanie being presented as more managerial. There were a few times throughout the show where people were asking their permission to go out and speak to the audience. They seemed to actually be in control and businesslike, as opposed to being the surrogate parents trying to sort out their bulky kids’ problems.
Los Matadores took on champs Prime Time Players in a standard tag match. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Los Matadores in action and whilst I’m not a fan of their eye-rolling gimmick, they put on an impressive match with PTP. Have they always been this entertaining? I always look forward to Titus O’Neil getting hot tagged. I will never tire of him throwing people around. Anyway, New Day came out, dancing, shouting and smiling their way down the ramp. Los Matadores capitalised on the distraction, pinning O’Neil. The champs ate the loss and New Day got a few more underlines added to their entry on the PTP shitlist.
The incredibly one-sided Miz vs. Big Show fight was next. Big Show manhandled Miz and hit him with a second rope elbow drop. Miz was easily pinned and Big Show had a few words to say. Something about how he wants Ryback’s belt and how he would take it from him on the ongoing WWE reality show Tough Enough. Are they really trying to weave storylines into Tough Enough? I watch enough wrestling a week. I don’t want to have to watch all the sodding spin-off shows to get the full picture. Anyway, the segment was as dumb as it was nakedly corporate and gauche.
Backstage again and Trips and Steph found Paul Heyman scurrying about behind the scenes. They questioned what he was doing and Heyman responded that the Beast accepted the terms and wasn’t present. He then requested to talk to the crowd to deliver Lesnar’s retort. He was allowed, but Trips and Steph surmised that Lesnar would be about somewhere and they would have to corral the locker room to keep the two apart. Which they did.
We joined Heyman in the ring. He ranted and raved about the injustice of Undertaker costing Lesnar the title and soon returned to his “My client, Brock Lesnar, conquered the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania” schtick, a phrase so familiar it should appear on screen with a sing-a-long bouncing ball. Heyman defended having bragged about his client’s achievements and decided to make it personal by talking directly to Undertaker and provoking him by referring to it as “your streak”. Heyman ranted and yelled the phrase over and over in his evangelical style. The camera zoomed in on Heyman’s face once he was done yelling and suddenly a gong was heard. We had just enough time to see Heyman’s expression turn to one of fear before the lights went out. A second gong hit rang out and Undertaker stood tall in the ring. As Taker rounded on him, Heyman immediately switched to his pleading “I’m just an advocate” routine. Undertaker backed Heyman into a corner and suddenly Lesnar’s music hit and Brock sprinted into the ring to get a piece of the Deadman.
It was pretty thrilling seeing the two men trying to rip each other apart. As goofy as it was, I liked the commentators abandoning their mics and running for cover when Lesnar appeared. Trips first called in about ten security guys, but the puny mortals could barely pry the two Superstars apart. Then the locker room got called in to separate them. It was pandemonium. Also, for all you Superstar anoraks out there, I checked the boxes for the Lesser Spotted Jack Swagger, the Weak-Billed Zack Ryder and the super rare spectacle of an Uso on its own in amongst the massive scuffle. The crowd response was electric and it helped sell the bit. Every time either Taker or Lesnar got loose and attacked the other there was a huge roar and it was hard to not get caught up in it. I also loved the “I’m going to kill you!”/ “You’re going to have to!” exchange. That little bit may have sold me on the whole thing, but check back with me in a few weeks. There was a lot of fighting but eventually Brock was detained and taken away from the arena.
Bray Wyatt got to cut a signature smoky room promo only this time, prodigal son Luke Harper was with him. Wyatt and Harper had more threats for Roman Reigns. I’m so happy they’re doing more with this rivalry. It’s got tons of untapped potential.
The aforementioned Luke Harper took on the similarly previously mentioned Roman Reigns next. It became clear that Roman was walking into a probable handicap, two on one situation, but he stared the Wyatt family down. Dean Ambrose’s music hit and Ambrose came out to even the odds.
Before I talk about the match, can I just point out how weird it was that Ambrose didn’t get a match at Battleground? The crowd loves him and he comes out in a new T-shirt every time I see him, so his merch must be shifting. Maybe he just earned the night off, but it’s still odd.
I really enjoyed Reigns/Harper. It was a solid fight with decent physical storytelling. Reigns’ left shoulder was hurt and Harper went to town on it. It would be easy to be cynical about this match. Yeah, it was booked to make Roman look strong, a common complaint by the more vocal of internet fans. He hit some impressive one-armed slams on Harper. On any other night, Reigns’ double drive-by dropkick would be my favourite spot, but more on that later. The match ended via DQ when Wyatt yanked Roman under the ropes and started pummelling him. It soon devolved into chaos and the crowd went fucking nuts for Ambrose getting involved. The former Shield brothers cleared the ring and the Wyatts skulked off into the crowd.
It’s obvious that they’re banging the same old “Roman Reigns is super cool, you guys!” drum, but that accusation could be levelled at three-quarters of the roster. He’s doing some awesome work and he’s garnering more cheers than jeers and boos. I’m one of the cheerers. I like him now he’s not being given awful fairytale lines to say. Of course, if they start writing him like the blandest of good guys again, I’ll clamber right back down into the bile pits with the nastiest of internet wrestling nerds, but for now he’s fine in my book.
Once he’d made sure Taker and Lesnar had left the building, Seth Rollins came out brag about his title retention, taking credit for surviving his encounter with the Beast and failing to mention that he spent most of the match horizontal, shaking off any one of the thirteen suplexes he suffered. In a brilliantly dickish move, he got ring announcer Lillian Garcia to officially announce the result of his Battleground match and proclaim him champion. As Rollins held his title aloft, laughing his head off, John Cena’s music hit and the laughter turned to confusion.
Turns out Cena has a few things to say about being a champion, as you’d expect from a man who has talked about that very subject week in and week out since becoming United States champion. Cena dropped some science at Rollins’ doorstep, calling him a “poor excuse for a champion” and saying that “the title doesn’t make the man, the man makes the title.” Rollins made motions to leave, but Cena called him out on his usual tactic of running away. Both men got all shirtless and rowdy, but Rollins pissed off backstage, leaving John Cena with some victorious posing to do.
Not sure how I feel about this. The segment didn’t feel like a one-off. Can we expect a Cena/Rollins feud? Looks likely. They need WHC drama at Summerslam. Cena has been doing fine where he is, slapping the midcard into shape and putting on a goddamn clinic nearly every week. I love him in that role. The trouble is, Cena winning the title at Summerslam makes too much financial sense. WWE has been struggling with dwindling viewer numbers for a long time and putting the title on a proven name and face like Cena is the safest course of action for their books. Plus, this would be the sixteenth time Cena has become World Heavyweight Champion, equalling Ric Flair’s record. If it happens, expect that fact to be dined upon like Hannibal Lecter at an all-you-can-eat liver and offal buffet. I’m jumping the gun here, I’m aware. It could not happen and even if it does, it could be great. I’m going to stay positive for now. Don’t fuck me on this, WWE.
More Divas action next! Colour me a surprised, but delighted, purple. Paige and Becky Lynch went up against Naomi and Sasha Banks. Again, it was a decent match. Paige got a huge cheer when she was finally tagged by Lynch. It’s great to see the Divas get some of the recognition they deserve. Anyway, it looked like Paige was going to win it for her team, but she was booted by Banks. Sasha then applied her submission move “The Banks Statement” and Paige tapped, meaning that we got to hear Sasha’s awesome theme.
Lana was interviewed next. She updated up on Ziggler’s condition and smiled a lot. Then Summer Rae confronted her, wearing a sluttier version of Lana’s suit. Rusev walked in and snogged the face off Summer all the while keeping one eye on Lana’s reaction. The two parted, but not before Rusev told Lana to get some rest as she looked “tired” and walked away laughing. Ouch. Summer looked like she was going to apologise and then slapped Lana.
They’ve finally convinced me that Rusev and Summer are complete dicks. Most of this storyline has been tone deaf when it comes to how the participants are presented. Dolph Ziggler and Lana have been more booable than Rusev’s petty shitfits. Thank God they pulled their fingers out, but the ending sequence would have worked nearly as well without Rusev coming across as a massive douchebag.
Our main event was a six man tag match, with John Cena, Cesaro and Randy Orton taking on Kevin Owens, Rusev and Sheamus. This ended up being my favourite match of the night. Cesaro held his own with his veteran teammates and was so much fun to watch. I loved Kevin Owens and Sheamus just walking away from the match when they’d had enough of being punched in the face, leaving Rusev to the wolves. Lana also came out to exact revenge on Summer, tackling her to the ground and unleashing a flurry of hits and hairpulls. I’m not a fan of catfights, but at least Lana was justified. The match ended with an awesome spot where Rusev ate three finishers in a row, suffering an AA, followed by Big Swing by Cesaro and then being slingshotted into a silky smooth RKO. Team Good Guys won and the crowd went bananas. A great main event had by all, except maybe Rusev.
I’ve read a lot of hate about this episode of Raw, mostly focused on the developing Cena/Rollins angle. Implications of that storyline aside, this was a fantastic episode of Raw. There was an improved Divas focus with two lengthy matches, an incredibly enjoyable main event and the spectacle of Taker and Lesnar brawling. It was great.