I suppose this week’s Raw could be summed up as “the same as last week’s episode, only better.” All the same beats were hit, but had been tweaked so as to not be as knuckle-draggingly dumb.
Like last week, we opened with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, with Heyman laying down the law when it comes to what they think of Seth Rollins. Heyman warned Rollins about intentionally provoking the Beast and stated they were going nowhere for the rest of the evening. Good stuff. Lesnar works best when he’s an ever-present threat and to have him loom large over the rest of the show was a smart move.
Throughout the night we were shown photos of an intentionally poorly Photoshopped Kane enjoying his Hawaiian vacation. Not even a five year old would believe they were real, so why show them in the first place? Was it a joke? What purpose did it serve? Who knows. I’ve never been able to buy into the goofier side of wrestling humour, but this one had my eyes rolling. Remember when Kane was a badass?
Like last week, our first match involved Big Show. Show took on Ryback with The Miz on commentary. The match was serviceable, but made actively enjoyable by The Miz yelling encouragement to both men to hurt each other before their Triple Threat match at Battleground. Both big guys ended up exhausted on the canvas and Miz seized his opportunity to intervene. He attacked Big Show and then Ryback causing the match to end in a disqualification. Both Show and Ryback shrugged off the Miz’s attacks and gave him a one-two combo of a Shellshock and a chokeslam. I’m starting to warm to the IC story, if only for Miz’s involvement.
Paige went up against Brie Bella next. It was semi-decent, but I can’t help but feel they’re spinning their wheels a bit on this story. Paige fought admirably against the three members of Team Bella, but Brie managed to slam her face first into the mat and pick up the victory. Post match, the three Divas beat Paige down to add additional injury and insult. Please let something happen soon with this. It’s inert at the moment and needs a rocket lit somewhere.
Roman Reigns and Sheamus had a match next. The two still have legitimate beef over the Money in the Bank match and Sheamus taunting Roman with the briefcase was a nice touch, as was Roman knocking it out of his hands. The match was great. I’ve been a fan of their previous fights and whilst this wasn’t the best, it was worth watching nonetheless. As expected, Bray Wyatt interfered. This time, he made his way to the ring in his signature style, walking through the darkness with a lantern. Reigns was ready for him and Superman punched him down to the ground. Reigns grabbed Wyatt and a wig came off in his hand. It wasn’t Bray. The real Wyatt laughed from backstage and repeated the “anyone but you” phrase before cutting to black. Reigns lost the match via count out and Sheamus celebrated. His victory was short-lived as Randy Orton‘s music hit. The Viper beat down Sheamus and RKO’d his mohawked ass. I’d completely forgotten about Orton’s feud with Sheamus, but it was enjoyable. I’m really enjoying Wyatt toying with Reigns. It’s bringing out the best in both men and long may it continue. I really hope Wyatt doesn’t lose again. He needs to win at some point to give any weight to his future promos. If he eats another loss, it’ll be more evidence that Wyatt is just a gasbag full of empty threats. Reigns can lose and still look strong and be sympathetic. I hope they realise this.
Seth Rollins met with Triple H backstage for some advice on dealing with Lesnar. HHH advised Rollins to force Lesnar into making a mistake leading into Battleground and go for something unexpected. Rollins took this as meaning that he would have to call out Lesnar, since that’s the last thing anyone expected him to do. I like this angle. Whilst it’s insanity to piss off someone like Lesnar, it shows that Rollins isn’t a two-dimensional coward. Sure, he’s only got a bit of swagger back to his walk because of his Authority backup, but this is the scheming Rollins I like.
Rusev came out accompanied by the “hot and submissive” (actual quote) Summer Rae to address the audience. I’m getting pissed off by the dumb crowds chanting “USA! USA! USA!” whenever Rusev is talking. Surely we’ve moved past that dumb America vs. Russia stuff now. Shit, Rusev isn’t even Russian any more- he’s Bulgarian.
Anyway, Douche Ziggler and Lana interrupted Ziggler responded to Summer Rae’s imploring for the crowd to show Rusev respect. He stated that Rusev owes all his success to Lana. I can see where he’s coming from, but that isn’t strictly true. Sure, Lana was his spokesperson and set matches up, but Rusev was the one who destroyed his opposition. Ziggler and Lana locked lips, prompting Summer to mouth off. The two women squared up to each other and Rusev clobbered Ziggler with his crutch. He superkicked Ziggler with his apparently healed ankle and it all became clear it was a trap. Rusev stripped the cast off as Lana begged for mercy. Summer threw Lana out of the ring and Rusev continued to pummel Ziggler. As a final move, Rusev put the top of the crutch at Ziggles’ throat and slammed both into the ground in a kind of crutch stunner move. Ziggler was stretchered out by medical personnel.
I don’t like not liking Lana and Ziggler, but they’ve fucked their characters over. I’m cheering the heels and that shouldn’t happen for this story to work. The dumb crowd ate it up, so I’m aware I’m in the minority on this, but Jesus. I was such a Dolph fan a few months ago and I thought Lana was one of the best new things to happen to the show in a long time. Now I sigh every time they come out. It’s a damn shame. This corny love triangle (or sqaure) is beneath all of them. I’m looking forward to the actual Ziggler/Rusev match, but I hope this angle gets dropped after Battleground.
Next, Bo Dallas had some “inspiration” to dole out. He was cut short by Dean Ambrose‘s entrance for their match. It was pretty uneventful. Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds and got the pin. Nothing more to say, really, other than it’s clear this was a filler match until they can find something for Ambrose to do.
More King Barrett versus R-Truth action came next. Barrett got a decisive win and I zoned out. Nobody cares about this jokey feud and I’m starting to feel like it’s a personal slight with the way it just keeps cropping up and wasting my time. Hey, do you also remember when Bad News Barrett was a badass?
Seth Rollins made good on his promise and ill-advisedly called out Brock Lesnar. As an equaliser, he and J&J carried axe handles as they waited in the ring for the legitimately scary Lesnar. He ranted for a while about how he “burned Suplex City to the ground” before he officially called Lesnar out, implying Brock was just “Paul Heyman’s bitch”, axe handle at the ready. Lesnar’s music hit and he slowly made his way down to the ring, weighing up the situation. Brock backed off before calling for something off-screen. Heyman wheeled a crate in, full of firefighting equipment. Lesnar drew not one, but two, nasty-looking axes from the depths and turned his attention to J&J’s shiny new Cadillac (with some fantastically tacky redneck custom additions like a camouflage racing stripe and fuzzy dice). Lesnar went to town on the Caddy, burying one axe deep in the door and shattering the windows. At one point, Lesnar ripped off the passenger door with his bare hands and smashed it to the ground like an angry gorilla before lobbing into the crowd. J&J, finally having enough ran down to meet Lesnar and stop the assault. Lesnar grabbed Jamie Noble and applied the Kimura Lock, possibly breaking his arm and then suplexed Joey Mercury onto the windscreen, cracking it. Lesnar then went after Rollins, still stood in the ring. With a scary amount of speed and grace, Lesnar barrelled down the walkway and vaulted the top rope. Having an instant change of heart, Rollins scattered, escaping into the crowd and almost leaving a Seth-Rollins shaped dust cloud in his wake. Lesnar was left furious, but held up Seth’s abandoned belt aloft as a warning to the absent Rollins. What a brilliant segment. I kept wondering why the car wasn’t wrecked last week and here’s why. Brock Lesnar is one of my favourite things right now. I can’t wait for Battleground.
The Lucha Dragons, Sin Cara and Kalisto, had a match against The New Day with the Prime Time Players on commentary. I love both teams and they put on an enjoyable show. Titus O’Neal was a surprisingly commentator. He even called JBL out on rambling about bullshit instead of calling the match, which is something I appreciated greatly. The Lucha Dragons were as exciting and entertaining as ever, but New Day got the better of them when they missed their synchronised dives to the outside of the ring. Another New Day win. Good stuff.
Our main event was the John Cena US Open Challenge. Cena did his usual schtick and challenged anyone in the locker room to come and have a go for the title. Kevin Owens appeared on the ramp, accusing Cena of “spouting the same garbage” over and over again. He’s got a point. Owens, recently stripped of his NXT title, had a new hunger for having championship gold around his waist. Cesaro interrupted, saying that if anyone deserved a rematch, it was him after Owens’ interference cost him the match. Owens acquiesced and Cesaro v Cena II got underway. Like last week it was an amazing match. Both men wrestled their hearts out and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Whilst Cena/Owens is on the Battleground card, I would be equally happy to have seen Cesaro/Owens. The match had awesome high spots and split-second near falls. My only complaint about the whole thing was that they cut to the wrecked car during a tense near fall. I get that you just spent a lot of money, WWE, but the wrestling is more important. Cena managed to beat Cesaro clean and I was a little disappointed in the result. It was a five star match, no question, but I had hoped they’d leave the question of what would have happened if Owens didn’t get involved hanging in the air a little while longer instead of crushing it the very next week.
Decent episode of Raw. Started off a little wonky, but the last hour or so was definitely worth the price of admission. Only one more show to go until Battleground. I’m genuinely looking forward to it.