Well holy shit. Where was this energy for Summerslam? Not that I’m complaining, but Summerslam now feels like the preshow to this episode of Raw. It was the best in a long time and it played its hand beautifully.
We opened with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Both were understandably pissed off about the result of the Lesnar/Undertaker match at Summerslam. Heyman cut a fantastic angry promo about how the Undertaker’s streak was a child’s fairytale. Heyman ranted on and on, brilliantly stopping himself to say that he had enough material for all three hours. He pointed out Taker tapping on a replay of the Summerslam match and explained that his client, BRRRROOCCCCKKK LESNARRR, wanted to fight Taker again, not at Wrestlemania, not at Survivor Series, but that night. It may seem a bit repetitive on my part, but Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar are an amazing team. Heyman is one of the best talkers in the business and all Lesnaar has to do is stand there looking menacing, which he absolutely does. It was a great promo made all the sweeter by what happened next.
Heyman finished preaching and Lesnar was pumped, preparing for the Deadman to appear. Instead, Bo Dallas‘ music hit and the apparently suicidal Dallas came out to talk to Lesnar about the power of “bo-lieving”. Bo talked bluntly about Lesnar losing and how he had to see the positives in his defeat. In what was only a matter of time, Lesnar snapped and clotheslined Bo nearly out of his boots. He suplexed Bo four times before making his way backstage. Heyman caught up with Lesnar and convinced him to make the number of suplexes an even five. Brock agreed and got back into the ring to suplex the unconscious Dallas one more time. He left the ring, only for Heyman to catch up to him agsin and ask for an F5 to cap things off. Brock again agreed and slid back into the ring to deliver an F5 to the ragdoll Dallas. Both men finally had enough and went backstage, not getting the Deadman satisfaction they desired.
It was such a great way to open the show. Heyman got a deliver a brilliant promo, Dallas got some proper laughs as he tried to reason with the Beast and we got to see Lesnar do the things he’s so good at. It was genuinely funny and the crowd ate it up.
Next was tag action between new tag champs New Day and the Lucha Dragons. New Day came out singing a version of “New York, New York” with Xavier Woods playing the trombone. It was amazing. They even earned a “that was awesome!” chant from their entrance alone. No team can touch New Day right now, or so I thought. It was a fun match, but it’s the same sort of stuff we get every week. It was made better by Xavier Woods doing his hype thing with the trombone, even going as far as to play the military funeral melody “Taps” when Big E and Kofi hit a double team move on Kalisto for the pin. All three gathered in the ring to over-celebrate their victory. Woods and Kofi lifted Big E and, all of a sudden, fireworks hit the ramp, the Dudley Boyz‘ music hit and the crowd and I went ballistic. The Dudleys were my favourite tag team growing up and it was an incredible surprise to see them both return to the WWE after a decade. Bubba Ray and D-Von had the crowd in the palms of their hands. They attacked New Day and hit Xavier Woods with a diving “Wassup” headbutt to the groin. The crowd knew what was coming and sure enough, Bubba called for D-Von to “get the table!”. Soon enough, the Dudleys 3D’d Woods through a table and then lapped up the adulation. It was such an amazing moment.
It’s hard to be cynical about something like this, but it was made clear that this wasn’t a one-time thing. The Dudleys are back for one last run and I couldn’t be more excited. The question now is how does this affect the tag team picture? Well, hopefully positively. Unlike some people online, I don’t see it as an attempt to patch an ailing tag division with nostalgia. It’ll be like when the New Age Outlaws came back. They’ll feud with a few teams, put new talent over and enjoy the massive cheers. With the exception of New Day, the tag division is a little dry and adding the Dudleys back in will hopefully shake things up a bit. WWE has a strange habit of only really concentrating on one or two teams at a time. Even as a massive fan, I hope it doesn’t just turn into the Dudley show.
A little backstage action followed with Triple H and Stephanie cooing over the Seth Rollins statue they promised the man himself if he defeated John Cena at Summerslam. They quickly covered it when the man himself walked in to thank them. The statue was to be properly unveiled later that night.
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose had some unfinished Wyatt business next. They took on Bray and Luke Harper in a Summerslam rematch. It was entertaining enough, but I wasn’t sure why we were seeing the same match again two nights in a row. Ambrose flung himself to the outside of the ring onto Harper and Reigns stunned Wyatt, leading Roman to psych himself up for a Spear. He did his signature “OOOO-AHHH!” cry and all went dark. We got the fast Wyatt video blip, even though both were accounted for and when the lights came on, an unidentified man mountain wearing a black version of Wyatt sheep mask was standing on the apron. He took the mask off to reveal…the face of someone we didn’t recognise. He dominated Reigns and Ambrose, throwing them around like they were nothing. He lifted Reigns off his feet and choked him out, doing the same to Ambrose soon after. Seems like the Wyatt family have a new member.
I’m pleased that Bray has another addition to his flock. He works best when he’s more of a cult leader. This new guy is terrifyingly massive. I miss Erick Rowan and I hope when he returns he’ll slot right back in but this bearded beast is an interesting new element. I like the fact that we haven’t seen this guy before in NXT or anything. He’s a complete surprise. Anyway, great segment. Can’t wait to see how this develops.
We had another edition of Miz TV, with the Miz interviewing Paige, Charlotte and Becky of Team PCB. This bit has already had a lot of negative attention thrown its way and mostly within good reason. It ground the show to a halt and highlighted the weaknesses in this whole “Divas revolution”. None of the women are particularly great actors and the issue was compounded when the similarly thespianally challenged Team Bella came out to bicker. Miz got a huge unintentional cheer when he told them all to shut up. Consummate pro that the Miz is, he quickly added that his command went for the audience as well, earning him some proper boos and jeers.
I’m starting to think that this Divas revolution was branded, hashtagged and slapped on a lunchbox before they knew what they were doing with it. It’s not fun to watch the Divas get booed, but I don’t think sexism is to blame, at least not entirely. People don’t care about these characters because they’ve been given no reason to. To top it off, there seems to be no race for the Divas title, with the teams competing for some vaguely defined “dominance” of the division.
There was a six woman tag match following the confrontation. It wasn’t particularly interesting and certainly looked worse than it was considering the match Sasha Banks and Bayley put on at NXT: Takeover a few days before. Team Bella stole a win and I was happy it was over. What exactly was the point of this match? Team PCB won at Summerslam and now Team Bella win on Raw. Nothing has changed. It’s just treading water. Please don’t fuck this up anymore than you already have, Creative. The revolution has been going on for a while now and the novelty of something actually happening in the womens’ division has worn off. Spend time writing some proper stories for these talented wrestlers to showcase their abilities and I promise you, people will get on board.
King Barrett and Stardust were in tag action, but before the match could begin, Stardust attacked Barrett. He beat him down and then hit the Queen’s Crossbow on him, taking him out of the match. Neville ran out to give Stardust a piece of his mind. The two traded blows for a minute before Neville set him up for his finishing move. However, Stardust rolled out of the ring before Neville had a chance to hit the Red Arrow and he retreated backstage as Neville’s music played.
It was an odd little segment. I’m kinda bummed that they severed the ties between Stardust and Barrett so quickly. I liked Barrett as the scenery-chewing Cosmic King way more than any of his lame normal King stuff. I hope they have better plans for Barrett, because it’s a travesty he’s being wasted like this. I’m happy that the Neville/Stardust rivalry is continuing though.
Summerslam host and title match meddler Jon Stewart came out to explain his actions at the previous night’s show where he helped Seth Rollins win by slugging John Cena with a chair and offering it up to Rollins, who Pedigreed Cena face first onto it to win the two titles. He confirmed my theory that he was acting out of respect for wrestling history and not wanting John Cena to tie Ric Flair‘s record 16 time World championship record. He talked for a while longer before he was cut off by the man himself. Ric Flair made his way to the ring and had a few words for Stewart. Flair said he appreciated the gesture, he was pulling for Cena to win. He told Stewart he’d “messed up everything” and whilst Stewart was processing that, John Cena’s music hit. Cena, again, understandably pissed off, ranted about how he didn’t want the US title in the hands of the Authority and Stewart had gifted it to them. He said he respected Jon for doing what he thought was right, and that’s why he’d understand what came next. Cena picked Stewart up and AA’d him to the mat before skulking off.
OK- a couple of things. Look, WWE, if you’re going to make Cena the 16 time champ, just fucking do it. Rip the plaster off. Don’t have Ric Flair dodder out and say it’s cool to prepare people for the inevitable. However, you will have to deal with the consequences of that. People don’t like Cena and another reign is just going to compound that hate. Hell, I like Cena, but I don’t want to have to sit through week after week of him being champ. It’s what made me stop watching wrestling in the first place. Maybe they’ve learned their lessons, but this is WWE we’re talking about. Forward planning doesn’t seem to be their strong suit. Also, isn’t attacking the celeb guest a pure heel thing to do? I know Stewart cost him the title, but still. The last couple of times we saw this was Stardust attacking Stephen Amell and Kevin Owens powerbombing Machine Gun Kelly. Good ol’ inconsistent Creative. All that aside, Stewart took the AA like a champ. Good on him.
Yet more tag action with a huge 8 man tag match. It was (deep breath) Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Ryback and Randy Orton vs. Rusev, Big Show, Kevin Owens and Sheamus. Whilst eight man tag matches have been an injoke for longtime wrestling fans, especially when Teddy Long was General Manager, I enjoyed this one. It was probably the best actual match of the night. It was a lot of fun and it was incredibly enjoyable to wait for Wrestler X’s rival to get tagged in and for them to go at it. The match ended when Big Show swung for Randy Orton from the apron and missed, hitting Sheamus square in the face and leaving him open for a match winning RKO. Team Heel had a few words for Big Show and Rusev and Owens turned on him post match, beating the giant down. Then Team Babyface decided to get in on the action. Poor Big Show was hit with a Ziggler superkick before being lifted into the air by Cesaro and Ryback for a huge RKO from Orton. It was a great spot, but I feel sorry for Big Show, despite him being a douche. Hopefully he’ll get some retribution.
We got a short smoky room Wyatt family promo before the main event. It was great. Bray’s speech already seemed more focused and less boring and nebulous. He called out Roman for “selfishly” bringing Dean Ambrose into their feud. Wyatt formally introduced the “black sheep” of the family, Braun Strowman. So now we have a name. Awesome. I’m digging it.
More backstage action and John Cena was arrested and taken away on the orders of Triple H and Stephanie to prevent him from settling his score with Rollins and ruining his big night. Cena was escorted from the building.
Finally, the unveiling. Trips and Steph had some speeches to give and Triple H ranted about how Seth Rollins embodies “Hustle, loyalty and respect” way more than Cena ever did. Rollins then came out to make a speech of his own. He basically talked about how he deserved all of this and blah blah blah. All of the time Rollins was talking, I was looking at the sheet covering the statue, waiting for the Cena reveal. When the cover was finally taken off, fuckin’ Sting was there! It certainly surprised me. Sting attacked Rollins and drove him from the ring. He then picked up the WHC belt in a manner that suggested that he is gunning for Rollins’ title. Shit yes. Yeah Sting’s old now, but wrestling is one of the only places where something like this can happen. I’m completely down for Sting competing for the belt. Plus, Sting seemed to be in better shape than he was at Wrestlemania 30. Sign me up.
So, it was a cracker of an episode. Whilst there were bad parts, the surprises and story evolutions more than made up for them. We had some great storytelling and some cool matches to boot. Plus, the motherfucking Dudley Boyz are back. Instant five stars. Not even kidding.