A sad opening for Raw this week as they paid tribute to the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper who died a few days ago. The entire locker room gathered on the ramp for a ten bell salute in memory of the man. This one gutted me. I’m a huge fan of both his in-ring work and his films, with They Live being one of my all-time favourites. Rest in peace, Hot Rod. You will be severely missed.
On to the actual show. After a pointless replay of Rollins breaking Cena’s nose from multiple angles, Seth Rollins came out to gloat about it, handily ignoring the fact he lost the actual match. I say the replay was pointless because Rollins showed the clip again as well as post match photos of Cena looking like a Picasso original. I know there are numb brains out there, but quite why we were shown a clip minutes before we were shown it again is baffling.
Anyway, Rollins cut a decent promo about how he believes himself to be the only person in his way and how he’s been too “sympathetic”. As Cena was off, he decided to hold an open challenge of his own, putting the World Heavyweight Championship on the line. The challenge did come with two caveats: number one, the challenger has to be under 6” and number two, they had to be under 200 pounds. Expecting El Torito, Los Matadores‘ diminutive bull man, Rollins waited eagerly. El Torito‘s music hit, but was soon replaced with Neville‘s entrance, the high-flying Geordie meeting both requirements. It was fucking on.
The match was stellar. I’ve talked about near falls before, but this was the near fallsiest match ever. Neville had Rollins with a bridging pin and it was a 2.9 count I swear. The slow motion replay confirmed he didn’t get the three count. What incredible timing by both men. Later on the match, Neville hit the Red Arrow and rolled Rollins up for the pin. This time he got the three count, but Rollins’ foot was on the rope. I was convinced we had a new champ for a split second. Frustrated, Neville went to the top rope again to seal the deal but Rollins dodged, got to his feet and hit a devastating Pedigree on Neville, giving Rollins the pinfall victory. Here are the reasons why the match was so fantastic. 1) Neville looked like a million bucks 2) Rollins looked strong, retained the title cleanly and looked devious as anything doing it 3) it surprised me. Being an adult wrestling fan is tough sometimes because it’s easy to recognise the formula in WWE’s storytelling. It’s hard to be suckered in. The match made me believe that Neville was going to be crowned despite knowing that he logically wouldn’t. Match of the year shortlist entry for sure.
8 man tag action followed. Lucha Dragons vs. New Day vs. The Ascension vs. Los Matadores. Tag champs Prime Time Players again took commentary duty to keep an eye on their competitors. I enjoyed the match, but we’ve seen it all before. Xavier Woods is still doing amazing work as an annoying hype man, shouting jibes at PTP. New Day picked up a decent win after Kofi managed to hit Trouble in Paradise on a distracted Kalisto.
Paige, Becky Lynch and Charlotte are calling themselves the “Submission Sorority” now. I’d make a joke, but it’s pretty obvious where I would go with it. Anyway, Charlotte and Becky took on the Bella twins. I really enjoyed the match. The Bellas get a lot of flak, but I thought they were great here. Nikki also hit a wicked spinebuster on Charlotte that made me cheer and wince at the same time. Ultimately, the Submission Sorority won out as Charlotte managed to lock her signature Figure 8 hold on Nikki and gave the champ no choice but to tap out. With the promise of Naomi taking on Paige later that night, I couldn’t be happier with how the women’s division is being presented, especially as two women’s matches per show are the norm now.
Miz TV returned with The Miz opening proceedings with an acknowledgement of the debt segments like his owe to Roddy Piper’s “Piper’s Pit” bit, which was nice. The guests were Kevin Owens and Cesaro, there to explain their recent beef with each other. Owens came out first and talked about how much of a fan he was of The Miz and how he owned all of his films on Blu-ray, which was a funny detail. When asked what the deal was, Owens speculated that Cesaro was jealous of his accomplishments. Not wanting to wait his turn, Cesaro came out to dispute that. It was an enjoyable bit. Owens is awesome on the mic and whilst Cesaro isn’t anything special, he’s got charisma to burn. Having the two argue with the Miz excitedly egging them on was a lot of fun. Both men telling the Miz to shut up was pretty amusing and Owens’ stone-cold line to Miz was worth the price of admission alone : “Why don’t you let the two guys who can actually fight handle this, eh bud?”. Naturally, Owens declined to fight unless it was on his own terms. Cesaro goaded him by telling him to “walk Owens, walk” but KO was seemingly having none of it. Losing control of his show, the Miz confronted Cesaro, only to be pushed into him by Kevin Owens. Owens tried to set up the Pop-up Powerbomb, but Cesaro countered, trying to give him a Big Swing. Owens wriggled out of Cesaro’s grasp and kicked him away, disappearing under the bottom rope and made his sullen way up the ramp and backstage, leaving a pumped-up Cesaro in the ring. Entertaining segment. I’m definitely looking forward to Cesaro vs. Owens at Summerslam. Should be a real treat.
Rusev went up against Mark Henry. It was mostly a filler match. Rusev delivered a few well-placed superkicks to Henry’s face, the second one giving Rusev the pinfall victory. Rusev wasn’t done and superkicked Henry a third time and roared in the middle of the ring. In the words of commentator Byron Saxton “Yeah, we get it Rusev- you’re dominant.” Not much to say about it, it was just to remind us that Rusev is an actual threat rather than a cartoon character. Fine, I guess.
The Wyatts had something to say next, but it was a flower-flavoured version of what we’ve heard before. Roman, you’re not special, anyone but you etc. Luke Harper chimed in to similarly warn Dean Ambrose. Then Sheamus apparently stumbled across the smoky room and decided to threaten Randy Orton too. Wyatt said that he’s always admired Sheamus‘ brutal tactics and told him that he could consider both of them friends for the main event 6 man tag match. Whilst it was a kick to see Sheamus cut a smoky room promo, Wyatt’s ramblings are just the same things over and over again in different wrappers. The feud started with so much bite and now it’s back to vague, easy to ignore mocking. It’s a little frustrating as I love a good Wyatt promo and I’ve not been feeling them of late.
It was time for a “Creative has nothing for you” match as King Barrett faced Zack Ryder. Whilst Ryder got some good offence in, including a solid Broski Boot right to the side of Barrett’s head, it was clear it was only going to go one way. Sure enough, Barrett countered the Rough Ryder and left Ryder dazed enough to be open to a Bull Hammer, which sent him crashing to the mat and giving Barrett ample time to get the three count. This whole king gimmick has done nothing but devalue a great wrestler. Zack Ryder deserves better too.
Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar came out to address the Undertaker once again. We all know Heyman is brilliant on the mic and he gave a great performance. It was mostly the same “Brock’s going to beat you” stuff he’s done for weeks, but everything Heyman says is so compelling it feels like new information. Brock smiled and jigged around a bit and the segment was over. A Heyman promo is never a bad thing and this was one of the classics. Heyman and Lesnar are a powerful duo.
The scheduled match between Paige and Naomi was up next. It wasn’t anything special. It was how the Divas matches were before the “revolution”, competent but short and not worth getting excited for. After a fairly even battle, Naomi misjudged a top rope move and ate shit as she crashed to the canvas. Paige managed to get the hurt Naomi into her signature PTO submission hold and Naomi tapped, giving the Submission Sorority their second win of the night. I like the way the Divas are being presented as pretty equal. Each team has a legit chance of becoming the dominant one and we’re getting some interesting match-ups. Well, not this one, but in general.
A small bit of backstage promoing went before the main event. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose got to cut a Shield-esque promo, paraphrasing Nada’s famous line from They Live: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”.Randy Orton appeared from the back to get the Shield boys to leave Sheamus to him.
Finally, the 6 man tag pitting Randy Orton, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose against Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Sheamus got underway. It was a decent enough battle, but not particularly involving. All the fan favourites got to do their signature moves to big cheers but it was a bit of a hollow experience. It was all so disappointingly standard. Also, I was waiting the entire match for Orton to get his hands on Sheamus, but they barely interacted. In the closing moments of the match, Orton dodged a Brogue Kick and Reigns Speared Sheamus to the ground, pinning him for the win. Despite his words earlier, Orton didn’t seem to care that somebody else got to Sheamus and celebrated with Reigns and Ambrose. A weak finish to a decent show.
So yeah, average episode of Raw this week. The opening match was a blinder and despite a brief jump when Heyman got on the mic, the in-ring action was rather average and just remixes of what we seem to get every week.