Lots of video packages, a couple of multi-man matches, and some adjustments to No Mercy. It was the go-home show for a potentially huge PPV, did it feel like it?
Raw this week was a strange show. I found myself roughly two hours into it and wondering what I had actually seen. Practically nothing of note or excitement happened until the third hour. At which point it almost salvaged itself. Not a bad show, but not a good one. Certainly not what you’d expect from the final stop on the road to a PPV with two Wrestlemania worthy matches.
The show opened with Kurt Angle hyping said PPV. In the midst of advertising those big No Mercy matches he was interrupted by the Intercontinental Champion, The Miz. Who started to complain about his lack of participation in the PPV only for Kurt to announce that tonight he’d find a contender for Miz’s Championship. Elias, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy and Kurt Angle’s ‘son’ Jason Jordan would compete to see who’ll face Miz this Sunday.
The Miz briefly took aim at Kurt Angle’s relationship with his ‘son’ Jason Jordan last week. After this new announcement Miz doubled down on that and accused Kurt of nepotism. With that Jason Jordan came out and suggested putting The Miz’s cronies, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, in the Number One Contendership match, that way Miz would have no excuses when Jordan won. Kurt agreed and set up a Six-Pack Challenge for the main event.
Last week in my review I said I hoped WWE would begin to work of Jordan’s character. This week they showed signs of doing that. By defending his father and insisting on proving himself he is developing as a character. Being Kurt’s son is effecting who he is. It is not much, but it at least gives the young talent something to work with.
The Six-Pack Challenge was the main event of the evening. A very entertaining match, and to my eye Elias stood out the most, each week he is showing more potential. Good talker, good character and very comfortable in the ring. It was Jeff Hardy though that appeared to have the match won. A Swanton Bomb on Curtis Axel seemed destined to get the victory only for The Miz himself to interfere and throw Hardy from the ring. Jason Jordan capitalised and hit his finisher (kind of an elevated neckbreaker) to get the win. Perhaps a predictable finish, but it sets up what should be a good match on Sunday. Just as predictably The Miz and his Miztourage attacked Jordan post-match. With Miz ending the attack by calling Kurt’s son a ‘bastard’.
WWE seemed to lean rather a lot on the cheap pop a swear word can elicit. A ‘sh*t’ from Roman and a ‘b*tch’ from Brock Lesnar rounded out the night’s curse-word bonanza. The swear word in Roman’s promo seemed to add little other than to paint Roman as a bad-ass. But rather made him seem like a very naughty boy! It began a promo that was perhaps Reigns’ best of the feud. And I suppose his best in general. Not that I can think of much competition.
He began by rejecting claims that he is the next John Cena – Cena who was absent tonight, by the way. Roman said that if he truly was so much like Cena he wouldn’t have a job right now. He then directly referenced Alex Riley who was supposedly dropped by WWE after Cena deemed him too similar to himself. It, once again, shows this feud as one that flirts with ‘shoot’ elements but hits just wide of the mark. We all know criticisms of Roman being like Cena aren’t based on overt physical likenesses or character similarities, but rather on booking ones. A young, handsome Babyface given the ultimate push, saturating our screens and beating our heroes.
Of course talking about this would be far too meta and would ultimately ruin the reality element of the angle. So WWE are having to skirt around the edges of what is truly so fascinating about these two going head-to-head and bring up points that sometimes feel a little forced. One such point was Roman’s use of a 2012 promo in which John Cena took aim at The Rock’s continued absences. It was a point that, at the time, divided opinion. But whatever stance you take, John Cena here is something of a hypocrite, which Roman had no hesitation in pointing out. Roman calling out Cena in this way is perhaps the most valid criticism he has made so far and rounded out his best promo. But once again it all feels a little forced and lends a feeling that this feud is a patchwork. Cobbled together ideas because they can’t truly talk about the reason why this match is so anticipated.
It is a fascinating match and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. It is WWE’s two golden boys going one-on-one. The guys who are booked to win, win and win again. The chosen ones. Except they can’t really cut promos on that directly. So what we have is a pseudo-shoot angle that feels slightly wrong. But none the less it feels exciting. Whatever happens I sense a fantastic match coming our way on Sunday. I suspect that, assuming there are no shenanigans, Roman will get the win.
I counted six video packages last night. Among which were two to hype Asuka, one to hype Jennifer Lopez(seriously), and another to chart the courses of Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman ahead of Sunday’s Universal Championship match.
Said Championship match was further sold to us by way of a sit down interview. Two men separately but simultaneously being interviewed by Michael Cole. Billed as ‘Braun and Brock in the Hot Seat’. Which conjured images of both men in the same seat, which sadly didn’t happen.
Paul Heyman began on behalf of Brock Lesnar, and if you have seen Heyman cut a promo before you have seen this one. Verbose, engaging, but a tad repetitive at this point it has to be said. The most notable aspect of this segment was perhaps that Braun seemed so comfortable with the talking aspect of things. We know he is a fantastic act in ring, and a larger-than-life presence, but it is his talking that is most surprising. It has improved every time he’s been called upon. Like his physical abilities his promos are simple, to-the-point, and hard-hitting. He’s the Monster Among Men in every way.
Do you remember that feeling when the glass would smash and Stone Cold would come marching to the ring? Would it be too much to say that the ‘BRAAAAUUUUNN’ in Strowman’s theme is beginning to prick up the ears in the same way? Last night he appeared unannounced during an Enzo promo and utterly destroyed the Cruiserweight Championship number one contender. A mammoth chokeslam, a powerslam, then a departure. It certainly brings back those Steve Austin memories.
One of the six video packages of the night aired in the third hour. And it was a heartfelt and moving tribute to the beloved manager and colour-commentator, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan. A man whose voice narrated so many of my earliest memories of WWF. His voice and his presence added to the intoxicating blend of ridiculousness that was WWF in the early 90s; the product that is the reason I am sat here now writing about wrestling. Truly a one-off who left an indelible mark on the world of professional wrestling, enhancing the exploits of superstars who owe a debt for how he he connected us to them. I could list my memories of Heenan, but it would take the whole review. Instead I would just say thank you. Thank you, Bobby. Rest in Peace.
Elsewhere on Raw
The opening match of the night saw Alexa Bliss go up against Nia Jax. The match itself was hard to gauge. Rent in twain by an ad break the match was not bad but also barely began at all. Alexa seemed to show a good resistance to the powerful Jax, but ultimately fell victim to a Samoan Drop that ended the match. A mid-match run in from Sasha Banks led to a post-match attack, but Nia remained dominant. That was until, in San Jose, Bayley made her hometown return. Alongside Alexa and Sasha she bought Nia to the floor. Later in the night Bayley was added to the Raw Women’s Championship match at No Mercy. She will join Alexa, Sasha, Nia and Emma to make it a fatal five-way.
Backstage Goldust came to Kurt Angle, following last weeks loss to Bray Wyatt, to request a rematch. This time not as Goldust but rather as himself; Dustin Rhodes. Saying he refused to be a pawn in Bray’s game. By doing so he made himself even more of a pawn. It was a smart continuation of Bray’s attack on Finn Balor and his reliance on the ‘demon’. I am not sure if WWE intended for it but Dustin Rhodes played right into Wyatt’s hands with this. I enjoy Bray Wyatt as a character and love to see his machinations have some success. Handled well Bray could be such an asset for WWE.
At the end of the match Finn Balor appeared on the Tron. He spoke of his history and of how invented the demon; saying that if it was the man that created the ‘demon’ then perhaps the man is the one to be feared after all. Another smart take on a slightly squandered character. It is a shame that this angle feels as if it is being hidden away. It has developed three characters nicely but will more than likely be forgotten before long.
Nia Jax pins Alexa Bliss after a Samoan Drop
Cesaro & Sheamus defeat Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose and Gallows and Anderson
Apollo Crews gets the pinfall victory over Curt Hawkins
Bray Wyatt hits the Sister Abigail on Dustin Rhodes for the win
Neville defeats Gran Metalik via submission
Jason Jordan wins a 6-Pack Challenge