A potential Wrestlemania main event in the mid card, a mid card match as the main event, two promo battles, and an exciting new signing for Raw! It was an action-packed show, but was it any good?
Raw began with the Big Dog himself coming out for his scheduled match against Jason Jordan. Roman Reigns continues to lean into his more heel-ish tendencies as the weeks progress. And it’s a look that suits him. It took WWE a couple of years to figure it out, but finally he is something close to what he always should have been.
The match opened with Reigns refusing a hand shake. But after a hard fought 1-2-3 victory Roman deemed his opponent worthy. The match itself was very reminiscent of Jordan’s outing against John Cena last week. Competitive, entertaining, and meant to convey that Jordan is to be taken seriously. And while he certainly has the look and in-ring ability to do big things in WWE, he still lacks any kind of character. The revelation that he is Kurt Angles kayfabe son put eyes on him, but it has led nowhere in terms of character development. WWE need to work on that if they want him to be a star.
The match itself was solid – comfortably the best of the night – and ended after a Superman Punch/Spear combo. Jason Jordan was nearly up to the challenge but ultimately fell short. The same can be said of Roman Reigns in the following exchange…
Enter; John Cena. Here we go with another edition of the weekly Cena/Reigns promo battle. Once again John Cena took aim at Reigns’ ability on the mic. And Reigns hit back with his own mockery of Cena’s in-ring ability. A tenuous and out-dated criticism, but quite funny none the less. Roman makes the point that it is usually Cena who gets called-out; but this time Cena is doing the challenging. An interesting point, because it has some truth. In the past John Cena has been the King of all he surveys, taking on and dispatching any and everyone who challenges his dominance, never having to make challenges of his own. Until now. He may be schooling Roman Reigns on the mic, but the entire shape of this feud suggests just another attempt to get Roman Reigns over. To make him look less like WWE’s pet project and more like someone we might rally behind. Will it work? If Roman can find a voice and hit back more consistently perhaps it will. But as of now the Big Dog is proving he is what most thought he was. Very good, but ultimately not quite at the top level.
Later in the night John Cena came out for his own one-on-one match. A match I thought would be saved for Wrestlemania or at least a Big 4 PPV. But who am I to complain? We’re getting it now instead; John Cena goes up against Braun Strowman.
The match went entirely as expected considering Braun’s upcoming No Mercy Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar. The Monster Among Men relentlessly dominated John Cena – continuing his impressive run and proving that his larger than life antics are the reason to tune into Raw.
It was a match quite reminiscent of Brock Lesnar’s return match against John Cena at Extreme Rules in 2012. Total dominance over the Leader of the Cenation. Even the ring-steps ended up in the same place! But this match did not see John Cena get the unlikely pin-fall victory. Instead the match ended in a DQ when said ring-steps were used to brutalise Cena.
This was not Braun’s first appearance of the evening. Earlier in the night he was called out by Paul Heyman on behalf of his client, Brock Lesnar. In what has become a pretty generic Paul Heyman verbal diatribe the Advocate for the Beast conceded that Braun may be bigger and stronger than Brock; but is he ‘badder’?
A question Braun had no problem answering. Strowman marched down to the ring, traded blows with Lesnar and got levelled by a German Suplex. Game over right? Wrong. Braun Strowman rolled onto his feet and sold not even a fraction of the move. A complete Undertaker-style no-sell. An awesome sight. Braun hit a chokeslam and stood with his foot on Brock’s chest to close out the segment. It is becoming difficult to think of any more praise for Braun or how he has been handled. Next step, I hope, is to become Universal Champion in two weeks at No Mercy. Instinct tells me Brock will retain… but I can’t help but feel the time is right to pull the trigger on Strowman and make him Champion.
Later in the night came Enzo Amore’s scheduled appearance on Miz TV. And I have to say it only occurred to me as Enzo entered the ring that these two one-on-one with mics in hand had huge potential. The segment was advertised before Raw and didn’t especially excite me. But I should have been excited, because these are two of the best talkers around right now; and going head-to-head they proved it!
It began with Maryse and Miz announcing that they are expecting a child. Which is lovely news. That baby is going to be super-stylish and very charismatic! But before Miz could dwell on it Enzo interrupted. Continuing his characterisation as a Face who is pretty Heel-ish a lot of the time. It is an angle I like. It is very Attitude era and though that time is looked at with rose-tinted glasses it certainly gave us plenty of colourful and layered characters. Enzo is a big example of WWE’s current experimentation with the Heel/Face dichotomy. They play with it to varying degrees of success, but in Enzo it seems they have found the right conduit. A man who makes you laugh despite knowing he’s a bit of a jerk.
The Miz began by roasting Enzo. Bringing up the now well-known fact that Enzo is largely disliked backstage and not welcome on tour buses or in locker rooms. The Miz explained how he went through similar times but ultimately learnt from it, something Enzo isn’t doing. It was a pointed and typically heated promo from Miz and seemed like Amore had no way back. But he shot back well – telling The Miz that he is unoriginal, that he’s a copy of better wrestlers. And that Enzo himself is a true one-off. It was a battle that, like Cena/Reigns, flirted with shoot elements. But the fact that both men are comfortable on the mic gave it a frisson that the bigger feud is perhaps missing.
The segment segued into a match. Enzo was dominated, as expected, with The Miz effectively bullying his opponent. I sense the entire segment was built to test Enzo. An element of sink-or-swim. The fact is Enzo is a talent on the mic and proved it again. An entertaining segment all-in-all.
Elsewhere on Raw
In the Women’s division Sasha Banks got the submission victory over Emma. Alexa Bliss and later Nia Jax joined the commentary team. The four will compete for Alexa Bliss’s Raw Women’s Championship at No Mercy. There is little more to say about this. Which is a shame. The Women’s Division has come on a lot over the past two years. But it’s showing signs of slipping back into it’s old place again. I hope that isn’t the case.
There was one very exciting sign that the Women’s Division is still on the agenda. Raw announced it’s signing of dominant NXT Superstar, Asuka. I really hope WWE know what they have in her and don’t get this wrong. She is a star and I cannot wait to see her debut.
Bray Wyatt was in action against Goldust. And in a pre match promo likened Goldust’s reliance on his paint and persona to that of Finn Balor and his demon. A good angle, I think. And adds some life to an angle I thought had died. Bray and Finn will go head-to-head or, rather, man-to-man at No Mercy in two weeks time.
The night’s main event was a match that seemed to belong on the mid card somewhere. A brawl earlier in the night lead to Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose mismatched against ‘The Club’ and ‘The Bar’ – which are both in fact tag teams, not late-night drinking establishments.
Left short-handed Kurt Angle suggested Rollins and Ambrose find two more superstars so they could compete in an eight-man tag match. The two superstars they found were The Hardy Boys. Then it struck me… is this the dawn of Broken Matt Hardy on WWE television? A random eight-man tag in the main event? Why? What shenanigans are forthcoming? As it happened… none. The match just ended. And so too did Raw.
Roman Reigns defeated Jason Jordan via pinfall
Sasha Banks defeated Emma via Submission
Bray Wyatt pins Goldust after a Sister Abigail
Elias hits the Drift Away to defeat Kalisto
Braun Strowman vs John Cena ends in a DQ after Strowman uses the ring-steps
The Miz vs Enzo Amore. DQ via inteference from the ‘Miztourage’.
Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and The Hardy Boys defeat Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Sheamus and Cesaro.