This was the first time in a very long time that watching Raw felt like I was watching an actual wrestling show as opposed to a poorly written soap opera. This week they put a major emphasis on wrestling and limited the amount of promos and pointless segments. Three hour Raws will always feel a bit too long, but this week Raw didn’t quite feel like a chore like it often does by the time we hit that third hour. And I chalk that up to the fact that the card was loaded with great wrestling matches and instead of trying to tell stories through poorly scripted and overlong promos, they opted to tell the stories in the ring and be more subtle about them. To top it off, for the first time in a long time, we had a main event that had some importance to it and gave viewers a reason to stick around and watch until the end. You see, when you just throw a bunch of guys out there for a pointless six man tag in the main event, no one cares, because the match doesn’t matter and everyone knows it. But when you build up the main event with a tournament and put some importance on the result of the main event, then people care.
Was it a perfect show? Absolutely not. But it was completely head and shoulders above Raw for the last few weeks.
The Authority opens the show: Botch
After such a great Hell in a Cell show – especially with that huge angle with the Wyatt Family and Undertaker closing the show – I’d hoped for something a little stronger to open this show. Perhaps an explanation for what happened to Undertaker, or John Cena’s send off as he won’t be around for the next few months, or something from the returning Alberto Del Rio. Instead, The Authority came out and I groaned. We got another longish Authority promo where Triple H and Stephanie raved about Seth Rollins. We’ve seen so many of these promos that they just don’t carry any meaning and they feel like they’re just killing time. However, this promo at least had a purpose, and that was to set up a #1 contenders mini-tournament for the show, stating that a new challenger for the world title would be named by the end of the show. Roman Reigns came out, and I really don’t like his promo delivery, but he at least kept it short this week. The problem with having Reigns as the only person prominently featured in these angles around the #1 contender tournament is that it makes it so obvious that he’s going to win.
Roman Reigns vs. Kofi Kingston: Hit
The New Day are always entertaining. But they are definitely missing something without Xavier Woods at ringside doing his usual routine. This was a solid match though. They went a decent length and the crowd was very much into it. Kofi didn’t even look that bad in losing given how competitive the match was. A very solid first match.
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens: Hit
Cesaro was the MVP in the pre-show match at Hell in a Cell. He’s just so damn good and it’s so disappointing that WWE just won’t do anything with him. They’ll give him the occasional meaningless win, but they’re obviously content with keeping him at the midcard level, despite the fact that the fans love him and he consistently delivers great performances. He works well with Owens as well. On one hand, it was unfortunate that Cesaro lost here, but I’m glad they’re at least mostly keeping Owens strong as the Intercontinental Champion.
Team PCB vs. Team Bella: Botch
Charlotte and Becky just come across as incredibly naive babyfaces to continue trusting Paige, even after she completely went heel on them the night after Charlotte won the title. They’ve tried to keep Paige as this tweener, but the fans all know that she’s going heel so this angle isn’t a surprise or twist for anyone except for the apparently clueless babyfaces in the story. And here they had the same PCB vs. Bella match that we’ve seen a thousand times. Made worse was the fact that the babyfaces lost for some reason. I really think PCB should have won. Charlotte is the Diva’s Champion and yet she is not booked like one. And with a PCB feud imminent, it seemed like it would make sense to keep the three girls strong. Instead they had to give Nikki her win back by having her pin Becky. And with Paige and Charlotte likely feuding over the belt, you can probably expect Becky to be eating all the losses over the next few weeks.
Paige attacks Becky and Charlotte: Hit
The match was stupid and 90% of the storyline to this point has been dumb – excluding Paige’s “pipebomb” a few weeks back. It was good to finally see some progression here though. Paige looked like a threat, taking out both Becky and Charlotte. I’m assuming we’ll get Paige vs. Charlotte at Survivor Series, or possibly a PCB triple threat, but more like a singles match. Hopefully the story improves from this point out.
Alberto Del Rio & Zeb Colter: Botch
I was as surprised as anyone when Alberto Del Rio came out to accept Cena’s US Open Challenge. I was expecting Jericho or an NXT call up. The thing I’m not sold on though, is the Zeb Colter and Del Rio pairing. They are two very different characters and really I’m not sure why Del Rio would need Zeb. I would have much preferred a Ricardo Rodriguez return with Del Rio instead and put Zeb back with Swagger to try and build him up again or something. The backstage interview between the two and Renee Young didn’t help sell the pairing for me any further.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Neville: Hit
A very solid match. It was a bit awkward though because the crowd isn’t ready to boo Alberto Del Rio yet. He’s just come back and made a big impact, it’s hard to get the crowd to turn on a returning star. But the crowd reaction aside, I thought this was a good match and Neville was excellent. I’d love to see them work more together.
Ryback & The Dudleyz vs. Barrett, Rusev & Sheamus: Hit
I’m disappointed that The Dudley Boyz have basically fallen far down the card already, although that should have been expected, but I have to admit that I was having fun watching The Dudleyz work with Ryback. It’s just such a great fit. They should repackage the guy as Ryback Dudley, he’d look good with some thick glasses and camo. As for the result? I don’t think there’s anyone on the roster that needs a win more than “King” Barrett. I loved how hard he celebrated after pinning Bubba, he treated it like an actual important moment. Something that scared me though, was JBL referring to Rusev in passing as the “Bulgarian Playboy”. If that sticks, then look forward to Rusev dancing out to the ring and doing the “Rusev Kiss Cam” segment each week.
The Wyatt Family abducts Kane: Botch
I still don’t really know what happened with Undertaker. According to Bray Wyatt, his soul is currently being ripped apart. I groaned when Kane came out, and then had a big face off with Braun Strowman. Nothing is less appealing to me than Kane vs. Braun Strowman. Also, no comment at all on Kane? He just lost his job with The Authority that he’s had for ages but they’re just going to move straight past that. Not that I necessarily wanted him to dwell on that, but it just seems like they’ve moved ahead already. I figure this will lead to a tag match at Survivor Series, which I guess is more preferable to Kane actually facing any of the Wyatt family in singles competition. But this angle didn’t do anything for me.
Big E vs. Dolph Ziggler: Hit
A great, fun match that kept the crowd’s attention. Ziggler was great and made Big E look like an absolute powerhouse – which he is. I also loved Tyler Breeze and Summer Rae (here on referred to as Summer Breeze) sitting at ringside in their own private V.I.P. area. I was expecting Breeze to get involved in the match here, but I guess they wanted Ziggler in the main event.
#1 Contenders Fatal Four-Way: Hit!
This was an excellent main event. When you consider all four guys had worked some fairly lengthy matches already (particularly Ziggler who got virtually no rest break), you have to appreciate the athleticism for them to still put on a stellar Raw main event. Another plus to it is that they each seemed to be having fun as well. I loved the interactions between Owens and Del Rio, and I also really want to see Owens vs. Reigns now. Seth Rollins sat in on commentary, and he improved things in my eyes. I liked that he was the only person on the announce desk that pointed out Dolph Ziggler’s disadvantage of not getting a rest. His fired up tirade once Reigns won the match was solid and I loved the stare down between Rollins and Reigns. It’s good that they at least seem to be promoting Rollins as confident in himself as opposed to the usual cowardly heel that he’s been for the last several months. The only downside to this match was the predictability of it. You knew Ziggler wasn’t going to win as he’s headed into a storyline with Summer Breeze, and Owens and Del Rio both as heels (and champions already) weren’t going to be facing Rollins. So it looks like it’s Reigns’ time. I’m not sure that they’re going to put the belt on him come Survivor Series, as that seems like a moment that they would want to save for Wrestlemania. But nevertheless, we have a new person in the world title feud and this show – despite being the Roman Reigns Show – succeeded in its attempt to build up Reigns. I’m also interested to see where Dean Ambrose will sit in all of this as his character seems to have no direction at the moment, yet he’s still very heavily tied to Reigns and Rollins. Could we have a Shield triple threat on the horizon? In any case, this Raw was solid and worth watching.
All photos credit to WWE.com