I’ve been sceptical about the brand extension, but if this Raw is any indication of the quality of product going ahead, then I’ve been sceptical over nothing. This was the best Raw I’ve seen in a long time. Probably years. It was incredibly newsworthy with a major title change, some debuts, and a huge upset. WWE knocked it out of the park.
Finn Balor and the main event
I can’t remember the last time someone had such a strong and impactful debut. Kevin Owens, maybe? But even he wasn’t put into a world title match at SummerSlam on his first night. Balor made his long overdue WWE debut by competing in an awesome fatal four-way against Rusev, Kevin Owens and Cesaro, and then defeating ROMAN REIGNS in the main event. 100% clean. This would have been unfathomable one month ago. It’s obvious that the powers that be aren’t looking at Roman the same way they previously did. I’m not sure if they are permanently going in a different direction or they’re easing off on him to focus on fresh talent like Balor. But whatever the case – this was a fantastic debut with unexpected booking, and just like that, Finn Balor is a main roster star in one night. His main event with Reigns was also really solid and had a big match feel. I do wonder why they don’t go heel with Roman though, if they aren’t focusing on him as the top face. But that might still happen in the next few weeks.
Sasha Banks wins the WWE Women’s Championship
I’ll get my nitpicking out of the way right now — why was this given away on Raw and not put on SummerSlam? I get that they wanted a big major title change to talk about coming out of Raw, but I felt like this could have had more value on SummerSlam. That being said, this was a great match. Sasha and Charlotte both worked a fantastic match together, and it went over so well. I love how well protected the Women’s Championship is now and they’re really trying to make it on par with the world title. While I don’t see the women main eventing any pay-per-views any time soon, I think that time is coming eventually. Sasha Banks will make for a great Women’s Champion. I guess they’ll do a rematch at SummerSlam, then Nia Jax will likely be built up as a monster challenger for Sasha sometime down the line. That’ll be interesting.
This week, we also saw the return of the squash match. No name jobbers were brought in as pure enhancement talent for Nia Jax and Braun Strowman respectively. I’m still not convinced that Nia Jax is ready for the main roster, or that Braun Strowman is going to do well on his own. But that being said, having them win squashes and demolish jobbers every week as they gradually work their way up the card is a great idea and I really hope they continue this trend.
The two fatal four-ways designed to set up a challenger to Seth Rollins were both excellent matches. Balor’s win was a huge surprise and everyone performed well and looked good. The selection of stars was also fresh and it felt like anyone could possibly win here at the start of the “new era”. At times I actually thought someone like Cesaro, Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn might even move onto the main event, and that kind of unpredictability is something that wrestling has been missing.
This Raw felt fresh. I know the excitement of all of the changes will die down eventually, but everything about this show was different. From the graphics and logos, to the set, the camera angles, the announcing booth and I also really liked the post-match interviews they were doing. It’s very old school, but also similar to say, UFC. It’s nice to hear from the talent while they’re still in the moment and fully in character, rather than in some over produced backstage interview where they’re struggling to remember their lines.
The New Day Celebration
Eh, this was one of those New Day promos that didn’t really hit the mark. The video package was neat, and it’s great that they have their own legit cereal now. But the Sonny Boy stuff was bad, and then it dragged forever. I’m interested to see how strong The Club get pushed going against The New Day. Will they be pushed all the way into a major heel team or are they just going to be more time filler challengers to Thew New Day? As much as I dig their act, I’m just starting to feel like it’s time for a title change. Let’s see The New Day chase as babyfaces for a change.
Neville vs. Mr. Irrelevant
My god, you know your career is in a rough place when the ring announcer introduces you as “Mr. Irrelevant”. I know they’re going for some cheap laughs but it’s so depressing that they’re taking the son of Mr. Perfect and calling him Mr. Irrelevant. It’s true, he is completely irrelevant, but they still shouldn’t say that. And this was not the awesome return match that Neville needed. He needed a stronger win, a better match and some more hype. Instead he only got a very brief moment of hype before the match started, then he had a back and forth match with “Mr. Irrelevant” himself before losing. Ugh.
Enzo & Cass vs. The Shining Stars
Enzo & Cass are one of WWE’s hottest acts right now. They have to strike while the iron is hot, and putting them in goofy segments with The Shining Stars and The Golden Truth isn’t the way to do that. It’s tricky because the tag division is in a shambles right now, but hopefully they can fit them in somewhere. This match was no good.
WWE Universal Championship
I want to tell myself that the name of the new belt will grow on me. But it won’t. That name sucks.
All photos via WWE.com