It was more than time to change the Raw set, and I love what they did, other than putting announce back up by the stage again. I will never understand why it's up there. It didn't work last time they did in on Raw, it didn't work well for WCW or TNA. The only place it's worked is NXT, and I think that's because arena size. Otherwise, I think it's a daft move, and they look silly standing up there when the camera is on them.
One thing that was noticed by WNW commenter Dustyn, was that the opening video usually ends with the face of the company, this new video ended with Sasha Banks! CJ then mentioned that the video opened with Seth Rollins. After re-watching the opening video, I noticed that Rollins was the last male shown on the video before Sasha Banks. Now, we know Rollins will be leading Raw, but I love that Sasha is so prominently displayed in the video as well. I'm excited for the future of the WWE, something I'd not been feeling a lot of for a couple years, until recently. I'm very glad that I stuck with wrestling, even through my short hiatus last November, because it looks as though we are going into a beautiful rebirth of the WWE.
I have to thank a few people before we jump in. I had a health issue during Raw, so Big M stepped in to write one match for me. Then a thunderstorm came through and I missed the very end of Sasha's match and the aftermath. Zack got me set up with video so I could watch all of it before writing about it. Jesse posted the Raw opening video, so I was able to review it above. I have to thank all of you, as well as the names mentioned above, and everyone in the WNW Open Thread Discussion, you kept the ideas flowing and the excitement up. If you've never checked out the WNW Open Thread Discussions during Raw, SmackDown, NXT, or PPVs, you don't know what you're missing out on. The rules might seem strict, but that's just to keep our community friendly and not fall into the nastiness much of the IWC seems to foster.
In Ring Segment > A-
I have to say it seems as though the fans weren't as into this opening segment as they should have been. I loved that Steph gave Reigns a whole heaping ration of crap. Obviously, he's staying face and will be taking Steph's crap all the time, kinda like Rocky did from McMahon years ago. I'm not sure how I feel about the name of the new Championship, but I will give them points for keeping up with the times and creativity. The WWE Universal Championship will take a bit to get used to, but it has some ring to it. The first holder of that strap will be remembered forever, like Jericho being the first Unified Champion. It's something big, and will never be taken away from the winner.
I love that Sami Zayn was the first announced as fighting for the #1 Contender spot for the new strap. He looked giddy when he stepped up, and that's one of the things I love about Sami, he's so real, shows how he's feeling with all he is. Actually, all the wrestlers in the matches made sense. Even Sheamus and Jericho were good ideas, even though they were barely more than fillers. They'd both been Champions before, so it worked that they were added in. So much greatness on that stage, all of it just waiting to explode for the fans. It was great to see.
#1 Contendership Fatal Four Way – Cesaro vs Owens vs Balor vs Rusev > A
These four NXT guys killed it in this match. Going into this match, the big question was who would win it, Balor or KO? Honestly, the other two didn't have a chance, because of how things are at this moment on Raw. Yes, Rusev could be WWE Universal Champion at some point, but right now isn't that point. As much as I adore Cesaro, he really should have been drafted to SmackDown, it would be a much better place for him. Balor in this match on his first night (other than his match with Cena) is fantastic, and right where the fans want him, but few come in and win the big one out of the blocks.
So that leaves KO or Balor to win this one, and KO has been poised for so long for this, it has to be him going over. I just hope he can get over Reigns in the next match.
The one things Balor did that bothered me was seeing him slap his leg as he kicked Rusev in the face from the apron. I can't say enough great about Balor, but that's something that irks me in wrestling. ADR does it so often, and is so obvious about it, and it's one of those things that pisses me off about him. Seeing Balor so obviously doing it made me twitch, but I'll get over it. Even being said, I'd be shocked to see Balor go over in this first match, though I'd love to see him go on and face Rollins at SummerSlam!
These four are absolutely part of the future, and even the now, of the WWE, and they more than proved that they are the men to be leading the charge. Sadly the other Fatal Four Way Match isn't as stacked as this one. Sheamus and Jericho killed much of my want to see that second match tonight, though I'm sure the other two will pull it out.
And already I'm eating crow, and I'm thrilled to do it. I was working off #WWELogic and their inability to give us something fresh and creative. The WWE has become old and boring – other than Battleground – and so bleeping predictable. I thought there was no way Balor would win this out of the blocks, and that KO obviously had this win. I was wrong, and I'm thrilled!
Winner – Finn Balor
Nia Jax vs Britt Baker > B-
If I was comparing this match to the matches of two years ago, it would have received an A, but times have changed. She had such nerves going out there, and she showed that she's still green, but as the match went on she got more comfortable and into the groove. I think it was too early for her to come up, but she has a great look, and she's not the cookie cutter by any stretch, so I'm excited to see what she can do. And what a smile that woman has!
Winner – Nia Jax
Backstage Segment > A-
Goldust and R-Truth were hysterical with Sasha, and Sasha so obviously had fun with it, but Sasha is great in all she does. She has more personality and charisma than most women in the WWE combined! While I'm not sure she will win her match clean tonight, as I'm sure Charlotte and Dana will cheat, but it will set up for them facing off at SummerSlam and Sasha finally winning the strap and leading the women of the WWE!
#1 Contendership Fatal Four Way Match – Sami Zayn vs Reigns vs Sheamus vs Jericho > A-
The lineup for this match just isn't as good as the first one, and honestly, who thought anyone but Reigns would win this? I'd love for Sami to win it, thinking about him facing Balor would be epic! Further, either facing Rollins at SummerSlam would leave the fans of the great wrestling Sami has done this year in awe, and Balor is just as sick. So much greatness in the WWE these days, but then guys like Jericho and Sheamus are slowing things down in a huge way.
Jericho's ring work just isn't what it used to be, and I'm noticing that much more as I watch the WWE from 2002. He was solid greatness then, but now he's slowed down, and his stoner character is off-putting – and not in a good way. Sheamus is decent in the ring, though he can't keep up with the four from the previous Fatal Four Way, or with Sami, so he is only slowing this down. And Reigns is Reigns, they need to turn him heel, but the role they've put him in as of this episode of Raw, as the one Steph will be abusing for losing the strap to Ambrose, there's no way to do that without turning Steph face, and that wouldn't work, even if turning Steph made any sense at this point.
This was a lot more bit power moves, but Sami did a great job of staying in it, even though he's known for his creativity more than his raging power. Honestly, this match was better than I expected it to be after the first one, but it's not been as impressive as the first one. As much as I wanted Sami to win this, I didn't think there was any way Reigns could lose this one. I just truly hope Balor beats Reigns in the main event because I'd much rather see Balor face Rollins at SummerSlam than Reigns. I feel as though that's a ship that should come back around, but it's too soon for them to face off again, especially for a new Championship.
Winner – Reigns
In Ring Segment > A-
New Day was fantastic, and it's obvious that some of what they do is ad-libbed, which is something McMahon is so against most of the time. Obviously, they've more than proven themselves in that area. Their work with Sonny Boi was fantastic, and I'll be shocked if we don't get more chants for him in the weeks to come.
It was only a matter of time before New Day's party was broken up, and I'm willing to be they will lose their gold at SummerSlam. It's time for the gold to move on, and they've broken the record. I think Anderson and Gallows will be solid and scary Tag Team Champs.
Axel vs Neville > B
Super good to see Neville back in the ring after such a gruesome looking injury. He definitely didn’t miss a step, hitting all his trademark high spots. I think I’m the only person who feels bad about how low Curtis Axel’s career has sunk. I mean, sure, he’s no main eventer, but I don’t think he’s quite jobber level either. I don’t know if it was the spot on the card or the fact people don’t see much in Axel, but the crowd seemed genuinely disinterested in what was actually not a half bad match. Neville got the clean win hitting the Red Arrow on Axel in an okay return bout.
Winner – Neville
Backstage Segment > C+
What happened to Backlund's tie? I honestly hope there was a Pokemon under his tie and Goldust posts a picture of it. Knowing the WWE, they worked at it to make sure they were able to get the shot.
Backstage Segment > F
Charlotte should not be talking! Not that her father was any better, and Dana isn't great, but Charlotte's screaming hurts my brain. She's not the total package, the way Sasha is, and shouldn't be pushed to do things she's very obviously terrible at because she's not getting any better!
WWE Women's Championship Match – Charlotte (c) vs Sasha Banks > A+
What a great match from the bell. Sasha continues to prove that she's the leader of the Divas' Revolution and should be the face of the WWE Women's Division. Through most of the match, I was sure that Dana would cause a DQ of some sort and this would lead to Sasha facing Charlotte at SummerSlam with Dana banned from ringside. But then Sasha channeled her idol Eddie with a bit of lie, cheat and steal, giving face that Eddie would be proud of. That evened the score and I knew that Sasha just had to win this match, she deserved to win this match.
Now, I want to take nothing away from Charlotte. We've all been trashing on her mic skills and how she's retained her strap, but the work she put into this match was beautiful. Yes, Sasha landed bad from her dive, or it looked bad, but obviously Charlotte caught enough of Sasha that she wasn't hurt from it. Though, after that dive, and Big E's dive, and the dives Bryan took, I'm wondering if there should be some regulations put on those dives. I still flash back to that sick dive Lita took where she crashed into the barricade. If you don't know the dive, look it up, but only if you have a strong stomach!
Charlotte's moonsault off the corner to the outside was epic. That move took this match from greatness to PPV level of greatness. Heck, this match was WrestleMania level of greatness, and I really expect to see a lot more like it going forward. That moonsault was beautiful, made even more beautiful by Charlotte's blonde hair flying out as she spun in the air. Lastly, her figure 8 that ended up sliding from the ring, but still holding on was also lovely. She does a great job with that hold, even though it's something that's been well used since well before she was born.
But it was Sasha's beautiful ring work that won in the end, and she deserved it. Heck, Charlotte broke kayfabe for a moment as she walked away. It was obvious that she was drained, and upset that she lost the Women's Championship, but she was also thrilled and proud of her friend for the work they did together in that ring. The look on Charlotte's face told the story behind the story, and at moments like that, I have little issue with kayfabe being forgotten. She quickly got it back and looked snotty when she was leaving, but that first camera shot of her was a beautiful moment.
And then there was the beautiful moment Sasha had in the ring with the belt, and then with Byron. He let her talk, and she was very HBK with that belt. Something about the way she was looking at that belt brought me back to HBK on his knees, crying, head bowed to the belt. Her girlhood dream became reality.
Winner & new Women's Champion – Sasha Banks
James Ellsworth vs Strowman > B
While Strowman looked better than ever here, heck, it might be the best thing to get him away from The Wyatt Family, it was confusing to have the jobber talk the way he did. It was more like dead man walking getting final words, but strange. I do like that they're using jobbers a bit for certain people, it will help get them over, and it's better than using Slater for that role each week! (I know he wasn't drafted, but I still adore him.) This showed a great side of Strowman, and hopefully he can continue to show that he's more than gawky backup for Bray.
Winner - Strowman
Backstage Segment > B
Loving Goldust and R-Truth playing Pokemon Go! I've played Ingress for a couple years now, and if you love Pokemon Go for the type of game it is, not exactly for the Pokemon, then maybe Ingress could be your thing. It's all about being part of one of two teams, claiming Portals for your team and the wonderful backstory behind it all. A number of the Pokestops and gyms in my area are Portals that I submitted over the couple years I'd been playing Ingress. Because I'm a member of the Resistance (blue) in Ingress, I am Team Mystic in Pokemon Go! I have to admit that Niantic (the company that made both games) did a wonderful job of using Ingress as almost a beta for Pokemon Go, and all of us players have helped them build this game into something great, and then they used the interface to make Pokemon Go a really solid game (there will always be some bugs in the beginning) from the start. I'm quite impressed with the way Niantic did things, and Pokemon Go has brought myself and a number of my friends back to playing Ingress on a regular basis as well, because it's so easy to hack Portals and hit Pokestops at the same time. So if you're interested in a more mature game along the same lines as Pokemon Go, check out Ingress.
Enzo & Cass vs Shining Stars > A-&B
Enzo and Cass on mic are fantastic. Cass had a little stumble, but I'm more than willing to give them the stumble than I am Charlotte who was not only horrible on mic, but also stumbled. They are so good, but they were interrupted by the likes of Primo and Epico? Now, don't get me wrong, I used to love the cousins, even after Carlito left the WWE under not the best reasons, but Los Matadores killed off most of the love I had for them, and this whole shining star crap ended it. Primo and Epico are better than this, and should have been pushed better than this much earlier, but they weren't, and their time has passed and we are all so over them. It's almost silly that they are still around and doing this shining stars thing, and even worse than they're cutting off guys like Enzo and Cass with it. They released Sandow and have kept these two around? They had nothing for Sandow, yet these two are still running with this gimmick that died on the first video promo that was aired? They let Sandow walk away when there's so much room for greatness like his? I even would have put up with Sandow on SmackDown, which would have been a great spot for him, if it meant Sandow was in the WWE. I would rather be writing about Sandow myself, but I could have handled watching him on SmackDown and lamenting about him in the Post Show section here, instead we don't have Sandow and I'm continuing to lament about it to anyone who will listen, though obviously the WWE isn't listening or doesn't care that a huge part of their fanbase misses Sandow more than Batista, Heidenreich, Adam Rose, Christian, and even possibly Lance Storm, combined!
Winners – Enzo & Cass
Backstage Segment > B+
I loved the interaction between Balor and Reigns. The ethnic comments were clean, not derogatory, but strong and to the point. Reigns is still too close to being face, but that's me being annoyed at McMahon more than anything.
#1 Contendership Match – Finn Balor vs Roman Reigns > A-
I know this is because I've been watching WWE 2002 lately, but I noticed that Reigns' powerbombs, over and over reminds me of someone else in the WWE, or at least like that person when he first debuted. When Brock Lesnar started with the WWE in 2002 he took out both Matt and Jeff Hardy with the same style of powerbombs over and over. I was noting how Brock hit them, and it made me notice that Reigns was doing the same thing. Normally I wouldn't think much of it, but Reigns and Brock have so much in common right now, from how they've been pushed down our throats to popping piss tests when they most needed to pass them. They obviously haven't been eating their Booty O's!
From the start of this match, and I'll admit that I'm writing this later, not during the match, because I really just wanted to enjoy the match at that point, I was sure Reigns would be winning the match, even though the last thing I wanted to see at SummerSlam was Rollins facing Reigns for the new WWE Universal Championship. I hoped through it all that Balor had a chance, but I wasn't sure they'd pull the trigger on him on his first official night on the Raw roster. I'm so glad they did. I'm so excited for SummerSlam now, and know that one of two very deserving men will hold the honor of being the very first WWE Universal Champion, and we all know, from Patterson and Jericho, that being the first holder of a prestigious Championship is something that will stick with a wrestler for the rest of their career, the rest of their life. Reigns might be deserving, or I might have thought he was deserving, before the Wellness violation, even after the way he'd been jammed down our throats, but now, I'm so glad things are unfolding as they are, when they are, because Reigns isn't the right person to hold this new Championship first.
I've really tried to cut back on my screaming and yelling at the telly lately, mostly because my health is going wonky again and it truly hurts to yell and bounce around in excitement. I have no clue how Brock Lesnar was able to do all he did with his gut leaking for six months while he was in the UFC, as mine is just dealing with Crohn's and the pain keeps me immobile more often than not. But, because I missed Sasha winning live, due to the storm, and I really didn't think they'd go with Balor this quickly, I was caught off guard and started yelling and screaming. Stacy was in the kitchen and knew exactly what had happened, as I'd said all night I didn't think they'd pull the trigger on Balor so quickly. He came into the living room smirking, checking to see if I needed more pain meds. That's a great man, as is Balor.
I'm excited that we have to choose from either the first NXT Champion, or the longest reigning NXT Champion. Think about these two terrific wrestlers they have to choose from for this honor, and in all honesty, I'm cool with either of them winning. In some ways I do hope it's Finn Balor, because Rollins already has the honor of being the first NXT Champion, and Balor would be an amazing first WWE Universal Champion, especially at his size. It would set up this Championship to be won by almost anyone deserving in the future. But then again Rollins has proven that he's an amazing Champion. Oh, I have time before I have to pick between these two men, but I'm absolutely thrilled that it's them that it will be between, as they're both hugely deserving, and will give us an absolutely epic SummerSlam!
Winner – Finn Balor!!!
Just last week I watched the original Draft and brand extension. I didn't remember all the small mistakes they made, like not remembering who was drafted where (Benoit), and forgetting to draft people (Eddie), to naming too many #1 contenders because they weren't paying attention to what they were doing and how they'd set things up. Flair looked like a bumbling idiot trying to run Raw through all these mistakes, and McMahon looked great running SmackDown. This time the Draft looked a little rough, especially for SmackDown, but this episode of Raw was one of the best I've seen in years. I will say the same for Battleground, it was the best PPV I've seen in years, better than WrestleMania. We were heading into the third hour of Raw, yet it didn't feel as though we'd been dragged through the first two hours kicking and screaming through the crap and boredom. Further, the third hour went so quickly because the mic and ring were so great. This is what the WWE should be showing us. Yes, I know not every episode can be as great as this one was, but they shouldn't all be as bad as they had been for so long! One glimmering episode helped, but didn't give us hope the way this episode of Raw did. I truly hope that this is a tiny bit of what's to come, because I'm finally really excited to be a wrestling fan right now. And while I'm not writing about SmackDown, and won't be able to watch their first show live after the Draft with the WNW Open Thread Discussion, it's what I'll be watching as soon as I get home from my meeting, because unlike a lot of other people, I have huge hopes for SmackDown Live and the sadly narrow roster they have. I'm sure that Shane and Bryan really will push for change, and I'm hoping that the rosters level out a bit over the coming months.
Lastly, with the change in the WWE schedule I'm going to try to get the RIB up well before SmackDown starts on Tuesdays. Obviously medical appointments have to come first, but I'll try not to schedule them on Tuesdays if at all possible, just for you guys, my constant readers.
Queen of WNW