Now, I have to admit that my changes in thought on Brock didn't just happen this week. You would have found me softening last week if Jesse hadn't been able to lie, cheat, and steal the RIB from me last week. Actually, I have to thank Jesse for taking the RIB for me last week. I was up to my eyeballs in work I needed to get done. In the time it would have taken me to write the RIB last week, I was able to sew two pairs of medieval style pants, and two basic bog dresses for my favorite SCA event of the summer. I'm not sure what we might have been wearing if Jesse hadn't helped out. Jesse is a great guy, and really needed to get a lot of that off his chest, and for that, I thank all of you for reading.
In Ring Segment > A-
I'm usually the first one in line to cut down Brock Lesnar for standing in the ring and showing nothing, giving nothing to the segment, and looking more bored and annoyed than actually caring about what Heyman's saying, what the fans are chanting, or even what the storyline is, but he seems to have found a clue recently, and this segment showed that. Brock looked more relaxed than we've seen him, was smirking at the "Suplex City!" chants, and laughed at Rollins stumbling over his words. Further, Brock got on mic! We know the guy can talk, he used to talk back in the day after he turned face and ditched Heyman, but this is the first time since his return that we've seen him on mic and it was believable. Honestly, for the first time, it seems as though he cares what happens, how he's perceived by the fans, and that he's settling in to being a WWE Superstar. Sad that it didn't happen while he was WWE WHC, but it wasn't until just before WrestleMania that his UFC career was over, and re-signed with the WWE. While it might not have been his first choice, possibly his health had a hand in it all, he finally seems to be embracing his life as a WWE Superstar, even if it is only part-time. I'm really excited that Brock is embracing his spot in the WWE, because I was a huge fan of him early on, even though he was a stinker when he returned, and I'm still not a fan of part-time wrestlers. I'm not saying that I don't think Brock isn't dangerous in the ring, just that he's finally embracing his role in the WWE.
Talking about embracing your role, and being willing to roll with the punches, Rollins continues to impress. Too many people stumble verbally on mic and fall apart, but Rollins made a joke of it, and fell right back into his heel character, abusing all that laughed at him. Straight up, saying inanimate object is something that I've stumbled over numerous times. It's not the easiest phrase to say, and I was quite impressed by how Rollins handled his flub. That's the sign of a true pro, and actually helped elevate the grade for this segment.
Lastly, what's up with the whole baby brother thing? Yes, it was Heyman taking shots at Kane, but it makes me wonder if there's more to it, and more to come along those lines. We all love Taker, and hope to see more of him, if he's healthy enough to be back, but Kane is still around and healthy enough to continue being the workhorse of the company. Because of that, I really think there's something substantial coming his way, and hopefully he's back to being masked when it happens.
Ryback & Orton vs Big Show & Sheamus > B+
This match was better than I expected it to be. Orton was as Orton usually is, as was Big Show, but Sheamus and Ryback really rocked it. Ryback keeps stepping up and showing us new things in the ring. If this was the Ryback who started out on WWE TV, he'd be really rocking his career right now. Not saying he isn't doing well, but if this humble man who is willing to push himself and show such extreme creativity in the ring and on mic was the one to start out on WWE TV, compared to the egotistical botching mess he was, then his career would be so much further along, and his followers would be tripled. Now, I backed Ryback for quite a long time when he started, because I'd seen how good he could be when I looked back as some of the older NXT matches he'd been in – as Ryback, not Skip – after NXT was a competition, but before it blew up to the beauty it is now. Ryback, with his ego in check, is an amazing man, and a great WWE Superstar. Looking back at things, I really think much of his problem was due to Punk. It seems as though people Punk had issue with when he was in the WWE are doing so much better now, and are not having the ego issues they had when Punk was around. I was willing to believe it was Ryback who was the issue, but seeing things now, I think Punk was the true problem. Not saying Ryback didn't have an ego, just that things were so combative that Ryback was between a rock and a hard place.
Then there's Miz. I know he is a heel, and his job is to be obnoxious, but he's dialed it up to eleven and is beyond turning the fans against him because he's a heel, he's up to getting X-Pac heat. (Don't get me wrong, I love X-Pac, but we all know that's a thing.) Miz did what he needed to do during this match, but it's because of Miz that I'm not looking forward to the IC Championship match at Battleground.
All that being said, this match made me more excited for Battleground. That Big Show can still go at this point in his career, at his size, with his stems, it's awe inspiring. Further, that it's Rey Mysterio who's having more knee issues than Big Show is shocking. Big Show in the ring with Ryback could be a lot of fun – better if they take Miz out early. The way Orton and Sheamus have been performing, I expect a lot from them at Battleground, and if nothing big happens to either of them between now and then, they could show up a lot of other matches on the card, and possibly steal the show if they're given free reign to go all out and work stiff.
Winners – Ryback & Orton (15:26)
Backstage Segment > B
It's hard to know whether Kane is screwing with Rollins or really helping him, and that's what makes all of this so much better, and so much more fun to watch. Further, Rollins flipping out over it all is so enjoyable to watch.
Ambrose vs Wyatt / In Ring Segment > B-
The person I feel the worst about in all of this is Ambrose. He was getting pushed to the top, where he belongs, and it looked as though he might be landing where he belongs in the grand scheme of things, but no, all he has on Raw is to walk to the ring and watch his opponent get crushed by his former Shield member. So many big names backing Ambrose in the back, yet he's wallowing in the middle of nothingness.
And then there's Reigns who was booked in the main event of WrestleMania, and he's stuck in this horrible feud with Wyatt! They don't work together very well, and this isn't good for either of them. Wyatt seems like a sinking stone, because he's not evolving in any way, and going into every feud the same way – attacking someone in the middle of their PPV match, then speaking in riddles about them until they face off at a PPV themselves. We go after Cena for not evolving through the years, but even he's getting great reactions, great reviews, and killing it with some of the best matches we've seen from anyone on the roster. Yes, much of it is who he's working with, but it's also because he's pushing himself, changing things up, and working the mic against Owens who is pushing him to get even better. Sadly, this was really rough, and I blame it on booking and creative, not Reigns and Ambrose.
In Ring Segment > D&A
No, that grade is not T&A, that was Test, Albert, and Trish. The reason I started with the grade of D was for Nikki and Team Bella. Nikki just isn't solid on mic! Nikki is that snobby popular girl in school who thought her poo didn't stink, but had issues getting her point across because she just didn't have the brains, and it sounded like she struggled getting each word out. The Bellas are just terrible on mic, no matter what they're doing.
But then Steph came out and changed the whole Divas Division, the way we've been begging for since Trish and Lita retired. Further, these NXT Divas are epic! Charlotte was bred to be a WWE Superstar, being the daughter of one of the biggest names in the industry, ever. Becky Lynch has character, a great look, and her ring work is fantastic. Then there's Sasha Banks! That little young lady has made NXT her bitch, and is going to do the same with the WWE and all the Divas who step in the ring with her. She's character dialed up to 11 and it works. Last night changed the game, and put me 18 minutes behind the show as I was writing it, but I thought those women deserved to have me catch all the moves and nuances to their WWE TV debuts.
I'd been calling for NXT Divas being called up since Naomi went after Nikki for the Divas Championship months ago and needed a second. That second ended up being Tamina. Then Paige went after Nikki, so I called for any of the three debuting to join her, and that didn't happen. Adding Fox to Team Bella, and with none of the other WWE Divas joining Paige, I knew it had to be coming soon. I didn't know where Naomi would be fitting in, and how they would handle Paige with three knew partners and Team Bella only having three total, plus the Boss is more heel than Paige, Lynch, and Charlotte, even though everyone loves her. Bringing out Naomi and Tamina rounded things out in a lovely way. I really hope that we are looking at a Triple Threat Elimination Match at Battleground, if given the time, it could be epic. Well, it could be if Team Bella and Tamina can keep up with the rest.
I do have to mention Steph in all this. Jesse's comment was, "Steph was in a colored outfit and wasn't wearing her collar, so she had to be face last night." For me, it was all about Steph not wearing leather, and not coming out with Trip by her side. She was very much the owner of the WWE last night, but was also giddy in what she was maneuvering the Divas into. The look in her eyes, the smile on her face, you could see how happy and proud she was with the Divas, and how excited she was for the future. While many of us have been calling for this, that they did it when they did was smart. This gives Banks, Charlotte, and Lynch time to get used to the WWE Universe, and grow into who they are going to be on WWE TV before wrestling picks up heading into the biggest time of the year. Smart move WWE, very smart move.
New Day vs Prime Time Players & Henry > B-
Most of the people in the WNW Open Thread Discussion thought that it would either be Slater or Neville to join PTP in this match. Honestly, Neville made sense before Stardust picked him out to feud with, and Slater was my idea because I love the man, and think he's getting pushed aside when he should be on TV for more than jobbing. Henry did make sense if you're looking at things ethnically. I don't want to look at it that way, but I get a very ethnic feel with the WWE pushing this feud between New Day and PTP. It is what it is, and while I had hoped the WWE was past things like that, it appears they aren't. That being said, a lot of the Tag Division has much of an ethnic bent lately.
This match wasn't the best, but that's how I've been feeling about New Day all along. They just haven't melded together as a cohesive team. That being said, they were stronger as a team this week than we've seen in the past, and they continue to grow together the longer they are together.
Honestly, the best part of this match, for me, was after the match ended. Getting Henry to dance with PTP, and how he reacted to it was wonderful. It's been a long time since we've seen that smile of pure happiness on Henry's face, and it touched my heart to see him so openly laughing in the ring with O'Neil and Young.
Winners – Prime Time Players & Henry (8:04)
R-Truth vs Barrett > C+
I love R-Truth, but I'm so over Barrett! He's so boring, even as King Barrett. R-Truth is a workhorse who does everything asked of him, and with a smile on his face. He's not the youngest guy on the roster by any stretch of the imagination, but he just keeps working his bum off and giving us the best of what he has to offer. I'm actually quite interested in seeing what R-Truth and the WWE has in store for us at Battleground. It could be a very interesting match, but sadly Barrett's also involved.
Winner – R-Truth (3:12)
In Ring Segment > B+
This segment confused me in a huge way. Cena's music hit and I groaned. I'm never looking forward to Cena on mic, because he has a couple specific speeches, a couple different moods, and always talks way too long, so when he didn't pick up a mic, even to call out someone for the US Championship Open Challenge, I was quite confused. I was even more confused to see Rusev come out to face Cena. Rusev on mic was as Rusev always is on mic, not the best, but not as bad as he could be. Then, of course, Kevin Owens came out and wasn't going to let anything happen to the US Championship before he got his hands on Cena for the third time at Battleground, which makes complete sense to me. Then Cesaro, who also had a huge reason to be out there. Cesaro and Cena stole the past two Raws. Cesaro pushing Cena into some of the best matches we've seen from Cena in years has shown that Cesaro has more than what it takes to be a top Superstar, as many of us have been screaming for since he was in ROH. Honestly, after this, I'd love to see a feud between Cesaro and Ambrose, the only problem being that they're both beloved faces. Both of them are of the best, and would create some of the best stories, and best matches, possibly since HBK was in his prime. Just let the thought of Cesaro and Ambrose working against each other in a HUGE storyline sink in. Isn't it a most sexy thought?
Cesaro vs Owens vs Rusev > B+
This match was really great, but I think it would have been better if it was just Cesaro against Owens. I know Rusev needs a new feud, as Ziggler is out working out his contract, but I don't think this was the time or place. Yes, Owens and Rusev are of a size, and hit some huge moves on each other, but I don't think Rusev is anywhere near Cesaro's level, whereas Owens is well rounded in what he can do in the ring, and moves like someone of a much smaller build.
I was really shocked that it was Rusev who won this match, until I saw the condition Rusev was going into his next match. This match also helped me understand why Cena never picked up the mic in the ring. Honestly, Cena on announce, and standing up the couple times he was approached by those in the match, was the perfect place for him. It was a refreshing change of pace, and really gave us something unexpected from Cena. He sat well on announce with the other three, and gave us his thoughts without a twenty minute monologue in the ring. Bravo to creative for changing things up with Cena on this episode of Raw.
Winner – Rusev (21:07)
US Championship Match – Rusev vs Cena (c) > B
I have to admit that I liked how Cena played much of this match. He knew Rusev was destroyed from the previous match, and so Cena played the eternal good guy who felt bad hitting his five moves of doom on Rusev. Further, Cena wasn't in the top match of the night, and didn't seem to sulk or complain about it. Cena is the true company man, and as long as he's out there entertaining, he's happy. He did a solid job of being humble and acting guilty before Rusev got his second wind, then showed some creativity working with Rusev.
Well before Owens made his way to the ring, I said aloud that if it looked like Cena wasn't going win the match, Owens was going to cause the DQ to make sure Cena would retain the US Championship for Battleground.
Winner – Rusev via DQ (4:49)
Backstage Segment > B
More questions than answers. What does Kane have planned? Is he working with Rollins, or against him? Kane is one of my favorites, and that's because he's so good at not revealing what's really going on behind those eyes, contacts or not. He left so much in the air going into the contract signing.
Stage Segment > B-
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Lita, but the woman has never been fantastic on mic. Something about the way she speaks, it's almost as if she's struggling to get the words out, and she just doesn't translate well. And then there was her outfit. Those pleather leggings just didn't fit her well. The waistband was gaping in the back and it made her look as though she had just thrown them on without thinking the look through. The black jacket was great on her, as was the hint of the white top, and the really girly sparkly shoes, but those pants just killed it for me. Further, it sucks that the only way we get to see Lita on Raw is when she's announcing the Tough Enough competitors.
Backstage Segment > B+
A lot of people were hoping Cody would be returning as Cody Rhodes after Dusty's passing, but his return was announced as Stardust, so I knew they'd be continuing as the character, rather than returning as the man behind the character.
I think I'm one of the few people who have little problem with Stardust. I love how he's following in his brother's footsteps with the character, but also in his father's footsteps on mic. All three are very different people, but you can see the family thread there, and it's a beautiful thing. That Cody was on mic as Stardust was a great way to bring him back to TV, and remind us of his father in a great way, as he really does sound so much like Dusty.
Neville vs Stardust > B+
They went all super hero, cartoon character with these two, but I think it works. It's not like the whole roster is full of cartoon characters, the way the WWE used to be, and what almost brought them down when nWo exploded in WCW. I love that these two are cartoony, but they're not fully masked like Suicide/Mannik in TNA, and they both can work the ring in creative ways. They're both cartoon characters in some ways, but also great wrestlers who can hold their own in the ring. I think I really like these two feuding, and am excited to see where they're going with this. The WWE doesn't have a lot of comedy on the roster right now, so a dose of the comics feels very right, and could help both men surge forward.
Winner – Stardust (4:07)
Contract Signing > A-
There was lots of smack being thrown around before Raw in the Open Thread Discussion, trashing yet another contract signing. We all know that there will be fighting, and the table will be flipped, possibly thrown, and the chairs tossed from the ring at some point. Now, I have to admit that there's been a couple of cleaner contract signings over the past year or so, and those have added a bit of uncertainty to the direction of these things going forward, and that's been great to see. All that being said, I think they did a really solid job of changing up the old, tired routine that happened for what's felt like decades. Honestly, the only other contract signing that stands out in my mind as one of the most creative was when HBK hit sweet chin music on Chris Benoit, knocking him out, and then HBK signed the contract to face Triple H at WrestleMania, before Royal Rumble winner Benoit could. That was the one that was turned into the Triple Threat Match, and is still one of my all time favorite WrestleManias, and all time favorite WrestleMania matches, and it all started, in my mind, with that very unusual contract signing. That signing showed me that the WWE can get very creative with the mundane contract signing, and make it into a huge hook of a storyline, and add that much more to the match they're heading into.
I loved the jockeying for position between Rollins and Brock here. Rollins only sitting down after Brock did. That Rollins looked like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, while Brock was chilling, a relaxed pose that is so very different from the boredom he'd been showing for the past couple years he's been with the WWE. Yes, the table was flipped, but for different reasons. And then, the way Brock used the table as a weapon was really creatively different.
Then, Brock went into too strong Brock mode, and destroyed the place. That's what we expect from him, and that's what we got from him. He had to show off going into Battleground, and that's what he did. Now, I'm going to surprise you. I think Rollins is a great person to face Brock in a main event match. Rollins is small enough that he's used to be tossed around the ring, and out side, so he really knows how to make it look good, and how to take that type of bump. Guys like Trip, Cena and Reigns are used to being bigger, and not man handled the way Brock does to them. That release German suplex Brock gave Rollins was not only well executed, but well taken by Rollins. Rollins absolutely flew across the ring, but he landed well and make it look great. That one move impressed me with Brock and Rollins, as well as made me look forward to Battleground. Now, beyond working with Rollins, Brock impressed me with how he 'hit Kane's ankle with the stairs' while laid on the lower set of stairs. I was wondering how he was going to do it, because usually he's quite reckless in the ring, and around the ring, but Brock worked the camera angle and slammed the corner of the stairs next to Kane's ankle, never actually touching the man, yet it looked fantastic! Now, if Kane had actually held the right part of his leg that was supposed to be injured, it would have looked that much better, but it is what it is.
While this episode of Raw didn't have any jaw dropping matches, like they have the weeks before, Cesaro, Owens and Rusev came close, but Cena and Cesaro has set the bar so high that it's really hard to grade these matches without trashing them right now. In all honesty, it was the Divas who stole the show for me, and hopefully will have a chance to show off at Battleground. Fingers crossed that Smackdown sets up a great Divas match and a solid Ambrose match, both for Battleground.
Make sure you check in to see what the WNW writers have to say when predicting Battleground!
Queen of WNW
KB & Jesse