There's so much I have to say about Raw, and I have a meeting to get to, I don't want to hold this off any longer. I hope you enjoy, and if you disagree, a constructive debate is always welcome.
In Ring Segment > B-
I have to admit that I was annoyed that Raw started with another big talking segment. It seems as though every week lately has started with a twenty minute Trip segment, performed by Rollins! I want to see shows starting differently, as they had been for a while. They had been shaking things up, and while I'll admit that they've been giving us music and pyro again, something they really hadn't done in over a year, but that's not enough for me right now. Yes, I know I've been out of the RIB more than I've been in the past couple weeks, and I feel like I'm coming back complaining about the first segment. While my mood gets considerably better throughout much of the show, I do have to complain about how Raw has started with too much talk and very little action too often, it's the fact that it's an issue we've had in the past, but only with a new Superstar playing the same character. Before it was Trip getting these segments because of 'who he was sleeping with' or 'who he's married to' when in reality, those segments of his started well before they even really noticed each other. Back when Paul and Joanie were dating. And, I have to say, if the rumors are true about what she did most recently, she's officially lost every last shred of respect I did have for her.
Anyway, I will give the WWE and The Authority props for how they introduced the biggest matches for SummerSlam, and pushed the PPV, which is no longer really a PPV for most, but still. They tried something different, took a chance with how they pushed SummerSlam. Rather than have the matches and the second biggest PPV of the year pushed by the announcers when no one is really watching anyway, with graphics everyone usually ignores, they started the show with two huge names, and tried to sell us on they think will be the best of SummerSlam. I give them props for trying, even if I think it didn't go over as well as it could have, if Rollins hadn't started the past couple of episodes of Raw as if he was channeling Trip. Basically saying it would have been a good idea had we not already been burnt out on 20 minute Trip promos, even though he's not given one of those in a very long time.
Orton & Cesaro vs Kevin Owens & Sheamus > B
Again, Sheamus is coming off as the weakest link in these matches, even though KO is being 'Run, we, Run!' much of the time. I will say that it's nice to see someone fleeing from Cesaro, and standing up to Orton. I know it all comes down to who is in a feud with who, but I've been rooting for Claudio to finally get over that hump for so long that I wasn't sure it would ever happen. Finally the plug wasn't pulled right when he was getting over, yet again. Further, those 'Cesaro Section' mini-signs are genius! No clue who started them, but they should get royalties from it.
I'm loving Cesaro more and more as he comes out of his shell, but I have to admit that I'm enjoying Orton more and more. I honestly never thought I'd like Orton, then he won the Championship and EVO turned on him, and Orton underwent this transformation that showed the fans that with tiny tweaks, he could be an amazing face,yet he never really seemed to embrace being a face well enough to make it truly believable, until recently. Something changed in Orton while he was out making that film he made. Something clicked and he learned something about emoting, both while speaking, and while not speaking. He's better all the way around, and that's even made his in-ring performances better. So putting Orton in the ring with Cesaro who is blossoming before our eyes, and Owens who is a master of getting over with the fans, only makes Sheamus look that much less interesting, or even viable as Mr. MITB. The best thing I saw from Sheamus here was the way he worked his mohawk when the fans chanted at him, possibly the worst was how he no-sold Cesaro's upper cuts through the entire match, all the while sweating like few others in the ring.
I do have to mention the botches at the end of the match. Honestly, I didn't think much of Cesaro not going over the ropes, and I thought Owens helped cover it well by grabbing his ankle, really getting involved. I don't know what he was supposed to be doing in that moment, but it shows a great sense of awareness that he jumped in to help. Then there was the missed RKO on Owens. I don't know if that was supposed to be a missed RKO that was a mess, or an RKO that didn't happen, and it did look sucky, but like with Cesaro not going over the top, I thought Cesaro did a great job of getting involved and helping keep Owens out of the way for Orton to get the three over Sheamus.
Winners – Orton & Cesaro (14:07)
Taker > A
Honestly, it didn't truly click as to why Taker didn't hit the ring for his segment until later in the show. That being said, I loved this little segment. I think segments like this are highly underrated. They might not show off a lot, but from a well developed character, such as Taker, character building isn't needing, and the fewer words the said, the better.
I know a lot of people have compared Wyatt to Taker over these past couple years, and while I'm on the fence over that, and disagree in that Wyatt cannot seem to evolve or grow in any way, I think Wyatt's backstage segment could learn a lot from this segment. Short, sweet, to the point. No need to ramble on and on, no need to over-explain every little thing. Less really can be more, and repetition can work to your benefit.
Backstage Segment > B
Watching Rollins get led by the hand by Mummy and Daddy, every step of the way, all the while they are rolling their eyes at him. Rollins wants his own statue at Titan Towers? I think that's hysterical! How many of the biggest names don't have statues there? Trip sure doesn't, yet Rollins thinks he deserves one? That;s arrogance that I'm not sure even Trip had at that point in his career. I will give Rollins credit for creativity, and I'm shocked he hasn't tried to take over for Trip in some business sense, but that might only take time. As a mum myself, I know how hard it can be not to roll your eyes at something the kids say, so I always giggle when Steph gets those looks on her face when Rollins is speaking. I know that feeling so well.
Reigns vs Harper > B+
I loved that Ambrose was on announce, had a chair all ready for him, but that he basically took the chair out from under Byron's bum and rolled it to Wyatt the way he did. Further, that Byron would rather announce from his knees, than get chanted at to sit down, shows me that he's still not comfortable enough out there for my taste. It might be that watching the WWE Network gives me some of the best on announce, and while not all of them were greats, most of them were better than Byron is. But the chair thing was a clever way for Byron to lose his chair again, but without it being stolen by Wyatt again.
There were a couple of really stiff moves in this match. Well, honestly, I don't know how stiff they were, or if they were just so perfectly on their mark, executed so well, that I thought they looked stiffer than normal. The first being Harper's big boot just before the gator roll. It might have been the camera angle, the way Harper's shoe connected with Reigns' face, or something like that, but that specific move looked stiffer and better than most of the rest of the moves of the night. Reigns hit a couple of solid moves in the ring that looked more graceful and precise than normal for him, showing just how hard he's been working to better himself and his skills. Ambrose said as much on announce during this match. Reigns hit a couple of moves that I thought looked a little stiff – a forearm over the top rope, then the running elbow from Reigns off the apron – but again, it could have been anything from camera angle to how the move was taken as much as how it was thrown. So many variables, but whatever it was, these moves looked that much better for it.
Winner – Reigns (14:54)
Tamina vs Becky Lynch > C+
Don't get me wrong, I like that the Divas are not all cookie cutters. I like that Tamina is taller, not as thin, and seems quite comfortable in her own skin. She doesn't need to show off most of her flesh whenever the camera is on her, and that shows impressive things about her upbringing. She doesn't feel the need to show off her body to get attention. My only worry is that the WWE is trying to push her as more of a bodyguard character, an Awesome Kong type, only because she's not built like the rest of the girls. The problem I have is that she just isn't up to par with the other Divas. Even Nikki can wrestle squared circles around her. Tamina has power on her side, but she doesn't have grace, balance, or the interesting moves that would make her into something really special in the ring. I honestly felt bad for Becky Lynch before the bell even rang to start this match. Lynch pulled out the ending, and while a few of Tamina's moves looked solid, hard hitting, it's just not enough against these new Divas who continue to prove that they really are better than anything we've seen since Trish and Lita.
By the way, the only reason this match was anything above average was because of Lynch. Really glad this was a shorter match than the Divas had been giving us lately.
Winner – Becky Lynch (4:01)
Henry vs Rusev > C & B+
We all knew that Ziggler would be returning here. Even before Lana said she had a plan on announce, we knew Ziggler had to return here to cement his match for SummerSlam. This was pretty much it for the match to happen. The one I do feel bad for in all of this is Henry. His second match in a row where he's reverted to his 1996 character. It's just sad to see how the strongest have fallen. Though I have to say that this match was better than the one they had last week.
I'm loving Lana with such subtle makeup, really showing how beautiful she is without it caked on. And while her kick to Summer Rae's face wasn't the best, she played off everything before and after that wonderfully. And then there's Ziggler who was fantastic, and so obviously thrilled to be back, and looked wonderful!
Winner – Rusev (2:48)
Backstage Segment > B+
Ziggler was so hyped up here that it was almost impossible to not feel it through the TV. I loved his, "JoJo it's good to see you, it's good to see me, damn it, it's good to be back!"
Ryback vs Miz > B
Ryback makes me love him more and more each week. I wonder where he could be if he came up on the WWE roster the man he is now. Actually, there's a lot interesting between these two. They both started off on the $1,000,000 Tough Enough (Season 4) in 2004. That was the season Daniel Puder won, and Miz came in second. We never really saw anything come of Puder, but Miz was matched with the multi-named JoMo for a while, helping Miz get over the hump, and showing that he was a lot more than a reality star.
Yet, Ryan Reeves with his Silverback gimmick didn't really get far in developmental. Between injuries, suspensions, and other issues, Reeves bounced around a bit, in and out of OVW. It wasn't until he went to FCW that things started getting serious. He tagged with Sheamus and did quite well. Reeves was brought up on the first season of NXT as a rookie. The funniest part of that for me is that Miz played Bryan's mentor during that first season. They had started out on Tough Enough together in 2004, but they were on very different levels by the start of NXT. Looking at the two on paper, I'd say Ryback is the more WWE Superstar-esque of the two, and they have both come full circle to feuding with each other. Only took eleven years!
Winner – Ryback (2:22)
Contract Signing > A-
Ugh! I loath contract signings! That being said, this was one of the best I've seen in a very long time.
I love some of the things Rollins said, and how he managed to get some pop for his abuse of Cena, both verbally, and what he did to Cena's face last month. Calling Cena a villain, how Cena is at the top of the mountain and won't let anyone up there with him, holding the WWE Universe hostage for that past decade or so. As much as I give Cena props for a lot of what he's done within and out of the WWE, he really has held it hostage in some ways. I also wonder about the wording used by Rollins. I got a very King of the Mountain feel from the way Rollins talked about Cena being at the top of the mountain, and I wonder if it might be a bit of a bitch slap at Jeff Jarrett, TNA and GFW. That's all I could think of during this segment, and while I haven't seen the Takeover episode of Raw/Nitro since early on WWE Network, I had to go back to the hatred between McMahon and Jeff Jarrett. We all know McMahon loves to get his little digs in where possible, so why not try comparing Cena to Jarrett, and how high up the mountain Cena really is, especially compared to Jarrett.
And then there's Cena who went all out on mic. I love it when Cena is rougher around the edges and really leaves it out there. He was right on the money talking about how the fans were all about Cena, not really chanting for or against Rollins in any way. Further, the fans were right there finishing Cena's catchphrases. As much as so many dislike the man, he can be infectious. That he's reaching for #16, and the fans seem to be behind him on this, I will be shocked if he doesn't win this, and doesn't end up blowing past Flair. Speaking of Flair, Cena hit the nail on the head about legacy, Trip earning his own, and Rollins being a pussy (character). The trivia question and footnote comments were fantastic. Further, that Trip was never Flair's bitch, but that Rollins will be Cena's bitch. Perfect way to end this segment!
I give them HUGE props for this not devolving into a fight, and while not all of them have lately, this was refreshing to see.
8 Man Tag Match – Prime Time Players & Lucha Dragons vs New Day & Los Matadores > D-
Again, ugh! And I'm not giving anything back to this match. This was an epic mess, and the WWE is trying too hard with the Tag Division with people who just are not good enough to carry the messes that happen in the ring. This match was not good, and did nothing to make me want to see these eight at SummerSlam. I'm so over it, even though I love PTP, I'm over the Tag Division right now.
Winners – PTP & Lucha Dragons (2:09)
Backstage Segment > A-
Up until this segment I didn't get Barrett's involvement at all, but after this, I'm kind of loving the direction this is taking. Stardust and Barrett really meld together into a cohesive team, something I never imagined possible. Stardust was that much better on mic this week, enunciated better. It seems to me that Dusty was able to enunciate through his lisp better than Cody can but Cody gets better with it each week. The combination of dark matter and royalty is not something that should work, but these two made it work better than I thought possible, and I'm a gamer, fiction writer, and SCAdian. These two took this craziness and made it work, made it believable, and made me think that it could truly work, and when they're done, they could be a team to take the TTCs from Prime Time Players.
Nikki Bella vs Sasha Banks > B+
I read that Nikki was taking some time off from the live events to rehab her back, but then she was in this very back intensive match. Maybe because I knew she was off live shows for her back that I saw this match as so intensive on her back, but it really looked like a tougher match for her.
I thought they both looked quite solid in the ring. Nikki isn't up to par with Sasha, but no matter who she's facing, Sasha makes it look good. There were a few little issues, but if Nikki was hurting the way she must have been, that things looked as good as they did shows what pros they both are. There were so many hard hitting moves in this match that I was really impressed. I will say that the Alabama slam looked rather rough on Sasha, but she shook it off quickly, and came back as hard hitting as Nikki was. I was also further impressed to see someone else toe the line of cheating to beat a Bella. Turning the tables can really change the whole flow and feel of it all, and it was great.
Winner – Sasha Banks (10:39)
Backstage Segment > C+
I was thrilled to see Renee back, but it felt as though Team PCB didn't know when who was supposed to say what, and they fell over each other verbally. Not the best showing for these three.
In Ring Segment > A-
This was not what I was expecting. Yes, I knew that this was Brock Lesnar's homecoming, but I didn't even think about Taker getting heat for it. Stacy and I had a conversation a couple years ago about how Taker would never really be a heel again. He's just beyond that point. I said the same for HBK, unless he went back to Montreal, a city that will never forgive HBK, even if Bret Hart has. And, the same can be said for Taker in Minnesota!
I know I've been getting better about Brock Lesnar and how he's connecting with the fans these past couple weeks, but this segment left me all gooey. Brock was all smiles. In fact, I even caught that Bryan look on Brock's face. A couple times Brock, even after all these years, looked around at the fans in awe as how much they love and support him. It's the same look Daniel Bryan gets on his face when the fans completely "YES!" out on him. I never thought I'd see that look on Brock's face again, and when I did last night, I felt all giddy, and somewhat parental. Yes, I know I'm only four years older than him, but it's that special feeling I get when my kids have broken through something that's been holding them back for a very long time. Brock seemed to really do that last night, and it was beautiful to watch.
And then there's Heyman. Holy crap that man can do or say anything and get away with it. I was floored when he was on his knees singing to Brock the way he was. I honestly don't know how I got through writing all of that last night without laughing hysterically through the whole thing. I will admit that I had to stop the DVR and laugh for a moment when Heyman started singing, but I held it together through most of the singing. It was just so unexpected and shocking. Who other than Heyman could get away with something as disgusting as that, and everyone just shrugs at it, because it's him?
Lastly, Taker had to come out on top last night, because Brock was home. Yes, playing the heel he went for the low blow, as Heyman stated previously, and it really worked for him here. It's the way it happens more than 80% of the time.
That was a mostly solid go-home Raw. There was a lot of ways they could have gone with that, but they did well by almost everyone but the Tag Division – and I'm not sure there's any way to help them right now. I'm excited for SummerSlam, and it's pretty much all over but the fun of Sunday night. Make sure you check in for the Predicts, and I'll see you in the Open Thread Discussion for SummerSlam.
Queen of WNW