The go home edition of Raw was live last night from Brock Lesnar’s home state of Minnesota. This year’s Summerslam is a 4 hour show, so WWE had a lot of ground to cover last night. John Cena and Dolph Ziggler returned, the NXT women reigned supreme and The Undertaker is kind of a dick. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last nights Raw!
1. Roman Reigns
Reigns and Harper had easily the best match on the show, and while a lot of that has to be attributed to the workhorse that is Luke Harper, Reigns had an impressive showing as well. The problem I have with Reigns is probably the same problem everyone else has with him, which is the same problem we’ve had with Cena forever. I’m past the point of thinking Reigns is going to lose, but Jesus Christ man, sell once in awhile. He and Harper go through a 15 minute war and Reigns wins and just hops around like he just got finished with a brisk job. Reigns should have lost after Harper hit the super kick/sit out power bomb, but that’s too much to ask of WWE right now. So if he’s not going to lose, at least have him make it look like he’s had a tough match. He’s got the look, his in ring skills are coming around and as long as his promo’s are kept relatively short, he’ll have no problem being the guy. But being the next John Cena is never going to work, so figure out something else and stick with it.
2. NXT Women
Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks both won Raw matches via submission, and the NXT women continue to dominate on Raw. The only problem I see with this is that the same stuff has been happening since all three debuted. Nikki Bella is still champion, Team Bella is still referred to as the standard bearer of the Diva’s division and we haven’t even gotten a pay per view Diva’s title match yet. All 9 of the Divas are in an elimination tag match at Summerslam, so I guess we have to wait until Night of Champions for something to actually happen. I love the actual wrestling, but it seems to me that they’re going in circles. If you’re trying to buy time until Nikki Bella passes AJ Lee as the longest reigning Diva’s champion, fine, but at least develop a #1 contender to her title. As great as the NXT women are, they need a storyline beyond ‘I have two friends and six enemies”.
3. Seth Rollins
Rollins’ promo was a little long winded, but when you’re wearing a t-shirt that says ‘never shuts up’, that’s to be expected. As refreshing as his words were, this isn’t the first time someone has called out John Cena on his bullshit, and it won’t be the last. I still liked the promo though, and obviously Rollins is right. Honestly all you have to do is look back on the Kevin Owens feud to see that everything Cena says is bullshit. Owens beat him, CLEAN, in the middle of the ring, which is the one thing Cena asked the young guys to do. Cena has a rematch before the fucking pay per view is even over, and continues to beat Owens until he’s on to the next thing. Cena thinks by saying Owens is a ‘hell of a competitor’ that it negates the fact that he just tossed another young guy aside so he could stay on top, but of course it doesn’t. I know Owens is great on the microphone and in the ring, but what he needed, and what Bray Wyatt and Rusev needed before him, was to beat John Cena without Cena immediately getting back the heat he never lost to begin with. Cena will probably beat Rollins Sunday, and then six months from now the WWE will wonder why none of these young guys are big stars yet.
4. John Cena
As much as Cena completely usurped one of Rollins’ best promos, it still sold the match. Cena’s also got a legit reason to be pissed off, which always helps his promos out. Wacky, funny Cena is the worst Cena, but a John Cena who just wants to beat you up is the best Cena. Rollins legitimately busted his nose and kept him off Raw for a few weeks, and although I disagree with a lot of stuff Cena does, you can’t deny that the guy loves being in the WWE. He lives and breathes the WWE, and not being able to be on Raw and hear the crowd cheer/boo him probably ate him up inside. Also, everything he said was true. The crowd was chanting either ‘let’s go Cena’ or ‘Cena sucks’ but nobody was saying anything about Rollins. That’s mostly the WWE’s fault, but sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. I refuse to pick against Cena anymore, especially if he’s facing a young guy, so unless the Authority interferes, John Cena will be your new super duper champion.
5. Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar
Paul Heyman is a special kind of wonderful on the microphone, and watching Brock Lesnar get legitimately teary eyed during his homecoming was weirdly heartwarming. This is the same guy who ripped the door off a car and who could murder me, but is somehow making me root for him against the god damn Undertaker. Speaking of Taker, he’s kind of a dick now, going low on Lesnar for the second time in a month. How pissed off do you think everyone backstage is when they found out you could beat Brock Lesnar by just kicking him in the dick? Taker comes out and gets booed out of the building, which he should, because as much as he’s earned every ovation he’s received, he’s going against the Beast and Brock Lesnar is white hot right now. Plus, Brock beat Taker fair and square at WM 30. Lesnar was the alpha male and Taker was the old man. He didn’t’ cheat. He just beat him until he couldn’t get up anymore, so Taker is really coming off as a jackass. Heyman’s promo was great, too, and he continues to switch his delivery up and simultaneously hype up Brock and sell whatever match he’s pegged with selling. I hope Brock goes over Sunday, but you never know with the Undertaker involved. Either way, it should be one hell of a main event.
Raw was live last night from San Jose, California, and it was another really solid show. The best match of the night was the opener, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper got to steal the show one more time with WWE’s 10 bell salute and excellent video tribute. John Cena was absent, Brock Lesnar was not and the Submission Sorority continues to roll. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Raw!
1. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Piper got the spotlight one more time, and rightfully so. A 10 bell salute followed by a wonderful video tribute was a bittersweet way to start the show, but luckily for us Seth Rollins and Neville brought their grown man boots and tore the house down soon after this.
2. Seth Rollins & Neville
Whenever there is an exemplary match on Raw, I like to link the two guys together, because it’s impossible to separate the two competitors. This was the show opening match after a solid Seth Rollins promo with his hysterical new t-shirt, and it was part of Seth Rollins’ WWE Championship Open. After a brief El Torito tease (WWE was on its comedy game last night), Neville answered the challenge, and it’s probably the best he’s looked since his debut. While being a heel limits Rollins’ move set, Neville should just always be going balls to the wall. The people want to see him do insane shit, and nobody on the WWE roster is better at doing insane shit than Neville. The best part about matches with guys that are this skilled is that they also tell a story. Neville needs to prove he belongs on the main roster, so he pulls out all the stops right away. Reverse hurricanrana’s, TOP ROPE hurricanrana’s, cork screw dives off the top to the floor; Neville wrestled with a sense of urgency and had the champ beaten. Rollins was basically trying to survive. He bit off a little more than he could chew with his open challenge, and just needed to survive. At the same time, he is, at least in his own mind, the architect of The Shield. He’s smart, and he sees things that most wrestlers don’t. So when Neville hits the Red Arrow, he shifts his body a few inches closer to the ropes. Neville is a little over eager with his cover because he just hit the RED ARROW, a move no one has kicked out of, and he’s about to become the champion. He pulls Rollins’ legs up too far and they hook up in the ropes, causing the ref stop his count. He loses his cool and argues for just a second too long, and when he goes for another Red Arrow, Rollins moves out of the way, hit’s the Pedigree, and retains the title. Great, great stuff.
3. New Day
The New Day skip to the ring is tied with Rusev speaking as my new favorite thing on WWE TV. They tagged up with The Ascension to take on the Spanish People last night for an 8 man tag, and it was very good. Pretty much everyone on the WWE roster is a good-very good pro wrestler, so when they’re given some time, they know how to put on a fun, exciting match. The tag team division is trying it’s hardest to become relevant, and while I don’t know if a revolving door of contenders is the right approach, it’s clear that New Day needs to stay in the picture. Xavier Woods is a master on the outside of the ring, and Big E and Kofi are a really enjoyable team. They’re a perfect blend of power and speed, and Mr. Woods serves as the perfect X factor. The match itself was good, as every team but The Ascension got to look strong at different points in the match, and the right team won. Give me New Day and PTP forever.
It’d be easy to dismiss Charlotte’s spot in the Divas division as a product of her last name, but by doing that you’d be missing the point. She’s simultaneously one of the most skilled and athletic people (men or women) on the roster, and she just keeps better in the ring. She’s starting to understand the pacing and emotion of the match, and a Charlotte hot tag is as enjoyable as it gets right now. Watch her get the tag from Becky and just WRECK the Bella’s. Add in the fact that she’s a legit gymnast who can somehow improve the figure four, and you have the total package. Every Diva looked great in this match, and Becky Lynch throwing T-bone suplexes is always going to be wonderful, but it’s clear this is slowly becoming Charlotte’s division. The best part about her is that you don’t even have to tweak her character if you want to turn her heel. Her character is “I’m better than you. I know it, you know it and the crowd knows it.”. That’s interchangeable.
5. Paul Heyman (& Brock Lesnar)
My favorite thing about the Heyman/Lesnar pairing is how jacked up Lesnar gets listening to Heyman hype him up. Watch Lesnar after Heyman finishes his promo. He’s ready to run through a god damn wall. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got backstage and just started savagely beating people. I don’t know where WWE is going to go with the Lesnar/Taker match, but I do know that Paul Heyman is still wonderful on the microphone. I listened to an interview earlier this year where he said that this current WWE run is he and Brock’s favorite run, and they’re just having so much fun out there. Heyman’s idea of fun is standing in the middle of the ring and hyping up his beast, and that’s exactly what he does here. The best part is that he’s not lying. Brock did destroy the Undertaker at WM 30. Taker did have to leave in an ambulance, and did have to stay in the hospital. Everything else on this show is fake, sure, but Brock Lesnar hurting people is not fake. That’s what Paul Heyman makes you believe, and that’s why he’s the best talker in the business. This match at Summerslam needs to end with Brock murdering ‘Taker, but I can also see a Kane return costing him the match. Either way, for now, I’m going to enjoy the build up. The biggest party of the summer is almost here.
Raw was live from OKC last night, and the WWE put on an actual wrestling show. The show opening Authority promo was shorter than usual, and they actually used the segment to set up most of the night’s matches. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch got spotlight wins, Bray Wyatt is resurrecting the Wyatt Family and John Cena’s nose is no longer a part of his face. Let’s get to the five stars from last night’s Raw!
1. Sasha Banks
I think we can all agree that The Boss is a badass, right? After dominating the NXT women’s division, Sasha has gotten called up to the main roster and done more of the same. Here she beats former NXT Women’s Champion and WWE Divas Champion Paige, and the Banks Statement is starting to become a really deadly finisher. I love that the NXT women are all submission artists of some sort, because it adds an extra element to a match. Becky Lynch proved it later in the night, but having a deadly finishing move puts your opponent in a dangerous predicament no matter what is happening in the match. I love the trend of having multiple Divas matches on Raw, and I also love that they left out the two worst in ring Divas (Brie and Tamina). I’m all for giving Diva’s a chance, but maybe give Brie and Tamina less of a chance than the others. My only complaint with this segment is Sasha not carrying the NXT Women’s title around with her. Owens brought the NXT title with him during his Cena feud, so why isn’t Sasha? The Boss needs her bling!
I never thought I’d enjoy Rusev so much in non wrestling segments, but he is a joy to watch. He comes out with Summer Lana and brings her a gift, which ends up being a dog named Dog Ziggler. That is so wonderful. I also love how Rusev implies that Dolph Ziggler pisses on himself. It’s probably not true, but it COULD be true. He also calls Lana a cold fish, which is kind of messed up, but is saved by Rusev imploring Summer Lana to pick it up the fish. She obviously did not want to pick up the fish, but Rusev insists, so she does. Most wrestlers flounder (get it) in this segment, but Rusev was great. Lana coming out and forcing Summer Lana to kiss the fish was eh, but Rusev throwing the fish up the ramp was great. Give me Rusev all the time.
3. The Tag Team Division
Wrestlers on commentary is usually a terrible idea (see Sheamus, Bella Twins) but Titus O’Neil is the exception to the rule. He’s not only entertaining, but he makes sure to put over whoever is fighting and never demeans the tag team division. If the tag team division was flourishing you could bring in a team to be cocky and talk trash, but at this point, that would do more harm than good. Los Matadores and Lucha Dragons aren’t exactly The Dudleyz vs. The Hardys, but they’re working hard and are helped by someone like Titus on commentary. Plus, they put on a great match, with lots of actual tag team moves. Los Matadores won last week, which apparently automatically puts them in title contention, so Lucha Dragons win this week, which I’m assuming is leading to a fatal four way tag match at Summerslam. Supplement star to New Day, who along with Rusev are the best non wrestling part’s of most Raw’s. The triple skip to the ring holding the sign saying Kofi Kingston is the best dad was wonderful.
4. Bray Wyatt
So Bray Wyatt delivered a promo on Raw, but he actually mixed it up a bit! Instead of his usual ‘anyone but you’ bit on Roman Reigns, he explained why Luke Harper was back with the Wyatt Family, and now we have an actual storyline. The WWE usually does things without explanation and just forces you to live with it, so it’s nice to see characters explain their actions. Wyatt let Harper free so he could figure out on his own just how bad the world is, and realize that in order to get what he wants, he needs the help of someone like Bray. Wyatt is a great character, but he needs other people to interact with besides WWE’s version of good guys. Cena, Ambrose and Reigns are fine when they’re interacting with characters like them, but they have no idea what to do when they’re up against an oddity like Wyatt. Undertaker had Kane and Mankind, but Wyatt doesn’t have any oddballs to be weird with. It’ll be interesting to see where they go with this feud, as the rumors are that the Wyatt’s will find a new third man (since Rowan is injured) and then Sting will be the mystery partner for Reigns and Ambrose at Summerslam. Time will tell, but hopefully this feud moves beyond DQ finishes and starts getting good.
5. John Cena & Seth Rollins
If this was a mini preview of the title match at Summerslam, then I am all the way in. I already wrote about Cena’s broken nose but the match itself was really great. Cena has been unquestionably the best in ring talent over the last couple months, and while a lot of that has to do with the caliber of wrestlers he’s been in the ring with, it’s time to admit that Cena is a great wrestler as well. Speaking only for myself, if I had broken my nose as severely as Cena broke his, I would have curled up into a ball and refused to move. Instead, he not only finishes the match, but takes some pretty intense moves. Rollins performs a top rope suplex into a Falcon Arrow, which needs to immediately be added to his move set. The worst part of Rollins being a heel is that if he was a good guy, he’d be blowing you away with his moves. He can’t utilize his full arsenal because you don’t want the crowd cheering for him, but when he breaks out a suplex/falcon arrow combo or a Phoenix splash, it’s something special. Back to Cena, who was phenomenal for most of the match, but especially after the broken nose. He uses the injury as adrenaline, and it’s great because it’s not a typical Cena comeback. Usually when Cena comes back, he takes a beating for 95% of the match, pops up, hits an AA or the STF, wins the match and then celebrates with the fans like nothing happened. It’s INFURIATING. Here, Cena is legitimately injured, but understands that if he doesn’t win the match soon, he’s going to lose. Rollins is desperate too, because he’s hit Cena with everything and still can’t pin him, so he goes for his ace in the hole: the Phoenix splash. He misses, which gives Cena the opportunity to get him in the STF, and Cena is not fucking around this time. He puts Rollins in one of those rare choke hold STF’s, and it looks realistic because Cena’s arms are god damn tree trunks. Rollins taps, and we end Raw with Cena looking like he just went through hell. A great Raw overall with a solid main event.
— Indy Sport (@IndySport) July 28, 2015
During last night’s main event between WWE Champion Seth Rollins and US Champion John Cena, Seth Rollins hit Cena with a knee to the face, and almost immediately Cena started dripping blood. Upon further examination, and confirmed by the photo above, Cena broke his nose pretty badly. Cena finished the match, and even made Rollins tap out to one of his rare choke hold STF’s (more on that in the Raw recap). While most people will complain that John Cena beat the WWE Champion, I’m going to focus on the fact that Cena finished a match with a nose looking like that, an injury that had to be affecting his equilibrium and vision. The guy is an absolute animal.
WWE Battleground is this Sunday, and it’s actually a pretty great card for a “throwaway” pay per view. When you think of WWE pay per views in the summer, MITB and Summerslam usually jump out at you, while Battleground is more or less a filler show. Thanks to back to back stellar Raw’s, Brock Lesnar and the US title picture, Battleground could end being a really good show. Let’s get to the preview and predictions!
Pre-Show Match: King Barrett vs. R-Truth (Winner gets Barrett’s KOTR crown)
I honestly don’t know what to say about this match. King Barrett, who has been a chronic loser going on a year now, finally got thrown a bone with a King of the Ring victory. How does WWE capitalize on that? They feud him with R-Truth, who wears a sheet and has a plunger and have them fight over who is the real king. Not only that, they have him lose to R-Truth on multiple occasions. No one with two arms and two legs should be losing to R-Truth in 2015, especially a guy as talented as Barrett. I’d say Barrett goes over here, but does it really matter? When he had the IC title, I thought him losing it would rid him of some kind of invisible curse. Maybe if he loses here AGAIN, he’ll finally get a character and a feud worth watching.
Winner: R-Truth, and then everyone hysterically sobs themselves to sleep.
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
This is another feud that really doesn’t have many people’s interest. Orton returned from a short period off to attack Sheamus while Michael Cole screamed about REVENGE, and I honestly didn’t know what was happening. Why was Orton mad at Sheamus? Because Sheamus won MITB and Orton didn’t? I honestly have no clue, and WWE hasn’t exactly followed up that attack with anything close to explaining what’s going on. While Rollins and Lesnar are tearing it up in the main event and John Cena is putting on five star classics with Owens, Cesaro and Rusev, the old guard of Orton and Sheamus are proof positive that change is a good thing. Headlocks and drop kicks just aren’t going to do it anymore. Either you tell a good story and change things up in the ring, or you’re losing the crowd’s interest. Orton and Sheamus are both skilled performers, but they are severely stuck in their ways. My best guess for this match, based upon how the WWE is booking Sheamus, is for an Orton win via disqualification or count out. Sheamus seems oddly attached to that case, and seems to duck out of matches to hold onto it even though it’s never on the line.
Winner: Orton via shenanigans
Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns
This needs to be Bray Wyatt’s coming out party. He’s the most interesting character WWE’s had since The Undertaker, yet every interaction he has is on the big screen in a dark room. All his promo’s, minus the actual words, are the same. I don’t care how talented and charismatic you are, if you do the same thing for years people are going to get sick of it (cough John Cena cough). Bray could offer so much more if he was given the chance to explore outside the box. Add in the fact that he’s had two really important matches in WWE and he’s lost both of them, and you have a great character hanging on by a thread. Roman Reigns is going to be around for a long time no matter what happens with this feud, but WWE has a chance to make Wyatt a top shelf villain here. Reigns doesn’t have the momentum he had going into WM31, but he’s still a popular face who can be used to prop Bray up. Wyatt/Reigns should be a big time feud for the next decade, and I’m hoping this is one of many meetings the two will have. You know they’ll deliver in the ring physically, but will they be able to tell a good story? Only time will tell.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
IC Title Match?
Now that Ryback is out of action with an injury, the WWE can conceivably do one of two things. 1. Have Miz and Big Show fight to see who the #1 contender for the IC title is while everyone at the arena and at home goes to the bathroom or 2. Bring in the 9 Divas from Raw and have themselves a triple threat tag match that tears the house down midway through the show. My personal vote is for number 2, as it gives Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha a WWE pay per view debut with zero pressure, and it gives the Divas a boost of adrenaline after that awesome segment on Raw. Do the right thing, WWE. Give me a ‘Banks Statement’ on a live WWE pay per view.
Tag Team Championship Match: Prime Time Players (C) vs. New Day
If the WWE tag team division has any forward momentum, it’s thank to these two team. Whether it’s on commentary, cheering outside the ring, promos or their in ring work, the PTP and New Day have been great for a couple months now. The frustrating thing is we knww they’d be great, but they never got a real chance to let their personalities and skill set shine. Now they’re getting that chance, and the result is a guaranteed fun segment every time they’re on the TV. Big E and the rest of New Day’s shouting promo’s are one of my favorite things on WWE TV, and Titus O’Neil hot tags continue to be a thing of beauty. I’m not sure he knows how to do a scoop slam, but that’s fine, because he’s big and strong enough to fling just about anybody on the roster. As far as the actual match goes, I think PTP retain. As great as these two teams have been, there’s really no depth to the tag team division. While another PTP win should eliminate New Day from title contention, they could switch up their team, rotating members of New Day which technically creates a different team. Relish these matches now, because when The Uso’s come back, there’s going to be a bunch of jumping and slapping thighs.
Winner: PTP (Titus gator bark)
U.S. Championship Match: John Cena (C) vs. Kevin Owens
The semi main event is the US championship grudge match between Cena and Owens, and raise your hand if you thought the US title picture would be the hottest thing in the WWE heading into Summerslam. Since we’re on the internet I can’t see if anyone is raising their hand, but I’ll just assume no one is. Post Rusev John Cena has been amazing, and I kind of never want this version of Cena to end. He’s almost lost matches to Neville, Cesaro and Rusev, all while defending the US title on a daily basis and making Kevin Owens seem like the greatest thing in wrestling. Owens has been great, but if you switch Cena for anyone else in this feud I guarantee you it doesn’t have the same affect. With Cesaro and Rusev now in the title picture, I’m hoping for a triple threat or fatal four way match at Summerslam, but first comes Sunday night. Owens lost his NXT title to Finn Balor in Japan, so the obvious choice is him winning here. But does he beat Cena clean again? 99.9% of the time the answer to that question is no, but this is a different WWE we’ve seen lately. The NXT women got to maul the WWE divas on Raw, Cesaro is wrestling 20 minute classics every week, and Kevin Owens, once again, is the most important man in wrestling right now. And for the first time in a long time, if John Cena beats a younger guy in a big time match, it will make sense. Cena has busted his ass to make everyone around him these last few months seem important, so if he wins here, it’s a job well done. But I think Cena’s got one more loss to take before he’s revitalized.
Winner: and NEW US Champion, Kevin Owens.
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match: Seth Rollins (C) vs. Brock Lesnar
So this is going to be awesome. I’ve written about this match at length during my Raw recaps, but there isn’t a better matchup today then Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar. This is almost like Angle vs. Lesnar all over again, if Angle was a 29 year old fitness freak who could do a Phoenix Splash. Lesnar has somehow gotten better with age, and he’s matched up with an in his prime mix of Shawn Michaels and Eddie Guerrero. Lesnar’s new specialty is suplexing people. Seth Rollins takes a suplex like I can drink a beer: very well. Add in the wrinkle that Kane and J & J Security have been taken out by Lesnar, and we’re promised a David vs. Goliath battle where everyone wants David to get murdered. The popular consensus is that Lesnar wins the title here, BUT there was a bit of news that came out yesterday that could change all that. Which leads me to this…
The Undertaker is going to cost Brock Lesnar the World Heavyweight Championship. It’s a crazy theory, but it makes all the sense in the world. The Undertaker has ONE unchecked item on his career list, and that is his loss to Lesnar at Mania. He proved he can still go at WM31, and recent pictures that have surfaced show him training and in really good shape. Plus, WWE isn’t exactly great at subtlety. They’ve been mentioning Kane’s family a lot on TV lately, and with Kane out with an “ankle injury”, maybe his brother comes back to avenge him and his own loss at WM. Paul Heyman brings up the breaking of the streak every chance he gets, so why wouldn’t Undertaker want revenge? It makes all the sense in the world, and I think it’s happening on Sunday. The best part about this? Any ending besides Kane or J & J Security interfering to help Rollins would make me happy. They’ve sent this feud up beautifully, and if Rollins or Lesnar wins clean, I’m down for it. If The Undertaker returns and costs either one of them the belt? I will shit my pants.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Last night’s Raw from Atlanta was the go home show for WWE Battleground, and if you were on the fence about the PPV before last night’s show, you should be pumped up for Sunday. Brock Lesnar started and ended the show, the Diva’s division got an NXT makeover and the US title picture is the most exciting thing in wrestling. Let’s get to the 5 stars!
1. Brock Lesnar
As wonderful as Paul Heyman is on the microphone, there’s really nobody like Brock Lesnar. When he comes through the curtain wide eyed and thrusts his arms down causing pyro to explode, there’s a feeling in the crowd that no other wrestler can provide. When Brock Lesnar is on the screen, you know something special is going to happen. His ferocity and charisma supersede anything else a wrestler can do. He has this natural animal instinct and strength that makes you fear for Seth Rollins when he’s staring him in the eyes. I know it’s fake, but Rollins is one spear into the barricade away from breaking his entire midsection. Rollins and Lesnar are such a perfect match, and I really hope that the ‘injuries’ to J & J and Kane keep them away from ringside Sunday. The only thing that could make the main event less than a 5 star match would be pointless outside interference, but judging by the carnage left by Lesnar these last weeks, we won’t have to worry about that. +1 to Brock for grabbing the microphone in the opening segment only to call Seth Rollins a bitch. +infinity to Brock for throwing the entire contract signing table at Seth Rollins like it was a chew toy.
2. Stephanie McMahon
“This is the start of something beautiful”. I bet you never thought you’d see an Ed Sheeran lyric linked into a wrestling post, but here we are. Nikki Bella came out with her sister and new friend Alicia Fox, and actually cut a decent promo about how she’s the epitome of a Total Diva. Everything she said was true. She has been the Divas champion for over 200 days. She is on red carpets, she is the star of a reality show, and she is WWE’s version of what a women’s wrestler should be. This brought out Stephanie McMahon, who I pray to the dark lord is going to be some kind of Diva’s division GM. Stephanie is at her best when she’s asserting her dominance but at the same time not burying whoever she’s in the ring with. When she’s putting a heel Diva in her place, she’s amazing. When she’s just shitting all over everyone because she’s STEPHANIE MCMAHON, she’s not as amazing. She was great here though, and she brought out 3 game changers who in one night single handedly turned the Diva’s division on it’s pretty little head.
3. Charlotte, Becky Lynch & The Boss
If you don’t watch NXT and you saw this segment last night, I’ll give you a chance to catch your breath. The main difference between NXT and the main roster is the Divas or Woman’s division. NXT’s one hour weekly program regularly features two woman’s matches, while Raw might feature a quick 2 minute Diva’s match that accomplishes nothing. A lot of that has to do with the writing, but I’d be an asshole if I didn’t mention that the female talent in NXT is out of this world. In addition to Charlotte, Sasha and Becky, you also have Bayley and Emma, plus newcomers Dana Brooke and Carmella who still need some time, but could be important players down the road. Compare that to only Paige and Nikki Bella on the main roster, and you can see why women’s wrestling in NXT kicks ass. If last night was the cannon going off, then I can’t wait to see what these three women can do on the main roster. It’s easy to be pessimistic and say that the main roster writing and Vince will ruin them, but don’t forget about Stephanie and HHH. There’s a reason NXT is so special, and that’s because HHH knows how to write and deliver great wrestling. Add Stephanie into the mix and we could be in for a golden age of women’s wrestling. As far as the actual segment last night, when’s the last time a crowd chanted ‘this is awesome’ during a Diva’s stare down? Has that ever happened? Well it did last night, and it was well deserved. That still image of Becky, Charlotte and Sasha Banks all performing their submission finishers in the middle of the ring is something that’s going to be remembered for a long time. I’m proud that all three got their chance to shine last night, and I can’t wait for the next chapter.
4. The US Title Picture
It’s tough to single anybody out from this segment, or the US Title picture overall, so I just want to give a big kudos to whoever put the US Championship Open Challenge together. It’s been the most entertaining part of Raw for the better part of two months, and adding guys like Cesaro and Rusev into the mix and making them look important is wonderful. Everybody was great here. Owens as the worst person in the world, Cesaro as the breakout star on the cusp of greatness, Rusev as the former monster getting back in the ring with something to prove, and Cena as the cagey veteran using 20 minutes of commentary to relentlessly put over everybody in the ring. That triple threat match was NUTS, and I don’t know if Rusev was in the ring during his time off, but he somehow got better. Owens got to look strong before he weaseled his way out of the match, but it made sense. He knows he has a US Title shot Sunday no matter what, so best case scenario is he wins the triple threat match and then has to face a fresh John Cena. His probability rate of winning consecutive matches drop to about negative 5 million, and if he does lose, he’s got zero momentum going into Sunday. Instead, he heads to the back, then comes back out like the vulture he is to pick the bones of Rusev and stand tall. Cesaro and Rusev put on a hell of a match after Owens left, and for the third week in a row, Cesaro was THE GUY. The crowd loves him, the announcers have and continue to love him, and it looks like he’s finally getting something important to do. No matter the outcome Sunday, these four should be in the US title picture for the foreseeable future.
5. Seth Rollins as the paranoid, delusional champion
How great was Seth Rollins last night? He’s such a huge asshole, and his show closing promo has put him into delusional paranoia mode. He’s all alone, and he knows he shouldn’t be out there, because there’s a crazy man beast on the loose by the name of Brock Lesnar. Rollins was great on the microphone all night, and his facial expressions and body language during the last segment were on point. The best part is, as much of a jackass as he is, his situation is very relatable. I would not want to be in the ring with a Brock Lesnar who won the lottery, never mind a Brock Lesnar who wants to hurt you. The man ripped a door off a Cadillac last week and threw it 50 feet in the air. What do you think he’s going to do to a 200 pound man who screwed him over? Rollins pissed off the one guy who nobody wants to mess with, and now he’s got no backup. J & J Security tried their best, but they got murdered for their troubles. Kane’s ankle is dangling off his leg, and after Rollins added insult to injury by attacking him, you can bet he won’t be there Sunday either. All Rollins has left is his championship, and if I were a betting man, I’d say he won’t have that title much longer either. This Lesnar/Rollins matchup is so great, and as awesome as Lesnar has been, Rollins has done an amazing job at making you want to see him get mauled. Sunday should be a fantastic show, and the main event should deliver on all fronts.
The Raw before the go home Raw before Battleground took place last night from Chicago. The show started off a little slow, but picked it up and ended up having one of the most entertaining final hours of a WWE show in recent memory. Brock Lesnar found some fire axes, Paige still has no friends and Cesaro might be finally getting a consistent chance to shine. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Raw!
So the WWE decided to feud Dolph Ziggler and Rusev for Rusev’s post Cena angle, and on paper it’s perfect. Rusev needs a good feud where he comes out on top and he’s at his best when he can stomp and throw guys around. Dolph Ziggler is the king of losing feuds while still looking good and can get thrown around better than just about anybody. As luck would have it, Rusev broke his ankle and had to start off the first month or so of the feud on crutches, forcing us to sit through multiple weeks of Ziggler and Lana weirdly making out in the ring. Well Rusev ain’t hurt no more, and good God did he put a beating on Ziggler. The best part was that there haven’t been any health updates on Rusev, so the attack and Rusev’s ability to move around and fight came as a complete surprise to me. I like the added dimension of Summer Rae too, because now you have a legitimate women’s wrestler going after Lana. I can’t say I’m rooting for Ziggler here, but if Rusev and Summer Rae continue to be huge assholes, Lana’s revenge will only be that much sweeter. For now, I’m happy my sweet Bulgarian prince is back to kicking ass.
2. Brock Lesnar
The only thing scarier than Brock Lesnar is Brock Lesnar with a god damn fire axe in each hand, and that’s exactly what we got last night. Everyone complaining that J & J Security’s Cadillac didn’t get destroyed last week now know why it’s best to have a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to professional wrestling. This segment kicked off the final hour of Raw, which was one of the best hours of Raw in recent memory. The story here is that Brock is a beast, but that Rollins can outsmart him by provoking him into handicap situations like a few weeks ago. If you’re facing Brock Lesnar 1 on 1 you aren’t winning. Plain and simple. But if you can lure him into situations that are more advantageous to you than they are to him, then you might have a shot. The only problem with that logic is that Brock is managed by an evil mastermind, and Heyman only had to see his client get beat down once before he altered his game plan. That alteration came in the form of a human being literally ripping the door off a car and throwing it into the crowd. Brock threw the car door so far he actually hit a fan in the front row (who is thankfully ok) and then in probably the scariest part of the whole segment, jumped from the floor to the apron and then hopped over the TOP rope and chased Rollins into the crowd. The only advantage you can possibly have over a guy like Brock is your speed, except Brock is a fucking cyborg so he’s probably going to be faster than you too. I love the way this feud has been booked so far, and I hope Lesnar suplexes Rollins into the stratosphere at Battleground.
3. Titus O’Neil
The Lucha Dragons took on the New Day in a really fun tag match, but like so many other matches on Raw, the announce team tried their hardest to ruin it. JBL talked incessantly about Brock Lesnar destroying the Cadillac, which is fine, but maybe save it for some dead air time and not for a match where all four guys are busting their ass to gain some prominence in the tag team division. Thankfully Titus O’Neil was on commentary, and he shut down JBL so bad that JBL actually stopped talking. The best line was when JBL tried to question Titus’s intelligence, only to be informed by Titus himself that he actually has two college degrees. The announce team is generally horrible, and I’m glad that a team that was sent out there to get not only themselves but also the tag team division over did their job. Too many wrestlers or divas just let the announce team dictate the conversation and you end having something similar to what happens when the Bella Twins are on commentary. They disregard the match AND the feuds that the wrestlers spent so much time building to talk nonsense. Nonsense is ok once in awhile, but when it’s your only card to play, it’s detrimental to the product. Kudos to Titus for shutting up JBL and having some pride in the tag team division.
4. John Cena
There’s really not much that can be said about this match other than it doesn’t get much better than what Cesaro and Cena did in last night’s main event. The match went about 25 minutes, and it was magical. When you have a crowd like Chicago, known for being one of the most vocal crowds in wrestling, literally exhausted from the action, you know you’ve done a great job. Seriously, look at the crowd towards the end of that match. They’re mentally and physically drained. Cena is too, which says nothing about his physical condition and everything about how hard he was busting his ass. In just about every Cena match, it’s almost impossible to believe the other guy is going to win. Cena has been winning for over a decade now, so unless it’s a guy like Brock Lesnar coming in, Cena is going to come out on top. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think Cesaro had him beat a few times last night, and I literally jumped out of my seat when he started picking Cena up for the middle rope Neutralizer. You can praise Cesaro all you want (which I’m going to do) but wrestling is a dance, and you’re only as good as your dance partner. This is easily my favorite run in Cena’s career, and anyone who says he doesn’t do enough to elevate the rest of the roster, go back and watch every Raw since WrestleMania. He’s the real deal.
I want to be Cesaro. Not like him, I literally want to inhabit his body and mind. There’s a certain kind of magic when you’re watching someone who is just so good at what he does. When Cesaro comes out, he’s in great shape, but he doesn’t necessarily stand out. He’s bald with a beard, average height and weight. But when he starts moving around in the ring, or catching John Cena out of mid air, or flipping out of an AA and landing on his feet, you know you’re watching someone special. The knock on him has always been he doesn’t ‘connect’ with the audience. Well there were about 18,000 people in the Allstate Arena last night and Cesaro connected with every god damn one of them. Microphone skills are important, and so is the ability to relate to the fans, but when you’re as good inside that ring as Cesaro, those things really don’t matter as much. I was afraid that their match from last week would overshadow last night’s main event, but Cena and Cesaro went above and beyond and tore the house down. Cesaro has fought Cena before, and has been ‘pushed’ before, but main eventing Raw with John Cena is a step above all that. Hopefully he stays in this Owens/Cena feud, because that’s a triple threat match that needs to happen at Summerslam.