One week into this post-draft WWE world and holy cow, did Raw deliver in its first outing. In what was probably the best edition of Raw in many years, it was also the most important episode in a good while too. Last week we saw the creation of a new championship, the WWE Universal Championship. Sasha Banks finally won the WWE Women’s Championship and Finn Balor made his debut by winning a Fatal-4-Way, then beating Roman Reigns one on one and he will now face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam to determine the first ever WWE Universal Champion.
Moving on to this week and it’s always difficult following a mammoth episode because tonight will be subconsciously compared to last week, whether that’s fair or not. SummerSlam already has its top matches set in stone, now it’s time to see how the rest of the card is going to fill out. Plus, Brock Lesnar is making his first appearance since WrestleMania and all those failed drug tests and stuff. Let’s get to the show!
Raw kicks off with the brand new WWE Women’s Champion, Sasha Banks and it doesn’t take very long at all until Charlotte interrupts. The Atlanta crowds chants “you tapped out” at Charlotte, but she says there was a fly in the ring last week, brilliant logic. Charlotte says that she was the best for over three hundred days and that Sasha only capitalised on a mistake. Which leads to this amazing back and forth…
Charlotte: “It’s one thing to take home the prom king, it’s another to get him to put a ring on your finger and that’s what you are Sasha, you’re just a one night stand.”
Sasha: “You’re the daughter of Ric Flair. If it wasn’t for a one night stand, you probably wouldn’t be standing here. WOOOOOO!”
Hot damn! That is some absolute gold right there. Bizarrely enough, Chris Jericho interrupts and puts over Charlotte by calling her royalty, while calls Sasha a little punk and ‘the boss’ of purple haired, teeny bopper stupid idiots. This brings out Enzo Amore, who starts flirting with Sasha and it gets uncomfortable to watch for a bit. The four trade insults until the new Raw General Manager Mick Foley arrives to make a mixed tag team match between the four.
The match gets under way and Kevin Owens is on commentary because… Well… I don’t really know why, but I’m happy he’s here to make me love this match even more. After a distraction from Dana Brooke, Sasha slaps Jericho across the face and Charlotte takes advantage by hitting Natural Selection to pin the Women’s Champion. After the match, Jericho hits a Codebreaker on Enzo and Cass comes out to make the save, which makes Jericho, Charlotte and Dana Brooke retreat. The referee then tries to hand the Women’s Championship to Charlotte and the look Charlotte gives the ref is hilarious.
The final shot also makes it look like Jericho is a dad during a midlife crisis, hanging out with women way younger than him. Anyway, I loved this opening so much. The first thirty minutes of Raw felt refreshing and different and I couldn’t be happier. Men and women interacting like equals, old and new being woven together seamlessly, this is what I have wanted Raw to be for a while. Plus, the match itself was pretty good too.
Following the humorous antics of the first half hour, Braun Strowman is up next to bring everyone’s mood back down to earth. My favourite part is when Braun Strowman murders this man. Braun flattens this poor guy and it’s all over. My weird, sadistic side of me is loving these murders every week. Please, let’s have some more destruction, I crave it.
You know how last week I said that I couldn’t hate on the Golden Truth/Pokemon Go stuff because at least it came to a pay off later in the night? Well this is where WWE does what it does best and completely over does it to the point where they lose me and I hate it. The Golden Truth are taking on The Shining Stars and R-Truth is too busy playing Pokemon on the apron and it costs them the match. The Shining Stars won a match, Michael Cole gets to say “Pokemon No” and I die a little inside.
Michael Cole is in the ring and is going to interview Finn Balor, who won his way into the main event of SummerSlam last week. Much like the top of the show, it takes almost no time at all for Seth Rollins interrupt. Rollins brings up instances where he did things before Balor like being the first ever NXT Champion and beating Roman Reigns on his first night back from injury. Rollins say Balor is okay, he’s just not that great, like Star Wars or Ghostbusters remakes.
Balor says that there is one difference between them, Balor earned his title opportunity while Rollins had his handed to him. Finn adds that the only thing that Seth will be handed at SummerSlam is his ass and kicks Rollins out of the ring to end the segment. This segment was fine, it brought up points that I hadn’t even thought about and it did what it needed to do. The upside is that we still have another two episodes before SummerSlam to make this even more intriguing.
Earlier in the night Mark Henry was backstage with Stephanie and Mick Foley and Stephanie was explaining to Mark that they really only drafted him to be in a mentor-ship role, not so much an active competitor. This was Stephanie being nice in saying that nobody wants to see Mark Henry wrestle in 2016. Mark says he still has a lot left in the tank and Foley gives him a United States title match against Rusev. Rusev vs. Mark Henry in this ‘New Era’ of Raw, even though it seems remarkably similar to 2014 era of Raw. Rusev beats Mark Henry and hopefully this retires him. I just realised how mean that sounds, but we just don’t need him around anymore.
Following the match, Rusev cuts a promo about how no man can take the United States Championship away from him, which brings out Roman Reigns!? Reigns takes out Rusev and forces him to retreat. Following his suspension and many decisive losses, Reigns is down to the mid-card which he leap frogged over to begin with. This is definitely the best direction they can go with Reigns as a match with Rusev certainly intrigues me. I just hope this goes over a few months and Rusev doesn’t take a loss straight off the bat.
Former Tag Team Champions collide next as Titus O’Neil goes one on one with Darren Young. Formerly known as The Prime Time Players, these two quietly split late last year with Darren Young creating this new gimmick with Bob Backlund and Titus O’Neil taking everything about The Prime Time Players which only made them mildly successful. The two were having a competitive match until Titus rolls up Darren and grabs the tights to get the cheap win.
Titus threatens Bob Backlund backstage until Darren Young intervenes and knocks down Titus. So it looks like they’ve turned Titus O’Neil heel and it’s probably for the best. Titus isn’t particularly likeable, while Darren Young and Bob Backlund are so crazy it’s sort of endearing. I was initially cold on the idea of this rivalry but seeing what they’ve done with it in one week, I’m listening.
Let’s turn our attention to another beautiful slaughter. Nia Jax is in her second match on Raw and she is once again brutalising a local athlete. This week Nia shows us a brand new move, turning a Samoan Drop into a Powerslam, very impressive stuff. I still absolutely adore these obliterations each week. Good lord, what is wrong with me?
Following Gallows and Anderson’s attack on The New Day last week, we have ourselves a tag match with the extra member of New Day barred from ringside. Xavier drew the short straw (or in New Day’s case, the banana) and left Kofi and Big E. to fend for themselves. When Karl Anderson gets caught up celebrating with Gallows, Big E. rolls him up and scores the surprisingly quick win. But Gallows and Anderson immediately go on the attack.
Xavier tries to make the save but is laid out too. After Gallows and Anderson hit Big E. with the Boot of Doom twice, they crotch Big E. into the ring post and finally leave. I’m not a massive fan of having the number one contenders pinned clean to start off the feud, you could have had the same result with this match ending in a disqualification. But with that point aside, Gallows and Anderson looked dominant this week.
A little earlier in the night, Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley were interrupted by Sheamus and Cesaro who were both unhappy with their position in the draft. So Foley decides that whoever wins in a match between the two, they will receive a future championship match. They didn’t tell you which title, so it’s probably the United States title. To the match itself and it was a hard hitting affair, as it always is between these two. Cesaro counters a Back Breaker seamlessly into the Neutralizer to get the win and a future title opportunity.
Cesaro is probably the only opponent that makes a Sheamus match fun to watch, because they will absolutely try to take each other’s heads off. I’m so very happy with Cesaro getting the win, I have been hoping that he would be the one to take the United States title off of Rusev, but it’s looking like that honour is going to Roman Reigns. After the match, a brawl between Sheamus and Cesaro broke out during the commercial break. So until Cesaro’s title opportunity, it looks like we might be getting more Sheamus vs. Cesaro and I’m more than happy to watch it again.
Okay, so this is where Raw got a little weird. Heath Slater was the only superstar to not be drafted to either Raw or Smackdown, so he’s been turning up on shows asking for a contract. On Smackdown he turned up and asked for a contract, but was GORED by the returning Rhyno. This week Heath has brought a friend, his former team-mate in 3MB Jinder Mahal. Jinder was released from WWE with little fanfare in 2014 and hasn’t been thought about since, but he’s back for whatever reason.
Foley comes on stage and says that Slater and Mahal will face each other in a match and the winner gets a contract on Raw. Heath complains, but Jinder takes advantage by hitting Slater with a vicious looking boot to the face and getting the win. Jinder Mahal has won himself a contract for Monday Night Raw and the crowd in Atlanta reacts sort of like… “Huh? Why?”
For the first time ever on Raw, Seth Rollins goes one on one with Sami Zayn. This is a match I could watch all day everyday, but I also like that they don’t do it very often because I can tell this will be a tremendous main event rivalry in the years to come. But until that day comes, this will do just fine. As expected these two put on a great match with Seth Rollins getting a clean win over Sami with a Pedigree. I don’t ask for much in this world, but all I want is for Seth to get his own finisher.
Brock Lesnar is making his first appearance since WrestleMania and he still has Paul Heyman in tow. It’s ridiculous how much Lesnar was probably being paid to turn up, stand in the ring and jump on the spot while Heyman does all the work. Paul Heyman cuts a long and typically brilliant promo building up Lesnar again and going through Randy Orton’s accomplishments but explaining why he still doesn’t have a chance at SummerSlam. Just as Heyman says that he will never hit an RKO on Lesnar, guess what happens?
Randy Orton bursts into frame, faster than the crowd can react to it and hits an RKO on Lesnar. Michael Cole welcomes Brock Lesnar to ‘Viperville’ and the whole world cringes in unison. Orton escapes through the crowd while security, referees, the Raw roster and Stephanie and Mick Foley come to ringside to make sure he leaves. The show goes off the air with Stephanie screaming “HE’S TAKING OFF HIS SHIRT, GET HIM OUT OF HERE!”
As I said at the top of the post, it would be hard to not compare this weeks episode to last week so I’m doing my best not to. There is a lot to like about this week such as the women opening the show and interacting as equals with the male superstars. Cesaro picking up and important win, gaining himself a future title opportunity. Those delicious beat downs from Braun Strowman and Nia Jax. Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn will never fail to entertain and the final segment with Paul Heyman’s promo and a surprise RKO from Randy Orton.
But we have to look at some of the negatives like Mark Henry wrestling, WWE hammering home the fact they know what Pokemon Go is thanks to Xavier Woods’ gaming channel and the baffling decision to bring Jinder Mahal back. Although you do have all the stuff that we need to see how those stories progress like New Day/Gallows & Anderson, Roman Reigns/Rusev & Titus O’Neil/Darren Young.
This week was a perfectly fine episode of Raw. I didn’t leave it with a sense of dread of what’s to come in the coming weeks. I must still be reeling off of the excitement and pure optimism that this brand extension has provided WWE with a new way of thinking and determination to give the viewers a fresh and more exciting product… But that may have something to do with the USA Network complaining about tanking ratings of Smackdown over the last six months. Either way, I’m still optimistic for the future.
Final Rating: 7.5/10
Follow me on Twitter @MichaelFarrer92 for live tweeting WWE PPV’s and Monday Night Raw’s.