How was RAW?
Opening the show with a moment of silent reflection for those lost in the terrorist attacks in France was a classy, commendable move. I do honestly wish that WWE would have acknowledged some of the other attacks that happened around the world, along with the natural disasters, but I understand the reasoning behind covering the one everyone is talking about.
There’s still almost nothing cooler than for The Undertaker to help kick off RAW; the monks chanting, the druids lining the ramp while wearing black robes, the gong striking, along with fire, lightning, and fog all creating an ambiance that is unmistakable, and impossible to duplicate. Taker is the greatest wrestling character to ever exist, and it speaks volumes that after 25 years, we all sit/stand in awe of this man when his music begins to play; the fact that Kane has managed to solidify himself in the company of Taker, also speaks to Kane’s career, but that is aided heavily by Taker’s presence throughout the Devil’s Favorite Demon‘s stay in WWE. The Brothers of Destruction made their way into the ring, and Taker cut a poetic, incredible –for Taker– promo. Taker talked about the true Army of Darkness standing in the ring, about how Bray Wyatt took Taker and Kane, possessing their bodies, but failing to take their souls, and noting that one cannot truly tame the power of the dark side –an appropriate phrase, considering Star Wars Episode 7 is due out in a month.– Taker said Bray and his families type of evil isn’t a match for Taker and Kane’s, because the Brother of Destruction’s version of evil is tried and tested. Taker would go on to tell Bray to choose the two Wyatt members to sacrifice, because Taker and Kane have already determined the destinies of those two men who will fall before them. Bray and The Wyatt Family took their cue, entering the arena, and making their home at the top of the ramp, with Bray taking a seat in his rocking chair –still curious to know how he got that back, after Taker burned the thing to ash just before WrestleMania this year.– Bray said the Brothers of Destruction no longer dictate fate in the WWE, and that the Army of Darkness Taker speaks of, is controlled by none other than the Eater of Worlds:
The druids charged into the ring at Bray’s call to Run, but the Brothers of Destruction easily handled their allies turned enemies…which really makes one wonder how effective they’d be in combat. The Wyatt Family started to head towards the Brothers, but Bray called to his Family to stop, saying that their destiny of destruction was set for Sunday, so they’ll wait until then. The way things were worded during this, really made me question whether or not Bray will choose himself to be in the match on Sunday, opting instead to put any combination of two members in there instead. From a character standpoint, it would make total sense for Bray to pit two members of his Family other than himself to face Taker and Kane, but I can’t imagine him as a person being okay with that, not when Taker’s remaining matches are severely limited in number.
Neville and Kevin Owens put on a far more dramatic match than I think I was anticipating, not because they’re not both outstanding wrestlers/entertainers, but rather because I didn’t sense a need on WWE’s part to show them off. I was thinking that with the other three matches that needed to happen, this one would probably be the one that WWE chooses to limit, but that didn’t happen. Neville’s near count out was probably the most nerve racking of any I’ve seen in recent memory, with Neville getting into the ring with 9.98 out of 10 on the clock. Then there was Neville landing a Red Arrow from the middle rope, which proved not to be enough to seal the victory, so Neville went for a top rope one, then Owens got up, so Neville leaped over Owens, kicked Owens in the neck, went back up for a Red Arrow, but Owens got up and hit the ropes, causing Neville to fall to his back. It seemed like this was it, what with Owens sending Neville off the ropes for a Popup Powerbomb, only Neville wasn’t planning on playing along, using the upward momentum to jump out of Owens’ grasp, landing, hitting Owens with a Superkick, then doing a Reverse Frankensteiner:
It looked like Neville had it, until Owens kicked out, but then Neville headed back to the top rope for another Red Arrow attempt, Neville launched off the top rope, realizing mid-air that Owens had moved, so Neville adjusted, landing, rolling, and turning to attack Neville’s wounded opponent; however, when Neville went to press the attack, Owens was fully prepared for it, grabbing an unsuspecting Neville, and launching the Man That Gravity Forgot into the air, and slamming Neville down to the mat with a vicious Popup Powerbomb.
Tyler Breeze faced R-Truth in what has to feel like an immense step back from Breeze’s first match last week, where Prince Pretty faced Dean Ambrose in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. Truth can help make you look really good, but he’s also the one that ended Bo Dallas‘ streak from a long time ago –not his fault, it’s just how it was booked, but still.– As for their match? I liked it, it was an enjoyable match, but I would genuinely prefer to see Breeze stay far away from any overly humorous gimmicks, because I fear some fans will view Breeze as another joke character, despite his extraordinary talent. Breeze worked one of Truth’s knees for a fair amount of the match, so when Truth went for a crazy looking modified Bookend —Booker T‘s finisher,– and the move didn’t seal the deal, it only hurt Truth that much more. Breeze needs to continue finding ways to win these types of matches, not to say he needs an extended streak, but the WWE Universe that isn’t fully aware of him, need to see that he’s someone they absolutely need to take seriously.
Dolph Ziggler and Ambrose was a lot more of an old school, classic style wrestling match than could have been anticipated. They did a lot of lock ups, grapples, reversals, counters, submissions, and attempted early finishers; this is the type of stuff we would have seen in the 80’s, but with some new age flair added in for good measure. These two ended up putting on one of, if not the best match of the night, sacrificing their bodies in a way that we typically only see on PPV cards; I legitimately have to tip my cap to them for being willing to put a PPV quality match on, on what has become a throwaway episode of RAW –the Go-home shows.–It went from a plodding type pace, to a frenetic one, where both were throwing everything they had at the other, and even though these two really made it seem like there was a chance that Ambrose may actually lose, the Lunatic Fringe came out on top with a Dirty Deeds out of nowhere. After the win, Ambrose cut a short promo, telling us all that when he wins on Sunday, all the rules go out the window, like no more suits, no more ties, less talking, and Michael Cole being replaced with a fish tank.
New Day cut a promo while coming down the ramp, bringing up how we’re all talking about 25 Years of The Undertaker, but we should be talking about it being the one year anniversary of the New Day…oh, and how “When life gives you booty, you make Bootyaid.” New Day may have also made fun of The Usos for getting injured, taunting them for one needing surgery, which is something I really hope doesn’t come back to haunt them, joking or not. New Day were all in action last night, taking part in a 6-Man Tag match between the three members of New Day and The Usos, teaming with Ryback. Kofi Kingston saying he’s going to grab the tag rope and play by the rules, may have been one of my favorite moments of the night, because sometimes, it really is the little things…like Kofi’s shoes:
Ryback would cost his team the match though, pushing the referee after the ref missed Ryback’s tag, allowing New Day to lay in a lot of damage on the Usos. After the DQ, Ryback went on a warpath, laying waste to the New Day in the process.
Triple H was seen earlier in the night talking to Owens, even shaking the IC Champions hand and seemingly agreeing to something, but Triple H didn’t stop there, no, he also went in for a chat with Cesaro just before the Swiss Superman‘s match against Roman Reigns. Now, Triple H didn’t go in there just to offer Cesaro the same thing he did to Roman, nor do I truly think it was the same thing he said to Owens, but Triple H did talk to Cesaro about how Triple H feels like Cesaro is a great talent, a man with abilities that are rare, rare enough that Triple H doesn’t think he’s seen anyone like him, and maybe, just maybe this is Cesaro’s time. Triple H didn’t say for Cesaro to do anything specific, to agree to anything, but Triple H did say that if this is meant to be Cesaro’s time, all Cesaro needs to do is do whatever it takes to win.
Reigns cut a somewhat unnecessary promo on how Triple H offered him the chance to skip ahead to the finals, being gifted with the chance to fight for the Title without needing to earn it, and pointed out that the leader of the Roman Empire doesn’t sell out, adding that Reigns is able and willing to run through everyone he needs to, from Cesaro, to his boy, Ambrose. It wasn’t bad, that’s not why it was a little unnecessary, it’s because it felt out of place in the timing of the show, like why did Reigns come down to the ring when he did, just to talk for two minutes, and then go to commercial before having his match? If the purpose was to give him some more time on the mic, without it being a show altering moment, then that makes total sense, because he’s getting real time practice, without the weight of it being the beginning or the anchor of the show.
These two didn’t tear down the house like we expected them to, but they did have a great match, which included one of my favorite Cesaro Swing‘s, because it came out of nowhere, and Cesaro actually needed to fight his way into making the move happen:
Normally, it’s quite easy for Cesaro to do the Swing, but that doesn’t seem logical. What kind of athlete is going to let a guy just do that? I know, it’s wrestling, you have to check a lot of your logic at the door for the sake of entertainment, but still, it made this one mean more. I think it needs to be noted how positive of a reaction Reigns got after winning this one:
There were a lot of near fall moments, making it seem like Cesaro had a greater chance of winning than it seemed going in, but the Swiss Superman’s superior strength wasn’t enough to derail Reigns.
The Dudley Boyz had a squash match against The Ascension, which was probably only booked to remind fans that the Dudley’s are still an effective tag team. One of these days WWE will see some potential in The Ascension, but it seems like it will be a while before that begins to happen.
Triple H went to Alberto Del Rio in one final attempt to sway things into the favor of The Authority, which got a smirk out of Del Rio, and not much more. I’m really happy there wasn’t another promo by Del Rio and Zeb Colter before Del Rio’s match against Kalisto, because those things have been painful to sit through the last couple of weeks. The majority of their bout was made up of Del Rio capitalizing on his size advantage, keeping Kalisto grounded for as long as Del Rio could, but after Kalisto dodged a charging Del Rio, sending the US Champion into the ring post, Kalisto was able to mount some offense, and get the pace turned up for at least a few moments before Del Rio cut off Kalisto’s offensive burst. Kalisto got in a couple more shots, before Del Rio countered a Salida Del Sol, sending the Lucha Dragon onto the top rope. What was really disappointing about this match wasn’t just the fact that we’re getting the exact same final four that we saw in the Fatal 4-Way to determine the Number One Contender on RAW several weeks ago, nor was it simply the fact that Kalisto lost to Del Rio’s mucked up finisher, it was the fact that this wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity of the match fans imagined when this matchup was revealed. These two were put together because Kalisto could bring out the luchador in Del Rio, and Del Rio could help Kalisto look like a million bucks, but in reality, neither one of them had any chemistry, and it ended sloppily.
The second deserved tip of the cap? Seeing WWE book the Diva’s contract signing for the main event of the night –also, Del Rio/Kalisto was the main event match? Weird.– Paige and Charlotte signed their contracts while Michael Cole moderated, Paige just talked up the fact that Paige will become Diva’s Champion again, and Charlotte brought up the past, how in NXT, Charlotte wanted to be Paige, wanted to be the British Badass, but mainly, Charlotte talked about how Paige was there for Charlotte after Charlotte lost her brother. Giving the Diva’s the opportunity to close out the RAW before a PPV is huge, and it took awhile to get going, mainly because Charlotte was intensely emotional, and for good reason. Charlotte’s voice was shaky from the moment she started talking, likely because she knew she was going to mention her brother, and it got to her –justified,– but it made for slightly uncomfortable TV, so when Paige interjected, pumping drama, and frustration into the segment, she helped bring things back to Earth again. Paige ragged on Ric Flair, urging the leader of the Four Horsemen to come down to the ring and drop an elbow on his jacket, even calling Flair an old fart, which got Charlotte to threaten Paige, telling the former Diva’s Champion that there won’t be a Survivor Series, that Paige wouldn’t even make it out of the building. That was a fairly memorable comment, but the next one out of Paige’s mouth took the cake, the bakery, and the baker all in just a few words, after Paige said that Charlotte’s deceased brother obviously didn’t have much fight in him. I know wrestling tends to bring reality into things in order to elevate things, to make them deeper, more impactful, filled with more purpose, but when they bring up the dead, I still feel like it’s going too far. You could tell that Paige wanted to cry before she said the phrase, because her eyes were blood shot and her voice was beginning to shake, but it came out fluidly, and Charlotte reacted exactly how one would if this was said out of true anger, and not a scripted moment:
Charlotte beat the ever living hell out of Paige, tossing the former Diva’s Champion around like a rag doll, punching, kicking, even tearing Paige’s jacket sleeve almost completely off, and slamming Paige to the floor so hard the little metal pyramid spikes on Paige’s jacket exploded all over the floor. We’ve seen the likes of Brock Lesnar and Taker attack one another viciously to end or begin a show, but we haven’t seen the Diva’s do something this brutal before. I wasn’t all that interested in this match heading into last night, mainly because the finish is blatantly obvious, but this segment has me buying into the possibility that we’ll get something better than I thought before Charlotte nearly ripped Paige’s head off.
WWE took a couple of risks, but none bigger than the final segment, which for me really went over well. I’m a touch pissed that WWE dropped the ball on having a dark horse move into the semi-finals, eliminating both Neville and Kalisto, giving us a final four we just saw compete for the right to challenge for the Title, but at least the majority of the matches were good to great. All in all, RAW wasn’t even close to being a throwaway, something the Go-home shows have certainly been for quite some time, which is why I have to give RAW an:
+ The final segment helped sell the Diva’s Championship match like nothing WWE’s done before
+ Dean Ambrose/Dolph Ziggler stole the show
+ Cesaro/Roman Reigns was a great one as well
+ Kevin Owens continues to prove he’s a next level talent, while Neville is hopefully convincing more execs to believe in his talent
– The Ascension being fodder for a tag team that’s in limbo for now
– Kalisto/Del Rio was lackluster at best
That’s The Lowedown on RAW this week, thanks for reading, and remember to watch more wrestling!
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The future is bright and full of suplexes!
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