Raw started off on a sad note as the first-ever WWE Universal Champion Finn Balor was forced to give up his newly won title because he needs shoulder surgery that will put him on the shelf for up to six months.
The news about Balor’s injury made the rounds on the internet Monday afternoon. During Sunday’s SummerSlam match with Seth Rollins, there was a spot where Rollins gave Balor a Powerbomb into the barricade at ringside. It was obvious that Balor was in pain right away because his right arm caught the top of the barricade. When Balor landed, he actually popped his shoulder back into place and went on to wrestle another 15 minutes. Here’s the video.
Less than an hour before Raw was set to take place in Brooklyn (WWE’s third straight sellout show at Barclays Center), Raw’s General Manager Mick Foley tweeted this.
Due to his injury, @StephMcMahon and I jointly accept @FinnBalor relinquishing of the @WWE Universal Championship. #Raw
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) August 22, 2016
When Raw came on the air this week, announcer Michael Cole informed the audience that Balor will undergo surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder that will force Balor to miss up to six months.
Could he return from the injury sooner? Maybe. The Royal Rumble would mean a return in five months, but February in six months seems most likely. In the past couple of years, guys like John Cena, Sami Zayn and Cesaro had similar shoulder injuries and they all missed that much time. Everybody is different, but when it comes to shoulder injuries you can’t rush it either.
Balor made a speech about how he worked his whole life to get to WWE and accomplished a dream in winning the Universal Title. The crowd chanted “you deserve it” in support of it. He was sad about it and he let GM Foley be the one to take it off him. As he left, Seth Rollins made his entrance, gloating at Balor as if he was happy he was hurt, but that’s just a storyline way of making Rollins look like a jerk.
I think a big talking point in all of this relates to Seth Rollins. He’s a favorite wrestler of mine, but that Powerbomb into the turnbuckle (sometimes called a Buckle Bomb) or into the barricade as it was in this case can be pretty dangerous. Taking bumps on the mat are routine for a wrestler, but landing back/shoulder first into an object that doesn’t have a lot of give is going to hurt a lot more.
It was notable that Rollins didn’t do the Powerbomb into an object on Raw although he teased doing it to Sami Zayn. Perhaps management will ban the move because when Rollins wrestled Sting last September at Night of Champions, he did two Buckle Bombs with Sting ending up in a hospital. Sting didn’t blame him for it, but he also will likely never wrestle again because of the back and neck injuries suffered in that match.
While I wouldn’t consider Rollins to be an unsafe worker because he has over a decade of experience at a high level, it’s time to be smarter in his matches and eliminate that move. That spot was cool-looking, but it’s not like it’s a finish of a match. They did it pretty early on. Now Balor’s on the shelf for half a year because of it. Rollins also broke John Cena’s nose due to a high knee lift, which was an accident (the Buckle Bombs were accidents too, of course) and Rollins doesn’t really do that move anymore.
To make up for the newly vacated title, they announced a “series of matches” to take place during Raw. It was so weird because they didn’t want to call it a tournament and they didn’t explain what was going to happen until about 45 minutes into the show. Then they finally said it was going to lead to a Fatal Fourway match that will determine the new Universal Champion next week on Raw in Houston.
I’m going to miss Balor on Raw. He brought a lot of energy and got over quickly as a “new” guy with a lot of talent. His two-year run in NXT was great. I was excited to see him on Raw. Now we have to wait until early next year to see him in action again. All the best to him in his recovery.
This Week’s Raw Matches
There were four matches that took place to set up the Fatal Fourway match next week to determine the next WWE Universal Champion. There were other matches too, but those four were the main focus on the show.
Seth Rollins defeated Sami Zayn
This was for that Universal Title tournament which is not really a tournament. As soon as that was announced, I knew that Zayn was going to lose. They had a really good match for 13 minutes with Zayn selling an ankle injury. He did such a good job of it that people on Twitter were freaking out, thinking it was real. Don’t worry, my friends, because he’s going to be okay.
Anyway, Zayn’s selling was fantastic, favoring the ankle on every move he was doing, but his downfall came when he couldn’t do his Helluva Kick finisher. Rollins capitalized on that, hit a Pedigree and won clean. Best match on the show, which is no surprise considering how great these two are.
Kevin Owens defeated Neville
Another match in the tournament that wasn’t called a tournament. I always enjoy their matches because Neville’s got some power moves for a shorter guy while Owens has no problem bumping his ass off to make Neville look great. Chris Jericho showed up, distracted Neville and Owens was able to hit a spinning neckbreaker while Neville was on his shoulders for the win. It went about ten minutes.
Big E defeated Karl Anderson
They set this up with a long promo as The New Day celebrated 365 days as the Tag Team Champions. It was Big E’s first match in a few weeks after selling a groin injury. Big E won with the Big Ending in about five minutes after Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston took out Luke Gallows on the floor (Gallows attacked them first). This tag team feud will likely lead to another title match since Gallows & Anderson won by disqualification at SummerSlam.
Big Cass defeated Rusev by countout
This was also in the tournament that they didn’t call a tournament. It was pretty boring, as Rusev had taped ribs due to Roman Reigns attacking him at SummerSlam. Cass targeted the ribs the whole match. Rusev ended up leaving the ring after a big boot to the face and was counted out.
I find that booking to be odd because you’re trying to get over this new Universal Title as an important title, yet the current US Champion would rather quit by leaving the match than fight for it? Why should we care about a title if a guy just quits in a match? I get that heels sometimes quit because it makes the fans hate them, but it makes Rusev look bad and like an idiot.
Bayley defeated Dana Brooke
It was Bayley’s debut match to put her over Brooke. No reason to debut her and have her lose. Bayley won in about four minutes. Since WWE tends to repeat matches a lot, they’ll probably do this match a few times in the next month as well.
Braun Strowman defeated Johnny Knockout
Easy one-minute win for Strowman, who is impressive, yet never seems to face anybody other than an enhancement opponent. Prior to the match, Knockout said he took the match because he “likes big, sweaty men.”
Roman Reigns defeated Chris Jericho
It was the fourth and final match in the “series of matches” that they didn’t want to call a tournament. I thought there was an outside shot for Jericho to win if Rusev showed up to cost Reigns the victory, but that didn’t happen. Reigns ended up winning clean while Jericho did a great job of being a heel that would help Reigns get cheered. There was a good near-fall for Jericho when Owens showed up, hit a superkick and Jericho hit his Codebreaker finisher. Reigns found a way to kick out. Reigns came back with the Spear to win.
Next week on Raw, it’s Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens vs. Big Cass vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Title. I’ll save my prediction for the closing thoughts.
Three Other Key Items From Raw
1. Bayley made her long awaited Raw debut. It’s been over a year since her “Four Horsewomen” friends Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte started on the main roster, so it’s nice to see Bayley has finally joined them. The crowd loved her as soon as Mick Foley brought her out. She did the usual promo about how she dreamed about a moment like this all her life, and it felt genuine when she said that because she really is a lifelong wrestling fan who wrestled for several years before WWE signed her. The hug with Foley was a bit weird because he’s her boss in the storyline, but it’s her gimmick to hug everybody.
Then she focused on Charlotte by saying that she’s coming for the Women’s Title. Since the women’s roster is so thin right now, due to Sasha Banks being injured and Paige suspended for 30 days, there aren’t a lot of options for top contenders against Charlotte. It also shows that WWE has a lot of faith in Bayley by putting her in a title feud already.
It’s likely that Bayley will challenge Charlotte for the Women’s Title at Clash of Champions on Sept. 25, but that was not announced here. They have over a month to build it up.
2. The Dudley Boyz said goodbye to WWE during this show as well. It was a weird segment to me because last month, there were reports that they had re-signed with the company for another year. Then there were several matches in the last few weeks where they had spots in the matches where they messed up, which is a way to tease a split. During their speech on Raw, I kept on waiting for Bubba to attack D-Von from behind to set up Bubba as a singles heel, similar to what he did in TNA Wrestling as Bully Ray. Instead, it never happened.
After the goodbye speech, The Shining Stars showed up to offer up some tickets to Puerto Rico. The Dudleys beat them up. Then the team Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson team arrived, beat up both Dudleys as they hit a Magic Killer on Bubba on the floor and a Magic Killer on D-Von through a table in the ring.
A report from PWInsider mentions that the Dudleys’ goodbye was legitimate. When they were backstage, they were met by a standing ovation from the Raw roster with the McMahons included in that. They are considered “free agents” in wrestling right now. The Dudleys have a wrestling school together outside Orlando (Team 3D Academy) and will likely work independent wrestling shows. Perhaps they will return for revenge on Gallows & Anderson at one point, but for now, they are considered out of WWE.
Are they WWE Hall of Famers? Of course. That will probably happen within a few years, although trying to guess inductions for WWE’s Hall of Fame is pretty hard because it’s so random sometimes.
3. Titus O’Neil did an awful promo to further his heel turn and his feud with Darren Young. I felt bad for him because they put him out there to tell this story that he didn’t need his partner and all this other stuff, yet the crowd didn’t care. It seemed like he forgot his lines a few times. Bob Backlund got out there and did the Crossface Chickenwing, but then O’Neil slammed him down. Young walked out after Backlund, which is weird because a babyface wrestler that lets his manager get beat up doesn’t really come across as a “good guy” to me.
I’ve been hoping for the best for this feud, but this segment was poor and I’m not sure if they will be able to recover from it. It’s probably the worst feud of the year at this point.
There’s no “Looking Ahead” section this week because the next Raw pay-per-view is Clash of Champions on Sept. 25. WWE used to call it Night of Champions, but they changed it to Clash of Champions. Old school NWA/WCW fans may remember it used to be called Clash of the Champions, but WWE apparently has removed “the” from the name.
Smackdown has a pay-per-view named Backlash on Sept. 11. At this point, no matches have been announced for either show.
It was a slightly above-average show because I liked three of the “not a tournament” matches (not Cass vs. Rusev). Plus, the debut of Bayley was good and I’m glad the Dudleys had a cool moment with the fans before they got beat up.
They really didn’t address the Brock Lesnar/Randy Orton SummerSlam match, other than showing some images of the match and Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon saying there were going to be repercussions. But then, she just left. No specifics were given.
I have some sympathy for the creative team because the Balor injury likely changed things in a major way and they did the best they could. There were times when you could tell that WWE was still figuring it out as they went, but managed to put on a decent show. It was certainly better than last week.
Next week’s Raw should be a big one with the WWE Universal Title on the line. I think Seth Rollins will win because Rusev is going to cost Roman Reigns the match. I’d love it if Owens were victorious, but I just feel like WWE wants to go with Rollins again. We’ll find out next week.