I’ve been writing this column for many months now and normally it’s easy to write about the big stories of Raw. The problem was that this week’s show felt like such a mess that there was no clear main story and the main event was a match made so late in the show that it had no build at all. It just felt like the whole show was disorganized with way too many promo segments.
The show started out with a promo from Enzo Amore & Big Cass as they talked trash about Chris Jericho. That led to Jericho walking out with his buddy Kevin Owens. It eventually led to a Jericho/Enzo match which led to a predictable tag match that was set up for SummerSlam. Between the promo and match, it took them 35 minutes to set up the SummerSlam bout.
At the top of hour two around 9 p.m. ET, Seth Rollins did a 10-minute promo talking about how great he was and how he was going to win the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. He tried to rip on his opponent Finn Balor by making fun of his name, but Balor didn’t even show up to try to shut him up. It was a 10-minute monologue by Rollins. He’s a good talker, but if you missed the segment, it really wasn’t a big deal.
The US Champion Rusev and his new wife Lana graced us with their presence at the top of the 10 p.m. ET hour. It was a celebration of their recent wedding, with the crowd quickly chanting “boring” as Lana bragged about how great they are. There was cake in the ring, so it was obvious that somebody was going into it. Cue Roman Reigns. He got in the ring, insulted them, made jokes and started brawling with Rusev. It led to a Reigns punch that sent Rusev into Lana as she tumbled into a cake, resulting in the red and white cake ruining her dress. It took 15 minutes to get to the point. Their promos were fine, but it was a long segment that dragged on too much.
There was no main event announced for the show. All they told us as that Raw GM Mick Foley invited Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan to Raw, so that segment started when a main event match usually would. They got into a mild argument with Foley getting mad that Bryan mocked the name of the WWE Universal Championship, but then Rusev showed up in his ring gear. He was trying to suck up to Foley, who put him in a SummerSlam match against Reigns. It ended up leading to Rusev facing Cesaro in a US Title match main event.
It was 11 p.m. ET when Cesaro’s match with Rusev began. They did a pretty good of making it entertaining for the 10 minutes they were given, but Cesaro lost following a ref bump, a cheap kick to the head from Sheamus and then Rusev hitting a kick for the win. Reigns walked out to hit Rusev with a Spear to send the crowd home happy, even though Reigns is booed by a lot of the fans.
Raw also had a guest star this week as Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs appeared to plug his music and the fact that he chose the songs in the WWE 2K17 video game. He was only shown in a backstage vignette with Mick Foley and The New Day, so they kept his involvement to a minimum.
There was no sign of Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon, although they did do a segment where Foley was talking to her on a phone. Her presence was not missed.
This Week’s Raw Matches
For the second week in a row, match quality on Raw was hurt by the lack of time given to the matches. A few matches were above-average and got some time, but for the most part, it was disappointing.
Chris Jericho defeated Enzo Amore by disqualification
Pretty basic stuff here, although Enzo’s offense doesn’t look that great. That’s his weakness. But in terms of selling, he’s pretty good. Kevin Owens was at ringside and grabbed Enzo’s leg followed by Jericho hitting a Codebreaker. Big Cass saw it, so he nailed Jericho with a boot for the disqualification rather than the Jericho win.
Braun Strowman defeated Jorel Nelson
It was an easy win for Strowman in less than a minute like he has done for the last three weeks. The reaction for him is growing a bit, so that’s a good sign.
Darren Young defeated Titus O’Neil
I like both guys, but they were only given two minutes to have a rushed match. Young won with a rollup using the tights, just like O’Neil did when he beat him last week. Too bad they aren’t allowed to have more time to tell a better story.
Cesaro defeated Sheamus
This was the second straight match that was a rematch from the week before. They got more time this week because it went about 12 minutes compared to five minutes a week ago. Some great nearfalls in there and Sheamus was frustrated that he couldn’t find a way to win. Cesaro won with a rollup where he sat on top to prevent Sheamus from kicking out. The story is Sheamus is on a losing streak while Cesaro is on a roll.
Neville & Sin Cara defeated The Dudley Boyz
A fairly easy win to establish Neville and Sin Cara as a new team. Perhaps it was just done to put over Neville or maybe he’s going to be a tag team with Sin Cara to strengthen the tag team division. It could also be something to split up the Dudleys since they tend to lose a lot.
Sasha Banks defeated Dana Brooke
This feels like a repeat because this match has been done a few times in the last few months. Easy win for Banks using the double knee attack by the turnbuckle. They had a sloppy spot near the end where Charlotte had to accidentally hit Brooke and it looked bad. Timing was off. The win means that Brooke is banned from ringside for the Banks/Charlotte match at SummerSlam.
Luke Gallows defeated Kofi Kingston
Another short match. Gallows pinned Kingston clean after about two minutes, thanks to Karl Anderson beating up Xavier Woods outside the ring, which distracted Kingston. The story seems to be leaning towards Gallows & Anderson winning the tag titles at SummerSlam, since New Day likely won’t have Big E there due to the groin injury that he’s selling from last week.
Rusev defeated Cesaro to retain the United States Championship
As noted earlier, Rusev won thanks to the ref bump, Sheamus distracting Cesaro and Rusev capitalizing with a kick to the head. Cesaro had a good night in terms of having the best matches on the show, but he did not leave with the gold.
Three Other Key Items From Raw
1. Brock Lesnar wasn’t at Raw and Randy Orton is still a Smackdown guy, so to make up for it, WWE aired a really good nearly five-minute video promoting their SummerSlam match. The comments from both guys were taped last week, which shows WWE is smart enough to use Lesnar as more than just a guy that looks mean while Paul Heyman talks about him.
The video did a good job of pointing out how they have known each other going back 15 years ago when they were training at Ohio Valley Wrestling, along with guys like John Cena, Batista and Shelton Benjamin. Orton took a shot at Lesnar when he criticized him for leaving the company in 2004 because “Lesnar hates people.” Orton won his first World Title soon after Lesnar left, which meant that Orton is the youngest World Champion in WWE history while Lesnar is the second youngest.
The video also put over the idea that Lesnar isn’t friends with Orton, even though he did know him back when they were training. Orton spoke confidently about how he knows he can end the match easily with the RKO. I think WWE has done a great job of putting over that idea too, so it was smart for Orton to say that. Lesnar came off as a bit of a heel as he said he is a mega-superstar while Orton is just a star. It’s not like Lesnar is going to say he respects the guy and likes him. This is just how Lesnar is.
Lesnar is advertised for next week’s Raw, which is the last one before SummerSlam on Aug. 21.
2. Finn Balor didn’t appear in the ring during Raw, but he was featured in a video package. It was a way to promote his “Demon King” character that he did in NXT over the last two years. If you don’t know what it is, he paints his whole body when he has a really big match and it allows him to intimidate his opponents. As he mentioned in the promo, he’s inspired by things from his past as he mentioned why he came up with the Finn Balor name with Balor being the “King of Demons.”
Look for the “Demon King” version of Balor to appear when he has the match with Rollins at SummerSlam. I’m looking forward to the match quite a bit, although I think it would have been better to put Balor in a match on Raw because he’s only had two matches in three weeks. Fans need to see more of him in the ring to get used to his style. We shouldn’t pretend like everybody watches NXT because it has a smaller audience than Raw.
3. It really upset me that WWE didn’t include Sami Zayn on Raw at all. I just don’t get it. When I wrote about the winners and losers of the WWE brand split, I included Zayn because he lost matches both weeks since the draft. This week, he wasn’t on the show. To quote former WWE superstar The Hurricane: “What’s up with that?”
The fact that a guy as good as Zayn would be lost in the shuffle is pretty bad. The WWE creative team should be embarrassed that they have nothing for him at the moment. He should be a priority rather than a forgotten star. The win over Kevin Owens at Battleground was not only one of the best matches of the year, but the most significant win that Zayn has had on the main roster. Leaving him off Raw makes no sense.
If you want to watch Zayn in action this week, tune into WWE Superstars on WWE Network. He had a match on that show, which was taped prior to Raw.
Looking Ahead To SummerSlam
The next WWE pay-per-view event is SummerSlam. It takes place on Aug. 21 in Brooklyn, New York. Here’s the lineup that we know so far:
Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton
WWE Universal Championship: Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins to determine the first ever Universal Champion
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler
John Cena vs. AJ Styles
Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
United States Championship: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Gallows & Anderson
Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Apollo Crews
Remember that SummerSlam has a 7 p.m. ET start time, so it’s a four-hour show at least, plus the Kickoff Show.
It was a frustrating week of Raw because they have all this talent on the show, yet they don’t seem to be utilizing most of them right. With that said, SummerSlam’s lineup looks outstanding so far and I think it has a lot of potential to be the pay-per-view of the year just based on the advertised matches so far. I just wish was a better, more consistent show. The long, great matches they had on the July 25 episode have been forgotten on the last two shows. Instead of the memorable matches, we’re getting long, drawn out promos that really don’t offer much and make me want to change the channel if I wasn’t writing about it every week.
Perhaps WWE realized that a lot of people would be watching the Olympics and that’s why they didn’t put on the best show possible. I don’t believe in that theory, especially with the brand split in place. They’re doing their best. It’s just that this week wasn’t a very good show.