This week’s Raw took place in Los Angeles with Brock Lesnar making his return after being off last week. His confrontation with Samoa Joe two weeks ago was great, so I was intrigued by what they would do this week.
That was one of the three major non-wrestling segments of the night, along with LaVar Ball and his family making fools of themselves on Miz TV and Roman Reigns trying to send a message to Braun Strowman as well. I’ll use this opening space to cover all three of those segments before moving on to the matches.
Braun Strowman beat up Roman Reigns… again
Raw started with Roman Reigns in the ring talking about how Braun Strowman cost him his match against Samoa Joe last week. Reigns said he was going to win if not for Strowman and he was mad about it. When Reigns finished, an ambulance backed into the arena by the side of the ramp.
Reigns went over to the ambulance, slowly opened the back door expecting Strowman to be there and instead of seeing Strowman there, he was attacked from behind. They fought around the staging area with the big spot taking place when Strowman threw Reigns off the stage and into the side of the ambulance. Reigns sold it really well. Strowman was cheered for much of this, even though he’s supposed to be the heel. Strowman put Reigns in the ambulance and the ambulance left.
It was an opening segment that went about 10 minutes, which is good. Much better than 15-20 minutes like they go sometimes. Later in the show, Michael Cole said that Reigns was looking for Strowman. I thought they would end up brawling in the arena again. Nope. No sign of them later in the evening.
It was a good segment that was successful in terms of making me want to see more. Roman and Braun have done well in this rivalry. I’m looking forward to that Ambulance Match at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.
Miz TV featured LaVar, Lonzo and LaMelo Ball as guests
This was a trainwreck segment as I expected it to be. I don’t blame WWE for inviting Lonzo Ball to Raw since he was just drafted by the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers last Thursday. However, that also meant Lonzo’s obnoxious father, LaVar, was going to be there too. So was his younger brother, LaMelo.
The Miz was the right choice to host this segment because The Miz is a big sports fan (he’s great on ESPN’s SportsNation) and he’s arguably the best talker in WWE. The problem is that Miz is a heel and LaVar should have acted like a face against him to get the crowd behind his son. Instead, LaVar did a ridiculous walk into the ring and tried to take the attention away from everybody while his “Big Baller Brand” shirts were in the ring.
Even though the Los Angeles fans should have been cheering Lonzo being on their Lakers, the fans seemed apathetic towards the whole thing while booing LaVar. That’s the negative thing about having celebrities on Raw sometimes. If they don’t know how wrestling works, then they seem so out of place. Instead of sucking up to the fans and coming across as a nice guy, LaVar was obnoxious and was booed while boasting about how great he was.
After LaVar finally stopped talking, LaMelo had a microphone in his hand and said “n**ga” twice on the live microphone as LaMelo encouraged his dad LaVar to beat up Miz. As our Andrew Bucholtz covered here, WWE issued an apology about the language: “The inappropriate language used by a guest during the ‘Miz TV’ segment was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.”
The whole thing ended with LaVar making fun of The Miz’s outfits by saying he had too many zippers (really?) and LaVar took off his shirt. At least he’s in good shape. Anyway, that’s when Dean Ambrose interrupted wearing a “Big Baller Brand” shirt that the Ball family sells. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ambrose was sent out there earlier than WWE wanted because the segment was a trainwreck.
I doubt that WWE will be plugging the greatness of the Ball family. It got WWE some attention on ESPN, of course, and probably some other outlets, but all things considered I think this was a disaster rather than something WWE should be proud of.
Samoa Joe brought Brock Lesnar to his knees, thanks to the Coquina Clutch
Paul Heyman was in the ring at the top of hour three. I thought this would be the main event segment, but it was not. When Heyman was alone in the ring rather than with Brock Lesnar, I thought an angle was going to happen here that Joe wouldn’t go in Lesnar’s face. My intuition was right. Lifelong wrestling fan intuition? Yeah it’s something like that.
Heyman did a big introduction and there he was, the Universal Champion Lesnar with the title around his waist. Lesnar didn’t get very far, though. Samoa Joe attacked him from behind and tried to put the Coquina Clutch finisher on him. Lesnar fought him off as best he could by driving him into the video screen. Joe was relentless, though. He was like a pitbull on the attack.
Lesnar sold it so well too, his face was turning purple as Joe applied the pressure. Joe never got to fully lock it in, though, because other wrestlers like Scott Dawson, Dash Wilder and Karl Anderson showed up to pull Joe off. The segment ended with Lesnar on his knees while the viewer was left to believe that Joe might be able to beat Lesnar.
This was the best thing on Raw in months, even though it only lasted a few minutes. Why? Because it’s the main event at Great Balls of Fire and it makes me excited to see them have their first match ever. Raw is supposed to be about building up matches on PPV. That’s what they’ve done well with these guys two weeks ago when they brawled and also in this segment. As I said with Braun and Roman, it leaves us wanting more. That’s what main event matches are supposed to do.
Three weeks ago, did people think Lesnar was going to lose to Joe? No way. After this segment, there is more believability that it might happen. That’s great booking.
The lineup for Great Balls of Fire is much better than previous Raw 2017 PPVs like Extreme Rules, Payback and Fastlane, thanks to this match more than anything else.
This Week’s Raw Matches
It was a busy night for non-wrestling segments, but there was some solid in-ring action too.
Finn Balor, Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy defeated Cesaro, Sheamus & Elias Samson
This was an energetic tag match that went about 17 minutes with the face team getting the win when Balor pinned Cesaro. Doing a match like this in hour one is smart because the crowd is going to be into it a lot more earlier in the night than they would be if it happened later in the evening.
I thought it was really good for the most part. My minor gripe with the match was the ending. Balor was standing on the top rope for about 20 seconds while each Hardy brother took out guys on the floor. Cesaro laying in the ring for about 20 seconds waiting for Balor looked silly. Still a good match, though.
It’s likely that Balor will face Samson at Great Balls of Fire on July 9 and Cesaro/Sheamus will defend the Tag Titles against the Hardys there as well, so that’s why this match took place. Neither match is official yet.
The Miz (w/Maryse), Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas defeated Dean Ambrose, Heath Slater & Rhyno
The first six-man tag match was very good with a lot of interest from the crowd. This one wasn’t nearly as good and the crowd was barely into any of it. That’s because Miz vs. Ambrose has gone on for way too long while the other four guys aren’t featured on TV regularly.
What I liked about the match was that Miz and his “Miztourage” buddies got the win since the heels needed it. Gives some credibility to Dallas and Axel as allies of Miz. The finish was weak with just a simple rollup, but I think the right team went over.
Seth Rollins defeated Curt Hawkins
Easy win for Rollins in about three minutes. I’m not a big fan of the running knee to the face finish especially when others like Nakamura do a much better-looking knee attack finish. I’d rather see Rollins do the Pedigree again or maybe use the Frog Splash as a finisher.
After the match, Bray Wyatt did a promo on the video screen talking trash about Rollins. It set up their match at Great Balls of Fire. That should be a Rollins win at that show.
Neville defeated Lince Dorado
Neville won in about three minutes. Dorado got in a few high-flying moves, but nobody thought he was going to win.
After the match, Akira Tozawa got in the ring with Neville. That’s when Titus O’Neil announced Tozawa has signed with his Titus Worldwide company (no more Titus Brand) and that Neville will defend the Cruiserweight Title vs. Tozawa at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.
Sasha Banks won a Gauntlet Match to determine the No. 1 Contender to the Raw Women’s Title
The rules for this match saw two women start, one woman would get pinned and another would face the performer who got the victory. Easy to follow.
Nia Jax defeated Bayley
Jax beat her in about four minutes. Bayley has fallen so far so fast in the last few months. From Women’s Champion to a nobody. I think it’s fair to say that WWE’s creative team has lost faith in her. Jax beat her with a Samoan Drop.
Nia Jax defeated Mickie James
They went about five minutes with James putting up a fight, but didn’t come close to winning. James stunned Jax a few times including with a great spin Mick Kick, but Jax fought off the DDT attempt. Jax pinned her after running her over with a running body attack.
Nia Jax defeated Dana Brooke
Since Dana isn’t very good in the ring, this was kept really short. Brooke went for a corner attack, Jax shoved her down and hit a leg drop to pin her after about 30 seconds of action.
Nia Jax defeated Emma
Emma didn’t fare much better than Brooke. She got in a dropkick that looked good, but didn’t do much more than that. Jax tripped her up on the top rope and hit a Samoan Drop for the win after about one minute.
Sasha Banks defeated Nia Jax
The story was that Jax dominated these other four girls for 15 minutes and Banks was fresh as the last opponent.
It was obvious that Jax was getting tired because she kept tossing Banks out of the ring while telling the ref to count her out. They did that spot a few times to kill time. It would have been better if they cut out five minutes rather than repeat those same spots.
Jax dominated Banks, but Banks kept on coming back with knee attacks. There was a great spot where Banks hit a running knee attack that stunned Jax and knocked her over. When Banks went for her Bank Statement submission, Jax fought out of it. Jax went for a Samoan Drop, but Banks slapped on a headlock/body scissors type move to wear her down. Banks pulled back on Jax’s upper body to weaken her some more and eventually Jax tapped out.
— $asha Banks (@SashaBanksWWE) June 27, 2017
The last five minutes of the match were great. Give Jax credit for working 33 minutes in the match (as Booker T pointed out on commentary) because that’s not easy to do, especially for the biggest woman on the roster. It was a good story with Jax dominating the others and Banks finding a way to chop down the giant, so to speak.
After the match, Raw GM Kurt Angle congratulated Banks. Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss entered for a staredown with Banks. It led to Banks briefly taking the title from her and Bliss got it back before the end of the show. Bliss vs. Banks is on for Great Balls of Fire on July 9.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Big Cass turned on Enzo Amore again after teasing a reunion
Enzo Amore did a promo responding to Big Cass turning on him last week. This followed a long video package that covered their story well. Enzo talked about how he had tried to reach Cass all week, but he couldn’t do it. Enzo even contacted Cass’ mom to try to get a hold of his former partner who Enzo said was like family to him.
Cass began his promo by showing remorse for what he did. He talked about being frustrated and apologized for what he did. Cass also made it seem like he would be happy to team with Enzo again. They left the ring together as their music played with the crowd firmly behind them. Did I believe they were reunited? Of course not.
When they got to the ramp, Cass decked Enzo with a clothesline. It drew massive boos from the crowd. Cass picked up Enzo and tossed him down onto the steel ramp. Cass left looking proud of himself.
I’m glad that they didn’t go back to being a team. Cass turning heel was a big moment last week and they followed it up well. This should lead to a Great Balls of Fire match that Cass wins easily. After the win, have Big Show save Enzo, which would lead to Cass vs. Big Show, probably at SummerSlam with Cass beating Show there too.
2. Goldust attacked R-Truth before they could have a match
This match was built up for over one month. Goldust had a personal cameraman dressed in a gold suit that was with him. Goldust entered first. Truth was out next and Goldust attacked him before the match began. Goldust attacked with punches, then sent Truth ribs-first into the ring post.
I kept waiting to see more of an attack, but that was it. I thought it was a lame beating, considering some of the other stuff we get on WWE TV. Instead, they kept it very simple. I assume they get a match at Great Balls of Fire on July 9 as well.
Looking Ahead To Great Balls of Fire
— WWE (@WWE) June 27, 2017
The next Raw pay-per-view event is called Great Balls of Fire and it takes place on Sunday, July 9 in Dallas, TX. There are now five official matches with several others likely.
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe
Ambulance Match: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Akira Tozawa
Other possible matches are:
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose (I don’t want to see it again), Raw Tag Team Championships: Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Hardy Boyz (would be Hardys rematch), Finn Balor vs. Elias Samson (was set up last week), Big Cass vs. Enzo Amore (easy win for Cass) and Goldust vs. R-Truth (likely for Kickoff Show).
Next week is the last Raw before Great Balls of Fire, so the full card should be known by that point.
It was a good Raw for the most part. The highlights were the Joe/Lesnar and Reigns/Strowman segments. The problem is both of those segments were shorter than LaVar Ball’s theatrics which made me feel embarrassed that I was watching this show. It’s the highs and lows of WWE, my friends.
In terms of in-ring action, the opening six-man tag and the women’s gauntlet were both very good matches. I enjoyed them.
It was a strong night for the heels since Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, Big Cass and Goldust all got the advantage in their rivalries. Look for the faces to bounce back next week.
I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring five women in their second Money in the Bank Ladder Match. If they go on last like I assume, then that would mean women’s matches headlined Raw and Smackdown in the same week.