The Samoa Joe show continued this week on WWE Monday Night Raw as the new No. 1 contender to the Universal Championship was featured heavily. Joe became the topcontender at Sunday’s Extreme Rules event by winning a Fatal 5-Way match.

I thought Raw was a much better show this week in part because of how they positioned Joe as a legitimate threat to the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, who wasn’t even there. It’s an encouraging sign to see WWE booking Joe in such a strong way in the build-up to Lesnar vs. Joe for the first time ever at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.

Samoa Joe spoke about Brock Lesnar and was confronted by Paul Heyman

Samoa Joe entered the ring at the start of hour two for a promo about his Great Balls of Fire match against Brock Lesnar. Joe did a great job of explaining that he has always wanted to face Lesnar and that he wants what Lesnar has such as the Universal Title, the nice schedule and he didn’t mention money, but we should assume that too. Joe said he would take the Universal Title from Lesnar.

Paul Heyman interrupted the promo. He went into the ring to say that Joe was the worst case scenario among the five men in the Extreme Rules match. Heyman said he put over Finn Balor a few weeks ago because it would have been a nice Rocky story to have Balor face Lesnar. However, it was Joe who won and Heyman praised Joe as a guy that he knows will fight Lesnar. Heyman made a lot of great points while telling Joe that Lesnar is the worst case scenario for Joe as well.

It appeared as if the promo was over, but they dropped their microphones and Joe got in his face. Joe spoke to Heyman against the turnbuckle with only the camera there to pick up the sound. Joe told Heyman he’s going to attack him and for him to tell Lesnar about the pain. This was brilliant because it was so unlike anything we usually see on WWE TV.

Joe slapped on the Coquina Clutch submission, Heyman passed out in the hold and Joe was aggressive during the entire segment. Referees ran down to the ring to break it up. Fans chanted “We Want Brock” and Joe responded with “So do I!”

This segment was excellent. One of the best promo segments on Raw this year. Heyman doesn’t get attacked often, but he did take a Spear from Goldberg leading up to Lesnar’s match against him and now they used him to get over Joe as a sadistic heel who wanted to send a message to Lesnar. If you do it occasionally it’s fine, but if Heyman was attacked all the time it would be bad.

I think this angle did a lot to make Joe come across as a deadly heel who has a legit shot of beating Lesnar. Will he beat Lesnar? I doubt that very much, but if you book a guy as well as they did with Joe here you’re going to make some fans believe it’s possible. Remember my friends, that’s what pro wrestling is supposed to be about. Make it look real! Joe looked like a legit badass in this segment and we already know Lesnar is legitimately tough, so their confrontation is going to be amazing at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.

Fantastic performance by Joe and Paul. That segment was the highlight of Raw this week.

Later in the show, Paul Heyman was featured in a backstage segment getting looked at by a trainer. He received a call from Brock (he showed the name on the phone as it was ringing) and said that The Beast needs to come back to Raw next week to deliver a message.

Samoa Joe defeated Seth Rollins

Joe vs. Rollins was set up after a backstage segment where Rollins got in Joe’s face and Angle put them in the main event.

I thought the match should have been a 15-minute back and forth battle with Joe getting the clean win. Simple as that, right? Wrong. While Joe got the win and they went around 15 minutes, it wasn’t clean.

Rollins made a big comeback, he was looking like he was going to win the match and suddenly the Bray Wyatt logo appeared on the screen. The lights were off in the arena. When the lights came back on, there was no sign of Wyatt. Joe attacked Rollins from behind, slapped on the Coquina Clutch submission and Rollins passed out from the pain to give Joe the submission knockout win.

Why wasn’t it a clean win? Because WWE wanted to protect Rollins. I don’t think it would have been bad for Rollins to lose clean. The story is that Joe is on the best roll of his career. He won at Extreme Rules clean and he could have won clean here as well. Instead, the win was cheapened by the Wyatt logo distraction. It sets up a likely Rollins vs. Wyatt feud, which is fine because it’s fresh, but it does hurt Joe a bit. I doubt it’s going to do any damage, though.

As long as Joe continues to rack up wins in the next month that’s what matters. Joe should not lose a match between now and Great Balls of Fire on July 9.

As for Brock Lesnar, he is back next week for the first time since the Raw after WrestleMania. We hope he enjoyed his two-month break.

Lesnar is clearly in a face role for this feud with Joe, who is one of WWE’s better heels right now. Lesnar has been a tweener (face and heel) for the last two years. I don’t mind him in either role. I just hope his match with Joe is a competitive 15-minute match rather than some eight-minute dominant win for Lesnar. The more competitive their match is, the better it is for both guys. 

This Week’s Raw Matches

Here’s what else happened in the ring Monday night on Raw.

Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt

It was a rare start to Raw with a match rather than a 15-minute promo to set up a match. Wyatt did speak a bit before the match and then Reigns entered for the match, but it was not a long-winded promo that we usually get.

They had a competitive match similar to the many televised matches they have had in the last few years. It was a back-and-forth battle where Wyatt looked like he was tired at one point. It may have been selling, but he appeared to be winded at least a bit. Anyway, the story was that they each tried finishers multiple times and couldn’t connect. Eventually, Reigns hit his Superman Punch followed by a Spear for the win.

It was a competitive match to put Reigns over after he failed to win on Sunday. The Reigns haters are probably whining about it, but it doesn’t bother me at all. Reigns works hard and any time he goes 15+ minutes, he does a good job. They went 20 minutes and started Raw off the right way.

That was the only match in hour one.

Sheamus & Cesaro defeated Heath Slater & Rhyno

Easy win to put over the new Raw Tag Team Champions, Sheamus & Cesaro. They went two minutes and Cesaro prevented Rhyno from tagging in while Sheamus hit a Brogue Kick on Slater to win.

Post-match, Sheamus & Cesaro did a promo bragging about how great they are. They ended it with their new catchphrase: “We don’t just set the bar… we are the bar.”

TJP defeated Mustafa Ali

It was a three-minute match that the crowd didn’t care about at all. Ali hit some cool aerial moves, but he is barely on television. TJP got the win with the Detonation Kick.

After the match, Neville attacked TJP (even though they were allies for two months) and said he will get his Cruiserweight Title shot on 205 Live Tuesday night. It should be a good match, but a lot of the fans don’t care about 205 Live at this point.

Kalisto defeated Titus O’Neil

Another short match that got about two minutes. Last week, O’Neil pinned Kalisto by holding the tights, so Kalisto won this match by holding the tights. At Extreme Rules, Kalisto beat Apollo Crews, who is an ally of O’Neil now. Are we supposed to care about this storyline? I don’t.

Enzo Amore & Big Show defeated Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

The reason it was Big Show teaming with Enzo is because Big Cass was mysteriously attacked backstage. Enzo was told to find a partner, so he found somebody seven feet tall (just like Cass) in Big Show.

The match went about two minutes with Show pressing Enzo over his head and tossing him onto Anderson for the win. What a terrible way to book Gallows & Anderson. They deserve better.

After the match, Enzo & Cass were backstage with Big Show. Cass thought that maybe Big Show attacked him (and Enzo in previous weeks). Show said a guy like him can’t sneak around.

I still think this story will be that Cass attacked Enzo and faked his own attack this week. Cass turning heel makes the most sense. Now that Big Show is a part of the story, it can set up a feud with Cass and Show as well with Show putting him over. I like the mystery angle. The slow build helps too.

Alexa Bliss defeated Nia Jax by disqualification in a Raw Women’s Championship match

This was really bad. Bliss was forced to defend the title by Kurt Angle, who said that Bliss promised Jax after Bliss was done with Bayley. That led to Bliss trying to get some help from other Raw women like Sasha Banks, Mickie James and Dana Brooke.

During the match, James and Brooke went down to ringside. It made no sense for them to even be there in the first place, but clearly WWE had no idea what to do for a finish without them. They didn’t want to book Jax to win the title or to lose, so they went the cheap route. With Bliss on the floor, she tried talking to James and Brooke, but James and Brooke beat her up. The ref gave the win to Bliss by disqualification.

After the match, Jax shoved Brooke and James to the floor. Jax went after Bliss, but Bliss ran away. For some reason, Brooke and James went into the ring. Jax hit James with a headbutt and hit a Samoan Drop on Brooke. It made Mickie and Dana look like a couple of losers who had never watched wrestling before, even though Mickie’s been in the business for nearly 20 years. What a terrible finish to this segment.

The best thing about this terrible match and angle was that it was just a three-minute match with a two-minute post-match angle. Between this and the awful Bliss/Bayley match at Extreme Rules, it was not a good two days for the women of Raw.

I feel bad for the performers. It’s not their fault that the Raw creative team has no idea how to properly book the women on this show. I wish they paid more attention to Smackdown because they do a much better job of presenting female performers as superstars. How can one show do such a bad job and the other one do so much better when Vince McMahon has final say on both shows? I just don’t get it. I hope things improve on Raw, though. Rant over. 

Other Key Items From Raw

1. Elias Samson and Dean Ambrose had an altercation

Elias Samson, aka The Drifter, was in the ring “singing” on his guitar. The crowd booed because he ripped on them while also talking about Dean Ambrose. That led to Ambrose making his entrance. Ambrose attacked Samson with the microphone. Ambrose called out The Miz.

The Miz appeared on the screen saying there will be no match because he has a celebration. Samson recovered and dropped Ambrose with his reverse neckbreaker move to end it.

I assume that Ambrose’s next feud will be with Samson since they have interacted a few times now. A year ago, Ambrose won the WWE Title and now he’s feuding with a main roster newcomer who really doesn’t do much to impress me. That’s a big drop for Dean.

After that segment, Raw GM Kurt Angle told Ambrose to leave for the night and not ruin what Miz had planned. Ambrose agreed to it. However, later in the show Ambrose was shown walking back into the arena after Angle left.

2. The Miz’s IC Title celebration was ruined by Dean Ambrose

The Miz had a big celebration in the ring with his wife Maryse organizing it. There were balloons in the ring and balloons that spelled out “MIZ” as well. There was even a guy in the ring dressed up as a bear. A lot of fans on Twitter (including me) thought it was Ambrose in the costume and even Miz thought it as well. Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale on the guy in the bear costume. It turned out to be a generic indie wrestler.

Miz saw a box in the aisle, so he thought Dean was in it. Miz attacked the box with great fury, only to have Maryse tell him it was a grandfather clock that was timeless… just like him. Miz pulled out the top of the clock in the box. Maryse slammed the microphone in his chest and left.

Miz yelled for Ambrose to get out there. He kept on calling him out when suddenly a camera guy stood in the ring with him. It was Ambrose dressed as the camera guy. Ambrose dropped Miz with a Dirty Deeds DDT to end the segment on a happy note. The crowd loved it.

I thought it was well done because they could have done the obvious thing with Dean in the bear costume. Instead, they played it out and it generated a good reaction from the fans. Do I really want to see Miz vs. Dean again? No, but Dean is going to get his rematch and hopefully the rivalry ends there.

The title rematch should be on Raw next week or the week after. Have Samson cost Ambrose the win to further that rivalry. Miz was rumored to feud with Roman Reigns, but I have no idea if that’s going to happen. Right now, Reigns is lacking a dance partner so to speak, so it’s possible.

3. Raw GM Kurt Angle left the show early

The mysterious text message story involving Kurt Angle continued this week on Raw with Angle going up to announcer Corey Graves during the show to discuss whatever it is that we don’t know about. Angle was shown walking backstage when Mike Rome tried to interview him, but Angle just walked away and left the building. That was when Ambrose snuck back in.

I like the secrecy of the angle. I think it’s going to lead to something involving Stephanie McMahon’s television return (she’s been off for two months), but I don’t know what it is exactly. If it’s the start of a story to set up Angle for an in-ring return, I’d be in favor of that too.

Looking Ahead To Great Balls of Fire

The next Raw pay-per-view event is called Great Balls of Fire (yes, really) and it takes place on Sunday, July 9 in Dallas, Texas. There’s only one match announced at this time.

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe

That’s all for now. They have over one month to promote this show, so more matches should be announced soon.

In Closing

It was a good show this week. Much improved over the past month. I think the presence of the Universal Title being the focal point was a big plus. Lesnar wasn’t even there, but now that we know Samoa Joe is challenging the booking made a lot more sense with Joe attacking Heyman and beating Rollins in the main event.

In terms of matches, a lot of them were short other than the opener and main event. I would have liked another one or two good matches, but I get why the show was formatted this way because there were so many backstage segments. The two mystery storylines have added some freshness to a stale show as well.

I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring Kevin Owens vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. That should be fun.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He joined The Comeback/Awful Announcing team in 2015. Follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at Cheap pop!