Of WWE’s two main brands, Raw has surprised many by pulling ahead of its blue brother in terms of utilizing talent, writing compelling shows and overall entertainment. Both brands are taking chances, but Raw‘s (Samoa Joe) are paying off a lot more than Smackdown Live‘s (Jinder Mahal). Hell, going into Summerslam, Team Red has managed to make their world championship match, one featuring Roman Reigns, arguably more enticing than SDL‘s, which features Shinsuke Nakamura.
As things always go, however, just when everything is going right, it comes crashing down. Mid card staples Bayley and The Revival’s Summerslam statuses were suddenly thrown out the window due to injuries at inopportune times. The Raw Women’s Championship match was thrown in flux following confirmation of Bayley’s injury, resulting in two triple threat matches on tonight’s show to determine the two Superstars who will compete next week to become the new #1 contender.
Double Triple Threat
The first match, and unquestionably the better of the two, pitted favorite Sasha Banks against Emma, who has been fighting for a higher spot on the card since her return from injury recently, and Alicia Fox, who is probably happy to be getting any screen time at all. The match was short, but well done, and the crowd was seriously into it by the end, where Sasha Banks locked Alicia and Emma in the Bank Statement in succession to win the match and a place in the #1 contendership match next week.
The match to determine the second participant for next week, Dana Brooke vs. Mickie James vs. Nia Jax, was pretty much the complete opposite. Dana Brooke is just plain not ready for the main roster. She screeched multiple spots to a halt, missed several cues and most of her offense feels completely ineffectual. She is just objectively poor compared to every other member of the roster. She has a good look and has potential, but she just doesn’t belong on Raw at this point in her career. The women’s division is better than this now. Nia Jax predictably won a difficult to watch bout cleanly with a leg drop, setting up the safe choice of Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax next week to determine the #1 contender for Alexa’s Raw Women’s Championship.
On the tag team side of their injury dilemma, the Hardy Boyz story finally seemed to be heading in the direction everyone wanted it to, as in a ‘Raw Fallout’ video posted after Raw last week, Matt Hardy sure seemed to be feeling the influence of the Seven Deities. Unfortunately this awakening was caused at the hands of The Revival, who are no longer able to compete at Summerslam following an injury to Scott Dawson’s right bicep. Dawson will be out for several months, meaning the planned Summerslam matchup with the potentially
broken woken Hardy Boyz is no longer in the cards. This will force WWE to pivot, stalling The Revival’s push yet again and giving the Hardy Boyz someone else to focus on. Gallows and Anderson make sense as opponents, but it remains to be seen if their altercation with Enzo Amore and Big Show was a one-off or the start of a program. Sheamus and Cesaro, the other big name in the relatively shallow
division, look like they’ll be defending their tag team gold against Ambrose and Rollins at Summerslam.
True Friends Stab You in the Front
Speaking of which, the Ambrose/Rollins vs. Cesaro/Sheamus segments almost ended up stealing the show. Rollins and Ambrose each had singles matches against different members of the Tag Team Champions, Cesaro and Sheamus, making up the "solid, decent length midcard matches" portion of the night. Arguably the best story being told in WWE right now continued as Rollins helped a vulnerable Ambrose following a post-match beatdown despite Ambrose refusing to do the same for him earlier in the night in an attempt to prove that he truly is a changed man worthy of trusting again. What resulted is a rare level of pure babyface excitement from the Toronto crowd as Ambrose extended his hand, looking for a trademark Shield fist bump from Rollins. Oddly, Rollins declined, despite being desperate for Ambrose’s approval the past few weeks. It’s actually been a pretty well told story thus far, so instead of assuming they ruined it I’m actually interested in where they are going with something, which is a nice feeling. It’s hard to shake the feeling that a potentially all-time monstrous pop was left on the table and wasted, however.
Last Man Standing
The only reason The Shield reunion tease didn’t steal the show is because Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman continue to make pro wrestling magic together in some of the most entertaining WWE matches in recent memory. The Last Man Standing match between the two, which served as the show’s main event, was exactly the type of knock-down, drag-out brawl you’d expect from the Big Dog and the Monster Among Men. Matches between the two are not only solid hoss fights, but they have also been innovative–have you ever seen a man throw an office chair like a baseball at someone’s face before tonight?
Samoa Joe ended up getting involved in an easy, but well executed end to the match to build toward the Fatal Four Way at Summerslam, choking out Reigns and giving Strowman the victory. Roman Reigns vs. Bruan Strowman has been highly entertaining on its own for months, and when you consider the fact that these two make up for only half of Raw‘s main event for Summerslam, the biggest event of the summer seems like it could have an excellent matchup coming out of the red brand.
The last competitor in that upcoming match, the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, started the night by crashing Miz TV in an only okay segment, surprising considering the level of talent involved. Heyman and The Miz are always fun to listen to on the mic, and while it’s fun to see The Beast clean house, one man decimating the Miztourage does few favors for The Miz, who has had trouble finding his footing since being drafted from Smackdown Live to Raw in the Superstar Shakeup. Not every match landed (the second women’s triple threat), nor did every promo (Finn Balor’s promo on Wyatt was pretty cheesy), but overall, two weeks out from Summerslam, the Raw brand is in a pretty good place right now. The hits–one solid women’s match, The Ambrose/Rollins saga, and Roman vs. Strowman–outweighed tonight’s misses.