Last night’s No Mercy pay-per-view was being billed by WWE as "WrestleMania caliber," and with two massive main events in John Cena vs. Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar, it was hard to argue. Unfortunately, No Mercy ended up being more like Starrcade or any number of WCW pay-per-views in the mid to late 1990s: a great undercard soured by actively bad main events. Both losers, Cena and Strowman, unleashed multiple finishers on their opponents only to fall to one finisher a piece in surprisingly uninspired matches.
Passing the Torch
So it was up to tonight’s fallout episode of Raw to pick up the pieces. Kicking off the show, as revealed last night, was Miz TV with special guest Roman Reigns. Roman, moments after calling The Miz long winded, proceeded to stumble through a stilted, awkward promo that essentially rendered the last month of buildup meaningless: Reigns suddenly respects the hell out of Cena, a man who ran him down and straight up embarrassed him multiple times over. A man who mere weeks ago Reigns dismissed as a "punk ass bitch." It’s this kind of myopic, nothing-matters booking that caused a huge chunk of the audience to loathe John Cena for the better part of ten years.
Though John Cena did not appear on the show tonight and Roman Reigns was preoccupied with The Miz, No Mercy‘s clash between the two was addressed. In addition to Reigns’ comments in the opening Miz TV segment, a video package was shown summarizing the match as well as replaying John Cena’s comments from last night’s episode of Raw Talk that followed No Mercy. In a nutshell, Cena now respects Reigns because of how hard he fought last night, and while he’s not retiring, he isn’t sure he can keep up this pace much longer and Roman Reigns is now the guy.
It’s sobering talk from Cena, especially since it’s more than likely legitimate. Cena is 40 years old and has been working a full time schedule at an elite level pretty much right from the get-go in 2002. That doesn’t even take in account the nonstop media appearances, the Make-A-Wishes, the intense daily workout regimen it takes to look like that, and recently, a fairly grueling movie shooting schedule. The Rock couldn’t do both, and it’s unfair to suggest Cena can.
It does seem like a missed opportunity to not harp on that hypocrisy though. Cena railed The Rock back in 2012 for abandoning WWE and only coming back when he needed to promote something, and now we’re in the same boat with Cena on the other side. Sure, Reigns did bring it up in the No Mercy go-home show, but rather than a one-off and Cena riding off into the sunset with a tip of the hat, it just feels like they could do more with it. I know he’ll be back, so maybe they will eventually go this route, but for now, something about how this was handled just feels empty.
The Shield reunion is coming. Believe that. It’s already two thirds of the way there, and with Cena/Reigns apparently just being a one-off for now, the Big Dog has moved onto a feud with The Miz, who is conveniently leading a three man faction. It is absolutely bonkers that the team to bring The Shield back together is going to apparently be The Miz, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, but here we are. Evolution they are not, but enough cannot be said about The Miz and his body of work over the past few years. Who knows, maybe this could be the storyline to finally re-launch The Miz back into the main event where he belongs.
As was set up on Miz TV opening up the show, Roman Reigns took on The Miz in a pretty decent back and forth match that Roman eventually, and predictably, won. The real story came in post-match shenanigans however, as the Miztourage took it upon themselves to beat down the Big Dog, right in the middle of his own yard. Reigns frustratingly fended off all three members of the Miztourage with little issue at first, but Miz’s lackeys eventually grabbed two steel chairs which cut him down to size. No appearance from Ambrose or Rollins, even after Miz, Dallas and Axel came together in the iconic Shield fist bump over Reigns’s lifeless body.
It was pretty well done setup, even if as stated before the Miztourage’s threat to three New Era icons like Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns is dubious at best. We can only hope it’s written in a way that elevates The Miz instead of dragging down The Shield. In any event, though, one thing’s for sure: the first time The Shield’s music hits, that place is going to erupt.
The Three I’s: Ineffective, Inexplicable, Insufferable
In the middle of Reigns’ promo essentially invalidating his feud with John Cena, he put over Jason Jordan hard as a thoroughbred. Yeesh. I can only imagine the thought process: "Hmm, we’re having trouble getting the crowd to accept this physically gifted, yet bland white-meat babyface. I know! We’ll give him Roman Reigns’s backing!" The Jason Jordan experiment is, in a lot of ways, fascinating to watch. It’s honestly somewhat mind-blowing that WWE does not seem to understand that pushing guys with little organic support to the moon based on his physical merits and being a good guy will not work in this day and age.
As if Roman’s endorsement wasn’t laid on thick enough, in the injured Jeff’s stead, Jordan teamed up with perennial favorite Matt Hardy. The match itself was pretty good, but it was clearly designed to earn Jordan some good will from the crowd. And by that metric, it was a failure. If this isn’t a slow burn heel turn, I truly do not understand the line of thinking. Given WWE’s history with angles like this though, I’m not holding my breath.
The Rest of the Card
- Elias and Apollo Crews essentially replayed the same match they had last night on the pre-show. There was actually an "Apollo" chant from the crowd, though, which is a start. Titus Worldwide has definite legs if they gave it more time to shine.
- Dean Ambrose challenged Braun Strowman to a one-on-one match (after Strowman answered Curt Hawkins’s open challenge to destructive, hilarious effect), a move that even he later in the show admitted was pretty stupid. Rollins chided him for said dumb move, then, strangely, later announced he was laying down the exact same challenge for the next week. Them Shield boys, sometimes they ain’t so smart.
- As far as this week goes, Rollins faced off against Sheamus in a really good match. It’s amazing Cesaro was even ringside tonight considering he legit had his three front teeth shoved four millimeters into his gums last night after a botched ring post spot. Cesaro and Sheamus are both becoming some of my favorite guys on the roster.
- Looks like they are rolling with Mickie James as Alexa Bliss’s next opponent, at least until Asuka shows up at TLC, as she interrupted Alexa’s promo tonight and cut what has to be her best, most spirited promo since returning to the company last year. Line of the segment definitely goes to Bliss, though: "I’m pretty sure you were in my top 8 on MySpace…you know, back when MySpace and Mickie James were relevant."
- So I guess Goldust is heel again? His two week foray into being a humanized babyface didn’t last long, as he attacked Finn Balor in response to Balor evoking his name when talking about Wyatt. The real bummer here though is that it doesn’t look like Balor is actually done with Wyatt, as the whole "creepy kid singing ‘he’s got the whole world in his hands’" schtick was trotted out again, interrupting Finn’s post-match celebration after defeating Goldust.
- Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Nia Jax and Emma in an okay match. The meat of the story seemed to come beforehand in a backstage segment, where tensions were higher than normal between usual besties Sasha and Bayley. Is the Sasha heel turn finally coming?
- Bizarrely, the main event was Enzo Amore’s championship celebration, wherein the entire Cruiserweight division came out on the ramp to show their disapproval of their new champion. Eventually, the King of the Cruiserweights, Neville, came out to verbally spar with Enzo. Enzo’s running down of the 205 Live roster is actually kind of an interesting angle, especially because he’s spitting truth. The division was entirely irrelevant before he joined it. There were certainly no Cruiserweights main eventing Raw in the nine months Neville had the title. It’s pretty confusing though — are we supposed to get behind Enzo? Or are we supposed to suddenly start defending 205 Live? It certainly felt like a Neville face turn, as he put his future championship opportunities in jeopardy to send a message to Enzo. And Enzo, for his part, was especially antagonizing and insufferable tonight. You know what, fuck it. Consider me interested.
While there were some entertaining parts to the show, it was extremely weirdly paced, including the baffling decision to have Enzo Amore running down the Cruiserweight division serve as the show’s main event. Despite being far from main event worthy, though, the segment somehow worked. The Shield reunion continues to be teased effectively, The Miz looked like a boss, and there were a couple good matches on the card. Overall, though, the show moved ahead at a plodding pace and felt seriously padded out at times. This on top of several questionable directions (Finn’s still feuding with Bray? Really?) held the show back considerably.