Though it wasn’t the most exciting episode of Raw ever, last week’s installment featured some important moments, including Paige’s return and Roman Reigns capturing the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz. This week’s episode…didn’t capitalize on any of that momentum, and was an even more arduous slog to get through.
Who Wants to Job to Roman?
The good news: Despite being separated from The Miz, the man who has made it into one of the most prestigious titles in the company, the Intercontinental Championship will continue to thrive in the hands of WWE golden boy Roman Reigns. The bad news: We learned last week that The Miz’s unceremonious beatdown at the hands of The Shield was because he will be away for an unspecified number of weeks filming yet another installment of The Marine. And in a show that was seriously lacking star power or any kind of spark, The Miz’s absence was certainly felt.
Nevertheless, the show must go on, and this one started with the Big Dog patting himself on the back for completing the Grand Slam. This brought out the Miztourage, interrupting Roman’s extremely rote promo, who for some reason brought out Elias, the man who ultimately answered Roman’s Intercontinental Championship Open Challenge.
The crowd was surprisingly receptive to Roman Reigns — I’m not sure if it’s because his time with his Shield mates have rubbed off on him, or because the demure crowd just couldn’t muster up the energy to hate on him. They weren’t exactly going crazy for him, but what noise there was was far more cheers than boos. There was even a "we want Roman" chant later on in the night, countered by only the faintest "no we don’t" resistance.
After a special Elias performance featuring the Miztourage playing some actually pretty good harmonica, the IC title match got under way. Actually a pretty long match, Roman and Elias performed about as you’d expect — some solid moments and some stiff action, but ultimately Roman Reigns picked up the clean win.
The big story to come out of this match of course had absolutely nothing to do with the pomp and circumstance surrounding it: Samoa Joe stormed the entrance ramp after the match and locked Roman Reigns in the Coquina Clutch. There’s your next Intercontinental Title feud: Samoa Joe vs. a Samoan Joe.
The Rest of the Card
- Because Dean Ambrose and Sheamus faced off last week, obviously their respective tag team partners, Seth Rollins and Cesaro had to round out the series tonight. The Kingslayer and the Swiss Cyborg kicked off the wrestling portion of the show with an excellent match — the kind that told a story with a beginning, middle and end. Cesaro dominated the opening few minutes of the contest, pulverizing Rollins with some impressive moves including a catch gutwrench suplex. Seth managed to mount a comeback following a tope suicida before a commercial break (isn’t it a weird coincidence how that move almost always precedes a commercial break?), but Cesaro regained the upper hand with a poke to the eyes that the referee missed. It wasn’t enough though, as Seth was able to hit his still-unnamed knee to score the pinfall.
- After the match, Rollins assuaged Charly Caruso’s fears that Roman winning the Intercontinental Championship, Ambrose not being there tonight and Rollins coming out to his solo theme in his solo gear meant the end of The Shield. He announced his intention to invoke he and Ambrose’s rematch clause next week on The Bar.
- Samoa Joe continues to gain momentum, as he easily dispatches of Titus O’Neil in a few minutes, and his client Apollo Crews right after. Though the reaction Joe was getting when he was first called up to the main roster was worrisome, fans really seem to be warming up to him as of late.
- The promised six woman tag match between Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James and Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville ended up being a non-starter, as Paige and company, who we learned is called "Absolution", attacked Sasha’s two partners before the match. The crowd seemingly couldn’t have cared less. They didn’t turn on the segment, they just…didn’t really react at all. Absolution is a bizarre name for a wrestling faction, and Michael Cole’s explanation didn’t really clear things up either. He gave a brief dictionary definition (formal release from guilt, obligation or punishment), and added "so they’re here to clear up that this is going to be a whole other kind of women’s evolution!" Uhh…sure.
- It looks like Matt Hardy is finally, officially "breaking" in WWE, and it couldn’t have been done with less enthusiasm or in front of a less excited crowd. Matt has lost a few matches in a row and his brother is hurt, so he’s going through a "breakdown" as Cole put it, where he just does the delete thing a bunch. I hope it ends up cool, and it still could be, but it’s about six months too late.
- In the first of two fatal four way matches en route to determining the #1 contender for Enzo Amore’s Cruiserweight Championship, Rich Swann defeated Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari and Akira Tozawa. In a lot of ways, this match was a microcosm of tonight’s show: some flashes of excitement and some solid wrestling in front of an absolutely silent crowd. Seriously, this match may as well have happened in a high school gym. To be fair to Knoxville, there wasn’t exactly much to get excited about tonight, but jeez.
- Who did Dana Brooke piss off backstage? Of course Asuka should look dominant, but this story between the two is making Dana look like a complete goof. Her pre-match promo explaining her plan to take advantage of Asuka’s slow starts lasted longer than the match itself.
- Absolution circled the ring Shield style after the match, setting sights on the Empress of Tomorrow, but nothing came of it. I’ll quote Corey Graves, who said it best: "I’m not sure what that message was."
- As if this show wasn’t difficult enough to sit through, the main event was billed as JASON JORDAN vs. KANE. I say "billed as" because that match lasted about three minutes, when Jordan sold his knee injury again, getting counted out. Apparently that was an open invitation, because Finn Balor came down unannounced and over a commercial break it was turned into an actual match. THAT match was then thrown out as a result of a disqualification. Then and only then did the obvious true purpose of this segment come to fruition when Braun Strowman came out to confront Kane. Braun then returned the favor on Kane, delivering the same type of punishment Kane dished out on the Monster Among Men last week. It was fine, but not worth wading through three hours of boredom to get to.
Hoo boy, was that episode tough to sit through. I can’t remember the last time I was so happy for a show to end. It’s actually difficult to find segments to praise — even the stories with intrigue were bungled tonight, like Matt Hardy finally descending to BROKEN status and Paige’s new faction. It felt like The Shield doesn’t even exist anymore tonight (hell, Ambrose wasn’t even there) and while Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe as an Intercontinental Title feud certainly piques my interest, the setup was so brief tonight there wasn’t anything to sink your teeth into. The comatose Knoxville crowd certainly didn’t help matters, but it’s hard to disagree with their reaction (or lack thereof) — this show stunk.