Raw was light on starpower last night, missing three of Summerslam‘s main draws: John Cena, Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker. We did, however, get a surprise appearance by the ‘Yes!’ Man along with guest star Stephen Amell. But still, pushing a title for title match with only one participant and ‘the match too big for WrestleMania’ with NONE of the participants is a tall order. How did WWE fare?
The time the ref forgot what Money in the Bank was
Without the aforementioned megastars, Raw kicked off with a Seth Rollins promo (go ahead, regain your composure after that shock). A lot of people deride Rollins’ entertainment chops, but I found the segment to be pretty funny. The Conan O’Brien-style talking picture schtick was a decent way to remind us of Cena’s exploded face, and if nothing else, chewed up some time while pushing the idea that Rollins thinks he’s the man for accidentally legit hurting Cena.
Eventually this brought out Cesaro, which brought out Owens, which brought out Orton, yadda yadda yadda…we have a triple threat match later on tonight and the winner faces Rollins (on the same night) for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The setup was very Smackdown circa 2010, but sometimes the journey can take a backseat when the destination is so good, and I can’t see many people complaining about a Cesaro/Owens/Orton triple threat match on Raw.
And the match did live up to expectations. Cesaro has been absolutely on fire lately. You can feel his confidence building in every match. And Owens is one of the smarter heels we’ve had in a while, which is a breath of fresh air from the usual WWE heel tropes of the “chickenshit” or “cocky” varieties. Exiting the ring early, letting the other two duke it out…you know, basic, logical strategies that usually seem lost on WWE Superstars for some reason. Eventually though, Orton must have been spamming taunts off-camera to save up two finishers, because he ran into the ring and hit two RKOS OUTTA NOWHERE to pick up the win.
This brings me to a realization. Orton is phenomenal in the ring when he wants to be, and has an intensity unmatched by almost anybody. But in today’s WWE landscape is he almost…obsolete? I’m trying to think of any program they could put together involving Orton that would excite me and I got nothin’. Cena doesn’t have this problem. He constantly reinvents himself and in the last two years or so, LOLCENAWINS aside, he’s been hella interesting. Orton though? Not so much. I mean, maybe it’s just because he’s currently feuding with Sheamus, possibly the most boring wrestler on the roster, but I just feel that time may have passed Orton by, in an era dominated by indie darlings.
In any event, he won, and they pushed the eventual main event of Orton vs. Rollins using clips of the Curb Stomp into the RKO from WrestleMania, a welcome sight since I thought they’d never reference one of the all-time greatest RKOs again because of the whole Curb Stomp ban. The match itself was great (and featured another absolutely beautiful RKO reversal), but was always going to end in some kind of schmozz since Rollins wasn’t losing the title two weeks before Summerslam on an episode of Raw. That means it’s Sheamus time, fella!
Sheamus cost Orton the match, then had the bright idea to cash in his briefcase. He even hit a Brogue Kick on Rollins before deciding to cash in, which I thought was a nice touch. What happened next, though, was baffling: the referee seemed utterly befuddled by Sheamus’ request to cash in, as if he’d never seen or even heard of a Money in the Bank briefcase before. It was like the referee was glitched out and not responding to commands. Or maybe he’s a member of the IWC and takes all the “f--k Sheamus” cries to heart, because that’s exactly what he did lat night. And in spite of all the good use of logic in the episode up to this point, Orton decides to attack Sheamus before he cashes in? Wouldn’t the best revenge be to lay in waiting until the bell officially run, then RKO Sheamus, thus voiding his Money in the Bank contract? You could have been the chosen one! You could have ended all this! Yeah, Orton has a short temper and whatever, but time and time again he is just portrayed as an utter fool, and it’s unfortunate.
As with many Raw main events: A solid match with an incredibly predictable finish that doesn’t advance anything. Shame (ful thing).
A Hero’s Welcome
There wasn’t a lot else of consequence on Raw last night (a recurring theme lately, despite heading into the second biggest show of the year). By far the most fun segment last night though was the surprise return of Daniel Bryan, as a guest on Miz TV. The hometown crowd in Seattle was ecstatic to see him, and the response immediately brought me back to the Slammy Awards episode in 2013 where the same crowd hijacked the main event segment with nonstop adulation for Bryan; the ovation was that enduring. You think people like Ambrose or Cesaro are over, and then Daniel Bryan comes back and he can’t even speak for two or three minutes because the crowd won’t stop chanting his name. He’s got a once in a lifetime connection with the crowd, and I…I just.. ::breaks into tears:: I just miss him, man!
He wasn’t really there for anything important—he promoted his book, promoted Tough Enough, and then promoted the Intercontinental Championship scene, which gave it a much-needed shot in the arm. What also helped was the fact that the Intercontinental Champion was actually on Raw. Seems like Ryback’s staph infection is healed up, and the triple threat that was originally scheduled for Battleground will now take place at Summerslam.
It’d be cool if they did something between Bryan and Ryback on screen, even if Bryan isn’t cleared to compete. They are obviously pretty close friends in real life, and he basically bequeathed the championship to Ryback when he had to go on the shelf, so team them up for a while; have Bryan as his mentor. Then, when Bryan is healthy enough to compete, you can have one turn on the other and have yourself an instantly credible Intercontinental Championship feud.
Oh yeah, Big Show was there too and said some stuff.
The Rest of the Card
- Are you really the guest star of Raw if you’re not allowed in the ring? Stephen Amell finally showed up, and was billed as the guest star, but was just simply watching from the front row. I liked him jumping the barricade and going after Stardust, and the backstage segment was very well done. Amell seemed a lot more natural in the ring than most celebrities do. Certainly helps that he’s a huge fan of WWE and is also in great shape: a perfect combination for a celebrity match at Summerslam. I’m ambivalent on the fact that it’s a tag match: It’s the right call to hide the greenness of a non-wrestler, but who cares about Barrett? Neville has been feuding with Stardust, while handily beating the King of the Ring with no real issue. And suddenly King Barrett is cool with Stardust all of a sudden? Ugh.
- I like Broman Reigns a lot, and I still think the pairing with Ambrose is fun. Ambrose’s match with Harper last night was pretty good, nothing great.
- F--k the haters, Rusev continues to be one of my favorite segments on Raw. I loved Summer putting Lana in the Accolade (and it looked brutal to boot) while cackling. I’m still amazed Ziggler hasn’t shown up yet, but it’s sounding like we’ll get that next week. Oh, and Rusev’s new Bulgarian flag with a gigantic picture of himself on it is just plain amazing.
- New Day vs. Matadores was another fun little match, but I don’t really get the logic of having them win handily, only to have to face the people they just beat in addition to the Lucha Dragons who haven’t done anything in a while at Summerslam against the incumbent Prime Time Players. It made for an entertaining backstage segment, though.
- The Divas match—Team B.A.D. vs. Team Bella in a six woman tag—was great once again, and leads us to a nine woman elimination tag match at Summerslam. The crowd was hot for Sasha—I don’t think I’ve ever heard a reaction like that on the main roster for a female outside of “we want puppies” chants in 1999. Oh, how far we’ve come!
- Sign of the Night was one I noticed the second they went live: “Rollins sits to pee.”
I feel like a broken record at this point, but once again, Raw featured fun matches and decent segments with little storyline progression. We did get the surprise appearance of D-Bry, and finally got some insight as to just what is going on between Stephen Amell and Stardust, though, so it’s better in the development front than recent weeks.