RAW Ramblings – August 15th 2016
American Bank Centre: Corpus Christi, TX.
The good news, everybody, is that SummerSlam – despite being a whopping six hour event – should be a hell of a show. Bad news is that we all we subjected to a dire go-home episode of RAW that did virtually nothing to get viewers excited for the second biggest WWE weekend of the year.
Of course there are always exceptions and the wondrous anomaly that stood out from the rest of the stagnating doldrums was the Hall of Fame act of Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar. They came out at the top of the second hour and a bizarrely jolly Lesnar reveled in the huge babyface reaction he got from the crowd. Heath Slater interrupted them and asked Heyman to be his advocate; Paul laughed at such an absurd idea. Slater said all he had to do to earn a contract with RAW was to beat Brock in a match and noted that his two little girls, “and all the other kids,” at home were depending on him. Brock told Slater he had kids too and invited him in the ring to have a friendly chat. Lesnar quickly turned on poor Heath and told him he didn’t give a “sh*t” about his kids; Brock proceeded to murder Slater and gave him some Germans before finishing him off with an F5. Heyman continued with his spiel and proceeded to cut one of the best go-home promos in years to hype the Orton/Lesnar match on Sunday. – This segment was the best thing on the show by far and they should have Heyman’s promo on a loop in the Performance Centre to teach the kids how to cut a damn promo. Brock was his usual badass self, which is never not great. I find it hard to believe that any of the casual fans actually perceive Randy Orton as a threat to Lesnar, however if and when Orton counters the F5 into an RKO I’m sure it will lead to one hell of a near-fall.
The show-long storyline involved Seth Rollins looking for “the Demon King” Finn Balor and WWE managed to already water down Balor’s Demon gimmick by using the phrase, “Demon King” approximately a billion times. Rollins came across Neville on his quest and he told Seth that he should not underestimate the Demon King. Rollins blew the comments off and called Neville a “hobbit.” Later, Seth wandered into Mick Foley & Stephanie McMahon’s office, still looking for the Demon. Rollins asked for the night off, which Stephanie was willing to give him however Foley instructed Seth to go out to the ring and call out the Demon. So, at the top of the third hour Rollins was out and he claimed he was not afraid of the Demon. A drunk fan stumbled into the ring and Rollins stood there while he was carted off by security. Finally, the Balor’s Demon entrance began, complete with Undertaker-style camera angles and the spooky red lighting. Balor appeared in his full Demon attire and did his long, epic entrance. Crowd went nuts and chanted, “Holy sh*t” while Demon Balor faced off with Rollins. Instead of having the Demon character look imposingly strong, Balor & Rollins had a little back-and-forth sequence then Rollins rolled outside to avoid the Double Stomp. Balor took Rollins out with a big Tope-con-Hilo over the top then got back in the ring to pose while his music played. – I couldn’t decide if I was bothered by the fact they didn’t save Demon Balor for the PPV. Traditionally speaking you would want to save that as a hook for fans to buy the show, however that doesn’t really matter anymore in the Network era so I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It gave the RAW viewing audience a glimpse of something many of them will not have seen before and it at least made for another fun segment on this torturous three hour show. Again, it would be the dumbest thing in the world to beat Balor the first night he wrestles as the Demon on the main roster. Maybe they will surprise me, but I can only see one outcome of the match and that is Rollins becoming the first Universal Champion.
The other main story of the show was the follow up to Roman Reigns ruining Rusev & Lana’s wedding celebration last week. Rusev & Lana were out at the top of the show and Rusev declared that RAW would not start until Reigns came out and apologised. Mick Foley showed up and Rusev told him he sucked as a GM then asked to speak with Stephanie McMahon instead. Steph came out and played cringe-worthy babyface; she put over Foley and buried Rusev for having no respect. Roman Reigns made his way out and had some horrible lines about Rusev & Lana making “Sasquatch babies.” All this nonsense led to Foley & Steph booking Rusev vs. Reigns in the main event – not for the US title, but for “Lana’s honour.” Before the main event, Rusev jumped Reigns in the back and we got all the WWE backstage brawl cliches, including the conveniently placed metal pipes, a poorly laid out table of snacks and the ubiquitous steel garage door. By the time the main event rolled around the crowd were pretty tired and in no mood to sit through a long Roman Reigns match. So naturally, Reigns & Rusev proceeded to have a 20 minute bore-fest that absolutely nobody cared about at all. Finish saw Reigns get the ropes to break the Accolade and he won clean with the Spear. – There are only a few people capable of having a good 20 minute match with Reigns and as great as Rusev is he was sadly not one of the. This did nothing to make me want to see the rematch at SummerSlam, in fact it made me want to see it even less. I will never get the deal of having two guys in a title match on a PPV facing a week before on TV and having the babyface win clean. It would be one thing if Reigns needed the win to earn his title shot, but he already was booked for the US title match, so this entire deal served absolutely zero purpose.
The Rest: Sami Zayn pinned Sheamus in 10:15 with the Yakuza Kick after Cesaro, who was doing commentary, distracted Sheamus by climbing the steps. Later in the back, Foley showed up and booked Sheamus & Cesaro in a Best of Seven Series, with the first match being at SummerSlam. Cesaro & Sheamus always have good matches together but I don’t know if anybody wanted seven more of them. Poor Sami still has nothing for the four hour PPV with a two hour pre-show. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens made fun of Tom Phillips in the back; they were great as always. New Day (Kofi & Xavier) beat the Dudley Boyz in a non-title match at 1:35; Dudleys showed more communication problems and bonked into each other again then Kofi pinned D-Von with the Trouble in Paradise. Gallows & Anderson appeared on the screen before the match and did more testicle jokes about Big E. Afterwards, the Club were shown on the Tron again and they had an egg explode in a microwave then pulled out three jars: one with Big E’s name on it with an egg inside and two empty ones with Kofi & Xavier’s names on. Awful. Nia Jax squashed jobber Rachel Levy in 1:05; it was fine. Enzo & Big Cass were out and did their usual comedy stuff. Cass faced Kevin Owens and won via DQ in 6:20 when Jericho attacked him on the floor. Jericho & Owens took out Enzo then laid out Cass with a Superkick and the Codebreaker.
There was a contender for worst segment of the year, as Bob Backlund tried to reunite the Prime Time Players for a match against the Shining Stars. Unsurprisingly, Titus ended up turning on Darren Young, who looked like a complete moron, and the Colons got the win in 2:40. Nobody was helped by any of this and absolutely everybody involved was worse off for being involved with such idiocy. Neville squashed Jinder Mahal in 2:50 with the Red Arrow. Gallows & Anderson beat The Golden Truth with the Magic Killer in 2:20; post-match saw Kofi & Xavier attack the Club. They tried to use the trombone on Anderson’s balls, but Gallows pulled him to safety. Charlotte told Dana Brooke in the back that she would beat Alicia Fox by herself. Sasha Banks was on commentary for the match, which Charlotte won clean with the Natural Selection in 1:30. Charlotte called Sasha down to the ring, but Dana Brooke jumped Sasha from behind and put the boots to her. Charlotte applied the Figure Eight and Sasha sold her knee, but don’t worry about that because I’m sure it won’t play into their match at SummerSlam at all.