RAW Ramblings – August 1st 2016
Philips Arena: Atlanta, GA.
Well, the streak of really good RAWs ended at one, as the second show of the new era featured booking and decision making that would have fit right in with the pre-draft malaise. All the new trinkets were still on display, the new set, different camera angles and post-match interviews, however the quality control was nowhere near the standard of last week and the content of the show suffered greatly. Obviously they can’t have two great 4-way matches and make a new superstar, or have a title change, every week, but even so the difference in show quality after just one week was stark to say the least. On a positive note, you can’t accuse WWE of not having a direction as they did in fact build up SummerSlam fairly well. Although, as noted, the problems that arose on this show were due to poor decision making and an obvious loosening of the reins by the man in charge. It was clear the WWE wanted to impress with the first RAW of the new era last week and I’m sure Vince ran the tightest of ships to ensure everyone was on their game. That didn’t appear to be the case at all with this show and it felt like the drive to produce a slick, entertaining, well-booked three hours of television was lost after week one.
The main stuff for SummerSlam was handled relatively well, although you can certainly question the decision to have a SmackDown guy attack and lay out a RAW guy after only two weeks. Randy Orton showed up during the main event segment with Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar and he dropped Lesnar, who looked noticeably smaller, with an RKO before fleeing through the crowd. Stephanie McMahon & Mick Foley came out and were furious about a SmackDown guy showing up on their show. It didn’t really do the credibility of the brand split any good, however the crowd went crazy for Orton and in fairness the SummerSlam match was announced before the draft took place so this was always going to happen. As always, Heyman cut an outstanding money promo as only he can.
The Universal title match was set up with a typically horrible WWE talking segment. Michael Cole introduced Finn Balor for his first in-ring promo on the big stage, however they clearly don’t trust him out there on his own yet as they sent out Seth Rollins within seconds. Rollins had some terrible dialogue and compared himself to Bill Murray and Balor to Melissa McCarthy. Balor did a decent job of reciting his lines and eventually told Rollins he would kick his ass at SummerSlam. Rollins faked to leave but tried a sneak attack; Balor was ready for it and sent Seth packing with a right hand. Balor wasn’t nearly as over here in Atlanta as he was last week in Pittsburgh and it felt like a lot of the fans were not too familiar with him. This was the first face-to-face meeting between the two men fighting to crown the first ever Universal champion and it came off like a complete nothing segment. Later on, Rollins beat Sami Zayn in a solid TV match in 11:45 with the Pedigree; Balor didn’t appear again on the show.
After failing to get sympathy by outing him as a drugs cheat, the latest idea to get Roman Reigns over as a babyface is to turn him into the patriotic American fighting the evil foreigner for the US title. Rusev beat Mark Henry with the Accolade in 6:40, at least 4 minutes of which were during commercial. Rusev cut a great promo about American’s rigging the Olympics and banning the real athletes from Russia and Bulgaria. Reigns showed up as the national saviour – he even had red on his vest – and ended up laying out Rusev with a Superman Punch on the floor. The Atlanta crowd were much kinder to Reigns than most and politely applauded while he beat up the foreign menace. I almost hope this attempt to get Reigns over fails, not because I hate Roman or anything, but I would love to know what they have left in the playbook to try and babyface this guy.
Opening segment was a weird deal, in that it went 21 minutes, which is obscenely long, although the personalities involved were mostly entertaining and with 10 minutes cut off it would have been much better. Sasha Banks opened the show, but Charlotte quickly interrupted her. They blathered on for a while; the big line was Charlotte calling Sasha’s title win a “one night stand” and Sasha told her she was the daughter of Ric Flair and wouldn’t be alive had it not been for a one night stand. Chris Jericho came out to save the day and buried Sasha; Enzo Amore hit the ring to defend Sasha’s honour and they ended up hitting on each other for a while. Enzo & Jericho interacted well together and were the key to the segment not dying a death. Mick Foley hobbled out after 20 minutes of talking and proceeded to talk some more; he ended up booking a mixed tag. Charlotte & Jericho beat Sasha & Enzo in 10:40 when Charlotte pinned Sasha with Natural Selection, because the WWE is incapable of booking any feud without the participants trading wins every week. Jericho gave Enzo the Codebreaker afterwards and Big Cass ran out to make the save. Kevin Owens was on commentary for the match; he didn’t explain why he was there, although it would be revealed later. Jericho was interviewed by Tom Philips in the back and was asked if he had a partner to fight Enzo & Cass. Jericho made up a fake name, but Kevin Owens walked in and told Jericho he had his back. I’m all for a Jercho & Owens vs. Enzo & Cass feud.
The Rest: Braun Strowman squashed another jobber in a minute. This week it was Corey Hollis from NXT under the name Evan Anderhold and Strowman killed him with his Reverse Chokeslam. Saxton interviewed Anderhold before the match and he said he only took the match because it paid $1,000 and he would get $5,000 if he won. Stephanie McMahon & Mick Foley met with Mark Henry in the office. Henry wanted to have one last big run, but Steph told him they only signed him to RAW to be a mentor to the young talent. Foley ended up booking Henry in the match with Rusev. The Golden Truth were playing Pokemon Go again and they ended up losing to The Shining Stars of all people when Truth went to collect a Pokemon, which distracted Goldust and he was rolled up for the pin in 2:05. Titus O’Neil beat Darren Young w/Bob Backlund in 3:50 with a roll-up and a handful of tights. Backlund yelled at Titus in the back for being a cheater and Titus threatened to “Knock his old ass out.” Young laid out Titus from behind and told him to keep his hands off Coach Backlund. Everything about this sucked and was made worse by the prospect of a heel Titus O’Neil run and feud with Darren Young. Nia Jax squashed Ariel Monroe in 1:10 with a Powerslam; Cole made sure to tell viewers that Nia was a “plus sized model.” New Day faced Gallows & Anderson in a Non-title match. Gimmick was that one of the New Day were banned from ringside and the determined this by picking fruit out of a bag. Xavier picked a banana, while Kofi & Big E picked oranges, so he was the odd man out. It didn’t matter, as Big E rolled up Anderson for the flash pin in 1:25 like a total geek – it was also the third roll-up finish on the show. Gallows & Anderson got their heat back immediately and beat up the New Day; Xavier ran back down but he was taken out too. Anderson & Gallows crotched Big E on the ring post and they played it up like a big injury angle. Cesaro downed Sheamus in 6:00 with the Neutraliser completely out of nowhere. Sheamus & Cesaro continued to brawl after the break then Heath Slater & Jinder Mahal hit the ring during the commotion and demanded a job on RAW. Foley came out and booked the two in a match to earn a spot on the roster. Slater protested, but Jinder snuck behind him and drilled him with a big boot to get the pin in 14 seconds. I know when I think of the new era of WWE, the first name that comes to mind is Jinder Mahal.