WWE Monday Night Raw returns tonight from the Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, featuring all the latest build to the upcoming SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV) which is just six nights away.
An especially-humbled Ronda Rousey leads off Raw, personally acknowledging the loss of Jim Neidhart (as Natalya’s friend) and gives a poignant, heartfelt speech about the importance of fathers (having lost hers at a young age). It segues into Ronda introducing Ember Moon for a non-title match with Alexa. Alexa enters, accompanied by Poison Iv–er, Alicia Fox (complete with sling). Alexa mocks Ronda’s war face (which is oddly funny), and brings out her own Baron Corbon-assigned security force. Alexa attacks before the match, then hides behind the four hired goons….three of whom get taken out by Ronda, and the fourth flees in terror. Good stuff.
Alexa Bliss vs Ember Moon
Non-title as noted. The match is so important that we get a split-screen commercial hyping Lesnar vs. Reigns. I mean, televised wrestling is just a glorified commercial anyway, so it’s just being more on-the-nose. Ember gets a really cool-looking sliding reverse STO for 2. We return after the second commercial break with Ember getting a roll-up for 2. Such is life on modern Raw, where the people in the opening segment take up the entire first half hour, and several commercials are involved. Alexa gets 2 off of a clothesline, then works a Corbin-approved chinlock, because it’s not 8:30 yet. Ember gets a funky roll-up for 2, only to get dropkicked down after. Series of pinfalls follow and outside the ring, Rousey prevents Alicia from interfering. Bliss jumps her, and then heads back in, only to walk into a tilt a whirl gutbuster (and a nice one). Ember follows with the Eclipse, but Alicia breaks up the pin (sorta) for the DQ. Ronda doles out the rage afterward. Ending made it decent, but the two commercials are just death. **1/2
We get some additional footage of the awesome Heyman/Renee interview on Monday, in which Heyman affirms his belief that Lesnar will win, but then says “Unless…”, but won’t elaborate further. Hmm….
Meanwhile, Kurt Angle’s annoyed with Corbin, as well as McIntyre and Dolph “The Hammer” Ziggler. That’s a lot of annoyances.
Baron Corbin vs Tyler Breeze
Apparently, Corbin handpicked this match for himself, apparently in order to make Renee feel at home on commentary. This is a deal where he and Balor each get to choose their own opponents tonight, which says a lot about how WWE views Breeze. Corbin manhandles him with the midmatch half nelson chinlock of death, and the crowd already grows restless. Breeze sends Corbin outside and dives at him from the apron, only to be caught, then hotshotted on the barricade. Say this, at least Corbin can get people to hate him. Then it’s back to the half-nelson chinlock. They should call it the Silencer. Breeze makes the comeback, but ends up running into the Deep Six, which finishes. Wow, doesn’t even get the End of Days. Some nice spots, but not much else, unless you like The Silencer. * Corbin then picks Balor’s opponent for him, which ends up being Happy, Peaceful Jinder. Oh, and it’s a handicap match, with Kevin Owens as Jinder’s partner.
But WAIT. Kurt Angle arrives to even it up as a tag team match. And you can probably guess who Balor’s partner is.
Braun Strowman/Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens/Jinder Mahal
Strowman, of course, he’s beloved in his home state. According to Graves, Strowman refers to himself as “The Meat Castle”, which is…not nothing. Now’s a good time to point out how much more enjoyable Renee Young is on the call, as opposed to antiquated, adds-nothing Coachman. Balor is the early face-in-peril, but he avoids a corner charge and tags Strowman, while Owens scampers to tag Jinder. In fact, KO hides in the front row at one point. Maybe he can bat a beach ball while he’s at it. Strowman and Balor execute a tag team move (against Balor’s will) in a cute spot. But when KO goes to trip Balor, he draws Strowman for a ringside chase, which draws him into a Balor flipping plancha. We take time during a second heat segment to air an extended split-screen NXT TakeOver commercial. Mahal performs Corbin’s Silencer chinlock, which I guess is the official time-killing resthold for WWE’s three hour TV shows. Strowman gets the hot tag and begins running over both opponents to the crowd’s delight. At ringside, Braun lifts up Sunil Singh and uses him to plow into Owens. Back inside, Mahal getts a V Trigger, but a second charge gets him powerslammed and pinned. Lotta downtime, but fine otherwise. **1/4 Afterward, Braun chases Owens for sport, which allows Corbin to run in and give Balor an End of Days for laughs.
Meanwhile, Seth may not make the show due to travel issues, and would thus be unable to sign a contract for his SummerSlam IC title match. Can’t he just goad Ziggler into a 20 minute talk segment on SummerSlam night and then challenge him there? It works for Raw.
Meanwhile, some country singer/plant named Ricky Roberts is in the ring talking about Elias, which brings Elias out for another one of his Springsteen-esque soliloquies. This brings Lashley out, as apparently Roberts is his opponent. Roberts smashes the guitar over him, which Lashley no sells.
Bobby Lashley vs Ricky Roberts
Lashley kills Roberts did with the scariest high angle spinebuster you ever saw. No pin, so no match apparently.
Meanwhile, Bo Dallas is worried the odds are against them in the Tag Team title match. But they’re not even *facing* Scott Steiner.
Raw Tag Team Titles: The B-Team vs. The Deleters of Worlds vs. The Revival
Dawson blisters Dallas with a vicious chop as Cole notes that both Revival members are from Kill Devil Hills, NC, thus are fairly local. Hardy tags in and takes to smashing Wilder’s face on the buckles, and gets the Side Effect for 2. Matt calls himself V1-ahhhh, which is fine because I miss wrestling from 16 years ago as well. The Revival get The Hart Attack on Matt, which was expected. Back from break and it’s six-way chaos, with Wyatt catching Wilder’s suicide dive and giving him a uranage on the apron. Dallas floors Wyatt with a clothesline off the ring steps. Dawson prevents a Hardy moonsault to the floor, but Hardy responds by superplexing him onto the other four guys in a scary-enough spot. Axel blind tags off of Dawson, just before The Revival hit Wyatt with the Shatter Machine. This allows Axel to steal the pin, retaining the gold for the B-Team. Decent little match with some fun spots. **1/2
It’s noted by Ziggler after reading his SummerSlam match contract that Rollins gets to have somebody in his corner. Man, is Roman really going to work Seth’s corner before wrestling in the main event? Dude’s hardcore.
Speaking of Roman, DA BIG DAWG gets mic time. He tries to curry favor with the crowd by saying Lesnar needs to go. I’d say Greensboro’s a fair mix tonight. A freshly-groomed, much happier Paul Heyman disrupts. After some oddly-placed praise for The Usos, Heyman gets to the meat of the matter: he offers to tell Reigns all of Lesnar’s secrets. Shouldn’t Reigns call Cain Velasquez for advice on how to beat Brock? I mean, he was just *at* the Performance Center. Reigns turns down Heyman’s offer, and points out that Heyman helped prevent him from winning at Greatest Royal Rumble. Heyman continues with his hearty sales pitch, but Reigns coldly puts him in his place. Heyman gives an impassioned speech invoking Reigns’ father (even speaking in Samoan), before handing him some document. Then as Reigns reads it, Heyman maces Reigns in an unexpected moment. Then with Reigns blinded, Lesnar’s music hits. Guess Greensboro would have plenty of hunting magazines to choose from. Lesnar beats Reigns to the mat, then locks him into a guillotine choke, putting him out. Lesnar leaves, but returns to hit an emphatic F5. “ONE MORE TIME” chant the males. Great segment from start to finish.
Titus Worldwide/Bobby Roode vs. Mojo Rawley/Authors of Pain
Nobody gets an entrance. I’d love to comment on the action, but the Ronda/Alexa commercial is taking up most of the screen. After a scrum, Roode pins Mojo with a Glorious DDT. Well, that was pointless. Would like to say that Roode and Dana as a villainous duo (a la Roode and Traci Brooks) could have some legs to it.
We get a nice tribute video for Jim Neidhart. He left an indelible mark on the business, and it’s rather sad to see him go.
Sasha Banks vs. Ruby Riott
I’d almost forgotten that wrestlers can have entrances for their matches. Sasha gets a rolling cradle for 2, and the two exchange pin attempts until Sasha hooks the Bank Statement. Ruby makes the ropes. They fight outside and Sasha gets her hand stuck in the ring steps handle, which Ruby violently exploits. Cole tries to throw it to commercial before somebody has to tell him that there’s important angle advancement at hand (pun not intended). Back from break, Ruby continues to work over Sasha’s hand at about a 0.6 on the Pete Dunne Scale. C’mon, let’s see some sadistic bending. Sasha battles back and gets a step-up armdrag, before diving onto Sarah Logan with a suicide dive. Bayley gets involved in the ringside skirmish, and we get an awkward finish as Ruby kicks Sasha’s head as she re-enters, then rolls her up for the pin. Match was there. *1/4. Not even any build for SummerSlam as far as I know.
Angle informs us that Reigns is stable able to wrestle on Sunday (Crowd: “BOOO”). Dolphentine and McIntyre interrupt for the main event contract signing, to which Angle introduces Rollins…and nothing. Really making Angle look like a buffoon here. McIntyre and Dolphentine stall with promos, and Dolph makes a good point about fans turning on guys that stop trying to be show-stealers. Ziggler signs his half of the contract, which he thinks ensures a forfeit, but Rollins’ music conveniently hits. Was he wearing his ring pants on the plane? He concedes that he was in the building for a little while, but wanted to make sure Dolph signed before he told him what his plan was. And he’s got somebody in his corner: DEAN AMBROSE. And he got one hell of a haircut, too. The Shield brothers kick some ass, and that’s how we go off air.
OVERALL: Ignore anything that wasn’t a SummerSlam build, and it was a damn good hype show. Otherwise, the filler drags it down a bit on the basis of being filler. But what was good *was* great.