After all the dust settled from last week’s draft and PPV, this was the first show in the new brand split era. It wasn’t a make or break show for the WWE, but they had to make sure it was different from the old formula, which I think it was.
They promised change, and they delivered that. I loved everything, from the logo to the new music. They’ve also reverted back to the WCW announce team set up. I don’t think that’ll make a huge difference, but it’s fresh. Since 2011, it’s felt as if Raw’s look has remained the same, so something new was much needed.
The announcement from Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon was exciting to say the least. It fleshed out the entire show, and allowed for the brand to set up their main program heading towards Summerslam. The only thing that made me raise my eyebrows was name for the main title of Raw. The WWE Universal title? I just don’t think it rolls off the tongue, and it sounds quite awkward.
Cesaro vs Kevin Owens vs Rusev vs Finn Balor
Since I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve gotten so used to Balor being part of NXT, it felt surreal to include him in the Raw Rollup. His presence went perfectly with this episode of Raw, because everything about him was fresh. We’ve seen the other three competitors in the ring compete against one another, however by inserting Finn into the match, it wasn’t as noticeable.
I thought Kevin Owens carried the first half of this match, although I’m not taking away from the other performers. It wasn’t just from a wrestling perspective, it also his ability to showcase his characters emotions towards the other three. The strongest spot was Finn’s running apron kick to Rusev. It was sold well, and looked awesome in an arena setting. Considering that Rusev is the IC champ, and Owens lost at Battleground, I thought Cesaro should have been the one to eat the pin from Balor. Out of all four he has the least going for him, so it wouldn’t have hurt his credibility. Regardless, they booked the right winner for this match, and I’m happy they’re treating Balor as a big deal right off the bat.
Nia Jax vs Brit Baker
For those that don’t follow NXT that closely, Nia actually receives a ton of flack from a large portion of the fan base. I can’t say I share that opinion, because I think Nia brings something new to the women’s division. Rarely do we get to see a woman play the role of the monster heel, and that’s something she can do. Her move set and in ring psychology may be limited, but she’s improved quite a bit since her NXT debut. Also, I don’t mind if she works a few squash matches early in her main roster run, it allows her to build some steam before being thrown into a feud.
Roman Reigns vs Sheamus vs Chris Jericho vs Sami Zayn
I was shocked when Sami decided to helped Sheamus and Jericho beat down Reigns. That spot alone showed us that Roman is becoming a disliked figure on the main roster (kayfabe wise). Unlike the fatal four way from earlier in the show, I’m glad this wasn’t just about the two heels controlling the pace. I know they did that for the opening few minutes, but it was essential they put forth a different style. In fact, this moved much faster.
Zayn had a strong night at Battleground, and I considered him to be a dark horse favourite to win this match. Well, he was impressive enough to back that up. Based on the way this match was booked, it was evident they wanted Sami to come across as the second strongest.
Also at Battleground, I noticed that Roman wrestled a much more dominant style (a throwback to his Shield days) than he did before his suspension. From what we saw, it appears he’ll be using this style moving forward. It’s worth noting that the only way Reigns was taken down in this match was when two of the others decided to double team him (along with two signature moves that caught him off guard). Reigns was the heavy favourite to win, and with that they gave the fans a reason to tune into the main event.
The New Day Promo
The WWE hit the reboot button on many parts of the Raw roster, so it didn’t bother me that the New Day didn’t come out crying about their loss to the Wyatt Family. Even though parts of this promo were unnecessary (mainly the video package), the New Day simply knows how to make it work. I wasn’t sure where everything was going with the fan they picked from the crowd, but the jokes on his name were pretty funny.
Since Anderson and Gallows have debuted, they haven’t gotten a fair chance in the tag division. They’ve been heavily tied to AJ Styles since April, so having them start a feud against the New Day seems like the most logical direction for them. Hopefully they keep the Club away from Finn Balor because both parties deserve a chance at doing things separately, at least for now.
Neville vs Curtis Axel
It’s great to see Neville back on TV, as he brings a style that no other can on the WWE roster. However, this match felt like nothing more than his signature spots. For a return, there’s nothing wrong with that, it just felt underwhelming.
Sasha Banks vs Charlotte
I was surprised they even announced this match for this show. When Stephanie called Charlotte to the front of the stage in the opening segment, I assumed she would announce her Summerslam match. Given that this was a special episode of Raw, it fit well with the rest of the show.
From their singles matches in NXT, these two know how to put on a show. They just have a natural chemistry between them, and I always enjoy watching them lock horns. Regardless who’s the babyface or the heel, both competitors know how to make their characters shine in each of their matches.
Overall, I truly enjoyed the back and forth between both women. The strongest spot of the match was clearly Charlotte’s moonsault outside of the ring. She was working with limited space, yet she still landed on Sasha, which is just incredible. Before the match started, I thought they’d work an angle to set up their PPV match, so the title change completely threw me off. While I believe the title change would have been best saved for Summerslam, I’ll wait to see how this plays out. The two know how to put on a magnificent feud, so maybe they got something good in store for the fans.
Jams Elsworth vs Braun Strowman
I had completely forgotten that Strowman was on Raw. Now that he’s not part of the Wyatt Family, it was smart of them to modify his look. I hope they can make something out of him, because even without Bray Wyatt, he still carries a certain presence.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs The Shining Stars
While I forgot that Strowman was on Raw, I forgot that the Shining Stars were still in the company. The strongest part of this match was Enzo & Cass’ promo, which was mediocre in comparison to their other promos. Overall, I couldn’t care less about this match.
Finn Balor vs Roman Reigns
I can’t recall the last time the main event for Raw felt as unpredictable as this one. Going in my only two questions were:
- Will Roman Reigns lose clean two nights in a row?
- Will Finn Balor lose on his debut night?
I honestly couldn’t answer either of those. That says a lot about how well they put this match together. Also, it gave off the feeling that anything could happen on this particular episode.
Roman is considerably larger, so it only made sense for him to rag doll Finn early on. This also allowed for Balor to showcase his craftiness. I thought Finn’s running knee on Rusev was amazing, but that looked dull in comparison to the one he gave Roman. Also, it was after that spot the match finally picked up. Once they began exchanging near falls, I was actually pulling my own hair.
After this match was said and done, Balor looked like a million bucks. They honestly couldn’t have booked him better in his debut night. As it stands, Finn has the chance to capture the main title on Raw in his first PPV appearance. If that doesn’t scream change, I don’t know what does.
When the WWE said they were going to shake things up, they meant it. Everything about this episode showed the fans that the company is willing to change and go in a new direction. So far, I’d say this was the best Raw of 2016. The low point was Enzo & Cass vs the Shining Stars while the high point was the main event/Charlotte vs Sasha. Overall, I give this episode of Raw a 9/10.