Just thirteen days until Night of Champions WWE already had most of the main pieces of the puzzle in place for the PPV. With WWE World Heavyweight and United States Champion Seth Rollins placed in two bouts on the card, including the main event that saw him team with Big E and Kofi Kingston of Tag Team Champions, The New Day to take on John Cena and The Prime Time Players, as well as bouts including Cesaro, Sasha Banks, Dean Ambrose, The Dudley Boyz and Randy Orton, could WWE produce a quality product to hold the interest heading into September's special?
The show kicked off with a monologue from "The Architect" Seth Rollins, as he discussed both his upcoming matches at Night of Champions (with Sting and John Cena respectively). Rollins has really developed as a character performer over the last few months and accounted himself well here, playing with the crowd (slowing down when the crowd chanted "boring" was a superb touch) and managing to creatively build up both matches and further his issues with both men. A credit must go to writing team here as well, I'd imagine, they seem to have a strong grasp of the character and Rollins as a performer. Sting (on the tron) and Sheamus both got involved, but it was the inaugural NXT Champion who continued to shine here.
With Sting earlier revealing to that he was in possession of Rollins' statue (as seen on Monday Night RAW #1161), a backstage segment lead to Triple H placing Seth in two matches for the evening to focus himself for Night of Champions, which made a lot of sense and I'll never complain about getting to see "The Man" wrestle.
I liked the idea of having this rematch after the Diva's were lumbered with a silly Beat the Clock Challenge gimmick last week, that meant that Paige and Sasha went to a 1 minute and 40 second time limit draw, I mean...seriously?
Match 1 - Singles - Paige with Charlotte & Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks with Naomi & Tamina
The first part of the bout before the ad break showed a lot of promise with the pair looking lively in the ring and Sasha's signature double knees in the corner was a sweet way to send the match to an ad break. The second part of the bout brought a nice physicality from both performers, although Paige's awkward bump of the top rope and confusing finish just as the crowd were about to get into things let this one down.
Winner - Sasha Banks via pinfall in 9 minutes, 55 seconds
The Ascension were strangely without Stardust, who they seemingly partnered with on Smackdown as they received their jobber entrance.
Match 2 - Tag Team - The Ascension vs. Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns
Whilst the bout did have some lovely team based stuff from Ambrose and Reigns (Reigns pushing Ambrose out the way to Spear Konnor was a great spot) and put them over strong, there was no real need for the former Shield boys to be in this type of match-up.
Winners - Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns in 2 minutes, 55 seconds
All I got from The Wyatt Family's regular tron promo situation was that Braun Strowman has a really weird looking face.
Ryback provided a terrible promo as part of an interview sentence with Renee Young, in which he tripped over his words and recited a piss poor script, before Kevin Owens turn up to almost rescue things.
A recap of last week's goings on between Summer Rae, Dolph Ziggler and Lana aired with a strange voice over, WWE was really pushing the soap opera/Jerry Springer element of this story here and it didn't sit well with me.
Match 3 - Singles - Ryback vs. Seth Rollins
The first part of this bout (before the ad break) was so dull with a deathly quiet crowd not help things out either. The match didn't seem to quite know what it wanted to be and we saw the pair go back and forth with some awkward looking moves, with Ryback's usual in-ring issue turning up again. He looked pretty damn good on offence, hitting a nice delayed vertical suplex and a gorilla press, but any time Seth Rollins found himself in control the Big Guy looked wooden and this hurt Rollins offence, especially when the Architect was using mainly strikes to combat the bigger man. Luckily the bout showed promise to head into the break with the World Heavyweight Champion showing his vicious side, sending Ryback into the ring post and steel steps, and this was just enough to hold my attention across the break.
After a shakey start (Seth Rollins locking in a headlock whilst the crowd were dead) the second portion of the match picked up considerably, with Rollins lifting the pace and Ryback looking much more competent with his selling (the moments after his arm struck the ringpost were especially well done and it's almost a shame that this wasn't played up a bit more by Rollins). With Michael Cole heavily signposting a Triple H vs. Seth Rollins bout in the near future, the pair up their game with Rollins trio of dives spot, with Ryback thwarting the third with a huge spinebuster being the standout moment of the bout for me. The finish was a little shitty, as Sting turned up on the screen to distract Rollins, which appeared to be a bit of a dickish thing to do for the former WCW World Heavyweight Champion, at least it gives The Big Guy some momentum as Intercontinental Champion, I suppose.
Winner - Ryback via pinfall in 17 minutes, 45 seconds.
Sting goofing around with Seth Rollins' statue afterwards, didn't do a whole lot for more and felt silly, rather than funny, and kind of made me want to see Rollins kick The Icon's arse.
Whilst the segments' tone was all over the place, there's no denying that Seth Rollins, The New Day, The Dudley Boyz and Edge & Christian all in one backstage skit was pretty cool, and the eight men did manage to cover quite a lot of ground, including tonight's main event, Rollins' angle with Edge and Christian earlier in the year, as well as The Dudleys feud with The New Day.
For shits and gigs, the cringe worthy video package about Summer Rae, Dolph Ziggler and Lana aired again, quite possibly just to annoy me.
I couldn't wait for this segment to end for a number of reasons. 1. Why hadn't Summer Rae and Rusev spoken about Summer supposedly bangin' Dolph Ziggler over the weekend? No reason was given for Summer waiting until RAW to discuss the matter. 2. Rusev accepting Summer's (rather hollow, but that might just be her poor acting) apology made him look like a moron. This guy used to be the Super Athlete. He's currently coming across like a bit of a pussy. 3. Even when Dolph Ziggler added a much needed boost of charisma, the script was so poor that even he couldn't fight through the mess. There is no need for Ziggler and Rusev to be placed in a storyline like this, they've got the talents to tell an interesting story without all these bells and whistles.
Before Randy Orton's match with Sheamus, Byron Saxton noted that Orton "has done it on 12 separate occasions", Michael Cole was quick to remind us that Saxton meant win a World title.
Match 4 - Singles - Sheamus vs. Randy Orton
Both these men need fresh opponents, the first portion of the match completely went through the motions with Sheamus attempting to goad the crowd to chant "You look stupid" at him to mixed results throughout the match, being the main highlight.
There's no denying that Sheamus is over as a heel, but I don't think he was quite as over here as WWE were hoping he would be. Yes, the crowd would intermittently chant "You look stupid", but they weren't quite as loud as the storyline seemed to be suggesting, with the idea being that the crowd were getting into his head. The closing sequence that would lead to Randy Orton hitting the RKO to pick up the victory was about as interesting as this one got, this certainly wasn't one of the pairs stronger matches and they've had quite a few! This would seem to put an end to their feud, I'm interested to see how WWE plans on elevating Sheamus to World title level after coming out on the losing side of this feud.
Winner - Randy Orton via pinfall in 15 minutes, 50 seconds
The Wyatt Family (and in particular Braun Strowman) made their presence known after the bout attacking Randy Orton (who was seen talking to Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose earlier in the night) in a nice piece of storyline development for their feud, with Orton putting over Strowman strong with some quality selling of the Black Sheep's Lifting Arm Triangle Choke.
The Dudley Boyz entrance is still pretty cool, isn't it? As soon as those fireworks smash against the stage it's difficult not get hyped.
Match 5 - Tag Team - The Dudley Boyz vs. Los Matadores with El Torito
Wow, this was a quick match, as Bubba Ray and D-Von continue to get put over strong with Los Matadores swiftly jobbing here after having some kind of disagreement with El Torito.
Winners - The Dudley Boyz via pinfall in 1 minute, 35 seconds
Whilst the falling out of Los Matadores and El Torito was a development that I didn't particularly care for, at least it allowed us to see Bubba Ray powerbomb whichever Matadores it was through a table.
Before Cesaro and The Miz could get it on in the ring, there was a repeat of an awkward segment from the Pre-Show in which Miz confronted Cesaro, which lead to this match tonight.
Match 6 - Singles - Cesaro vs. The Miz
Just as the match was starting to show potential with The Miz seemingly upping his game for a match with the technician Cesaro, The Big Show turned up and fucked everything up for everyone, in the head-scratching booking of the night.
Winner - No One by Double Countout in 4 minutes, 10 seconds.
After The Big Show had chased The Miz around ringside, he then knocked out Cesaro, if there is anyone who could explain this segment and the purpose behind it (apart from a Miz vs. Big Show match that everyone's clearly been clamouring for) then I'd love to hear it.
Used as a set-up for Charlotte's title bout with Nikki Bella next week on the "Season Premiere" of RAW, this segment did it's job quite well. I'm not sure whether Nikki is terrible or amazing, because I hate her so much for being bad at cutting promos, so much so that I want to see her get beaten up a bit. Charlotte has the potential to do that and had the crowd on side here with her promo being a much better offering, before things broke down into another brawl and Charlotte had Nikki tapping to the Figure 8. I want to see Charlotte take the title off Nikki, as do many, many internet smarks (some are getting seriously too worked up by it) and this segment added to that. That's all you can really ask for.
As Seth Rollins made his way to the ring for the main event, he was joined by a fan who hopped the guard rail, the bloke looked a massive twat as skipped alongside Rollins and hopefully someone kicked him in the dick on the way out.
Match 7 - Six Man Tag Team - John Cena & The Prime Time Players vs. The New Day's Big E & Kofi Kingston & Seth Rollins with Xavier Woods
The first part of the main event, before the ad break, allowed The New Day to look like stars as Big E and Kofi Kingston were able to quickly gain control of John Cena, including a smashing moment where Big E caught Cena and turned it into a suplex.
After the break the contest was just as enjoyable, with Kofi Kingston, Big E & Seth Rollins working over John Cena with quick tags and heel trickery. The heel trickery could have been played up a little more to really build to the hot tag to Titus O'Neil and give the moment a big more bite. However, The Prime Time Players were also allowed to look good in the main event, with the duo impressing on their hot tag, with Darren Young hitting a lovely suplex onto the apron, whilst O'Neil was using his arsenal of power moves. The bout built nicely into a furious back and forth battle, with an attractive finish, as Cena was able to roll through a Kingston crossbody to pick up the win with a Attitude Adjustment.
Winners - The Prime Time Players & John Cena via pinfall in 13 minutes.
I'm still not sure how I feel about the final segment of the show, as I was with all of the interactions between Seth Rollins and Sting throughout the show. Sting was revealed he was situated next to a bin lorry, before toppling Rollins' beloved statue into the vehicle and destroying it. There were elements of this that were entertaining, such as Sting swinging from the lorry as it drove away, but at the same time it made me want to see Rollins get some revenge on Sting, rather than the other way round. Maybe this is all part of the imminent Rollins' babyface turn.
ATPW Scale Rating - 4.56
This was not a good episode of RAW by any stretch of the imagination and in fact it becomes the lowest rated show on the ATPW Scale. With a number of matches getting a decent amount of television time none of them stood out as must-see bout and whilst most of them (especially the main event) had their positives, this wasn't enough to justify the amount of time they were given.
Some angles were furthered heading into Night of Champions, as well as next week's Season Première, which is pleasing, but the Sting vs. Seth Rollins feud isn't doing what it should be for me, and the Dolph Ziggler/Rusev feud has descended into madness. Also The Big Show. Fuck Big Show.
Hopefully, we'll see a much better episode next week for the Season Première and go home show for Night of Champions.
Hopefully, we'll see a much better episode next week for the Season Première and go home show for Night of Champions.