After the first week of the re-formatted Monday Night RAW had produced one of the best episodes of the show in months, could the brand keep that momentum going with a similarly good episode with just three week's until the 2nd biggest show of the year?
This week's main event came at the beginning of the show, with Charlotte and Chris Jericho going over Women's Champion Sasha Banks and Enzo Amore. The segment took up almost 20% of the show, which is a massive chunk, personally I prefer for these kinds of things to be broken up with the two parts being split across the show. However, I found a lot to to enjoy in the first 25 minutes of the show. The highlight for me was Charlotte and Banks getting to bask in the spotlight of the opening segment and running with that opportunity, just as they did last week with their title match. Their back and forth on the microphone was playfully entertaining, with the two throwing insults back and forth. The crowd were into it and reacting to each and every sentence that came out of the girls mouths.
The second part of the segment saw some interesting creative decisions indeed with Jericho interrupting Banks and then Amore coming out to join in the fun. It was clear that the whole segment here was designed to continue to help getting the women out there as bonafide top tier talents and begin to change the mindset of the casual fan. Jericho is a genius at getting other people over, so it was not a surprise to see him work his magic with Charlotte as he cut a promo on her ability, in his now usual obnoxious style, whilst running down Banks for not being a true "boss". Amore is, of course, is still a fresh talent in many fans eyes, but his sheer energy means that whatever he's saying has your attention, so therefore if he's telling you that Sasha Banks is a "bawss" then you're listening and taking it in. The relationships between all four were laid out clearly and made complete sense, whilst Mick Foley would take more opportunity to put the babyfaces over before setting up the match.
The bout itself wasn't spectacular, but did what it did well and continued the effort of positioning Charlotte and Banks as main eventers. The match seemed to be designed to showcase their abilities, as it was the ladies who had the hot tag sequence after Jericho had controlled Amore for a short while. Obviously, it meant that it was the women who had the most exciting part of the match and it was their storyline that ended up being directly effected when Charlotte got the pin on Banks. Personally, I thought the ending was a little too busy, with Dana Brooke getting involved and Banks slapping Jericho, feeling a bit like they'd decided to throw as much at the walls and see how much sticks. Some good ideas, but could have done with a little refining. Kevin Owens was a brilliant addition to the commentary team though, and the idea of him joining Jericho in a feud with Enzo & Cass is a mouth-watering and that's just thinking of the promo possibilities.
Hey, Mark Henry, you've only have one singles match this year, it was in February and you lost, do you fancy a shot at the United States Championship? Yes, in his first RAW singles match in over five months, Henry would lose to Rusev by submission in a match. Rusev's current US title run is looking mightily similar to his first, as he runs through the same guys to build up his reign. Of course, the biggest talking point was Roman Reigns confronting Rusev after the bout, which would seem to start a feud that should elevate Rusev into the upper echelon of guys on RAW. The scrap between the two was a fun watch, but "The Bulgarian Brute" having to cut a promo about Russia's situation in the Summer Olympics felt like a backwards step for the character and caused me to audibly groan. There's potential here though to have an engaging storyline that should do each guy a world of good.
In the strongest match on the show, Seth Rollins picked a victory over Sami Zayn, in the former's first TV match since his series of unsuccessful WWE Championship matches. Just as you'd expect from these two talents, it was smooth as fuck, with the two putting together some lovely sequences, highlighted by a couple of reversals into near falls for Zayn, like the Michonoku Driver and Blue Thunder Bomb. It was a shame that the commentary team didn't pick up on some of the detail, like Rollins being extra physical on the outside and constantly going for the Pedigree, as this would have helped Zayn to look a lot more than just the warm-up for Finn Balor that they put him over as. For me, this barely scratched the surface for what Zayn and Rollins could do in the ring and despite being a good match, almost felt like a waste of what could've been a PPV main event in six months or so.
Rollins would also get a run-out on the mic earlier in the night, as he interrupted an in-ring interview between Balor and Michael Cole. As always Rollins' delivery was spot on, complemented by his weird heel laugh that has somehow taken over his entire being. The best thing about his promo though was the content, that found clever parallels between Rollins' career and Balor's, before pointing out how "The Architect" did everything first. Opposite Balor, Rollins has an opportunity to really flex those heel muscles in a way he hasn't quite been able to do since his return. "The Demon" held his own for the most part, but could have been slightly tighter in his replies. The little scrap at the end gave a little taste of what they could bring to SummerSlam and also gave Balor a little extra credibility after he sent Rollins packing with a Pele Kick.
Closing out the show was the return of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman to RAW, as the build towards Lesnar v Randy Orton really began to getting going. Heyman could read the phone book and I'd still be glued to the screen and his simple promo, putting over Lesnar as an entertaining and violent force to be reckoned with, shilling the SummerSlam PPV and questioning whether Orton should listen to the voices in his head (a la his theme music) was as captivating as always. Even with just a few weeks of the brand split, Orton turning up and RKOing Lesnar, out of the proverbial nowhere, felt like a truly special moment and received a massive pop. Having Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon run out with security as Orton legged it through the crowd felt similar in style to the stuff that was done during the early part of the Invasion angle and had the crowd losing their shit. It should also hopefully get more people tuning into Smackdown the night after, as they want to see if Lesnar has a reply for Orton and what the consequences will be. Lovely stuff.
Rounding off the top of the card this week, was a thrown together clash that saw Cesaro defeat Sheamus. These two have had twelve matches on TV and PPV against each other (32 if you count house shows and dark matches) and I've also enjoyed their bouts for the physicality that both men bring and this was no different. Whilst I wouldn't consider this amongst their best, their time on the screen was always satisfying and they made the most of their slender ring-time. A straight-forward story with Sheamus focusing on "The Swiss Superman's" arm after it crashed in the ring post, with Cesaro managing to overcome the injury with a beautiful finish where he flipped out of a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker to transition into a Gotch Neutraliser. A bit worrying for the pair that the Atlanta crowd seemed completely numb towards them both though.
I have to admit at feeling more than a little short changed when Big E picked up a flash pin on Karl Anderson less than two minutes into the tag bout between The New Day and The Club. I still can't work out what this piece of booking was actually done for. I get you need a way to have Gallows and Anderson beat the shit out of the New Day, so why not just have one of them hit and low blow and stake their claim that way. A pinfall loss to the champions after less than two minutes surely rules them out of a title shot, no matter how impressive the post match beat down is? Big E took a nasty shot to the Little E's, also. Those bastards.
As the Prime Time Players randomly perhaps exploded, Titus O'Neil picked up a victory over Darren Young, with a handful of tights. I couldn't really tell you what happened because I quickly lost interest in what was going on and nothing that happened on my screen was interesting enough to make me pay more than the most minimal amount of attention. It seemed like the crowd felt the same way as they were completely silent throughout. I can't help but feel that in 6 months time these guys will be working as a tag team again, after WWE realises that they they have nothing else for them as singles guys.
We have a cavalcade of squash matches this week to skim over. The Shining Stars went over The Golden Truth, because R-Truth was too obsessed with Pokemom Go! Nia Jax destroyed some lass called Ariel Monroe. Braun Strowman quickly dispatched of Evan Anderhaul (NXT regular Corey Hollis). Jinder Mahal made his return to WWE after a two year absence, earning himself a RAW contract with a roll-up victory over Heath Slater in 14 seconds.
Mixed Tag Team Match: Charlotte & "Y2J" Chris Jericho def. Women's Champion Sasha Banks & Enzo Amore in 9 minutes, 58 seconds
Singles Match: Braun Strowman def. Evan Anderhaul in 1 minutes, 1 second.
Tag Team Match: The Shining Stars - Epico & Primo def. The Golden Truth - Goldust & R-Truth in 2 minutes, 1 second.
Singles Match for United States Championship: "The Bulgarian Brute" Rusev (C) (with "The Ravishing Russian" Lana) def. "The World's Strongest Man" Mark Henry in 6 minutes, 35 seconds
Singles Match: Titus O'Neil def. Darren Young (with Bob Backlund) in 3 minutes, 56 seconds.
Singles Match: Nia Jax def. Ariel Monroe in 1 minute, 9 seconds.
Tag Team Match: Tag Team Champions The New Day - Big E & Kofi Kingston def. The Club - Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson in 1 minute, 20 seconds
Singles Match: Cesaro def. Sheamus in 5 minutes, 50 seconds.
Singles Match for a RAW Contract: Jinder Mahal def. Heath Slater in 14 seconds
Singles Match: Seth Rollins def. Sami Zayn in 11 minutes, 39 seconds
ATPW Scale Rating - 4.5/10
A definite drop in quality this week, as Monday Night RAW begins to settle following the electric start to the new format this week. There were some points in the show that definitely dragged, and considering no segment went particularly long, that's a more than a little worrying. Ten matches across the two hour and fifteen minute air time was way too much and meant that matches that felt like they could have developed into good matches, ended up going short and not reaching potential (Cesaro v Sheamus stands out in particular).
There was some promising pieces of booking and the main bulk of the show was still entertaining, with the opening segment and match being particularly well thought out. The strongest part of the evening for me was the Heyman/Lesnar/Orton ending to the show, which was well-structured and got a massive reaction, ending the night on high, whilst promoting a number of different shows at the same time.
RAW was never going to be as good as last week and it's going to take time for a number of the newer talents like Nia Jax and Braun Strowman to find a place outside squash matches, but I was still expecting a better show than this. Here's hoping this is more of a stumble than a fall.
Written and Media content by James Marston
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