With guest appearances from Puff Daddy and Smackdown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan, a United States Championship bout and two matches confirmed for SummerSlam, this week's episode had to be an improvement on last week's below average show..right?
Like last week's show, the main event came at the top of the show, as Chris Jericho picked up a disqualification victory over Enzo Amore. Before we'd get to the match, there was an interesting promo segment, where Enzo and Big Cass would be interrupted by Jericho and his new tag partner, Kevin Owens. There were parts of this that worked brilliantly for me, but there was also part of it that felt a little dated. Amore spent a bit too much time talking about Sasha Banks at the beginning, whilst Cass comparing Owens and Jericho to Bert & Ernie felt way too cheap and not something that should be happening on TV in 2016. However, the main bulk of this was extremely entertaining with plenty of comedy brought to it by all involved, but with just enough animosity to make the audience want to see the fight. Jericho managed to steal the segment in my eyes, with some smashing deadpan delivery as he continues to develop his current persona.
The match wasn't the smoothest of contests, with Amore and Jericho still trying find a groove inside the ring, but the crowd was into the action, helped by Cass at ringside. I don't mean to say that the bout was sloppy, but it definitely could've been a bit tighter. There were a couple of sweet moments like Amore skinning the cat after Jericho tried to chuck him out of the ring and a strong "near fall" when "Y2J" had the Walls of Jericho locked in a for an extended period of time. The finish was a good build towards announcing a tag match at SummerSlam, but as far as ending the match, it wasn't particularly satisfying and probably could've been booked a bit better. After Amore was distracted by Owens and Cass arguing on the outside, Jericho had the win with the Codebreaker, only for Cass to interfere and nail a big boot for the DQ. Byron Saxton kept yelling that Cass had "no choice" which didn't make a whole lot of sense. As a piece of the puzzle this was match worked well, on it's own it was a fairly average TV bout.
At first, I was a little confused as to why Mick Foley inviting Daniel Bryan to RAW was the segment that was chosen to main event the show and in a way I still am. Yes, it would lead to a United States Championship clash, but it wasn't a particularly comfortable segue and featured two competitors who had already been showcased earlier in the show in Rusev and Cesaro. There was a little talk about the incidents with Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar on last week's RAW and Smackdown Live, as well as some chat about Bryan's comments regarding the Universal Championship on Talking Smack, which was all pretty entertaining, with the relationship between the two being established, but at times lacked direction. It felt like the segment was announced before creative had an idea of what they wanted to do with it and tried their best to colour between the lines.
Somehow the Foley and Bryan segment would segue into an unannounced US title bout, where Rusev would retain over Cesaro. Despite it being oddly put together, Rusev and Cesaro ended up having the best match on the show. Both of these guys has seemingly began to found their niche since the brand split and their European styles suit each other so well, that I'm surprised that they haven't been given a full programme opposite each other yet. In what was a simplistically put together contest, the duo told a cool story and told it well, with Rusev sending Cesaro's injured shoulder into the ringpost after The Swiss Superman's thrilling face shine that kicked off the match. The finish continued two programmes for SummerSlam, as Sheamus interfered, eventually aiding Rusev in victory after hitting a Brogue Kick from the outside, before Rusev's victory was dampened by a spear from Roman Reigns at ringside. A good television contest, that had a number of strong near falls, a lively crowd and advanced to storylines for the next PPV.
Rusev was without Lana for the main event match as his wife had been covered in cake. A lengthy talking segment, but one that made good use of that time, in my opinion. The majority of the duration was taking up by a promo from Rusev, that acted as a celebration of their wedding. It was a little weird that they didn't do this last week, but hey ho. The Bulgarian Brute's speech did seem to go on for an age, he just kept talking and talking and talking and then showed some pictures of the wedding and talked a bit more. I'm not even quite what he said, but it was glorious. The crowd reacted to everything Rusev had to say and poured a load of heat on the segment, whilst Rusev added a load of little touches that kept me entertained. He also wore just a waistcoat on his torso, which amused me no end.
The segment built up to the point where the audience was desperate for Rusev to shut up and then outcame Roman Reigns. Some will malign this as another way of "trying to get Reigns over" and see that as a negative, but Reigns got seemingly positive reaction and held himself well throughout. The Guy's attitude during the promo was relaxed and just the right side of jokey, as he looked to raise a toast to the happy couple. As things continued to escalate, Reigns threw a number of insults at his rival, including accusing him of being shit in bed, which Rusev played well before erupting. The segment was only going to end one way and it was Lana who'd end up going face first into the cake, which could have felt like a throwaway moment, but The Ravishing Russian's reaction actually managed to bring an extra edge to the fledgling feud. The visual of Lana screaming covered in pink cake in a bright white wedding dress, whilst Rusev tried to through pieces of cake at Reigns will be stuck in the memory of many for some time.
Before his impromptu US title match, Cesaro picked up a victory over Sheamus in a good rematch from #1210. They upped their game from last week, in their 13th TV bout, approaching things from a different angle and having a back and forth brawl that was lively from opening bell. A section where both would come up with reversals for each other's signature moves was potentially the strongest sequence of the entire show, with a real pace and purpose to it, that also showcased the pairs familiarity with each other after having so many matches of the last few years. Similarly to a lot of contests on the show, I felt the finish didn't live up to the rest of the match, as the ref bump felt contrived and after the commentary team pushing the idea that Mick Foley wanted a dominating performance, Cesaro winning with a roll up didn't quite seem to fit the bill. However, if it's leading to the duo getting an opportunity to have a match on a bigger scale at SummerSlam, as the end of the show would indicate, then I'm all for it.
In an okay, why's this happening kind of moment, Sin Cara would come out as Neville's mystery partner to face The Dudley Boyz, after a segment from the Pre-Show had set-up the match. I'm not sure what creative were trying to do here, by having Neville have an unannounced partner and then for it to be Sin Cara. When Sami Zayn wasn't on the show at all, it was only going to feel like a let down. The match was perfectly fine, being your regular run of the mill tag match, done well, with Cara and especially Neville bringing an extra bit of flair. Having The Dudley Boyz lose clean to a make shift tag team, seems like a complete waste of their history and talent in the business, especially if WWE aren't planning on making Neville and Cara a regular tag team going forward.
Shuffled down the card, we had a long solo promo from Seth Rollins about SummerSlam opponent Finn Balor, which at times saw The Architect delivering his lines with a real belief behind them and at other times saw him get a tad lost. He's a strong promo guy, but tends to rely on the crowd reacting the way he wants them to, so when they completely no sold him saying that being called Finn Balor was like Rollins being called Rambo Apocalypse, he appeared to take a minute or two to recover and find his pace. When he began to pick up momentum talking about feeling disrespected by Balor accusing him of not working for a title shot and building himself up as a myth or legend, it was engrossing television as it wasn't played like hyperbole, it was played like that was what the character genuinely believed to be true. WWE has slowly began to create tension between Rollins and Balor and managed to add to that here and in later pre-recorded vignette with Balor.
Women's Champion Sasha Banks managed to get Dana Brooke banned from ringside for her SummerSlam match with Charlotte, by defeating her challenger's protege in a simple match in the Women's division. At under three minutes long it was difficult for the ladies to do much at all in the ring, so the bout boiled down to Charlotte accidentally slapping Brooke and Banks picking up a swift win with the diving double knee drop in the corner. A solid addition to the storyline, but the match never felt as important as it should have, being oddly pushed aside for other segments. The match being incorrectly announced as a submission match by Jo Jo was not a great start, either.
Best of the Rest
- Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman featured in a special promo for SummerSlam, talking about the history between Lesnar and Orton.
- Luke Gallows picked up a squash victory of Kofi Kingston, before Xavier Woods was able to stop The Club from squashing Kingston's balls into the ringpost.
- Braun Strowman continued his undefeated streak with sub minute victory over some guy called Jorel Clark.
- Darren Young got a roll up victory over Titus O'Neil with a hand-full of trunks in a reverse of a match the pair had on #1210.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.61/10
An improvement on last week's show with Jericho v Amore, Rusev v Cesaro, Reigns interrupting Reigns' celebration and Sheamus v Cesaro all being good slice of television wrestling, even though each had their own individual faults. I think that's the main theme of the show this week, that whilst nothing was perfect or even close, I found something to enjoy in pretty much all of the main sections of the show and feel like further matches and segment will be more enjoyable because of this show taking place. Whilst the structure of the show was weird and WWE still seem to be trying to find out the best way to present the 3 hour show after the format change, it drove multiple storylines towards SummerSlam and tried out a number of different ideas.
All content by James Marston