This week's Monday Night RAW came from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California and featured a Women's Championship #1 Contender's Gauntlet match with Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mickie James, Dana Brooke, Emma and Nia Jax, The Hardy Boyz teaming with Finn Balor against Elias Samson and Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus and Enzo Amore calling out Big Cass for attacking him last week as well as Intercontinental Champion The Miz and his Miztourage, Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe. But was it any good? Let's take a look.
Strowman chucked Reigns in an Ambulance
This segment was made for a GIF of one big guy throwing another big guy off a stage and into an Ambulance. That's pretty much all this eight minute slice was as Roman Reigns cut a promo about being attacked by Braun Strowman last week, then Strowman turned up in ambulance (leading inevitable Scott Steiner references on the ever-imaginative world of Twitter) and then as Reigns tried to take the action to Strowman he failed miserably and ending up leaving the back of the ambulance. The crowd was hot for it, it was entertaining and created a memorable and GIF-friendly moment. Hardly a classic, but it did what it was intended to do and did it well.
Hardy Boyz & Balor def. Tag Team Champions Cesaro, Sheamus & Samson
Our opening contest was a solid and simple six man tag, that finished hot with a couple of dives to the outside, before Finn Balor pinned Cesaro after a Coup de Grace. The match followed your usual six man structure with Balor and then Jeff Hardy taking on the face in peril role and Cesaro, Sheamus & Elias Samson working well as the bruising heels in control. This fairly basic, but otherwise enjoyable six man (the crowd absolutely loved it) was pretty much ruined when some guy joined the commentary desk and got interviewed by Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Tom Phillips on commentary. The bloke talked about a couple of movies he's in and apparently he was in the new Transformer film, but I had no idea who he was and he essentially just made the match feel even more inconsequential than it was.
- A Goldust promo about stage fright, ahead of his match with R-Truth next, like most of these promos the direction and performance is nice but there's nothing particular catching about the content.
- Goldust came out with his own personal cameraman wearing a gold suit and beat the shit out of R-Truth. There was no match.
- Samoa Joe interrupted a Paul Heyman interview and it was fucking great.
The Worst Segment of the Year Happened
Who the fuck are the Ball Family? These three dickwads turned up on Miz TV to advertise some horrible looking t-shirts and the family's Dad went on a mad one, running around the ring and generally making the Miz look stupid for not kicking him in his great balls of fire. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be or how this was supposed to get people interested in anything, but it was horrible. Arguably worse than This is Your Life because it had literally no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Apparently one of the kids said the N-word as well and thankfully WWE just played Dean Ambrose music when they realised things had gone down hill quickly than greased up fat guy.
The Miztourage def. Ambrose, Rhyno & Slater
Six man tags, we all love six man tags. Honestly, I was still trying to get over the previous segment to pay much attention to what was going on here, but I did see Bo Dallas got a roll-up victory on Rhyno. Everything else was pretty basic stuff and with having already seen a six man tag as the shows only other match to this point it was difficult to get excited about. But, The Miztourag won, which is a good thing I suppose and makes sense with them being the unit in the match as opposed to the hodge-podge team of Dean Ambrose, Heath Slater and Rhyno.
Cass turned on Enzo...again.
This was another weirdly put together segment, that included a great, heart-felt promo from Enzo Amore, but also showed that WWE wasn't 100% all-in, lacking the little touches that could have elevated both guys heading into their programme. Stuff like having Cass enter to the same music as Enzo and then using the same gimmick microphone made this segment feel like an afterthought, when both guys had clearly put a lot of work into it. Having Cass apologise and Enzo accept the apology, ended making Amore look like he was missing a couple of his marbles, but we're all used to our babyfaces being stupid af so why stop now. Cass obviously attacked his pal on the entrance ramp and managed to get a decent bit of heat from it, but this segment could have and should have been so much better, with just a little bit more attention to detail.
Rollins def. Hawkins
Seth Rollins picked up a swift victory over Curt Hawkins, pulling out all of his big hitters before winning with his ripchord knee situation. Hawkins is pretty good in his job as "warm body" and his quick "star-maker" promo prior to each match makes the beatings he takes more entertaining than a win over a local competitor. Bray Wyatt's big face popped up on the screen post-match and he said some words about being a God and announced that the two would face off on 9th July in Dallas, Texas. Wyatt has been coasting since his WWE title programme with Randy Orton, I used to be captivated by promos, but now I find myself zoning out because the content is way too [Insert Name Here] and struggles to break it's formula.
Joe ambushes Lesnar
The trope-heavy build towards Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire continued as Joe jumped Lesnar from behind on the ramp and attempted to choke him out with the Coquina Clutch. NXT has shown over it's run that sometimes the simplest wrestling cliches are the best things to building rivalries and creating interest and that's exactly what we've seen between Joe and Lesnar so far. Joe's been built up as a credible threat to Lesnar's Universal Championship, which means even if he doesn't topple the Beast Incarnate (which let's face it he isn't going to do), he'll be in a much better place than where he was before and whoever manages to take the title from Lesnar will benefit even more. I mean, again, the babyfaces looked completely stupid, as anyone and his dog could have seen what was coming as Paul Heyman introduced his client, but that's by the by.
- Neville def. Lince Dorado in a purple ropes match, with Akira Tozawa looking to scrap with him after the match. Titus O'Neil stopped the fight and announced the two would face off at Great Balls of Fire in a pretty awful promo.
- Paul Heyman cut a magnificent promo when interviewed by Dasha Fuentes, telling us why we should get behind Brock Lesnar, why Samoa Joe was a threat and why we should want to see them fight, all in an entertaining and captivating two minutes of screen time.
- Women's Champion Alexa Bliss tried to kiss up to Nia Jax as their weird, will-they, won't-they saga continued, ahead of the Number One Contender's Gauntlet match.
Jax def. Bayley, James, Brooke and Emma, Banks def. Jax in a Gauntlet Match to become #1 Contender to the Women's Championship
It was cool to see the Women end the show this week and taken as an overall piece of storytelling, this was a strong near half hour of television. Yeah it had it's problems, like Nia Jax beating Bayley WAY too quickly in the first match for my liking, but we got a match that managed to build one contender up as a monster heel who is more of less unstoppable under regular circumstances, whilst also giving us a Number One contender who found a way to beat the unbeatable, with the caveat being it came after the unbeatable had already wrestled the rest of the women's division. Jax is brilliant in her role and deserves a tonne of credit for taking her look and making herself feel like a believe bad ass. The hip attacks with her opponents on the ropes and pushing Brooke to the mat as she attempted a cartwheel elbow were great examples. She's clearly being helped by the booking (pinning Bayley, Mickie James, Dana Brooke and Emma in speedy fashion!) and could still be more polished inside the ring, but she's more than capable of creating a story-based match that gets the fans invested when called upon. I also think she's got more potential as an ass-kicking babyface, due to her overtly likeable persona off-screen (see the new episode of Ride Along)
The way Banks won the match made her feel like a credible contender, she didn't get a cheap win, she made Jax tap out to a version of the Banks Statement. She found a way to defeat the Woman who ploughed through the rest of the division, thus we're left with one challenger for Alexa Bliss at the next PPV and another being positioned as a new potential top female heel. It was exactly how the match should have gone. Kurt Angle coming out to celebrate with Banks was a little weird, but Women's Champion Alexa Bliss' appearance made much more sense. We've seen issues between the pair before, but this set the two up for their match in just under two weeks well with Banks landing a dropkick and ending the show posing with the Women's strap. I'm not sure where this leaves the rest of the Women's division, but with only one week of RAW to fill before the six-week build to SummerSlam begins I'm sure they'll find something for Nia to do until then.
ATPW Scale Rating - 4.49/10
The episode managed to finish strong with the Lesnar/Joe segment and then the Women's Gauntlet (with purple ropes in between) but there's no mistaking that this show featured one of the worst segments in television history and a lot of treading water. The two six men matches were fine, but both ruined by terrible celebrity appearances, Rollins and Wyatt haven't quite found what their feud is supposed to be (other than some time filler for both men) and despite strong performances from both Enzo Amore and Big Cass I found their segment lacked the attention to detail (from a booking and presentation stand point) that it deserved to feel like a fitting conclusion to their mystery angle. On the whole, I feel like the show managed to do it's broad strokes well, Reigns chucked Strowman into an Ambulance, Cass took out Enzo again, Joe choked out Lesnar, Jax dominated but Banks earned a title shot, but more often than not lacked the precision that should make being a long-time viewer of the product a satisfying experience.