Tuesday, 26 September 2017

No Mercy 2017 Review - John Cena vs. Roman Reigns

On 24th September 2017, WWE's RAW brand aired No Mercy 2017 live on the WWE Network, from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The show featured John Cena battling Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins putting the Tag Team Championship on the line against Cesaro & Sheamus and Finn Balor going up against Bray Wyatt "man to man", as well as action featuring Intercontinental Champion The Miz, Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, Sasha Banks, Cruiserweight Champion Neville and Bayley. But was it any good? Lets take a look! 

The opening package was your typically well-produced WWE open, focusing on John Cena vs. Roman Reigns, the Women's Championship five-way and Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman..."on this night, there will be no restraint, there will be no holding back and there will be...No Mercy" 

The Miz (C) (with The Miztourage) def. Jason Jordan to retain the Intercontinental Championship (10:15)

After a build that I struggled to get behind, I felt like Miz and Jason Jordan delivered here, putting together a solid opening match that grabbed the crowd and warmed them up well for the rest of the evening. Was it the crispest of bouts? No, not all, there were a couple of moments of sloppiness or miscommunication like Miz throwing Jordan back in the ring and a weird looking kitchen sink from the champ. But it also featured some really well-worked sequences that showed the potential that Jordan possesses well, with Miz playing the foil well. The It kicks being reversed into a T-Bone suplex, as well as the work that went down on the outside, leading into Jordan hitting an overhead belly to belly on Dallas that sent him into both Miz and Axel. The finishing sequence was one of the strongest on the whole show with the Miztourage running interference just as Jordan got rolling and after Jordan had swatted Dallas off the top rope, there was Axel with a cheapshot, which allowed Miz to hit a Skull Crushing Finale to retain his title. It was the first legit obstacle we'd seen put in Jordan's way and he was unable to overcome it, that's how you build a babyface and his performance in this match shows that if WWE can handle him correctly and use just the right amount of the Kurt Angle stuff, then there's a star in their somewhere.

Post-match, Jason Jordan gave an awkward promo to Renee Young, saying he still doesn't respect The Miz and that he feels Miz sucks.

Before the next match could begin Bray Wyatt attacked Finn Balor, throwing him into the barricade and hitting a uranage slam onto the announce table. With Balor being lead away by referees, Wyatt would get on the microphone and goad Balor into getting back in the ring claiming "You ain't no demon, you ain't even a man, you're a coward"...

Finn Balor def. Bray Wyatt (11:32)

Oh man, this match was going so well until the finish. With Wyatt attacking Balor before the match and having lost to the Demon at SummerSlam, it felt like the logical step for the rivalry was for Wyatt to beat Balor here or perhaps at least have an out for his loss, but an enziguiri, two corner drop kicks and a coup de grat is pretty conclusive victory for the Irishman. The body of the match was head and shoulder above their mediocre SummerSlam effort as the pair told a strong story with Balor injuring his ribs before the match started and having to fight from underneath against the larger, dominant Wyatt. Balor's selling throughout the match was superb as he produced what is arguably his strongest performance since his Universal title win last August. There was not a single moment where I forgot the Balor was carrying an injury because he was constantly grabbing at it, grimacing and appearing to struggle for breath. We'd see this play into the match on numerous occasions with Wyatt focusing in on the area and Balor often struggling to climb to the top rope to hit Coup de Grat, leading to Wyatt to catch him on the top or at one point Wyatt to get up and Balor hit a version of his finish to his opponents neck. The win is great for Balor, he looked like a valiant fighter and the result gets over his heart, determination as cements him as a threat with or without the demon, but there was so much potential for Wyatt to flourish here, with his performance on the microphone and when hitting multiple drop suplexes being some of his best work also. I'm interested to see where both goes are heading as it feels like Balor will be getting a push heading towards Survivor Series in November, whilst we may see Wyatt look to rebuild a family to protect him going forward.

Charly Caruso asked Cesaro & Sheamus what adjustments they'd made since SummerSlam, with the Swiss Superman and the Celtic Warrior replying that they don't adjust to the world, the world adjusts to them. 

The parade of foreign announce teams came here.

Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose def. Sheamus & Cesaro to retain Tag Team Championships (15:55)

These two teams are absolute gold together and somehow managed to up the quality from their great SummerSlam effort and steal the show at No Mercy. There were a tonne of different elements weaved into the contest, some of them intentional and one of them a complete mistake, but they all came together to produce one of the best tag team matches in the last decade. Lets talk about that accidental element first, that would be Cesaro knocking some teeth out after hitting the top of the ring post and pissing blood from his mouth. It was a brutal and painful looking injury, but allowed for one of the coolest visuals in WWE history as Seth Rollins hit the Avada Kedavra and sent blood splattering across the Swiss Superman's face and all over the place. On the other side of the coin was Dean Ambrose kayfabe shoulder injury after he took a Cesaro swing into the steel steps on the outside. I've always felt that Ambrose has worked best when fighting from the bottom and with a body part to sell and it was once again effective here. Little touches like banging the shoulder into the wall in an attempt to pop it back into place following a suicide dive meant that the Lunatic Fringe shone here. The match built around Ambrose's injury effectively, firstly having him as the face in peril, before he was later unable to make the tag back in, partly because of the injury and partly because of clever tag work from Cesaro & Sheamus. 

Whilst most of the elements that made their SummerSlam clash so enjoyable were on display here again, like Rollins hot tag, big bruising tag work from Cesaro & Sheamus and a crowd that was behind the babyfaces, but what made this match a step above was the final third as it was packed with near falls and convincing false finishes as the two teams pulled out all the stops and stole the show in the process. A sharpshooter and then a crossface from Cesaro on Ambrose, followed by a double crucifix powerbomb to the Lunatic Fringe from both opponents and then the best moment of the entire match came. The Bar went to go for their assisted White Noise on Ambrose, only for Rollins to leap from the apron to the top rope, attempting to rana Cesaro to the mat, but Cesaro held on, Sheamus hit White Noise and Cesaro leap off the top turnbuckle with an avalanche powerbomb to Rollins onto Ambrose. The sequence was near perfect and the reaction for Ambrose kicking out of it the resulting pinfall was big. Moments later after Ambrose feinted out of a Brogue Kick attempt, Sheamus would accidentally connect with Cesaro, allowing a Ripcord knee from the Man and a Dirty Deeds from Ambrose to get the win. The heel miscommunication was a nice call back to how the feud has been based around the idea that Ambrose and Rollins would struggle to remain a team when the pressure was on, with the roles being reversed and the babyface duo ending up on top and still on the same page, despite the battering that both received. Give me a TLC match with these teams next month and I'll be a happy chappy.

Alexa Bliss def. Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax and Emma to retain the Women's Championship (9:54)

Considering the women were given less than ten minutes of a three hour show, Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax and Emma worked their arses off putting on an action-pack, story-driven five way that over-delivered, despite the time constraints. There was a lot of different relationships and narratives going on here, that perhaps meant that the end of the bout felt a little flat, but made for a rich beginning and middle portion. Nia's dominance, Bayley and Banks' friendship, Emma attempting to make the most of her opportunity and Bliss desperate and willing to do anything to hold onto her title all provided the match with avenues to explore and the chance to weave the ideas together. Jax being powerbomb from the apron after all four opponents combined and then later returning got the biggest reactions from the crowd as she continues to develop into a potential major star for the division if she's handled correctly. With Bliss pinning Bayley following a Snap DDT, the contest needed longer to produce a satisfying well-rounded bout that allowed it's ideas to grow and feel organic, there was still enough to make the five-way enjoyable whilst it lasted.

Highlights of Batista defeating Eddie Guerrero to retain the World Heavyweight Championship at No Mercy 2005, for some reason.

Roman Reigns def. John Cena (22:09)

This was the match I was most looking forward to and the build-up that I had most enjoyed and to a degree it delivered. This was a big match, full of big moments, big reversals, classic spots, which played out in front of a lively crowd that wanted both men to know how they felt about them. It wasn't a particularly creative effort, pulling elements of John Cena's recent successes with the likes of AJ Styles, but it was still entertaining to see Cena's classic comeback sequence cut off at various stages as Reigns dominated and controlled the crowd. Perhaps, my favourite moment of the contest was Cena catching a Superman punch and turning it into an STF, locking in the move again once Reigns got close to the ropes, with the Big Dog eventually escaping with a powerful sitout powerbomb. I think, if the move had come later in the match it would have been a much more convincing near fall and perhaps would have upped the drama just a little bit more. A big shout out for the spot on the announce table as well with Reigns reversing an AA into a spear and almost shattering his own skull in the process. 

However, the conclusion was unsatisfying. Reigns would kick out of one Attitude Adjustment, then after missing a spear he kicked out of an Avalanche AA, then Cena hit another AA and rolled over like a beefed up Mark Haskins and hit another one and then Reigns kicked out. An utterly ridiculous amount of kick out from the same move. They all got good reactions, as people believed Cena had put Reigns away, but I'm not sure if Reigns lasting a nuclear-bomb like assault is the way to showcase him to an audience that has already been reluctant to accept him as a top guy. Cena had a similar problem and has ended up respected by most, Reigns has potential for that same spot, but WWE seems to be missing the mark on his presentation. Perhaps had Reigns not gone on to win clean with a superman punch and a spear, then those kick outs would have felt less silly, but by giving Reigns too much, WWE could end up shooting themselves in the foot. This was a good to very good match between two superlative workers, but the booking and presentation often let them down and an overall feeling of lack of creativity and recycling left the contest feeling overly clinical. 

After the match, John Cena raised Roman Reigns hand as the big left the ring to Cena. Cena bowed, waived and looked around emotionally at the arena as the crowd chanted "Thank you, Cena". 

The advert for WWE 2K18 with Snoop Dogg is magnificent.

The Miz interrupted Kurt Angle in his office, asking for an exclusive interview with Roman Reigns on RAW with Angle agreeing that it was a good idea and scheduling Miz TV for tomorrow night.

Before the Cruiserweight Championship match, Enzo Amore said some words about Neville's appearance and cookie dough, whilst Neville just looked at him like he wanted to kick him in the head. 

Enzo Amore def. Neville to win the Cruiserweight Championship (10:36)

Enzo Amore won the Cruiserweight Championship. I'm not quite sure what else I can say. Neville dominated throughout, blocking an early DDG attempt, throwing his opponent in the barricade, shouting "No one cares Enzo, no one cares" whilst locking in a headlock, smacking him in the face with a superkick after Enzo skinned the cat and killed the New Jerseyan with a series of big kicks and for quite a while it was great entertainment. I mean, probably not for the reasons it should have been, but great entertainment non the less, watching a man whose fall from fan favourite has been spectacular get his arse handed to him by someone who has worked hard to become one of the most entertaining characters on RAW. Then Enzo won. He grabbed the championship belt, used it as a distraction for the ref, kicked Neville in the dick again and walked out with the purple strap held high. Amore needs to turn heel and if this move was a heel turn I'm 100% okay with it, however if WWE is pushing Enzo as someone the crowd is supposed to get behind it's an arse-backward move. There's a slim chance this could be used to enhance the division and get eyes on the underrated 205 Live, but there's also a bigger chance that it could kill the division stone dead. 

Brock Lesnar def. Braun Strowman to retain Universal Championship (8:52)

Ah. Damn. After such a strong build up, that had myself and many desperate to see Brock v Braun, this match ended up being a major disappointment. Terribly short for a show closer, the two had a match. There was some lovely work in here, like Strowman's early domination and Booker T quipping "Guys, we're about one minute in and Brock Lesnar is on plan C", with this later being followed up by Lesnar locking Strowman in the Kimura for a lengthy period, but past that and the match didn't develop. Braun sold well at points, although him not being able to make the cover after a running powerslam could have looked better, but we didn't see Lesnar go back after the clearly injured body part and the match stuttered from there. German suplexes to big guys are fun, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. Then the finish ended up leaving me feeling a little deflated as Lesnar finally managed to hit an F5 and walked out as champion. We saw a similar finish to Lesnar's match with Samoa Joe at Great Balls of Fire and whilst it was marginally effective then, it was less so here, after how hard Strowman had been pushed and even more so after we saw Roman Reigns kick out of Attitude Adjustment after Attitude Adjustment earlier in the night. Overall, the match was fun whilst it lasted, but couldn't live up to the hype, perhaps because Braun wasn't ready for such a spot and perhaps because Lesnar doesn't want to put in the effort needed to have a blowaway singles match anymore. 

No Mercy was a good PPV in which the undercard over-performed and the two main event matches fell short, whilst a handful of the booking decisions ended up being questionable. The Tag Team Championship match was easily the match of the night, with both teams putting in a tremendous effort that topped their SummerSlam classic, whilst despite it's drawbacks I'd probably put Cena vs. Reigns in at #2. The main event didn't live up to expectations and wins for Finn Balor and Enzo Amore felt like they either came at the wrong time for their feuds or opponents, despite some entertaining action. The Women's Five-Way proved that RAW's ladies deserve more time, both on TV and on PPV in order to expand on the good wrestling and compelling ideas that they are capable of producing. 

The PPV will be remember for two matches that were advertised as WrestleMania worthy not delivering on their potential, but will provide a pleasant surprise when rewatched in future years thanks to the great tag team match and a good undercard.

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