On 11th September 2017, WWE aired the 1268th episode of Monday Night RAW live on the USA Network from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The show featured Jason Jordan stepping in the ring with Roman Reigns, John Cena battling Universal Championship #1 Contender Braun Strowman and The Hardy Boyz teaming with Tag Team Champions Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins to take on Cesaro, Sheamus, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, as well as The Miz, Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Bray Wyatt and Goldust in a major segments. But was it any good? Let's take a look!
- Cold Open - As the announcer asks for a moment of silence, in memory of the lives lost on 11th September 2001, someone shouts "I love you Booker", good work moron.
Roman Reigns def. Jason Jordan
It was great to start off with a match this week and it really does make all the difference when you get to go straight into the action and give the wrestling fans and exciting bout to kick off the show. The bout was a simple, up and comer vs. established star contest, with Reigns dominating a big portion of the bout allowing Jordan to show off his selling ability and explosive comeback ability, that made his team with Chad Gable popular in NXT. The role suited Roman well, as it allowed him to let out some of the cockiness that we've seen in his promos recently, locking on headlocks when in control and cutting off hope spots with samoan drops. The contest built well to some traded punches, with Jordan launching into a comeback sequence and gaining a couple of decent near falls of a standing dropkick and rolling Northern lights suplex with a bridge. The result was a pretty conclusive victory for Reigns as he nailed a Drive-by, superman punch and a spear for the three count, leaving him looking great and with momentum heading into his match from John Cena at No Mercy, but we also got to see enough from Jordan where he looked like a credible threat and produced an entertaining main event calibre match. Since SummerSlam the booking of Jordan has definitely began to improve, as whilst he's lost to Finn Balor, John Cena and now Reigns, he's looked valiant in defeat and produced entertaining bouts, which is a much better way of getting a babyface over than giving him a kayfabe Dad and looking like that'd lead to winning the Intercontinental Championship within a month!
In-RingRoman Reigns, John Cena (5:57)
In-RingRoman Reigns, John Cena (5:57)
Post-match, out came John Cena for another back and forth on the microphone. For me, it's almost becoming a case of overkill, as we've seen Cena and Reigns battle it out with worked shoots for the last three weeks in a row, with the pair quickly burning through lots of content and developing very little. I can see why WWE have gone down this route because the initial promo caught the imagination of fans and produced a memorable segment and whilst this week's effort was still a good watch, it was definitely an example of diminishing returns. Cena called Reigns a "One man Human centipede", claimed their match at No Mercy would be a "cake walk", before Reigns called Cena a bitch again and wildly alleged that he was selling tickets that Cena couldn't. It was all shades of stuff we'd heard from the two before until Cena dropped the final bomb, "At No Mercy, consider me like a drug-test...you ain't getting past me!". The last sentence made the segment worthwhile, got a good reaction, based on Reigns' failing of the wellness programme in 2016. Once again no contact made between the two, which is working in building my anticipation for the clash on 24th September, but I wouldn't mind seeing them throw hands next week.
- Singles Match - Emma def. Sasha Banks - Swift submission victory for Banks, after an even encounter. Not quite sure what a submission victory does for Emma in the RAW Women's Championship Fatal Four-Way at No Mercy or even if WWE gives a shit.
- MV - Braun Strowman vs. The Big Show (Steel Cage, from RAW #1267)
In-RingBrock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Braun Strowman (6:55)
Fuck, this segment was brilliant and probably the highlight of the entire show as the Strowman vs. Lesnar feud continues to dazzle on Monday night's. Part of what's making the feud work has been Paul Heyman's magnificent work with a microphone in his hand and that was certainly the case once again this week as The Advocate produced once again. We've seen Heyman put over Lesnar's opponents in the past, most notably with Samoa Joe recently, but I can't remember the last time we've heard such a glowing endorsement from Heyman as he gave Strowman here. He claimed that for the first time, Brock was the underdog when defended the Universal Championship, he put over Strowman's recent achievements and compared The Monster Among Men's tear of late to what we saw in 2002 when Lesnar made himself known in WWE by taking the Undisputed Championship from The Rock. Whether Heyman's promos are scripted by someone else or not, he makes me believe every word he says. Heyman raised the intensity throughout before he was almost shouting, moving around the ring like perhaps never before, goading Strowman to fight Lesnar, shouting "Fighter Ready! Fighter Ready! FIGHTER READY!". Perhaps what was even more of an endorsement of Strowman's threat to Lesnar's title run followed, as perhaps for the first time since his return, a call from Heyman backfired, as the #1 Contender dominated the Universal Champion, no selling a German suplex, hitting a chokeslam and following up with a running powerslam and posing with the red belt. The crowd went ape for it. I went ape for it. Let's hope that the match in Los Angeles can live up to this delightful hype!
- Commentary - Corey Graves, Booker T & Michael Cole - Discussion of the devastation from recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida, showing images and provided the address for any donations - ghcf.org/hurricane-relief
Bray Wyatt def. Goldust
This one began with a quick on-screen promo from Wyatt, as the creative team decided to undo months of work with a Goldust heel turn. For the limited amount of time they had, Goldsut and Wyatt went right at it, packing the match with cool spots like Goldust's cannonball off the apron before Wyatt sealed a quick victory, hitting Sister Abigail for the win. Finn Balor would make the save for Goldust after Wyatt tried to remove Goldie's face paint and reveal him as "The Natural" Dustin Rhodes. They've really ran out of ideas for this feud, haven't they?
Tag Team Champions Ambrose & Rollins, Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro Brawl on the Entrance
The tag team scene received some focus this week, beginning with some good work from Sheamus & Cesaro on the mic, where they claimed they don't see Tag Team Champions Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins as a threat or a team and that when the going gets tough they'll throw each other to the wolves, skimming over their upcoming bout with Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. That bout would never happen, because as soon as Sheamus & Cesaro were on the entrance ramp, they were met by Rollins & Ambrose who had been on the commentary team, before long Gallows & Anderson joined the scrap as well initially helping Cesaro & Sheamus before all three teams scrapped amongst themselves. Following the break, Ambrose & Rollins asked Kurt Angle for a match with Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro, with the general manager to putting them in an Eight Man Tag, if they can find two partners...the crowd chants "Delete"! Some decent work all round here, with the initial promo producing some good content and story development, although I'm not sure how Gallows & Anderson's involvement helps the scheduled No Mercy match with Sheamus & Cesaro challenging Ambrose and Rollins.
- Vignette - Asuka is coming to RAW, let the start of talks of dream matches with Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss and a rematch with Bayley begin!
- Backstage - Nia Jax, Women's Champion Alexa Bliss - Some great character from both with Bliss moaning about the Fatal Fourway at No Mercy for her Women's title and Jax reminding her that they're not best friends and surprising Bliss with the news that she'd asked for Jax v Bliss to happen next week.
Elias def. Kalisto
Before this one, we had some a classic Elias performance with guitar-based cheap heatery. It's perhaps time to start changing this up as whilst it's still entertaining and is getting a reaction, I'm not sure how long it can keep that up if they are doing it every week and PPV. The match was a fun extended squash with Kalisto getting in a good deal of offence during his face shine, including a tope conhilo. It's baffling that Kalisto is still jobbing on the regular roster when he seems like a perfect fit for 205 Live. The finish put over Elias strong as he catches Kalisto in a rana into a powerbomb, before hitting Drift Away (Swinging Fisherman Neckbreaker) for the win.
John Cena def. Braun Strowman via DQ
Another big time match for John Cena on free television, as WWE seems to be attempting to get as much as possible out of Big Match John over his latest run. This felt like almost a throwback to the underdog Cena that was prevalent ten years or so ago, with Cena fighting from underneath for almost the entire bout, sticking to his core moves and doing a lot of lying around. The commentary team pushed Strowman harder than they've pushed anyone in quite some time, but it was a sequence where The Monster no sold a dropkick and then hit a front dropkick of his own, that should have been enough to hammer home just how highly he's thought of by the WWE right now. The match, kind of, got by one the spectacle, with Strowman's dominance and power moves and Cena's exemplary selling driving the bout, whilst the story mostly revolved around Cena's only hope being Strowman running into things and hitting the AA. It was a shame that it concluded with the DQ, but it wasn't unexpected for such a big name clash on television. After rolling to the floor after taking an AA, Strowman decided he couldn't be fucked trying to beat Cena, so hit a running powerslam onto the steel steps, after bringing them into the ring. The commentary team made a deal out of this being some kind of message to Brock Lesnar, which was interesting because obviously if Strowman did the same thing at No Mercy he'd still lose, no matter how much damage he did to the Beast Incarnate.
- Backstage - Tag Team Champions Ambrose & Rollins, Dean Malenko, Jamie Noble, The Hardy Boyz - The RAW Tag Team Champions search for their partners for later, eventually landing upon The Hardy Boyz as Matt goes nuts with some of his "Broken" ways.
Miz TV with Enzo Amore
Miz TV with Enzo Amore
The Miz continues to take any screen time he's given and make it captivating. He took an announce about Maryse being pregnant and used it to take a shot at Kurt Angle and Jason Jordan and actually get some heat, before Enzo Amore came to the ring and got absolute eviscerated on the microphone. I mean, it makes absolutely no sense for your heel Intercontinental Champion to destroy the babyface #1 Contender to the Cruiserweight Championship on the microphone, but that didn't stop it being entertaining as fuck. The personal attack included referencing Amore being kicked off tour buses, kicked out of the dressing room and spelling it out that Enzo's move to 205 Live was demotion. The crowd cheered The Miz and booed Enzo, with Muscle Marinara having very little in the way of a come back for the Intercontinental Champion. Why Miz hasn't been put in a proper programme over the IC belt yet, I've no idea, because he's continuing to do some of the best work of his career, bringing passion to his work like almost nobody else on the roster and getting big reactions from the crowd. The segment would lead to...
Enzo Amore def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz via DQ
Still confused about the reasoning behind any of this, especially considering it was the first time a Cruiserweight guy had faced a main roster talent, when so many others would've done a better job in the ring (Akira Tozawa, Gran Metalik, Neville, Gentleman Jack Gallagher, Rich Swann...the list goes on and on). There wasn't much of a match to review here, as both just continued to talk on the mic in between a bit of scrapping, before Amore suggested that Miz was possibly not the father of Maryse's baby, resulting in the DQ when The Miztourage interjected on the behalf of the Intercontinental Champ. After the match, Miz, Axel and Dallas beat the shit into Enzo and then later on backstage, Amore staggered around before Cruiserweight Champion Neville appeared and laughed at him a bit.
Eight Man Tag Team Match
The Hardy Boyz, Tag Team Champions Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins def. Sheamus & Cesaro, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
A fun eight man tag bout here that closed the show on a high, as it made the most of it's parts, even if the direction seemed unclear. I think, if I was to look at the competitors involved, then how the match played out, was exactly how I would have wanted it to play out. The Hardy Boyz took the face shine, heel distraction resulted in a lengthy spell with Dean Ambrose as the lunatic in peril with the villainous foursome working quick tags, more distractions, double teams and restholds to control, then after a couple of hope spots, the hot tag came from Rollins, leading into a short break down, before Sheamus & Cesaro walked out on their partners, leaving Rollins to hit the Ripcord Knee, followed up by a Dirty Deeds from Ambrose to allow Rollins to pin Anderson. It wasn't anything outside the box, risky or particular news, but it had a logic and built the drama through a wonderful series of hope spots for the Lunatic Fringe and gave us a blue-eye win at the end of a long show. There was a little moment where Matt Hardy appeared to botch making a save for Dean and had to shout "kick out", but he's broken af so we'll forgive him that one slip. I'm interested to see how The Hardy Boyz and Gallows & Anderson play into the championship match at No Mercy, but it's good to see WWE begin to give teams that aren't in the title hunt directly, something to do, as the profile of the division continues to rise following the brilliant match at SummerSlam.
ATPW Scale Rating - 4.67/10
Not a bad episode of RAW this week, not a great episode or a particularly memorable episode, but there was certainly a lot of stuff that I found some level of enjoyment in. Roman Reigns v Jason Jordan and the Eight Man Tag Team bout battle it out for match of the night, with both providing entertaining action, that did it's job well and if pushed I'd probably say the Eight man just pipped Reigns and Jordan to it. The Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman and Braun Strowman segment was clearly the best thing on the show together and WWE may have stumbled upon a formula that could really work for them and proper future mega star in Braun Strowman. However, a lot of the show felt like it was lacking in direction, with the Women's division getting shafted again, Goldust's recent heel work being thrown out of the window for a feud between Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor that is dying on it's arse and Enzo Amore having a match with The Miz just weeks after joining 205 Live. Had the rest of the show been given as much attention as Strowman v Lesnar, Cena v Reigns and Jason Jordan have been receiving then it goes without saying that the quality of those other programmes would rise. Guys like The Miz are doing the best they can with no direction, but there's only so long you can watch someone tread water, before you give up on them, no matter how many worked shoots they cut during it.
|Banner Credit - Jim Maitland (Turning Face)|