Thursday, 28 September 2017

RAW #1270 Review - The Entire Cruiserweight Division Confronts Enzo Amore

On 25th September 2017, WWE aired the 1270th episode of RAW live on the USA Network, from the Citzen's Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. The show featured Neville and the Cruiserweight division crashing Enzo Amore's hosting a Certified G Championship celebration, Roman Reigns facing Intercontinental Champion The Miz and Matt Hardy teaming with Jason Jordan to face the Miztourage, as well as appearances from Tag Team Champions Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose, Sheamus, Goldust & Finn Balor. But was it any good? Let's take a look! 

Roman Reigns appeared on Miz TV (10:08)

A paint by number edition of Miz TV here, with The Miz insulting his guest, Roman Reigns, followed up by General Manager Kurt Angle booking a match between the two (as well as The Miztourage vs. Matt Hardy and Jason Jordan). Reigns quickly moved past beating John Cena the previous night with talk of respect, then called Miz an idiot and things got a little more interesting. A motivated Miz is an entertaining Miz and he got a chance to rip into Reigns, ripping into Reigns for choking at important moments, bringing up Reigns record inbetween WrestleMania and No Mercy, whilst Curtis Axel seemed to be having an absolute ball in the background. The highlight was, of course, Miz suggested "if the Miztourage was around five years ago, nobody would remember The Shield". It's a great heel line, because we all know that's not true, but the Miz character clearly believes that he, Axel and Dallas are unstoppable. There was, of course, time for Reigns to put over Jason Jordan, calling him a "thoroughbred", which will do little to help Jordan amongst the audience that he is struggling to win over. 

Matt Hardy & Jason Jordan def. The Miztourage (7:09)

I think the highlight of this was Booker T going off on one on commentary about Jason Jordan "wanting to get all of his stuff in". It didn't make much sense, kayfabe or otherwise, but it made me laugh. The match was your pretty standard tag team match, with the majority of Dallas and Axel's heat coming during the commercial break. Hardy got the hot tag and it was pretty much over from there, as Hardy pulled out a series of his greatest hits, including a bulldog and a side effect. The finish came when Jordan took out an interfering Axel with an overhead belly to belly, allowing a Twist of Fate to get the pin on Dallas.  There was enough going on that things remained watchable and Hardy looked better in there than he has done of the last couple of months, but equally so there was very little to get excited about. Jeff Hardy is supposedly injured (he was at ringside) according to commentary, so it will be interesting to see what WWE does with Matt in the meantime or whether this will play into the Broken Universe finally coming up north.

Highlights of Brock Lesnar retaining the Universal Championship against Braun Strowman the previous night at No Mercy.

Before his match, Elias treated us to another of his hipster ditties, about how Ontario is a shithole and Crews is a loser. 

Elias def. Apollo Crews (2:40)

A short match, that was pretty much all Apollo Crews until the finish, that saw Elias kick out at Titus O'Neil, before taking advantage of the distraction to hit Drift Away and remain undefeated since 24th July.
After the match, Elias went to attack Titus O'Neil, only for the Titus Worldwide leader to turn the tables and send Elias packing.

Charly Caruso interviewed Finn Balor with the Irishman seemingly done with Bray Wyatt and saying he's now got his eyes on the Universal Championship. 

After issuing an open challenge, Curt Hawkins quickly bailed when Braun Strowman answered, leading to Strowman chasing him down, chokeslamming him through a table and then powerslamming Hawkins through the set. Strowman would then get on the mic and issue an open challenge of his own...

Braun Strowman def. Dean Ambrose (6:31)

Well, this was a lot of fun and by the end I was a little disappointed we didn't get to see a little more. It was mostly Braun Strowman lobbing Dean Ambrose around, clobbering him a bit and Ambrose scrapping and fighting from underneath, whilst selling for his life. Whilst occasionally Ambrose's selling verged into the comedic region, it bought something different to the regular fighting from underneath cliché and got some good reactions out of the live crowd. I could give or take it personally, but I don't think it detracted from how powerful Strowman looked in dominating a former WWE Champion. The two characters slotted well together, with their strengths creating an entertaining contrast, as Ambrose did everything he could to remain in the match, including a tornado DDT on the floor. The finish ended up feeling a little abrupt with Ambrose going for a diving elbow drop, only for Strowman to turn the move straight into a running powerslam for the pinfall victory. Just under seven minutes wasn't long enough to satisfyingly tell the story between the pair and whilst a punchy victory over a top star helps with Strowman's recover after his loss to Lesnar and extra five minutes or so would have produced a more gratifying bout.

Enzo Amore asked Kurt Angle if he could have a championship celebration later and then refused to listen to some advice from Kurt, it would seem that Enzo has completed his turn now.

Seth Rollins brought Dean Ambrose some ice in the lockeroom and told Ambrose to think more with Ambrose replying that maybe Rollins needed to think was also revealed that Rollins had a match with Sheamus later and would be facing Braun Strowman next week. 

Mickie James Confronted Alexa Bliss (6:43)

When a feud between Alexa Bliss and Mickie James was teased on RAW Talk after No Mercy, I can't say that I was particularly excited about it. James' work hasn't particularly impressed since her return with a lot of matches coming across as sloppy or rushed, whilst she's also faced Bliss three times on TV this year (with Bliss winning the last two bouts on RAW). Therefore, this clash of words ended up being the sleeper segment of the show, because quite frankly it was brilliant and one of the best female talking segments in recent memory. Both ladies brought the fire with James coming out to confront Bliss for calling her an "old lady" a night previously. The tension between the two came through the screen, with Bliss initially throwing barbs like "I think you were even in my top 8 on Myspace, back when Myspace and Mickie James were relevant" with that trademark Bliss snarkiness. James bringing her bitchy side back and talking about breaking down barriers before Bliss was wearing a training bra got a nice reaction, before the exclamination point of "which is obviously still working out for you!" put a nice cap on things. Bliss eventually called James an old lady again and a few slaps and Mick Kick later and we had an interesting feud on our hands heading in Tables, Ladders and Chairs.

Seth Rollins def. Sheamus (4:09)

I've got a lot of time for what Seth Rollins and Sheamus have been doing lately and they both proved their worth here, creating an exciting match within the confines of four minutes. Sheamus spent a lot of times working over Rollins' back and knee, including three irish curse backbreakers, a powerbomb and a cloverleaf, before a pacy finishing sequences saw Rollins dodge a Brogue Kick, block a dive with a superkick of his own before sealing the victory with the Kingslayer knee to bring to a close an action-packed encounter and seemingly the rivalry between the Tag Team Champions and Sheamus & Cesaro.

Finn Balor bumped into Goldust with Goldie seemingly shifting back to a heel, telling Balor he wasn't a victim and didn't need his help, before attacking him and sending Balor into various items backstage..."Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer...The Godfather 2 (1974)"

Highlights of Roman Reigns beating John Cena the previous night at No Mercy, including clips from RAW Talk with Cena putting over Reigns as a "better man". After Jerry "The King" Lawler asked if Cena was done with WWE, Big Match John revealed he wasn't done but perhaps couldn't go at the same pace anymore. 

Roman Reigns def. The Miz (8:47)

For me, this was a better match than the one Reigns had with John Cena the night earlier, as it told a much more interesting story. The main bulk of the contest was the Miztourage providing distractions at ringside and Miz working over the back and it provided a great platform for Reigns to showcase his selling. The Big Dog sold like a beast throughout, with the idea being that the four Attitude Adjustments he took from Cena the night previous, whilst Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel alternated on being a dick at ringside. Corey Graves chatting about sciatica at ringside was a great little touch that got over the pain that Reigns was playing on his face and body. Whilst I was never made to think that Miz could potentially take the victory (a snap DDT was probably the best near fall) as a TV match there was a lot to enjoy here, with the bout being kept snappy and a feeling of constant movement that drove a simple, but well-told story that concluded with Reigns escaping a Skull Crushing Finale and nailing a spear for the victory.

Post-match, The Miztourage jumped Reigns from behind and when it seemed like Reigns would be able to fight back, they produced a pair of steel stairs, took multiple shots at Reigns, before throwing Reigns to Miz for a Skull Crushing Finale. After initially leaving, Miz and The Miztourage returned to the ring, delivering another Skull Crushing Finale on the chair and a con-chair-to, before doing the traditional Shield fist-bump pose.

Finn Balor def. Goldust (4:20)

Another brief, yet entertaining contest here with the attack earlier in the night and Balor's rib injury suffered the night earlier being the two main elements as the two brawled for most the match on the outside. Balor sold well and we got a nice spot of Finn not being able to hit 1916 because of the injury, but eventually the Irishman picked up a head of steam and finished things off with a slingblade, running front dropkick into the buckles and a Coup de Grace.

Post-match, Bray Wyatt's visual gimmick flashed across the screen and then a creepy childlike voice sang "He's got the Whole World in his Hands"

Backstage, there appeared to be issues with Bayley and Sasha Banks following the Women's Championship Five-Way match at No Mercy, but both vowed to forget about it ahead of their tag team match with Nia Jax and Emma.

Enzo Amore bugged Kurt Angle again backstage, asking for a non-contact clause to be added to his Championship celebration later on, because he was getting serious jealousy vibes from the Cruiserweight lockeroom...he's surely a heel now? 

Sasha Banks & Bayley def. Nia Jax & Emma (5:21)

Whilst the match wasn't much to get excited about, it was nice to see the Women's division get two decent length segments on the show and multiple storylines begin to develop. With Mickie James stepping into the Women's Championship picture, there's room to tell stories with these four women and that's what we got here. Jax continues to look like a potential breakout star for the division, in the same vein as Braun Strowman and she looked like a beast for most of the match as she chucked Bayley about the place. It also looks like WWE is finally looking to pull the trigger on a feud between Bayley and Sasha Banks with some interesting exchanges where Banks was having to save the Hugger, including a spot on the outside where Banks was able to hit Jax with a crossbody off the apron after Bayley failed to do so. Like most of the last few months, Emma suffered from a lack of direction and eventually fell to a Bayley-to-Belly when the match got a little itself after Jax had collided with the ringpost. There's still a long way to go with the Women's division that hasn't found its feet since the brand split, but this was a step in the right direction.

The Entire Cruiserweight Division Confronts Enzo Amore (13:27)

Holy shit, RAW closed with a Cruiserweight segment. Enzo Amore's Certified G Championship celebration was arguably the best RAW segment for the Cruiserweight's since they became part of the show as Enzo Amore and Neville both put in great performances on the microphone as their characters naturally shifted. Amore talked about sleeping with a the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, brought up having more "haters" recently and compared himself to John Cena, Batista and The Rock, before claiming to have made 205 Live relevant. It wasn't just the content that was different here, Amore exaggerated parts of his character that had been there before but perhaps been understated and made it even easier to hate him than it had been when he was an annoying caricature babyface. After the Cruiserweight division took some verbal abuse from Enzo, Neville's coming out was played pretty much perfectly. The Geordie has been magic on the mic recently, taking his time and delivering his lines with punch, so when he went off on one here it was a wonderful slice of wrestling television. "Now Enzo Amore...on behalf of the whole Cruiserweight division, I am here to end you" gave me a little shiver, if I'm honest. When the King of the Cruiserweights finally went after the man who holds the crown, it wasn't the attack that was interesting but the non-contact clause that Kurt Angle had put in place earlier. The idea that Neville was so angry he was willing to give up his title shot was a powerful idea that added depth to the attack and opened up a question for 205 Live. For perhaps the first time, RAW provided a reason for people to tune in to Tuesday night's Cruiserweight showcase! And as much as I hate to say it, Enzo Amore is right, him coming to the purple brand has provided it with a much-needed dose of intrigue and excitement, that has the potential to give the platform for superior in-ring performers like Akira Tozawa, Gran Metalik and Jack Gallagher to shine.

Heading out of No Mercy, this was a strong effort from the RAW crew, that opened a number of different narrative avenues. A number of stories that had been running since before SummerSlam seemed to be replaced with fresh direction as the Cruiserweight and Women's divisions both give time to tell or set-up better stories. The second two hours of the show in particular featured a good mix of fun in-ring action and well-produced talking segments. Strowman vs. Ambrose and Reigns vs. Miz both provided good television matches, whilst the segment with Enzo Amore and Neville at the end of the show featured great character work and deliver, opened questions about the future of the division and felt different to anything on the rest of the show

Review by James Marston

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