Monday, July 25, 2016

The Raw Exposé: The Demon-Boss Ascension Edition (7-25-2016)

Hello everyone and welcome to the debut of The Raw Exposé. In case you missed the debut of TheSmackdown Files, my name is Keila Cash and I am certified geek and verified wrestling fanatic. I am your tour guide for all things Raw and Smackdown, My tag team partner, Sylvester Barzey also has you covered by recapping the week that was in professional wrestling. Give his debut blog a look-see and drink in the awesomeness.

In the meantime, tonight is the dawning of a new era. Again. The brand split is now complete. Again. Raw debuted its revamped roster as the show emanated from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA. The flagship show is in a bit of a championship bind due to the fact that the WWE Championship belongs to Smackdown as Dean Ambrose successfully defended his title at Battleground last night. Therefore, one has to assume that the company is going to create a second championship. Will someone receive the belt in a velvet Crown Royal Bag a la Triple H in 2002? Will a tournament take place with the finalists facing off at SummerSlam next month to determine the new champ? The answer to these pressing questions can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s recap tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.

·         Nice new opening for Raw with a pretty cool theme song to liven things up. The new Raw logo looks less ugly with graphics.

·         The set and ring ropes have been modified a bit which makes the show look sleeker from a cosmetic standpoint.

·         The announcers have been moved up to the main stage. I am all for that. It gives the broadcast a different vibe that sucks you in from the get-go.

·         In order to crown a new champion for Raw, there will be two Fatal Four Way matches with the winners facing each other during the main event.

·         The eight wrestlers are Sami Zayn, Sheamus, Cesaro, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Rusev, Chris Jericho, and Finn Balor. Balor got the biggest ovation by far and seeing him on Raw is surreal, but exciting at the same time.

·         The winner will go on to face Seth Rollins at Summerslam where they will vie for the brand new WWE Universal Championship. It’s a strange name for a title belt, but I guess it will grow on me in time.

·         Also, Charlotte will defend her Women’s Championship against Sasha Banks tonight as well.

·         This is a hot way to start Raw with match announcements to get the crowd hyped for the rest of the show. The in-ring work should be strong which makes me a very happy camper.

·         Seeing Balor’s entrance on Raw is so damn cool. He just oozes charisma and the casual fans are in for a treat as they see him in action for the first time if they don’t watch NXT on a regular basis.

·         Fatal Four Way Match #1 featuring Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Rusev, and Finn Balor was very good. The action was jammed packed and hard hitting throughout. Owens was especially great as he tried to boss Rusev around only to get his ass kicked a short time later. Everyone had a moment to shine, but this was all about Balor making a statement as he dropped Owens and Rusev with a pair of wicked running front drops into the turnbuckles followed by Balor nailing Rusev with the Coup de Grace to pick the win. It was such a fun match that never dragged. Most importantly, the announcers focused on the action and put over the talent in the ring. What a concept in 2016! Kudos to everyone involved for a job well done.

·         Thanks for coming, Britt Baker. Nia Jax had a one-minute exhibition match as she made quick work of Baker. It was smart to keep Jax’s debut short and sweet. I still think that she was called up too soon, but I am sure Jax will make the best of this opportunity if she is booked as a badass who easily dismisses her opponents. That will change in due time, though. Let’s hope she is up for the challenge. The learning curve can only last for so long.

·         Brock Lesnar will be making his first appearance since WrestleMania next week on Raw from the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, GA. That should be very interesting considering Randy Orton’s “no enhancements required” comment from last night’s Battleground PPV. I am sure Paul Heyman will do most all of the talking. He has the gift of gab that very few possess.

·         I don’t care what anyone says, seeing Roman Reigns fly over the top rope and laying out dudes is always a sight to behold.

·         I will say that Jericho mocking Reigns’setup for the Spear was pretty damn funny. Y2J getting hit with said Spear moments later, not so great. That does not take away from how good Fatal Four Way Match #2 featuring Reigns, Jericho, Zayn, and Sheamus was. This match was a little more polarizing as Reigns was booed for the most part. The women and children willed him to victory, though. Everyone did their part and the near falls down the stretch only heightened the drama even more. I was pulling for Zayn to pull off the upset, but it wasn’t meant to be. His win over Owens last night at Battleground helps ease the pain a bit.

·         The main event should be very interesting. Balor vs. Reigns is a money match and I expect both men to rise to the occasion. Reigns knows when to show up for big time bouts. I can dislike his character and appreciate his effort in the ring at the same time. I am an understanding and compassionate person. Most of the time...

·         It appears that Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson are gunning for The New Day’s Tag Team Titles. I like it. They need some gold and taking out the reigning two-time champs is the way to do it. This feud needs to take a more serious tone because Gallows and Anderson are a no nonsense duo. If The New Day can balance out the comedy with a bit a seriousness, it will help matters tremendously.

·         On a side note, the Sonny Boy gag was lame. The dude was a plant and the joke never got out of second gear in my opinion. The fans chanted for his name, but it was halfhearted at best.

·         Curtis Axel is Mr. Irrelevant because he got picked last in the draft. The fact that JoJo had the nerve to say this out loud for the world to hear is extra damning. I am pleasantly surprised that WWE is taking a page out of the NFL Draft playbook by acknowledging this sad fact. The entire line of Mr. Irrelevants are people too, damn it!

·         Nice return for Neville. And he kept his post-injury beard as well. The Red Arrow is still a thing of beauty.

·         Sasha Banks just pulled a page out of the Eddie Guerrero Lie, Cheat, and Style playbook. Banks suckered in Dana Brooke by tossing the Women’s Championship belt to her and feigning being hit by it. Nicely played. Brooke has been ejected from the match, but I still believe that Charlotte has a dirty trick up her sleeve. She is the daughter of the Dirtiest Player in the Game. It’s in her nature to be underhanded and evil.

·         Sasha damn near killed herself with that suicide dive. Absolutely insane!

·         Are these ladies trying to kill each other? Charlotte hit Banks with a flying moonsault from outside the ring. Craziness.

·         Charlotte tapped out! Sasha Banks is the new Women’s Champion. Holy crap!!!

·         That was the easily the shocker of the night. I did not see Banks winning the Women’s title, but she did it. I thought that WWE would hold off on her coronation until SummerSlam next month, but they couldn’t wait. The pop would have been a full circle moment at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but I guess the company has other plans in mind. Such as a rematch that would have carried more weight, but I digress. I am still happy for The Boss, though.

·         The match was sloppy in spots, but I respect their passion and the story both ladies told in the ring. Charlotte and Banks were rushing through moves which caused things to get disjointed at times. If they slow down the pace and calm things down a bit, they can have an even better match next month if that is the game plan. Otherwise, I thought this was one of the best moments of the year. That should have happened next month, but I digress. Again...

·         Braun Stroman has a new haircut. He looks good. Burly beard aside, of course. He made very short work of the enhancement talent. The random dude even got an in-ring interview before he met his maker. This new Raw presentation is something else. In a good way.

·         Ol’ Dirty Bastard gets a shout out from Enzo in 2016! I dig it. The whole “I Like It Raw” deal has my mind going straight to the gutter, though.

·         Oh look. It’s The Shining Stars. Zzzzzzzz...

·         And the lowlight of Raw goes to The Golden Truth searching for Pokémon during a match. The match meant squat, but it’s the principality of the matter that’s important.

·         Finn Balor just made a statement, ladies and gentleman! Balor picked up a key and signature win against Roman Reigns and punched his ticket to SummerSlam to face Seth Rollins for the new WWE Universal Championship. Holy moly!

·         The match itself was physical and I liked the aggression both men showed. When Balor hit the Coup de Grace and actually got the 1-2-3, my jaw dropped. This was a shocker, but not shocking in the grand scheme of things.

·         Balor was the top NXT draft pick and the fifth overall selection in the draft. He should be presented as an immediate main eventer. I am glad that WWE didn’t hold back and let him have his moment. On his birthday, no less! Balor looked energized in his new environment and his match against Rollins at SummerSlam should be great. It’s fresh, different, and something that fans can definitely get behind wholeheartedly.

·         Reigns has to start from the bottom in order to reach the promised land once again. His suspension has caused the Powers That Be to re-evaluate his push and positioning as a top star in the company. Reigns needs to prove that he is The Guy and the only way to do that effectively is if he turns heel as soon as possible. It will light a fire under his ass and will help him in the long run. Unfortunately, he has the taint of being a three time WWE Champion with his reigns lasting less than 100 days. If Reigns can make us forget that by being a snarling badass with the right kind of heat stoking him, there is hope for him yet. It’s time to put on the big boy pants and roll with the punches.

·         Overall, I thought this was a very good edition of Monday Night Raw. The show had a new energy that I loved from start to finish. The authority figures opened the show, announced tonight’s lineup, and was never seen again. That’s how it should be every week.

·         The in-ring action was strong with four matches that had high stakes. Fans had something to care about for a change. I almost flipped my lid when some smartasses decided to start up a brief CM Punk chant during the Women’s Championship match. However, the majority got the minority together which helped get the bout back on track.

·       Most importantly, the presentation of the show with pre and post-match interviews was a nice touch. It gave the matches added meaning and allowed viewers at home to catch up on some things that the fans in the arena couldn’t hear. It made the viewing experience more personalized.

·         There were few lull spots that killed the live crowd, but the broadcast never stalled to a crawl. I don’t know if the creative team can do this every week, but they managed to pull it off tonight. Let’s hope that they can keep it up in the weeks leading up to SummerSlam next month.

·         The New Era feels real now. It’s no longer a dumb catchphrase. For now. Consistency is key, though. Can the red brand keep the momentum going without shooting themselves in the foot? We shall find out soon enough.

On that note, this wraps up the debut edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new Smackdown Files. See you later, boys and girls! 

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