By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. The WWE Universal Championship is on the line as Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Big Cass, and Roman Reigns vie for the big red belt made out of Kryptonite. Who walked away with the title? Was it a safe bet, a sure thing, or sweet surprise? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· The opening segment of Raw featuring Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Big Cass, and Roman Reigns discussing why they will win the WWE Universal Championship was very good. Kevin Owens’ promo was the best out of the four, but I thought Cass and Rollins held their own on the mic as well. Reigns didn’t have much to say as he let his fists do the talking as all hell broke loose with Reigns hitting Rollins with a Superman Punch which set the tone for what’s to come during the Fatal Four Way Elimination Match later tonight.
· The fact that the opener lasted less than ten minutes was a plus. There was no need to have a drawn out discussion about winning the Big Red Belt and I loved the one-liners Owens, Rollins, and Cass hurled at each other. It struck the right balance of being funny, yet serious at the same time. Overall, I thought this was an effective way to start the show.
· Neville vs. Chris Jericho had a good match as it featured nice back and forth action with a hint of chicanery from Jericho as he tried to gain an unfair advantage at every turn. I am glad that both men had the opportunity to have a proper match after Neville broke his ankle during their previous bout earlier this year.
· During the closing moments of the match, Neville nailed Jericho with a Superkick and went to the top rope to hit the Red Arrow. Jericho rolled out of the way and quickly put Neville in the Walls of Jericho which turned into the Lion Tamer when he pressed his knee against the side of Neville’s face. Neville tried his best to hang on, but he tapped out.
· It was a match that allowed Jericho to get a quality win while Neville looked good in the face of defeat. I hope this doesn’t become a recurring theme because Neville has a lot to offer as an in-ring performer. At least he won a few matches since his return to make his loss to Jericho easier to digest.
· Nia Jax claimed another victim in short order. It was nothing to write home about.
· Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows have transitioned from the medical field to the retirement home sector as they poked fun at the Dudley Boyz for being old and washed up. It’s a step up from talking about male genitalia.
· Sami Zayn picked up the win against Jinder Mahal in a decent match. It was a little surprising to see Zayn involved in an enhancement bout, but it was refreshing that he continued to sell his ankle injury from last week. Continuity and good in-ring psychology can go hand and hand sometimes. Mahal was in control for a while, but it didn’t last long as Zayn nailed him with the Helluva Kick to get the 1-2-3. The match came off a bit cold, but I’m glad Zayn got a win under his belt. Mahal has been firmly slotted as enhancement talent to put other people over. At least he’s getting a check.
· Random observation: Kofi Kingston is wearing unicorn horn tipped shoes…
· The New Day and Bayley vs. Anderson, Gallows, and Dana Brooke was solid as Bayley picked up the win for her team as she dropped Brooke with the Bayley to Belly Suplex. Bayley looked good and Brooke held her own minus that ugly double dropkick that barely connected before the match went to commercial. The action picked up after the break and everyone managed to shine despite how wonky mixed tag matches can be at times.
· I will say that WWE needs to dial it back a little bit when it comes to the presentation of Bayley. She is a professional hugger with a carefree personality. However, pairing her up with The New Day is taking happiness to the freaking extreme. She’s was bordering on being a caricature of herself which gave me butterflies for all the wrong reasons. Bayley’s wrestling calmed my nerves, but it’s a delicate balance to strike when it comes to her character. She should be presented as being joyous, but serious at the same time. The New Day’s unicorn magic works in most cases, but their shtick can be hit or miss which negatively affects their feuds sometimes. I don’t want Bayley to suffer a similar fate, but I understand why WWE decided to put them together. They are popular and the crowd popped huge for them. Fortunately, Bayley handled her business in the ring by staying true to herself. The ovation from the fans was a clear sign of that. I just want WWE to exercise control by not tinkering with Bayley’s character too much. There is no need to fix what’s already working.
· Sheamus is up 2-0 in his Best of Seven Series against Cesaro. As always, they had a good match which culminated with a series of European Uppercuts from Cesaro to Sheamus. The Swiss Superman dropped the Celtic Warrior with a dropkick from the top rope and it appeared that Cesaro had the match under control. Sheamus managed to gain the upper hand when he dropped a charging Cesaro back first into the ring post. Cesaro immediately grabbed his back as the referee checked on him. Sheamus tossed Cesaro back in the ring and wasted no time putting him in the Cloverleaf. Cesaro quickly tapped out in order to fight another day. Cesaro is behind the eight ball as he needs to get back in the series before he falls to 0-3. I doubt he’s going to choke when it counts most, but stranger things have happened. Just saying…
· Americo…Is he Captain America’s long lost son?
· Braun Stroman picks up another easy win as he committed the carnal sin of removing Americo’s mask. That generated more heat than the match itself.
· We can officially add Tommaso Ciampa, Cedric Alexander, and Johnny Gargano to the Cruiserweight Division. If they are given ample television time, the Cruiserweights should steal the damn show every week.
· Stephanie McMahon just tried Finn Bálor by saying that the first-ever Universal Champion would be crowned later tonight. I am sure it was a Freudian slip, but still. It stings a little bit.
· Oh Joy. A CM Punk Chant. Get over it, people!
· Paul Heyman is carrying a stack of 500 one dollar bills. He is a frugal baller.
· This whole Stephanie McMahon-Paul Heyman segment was a complete waste of time. Stephanie was at her emasculating best as she snipped Heyman’s balls and added them to her vast collection. Heyman’s apology was okay, but it was nothing special. Both parties should have been laughing their asses off about putting the screws to Shane McMahon. Stephanie should have been gloating about The Beast taking down two key stars from SmackDown. Sadly, she had to get her lady rocks off by berating Heyman when they should have been sharing a toast instead. This failed on so many levels.
· Darren Young defeated Titus O’Neil only for Young and Bob Backlund to get attacked afterwards by O’Neil. I guess this feud must continue. Yay! *Insert Sarcasm Here*
· Enzo Amore knows how to wake a crowd up. The Houston fans went off for his introduction. Amazing…
· Big Cass has been eliminated from the Fatal Four Way Bout. Cass had a nice showing as he was dishing out big boots left and right. He rose to the occasion and showed that he can go when the lights are on bright. His moment in the sun will come in due time. Cass needs Enzo and vice versa right now. There is no rush to strap a rocket to his ass right now.
· That was a hell of a counter by Reigns. Rollins was trying to hit Reigns with a flying knee, but Reigns nailed him with a Superman Punch from midair. It was a beautiful spot that was timed perfectly.
· Triple H!!!! With a pedigree to Reigns!!! Shit just got real!
· I guess Hunter just cashed his receipt after losing to Reigns at WrestleMania.
· Double swerve alert! Triple H just pedigreed Rollins and Owens picked the bones to become the new WWE Universal Champion. Holy shit!
· Wow. Just Wow. The Fatal Four Way Elimination match featuring Rollins, Owens, Big Cass, and Reigns was a hell of a bout before Triple H interfered. The action was strong throughout and everybody had their moment to shine which drove the crowd insane. The drama was at an all-time high as the next elimination built to a stunning crescendo. Triple H attacking Reigns from out of nowhere was shocking. Rollins getting up the dirty pin was expected, but to see Hunter betray his protégé with The Pedigree pushed things over the top. Owens sold being in absolute shock as Triple H gave him the nod of approval.
· Owens was overcome with emotion as Triple H raised his hand in victory as Mick Foley and Stephanie looked completely stunned by what happened. Triple H gave Foley the death stare and didn’t even acknowledge his wife as he exited the ringside area via the barricade. It was quite the visual as the head honchos were left bewitched, bothered, and bewildered.
· The show ended with Owens parading with the Universal Championship as the crowd chanted “You Deserve It!”
· This was a tremendous way to end the show. The Triple H double swerve was something that nobody saw coming. This was a genuine surprise that leaves the door open for so many possibilities. Is Owens the new corporate face of Monday Night Raw? Will Rollins finally become a babyface after Triple H stabbed him in the back? Where does Reigns fit into all of this? Will he go back to feuding with Rusev for the United States Championship or will he and Rollins team up to take on Triple H and Owens? Were Foley and Stephanie in the know or were they truly blindsided by the Chief Operating Officer of WWE? There is so much to unpack and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. The best part of the brand extension is that we have to wait until next week to see the fallout. Cliffhanger Mondays are back in full effect.
· As for Owens, he was my sleeper pick from last week. I really wanted him to win because he would offer something completely different as champion. He deserves this opportunity to thrive and succeed in the main event scene. Owens is one of the best workers and talkers in the company and I believe he will bring some much need shine to big red belt. As the fans stated, he deserves it.
· Overall, I thought this was a very good episode of Raw. The main event was filled with great wrestling with a big fat swerve thrown in as an added bonus. It was amazing to watch it all unfold. The rest of the show featured solid in-ring action with a couple of squashes mixed in for good measure. Outside of Bayley veering into the land of Velveeta Cheese by teaming with The New Day and Stephanie McMahon getting on my nerves during the top of the third hour, this was a strong show that didn’t overstay its welcome.
· As always, the follow up is key. What will the creative team do to make sense of what happened tonight? They have a lot of moving pieces to navigate and I am sure Triple H’s fingerprints will be all over the final product. He doesn’t appear on-screen unless he has a contingency plan in place. We shall see what The Game has in store for us next week.
On that note, this wraps up another installment of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new edition of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!