By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee. This is the go-home for Clash of Champions. It is the only Raw PPV where all the titles will be defended. One would think that should happen every month, but I digress. Did the red brand do an effective job hyping their first standalone PPV or did they fumble the ball during the two-minute warning? 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 featured a couple of newsworthy things. First, Roman Reigns will face Rusev for the United States Championship at Clash of Champions. Second, Reigns will face Kevin Owens in a nontitle match inside a steel cage later tonight.
· This was Mick Foley’s way of doing right by Reigns, but the fans had very little sympathy for the Samoan Badass as they booed him throughout the opener. Fortunately, WWE was self-aware of the situation as Stephanie McMahon and Foley did most of the talking. Things got a little too schmaltzy as Foley was praising Stephanie for being such an honest person who is keeping him gainfully employed. He noted how that could all change if Raw loses the ratings war to SmackDown Live! Foley could be back at home sitting on the couch as the fall guy while Stephanie will bounce back because of her last name. It was a little heavy handed, but Foley sold his gratefulness well.
· Overall, I thought this was a decent way to start the show. It is a little weird that WWE decided to book Owens and Reigns in a steel cage match because that is something that should be saved for a PPV with the Universal Championship on the line. Both men cannot afford to look weak before their respective matches on Sunday. Let’s hope WWE comes up with a creative finish to keep them looking strong heading into the PPV.
· Rollins and Rusev were in a similar situation as they had to wrestle each other as a form of punishment for interfering in Reigns’ match last week. I thought the match was okay as it never got out of second gear. Both men were going through the motions to get to the double count out finish. It makes sense in a way, but I wished Rollins and Rusev showed a bit more energy before their match ended abruptly. Things ended on a better note as Rollins and Rusev fought at the top of the stage and made their way towards the announce table. Even with the change in location, the announcers are not safe from being involved in chaos and mayhem. That’s somewhat refreshing.
· Rollins laid out Rusev with a crossbody from the announce table to close the segment. It was a nice visual that popped the crowd, but that spot couldn’t make up for how everything else leading up to that moment seem lukewarm at best.
· The double pin involving Sasha Banks and Bayley was acknowledged which means that the spot was done deliberately or WWE decided to book on the fly after fans on social media made a kerfuffle about what happened last week. In any event, Foley decided that Charlotte will defend the Raw Women’s Championship against Sasha and Bayley in a Triple Threat Match at Clash of Champions. Dana Brooke inadvertently gave Foley the idea when she suggested that Sasha and Bayley wrestle each other to determine who would lose to Charlotte on Sunday. That plan backfired in her face and Charlotte shoved Dana on her ass to physically voice her frustration.
· The Triple Threat bout should be very good if they are given enough time to shine in the ring. Expect Dana to play a role in the finish because she has to please her mentor by any means necessary. Most importantly, the tension between Bayley and Sasha will continue to boil over as Sasha is focused on the championship instead of her friendship with Bayley. It would not be surprising to see Sasha turn heel in the very near future. She’s better in that role. Plus, Bayley can chase after the Women’s Title leading up to the proper coronation at WrestleMania next year. It’s a win-win situation.
· Braun Stroman made short work of Sin Cara. The end.
· Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Charlotte and Dana Brooke was solid. Sasha and Bayley played the role of babyfaces in peril for a sizable chunk of the match. Charlotte was great on defense and eventually picked up the win for her team when she nailed Bayley with a big boot. Dana provided the assist when she broke up the Bayley to Belly. Sasha attacked Dana and continued the beat down outside of the ring. Bayley was distracted long enough for Charlotte to capitalize and build some much-needed momentum heading into Clash of Champions.
· It should be noted that Sasha was frustrated with Bayley after the match was over. It was understated, but very noticeable. The plot thickens!
· Seth Rollins can’t seem to catch a break. Stephanie McMahon totally emasculated Rollins which does not help him get over as a sympathetic babyface. He did have a nice parting shot by claiming that she has been off her game since Shane McMahon’s return earlier this year. Despite that dig, Rollins was made to look like a sad snipped puppy as she called him out for his ineptitude over the last couple of months. Rollins is being portrayed as a whining child in serious need of a backbone. The fans like him, but they can’t wrap their arms around him fully if he continues to get verbally bitched out on a weekly basis. The haphazard writing for Rollins’ character has to stop.
· Bo Dallas defeated Gary Graham in a ho-hum match. Dallas encouraged us to Bolieve in him. I don’t. Also, the fans chanted “Delete!” during his match. The genius of Broken Matt Hardy is infecting Raw. That is so…Delightful!
· Sheamus dropping Cesaro with White Noise on the ring apron was sick. That was a cool way to attack Cesaro’s injured back.
· And we are tied at 3-3 in the Best of Seven Series. Cesaro and Sheamus had another good match. Sheamus targeted Cesaro’s back throughout the bout and I thought that The Swiss Superman was a goner a couple of times. Sheamus tried to close out the series by pulling a page out of Cesaro’s playbook by putting his feet on the middle rope for leverage. The referee caught Sheamus and the match continued. Sheamus’ attempt at a Battering Ram through the ropes was blocked by Cesaro. Cesaro countered with The Gotch Neutralizer to take the series to a decisive seventh match at Clash of Champions. Cesaro earned a few demerits for running a lap inside the ring to celebrate even though he is supposed to be selling his back. Awkward visual aside, Sheamus and Cesaro should have a very good match on Sunday to cap off their Best of Seven Series.
· The List of Jericho is awesome. Jericho and Foley had a fun exchange backstage that was filled with great one-liners. They are pure gold together.
· We just witnessed a multi-feud convergence as Jericho, Enzo and Big Cass, The New Day, The Shining Stars, and Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows had a big promo pow-wow until Jericho left the ring to create a new list filled with stupid idiots. Sami Zayn cut him off at the pass and attacked him. The fight carried over into the ring which ignited a full-on brawl with everyone getting a piece of the action. The segment was funny in spots, but it made my mind drift to the Cruiserweights because they are being given the third-hour shaft which is usually the lowest rated hour of the show. That’s not a great way to jumpstart the new division.
· The ten man tag team match featuring Enzo & Big Cass, The New Day, and Sami Zayn vs. Jericho, The Shining Stars, and Anderson & Gallows was fun while it lasted. It quickly broke down into a parade of finishers which allowed everyone to shine. Zayn delivered the Helluva Kick to Primo as Jericho moved out of the way. This allowed Big Cass to tag Enzo and drop Primo with the Rocket Launcher to pick up the win. The babyfaces celebrated as the heels retreated.
· This was a good way to promote three feuds at once heading into the PPV on Sunday. It was a cornucopia of insanity, but it made sense in the grand scheme of things.
· Brain Kendrick will face TJ Perkins for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship at Clash of Champions. Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, and Gran Metalik delivered stellar performances despite being slotted in the third hour of death. They woke the crowd up and I was very impressed with Swann and Alexander as they blended a bit of Strong Style to complement their high flying repertoire. Gran Metalik offered a small sampling of his Lucha Libre style that popped the crowd while Kendrick tiptoed on the line of being a wily veteran with heel tendencies as he trapped Swann’s foot in the steel steps before kicking him in the face.
· Kendrick ultimately made Alexander tap out to the Captain’s Hook to secure his spot at the PPV on Sunday. Everyone worked hard, but a part of me wished the Fatal Four Way kicked off Raw instead of being a glorified placeholder prior to the main event. It’s a small quibble, but the Cruiserweight Division would have made a bigger splash if it was positioned during the first or second hour when the crowd was at its hottest. Here’s hoping that they are spotlighted in a more meaningful way over the next few weeks. Fingers crossed!
· Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens by escaping the cage first. The action was good throughout with the highlight being Owens countering Reigns’ Spear with the Popup Powerbomb for a near fall. There was also a nice exchange at the top of the structure when Owens rammed Reigns’ face against the cage only for Reigns to nail Owens with a Superman Punch which caused both men to crash down onto the canvas. Their match from last week was better, but they still turned in a good performance tonight.
· Plus, Owens and Reigns walked away from the match looking strong as neither man ate the pinfall. Wrestlers losing before a PPV is inevitable, but it’s all about the execution in order for it to make complete sense. The outcome worked in this case as Owens didn’t get pinned and Reigns picked up a quality win by escaping the cage. An out is an out in my book.
· After the match was over, Rusev attacked Reigns which quickly turned into a two-on-one assault when Owens kicked the cage door in Reigns’ face. Rusev and Owens dragged Reigns back in the cage and chained the door shut. Rusev locked Reigns in The Accolade as Owens egged him on.
· Seth Rollins made the save as he climbed to the top of the cage and laid Owens and Rusev out with a crossbody as Raw went off the air.
· Rollins’ daredevil feat worked better the second time around. The crowd was into the spot which helped end the show on a high note.
· Once again, WWE did a nice job forwarding multiple feuds at once as Reigns-Rusev and Rollins-Owens got some much-needed shine heading into Clash of Champions. Both matches should land in the good to great range, but the crowd response will be key. How will fans react to Rollins who is supposed to be a babyface, but is portrayed as being a big baby who doesn’t get his way? Will the crowd chant “Delete!” at Reigns because it’s the fun thing to do? How will Owens turn the crowd against him? He is a beloved figure among hardcore fans and it is not easy to sway their loyalties elsewhere. Rusev might get cheered by default, but can he get sustained heel heat against Reigns? It’s going to be a weird night in Indianapolis to say the least. We shall see how it all plays out on Sunday.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was serviceable. WWE did a solid job hyping Clash of Champions by promoting every match to the best of their abilities. They had to combine feuds in order for everyone to get some semblance of television time. The same goal would have been accomplished if certain aspects of the broadcast were reshuffled.
· My biggest grip is the Cruiserweights being introduced during the third hour. The division should have been spotlighted earlier in the show when the crowd was at its peak in terms of excitement. The talking segments that kicked off the first and third hour should have been shifted to the last two hours of the show. The scripted format of Raw would remain the same, but the Cruiserweights would’ve been better positioned to get over more than they did tonight.
· Clash of Champions should be a solid PPV. The card looks good on paper, but the crowd is going to play a major role when it comes to the tone and atmosphere of the show. Certain acts will get over while others will be susceptible to radio silence. It’s going to be an interesting night to say the least.
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!