By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. This would end up being a very special night as Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship was pushed to main event status.
Outside of a mix tag team match involving Eve Torres and AJ Lee back in 2012, this is the first time that two women have main evented the flagship show since Trish Stratus and Lita faced off for the WWE Women’s Title in December 2004.
One streak has already been broken this year as Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch delivered the best women’s match at a WrestleMania 2006. It’s only fair that another one bites the dust as the ladies are the marquee attraction on Raw for the first time in almost 12 years. There is no window dressing. There is no fluff to be found. It’s just two female wrestlers putting on a show for the world to see. Did it live up to expectations or did Charlotte and Sasha crumble under the pressure? The answer to this pressing question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Raw got off to an interesting start with Roman Reigns showing love to his Samoan Family as he is the first member from the legendary dynasty to win the United States Championship.
· Lana broke up the self-congratulatory party and talked about how Reigns had no respect for family as he ruined her wedding celebration a couple of months ago. They traded words with Lana having the final say by telling Reigns to go to hell.
· Rusev came out and the brawl was on. Reigns and Rusev had a nice back and forth battle which resulted in The Bulgarian Brute kicking Reigns over the barricade and into the crowd.
· Rusev grabbed the US Title and made his way up the entrance ramp with Lana. As they were making their getaway, Reigns nailed Rusev with a Superman Punch from out of nowhere. Reigns took back his title and told Rusev that he would see him and Lana in hell. As in Hell in a Cell at the eponymous PPV which takes place later this month.
· Reigns vs. Rusev for the US Title inside HIAC sounds like the ideal place to blow off their feud. There’s enough heat to warrant the match taking place inside the demonic structure. If Rusev and Reigns can bring a sense of urgency and energy to the proceedings, their match has the potential to be memorable. Overall, this was a solid way to start the show.
· The Redemption of Brian Kendrick continues as he made TJ Perkins tap out to the Captain’s Hook to put himself back in the Cruiserweight Title picture. WWE was wise enough to air this match during the first hour of the show while the crowd is at its hottest. Kendrick and Perkins had a good match, but they were holding back a bit because they want to save their best stuff for their championship bout which will presumably take place at HIAC.
· The crowd response was split as both men hailed from California, but they were into the action for the most part. If TJP continues to show flashes of his personality in his matches, he should be able to engage an audience regardless of the geographic location. Kendrick is doing a great job portraying the Old Bitter Wrestler who is willing to do anything in order to win the big one. He is unlikable for all the right reasons. In terms of execution, the match and subsequent storyline clicked for the most part. Kudos to both men for a job well done.
· Michael Cole’s sit down interview with Seth Rollins managed to humanize the man behind the wrestler in a positive way. Rollins spewed out talking points about how he plans to cancel The Kevin Owens Show, but he didn’t come off as a whiny brat for a change. It’s small progress, but progress nonetheless.
· Chase Silver needs to move back to Idaho because he’s about to get destroyed Braun Strowman.
· Strowman made quick work of Silver. On the Brightside, Silver would be the perfect film subject for Goldust’s Shattered Dreams Productions. From Potato Land to La La Land: The Chase Silver Story. It has a nice ring to it.
· Strowman wants competition. I admire his determination to destroy men that can actually go in the ring. It would be nice to see him hold up his end of the bargain inside the squared circle, but I digress…
· Chris Jericho is wearing a lovely scarf tonight. It’s very fashionable. This concludes the Fashion Police portion of The Raw Exposé. We now return to regularly scheduled blogging.
· Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and The New Day had a fun segment that featured a nice dose of comedy with a hint of foreshadowing as Jericho jokingly suggested that he wanted a shot at the WWE Universal Championship. He gave the big red belt a longing glance before steering Owens on the Tag Team Title train. It might have been a hypothetical suggestion, but it’s something to pay attention to in the future as the bromance between Jericho and Owens continues to develop.
· Xavier Woods had a great zinger as he took Owens’ Jump the Shark reference and flipped it around by asking Owens the following question: When was the last time he jumped over anything? That had me rolling and I loved how The New Day marked out for their own joke. It was a great line that caused Jericho to add Woods to The List twice.
· The New Day accepted JERI-KO’s challenge and will face off in a nontitle match later tonight. Fun times!
· Sami Zayn picked up a nice maintenance win against Titus O’Neil. The match was decent while it lasted, but it seems as if Zayn is left twisting in the wind once again without a viable feud to sink his teeth into. He’s too talented to be squandered like this. A win is a win, though.
· Let me get this straight. After weeks of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows being portrayed as low rent comedians, WWE decides to show a video package illustrating their badass ways after failing in their quest to win the Tag Team Titles from The New Day. Reverse synergy at work, ladies and gentleman!
· Anderson and Gallows picked up their own maintenance win as they dropped R-Truth with The Magic Killer. Goldust suffered the same fate after the match was over. Where was this fire and aggression two months ago?
· JERI-KO, Ashton Kutcher, and Danny Masterson had a fun backstage segment that featured some nice one-liners. This was a case where the celebrities were given good material to work with and came off as being completely likable and knowledgeable about professional wrestling. Things could go south with them on guest commentary, but I have faith that Kutcher and Masterson will hold their own. Fingers crossed!
· Seth Rollins made his presence known during JERI-KO’s match against The New Day as he distracted Jericho while he had Woods locked in the Liontamer. This allowed Woods to tag Big E. in the match and drop Jericho with The Midnight Hour to pick up the win.
· Rollins goaded Owens to get back in the ring to save his best friend, but the Universal Champ looked on from the ramp as Rollins nailed Jericho with the Pedigree to wrap up the segment.
· The tag team bout featuring Jericho and Owens vs. The New Day was solid. It was slow in spots, but the pace quickened down the stretch. The match told a larger story as Owens bailed on Jericho which might play into his best buddy challenging him for the Universal Title in a not-so jokey way in the very near future. Better yet, Owens might make Jericho’s LIST! That would actually pop the crowd something fierce.
· Seth Rollins has finally a backbone! He totally owned Stephanie McMahon during their backstage segment and came away with his balls firmly intact. We just witnessed a miracle!
· Tony Nese defeated Rich Swann with a Pump Handler/Michinoku Driver. The match was nice while it lasted as Nese showed a little more personality in the ring. His insert promo prior to the match left a lot to be desired, but there is room for improvement. Swann held his own as he tried to get the crowd into the match. They were quiet, but respectful which is a step up from last week’s debacle in Cincinnati.
· Week three of the Cruiserweight Experiment was pretty good. Fleshing out the wrestlers’ personalities will be key in order for the division to gain meaningful traction in the months to come. Every match can’t be a spot fest. There must be a sense of fluidity and storytelling between the moves in order for fans to care about what’s happening in the ring. Otherwise, it will come off like Cirque du Soleil minus the emotional investment. Here’s hoping that WWE works out the kinks because the potential is there for the Cruiserweights to succeed if they are given the proper resources to accentuate their strengths as performers.
· It looks like Emma is on her way back. She should bring some much-needed freshness to the Women’s Division.
· Cesaro and Sheamus scored another victory as they took care of the “scintillating” team of Raul White and Mark Kerrady. The highlight of the match was Cesaro jumping over Sheamus’ back to drop White with a DDT. That was followed by Sheamus nailing Kerrady with a Brogue Kick to pick up the win. Cesaro and Sheamus are still bickering, but I am sure they will sort out their issues by hugging it out. Or not…
· Bayley just took out Dana Brooke. Bayley is tired of being treated like the dreaded third wheel in the Sasha Banks-Charlotte saga. I am glad she stood up for herself. Plus, Brooke won’t be at ringside to cause trouble during the main event. It will be a fair and square affair. Hopefully.
· When it comes to big match moments, Sasha Banks and Charlotte manage to deliver the goods. They almost kill themselves in the process, but it’s truly captivating to watch. Their main event match for the Raw Women’s Championship was no exception as it featured thrills and spills that had fans standing on their feet inside the Staples Center.
· There were a few wonky spots, but I thought both ladies did a great job conveying how much the Women’s Title means to them. It’s a symbol of being the best and they left it all in the ring tonight.
· Charlotte’s insane top rope corkscrew moonsault from outside the ring was a spectacular spot that will be included in every video package related to this feud until the end of time. It was freeze frame moment.
· Sasha did a great job selling her back throughout the match as Charlotte targeted her weak spot. Ultimately, Sasha made Charlotte tap out to the Bank Statement to become a two-time Women’s Champion.
· Charlotte sold great emotion as she was in complete denial over losing the championship. A heel wallowing in self-pity and actually caring about wins and losses is very refreshing to see in 2016.
· Once again, I question WWE for switching the title on Raw instead of a PPV. They missed an opportunity at SummerSlam and with Hell in a Cell taking place in Sasha’s hometown of Boston, it would have been the perfect time to make the switch. One can only assume that this feud will finally be blown off at HIAC so both ladies can move on to bigger and better things.
· Despite that small criticism, this match was very good and I am glad WWE allowed Sasha and Charlotte to main event the show. In the three-hour era, it’s a gamble worth taking. The ratings are hitting all-time lows, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try something different. It opens the door for the ladies to possibly main event PPVs down the road. It gives fans a reason to care and have hope that change is really afoot when it comes to the presentation of Women’s Wrestling. We have a long way to go, but the future looks bright. I tip my cap to both ladies for showing up and showing out in LA.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was solid. It was a show built around Sasha Banks and Charlotte headlining the show along with Seth Rollins finding his voice as a babyface. The in-ring action ranged from fair to very good and the show didn’t drag for the most part.
· The third-hour lull did take hold prior to the main event, but the ladies brought it home to end the night on a high note.
· WWE tends to put on a good show in Los Angeles. It would be nice to see the company put forth this much effort on a weekly basis, though.
· With an overwhelming amount of original content hitting fans from all sides due to the brand extension, burnout is to be expected. However, delivering good shows minus the fluff can make things a bit more bearable to endure. If they can balance the scales in that respect, Raw can be a consistently good show. The third hour is still a pain in the ass, but if 3/4ths of the broadcast is not a complete bore to get through, that other 25% should cancel itself out.
· With three more live shows before Hell in a Cell, it’s imperative that the red brand doesn’t go into cruise control. They don’t have to blow marquee matches on free television. It’s all about giving shine to wrestlers that need it and offering storylines that fans actually care about. It can be a winning formula if the Powers That Be can execute things properly. Let’s hope the Wrestling Gods are listening.
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!