By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is the go-home show for Hell in a Cell as WWE is pushing the notion that this a triple main event spectacular. Three HIAC matches are scheduled to take place. The question is, who deserves to headline the show?
Will it be Roman Reigns vs. Rusev for the United States Championship? Perhaps The Universal Championship match will close the show as Kevin Owens goes one-on-one against Seth Rollins inside the demonic structure. Maybe Sasha Banks and Charlotte will punch their ticket straight to hell as they fight for the Raw Women’s Championship in Sasha’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. History will be made. However, will it be for all the right reasons or is this nothing more than the company patting themselves on the back for being progressive in 2016?
Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar has a homecoming of his own as he responds to Goldberg’s comments from last week. Paul Heyman will do most of the talking, but did Lesnar say any four-letter words that is not of the TV-PG variety? 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 List of Jericho is missing!
· Kevin Owens and Stephanie McMahon were cleared as suspects as Chris Jericho vowed to hijack the show until The List was found.
· Seth Rollins came out and claimed responsibility for taking The List. Rollins tried to drive a wedge between Jericho and his partners in crime by saying that McMahon and Owens made The List for being stupid idiots. Jericho denied the allegations and told Rollins that he wanted The List back.
· Rollins agreed, but decided to make some changes by adding a special list in honor of Owens. He said that Owens’ body would not be the same as his back would be aching, his teeth would be kicked down his throat, and his ego would be deflated because he is going to lose to the real Man in WWE.
· Rollins told Jericho to come get his list and headed backstage as the opening segment came to a close.
· The opener was fine, but I thought there was a bit too much fluff in terms comedy that was hit and miss.
· Rollins did a nice job hammering home the fact that he has experience inside HIAC and reminded Owens that he would not walk out with the big red kryptonite belt on Sunday. Hell, he won’t be walking period if Rollins has his way with him inside the cell. The segment worked in that respect while still teasing tension between Owens and Jericho when it comes to their bromance. Therefore, this segment was not a total failure.
· I will give Enzo Amore and Big Cass props for using their fists as makeshift microphones to cut their signature in-ring promo after Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows paid somebody in the production truck to distort their real mics. The crowd participation was spot on and Corey Graves couldn’t even hate on them for being creative. This was a win on so many levels.
· Karl Anderson was bitched out for the second week in a row as Enzo pinned him with an assist from Cass as he delivered a big boot to Anderson behind the referee’s back. The match was fine while it lasted, but whatever momentum Anderson and Gallows built a few weeks ago has come to a screeching halt due to 50/50 booking. They will probably get their win back at HIAC, but it won’t mean much if their heel heat is lukewarm at best. One step forward, ten steps back.
· Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Big E. and Kofi Kingston had a pretty damn good match to kick off the second hour of Raw. The last five to six minutes was strong with some great near falls and counters. Cesaro reversing Kingston’s guillotine into a vertical suplex was a great spot. The second highlight came when Big E. tried to launch Kingston over the top rope, but Cesaro nailed him with a wicked European Uppercut in midair. This gave Sheamus enough time to get back in the ring to deliver The Brogue Kick to Big E. to pick up the win.
· One might think that a high profile victory would bring Cesaro and Sheamus closer together, but The Odd Couple continued to bicker after the match was over.
· Despite both men still not getting along, they showed a glimpse of what they can do as a team. They looked sharp and their in-ring chemistry will continue to develop over time. Their Tag Team Title match against The New Day at HIAC should be great based on what they did tonight.
· The Bad News: The Arm Wrestling Challenge between Dana Brooke and Bayley sucked until Bayley dropped Dana with the Bayley-to-Belly Suplex.
· The Good News: The fans actually booed the segment for all the right reasons because they feel that the women are above arm wrestling at this point and wanted to see them wrestle. That notion would have been unheard of five years ago. Progress has been made! We still have a long way to go, but fans want quality over mediocrity.
· Curtis Axel cut a passionate promo in front of his hometown crowd. He hasn’t been this fired up since his Axel Mania run from a couple of years ago. It’s probably a one-week thing to make sure fans get behind him, but Axel can be a solid mid-card player if the creative team can catch a clue.
· Axel showed good fire, but Bo Dallas had his number as he rolled him up for the 1-2-3. The Bo-lieve in Bo Tour continues. Yay! *Insert Sarcasm Here*
· The List has been found! Braun Strowman returned the Holy Grail of Lists to Jericho before getting added to the list for taking Jericho’s personal property. The Triple Threat main event featuring Owens, Rollins, and Jericho is officially set for later tonight.
· Corey Graves giving a shout out to No Limit Records in 2016 is pretty trippy.
· The Golden Truth defeated The Shining Stars thanks to Mark Henry throwing Titus O’Neil into the ring post to prevent him from causing more trouble during the match. The action was fine, but this mini-feud is just treading water at this point.
· It took a couple of weeks, but Mick Foley finally explained the severity of Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Banks facing off for the Raw Women’s Championship inside HIAC. Foley was emotional as he explained how the cell will haunt their dreams for years to come. They will leave the demonic structure battered and broken.
· Sasha and Charlotte tried to convince Foley and themselves that they were up for the challenge. Charlotte talked about Sasha not being built for the moment because she is injury prone. Sasha responded by saying that she will go down as the greatest Women’s Champion in history and is willing to scratch and claw her way to victory.
· Foley still didn’t buy their bravado and got very emotional as he talked about knowing Charlotte since the early 1990s and emphasized that there is no turning back now. Foley got choked up when he described how his kids gave Sasha an autographed photo of Eddie Guerrero because he was her idol growing up. That picture is now a centerpiece in her house and he wanted her to know that Guerrero would be proud that he touched her life in such an impactful way. He asked both ladies to look him in the eye as a sign that they were ready to dot the I’s and cross the T’s on the contract.
· Charlotte signed the contract first and told Sasha that she will see her in Boston. Sasha signed her name on the dotted line and told Charlotte that she will see her in hell as the segment came to an end.
· Outside of a handful of disrespectful fans and both ladies saying the word “Sweetheart” a few too many times, this segment clicked for the most part. Foley let his emotions get the best of him which made his promo come off as rambling at times, but he did a great job explaining why the HIAC match is so dangerous. It is not a gift or a participation award. It’s a place where people are forever changed both physically and mentally. Foley is a living witness of what the cell can do to wrestlers as he told Sasha Charlotte that he doesn’t have a hip socket which causes his bone to hit nothing but bone. That explains his limp that will never go away. He didn’t want them to suffer the same fate by warning them beforehand.
· Sasha and Charlotte held their own on the mic, but the dialogue was shaky at times. The small sect of fans that decided to shit on the segment didn’t help matters which caused me to almost take back my compliment from earlier tonight when they booed the arm wrestling segment for all the right reasons but decided to do a complete 180 during a segment that actually had meaning and depth. It’s very confusing.
· Minor criticisms aside, Sasha and Charlotte should have a great match at HIAC on Sunday if they don’t psyche themselves out to do crazy stuff inside the cell. It should be a spectacle, but the actual story being told in the ring should be the central focus in making everything click from a wrestling standpoint.
· Rich Swann picked up the surprise win as he rolled up Brian Kendrick in a fun match. Swann’s flashy move set wowed the crowd so much that they actually got behind him down the stretch. Swann will be a major player in the Cruiserweight Division if WWE is willing to get behind him.
· Sami Zayn had a few hope spots against Braun Strowman, but Strowman threw him into the barricade and headed backstage. Zayn didn’t back down and managed to get back in the ring as he begged Strowman to come back for more. This is an interesting feud, but I have a feeling that Zayn is just a stepping stone for Strowman as he continues his path towards world domination. It’s sad, but true.
· Brian Kendrick asked TJ Perkins to let him win the Cruiserweight Championship at HIAC on Sunday. Kendrick is no longer a bitter old wrestler. He’s a bitter, old, whining, pathetic shell of a man. Pitiful.
· It’s very rare for a Brock Lesnar segment to be underwhelming, but his Minneapolis homecoming was just that. Paul Heyman said a few words about people having the audacity to chant Goldberg’s name in Lesnar’s hometown. The crowd was 50/50 as they chanted “Suplex City” and “Goldberg” which pissed Heyman and Lesnar off. The crowd started an almost unanimous “Goldberg Sucks” chant that amused Lesnar, but it didn’t stop both men from abruptly leaving the ring to end the perplexing segment.
· Lesnar is not scheduled to make another live appearance until November 14th when he will be face-to-face with Goldberg. Goldberg will be on the Halloween Edition of Raw next week to respond to Lesnar. After that, both men will be chilling stateside while WWE heads to Europe for the next couple of weeks. WWE can whet fans’ appetites by having both men do pre-taped promos as they trade insults. Outside of that, the go-home show for Survivor Series will be the only other time this feud will be at a fevered pitch. Let’s hope the hype machine holds up between now and then.
· After Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho dominated Seth Rollins for 85% of the triple threat match, Rollins pinned both men by taking them down with a double powerbomb from the top rope.
· Owens and Jericho retaliated by attacking Rollins after the match was over. Owens slammed Rollins into the steel steps which caused the referees and security to come down to the ring to break things up. Jericho made his way to the back while Owens took his time which allowed Rollins to jump him from behind. The brawl was on as they went back and forth as officials tried to pull them apart.
· Things took a sinister turn when Owens got back on offense by slamming Rollins’ head into the ring post which set up a sick powerbomb on the ring apron. That move put Sami Zayn on the shelf after his NXT Championship against Owens at NXT TakeOver: Arrival in February 2015. The announcers did a nice job explaining that this move can put someone out of action for weeks while Rollins has only six days to recover. An injured back heading into HIAC is not a good thing and I am glad the announcers drove that point home as Raw went off the air.
· The Triple Threat Match featuring Owens, Jericho, and Rollins was decent. It was a 2-on-1 affair that damn near put an already weary crowd to sleep. The post-match had a bit more heat to it as Owens needed momentum heading into the PPV on Sunday.
· Rollins will face adversity as he is going into HIAC at less than 100 percent. If he sells his back injury properly, this could be a compelling match to watch for the sheer in-ring psychology alone.
· Quick Side Note: Jericho can take comfort in the fact that was not pedigreed for the fourth week in a row. I don’t know what role Jericho will play during Owens’ match, but I have a hunch that he will get involved. If Kane can get inside the cell, anything is possible.
· Overall, I thought that tonight’s episode of Raw was middling at best. Rusev and Roman Reigns were given scripted material to recite behind a dark background as they recapped their feud while the other Hell in a Cell matches headlining the PPV was given the proper airtime. Rusev and Reigns’ HIAC match for the United States Championship will probably open the show while the true main event will be a tossup until ShowTime. Based on heat and feud longevity, Sasha and Charlotte should be the marquee match on the card. Regardless of the match order, it should be a memorable night if everything is booked properly.
· The rest of the show suffered from being too long with the Lesnar-Heyman segment being the biggest disappointment. The fans played a role in what happened, but Heyman was off his game tonight when he is normally in beast mode. Pun intended.
· This is the second sucky promo Heyman has cut this year outside of his debacle with Stephanie McMahon a couple of months ago. Unless WWE plans to fly Heyman to the UK to speak on behalf of Lesnar when Raw airs on a tape delay in two weeks, Heyman’s last chance to cut the money promo for Survivor Series will be on November 14th. Maybe the company will be ballsy and have him on next week’s show to get his ass kicked by Goldberg. Something needs to happen to make up for what happened tonight because it was a hot mess.
· Raw felt long and listless at times, but Hell in a Cell should be a very good PPV on Sunday with a trio of HIAC matches bookending each hour of the broadcast. The Tag Team and Cruiserweight Title matches should be good as well. This show looks strong on paper. Let’s hope everything falls into place on Sunday. Fingers crossed!
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!