Monday, November 14, 2016

The Raw Exposé: The Brand Wars 2016 Edition (11-14-2016)

By: Keila Cash 

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. The go-home show for Survivor Series features Goldberg and Brock Lesnar meeting face-to-face inside a WWE ring for the first time in nearly thirteen years. Plus, Brand Wars 2016 comes to head as the on-air authority figures from Raw and SmackDown Live face off in an attempt to prove which show is more dominate. Did these tantalizing segments live up to expectations or did they leave fans less excited for the November Classic? The answer to this 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 a chipper start as Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley tried to unify Team Raw as they head into battle against SmackDown Live at Survivor Series on Sunday. Stephanie and Mick booked a series of matches which will include Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens vs. Sheamus and Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, and Braun Strowman vs. The New Day, and Charlotte and Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox and Nia Jax. Stephanie warned everyone that there would be serious changes if these teams failed to work together as a unit.

·        It was a happy, happy, joy, joy segment that promoted brand unity minus the negativity from last week. Overall, this was a refreshing way to start the show.

·        Reigns and Owens vs. Cesaro and Sheamus was good as Owens pinned Sheamus after Reigns nailed the Celtic Warrior with a Spear. However, Owens wasn’t conscious to savor the victory because Sheamus laid him out with a Brogue Kick after he tagged himself in the match. Being the ever gracious partner, Reigns draped Owens over Sheamus to secure the win for his team.

·        Cesaro had a nice showing as he fired up the crowd with his rapid fire European Uppercuts. Sheamus held his own as the odd couple kept their bickering to a minimum.  The same can’t be said for Owens and Reigns, but they pulled out the win despite their differences. Solid effort all around.

·        Braun Strowman is a scarf hater. Strowman’s low-key comedic personality is slowly growing on me.

·        The Bo-Lieve in Bo Tour came to a screeching halt when Sami Zayn nailed Bo Dallas with a Helluva Kick to pick up a maintenance win heading into his Intercontinental Championship match against Dolph Ziggler at Survivor Series.

·        Zayn cut a fiery and snarky promo calling out the Poison-esque fashion sensibilities of Ziggler while calling The Miz a community theater hack posing as a Hollywood A-Lister. Come hell or high water, he vowed to bring the Intercontinental Championship back to Raw. Zayn hasn’t exuded this much confidence in months. Here’s hoping that it sticks this time around.

·        Rollins, Jericho, and Strowman picked up an impressive win over The New Day. The Raw Tag Team Champions are on a slight losing skid, but it will quickly be forgotten if they lead their team to victory at Survivor Series.  Strowman had his best performance to date as he manhandled Kofi Kingston and Big E which actually got a pretty good pop from the crowd. Jericho made the hot tag to Strowman as he laid out Xavier Woods with a running power slam to get the 1-2-3.

·        After the match was over Rollins and Jericho bickered in the ring which led to Jericho getting nailed with a Pedigree to wrap up the in-ring segment.

·        Strowman was the star of the match. The fans bought into his badass character and he carried himself as such. We might look back on this night as the moment Strowman finally evolved into the monster he’s supposed to be. He’s still green in the ring, but he has made strides by showing off his strength and power in a believable way. I don’t know if these good vibrations will carry over into Survivor Series, but it is going to be an interesting night for the big man to say the least.

·        The only criticism I have for the match is the odd wrestling sequence between Rollins and Woods. They traded a bunch of moves, but it never built to anything special or memorable. It seemed as if both men were going through the motions which caused the match to a hit snag, but things got back on track down the stretch.

·        Brian Kendrick and Sin Cara had a lackluster match that damn near put the crowd to sleep. Kendrick and Sin Cara’s styles didn’t mesh well at all. Plus, Kendrick took 80% of the match as he was on offense for the most part. The Cruiserweight Champion eventually made Sin Cara tap out to the Captain’s Hook, but the fans tapped out mentally and emotionally well before the finish. This was the weakest Cruiserweight match to date. Sad, but true.

·        The number one sin when it comes to pissing off Goldberg is speaking ill of his family. Paul Heyman crossed that line one too many times which caused Goldberg to go ape shit on the rent-a-cops in the ring. Brock Lesnar backed down from a one-on-one confrontation because his own mantra still holds true. The beast does not fight for free. Goldberg showed great fire during his promo as he called out Heyman and Lesnar.

·        Oddly enough, a Southern accent escaped his lips which made things even better from a pure badass standpoint. Heyman did a masterful job goading Goldberg while Lesnar played the chickenshit heel to perfection.

·        Most importantly, this segment served as a reminder that Goldberg’s physique was on point at almost 50 years old. He looked ripped and in shape. However, this is not an indicator of what he can do in the ring. Does he have enough stamina to withstand the beating he's bound to receive from The Beast? He’s not going out like a punk, but the WCW Legend must have enough in the tank to go toe-to-toe with Lesnar at Survivor Series. Regardless of the outcome, their match is going to be a beautiful train wreck.

·        Sasha Banks made Alicia Fox tap out to the Bank Statement to pick up the win for her team. Sasha and Charlotte had the most contentious partnership of the night as they shoved each other around which almost cost them the match. They pulled out the win as Bayley came down to the ring to offer hugs to her teammates. Sasha accepted the peace offering while Charlotte refused to hug it out in the name of brand unity. The match was fine, but the friction between The Queen and The Boss dwarfed the action taking place in the ring.

·        Enzo Amore and Big Cass & Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows vs The Shining Stars & The Golden Truth was fine as Anderson and Gallows laid out Primo with The Magic Killer. Enzo wanted the hot tag and it appeared that The Club was going to show an ounce of humility, but Gallows pinned Primo to illustrate that he and Anderson only cared about themselves. Will their selfishness cost their team the win at Survivor Series? We will find out soon enough.

·        The main event segment of Raw was very good as Chris Jericho stole the show as he read AJ Styles and James Ellsworth to filth during his promo. After the authority figures from Raw and SmackDown Live hashed it out in the ring, it was time for the teams from both shows to up the ante. SD Live got punched in the mouth by Team Raw when Rollins and Reigns power bombed AJ Styles over the top rope and onto his teammates. It was a great spot as the show went off the air with Team Raw standing tall.

·        There were several moments that stood out. Strowman kicking Shane McMahon’s ass in the corner only for Ambrose and Styles to weaken the big man long off for Shane to clothesline him out of the ring popped the crowd something fierce.

·        Reigns got booed every time he went after a member of Team SmackDown. After Orton nailed Jericho with an RKO, he laid out The Viper with a Superman Punch. Bray Wyatt tried to drop Reigns with Sister Abigail, but Reigns wiggled out of the move and nailed Wyatt with another Superman Punch. Styles got involved and attempted to finish him off with the Styles Clash, but Rollins nailed the WWE World Champion with a pedigree which led to the aforementioned power bomb to wrap up the show.

·        It was a hot segment from start to finish which actually made me care about the Raw vs. SmackDown match at Survivor Series. Each brand has an ax to grind and it was nice to see both teams on the same page. The intensity was on point and the crowd loved every minute of it. SmackDown Live is the scrappy underdog in this fight, but I believe the blue brand will stand tall at Survivor Series if Vince McMahon is not biased towards his flagship show. I have not been gung-ho about Brand Wars 2016, but I am looking forward to the match on Sunday if everybody has their working boots on. Toronto is going be lit and it should be a great match if everything goes according to plan. Kudos to everyone involved for ending Raw on a high note.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was solid. The in-ring action ranged from decent to good with Team Raw looking strong heading into Survivor Series. There is a bit of trepidation when it comes to the Tag Teams and Women not being on the same page, but I am sure they will come together for the greater good at the PPV.

·        For the first time since the Raw vs. SmackDown concept was announced last month, it feels important. The wrestlers care about being the best and are willing to do anything to prove it. It’s not about bickering over stupid shit. It’s about brand loyalty and doing whatever it takes to remain on top. I wished that passion was on display the whole time because Survivor Series would feel even more important.

·        However, WWE can't afford to tear down both shows because they are under the same umbrella. Fans don’t care about the political bullshit taking place behind the scenes. They care about the action taking place inside the ring and forging an emotional connection with their favorite wrestlers. It isn’t rocket science. If the company can grasp this simple concept, they will better off for it.

·        Brock Lesnar and Goldberg should be quite the spectacle at Survivor Series as well. What kind of reception will both men receive? Will their match “be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare” to quote Beyoncé? We shall find out soon enough.

·        Tonight’s go-home show made me care about Survivor Series. Based on the crowd reaction in Buffalo, they feel the same way. If the creative team brings their A-Game on Sunday, it should be a great event. If not, fans will be heaping praise on NXT Takeover: Toronto while placing a wet blanket on the November Classic for not living up to expectations. Let’s hope that both shows deliver the goods because when WWE is on a roll, it’s the best wrestling promotion in the world.

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

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