Monday, May 1, 2017

The Raw Exposé: From Setback to Comeback - The Big Payback Throwback Edition (5-1-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from The Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. After last night’s so-so Payback PPV, WWE had to pull something out of the proverbial hat in order to remove the stench from the horrid House of Horrors match between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. Did the company deliver a make-good or were fans showered with a healthy dose of mediocrity instead? 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.

·        Alexa Bliss had her Raw Women’s Championship coronation and threw shade at Charlotte, Mickie James, Sasha Banks, and Bayley as she gloated about her win last night. Bliss wisely played nice with Nia Jax because she values her livelihood.

·        After Bliss stated that Bayley’s nephews had an actual champion they could look up to, Bayley knocked Bliss off the podium which led to a full-on brawl that spilled over into the commercial break.

·        This was a fine way to start the show. Bliss is a great heel who can rip people to shreds on the mic. Her delivery and cadence remind me of Trish Stratus which is not surprising since Bliss idolized Stratus growing up. Bliss is still a little green in the ring, but she has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year. Her match against Bayley last night exemplified that in the best possible way.

·        Kurt Angle booked an eight-woman tag team match featuring Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, and Dana Brooke vs. Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Emma, and Alicia Fox which took place after the break.

·        It was a solid match that featured rapid hot tags from the babyfaces early on. Bliss had her team do the heavy lifting until she made the hot tag after Banks was put in a vulnerable position.

·        Banks eventually made the hot tag to Bayley and all hell broke loose down the stretch. Bayley was on fire as she rammed Bliss’ head into the turnbuckle before dropping the champ with a suplex. Jax broke up the pin which led to a parade of high spots down the stretch.

·        Mickie James laid out Jax by taking flight from the top rope onto the floor while Banks and Fox went at it like a couple of hellcats at ringside as well.

·        The chaos allowed Bliss to rake Bayley’s eyes before hitting the DDT for the win.

·        Bliss’ coronation ended on a blissful note (pun intended) while Bayley has to work her way back into championship contention. Here’s hoping this is the creative team’s way of hitting the reset button because Bayley has money written all over her if she is utilized properly.

·        Luke Gallows defeated Enzo Amore when Gallows pinned Amore with the Fireman’s Carry Flapjack thanks to an assist from Karl Anderson. Enzo was not treated like a ragdoll for a change, but he still sold for about 75% of the match. Enzo went to the top rope and it appeared that Anderson was about to interfere until Big Cass chased him away. The distraction allowed Gallows to knock Enzo off the top rope which led to the finish. The match was fine while it lasted, but the constant 50/50 booking is doing more harm than good when it comes to both teams getting over in a meaningful way.

·        Seth Rollins channeled his inner Tony Robbins as he spouted words of positivity after defeating Samoa Joe at Payback last night. Rollins decided to focus his attention on Brock Lesnar and the Universal Championship as the crowd popped something fierce.

·        Finn Bálor made his way to the ring and reminded Rollins that he defeated him with one arm to become the first-ever Universal Champion at SummerSlam last year. Bálor had to relinquish the title due to injury and which meant he never lost the belt outright. Therefore, he was owed a title shot and told Rollins that the line started with him.

·        Dean Ambrose intervened and reminded both men that Lesnar was rarely on television and should focus their attention elsewhere. Ambrose declared that the Intercontinental Championship was the top belt on Raw and welcomed anybody to face him for the title.

·        The Miz and Maryse decided to join the party as Miz demanded a championship opportunity as well.

·        Ambrose took an impromptu fan poll as he asked them whether they wanted to see Bálor and Rollins beat up Miz. The crowd cheered uproariously as he gave Kurt Angle a call to book a Triple Threat Match featuring Miz, Bálor, and Rollins with the winner going on to face Ambrose for the IC Title as the segment came to an end.

·        This was a good talking segment that finally teased tension between Rollins and Bálor after Rollins put Balor on the shelf last year. Ambrose did a nice job establishing the IC Title as the top championship while Lesnar is tending to his farm in Canada while Miz continues to shine as the pest heel who gets on everyone’s nerves. The Triple Threat Match should be good with a lot of possible outcomes. We shall see how it all plays out.

·        Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, & Jack Gallagher defeated Tony Nese, The Brian Kendrick, and Noam Dar when Gallagher pinned Kendrick with the Gentleman’s Dropkick. The match was good as it featured decent crowd heat throughout. It’s a refreshing change of pace because most Cruiserweight bouts are given the cold shoulder most weeks.

·        Sheamus and Cesaro offered their explanation for attacking The Hardy Boyz after failing to win the Raw Tag Team Championship at Payback last night. Sheamus and Cesaro were upset that Matt and Jeff hijacked their WrestleMania moment when they made their surprise return to WWE last month. The fans bathed in the nostalgia and The Celtic Warrior and Swiss Superman resented them for it. They considered The Hardy Boyz a novelty act and vowed to get rid of them once and for all by winning the Raw Tag Team Titles.

·        The Hardy Boyz came out to confront Sheamus and Cesaro, but the heels made a run for it as the segment came to an end.

·        This was a nice way to explain the shift in Sheamus and Cesaro’s personalities. They have a legitimate reason to be angry because The Hardy Boyz stole their spotlight at Mania. Cesaro being a full-fledged heel will take some getting used to because his offense screams loveable babyface, but he should be able to shake things up in order to get over as a dastardly heel.

·        Apollo Crews defeated Heath Slater with the Spin-Out Powerbomb in a decent match. There was some sort of distraction in the crowd that derailed the finish which sucks because the action was solid for the most part despite the randomness of the matchup.

·        Kurt Angle was about to announce how he was going to handle the Roman Reigns-Braun Strowman situation when Bray Wyatt made his way to the ring. Wyatt introduced himself to Angle and wanted to help cure a sickness plaguing Raw. Wyatt didn’t name anyone in particular as he asked Angle if he was going to allow him to do his work. Angle didn’t know what the hell Wyatt was talking about and reminded him that Raw was his show. Wyatt warned Angle that he was living in his world as the segment came to an abrupt end.

·        Wyatt cut a good promo about being reborn and sentencing Randy Orton to a lifetime of being trapped in his House of Horrors, but everything else was a bunch of fancy dialogue without a whole lot of exposition attached to it. That’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to deciphering Wyatt’s promos. Since Reigns and Strowman were off television selling their injuries, Wyatt had to act as some sort of surrogate. To who? I guess we shall find out soon enough.

·        Austin Aries defeated TJ Perkins when he made Perkins tap out The Last Chancery in a good match. TJP targeted Aries’ right knee throughout the bout which told a nice story from selling standpoint. TJP tried to set up Aries for the Detonation Kick, but Aries countered with his submission hold for the win.

·        The victory would ring hollow as TJP attacked Aries’ knee after the match was over. He put Aries in the kneebar to do further damage per Neville’s orders from earlier tonight.

·        This was a nice way to forward TJP as an opportunistic heel while Aries remains in chase mode as he has to get past Perkins in order to challenge Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship for the third time.

·        Wins and losses matter in WWE? Say what?!?

·        Kurt Angle threw The Golden Truth a bone when he booked them in a Tag Team Turmoil Gauntlet match with the winners going on to face The Hardy Boyz for the Raw Tag Team Championship. The bout was set for next week as Goldust and R-Truth thanked Angle for giving them a chance to prove themselves. This was a fine segment which pretty much telegraphs a win for Sheamus and Cesaro. Just saying…

·        Finn Bálor, The Miz, and Seth Rollins had a hell of Triple Threat Match to determine the new number one contender for Dean Ambrose’s Intercontinental Title.

·        Bálor had his best performance since returning from his shoulder injury last month. His offense was crisp and sharp which allowed his confidence to shine through in a big way.

·        Rollins also put on a show as he demonstrated why he is one of the best wrestlers in the world when given the opportunity to let loose and be himself. The crowd was into everything he did which bodes well for his revamped babyface turn.

·        The Miz should also be commended because he was the annoying heel that took advantage of any shortcuts that were presented to him. He was the perfect foil, but Rollins and Bálor kicked his ass accordingly.

·        The near falls and counters were awesome down the stretch as Michael Cole called the match with such fervor and passion which pushed the main event over the top from an emotional standpoint.

·        Rollins had the match in hand until Samoa Joe laid him out with an Uranage Slam onto the floor at ringside.

·        The Miz looked on and it appeared he was about to steal the win until Bálor laid him out with the Slingblade followed by a running dropkick in the corner.

·        He was about to finish Miz off with the Coup De Grace when Bray Wyatt appeared out of nowhere. Wyatt knocked Bálor off the top rope and dropped him with Sister Abigail before disappearing. The Miz crawled to the cover and picked up the tainted win as the crowd showered him with boos.

·        Raw went off the air with Miz and Maryse celebrating on the stage while Bálor and Rollins tried to shake off the cobwebs after getting ambushed by Joe and Wyatt.

·        This was a great way to end the show. Miz picked the bones and will face Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship. After the shitty ending to last week’s show, everything is back to normal storyline-wise as the Ambrose-Miz feud is back on track while Rollins still has unfinished business with Samoa Joe.

·        Meanwhile, Bálor and Wyatt officially started their feud after Wyatt attacked him during the main event which should give both men something meaningful to do over the next few months. Let’s hope Bálor doesn’t get dragged into Wyatt’s supernatural shtick because it’s been the death knell for many superstars in the past {Insert Name Here}…

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was solid. This show was so much better than last week’s subpar effort. The Sacramento crowd were a lively bunch which was refreshing to see. Since this is the first Raw in the new Golden 1 Center, the fans were extra hyped which added to the overall feel of the show.

·        WWE righted the wrongs from Payback by putting a show that was focused, logical, and enjoyable to watch for the most part. There were a few dull moments here and there, but the broadcast had a clear sense of purpose which was missing from the go-home show and subsequent PPV.

·        The creative team is already laying the groundwork for Extreme Rules and the card is coming together nicely. The final sell job is key, but it appears that WWE is more focused after putting Payback in the rearview mirror.

·        Next week’s show emanates from the O2 Arena in London, England. Here’s hoping the European crowd keeps things light and carefree because they tend to go into business for themselves when WWE force feeds them garbage. If the company puts on an entertaining show, everything should be fine. If not, I think this meme says it all…

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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